Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Of Mediation/Reflection

You might say this is a week of mediation. This evening I'm facilitating a discussion group formed to discuss the road ahead for mediation in NI. Tomorrow, I'm in Dublin talking to Northside Community Law Centre about their highly successful mediation project. On Thursday I'm chairing a breakfast seminar for lawyers all about how to bring mediation into the workplace. The mediation audience in Northern Ireland is a disparate lot with a few conflicts of interest bubbling around. But hey if anyone can move forward without falling out it should be mediators. Shouldn't it?

Monday, 30 May 2011

Of BMs MGs and a Whole Lot of Class

Yey! I have the MG back on the road and she's purring like a gooden. It did require quite an operation and the assistance of a German vehicle to make it happen. I parked them side-by-side and transferred power from one to the other with the aid of very long jump leads and the neighbour's son. He was in the BMW giving the accelerator some wellie when I shouted that it was time to kick off.
She holds the road beautifully and I can't wait for the next sunny weekend to shoot off to Donegal with the picnic basket asunder. They say you can't buy happiness and they are probably right. But two grand can buy you a grand old lady. Put this together with sunny weather in Donegal and you've got you're own little Xanadu.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Of Marvelous Messy and Beautiful Barcelona

Last night the beautiful game returned to being well, the beautiful game. It was almost a pleasure to see a team you're supporting "get beat" by a bunch of footballers who are at the top of their game and oh so very good. There were few fouls even fewer bookings and an awful lot of great football. When a team can tame a side like Manchester United and make them look very ordinary you know your watching greatness. And greatness wherever it appears be it in the arts, in politics or in sport is a welcome friend.

Of Dark Reflections

Well it's Saturday morning just a week from my birthday and a few days off in London later in the week. Yey! Can't wait.

I've loads to do before I go however incluing Chair a breakfast seminar on 2 June and sign off a good number of events before then too.

Yesterday Northern Ireland ground to a halt in many areas as a result of 14 bomb scares. I wonder if any other part of the world can boast as many. Is that another dubious record? Whilst stuck in the mayhem I went through the dark things this place is known for.
They include :

* The most famous ship in the world which sank on its maiden voyage
* One of the greatest footballers in the world who was also an alcoholic and wife beater
* A unique film star of a car that crashed after two years in production
* A Belfast hotel - once known for being the most bombed hotel in the world having suffered some 28 attacks.

I think we need to do better somehow. The crazy thing is that actually Northern Ireland is not a bad place to live.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Of Business Cards and Business Boxes

We're rolling out a new networking device today. It's a joint effort between our marketing and egg production teams and I rather like it.It works like this.
The person we are going to meet gets a box of four green eggs produced by the Legal-Island hens. There's advice inside the box on how to check that an egg is still edible and it goes like this :

Place an egg in a bowl of water :
* If it sinks it's fresh;
* If it stands up it's still ok
* If it floats its bad
On the top of the box there's a rinky dinky label which says "Nest Egg - Investing in our Relationship" along with the Legal-Island logo and the logo of the company we're networking with.
Beats a business card any day don't you think?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Of Getting Through the Books and the Music

The books are stacking up at the moment. I'm just 40 pages into War and Peace with another 900+ to go. There's Atlast Shrugged at 1199 pages in the queue behind. I also threw on the reading list yesterday Ulysses by James Joyce after listening to my friend Paul Joyce (no relation I'm guessing) over dinner last night tell me what a great book it is. It's set in just one day of the life of a few characters as it makes its way around the streets of Dublin.
Like me Paul is a huge Kate Bush fan. A poster of her adorned his bedroom wall as a teenager just as it did mine. Yesterday we bought her latest album and like teenagers all over again excitedly inspected the CD to see what was on it and how it appeared. The great thing about Kate Bush is her unpredictably. You never know which way she's going to go next with her music. Sometimes, it a bit cranky, occasionaly a bit average but sometimes too (like her debut single "Wuthering Heights") just magical, original,brilliant and very daring.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Of Having Inspiration in Your Step

Very occasionally you meet people in life that really inspire you. Years ago I met a senior counsel barrister in Dublin from a very well-to-do family who you'd expect to walk around with a degree of pomp and superiority in his step. But not this man. He would go to a law centre every month in a very rough area of Dublin and give his time free of charge to anyone who needed it. Not only was he great with clients but everyone he worked with taking a genuine interest in them and what made them tick. I used to watch him with co-workers and try to learn from his skills. I saw little except understated brilliance all the time.
Yesterday I saw him deliver a presentation at the Law Society in Belfast. He was witty, amusing, erudite, informative and very compelling.
Turlough you're the boy...

