Paper boy

As a teenager I had a few Saturday jobs, but my most favourite was in a pet shop. Happy days except when selling goldfish as the customer would always want the fish that swam like a torpedo and was impossible to catch in the tank.

I never was a paperboy back then..quite dissapointed that those roles never became free as I was happy to be up early in the morning and would have been happier still getting tips at the rate my friends in such roles achieved!

Somewhat surprisingly some 40 years later the career opportunity missing back then has arrived! As they say everything comes to he who waits. It’s a bit of a strange paper round I must admit…only one customer, very flexible on time, very nearby and always very generous with tips 😁

As you have probably surmised, I discovered that my elderly neighbour like ourselves enjoys the somewhat bulky weekend version of our regional newspaper and finds these sell out quickly and would often miss out.

So I now buy two every Saturday, and combine it with a visit next door which is a mutually enjoyable start to the weekend.

Sometimes it’s those small interactions in life that are the best …and never too late for a career change!

Work to live and love your work

Everyone is familiar with the expression ‘work to live , don’t live to work’.

Healthy, sound advice as there is far more (or at least should be) far more in our lives than what we do for 40 out of the 168 hours in every week. I know 50 or so hours are occupied sleeping, but even so I think you get my point.

However if we like or even love what we do in our work time that is a real bonus.

And of course work not only provides income, but social interaction, personal and professional development and in some cases a sense of family ..either an additional work family or perhaps for those estranged or otherwise separated, their only opportunity to belong.

This week saw the demise of Thomas Cook group.

There is enough being said on the internet at the moment about the causes, level of governmental support required etc. that I won’t add to that here but what is heart warming is how others in the aviation and travel industry at both a personal level and corporate level are reacting and endeavouring to support their wider travel industry family. I worked for two companies that ultimately (way after my employment with them) became part of Thomas Cook group so I do know many individuals involved now affected and I am overwhelmed by the loss people are sensing from the cessation of this family as well as the more basic impacts of lost income etc.

A less high profile example also this last week is the administration of Wright bus, makers of next generation jump on, jump off iconic London buses.

In the same way that TC workers were proud to see their logo and product worldwide, Wright bus employees would have too .

They manufacture in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, but they are the main stay of London’s bus transport system and supply similar products worldwide. It’s not an industry I come from but as I understand it, it is small, specialised and in the UK there is only one other company similarly engaged in this business, Alexander Dennis based in Falkirk, Scotland. It is distressing for those in that declining industry to see one of their few counterparts disappearing. Cynics will say the competition (in either of the above) will relish this departure of the weakest but the reality is the humans with soul will see the pain and hurt for their counterparts and think ‘ there but for the grace of God go I’.

So appreciate and enjoy your work family if you have one and remember that family’s grow, change and widen..and sadly have breakups and separate at times.

Will you join me for lunch?

In the uk, the concept of having lunch in terms of a sit down meal is a dying tradition in the workplace.Yes, people will go and meet friends at lunchtime for food and drink but this is not what I mean. The concepts of colleagues stopping work and having food together with each other is a fast declining activity. The pressures of work whether generated by a true over burdening workload or an individual need to measure their importance and wave a flag of ‘ no time for lunch’ as a badge of honour are more and more the norm. Services such as Deliveroo and Uber eats have fuelled the lunch at your desk trend to an all time high.But none of this is good – at one time 70% of us used to meet our future life partners at work…ok some of this from water cooler liaisons, but often from a chat in the staff canteen where Brian from Accounts gets to make small talk with Julie from Dispatch.From a personal space point of view, in an open plan office do you really want fumes from your colleagues Miso soup wafting across your desk. And nothing is more soul destroying (from every aspect) than watching your neighbour splosh through their curried vegetable pot noodle as they flick through Facebook on their phone aimlessly.So what is the alternative? I have just returned from working most of the week in my company’s German HQ, stopping for lunch and going with your colleagues (and visitors) to the staff canteen is the norm not an exception. And not always there, sometimes to a small cafe/restaurant and sometimes to fast food truck/caravan. But akways some unwritten golden rules, we talk to each other, and ideally not on work matters and most definitely no use of phones.Everyone is a winner…social interaction, a true break from work…and actually some nice simple, wholesome food!

Do you want conditioner?

When I was an awkward adolescent (and in all honesty probably well into my late teens) I had a bit of a fear of hairdressers.

