Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely our own and not necessarily those of our employer or any other occupational therapist.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Behind the Scenes......................

So...... many of you will by now be familiar with the role that Sarah and I played in the First ever World OT Day 24 hour Global Virtual Exchange. Working alongside our colleagues Merrolee Penman (Aotearoa/NZ), Anita Hamilton and Susan Burwash (Canada) and Karen Jacobs (USA) as OT4OT, between us we faciltated 24 sessions in the virtual classroom delivered by a diverse range of occupational therapists in practice, education and research, recent graduates, service users and also non occupational therapists who gave their time and expertise free to engage with World OT Day. The recordings of these sessions can still accessed on our website click here
Now, in the not too distant future we are expecting to write up the experience for publication submission - so I neither want to pre-empt content, nor claim the sole rights to the experience - which is why we haven't blogged about it to date. However, following a recent conversation we believe that our story to tell is what was happening behind the scenes  during the 8 hours of the UK leg.

3.00am UK time: Sarah and I attended launch of the 24 hour Virtual Exchange. From our seperate houses we set our alarms for 2.45am, entered the room at the click of a button and - speaking for myself - lay in bed with my laptop listening to the opening. Couldn't find headphones in semi-darkness so computer started speaking, Bruno (dog) started barking and then whole house awake. Oh dear - not a good start to the day for me.

6.30am UK time :Alarm goes off for second time. Knowing that we would benefit from the support of each other we booked at room here at the university so that Sarah, myself and Denis (trusty learning technologist) could spend the day together. Slight change of plan occurred at last minute as we had originally planned for the UK leg to start at 10am UK time (civilised time - time to brave the traffic, have a coffee and be fresh for the day ahead).
Needed to facilitate 9am session UK time which meant opening up the virtual room at 8.30am to meet Kit Sinclair - needed to be here for 7.30am - traffic at its rush hour worst, coffee shop not open.

9.00am UK time- so far so good, session running smoothly, great attendance, technology working. What we began to realise is that we had a brief window of about 20 minutes every 2 hours where we could nip out for refreshment or comfort stops. Denis was vital to the half hour setting up period every hour so eventually we worked out a rota

11.20am UK time - Denis nipped out to get coffee - hurrah - even came back with chocolate biscuits.
Sessions been going fine - had to message a couple of times in the live sessions to get the next speakers' attention to come to their own set up room - they were so engrossed in the presentations before them.
Virtual room running fine, real room beginning to look a bit like a disaster area - coffee cups, empty biscuit wrappers...................

12.30pm UK time: Denis came back with boxes of chips, more coffee mmmm. Then realised that was actually very difficult to eat and remain professional. As chips arrived - so did the worst case scenario. The link to the Seychelles went down. The delay was about 10 seconds and so we couldn't communicate verbally at all. During the next 45 minutes I wish we had videoed the Real room environment for you! Whilst trying to keep a calm outwardly facing manner, panic overtook the room. Chips were forgotten as all three of us tried to communicate with the Seychelles team, identify the technological issues and work out what Plan B would be. By this time, participants had begun to arrive in the virtual space and I confidently announced we were going with Plan B - then in the Real space trying to work out with Sarah what Plan B was!! Shoulders were shrugging, palms were displayed in a "no idea" gesture and hysterics were close by. A few choice words were shared (not on line I am pleased to say) and eventually we managed to go forwards with the occasional "flight attendant" speech from me. In between times I was trying to eat cold chips (yuk) and prevent the ensuing hysterical laughter from spilling into the session!!

4.00pm UK time: the final session of the UK leg just completed and we handed over to USA for the next session. We finally removed our headsets, switched off the computers, cleared away all the debris around us and wended our way down to the coffee shop for a debrief and a moment of calm before braving the rush hour traffic for the second time that day and then home to the laptop to join in a few more sessions - but happily as a participant.

2.00am UK time: Unfortunately neither of us made the final session   - even for us that would have been a step too far. However I have since listened to the recording and thank Anita for her closing remarks about our collaborative team effort.
So - do you have any experiences of the day you could share with us here - we'd love to hear from you.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Dancing with possibilities.................

As many of you know, we were privileged to have Frank Kronenberg accept our invitation to meet with us here at the university and to run a seminar for students and practitioners. Followers of the blog may remember that Frank recently became an Honorary Professor here at the University of Salford and has  worked with our MSc teaching team on a number of occasions. Sarah and I also met him "for real" (as opposed to being Facebook friends) on our much documented and talked about trip to Chile to the WFOT Congress earlier this year. In fact, those of you that are eagle-eyed will have realised that Sarah and I teased you back in May about the meeting that we had with Frank 

The day overall provided us with much food for thought. An hour of so spent chatting with Frank Kronenberg (a newly appointed Honorary Professor at Salford) has possibly turned much about how we think of our profession on its head - but that´s for another post - we need time to reflect and assimilate before going public with this very radical view! Frank will be vsiting the University in October - watch this space for more details.

Well, now we may be in a position to reveal some of the discussions we had that sent our minds into overdrive.

Frank arrived in Salford on Thursday and was met by Heather Davidson and Chris Kenney, who have been the main instigators and organisers of the successful visit. He was  brought to the university where he briefly met members of the team and then was whisked away to deliver a session in the virtual classroom to our MSc students. The Vice Chancellor had invited the OT team to his house for a drinks reception with Frank as guest of honour - with both of them having lived and worked in Cape Town, S Africa they were old acquaintances and each aware of the energy, philosophy and work of the other.

Most of us arrived within time of each other and then waited for Chris and Frank to arrive, and waited......and waited..........

Now, I'm sure Chris may want to tell her own story - and in fact on hearing it twice now it gets better with the telling and creates a very visual image... but in a nutshell it involves a missing piece of paper with an address on it, a guest of honour in the passenger seat with an unfamiliar mobile phone, a car and an optimistic outlook that could only be described as blind faith!!

That said, eventually everyone was in place and a pleasant evening was had by all in stylish surroundings and with good company of the team and invited guests.

Next day, Frank met with those in the team that were free to meet and we talked about many issues of the profession, how we are moving forwards at Salford and what sense of connectedness we had as a programme to our local communities. The overarching theme could be described as "get naughty...but smartly" brought about by discussions that as a profession we tend to be "good girls" (and as Frank pointed out, even as a nation we tend to be rather tolerant and accepting of injustice and controlling edicts) and often do not speak up for what we believe in or what we can offer. Therefore we should be smarter about how we challenge and should begin to turn disadvantage into advantage within our practices as we do with our clients/service users.

