Puzzling things #1 and #2

I could write a whole series of things which ‘happen’ and puzzle me, but I don’t think I will.

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However, some things do puzzle me about this world we live in. Two instances over the last 48 hours…

The first is the ‘I hate people DJ’. I don’t really listen to radio DJ’s – Radio 4 does ‘presenters’ if I’m in the mood to let someone talk at me. But at the weekend I listened to Radio 6 Music (I quite like their playlist) and smiled as the presenter, who shall remain nameless, read out a ‘request’.

It went something like, “can you play me Age of Aquarius – it’s my favourite song of all time”. The presenter (delighted that someone had written in) then said, “well we can’t today, but I’ll see if I can dig that out in a future show”. The good news is though that they did play a tune for Mr Smith in Cardiff – Pretty Vacant by the Sex Pistols…

The second (bear with me) is that I was in a lift with one other person yesterday. I chose floor 2 and he chose floor 4. We both managed to get the lights on the buttons on. A lady then got in at the next floor down and clearly needed my floor. She checked the light was on for floor two and, you guessed it, pressed the button again!

It’s as if she needed to remind the lift in case it need a reminder. In case it had forgotten since I had pressed the button seconds earlier. Lifts can be stupid I suppose.

Puzzling. Like tofu – but thats another story entirely.

Which watch next?

24th April. New watch day for all Apple fans.

Apple-Watch-Sport6

I’m not sure if I will buy one just yet – if I do I think it will be the sports version. It does look pretty cool and will hopefully vastly improve my sporting prowess.

I think you may have talked me into it.

I do have a number of watches already – I work on the principle that there is no such phrase as ‘too many watches’.

But what really made me smile was a new app – to be launched alongside the new watch. It’s called the Life Clock. A simple idea that tells you how long you have left on this mortal coil. If you do bad things (burgers and chips) it counts down faster, good things (yoga) it counts up.

You have a precise measure of how long you have to get stuff done. This should focus your mind?

The only real issue it seems to me is how it will know the ‘hit by a bus’ timetable? I’m sure someone is working on an app for that…

3CX telephones

You might remember that I blogged about a new world I was taking the firm into as part of a modernising strategy. I had two key aims – the first to move our IT systems to the cloud – the second to install a new telephone system – based on ‘voice over IP’.

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It has been a challenging time. The IT is being moved still (we have quite a lot of stuff!). That project is going to take a few more moths to complete – we are slightly behind but this is business critical stuff – and rushing is not sensible.

The telephone system has been a nightmare and in hindsight, a mistake. We opted for something I was assured was the best solution available. The system is called 3CX. In theory it is a fantastic system – it sits on your iPhone as an ‘app’ and on my desktop and iPad. It uses the internet to transmit calls. The result is supposed to be a scalable, flexible, cost-effective system.

Sadly it isn’t. After two months it just about works. But we still have problems. I got so frustrated that I called 3CX direct – although I had some initial response they have gone to ground.

In my view the system doesn’t work with iPhone. If you are using your iPhone for a 3CX call and someone calls you on your mobile number – the 3CX call gets killed – no warning! This is a known issue. You also need fantastic wifi – which we did’t have it seems. We had to agree to some additional costly software to ensure that the VOIP traffic got preference over other internet traffic.

The system showed so much promise and has just not delivered. Sadly we can’t go back to the old system – because if I could, I would. Which is not a great advert for this state of the art system…

MIPIM 2015 – wrap up

You may have spotted that this little part of the blogosphere has been a bit quiet. A weeks skiing in France, a week back and a week in MIPIM has taken its toll on my time!

nottingham_cricket

But I survived my 11th MIPIM – in spite of everything. 22,000 people from 90 Countries crammed into a small town on the Cote D’Azur for four days brutal networking has always been a challenge. I had 41 appointments in the week. I did 9 press interviews and met hundreds of people. It’s why we go. Back home for a rest!

I even played cricket on the beach – badly!

Most of my MIPIM was taken up with promoting the Boots Enterprise Zone – where my firm have been appointed the sales agent for a huge slice of the site. There is a lot of interest as you might expect – it is one of the most exciting projects Nottingham has seen for decades. Creating a new place will be at the heart of the work – a subject which I am really interested in.

