Blogging from Copenhagen

It’s one of our friends 50th Birthday – he wants to keep it quiet, so we are heading out of the Country today to Copenhagen. My blog should add to the anonimity?

Bill Ebbesen's view of Copenhagen at night

I have (sort of) been to Copenhagen before. I have been to the airport – en-route to Malmo in Sweden. But this time we are going proper. The 50th Birthday boy gets to choose the location and this is it.

So my next few days will be based here in Denmark – in a city of over 1 million folks. I have checked on Wikipedia and it seems that we are in the 10th most expensive City in the world. A coke can’t be more than I paid in Paris last year – £6… or can it?

Alan Price was born half a century ago. He has worn pretty well. After a life-time at Siemens he ‘found’ gymnastics – coaching not doing! We met him at Nottingham Hospitals Radio back in 1979 – we all joined at the same time. That seems like a lifetime ago! The gang of us who all met at NHR are here in Denmark  - 8 of us have remained really close friends ever since. Even our various kids (8 of them) all get along – they have grown up together.

So the weekend begins here – I’m not sure what is on the agenda. The Tivoli Gardens was something mentioned when I was looking at World Class Attractions with the Sheriff of Nottingham. But I also fancy going back to Malmo – to see the Harbour and Calatrava’s Turning Torso building…one of my favourites.

I’ll keep you posted – assuming I can get some wi-fi in the foreign land? And assuming that there is not strike at the airport? There had better not be…

PS – in case you were wondering – I am not even close to being 50!

Nottingham – the shopping is good and should remain that way?

Nottingham looks as though it has weathered the economic storm well. Last week the CACI Shopping Centre survey for 2011 was published – and the result?

The colour of food at Borough Market

London West End is at number one, followed in order by Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Leeds. Nottingham, Liverpool, Bluewater, Norwich and Reading complete the top ten.

But like most things in life we need not to rest on our laurels, patting ourselves on the back for the last 12 months performance. If we are not travelling forwards then we must have stopped, which be definition means we are going backwards? CACI picked up the good news for Nottingham and have highlighted us for great things in 2012 – the 8000,000 square-foot extension of Broadmarsh – uplifting spend by an expected 16%

Then Victoria Centre have ambitious plans too – to extend by 400,000 square-feet.

As a City we sit 18 places above Leicester and 25 places above Derby.

Although this is good news for the City overall – I do have my concerns about capacity. We already have vacant shops around the fringes of the City – notable in Hockley. The extensions of the centres will not make these places better? I am trying not to be negative about the massive investment in the City – this can only be good. But we do have to be wary of the Tesco effect – strangling the life out of the small independent.

At the weekend in London – you can see both sectors thriving. On the one hand the excellent Borough Market is like stepping back in time to buy stuff that can be packed in paper bags. And then there’s the corporates of Oxford Street at the other end – Uniqlo selling tee shirts for £7….

I just hope that Nottingham can sustain these new massive developments. Being in the top 5 shopping centres outside London is great for profile, but it might not be good for everyone?

Fancy buying Kent?

Actually it’s not for sale, but Savills (my old employers) are selling one million acres in San Juan Province in Argentina – and that’s roughly the size of Kent.

OK, it’s not as convenient to get to as Kent – and they don’t yet have ‘leccy’ (but the brochure suggests that it is ‘soon to benefit’ from this modern world stuff). It even has a Road (the Bioceanic Corridor) – and that in itself sounds pretty cool. San Juan is a mere 200km away – where I am guessing there will be a Tesco Metro for the milk?

According to the green wellied agent, “There is potential for growing alfafa, olives, vineyards and sunflowers and bio-fuel crops.” Wow I didn’t know you could eat Alfafa. Alternatively it – not the alfafa -could be used for tourism, forestry and solar energy generation – due to the estimated 300 days of sunshine each year.

There used to be 400 people on the estate – but they have now, worryingly, all gone. There’s no clue where.

And the price? A cool $10m. Which isn’t a lot – $10 an acre. I am thinking I might buy one or two acres on the edge? Something suitable for a small bijou residence perhaps…

A valuer goes to clinky!

The property industry was all of a chatter last week about a bad boy in our ranks. Ian McGarry was sent to Prison for seven years for his part in a £49m mortgage fraud last week. He is reckoned to have pocketed over £1m in bribes. His reasoning was the ‘poor bonus structure’ at his firm, Dunlop Heywood.

The fraud was relatively simple – his (also bent) client bought a property and then re-sold it to a related company for a higher price. In one instance it was suggested that the initial purchase price was £1m, which McGarry then valued at £19m. This is a little bit away from our margin of error.

