What do you think of when you hear those three letters? The BBC – The British Broadcasting Corporation. It does seem to conjure up images of the 1950s with men in their stiff suits and ties with a stuffy presence of the old boys club in charge of a public service broadcaster not only for the UK but around the globe. I have always been fond of the BBC. Something as British as cheese scones, strawberries at Wimbledon and Shakespeare. I do confess in my early teens, when I became a news junkie, I went through a phase of watching only Sky News. I hope I can be forgiven for my naivety at such a tender age, to not understand how news bias works. Sure the BBC can at times have a bias but it is more impartial than most. Plus I prefer the
Been attempting to plan a trip to the BBC Tour of New Broadcasting House for many months. Initially it was an idea for my birthday late last year but tickets seem to sell out fast and you need to book almost two months in advance, particularly if you want a choice in time slots. For Clive’s birthday I booked the BBC Tour for 10:45am on Friday 20th February, as a belated gift. It was a special birthday – he had only revealed his true age to me about two months previously and I had attended a celebratory dinner at The Peacock in Henton on Saturday 7th February.
Due to personal circumstances, I was quite sure that Clive would cancel our meeting in Central London and I would need to find another person (sixty plus) to take instead. However from the outset, he text me to not cancel the tour. This was not an option in any case, as tickets were non transferable and non refundable. As the day came closer, it was going to be the highlight of my week and even weekend. However it was to surpass all my expectations.
Waking up at 7am on a day off is actually a lie in for me, as I am used to waking up before 6am on weekdays to get into the office bright and early. I got ready and then headed to the train station, purchased my One Day Travelcard from the ticket machine and got to platform one with a minute to spare before the 08:32 service arrived promptly, to whisk me to Central London. From Paddington I took the Hammersmith & City Line to St. Pancras – King’s Cross to await the arrival of Clive on his first class East Midland service originating from Sheffield. The train was scheduled to pull in at 10:06am. Having navigated myself around the station and being aware where the East Midland trains were schedule to arrive and depart (upstairs) I headed to Starbucks for a large cup of tea. I was disappointed the member of staff whom took my order did not ask for my name on the cup. Although by pure coincidence the person in front of me in the queue was called “Andrew” but as he was ordering coffee (like 90% of the people around me) it was unlikely for our orders to get mixed up. I then made my way back up to wait for Clive and kept regular contact via SMS, while he probably had his fifteenth cup of complimentary coffee.
The train arrived early and I got off my seat to wait by the gates scanning all the commuters, looking for the 6 ft Mr. D. He arrived eventually and we acknowledged each others presence with a small salute. It was great to see Clive, for the first time since his birthday and the life changing news. I thought it best to clear the air and talk this through before moving on with our day. I had realised that I had not purchased a Zone 1 TravelCard for Clive, but thankfully had my Oyster Card which had plenty of credit for the few journeys we were going to make into the West End. The Tube Assistant app I had downloaded recently onto my HTC One M8 had a nifty feature to show which carriage is closed to the exit on your journey. Geoff will probably be annoyed but unsure if the Station Master app has finally arrived on Android. We made our way from St. Pancras to Oxford Circus which is just a five minute journey on the Victoria Line. We then had just a minute walk to be at the heart of the action. We were outside New Broadcasting House. Our tour was about to begin. First though we had to find the entrance. I asked a security guard in his high visibility jacket and was directed to the side entrance. We then had to go through an airport style security check of my coat and a full pat down with a magic wand by a security guard before we were given access to the building to join a long queue. We then had to check in and be given our BBC Tour lanyard. Our tour guides were Amita (also from Slough) and John. The group was a mixed bag with a handful of “adults” and then a teenage party who were all from a radio project at their secondary school but everybody was based in the UK. No language issues here.
