I trundled up to York on Sunday evening (thumbs down to GNER for their wireless not working, thumbs up to Best Western Hotels whose wifi was not only working in my room and all over the hotel, but was free too). I was there to cover, in blog form, an I&DeA conference on Rural Excellence.
I’m currently selling this service as “Rich Records” and Mark Hucker, one of the agency’s most forward-thinking senior managers (thanks for the fiver, Mark) asked me to use their communities of practice software to pull together something for people to talk about during and after the event. Since the CoP stuff had difficulty embedding video initially (it’s OK now) I put up a wordpress blog to run in parallel so that people could see everything together – which means that you can go and have a look yourselves without having to go through the registration with I&DeA. Of course, if you have a real interest in rural issues or other areas that the agency deals with, I’d recommend signing up with them anyway, but for the casual visitor go look at the blog for now (until I get asked to take it down).
Anyway, another thrill of the two days was to get to meet and interview Prof. Heinz Wolff childhood hero from his time on Young Scientists of the Year (shockingly little of this show survives on the interweb) and The Great Egg Race. Prof. Wolff gave us an entertaining after-dinner speech on the need for greater risk-taking in society (including some potentially hair-smouldering pyrotechnics) and then he addressed the main conference talkign about using traditional aspects of rural society to solve 21st Century urban problems. I particularly liked the idea of using old ladies to staff call centres – “Oh, yes Uncle Harry had that problem too, and do you know what we did with him? Well…”
After everyone else had gone home on Tuesday evening, came the least-planned, but most heart-warming bit. I made a last-minute arrangement with the author of Knitting Yoghurt, whom some of you will recognise from her blog and whom I haven’t seen for 20 years, to dash across from York to deepest West Yorkshire for an evening of Yorkshire Pudding… meat-free toad in the hole, getting to know her delightful children (a discussion on which was the toad and which the hole and an exploration of German vocabulary for fruits and vegetables) and then sitting by the fire and reminiscing over a lovely cup of tea. In the morning, after meeting the assembled playmobil folk, I had to get on a train at 10.50 to be back in London, but it was a lovely, spontaneous thing to do – clearly those red pants are working.