Friday, 23 December 2011

Of Reviewing the Year's Books

Last night I was reviewing the books I've read this year. Considering I'm a slow reader and one of the books this year was a belter (War and Peace) I'm surprised at how well I've done and how many books I've managed to get through in 2011.
 They include :

"The 4-Hour Work Week" Timothy Ferriss - probably, and yes it sounds cliché, a life changing book - time will tell and next year in particular.
 "The Psychology of Persuasion" - Robert Cialdini - a great read for anyone wanting to know just how we take decisions whether or not to buy a good or service. He argues we work off far more shortcuts than we either realize or would admit too and I think he's right.
 "The One Minute Manager" Ken Blanchard - known as a classic management text told in the form of a story but for me quite dated. He advises you to touch your staff as you give them feedback. Employment laws would land you in trouble for this. Dyaken Ken?
"Man's Search for Meaning - hope from the holocaust" Viktor Frankl. The book that everyone rates and indeed claims is life changing for them. But not me. Maybe I should give it another go next year.
"War & Peace" Tolstoy - not my favourite book of all time but without doubt the must astonishing work I have ever read. Astonishing.
"Do it or Ditch it" - Beverley James - packed full of useful tips on business and personal development - a great opening first book
"The Lost Art of the Great Speech" by Richard Dowis - the best book on public speaking I've ever read by far (and I've read a few by the way)
"Winning! Clive Woodward - a great tale of how Woodward took the English rugby team to world cup glory and had to change the ethos of the English Rugby Association in the process.
"Selling to Win", Richard Denny, - great tips on selling from the guru of sales himself.
"Memoirs of a Fruitcake" Chris Evans -  Just a great read from someone who has lived life in a Ferrari in the fast lane and did well to survive it.
"Motivating to Win" Richard Denny - another great book from the maestro himself

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Of Tidying for Tenerife

We're winding down on the Island this week. I'm now the last one here (not counting four hens of course) and the phones are oh so quiet.
I'm off on holidays to Tenerife tomorrow leaving my house in the care of four friends of mine from Moscow. Mikhail and his wife and two brothers will no doubt have loads of fun trying to work out all my kitchen gadgetry and who knows they may even get as far as taking my canoe down the river.
I'm using these last few days to sort out bits and pieces. My car now how four new tyres. My burglar alarm at home is now fully functional and my office desk is quite tidy.I've downloaded enough podcasts for the four our flight to the Canaries tomorrow and I have a stack of books to read round a pool whilst being bathed (I hope) in lots of sunshine.
Not a bad time of year afterall when you think of it.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Of Watch My Lips

I was in Brown's restaurant last night in Derry/Londonderry where I had what I think was the most tasty side of mash potato I have ever had. It was served with the starter which was Beetroot Tart. Soon after this dish was set down the waitress appeared and presented a bottle of balsamic vinegar the history of which was explained rather like you'd expect a waiter to describe a good wine. She then proceeded to draw a circle with it around my plate before departing back to the kitchen. Why the chef couldn't have done this I couldn't quite fathom and why the mashed potato didn't get the same treatment with the tommie source will also remain a mystery.
Dining in Derry/Londonderry is always a little different. It's such a small place and everyone knows one another so before you get stuck into a decent bit of conversation it's highly advisable to check over your shoulder to make sure the person you're about to speak of is not sat nearby or at least someone that might know them, or be related to them by blood or by marriage or was schooled with them. And you can never be too sure so to be safe you and your table company usually end up whispering and conversation is done with you half listening and half lip reading.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Of Gillian n Geroge

I met Gillian Esquivel today for breakfast at the Ramada in Belfast. I like this woman. She's straight talking no messing, tells it as it is and has loads that's really worth listening to and chewing over. We even slipped into a bit of Spanish which made me realise I haven't forgotten as much of the language as I had thought..
Whilst chatting a friend of mine, George, passed the window and waved. This reminded me that I'm meeting him tomorrow to discuss a book that has impressed us both. It's called "The Four Hour Work Week" by Tim Ferris.
It turned out this book is Gillian's bible. It's helped her time manage and set goals. She describes it as life changing and I'm inclined to agree with her. It's set me thinking that it's time I re-ordered my life, completely revise how I work and how I take time out to relax and enjoy myself. I wonder what George thinks..

Monday, 19 December 2011

Of The Birthing of Web Sites

I  spent a few hours over the weekend building a website for a friend of mine. It's still a work in progress but we're getting there at Derry Solicitor Mark Reid.
The process reminded me of when I built Legal-Island's first ever web site in 1998. I use the words "web site" generously here for it was really just two pages linked together.
Whilst in a newsagent in Derry/Londonderry I had seen a PC magazine with a free disk on the front and a headline claiming that the free software could build a web page for you in just 30 minutes. Intrigued I bought the magazine and an hour later had one web page and an hour after that another one. Whilst it proved a fun exercise I wasn't sure if what I had built was really worth saving. But just in case it was I saves the file to a floppy disk. Wondering what name to give the file I thought well the two pages relate to legal stuff one for the North and one for the ROI so I guess Legal-Island just about covers it.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Of Logic Up a Ladder

I was up a ladder yesterday. Not a great place to be when you get vertigo standing on a thick carpet. I don't even like being so tall at times. As I reached the guttering by the roof I told myself that feeling terrified was irrational, illogical and damn right silly. Afterall why should I fall from a place just because its high up? If it was eight metres lower I'd happily work all day and never fall off once. I left out the bit of discussion with myself that pointed out that I should be nervous because if I fell off from 10 metres I might well die (not to mention make a good attempt at killing the poor fellow holding the bottom of the ladder as well).
So for 2 hours yesterday I wrestled with a bit of guttering while Arnold below kept the ladder steady and when he wasn't on the phone to his mates shouted up all sorts of support, advice and black humour.
At the end I thought I had fixed it. This morning after a night of rain it was clear I hadn't. Time to get the Pros in methinks.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Of The Great Christmas Party

It was our Christmas Party yesterday at the Hilton Hotel Templepatrick. Judging by the number of cars in the car park at 8a.m. this morning a good few staff didn't make it back to the office last night. Let's just hope they made it home though.
It was also prize giving day. I won the Bermuda Triangle prize for having the desk most likely to swallow up something never to be seen again. I can't believe it. I'm demanding a recount of the votes...
I made a speech to staff very similar to the one I made last year. I talked about how great the year had been. I mentioned how good the staff were to work with and how well they had performed both individually and as a team. I wake everyday and can't wait to get into work. That's a great feeling and a great honour.
I also talked about the five Annual Reviews of Employment Law Conferences we had organised this year (among many other events of course). I said and I truly believe it, they are the best Annual Review events organised by anyone in Ireland or the UK and we should be really proud of what these are and what they give to people.
We all left the party I hope feeling good about the day and the year that's been and looking forward to 2012. Bring it on say I. And so say all of us!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Of the Full Irish

I attended a breakfast seminar yesterday about promoting public health in Northern Ireland. We were served a full Irish breakfast (sometimes referred to as a heart attack on a plate) which may indicate just how far we have to go in terms of eating better at least.
It always amuses me how the Northern Irish tourist industry champions "The full Irish" as though it's the big thing that will get the tourists flocking here. Award winning B&Bs swing signs out front proudly reassuring all that a stay includes the famous "full Irish". All the tourists I've ever met, at least from France and the Med, couldn't understand how a people could start their day which such awful and unhealthy food. But then again I suppose "Fine Porridge with Blackcurrants & other anti-oxidants" I guess doesn't have much of a ring to it either. One for the marketing team I suppose.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Of London & Coaches

I had always wondered whereabouts Millwall in London was to be found. Over the weekend I discovered exactly where because I stayed there. However, I also discovered that it has pretty been renamed South Canary Wharf. And why not? How many times do you hear of shops shutting up shop because of unruly South Canary Wharf fans on the loose?

