Ode to Skoda

Just had my car MOT'd at ALS Lock Skoda, and as usual Skoda asked me for feedback. When they asked why I rated the service the way I did (excellent by the way), my initial response was rejected as too short! pfft!  So, I decided on a bit of poetic license to expand it out.

My Octy is aging; now needs MOT
I called ALS (she was bought there, you see)
Their garage is handy, just a few miles away
So, taking it there doesn't ruin my day.

I dropped her off early, they then ran me home
saying "when she is ready, we'll give you a phone;
If there's anything wrong, we can do the repair"
Said with a smile, so you feel that they care.

The job was done quickly, with minimum fuss.
She passed all her tests - well done me ol' bus!
The car had been washed, the test had been done,
all safely approved for another year's fun.

Sometimes you're worried, prepared for a fright,
but I'm happy to say, the price was just right.
So, they came to collect me, no quibbles, no moan;
I like ALS, cos it just feels like home.

Great Management Quotes

“The first people had questions and they were free. The second people had answers, and they became enslaved.” - Wind Eagle, American Indian Chief

“If you don’t like change, you’ll going to like irrelevance even less.” - General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army

“It makes all the difference in the world whether we put truth in the first place, or in the second place.” - John Morley

“The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear.” - Herbert Agar

“Great leaders build a workforce for the future. They are human capital developers. Great leaders always ask themselves: “Am I prepared for what’s next?” They invest in themselves by constantly learning.” - Jonathan Fietzer

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends” – Walt Disney

“It is not a question of how well each process works; the question is how well they work together.” – Lloyd Dobens and Clare Crawford-Mason

“An ability to embrace new ideas, routinely challenge old ones, and live with paradox will be the effective leader’s premier trait.” – Tom Peters

“The highest challenge inside organizations is to enable each person to contribute his or her unique talents and passion to accomplish the organization’s purpose.” – Stephen R. Covey

“It is never too late to be who you might have been.” – George Eliot

“Leadership is a combination of strategy and character.  If you must be without one, be without the strategy.” – General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

“Trust becomes a verb when you communicate to others their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.” – Stephen R. Covey

“I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life.  The problem is that I can’t find anybody who can tell me what they want.” – Mark Twain

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but what you should have accomplished with your ability.” – John Wooden

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” – Anatole France

“For every failure, there’s an alternative course of action.  You just have to find it.  When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.” – Mary Kay Ash

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” – Harry S. Truman

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison

“Strategy gets you on the playing field, but execution pays the bills.” – George Eubanks

“A life isn’t significant except for isn’t impact on other lives.”  - Jackie Robinson

You can suck a futon mattress down for packing

One of my most popular blog posts concerns shrinking a memory foam mattress down in size by creating a massive vacuum bag from a mattress protector bag.

I've done this several times now and it works a treat.

Recently I had to pack and store a futon mattress. So I thought I would try the same trick. I didn't even bother to create a valve, but simply taped up most of one end of the bag, and then Placed the vacuum cleaner through the remaining small hole into the back. So simple, so effective.

Within a few minutes the mattress was about half the size and I taped it up using gaffer tape and parcel tape (some bits of gaffer snapped because my seal wasn't so good).

Here's photographic proof :)

Transient

Terracycle - the recycling con

I recently took advantage of the costa coffee offer on Tassimo coffee machines to buy one for my home office for £30 (including £20 of coffee!) Seemed like a bargain too good to miss - and it's certainly been very handy with the baby around not to be dashing up and down the stairs to get a drink.

I was pleased to find that there is a recycling scheme for its capsules, especially since it generates a LOT of waste packaging - particularly compared to my Nespresso machine. The drinks l like come with a disc for coffee, a disc for milk, a cardboard box and a plastic wrapper per 8 drinks. This is actually a heck of a lot of packaging and waste. (See pic).

But hey, it can all be recycled right? That's the claim at least - through a website called Terracycle, which offers free postage on the waste and even points on the collected materials that can be used to purchased recycled products.

Except the claim doesn't really stand up - you see Terracycle seems to be an aggregation point for 'brigades' which on the face of it seem to be teams (volunteers?) associated to a particular type of waste (such as Tassimo). I've applied to the Tassimo 'brigade' - for months now I have been 'pending' waiting for a slot in a 'brigade' that appears to only have 3000. What exactly does this mean? That only 3000 people in the whole of the UK can recycle their Tassimo waste?

