2011 – what a year!

As you get older the years seem to slip by a bit quicker?

Looking back 2011 was pretty special in many ways. Certainly from a work perspective it was challenging. I can’t help but wonder what 2012 will bring – I’ll have a go at that little conundrum tomorrow!

So, what of 2011? Well the highlight was undoubtably the Wedding. No, not that one, the one where my ‘little’ girl married and became a Smillie. It was a proud day – and, for the first time in my life I dressed up as a girl – not once but twice. I wore a kilt and took on the mantle of Anni-Frid from Abba. People told me I wasn’t too good at the lipstick…

Jak, my youngest son who passed his driving test in 2010 got his first car – so can now drive me around, which is brilliant. He has also had two jobs! Adam continues to wait for Spielberg to spot him, but in the interim has moved on from his supermarket job and is now raising money for a charity.

We managed New York twice – which was a low-count year! It still remains my favourite place and I’m expecting we’ll be back there very soon. But I also managed to squeeze in a second trip to Shanghai and also a first trip to Istanbul with The University of Nottingham. Shanghai is worth a trip if you get the opportunity – I still haven’t mastered the language! Istanbul was an amazing City – I wished we had more time to look around.

My golf hasn’t moved on – despite two trips to Scotland. It is still a great place to go if you like the game described as a good walk spoiled! My handicap is resolutely stuck at 14. If only I could play to that!

I was also in Copenhagen when they had their worst storm for 30 years. That was for our friend Alan’s 50th birthday – which he was trying to keep secret. I know someone (who you know) who will be 50 in 2012. We may be keeping that one quiet!

One of the best ‘corporate’ events of the year was my trip to Downing Street – my claim to fame is that I spoke to an audience at Number 10. And not everyone can say that. It was a great night – especially as I have been into the Houses of Parliament earlier in the day.

There were lots of other good moments too, but I figure you will soon get bored of the list!

Happy Christmas….

I can’t quite believe that another year has all but slipped by.

Happy Christmas to all my blog readers – wherever you are.

It has been a good year – and there seem to be lots more of you than ever before who call by on a daily basis. Over 7,500 last month. My next big target is 100,000 hits – which I hope to get to some time in January.

I am going to give the blog a rest for a few days, I think it needs a bit of time off. But it will be back.

My plan is to have a bit of a look back at 2011 – probably on New Years Day – and then a look forward to 2012 on the 2nd January.

It’s always good to hear from you – so if you have any ideas for what I should be shouting about next year – do let me know!

In the meantime – here’s wishing you a very Happy Christmas and a very prosperous New Year!

2011 – the property facts

As this year draws to a close I was interested to receive my little book of facts about the property market for the year ending 2010 (it takes some time to fully analyse the data). Published by a group of respected commentators it contains some interesting nuggets.

And the 2010 top ten for you pop pickers…

1. Te commercial property saw values increase in 2010 by 8% to £561bn. We don’t know about 2011 yet, but I guess it may have slipped back.
2. Residential out-weighs commercial property by a factor of seven – it’s estimated to be worth £4.135bn.
3. Retail is the largest commercial property sector – estimated to be worth £200bn. Offices are next at £170bn.
4. Out of town retail now accoutnts for 19% of value – overtaking in-town (13%)
5. Two-thirds of commercial property is rented.
6. Average lese lengths are now 5.3% (I think this is a widely misinterpreted figure!) – it is clear that it is falling (in 1999 it was 8.7 years).
7. Office rents fell in the UK in 2010. Except in London.
8. UK Institutions invested £75bn in commercial property – down 7% in 2010.
9. Commercial property was the best performing asset class – marginally ahead of equities.
10. Nearly 1m people are employed in commercial property activities.

I think there is some good news in here – although the data is old. Of course, the really interesting facts will be in a years time when we see whether there was a double dip in 2011.

I live in hope that the market picks up in 2012.

Photography and the law

You might remember that back in September I blogged about an incident my son had endured when he was questioned by a Policeman for taking photographs in a public place. You can read about it here. As far as I can tell his ‘terrorist’ activities have stayed pretty much under the radar since that time.

Filming you filming us...

Last week the Home Office and BSIA, the body for personnel guarding, crowd management, close protection and all other security staff issued some guidelines about, “Photography and Hostile Reconnaissance”. Sounds ominous!

But this is actually quite helpful and if you are like me then looking through this guide is quite helpful. It says, amongst other things, “If an individual is in a public place photographing or filming a private building, security guards have no right to prevent the individual from taking photographs.” and, “Security guards cannot delete images or seize cameras, nor can they obstruct individuals from taking photographs.” You can read the guidelines here.

We seem to have arrived at a place in society where we are so ultra-cautious about everyday things that the taking of a photograph can be attributed to ‘hostile reconnaissance’!