I spent the weekend in London on intensive coaching course. It was full of highly energised, positive people high fiving each other and using words like "group sharing", "paradigm shift" and "goal focused".
And then there was me...

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Of Pens and Saunas

It's really foul weather weather at the moment even our fowl (aka "The Girls") are staying indoors. When I let them out this morning they took one look around and duly hopped back in their pen. They're clearly fair weather girls.
It's 08.10 and still dark and I've no doubt it'll be getting dark again by 2.30p.m. today.  There's a strange about light that you only really appreciate it when it's not there.
I spent Christmas in Finland many years ago and the sun barely nudged it's way over the horizon before dipping below again and plunging the place back into darkness. How they copped I don't know. It may explain their high levels of alcoholism or why perhaps, like the Girls, they spend so much time in their own pens which they call Saunas.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Of A Tale of Four Simple Tyres

Last week I drove to Derry/Londonderry in the pouring rain and skidded there and skidded all the way back in the middle of the night. Probably something to do with the tyres I thought. I checked. It was. All four were below the legal limit. Yesterday I went into the local tyre fitters for to buy some replacements. I gave the guy the tyre sizes and reference codes and he got out his catalogue to look them up and tell me the bad news. £248 he told me. I thought that was a lot for four new tyres but if it has to be paid then so be it. He then took out his calculator and banged in the following figures 248 x 4 and proudly announced the total bill as being near as damn it £1,000. Damn it wasn't quite the expression that first came to mind but now some 24 hours later I'm working towards it.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Of Our Company Day in the Community

It's company volunteer day today and we're all off painting a house somewhere. We've been told to wear old clothes and that I certainly am. I'm sporting an old pair of gardening boots, brown chords and a bright green T-shirt so you might say the sooner I'm covered in paint the better.
Paint it on! Bring it on!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Of Barry Phillips's of the World Unite

A while ago I attended a seminar in London with a speaker who was a marketing and branding expert. He showed us how he kept an eye on his own online brand by setting up a Google alert system to scoop up his name whenever it appeared on the web along with relevant content. The alert would arrive to his email address with a summary of the information published on him and a link to the full article.
This looked like a load of fun so I decided to do the same. Since setting up an alert for "Barry Phillips" I have yet to receive one that relates to me. I have however learnt a lot about what the other Barry Phillips's have been getting up to in this world.
There's a Dr. Barry Phillips who is an anaesthetist in Hastings who recently warned about the dangers of using "laughing gas" after a good deal of it was stolen from a local hospital. There's a Barry Phillips who has been mending a fence with his chums in Boxhill, Australia. Nice one Barry. One Barry Phillips, also in his 40s, sadly has just passed away in Parbold and a local group of people have got together to buy a defibrillator in his name. Another Barry Phillips was due to speak on the nature and wisdom of Native American culture values on 17 November of this year according to the Battle Creek Inquirer at Indianapolis.
What's interesting is that none of the Barry Phillips's mentioned above appear when you Google the same name.Here it's a very different story. There's a Barry Phillips who has made it into Wikipaedia for his contribution to American folk music, another who is a well known actor and a third who is a well regarded cellist.What's interesting is that when you do a Google search under "images" for Barry Phillips it's immediately clear that the world is awash with Barry Phillips's.
I feel a convention coming on.....

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Of Crossing Bridges

So here endeth the week and quite an exhausting one it was too.
On Tuesday I chaired the last of our Annual Reviews and the scores on the doors from the delegates are great. Hooray but no surprises there I guess. Our Annual Reviews are always top class.
On Wednesday I stayed in Dublin for meetings and for an evening lecture by Professor Bernard. Golly that women is brainy.  On Thursday I'm back in the North chairing a mediation meeting before firing over to Derry/Londonderry for a dinner at the Waterfoot Hotel. This is an unusual place - possibly odd is a better word. It took me about 5 minutes to find the door to get in but once inside the food was great and the service first class.
The new millennium bridge across the Foyle there is impressive. In fact it's really beautiful. I just wish they'd change the name of the city to something completely different to Derry or Londonderry or Doire. Having to type or say the first two  for political neutrality every time is such a nuisance and is only marginally better than using one and then dealing with the guilt you may feel that your company has felt offended or excluded by your single use of one and not both.
Peace? Yes. Inclusivity? Not yet. That's another bridge to cross.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Of Some Really Worrying Stats

It's really sad news about Gary Speed former coach of Wales national team. I always feel deeply sorry for those surrounding suicide victims who must go through all sorts of turmoil asking themselves what if anything they could have been done to prevent the tragedy.

I'm reading a fascinating book at the moment called "The Psychology of Influence". Oddly, a chapter I was reading last night deals with suicide and in particular how the suicide rate rises in a community whenever a local paper features news of a suicide on its front pages. According to the author research indicates firmly that following a well publicised suicide you can expect a good few copy cat suicides to follow. He was able to point to firm evidence that whenever a pilot takes his life through a deliberate accident there's a spike of suicides from other pilots doing the same. According to one web site report during the period 1993-2002 in the states 16 pilots committed suicide with one actually exiting out the door mid air. So convinced is Cialdini of the stats that he tries hard not to travel by air whenever news of a pilot suicide has just made the headlines.

At University I often wondered of the value of the so called "soft" sciences and how much of real value they contribute to the improvement of the human race. Work such as that above has me thinking otherwise.


Friday, 25 November 2011

Of 50 Words

I've just bought the latest album from Kate Bush "50 words for snow". I had no idea one was on its way out until Amazon sent me an  email thinking that because I had bought her latest album I'd buy this one. They were right of course. I will buy every album she ever makes.
I've been a KB fan ever since she and Debbie Harry peered from their respective posters on my bedroom wall as a teenager giving me dirty looks..
Her first album "The Kick Inside" was very nearly a classic. Certainly the lead track "Wuthering Heights" was the most original sound of the 70s. It captured the haunting mood of the book and subsequent film perfectly.
I wish I could say I love her most recent album but I don't. Not yet at least. Many have collaborated with Bush on it which shows the esteem in which she is still held by her peers including Elton John. Maybe the album will grow on me. I guess I've just got to keep listening.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Of Some Damn Good TV Finally - The Frozen Planet

There are few things that make me feel proud to be British. I'm not sure if I even feel very British some of the time. But the BBC is something I feel very proud of and it is I suppose a very British institution.
I watched the best hour of T.V ever last night from 9p.m.-10p.m. The BBC's "Frozen Planet" is I think the best natural history programme they've ever done and they've made a good few.
It featured the birth of a polar bear that would have had even the most dispassionate of viewers blurting out "Ahhhs" as her mum, still sleepy as she hibernates, licks her over and finds energy enough to pass her in the direction of one of her nipples to start feeding.

