Wednesday, 30 June 2010

No.337 Of Recession? What Recession?

"Recession? What Recession?" So began an article on me in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday. Since it's publication I've had numerous friends text in and query the headline with me. They're right. It does come across as cocky and I think the old adage "There's no such thing as bad publicity" is more clever than correct. But hey we never chose the headline. Next time we'll send that into the Paper too.

We have Rory O'Connor today delivering a seminar on Creative Thinking using a couple of games which should be fun.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

No.336 Of Coming and Going

Life's a whirl at the moment with so much going on I'm convinced I'll meet myself coming round the next corner. There's building work at home, a million things to do at work, a holiday to plan and book oh and a neighbour who wants to take me out working with his pigs!

My interior designer has buggered off on holiday leaving me to make calls all on my own in terms of where windows and doors go, radiators and the odd light here and there. Where's Collin and Justin when you need them? They make it look so easy on the tele.

Monday, 28 June 2010

No.335 Of Twitter and Training

Last night I spent a couple of hours clearing out my Twitter followers. I've gone from following 1,200 to just 100. This means now that I actually bother to read the tweets coming in again. Best of all no inane messages about parties, hangovers and get rich quick schemes.

It's training week this week. This is week 1 of 2 in the year in which the whole company works on core skills. Best of all, although some of the training is brought in much of it is provided by other trainers.

Today, we have training on memory techniques, reframing with Tony Robbins and customer service skills. Later in the week we're looking at company procedures, how to blog and problem solving.

It's really quite nice seeing colleagues sweat and stress a bit as they prepare to deliver their training. Guess I shouldn't appear to enjoy it too much.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

No.334 Of Being Short on Memory and Change

Boy I got a drubbing yesterday at the cards. I memorised a pack in about 5 minutes. Charles my only competitor in the Beat The Director competition did it in nearer 3 minutes. Impressive I must admit and I wished him well as he gathered his £1,000 into his pocket.

In between matches we went for a coffee down at Junction 1. We walked into Starbucks only for Charles to declare that he had forgotten to bring his sterling with him. I smiled. I had forgotten to bring my wallet with me.

How we chuckled......

Friday, 25 June 2010

No.333 Of Beer n Pasty

I was in Devon about three weeks ago and experienced a flashback to more or less the same place some thirty years before. I was just off the beautiful Devon coast by a village strangley called "Beer" in a fishing boat.

About 3 decades before I had put to see in a similar fishing boat in the hope of catching some dinner. There were 12 of us. Me and 11 mates on day 5 of 7 day school camping trip. I was desparate to catch some mackeral not only to impress my peers but because I was so hungry. All of us had run out of money by then. We'd each taken about £3 for the week for extra snacks and of course blown it on the slot machines in Branscombe cafe pretty much by day 1. All except, that is, for Simon Vanstone. He had taken £12.50 and by day 4 fallen out with pretty much everyone by sitting outside the same cafe eating a huge cornish pasty in front of some very hungry eyes. Vanstone was hard to get on with at the best of times. But by stuffing his face for all to see he had become insufferable.

Our schooltrip leader Mr King had promised a prize of a cornish pasty to the person with the heaviest catch as we set sail in 5 boats for the 30 minute expedition. Each of us had one line with 6 hooks and feathers to fool the unwary passing fish. However, within 10 minutes my boat was on its way back to the shore. I had caught the line in the outboard motor and oar power was all that was between us and a distress call to the local lifeboat. Needless to say I was not popular with my chums.

Duly all the boats returned and no-one had caught anything at all. When Mr King was asked who was going to get the prize Vanstone chirped up "Shouldn't it be Phillips Sir? He had the biggest catch : A Suzuki outboard motor!" We all laughed.

That afternoon Vanstone and I sat outside the cafe eating pasty. Not such a bad bloke afterall.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

No.332 Of Deep Thinking in Off the Deep End

Until today I've never quite worked out why I go swimming every morning - or at least most mornings. For it is early, cold and very wet every time. Moreover, I'm not a great swimmer and have never really enjoyed it and don't expect that I ever really will.

I realise now that I go swimming because I can and the pool, like Everest, is there. By "there" I mean just a mile from where I live and on my way to work anyway.