The afternoon saw a lecture theatre full of students, pratitioners and representatives from local organisations and agencies in a seminar delivered by Frank.

He  suggests that occupation integrates the medical and social models. That we cannot discard one or the other, but by the analogy of a pendulum clock with the medical and social models being at the end of each swing left and right and occupation being the clockface or hands of the clock that makes sense of the swing. He suggests that "participation in dignified and meaningful occupations of daily living is as fundamental to all people's experience of health and wellbeing, quality of life as eating, drinking, belonging and loving" (Kronenburg 2004)

His charismatic and inspirational style had us looking at things in a different way and challenging preconceived ideas and assumptions.  For example:
  • what is poverty? there is a tendency  to measure from an economic/income perspective - but we should also be looking at it from a social deprivation perspective
  • Stop looking for problems to solve all the time, instead look how to understand how people live and their connectedness with others in their space/world
  • What is the relevance of occupational therapy? Proportionally only a handful of people worldwide have access to occupational therapists, but if the whole world had access, how relevant would occupational therapy be to their world?
  • that as a profession we may be pre-occupied with existential angst as a result of external pressures of following a scientific agenda and the internal pressures of living up to our full potential. All of this is potentially diminishing the art of occupational therapy.
  • That maybe we should be looking to other areas of the world - for example latin america where there has been a paradigm shift into a more socio-political awareness.

Some of these themes connect with and expand on some of the discussions Sarah and I had with Frank in Chile. We were talking about the 3P Archaeology expained in Frank's new book (‘Occupational Therapies without Borders: Towards an Ecology of Occupation-Based Practices’).   and I replicate some of the reflections on our discussion here, Sarah and I are identified by the black font and Frank's response in blue:

a)         So, it is important that we begin to look at ourselves and our interventions on a much deeper level. To do this we need to be in touch with our personal values and how these impact on our role with others.
b)         There is no such thing as an “occupational therapist” rather there are people who hold personal, professional and political values and use occupational therapies as tools with the people they engage with
This point really interconnects with your previous reflection and is based on one of OT’s beliefs or assumptions ‘every human being is unique’. We invite people to engage in ‘3PArchaeology’ (3PA), an in-depth critical exploration of who they are, where they come from, what matters most to them and what they really stand up for in everyday life. Surely, it is possible to identify common OT characteristics, but that doesn’t make all OT’s the same. Essentially, one’s value add to society isn’t only influenced by one’s culture, often times it also has to be politically negotiated.     
c)         Occupational therapies are tools that enable the phenomena of well being in both giver and receiver.
Personally, I’d prefer to speak of ‘occupations’ (in the broadest sense) as ‘vehicles’ for bringing about meaningful changes. These changes may be therapeutic, but could also have other focuses, learning, development, conflict resolution, etc. Hence, in our new book, we propose OT to essentially constitute a (political) possibilities-based practice, which generates practice-based evidence, to complement evidence-based practices (‘Occupational Therapies without Borders: Towards an Ecology of Occupation-Based Practices’).     
d)         I use occupational therapies to facilitate health and wellbeing using occupation.
I am always  a person first, and OT is merely one of the instruments that I use to play my life’s music.    
e)         The profession is a compromised version of the ideal. Having a profession is preventing us from being contextually driven – the lived experience is what should be driving us – not the profession 
 The ‘gold’ is to be found in the nuance…these reflections here are linked with raising our ‘occupational consciousness’, which Ramugondo (2009) operationally defined as: “An ongoing awareness of the dynamics of hegemony, an appreciation of the role of personal and collective occupations of daily life in perpetuating hegemonic practices, and an appraisal of resultant consequences for individual and collective well-being.”   
f)      Insight is required into self in order to judge whether something is going well for you and for the other person. You should be able to use the 3PArchaeology to look at deeper levels of personal, professional and political and ask yourself
a.       How do I connect with the idea of OT?
Yes, discerning between the profession of OT and the idea(s) that gave birth to OT. As the late great violinist Isaac Stern once said in response to the question what is music all about: “The instrument is not that important, it is only a means to an end. In other words, you don’t use music to play the violin, you use the violin to play music.” ...the profession of OT is the instrument, the idea of OT its music…do you see where I’m hinting at?     
b.      What would I be willing to give up for this?
Here we’re entering the most often narrowly and negatively interpreted realm of ‘politics’ and ‘the political’…but I’d argue that we really can’t afford not being politically conscious and engaged…once we’ve excavated and (re)connect with our personal and professional values, our capacity and power to exercise these in our daily lives and practices relates to the 3rd ‘P’ of 3PA…it’s not firstly about what can you gain from your involvements, but what are you willing to give up for being true to who you are and what you value, personally and professionall  
c.       What am I occupassional about?
In other words, what gets you up in the morning, what keeps you up at night, in terms of what really gives you enthusiasm for life and living, what must you do regardless of whether the world around you says no, you can’t do that’ (?)…but because you’re burning for it you’ll try to do it anyway (!?) We’re talking about internal authentic DRIVE/POWER (of an individual and/or collective) as a resource that can be tapped into more consciously… this question is asked under the first ‘P’ of PERSONAL of the three ‘Ps’…and the second ‘P’ refers to the PROFESSIONAL dimension…exploring the value-add of – in our case – occupational therapy to the society in which we find ourselves… 

 These discussions have provided much food for thought - and I'm not sure that I have truly managed to answer all the questions or managed to excavate enough so far - but I'm sure these will be ongoing discussions within the team for some time to come.

Unfortunately I had to leave before the seminar had ended so I will rely on my colleagues to offer feedback on the rest of the session but on a final note I would like to share one more quote from the seminar

"Each of you is bigger and more beautiful than your professional identity".

