John Lewis – epic fail

Last week I bought some new shiny iPad pro’s for the office. Three of them. The only place I could get them was John Lewis.


Delivery was arranged for Saturday at my local Waitrose – which was convenient. I paid on my John Lewis credit card. It all seemed so simple until I got a call from John Lewis.

Initially I figured this was John Lewis Financial Services – checking that it really was me spending on my credit card. I have no issue with this. It gives you some comfort that they are keeping an eye on unusual spending. Alas it was not them – it was the actual John Lewis.

I am hugely suspicious of the calls that start with, “I need to take you through security”, my stock response is to ask them for the password…

But this didn’t work – they were  insistent to the extent that if I didn’t play ball this was a quick route to no iPad Pro. The whole conversation though was fraught – especially when they asked me why I wanted to buy them. Trying to avoid using foul and abusive language I volunteered that it was absolutely none of their business. None. The lady was unhappy about the response – but eventually moved onto the next question – about my inside leg measurement or something.

This really is as bizarre a situation as you can get. Clicks and bricks is an interesting concept. I get the security check on my card, but this intrusive, inconvenient and irrelevant approach puts me off using their service. When I collect the goods I have to provide them the card I used to purchase and a form of ID. What else do they really need?

I have thought for a long time that John Lewis (or Jessops as I still call it) has gone downhill. This incident does not change my view.

San Francisco v Airbnb

Our pad in San Francisco is someone’s house – which we’re borrowing via Airbnb. It represents a cost-effective way to stay – I guess a hotel with the facilities would be twice the price. Of course there are some downsides – cleaning is by self! We are also a little way from town and surrounded by locals…



We were in San Francisco 11 months ago – but stayed in the touristy part – near Pier 39. Staying with the locals lets you see a very different aspect of the City – and I can’t help but think that this time we are seeing some of the less nice elements. In particular there is a major issue with homelessness. I don’t think I have ever seen quite so many people who are living on the street.

And Airbnb are at the centre of a debate about affordable housing here. Airbnb started here in 2008 and has turned into a multi- billion dollar business – who own nothing. They say they have arranged lodging for more than 40 million travellers to date. It claims more than 1.5 million listings in 34,000 cities spread over 190+ countries….

It seems that the city who fell in love with them are less benevolent now – suggesting that many of the ‘locals’ are making such good money from the short term lets that they are building businesses. And they are keeping property from local folks. Property which would have provided ‘affordable’ housing is now being used for short-term lets.

The debate is similar to that between Uber and regulated taxi firms. Airbnb clients are not subject to the same scrutiny or health and safety regulations as hotels.

The third argument stems from the fact that short-term lets may not be compliant with rules in shared condo blocks – which evidently have minimum 30 day lets.

In February the law was changed requiring a registration process, but of the 4,000 to 5,000 Airbnb units available in San Francisco, only 455 have been applied for registration, and only 170 have been approved.

The argument here is likely to rumble on for some time to come!


Riding the bus …

Our little pad (more of that tomorrow) in San Francisco is a 40 minute walk from town – 2 miles. Some of the walk is peppered with some of societies less fragrant types. You need your wits about you.


Today we used the local bus – the MUNI. $2.25 (about £1.50) got us a ride into town and back. Which was pretty good value. Especially as it included free entertainment.

It all kicked off when the bus didn’t spot some passengers at a stop – he was a bit stranded mid lanes but, in fairness did stop.  The passengers needed a taxi from the kerb to the bus, but they somehow managed. But it’s fair to say one of the new passengers was unimpressed. The conversation went something like:

P – “Man, you is supposed to pull over at the kerb, you nearly killed us all. I’m lucky to be alive

BD – “Just sit down

P – “Don’t you talk to me like that – you are a public servant and I pay your wages man. You know you were wrong you should apologise to me

BD – “Just sit down and stop talking – I should have charged you for the dog anyway

P – “I won’t stop talking and the dog is a service dog – you should read up about them and know your rules

BD – “Stop talking you’re putting me off

P – “Just drive the bus man

BD – ” I is driving the bus, you just ride the bus and stop talking at me

P – “I won’t stop talking and I’m going to take your picture

BD (smiles in mirror for photo but nearly hits someone who walks out)

P – “Man you need to concentrate on the road – you are a health and safety nightmare all on your own – you nearly killed me again!

BD – “You need to stop talking at me

We got off at the next stop – but they were still at each other.