Perhaps most remarkable of all was the astonishing shot of a wolf hunting down and fighting a bison an animal ten times its size.It was a long and bloody confrontation with the wolf being tossed around in the air by the bison and letting out the most awful screeches as it gets rammed and trodden on. The wolf must win to eat. If it doesn't it will die. The two pause eyeing each other as they await a final clash. You could almost see a kind of mutual respect one to the other. The wolf gives a final charge. The bison falls and for him it's all over. Astonishing.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Of Annual Reviews - the then and the now

It's our second and final Annual Review of Employment Law NI conference in Belfast today. We're expecting over 200 people to attend.
Our first ever Annual Review conference was held in the Holiday Inn Express in 1998 and was a much different affair and experience to the one on today. Today's will feature one very experienced Chairperson, upwards of 15 speakers, 10 hosters and as many exhibitors not to much a huge number of hotel staff running about the place to keep the event in motion.
In 1998, it featured just 3 speakers one of whom (me) also did registration, helped served the teas and coffee at the breaks and also chaired the event.
What I did too was to act as a beautiful assistant to one of the speakers who couldn't present and work the acetates on the OHP at the same time.  I duly parked myself next to it and put on the next acetate each time she nodded. The problem was that the OHP had seen better days and after just 15 minutes of activity it was beginning to over heat. As she spoke I fanned the damn thing furiously to cool it down. When she nodded I stopped and got back to what I should have been doing. Convinced the OHP was going to catch fire I nervously urged her session to finish as quickly as possible so we could switch the awful contraption off during the break and give it (and indeed me) time to cool down.

Oh yes, things have changed a lot since our first Annual Review

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Of The Business of Car Booting

I went to a car boot sale this morning. Hundreds of entrepreneurs in one place - my kind of place. I arrived at 7.30a.m.and it was already busy. Dark but busy. The car booters were setting up with miner's lamps on their head. Early bird customers were shining torches through the car windscreens belonging to newly arrived traders to get first sight of any bargains.

I soon bumped into my early bird swimming friends Bruce and Walter who pick their way through the stalls every Saturday morning looking for stuff that as far as I can see goes straight into one of their sheds at home. Walter had bought his grandson a water pistol for £1. He told me his grandson expects a gun of some description every time his grandad goes car booting. Bruce had bought his third barbecue set for £5. He said he'd have to smuggle it into his shed once his wife was out, fearing she'd go ballistic if she realised he'd bought another one. After 2 hours of intensive shopping and negotiating they stopped for a break eating tea and scones out the back of their space cruiser before returning for one last run in search of those stalls keen to get rid of their gear at any price.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Of Keen on Fergal

Last night I attended the Belfast Speakers' Circle and was asked to read out my favourite piece of writing. It was not Tolstoy or Dickens or Hugo but an Irishman called Fergal Keane who came top of my shortlist. In 1996 he wrote what for me was one of the most beautiful pieces of writing you could ever wish to read. It's a letter to his son written just a few days after his birth whilst Keane was on assignment in Hong Kong. By kind permission of the Internet cut and paste it is reproduced below. Enjoy..!

My dear son,

.... it is six o'clock in the morning on the island of Hong Kong. You are asleep cradled in my left arm and I am learning the art of one-handed typing. Your mother, more tired yet more happy than I've ever known her, is sound asleep in the room next door and there is soft quiet in our apartment.
Since you've arrived, days have melted into night and back again and we are learning a new grammar, a long sentence whose punctuation marks are feeding and winding and nappy changing and these occasional moments of quiet.
When you're older we'll tell you that you were born in Britain's last Asian colony in the lunar year of the pig and that when we brought you home, the staff of our apartment block gathered to wish you well. "It's a boy, so lucky, so lucky. We Chinese love boys," they told us. One man said you were the first baby to be born in the block in the year of the pig. This, he told us, was good Feng Shui, in other words a positive sign for the building and everyone who lived there.
Naturally your mother and I were only too happy to believe that. We had wanted you and waited for you, imagined you and dreamed about you and now that you are here no dream can do justice to you. Outside the window, below us on the harbour, the ferries are ploughing back and forth to Kowloon. Millions are already up and moving about and the sun is slanting through the tower blocks and out onto the flat silver waters of the South China Sea. I can see the contrail of a jet over Lamma Island and, somewhere out there, the last stars flickering towards the other side of the world.
We have called you Daniel Patrick but I've been told by my Chinese friends that you should have a Chinese name as well and this glorious dawn sky makes me think we'll call you Son of the Eastern Star. So that later, when you and I are far from Asia, perhaps standing on a beach some evening, I can point at the sky and tell you of the Orient and the times and the people we knew there in the last years of the twentieth century.
Your coming has turned me upside down and inside out, so much that seemed essential to me has, in the past few days, taken on a different colour. Like many foreign correspondents I know, I have lived a life that, on occasion, has veered close to the edge: war zones, natural disasters, darkness in all its shapes and forms. In a world of insecurity and ambition and ego, it's easy to be drawn in, to take chances with our lives, to believe that what we do and what people say about us is reason enough to gamble with death. Now, looking at your sleeping face, inches away from me, listening to your occasional sigh and gurgle, I wonder how I could have ever thought glory and prizes and praise were sweeter than life.
And it's also true that I am pained, perhaps haunted is a better word, by the memory, suddenly so vivid now, of each suffering child I have come across on my journeys. To tell you the truth, it's nearly too much to bear at this moment to even think of children being hurt and abused and killed. And yet looking at you, the images come flooding back.
Ten-year-old Andi Mikail dying from napalm burns on a hillside in Eritrea, how his voice cried out, growing ever more faint when the wind blew dust onto his wounds. The two brothers, Domingo and Just in Menongue, southern Angola. Just two years old and blind, dying from malnutrition, being carried on seven-year-old Domingo's back. And Domingo's words to me, "He was nice before, but now he has the hunger."
Last October, in Afghanistan, when you were growing inside your mother, I met Sharja, aged twelve. Motherless, fatherless, guiding me through the grey ruins of her home, everything was gone, she told me. And I knew that, for all her tender years, she had learned more about loss than I would likely understand in a lifetime. There is one last memory. Of Rwanda, and the churchyard of the parish of Nyarabuye where, in a ransacked classroom, I found a mother and her three young children huddled together where they'd been beaten to death. The children had died holding onto their mother, that instinct we all learn from birth and in one way or another cling to until we die.
Daniel, these memories explain some of the fierce protectiveness I feel for you, the tenderness and the occasional moments of blind terror when I imagine anything happening to you. But there is something more, a story from long ago that I will tell you face to face, father to son, when you are older. It's a very personal story but it's part of the picture. It has to do with the long lines of blood and family, about our lives and how we can get lost in them and, if we're lucky, find our way out again into the sunlight.
It begins thirty five years ago in a big city on a January morning with snow on the ground and a woman walking to hospital to have her first baby. She is in her early twenties and the city is still strange to her, bigger and noisier than the easy streets and gentle hills of her distant home. She's walking because there is no money and everything of value has been pawned to pay for the alcohol to which her husband has become addicted. On the way, a taxi driver notices her sitting, exhausted and cold, in the doorway of a shop and he takes her to hospital for free. Later that day, she gives birth to a baby boy and, just as you are to me, he is the best thing she has ever seen. Her husband comes that night and weeps with joy when he sees his son. He is truly happy. Hungover, broke, but in his own way happy, for they were both young and in love with each other and their son.
But, Daniel, time had some bad surprises in store for them. The cancer of alcoholism ate away at the man and he lost his family. This was not something he meant to do or wanted to do, it just was. When you are older, my son, you will learn about how complicated life becomes, how we can lose our way and how people get hurt inside and out. By the time his son had grown up, the man lived away from his family, on his own in a one-roomed flat, living and dying for the bottle. He died on the fifth of January, one day before the anniversary of his son's birth, all those years before in that snowbound city.
But his son was too far away to hear his last words, his final breath, and all the things they might have wished to say to one another were left unspoken. Yet now Daniel, I must tell you that when you let out your first powerful cry in the delivery room of the Adventist Hospital and I became a father, I thought of your grandfather and, foolish though it may seem, hoped that in some way he could hear, across the infinity between the living and the dead, your proud statement of arrival. For if he could hear, he would recognise the distinct voice of family, the sound of hope and new beginnings that you and all your innocence and freshness have brought to the world. 

