Thursday, 30 July 2009

No.119 Of Visting Pubs and Visting Dignatories

I went for a long jog last night after a long day working on strategy. Wow did I need it. I got little more than halfway round my circuit and had to walk though. Sadly the circuit includes the Talk of the Town pub so me and my jogging coach ended up in there for a while sampling their fare.

I feel like I'm being crushed at the moment from the amount of work I've to do over the next month. I plan a new strategy here. I'm going to map out the next three weeks in detail and watch the tasks tumble as I head towards my break. I don't think Legal-Island has ever partnered up with so many businesses and people before and been in front of so many great opportunities. Exciting stuff indeed - never a dull moment on the Island as we say here at Island House.

I'm meeting John Brolly of the Irish News who is visiting us today. He's a top bloke. We've shined our Irish News trophies which are waiting to welcome him in the foyer.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

No.118 Of Peter Purrs & Passion

Last night I picked up Peter McBride an old mucker in the MG and we sped along to the Stormont for dinner. As we pulled into a bay in the car park I left the engine running for us to listen to its purrrrrrr. Was he bored? Nope. Instead, he asked to see under the bonnet whereupon he promptly named every engine part going and what it did. Recently he purchased a Porsche 911 but I saw envy twinkling in his eye. My Haines MGB manual arrived from Ebay yesterday and I've never looked forward this much to reading a book in my life.

Money can't buy you happiness but it can buy you an MG.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

No.117 Of The Numbers Game Here & Abroad

Everyone seems to be away at the moment. I phone friends and catch them on a beach in Majorca, Ibiza, or Tuscany and it costs me a good £10 to listen to them explain how hot the weather is how good the food is and how agreeable the company is too. I thank them for sharing. I wish them an enjoyable relxaing break and then return to preparing for more Performance Reviews at work.

I had my first request yesterday to tweet a job vancany from a recruitment company. I wonder if this is an important major first of any sort - probably not but it's an interesting development in the world of Twitterdom.

I note there was an article in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday featuring one of Northern Ireland's earliest and foremost Twitterers who has some 8,000 followers. I fear this numbers game is going to go the same way as stats counters & hits in early web sites, the number of friends you have on Facebook and possibly the number of cards you get at Christmas. In other words many people becoming obsessed with high figures that actually count for very little.

Monday, 27 July 2009

No.116 Of Don't Worry be Happy & Be an Optimist

Hey how good am I? I started off today with a bowl of porridge and blueberries together with a cup of hot water and the juice of half a lemon to give me a bit of zip for the day.Ok I did slip in there a chocolate biscuit but only because there was a packet on the kitchen table already open demanding my attention and hey you have to keep a balance don't you?

I'm currently reviewing a book called "How to be Happy at Work" by an Irish Workplace Pyschologist called Sophie Rowan. It's a great read and I'm learning loads. Last night I learnt that I'm an optimist by nature - something quite different apparently to a naturally postive person. Optimism is good she argues for optimists are happier by nature, live more healthy lives and live longer. Lets hope she's right on all fronts.

Loads to do today including prep for a finance meeting and a performance review tomorrow. Roll on the holidays.

No.115 Of Fix-It Fever & Other Stories

Unaccountably I seemed to have developed a kind of fix it fettish at the moment. I'm just in a fix it mode or should that be mood. In the last three days I've fixed the garden (if weeding qualifies as "fixing") my MG (if getting the mechanics out to it qualifies as me fixing it). I've fixed the puncture in the back wheel of my bike and in the front wheel of my spare bike (if taking aforementioned gear to the bike shop in Randalstown allows me to claim this too). I've arranged for someone to fix my garage door on Wednesday that is broken and jammed half open and I've fixed something on my mobile that never worked but now does (something too small to mention and possibly embarrassing to share). I'm pleased I'm in this kind of mood because being from the "I'll get round to it another time" school it happens rarely. But hey make hay when the sunshines?

The sun is not shining right now. This morning I refused to wear a jacket out of the house thinking it is summer and to do so will only invite bad weather. Now I can't get out the office because it's lashing down and I'll get soaked in just a shirt above the waistline. Boy how decisions can go badly wrong on you hey? No coat, no umbrella - which I could fix that..

Sunday, 26 July 2009

No.114 Tricks of the Mind & The Weather

We're back on the road! Me, the MG and the North Antrim Coast road were at one early Saturday morning as the wheels kissed the sun blessed tarmac and we shot round one bend into another. Oh the utter joy of driving!