Monday, 23 May 2011

Of Up Up and Away

Yey! The Legal-Island Hot Air Balloon is back in action! Well almost. It failed its MOT last week on grounds that there was wood worm in the basket but once the ulster weavers have seen to this then it's ready for lift off.

I've been up twice now and I still can't make up my mind about it. On one level it's wonderful. Flight at its most natural with plenty of time to enjoy it. On another level it is completely insane getting so high into the air and having no ability to steer and being completely at the mercy of the wind.
Last time the Legal-Island staff flew in it it was a hoot. We had to change crew midway through the session so the balloon bounced through a field as 3 staff decanted and another 3 jumped on board.

All in a day's work at Legal-Island....


Saturday, 21 May 2011

Of Checking in and Out

Saturday 8a.m. and I'm in the office with a full day of work ahead of me. I have K D Lang's best of for company and a good cup of peppermint tea.

It takes about half an hour to check into work nowadays. First I have to blog, then Twitter, check my email, my sms, get a cuppa tea and only then am I ready to be productive.

I'm planning to run home this evening and every day next week that I'm not out of the office. Lets see if it happens....

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Of Peter Thomson and a pretty good seminar

I went to a Peter Thomsom seminar yesterday. It was masterful understated brilliance. I don't think I've ever come across anyone who is such a good all round business advisor, public speaker, teacher trainer ever.

I left my notes from the seminar in the house this morning so from memory here are five takeaways from yesterday.

1. Always plug in your holidays at the beginning of the year. You'll enjoy them more, work harder in between and have more holidays!

2. Work on your business not in it.

3. Always make time in your business to review what you have done well. Don't just get together to analyse stuff when things go wrong.

4. Don't forget the power of selling by endorsement - this is rarely used but can be very effective

5. If you want to read a first class book read "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand 1,000 pages of size 9 font type that will change your life.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Of Mind Transportation

According to my web stats someone from Boznia and Herzegovinia visited my blog yesterday. It's extraordinary to think that a person from such a far away and unknown place (to me anyway) could stop by to read about something so inconsequential as my battles to keep a hen in captivity. But therein is the beauty of the Internet and before that (and still) television and before that (and still too) radio.

Last night I was watching "Strangeways" about life as an A grade prisoner in a top security prison in the UK. It's a fascinating programme taking you behind the think walls of a prison giving us the opportunity to look in on a world that the vast majority of people will neither experience nor otherwise see. As I watched I couldn't help but wonder if there's a feel good factor to watching what is actually an account of some very sad wayward lives. Does it make the viewer feel good watching others whose lives are clearly at rock bottom and unlikely much to improve even in the short to medium term? Maybe.

Radio can produce a similar experience. Listen to the midnight shipping forecast and the news of gales for all the poor souls who have to make a living from the sea and you can't help but be grateful for what you have. You may have very little but it's a whole lot better than being out in a force 10 gale lashed by icy cold seas.

The mind is a curious thing. You often need to take it to strange and unpleasant places to make it feel comfortable just where it is.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Of Barry v. Britney

OK so it's getting personal now. Twice in the past two days top Legal-Island hen Britney has tried to make a break for it. It's worse than trying to keep Harry Houdini locked up in one place.
Yesterday I extended their chicken run by putting chicken wire from it round two posts a tree and back. Within 5 minutes of letting them out into their new enclosure I spied Britney from an upstairs window running the length of the fence looking for obvious weaknesses where she might do a runner. An hour later and I could have sworn I caught her practising her bump-start take-offs in an attempt to get airborne and over the fence. Meanwhile her three compatriots nonchalantly peck away like nothing much matters to them in the world least of all breaking out.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Of Britney's Break for Freedom

She made a bid for freedom yesterday. Britney that is and her partner in crime Beata. There was pandemonium. Staff were out looking all around and I was frantic. Also, how do you call a chicken in? And more to the point how do you stop a stranger to ask if they've seen one?

Eventually we found them up the road by the entrance to the police unit. After several unsuccessful attempts to catch them I decided to round them up and walk them back. As I dutifully walked them on ahead a police car pulled up alongside. As the passenger window came down I just knew there was a comment coming : " I've seen a man walk his dog in some strange way but a man out walking a pair of chickens is I sight that takes some getting used to".

I was raging. Someone would have been in big trouble had I been able to catch her.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Of Irish Blogs and Balls

I'm all blogged out at the moment. I was on the company blog this week too. Read all about it here

It's submission day today for Champion of Champions in the Irish News Awards. We're fine tuning our application this morning. It's all very top secret but exciting too. What to put in? What to leave out? Is the idea behind it original, creative and inventive or just plain off the wall and over the top.

Where's that crystal ball we keep wanting to use?

