Squash – the time is now?

You’ll probably know that I am a keen Squash Player, sometime Coach and (part-time) Chairman of Nottingham Squash Rackets Club. In the last two years I have learned a lot about Squash – that is ‘behind the scenes’ Squash. I have met and engaged with England Squash. I have run a professional team – raising sponsorship and selling out home matches at The Park.

nick-matthew-v james willstrop

I have always been told that we are a dying sport. A minority sport that is ‘exclusive’ – played mostly by the middle classes. Of course, perception is so often different to reality. But changing perception is very difficult – akin to turning an oil tanker around!

The Squash fraternity were hugely disappointed not to have been included in the 2020 Games to be held in Tokyo.

But over the last few weeks the sport has had a chance to show itself off at The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The Squash is still on – now they’re playing doubles. But the English men cleaned up. Gold to Nick Matthew, Silver to James Willstrop and Peter Barker took Bronze. These guys play in the PSL where ‘my’ pro-team compete. Laura Massaro took Silver in the Ladies.

The final between Matthew and Willstrop was, in my view, one of the best games I have seen in recent times – it went to five games – Matthew edged it. But these are two players who are at the very peak of fitness. The spectacle was amazing.

Squash has worked hard on making it easier to watch and faster paced.

You have to wonder quite why it didn’t make the Olympics. But in the meantime – we are seeing some more interest in the game – which can only be a good thing!

And if you fancy a go – come down to NSRC. You’ll be very welcome – tell them I sent you!

About these ads

Social media and oil painting….

I was asked last month to write an article for the RICS Magazine ‘Modus’. This is the professional monthly update on all that’s happening in the world of property. The ‘naming bad boys bit’ is the best.

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My point in the article was that social media is important in the world we live in. Twitter, blogs, Instagram and the like have a huge part to play in today’s business world. But some people disagree.

I view social media as an essential part of the marketing we do as a firm and I do personally. Google are clever enough to work out that it is content and refreshed content that attract people. If you ‘vanity’ google yourself it will give a clue as to how good your own profile is. If you have an unusual name it’s a bit easier – especially if you have a Facebook or LinkedIn account. But more common names are more difficult. My google rank for my name has been number one for the last four years or so.

I have struggled to find time sometimes for this blog – but it still gets lots of comment and gives me opportunities for further exposure and profile – both with local radio and TV and the national press.

The point about marketing is that you never really know what works and what doesn’t. If you did know you could save a lot of effort on the things that didn’t work. But generally we don’t – so we have to keep pushing and keep our profile ‘out there’.

The only issue with my article – the RICS though I looked better in oils and not in photo style – I’m not so sure!

The Boris Bus

Now that I am back on the Apple system I can fully use the CityMapper app in London. It is brilliant and allows me to weigh up how to get about. This week I needed to get from Mayfair (the blue one on Monopoly) to St Pancras. It seemed that the easiest way was via a number 10 Bus.

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Yes a B U S.

I am not used to these forms of transport. I am the person who attracts the nutter (not very PC I know but true nonetheless). Also I fear missing my stop and ending up in Scotland. But I risked life and limb and stepped on a Boris Bus.

The Boris Bus desires a special mention. It is the first bus to be re-designed in 500 years. It is green (actually they’re red but you get the idea). They have three entrances. They have two staircases. They know where they are so can warn you. It even told me if I got off at The British Library that I need to be careful of the traffic…No shit Sherlock.

But I have a few wee beefs. These buses cost three hundred and fifty five thousand pounds each. Each. £355,000.00. The price of a large house where I live, a cupboard in Mayfair.

They have no opening windows – so on Wednesday they resembled a Swedish Sauna without the Swedes. I lost three pounds…

Talking of pounds – you can’t actually pay on them – you need an Oyster card. The clippie doesn’t take wonga! That’s not terribly ‘inclusive’?

But I mentioned the doors and stairs – did anyone actually look at the gross to net floorspace? Clearly no surveyor did. Should have asked a valuer.

Normal Service Has Been Resumed

I am wring a formal apology to Apple this morning. I was became lost in the wilderness and moved to the dark-side for a short period. I dared to imagine that the Galaxy S5 was going to be a suitable replacement for the humble iPhone. I even wrote about it here.

iphones6

It was a mistake.