Monday, 14 November 2011

Of a Big Mac Experience

I went to check out an IPAD on Saturday in Belfast. The Mac shop was packed full of customers not to mention sales assistants. In fact I don't think I've ever seen so many sales assistants in one shop - all of them busy too. After playing around on a machine for a while I pressed a button which said "I'd like assistance". When I entered my name I was told an assistant called Daniel would be along to attend to me shortly. Five minutes later Daniel showed up and passed me on to Richard. I'd never let Richard work for me. He was slightly unshaven and had a piercing through his bottom lip that looked as awkward as it must have been painful. But he was exactly as I expected a Mac sales assistant to look like I guess : geeky, a tad bohemian but bright with it.
This guy was good. He asked me right away what my needs were and demonstrated how the IPAD could easily meet them. He then showed me some of the additional features of this amazing tablet including how you could beam photos from it onto your TV screen at home. The really clever bit was to come however when he stated that he felt that I had developed a real feeling for the IPAD over the over gadgets he had shown me and he was right.
I had kind of understood why Steve Jobs and the Macs have such a following before I walked into the shop but now I get it totally.
Great work Steve, Daniel, Richard et al

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Of Christmas Time

Yey! I've just booked a holiday with my parents in the Canaries over Christmas. Boy it was hard work trying to find a week that suited all schedules, a hotel that the three of us liked and then do two online bookings with some in the party who were a little IT challenged!

I'm looking forward to a week of sun (or even just plenty of light) with loads of books and podcasts oh and my folks of course too...

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

OF Annual Review of Employment Law

We're about half way through the mad season with 2 Annual Reviews under our belt with another 3 to go.
The last at the Le Mon was great. And I've no doubt that the next at the Ramada will be just as good too.
The endorsements are coming in thick and fast too. He's one of the most recent : "A really valuable day out of the office; both in terms of learning and also in networking with old and new associates."Nicola Shaw.
I'm chairing the last one in Dublin at the Stillorgan which will be attended by none other than my parents so we had better go out on a strong finish.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Of "I Have a Dream"

Yesterday I had to do a little research on what was probably the greatest speech ever delivered. I thought I'd share my findings.
The "I have a dream" speech  is 17 minutes long and was delivered by Martin Luther King on 28 August 1963 in which he called for racial equality and an end to discrimination.
But did you know? :
•     The “I have a dream” speech was originally called “Normalcy never again”
•     Delivered to over 200,000 civil right supporters the speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th Century
•     The civil rights march was such a logistical challenge that King and his colleagues had little time to prepare for the speech and some 12 hours before it was delivered none of them including King knew what the speech would contain.
•     While Dr. King began the speech reading from prepared text, he abandoned that mid-way through. The “I have a dream…” portion of the speech was improvised.
•     The speech refers to countless respected sources including : the Declaration of Independence the Emancipation Proclamation, Shakesbeare’s Richard III’s the United States Constitution, the Gettysburg address of Abraham Lincoln and of course the Bible.
•     The speech is famous for Anaphora – repetition of a phrase at the beginning of sentences. He repeats “Now is the time” four times and “ I have a dream”eight times.
•     President Kennedy was concerned that if the march failed to attract large numbers it might undermine his civil rights efforts. In fact it did the reverse and put more pressure on the Kennedy administration
•     In 1964 Martin Luther King became the youngest person ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

And ladies and gentleman lest we forget:

Every movement, every triumph, every success – big or small – starts with a dream. Every one of us can envisage a better world.  And every one of us can picture ourselves as a part of the solution, making the world a better place. What’s your dream? If you’re not sure, you don’t have time NOT to dream. This is your one and only life.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Of Something Rather Astonishing

Something rather wonderful is due to happen to me this week - probably around Friday or Saturday at a guess. On 3 January this year I started War and Peace and this is the week that I'll finally finish it. When I do I will have read every word on every one of  the 964 pages and learnt about all 500 of the characters mentioned in the book not to mention countless battles, places, estates and great family names.
Granted, I have been unfaithful to this great novel along the way having read a good number of other books since the beginning of the year but none that can touch it in terms of how a book has touched me. War and Peace may not be my favourite book of all time but it is undoubtedly the most astonishing I've ever read. It is at the same time a historical document, a treatise on how we analyse evidence and facts, how we understand leadership and above all a great story. Tolstoy's observations on people and how they interact and behave are as true today as they were when he first documented them almost 200 years ago.удивительный
as they say in Russian....truly astonishing.  

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Of a Master Performance

I'm listening to an amazing recording right now and its story is even more amazing. It's of Keith Jarrett's Jazz piano concert given in Colgne in 1975 and the story according to Wikipaedia is fascinating and goes something like this.