The rICS have introduced some new regulation in the last few months – which is designed to improve public confidence in valuation. I have become a Registered Valuer – which I blogged about here. Whilst I don’t necessarily disagree with this sort of regulation – my concern is that if someone intends breaking the law, they will often find away.

You can’t legislate for every bad apple. And, if you are not careful, the burden of regulation just adds more bureaucracy to perfectly good law-abiding firms. The measures taken need to be proportionate.

I think this case is very much a one-off. The judge described McGarrys actions as ‘rampant greed’. Cash, property and an Aston Martin are usually outward signs that something isn’t right.

You can’t help but wonder if his bosses noticed all of these goodies??

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Aston Martin, fraud, Ian McGarry, Law, Mortgage fraud, , Real estate appraisal, , valuer

Music – the power of three…

For the second time in two weeks I got wet watching live music. It was a sort of wet wet wet moment at the Isle of Wight festival. Then at Hard Rock Calling on Friday in Hyde Park it rained again. perhaps not as much as IOW!

Feel the rain!

On Friday it was the third time I had seen all three headlining bands – James, Kaiser Chiefs and The Killers. Apparently Prince Harry was there. 59,999 other people were…

James are a great live band to see – the first time I saw them they refused to play ‘Sit Down’, but the last two times they have done – and it is a great crowd pleaser. They are great live.

Kaiser Chiefs are a boys band – and the predictive Riot anthems are really good – if a little boisterous! They have a new album out where you choose ten tracks for 20 – and they played a few tracks…

But the stars of the show were The Killers. There’s no-nonsense about playing stuff you don’t know. They just play hit after hit after hit. They were absolutely brilliant – even if the rain was relentless. I have now seen them in London, Nottingham and in New York. On the spur of the moment I bought tickets for Madison Square Garden (even though we weren’t actually booked to go to the Big Apple!) They were fantastic….

My next live music is back in Nottingham – at Splendour - where Scissor Scissors, Blondie and Feeder play. For the first time in a while I will see someone who I haven’t seen before – Scissor Scissors. I have seen Blondie a few times and Feeder I have seen lots. Blondie gets a mixed review from me; I guess she didn’t quite live up to my 1979 memories of her! Feeder are just brilliant.

But I do know something – the sun will shine in Nottingham at Splendour. Guaranteed.

PS The set list for the Killers was…

Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll
Somebody Told Me
For Reasons Unknown
Smile Like You Mean It
Losing Touch
Spaceman Reprise
Bling (Confessions of a King)
Moon River
Read My Mind
Mr Brightside
All These Things I’ve Done
This Is Your Life
Jenny Was a Friend of Mine
When You Were Young

tim.garratt – a new domain

There was news this week on the BBC that the The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) plans to increase the number of domain endings from the current 22. You will be familiar with .com and

But ICANN have decided that the new domain endings can be ‘almost any word in any language’. You can apply from 12th January 2012. So this gives you plenty of time to dream up your own domain name. I can hear you pondering now…

But there is also a slight sting in the tale of this story. You might need to start saving up too before January. A cool £114,000 will secure you your very own domain name. That’s assuming you get through the anticipated 150 page application form. I think they are going to be quite ‘rigorous’ in the processing.

I now figure that you have gone off the notion. I was wondering what else you could spend that sort of cash on…

1. An Audi R8 – the thinking mans Porsche – and with all the goodies its only another £2k
2. A flat at Castle Marina in Nottingham – and have £4k to spare….
3. A diamond encrusted Odyssey Putter for £100k, still cash over to spare?
4. A 2007 Bavaria 40′ yacht perhaps? Very very nice…

Any other ideas?

Mines the R8 if that’s ok – And I’ll stick with for the moment!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Audi R8, Bavaria, , Domain name, ICAAN, , Odyssey putter, Putter, Top-level domain

A skip with wheels

I did one of my Partners a favour this week. He needs to get a new car – his three year lease expired nearly two years ago and he needs to choose a new shiny model. He quite fancies a Mercedes E Class – the type of which I now drive following the loss of my beloved RS4. But he has kiddies and wasn’t sure if the ‘hairdressers car‘ would be suitable (It isn’t). So we did a swap in the week – so he could play.

A beauty - it's not

The swap had a downside. I had to use his ‘car’. AKA ‘skip with wheels’. Or ‘scrap’. It has a badge suggesting that it’s a Volvo XC90.

It was horrid. I took it on the Motorway to Chesterfield and felt seasick before I got to Tibshelf. There were no tablets in the car – and they should be compulsory. It has no GPS – which means that you get lost. I tried to get it lost in Chesterfield but a helpful old lady pointed it out (it was not capable of fitting in a space). Getting out of the multi-storey car park was like the Crystal Maze – I did more than one six-point turn.

You do get to see more of the world than I am used to – but you have to carry a ladder to climb aboard.

