Women Glow, Men Plunder

Several months ago I was told by my colleague Samantha, that she was off to travel and work in New Zealand. This did not come as a complete surprise, I had noted a guide book to the Southern Hemisphere country on her Instagram feed, several days earlier. She had actually been afraid I might mention something inadvertently at lunchtime, so decided to tell me on a walk to the Manor after lunch one afternoon. Jealous is not the word, I was beyond envious that she was heading off to a completely different continent but most importantly with no coherent plan. It was a leap of faith which many of us fear to take!

Since joining CA, I would have described Sam as the closest friend I have made in the office. Mostly for our shared love for US televisions shows and movies. I mentioned Suits and she re-watched the first series and then watched the second season in almost tandem with me and we spent many a lunch hour discussing Harvey, Mike, Rachel and Louis. This weekend past, she has been binging on Glee (from season one) and I have confirmed privately that I too am a closet GLEEK!

While she would not describe herself as major office personality within our team she was a keen social butterfly, always organising Friday night drinks and other events such as leading our volunteer day! I will miss her warm presence in the office and beaming smile. Although we never directly worked with each other I know she was a dedicated member of the Operations Team.

In the middle of February she was considering starting a blog to record all her adventures and I was pleased to offer my fifty pence of advice! By the end of the weekend, she had started StarTrekkingWithKodakKirky (what a mouthful!!).

I hope Sam will think of me, among others stuck in Ditton Park, Datchet updating reports while she starts a new life Down Under. I wish her the utmost good luck and part of me wishes I could be just as courageous. Maybe in another lifetime!

Gogglebox

Television – I know, I watch too much for my own good but have in recent years cut down my dosage due to other commitments in my life. I have to be very selective, as I only have a two hour window in the weekday evenings. At weekends I can be out and about for long periods and only able to catch up on shows briefly (if at all). Even with only a Freeview PVR with limited space (500gb is hardly a mountain of storage in modern times) I still have to be careful with the choices I make.

Almost a year ago, I noticed a tweet from TV and radio presenter Richard Bacon. I had to do a double take because at first I thought he was referring to some new gadget from Mountain View. In fact, he was recommending his followers watch a new Channel 4 programme called Gogglebox (not Google Box as I had initially thought). Reading up about the show on-line, I did not think it could work, and doubt I would watch but thought I should give the first episode a go. Various households across the UK watching the weeks key television and then discussing with their family and friends as the events unfold on screen. On paper, I am sure this was a difficult idea to sell to the top brass. The idea of watching other people watch television just sounds outright boring and uneventful, like watching paint dry. I never used to watch the Royale Family but this new show would use the same conceptual point of view. To be honest, I did not know what to expect. I suppose that was part of the charm at first.

After the first two episodes, Michelle and I were hooked, it was like a drug. We have often thought if people make the same judgements and comments that we are making while watching television and it is reassuring to know that we are not alone. One of the first episodes comments were made which echo the same comments I had made earlier in the week. I cannot recall now which show we were watching or what it was in reference to, it was just great to see collective opinions from people across the country. My two favourite households are Sandra and Sally in Brixton and retired teachers Leon and June in Liverpool with an honorary mention for Step and Dom!

You know something has reached a milestone when it appears on Buzz Feed. Read this article to get just a nugget of the true brilliance of this television show. Stars have been born.

The show returns for a third series and has been promoted from graveyard Wednesday slot to prime billing on Friday at 9pm. I cannot wait, I hope they stick with the same families and do not mess with the formula at all. In series two they introduced a few additional households, including a couple that watch television in bed. While that may not be out of the ordinary, they come across as a couple whom both are in need of a personality by-pass (perhaps this is just poor editing on their part) and yes I know that is quite rich coming from me (of all people) but only those whom watch the show will fully understand. Catch up on 4oD if you can, I urge you! I can wholeheartedly recommend you watch, if not live on the night, on demand later. Many of the characters are now setting themselves up on Twitter, so when you watch live, as we tend to with most ‘event’ television, you get the extra dimension to proceedings by using the social media platform.

