Happy New Year

31.12.2013
My final post of 2013, a year that I will look back on fondly. As I highlighted yesterday, the year has contained some memorable events, some great people, significant highs and less lows than recent years.

We’ve just completed our family wish list for 2014 and for the first time structured it around the ‘wheel of life’ – our daughter is old enough now to understand the need for balance in different areas of life. It’s been a very interesting exercise and has established a set of clear goals for us too aim for in theNew Year.

The weather has been pretty poor all day so we changed plans and stayed in for most of the day, although we did manage to give the dog a run on the beach between showers. I’m not one for New Years Eve actually – I’d much rather celebrate the coming of the New Year tomorrow. Unfortunately the annual run into the sea is at risk due to the weather. I hope that it can take place – it is an amazing spectacle and a very funny way to kick off the New Year, full of laughter.

Anyway, off to watch the bells on TV now.

Happy New Year everyone.

Reviewing the year…

30.12.2013. I read a very interesting article in Psychologies Magazine, Jan 2014 edition, earlier today that made me think.

The premise of the article was that we all tend to head into the New Year full of promise whilst ignoring what has been achieved during the existing year. They propose that you ask yourself 6 questions to get you ready for the New Year ahead. I won’t go into these now, but it did make me think about the year just passing and during dinner we had an interesting debate about what 2013 has meant to each of us.

What are we most proud of? What have we achieved? What have we enjoyed?

It wasn’t hard to come up with lots of good stuff, things that happened throughout the year that, if you didn’t sit back and think about, would probably be forgotten about. Places we’ve visited, things that we’ve done, major challenges that we’ve met head on and overcome, significant successes in both business and personal life.

This discussion has set us up nicely for our traditional New Years discussion about what each of us want from the New Year – what do we want to do, what do we want to achieve, how do we want to feel etc.

But, that’s for tomorrow!

The calm before the storm…

29.12.2013
We woke up this morning to beautiful clear skies, and absolute calm conditions. The complete opposite to the last few days.

Managed to take some great coastal photographs that I will post when I get back home in the New Year. The UK coastline is so beautiful and I’m amazed that we continue to find new bays, new cliffs and new caves every time we come down to the peninsula, even though we have been coming down for the last 10 years. Today has been no different. We drove down to a beach area that we go to frequently, probably one of the closest to the house, but instead of exploring the beach, we decided to walk along the cliff tops, taking advantage of the public footpaths that crisscross the area.

Lo and behold, within minutes, we found an amazing waterfall leading down to a craggy outlet with a couple of amazing caves. How we haven’t seen this before, I just don’t know.

We took full advantage of the day, knowing that tonight the weather was about to close in again, with 3 weeks worth of rain expected overnight so batten down the hatches, get the fire roaring, a nice bottle of read and candles twinkling.

Am I the only one to get so frustrated with BT?

28.12.2013. We have come down to our cottage by the coast for New Year. It’s so beautiful and we’ve been looking forward to long walks on the beach and along the coastal trail, as well as having some time to complete a few projects and research others.

The Boxing Day storms resulted in our telephone line and broadband service being interrupted and once the storms had calmed down, I investigated the damage. In my simplistic view, it looks like the telephone wires have become intertwined with the trees that surround the cottage, resulting in the line not working.

I reported the fault to BT, only to be told that there wasn’t a problem! If there wasn’t a problem, why would I have walked a mile from the house to pick up a mobile signal, waited 30 minutes in a queue for BT to answer and then have to go through a pre scripted process with someone based in India – so frustrating!

I was then informed that they couldn’t get a engineer out until the afternoon of the 2nd Jan!

So all of my best laid plans have been completely scuppered by a company that still is in many areas, and certainly acts like the monopoly that they once were. Thanks BT. For nothing.

It is interesting to see how dependent we have become on the internet to do relatively simple things, like paying bills, researching holiday destinations and finding out about opening times for shops etc. Yes, it wasn’t so long ago that all this capability didn’t exist, but once it is available, the old sources of information quickly disappear. Yellow pages for instance or Teletext?

Because of this, it is even more essential that our service providers put in place effective fit for purpose recovery plans to ensure that life isn’t too disrupted when things go wrong and that doesn’t mean 15 minutes of auto responders before joining a queue to speak to someone, it doesn’t mean stating that a telecommunications company can’t take action and then call you back, because external calls have been ‘ blocked’, and it certainly doesn’t mean having to wait more than 5 days to resolve my problems!

Do you have a birthday over the Christmas period?

27.12.2013
It’s my birthday today!

It’s always been my birthday on the 27th December yet, probably due to the excitement around Christmas, so many people forget, including at times members of my own family. It can get annoying to be honest and why for the really big birthdays ( strange phrase really – ain’t all birthdays big, given the alternative! ) I tend to have to do something big, like a party, a trip or a full blown holiday.

The 27th is a bit of a fully day – in the UK, it tends to be the first day back to work after Christmas, it’s the second day of the sales and it tends to be seen as the calm before the build up to the New Year celebrations. We were having an interesting debate a few days back about New Years Eve and whether anyone really enjoys it? The consensus amongst our group was that they preferred New Year’s Day, as it signals a new start, rather than the end of the year that is New Years Eve. What’s your view?

