Apple get it wrong…

Yes I know, thats an unusual statement for me to make! I am regarded as an early adopter when it comes to Apple gear – most of it is brilliant. My work life revolves around a MacBook Pro machine and an iPad. I have an Iphone6+. And, as of a few weeks ago an Apple Watch.

apple

I was really interested when Apple launched the new ITunes music service. I have been using Spotify for about 12 months. I had stopped buying music, although I have bought some vinyl.

But, at this time it is a disaster – for two reasons.

Firstly, although the new service offers me a fantastic choice in music (I love listening to new music) it really needs a lie internet connection. It is possible to get the service to download a track so you can listen ‘offline’ – but you can’t put it on an iPod (except for the latest iPod touch). So the one in my car and my bike shuffle are not able to have any of this new music. This has something to do with the digital rights management.

Secondly, it does;t work with my home SONOS system. Spotify did – easily and beautifully. I did tweet SONOS last week and they said that they hoped that Apple will get it to work by the end of the year.

This is an epic fail.

I have an iTunes music library at home and have not upgraded it to the new iTunes system. I’m voting with my feet. Unless Apple change this I think I’ll go back to Spotify. I have two months free Apple music left…

My next challenge …

My bike aches for another long ride apparently.

ccc_hi_res

So, I have agreed to do a ‘long ride home’. It wasn’t my idea – but that of Mark Thomason. Mark is a mate from Nottingham Squash Rackets Club.

Mark’s story –

Around five years ago my Dad was diagnosed with cancer, he had tumours in two different areas and was told that the outlook was a bit bleak.

The last five years have not been easy for either my Dad, Mum or the rest of the family. My Mum deserves special mention due to her unbelievable patience and support when the treatment was at it’s most challenging. My Dad has been through chemotherapy, radiotherapy and very invasive surgery and yet despite all this he maintained a ridiculously stoic and happy disposition. I have no doubt that it is due to his own stubbornness & strength that he has come out of the other side and is, fingers crossed, on the mend.

Due to the exceptional work and dedication of Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and various other Cancer teams across the North West my Dad is now enjoying a recovery period with the potential of being given the all clear.

I cannot thank all of the individuals involved in the care of my Dad enough. I decided to undertake this ride in an effort to raise some money for the Centre responsible for helping our family. It had to be difficult as my Dad’s journey was definitely not easy!

So the challenge – a ride from Nottingham to Liverpool. 130 miles and principally uphill. In one day. A long ride home indeed.

There are four of us and worryingly Mark seems to think that I am the expert rider. This is because I have been to Skegness on my bike. Liverpool is 52 miles further…

Seriously, this is a very good cause. I’m looking forward to the challenge and to meeting his Dad.

If you feel so minded to give a donation the ‘Just Giving’ page is here –  we’re trying to get to £1,000. Any small amounts would be really appreciated!

The future of surveying?

If Amazon can look at sending your on-line purchaser via a drone then they must be hitting the mainstream.

I have been ‘playing’ with a drone – a DJI Phantom Professional for the last couple of months. It is very easy to fly – out of the box. It has a fantastic camera and shoots video in 4K.

I have flown it enough now for it so come out of ‘beginner mode’.

I can’t use it for ‘commercial use’ as this requires a qualification – although I think I will do this soon. I’ll add it to my Pilots Licence!

I have been shooting a number of things and ‘mackled’ this short video together on Sunday night. It is Nottingham Science Park which we manage as a firm. This was shot at dusk and is a very ‘rough edit’ – it took me around 10 minutes to put together so it’s not Spielberg quality. But it does show what can be done.

Lessons from squash – and Nick Matthew OBE

I had the privilege of seeing Nick Matthew, aka The Wolf in the world of squash at Trent Bridge last Friday. He spoke at a SportAid lunch.

NickWolf

I have met Nick a few times as he plays for Benz Bavarian Squash team – one of our local rivals in the PSL squash league. He also played in the European Club Championships last year at ‘The Park’. He was, and remains, a great ambassador for the game.

His talk on Friday had some really interesting tips for sport and business alike.

Some of the things he highlighted:

  • Support is critical – on many levels – coaches, family, friends.

  • Start early with those who show promise

  • Make sure they have role models.

  • Technique is everything – 10,000 hours might be needed to be the best of the best

  • Look after yourself – longevity is key

  • Look for small improvements all of the time – the small 1%’s can make the difference.