Monday, 9 May 2011

Of The Critical Importance of Personal Image

The problem with the world today is that nothing is private anymore. Before you know it someone has taken a photo of you in a less than "corporate-CEO-of-a-highly successful company" looking position and it's on the net for all to see.

What could be worse? Being known as Willy Wonka perhaps?

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Of Great Inventions and Intentions

I went to the flicks last night with my cinema partner, "The Lady Captain". I went to see "Water for Elephants" which although a good film is a strange title. For it had nothing to do with water going to elephants that I could see unless this was some metaphor for something that went flying over my head.
Within 10 minutes of getting into the film my mind was away working on a new invention that had occurred to me sitting there. This is a set of head phones that you can wear into a movie house. Once in your seat you tune them in to a frequency through which you can hear the movie. Great hey?! Now you may think its pointless bearing in mind each cinema comes with its own sound (usually pretty good Dolby all round sound) but it's not. The beauty of the invention is that it will deprive you of the sound from all around of other cinema goers rustling their damn popcorn.
I know it amuses the Lady Captain highly that these people irritate me so much. It was all I could do last night not to shout at her to shout at her neighbour to stop the unbearable rustle of popcorn whilst I tried and concentrate on a film.

Anyone fancy the flicks with me soon?

Friday, 6 May 2011

Of Getting Up and Out

Yey! I swam another 30 lengths this morning of the local pool. I sprinted 10. I cruised 10 and fought 10.

I think I've now firmly got this swim thing into my daily routine. I've learnt that the trick is to awaken and not think I have a choice between another 30 minutes sleep and a cold pool but to think its 6.15a.m. time to get up and the first thing I have to do today is swim.

I'm off to see Ciara Dillon in concert this evening at the Antrim Court House preceded by dinner at the local Indian restaurant. Who said you can't have a great night out in "Anrim"?

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Of Didgeridoos and what they can do for you

I told a friend of mine that I snore and was immediately advised to go to the doctor. I haven't. I'm one of these that never goes to your GP unless I'm either in debilitating pain or there's obviously something awry.

I wasn't planning to make an appointment either until I watched a programme on T.V the other night about fat people. It said that one of the disadvantages of being overweight is that it can cause you to snore and that snoring can lead to sleep apnea. This, in an extreme form, can lead to strokes. Having googled sleep apnea I discovered you can tell if you're a sufferer from your snoring/breathing patterns. So last night I attempted to record myself asleep by keeping my Iphone near my bed on record. The trouble was I was so self conscious of the whole exercise that I was unable to sleep at all until well over an hour later when I had finally switched the thing off.
According to Wikipedia there are many remedies for sleep apnea including one which looks such fun I'm almost here wishing I definitely do suffer from the complaint. One of the remedies is to learn to play the didgeridoo which works because it strengthens the muscles in the upper airway.
My poor neighbour. First the sound of a badly played didgeridoo coming thundering through the adjoining wall last thing at night followed by me on my tonsils for a good few hours. Now that's suffering for you.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Of Being Back in the USSR

So that was the weekend in Moscow.

I left early Saturday on a BMI flight to Moscow from Heathrow. In front of me sat a young attractive Russian mother who was soon demanding her right to be served earlier than everyone else on account of two year old child who was thirsty. When explanations from the steward as to why she had to wait her turn fell on deaf ears she got she wanted and was duly served the drink of orange for her child. When she was told she would have to wait for her juice but it wouldn't be long as they were almost with her she demanded to see the Supervisor. He dealt with her with great British aplomb and diplomacy repeating several times that he was sorry if she felt the service didn't meet her expectations but that he felt that a "cultural difference" might be at work here.

As I witnessed the episode I remembered my last time in Russia and indeed my first (years ago when Breznev would still be wheeled out onto the balcony for the May Day Parade) and how hard you sometimes had to work to get beyond a nation not famed for over using their smiles and their please and thank yous. It was always worth it but you had to put the effort in.

I arrived at the airport and was mobbed by drivers all offering to take me to my hotel. I ventured to find an official looking desk to check the standard price into the city centre but could find nothing. So I asked at the one taxi company that did seem to have a desk and was informed the cost was 2,000 Roubles (about £50). Before I could say "da" I was rushed off by a man with a dodgy looking ID badge to the very corner of the car park and into one of the most dilapidated taxis I have seen since my holiday in Havana some two years ago. Money changed hands not from me to the driver but from the driver to Mr Dodgy looking ID.

The taxi driver hurtled at some speed down the motorway with cars overtaking either side of us. As he did so a dreadful noise started up directly underneath my seat. It became louder and more serious sounding with each bump we hurtled over. I was glad when we arrived to the hotel in one piece. Optimistically, he offered to take me back on Monday and optimistically I booked him for 5a.m. that morning.