I take lots of photographs to help me with my work and I occasionally come across security guards who tell me about my (lack of) rights. I hope that this new guidance has been widely circulated by their governing body. But more importantly perhaps the Police need to read it too, after my son’s experiences earlier in the year?

So just to recap..“It is not an offence for a member of the public or journalist to take photographs/film of a public building. They do not need a permit to photograph or film in a public place…”

Places and 2012

I have been invited to an event in London in the New Year which has really got me thinking. It is all about ‘places’. It is being organised by my friends at Thinking Place.

In particular it is hoping to address how we continue to make ‘places’ in an era of austerity. Places are not just neighbourhoods, but areas where people have a sense of identity and want to be. They mean something.

As you probably guess I am pretty cynical about ‘fluffy stuff’. I like the facts to be readily understood and easily identifiable. But I like the idea of ‘places’ and I think I have a good feel for what makes a great place. I’m not sure I can write down what it is here. I liken it to going into a shopping centre and knowing if it feels ‘right’ If the tenant mix is wrong then it feels wrong. Hard to pin down but just wrong.

Place can be a mixture of different things – culture, work, play. If we get a place right it acts as a catalyst for prosperity – and that need not just be financial. It can be that people feel better.

The discussion is going to centre on how we continue to make progress in enveloping places against the economic background. I am guessing that, in the past we have been able to throw money at some of the issues. That money may not now be quite so redly available!

We are going to have to look at solutions differently – and for that reason I am looking forward to a lively debate. To make the whole event better it is being held at the new St Martins College at Kings Cross – which I am hoping to get a sneak peek at whilst I am there!

Is stuff too complicated sometimes?

There was an interesting article in last weekends Mail On Sunday about the number of functions on washing machines which are unused. Duvet washing programmes are relatively untouched apparently. I admit i only know how to do one type of wash – that’s to get my squash kit clean – which no one else will touch!

The inside of my washing machine - you can just spot the Higgs boson on the bottom left.

I have a number of cameras and I was looking a couple of days ago at the manual – the camera has developed an intermittent fault. In the 200-odd pages of the instruction book it doesn’t tell you what the code means – but I did work out how to put copyright information in the file name. I then realised just how complex my Canon 7D camera is. It really can do anything – but you need to carry the book around – by which time the moment has often gone!

I blogged some time ago about a small camera I carry around – it’s Ricoh GR3 – tiny but brilliant. It has been all over the world with me. And the main feature I use is the exposure compensation, but that’s it. It just keeps going – perhaps there’s not much to go wrong with it?

I was debating, on-line, with Simon Dare at the weekend about the desire for Google to pervade our lives even more than they do now. Google do one thing brilliantly – they find things for you amongst the billions of web sites. The main page is so beautifully simple it is difficult to see what else you could do this it. And so perhaps you shouldn’t.

I took a bit of heat last week for my Apple collection. What I think Apple do really well is throw away the instruction book. The general principle is that if you need an instruction manual then it needs to be re-engineered.

So, I think I’m with the MOS, lets keep things simple. We don’t need Duvet wash programmes…

Nottingham TV – let’s get started!

Nottingham has been selected as one of the pilot places for the introduction of ‘local broadcasting’ – after the BBC pretty much deserted us for Brummie-land!

I think this is great news – I have blogged about it before.

As the Government have moved away from regions to local – this has perhaps had at least one positive out-come. I switch off the TV if the news is Birmingham driven. I have no interest in what is happening near those Villa fans (you know who you are!). I think there is a fantastic opportunity to create a proper local TV station.

The idea has been around in America for some time (although some of it can be a little dire) it has an immediacy and relevance. Of course we now have the ability to capture images in High Definition – sometimes form our phones. But this is not what is needed in my view. Whilst the You Tube generation may have a place, I think local TV will only succeed if there is quality. To then at end it needs to take BBC output as a benchmark.

There look as though there will be two main bids in Nottingham for the service. I am involved in one of them – and work is now underway to get the bid ready. I am really looking forward to being involved. We already have some great ideas.

I have blogged before about the wealth of talent in the creative industries in Nottingham. Although we have been chosen as one of the pilots – with 18 other areas I think we will be the beacon!

This project has the distinct possibility of putting Nottingham on the map, but it has the prospect of being able to bring on the talent we have – including in schools and colleges.

Lights, camera, action!

The Tram in Nottingham

There was great news at the end of last week about the Nottingham Tram – phases two and three are about to start. This has been a long time in the making, but the reality is about to hit home.

A secret picture of a new Nottingham Tram....

The announcements last week about the awarding of the contract to TramLink Nottingham are very real as I have some letters on my desk at work telling me that one of my clients in Beeston is going to have his land taken on 16th January 2012 – less than a month away. It will be good to see the diggers getting started – with the first trams likely to run in 2014.