He also quoted two famous lines which really resonate:

Firstly, “train smarter not harder.” This translates into the business world really well – work smarter not harder. This is so very true.

Secondly, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got“.- Attributed to Henry Ford.

Nick is truly an inspirational sportsman. He deserved his OBE in the June 2015 Queens awards. At 34 years of age he remains one of the fittest players on the tour – and, as I write this blog, he is World Ranked No.2.

A life-changing year…

One year ago today I made a major life-changing decision. I had been to a testing day at Nottingham’s Queens Medical Centre to see if I was suitable to join a program looking at whether diet and fitness have any impact on the prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes. In summary I was no good to them – my body processed sugar too well.

But it was clear that I was over-weight – I had hit 17 stone. It wasn’t good – I felt pretty awful. And the scale says it all – ‘obese’. No other phrase for it. At the wrong end of the sale. Off the scale.

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 22.32.49

As I left the QMC I made a decision. It was time to diet. I had no idea what that meant – I had heard all sort of stuff about 5:2 days or Lighter Life or Weight Watchers. But these seemed to me to be fad like and too many people seem to do well then slip backwards.

In a year I have lost 4 stone. That equates to a 25kg luggage allowance on your holidays – which terrifies me to think that I was carrying that around every day. Approximately 5″ was shed from my waist. My XL tee shirts now read ‘medium’.

I have had a massive amount of support from family and friends. I am constantly asked ‘how did you do it? Well there are three elements:

  • will-power
  • will-power
  • will-power

I have to confess that at times it was boring and I tried very hard not to be a diet bore (apologies to you if I was!).

I did adopt some rules:

  1. Breakfast every day – porridge with raisins and my cappuccino (with chocolate – my treat for the day). No sugar though (except in tea – just half!)
  2. No mid-morning snack
  3. Lunch – on days I played squash this would be pasta, other days salad – I got used to Caesar salad quickly
  4. No pudding. No cake. No chocolate. None.
  5. No alcohol – actually I had 5 drinks in 8 months.
  6. Tea-time – lots of chicken, salmon and fruit.
  7. Lots of fruit. Grapes particularly.
  8. No bed-time snacks.The custard and chocolate cake were gone

I upped the exercise – including lots of training with my son Jak. I dusted off the road bike and set some targets – like the Skegness ride.

And that is it. 12 months on I feel a lot better. I am 100% fitter than I was. I am less tired.I’m enjoying the squash and loving the bike.

There were times when it was tough but the controversial comment from Kate Moss has some truth – nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. I have been the same weight for four months now. I think I have found the balance!

Top Gear – a sad end

I’m not sure what to make of the Top Gear debacle which resulted in the bringing down of the Institution that is was Top Gear.

topgear1

On Sunday night I watched the slightly surreal ‘last episode’ – complete with elephant in the room (called Jeremy apparently). No audience, just a slightly sombre looking James May and Richard Hammond. Just the two of them ‘introducing two films’.

The films were as good as most Top Gear stuff that has developed over the last ten years or more. I was nearly crying at the antics. Yes, it’s boys stuff.

It’s boorish, silly, immature and very very funny. The three presenters clearly do have a magical bond and relationship that allows this programme to work. It has little to do with cars – and thus the entertainment factor appeals to both sexes.

So the dilemma?

Clarkson punching someone clearly over-stepped the mark. Considerably. I’m not sure we will ever know the full story though. If it was a prima donna move then he rightly should have been punished.

Before the days of twitter and Facebook though would this have passed us all by? Would we have really ever had this trial so public in days gone by? A jury of millions…

The whole thing is really sad. I don’t think that the new team will be able to emulate what these three guys have ever done.

Maybe they shouldn’t. Perhaps this should be a Fawlty Towers moment – quit whilst ahead?

Transport and Nottingham – or are we….

My last blog was all that was positive about Nottingham and our improving transport system. Then the Government go and spoil to party.

electification

The 2013 five-year plan to electrify the line from London to Sheffield was to cost £500m and help break the North-South divide. The Northern Powerhouse was alive and kicking.

The blurb on the Network Rail website still says,

“By 2020 the Midland main line will be electrified and rail bottlenecks removed, improving capacity.

The comprehensive programme of works includes realigning and replacing tracks, remodelling stations, reconstructing bridges, lengthening platforms and improving signalling.