We would love to hear from anyone who attended the session to share any impact on your professional development. Also, any who were not able to attend but have something to share about the issues raised please feel free to comment and share.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Final Year Exam Papers ......(1983)

 As we welcome new students to their occupational therapy career and our final year students begin to look towards life away from the institution and into professional practice I thought I might share my  exam papers from my final year of training in 1983! Here in the UK this was, at that time, a diploma course and the exam was set nationally across all occupational therapy schools. What strikes me most is the language/terminology used and the very practical nature of the questions. There was little expectation of using theory to underpin answers or indeed references to support statements!
If you click on the photos you should be able to enlarge them, but to give you a taster here are some of the questions. Could you answer them?, o

Occupational Therapy for Pyschiatric Disorders and Mental Handicap
* Describe the assessment procedure you would use for the selection of patients for a group home. Outline a possible training programme for the selected patients.
* Describe how you would use TWO of the following activities:
      a) music to improve communication skills
      b) pottery to improve task performance skills
      c) art to improve group interaction skills

Occupational Therapy for Patients with Medical and Surgical Disorders:
* How may the community occupational therapist contribute to the management of a young mother who has multiple sclerosis?
* Write short notes on how TWO of the following activities can be used to improve hand function:
            a) stool seating
            b) gardening
            c) wrought iron work (metal craft)

Communication and Management:
* Unnecessary wastage costs money. Where might such a wastage occur in an occupational therapy department? Discuss the methods by which these may be reduced.
* Write a short report for your Head of Department on the possible uses of
                    EITHER: a) a microcomputer
                      OR        b) a video system.

Friday, 24 September 2010

The Young Ones.................

I've been trying to find the time to share with you my enthusiasm for a recent BBC series The Young Ones (BBC iplayer - 4 episodes I think available to view until 12th Oct 2010 -no, not the 80's comedy of "right on" students - although I was an avid fan!).
This was a short series that restaged research conducted in the 1980s. Professor Ellen Langer has many articles and books exploring the theory of turning back time and comments at the beginning of the programme that " our minds accept the labels of ageing. Freeing ourselves from that state of mind can turn back the clock". This series took back 6 celebrities in their 70s and 80s  to 1975 for one week, a time when they considered themselves in their prime. Their week was entirely 1975 - decor, tv, food etc. and were offered constant physical and mental activity and socialisation.
The suggestion being that there is a cultural expectation of "elderly" and "old" that is a state of mind rather than a reality (in some cases). Using words such as "forgetful" and "wise" can create a mindset that impacts on how the individual may thinks and see themselves and thus impact on behaviour and performance (episode 4 goes into this in detail). One celebrity began the programme by saying that he used to have dogs - but "I'm now too old to look after them",(he is now thinking of getting another dog!) another believed that having a number of strokes in the past 18 months prevented her from her beloved hobby of painting. Through the week the celebrities were confronted with tasks that they were expected to engage with - some of these were returning to previously meaningful occupations including performing at the London Palladium  (a dancer) and returning to a busy newspaper office (editor). By the end of the week, all had made physical and cognitive function improvement. Here are some of the stories:

Dickie: was convinced at the beginning that he had a poor memory. Since experiencing a stroke he lost confidence and was scared of going out "since retirement my world has shrunk, now I feel alive again". His memory at the end rated as higher than average. " I feel a different man" and a friend commented "he'd lost an interesting life - that's waht's been ressurected"

Derek: was inclined to say "I can't do it" to anything that he was asked to do believing "I'm 80 and I don't have to do anything anymore". What was demonstrated that he was often saying "I can't do it" as he was actually performing the said task! His experience of the house was that talking to 5 people at a time was something he had not done for years "it reminded me of when I was editor and a lovely feeling to go back - something you don't think about very often" and "start thinking in a more lively vigorous way to recapture how you were years ago".

Liz: was very good at getting others to do things for her in the beginning, she arrived in a wheelchair after having a number of strokes over the last 18 months. By the end of the week she was mostly walking with one stick - and at times no stick- and her daughter commented how strange but good it felt to be walking beside her mother again. Liz has also taken up painting again "try to find something that is not just there to pass the time, but is actually constructive and has something to do with your former life. Find something to do which satisfies you, find something to live for each day, to go out for and to dress up for - it's the answer" (Spoken like an OT!!!)

Sylvia: was in constant pain from her back at the beginning, but aby the end was running, touching her toes and looked so much younger.

So, how was this achieved? 
Well, to use our professional language they were possibly experiencing the impact of occupational alienation and occupational deprivation which were negated by:

  • engaging in meaningful activity
  • introducing peer support and competition (friendly)
  • providing structure
  • experiencing worth and purpose

One might question whether these things would be enough without the 1975 environment. In fact Sylvia questioned the correlation between the impact on well being and the trip back in time. Prof Langer explained that this was based on the Placebo effect, it was a way of getting people to be where they felt vital and not being stopped by a mindset - which today's environment encourages. It reminds them that thay had been vital and they gave it up! "Now I feel if I want a cup of tea...I can go and get it"

Of course one might suggest that these were celebrities - able to perform!

Monday, 20 September 2010


Just a short note to say a big hello to our new and returning students on full time and part time BSc programmes and on our MSc programme. Induction started today for all, with a full timetabled day for the BSc and a virtual classroom tonight for our MSc students.

We hope you  find the energy to take it  all this new information in and we're very much looking forward to working with you  over the coming academic year.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Second Life Research

Some of you may be aware that Sarah and myself have been working on a Second Life project for the last year.  As part of a successful bid to engage in a project for the VC’s Media City Iconic projects award we have developed (together with Lee Griffiths - Lecturer in Computer Science and Joe Brindle Post Graduate Computer Science student) an environment within a multi-user virtual environment (Second Life). This takes the form of a home environnment (complete with kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, stairs and furniture) and encourages the user to consider basic apects of access, occupational participation and potential envioronmental adaptations for a wheelchair user.

The first phase of the house has been completed and we have now received ethical approval to carry out a qualitative research project with some of our undergraduate students to consider their experiences of learning in this enviornment. It is expected that these results, together with the Systematic Literature Review currently underway (by our Summer Scholarship student Alex Moss - recent occupational therapy graduate from Queen Maragaret's University in Edinburgh) will inform the project further with plans for a quantitative comparative study in the pipeline and work with both education and practice environments.