Whatever it means, it's a major frustration, that I've had piling up boxes and boxes of waste that in reality seems to have nowhere to go.
Finally I've cracked and done what I can to recycle it myself - separating out all the cardboard and plastic capsules that has milk (so are now empty) and the plastic packaging... The coffee filled capsules I've had to send to landfill (unless someone can tell me differently). Aside from the time and effort, (which I don't really begrudge), what really annoys me is the Terracycle scheme is essentially a non-existent scheme, cleverly used for marketing and green credential, but essentially useless. You have been warned.

Transient

The mysteries of supermarket pricing

Had to pop down to the local supermarket this evening to stock up in advance of the arrival of guests; which of course meant buying a few items I don't normally buy (such as breakfast cereal)(my brother eats breakfast, I don't).

Of course that meant scrutinising the unfamiliar prices even more closely than usual, as I'm always keen to get the best bang for my buck, grams for my pence, or whatever unit happens to be appropriate. Imagine my shock to see this (I was looking at the branded cereal as I had a voucher for 50p which made it cheaper than own-brand :) )

Lo and behold - 750g of crunchy nut cornflakes markedly cheaper than the smaller 500g box. Odd. Though not unusual for Tesco.

Transient

I decided to tweet my curious find and include the Tesco customer care team @UKTesco

I was surprised to get a response a short time later asking me which store. I was even more surprised to get the following response after that!
(You have to read from the bottom up)

Transient

So there you have it; crazy pricing due to ongoing negotiations, supposedly. In the meantime it pays to keep an eye on what costs what.

A fortnight of fatherhood

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Well, it's been quite a two weeks! Bringing a new homo sapiens life into the world is, of course, one of the most literally life-changing things you can do. Especially since once you've done it, you have to keep it fed and watered! For about 20 years! 

About three days in I went through a shaky moment after 2 sleepless nights (3 for Helen, who had a night in hospital). But anyone that's seen my Facebook timeline will know I am quite the doting father, totally smitten with our wee son, Edan. This was just shock to the system and a sort of instinctive panic, that if this was how it now was, I might not cope, especially once back to work. But I will, because it's a team effort and it will get easier. 

Which leads nicely into mentioning Helen, who is a remarkable mum. Her training as a nurse is invaluable and she has a gentle and confident touch that is reassuring to both baby and dad. And through propped-open eyes she retains a vigour and commitment that belies the fact she is recovering from a major operation and has had additional complicating ailments to deal with. Edan is blessed to have her as a mum.

We've already experienced the fretfulness of having to get medical intervention; and then the angst and guilt of having to administer regular medicine to a little boy who doesn't understand why he is forced to drink something so luminous and foul tasting. (Quite naturally he's decorated a few choice locations with it). I found myself looking into his teary eyes this evening saying 'please don't hate me' and experiencing for the first time that paradox of 'doing something horrible because I love you...' Henceforth, I expect a lifetime of such confusion.

I suppose this underlines why becoming a parent can be so significant; affirming, yet daunting in equal measure - because there is so much new to experience and it all comes at you like a sonic boom. 

A Father's Hand

A Father's Hand

2 weeks in, and despite a few missed showers and shaves, the initial anxieties have gone and regardless of the sleep deprivation and unending whir of the washing machine, the joyfulness is emerging. A good deal of that has already come from the photography - i can't say Edan is the most co-operative of models, but he's certainly photogenic and keeping me on my toes. 

Another heart-tugging moment was my first 'FaceTime' tonight while away from home - into a captivated pair of deep dark eyes that followed my waving hand 130 miles away. Lumpy-throat-moment. There are so many more of these moments to come.

Thanks so much to all my friends all over the globe, with messages of kindness and support, cards and gifts (every surface is filled), and for enduring my gushiness (such as this). I've left it a bit later in life to be embracing fatherhood, well past my midlife crisis, so perhaps there is a certain 'seize the moment' gusto and yearning for playfulness that inevitably comes with age. I'm not going to apologise for that :-)

I'm looking forward to a good solid 5 hours sleep tonight in the travelodge! But come tomorrow, really it's time to think about our next chapter....