I did like his service dog – as you can see….

The dream office?

I’m back in San Francisco for a few days. When I was last here in December last year I was interested to see that Westfield were converting the 4th floor of their shopping centre (center!) into a funky shared workspace. It opened in April this year and is called Bespoke.

Yesterday we got to tour the space as a ‘guests’ – and it is brilliant. We are used to seeing images of the cool Google offices and the clustering of high tech companies here seems to attract this forward thinking design. Bespoke is no exception. It is seriously cool but also fantastically practical. It offers really flexible rates too – $35 for a day pass – $385 per month for a shared desk, $595 for your own and $1,450 for an office. I think these prices are really good value for what you get – 24/7 access, high speed internet, meeting rooms and spaces, a kitchen facility and sleep pods! But more than this, it is the clustering around like-minded people. It is aimed at the retail / tech sector – but there’s no reason for this not to work across small business generally.

I’ll let the images do the talking…

Event space for seminars / presentations

Event space for seminars / presentations

Perimeter meetig rooms

Perimeter meeting rooms

Persuasive assistance!

Persuasive assistance!

You have to be a bit techy to get this - but very funny...

You have to be a bit techy to get this – but very funny…

Sleep pods

Sleep pods


when it gets to the point of the day when you’re climbing up the wall…


formal and informal meet


The quality and feel generally is of the highest standard


croquet and lunch….

Apple Music – fail.

It pains me when Apple get things wrong. A company so brilliant under Steve Jobs seems to be losing its crown. This is not good speaking as an early adopter and Apple evangelist.

Bye Apple Music....

Bye Apple Music….

In the past the beauty of Apply lay in the seamless co-ordination between devices – laptop, desktop, iPad, phone and latterly watch. All genius and ‘Star Trek‘ like at times (who would have thought I ask my watch a question!).

But Apple Music is an unmitigated disaster. I have stopped my subscription after one month of paying and returned to the dark side – known as Spotify.

The reasons?

  1. The service takes control of your existing music (in my case 56,000 tracks of music carefully built up over 10 years) – analyses them, loads them to the cloud and then only gives back some of them. The rest you can’t see. I do still have them backed up – but can’t use them. They say you can – but I can’t.
  2. The system doesn’t work with Sonos at home – apparently they are ‘working on it’ which means it was rolled out prematurely. And it is a major flaw in the system.
  3. Apple won’t talk about the problems – not seeing them as such. This is Apple MO, but frustrating beyond belief. Try looking up how to get your entire music back (which I do actually own) – you can’t get a straight answer. In the Apple stores (I have asked) they adopt, politely, the ‘why would you want your antiquated old way back?

So I have stopped using Apple Music, returning to iTunes for my entire owned collection and using Spotify for new music which I can pick and choose.

Apple do sometimes get it wrong. Horribly wrong. This time they have.

Bowie – the last act?

I wasn’t sure what to make of the story last week that Bowie’s manager and agent have denied rumours that Bowie would play at Glastonbury 2016. In fact he won’t play a live gig again.

The news is sad – Bowie is by far the best performer I have ever seen live – and I have seen him live quite a few times! I had hoped he might do one last tour after the last album, but it seems not.

What I am pleased about is that I saw him on the very last occasion he played in the UK – that was 2004 at the Isle of Wight Festival. He was brilliant – playing a set he wanted. Not all of the crowd were pleased – but I was!

The album tracks I hadn’t heard live before were rolled out – including Station to Station in its full glory.

He did do some concerts over the next few years – notably Fashion Rocks in 2006. But it’s been some time since a real live appearance.

We’re told he’s not stopping producing music, just the live performances…

So another hero stops touring.

It’s a good job I have tickets to see The Boomtown Rats in Dublin in December for their ‘last’ gig… you just never know!

Squash – the other stuff…

After yesterdays blog (the first for a while) I thought there was another squash story which needs to be told.

Mohamed El Shorbagy - World No.1 takes some words of advice...

Mohamed El Shorbagy – World No.1 takes some words of advice…

Squash doesn’t seem to be able to make it into the final line up of the Olympics, failing in 2012, 2016 and now in 2020. For 2020 there was a lifeline in that Tokyo were offered the option of adding some further sports after the initial list chosen by the IOC. Despite making yet another bid Squash has not been included. Skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing, baseball/softball and karate discover next August if they will be included.