Potential Benefits to HCP and Students

Most health care professionals have an element of experiential learning in their pre-registration programmes in order that they can have the opportunity to practice new skills and behaviours in a tangible, reality based but safe environment (Pimental 1999). Unfortunately the organisation and implementation of such learning experiences can be extremely resource intensive in relation to staffing, time, costs and equipment or facilities, and the experience must be carefully guided and facilitated in order to focus student engagement (Lai et al 2005)

Potential Benefits to Service Users

Service users with long term serious disabilities often experience occupational alienation, and part of their rehabilitation is to embed within them a sense of self efficacy and control in managing their own environments and activities (Wilcock 1998). This can be difficult to do in the real world, again due to time and resourse constraints, as well as a need for careful risk management

A virtual or therapeutic experience could address such challenges and the use of innovative technologies to address health care education and practice is encouraged (DOH 2009, Freeman 2008, NHS Faculty of Health Informatics (2008). JISC certainly encourages innovation in providing "technology-rich learning environments that are sustainable, accessible and reflect an understanding of the learning styles, preferences and diversity of their users" (www.jisc.ac.uk) . Whilst as yet there is not an extensive body of research exploring the use of virtual worlds in heath care education or practice, Kashani et al (2009 p5) recommend that health care professions be involved in collaborative research with developers of virtual worlds by "approaching disciplines that incorporate the influence of cultural, social and physical environments, such as occupational therapy in order to develop "more inclusive user interfaces".

Whilst there has been some research in this area (Freeman 2008, Kashani et al 2009) the issue of experiencing occupational participation and deprivation in a virtual way has not been extensively addressed.

Sarah and I are currently getting ready to recruit our participants from our new undergraduate intake. Induction to the Second Life experience has been planned and - fingers crossed- we are ready to roll. We'll keep you informed how we get on.

DOH (2009) New education Bodies created to promote innovation in the NHS - http//www.dh.gov.uk/en/News/Recentstories
Freeman D (2008) Studying and treating Schizophrenia Unsig Virtual reality: A new Paradigm. Schizophrenia Bullitin. 34(4) 605-610 /DH_110419
Joint Information Systems Committee. (2007). Game-based learning. E-learning innovation programme. Briefing papers. http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/publications/pub_gamebasedlearningBP.aspx accessed 5.3.10
Joint Information Systems Committee (2010) http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/topics/learningenvironments.aspx accessed 5.3.10
Kashani, R.M., Robets, A., Jones, R., Boulos, M.K., (2009) Virtual Worlds, Colllective Responses and Responsibilities in Health Journal of Virtual Worlds Vol 2 Number 2
Lai CH Yang JC Chen FC Ho CW Liang JS and Chan TW (2005) Improving experiential learning with mobile technologies. In Proceedings of the IEEE International Workshop on Wireless and Mobile Technologies in Education (WMTE2005) 141 145. IEEEE Computer Society press, Los Alamitos, CA.
NHS Faculty of Health Informatics (2008) The power and perils of using social networking tools in the NHS. NHS Faculty of Health Informatics: London.
Pimental J R (1999) Design of net-learning systems based on experiential learning. Journal of Asynchronous Learning network 3 (2) 64-90
Wilcock, A. (1998). An occupational perspective on health. Thorofare NJ: Slack ink. (Chapter 6)
University of Salford Strategic Plan 2009/10 to 2017/18, (2009). http://staff.salford.ac.uk/transforming/documents/university_of_salford_strategic_plan.pdf

Monday, 26 July 2010

Occupational Therapy in the UK

Have been doing a bit of housekeeping with my files and came across this presentation I delivered in 2007 to Universite de Miguel Hernadez, Alicante, Spain. Thought some of you might be interested in how occupational therapists are educated and develop a career structure in the UK. There are spanish translations on the slides (my aplogies if they are not very accurate!)

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Student Presentations

This official picture from Conference is much better than the rubbish one I took on my mobile so I though I would post this one instead. The smartly dressed man you see in the picture is Jason Vickers, second level student with us at The University of Salford. He was one of 6 students presenting at the conference and everyone in the audience, and subsequent comments on Facebook, have all agreed that they were some of the best presentations of the whole conference. It was great to see that the future of our profession is in their hands and it spurred us on to ensure that we encourage other students to follow in Jason's footsteps!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Day Two of COT conference....

 Awoke after 3and a half hours sleep to a bright sunny morning again - and the news that the northwest was worried about drought (3 days sun in a row after months of wet weather and even floods not that long ago in Cumbria!).

It was an early morning start as Sarah and I were presenting our seminar at 8.30am (online identity, reputation and professional practice). What we anticipated being a poorly attended session, competing with sun, the beach and the Unison Party of the night before turned out to be a well attended session that created discussion with plenty of question and what appeared to be a positive shift in some towards creating their own online identities. Many left with the promise (or threat?!) of googling both Sarah and myself to consider our online presence and reputation (let's hope we practice what we preach!!).

After we finished we wandered down to the beach for a well deserved ice cream and met with Hassan and Zoe from COT and spent a really pleasant half hour or so sitting in the sun and chatting about a variety of issues around professional and educational issues. Then back inside for a look at the poster exhibitions etc.
Now. it is a known rule that you can't go to the seaside and not eat fish and chips, so at lunch we abandoned the queues for sandwiches and went to a little fish and chip shop at the sea front and indulged ourselves before heading back to the Plenary session where merit awards, Fellowship awards and Honorary Fellowship awards were given to deserving recipients - including a merit award for Jane Clewes from the North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare Trust who has had involvement with our team at the university for a number of years as a placement educator and visiting practitioner/lecturer on many occasions - Congratulations Jane!
The Elizabeth Casson Memorial Lecture was delivered this year by Dr Avril Drummond from the University of Nottingham whose message can be summarised as " todays treatment is yesterday's research" urging all occuaptional therapists to become more research active to enhance and increase the evidence -base of the profession.

Sarah and Jackie then went to deliver their poster discussion session so I took the opportunity to visit the Brighton Pavilion and have a short walk through the Lanes and the North Laine. Brighton is certainly a very cosmopolitan and relaxed place with a great diversity of people - I could people watch there for days and not get bored! Unfortunately an hour or so was all I could spare. Eventually we managed to get everyone from the team together for a jug of Pimms on the beach once the conference had finished for the day. In discussing our experiences so far of the conference it is worth noting that:
a) if the future of the profession is in the hands of the students that delivered the College-led session of student papers (including our 2nd year student Jason Vickers) then the future looks very rosy indeed. Their breadth of thinking and use of theory was outstanding
b) that the world of OT is a very small one indeed!
c) networking opportunities are the backbone of the conference experience - but beware - your past can catch up with you (see (b) above)!

