Timeline 31st October and my check-list in John Lewis Nottingham…

1. Buy Christmas Tree and decorations
2. Order Christmas Cake
3. Buy Alessi Nativity Set
4. Buy luxury Christmas Crackers
5. Pick up luxury Christmas cards
6. Write letter of complaint to Andy Street about the appalling level of service in the John Lewis restaurant – where there are more staff than customers – but still we queue…

Guess which of the above is the only thing I am going to do?

There’s a clue – I am only going to do one of them. If you turn your computer upside down – the answer is at the bottom of this blog post.


We are all just numbers (or barcodes)

Our lives are now so reliant on data and ways in which data can be read by machines that someone has ‘invented’ a way to convert your name to a barcode!

The great little programme is here at Morovia!

And when you get a barcode reader – you will know who the person is in code below. I am thinking about having a tee shirt made!

Great fun and probably the least useful thing I have ever come across…

The very first cell phone

I fist got a Motorola Cell-phone back in 1987.

But I might have been some way behind the times?

This film (assuming it is genuine) is from a premiere of a Charlie Chaplin film “The Circus” in 1928.

Watch very carefully – the lady is clearly chatting on her mobile.

My guess is that she is a time traveller. Easy really.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Cell-phone, Charlie Chaplin, Mobile phone, The Circus, Time travel

The sun sets on the China Expo 2010

This weekend sees the doors of the World Expo in Shanghai bolted shut. The six month exhibition closes on Sunday – after 6 frenetic months.

The London Pavilion at the China Expo 2010

My visit to the Expo at the end of August was an amazing experience – which I will remember for a long time to come. I blogged about this a lot whilst I was in China – my last blog and summary was here.

The figures look good for the UK. On average the Pavilion got 45,000 visitors per day – every day! This was out of the total 71m visitors.

Importantly, China’s perception of the UK has been favourable. Research by The British Council through their web site suggested that 82% of visitors had their perceptions changed – and that 99% we positively changed. What about the 1%? We need to try harder next time…

The Seed rods inside the pavilion

My lasting impression of the show will be the British Pavilion – known as ‘The Seed Cathedral”. I had a great fear that I was going cringe at our ‘entry’ in a Eurovison fashion! But it wasn’t. It was utterly brilliant. Clever, informative, subtle and stunning. The Chinese nicknamed it PuGongYing – roughly translated into ‘dandelion’. I was more on the Porcupine label.

It was designed by Thomas Heatherwick after a design competition. He is to be congratulated on a great advert for the UK.

The really clever part is that the 60,000 fibre-optic seed rods are to be sent to schools all over China as part of an educational project on climate change. So there will be a lasting legacy from what was always going to be a temporary building.

Microsoft & Apple don’t really mix

As you may know I am a convert to the world of Mac. And one of the longest running issues for me is the connectivity issue with my Exchange Server in the office.

The one of the left doesn't work on my machine.

I use Entourage to connect with the server, but if I am honest it isn’t great. So I was delighted to learn that Microsoft had decided to indulge the 50 million or so Apple users around the world by re-writing Outlook for mac. It was released this week. I had an advance copy ordered and installed it on my two Macs.

Then the fun started. It just wouldn’t talk to the server in the office. It was happy with my personal Mac account and even the Yahoo account I have had for years. But Exchange wasn’t playing ball.

The good news is that you get a years subscription to Technical Support. But have you ever tried to actually find a number? I gave up after an hour – I guess that’s what they want you to do. You get pointed at FAQ pages, Forums and all manner of different micro-sites. But there are no humans in sight. And certainly no phone numbers. I found one – for a slightly different product which offered me a call back for £199 (to suit me). On one page it was quite specific that they don’t support ‘installation problems’ for Outlook. How very (un)helpful.

I spoke to our teccy man who couldn’t understand it either. My settings are all the same – no password changes or server address issues.

And then I got a pop up box:

Although Office for Mac 2011 is compatible with windows there is, it seems, a very small glitch. They forgot to tell me that you need Server 2007. And we happily run Server 2003.

So thanks Microsoft. Your customer support is woeful. And it would have been helpful to have told the buyers of the minimum system requirements – in quite big letters – on the box? No I don’t want to upgrade thanks.

I have hated Microsoft for some time now. Nothing has changed. Back to Pages

The spending review and Nottingham

The Chancellor used the word “fair” or “fairness” more than 30 times in his Comprehensive Spending Review speech.

Unless we want our children and their children to pay for the boom and bust years, we needed to get a grip with the deficit. At nearly £843bn this is an eye-watering amount of money.

But what of the effect on the commercial property sector, and specifically in the East Midlands? Was it “fair”?

Well there was some good news. The go ahead for the Nottingham tram lines two and three. Such infrastructure projects really do help the city make progress. More money being spent on the M1 would, in my view, have been better for Nottingham if it had been pumped into the single cart track A453. I believe this is a genuine barrier for growth for Nottingham and, without a mention in the spending review; it looks like this has been shelved.

The bad news may be that we see a return to the early 1990’s when the Inland Revenue walked away from all of the temporary offices they had mopped up while Castle Meadow was being built. As Government departments look to save costs there will inevitably be surplus property – think emda, GOEM and the like. As other agencies become rationlised we could see some of this old stock dumped on an already fragile market.

This might present opportunities for the property market, but it could also have a suppressing effect by flooding it.

The real issue is that unemployment is likely to rise as direct cuts in the Council budget takes effect. Half a million people might be affected. But there are secondary effects too as they start to cut external spend like on PR and marketing, some of which is done by external firms, and that number is simply unknown.

