Monday, 12 January 2015

Walking with the Spirits - Day 44

Day 44 (13th January 2015)
44th President of the United States of America - Barack Obama
elected in 2009
Obama has 44 confirmed cousins in the US Senate

Chris Kane came into my world in 2014 through the link up between BIFM and the CIPD to determine what the workplaces of the future should be like. Chris is an engaging Irishman and a recognised global leader in Facilities design and management. He was head of Corporate Real Estate at the BBC, before becoming CEO of the BBC's Commercial Projects (a part time role that enables him to be a Non Executive Director for the NHS and director of a housing association). He lives in London but travels with regularity around the world, where his workplace knowledge and insightful advice is requested. He is active on social media - check out his YouTube pages or follow him on Twitter, his handle is @ChrisKane55 or read his internationally followed blog. He is engaging to meet and chat with in real life too...


When Kate suggested I contribute to this series, my initial thought was that I would be way out of my depth: it felt like a major challenge. However, when you get positive encouragement, coupled with some inspiration,  it’s remarkable what one can overcome. For me, the inspiration was prompted by reflecting on recent events that included the death of a close friend and the end of a 17 year journey of uncertainty.
Life in 2014 (and now 2015) is fast-moving, complex and challenging; it affords little time for reflection and thought. For many of us the simple things and matters spiritual are just not on the agenda. I wonder why? Sitting down to write this post, I have taken a step back from the day-to-day buzz of things temporal to consider the path I have followed and what is really important.

Escaping The Turmoil, by Mel Brigg, acrylic on linen
Last week I learned that my childhood best friend - my next-door neighbour and my rugby playing buddy - had passed away. There is little I can do aside from comforting David’s family and reflecting on the good times and the paths we followed. Receiving such sad and shocking news can be numbing, but it also inevitably jolts one into thinking about what actually matters. It may be cliche to say, but such thoughts almost invariably lead to 'people'.

Having spent a lot of my professional life moving clients and organisations to new buildings, I learned at an early stage that is not just about bricks and mortar: as readers of my blog are probably all too aware, the human experience is central. So many of my peers focus on the real estate deal, the interior design, the operating costs, but fail to grasp the people dimension. Human beings have concerns, emotions, needs and agendas, all of which need to be considered.
This idea was thrown into sharp relief recently when dealing with the relocation of the home of London Irish Rugby football club to a new training ground. Back in 1997, when this long-standing rugby club entered the professional era, it embarked on a lengthy period of uncertainty.  The future of the club’s home The Avenue was up for grabs: the alternative use value for residential was a much better financial proposition than playing pitches.
London Irish's final game at The Avenue vs. Saracens
To cut a long story short, this 17 year journey or long drawn out Advent, which saw the club splitting and diverging (Amateur and Professional), has now come to a satisfactory conclusion. The old place is no more, and we have a new home down the road.
London Irish new training ground in Sunbury
The Avenue was very important to the lives of a great many people in the diaspora; the ashes of many club members have been scattered on its hallowed ground over 79 years. There was a strong feeling that this spiritual connection had to be honoured and that a traditional tape cutting ceremony would not suffice.
And so we gathered at The Avenue as churchmen spoke, rubbed earth on a rugby ball and watched 

Fr Patrick Devine blessing the ball
as 23 players aged from 5 to 55, both amateur and professional, carry this 'spirit' of the club to its new home. 

Ball relay to the new grounds - U6 player Lars Esse,
flanked by London Irish players, carries the rugby ball in to Hazelwood
(Photo: Malcolm McNally)
For the people whose relatives had chosen to have their remains there it was important to see that the club had not overlooked their loved ones in the move to a new place. 
Memorial bench
Some of us chose to walk with the spirits of former club mates in a small gesture of solidarity to pay our respects to the ones that are gone before us.  It served as an opportunity to reflect on and anticipate what life will be like in the new home, this 'rebirth' – an important aspect of Advent. We walked secure in the knowledge that, superficial things aside (moving the playing kit, the posts, the offices), the spirit both of the old world and the new had been honoured.
Samhain - celtic period from 1st November to 31st January
Traditionally starts with a day of honouring the spirits
before looking forward.
It was a powerful and timely reminder to this London Irish boy that place is so much more than what you can see or touch: it's a feeling - and if we want our spaces to really work, we can't ignore that.
To belong in a place is a feeling

Clearly happy to be together at the new place
Former london Irish players - John Gilligan, Chris Kane, Michael Connole and Peter Whiteside

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