I decided that I was too tired to go out for a meal with the rest of the team so stayed behind and sat watching the sea for an hour or so - then bumped into a colleague who had also stayed behind so we decided to find somewhere to eat together. On the way to a chosen destination, esteemed colleague and friend was "pooped" on from a great height by a seagull. Funniest thing ever!!!! Was laughing so hard that was unable to help with the explosion that had hit practically every surface on said colleague. Colleague not impressed!! So, after returning to the hotel and changing we started again - ever watchful of the skies above but managed to return with no further incident.

After a lovely meal, and a very pleasant evening I finally made it back to the hotel and packed in readiness for check out tomorrow and the final day of conference.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

First Day of COT Conference..........

What a day! I hope to do it justice here - but it is 11pm and I am pretty brain dead by now having spent the day networking and sharing innovative and radical views and ideas.

So, first day of COT conference here in Brighton, awoke to beautiful sunshine so off across the road to the sea front for a morning stroll and a few photos before breakfast. Bumped into Jackie Taylor and some of the other team members who were seriously exercising in the proper clothes and everything!

Three confereences were running in tandem (COT, Older People and HIV/Aids and Palliative Care) in addition to the only exhibition in the country dedicated to our profession.

So highlights of the day:
a) hot topics clearly the new coalition government and their expected plans for their Health Bill - trying to second guess the impact on the profession and occupational therapists nationally
b) social media and online networking is also clearly a growing area for discussion with many sessions covering issues around this
c) standing in a queue for lunch for AGES! Usually delegates are given bags with various lunch items inside - but organisers this year are competing with the beach, Wimbledon and England playing a vital match in the World Cup so needed a captive audience to keep people in conference to the afterrnoon - so plates and buffet food provided - which slowed everything up.
This led to Sarah having only 20 mins to eat and rush to her presentation. In the end a surreal experience where one of the exhibitors (Harrison Associates) were running around after us both with chairs, freebies and jelly babies to make us comfortable.  Ever seen 3 sandwiches, quiche and a fruit kebab eaten in 2 minutes? I have !!
d) freebies - status: 5 pens, 6 jelly babies, post it notes, 2 badges, 3 hessian bags, and a trolley token
e) Catching up with (2 of our MSc Advanced OT students
f) meeting with Hassan and Stephen from COT to discuss the COT strategy for social media and offer collaboration with our WFOT project with OT4OT in developing best practice guidance and advice for members in using social media for professional networking and development
g) spotting some unusual pottery mugs on the Remap stall and witnessing an entrepreneur moment when the Cosy Feet exhibitor came across and asked after the mugs (very stylish but with 2 "handles" for people with no grip) and wanted to stock them in her catalogue. Left them swapping details of the designer who was looking for a stockist. It's amazing the different levels and opportunity for networking one finds at conferences!
h) chatting with the new Head of Education and Development at COT (Anna Clampin) and catching up on the projects etc currently on the go.
i) session by Council on their role and how to "think nationally, act locally"

We left for the day to meet with a facebook friend and supporter of our work with online learning who gave a key note speech at the launch of our MSc and is now at University of Brighton. During our meal we caught up on both work and personal issues and had a great time - mainly at Sarah's expense - and although she may not thank me I feel it is my duty to share here.
Last year Sarah - believing she was texting her husband - texted - "please bring loo roll home". Now, our colleague has the same name as he husband - and it was to him she had sent it. He politely replied that he thought she had got the wrong person and suitably embarrased she apologised (all by text). Now, that was funny enough at the time! It turns out that her name had not come up on the text so he didn't know who it was from - but remembers a random text asking for loo roll. So.... whilst we digested the impact of this - what caused great hilarity was:
a) him realising that the text was from Sarah
b) he was in Australia when he recieved it
c) that he felt compelled to reply to a random text from a perceived stranger from the other side of the world because they might desperately need the loo roll!!!

So on that note I end with  two questions raised from the day:

a) should occupational therapy exist as a unique profession (a chance conversation, together with previous discussions at WFOT in Chile led to this discussion). We are looking forward to attending the debate on friday that will consider similar issues

b) what are the impacts of a misplaced text message?

I'm sure I have missed things out - but I really do have to finish as I have an early start and a presentation to give at 8.30am tomorrow with Sarah.
Here's to another day of networking and challenging thinking

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

We're here.......................................

OK,  we made it - intact and with the relevant number of suitcases, posters and handouts for our presentations - and those of some of the team once they realised we were travelling by car  as they were going by train. As some of you may recall Sarah's recent suitcase fiasco has definitely put her off all forms of public transport at the moment.
Journey down mostly uneventful -  started out later than intended due to mild family crisis - but soon got on the road, satnav loaded, ipods at the ready!

Phone call from O2 at some point rather amusing - called to sell their broadband package - but Sarah did a nifty little move - a verbal version of the Bodell stare and even the guy had to admit that she had managed to turn the focus on to her way of thinking rather than his own! She had used the opportunity to ask why she couldn't connect to bt cloud wifi on her iphone. After listening to her story and examples the guy gave a sound as though he were considering an answer and then said " well I was going to help you - but that's too hard - I'm only broadband" = bless!!

After a quick stop off at motorway services for replenishment we started the ipod competition. Best driving song (Beat IT (MJ) or Paradise by the Dashboard light (meatloaf)); best cheese (Tie me kangaroo down Rolf Harris or some song from High School Musical 2); best reminder of school (Boogey Nights - heatwave or Stop by Spice Girls) etc etc. Then we had a "maudlin" fest with Barry Manilow, Janis Ian and Abba. Will start competition again on the way home. Any ideas for categories gratefully received - I did a list and then left it behind!!

Finally arrived in Brighton 6 and half hours later and got to the hotel just as the rest of the team (who arrived earlier) were about to go out for a meal. We had intended to meet up later but unfortunately this didn't happen so hopefully we can catch up with them a breakfast.
Already seen a few familiar faces walking along the seafront - some from our facebook contacts and some from the "real" world so looking forward to the start of conference tomorrow.
In summary:
a) Angela gets to wear the whole range of clothes brought along with her this time
b) Sarah gets to wear her own clothes and present the image she planned
c) So far everything has gone to plan (famous last words??)
d) car parked on street in a zone that is free til 9am tomorrow morning - must remember to buy ticket tomorrow else car could be towed away!!

So, tomorrow conference starts in earnest - we hope to share some of the thoughts, discussions and maybe some of the lighter moments too. Night night.

Monday, 21 June 2010

It's off to conference we go.......................