I'm reading Derren Brown's book called "Trick's of the Mind". It's a great read. He doesn't hold his punches and sets out to be both polemical and challenging. It's interesting how he squares his faith (or may be his former faith - I'm still early on in his book) with what he does. I'm also reading The Articulate Executive by Granville Toogood. Great name hey? I've decide the best way to read is to read two books at the same time. I have a very low attention span and usually put down a book after 20 minutes thinking I'm bored of reading when I'm probably just bored of that book and need to substitute it for another. That's the theory. We'll see and no doubt I'll report on this great new technique in due course.

The weather is teasing me at the moment. The Beeb forecast rain all day which is why I'm in a at work. Through the window I see only sun. Just when I decide to wrap things up and head out the rain comes.

Friday, 24 July 2009

No.113 Of Gratuitous Bay Reversers & Other Serious Criminals

I arrived early today for the early bird swim. In fact so early I beat all other early birds and the staff of the pool into the bargain. As I sat there in the car whiling away the time I watched someone else try to park in a carpark that was empty but for me. The person chose the far set of bays. This much made sense I guess because they were nearest the entrance and required therefore the shortest walk (though if she was swimming to get fit it might strike some as an unusal irony that she had to get so close). But then I watched as the car swung round and the driver attempted to reverse into the space. Three goes at this and the car was finally perfectly between the lines. Why not head for two bays end on and drive into the second bay so when you return you can also drive out forwards but you've not spent time (and a bit of petrol) reversing in? I wonder if these people (shall we call them "gratuitous bay reversers") are also the people that drive right up to roundabouts and stop then look to the right to see no cars in sight anywhere bar two in the mirror slamming on their breaks desparately to avoid a pile up?

I feel a national debate coming on...

Thursday, 23 July 2009

No.112 Of Dragon's Den and the Devasting Effect of Lathargy

I've been whitevan man today. Picking up furniture, shifting bikes with punctured wheels to the repair shop and moving a filing cabinet for a friend. Vans are damn useful things - I could have done none of this lawfully in a convertible but I guess that wouldn't have stopped me giving it a go.

I've just been catching up on Dragon's Den from last night on Playback. It had some great entrepreneurs on including a woman from Scunthorpe who charmed them all and a former barrister who looked strangely familiar. Where are all the loopers nowadays and those that would go into the Den thinking they really know best? Peter Jones seems to get taller, Bannatine more miserable and Meenan younger looking with every series (her surgeon has clearly made a good investment).

Hot and sticky weather all day today. This has to be my worst type of weather - it makes me fell really lathargic even to the point that I can't be

Riddle: What am I?

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

No.110 Of Yoyoing and Dogwalking

I've had a yoyo networking experience today. Up and down. Up and down. I've experienced probably the most useful half hour of networking ever and the most useless/frustrating too both in the same day. But hey 8 meetings in five hours is some going.

The line up for our 11th Annual Review is now confirmed and looking really good. We've got some superb speakers over a great range of topics. If I wasn't chairing the event I'd go to every parallel session myself.

It's been pouring off and on all day today. As I type I see the tap is off at the moment so I must away and fire the neighbour's dog along the riversedge whilst there's still a chance of us both not getting soaked.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

No.109 Of Tables & Chairs

I'm getting the hang of this auction thing now. Tonight I purchased a kitchen table and six chairs for £70. It would have been £30 if it hadn't been for some guy in front of me muscling in at the last minute. These are to go in the kitchen. The existing table there is to be transported into our new board room. Oh it's all be carefully worked out you know. All we need now are five more board room tables and a whole load of carpet.

Dublin tomorrow and six meetings including one with a Twitter contact. She's the only person I've met to date who also has a Twitter seminar under her belt so I'm curious to find out how it went for her.

Ho hum off home for to prep for Dublin.

Monday, 20 July 2009

No.108 Of Logs, Blogs & Industrious Poles

Busy day today. It started with 20 lengths of the hopefully log free Antrim pool. (Did I not mention it was closed pretty damn quick for a day last week when a rather unfortunate piece of flotsam went floating by?).

I had three meetings today. All of which were very productive but it didn't leave much time for real work. Arnold the Polish engineer called round to the office today to show me a picture of the bits of the distributor that's needed for the MG. It wasn't the actual picture but a similar one he had found in a Morris Minor manual in a skip in Randalstown. My golly that guy's resourceful.

