Friday, 25 January 2013

So what was the big news of the week? Was it the Prime Minister's speech on the European Union, Prince Harry's interview about his service in Afghanistan or continuing unrest in Mali?

These are all very important stories and very worthy of comment but unfortunately the media had something much more important to devote their newsprint or airtime to - the 'ball-boy kicking incident’. Young Charlie Morgan was just a local Swansea ball-boy at 9.15pm on Wednesday evening but by 9.30pm he was a social media sensation. 

As for the match, well I'd rather spend my time cleaning the doorstep with a toothbrush then watch that rubbish. As for the reporting, this is sadly a reflection in the general decline in what was once the proud and respected profession of journalism.

I can understand the comments made by Prince Harry regarding the media, which are shaped by his personal experiences. Those of you who have experiences of the media will have your own views, but a recent poll indicates that only 17% of us trust journalists to tell the truth. 

The other story this week is the way in which much of the country comes to a halt with a dusting of snow, and firstly well done to all of our staff who didn't use the snow as an excuse not to come to work.  But why do so many schools close and why do schools fall behind that old lame excuse of 'health and safety'.  In my view, too many schools took the easy way out and closed with no thought for their pupils and parents.  

They will claim teachers couldn't get in; it was dangerous for their pupils who could have slipped on their way to school or some other equally lame reason. This is the time of the year when many pupils should have been taking their exams and it is not just the schools. Some universities have postponed exams due to what they claim is 'bad weather'; all schools and universities should have a business continuity plan and this should be about keeping schools open.

I am extremely proud to work for the Fire & Rescue Service, as the attitude of staff right across the country is to get on and do their job whatever the weather. 

Some mixed news across the county with GCSE results but pleasing to see the increase in those young people who have achieved 5 A-C grades. What we now need to do is ensure that employers provide job opportunities for young people to give them hope for their futures.  This is a real challenge as the public sector including the Fire & Rescue Service is reducing the number of jobs.

I would hope that we can look at introducing apprenticeships in some areas as young people are our future, although we have to balance this against our responsibilities to try and provide security and stability for our existing staff, a delicate balance.

My Week

  • Attended the National Health Service senior leadership assessment centre as an assessor; really interesting to work with another public service to see how they select their senior leaders and also to have the opportunity to interview senior NHS leaders. We will also benefit, as the NHS will provide assessors to support Fire Rescue Service assessment centres.
  • Met with a colleague from the British Red Cross who is assisting the support we are providing to Uganda, to help improve their community safety work and in particular their response to Road Traffic Collisions. Training centre staff have put together a package of the Road Traffic Collision training we provide in the UK and our Community Fire Safety staff have included information on our community engagement programmes. Our colleagues in Uganda hope to be able to tailor these programmes for their local needs.
  • Invited to meet with the Chairman of East Sussex County Council Councillor Chris Dowling to discuss our medium term proposals for response, prevention and protection; as well as opportunities to work with the County Council to continue our community engagement programmes. The County Council is very keen to continue working with East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service and are also interested in our proposals for the new fire station in Newhaven and the use of shared sites and shared services.
  • Continuing discussions with West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service on the Sussex Control Project, with teams from both Services working closely together on ensuring the project meets our needs and expectations. Also, moving forward work on leading and development and the opportunities we may have to share more training between the two Services.
  • Held a meeting of the national Chief Fire Officers Association People and Organisational Development Committee, with representatives across the country discussing different duty systems, improving literacy and numeracy, supporting the FireFit project to develop new fitness standards and amendments to national occupational standards.
  • Preparations for the Fire Authority's budget setting meeting next month, with continuing discussions with trade unions in ESFRS. I have received some formal representations which set out our individual trade union concerns and these will be considered by the Fire Authority.
  • Pensions meeting last week discussed the new pension schemes which are due for implementation for all our staff. Government will consult over the next few months with an intention to have legislation before Parliament in 2014 and new schemes in place by 2015. Also discussed the proposed changes to the 'old age pension' which will affect all of us to varying degrees and which may include some changes to national insurance contributions. We will advise staff further if we are able to, if we get further information on the proposals from Government.
  • Went to the national HR Conference which was attended by over 90 delegates from across the country including some of our staff; I was invited to make a presentation on the major HR issues facing Services and other presentations focused on excellent leadership, employment law and the Retained Duty System.  Andy Dark, from the Fire Brigades Union, gave a presentation outlining their views on the savings Services are proposing, and different duty systems being introduced around the country.
  • A meeting was held with the Chairman at headquarters, as he will be writing to the Fire Minister about funding for our Maritime team. We are also looking at how we would support the Fire Service College after its sale to Capita and to prepare for the next Members’ seminar. We will have to consider future savings and what areas of work currently delivered by ESFRS that we may no longer be able to continue to deliver.
Crews from the City and surrounding areas stations responded to a serious fire at the popular Pinocchio's restaurant in the theatre district of Brighton.  This was a potentially very difficult fire but great action by firefighters, supported by good incident command, and enabled crews to prevent the fire spreading to adjoining properties.

