Meet the Author – Buy the Book – Adventures into Self Publishing

As my year long sabbatical reaches the final stages, I’m keen to complete two things on my “must do” list. One is related to university interests and I’ll cover in a future blog. The second is to complete my first novel and get it published so that people (if they want to) can read it.

slide1The novel, REMEMBER, REMEMBER THE 6TH OF NOVEMBER, is set at the time of the Gunpowder Plot. It explores the alarming parallels between the Britain of 1605 and today – concerns over Europe, terrorism and government surveillance. The story combines real life events with an alternative history view of a time when King James was persecuting England’s Catholics and Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plotters planned to blow up Parliament and kill the king. There are spies, plots, treachery and torture. I think of it as a contemporary thriller set in an earlier time.

I completed early edits of the novel and put it out for review by a local book club. Their feedback was fair, constructive and overall very positive. It helped me complete an additional cycle of editing in the summer.  I learned, from an author’s point of view, a book is never quite finished but you have to stop editing some time – so I did.

Hooray, the book was written but how could I get people to read it? I sent it to a small number of literary agents but as with JK Rowling and others, I received a polite “no thank you”. One approach (which led to the success of Harry Potter) is keep trying and send it to more agents.

bonfire-picHowever, I was working to a schedule. Firstly, I return to work on 6th November (note link to the book title). Secondly, it would be great if the book was available this year for the run up to Guy Fawkes Night on 5th November.

tadcaster-floodsThere was another consideration. I wanted to give something back as part of my sabbatical and selling a book can generate money without having to run a marathon or climb a mountain… All profits made from the book in 2016 will be shared equally between two very good causes – one local (Tadcaster Flood Support and Fundraising Group) and one national / international (Save the Children).

For these reasons, I opted to explore self-publishing and researched how to do this online. I read several posts saying the Amazon Kindle platform is hard to format your book for and everything takes a long time, etc etc which concerned me.

On the positive side, I found this helpful link, How to Quickly Publish to Kindle, which describes how to take content out of MS Word into a great package for writing called Scrivener and publish an e-book. As I’d already decided to use Scrivener, this simple article saved me lots of time. Very quickly, my book was compiled into multiple e-book formats and if I say so myself (with my daughter’s artwork for the cover) it looked quite good on the previewer software.
quill-1cThe book was ready… Last weekend I went onto the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing website and reviewed the details, set up an account and published the book over a few hours. It was surprisingly straight forward. Once this was done, I sent an email to a dozen people I trust and asked them to have a look at the book and let me know what they think. They’ve been great as almost all of them bought a copy and I know many are already reading it (thank you!).

What now? The hard work proper starts. With the book available – links below – I need to work out how best to promote it so people know about it, buy it and read it. This is a key activity. I have lots of ideas which I plan to soon follow up on but I’m keen to learn from others – your hints, tips and ideas are very welcome.

Finally, I can’t end this blog without asking you to buy the book to raise funds for the two very good causes. If you do, please let me know what you think and if appropriate post a positive review on Amazon for those who come after you.

Many other country Amazon Stores available

Follow the story unfold in the coming weeks Twitter.com/MorgantheBook

Find out more and read interview with the author www.6thnovember.com

Many thanks, Tony.

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Empathy, Empathy… through Design Thinking

I believe Design Thinking is very important. This must be true because despite the great weather I took a break from my sabbatical in July 2016 to attend an education event on applying IBM Design Thinking to collaborative services engagements between clients and suppliers.

To mis-quote Shakespeare and the Carry On films I personally think the slogan of Design Thinking should be Empathy, empathy, they’ve all got it empathy…

We’ve all seen great technical solutions which aren’t effective because insufficient consideration was given to how they would be used. The key to Design Thinking is simple – absolute importance on focusing on the people. You have to talk to them, work with them, understand them. Design Thinking and IBM’s own IBM Design Thinking provide a great set of tools, techniques and approaches to do this. Visit the IBM Design Thinking web pages to find out more.