Three meetings tomorrow followed by a trip to Dublin on Wednesday. I wonder if my washing will be dry when I get home this evening. It's been raining then sunny n hot all day.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

No.107 Of Shane's Castle & Disney's World

Yesterday I attended a Vintage Car Rally at Shane's Castle. It was a rather splendid affair with lots of jolly drivers firing about all over the estate giving dogs abuse to some fine old vehicles. I'm not sure what was more interesting the cars or the people who were behind the wheel. At lunch we adjourned for a picnic on the lawn by the summer house and everything was terribly civilised.

I had a go in a 1920s Austin which had three gears, a driver who was positively bonkers and a picnic basket on the back for ballast. As we fired along I wondered if we looked like the living incarnation of the cartoon couple in Disney's 101 Dalmatians that used to race about in a vintage car creating merry havoc.

A charming day. Quite unlike any other I'm likely to experience this year or any other year come to think of it. Jolly D.

No.106 Of Missing Mania & Fast Cars

I'm feeling very disorientated today. I can't find my mobile phone even though I remember using it to check the time late last night. There's people I need to phone today and can't. There's friends I know who will be calling me about plans for this afternoon who wont be able to tell me where to meet up. With most other items I employ a simple policy. Don't let it bother you and forget that you lost it. There'll be no stress and when you're mot looking for it you'll find it. But the loss of this mobile has got to me.

Yesterday I made South Dublin to my door in Antrim in two hours flat (including a stop for petrol and a flapjack). This is a PB and at a time that was just after rush hour. I'm wondering if paperwork will follow in the post to amrk this record journey.

Off to a vintage car rally today to watch a friend abuse a 1936 Ford Roadster.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

No.105 Freddie's Back!

Wow! Seven presentations in two days! That's what we're all expected to do on this Dale Carnegie High Impact Presentations course. Better still after each one (for which we have no more than 5 minutes prep time) we're carted off to a room to review the performance with a coach on video! Watching yourself for the first time on video is scary alright horrifying even.

I'm currently staying at Bewleys, Leopardstown. It's a strange hotel. Outside it aspires to be a Hilton or a Radisson with a grand enough entrance way and a long queue of taxis that suggests the hotel is stuffed full of rich and well-to-do people all planning a night out. Inside, it has quite an institute type of feel to it -rather like many of the Polish hotels I stayed in during the 80s or for that matter come to think of it Hotel Riga in Latvia last year. I'm on the seventh floor here which is apparently not the place to be if there's a fire for the fireman's ladders reaches only as far as the sixth floor. I guess if there's a fire tonight I head up onto the roof and wait for a helicopter or enough landing mats below before practising high diving techniques.

I've just returned from a jog. The receptionist had recommended Leopardstown race course as a venue for such an activity. Strangely however I hadn't planned on horses being present at the same time so I cantered back and off round a local business park instead.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

No.104 Of Enemies, Dragons & Lame Excuses

I went to see Public Enemies last night. It's ok but who wants to see a film that's just OK? Johnny Depp is good but I was really indifferent as to whether he was shot at the end or not. It's not a patch on Bonnie & Clyde or Pulp Fiction where you steadily grew awkward realising the two you are rooting for are actually murderous villains.

Hay tonight is the return of Dragons Den. Can't wait. Trouble is I have a dinner appointment at 7p.m. in Dublin. Lets hope he's a fan too and at 8.30p.m. he makes some lame excuse that he has to leave for an early start in the morning...

Time to zip off for to do 20 lengths of the Antrim pool.

No.103 Of Old Muckers & The Blues

The long weekend featured an old friend I hadn't seen for 23 years. He arrived Friday night at the airport and we spent three days reminiscing & lamenting like two old men. We did all the standards that most tourists aspire to see. The Giant's Causeway, Free Derry Corner, Malin Head, Innishowen 100 & the view from the top of Slemish. Being the 12th I couldn't let him go home without watching a parade so yesterday we hoofed it over to Ballymena to watch a few Lodges go whistling by.

On Saturday morning we drove past the local bonfire decked in an Irish tricolor with the words "Keep Antrim Tidy" across the front. It was only afterwards that the significance of the first letters of each word dawned on me. We stopped to speak to an ex Legal-Island employee out walking his dog. "Will we be ok attending the bonfire tonight if we decide to go?" I said. "Ah sure everyone is welcome" he replied with a laugh....We never did go.