Viral Advertising Perfection

Three have realised that by using an advert that could have easily started life on YouTube and mailed around friends and colleagues via Facebook and Twitter is the ideal way to front a fully blown television spot. (They appear to have a website which enables you to star in the advert yourself!) They appear to back up this thinking by deep diving into our love of nostalgia by raiding every favourite song from the 1980s.

You will have to admit that this spot is pure genius, particularly the singing cat and the fact their young girl riding her stabilizer powered pink bicycle is actually only literally going around the block of her neighbourhood. The best television commercial at the moment by a country mile.

EDL in Slough

I heard about the march at the start of the year and conveniently planned to be in Wycombe on the proposed day of the march. Unsure why Slough in particular was chosen but there was a heavy police presence around Salt Hill Park as I drove down Stoke Poges Lane heading to the M4 and out of the Slough around 10:30am on Saturday.

Once in the comfort of my parents house and a good twenty two miles away from Slough, I caught up with events on Twitter and later watched uploaded footage on YouTube

It is a shame they had to protest in the town I now call home, but I was glad to see a large contingent of offices from Thames Valley Police and other local constabularies plus a great counter protest from anti fascists. To be frank what was the point, particularly with such a small turnout on a weekend in a relatively small town. I can only think it was chosen due to the proximity to London. While I am sure the EDL leaders made a point to highlight the diversity in the town and the fact that white population are now in the minority here. Speaking to the owner of 2 Geezers, the barber shop I use, located on the High Street, there were more anti protestors than actual EDL protesters. The police decided to close the road in the afternoon, so most businesses just shut up shop at 3pm and went home.

Rat Running

Being a local Slough boy, I like to think I know the shortcuts around town. Growing up down the road in High Wycombe, I spent many evenings and weekends in the local town of Slough. In particular as there is still no Hindu temple in my home town, this was the closed with a place of worship.

Driving home on Thursday afternoon, I listen to the radio and tend to tart around the stations working my way down from national to local. I switched to Time 106.6 which had a local news bulletin, directly after the main news. Lansdowne Avenue is to be closed to traffic from Monday 13th onwards. This would have an adverse affect on not just my journey to work but general journeys from the flat, to town or the supermarket. While I would never use the road to rat run, it was a useful shortcut to take out the Stoke Poges Lane traffic light crossroads. I just feel residents got annoyed with the amount of traffic and in many cases, people forgot it was a residential area, rather than a main route and never reduced their driving speed.

The impact for me is an additional few minutes on top of my morning commute, which includes a lifetime waiting at the lights at the end of Stoke Poges Lane. The signage went up last week but I did not notice it covered in black bin bags until later this week. How will they police such a closure, I do not know, unless they plan to actually block the road off completely, which is very unlikely. My answer came the next day, when signs were added and the red and white blocks were placed on the road.

Lansdowne Avenue

The Year That Was

The saying goes – what difference a year makes! This time last year, I had just been informed my job would transferred over to India within two years and that our existing contracts were being terminated to be moved over to a new third party provider. I was not looking forward to the new year, as I started 2013 with more fear than any excitement for the future. Life was going to be testing for the foreseeable future. Slowly things began to get worse before they got any better.

Over eighteen months I had built up a good friendship with many of my colleagues, including a small band, of like minded individuals whom happened to live in and around Slough. We got on very well and most importantly worked extremely well together. Surely enough though, with the news breaking just before Christmas of the forthcoming changes, many had decided not to wait on-board a sinking ship, instead almost on a weekly basis, we were saying goodbye to not just colleagues but people we called our friends.

At first I was keen to stay and show some loyalty but within weeks the atmosphere in the office changed and with a constant stream of people leaving, what little motivation remained was at an all time low. I had to find a new challenge, a new environment and most importantly a permanent position.

Rather than just focus on work, I know it takes up a big chunk of our waking hours. I thought it would be good to also focus on some of my highlights from the last twelve months. By no means as action packed as previous years (2011 or 2012) but plenty of highlights, including my recent birthday weekend in Barcelona. A long weekend away with the boys in Newcastle followed by a rush flight back to London to see Beyoncé in concert at the O2.

