A last minute change of plan, meant I found myself booking a flight over to Prague for a business trip on Monday returning late Tuesday evening. My last business trip was almost exactly two years ago while working for Microsoft to the capital of Finland. I was travelling to the Czech Republic and unknown to me at the time, Holland would be playing them in European Championship Qualifier but I would be on my flight home as the match kicked off.
There is no greater feeling of pride than watching over the bright lights of the London cityscape as we fly down into Heathrow. We flew over Windsor and my office as we made our final approach to Terminal 3. I struggled to make out the building but I could see the Honda building, which is on junction 7 of the M4 and that gave me bearings to look in the right direction. While this was perhaps not as awe inspiring as my trip two years ago, I still felt an immense pride, a warm feeling of what it means to British. While the union may only exist for another nine days, I cannot let go so easily myself.
Months go past with little activity on the blog. I have to be honest, there has been little, if anything worth capturing in recent months. While a short holiday in Turkey may be worth mentioning, I still need to sort through the six hundred plus photographs, although most have now finally been uploaded to FlickR (although not ready to be shared with the public just yet). Summer and been and gone and as we head into September, life begins to return to normal. The train begins on the long journey to December, the end of the year, Christmas before a new year beckons. Where has 2014 gone? Seems to have passed me by without any such plan…
This was not how I had intended to end my weekend, driving back from Nottingham to Slough. My car broke down, just off the M69 as we were approaching the A46 outside Coventry. A call to Green Flag and a forty minute wait later, we were towed over to the nearby Tesco supermarket. It was nearly 8pm at this point, the supermarket long since closed but the petrol station was open and we bought some sandwiches while we waited. The car was going to be loaded onto a trailer and driven down to Slough but we had up to a 90 minute wait. It was going to be a long night. The truck arrived within thirty minutes and we were on our way home. We did not expect to be home before 11pm.
We had been in Nottingham for the 100th Birthday celebrations of my long term family friend’s mother. It had been a wonderful but tiring day and we looking forward to getting home at 7pm to prepare for another working week. It was not to be.
I went to see X-Men this lunchtime with Michelle at Vue Reading as a late birthday treat. Over a year since I have been to the cinema in the Berkshire town, last time was to see Fast Six with Pav. With regards to the X-Men franchise, I have always made poor choices, perhaps even today.
The original X-Men and sequel X2 passed me by and I did not actually watch the first until late into my first year at University. The second I caught during my placement year in 2002. My friend, Sippy was a big fan and I have to say the start of X2 is probably one of the best openings to a superhero movie ever. So having missed the boat, I decided to go and watch the third and perhaps weakest movie in the franchise in the cinema, in late May 2006. Perhaps I should not have bothered but it was good to finally see our band of mutants on the big screen after the two outings on the small screen.
Three years later, I went to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine with Pav at the same cinema on a Friday night at the end of April. Disappointingly Jackman was unable to pull off a movie on his own, he needed a good group of mutants to support him. While there was potential here, particularly the Deadpool character, it was a missed opportunity by Marvel. No wonder Fox decided to go back to the drawing board.
In 2011, I was too busy distracted by the plans for our wedding to actually go and watch X-Men First Class. I had dismissed the reboot, after two rather lacklustre movies, which I had spent good money on to see on the big screen. I did not want to be disappointed again. Later, I would receive the movie on Blu-Ray for Christmas and watch over the festive period and be completely blown away. The X-Men were back with a bang and the entire franchise, and not just been rejuvenated but re-set.
Roll forward almost three years and we were keen to catch the film at the cinema and not wait for the home video release. After watching Jackman, McAvoy and Fassbender on Graham Norton a few weeks ago, we wanted to see the movie, mainly because we could see how much fun the group had on set. My verdict, seven out of ten, it was good fun, entertaining but quite predictable in places and no way near as good as First Class. Maybe because they needed to cross pollinate the two cast groups to bridge a new timeline for the future movies. If there is one thing the studios love, it is a bankable movie franchise with multiple money making opportunities.
Feel I have been disconnected in recent weeks until my brother-in-law Steve streamed this video on his TV this afternoon. #PatelWilliams now that is just pure genius! Well done to Ali for another fantastic performance!
Many months since a blog post, making me wonder who still actually reads this blog and is it worth still investing the expense to keep it running (along with all my other websites). While I can continue to have a relative limit web presence for free by using Twitter and Facebook. (Although Facebook I tend to use less to publish and more to discover what is happening in my circle of friends and ex work colleagues.)
Time is flying and we are almost at the mid point of 2014. A World Cup Year. Perhaps for the first time for many years, I have little care for the fortunates (or lack thereof) of the England team. I have been tasked to set up the World Cup Sweep Stakes in our office and had the bad luck to pick Belgium. I need to spend some time this weekend, collating all the prize money and putting together a wall chart to display on the wall behind my desk.
On Friday 15th March, I made the decision to change my gym days and start to attend a weekly spin class at 5:45pm each Friday evening after work. My last spin class had been in September 2009. I returned as I wanted to have a single hour session to focus on cardio and spend my other two gym sessions on weight training / toning. While having to spend time at the office later than expected on a Friday, I felt the class was a good way of earning my weekend and potentially also come into the gym on a Sunday morning. The class is taken by Amber and there are usually a group of six guys whom regularly attend. I have to admit it was a struggle to start with, making sure the bike was set-up correctly. Three weeks were probably my bed in period but considering a few weeks when I have not been able to make the class, due to work commitments or having to be somewhere outside of work at a certain time. I do try and get to the class early and position my bike as close as possible to the single fan which is the only form of air conditioning in the studio. I finish the class with tired legs, a sore backside and dripping with sweat but perhaps not as much sweat as my colleagues. I know I need to push myself a little more and that came apparently on my most recent class last night. A late arrival meant the instructor came off her bike and walked around the room, increasing the resistance on my bike several times during the class, as I was making it look far too easy. The benefits are there for all to see, I have lost several pounds since starting the class in mid March. I am now close to 12 stone, and would like to get to 11.5 stone as my ideal weight. Remember at the start of the year I weighed in closer to 13 stone. I still need to invest in a fitness tracker but have yet to decide on what product to buy, with the FitBit Force still not available in the UK (having been withdrawn from sale from other markets). I am still using My Fitness Pal to track my calorie intake and Daily Burn to record my fitness progress each week.
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!
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.
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.