Preliminaries to the concert were not auspicious. The concert was organized by 18 year-old Vera Brandes, Germany’s youngest concert promoter. At Jarrett's request, Brandes had selected a Bösendorfer 290 Imperial concert grand piano for the performance. However, there was some confusion by the opera house staff and instead they found another Bösendorfer piano backstage - a much smaller baby grand - and assuming it was the one requested placed it on the stage. Unfortunately, the error was discovered too late for the correct Bösendorfer to be delivered to the venue in time for the evening's concert. The piano they had was intended for rehearsals only and was in poor condition and required several hours of tuning and adjusting to make it playable.The instrument was tinny and thin in the upper registers and weak in the bass register, and the pedals did not work properly. Consequently, Jarrett often usedostinatos and rolling left-hand rhythmic figures during his Köln performance to give the effect of stronger bass notes, and concentrated his playing in the middle portion of the keyboard. Jarrett arrived at the opera house late in the afternoon and tired after an exhausting long drive from Zurich, Switzerland, where he had performed a few days earlier. He had not slept well in several nights and was in pain from back problems and had to wear a brace. After trying out the substandard piano and learning a replacement instrument was not available, Jarrett nearly refused to play and Brandes had to convince him to perform as the concert was scheduled to begin in just a few hours.
The concert took place at the unusually late hour of 11:30 PM following an earlier opera performance. This late-night time slot was the only one the administration would make available to Brandes for a jazz concert - the first one ever at the Köln Opera House. The show was completely sold out and the venue was filled to capacity with over 1400 people at a ticket price of 4 Deutsche Marks.
The playing was improvised. In other words it all came straight out of his head. The concert was a critical success and the recording remains the best selling album of any jazz soloist of all time.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Of Days Gone By

My first ever case as a lawyer in Dublin was against The Grand Hotel in Malahide. I had never been there t and often wondered what it was like. Last night I found out as I drove up to the Hotel, parked my car and stay overnight before a conference today.
The stay did not start well. The receptionist looked at me only after she had finished doing what she was doing and said to me "You ok?". "I am" I replied "You?" (thinking now can we start again and you do this properly).
The hotel has a lovely grand old lady feel about it without it feeling dated.The room was lovely with a gorgeous view over the bay. The hotel pool was good too.
Every hotel without exception offers guests free access to its pool but charges you extortionate amounts for a pair of trunks (hoping you've forgotten them) and a premium too for a swimming cap which no-one ever thinks to bring. Except that is for me! For this morning I had all the gear. I had forgotten to take it out the car from yesterday. All the gear that is apart from soap which wasn't provided at their posh leisure centre so I had to do little runs from the disabled toilet (which did have a few skirts of soap left in a dispenser) to the shower and back "sans costume".
Altogether a memorable visit....

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Of A Dish to Die For

I attended the Belfast Cookery School last night for my weekly veggie cooking classes and boy was I on fire! I did tofu in a medley of onions soaked in soy sauce topped with a load of vegatable leaves I'd never heard of before. Wow was it good!
Watch out world I'm back on the dinner party trail! Come Dine with Me invites are in the post...

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Of Fighting to Get a Good Start

Today began with a fight. And then another. The first was to get out of bed at 6.15a.m.. For some reason this morning it was hard. Very hard. The second fight was to do my obligatory 30 lengths of the Antrim pool. At 5 lengths I wanted to stop and get out. At 10 I nearly did. I changed stroke 3 times and shouted at other early birds as we passed - anything to relieve the monotony.
But now I feel good. I feel fresh and exercised and ready for the day. Bring it on!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Of Carlos Acosta

I was glad of the extra hour in bed this morning for I was really tired after last week's hectic schedule of travel, work and socialising.

Apparently the Russians, or rather Mevedev, has decided not to put the clocks back because every time they do the suicide rate increases by 66%.

I went to see Carlos Acosta at the Opera House last night. Wow can that guy dance and wow what a body for a man in his late 30s. His story is a fine one. Brought up in poverty in Havana Cuba the last of 11 children, he was sent to the state run ballet school because they gave out free lunches. The rest as they say is history. Top guy.Top performer.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Of Elvis and the Distractions

I went to see Elvis Costello in concert last night. I usually growl at people who come into a concert late and expect you to get off your ass as they pass in front of you and your view. But last night I was the one who was growled at for I was a good 20 minutes late thanks to my delayed flight from London.
It was only 20 minutes but friends told me afterwards that it was the 20 minutes in which he played all his classics including Oliver's Army and Good Year for the Roses. The bit I saw (which in fairness to him lasted over 2 hours) for me was a little hit and miss. There were a few pearls in there but there was a lot that was more album than singles music, esoteric and difficult to access.
I really disliked his electric guitar numbers and his song done through a loud speaker was clever but also very annoying. It's hard not to like a song writer who wrote "Allison" or "Watching the Detectives" but when it was all over and Elvis had left the building I was kind of glad I had too.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Of Much to Be Said for a Book on Your Head

When I was in Africa a few years ago I used to love watching the ladies in their beautiful long colourful dresses walk by. They had such grace and style. They appeared to glide by you with purpose and pace but so gently too. A friend of mine put it down to the fact that from such a young age they all had to carry something on their heads and this taught them to walk slowly but with back up straight and the utmost of precision.

Last night I entered into a small speakers' competition in Belfast and the adjudicator was invited to critique us all at the end. She was marvellously well spoken and conducted herself with the utmost of politeness and diplomacy at all times. So masterful was her critiquing exercise that she left me thinking that I had actually been given something rather unique to think about or even admire - like a rose - something quite beautiful and very special.

What struck me most was her deportment and they way she both sat and stood to address us. Her gait was straight and proud and reminded me of many of the African ladies I'd see strolling so beautifully to market every morning when on holiday.

In her introduction she explained that she had had a very traditional schooling and education that began with instruction on how to walk around a room with a book on your head.
Much to be said for a book on your head I thought

Monday, 24 October 2011

Of The Hot Seat

It was my Mother who taught me I should be scared of flying. As the old Channel Islands Viscount would hurtle down the short runway at Exeter Airport with its deafening propellers going full pelt, she'd grip her seat in terror like she was sitting on an electric chair.
I was cured of my aerophobia only decades later after reading John Simpon's book "Strange Places, Questionable People". Here he explains that he flies all over the world often in the most ropey of aircraft and he gets on thinking "If your number's up it's up so there's no point worrying about it".
On Thursday evening I took a flight from Southend Airport to Waterford. As the plane taxied into view through the departure lounge window I was reminded of the old planes I first experienced all those years ago. It had two windmills attached to each wing and its pockmarked skin suggested it had seen many many miles.
Practising my John Simpson attitude to flying all was well until about 40 minutes into the flight when I heard a slight thud and watched a circular object make its way down the isle and stop spinning just in front of me. I picked it up keen to identify it and a possible owner. As I did so a lady three rows behind me declared with an ironic smile"That's actually my reading light which has fallen out the panel above me. Could I have it back I've a chapter to go?!" "Certainly you may" I replied but be careful. It's very hot".

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Of Barry at Bovey

So that was my week away in London, in Devon and finally in Killarney.
Each time I go to London I change my mind in terms of where's best to hang out. Currently, it's the South Bank . It's vibrant. It's fun. It's slightly bohemian and it does whacky pretty well too.