The lady at reception dealt with me efficiently but with little courtesy and there was no time for a smile. I asked if she knew if the Lenin Museum was open tomorrow (Sunday) and she said she didn't and gave me no indication that she was going to find out.

That evening I spied a sign at the corner of the Kremlin that stated the Lenin museum was indeed open on Sundays and that entrance was to be gained via the historical museum. Having missed Lenin some two years ago (he had been sent away for re-embalming) I was determined not to miss him again. But this is easier said than done because despite Red Square being a major tourist attraction it offers just one sign in English which features little useful information. Just the opening time of 3 museums - nothing more.

The following day I was back at the Kremlin at 9.30a.m. ready to join the queue but there was no sign explaining whereabouts the historical museum was situated. The only clue given was that it was located on one of the corner walls. Not wanting to take a chance I determined the only thing to do was to start walking around the walls until I fell upon it. I started the journey in Red Square and marched off in a clockwise direction.

I'm guessing the walls are a good 3 miles in length and it was a long walk in what was quite a cold wind. But there was no sign of any entrance to any museum. Losing patience I decided to go into the official ticket office not far from the tomb of the unknown soldier and ask the lady in the tiny ticket booth for help. Dipping low to see her face through the tiny circular window I asked her for a ticket for the Lenin museum and where I could find it. She replied with a face and tone that suggested she found me both irritating and stupid. "Lenin is free" she proclaimed "but where is he I can't find it?" I demanded to know with my patience finally running out. "Its nearby Red Square" she spat back indicating that this was the final bit of conversation she ever wanted to have with me in her life.

By now it was well past 10a.m. and I headed for Red Square one more time to find nothing that I could see that looked like an entrance to a museum. On returning to the hotel for a change of shoes the receptionist informed me that the Lenin Museum was closed today for the holidays. She'd found out but clearly the offical tickets lady at the Kremlin had not been told.

The following day I was up at 4a.m. waiting on my friend and his noisy old taxi to take me to the airport at 5a.m. At 4.30a.m. he sent me a text informing me that his car had broken down (no surprises there I thought) but that his friend would pick me up instead. Fearing he might be late I went to the reception bar to see the same lady who had, it seemed, been behind the counter throughout my two days at the hotel. I asked her to call my taxi friend to ask him to get his mate here ASAP for the time schedule was tight. She did and being so early I was not expecting a smile.

While waiting I asked her where she learnt to speak such good English. She told me she had been in London for 6 months on a language course. She said she had enjoyed it very much and when she came back she noticed many differences. "What were they?" I inquired. "They don't smile very much here in Russia" she replied as my taxi pulled up a full 20 minutes early.

As I sat in the taxi speeding to the airport I wondered what it was that compels me to come back to a country that seems to try so hard to put tourists off from enjoying their visit and to be amongst people that seem at best cold and direct and at worse brutal and rude. I sent a text to my taxi friend and thanked him for organising his mate and in such good time if only to convince myself that I hadn't forgotten how to be uberpolite.

When my plane from Moscow landed in Zurich I switched on my mobile and I saw a text had come in from my friend the taxi driver. It read "You're welcome..it's because I am from Georgia"!

Of Queues n Quiet

I was en route to Moscow on Saturday and fearing a long journey plugged into a series of "From our own correspondent" from the BBC I had downloaded onto my iphone. One of the programmes was from a journalist who had been on assignment in the United States and was checking out on his way home after 5 years there. He finished by saying that he loved the Americans (same as me) - a great race but if he had to fine one fault he would advise them all to stand just one pace closer when talking to each other and as he put it "all the public spaces would be just that little bit quieter".

As if to prove his point (to me at least) little more than 20 minutes later I was in WH Smith at Heathrow Airport queueing for some mints. In front of me were two air hostesses from United Airlines buying as many copies of the Daily Mirror souvenir edition of the Royal Wedding as they could comfortably fit into their hand luggage. Hostess 1 announced to her colleague (and it seemed, to everyone else in the queue) that she preferred the Mirror because its photos of the wedding were just awesome. As she got to the front of the queue Hostess No.2 advised her to move her suitcase because it was blocking the path of others. She turned and addressed her colleague sharply "Listen Kim if my bag is troubling you that much why don't you move it?" Her friend asked everyone in the queue if they were on United Airlines flight 998 to Atlanta because if they were here was their friendly air hostess. All those in the queue chuckled with polite embarrassment but it was to get better. Kim's colleague turned round and declared angrily for all in the queue (and indeed the shop) to hear "you know what's the matter with you Kim? You've got such a big mouth"!