When in London going to work on the Tube in my suit at 7a.m. each morning I used to crave the chance of just jumping into a gorgeous swimming pool and having even just 20 minutes to myself that I wasn't going to have to rush. The reverie would be topped by my leaving feeling completely rejuvenated before stepping back into the rat race and heading for court.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

No.331 No Arms No Legs No Worries

No arms. No legs. No worries. This guy here is amazing. And to think that we all moan and complain about anything and nothing. From now on I'll try and think of this guy before I even turn my mind to complaining about the hand life has dealt me.

No.330 Of Burning Issues

According to a recent BBC Report burning tyres can release over 100 different chemicals into the air and it's in breach of the Clean Air Order.

Despite this, some residents local to me are in the process of building a bonfire not a mile from my house in which they plan to burn, at a guess, a good few hundred tyres in one night's work.

I'm lucky that I'm a mile away from this fire. Some houses can't be more than 50 metres from the centre of it. I wonder how their owners feel when the frontage of their home gets covered in black smoke.

No.329 Of Black Dogs & White MGs

Yesterday I planned to go sailing on a catamaran moored at Lough Neagh. Alas! The skipper forgot to pack the rudder a rather important bit of gear I guess for a lake so big and with the wind so strong. So instead, I took his dog to get an ice-cream and asked for two Mr Whippies one with raspberry source the other a sprinkling of Winnalot.

I must say Elsa did suit the car and we looked quite the part....

No.328 Of Working with Wind & Bags of Air

I'm off sailing today on Lough Neagh. My friend has a catamaran and he needs a Crew. I last sailed when at school on Pitsford Reservoir near Northampton. We used to take out Mirrors and GP14s. I could never quite work out how it was that the wind would be coming at you and we still managed to travel in more or less the same direction. But it didn't seem to matter because my Crew Karl Austin and I always seemed to win most races.

The boats would take an hour to rig up about as long to get down and away leaving a window of little more than 30 minutes for a bit of fun in between. It was always freezing cold too. In those days only serious racers had wet suites. You may wonder why I ever bothered. It was all about avoiding rugby. For at 15 we finally had a choice : sailing or rugby. In other words, did you want to spend two hours every Wednesday afternoon wet and freezing cold or getting mashed up on a rugby pitch moving a leather bag of air about a field. For me it was a no brainer before they had even invented the phrase.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

No.327 Of Getting Work Done

It's chaos in the house at the moment. The kitchen is away which means no sink, no cooker and no washing machine. Two walls are now in rubble outside the house which means no garden to speak off. I think I might start living at work. But then my friends have always said that this is what I do anyway.

Or, perhaps it's time to jump in the MG and head off for a couple of days to Donegal to make the most of the glorious weather. A great idea but for all the work that needs doing on the company this weekend.

Work, work work hey...?

Friday, 18 June 2010

No.326 Of Everybody's a Fruit and Nut Case

It was the Irish News Awards last night and we were lucky enough to win "Highly Commended" in all three categories in which we entered including "Best Place to Work. So well done to all staff!

I arrived in style in the MG along with the lovely Michaela, a neighbour, and all round good egg. Michaela is never stuck for a word to say and huge craic.

We stopped at the local petrol station en route to replenish the front tyres with enough air to get us to the Ramada and us enough chocolate to get us to 8p.m. when we guessed dinner to all 400 guests would finally appear. We returned to the car and a crisis! I'd lost the car keys! A mad frantic search showed them to be lurking in amongst the chocolate bars. How I managed to pick up two Cadbury's Fruit and Nut bars and leave behind a set of keys on the shelf was beyond me. Takes some skill if you ask me...

Monday, 14 June 2010

No.325 Of Angels in Kitchens

An Angel & saviour appeared to me yesterday in my kitchen in the form of Ann Murray, an interior designer, to advise me on the fitting out of the extension. Golly she was good. In 10 minutes she resolved what friends and neighbours of mine have talked and disagreed about for the last few weeks.

Yes she said bash this wall down, bring the window to near the ground, put another window in here for light, drop flood lights down the walls here and move your wood burning stove to this side of the room. Sorted!

Go Ann go!