Saturday night was fun. We went to a Blues Festival and I got talking to one of the guest musicians a man we'll call Frankie. Frankie is in his 50s and it turns out has never done a day's work in his life. The Social are after him & Frankie is under pressure to do "The Bins" or risk losing his benefit entitlement. He was a tall man and of few words but could he play the Blues...?!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

No 102 Of Pumped Up Staff & Fiddling with Flat Tyres

Yesterday was interesting and a whole lot of fun - at least early on. Colm O'Kane, the Legal-Island motivational coach did a session with us all. I've never known anyone so pumped up before a gig in my life. I got a mauling from his enthusiam before the session started. "Barry I'm going to do this" and "I can't wait to do this" and "What do you think about this?"

I've never known anyone too play a fiddle in a Legal-Island training session and teach us a thousand words of French (not at the same time I hasten to add - that would be beyond even Colm's capabilities.) The session left us feeling all pumped up ourselves. His enthusiasm is infectious. Colm we salute you. It was brilliant.

Last night I went for a bike ride along the banks of Lough Neagh. It was a lovely evening topped by an amazing sunset across the Lough. Afterwards I attempted a repair of a puncture in the front tyre. I had forgotten just how blooming awkward the process is. And it's not got any easier in 30 years. Why hasn't anyone invented a method of repair that doesn't involve a whole lot of anger management, cursing and bent kitchen forks?

The tyre put up lots of resistance but at some time before midnight I finally cracked it. I quickly tightened the wheel back into the frame and gave it a triumphant "don't mess with me you little b...d" kind of look before hitting the sack.

This morning I went out to empty the rubbish to find a flat tyre grinning at me. Bikes all too easily nowadays end up in rivers. There's a river just behind my house.

No 101 Of Bonfires & Jaffas

I've decided I have some pretty extraordinary neighbours. At drinks last night one, not far off the same age as me, unprompted, openly announced to all that she's no intention of ever doing a full day's work in her life ever again! Another, a single Mum, seems on the verge of tears at the moment. She's missing her kids who are away on holiday with their father yet does nothing but complain about them whenever their home as far as I can tell. A third, popped round to the impromptu evening drinks do to inform us that he now holds the world jaffa eating record (five in a minute apparently) before promptly toodling off again (no doubt to see if he can do six).

I have a friend coming over from England on Friday night. I haven't seen him in 20 years. We both badly misbehaved together at Uni and very nearly got thrown out because of each other. I'm wondering how he'll remember our two years of partying, pontificating and prevarication. I can't decide where to take him - to see the standards such as The Giant's Causeway and the Titantic Quarter or somewhere more daring like a 12th bonfire. I've never been to a 12th bonfire and am agonizing over whether you stay away from such spectacles or attend at least one before you're entitled to criticise.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

No.100 Investors in People & Investing in Neighbours

Wow! What a day! We had the assessor in today from Investors in People. It was surprisingly nerve racking. But he left promising to recommend us for the award - so jolly nice man if you ask me.

We also spent most of today in two seminars looking at matters relating to performance reviews, objective setting etc with HR consultant Elaine McCann. It's so easy to sit there and think "yes we should do that" and "yes we can easily add this" and "yes this is an area for obvious improvement" when it dawns on you that there's actually a business to run during all of this. Emmmm

Yesterday, the neighbourhood watch scheme kicked in perfectly. I arrived home at about 8p.m. to be told within 5 minutes by neighbour no.1 that a woman from over the road had knocked her door just 5 minutes before to say that she was worried about my house because she saw two guys with a car standing outside by the garage. These were the two Poles who had arrived to attend to the MG (it has swine flu btw - it flew up 7 mile straight on a test drive and the swine broke down halfway).

We don't have an official neighbourhood watch scheme but hey with neighbours like I have who needs one?

Must dash Neighbour No.3 is helping me put up curtains.

Monday, 6 July 2009

No.99 Of Twitter Do & Twitter Don't

Had Day 1 of training week today. It seemed to go really well with everyone chipping in ideas and suggestions. It's amazing how far this company has come in terms of its marketing. It's amazing too how much marketing has changed over the past 12 months. From adverts in newspapers & brochures out by snailmail to Website, Facebook & Twitter. When is it all going to settle down I wonder and we can all think "great nothing else now to get our heads around". For me this is all about trying to work out which forms of market/media to back and which to let go. We backed email in 1998 and got that right on the nail with our email service. We're backing Twitter just now and the jury's still out on Facebook. We didn't go with E-learning first time round and that I think that was the right call. LinkedIn was binned too.