Firefighting operations were made more difficult due to the numerous cavities and voids in the building, but with the effective use of numerous BA wearers, and the good application of water jets and Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS). Fire damage, whilst severe, was contained and the restaurant is likely to be closed for some time.  

Whilst the recent cold weather has been fun for many people who have enjoyed the snow, ESFRS have warned drivers to be aware of the need to be mindful of ice on the roads, the danger of skidding, to be aware of black ice and to leave more room to the vehicle in front.

The snow has seen people on their sledges, but an accident over in St Leonards saw a teenager crash under a fence on her sledge and plunge into a drainage ditch. Firefighters responded and using short extension ladders rescued the young lady who was badly shaken and very cold but thankfully with only minor injuries.  

Firefighters from Hailsham, Herstmonceux, Battle and Lewes responded to an incident where three people had fallen through the roof of a car spray booth in Hellingly. Crews worked to free the casualties who were transferred to the care of SECAmb and taken to hospital for treatment.  

Once again, animals were in the news when ESFRS crews responded to a call to rescue a cat that was stuck on a chimney stack. Whilst we frequently pass such calls to the RSPCA, they often are unable to rescue trapped animals and therefore it falls to the Fire Rescue Service to carry out this humanitarian service. On this occasion, crews from Bexhill, Battle and Hastings were initially mobilised to assist.  

We received a number of calls this week reporting a strong smell of gas - as we now know this was as a consequence of a chemical leak from a factory in Rouen, Northern France. The odour was not at all pleasant, but was deemed to be no risk to public health.

However, the incident illustrates that chemical leaks and similar industrial accidents can spread far and wide and those of you who can remember the nuclear incident in Chernobyl in 1986 will know that nearly 27 years later over 300 farms in the UK are still restricted in the way they use land because of the radioactive fall-out.

Finally, many congratulations to Dave Amiet who has been awarded the Barclays Community Sports Award for 2012.  This prestigious award has been made to Dave for his contribution to football over three decades and his dedication in educating young people through football.  Dave developed the very successful Coaching for a Safer Community Project that has worked with over 80,000 young people, including disability groups and also helped 63 coaches achieve FA Coaching Badges.  

Friday, 18 January 2013

It is another bad week for retail, with the news that HMV are calling in the administrators with the likely loss of more than 4,000 jobs.

This comes on the back of the closure of Comet, just before Christmas, and Jessops ceasing to trade in the New Year. There are around 13,000 jobs gone in a month which means 13,000 people, who were bringing in a wage, now having to look for other work. The retail sector is a very competitive industry and if you chose this as a career option then you need to understand you are entering one of the most volatile industry sectors, where innovation and change are constant just to keep you one step ahead of your competitors.

Napoleon once described the United Kingdom as a nation of shopkeepers and Adam Smith in his tome 'The Wealth of Nations' also made similar reference. However, neither made these comments as a criticism or in a disparaging way, indeed they were being complimentary and referring to the UK's wealth and position being founded on trade and its mercantile heritage.

But what about the shops that were once familiar on the British high street, which now appear in some towns to be dominated by charity stores. Is this a sign of the continuing downturn in the economy or changing shopping habits? It wasn't too long ago that shopping was considered to be one of this country's biggest leisure activities with the likes of Bluewater in Kent, the Trafford Centre in Manchester and Milton Keynes Shopping Centre being the 'place to be'. Although from a personal perspective I'd rather spend Saturday doing the ironing than be within 20 miles of a shopping centre!

