Saturday, 27 March 2010

No.268 Of Boggie Fields & Black Wellies

The weather threw everything it had at my new baby yesterday. Nature too. I took her for a spin up to Portrush to a business meeting . She held steady through flooded roads. The roof held back what at times felt like buckets loads of water coming at us. Off road (yes I shot up a country lane in the wrong direction until it expired into a boggie field) she seemed happy to get her legs wet and wade in her black wellies back to firmer ground.

German technology and craftsmanship- it's a great thing. No wonder we almost lost the war...

Friday, 26 March 2010

No.267 Of Chick Peas Please

There's something about Lebanese restaurants that I just can't pass them without going in. They really know how to do food. It's simple.y and usually no more than 3 ingredients (one of which is almost always chick peas).

Yesterday I had chick peas with humus (mashed chick peas) and yogurt and wow was it good. In fact so good I shook the hand of the chef on the way out. He smiled and returned to his duties which no doubt included showing a load more chick peas the business end of a rolling pin.

There is of course one important difference between chick peas and humus that being the latter is full of garlic. So it's great for getting loads of space on the tube in rush hour. Must eat some more this weekend...

Thursday, 25 March 2010

No.266 Of The BMW is Dead. Long Live the BMW

I did the dirty yesterday. Something I'm feeling really bad about this morning. I traded in my present BMW for a new one. In the shake of a hand I gave up the car that had looked after me and started faithfully every time of asking for the past 6 years. The one that had given me classic journeys from North to South Wales with the hood down in glorious summer sunshine. The car that had followed faithfully the winding roads of the East Devon Coast, the Innishowen 100 and the Atlantic Drive in Donegal like she knew the road already and was happy for me to leave the hard work to her.

This is the car I will be swapping on Monday. I'll feel like I'm calling round to pick up a new puppy but taking an old dog to be put to sleep. The garage says they'll need the paperwork and both sets of keys. I plan to take with me anything that reminds me of the car together with a bunch of tissues. Oh boo hoo I wonder if I can ask someone else to do the dirty deed? My PA would look great in a Z4.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

No.265 Of Judging Barry Phillips's

I did a very vain thing this morning and for some reason decided to Google my name. I was surprised to see just how many Barry Phillips's there are in this world and that Google ranks me third amongst them. I appear after Barry Phillips the actor (never heard of him sorry Barry Phillips) and Barry Phillips's discos. The latter seems to be doing very well although I've never had someone come up to me and say "Are you Barry Phillips King of the Disco?" - I wonder why??

When I was working in London I was aware that there was a judge called Barry Phillips and a solicitor too. I wondered whether I would ever get the chance to jump to my feet in court and say "Your Honour Judge Phillips my name is Mr Phillips instructed by Mr Phillips representing the defendant a one Barry Phillips but never did. Fun things never happen like that very often in life.

Anyway to all the Barry Phillips's in this world I salute you wherever you may be whatever you may do.

No.264 Of Ballymena & Bulgaria

I went to Gillies Bar and Grill last night in Ballymena. It was ok but it was bland food. Who wants to spend good money and good night out time eating bland food? Not me. Shame really because it's a great setting.

The service, delivered not with a Ballymenian but Bulgarian (I think) accent, was good. I struggled a little bit with their pronunciation when they announced the arrival of certain dishes but then I guess they struggled with mine too.

Today, I'm in the office early. I arrived 7.30a.m. to get on with a load of work and I plan to stay here until it's done. No distractions. No rugby matches. No playing on the Internet just good old fashioned hard work - occasional Tweets excepted of course...

Friday, 19 March 2010

No.263 Of Perfection in Cars

I was at the BMW garage yesterday in Belfast. It's a remarkable almost quite perfect kind of place. The pastry counter is immaculate as is the juice stall. There's not a scruffy or indeed ugly person to be found (customers accepted of course) and everything is remarkably clean, polished and well kept. All very Stepfordwives in a way...

Today I'm test driving a Z4. It only has two seats but it can take a tow bar apparently so I could tow another two behind if ever required to do so.

It's black. It has a soft top and plenty of grunt under the bonnet. As ZZTop would say "She's got legs and knows how to use em".

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

No.262 Of St Patrick's Day and What it Brings

St Patrick's Day hey. One of the best marketing days ever invented or am I just being cynical after Mother's Day and with Father's Day fast approaching? Will we have so many Days to mark soon that there will actually be a Day free day? I am listening to Chrisie Moore on the stereo at the moment so I am taking part - in part at least....

For me St Patrick's Day it means no phone, no employees, no distractions and loads of productive work. Bring us some more of these days please.

Monday, 15 March 2010

No.261 Of The Power of One MG

Oh love-a-duck. I ran one over this morning. The poor thing didn't believe that at 7a.m. in a country lane an MG would be flying round the corner unable to stop. Either that or he was playing a dangerous game of bluff which he lost. There were feathers and fluff everywhere.