Just a quick note to let you know that we are off to conference again this week. This time to the College of Occupational Therapists (COT) conference in Brighton. As a team we have been very busy indeed and have had many abstracts accepted which give you a flavour of some of our interests and expertise:

Sarah and Jackie: on-line social networking as a tool for professional development; boosts and barriers
Angela and Sarah: Using Negotiated Assessment in Higher Education
Kirsty and Heather: Occupational Therapy in Romania
Rachel and Ellen: Self-Directed Care - is there a role for occupational therapists?

Heather: Placing Leadership in the curriculum

Angela and Sarah: Online identity, reputation and professional practice
Sarah and Jackie: Facilitating teamwork in the NHS via an online social networking platform
Jackie: Rebuilding damaged identities through occupation
Heather and Chris: The creative application of leadership to your practice
Ellen and Deborah: Occupational therapy and older people: assessment and evaluation of health and wellbeing

Those of you who followed mine and Sarah's experiences at the recent WFOT conference in Chile may be amused to know that Sarah is not prepared to let her suitcase out of her sight for a minute and so we will be driving down - and not trusting to public transport!! We intend to blog daily from conference to give you flavours of what is being discussed - and of course what scrapes we may get ourselves into this time. Fingers crossed for a good conference. People to meet, things to see, busy, busy, busy..................

Friday, 11 June 2010

Dr Michael Iwama's visit......

We were fortunate enough this week to have Dr Michael Iwama visit us at the university as part of his current UK tour. Having just appointed him as one of our Honorary Professors within the directorate of occupational therapy it was doubly enjoyable to officially welcome him to his new role and to spend time with him as a team discussing future projects and plans.
I hope you don't mind Michael, but I would like to share your comments previously made here:
  • "The prospect of pursuing an adjunct or honorary professorship at University of Salford would not only be an honour; it would also formally bring me closer to your faculty and students. I have gone on record to say how much I respect and admire your program, and consider your's to be one of the leading and progressive programs in our profession in the world".
Discussions began with the view that historically occupational therapy was seen very much as a profession that "borrowed" theory from other professions such as psychology and medicine but now we seem to be the only health profession (certainly within those in Allied Health) that has its own models of practice. This should be celebrated as making us unique, strong and focused.

However, the age old issue of how one quantifies outcome measures for such things as quality of life in order to demonstrate cost effectiveness was raised and in forever changing times within the UK health and social care systems this is definitiely a point worth continued discussion.

Michael then told us more about his own career path and background - but I won't steal his thunder in presenting that here - you can find out more about him in other arenas I'm sure. He has certainly led a very busy and interesting life to date - and talks about it with both integrity and humour!

A number of provisional projects were mooted between individuals on the team and Michael that we hope will continue to fruition in the near future (watch this space!!)

The morning session was then concluded with a small gift for Michael from the University to welcome him to his Honorary Professor role. This gift had been intended to be given to him at the WFOT conference in Chile, but was in Sarah's Case - which regular readers will know went missing for about 6 weeks and never actually made it to conference. All is well now though.

The afternoon was opened up to approximately 150 practitioners and students for a seminar by Michael on the Kawa Model. Whilst some may have initially felt daunted that such a "name" was in front of them, Michael's charismatic presentation style soon relaxed everyone and we were hanging on his every word for the entire session.

It is not relevant to go into every detail of either the model (which can be found elsewhere) or on the presentation and discussion (as this may spoil it for future venues on the UK tour). In summary the Model was developed in order to privilege the narrative of the individual. In all other models it is suggested that the individual's narrative is taken and transposed into the language of that model which can often then have little meaning to that individual. The Kawa Model therefore offers a paradigm shift where the narrative is vital.

The other point very clearly made was that the Kawa Model is not a meta-narrative i.e it can be adapted and altered as necessary to suit the needs of the individual. The metaphor is the vital ingredient - and if the river is not working for someone then change it! One of our team (Kirsty) talked about using this within her work with families and using the metaphor of rock climbing instead as this held value and meaning to the specific individual.

The day was productive, informative, enjoyable and entertaining and we thank you Michael for taking the time to visit and for sharing your thoughts and expertise in such a generous and warm way. We are all looking forward to working more closely with you in the future.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Sarah's Case - the conclusion....

To those of you who have been following the saga of Sarah's case - it has been returned!!!
I have written a short poem to celebrate! We will return to more weighty matters soon. Thanks for reading

Friday, 28 May 2010

Where is my suitcase?

I thought I would take a few moments to let those of you who have been following our Chilean Adventures know that my suitcase HAS STILL NOT ARRIVED. I was very excited a couple of days ago, because I has a call to tell me it was being delivered to my house. Unfortunately, it turned out not to be mine, and furthermore was stuffed full of unmentionables - see below. I have now written to Air France, and decided to copy you all in .

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am a Senior University Lecturer in the UK who has been working hard on collaborative work with international colleagues for the last 18 months, in order to be invited to present at our World Federation Congress. This happens once every four years and this occasion was to be held in Santiago, Chile.

Much work had gone into the presentation, securing the funding attend, and indeed in considering the image I wished to present to my professional peers across the world. To this end I packed my bags very carefully with clothes and work related items in readiness for my trip.

Air France delivered me safe and sound in Santiago, but unfortunately my luggage was nowhere to be seen. Whilst I was made aware of the immediate needs fund, as I was only in Santiago for 4 full days, and these were booked for the conference, I had no opportunity to shop. My professional image was not therefore, quite what I had been aiming for (jeans and t-shirt, rather than a smartly tailored suit). If it wasn’t for the generosity of colleagues I would have had no access to clean clothes, electronic devices or other such necessities of conference life.

I still do not have my baggage, and it is now 4 weeks since AF lost it. I have been given a case containing men’s underwear, but unfortunately this isn’t acceptable. Whilst I acknowledge that baggage can and does go missing, my complaint is aimed at the way in which your customer service department have managed the process since then, particularly;

1. The loss of my time and money in making almost daily calls to AF

2. The lack of continuity in information and direction (see timeline, attached)

3. The sheer number of mistakes made by your customer service team

4. The limitations of the immediate needs fund

5. The loss of my claim for immediate needs compensation

6. My total lack of faith that my claim for total loss compensation will be managed in professional and timely manner.

I am writing to you in the hope that you will ensure my claim is now handled appropriately, and that you can illustrate that your procedures are actually fit for purpose. I have been documenting my professional trip via the University of Salford blog at www.frederickroad.blogspot.com and on Facebook, which I also use for professional purposes. My loss of suitcase has been much discussed, with a colleague composing a little ditty that I thought I would share with you:

You've lost my case, Air France, Air France

and now I've got nothing to wear

All I've got is a man's dirty pants

and clothes that I'm having to share

bum bum.