Trying desperately to think of an excuse not to go swimming at 9p.m. tonight but nothing occurs just now.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

No.98 Of Perfect Timing & Imperfect Forecasts

What is it about garages and shops that sell car spares that they just can't do customer service.? On arrival they ignore you whilst you follow them around waiting at least for them to acknowledge your existence on the planet. Then they stare you down almost like it's in the hope that you'll go away and leave them alone. But then oddly, once they've finally engaged you they very helpful....

Yesterday I had a go at the MG. She's coughing and spluttering like she has swine flu. Tim, the neighbour, tells me this is to do with spark plugs which must be replaced. So today I'm off to Nutts Corner market for to buy a socket set to replace four spark inducing vital elements of the engine. "Don't replace them all at the same time cos you'll bugger the timing" Tim assured me. I was about to do just that. His timing was perfect.

Lovely day here so far despite the forecasters promise of rain.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

No.97 Of Gribbles & Portmuck

Ha! The plot thickens! On collecting the chairs from the auctions I learnt from one trader that they all thought I was a private buyer out to get just one chair so they didn't bother bidding against me on the first one! On taking the lot when given the option I can see why everyone looked slightly bemused. Best of all when asking the auctioneer where the chairs came from I was told they're from the Law Society! Best of all (mkII) a solicitor contact of mine tells me they were ordered in especially from Italy and are now a collector's piece. This much Google tells me is true. They are matteo grassi chairs and look quite the part both on the Net and in our new conference suite.

Last night I took The Lady Captain for dinner at "Upstairs at Joe's" in Cushendaw. The food was great & the craic too. Somehow we got onto the subject of fish n chips -quite possibly because that's what The Lady Captain ordered (I thought lady captains ate Oysters & Caviar n that sort of thing but it seems I'm wrong). I asked if she ate gribbles as a kid. Gribbles I explained in Devon were the loose bits of batter that were served in a small bag to kids for free along with chips. Doubting that this wasn't a story of nothing but complete puff she bet me £10 there's no such thing and it was agreed that a search on Google would prove it eitherway. And it seems it has. I plan to have a nice veggie pie n chips and a small bottle of wine and gribbles if they have them for my £10.

It's hard to be doubted by the opposite sex but what was particularly galling last night was that on the way home she tried to convince me that there's a place on the coast called Portmuck...

Thursday, 2 July 2009

No.96 Of Quality, Quality, Quality

Ha! I forgot to mention here the most important thing that has happened this week. On Tuesday Legal-Island hosted a seminar on the DEL Consultation document which talks about (if not proposes) radical changes to employment law as we know it today. This includes scrapping the so called 1,2,3 internal workplace procedures and introducing a form of mediation to resolve disputes at an early pre-litigation stage. There's even mention of the possibility of an Employment Appeals Tribunal in Northern Ireland.

The seminar featured first class quality speakers in the form of George Alexander of Alexander HR, Ciara Dooris of Tughans Solicitors and Johanna Scullion of Deloitte. Our own Scott Alexander also delivered a masterclass as Chair of the day. There's something about delivering a truly quality event. Everyone claims to at least try but when you actually get there it's very gratifying. "Quality, Quality, Quality" is our company motto did you know?

Gratifying too is the thought that I'm ahead this week on my exercise schedule. Today I was late for the early bird swim session by a good 10 minutes. This usually means that I don't get a lane all to myself and I get out after just a few lengths tired of avoiding all the traffic. Today however I calculated that there would be fewer swimmers in the pool on account of the driving rain that somehow would deter people from wanting to get truly wet. I was right. There was almost no-one there when I arrived and I had three lanes all to myself. Risk taking hey?

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

No.95 Of Bids & Biking to Work

Biked to work today in glorious weather along the river, past the banks of Lough Neagh through Antrim Park and along Lovers' Canal. That's the way to commute! Suddenly I feel the veil of misery lifting!

Last night I attended Wilsons Auctions for to bid on 34 chairs I'd spotted for our new conference centre. Apparently, I discovered earlier you have to bid on chair 1 and if you win it the auctioneer asks if you'd like any of the others at the same price. So I did. I paid £6 for the first and then asked to take the lot! There was much laughter and comments like "great we're all home a lot earlier tonight boys" from the auctioneer's assistant. I haven't quite got the hang of these auctions but turning up and getting the Fool's Pardon did seem to work for me last night.

Ho hum - 8 hours of organising next season's seminars and conferences coming up.