Over the last two years we’ve incorporated increasing focus on IBM Design Thinking in our internal IBM Client Innovation Master Classes. They provide a set of new and indispensable tools to add to the client facing technical professional’s innovation kit bag. Outside IBM, one of the modules I support as part of my Visiting role at the University of Leeds in the Global Innovation Management program also includes focus on Design Thinking.

Back to the class on using IBM Design Thinking for services engagements… Now, you may ask “Design Thinking is great but isn’t it really about driving end user centric design of new products and apps?”. My view is that Design Thinking and IBM Design Thinking in particular can be applied in many many contexts and it is the context which is key.

Sharpie and Post Its

Whether designing a new service, working on a services sales engagement or co-developing with a client how the service will be implemented, run and managed, it should still always be about the people – and using a variety of IBM Design Thinking tools and approaches will ensure what is designed, sold and/or delivered will be what the people (client team, supplier team and most importantly the internal or external users or customers of the service) need, want and value.

Thanks to Danny, Ian, Sarah and Doug for a great class which really highlighted how IBM Design Thinking can be applied in a services context.

Lastly I was still on sabbatical and the weather was great so I did get outside at lunchtime and found a lovely walk very near to IBM Warwick (pictures below).

Do All Roads Lead to Rome?

This time the blog focuses on 4 days spent in and around a trench in North Yorkshire – searching for evidence of a Roman road.

During my sabbatical I’m packing in different things. In June 2016, Mrs M and I volunteered to support an archaeological dig near Towton. In 1461 the area was the scene of Britain’s bloodiest battle. Chilling to think 20,000 people were killed in the picturesque fields around us. Many digs have focused on the battle but we looked further back. Could we uncover evidence of a Roman road beneath or near to the Old London Road, prior to resurfacing work on the modern track?

The excavation was organised by Towton Parish Council, supported by the UK Heritage Lottery Fund. It was led by professional archaeologists from the University of York. Tim Sutherland (a leading expert on Towton) was Project Director and Rachel Wood our Project Supervisor. The rest of the team were local volunteers organised by Parish Councillor, Graham Webb, plus a few PhD students and two enthusiastic historical event re-enactors.

Arriving on Day 1 Rachel gave us a heath and safety brief and intro to the dig. Some of the volunteers had experience, whilst others, like us, were first timers, inspired by an interest in local history. Rachel was great – ensuring everyone had useful things to do and enjoyed themselves at the same time. The work started quickly. An area had been fenced off and a trench marked up. Sadly there was no digger in sight, just a row of spades and pick-like mattocks. We were soon all hard at work, taking up turf, top soil and stones from the surface. It wasn’t long before we discovered another surface beneath the current track. This was clearly a road (pic below).

IMG_1407 copy

Was it Roman? Unfortunately it was not far beneath the surface and there was no sign of Roman activity. Still it was great to find something so quickly and we likely discovered the main road from several hundred years ago. Much of the afternoon of Day 1 and a lot of Day 2 saw troweling activity, clearing the soil from around the uncovered road surface and searching for finds. A small number of items were selected and bagged for future inspection. The trench was then professionally measured and photographed.

On Day 3 it was time to go deeper and wider. The deeper part was to dig a strip in the trench to see if there was an older road surface, ditch and/or other features beneath our feet. The wider aspect was to begin a geophysical survey adjacent to the site for evidence of what was around us. Members of the team also sieved through the spoil taken from the trench, finding for example a fascinating small spherical object, too light for a standard musket round but worthy of follow up expert analysis.

We went home tired but happy on Day 3, ready for the final push. The weather had been tremendous and the area we were in, surrounded by swaying barley fields and woodland, was beautiful. However, that evening the heavens opened and thunder, lightening and heavy rain was all around. When we returned on Day 4, areas of the trench were a quagmire with standing water in some parts. Thankfully a quick bailing operation, sunshine and a breeze dried things out very well.

Work on a much deeper strip began in earnest, with plaudits to Richard, Tim, Rachel and Fergus for their hard-working spells in the hole. More and more clay soil was removed and barrowed away but if the Romans were down there they were still in hiding. There were, though, a number of very interesting features which in combination with the geophys results may yet highlight something quite unexpected.