Devon was looking beautiful bathed as it was in Autumn sunshine for virtually all of my visit. Mum was shocked to see me - a nice shock I hope.

Whilst passing over Dartmoor we dropped in at Bovey Castle for for a cuppa tea. Bovey was voted one of the top ten places to stay in the UK recently but this time I wasn't too impressed. Michael Winner would have been positively grumpy about the place. The meet n greet was great with a man popping out to park my rental car in his 1920s socks to the knees linen suit. As he did so I wondered whether he'd ever driven a Renault Clio before. If he had, I bet he hadn't parked one there before. It's a hateful car by the way. Budget you have a lot to answer for.

Then came the ropey service. We were told they didn't do cream teas until the afternoon (a wait of some 4 hours) so I asked if we could have some roibosh tea instead. "Yeh course ya can mate" said the over familiar waiter. We ordered toast and jam which arrived without cutlery.
The toilets were just as good as ever though - in the top ten of rest rooms in the UK? Without a doubt...

Friday, 14 October 2011

Of Presenting and the Evidence

So that's the main part of the week over then. On Wednesday I chaired our Data Protection Conference in Dublin which was a howling success. I then shot up the motorway to present at the Business in the Community Engage to Innovate Conference at W5. The first of my two presentations was filmed to be published I'm told on the Internet next week.

The added challenge in presenting nowadays is that you have to be really careful in terms of the every day examples you use to support the points you make. In the good old days of presenting pre the advent of mobile phones and the Internet you could refer to all sort of incidents and people knowing you'd get away with it as long as they weren't in the room with you and you didn't use their names. Nowadays, what you say could be tweated around the world. Phone video clips of you could be sent out of the room on their way to anywhere and everywhere before you've even finished your gig. The whole thing might even be kept for posterity on a web site somewhere for others (including your former bad boss, manager, teacher) to find at any point in the future.
I think my presentations went well but it's really difficult to know. People are always too polite to give honest feedback. They might say they loved a presentation and afterwards tell their mates that it was a waste of time. I've done it myself once or twice. So I've developed my own measurement system and it works like this. It was a reasonably successful if :

* No-one nodded off
* No-one left before the end;

* No-one got on their damn handhelds and started texting or fiddling with emails during your presentation;

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Of Structured Procrastination

I was listening to an interesting radio programme the other morning. It was early in the morning, probably around 4a.m. so I wrestled with myself in terms of whether my need to sleep should trump my desire to stay awake and listen to what was on.
The programme was about John Perry who has just won the Ig Noble Prize for his article "How to Procrastinate and still get things done". The Ig Noble Prize honours scientific work that makes you laugh and think. It has some curious past winners including a man who for forty years has cracked the knuckles in his left hand (but not his right) to see if the common belief that such a habit brings on arthritis is correct.
"Structure procrastination" according to Perry is when you make a list and do everything but the one on the top - the one that really needs to be done. He posits that this keeps you busy doing other useful things as you go up the list. He argues that you'll finally do the one at the top when it's trumped by others even more important and falls from the top spot.
When the programme finished I still couldn't sleep. There was too much going on in my head including whether for all these years I have been a "structured procrastinator". I never did come to a conclusion. Did I fall asleep.... or maybe I just didn't get round to it?

Monday, 10 October 2011

Of The Lost Art

Over the weekend I finished reading "The Lost Art of the Great Speech" by Richard Dowis. This is probably the best book I've ever read on delivering a speech and I've read a few by now.
Here are a random ten tips from the book :

* The six basic purposes of speeches are to entertain, inform, advocate, motivate, convince or persuade;
*One of the best ways to relax when waiting to speak is to use the progression method. Start with the top of your head and relax your scalp. Then go to your facial muscles, then to your neck, shoulders and on down through all your body parts. You'll feel the tension flow out your body.
* Virtually every person in an audience is attentive at first. This brief period may be called the "grace period". After that, the speaker has to earn the audience's attention. If you lose the audience during this grace period, you might never regain their attention
* A speech is a fondue pot and everyone has a fork.
* President Nixon was a master of alliteration. He once criticised pessimists for being "nattering nabobs of negativism"

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Of Former Heads and School Alumni

In a bored moment a few days back I Googled my old school : Northampton School for Boys. I was amazed by their impressive boast of alumni which includes the guy who discovered DNA and the 11th Doctor Who.
Maybe I was just part of a bad intake the year I first went to the school but the impression I got was that when we were through the otherside most of us were bound for the dole queue rather than university or certainly stardom.
In fairness to the Head at the time, the year I went to the school was its first year as a Comprehensive. Until then the teachers didn't really have to worry about controlling their class.Discipline, or perhaps more correctly lack of it, was never a serious issue. Once Comprehensive all sorts of boys were at the school causing all sorts of mayhem and many of the teachers were struggling to find the new style of teaching that was required.

I'm starting my working day meeting a former Head teacher, John Stevenson. Until recently he was Principal at Holywood Grammar School whose alumni includes the Open golf champion Rory McIlroy. Last time I met John he told me a great story about the day after Rory McIlroy won the Open. He said there was a media frenzy and he did nothing all day except give interviews from Rory's golf club for the likes of the BBC, Sky News and CNN. No doubt he felt the centre attention. And then the last interview was done the media circus cleared off and they went looking for their next big interview. John said that within an hour there was no sign that they had ever been and I went home wondering what an earth that was all about.

I guess I left Northampton School for Boys feeling much the same thing...

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Of Nit Picking over Blackberry Picking

When I was 13 at school I had a bad time in my English class. We had been asked to read Blackberry Picking by Seamus Heaney and write a 500 word essay on it. The trouble was I just didn’t get it. I didn’t understand its metaphors its allegories and well 500 words about a poem probably no more than 150 in length seemed beyond unreasonable to me.
I struggled to make 300 words and handed it in thinking that was the end of the ordeal not realising that it was just the beginning. He made me do it again and read out my second attempt when I handed it in a week later. This version consisted of an extra 200 words recounting my own experiences blackberry picking which I thought had been masterfully crafted into the critique of the poem. My English teacher thought otherwise. As I read the essay to the class I realised he had asked me to do so not as an example of a piece of homework done well but as something so bad it could only amuse him and the 30 school boys in the class.
Needless to say he, English literature, Blackberry Picking and all poetry were tossed into my teenage rubbish bin labelled “To be despised at all times”.
Last night I attended for the first time a meeting of the Belfast Speakers’ Circle. This is a group of people who get together and practice public speaking, after dinner speaking, impromptu addresses etc. Each week I was told has a special theme. One week it may be Extempore Speeches, the next recitation of a well known speech etc. Last night, to my horror, was poetry night and everyone was asked to bring along their favourite poem.
Not having a favourite poem (only a most hated one) I decided to ask a neighbour for hers and went prepared to read “When you are old” by W.B Yeats.

