Category: Job

Proud Landing

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.

Central London from the air

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.

Canary Wharf By Night From The Air, London, England.

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…

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!

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

Summer Evening At The Races

Believe it or not this was my first time at Royal Windsor Racecourse. My new employers had arranged a social night out and kindly invited me along. (I had been a last minute addition but thankfully they had a few spare spaces.) It bought back memories of going to Newmarket while on placement over ten years ago, when my employer (a medium sized law firm) at the time arranged a similar event. On that occasion it was Jools Holland performing up in the Grandstand but now Toploader in the paddock at the rear. (How the mighty have fallen…)

My colleague, Sam took a quick photograph with her iPhone which I have uploaded to share with everybody on FlickR.

Windsor Races

A Fresh Challenge

In your travels across this green and pleasant land, have you noticed office buildings? I am sure you have, we all have. Some are rather iconic, such as Downing Street as an extreme example. Sure this may be a home but it is also the office of the Prime Minister. I, like everybody else, have noticed these landmark buildings but in my case, I have with certain locations, wondered what it would be like to work there. Within a few years I was working in that building, either as an employee or visiting them as a client of my employer.

During my placement year, over a decade ago, I would drive cross country, from High Wycombe to Bedford via Aylesbury. Driving past a listed building just outside the village of Saunderton. I did not know this at the time but it was home of pharmaceutical giant, Janssen-Cilag. I drove past the building almost twice every day and wondered who was based there and what they did. They would move from the site in 2008 but just before hand, I had the opportunity to spend some time there, as they were a client for the agency company I worked for. Mission accomplished to some degree. I just found it fascinating to see a building and then some four years later have the opportunity to see inside.

Over a decade ago, in June 1999, on the day Pav passed his driving test, we drove to Winnersh to the Showcase Cinema to watch Star Wars Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. Having only had a valid licence for a few hours, we took a wrong turn and ended up on the A329 (M). A dual carriageway motorway for all intent purposes. We have missed the Winnersh turn off we drove down to Thames Valley Park got back on to the A-roads and made our way to the cinema. There would be over twelve years before I would visit TVP again but then for an interview at the Microsoft Campus.

As you drive past High Wycombe (junction four) of the M40 heading north, you will see some white office buildings just after the Asda superstore to your right hand-side. These buildings were originally owned all by Dun & Bradstreet but now there are multiple multinationals based in the complex alongside the original tenant. Just prior to my move to Newbury I was able to visit the offices of Janssen-Cilag, who for many years were part of the larger Johnson and Johnson group. They had sold off their office in Saunderton and relocated to these blush surroundings in Cressex, north of the town. I was lucky to get to have a look around the place on a client visit before moving onto a new job in September 2008.

Eight years ago driving back from Windsor to drop my friend Mel in Langley, we took an alternative route, which including driving over the M4. We drove past Computer Associates building, which I was keen to point out and I did wonder what it would be like to work there. Little did I know some eight years later I would be entering the park as an FTE.

A Bad Case Of The Mondays

My alarm goes off every week day morning at 5am sharp. I tend to actually get myself out of bed a few minutes later (sometimes up to ten). On this occasion, I just switched off my mobile phone alarm, rather than hitting the snooze function. (Actually it is a swipe up motion to snooze, swipe down to completely dismiss) I woke up at 5:45am and swore (quietly, so as not to wake my wife) at my DAB digital clock display. I was running late and I knew it! Now, I am sure to many people, 5:45am is probably anything but late, most of you are probably still sound asleep, knowing all too well that you have at least another hour (possibly more) in your warm bed. The concept of 5am probably is never on your radar. As a colleague once said to me, “There is only one five o’ clock in the day and that is hometime!”.

As usual, I rushed to get ready and after a quick breakfast, watching news on television and refreshing both the Metro and Daily Mail apps on my tablet, I went for a shower. I then headed out the door around 6:25am, I knew I was not going to catch my usual 6:35am service. In fact, by the time I walked to the station, I had watched the 6:47am service leave platform four. I had not fancied dashing for the train, when it was highly likely I would miss it. I then had to wait for the 07:04am service, the train I used to catch some two years ago and I believe I last caught this particular service was probably December 2011. As the sun was rising up to my right (the East) I decided to take a photograph with my aged HTC Desire and upload to my Instagram page (once in the office).

Sunrise

The only benefit on this occasion of catching this express service, it was one of the new trains (Adelantes) I took a seat at one of the tables and updated myself on the news via my Nexus 7. An excellent way to kill a train journey, even if it was less than fifteen minutes. However, we were kept waiting outside the station for a while before finally going through to platform nine. I rushed through to the main entrance, I usually skip the escalator and run up the stairs (missing one consecutive step in each stride to ensure speedy ascension). The place was rammed, it was 7:30am and I was in a long queue at the barrier. My season ticket does not scan. This the price I pay for a discount with my employer. The scheme is called Easit yet it is anything but easy! I then came up against some jobs-worth, who failed to believe, when I insisted that my paper season ticket would not scan and insisted I put it through the barrier. When it failed, with the usual “Seek Assistance” message, I smiled, before finally being let out. I knew there was a reason I usually fly through the station at 6:51am. I know, not to be late ever again. I then rushed out to catch my bus, to see it waiting at the stop, as I dashed across the road to the waiting bus, it signalled to leave and departed just as I reached the door. Touché, Stewarts Coaches have a timetable and they were going to stick to it and I have to respect their decision. Ultimately, if I had already been on the bus, I would not have wanted to be delayed while more passengers boarded. I resigned myself to the fact that next bus would be around in just over five minutes. In fact, the driver of the bus, was my usual driver for the 7:00am service (he had completed one circuit in the time it had taken for me to get to the station from Slough).

