For the fourth time in 2014 I find myself in the USA. Three trips to New York have been balanced by a trip a little further west – I’m in San Francisco with my youngest son Jak.
We are here to primarily visit to San Francisco Auto Show – which finishes at the weekend. We have done Paris and Geneva – so San Francisco seemed like a good choice for the time of year. Having set off from Blighty in miserable weather (well ‘appropriate’ for the time of year) stepping off the plane into sunshine was a nice surprise.
The forecast is for major change at the weekend so we took advantage yesterday of the weather and hired some bikes – and promptly set off across the Golden Gate Bridge for Sausalito – a nine mile ride. Most people do this one way and get a ferry back. However, it was Thanksgiving and there were no ferries, so we did a round trip.
The three miles out of Sausalito back to the bridge are a little challenging – I am most definitely not ‘King of The Mountain’!
What struck us though – and we were discussing it – was how, in a city of really bad traffic, they have real respect for cyclists. They give way to you. They freely let you pass – much more so than in the UK. There are bike lanes which are respected (I am yet to see driver in the UK ‘get’ the boxes for cyclists at traffic lights!). There were plenty of cyclists out too.
All was going swimmingly until a drive opened (her) car door on me – I missed it – but narrowly. Perhaps we spoke too soon!
Tomorrow we head to see the guys at The Bay Squash Club and then Saturday is car show day.
It is five years since I was here with the Sheriff’s Commission – I smiled as i recalled some of the places we visited – it was also the start of my blogging!
A few years ago I was part of the Sheriff’s Commission looking at the ways in which Nottingham could capitalise on Robin Hood. I was rather unceremoniously removed and the commission fell apart soon thereafter. One of the guardians and main advocates of Robin Hood is Bob White – who is involved in the Robin Hood Society. I was delighted to hear from him yesterday and he sent me this:
For the very first time, the business, commercial, community and creative sectors in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire are being asked for their frank and considered views on the often controversial and divisive question of the under-valued and under-exploited marketing and promotional potential of the areas traditional and globally famous Robin Hood connections. In a serious effort to get to the root of this frequently embarrassing problem, the internet-based World Wide Robin Hood Society is currently conducting a survey to canvass commercial opinion that may help shed some light on the sensitive issue.
Society chairman, Bob White says “Even though the legendary Robin Hood connections have the power to endear the City to millions of people, the failure to recognise the full potential of the “brand” can destroy Nottingham’s marketing and promotional reputation at a stroke and also threaten to under-mine all the good achievements the City is renowned for. The responses we receive to our simple, “Sixty Second Survey” will hopefully reveal the true feelings and concerns of the businesses community and local organisations etc. and help establish the basis for a future strategy of suggested solutions that make the most of the associations with our global legend. To ensure that the survey represents a complete picture, we are just as interested in hearing the negative views as we are the positive ones.”
To emphasise the extensive diversity of the iconic “brand” and how it impacts on a wide range of public perceptions, the Society has also produced a Robin Hood Brand AwarenessGuide to accompany the survey and help promote some balanced and informed debate and provide relevant background information.
Bob White points out that “In marketing and promotional terms the Robin Hood brand is a 24/7, 365 days a year phenomenon that has reached the pinnacle of public recognition as an international icon of popular culture. Consequently, this sets the bar high for visitors’ expectations and although both the City and the County are pursuing projects to address significant Robin Hood-related attractions at Nottingham Castle and Sherwood Forest, the precise details of their proposed content have yet to be revealed. So Nottingham’s current, main Robin Hood focus is STILL the statue beneath the Castle walls that was erected in 1952 by a benefactor because there was nothing for visitors to see about the legendary outlaw. What a condemnation – that over sixty years on, nothing has really changed!
If you know me personally you’ll know I have been on a bit of a healthy eating ‘project’ since 1st July. ‘Project’ is another name for ‘diet’. It’s an odd subject – some people are hugely supportive, others ‘ignore it’. It is a bit odd really – it’s almost taboo.
I have never been on a diet in my life – as I like sweet food far too much! Chocolate, sugar, custard, cake, cheesecake and sweets were top of my list. But cheese too was a weakness. It has (almost) all gone. I didn’t drink a lot anyway – so that was easy! In fact it has all been (relatively) easy – if not boring. I was never a fan of green food and salad is a necessity. Super-food salad is hard work! Sugar has gone from my morning cappuccino – the porridge remains. Chicken is frequent – but little, if any red meat.