But we were there to help promote he three cities where I have offices – Nottingham, Derby and Leicester. It’s important for the private sector to be there shouting about the great things going on. It’s no surprise that we don’t have the budgets of some of the other places vying for attention. Istanbul must have spent millions!

I think the East Midlands punched well above its weight and taking account of the marketing spend I think we should be proud of what we achieved. Of course, the proof is in the pudding – and only time will tell.

I did come back with a clutch of business cards and the key now is to re-make those contacts and follow up. It’s just not quite the same going to see someone in Coventry as in Cannes – but it has to be done!

The broken Egg

Many years ago I set up and Egg account – it was, I think, the first ‘internet’ account I had.

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They were based in Derby – but have long gone, the business transferred to Yorkshire Building Society – and some of my money went North.

I have a current account – you know the sort – pays as little a rate of interest as is imaginable. Partly because I don’t quite have £100 in it. I actually get 1p interest each month. And they send me a statement. I think by the time I retire I may reach the magic £100. I have to pay tax on my 12p interest per annum.

In an effort to sort this out a few months ago I wrote to them asking them to close the account and send me the money. But it seems that it isn’t quite as simple as that. Despite asking for a cheque in my name sent to my home address (where they send the statement each month), Yorkshire Bank aren’t happy.

They want me to prove who I am. It seems they don’t know. They want time to have my signature witnessed by a lawyer – and fill forms in. I have refused to do this. And so they have refused to send me my money back.

It’s a classic case of catch 22. It will be costing them to ‘manage’ my account. I think it is 53p to pay 2nd class postage, they must pay for a printed A4 sheet and envelope. They must be losing more than 50p per month. I, on the other hand, can’t get the money out and go on a crazy spending spree.

The world has gone mad? Any ideas?

40 years ago today!

On March 7th 1975 (probably) the greatest album of all time was released.

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If there was only one album I could always take with me it would be David Bowie’s – Young Americans. And forty years ago today it was released. It would be my desert island disc.

The Title track remains at the top of my all time favourite songs. It has for decades.

The album also contains ‘Right‘ – with some incredibly complex lyrics and notes! And then Fame featuring John Lennon. Luther Vandross is here too. This was the first time Carlos Alomar had played with Bowie.

If you haven’t heard the album you must! It should be compulsory listening for all grown adults – and children from the age of five…

I do have the album on Vinyl, CD and on my permanent spotify playlist!

I also happen to have an original 1975 framed poster promoting the album.

In case you were wondering, I was 12 at the time. Just out of short trousers. This music found me much later. I was still listening to Mud, Slade and The Sweet in 1975.

I shall listen to the whole album today. Again.

A quiet blogging week

You may have noticed I have been unusually quiet. I am actually in La Plagne – a great ski resort deep in the Alps. Snow has been plentiful (too much at times!) and the blue skies not as often as I had hoped. But you can’t do much about the weather.

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Although I am on holiday the work doesn’t really stop. If I ignored all of the emails, next Monday would be a major car crash! So I try to have a concerted (aka brutal) attack on the emails. You might notice f you received a reply from me – it may have been short and sweet!

But I have had another major issue this week. I only book hotels where I get free wifi. This is a principle. I have no desire to be ripped off for a ‘service’ which costs the hotels next to nothing to supply. I don’t expect giga-bit connectivity – just something that resembles 2015 – ‘usable’.

My Hotel has an issue. The wifi is free but is virtually unusable. It allows a three or four minute connection and then drops. You have to sign in and then sign in again. I suspect that the problem is the authentication. The username and password are both your room number! So I have tried a few times to discover that i was already logged on! I did speak (nicely) to reception who agreed to ‘look int it’. This is similar to the cheque is in the post. And being France I am sure they did, briefly, look into it. So that’s that then.

To make matter slightly worse – having arrived off the slopes the hotel has no water. Reception didn’t need to look into it. “It is perfectly normal” the girl said – in a perfect English accent.

Without wishing to be picky – it is not normal. I am not in the Sudan. Poor wifi I will get over. No water is a slightly bigger issue.

