I was considering what next and where I was going work wise and then had a call from an agency. They asked whether I would consider a role in Birmingham. At that point I had no idea of who the Director of Public Health was or what I would be expected to take on. I said yes, I’m interested. They organised the call and told me the DPH was Justin Varney. Justin was someone I had first encountered when I was working in Lewisham. He was a trainee at the time and then went onto work for Public Health England.
Our conversation was interesting and the role he had on offer sounded interesting. I started in the December before the pandemic hit. I mentioned to him at the time that I had a month holiday booked in Sri Lanka. Returning from Sri Lanka we wondered what was going on as we stood at Colombo airport and there were hundreds of Chinese people all trying to get back home. Someone was handing out face coverings, it all felt really strange.
On getting back to work the concerns about what was going on in China began to grow. Problems started occurring across Europe and the UK seemed a bit oblivious to it all. At this time I was still working and going about the job I was taken on to do. One of my areas of work was on the topic of infant mortality and I had a discussion with an academic at the university of Birmingham. We became good friends and often would find time for a conversation. We seemed to have things in common and she began to get involved in some of the work that I was doing both in a professional capacity and also in a personal capacity. I shared with her the project I had in writing a book on embodied leadership and asked her if I could interview her. She was delighted and I learnt so much about her as I interviewed her and some of the challenges she had faced in her life. She comes from a background where parents choose who a girl should marry. She was required to marry her cousin who was younger than her. It also meant that she was unable to continue her education which is something incredibly important to her. In the end they had a child but the marriage did not succeed. I feel it was because my friend had so much to do in her life. She became a researcher and is passionate about the work she does. Much of it is concerned about empowerment of young women in order for them to make their contribution in the world. I love the conversations that we have and I know that they make me think and consider my ways of being in the world.