Not to the extent that people are scared of clowns or authoritarian people in uniform.. but certainly it was an awkwardness that I felt with them.

Nothing to do with them having sharp objects in their hands such a scissors, clippers or razors but actually being a captive in the chair and being engaged in conversation that I could not escape from or really contribute to.

I used to dread the three standard questions…have you been at work today?, are you going out tonight? are you going on holiday this year? As a tongue tied fifteen year old, who in reality struggled to make impressive conversations with female classmates at school, this always seemed too big a mountain to climb. But that was just part of what then our parents would call ‘coming out of our shell’ and the natural development of awkward teenager to mature confident young adult.

I don’t actually remember the change happening but suddenly I found myself only a few years later being happy, confident and chatty in almost any situation and was very outgoing in my late teens and twenties.

In fact, as the years progressed I think the tables are very much turned…and in reality I talk and chat so much and with perhaps too much ease that my family tell me NOT always to engage in conversation at every opportunity !

It seems not every restaurant server, shop assistant, bank teller etc. might want to be engaged with to the extent I (allegedly!) do. The very reason for starting this blog was that my head is full of stories, thoughts, quips and musings to share and the realisation that maybe not everybody wants or has time to listen means another outlet is needed. This way it’s more of an opt-in than people trying to find a way to opt out!

And as for hairdressers, I have a wonderful hairdresser now. Sophie who is a warm, friendly and genuine person and who I know would put even awkward teenage boy clients at ease…….and she has never asked me am I going out tonight, have I been at work today? and am I going on holiday soon?

But always asks, would you like a cup of tea😁

The Three Bears

When it comes to porridge making, the three bears really have the market sown up.

Not for them the concept of one size fits all.

Want a big Daddy size bear portion? …sure we can do that. Want it quite sweet, just as Mama bears likes it?…of course, not a problem. Temperature, naturally we can serve it ‘not too hot, not too cold’. Although it’s never been officially documented, I am told Goldilocks gave them a 5* Trip Advisor rating in her most recent review.

Sadly though, for most of us, stopping off at the cottage in the woods is just not an option for us as we journey through life and have a need for sustinence.

My day job from time to time necessitates me travelling by train and a fate will often dictate me just missing a train and having an hours wait for the next one meaning a late evening arrival home.

Now one hour is questionably not long enough to exit the station, find a restaurant, order food, wait for food, eat food , request bill, wait for bill, pay bill…and then hot foot it back to the station.

Simple answer…fast food? Hmmm..well maybe, but I think I said goodbye to actually enjoying McDonald’s, KFC or even the more upmarket 5 Guys after it becoming an inevitable ‘go to’ for sustenance when in need on just too many occasions.

That’s not to say they don’t serve a purpose..but it’s not for me.

So back to the Three Bears.. how do you find something that’s not to slow to prepare, gets served to your table by friendly and personable staff and you actually can have a potato that doesn’t have to be of the chipped variety?

Well somewhat late in my life I discovered Nandos. I appreciate people from across the globe read this blog and Nandos are big…but not global. For those who haven’t experienced it, in summary they are South African-Portuguese themed Peri Peri chicken restaurants.

Fast food style, but table service and restaurant ambience. They can be found in UK, North America, Middle East , India and South Africa. Ok perhaps not for everybody but if you were like me and had assumed they were ‘not for you ‘…you may be pleasantly surprised! And if you do want chips..they do them too,as well as mash and a host of other choices!

And for the avoidance of doubt I have no commercial or affiliation with them…I just thought it worth sharing this…

Enjoying my blog?…yes the subjects are varied and esoteric ..but so is life! Happy saturday

Share if you dare

I travel fairly regularly by long distance train in the UK.

Previously I have always booked the ‘quiet coach’ where theoretically people are not supposed to have mobile phone conversations or talk loudly to each other.

Unfortunately the compliance levels are not so good and there are two camps. The first is very, very loud business people who decide to phone their PA, or colleagues or family and are the most indignant when it is pointed out to them (by me!) that they are in the quiet coach. Often they will remark, still very loudly to their caller …’I seem to be in the quiet coach ‘ as though

some alien Tele transportation process had unwillingly deposited them there, very much against their will. And of course that these rules are surely for other people, not important people such as them.

The other offenders are middle aged ladies on train journeys to visit family and I am far more forgiving of them as despite all the signage, they might not be familiar with the process.