A big one.

So after just over two months I have returned to the promised land and have a new Apple iPhone 5S. The Galaxy is back in it’s box where I think it will remain.

The good, the bad and the ugly?

Well in fairness the Galaxy has a great screen and a brilliant camera – each better than Apple. The battery life is really good too. The bad – the operating system (OS). It is awful – clunky and slow. It all seems rather disconnected. The ugly – the lack of synchronisation between Apps. Apple were always criticised for their stranglehold on the OS – and that they wouldn’t let you hack things. I now see why. I’m back in a world where everything just works.

The screen size is quite small – and hopefully the 6 will address this. But overall the fact that everything just neatly fits together is just brilliant.

Welcome back me.

Michael Gove – whipping boy?

Sacked. No other word for it. He has gone. Michael Gove has been ‘promoted’ to Chief Whip(ping boy).

gove

He was my least favourite of the Government Ministers. I found a brilliant video – which I posted a short time ago here. Gove fell into that wonderful camp where , despite not being a teacher, he showed the teachers how to do things. But not in a global holistic way -in a micro-managed style. He won’t be missed by many teachers.

I saw a fantastic letter from a school yesterday – it was sent home with the kids who had just sat their KS2 tests (I’m assuming that is Key Stage 2). I can do no better than copy and paste!

“Please find enclosed your end of KS2 test rests. We are very proud of you as you demonstrated huge amounts of commitment and tried your very best during this tricky week.

However, we are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique.The people who create these testa and mark them do not know each you in the way that your teachers do, the way I hope to and the way in which your families do. They do now know that many of you speak two languages. They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or paint a picture or dance. They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day. They do not know that you write poetry or songs, play or participate in sports, wonder about the future or sometimes you take care of your little d brother or sister after school. They do not know that you have travelled to a really neat place or that you know how to tell a great story or that you really love spending time with family members or friends. They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful and that you try, every day, to be your very best. The scores you will get will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything.

So enjoy your results and be very proud of these but remember there are many ways of being smart.”

The Beautiful Game?

I have considered writing this pots – I’m guessing there will be millions of blogs ‘discussing’ the German win in the World Cup Final on Sunday night. They deserved to win.

Schweinsteiger

I did used to follow football – but have fallen out with it of late. When I was young (a long time ago) Brazil were a pleasure to watch. They played with skill and flair. They played fair and were an example to everyone watching. Even the kids like me.

But I do wonder what has happened? I heard on more than one occasion commentators and pundits expelling that cheating, in whatever form, is now part of the game. It’s accepted that diving, committing fouls and generally seeing what you can get away have become the norm.

On Sunday a punch in the face of Schweinsteiger from Aguero drew blood. Part of the game?

It seems that there are four officials on the pitch – but there seems to be a reluctance to stop the game. A reluctance to take action against such obvious cheating? I don’t understand why.

I do understand passion for winning. But at what cost? At the cost of it becoming undignified? Is cheating really necessary?

Perhaps football should take a leaf out the book of golf. Self marking is obvious and the height of sportsmanship are often seen on the tour… Here is an interesting story.

Cornwall ….

It’s a long time since I was last in Cornwall – I think it was 1977 – August. Elvis died.

FlagCornish

But I went back last week – just for a few days break. I really enjoyed it but have a few observations.

1. In 37 years not much has changed – especially the roads. The downside to this is that the traffic has…
2. The proportion of (bloody) caravans to cars is ridiculously high. Motorhomes don’t cut it either.
3. Dog friendly. And people who regard dogs as off-spring are in epidemic proportion. One dog in a pink pram was noted (I kid you not).
4. Parking. Nightmare. Expensive.
5. Tate at St Ives. I am spoilt by Nottingham Contemporary’s Art For Free policy. Nearly £25 for three of us. I wouldn’t have minded but it wasn’t exactly Tate sized. They did have a little Jackson Pollock.
6. Lands End. Just dire. Commercialism gone mad. The National Trust should use compulsory purchase powers to snatch it back for the people.
7. Paganism. Widespread and worrying.
8. Padstein. There should be a Monopolies and Mergers Commission review. Although the fish and chips were rather good.
9. ‘Boutique and fashion shops’. Limited to Claire’s and Accessorize. Fashionistas down time.
10. Surfer dudes. Nuff said.