My ‘petrol station’ lunches have gone. As have snacks – and eating before bed.
At the weekend the weight loss tally was 3 stone. I still have a little more to lose.
At the weekend I was visiting my mum in hospital and this vending machine was spotted – which really sums up ‘healthy eating’ in some peoples minds! I’ll leave you to make a judgement about the sign – just in front of the crisps, mars bar, crunches, faint orange etc…
Last week I was in Birmingham for a gig; ‘The Odd Couple’ tour by Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook. They were, of course, the singer-songwriters from Squeeze. In the early days Jools Holland played too – ha has, of course, gone on to bigger and better things.
The gig was very different – the stage was set out as an apartment – beds, sofas, dining tables and the like.
Difford and Tilbrook are amazingly talented – playing a two hour set on their own – no backing singers or support. They both play guitar, Tilbrook piano. It was a romp through their greatest hits and some new material. Squeeze lyrics are often sublime!
The list of hits contains some of my favourite songs of all time:
Cool For Cats,
Is that Love
Take me I’m yours
Up the Junction,
Slap and Tickle,
Annie Get Your Gun
Tempted and, to finish
Labelled with Love…
But this wasn’t just music – there were two or three opportunities to ask questions – gaining an insight into their relationship. I was amused by some of the stories – Diffords take on ‘Tubular Bells’ which he listened to whilst stoned and regard as ‘genius’. He confessed to listening to it a few months ago, whilst clean, and now see’s it as ‘shit’! Tilbrook was asked about the comparison to Lennon & McCartney – as they were in the 1980’s. He suggested that it was initially great – but affected them – making them arrogant. It wasn’t until they put it behind them until they got back to doing what they do best..
It was a great evening – I have lost count of the number of times I have seen them – but they never cease to make me smile. And – I still know most of the words from those formative years…
My sponsored 24 hour squash marathon finished on Saturday night at 6pm. I was part of a team of five – who played continuously at Nottingham Park Squash Club for a very long day!
Four of the five 24 hour team! Looking a little jaded?
We started with gusto – with four of the five playing doubles – at a fairly frenetic pace. We then split the team up to make sure we got some rest! I think I probably spent around 10 hours on court in total. I didm’t sleep – just ‘rested’. I went to Costa at 5.45am! Through the night was tough – with an hour on court and two off.
We played doubles, three-quarters (using on part of the court – to allow plenty of people on court!), singles (infusing a very competitive match after 18 hours – which hurt a lot!) and a new game for me – ‘killer’. The latter involved 20 players on court – and punishment for making mistakes is to lie at the font of the court – increasing the prospect of getting hit…
Mt team was the only one not from The University of Nottingham – they managed to field five teams! Some payed in fancy dress (the boys in leopard skin dress were a sight to behold!
As I write this I have raised £685 on-line – through some really generous donations. I also have some cash collected at the club’s AGM on Friday night – and I’m promised some more in the week.
I think we raised well over £1,000 for the BBC’s Children in Need appeal. It was great to be involved – but I was glad of the rest on Sunday!
I’m not exactly giving up my present job – but my role is changing at Innes England. From 1st January I’m taking up the role of managing director – and will steer the firm into an exciting new period of growth.
My current MD Robert Hartley, who has successfully headed the firm for more than 10 years, is to move into the role of chairman and head of professional services. He will continue to be involved with the business on a day to day basis.
I have been a director for 15 years at the firm. We now employ 55 people across our three offices in Derby, Leicester and Nottingham. We are growing rapidly and we have ambitious plans for growth.
Robert has strategically steered us through one of the worst recessions this country has ever known. After more than a decade at the helm, Robert will continue to oversee the business as chairman. Robert will be very much involved with the business moving forward and he and I will be working closely with him and my other directors to develop our growth nationally.
He’ll be a tough act to follow – but I’m really looking forward to the challenge!
We’re undertaking a major IT update at work. It’s been a few years since we had to upgrade our systems and we have been muddling along for a little while. It all works – but only just!
We have made a decision to shift our computing the ‘the cloud’. This means a wholesale roll out of Office 365 across our three offices. It also means we are having to completely re-think out filing protocols. I mean ‘introduce‘ some filing protocols!