I'm in need of a good book to read at the moment - one of those you can't put down and when you do can't wait to pick up again. A friend of mine has recommended "The Power of One" so I'll give that a go later this week.

I've loads of meetings this week, a trip to Dublin Friday and with a bit of luck three games of tennis to play. Ho hum. Bring it on....

Saturday, 13 March 2010

No.260 Of The Six Mile Do-Gooders

I took part in the great Six Mile Water river clean up yesterday along with 6 other volunteer do-gooders.

In the space of just three hours we manage to clear enough rubbish out of a stretch of water no longer than half a mile to fill an industrial sized skip. Don't get me wrong it's not a particularly dirty river but search hand enough and it's amazing what you can unearth. We found lots of corrugated iron, loads of plastic bags (shame on us all), half a small fridge, one side of an oil tank, a pair of shoes and two antiques (auction estimate £100 each).

Featured above is Gary. When he's not cleaning up rivers he works as a deep sea diver off the Scottish Coast. One of our number was concerned he'd fall out the boat and get into difficulties in the ankle deep water. It's strange what worries some people.

No.259 Of Black Lincolns

I finally finished my 900 page book last night on Abraham Lincoln. It was an exhausting but superb read. He is without doubt one of the greatest leaders ever. He's a white Mandela or perhaps Mandela is a black Lincoln (isn't a Black Lincoln a car?).

As one book reviewer on Amazon writes "Senior-level executives can learn a number of important lessons in leadership by reading this book. They include:

1. Surround yourself with whatever talent the given enterprise requires.
2. Welcome, indeed strongly encourage principled dissent.
3. Timing is not everything but often the difference between success and failure.
4. Exercise selective hearing during a contentious group discussion.
5. Unless absolutely certain, be willing to grant benefit of the doubt.
6. Exhaust opponents by listening to them.
7. Appreciate effort but only reward performance.
8. Serve “with malice toward none, with charity for all”
9. And lead “with firmness in the right.”
10. When dealing with forceful personalities, focus on common interests."

He captures it perfectly.

Friday, 12 March 2010

No.258 Of Love & Neglect

I was almost let down by my best friend this morning. She started first time and we cruised comfortably at a steady 55mph in the direction of Lough Neagh as the sun rose and life was great.

After a brief separation involving the Antrim Pool Car Park for 30 minutes we continued to the Antrim Road Roundabout which is where I thought we were going to share an embarrassing moment. She coughed, cackled, choked and complained her way round the roundabout as I dropped steadily through the gears in case it mattered. We crawled up the road then came the level crossing. I remembered how much I had forgotten her over the winter and wondered whether she was planning a major moment of payback and revenge. I held my breath as I felt my body push in the car towards and over the lines. We made it.

Love, fear, relief all in the first hour of my morning....

Thursday, 11 March 2010

No.257 Of Forecasting the Inevitable

It's another beaut of a day here today with another three to come according to the forecasters and right now I want to believe they're always right.

The river behind my house is sparkling as it goes by. It's very inviting too at least in terms of putting a boat on it and paddling down to Lough Neagh rather than diving in for a swim. Last year I had a boat but my nephew and I sank in it half way to our destination. Happily it was right outside the pub(Ellie May's) so we were able to enjoy a good couple of pints in our rubber suits as we waited for our taxi home. This year I think I may invest in a slightly more sturdy model; swap if you will an MG for a BMW. I might even invite said nephew to come launch it. Something tells me he wont step in it this time. No sense of adventure youngsters nowadays I find.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

No.256 Of Sending Out the Right Messages

Environmentally I'm not very militant. The environment is a pretty robust thing and over the years and the centuries has developed a tendency to adapt to the ways of human beings and respond accordingly. So I guess I'm pretty much from the school of treat your surroundings with gentle respect, recycle and reuse best you can and we'll not only get by but hand over an earth that is just as good to the next generation. That said there's something that is really annoying me just now and it's to do with the environment and how people are treating it.
Barely a stone's throw from the Legal-Island offices is a level crossing taking locals over the main line from Ballymoney to Belfast. The crossing is covered in all kinds of garbage. It's a terrible eye sore. It says to school kids as they walk to school that it's ok to tolerate mess in your neighbour. It's message to those visiting businesses in the area is not great either "You are about to enter an area of mess and untidiness in which organisations be they commercial or governmental aren't working well together and are unable to tackle even basic simple issues such as litter".

Yes we've complained. We've been onto the local council who tells us it's not their responsibility. NI railways tell us they're unlikely to do anything about this until it becomes a safety issue.

But hey lets look on the bright side. May be soon as we alight from the train in Antrim we wont be warned to be careful about the gap between the train and the platform for there wont be one. It will be full of rubbish...

