Monday 21 July 2014

My Cup Is Full

Montaigne's Tower

Well, it's been a long run but now it's time to leave the stage. I'm moving on from Hafal to pursue new interests and our excellent Deputy Chief Executive Alun Thomas will take over from 1 December this year: see the full statement below.

Although I still have just over four months to go the announcement of our succession plan has already let me smell the sweet scent of freedom after so many years shackled to PAYE slavery.

Don't get me wrong - I've had an enjoyable, fulfilling and privileged time with Hafal and was lucky to have some decent jobs before that - but there comes a time!

Not that I am retiring - any such idea is anathema to Mrs Blog who is understandably insistent that I have clear plans which don't include pottering around and getting in the way.

I think she should be reassured. I have some longstanding writing projects which can finally be addressed and I will also do some selective consultancy work.

My role model for all this is my old chum Michel de Montaigne, the man who invented the "essay", both the word (essai in French) and the modern practice of writing on topics discursively.

Montaigne gave up public service on his 38th birthday in order to study and write about things which interested him, but he kept his hand in by doing odd jobs for the King of France. That seems about right: I'm 55 but that's probably equivalent to 38 in 16th century France.

He did have the advantage of owning several thousand acres of vineyard plus a castle so I won't be able to copy him in every respect.

His solution to the Mrs Blog challenge was to have his own study and library in a tower of the castle which is a hundred yards around the parapet from the main residential bit of the property. History doesn't relate whether it was the French thinker or Mrs M (sorry, I should say la Dame de Montaigne) who insisted on this arrangement - I'm guessing both of them thought it a good idea.

Montaigne's library - the books have gone but otherwise unchanged

My more modest version is the spare bedroom, although a "man's shed" in the garden is a thought, so long as it was a proper one with a bottle of sherry, a shelf of racy novels and a box of cigars, not one of these modern ones where I would be expected to wring my hands while worrying about my "well-being".

Bill's "Tower" - I got rid of all the reference books and a lot else when the internet took off but they still spread around the house like a paper-pulp pandemic

I will make a pilgrimage to Montaigne's tower at an early opportunity to seek further inspiration and perhaps to sample some of the region's produce (he lived near Bordeaux - I'm sure there must be something they produce around there?).

Here's the full statement:

Following a review over the last six months Hafal is making changes in anticipation of expansion of its activities including the development of a National Recovery Centre with inpatient services. The charity has recently completed purchase of the former Gellinudd Hospital in Pontardawe and is embarking on major works there as well as moving its headquarters to the site.

Meanwhile the charity is restructuring its senior management to meet the challenges ahead. Specifically the charity is merging its two most senior posts into one while developing a small team of senior managers which will include clinical leadership for the new hospital.

As part of an agreed succession plan Hafal’s Chief Executive Bill Walden-Jones is leaving Hafal to pursue new interests and, following a full assessment and interview, Trustees have appointed Deputy Chief Executive Alun Thomas as Chief Executive from 1st December 2014.

Hafal Chair Elin Jones says:-
"We are sorry to see Bill go but he was a strong advocate urging Hafal Trustees to address the need for a restructure and to deliver a planned succession in senior management. It is typical of Bill that after delivering a magnificent first ten years of operation of the independent charity he also wanted to make sure that we got succession right. We are absolutely delighted to appoint Alun in his place and they will work together to ensure a smooth transition."

Bill Walden-Jones says:-
"This is a good result for all concerned, above all Hafal’s Members. I have hugely enjoyed my time at Hafal but after 10 years (nearly 20 if you include the time when we were part of Rethink) I am keen to do new things and I am very optimistic for Hafal’s future under Alun’s tried and tested leadership. I will remain in touch and you won’t find a stronger supporter of this great charity!"

Alun Thomas says:-
"It’s a privilege to follow Bill into this exciting role and I will work hard to ensure the continuing success of the organisation. There will of course be continuity in leadership, specifically the leadership of our mass membership: they will ensure that the organisation sustains its focus on what really matters – delivering hope and practical support to people with a serious mental illness and their carers."

About Alun Thomas:

• Qualified Nurse
• First Class Honours degree in Law
• M.A. in Ethics of Social Welfare
• 4 years managing independent-sector residential services
• 2 years as Hafal’s Programme Manager; 11 years as Hafal’s Deputy Chief Executive
• Direct responsibility for Hafal’s services in the field and their rapid expansion over 10 years
• Spear-headed Hafal’s decisive evidence in Parliament and the National Assembly on the (UK) Mental Health Bill in 2002 and the Welsh Mental Health Measure.