The Hotel is The Terra Nova in Plagne Centre. You have been ‘advised’…

MIPIM and Boots

I’m currently deep in the Alps practising my French for MIPIM – which starts in 2 weeks time. I’m hoping Cannes has slightly less snow than La Plagne!

You probably know that I’m attanding with Team Nottingham – for the tenth year (I think). The team is as big as it’s ever been – 20 private sector partners now. All rather different from when we rescued the show in 2011 – after Nottingham City Council pulled funding.

For the last few years we have had a number of messages to take to investors, developers and owner occupiers who gather in Cannes for an intense 4 days fo networking.

Boots logo - High res

This year I have a slightly different role in that I will be going to actively promote the Boots Enterprise Zone – having just been appointed at the agent.

This is a fantastic commission for us on lots of levels. It is probably the largest single agency instruction to have been awarded in the last 20 years locally – I can only think that Pride Park was bigger.

But it is also a fascinating project to be involved in and one which can shape Nottingham for the future.

I’ll blog some more on this as time goes on but heres a flavour:

The aim is to:

– Creating a health, beauty and wellbeing themed commercial and residential urban village
– Develop a hub around the current Boots Operational centre
– Create a significant life-sciences campus – an international centre of gravity
– Offer a unique complete life style option – live, work, enterprise and innovation will be fully integrated

There are up to 80 acres of development land – with the ability to provide up to 880,000 sq ft of developable commercial space. In addition the site can accommodate up to 675 new homes.

This truly is an opportunity to be part of a very significant place-making exercise and one of huge importance locally.

I can’t wait…

Nottingham Castle – a glimmer of hope

If you have followed my blog for a while you will know that I have a passion for Nottingham capitalising on one single asset / legend / story / myth – Robin Hood. Whilst his origins and life may have little place in fact books – we do actually have a Castle and a real Sheriff of Nottingham.

bandstand

For reasons I simply have never understood we don’t use them. We pay lip service. The Castle is a let down.

I have been truly cynical – as is my way (see my views last week on Intu). I was cynical about the supposed Lottery Heritage Fund monies – and the initial scheme put forward (some toilets on the back of the gatehouse?).

But two weeks ago I was invited to coffee at the Castle to meet a new City tour de force. Heather Mayfield hails from Arnold – but since 1979 has been in charge of the Science Museum in London. She has been appointed as CEO of the Nottingham Castle Trust – a body designed to oversee the redevelopment.

She has big ideas for the Castle and the story of Nottingham. Some of the ideas were introduced by the Sheriff’s Commission five years ago.

The naysayers have already started – worried about the loss of the grass and the bandstand – they will ever be so.

But Nottingham deserves better. A proper attraction – somewhere we can be proud of and puts us on the tourist trail. I have lost count of the time I have spent campaigning quietly for this. I had actually given up in the belief that those in charge really do think the present Castle is OK. It’s not OK.

Having spent an hour with Heather I believe that she has the drive and passion to make something happen. Make something change.

She has my support and I have just about got over my bitterness about being sacked off the Sheriff’s Commission!

Shopping – again

It was a bit of a grumpy blog on Friday – all about Intu. I apologise for it – but it was Friday the 13th. And it was another announcement – which have become like collectable little matchbox cars – without the sense of fun.

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But there was another story last week which you might have nearly missed. That is that (in spite of Intu’s appalling treatment of us) our shopping in Nottingham is doing rather well.

The latest figures from the Local Data Company paint a very different picture from two years ago. Back then we were supposed to have one in three shops empty – which we all knew was wrong, but on a comparable basis we are now at 12.9%. In fact the retail agents in the City run their own figures and we think that the true figure in the city centre is 9.4% when you take account of shops under offer.

In fact you don’t need the statistics – just walk around. The City feels different. There are more shops open – but the great thing is that we have some different shops – like the truly excellent Rough Trade shop in the Lace Market. Like 200 degrees coffee near The Market Square.

I have been involved in a couple of deals in the City in the last few months and there is true competition for occupiers. We are seeing some ‘best bids’ situation – which will mean more competition and better shopping for us all.

In honesty we still have some way to go. Where is our Selfridges? Where are Apple? Birmingham still steals a march on us – but things are looking up. And the City is in a better shape than it was two years ago!