How many of us now use Amazon rather than going to the local high street? I hope that the criticism of using Luxembourg as a base, to avoid paying their fair share of tax, will cause them to re-think their strategy. With official figures showing that inflation is running at 2.7% it will continue to be a tough year for many people. Therefore, as we come towards finalising our budget for the coming year, we are working on how we can protect our services and despite the pressures do more to keep the public safe.

The latest high street controversy involves horsemeat in beef burgers; the supermarkets involved are investigating how this could have happened. Yet, across the Channel our mainland European neighbours are wondering what all the fuss is about. If we leave aside the issue that if it states beef on the packet then it should contain beef and not horse. Is there anything wrong with eating horsemeat and if we can cheerfully chomp on Bambi and Skippy, why not Dobbin?

But back to more serious matters, what is going wrong at Stamford Bridge? Hopefully, the question will be answered with the red half of North London getting a good hammering on Sunday. I am absolutely confident that all those Arsenal fans who have looked enviously at the success of the Super Blues, over the past eight years, will be crying into their beer on Sunday afternoon, as they come to terms with another season with an empty trophy cabinet.

The Fire Authority considered the draft budget proposals this Thursday and will set the budget in three weeks’ time. The focus will be to deliver high quality prevention, protection and response services at a price the public can afford to pay and within our available budget and our grant from Government. Over the past few years we have had a great deal of success with a range of community safety initiatives and have delivered real benefits to local people through the LIFE Project, Coaching for a Safer Community and a host of other local station initiatives. Our intention is to continue this work, in partnership with other authorities and agencies and where we can, seeking grant funding to support.

We will also be looking at the potential to generate income through commercial training and other opportunities. I am sure all of you will have seen the terrible scenes following the helicopter crash in London on Wednesday and the rapid and professional response from all the emergency services and in particular the London Fire Brigade. Sadly, two lives were lost and a number of people injured in the accident but we should be thankful that the loss of life wasn't much greater as the accident occurred at one of the busiest times in our capital city.

Well done to everyone in ESFRS as we have been recognised as being 93rd in the top 100 employers in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index. This is a great achievement and is testimony to all our continuing commitment to fairness and diversity in the workplace and to our core values. Thanks to Hampshire Fire Rescue Service who have been at our Training Centre this week to peer assess our BA training. This is a great example of collaboration between Services, supporting each other to drive up standards. Finally it's true, we have become a nation of marshmallows with the Evening Standard warning of heavy snow falling; and just how much snow is predicted, 5 cms, that's two inches in old money. Whichever way you look at it, 5cms cannot be described as 'heavy' you can't even make a snowman with that. This is a just another example of the sad decline in the moral fibre of some people and when they continue to complain about sub-zero temperatures, put your vest on, stop complaining and spare a thought for 68 year old Sir Ranalph Fiennes who is trekking 2000km across Antarctica in temperatures that can reach minus 90; now that is chilly!

My Week

  • Visited Bedfordshire FRS where I served from 1984 to 1995 and met up with some old colleagues and had a look at their training centre and their water rescue capability.
  • A number of meetings held at HQ to discuss the use of video conferencing and more user friendly systems, similar to 'FaceTime', to cut down on travel and to make better use of new technology. Also, also had a chat with the Chairman about this week's Fire Authority meeting, which will look in detail at our Service planning proposals
  • Spoke with one of the people I am mentoring to discuss their personal development plan and also caught up with the coach I worked with over the past two years. It’s really helpful to have someone from outside ESFRS who you can bounce ideas off and who can give you external challenge.
  • Discussion with colleagues in Scotland about the merger to one FRS which is now just under ten weeks away - interesting to note that Scotland will be moving from eight separate FRSs to one over the same time period we were going to merge with West Sussex. The big difference is that it is going ahead in Scotland but not in Sussex, despite our best efforts and determination to make it happen and support from our Fire Authority.
  • Discussion with community safety team on their plans for the next three years - they have a real understanding of local risks and what we can do to support our communities. It is always great to talk with this team as they are highly motivated, always coming up with new ideas and are constantly looking at the bigger picture and how we can use our knowledge, skills and experience along with our resources to really make a difference.
  • Meeting in London with the Chairman and the other Fire Authorities in the South-East to look at joint initiatives and how we must work more closely together to get greater efficiencies and economies of scale.
  • Attended Fire Authority meeting where the main item was the budget, which will have to be agreed on 7th February. There are a lot of uncertainties for members to consider and they did agree that we will need to do things differently in the future. They mentioned possible mergers with West Sussex, Surrey or Kent, generating more income and planning over the longer term.
  • Staff briefing at HQ, which was very well attended but I think this was more to do with the Fire Minister Brandon Lewis attending the meeting. I gave an overview to staff on the debate earlier in the day at the Fire Authority and answered a few questions before the Minister spoke with the staff and also answered questions before going to meet other staff in fleet and engineering, as well as Community Fire Safety.