As I sat there waiting to be called to read it was clear that the chairman was going to leave me to the very last. I listened to poem after poem realising that my fear and dislike of the subject had barely gone away after all these years. Up before me was a lady called Irene.
She proudly announced to the group “The poem I have pleasure in reading for you this evening is the wonderful  “Blackberry Picking” by Seamus Heaney.
Strange world innit?

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Of Jane Eyre

I went to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy last week. I think it was good. I say that because I nodded off at some point so I can't be too sure. The trouble with nodding off part way through a film is it's hard to work out whether you're away for just a couple of minutes or a full half hour. If the former, then it's worth returning to the plot. If the latter, then with, TTSS at least, you might as well go back to sleep.
There were no such problems last night when I went to see Jane Eyre. What a glorious film based on a glorious book. Jane Eyre reminded me of a neighbour I know also close to 19 years of age who also possesses a remarkable ability to judge situations and her next actions perfectly. She just seems to know exactly when to be assertive, when to be bold, when to concede, when to forgive. This is a skill that many of us don't acquire until late in life, if at all.

I say glorious book above but I've never read Jane Eyre. I write it with confidence however because strangely just a few minutes after existing the cinema a text popped up from an old friend of mine in Derry/Londonderry. Randomly it said that he had just that moment finished reading Jane Eyre and it was the best book he's ever read.

Strange world innit?

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Of Speed Reading

I was at a speed reading seminar yesterday. I don't think it's for me. I like to go at my own pace and ponder words, the meaning of sentences and indeed ponder just about anything else as I "speed" my way through a chapter of a book.
I did confess to being a slow reader to the group; one of those that reads with his finger under each word and as we practiced I did note everyone else turning over a page before I was even half way down.
The secret I've decided to getting through lots of books for me is not to read them quickly but to have them handy throughout the day so whenever I'm on a train, a bus, or in a queue I'm reading.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Of Grand Farewells

Yesterday evening  I drove to Birr Castle County Offaly with Jayne to help launch the Legal-Island balloon. The launch site couldn't have been much nicer. Birr Castle looked majestic with a helicopter parked just in front in amongst huge and fine grounds. Guest passengers this time were Michael Kennedy Partner at Byrne Wallace and his lovely wife Eimear. They were both very brave as they nonchalantly hopped into the basket and floated away. As we waved them farewell I remembered that I had forgotten to tell them both that just two months ago the balloon had failed its MOT on account of woodworm in the basket. But I saw no sign of a shoe or two sticking through the bottom as they shot off into the distance. They'll be just grand I thought...

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Of Kiss n Tell

Ok I confess. I watched "The Bachelor" the other night on Channel 5. Junk T.V I know but I needed to unwind on a quality bit of trash after a long week.
The Bachelor is about a single guy called Gavin who is looking for love and has to eliminate one or two women every week from 25 hopefuls as he stays with them in glamorous parts of the Med.
He seems to be taking the task very seriously for there are numerous shots of him looking stressed or ridden with angst as he takes the awful decision which one of the troupe doesn't get a rose at the end of the day and is therefore eliminated.
I had clearly caught an important episode on Friday because a crisis had struck. Kerryanne, one of his hot favourites, had been caught snogging one of the camera crew after enjoying too much Mediterranean plonk. Gavin was not amused. He dealt with Kerryannegate though with the utmost of professionalism. First, he gave her an opportunity to explain herself. Then he sent her to a separate hotel away from her accusers whilst he decided what action to take. He then talked to more of the girls for their view on the incident. He looked upset and why shouldn't he? For Kerryanne was on the show to follow and fall in love with him not some half baked clapperboard guy whose only connection with celebrity was that he helped film them.
The fact that Gavin to date has shared moments with and snogged just about all of the remaining contestants seems to have got lost on both him and the programme's commentator. Trashy stuff hey? And I love it...

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Of Ministers and Presidents

So there we have it a busy week nicely in the bag. The Justice Minister attended his first Legal-Island conference on Wednesday and he struck me as an all round good guy. The kind of guy who would be wearing a white hat in any old Cowboy and Indian film.
I thought he would arrive five minutes before he was due to address us and leave immediately afterwards but no not a bit of it. He checked in a good 45 minutes beforehand and stayed until coffee time at 11a.m.. That meant I had some serious unexpected hosting work to do as I also kept an eye out to make sure the President of The Law Society wasn't on his own nor was the President of the Mediators' Institute of Ireland likewise the President of the NAHT.
On Thursday and Friday I was on a Train the Trainer course in Dublin with the Legal-Island MD Jayne. We had to complete a personality test and I was declared an "Activist" ahead of being a "Pragmatist" then "Theorists" and finally a "Reflector". There was a description that went with "Activist" that I was supposed to recognise which included that Activists are doers, risk takers and the life and soul of a party. The trainer asked me if I recognised myself in it. And said I did but added in my mind no more than if I read my horoscope profile or indeed that of any one else.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Of Big Stuff on Heavy Shoulders

Wow we have a big day tomorrow for that is the day of The Great Mediation Symposium. In attendance will be over 130 delegates and some very important VIPs. Our key note speaker is flying in from New York, the Northern Ireland Justice Minister is giving the opening address and we have a grand total of 27 speakers/facilitators contributing to the event including two Presidents (Law Society and MII) and a Q.C barrister.
But we're ready. The Legal-Island team will swing into action and produce top quality goods like we always do. Bring it on!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Of The Hell of Good Intentions

I was swimming this morning my obligatory 30 lengths of the pool. I clocked my moods as I swam up and down and it went something like this :
* First 10 lengths : self resentment, anger and annoyance for I could have been in a lovely warm bed feeling all toasty with another 30 minutes to go before having to crawl out my pit. Instead I was in a pool, wet and cold and my limbs were fighting hard not to do want I wanted them to do.
* Next 10 lengths : limbs and muscles are beginning to remember they do this frequently and there is little point resisting. I'm finding my flow and starting to watch fellow early bird swimmers in other lanes to see if I can overtake them or stop them doing the same to me. Getting a sense that life's not so bad afterall
* Last 10 : feeling good , personal pride is beginning to accumulate tipping into being damn right self righteous as I pull myself out of the water and stride confidently to the shower room.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Of Up Selling - It's really not that difficult

I went into my friend's pizza takeaway last week in Belfast. I suppose I wasn't in the best of moods.
His pizza business is not going well due largely I guess to the presence of three competitors including Domino's with 3 miles of his joint.
My friend wasn't there. One of the assistants saw me come in but and I waited for a greeting which never came. I would have settled for eye contact and a smile but it just wasn't going to be my night. At the counter I waited for him to say something. He didn't. Neither did I. There was a pregnant embarrassing pause until he finally relented and said "Yes please". " I'd like a medium pizza with extra mushrooms" I proclaimed. "Is that it?" he replied adding that it was £5.50 before I had been given an opportunity to respond. It was but then suddenly it wasn't. "No it's not" I said. "I'd like you to ask me something". Another pregnant silent pause followed. "I'd like you to ask me if I would like anything to drink with my pizza". He duly did and fetched a bottle of water out of the fridge."Is that it?" he demanded again. "No it's not" I spat back "I'd like you to ask me if I would like anything else" as I stared directly at the Ben & Jerry ice cream on the shelf below the bottles of water. I could see he was becoming very irritated and this pleased me.
"Would you like anything else?" he protested. "Yes please I'd like some choc chip ice cream please". "Now how much do I owe your boss more than £5.50p. "£11.50" he begrudged me.
I watched him prepare and bake my pizza to make sure nothing was added except extra mushrooms.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Of Early Morning Thank Yous