The second half of Day 4 saw the final part of the geophysical survey, clean up, troweling, edging and brushing clean of the whole trench and deeper strip. We posed for a group photograph and Tim gave a great talk explaining what we had found – not a Roman road but we had uncovered a later road and the geophysics may yet find out more. We tidied up the site and left for home, leaving Tim to complete the detailed final site survey and measurements, with the trench to be filled in the following day.

Overall this was a great experience. Hard work at times and I give tribute to some of the others here – heroes of the spade and mattock. Personally I particularly enjoyed troweling and the geophysics, talking to the many visitors to the site, lunch at the Rockingham Arms and the general camaraderie. I also stopped a number of times, looked around and thought of the people who had passed by over the centuries and millennia. We didn’t find a Roman road but we all learned and experienced a great deal. I think the Roman road is there, somewhere near to where we were and one day it will be uncovered and it probably leads to Tadcaster.

Mid Sabbatical Blues?

The last few weeks have brought home to me the fact that I am now more than half way through my sabbatical. The end is in sight so am I starting to feel the blues?

The honest answer is no. It has been great to pack so many things in – and there is a lot more I want to do too in the remaining time.

My debut novel has been written, reviewed, edited and is on its way to a set of literary agents. I await their response and have already started work on the sequel.

A few weeks ago I completed one of my “about time you did this” items – attending my first cricket Test Match – England v Sri Lanka at Headingley in Leeds. The weather held out and it was really good fun with good cricket and a great atmosphere in the ground. On a musical note I went home to Wales last week to see the Manic Street Preachers play in Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium and they were great. Two events I’ll remember for a long time.

Lots of fun but it is important not to totally forget about work during your time away… You need to keep up to date and maintain contact with people – remind them you’re still around and importantly when you’re coming back.

Recently I was asked to support a major IBM education event for client facing technical leaders across Europe. This was held in Lisbon in Portugal at the end of May. I took time out of my sabbatical to co-create and lead one of the main sessions. It was hard work guiding 400 people from many different countries through a set of highly interactive and challenging exercises using Innovation, IBM Design Thinking and other techniques but fun and interesting too – and I did get to see a bit of this great city.

I met a many colleagues and friends and made some new ones – and had a number of initial conversations around specific job roles to return into. This will be something I will be focusing on more during the second half of my sabbatical.

In the meantime I will also be walking, spending time in the garden, attending a few more music, comedy and sporting events, celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary with the long-suffering Mrs M, hopefully making strong progress on the second novel and definitely continuing to work with academia, particularly the great team at the University of Leeds.

So it’s a busy few months ahead… and the only blues should be of the musical variety…

LUBS Visit to IBM Emerging Technologies

Part of my sabbatical has been spending time with academia and I’ve learned there are some great things going on at our universities.

In the spirit of the annual Leeds/Reading music festival (best bands I’ve seen there were The Arctic Monkeys and The Hives) I’ve created two parallel blogs – one with an example from Leeds and one from Reading.

This is the Leeds one – about the Leeds University Business School MSc in Global Innovation Management Visit to IBM Hursley. (Link to Reading blog).

This is a great MSc course and I’ve blogged previously about the Innovation Management in Practice module which is now an important part of it.

The first time I was engaged with the MSc course was early in 2015 when I hosted a visit for the students to see innovation in action at IBM Hursley. We repeated the visit for this year’s class in March 2016.

Leeds Hursley 2016 pic3aLeeds Hursley 2016 pic1

In their course the students have learned a lot about the technology push and market pull aspects of innovation. The focus of the visits has been on learning and experiencing real examples of the application of emerging technologies at the sharp end of this intersection between the push and pull forces.

We included short talks on making innovation happen, visits to the IBM Innovation Centre and lots of time with members of the IBM Emerging Technology Services team – including discussion sessions, lab visits and technology demos from IBM Senior and Master Inventors.