But the overall experience was rather good. The Bedruthan Steps Hotel was really impressive. Highly recommended.

Lessons from an Astronaut!

I rarely get a chance to read book. Except that is when on holiday. I have been away this week – in the depths of Cornwall.

chris-hadfield-book

The downtime gave me a chance to read on of my Christmas books (!). Chris Hadfield – An Astronaut’s Guide To Life. It took me just three sittings!

The book is great – and some of the lessons he learned on his way to the toughest job in the world were really inspiring. But my favourite in the book follows and incident in an elevator where an old astronaut really thought it was beyond him to press the button!

Hadfield suggests that in a new situation there are three types of people. A Minus-one: actively harmful and creates problems. A Zero: you’re neutral and doesn’t tip the balance. Or a Plus-One: someone who actively adds value.

So that’s easy – we all know we should be a Plus-One. But therein lies the issue. If you proclaim yourself as a Plus-One you are automatically perceived as the opposite – a Negative-One! Hadfield notes that it is other people who have to decide you are a Plus-One by your actions being noted not shouted at them.

His example about how selection processes takes place was so similar to an actual interview I did recently. Recruiting for a new manager at the squash club we interviewed a handful of people. One of the candidates got lost on the way to the club (not an issue – it’s not the easiest place to get to!). But when the candidate yelled at the person on the end of a ‘phone who was trying to help him – little did he know that they were part of the wider panel we sought views on later… It’s a fail then.

As Hadfield later says, “When you have some skills but don’t underestimate your environment – there is no way you can be a Plus-One. The best you could be is a Zero. And that is no bad thing”. Wise words.

The fine line in F1

I was at the Qualifying day for the 50th anniversary Grand Prix on Saturday. I have never been before and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I was hoping it might not rain – so I didn’t get wet, but the rain adds much to the excitement. I mean it increases the prospect of skiddy cars!

Hamilton

Hamilton got it all wrong – I suspect he thought as the end of qualifying approached that he was in a great position (pole!) and with rain falling no one would go out again. But they did – and he slipped to 6th on the grid for the start of the race.

You’ll now know that he won on Sunday. In impressive style.

I thought there were some interesting lessons…

1. Even when you are in front, never ever underestimate your opponent(s). They will fancy playing catch up.
2. Reliance on mechanical things offers a chance for things to go wrong – even when everything else is going right!
3. The use of anger (Hamilton was furious about losing pole on Saturday) can be turned into something positive – in his case a win.
4. Winning at this level requires a huge amount of concentration – both in keeping the car on the track (not easy in the rain) but also mental toughness in dealing with apparent failure.
4. You need a first class team behind you. The best of the best.

Useful in business?

Good news for the regions?

It wasn’t that long ago that this Government threw out the Regional Development Agencies. That was a bit of a baby and bathwater exercise as far as I could see. Some were flabby and useless, but they were not all bad. You can be sure of one thing about Government though – it can’t help but interfere. If it ain’t broke we most certainly must fix it – with bigger and better and brighter things.

map-east-midlands

The over-heating of the London market has been pretty obvious to see. It isn’t good – especially if you live ‘low down the pecking order’ there. There’s a wheeze around mortgage applications – which now require a MENSA type test for applicants – offering an insufferable spotty teenager with exceptional IT skills an opportunity to say ‘no’ to you. The stories are innumerable. And it seems to be slowing the housing market. The problem is we don’t actually have a problem in the East Midlands Mr UK Government. We were just recovering thanks. Still, one big hammer seems to fix all.

Today there may be a bit of a chink though. David Cameron and that other bloke are to announce some serious wonga for the regions.

The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister will announce the first instalment of plans to invest at least £12 billion in local economies in a series of ‘Growth Deals’. The money will go towards providing support for local businesses to train young people, create thousands of new jobs, build thousands of new homes and start hundreds of infrastructure projects; including transport improvements and superfast broadband networks.

Our local LEP will get £47m – which is great news. Other Cities have done better, some worse – but that’s not too bad for Nottingham and Derby and the respective Shires. Lets hope we can make good use of this funding!