Category: Blogging

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!

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.

Beside the Victory

At approximately 18:00 CET, I am 36,000 ft approaching the English coast, flying back to London Gatwick from my birthday weekend away in Barcelona with my wife Michelle. I had decided to postpone listening to ArseBlog Arsecast from Friday (recorded late on Thursday evening) until this particular moment. (A full blog post to follow in due course but I was enjoying a Real Husbands of Hollywood marathon on my Nexus 7) I had almost drifted to sleep to the hum of the Airbus A319 engine outside. Minutes later I heard my name on the mp3 player, while still in a semi conscious state. I had to rewind and listen again! Then I had to interrupt Michelle reading her magazine for her to hear the announcement as well.

The irony of this whole weekend is as follows. Last year I won a competition on the same aforementioned blog for tickets to see Arsenal play Southampton at the Emirates. The same opponents we played this weekend, on my birthday infact but I would be away in Espana. Being able to catch up on the scores later that evening via the BBC Sport app and BBC World news (which annoyingly but understandably no longer displays a clock on screen!)

On Friday afternoon my winning prize – an exclusive cashmere scarf from Savile Rogue arrived and I had to post a photo online. Many famous football faces such as Mancini and Delia Smith have worth their famous football wear.

Savile Rogue

Local Radio

Whenever I go to get my haircut at 2 Geezers on Slough High Street they are listening to local radio station Time 106.6. As you can probably imagine, this “All Time Favourites” local radio station has staple songs and by some strange coincidence they are always broadcast while I’m waiting to get my haircut. On Friday, I left work at 5pm sharp to ensure I got into town to get my haircut before they close at 6pm sharp. The last few attempts I have made to get my haircut had all ended in failure and my hair was now just a big mess and now desperately needed to be attended to. I knew I was unlikely to find the time on Saturday.

Perhaps the only time I appreciate commuting to the office by train rather than car as when I worked at Microsoft, I did not have to worry about parking my car and ensuring the ticket would last long enough. I park in the Herschel Car Park behind the High Street and it is just a short minute walk to the barbers. However, I was caught out on Friday 16th September when I got a parking fine for overstaying. Even though I had the change for two hour slot, I only bought an hour ticket. My mistake, I would never do that again but low and behold, a mere month later I was in the same predicament. However as all the lower decks are marked for Monday to Friday only I had to drive up to the sixth level and this was perhaps my saving grace. I had the change for a two hour slot but the machine would not accept five pence pieces. I was stuck. I paid for over an hour but only got an hour ticket (as I was ten pence short). While I waited in the long queue at 2 Geezers I resigned to the fact I was going to be getting another £25 parking fine.

Back to the local radio which played Yah Mo B There by James Ingram and Michael McDonald and 1980s hit Hold On by Wilson Phillips. Only when I go to get my hair trimmed do I go into a time warp of the last last thirty years.

Friday Review

Many many years ago, Friday would be my day to reflect on the week gone by and preview my maneuvers for the weekend. Unfortunately the reality of my hectic modern life, is I rarely find the time to blog, let alone review my week past and weekend present. Last Friday evening, while watching the appalling It’s A Wonderful Afterlife we had a power cut. It was around 9:15pm and we were only thirty odd minutes into this poor excuse for a comedy. Perhaps it was an act of God warning us to give up on watching this atrocious film. Michelle decided to go to bed, but after checking the Scottish & Southern Electric website (via my mobile) to confirm power cut across SL1 postcode area, I decided to wait for the power to return. It was going to be an hour or so. The power did come back around 10:30pm but went off twice again before finally returning for good around 11:30pm, over two hours after the initial outage.

This rare event got me thinking about how much as a modern society we rely on electricity. Coincidentally, Channel 4 had screen Blackout just a few days earlier, although I had not seen any of the episodes. In India the electric goes out as a matter of course, every day, if not every few hours. People get used to either having a generator or putting up with this reality. We in the West take these things for granted and like everything only appreciate when they are gone.

How was your week? My week was good, work was challenging but I made some positive achievements which led to a smooth delivery of reporting today. I had the luxury of being able to leave at 5pm sharp for the first time, perhaps since my first working week in late July. A great feeling considering I had stayed until 7pm the previous two Friday nights and other nights earlier in the week. Having a gym on site makes going for training beyond excusable, to the point I have blanked out gym sessions in my diary for three evenings a week between 5:30pm until 7pm. My colleagues, Jat and Robin are keen to get me back in the Les Mills Body Pump class on a Tuesday night, which leaves Friday as my only non-gym day. We did attend two to three sessions on the bounce in late July and early August but soon gave up once one of us were away on holiday or sick or with the feeble excuse of forgetting their kit. I try to get to the gym on a Sunday but even in the weekday evenings, the place is practically dead with just a handful of regular users. You never have to wait for equipment, even though this is hardly the most equipped fitness centre. There are four treadmills, three bikes, three rowing machines, three cross trainers and two stepping machines. Do not get me wrong, I am not complaining – my new gym here is completely free!

An extremely busy weekend ahead. Off to lunch tomorrow in Central London, a bit of shopping followed by the movie RUSH. Unfortunately it is not playing at any of the Odeon cinemas in the West End, so we will have to venture a little further afield. When we went to watch We’re The Millers on Saturday 25th August at Odeon Uxbridge, we were given some 2 For 1 vouchers, which are valid from today until 17th October. I saw the trailer for Rush a few weeks ago at my parents place. On their plasma television they have an app for CineTrailer. I thought I might ask Pav if he wanted to watch the movie, but Michelle had seen the trailer herself recently after going to the movies with her girlfriends last weekend and wanted to see it also. Date night done! I am going to try and record a hashtag on Twitter, so I can easily look back at all the times I ventured to the cinema. Generally in the past, I would look to my blog and perhaps Facebook as a secondary data source, to jog my memory. I have decided upon #cinematrip is what I will use and I wonder how successful it will be. With GPS enabled on my smartphone, all updates to social networks will record the cinema chain and location I visited. Time will tell.

Sunday I am going to hit the gym hard and then visit my family and newly arrived niece, Sienna. After a difficult first half to the year, purely from a work perspective, I am feel unburden to say LG. Life’s Good. I just hope I can do my best to keep it that way.

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