So I grit my teeth as their call starts..”is that you dear?…Can you hear me?…I am on the train?…Yes it’s on time and I’ll see you at Kings Cross Station…” So conversation over I think? No chance…..they carry on “oh, I think I am in the quiet coach (Yes…you damm well ARE!!)…so I can’t talk for long” . There then ensues a 20 minute conversation covering all family medical, romantic and miscellaneous issues…probably negating the purpose of the visit at all!

Quite why they think the quiet coach is like the express lane at the supermarket as long as you have 10 conversation items or less!, you can use it.

So I have given up on the quiet coach..but I have decided what is now needed is a non-chatting coach. Not so much that others having conversations, conversations on the phone or face to face with consenting adults is an issue, it’s fine but don’t forget Abigail *, it’s people talking uninvited to me who are the problem! [ *Abigail was a fellow passenger on a train some weeks ago who had such an impact she featured in a blog post just dedicated to her.]

There is a time for sharing your work story, challenges or quest for information- but it’s not on my train. On a train journey earlier this month week an IT guru used all three hours of the journey and barely drew breath talking techno speak to me that would have put Bill Gates in the corner.

Barely a week later I then have a match-making mother sizing me up as a partner for her daughter…despite all the references I made to my wife, children, general contentment with my lot…she was undetered. On reflection perhaps I should have made it very clear I was not from a Polygamous sect… and able to add a another wife to my portfolio in case that was what she was holding out for.

And then, only two days later, the icing on the cake from another woman of a similar age….an interrogation…..although she told me she was a retired teacher from Devon…I am convinced she is ex KGB. She was relentless in her task…the more monosylabic my answers the more questions kept coming. Where do you live?, where have you been?, where did you stay?, are you married?, are you in a polygamous sect? (actually no, she didn’t ask that), when will you get home?, how did you get to the station?…no stone was left unturned, no aspect of my life was not investigated!

So come on train companies of the UK..non chatting coaches please. It will be called the Ask me to Share if you Dare coach!

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The biggest gift, the lowest price

This is not my first post about Parkrun, and normally I might be a little wary about focussing on this personal interest of mine too frequently ..but for this particular post..I make no apologies.

Parkrun, for those not in the know is a weekly timed run in literally hundreds of locations across the UK and beyond where those of every ability from first timer to experienced athlete can walk or run a 5k timed event in their local park and measure their personal progress week on week. It also has a huge band of volunteers and provides a unique opportunity for particiption and social interaction. Unlike a race which has only one winner, in this event everyone achieves from it.

My local Parkrun in Huddersfield, Yorkshire also from time to time acts as a platform for other organisations to spread the word on what they do. Yesterday my own running club were providing volunteers for the event

and we were joined by a group from Organ Donation who help promote this vital service.

This wasn’t a PR person doing a recruitment campaign..we were honoured to have several people with first hand experience of how life changing organ donation is.

We had the personal story of Lydia Beckett. Lydia shared with us how a literally life changing decision made by somebody else changed her life and that of her family.

Click on the hyperlink highlighted to read her story..but don’t just read it, please commit to being an organ donor and most importantly tell your family. The UK moves to an opt out system from 2020 so this means it is even more important to make your family aware of your wishes to ensure these are fulfilled.

The greatest gift anyone can give is life…I sincerely hope that none of you reading this will end life prematurely….but one day for all of us life will end, and before this happens we can commit ‘at no cost to us’ to give the greatest gift of all when our time is over.

If you only ever share or repost one of my blogs…please make it this one. Not for its artistic style, prose or any such reason, but that this one single action could change somebody’s life. See links to social media at the bottom of the page.

Your action in encouraging others to sign up could change a life. Now how wonderful a thing is that to be able to do today!

Click here for UK info.

I appreciate that many readers are from outside the UK, so please check on the internet for how you can pledge in your country.

Thanks for reading my blog…

National Treasure

There are many good things about living in the UK…it’s actually very important for those of us living there at the moment to remind ourselves of that, as with the huge Brexit chasm that we live beside it can seem a world full of conflict, divided opinions and distrust of each other. Sounds extreme…well thst is Britain in September 2019…not a pretty political place.

But that aside, we live in a land steeped in history and tradition and we are pretty good at preserving it.

For those not from the UK, the National Trust might sound like some second rate bank or finance house…ready to take your money but not give much back. Well, let me explain…the National Trust is actually a somewhat amazing charity who buy , save or rescue old buildings estates, ancient moorland or indeed anything that is part of our heritage or is at risk.