This week crews from Wadhurst were called to a stable fire in Windmill Lane, Durgates; supported by firefighters from Crowborough, Mayfield and Tunbridge Wells. Oncoming crews were met with a serious fire situation which resulted in many repeat calls. Firefighters used jets, Compressed Air Foam System and Breathing Apparatus to bring the fire under control.

Quick thinking firefighters from Crowborough responded to a male who had collapsed with a suspected epileptic seizure; the crew were passing when they saw the man in distress, providing oxygen therapy and then handing over to paramedics when they arrived at the scene.

Firefighters from Broad Oak, supported by The Ridge, responded to vehicle accident at Brede Hill where they found a car on its side with one female casualty trapped. Crews worked to free the casualty working with SECAmb colleagues before the casualty was taken to hospital. Preston Circus crews responded to a two-vehicle collision, with one casualty trapped inside a vehicle. Working alongside colleagues from Sussex Police and SECAmb, crews used hydraulic equipment to release the casualty.

Eastbourne firefighters responded to a collision involving three vehicles, with one person trapped in Wilmington. Crews worked to release the casualty who was immediately taken to hospital for further treatment. This spate of vehicle accidents has caused ESFRS to provide a warning to drivers to be cautious and careful as the temperature drops. There may be patches of black ice on the roads and drivers should lower their road speed to suit the more difficult driving conditions and leave a larger gap to the vehicle in front. Drivers are also reminded to ensure they fully clear their windscreens, side and rear windows of ice before driving.

Friday, 11 January 2013

So after the excesses of Christmas, is January a month where our New Year resolutions are based on a Spartan regime of an early morning swim in the sea, cross country runs across the Downs and a diet of cabbage soup and water?

Every newspaper and magazine seems to have the latest diet fad which promises you will be a stone lighter in a month by sucking on a sherbet lemon whenever you feel the urge to dive into the biscuit barrel or give you the abs you always desired in two weeks by standing on some sort of vibrating pad?

Well the professional nutritionists have responded by saying that the abstinence programme that some of us are encouraged to follow in the first month of the year may give us a sense of self-satisfaction but really does nothing for long term health and that what we need to do is simply eat a balanced diet, reduce fats, sugars and processed food and take regular exercise.

At the other end of the scale to cabbage soup, you could try a curry known as 'The Widower' which is claimed to be the hottest curry in the world, packed with naga chillies and measuring 6 million units on the Scoville scale (which is pretty damn hot, as the pepper spray used by Police Services is only 2 million units!) Earlier this week, Dr. Ian Rothwell became the first person to finish the dish despite suffering hallucinations as he ate the meal at the Bindi Restaurant in Grantham - makes my attempt at a Vindaloo look pretty feeble!

Now, I have to congratulate the healthy British music scene both old and new which is very much alive and kicking. Adele topped the US chart for the biggest selling album with '21' and 66 year old David Bowie released his new single 'Where are we Now'. I must admit to having been a big Bowie fan and remember seeing him give a fantastic concert performance at the Milton Keynes Bowl in 1983, although I realise that's 30 years ago and there are probably people reading this that have no idea who the ‘Spiders from Mars’ were!

Met with Fire Authority group leaders and the Fire Brigade Union to look at consultative processes. A very useful meeting and the Authority have agreed to regular meetings with trade unions to listen to their views. Principal Officer’s discussed separately our own consultative arrangements as we are keen to meet regularly to ensure we have open and transparent communications.

Last Friday crews from Lewes and Crowborough responded to an incident near Rodmell where three people had become trapped in mud. Firefighters on the Technical Rescue Unit from Lewes used a rescue path to reach the casualties and then used specialist equipment to free one female casualty from the mud. Crews from Lewes supported by the Water Rescue Team from Crowborough and the Ambulance Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) then rescued the two remaining people. Watch Commander, Dave Washington, said that the rescue operation went extremely well and was a great example of the emergency services working together.