While we waited, we could look into the bowel of the building. You will know this part of the building, you see if briefly at the start of every main news bulletin and on the hour on BBC News (formerly known as BBC News 24). This was perhaps the highlight for me, as I have always had a great admiration for everything the BBC does from a news perspective. Sure it is far from perfect but it is a news source, I and million others come to rely on a daily basis. Eventually our tour began and we were taken on a brief security briefing before being shown part of the live news from a big screen. Simon McCoy (he of paper ream fame) was presenting along side another presenter, whom I could not identify but will check the schedules. We were then taken to see The One Show studio, before being whisked across to the Radio Theatre to take part in a play. Clive volunteered to do the sound affects while a five of children took speaking roles. I recorded the video but hit the file limited, so will need to work some video editing magic to join the two clips together and upload to YouTube.
As we made our way through the 1930s art deco building, the former entrance to Old Broadcasting House, we were shown some memorabilia. One was the original microphone that would have been used by George VI for his “Kings Speech” during 1936. There was also the original speakers used by His Royal Highness to broadcast the first ever Christmas Message to the people of Great Britain and the Empire (now Commonwealth) in 1932. We were asked if anybody knew who had written the speech for the monarch – a member of the school group, a 16 year old boy responded with Rudyard Kipling – he was of course correct. We were amazed at his knowledge and when probed as to how he knew this information, he responded with the most confident line I have ever heard, “Well I’m an expert in the BBC”. Now just consider this for a moment. You are on a BBC Tour on BBC premises with staff with extensive knowledge of the history of the organisation and you come out with not just the answer to a question but the reason why you have this fountain of knowledge. I wish I had been as committed to the broadcaster at that age. The moment took me back, what was I passionate about now at the tender age of 33 – approximately 17 years senior to this intelligent young man. (Double the amount of time he has been alive). This is something to consider for another time.
Our tour ended with a brief interactive element – volunteers were requested, those whom had not taken part in the radio play. Two people to present the news from auto-cue and then after a brief training video from Carol Kirkwood on how to present the weather. Again I recorded elements of this and will upload to YouTube.
BBC Worldwide – the commercial arm of the organisation, never to miss a marketing opportunity had a small shop next to the cafe which is where the tour ends and we had a brief look at some of the merchandise before planning the rest of our afternoon. We had more than six hours to kill. Before leaving we decided to have a hot beverage at the Cafe Nero which lives opposite The One Show studio. The barriers had been erected now and there was a strong security precence, passes being checked. We opted to grab our drinks and sit outside to look out for any famous faces. Inside, Robert Peston was getting a drink and being on autopilot as I was but in a rather lower volume I said out “Robert Peston” to Clive but Robert noticed as he picked up his drink and turned around and smiled at me and then went back to his chair and his notebook. Sitting outside we spotted a number of people including Richard Osman from quiz show Pointless, Tim Willcox news correspondent (wearing peach trousers or jeans) and finally from BBC Radio 1 (a station I am now far too old to listen to) Greg James. Although I have to confess for Greg James I had to do some Google image searches to confirm he was indeed the person we saw walking out with his girlfriend to probably grab some lunch.
The original plan had been to head to the British Library so I carry out some research on my grandfather whom fought against the Japanese in the Burma Campaign of World War II. However on contacting the Asian and Oriental Studies department, no records of the Army Officer were found and I have been referred to India. The office in New Delhi have yet to respond to my e-mail but I am not expecting a reply. Particularly with a government department using GMail to host their e-mail account. We then went ahead with out follow up plan which was to explore St. Pancras Station and in particular the Grand Midland Hotel, now fully restored to it’s 1860s spender. Little did I know the exclusive afternoon we would have.
Do you remember the music video to Wannabe? Yes by the Spice Girls around 1996. The start of the video was shot here in the Victorian staircase of The Grand Midland Hotel. After walking around some of the corridors, we made our way down to The Chambers Club. Little did I know that this is where we would spend the rest of the having a late lunch, catching up with my good friend and mentor whom I have now known for over twenty years.
This blog post is dedicated to Diamond Geezer. Over the past thirteen years I have followed his daily posts covering various events and locations but predominately the things to see, hear and do in and around the capital. Of course he completed this tour back in May last year. His one image on FlickR is much better than my collection from my mobile and I have the utmost respect for somebody who has the ability to write a fresh post everyday and care to stay fully anonymous in our celebrity centric world.