Unemployment affects confidence. A lack of confidence usually hits the housing market as occupiers choose to cut down debt rather than investing – and the same traits then usually feeds into the commercial sector.

So I think we can expect a lacklustre commercial market place as firms contemplate investment. This tends to be quite long-winded and means that 2011 will be interesting in terms of transactional business.

We also have a VAT increase on the horizon. This too impacts on spending power and it seems this has pretty much been forgotten about.

Health and education budgets have been protected but these departments and sectors are going to need to have a root and branch review of costs. They are likely to be brought closer into the marketplace. Student fees may well increase, which has a long term effect. Students are likely to be debt-ridden for many years to come.

There was good news for the green sector as £1bn was earmarked for the Green Investment Bank, which will encourage low carbon technologies. Feed-in tariffs also appear to have escaped the axe in the short term.

The banks do not look as though they have escaped, with levies on their profits becoming permanent. On the face of it this might be seen as a victory for Jo Public who baled them out; but in reality we need a healthy banking sector to lend to business. The level of lending at the moment is very low. Some of these banks also directly invest in property. We need to keep them incentivised to do so and not provide barriers to the market.

Overall, my view is that this is not as bad as we expected. The recovery (if that’s what it is) is very fragile and only time will tell if the Government has got it right. Forget “fairness”, I think it’s more a case of “fingers crossed”.

Article first published as The UK Spending Review and the Impact on Nottingham on Technorati.

Clinic Impatients

No, its not a typo. There is a clinic (of sorts) in New York where they have “impatients”.

An action plan for unblocking a hydrant spot in New York

“Impatients” named as they are impatient about the slow pace of progress in getting a shift in behaviour in their districts. They are enabled grumpy old men / women? I think so.

So there is a clinic, based on what we would see as a Doctors surgery. You make an appointment. You see a “consultant”. But instead of a prescription you come away with an action plan – to try and put right the wrong!

It is your responsibility to sort the issue – the clinic just guide you with their experience. They enable you.

I love the concept! People power…putting right things locally. Is this what Cameron means by The Big Society?

You can watch the video of Natalie Jeremijenko on TED here. It is fascinating!

It reminds me of the story I blogged about a few weeks ago where Nottingham were introducing (courtesy of those clever folks at Purple Circle) an iphone app for cleaning up Nottingham’s streets. This though goes a level higher!

The image is from a NoPark scheme – which you can read about here. In essence it aims to keep free the area in front of a hydrant for the emergency services – but it also puts a mini garden in the street – pushing up the green credentials.

I think we should do the same for Nottingham …

Sticky nectar – waste of time

I am one of 16.8 million people who have a Nectar card. I wonder why.

I got sick of being asked about 2 years ago – so fell into the marketing trap. I am a card carrying member. And I do remember to use it.

I pick my lunch up and buy my Petrol (now diesel) at Sainsbury’s store at Castle Marina in Nottingham. Well, I do until they close Starbucks – at which point I will go somewhere else as a point of principle.

I digress. I must have spent thousands of pounds in the last couple of years so enquired about my balance. I have never cashed it in. My reward?


Well that has really been worth it. Twenty quid. For my ‘loyalty’. Wow. Two tenners.

I suppose it’s better than nothing, but is this really the reward I get for all those trips? All that clogging of my wallet – all that fumbling around?

What a complete and utter waste of time. And I have let them watch my predictable spending habits – petrol, food, petrol, food, petrol, food, petrol…ad nauseum. I hope they have enjoyed the experience.

I am going to cash the thing in to buy a tee shirt – pictured. And then I’m going to cut the card up. And join the facebook group .

I hate Sainsbury’s. Again.

Funny TV…

Now that The Inbetweeners has finished (again) I am in search of something to smile about on TV. There’s only so much Eastenders or Coronation Street a human being can take. In my case it’s zero tolerance. None. Zip, zero.

So the next best thing has to be Flight of the Conchords. Just like a Soap ‘Opera’ – sublime and clever.

From their web site – the history is:

Bret and Jemaine first met in 1996 at Victoria University Wellington. Jemaine vividly remembers the first time he met Bret; “he was wearing a hat”. Bret doesn’t remember meeting Jemaine, but says it was unforgettable.

Watch it – it’s funny. You can find it on YouTube….

In the meantime – a song….

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Flight of the Conchords, humour, soap opera

The simplicity of writing

You may guess that I write my blogs at various times of the day (and night) – mostly on my trusty macbook pro. WordPress lets me publish at any time – genius!

When I started writing I used ‘word’ as most people do. It is the omnipresent word processor.

Remember these?

But for the last six months or so I have used a programme called Ommwriter. It is brilliant – it has a really simple interface and is designed to avoid distractions. There’s not much to it in the ‘less is more’ style. It will even play plinky plonky music to you!

Then this week came an upgrade and It looks as good as before but this new version is called OmmDana.

I love it for writing blogs. The new chromatherapy background and typewriter sound are great. It does let you concentrate on writing, you can’t embolden or italicise text! It’s just about content.

Sometimes we get bogged down in complicated stuff in our lives. I love the fact that this does what it says on the tin – it just gets your thoughts onto digital paper.

And best of all the basic version is free. The upgrade is offered at a price you set with a suggested price of $4.11 (£2.57) – about the same as a cup of Starbucks finest!

Oh, did I mention that it’s only for mac… sorry beige box people… one day you will understand!