My Week

  • Working on the draft budget for the Policy & Resources meeting on Thursday. The Government have provided the grant for the next two years and have also changed our council tax base which means there is some certainty with the grant but more uncertainty with the council tax base. We will not set our budget until next month and still a lot of discussions on whether the Fire Authority will raise council tax this year.
  • Had a conference call with a Doctor from the NHS who I am mentoring. We have established a growing network across the public sector where we are sharing leadership training and staff exchanges and our leadership and coaching network is growing with opportunities for our own staff to also benefit from external mentors and coaches.
  • Weekly meeting with the Principal Officer team at Headquarters to discuss the Sussex Control Centre and the proposals for Newhaven. We are in final discussions with other organisations who have indicated their wish to be involved on the Newhaven site but nothing is agreed other than the building will be a properly functioning fire station and providing all our needs are met, we may have other partners on the site.
  • Went with the Chairman of East Sussex Fire Authority for a meeting with East Sussex County Council to discuss our budget proposals and medium term plan. This is a regular process to get feedback from the County and other authorities on our proposals for service delivery and the financial implications. We also consult with Brighton & Hove City Council who have provided a positive response to our initial draft proposals.
  • Met with a representative from Microsoft who wanted to discuss the systems we use and how we can make better use of our existing licensing arrangements. Also considered the opportunity of smart phones, tablets and other devices for meetings to cut down on travel and meetings and the opportunities for linking community safety and operational databases and web based bookings for Home Safety Visits.
  • Attended a meeting with Capita, who were successful in their bid to take over the Fire Service College. Discussed their initial proposals for early investment and how they could work with Fire & Rescue Services to deliver better and more effective operational training opportunities. The future for the College looks extremely promising and I have always believed the College is a fantastic asset that all Services could utilise to support operational and incident command training and that this can be expanded to include interoperability with other emergency services. The next few months are crucial to see the first phase of the implementation.
  • Had a great day at the Service Training Centre for an Officers Training Day. These are run quarterly to ensure Officers can be updated on operational developments, to practice incident command and to share experiences. These are important training opportunities and help to ensure the maintenance of professional competence.
  • Meeting of the Policy & Resources Panel at Headquarters. Members discussed the medium term plan, our current financial position, the outcome of the grant settlement and the draft budget for their consideration. Members discussed the impact of the cut to our grant and the options of taking a freeze grant from Government or raising council tax. No decisions were taken but Members will now take a recommendation which will be considered by the full Fire Authority at their meeting on 17th January.

Firefighters from Hastings were called out to a fire in a flat earlier this week where they had to force entry and rescued one female casualty. The fire was believed to have started when smoking materials were left in a bin, which caught fire and spread to a table causing extensive smoke damage. Crew Commander, Shaun Rogers, gave a warning about the dangers of carelessly discarded smoking materials and advised people to immediately contact the Fire & Rescue Service in the event of a fire. He also advised on the fitting of smoke alarms to provide an early warning to occupants.

Late on Saturday evening, crews from Uckfield were called out to a three vehicle collision at Ringles Cross where the driver of a pick-up truck was trapped in his vehicle following a collision with a van and a mini-bus. Firefighters working alongside medical teams stabilised the vehicle, then used hydraulic equipment to remove the roof of the vehicle before removing the casualty on a special 'long board,' the casualty was taken to the Royal Sussex Hospital for further treatment to his injuries.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, crews from Roedean and Preston Circus responded to a 'persons reported' property fire in Rottingdean. Firefighters found a rapidly developing fire with Crew Commander, Tony Bush, committing one crew into the flat and another crew to check on the safety of other occupants. The female occupant of the flat was woken by a smoke alarm with Tony saying that if a working smoke alarm had not been fitted to the property, then the occupant would have been in immediate and serious danger of being overcome by the smoke and fumes.

Friday, 4 January 2013

May I wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope that you have had a peaceful and restful Christmas. I know a number of staff were working or on call and I hope you had the opportunity to spend some time with your family and friends.

So, what does the New Year hold in store and are you embracing 2013 with a sense of optimism? The Super Blues had a very successful festive period playing some great football smashing in the goals and giving all Chelsea fans renewed hope for the second half of the season.