The first month of any year does seem to last forever. Never been able to find the root cause, probably because we all try to start the new calendar year with a multitude of plans. Many people set themselves up for failure by trying to achieve too much, too soon and with little planning.
Trying to keep my goals attainable I want to focus on fitness and career as two distinct areas of my life. I had signed up for the Cancer Research UK Winter Run 10k with my colleague Rob to give me a target to focus for the near future. The race is tomorrow and I am disappointed to report that I have withdrawn forfeiting my entrance fee. Being hit by a chest infection which has kept me out of the gym for over two weeks, I was just not ready. Colleagues had made the case for just walking the course but that is not me! I wanted to run the full distance and give a good account of myself even smashing my 10k record from almost six years ago. My withdrawal while unfortunate has come after a great deal of reflection. Generally I always try to see my commitments through and I see this as a postponement rather a complete cancellation of my participation in runs in the future. Reviewing my gym workout card; I only made two sessions in January. The start to 2015 has not gone to plan at all but let us not lose sight of the bigger picture. Eleven months remain and while getting back on the wagon is difficult, the ultimate goal is consistency!
I must be one of those special human beings whom actually lost weight during the Christmas period. The main factor in this was just like the year before (2013) I had only the statutory days off. As my cousin Susan said so well many many years ago. Being in the office meant sticking to my healthy pack lunch rather stuffing my face with chocolates, sweets and snacks as would have been the case had I been home. Being a creature of habit does help! Last year I made the biggest change to my gym routine since I started taking training seriously (2008). I joined the Friday evening spin class and in doing brought my independent gym session count down from three to two. I had hit the 12 stone barrier and was finding it extremely hard to get below this mythical wall on my weighing scales. In January 2014 I had started to watch all my food intake with the assistance of MyFitnessPal with a weekly weigh-in on Friday mornings. While progress had been steady to begin with I had hit this plato point and needed to kick start the burn. While there are many lunchtime classes offered at my office gym, they do not suit my working schedule. Classes last forty five minutes and when you factor in the time in the changing room before and after, an hour plus. I opted for the Friday evening graveyard session starting at 5:45pm. While ever so tempting to leave the office with the majority my colleagues at 5pm, having to work a full sixty minute class at full pelt does make you feel you have truly “earnt” your weekend!
Keeping track of progress is much easier in our app centric world but not having access to the latest smartphone meant I just updated my stats over on DailyBurn (formerly Gyminee). However this can because quite the administraitve burden and towards the middle of last year I just stopped. I saw little point, particulary as the few friends using the service had also stopped, so the element of comradery and competition just stopped. Being a data person I am keen to get my hands on a fitness tracker to track as many dimensions to my workouts as possible. However the market is a moving target, with new devices released almost on a weekly basis. I have changed my mind on which device to purchase for the past year. Originally I had my heart set on the FitBit Force but it was withdrawn from the market place due to the strap causing skin rashes for some customers. The waiting game started for FitBit to release their next range of devices. My heart was set on the FitBit Surge which was only just announced for sale in UK in the past week or so. I have vouchers from my birthday for John Lewis to use up but the UK retailer has no information on when they expect to stock the device. I enquired in all available options – in person at both Reading and Oxford Street branches and via an e-mail to the Head of Customer Service. No wonder the High Street goliath is losing its way in the digital age. However after reading several in depth reviews I have opted to not make a purchase, even though the software and community were a big part of the decision making process. The product just will not fit in with my lifestyle. Plus I require the option to extend the capability of my device over time. Rather than having to wait to purchase the latest device eighteen month or twenty four months later. The final decision has been made. I am going to purchase the Garmin Vivoactive (plus the heart monitor) when it is released on 30th March. The device is a smartwatch with all the standard trackers but the real appeal is the Connect IQ API which will enable third party developers to write applications for the device. This will really open up the possibilities. All I have to do now, is wait. As you probably already know, with me, patience is never a problem.