Leeds team ETS labLeeds Hursley 2016 pic5

Technology focus areas covered included The Internet of Things, Mobile, Augmented Reality and of course IBM Watson cognitive technologies.

The students fed back it was a fantastic experience. They were inspired by seeing new and emerging technologies being applied to drive business value across many spheres and industries.

Leeds team HursleyLeeds Hursley 2016 pic4

Industry engagement like this is a very practical way for universities to help their students learn from “the real world” and I think it is great that universities like Leeds really focus on this.

Personally I love going to Hursley and catching up with what is happening and meeting colleagues and friends, old and new. My biggest thanks are to the two IBM leaders who helped to make these visits happen and work – Kevin Turner in 2015 and Helen McAllister in 2016 – many thanks to you both and the teams who supported.

We’re now looking forward to the next visit in 2017.

Reading Uni Technology Advisory Practices Client Projects

Part of my sabbatical has been spending time with academia and I’ve learned there are some great things going on at our universities.

In the spirit of the annual Reading/Leeds music festival (best bands I’ve seen there were The Arctic Monkeys and The Hives) I’ve created two parallel blogs – one with an example from Leeds and one from Reading.

This is the Reading one – about the Henley Business School Technology Advisory Practices development and delivery of live client projects. (Link to Leeds blog)

Henley 2016 pic3

A little while ago one of my favourite people in the IBM Cloud business, Doug Clark introduced me to Dr Danny Gozman at Henley Business School. Danny and I got talking about technology, innovation and areas of mutual interest.

I enthused about my love of the IBM Extreme Blue programme, where top talent student interns work on real client challenges and deliver totally new prototype solutions – and then Danny told me about the Technology Advisory Practices module which he runs for undergraduates. This sounded great – the undergraduates work in teams with external organisations, often charities, to deliver a consultation style project to address one or more of their key opportunities or challenges.

Given my experience of Extreme Blue, Danny asked if I’d like to get involved with the module in 2016 and I quickly said yes.

As well as giving the students a project, a client and support, Danny and team (including Jonathan Mangan) bring in a series of guests from industry to spend half a day each week with the students. This time includes a guest lecture on relevant and useful topics and most importantly an amount of quality time with each team to discuss and review their project and progress – and provide advice and guidance from the years of client facing industry experience.

Henley 2016 pic1

I must say I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the students. The quality of their questions and insights made me quickly forget they were undergraduates rather than experienced professionals.

The module culminates with a presentation day when the teams present to their clients, an industry panel and the Mayor of Reading. I was delighted to be part of the panel for the presentation day on March 2016.

Henley 2016 pic4Henley 2016 pic5

I was hugely impressed with the quality of the project deliverables and presentations. Talking to the other panel members (Richard Sykes and Alex Furneaux) we were all amazed by the way the students had taken on board the advice we had given to them and then merged this with their own thinking and insights. The clients were all very appreciative and every single one said they were going to implement some or all of the students work and recommendations.

Henley 2016 pic6

To be an undergraduate with this level of real world experience (positives, frustrations, team working, job satisfaction) must be an amazing thing.

Setting up, supporting and delivering projects like this is no mean feat. The module is a credit to the university. A huge well done to the students and to Danny and the Henley team.

Writing a First Novel

This time a few thoughts about the process of writing a first novel, as it has been one of the primary projects of my sabbatical.

I have wanted to do this for quite a while – all I needed was quality time and a little inspiration. The sabbatical gave me the time but what about the inspiration?

I got this by attending a Creative Writing class in 2015 at York University’s Life Long Learning Centre. This really helped me think not just about the ideas but about the structure and process of writing the novel and I learned some great tips.

A key tip was to totally separate the creative writing aspect from the careful editing part. Doing this has been essential and a great way to make fast progress on the writing – followed some time later by the much more objective quality control.

ibm word processor

The class taught me the value of developing a structured plan. I created this before getting into the writing, even though I was itching to get started and it has really helped.