I awoke this morning determined to rise early and get to the pool in good time and a gentle pace becoming of 6.30a.m.. It didn't happen.
I was out the door in good time but half way to the pool I realised I'd left my soap in the house. I diverted to the newsagent to buy some on my way. On arrival I realised I was out of change. No problem I thought I'll use the cash dispenser inside the shop. But it was out of order. I tore over to the one at Tesco where I faced my first dilemma of the day :buy soap at Tesco or head back to the shop to get it there. Not as easy as you may think for the lady in the shop is a little darling. She works hard, gets up at the crack of dawn and deserves my wonga far more than Tesco. I headed back to the shop, grabbed the last bottle of soap and jumped in the queue behind four others. Whilst waiting I observed that the shopkeeper said "Thank you" after she had told the customer the price. "Thank you" again when taking the payment and thank you finally when handing out any change. Three "Thank yous" per customer four customers in front of me made 12 every 5 minutes or at least 120 an hour upwards of a thousand a day I thought as I thanked her for her change.
I raced to the leisure centre now running late cursing for not saving myself all this stress in the morning by doing a quick check before leaving the house.
As I entered the pool area the attendant asked me if I had used the male changing rooms first thing yesterday. When I assured him I had he replied" Oh cos ya left your bottle of soap which I kept for you. Here it is". "Thank you" I said. Or at least I hoped I did.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Of Windy Ways

Boy it's windy out there. There were 6ft waves in the pool this morning. The girls look more like feather dusters than hens (therein may lie their ulitmate fate perhaps?) and well it's real "nail ya kids to the floor boards" stuff.
The last time I experienced anything that bettered this was in Cuba. We were all having fun watching poolside parasols lift into the air and land some 100 metres or so away in the sea until it also lifted one of the hotel guests and deposited him straight in one of the pools promptly followed by a sun lounger to boot. The poor fellow was in quite a state I felt so guilty for laughing for ages afterwards. Cinco segundos to be exact.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Of a Great Shopping and a Reliable Driving Experience

I went shopping early this morning for a bag of chicken pellets for the girls at Greenmount Stores in Antrim. This is shopping as it used to be : old fashion style. Once inside, the man behind the counter asked me what I had done with my MG and how it compared with the BM I was in today. I explained it was far more exciting in the MG. In the BM you know you'll always get to where you are going. I added, but there's a certain smell about the interior of an MG of real upholstery and of when Britain used to be great. He replied "Yes I'm just about old enough to remember that. But it rusts and falls apart too easily" he replied "The MG or Britain?" his mate interjected" We all laughed.
It was nice to see you again today Sir said the shop assistant as he loaded my bag of pallets into the boot.
Boy this is great shopping I thought as I drove away - can't wait till I need another bag of chicken pellets...

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Of 10 Great Pairs of Lungs

I'm currently listening to Adele's latest album 21. Boy it's good. I don't think I've been this excited about a female artist's album since Kate Bush rocked my world with The Kick Inside. There's something about a great female voice that once let go it just wraps around you body and soul. So here's my top ten of favourite female singers/voices :

1. Janice Joplin
2. Ella Fitzgerald
3. Ruby Turner
4. Kate Bush
5. Shirley Bassey
6. Barbara Streisand
7. Dolly Parton
8. Adele
9. Carly Simon
10. Christine Collister

"I will always love you.....oooo"

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Of Sounding Off About War n Peace

I discovered today that there are support groups online for those in the process of reading War and Peace! One member advises you to read another much shorter book whilst attempting W&P just to remind you that it is possible to finish books!
I'm on page 300 having knocked off another 10 pages this morning whilst walking the neighbour's dog. Now you may be forgiven for contriving a mental picture of me walking along the river's edge whilst also peering at a thick clump of a book but it was not like this. Instead, I walked Isla to a picnic bench where I sat and read for half an hour while she brought me a stick which I promptly threw in the hedge which she would retrieve some 5 minutes later when the process would begin all over again.
The novel is so heavy that when I left it on the passenger seat of the batmobile the alarm sounded indicating that  whoever was on the aforementioned seat wasn't wearing a seat belt.I've worked it out that if I can do 10 pages every day I'll have finished it by the end of October. Onwards Soldiers! Bravely!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Of Memoirs of a Fruitcake

I've just finished reading Chris Evan's book "Memoirs of a Fruitcake". This is a great read easy on the brain and highly entertaining. It's astonishing on many levels. First, how in his short life so far he's managed to meet so many huge names and at some point employ a good number of them too when he owed his radio station. Without name dropping he tells the story of how he was in the South of France on holiday walking down the road and who should he bump into but David Frost who said he was staying at "Andrew's". Not knowing which Andrew he was referring to he agreed to have dinner with them both later that evening. Later that evening he's zipping the world's finest and most likely expensive wine with Andrew LLoyd Webber and his wife, among others.

The extravagance and decadence is astonishing too.Evans had or has a weakness for Ferraris. At one point he owned 7 of them. He lived in a property so good in California that he forgot he also owned another outstanding house in England to the tune of £8 million.

But whats perhaps most astonishing of all is that Evans survived to write this book. For years he'd do his show, go to the gym, sleep for an hour then go out on the rip from lunchtime pretty much until the small hours of the morning. After little more than 3 hours sleep he'd be up to do it all over again.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Of ADR and Mediation

This LinkedIn thing is a funny business. Legal-Island set up an HR group to discuss HR issues in Northern Ireland recently. Loads of people joined but there have been almost no discussions - except those contrived by me.
Yesterday I started a discussion in a mediation group and contributions on my question have been spinning in from all parts of the globe.
I'm now contemplating using this discussion as part of the Mediation Conference we have planned for later next month where we'll be debating the very question dropped into LinkedIn. It will be quite a thing to start a debate on something needed for Northern Ireland which others around the world have already commented on. For reference the question/comment dropped into the "ADR Resources" group is as follows :

Driving Mediation into the Mainstream - is it all about the tipping point?

I wonder if I could invite some comments on the following. Mediation has been around in Northern Ireland for a good 30 years in various guises. We now have an ample supply of mediators many of whom I have met and will declare that mediation's time has come and will soon be considered "mainstream". When I ask them how long they have been saying this they reply "oh the last 10 years at least"!

Does anyone remember this situation in their jurisdiction and if so, could they help in terms of what finally drove mediation over the tipping point?