It would be nice to have a happy ending to this situation would like to think that there could be a speedy and successful resolution to my concerns as I would rather not invest more time and energy in seeking legal advice. I am currently submitting a claim for total loss compensation. Please could you ensure this is managed appropriately?

Yours faithfully,

If this letter doesn't work, I might have to resort to creating something like this video. To tell you the truth, I quite like the idea of it. Who wants to join in?

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Of planes, airports and home

The journey home!

Taxi arrived early so we were happy to be on the move at last. Both Porter and Taxi driver seemed bemused that there was only one case between us - saying "lost" accompanied by shrugging of shoulders and splaying hands palm upwards in front seemed to do the trick. Journey to the airport was mainly in silence due to tiredness and Sarah needing to finish the good bit in her book - after which she remembered why she normaly doesn't read in moving vehicles!
The views from the taxi began to demonstrate the diverse distribution of wealth - from urban palaces through to a huge shanty town of what could only be described as huts with corrugated iron roofs - more like sheds I guess.
Arrived at airport and immediately to the Air France area to discuss the suitcase situation. After speaking with the check-in girl, then her supervisor and then a long wait for someone in baggage we finally learnt that her suitcase had been on its own holiday with a Turkish airline and was now in Paris. They promised that they would inform Paris to send to the UK and they would deliver it to Sarah's home. Now, call us pessimistic if you will - but we have little confidence of this!! Sarah asked to be upgraded for the inconvenience and we were told that the plane was full (didn't believe this either!).

It was at this point that Sarah lost control of her non verbals and every employee of AF was treated to a harsh stare as we went from check-in to departure area- stopping en route to eat - which restored humour a bit.

At the departure gate we were met by the girl from check-in who was waiting for us with new boarding passes - she had given us exit seats so at least we had leg room- and thus saving the rest of her colleagues from the Bodell stare.

There was again a third man on the end of our row - but true to form about half an hour into the flight he disappeared so we spread out a bit (I wonder of we should be proud that we seem to have ability to make people disappear - or concerned?). In fact at breakfast (about 10hours later) - even the steward was asking me where the gentleman had gone !
Little sleep was possible on the flight so we dozed on and off, watched films and read - for ever it seemed - then we finally reached Paris - and for the first time we were in the same place as Sarah's suitcase although for a brief moment!

After practising a little french - oui, merci! we went to the departure gate - delay of about half an hour on our flight but manageable. Sarah could almost smell the imminent possibility of full iPhone access once again and in fact as soon as we touched down at Manchester she was on facebook!

I reunited with my suitcase with a sigh of relief, Sarah was told yet anther story about how she needs to go about getting her case - still not convinced that what they have found is actually hers.

So, we come home to spring sunshine, a hung parliament, chaos on the stockmarket, and an empty fridge. After dropping me at home (thanks), Sarah's dad then took Sarah home to kids, dog and empty fridge.

Thus ends our Chilean adventure, we thank you for following our exploits and for all the support. We will of course be following up on some of the issues we have raised here and at conference so watch out for other related posts. And we will of course inform you of the eventual conclusion of "Suitcasegate". Am off to stock the fridge, unpack and get ready to teach on Monday.
Bye for now.............................................(PS check out earlier posts later - I shall be correcting typos, adding photos and creating relevant links later today)

Thursday, 6 May 2010

As we prepare to leave.........

We have an hour before the taxi arrives to take us to the airport and home so we thought we´d spend time summarising our fantastic journey.
Status: money -OK, weather rain overnight but now warm and sunny, luggage: Sarah´s still awol - did have visions of it turning up just as we checked out -but not happened. UK airspace clear of volcanic ash from unpronouncable volcano. Very, very tired not helped by sirens and horns and sounds previously unknown to man outside the hotel at 4am this morning. Decided that was not imminent ending of world so went back to bed.

Briefly managed to catch up with friends over breakfast and wish Dan Johnson (practitioner of the world) and Joanne Inman (Lancashire Care Foundation Trust) best of luck for their presentations today. We will be keen to hear how it all goes when you both get back to the UK. Note to Dan from Sarah: please be judicious of your use of the photograph you took of us at breakfast as I have three day old clothes on and a rather haggard expression!!!

After packing my suitcase (trying to shield as much of this activity from Sarah as possible) we headed out to the local Mall to do some last minute shopping for gifts (think Manchester Arndale on a bad day!). After 20 minutes even we couldn´t find anything more to buy so returned to hotel for final snooze and check out before 12 noon.

As we wait for the taxi, how can we summarise this experience:
a) looong and tiring journey
b) own clothes not essential for ADL but preferred
c) cash essential
d) iPhone not essential but preferred
e) there is great merit in international networking both real and virtual
f) the value of the conference lies less in the formal learning opportuniites and more in the potential to develop relationships.

So to answer some of our original questions
a) should OTs be involved in disaster/emergency scenarios? WFOT had a whole stand at conference and have been working hard at engaging discussions in this area. Our own discussions came to the initial conclusion that working with survivors/victims in re-establishing roles, routines and communities can be a vital role for occupational therapists as can working with the "powers that be" who are in the political arena to ensure that temporary communities can meet the occupational needs of those affected.

b) Is there a difference between networking using online social media and travelling the world to network? Yes, but both are valuable and can be effective in initiating and maintaining personal and professional links
c) Is the uk system of healthcare stifling occupational therapy? Hmm maybe not ready to put our views here yet - more reading to be done
d) what do a group of international OTs look like? suitably diverse in age, gender, culture and personality. Whilst one may suggest that there are OT stereotypes within certain arenas there doesnot seem to be a one size fits all stereotype as to what an international OT looks like

OK. so some acknowledgements before we dash......
a) Thanks to Sue Braid our Head of School for her support and trust in us to represent the School on the other side of the world. We hope we have served the role well.
b) Thanks to our colleagues Anita, Merrolee and Karen who have been an inspiration and a motivating force and with whom we have spent many hours of laughter, fun, visionary thinking and hard work - all in a good cause and we can´t wait for the next stages of our master plan. We wish you luck with our presentation on Friday and are so sad to be missing it - but you will all be inspirational I´m sure.
c) Thanks also to those of you who have been following our blog and offering support and sympathy as relevant - especially Kirsty, Heather and Jackie in the OT team and facebook friends Denis, Helena and Gail and Bronnie

We will write of our journey home later and once home our intention is to revisit the posts and create links and upload photos so please visit again when you get chance. Wish us Bon Voyage. Adios until later.........