On the birth of baby Edan (4th Feb 2013)

2013 Edan Feb-0041-ex-LR.jpg

Well - what a day. Is it dram-o-clock yet?

IMG_7510.JPG

The most important thing is to thank everyone that has sent their good wishes by almost every means possible barring winged beast. I've struggled to keep up at times, and as a bare minimum at least have tried to "like" facebook messages, if not reply more fully. If somehow in the collage of today's events I have missed a direct thank you, please consider yourself now thanked.

I never quite realised how surreal that transition from in-utero to ex-utero would be - it feels like such a pivotal moment, rather than merely a continuation of the predicted time-line. Well, it did to me. The day was not without its anxiety and Helen can only be commended for her wilful endurance.

My final words are for baby Edan after his first 12 hours amongst the "muggles" - it is, after all, a strange, and sometimes frightening, old world. But that's the hand he has been dealt, and perhaps he may have to play his role in it for 100 years, give or take. So here goes, straight from the heart:

first snuggles

first snuggles

At last you are here wee man. What a journey it has been; what emotions we have ridden along the way. We could not be happier. You are our beautiful miracle child and we will love you always. 

Be unique

Love and be loved

Dance and laugh like tomorrow depended on it

And never forget that we are your rock - on that rock your world is built. Xxxx

Olympics 2012 Opening Ceremony in Danny Boyle's own words

If you download the Olympic 2012 Opening Ceremony album - "Isles of Wonder" - there is a foreword by Danny Boyle that explains the concept of the opening ceremony. I thought it was very helpful in understanding what the point of his spectacular was - and underlines, in my opinion, just how successful it was; here it is:

 

At some point in their histories, most nations experiencea revolution that changes everything about them. The United Kingdom had a revolution that changed the whole of human existence. In 1709 Abraham Darby smelted iron in a blast furnace, using coke. And so began the IndustrialRevolution. Out of Abraham’s Shropshire furnace flowed molten metal. Out of his genius flowed the mills, looms, engines, weapons, railways, ships, cities, conflicts and prosperity that built the world we live in.It was a revolution that filled the world with noise,smoke, prosperity, pain and possibility.

In November 1990 another Briton sparked another revolution – equally far-reaching – a revolution we’restill living through. Tim Berners - Lee invented the World Wide Web, and built the world’s first website. He took no money for his invention. This, he said, is for everyone.

Just like the Industrial Revolution, the digital revolution is turning the world upside down, taking music, books,shopping, conversation, information to places that they never went before.

But flickering in the smoke and noise and excitement, you can sometimes glimpse a single golden thread of purpose – the idea of Jerusalem – of the better world, the world of real freedom and true equality, a world that can be built through the prosperity of industry, through the caring nation that built the welfare state, through the joyous energy of popular culture, through the dream of universal communication. A belief that we can build Jerusalem.

And that it will be for everyone.

Danny Boyle

Artistic Director

London 2012 Olympic Games

Opening Ceremony

 

Moving up another Photography gear

At the beginning of June I had the opportuntity to undertake some one-on-one training with renowned Bjorn Thomassen in the beautiful Cornwall. 

My plan was to continue transferring my existing landscape photography skills to the world of portraiture and to continue to develop my own unique style and approach and set myself some new creative challenges. 

It was an intensive and thoroughly enjoyable long weekend. While everyone else was partying in the street and enjoying the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, we were hunting down mystical locations in the woods of Cornwall and working long hours in the studio to get the perfect picture. 

I'm thrilled with the results - though I haven't space to post them all here - but here's a little insight into how some of the shoots were created.

Concept: a young Goddess - floating above the clouds, over-seeing all that is on Earth

 setting up the studioMake up and costumefull set and lightinggetting in positionback-of-the-camera previewpicking the perfect take in Lightroom

The "out of the camera" shot in itself is rather lovely - but I had bigger ideas for the image. I wanted to give it an even more classical and ethereal look. This is the final image:

"Goddess of the Cosmos"This "crossover" between photography and painting is part of my personal style and part of the repertoire I can offer to clients, particularly those who want a timeless, classical and very high quality look. 

(Lots more at inpictur.es )