Then, how quickly hopes are dashed with the wheels coming off just two days into the New Year – some people couldn’t wait to send me a text message having a little gloat and I also got a call from our previous Chairman, Ted Kemble who is a QPR fan (the only one in Sussex).

That was Wednesday and today the sun is out, so onwards and upwards or in the words of that most inspirational of galactic warriors Buzz Lightyear, ‘To Infinity and beyond’.

I’m looking forward to the Chinese New Year which is only a few weeks away and where we shall welcome the Year of the Snake; people born in that year are said to be keen and cunning, intelligent and wise, great mediators and good at doing business. I hope all of that is true as I was born in a previous Year of the Snake, but you can’t believe everything you read!

This is the year that the Shard opens to the public and with a Royal baby due in July we can expect to see street parties all over the country, as we enjoy a glorious summer and lots of fantastic sporting events to look forward to. We have also got the budget on 20th March which may temper some of the fun. Along with the economic outlook, I expect the British weather will be a dominant feature in the year ahead.

We have just endured the second wettest year since records began and ESFRS has been pretty busy over the past two weeks responding to a number of flooding incidents and being involved in making preparations for our response to predicted wide scale flooding. The Patcham area of Brighton and some parts of Lewes still are at risk as ground water levels rise, although thankfully the earlier predictions of flooding across the county and City did not materialise. At one point over Christmas it looked like we could get a repeat of the horrendous flooding of 2000, with a combination of high groundwater levels, south westerly gales and spring tides, but luck was on our side. Let’s hope this continues and that later this year, the jet stream stays to the north of the UK and we can enjoy a Mediterranean summer for a change.

My Week

  • I have managed to visit a number of fire stations and catch up with the duty crews; it was interesting on Christmas morning to see what was cooking and the meals included a full turkey Christmas dinner, what was described as 'the world's biggest fry-up', smoked salmon sandwiches, a rib of beef with roast potatoes and veg, cold meats and chips, and bacon sandwiches followed by sausage rolls and salad.
  • Along with the flooding briefings, I have been preparing for a meeting next week with the Fire Authority after trying to understand the grant settlement figures we received from Government just before Christmas (thanks!). Over the next few days we need to have proposals for the Fire Authority as they have to settle the budget in four weeks’ time and also have to agree whether they will raise Council Tax. The picture going forward still looks very challenging and the Fire Authority will have to make some extremely difficult decisions.

Firefighters have been busy over the past two weeks and on Christmas morning crews from Hastings carried out a great rescue when they pulled a female casualty from the sea. These were very difficult conditions as the casualty had got swept out to sea after appearing to have been caught by a wave when walking along the beach. A co-ordinated rescue operation was carried out including the Coastguard and RNLI with the Mobilising &Communications Centre, who sent acrews from Bohemia Road supported by the Technical Rescue Unit from Battle. Firefighters managed to rescue the female from the water and then carried out resuscitation before the casualty was transferred to hospital. Sadly, despite the very best efforts of firefighters, paramedics and hospital staff, the injuries suffered were extremely severe and the woman did not survive.

Sad news to hear that Tony Greig a former England cricket captain and a stalwart of the Sussex Cricket Team in the 1970s passed away on 29th December at his home in Sydney. A real personality in the game, I can remember seeing him running into bowl with his trade mark neckerchief fluttering in the wind. Tony Greig had left an indelible mark on the game after teaming up with Kerry Packer to bring the game into the modern era. Another cricket personality Christopher Martin Jenkins, known to all as CMJ, also passed away on New Year's Day; listening to the cricket commentary will not be the same without the dulcet tones of CMJ.

Next Tuesday will be the 10th anniversary of the tragic fire in Crowborough that cost the lives of Alex and Philip Kent. Over that ten years I have been enormously impressed and humbled by the manner in which Richard and Janet Kent have shown tremendous dignity and courage in having to cope with the loss of their two wonderful sons. Richard and Janet have become truly fantastic ambassadors for the Service and have championed the cause of domestic sprinklers with their only wish being to prevent any other families having to endure the pain and heartache they have experienced. Alex and Philip will be very much in my thoughts over the next few days, and we should also be thinking of Richard and Janet, two of the warmest and courageous people it has been my privilege to know.