Passengers can look forward to faster, smoother, more comfortable, journeys on a new fleet of trains. People living near the railway will experience a cleaner, quieter railway.

A Midland main line railway fit for the future will reduce overcrowding and meet growing demand for rail travel.”

But the train has come off the track. De-railed.

The whole scheme is ‘paused’. This is code, in my view, for ‘shelved’.

This is not a great news story for the East Midlands. The ink has only just dried on the Election Result – and it’s had to believe that the Tories didn’t know about the ‘costing more and taking longer‘ small issue two months ago. I suspect they did! And if so – that is shameful.

Transport and Nottingham – we are getting there…

It’s been a long time coming (and we still have some projects underway) but it looks like Nottingham has two projects coming to fruition imminently.

a453

The first is the A453 – which I drove down in the week. The Clifton end was open and I was told that the rest is due to open any day – by the time you read this it may be finished. This £150m project is three months ahead of programme. I was pleased to see the average speed cameras were down!

This road really does have the potential to significantly improve the connection to the South.

What a pity that the project managers on the A453 weren’t involved in the tram scheme. We have no date for an opening and it is six months behind plan. But the 20,000 testing hours are being chipped away at. We are seeing more trams outside my office at NG2 Business Park. Hopefully the tram will be fully open very soon.

This leaves the ring road improvements which are progressing in stages – widening lanes to relieve the traffic around the city. This is still a bit of a mess – but hopefully the work will be complete by the time summer is out.

Transport is incredibly important to the City and these projects have the potential to add to the economic prosperity of this fair city.

Business and Education

Yesterday I chaired a meeting at the St James’ Hotel in Nottingham. It was arranged by the Nottingham Post and was intended to stimulate a debate around employability and whether schools, colleges and Universities are providing business with the employees they need.

apprentice

This was second (very) early start for this type of event – which followed on for a similar event back in January. But this time the focus was different.

We had some key players in the room and the debate was really interesting.

My take:

1. Don’t blame schools, colleges and Universities for poor students – they are generally under-funded.

2. Parents have a massive role to play and in some cases they may be absent or otherwise distracted (drugs and alcohol were mentioned).

3. One size doesn’t fit all – we need a range of people to fill positions. Not everyone can be the boss!

4. There is a huge stigma still attached to ‘apprenticeships’ or ‘vocational work’ – comments such as ‘it is such a shame that Jonny is doing an apprenticeship – bless him – too thick for University!‘. These comments don’t help and will take some time to fix.

5. Vocational training should be re-branded ‘skill training’.

6. The schools particularly do need to engage more with business. Part time careers advisors may have other focus – teaching!

There was a really interesting point made by Simon Gray from Nottingham Means Business. He had met with a project from Nashville who had three strands to their strategy to improve connection between business and schools. The first was ‘Externships’ – getting teachers in the six weeks holiday to work in business. Secondly, a dedicated business engagement advisor and finally, branding schools to be aligned with business…

There was real food for thought.

Our next challenge is to engage with a group of young people – rather than the usual suspects from the business community! If you know someone who might be interested in taking part – let me know. If you are a young person reading this middle age bloke’s blog – likewise – get in touch!

It was quite a long way…

Following my blog on Saturday I’m delighted to tell you we managed to get 15 people from Nottingham to Skegness on ‘push bikes’ on Saturday. You probably know by now that we were raising money for Cancer Research UK – and this was the big event.

Team Innes England

Team Innes England

Although a few of have ridden a bike it was a challenge taking a big group. The route had been planned carefully to avoid the main roads as far as possible (I rode the A46 a few weeks ago which was ‘interesting’). Our thanks to Craig Watson for doing this.

We also had technical support from Richard at Lovevelo – and he was needed before we started! Ben Taylor managed to get a puncture in Lowdham lay-by the start point – and a second one in East Bridgford! Debs and Charlotte from the Derby office provided transport as there were no volunteers to cycle back!

We had a few mishaps. I shall not embarrass the two riders who went South on the A46 when ‘North’ was needed. They know who they are…

As for me – this was the longest ride I have ever done – 75 miles. I had hoped to be under 5 hours and three of arrived in Skegness in 4 hours 19 minutes – averaging 16.8mph. The wind direction helped!

As at last night we had raised over £10,500 for Cancer Research – we are absolutely delighted! thanks to everyone who supported. There are some photographs on our Facebook page here.

My next challenge on the bike is a small ride in Scotland in September – 220 miles…