And here you need to be careful. By the nature of winners and losers you can be seen to be bitter and twisted and compare ‘your’ sport with others, suggesting that they are not worthy. I have no doubt that those in the list above are sports to their participants. Some are and some are less so – but, as I said, this is hugely subjective.

There is little point in crying over spilt milk. The World Squash Federation are to raise questions as to why the sport failed again. I would save my breath.

But the sport does need to learn and consider why it might be seen as unfit. I have some theories:

  1. We have quite a complex rules around strokes and lets – which even the players argue about. This is a tough one to reconcile, but ought to be simplified if possible.
  2. We play with different ‘tin’ heights – at the front of the court. Standardise it.
  3. We play different scoring around the world, Point a rally, ‘English’, first to 9, 11 and sometimes 15. Standardise it.

We also need to address why the sport has leeched players over the last few years. Young people have so much to choose from. Stuffy old clubs with their crusty members don’t help. Youngsters are the future.

I think we can rescue the situation, our pro players are amongst the fittest in the world and really are true sportsmen and women. Getting to the top of the game takes years of practice and dedication. You would have imagined that this in itself qualified the sport?


The end of an era ….

Next week I step down as Chairman of Nottingham Squash Rackets Club after three years at the helm.

nsrc logo

At times it has felt like a lifetime. A curates egg would be a great description – good in parts! But also challenging and frustrating. Early on into my tenure it was clear that I was not a Chief Executive and had a diverse committee to manage – with their own expectations and agendas – some good, some less so. What was evident three months into my term was that the club was financially in a dire position – teetering on the edge of its overdraft, members loans taken and used – in part – for ‘cash-flow’, a declining membership, premises which were tired and money leeching out of the doors. Pretty it wasn’t.

After some very long meetings it was clear that the club needed to become more business-like. Making a loss needed to stop – as we were probably three months from closing the doors. We had to start austerity and the cuts ran deep. I found friends and enemies quickly. Some of the latter I will never forgive for the personal and vindictive attacks – they know who they are. On the whole the support was there though and we set about rebuilding the club.

At my last committee meeting a week ago it was noted that we were back in the black, forecasting a profit for the second year running. Membership is back to a healthy number and certainly bucking the trend nationally. The club has been improved with help from England Squash and the Inspired Facility grant from Sport England. We managed to run a professional squash team too and our club teams were back on top in the local leagues – in some cases for the first time in 7 years.

I have a few scars but looking back it has been fun (I think) and my cohort of committee members have hopefully put the club back where it belongs. I think my proudest moment was when Nick Matthew (who was awarded an OBE yesterday) said at the end of the European Club Championships last year that Nottingham Squash Club was ‘back on the map‘. And if we have done that then that is good enough for me.

Crawick Multiverse – a fantastic attraction!

On our way back from Glasgow yesterday we called at Sanquhar – a small village on the A76 between Dumfries and Kilmarnock.

The Crawick Multiverse opened in July this year and forms part of the Duke of Buccleuch’s Queensberry Estate. A ‘park’ has been created from a former open cast coal mine. It is spectacular.

The site was designed by Charles Jencks – and was inspired by  space, astronomy and cosmology.

Over 2,000 boulders have been used over the 55 acre site. You can see for 20 miles from the north-point.

I have put together a very short video – hope you enjoy it! It is a fantastic place and if you are in the area it is well worth a visit.

That was a long way!

My epic bike ride for charity is done. Over the last three days I rode with the University of Nottingham LifeCycle5 team from Inverness to Glasgow. I’m now having a rest!



  1. We rode 211.6 miles in three days.
  2. We climbed 10,576 ft
  3. Saddle time was 16 hours and 7 minutes
  4. Average speed was 13.12mph
  5. My maximum speed was 37.4mph
  6. I burned 9,219 calories
  7. I raised as at today £3,325 for the cause (dementia) – which equates to £!5.70 per mile!
  8. I had three punctures on the first day… and had to get a new tyre!

So that’s it – no more charity bike rides this year!

But looking back – I have ridden (to date) 1,068 miles since January – in 82 hours – and have climbed 33,310 ft – higher than Everest!

I’d love to tell you that I enjoyed every moment – but I can’t because I didn’t. Today’s ride (a short 50 miles) had three brutal hills on tired legs. The ground conditions were ‘gravel’, making my lightweight bike struggle! But there were some great moments too – meeting some really great people and seeing some spectacular Scottish scenery. And, of course, raising money for a really worthwhile cause…