No.324 Of Halves and Doubles

A very bizarre thing happened this morning in the lift at the Burlington Hotel, Dublin. I took the lift from the 6th floor to ground level on my way to breakfast. At floor four in walked a couple I was convinced I knew or at least had seen somewhere before. The guy was small and completely bald. His partner was well glamorously dressed (at least for breakfast) and well made up. By the end of the lift's journey I thought I had it and I just had to ask. "Excuse me" I said "Do you mind me asking if you work together?". They both smiled and the lady replied "You might say that we're a variety double act".

The last time I had seen them both was when he was cutting her in half on a cruise ship in the Arctic Circle. Funny innit?

Saturday, 12 June 2010

No.323 Moliere, Misers and Mad Weeks Ahead

I went to see Moliere's "The Miser" last night produced by the Lyric Theatre Company It was superb and the lead actor worked the audience wonderfully.

Today, I'm in the office ready to stop blogging and start work for 8.30a.m.. to get on with some important preparation for the week. It promises to be a huge week for the company this week. I have important meetings in Dublin, Bristol and London. On Thursday and Friday the company has two important strategy meetings. Biggest of all Thursday night we've booked two tables at the Irish News Awards evening hoping to pick up one or more awards in the three categories in which we have been shortlisted. Huge week then and that just the business stuff.

Bring it on say I....

No.322 Of Warren & World Football

I'm currently reading Warren Buffet's biography. It's an interesting read but too long. I've just reached the part which describes how he read Dale Carnegie's book "How to Win Friends & Influence People" to acquire the social skills his mother never taught him. Oddly, this book just so happens to be on my desk at the moment and perhaps more oddly too on Monday I have a meeting with Walter Bradley who owns the Dale Carnegie franchise for Ireland. Funny how these coincidences all come together innit? Sure enough on the front of the book there's a quote from Warren Buffet "Carnegie Changed My Life". Let's hope he did and for the better.

The football has just started and I've made a pledge to myself to find an alternative positive activity to do each time a match is on at least until the knock out stages. Otherwise I'll wile away a whole lot of time watching a sport I've no real interest and feel pangs of guilt afterwards. The alternative activity is memory techniques. By the finals I plan to have developed a technique for remembering numbers. Who knows may be I can memorise the score of every match including the final.

Dale Carnegie would be proud or at least impressed. Guess he's shouting for the Yanks today too.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

No.321 Of Asda v Tesco

I went to the new Asda in Antrim yesterday for the first time. It looks just like the Antrim Tesco. The only difference that I could see was that you see lots of people dressed in yellow and green and not blue.

I had been holding out going seeing little point in joining the rush of new customers. For when Asda was packed with curious new shoppers I had Tesco virtually to myself. Also, it's taken me a good year or so to learn where everything is in Tesco so there seemed little point in having to go through the process again in a shop broadly similar selling broadly the same stuff at broadly the same prices.

It wasn't busy and I was in and through in next to no time. As I approached the tills I was approached by a lady holding a cardboard hand on the end of a pole she was using to steer customers to till workers with little to do. A great idea I thought but how do you advertise for this sort of post I pondered? "Wanted someone to carry a pole all day long. Must have keen eye for idle workers and a good sense of direction?"

No.320 Of Brucey Baby & Morning Truths

I did 30 lengths of the pool today. The earliest of the early birds is a guy who we'll call Bruce because that's his name. Bruce used to annoy me. He was far too chirpy an early bird for my liking at 7a.m. in the morning. He always had something to say to the other swimmers, the lifeguards and me when all I wanted at that time of the morning was for my head to get a bit of peace as they say around these parts of the world.

Today for some reason I had a bit of an awakening for his craic was good and he had us all laughing as we waited for the lifeguards to let us into the pool. This moment this morning has taught me that I should try not to be so grumpy even though it may be just 30 minutes from when I was nicely asleep and tucked up in bed.

Brucie baby I have to accept that every day so far in those old baggie trunks of yours you've been better dressed in the pool than I. For you have managed to wear a broad beaming smile each time and brought smiles to others too.

Brucie I salute you...

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

No.319 Of Classic Autos & Autobiographies

The world is full of doubters. But I never doubted my baby would see out her inspection OK and come through with an MOT for another 12 months yesterday.

It was a close run thing mind. The AA managed to get her back on the road at 4.15p.m. At 5p.m. I was busy with the wing mirror, a bit of reflective plastic and some carefully placed tape before rolling up on the nose of 5.30p.m. straight into the test bay.