I settled onto the bus and switched over to the radio. I was ready to begin what would be yet another busy week in the office. Many people wonder why I get into the office before 7:30am each morning. I had answered my own question. Reading Station is quiet, my office is quiet (I am generally the first person to arrive not just in my department but probably the entire building). No further motivation was required, I would never leave the flat late again. The only benefit on this occasion had been the fact I had a meeting with the US team between 4pm and 5pm.

As soon as I was in the office, I put my frustrations onto the interweb, as we all do now. Posting on Twitter the annoyance of getting delayed and turning up at the office almost an hour later than usual. My dear friend Big Chris, responded later that afternoon. He agreed that there seemed no reason for the station to be so busy, the trains had been running without delay. Another of lives great mysteries forever to remain unresolved.

Big Chris Tweets

A Blessing In Disguise

Being a creature of habit, any change to my routine can have catastrophic consequences for the rest of my day. On Friday morning at 6:10am, I am usually in a good mood, having that Friday feeling spring in my step. The weekend is so close, you can almost taste it in the cold air of the Bath Road as I make my way down to the station. I am used to the odd train delay on our Victorian railway system but on this occasion, I was at the station much earlier than usual, so I was able to catch a different service, when I discovered my usual train had been cancelled. The only minor inconvenience is having to walk across (or in my case run) the walkway to platform four.

Depatures Cancelled

I got to a seat opposite a Sikh gentleman wearing a bright orange hi-vis jacket. Possibly a Network Rail worker, completing the upgrade to Reading Station. He was tired and fell asleep a few times with his head down onto the table infront of him. He woke up to ask me to wake him at Reading, when we stopped at Maidenhead. I forget to mention that this train was the local stopping service to Oxford, but even though it left a few minutes earlier than my usual train, it arrived a few minutes later, as my usual train service is direct! I followed his request and promptly awoke him just as we were going past the TVP buildings into Reading station. However, just prior to this, I realised I had left my train pass at home. It had fallen out of my jacket into my gym bag last night. Great! I would now need to buy a return to Slough. However, not the end of the world but not a great start to my Friday after already having my usual train cancelled. I went up to the barrier, seeing a familiar face whom always lets me through the barrier. Another long story which perhaps does not even need to be blogged but since taking up my company discounted train pass, my train ticket does not work in the electronic barriers. The price you pay for getting a discount on your season ticket, is the inconvenience of having to queue up and show your pass to the station master (how Victorian!). My Friday instantly got better, as I explained I had forgotten my pass, the old chap, just let me through, no questions asked. Could my day get any better? Unbelievably it would!

I text Michelle once I was in the office to get confirmation that my train pass was indeed in my gym bag and once we she had responded via e-mail, I felt much better. I tried to blag a lift from Slough based colleagues but they were not leaving until 5:30pm, over an hour later than I intended to leave. Sure enough, I would have to bite the bullet and buy a single to Slough for the handsome sum of eight pounds Sterling. The main thing was I had just misplaced and found my pass, I did not really want to have to request a new pass from the travel team and effectively pay again for three weeks of commuting.

Good news can arrive at any point in the day, for me it arrived at 4pm when my manager asked, “How long until you leave for the week, Andrew?” “About twenty five minutes…” was my reply!

The Power Of The Force

People are often surprised when I explain that I do not own a games console and therefore no longer play any form of video games. Their expectations of me fail to meet the reality and I suppose, being a geek I should have some gaming fetish of some kind. I do not. The days of spending hours, days if not whole weekends glued to a computer game for purely recreational purposes are well behind me. For the record, I was an avid player of Championship Manager. Let me clarify avid, I edited the player database, created myself as a player and took Arsenal on an unbeaten League run, was offered the England job and went on to win the European Championship in 2000 (playing in 1998) with myself scoring one of the four winning goals. There was a time in the mid to late nineties when I flirted with FIFA and shoot em ups, concluding with Return To Castle Wolfenstein in early 2001. The only notable resurgence was during my first year at University when I was given the original GTA to play. Many hours wasted on what at the time was a very simple game but highly addictive.

Personally I am glad those days are behind me and even if I wanted to play games now I would be struggle to find the time in the diary. Plus I know you schedule an hour, before you even glimpse at your watch or the clock, three hours have passed by. In addition to this, is the threat (although she refers to it as a promise) from my beautiful wife that she would rip the games console from the wall and throw it out the window, if she was ever to find me playing video games. (An Xbox 360 is unlikely to survive a four storey drop).

During Britain’s Got Talent last weekend, I watched an advert, which I thought could seriously tempt be back into gamer mode. (Although let the record show I was rarely any good!) We tend to watch Saturday night (and the majority of our television in fact) on a delay. The actual phrase I am well inform from those lovely people at Hummy TV forums is called ‘chase play’. On this occasion it was due to The Voice UK overlapping with the ITV show but in general we prefer to be able to fast forward through the ad breaks. Generally I rarely pay attention to the adverts, even though this is the most expensive slot of the week for advertisers. I stopped and reversed the recording to watch the official Microsoft advert for Stars Wars Kinect. Although this one below is much better!

I want one of those, particularly the limited edition R2D2 console. However I found the price (one morning this week in the Metro) at a staggering £350 which is just too expensive when the standard console is down to just over the one hundred pound mark. Even when you factor in the cost of Kinect and the Star Wars games, you realise how much of the fee must go down to the licence from LucasFilm. Nevertheless, the true power of Kinect is starting to be harnessed. I just love the idea of waving my hands around in my living room like a real Jedi!

Storm Troopers

The marketing department were well and truly in force at the office this morning and even though I did not get a chance to go and get a photograph with the Stormtroopers myself, Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi (actually Ben from IT but you get the Star Wars reference I’m sure!) was able to upload a selection of images to SkyDrive.

Storm Troopers

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