Acceleration – 0-60 is measured in minutes not seconds. In fact on the Motor-way it took me from Junction 26 to just past junction 27 to achieve exit velocity – 70mph. We were both sweating. The car more than me I expect. It’s not a car for venturing into the outside lanes. Racing is a no-no.

The upsides? Well, people don’t mess with you – that is a given. It is a sort of Massey Ferguson experience. And you can’t get a ticket for speeding because, being a Volvo, it just doesn’t.

So, despite the fact that I took badly to the loss of the RS4, I am glad to have the Mercedes back… and I never thought I would say that!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Automobile, Crystal Maze, Global Positioning System, Massey Ferguson, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, skip, Tibshelf, Volvo, Volvo XC90

Invest in Nottingham – in London

I was in London last night – with my friends from Invest in Nottingham. It was another event to promote Nottingham – as a follow on to the work done at MIPIM back in March.

The event was held at the newly opened St Pancras Hotel. It’s very easy to get to – no taxi’s from the Station! Just a short walk down the platform. I had travelled with a number of fellow ‘promoters’ in First Class style – at a discount from East Midland Trains.

The new Hotel is an amazing annexe to the already brilliant St Pancras Station. The hotel is simply stunning – the train station isn’t bad either! The finishes are fantastic. These intertwined pieces of Victorian architecture really are jewels. They were built in an era of massive growth in the UK and they were very public trophies proudly displayed by their owners.

And that’s what we were doing on Wednesday; showing off Nottingham to a London crowd. It was all about meeting investors and promoting the City. We want people to put their money in our town. We need inward investment; there are competitors out there. But we have some great stories to tell. We are at the heart of the Midlands.

There were more than 120 guests, investors, end users and developers at the event, invited by the City’s business contacts. It was a very impressive turn out!

Capital Shopping Centres, Westfield, BioCity, our two first-class universities and our very strong professional sector were among those helping to extol the virtues of Nottingham as a great place to do business. Team Nottingham worked the floor hard!

I thought the whole event went well and hopefully this will turn into real enquiries for development or occupiers.

Lessons from golf?

I have never had a golf lesson in my life; my playing friends might suggest that it shows! I can normally hack around a course, but the flashes of brilliance are more than outweighed by some less than brilliant shots. Consistent I’m not…

But this isn’t a blog about golf lessons, but rather about the lessons we can learn from golf. I heard Rory McIlroy before his winning round at the US Open on Sunday being interviewed by the Sky Sports reporter. He was talking about “small targets”.

Small targets was a two-fold technique. The first, in golf, is easy. You aim at small targets – especially the 4 inch diameter one in the middle of a green. Hit it often, in few shots and you will win.

But Rory was talking about a technique of breaking a course down into smaller constituent parts. And this is a great method we can use in our lives. My late Partner in business, Alec Hardy, would always say that it was easier to have a job list of three matters than one of twelve. He could get through three and then start another three, rather than have the distraction of a large number of things. The larger the list, the more distracting the chatter from it all. This was McIlroys point – don’t worry about Hole 17 when you are on Hole five.

It is easy in our modern lives to get caught up in lots of jobs. My professional life is punctuated by hundreds of ongoing jobs – and sometimes trying to prioritise them is harder than the work itself!

So – bin all the long job-lists. Break them down into small targets. Make short wins – string a few together and you might win a US Open!

I am booked in for a golf lesson shortly. That will be interesting!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business Tagged , Congressional Country Club, , Rory McIlroy, Sky Sports, small targets, Sports, U.S. Open,

Percy the Pig & Colin the Caterpillar

It was good to see that Andy Murray has a secret weapon to help him ascend to new heights at Wimbledon this year. Percy the Pig will be on hand to help when he reaches a low point.

In my office we have a similar requirement. Usually at the mid afternoon point when the sugar levels are drifting off, Colin the Caterpillar comes to the rescue. Actually, several Colin’s are needed!

We (I!) buy Colin by the sackload. They don’t seem to last long. A day at most. I think my assistant Kirsty secretly eats them when I am not looking. She thinks I don’t notice…

Percy & Colin are the best thing Marks and Spencer make. I don’t but their clothes any more – some of the food is ok, but Colin is a winner. I’m not so keen on Percy (I once picked a packet up by accident). And old fashioned marshmallows are not on a par with the slightly up-market caterpillars.

The other thing is that they contain fruit. So they contribute to your five-a-day.

It would be cruel to toast them. And like Jelly Babies, I eat the heads first – so as to put them out of their misery without delay…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Grumpy Old Man!, Nottingham Tagged Andy Murray, Colin the Caterpillar, Kirsty Scott, Marks & Spencer, Marshmallow, Percy the Pig, Wimbledon