They then open these to the public and in many cases create viable and sustainable businesses within them. And in doing so preserve nature, traditions and even our coast in a sustainable way.

The imminent release of the Downton Abbey movie and the huge popularity of the TV series demonstrates the interest in buildings duch as these and the people who lived in them and worked, ‘below stairs ‘. The NT have got these by the dozen on their books the length and breadth of the UK. With tea shops, gardens and very often huge open spaces..for our family whenever making a long UK wide road trip we will detour to one of these for a break in our journey.

But all this comes at a price..but not a big one. The NT get no public funding and relies on admission fees, membership fees, bequests, grants, revenues from its some 400 rental cottages ,gift shops and most importantly a huge army of volunteers supporting it’s paid staff. And pound for pound…it’s really great value if you become a member…about £10 a month gives you unlimited access to literally hundreds of places. If you are an overseas or occasional visitor you can of course pay for individual admission. Yes this is a more expensive process, but you know that what you spend is being reinvested into preserving the past for future generations to come.

And as I said, it not all stately homes. My primary school (a convent school ) was housed in classic villa designed by Scottish architect Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. At age 9 I was oblivious to the style of this building from the 1800’s but absolutely appreciate it now and delighted the National Trust for Scotland were able to save it and restore it to its original style.

And finally a word of caution for any overseas visitors..don’t go through the National Trust handbook or website looking for the fictional Downton Abbey.


Although portrayed as North Yorkshire,  the exterior is filmed at Highclere Castle in Berkshire, still actually  a private dwelling so not in the hands of NT. It’s the home of the Earl and Countess of Caernarfon and only open for limited number of days each year!

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Nothing on telly…

‘There’s nothing on telly’ was often the lament when I was a 1970’s teenager. TV back then in the UK was fairly limited…it had taken until 1967 for the UK to get to have have a 3rd TV channel (BBC2).

And not being a nation that rushes things, we had to wait 26 more years until 1993 for Channel 4 to arrive.

These days there really is everything on TV…reality TV has not only gone deep into the world of music with the X Factor and The Voice; Dancing has gone global and of course dating! Things taking quite a big leap from Blind Date to Love Island and even Naked Attraction.

If you don’t live in the UK you may not be familiar with all of these programmes, but they are mostly now fairly globalised!

But moving on, also now with every conceivable pastime from baking to sowing is having a competitive series making stars out of the boy or girl next door who can run up a dress or create a culinary masterpiece better than the pro’s.

Anyway, for anybody in the least bit concerned that the TV programme makers may have run out of ideas …fear not…. Tonight I saw a trailer for the latest reality show to hit our screens in the UK… Model Railways with teams vying with each other every week to create a railway layout with features such as dams, volcanos or mountains….or whatever the judges want the challenges to be!

Now no disrespect to people with such a hobby…but my limited experience of meeting such people is that they are unlikely to attract fame, adoration or even stalking from fans.

But we live in changing times…the ‘anorak’ might just be about to have its day!

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Sox appeal

I perhaps need to start with an apology for English speakers in the UK, Ireland and probably most other places…but not in the America’s…as we in Europe don’t use the word sox as  plural of sock..and we only say socks, so this may grate a little on you…..sorry!

Anyway there is a whole list of words that don’t cross the pond very well….. so let’s just move on from that. And don’t even start me on the others…..

I digress…..a  short while ago I attended an expo in connection with my day job.
As is always the case for  any such event where suppliers want to lure customers to their stands to engage with them, there are the traditional give aways. Some of these are a sure fire winner…chocolate, usb  memory sticks, key rings, bottle openers etc. always attract .

Then there is also a plethora of giveaways that have become very passe…who really wants a cheap plastic pen? or a sticker saying I❤Higginbottam & Company,  Chartered Accountants? Unless of course you are Mr Higginbottam.

Even the good items like the chocolate get eaten, the bottle openers end up consigned to a kitchen drawer…so what does have a lasting effect?

Well it seems that not only does sex sell  but socks have the same effect. I went to an expo last week and was given a funky pair of socks on a supplier stand…so for them it is practical,  memorable,  and will certainly provide a memory trigger…far better than a PowerPoint presentation and a talking point that  was far from exciting. The socks are a great reminder …the  funkier the better!

So this time it seems, the marketing department have got it just right!

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