Beyoncé

In terms of my personal fitness, I started using a personal trainer – Errol for five months from January until May for twice a week sessions at EasyGym. My level of improvement over the the first half of the year was incredible and if I could afford to, I would have liked to have continued with these sessions. In the end, I left EasyGym, as I started my new job at CA with a free gym in the office. My fitness goal for next year is to lose one stone, with the help of MyFitnessPal and the purchase of a fitness tracker (waiting for the international release of the FitBit Force in February).

For charity, I raised over £300 for Movember in my second year of taking part in the event dedicated to raising money for Men’s Health. It was fun to be part of a group of 22 male colleagues, rather than just a handful in my department, as was the case at MS last year. I will not be taking part for the next few years, to give my face a break but also to stop harassing my friends and family to donate.

CA Mouchas

Gadget wise, the year started with me purchasing a Nexus 7 tablet and to be honest, I have never looked back. The device is used regularly throughout the evening as a second screen while watching television but also when out and about to guide us around a new place, or catch up on BBC TV via the iPlayer (now the Android application allows offline downloads). To say it has changed my life would be perhaps going a little too far but it has made a big difference. Plus being in a single laptop household, it enables me to quickly check things online or queue downloads without having to switch on the laptop and when my aging HTC Desire is just too slow and fiddly. The seven inch tablet has not completely replaced the laptop though. There are several things that I cannot do or rather prefer not to do on the tablet, such as banking. In terms of mobile, I am still yet to upgrade my personal mobile phone but did get a Samsung Galaxy SIII, even though it is my work mobile. I had promised myself the moment I got a permanent job I would go out and spend part of my first month’s salary on a new mobile. In the end I did not need to as I was able to order the Samsung Android device through my IT department. Although, initially I was provided with an iPhone 5, which I duly returned.

Television has probably for the first time beaten movies, as the number one entertainment source in our household. Suits returned for series three, which was better than series two. (For the record, I still have not identified the associate!) Something I thought would never happen. Other shows have continued to simmer along as usual, some with the difficulty of losing a major cast member. New shows on the scene have included Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD which I really enjoy, even if the target audience is the mid teen market. We finally got into Luther and watched all series of Sherlock back to back over the course of two weeks. Looking forward to his turn on New Years Day, even though I prefer Jonny Lee Miller in the titular role on CBS show Elementary.

Merry Christmas

Perhaps for the first time in thirty odd years I have lost most of the Christmas magic. However that does not mean I cannot wish all my devoted readers, both new and old a very Merry Christmas and a New Year!

Birthday Abroad

My dearest friend Pav has been lucky enough to spend many a birthday in his favourite countries throughout Europe. Being born in mid January does align with the winter ski and snowboard season. Lucky boy! Being born towards the end of year, has generally meant I have never had the option to go abroad. By the time winter hits the UK, most people have long used up their holiday entitlement, me included. I recall taking a phone call on my birthday from a friend and being told it was the second worst birth month after his own of February. (Talk about making me feel better!) However this year, thanks to Michelle, I was lucky enough to spend my birthday in Spain. My wife had organised a surprise visit to the Barcelona for a weekend away in what we hoped would be some sunshine. Of course it was not the complete surprise Michelle had intended as I needed to book some time off work and make my passport available. Nevertheless a fantastic way for me to spend my 32nd birthday and totally out of bag from what I had expected.

While we live a fifteen minute drive from Heathrow, the EasyJet flights were from Gatwick so we had a mini trek across London to make it to the airport. However, as we both had the afternoon off, we made excellent time leaving at 3:40pm and making it to the check-in desk of the North Terminal by 5:45pm. Our flight was not until 8pm.

La Sagrada FamíliaLa Sagrada FamíliaTeg

A wonderful weekend, with us able to pack in so much into a mere 48 hours. We did a little sight seeing, had a fantastic meal at the top rated restaurant in the city and were able to take a tour around the Nou Camp. I would like to add more to this blog but now, two weeks later, it is late and my memory is starting to fade. I hope I get the chance to fill everybody in on our adventures. I took almost 400 photos, so I should really make the FlickR set public. I will get around to it eventually – I promise!

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