I used the exercises and homework from the class to come up with and start developing the key idea and themes of the book. We had an exercise on creating a compelling six word sentence – this is now the title of the novel. We had an exercise on writing a first page – a morphed version of this now opens my novel. We had an exercise on creating a short story. I did this and thought “hold on – there’s something really interesting and novel size in this” –  and it has now developed into an 80,000 plus word long book.

The hardest thing about writing this blog is I can’t give the game away of the subject matter. Please accept my apologies (with a smile). All I can say is there is an altered history involved. The story is based around a well-known historical event and a subtly altered version of the modern day. The parallels between the historical element and contemporary themes are very real and hopefully make for a very good read. From my research I think there is a real market for this (okay I added that in case any agents I submit the book to find this blog – no really I mean it…!)

I’m now into the nth edit of the book and it has just gone out for a proof read, critical appraisal and feedback from the Tadcaster Claret Book Club (the name comes from the wine rather than a football team).

A few more reviews and edits to go, with time in between to let things settle. I remember what Gary Player the golfer once said when accused of being lucky – “its funny, the more I practice, the luckier I get”. If Gary was writing a novel I am sure he would have done quite a few edits to get it as good as it could be before submitting it.

Unrelated to the class, I think my previous writing and presentation experience has been useful too – letters, blogs, articles, work proposals, song lyrics and even emails – it all helps.

Writers Yearbook

So what now? My head is currently buried in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2016 – a must read for any aspiring novelist – and I am researching a plethora (nice word) of websites on how to get get published.

The next step, once I am satisfied the book is really ready, is to get an agent to represent me in the world of publishing. You can go direct but for first timers having an agent is highly recommended – quite rightly too from what I can see. Then it is about getting a publisher, having the best seller and the follow on long term book deal plus TV and film adaptations and so on.

Perhaps I am getting a little ahead of myself? There has been a lot of talk too about self publishing and if, at the end of the day, I can’t get an agent and publisher, I will definitely go down that route – as I know you will want to read the finished article – and it will be an interesting experience in itself.

Anyway I must dash, as I already have two ideas for the next novel – one being an indirect sequel to this one. If you’re thinking of writing a novel yourself, my advice is do a course and/or read up on doing it a bit first – and then go for it. Even (in the extremely unlikely) scenario my novel is not published, I have loved every second of creating it.

Live in Leeds… Innovation Management in Practice

As part of my sabbatical I am supporting a new module at Leeds University Business School (LUBS) called Innovation Management in Practice. Students on this module include students taking the MSc in Global Innovation Management plus a number of others.

I’ve been working with a small team at LUBS on this, particularly Dr Matt Mount who is leading the module.

The scope of the module extends across the innovation management funnel from ideas, challenges and opportunities to delivery and commercialisation – from within large corporates to start-ups. There is also a focus of on the role of “Innovation Manager”.

I’m supporting much of the module and leading a few of the sessions. I loved the brief given to me – “what does an Innovation Manager need to know and what do they really do when they turn up at the office or client site?”

Innovation wordle

We call them “sessions” rather than “lectures” because most weeks they aren’t really like traditional lectures. Of course there is a little show and tell covering key concepts – but most of the time is focused on the students applying tools, tips and approaches in group exercises. These are followed by interactive group feedback with the rest of the class. I think this really works – so far for example, amongst other things, the students have run ideation workshops, applied De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats approach, run practical sessions in Design Thinking and use of Open Innovation approaches.

The students appreciate the blend of academic learning and real world experience, stories and anecdotes from Matt, myself and a range of guest speakers.

The content I’ve delivered includes use of “outside in” and “inside out” Open Innovation techniques. I’ve enjoyed (and benefited from) taking a step back and going through the academic work, literature and industry examples around Open Innovation. It has made me really think about how IBM and other companies are practically using this to drive benefits for their businesses and customers.

Another topic is the role of the Innovation Manager and Managing Innovation Teams. For this I went back to some of the thinking I did with a team during an IBM Academy of Technology study around this topic a few years ago. I added to this from wider reading and my own practical experience.

We looked at the different roles needed at different stages of the Innovation Management process – and how the role of the Innovation Manager often morphs between facilitator (particularly in the early stages) and a project manager (particularly in the later stages).