We also thought that the fun around New Years Eve probably goes in cycles – when you’re young, it’s a night of drunken stupor, and when you are older, it’s a time to celebrate with a close set of friends. However, during the middle phase of life, when children are involved, it’s less exciting and probably more of an hassle as you try to juggle child care, taxis etc.

We are certainly in the middle part at the moment and will be for the next 7/8 years, although I’ve got another big birthday coming up in a couple of years so maybe that will bring us an opportunity to celebrate New Year in another culture….

Just starting to plan a trip that will provide many great memories, so open to ideas.

Well, better go and enjoy the rest of my birthday.

Boxing Day traditions

26.12.13. We have a pretty special Boxing Day tradition.

A group of us who all met when our children were in nursery together get together and go for a walk, over the fields. It’s the same walk every year, starting off at roughly the same time, and culminating with turkey sandwiches, hot chocolate and more vino when we get back. We must have done the walk now for at least 6/7 years and each year, the children have their photograph taken on the same rock – wow, how they gave grown!

We have some amazing memories of these walks, each recounted and embellished as each year passes. One of my favourites was when one of the mummies got stuck in the mud, and when helped by another (who sadly passed away a few years back) both ended up on their backsides – a YouTube Classic.

So today has been no exception – same walk, with the same group – just a great way to blow off the cobwebs from yesterday.

What traditions do you have?

What does Christmas mean to you?

25.12.2013. It’s Christmas Day. Merry Christmas

But what does that mean? What does Christmas mean to you? It’s an interesting question and one that tends to start a healthy debate. Does it mean presents and gifts? Does it mean food and drink? What about excess and greed? Or goodwill to all men?
Christmas means so many things to many different people and I think that your perspective is very much driven by the type of Christmas you experienced as a child, which is why it is so important to teach our children of the real meaning, rather than focusing upon the excess that is commonplace at this time of year.

I have a lovely day today. Present opening first thing – everything went down really well and then a walk with the dog to allow my daughter to try her new rollerblades, followed by a chillax, before a quick shower and shave ahead of leaving for the inlaws for Christmas Dinner. A few family games – Pointless really lived up to its name – and then back home.

An ideal Christmas Day, very in keeping with my new philosophy around simplicity.

It’s Christmas Eve…..

24.12.2013. It’s Christmas Eve and he’s on his way. Yahhhhhhhh!

What’s your favourite memory of Christmas Eve? I think mine is the whole build up, from waking up as a child, knowing that there is just one sleep to go, through getting all of the final trimmings sorted during the day, to sitting down and watching a film, getting the milk/ mince pie ready for Santa to finally going to bed full of excitement.

Today’s been very similar to be fair, although looking at it from an adults eye is rather different than a child. Overall very relaxing, a little work in the morning, followed up by some family time mid afternoon, a birthday party at friends late afternoon and our favourite Christmas film – Miracle on 34th Street – this evening. The only thing missing was a roaring fire, which we felt wasn’t appropriate as we didn’t want Santa to burn his bum!

Christmas certainly changes as you grow older, but it’s still a magical time, if you allow yourself to enjoy it, rather than get caught up in the whole process. I think that we have got it about right this year and the home feels lovely decked out with the tree and decorations.

Looking forward to tomorrow and seeing my daughter excitedly open her presents – I remember the first three of four years of her life, when it would take her two or three days to open her gifts, as she would play with each one. I suspect that we won’t be waiting for the final present to be opened this year!

So, Merry Christmas everyone.

The Premiership could be vintage in 2014

23.12.2013. Are you a football fan? If so and you follow the English game, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that this season is shaping up to be a vintage year.

Whereas in the last 10 years, by now you could make a decent claim on who would be champions, this year any team from five or six have a realistic chance, especially after tonight’s game between Arsenal and Chelsea, which has ended in a draw. Only 8 points now separate the top 7/8 teams going into the busy festive period, so everything augers well 2014.

I enjoy football, playing and watching, although I seem to do more watching than playing in recent years! It’s a shame that a lot of the characters are no longer in the game, everything is far more professional than when I started watching. The quality of the play is exponentially better, but certainly some of the fun has left the game. Players are much more aloof now and don’t tend to liaise with the punters as much, which is a shame.

No good moaning though as the horse as bolted and we will never return to the more traditional game.

Three sleeps to go…

22.12.13 – only three sleeps until Christmas is with us once again.

A day of final preparation today, last minute shopping (well technically not last minute, given that there is still two days to go) but certainly felt like it was last minute in the city. Lots of people had the same idea as me and all decided to buy things all at the same time, I’m sure, given the lengths of the queues.

Decided to let the train take the strain, rather than drive in. All the carriages needed was a steam train at the front and they would have looked contemporary! They were dreadful, dirty and must have been 40/50 years old. So much for the great British railway!
Arrived at one of the less fashionable stations which I’m glad to say is in the midst of a major rework – not before time I must say!
Looking at the pictures though, it will look pretty impressive when complete.

So the city was busy, the shops were packed, temperatures were soaring (the parents at least) and the language was sometime very rudimentary, but we made it through and after a return journey on a slightly more luxurious train ( very slightly), I eventually settled down with a nice glass of red to watch the final episode of Homeland. What a disappointment! Just when I was expecting a twist in the tail, it just fizzled out! Very unusual for such a franchise, who often leave a tease for the next series.

If there isn’t to be another series, the end was very poor. After some strong story lines, that was a disappointment. We’ll have to wait and see.