Of Planning, networking and fond goodbyes: Our Last full day in Chile:

So, we made it to conference for another day. Weather: overcast and rather chilly (excuse the pun!), solvent - just, still no suitcase for Sarah. Today the bus arrived at a more human time so we were able to have breakfast and ride to the conference in style (reclining leather seats in a bus!). Scenery on the way to the centre goes from urban through suburbia, industrial and finally mountainous - unusual but maybe couldn't be described as beautiful. Strange looking wall lined much of the dual carriageway which preoccupied Sarah for most of the journey imagining it to be a vast scale climbing wall - however think the sticky out things were more likely to be there to hold stuff and not people.
First stop - coffee (of course) and in the queue we got chatting to a Professor Josman from Haife in Israel. Very interesting to hear of their successful undergraduate and post graduate programmes - they usually have about 400 applicants for 60 places on the UG programme. They also run a Doctorate in OT. We explained a bit about our MSc Advanced OT programme that is delivered entirely online and has a great international focus (taking applications now if anyone is interested - contact Sarah for more information).

Soon realised that Sarah's luggage situation was the talk of the conference (well nearly!). Usually most people started a conversation on an expectant "so has it arrived?" and then complimented me on my clothes sense given that we were sharing a wardrobe.
We made contact with Michael Iwama at the conference reception and had a long chat with him. We welcomed him as a recent Honorary Professor at Salford University and as someone who has been a keen follower of our MSc programme and has often given us glowing feedback we are delighted that we will be working more with each other in the future. Michael is due to visit the University in June of this year (watch this space for more details soon).

The plenary session found us sat at the very front of the auditorium immediately in front of the podium in between WFOT council members and Team Chile. I was just following Sarah who seemed to be woman with purpose in finding seats. We now expect to be seen on all official photos from the morning session! At this session we learnt that there are 324,757 OTs practicing in the world and 702 WFOT approved programmes. Three countries were awarded associate member status at council this week who are working towards developing OT programmes - the Seychelles being one of these - good luck to you all.

Towards the end of the session we learned of a project in the pipeline working on issues of social media that Ritchard Ledgerd was leading on. Before we could say "time for coffee" Merrolee had found us (not hard given where we were!) and had marched us towards Marilyn Pattison of WFOT to say "we're your crew" or words of that effect and was pointed towards Ritchard who was stalked until cornered by us (but he did used to be a colleague of Sarah's at Fazackerly hospital in Liverpool ). Whilst slightly stunned into submission he very quickly regained composure and was generous and welcoming of our experience and offers of contribution. Merrolee was then on a mission to strip us of our British reserve and got us to practice admitting and owning the fact that we (OT4OT group )- are leaders in the field of online knowledge transfer for occupational therapists - scary thought!

Later on we were able to meet properly with Ritchard to start the ball rolling in beginning a WFOT project team for these issues and were surprised to hear that WFOT staff are all volunteers.
It was at this point that we heard of more problems with the volcano with the unpronounable name spewing out volcanic ash. Consenus would appear to be that we should be Ok to enter UK airspace on friday lunchtime - but given our track record to date - we are trying very hard to remain hopeful!

So we finally left conference having made some new connections, re-affirmed existing connections, established friendships, raised the profile of University of Salford and our occupational therapy programmes,  and created a "to do" list longer than Sarah's climbing wall. Our brains are now stuffed full of innovative and creative possibilities and we are re-energised in spirit if not in the physical.
All we hope for now is that Sarah's case does not arrive in Chile once we have left. Our final post will tell you of our journey home - assuming we make it that far.

Night night.......

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Of Radical Views and Real friends.......

Yesterday was the first full day of conference for us, the first WFOT Congress to be bi-lingual with simultaneous translation at all sessions. Slightly hairy moment when had to hand over passport to get gadget for translation particularly as this is possibly the only thing that Sarah owns at the moment (still no suitcase). All was well however and they have now been returned to us - won´t be stuck here (famous last words springs to mind!).

Whilst queuing for registration (Sarah was of course invisible and they had to work hard to find evidence of her registration adding to her feelings of insignificance and pathos) we were spotted by Anita Hamilton - our facebook friend and co-presenter from Canada who came across with a big hug for us -and then proceeded to be amazed at the tallness of Sarah for most of the day. Merrolee Penman (Aotera/NZ) another fb friend and co-conspirator had saved us a place for the Key note lecture. Karen Jacobs (USA) our third co-presenter was then introduced to us - what a whilrwind! Given that we had only ever met in cyberspace we immediately fell into a warm and relaxed camraderie and spent many hours together through the day and evening.

The Key note speech was given by an eminent ecomonist (Manfred Max-Neef)who had some rather radical anti neo-liberal views on world and personal ecomomies for example the recent crash of banks (due to "greed and stupidity")required 17 trillion dollars to stem the problem - this sum would have stopped world hunger for over 500 years.
He was advocating a stem of globalisation and presented myths about this and that unlike both Blair (globalisation is irreversible and irresistable) and Thatcher (there is no existing alternative) he believes that we should replace greed and competition with solidarity and compassion stating that economic growth is not the answer to everything.

The day overall provided us with much food for thought. An hour of so spent chatting with Frank Kronenberg (a newly appointed Honorary Professor at Salford) has possibly turned much about how we think of our profession on its head - but that´s for another post - we need time to reflect and assimilate before going public with this very radical view! Frank will be vsiting the University in October - watch this space for more details.

Sarah, as usual, did a sterling job at networking- in fact almost every 10th person came upto introduce themesleves as facebook friends. We also stumbled upon a poster presentation that has given Sarah some links with Canada who have been working on a similar project to Sarah´s Ning thing with a local trust so this was a very fruitful stumble.

On the news front, still no case, ok for cash (so far). Managed to borrow mac lead so Saerah could be seen plugged into the wall at various times of the day to seruptiously charge the laptop - which now charged will not give access to internet so we are now limited to 5 mins access a day at conference.
OK, breakfast calls then bus to conference and another 12 hour day at conference site before we can relax again. More tomorrow.........................