Innovation Management Roles
As we know there are many types and variations of “innovation” projects. The context determines which roles are required. Not all roles are always involved. Sometimes the same people have multiple roles. More often than not people involved have different job titles and may not recognise themselves as a “Champion” or an “Innovation Manager”.
The important thing is that someone if fulfilling a key role, even if it is called something else. We also reviewed the skills needed by the “Innovation Manager”. We mapped these to the  phases of the innovation management process. They included creativity, analysis, translation between business and technology, problem solving, commercial awareness, a level of content knowledge at times, negotiation, reporting, communication, facilitation, project management and leadership skills. So quite a tall order…Innovation Manager

Importantly the role of “Innovation Manager” is a real one. In one session we analysed five live job descriptions (thanks Google and LinkedIn) for Innovation Managers. We walked through the attributes that the employers were looking for. The focus of the roles varied – from new product development to innovation for driving internal operational efficiency to leading joint innovation with clients. There was also one very very senior innovation leadership role effectively setting the direction for a household name global corporation.

All were looking for a set of common attributes focused around knowledge and experience of the innovation management process and the skills described above.

In parallel the students are working on an innovation related group project, where again they can apply the knowledge they are learning.

The module continues and I look forward to the weeks ahead – as we move into intellectual property, commercialisation and delivery.

It is hugely positive that LUBS is focusing on this topic and the learning places the students in good stead for the challenges in their careers ahead, whether they be Innovation Managers or something else.

Sustaining a Sabbatical with Innovation and Raspberries

I’ve previously blogged on planning and starting a sabbatical break from work. This time the focus is on sustaining one. It’s probably easier for people who are travelling but what about those, like me, who are primarily spending time at home – how do we resist turning on daytime TV?

My approach has been to line up things I am really interested in and which I would have struggled to do without the relative luxury of having time available.

Weather impact aside, the Christmas and New Year holiday season was interesting. A few friends said to me things like “you’re on a sabbatical so the holidays are no different for you” – meaning (I think) that they thought I wasn’t doing anything most of the time anyway…!

I made some changes over Christmas. I took a break from “working” on university related activities. I used some of the extra time available on immediate family and friends related activities, including enjoying a number of the mince pies pictured below which were baked by our younger daughter. There was also excitement in the Morgan household when Mrs M and I had our 7 seconds of fame, appearing (very) briefly on local TV news. All the feedback we received was, of course, focused on Mrs M’s hat. One day we may make it available on eBay and list it as “as seen on TV”

mince piesas seen on tv

In addition I went into overdrive on one of the focus areas of my sabbatical – writing a novel. In early January I finished the first draft. This was well ahead of schedule. I’m now taking a short break, before starting a first edit. In readiness, I’ve compiled a list of areas where further research and/or changes may be needed to make it (even) more of an interesting and intriguing read. We’ll see how that goes over the next month or two.

Research books

In terms of keeping away from daytime TV, I’m re-focused once more on university related topics. For example I’m writing draft material for a potential joint publication with a Professor at Loughborough University. We’re going to review progress and plans for it in early February.

Last week I gave a guest lecture at the University of York (pic below) for the People in Technology Based Organizations module. This was with second year students in the Electronics Department. The focus was on challenges and benefits of working for a large technology company plus leadership and communications skills for technical professionals. It was a very interactive session. The questions were excellent and I was impressed with the engagement and attitude of the students.

York Uni

During the coming weeks I’ll be providing input into, and delivering some of, the lectures for the new Innovation Management in Practice module at Leeds University Business School. I am really quite excited about this. The LUBS team have focused their MSc in Global Innovation Management on practical aspects as well as the theory of making innovation happen. This is excellent and much needed in my opinion.

It’s also great for me. Some of the content utilises my practical experience – for example the roles and skills needed to succeed in innovation management. For other items I need to carry out wider reading and research – for example on the latest thinking on Open Innovation. I will be learning, and making use of the knowledge when my sabbatical ends, just as the students will when they complete their studies.