I will also see the benefit at work too as the tram is about to run past my front door – thus meaning I can stop paying a fortune to the City for parking in town! I spent £30 last week!

I do like the suggestion on their web-site that they are hoping to offer contracts to local suppliers – this should be good for Nottingham jobs. Hopefully we can avoid another Bomardier debacle?

The A453 meanwhile is still apparently fast-tracked. But unlike the Tram there are no dates for starting. I just wonder how long it will be before we discover that there are few technical issues to be resolved.

But as a very wise friend of mine said last week I bet by the time of the next election there will be some bright yellow diggers on that A453. Cynical? – perhaps. Probable? – certainly!

My only request for the Tram is that look at the fare structure. Last time I went on was over a year ago. I didn’t realise you needed quite so much money! Take a lesson from New York – $2.25 (around £1.45) for a ride – anywhere on the network. And discounted if you buy a carnet. Public transport needs to have great geographical coverage – but it also need to be cheap!

Christmas Gifts – part 3 – for blokes!

Guest blog by – Lesley Garratt…

The great question that has never been answered and which, I have not yet been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul, is ‘What does a woman want?’” – Sigmund Freud.

Whilst, I’m sure that Freud was not referring directly to Christmas here, it seemed an apt quotation when Tim asked me to guest blog as to “What does a woman want for Christmas”. If Freud struggled to know, it’s a fairly safe bet that the average man also does not know. To be fair, us women are a fickle bunch, so I won’t even attempt to answer for the majority, but maybe I can give a few pointers to those men who are still pontificating with only a week to go!

Perhaps it’s easier to start with a short list of what we don’t want:

1. A Vacuum Cleaner– a friend of ours gave his girlfriend one, and she quite literally wasn’t to be seen for dust.
2. Socks – even if they are from Paul Smith
3. An Exercise DVD – the question will inevitably arise, “Do you think I’m too fat?” The potential answer is not always conducive to a harmonious start to Christmas Day.

not what we want...

Next, what do we want?

1. A voucher for a Spa Day or even better a Spa Weekend – something to look forward to after what is usually for women a hectic and demanding build-up to Christmas.
2. Fragrance – this can include body sprays, shower/bath gels or body lotions. Just make sure that you know her signature fragrance and purchase items in the same range- branded of course, not a ‘knock-off’.
3. Jewellery –always appreciated as its something that most women don’t buy for themselves. Christmas and birthdays are usually their only chance of receiving some, unless of course, their menfolk are like Richard Burton who gave Elizabeth Taylor a 33-carat diamond ring, ‘Just because it was a Tuesday.’ For a romantic touch, have it inscribed –just make sure it’s with the right name or the relationship might not last until Boxing Day!
4. A handbag – designer ones are particularly appreciated.
5. Lingerie – but only if it’s in the right size, so you will need to do a bit of rooting around in her ‘knicker drawer’. Also, festive red is often the choice for males but some women think it’s ‘tarty’ – you have been warned!
6. Gadgets – but only if the woman in your life is not a ‘technophobe’. I particularly like my IPad and Kindle.

Personally, I would be quite happy with Coldplay’s latest CD, and even happier with tickets for their forthcoming tour or maybe a Sarah Millican DVD. But I appreciate that these wishes aren’t for everyone.

As I said at the beginning of this blog, women are a fickle bunch, and I do not envy men having to choose us women a gift for this Christmas (or any Christmas) for that matter!

(Editors comment – perhaps a book on disappointment will be appropriate?)

Blokes Christmas Present List Part 2

It seems that I may have made some glaring omissions from yesterdays ‘ideas list’. I apologise, but my colleague and fellow blogger Simon Dare hit the nail on the head (as did Mr Baker) in observing that there were no Apple goodies. Mr Dare was probably right in that I probably have more Apple kit than most…

But, for the sake of you beige-box people out there who don’t mind staring at those little egg-timer things, there are some pretty brilliant bits of kit with little Apple logos. In no particular order ladies, your blokes might like…

1. An iPad2 – superb bit of kit that has allowed me to lose my notebook. Writing is so last Century!

2. A MacBook Air – 11.6″ screen is fantastic. And it doesn’t break your arm carrying it.

3. IMac 27 – for the desktop. Eyewatering display. Like a razor.

4. Iphone 4 – simply the best.

5. Apple TV – great for streaming images from your laptop or iPad onto your HD TV screen.

6. Ipods – you could go for a shuffle, nano, touch or classic.

7. Magic Mouse – unbelievably good and very clever with gestures (not rude ones)

Having looked down the list, I seem to have one of each of these, except that I don’t have the current line up of iPods. In any event Apple don’t have an iPod big enough to carry all of my music (322Gb at the last count)

I hope this helps…

And tomorrows blog is a very special edition – ideas for blokes. From Mrs G – and ‘just in time’ methinks!