No.255 Of that Drowning Feeling

That's it. I'm going to a coach. A swimming coach that is. I'm fed up with being overtaken so convincingly by others who seem to be stroking far fewer times than me each length and certainly blowing a lot less too.

One guy (a tri-athlete) advised me this morning to look in front so your head is 40% out of the water. Another said I should breathe both sides every other stroke while a third suggested I should be drawing an "s" shape with each arm as it pulls under the water. I tried all at once. I almost drowned. Back to the drawing board me thinks.

I've loads to do today and it's a question of which first and how quickly. I shall practice the new art of slowing down to speed up and see where I am by the end of the week. Drowning again quite possibly.

Monday, 8 March 2010

No.254 Of Changing Times

I swam 30 lengths today. That's ten for each Veggie full English I've had over the long weekend away.

I met someone in the changing rooms who did 50 in just about the same time and not fuelled by heart attack breakfasts either I'm sure. He's in training for a tri-athlon the numbers for which he told me are a bit low. I got changed quickly.

It's a beautiful day here. The sun is beaming rays of light with such confidence you'd think it had been doing it for months.

Onwards into the week....

Sunday, 7 March 2010

No.253 Of Springing Between London Hotels

There was something a bit special about London this weekend. There were lots of people out in the parks with spring in their step and they bounced about as if rejoicing in the fact that they had survived another dark, long, cold winter and were out to celebrate.

My part in the celebration was to jog round Hyde Park on Friday morning. I'm not sure what it is about that park but I find it very disorientating and seem unable to get into it and round it without getting lost. A thirty minute job promptly became a forty minute one followed by a bad tempered speed walk back to the hotel for ten minutes.

Some of the hotels in London don't seem to have woken up to this thing called the Internet yet and just how easy it is for guests to shop and swap around. My first night was spent in a good hotel in Euston at a great rate. When they refused to offer the same for the following night I checked the Net and promptly checked out and went across the road to an equally good hotel and paid half what the first was wanting. The second hotel also threw in free broadband unless the first charging 10 pound a pop. No doubt they're Net friendly and use it intelligently and know potential customers do too.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

No.252 Of Being Afraid

Be afraid! If this works it means I have learnt how to blog from my iPhone. This means I can blog on the move. I can blog when out with the dog. I can blog in the fog (assuming I have arms' length visability) I can blog on the bog! Why not? People read on the loo don't they? (strange folks those?). It means I can report out in the field and log bad customer service as it happens. I could even show it them if it's really bad........

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

No.251 Of Beating the Scrums & The Early Birds

I went for dinner last night at Mal Maison before heading to Ross's art gallery. Outside were upwards of 100 school girls all with their mobile phone cameras at the ready waiting it would seem for a VIP or even a group of them. I felt old, for the last time I had done such a thing was almost thirty years ago waiting for Iron Maiden to show up at a hotel in Warsaw. As I fought my way through the scrum at the front door the doorman apologised for the inconvenience and explained that JLS was expected. I felt a bit younger. I'd actually heard of them.

There was another scrum this morning. This time it was the turn of the early birds. The pool was packed by 7.15a.m. and as the doors opened to the changing room there was a mad rush to strip off and get first choice of a place in the pool. Many are now not only turning up with their gear already on but with their swimming goggles on their head ready for action. This is worrying for I am very competitive at least for the small things in life that don't matter - or at least shouldn't. But how to respond short of driving to the pool in my dressing gown and slippers?

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

No.250 Of The Loop and Lonnie

I've just been to a breakfast seminar all about charisma in leadership delivered by Harry Harpur of The Loop. He's a great speaker and I always enjoy the craic with Harry. It takes courage to do a seminar on charisma. Delegates show up expecting a gag a minute and loads of inspiration. Strange thing is he managed both.

Most mentioned Obama when asked to name someone who has loads of charisma. For me it's the late Lonnie Donegan who once appeared on stage in Belfast with Van Morrison - a man with bucket loads of musical ability....

Monday, 1 March 2010

No.249 Of Peru n Pea Soup

I tried the first of the Veggie dishes last night. Asparagus, single cream, pasta, olive oil, rocket leaves and parmasan cheese. Emm. 5 out of 10 methinks. It had recommended local asparagus because they don't travel well. Mine were from Peru. May be it was this.. what blew it....

Still on a veggie theme it was like pea soup when I got up this morning and looked out the window and still is as I type this some two hours later. Remarkably there are people driving around with no lights on at all expecting you to see them coming the other way with just a few metres' notice. Most of the culprits seem to be driving silver/grey cars which offer absolutely no hope of being seen in the mist. Golly they annoy me. Oh to be a traffic cop if only for a day. I'd get to be on tele and bark at people for 12 hours and get paid for it...

Meantime, off to prep for some meetings and who knows pea soup for lunch?