I’ve also managed to fit plenty of other things over the last month. This has included lots of walking, watching local Yorkshire Britpop favourites Shed Seven and seeing Leeds United draw two all with Derby County. It was the first football match I’ve been to in years. There was a good atmosphere, albeit quite different to rugby, plus some interesting and, at times, very humorous singing and chanting.

Leeds United.jpg

At last we’ve also had a few dry days and I’ve been able to get into the garden. After a number of hours of digging and clearing, I finally managed to start and finish my new raspberry bed. The family and I are now look forward to the fruits of my labours.

Next time I plan to blog on innovation related topics – most likely related to content areas in the LUBS Innovation Management on Practice module.

Until then I leave you with good news on the Tadcaster floods front. Our town’s new temporary footbridge arrived yesterday. At this very moment it is being assembled like a giant Meccano set (pic below). It should be up in 2-3 weeks – assuming all the parts are in the box…

Tadcaster Bridge Meccano Set2

Tadcaster Floods

A different blog this time. I live in the small Yorkshire town of Tadcaster. Over the last two weeks at times it has resembled a disaster movie.

It started on Boxing Day. In the afternoon Mrs M and I went for our daily walk. We arrived at Tadcaster bridge over the River Wharfe around 4pm. After much heavy rain the bridge had been closed. We assumed this to be a temporary precaution. The flood defences seemed to be holding and the river had not burst its banks.

We were mistaken. Over the next few hours the river rose at an incredible rate. Two hours later the town was flooded. To give you an idea of how quickly the river rose, let me share this graphic from http://www.gaugemap.co.uk

Tadcaster Flood Gauge

It may be be sad to follow a river on Twitter but for the last two weeks the tweets sent out have been must see viewing. The 3.70 and 3.79m lines show previous record recordings which were well exceeded.

It was terrible the next morning to see so many homes and businesses full of dirty brown water. This included many family run firms that are the lifeblood of our quirky town. But the response of the community and beyond to help those affected has been hugely positive. So many people turned up over the following days. We played a small part, helping to clear out sodden flooring from of the town’s Medical Centre but many others did much more.

Tadcaster floods rescue

People came from all over to support the town. We met a man who had come in his van from Pickering (40-50 miles away) to donate cleaning equipment. We helped him assemble a large number of self assembly mops and brushes, all put to good use. There was the local emergency action group, local volunteers and an array of organisations who provided capability, skills and resources that any town doesn’t normally have.

The clear up was underway when the next event hit. Tadcaster bridge, the vital link between east and west parts of the town, was inspected and deemed unsafe. It would remain closed for some time. We wondered how long this would be. Then it happened. Quite dramatically. The bridge partially collapsed. Spectacular video footage was captured by onlookers. This made national news in the UK and other countries. The pictures included hanging pipes from utility services. That evening there was a gas leak, a small scale army led evacuation and power cuts.

Tadcaster bridge collapse evening

Things are now improving. Day by day we hear about local businesses reopening. We all want to support them but have a problem. Without the bridge the town is cut into two. The road diversion isn’t horrendous like the Forth bridge in Scotland but it is significant and many people don’t have cars. A free shuttle service runs in the daytime which helps and there is a footpath across a local viaduct but it is unlit, very wet and muddy on both sides. There is a better access route but a local landowner has blocked this (a whole other story). We hear the road bridge will take a year or more to restore. For now the town centre needs a simple pedestrian bridge. We await news of innovative solutions.

Of course it wasn’t just Tadcaster. Many places across the UK were affected. I can write this because our family was lucky – we weren’t flooded. Having helped clear the ground floor of a house that was, I  have more insight of what it looks and feels like but nowhere near as much as those directly affected. My heart goes out to anyone past, present or future who has been. I’m also aware that in the UK we’re fortunate compared to what happens in many other countries. It is hard to imagine the natural disasters which bring large scale death and destruction often on the news.

For me the positive impact of this local disaster story has been seeing a small community pull together and others outside helping in its hour of need. The blog will return to the more usual stuff next time.