In addition to our IT system upgrade we have also decided to move our entire telephone system to 3CX – a web / cloud based system. I have seen it working and it is superb. Taking desk phones off people is going to be fun. Comfort toys are going!
The whole move is intended to help us shift towards mobile and agile working. To some extent we can do this already – but this is a seismic shift.
This also brings into question what our offices will look like in the future. I have been thinking about this for some time. There is no question in my firm that we will move away from our Nottingham, Derby & Leicester roots. However, you do have to question what sort of bases we will need in the future. Hot design was a bot of a fad a few years ago – but I can see this being achieved much easier now. Why will firms need big, expensive offices – not least with little boxes – all cellular and old-fashioned.
Meeting rooms, coffee points and social space will be more important.
I have been talked into raising some money for BBC’s Children In Need appeal. This is a great cause an it is the first time I have raised money for the event.
My son, Jak, and I will be part of a 5 man team playing squash for 24 hours this coming Friday night at Nottingham Squash Rackets Club. One of the team can only help us for a few hours so the pressure is on the rest of us.
I played 2 ½ hours on Saturday and ached on Sunday – so the prospect of a 24 hour session is not to be sniffed at. We can split the workload amongst the team!
My only slight issue is that I’m also chairing the club’s AGM from 7pm on Friday evening. This might be the shortest AGM in the clubs history…
If you fancy helping me with a small donation – I’d be grateful. I have set up a Just Giving page here.
People who know me well are aware that (a) I am an Apple evangelist and, (b) I once ventured for a few weeks to the dark side of Samsung. But I’m ok now. Fully recovered. I blogged about the blip here.
For the last three weeks I have had an iPhone 6 – plus (a bit like the Burger King Supersize me). In that time it has been with me across the pond in the USA, three days in London and a trip ‘up North’.
And I can confirm:
1. It did’t bend at all. Not even a teeny bit.
2. The battery is better than the old iPhone5s – it lasts a whole day without charge. I charge it overnight.
3. The camera is superb – especially the time-lapse setting!
4. It worked out of the box – and all of my settings were there. The first time. Unfortunately on the second install (EE had sent a 16gB version and we had paid for a 64gB) it wasn’t as happy and took a bit more faff.
5. The screen is brilliant. I have big hands so the stretching for buttons is not an issue. My home screen has more apps.
Some of my colleagues have elected for the normal and smaller iPhone6 – but I’m delighted with the new bit of kit.
The next problem is going to be the watch. I have a number of watches and hanker after an Omega Speedster Moon Watch – but the new Apple Watch looks rather tempting? I see a problem on the horizon!
No sooner had I written my yesterdays blog post than in my inbox arrived Chris Leslie’s newsletter. Chris is one of our local MP’s. He’s not mine, but I’m always interested in some of the local issues he airs.
The final paragraph of his email said,
“If you’ve visited London recently you’ll know that in the capital city the Greater London Assembly – and the London Mayor – have extensive powers to insist on the integration of bus, underground and overground rail services under the auspices of ‘Transport for London’. Yet these powers to plan bus and rail fares and routes are not in the hands of other English cities, including Nottingham. Bus companies argue against the idea of firmer regulation, but what are your views? Shouldn’t Nottingham be able to decide for itself on integrating tram and bus services with more powers decentralised? This was the proposal from Ed Miliband at his launch of a set of decentralisation proposals at a speech in Manchester this week. I know that some progress is being made negotiating a voluntary integration of pay-as-you-go ‘Kangaroo’ tickets in the city, but I think the time has come for a stronger level of strategic overview in Nottingham where support for public transport systems is already very high among local people. I’d be interested in your thoughts”
This rather chimed with me – and I have shared my view with him,
“Chris, I was really interested in your last statement about integrated transport – and in particular TFL. I think it absolutely essential that Nottingham has a simplified / unified transport solution – including a single payment method – like the Oyster Card. The current delays to the tram system are laughable – and are causing real issues for business. But if the reports are to be believed then the penalty paid could be used to create an integrated solution – that would at least leave a legacy for the people of Nottingham who have suffered over the last 18 months! If the reported fine of many millions could be used to set the system up and offer some ‘discounts’ for perhaps the first year, we could turn a negative into a positive.”