Watching the test centre rock this classic old lady back and forth on the ramps was unbearable and the test centre engineer was terribly rude. "You'll not be using this as your main car will yeh?" he asked. MGs have feelings too you know -- their owners too. We drove off the ramp safe in the knowledge that we had stolen another 12 months together and cheered our way back home.

I'm currently reading Obama's book "Dreams from my Father". This is an astonishing book. It's beautifully written. Having been penned before he was a Senator even it is one of the most refreshingly honest and sincere works of a politician you're ever likely to read. It's a book that really is difficult to put down which gives me a dilemma when I get home from work this evening. Spend time with my baby or with the President......?

No.318 Of Surfin Crocs

It's amazing what you learn when listening to the BBC World Service at 4a.m. in the morning. They've found out that Salt Water Crocodiles have learnt to surf which is why Crocs, who are not great swimmers, can cover over 300 miles in just a few days. Poor guys out on their surf boards say I. Not only do they have to contend with Great Whites Sharks they now have to watch they don't step on a surfing Croc. Take up golf instead say I.

I have an MOT today -or more correctly, my MG does. The problem is that it's broken down and I have to fix it by 5.30p.m. to get it through its test. I wonder if the AA have ever done a Relay service to an MOT bay before?

Monday, 7 June 2010

No.317 Of Slow People and Fast Geese

I spent my birthday weekend in Devon amid glorious countryside bathed in gorgeous sunshine. Lodging at the Two Bridges Inn, Devon Cream Teas at Bovey Castle, fishing trips off the coast of Beer -weekends don't come any better than this do they?

There's something about Devon that compels you to relax. May be it's the slow, slow pace. May be it's the people that never seem to rush anywhere. They even give you the impression that they're not too bothered to get to where they're headed anyway...I think the only time I got into second gear the whole weekend was when the geese went for my behind as soon as I jumped out the car. Vicious buggers....

My Mum's room at the Inn gave us the best laugh. It was dark oh so dark. The curtains were black. So was the bedspread. Over the bed was a dark framed sign which read "God is Love". The walls were decked in old portrait photos of people connected with the Inn. Had they even died in that room I wondered? May be they came off the walls every night and walked the old wooden corridors. Mum didn't sleep that well Saturday night. She said she felt she was in a funeral parlour and hey when you're well past your 45th birthday that can't be a nice feeling....

Friday, 4 June 2010

No.316 Of Scouting on the Moors

It's a beaut of a day with two forecast for the weekend as well which is especially good news bearing in mind I plan to spend them in Dartmoor.

I loved Dartmoor as a kid although the mean looking Victorian prison slap bang in the middle of it made me grateful that I only ever visited the Moors during daylight hours. I do remember however one time I was out with the Scouts walking up to Hay Torr when the fog came down. You could barely see your hand on the end of your arm. After about 10 minutes we heard what we thought was the prison siren go off indicating that a prisoner had escaped. It frit the life out of us. As assistant patrol leader to the Badger group in Lord Baden Powell's army I felt it incumbent on me to have my penknife out and at the ready in case a man came hurtling out of the fog in overalls decked in black arrows pointing to hell. The rest of the Scouts appeared marginally less scared out of their wits than me but they hadn't seen Hound of The Baskervilles nor Great Expectations like I had and could not comprehend the danger they were in.
The siren turned out to be the Scout leader sounding his car horn in the hope it guided us back to base. Stupid man...

Thursday, 3 June 2010

No.315Ulster & Its Men

Well. It's official. I'm now an Ulsterman apparently. See here Memory Challenge

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

No.314 Of Problems with Builders

I have a problem with my builders and it's not one that the Federation of Builders are likely to be able to help me with. You see, I've come to the conclusion that my builders are Hot. This was not something immediately apparent to me (a man who bats firmly for the home side). However, it became increasingly obvious as more and more female neighbours called round to, allegedly, view the shell of my new extension. I wouldn't mind it so much but they get into chatter and three young, able, builders in their shorts get distracted from their main duty which is to do my building work in time for the summer.

I always thought problems like this with builders were more to do with telling them not to whistle as passing ladies and to tuck their bum in at the same time.

Guess I'll just have to let it be known on the development that that my builders also do "Full Monty" ladies nights and to contact the local British Legion for more details.