My last two visits to the Emirates have been through the good fortune of winning competitions. Most recently on Saturday 15th September 2012, thanks to the wonderful ArseBlog (which I still ready daily and listen to both ArseCast and ArseCast Extra on a weekly basis while in the gym). I decided to take my Dad to his first trip to Arsenal and probably only the second live football match of his life.
The time before this was, Christmas four years earlier for (at the time I would like to add) the top four clash against Liverpool. I have not been able to attend in recent years and although did try to get tickets for the Newcastle match in early December, the allocation reserved for Red Members sold out within minutes. I have made it my personal mission to get to the ground (for a match day) before the season is out.
My last trip to Islington was the day after we won the FA Cup in May. A gloriously sunny Sunday we watched the open bus parade through the streets of North London on the outskirts of the ground. We arrived a little too late to get to the prime spot in-front of the Armoury but caught glimpses of the team on the bus as it drove from the Town Hall back to the Emirates. While I taken my fully charged camera, inadvertedly it has been left in my sister’s Golf at Wycombe train station, so had to make do with a few images from my Samsung Galaxy SIII. While my photos on my work phone automatically back up via wireless internet connection to my Google+ account, it is only this evening I have found the time to upload them to a FlickR set.
To be honest, I did not have high expectations of a self guided audio tour. I went to the cash desk, handed over my voucher and was told to just head over to the entrance. Before doing so I entered my name into the touchscreen to ensure I had my personalised certificate as evidence of my attendance of the tour. I was then asked which language I would like. As you can expect, Hindi was not available, so I selected English. I was given some brand new earphones. They were to be my ‘proof’ of purchase for the tour and I would need them later. However as you can expect they were hardly of the highest quality and I perhaps would have been better off using my own Sony earphones.
Following the few other people also on the tour, I was in the car park and heading towards a lift but opted to actually take the stars and start taking the first of almost two hundred photos.
For the first time, in what feels like an age, I have uploaded all 184 photos into the cloud, sorted, organised and relabelled as a full set on FlickR which I have now made public for the world to see.
For full disclosure I should also mention that I won a Savile Rogue scarf from a competition on ArseBlog back in late November 2013. I enter a range of competitions set by the Irish blogger, not just exclusively to win tickets to matches, but merchandise, books, posters, you name it! I have to say I have been lucky to win two in quick succession. Perhaps I need to stop entering and let other people taste a little victory!
As a young kid watching Back To The Future Part II at the UCI Wycombe Six with my family back in late 1989, the concept of 2015, seemed so far in the distance. When we are younger, are understanding of time has not quite fully developed and years and decades are difficult to comprehend. (Mainly from the fact we have experienced very few). I believe it is not until we are 13 (or 16) when we start earning that we appreciate that a certain amount of time and effort equates to a lump of sum of money landing in your bank account.
Happy New Year to one and all! Welcome to 2015. The year that promised us so much! Who knows what the future holds, but I intend to buckle up and enjoy the ride. Plenty to get done in the next three hundred and sixty four days, most of which will be documented here, along side micro blogging on Twitter, photographs on FlickR, the odd arty image uploaded and filtered on Instagram, plus anything worthy liked over on Tumblr. (I rarely post any original content on the Tumblr platform as I am far too old to be doing such things! I tend to just repost things I like but any suggestions on good sites to follow please get in touch) I have also recently joined Pinterest but not really made use of the social network just yet. I will keep you posted.
Best Wishes for the year ahead, I plan to make much more use of the blog this year, particularly with so many events in the planning already. Including tour of Emirates Stadium, weekend in Bucharest, stag weekend in Frankfurt to name just a few.
I should really publish my annual blog review report from JetPack each year, so you can see the most popular posts and comments on my blog. The overall summary is that after a poor six months, the second half of the year I kicked off and started to blog as often as I had when at the peak of my powers back in 2006/7.
Let me take you back just over three years, my first Christmas at Microsoft, I had booked off extended time over the holidays. My last day coincided with the Christmas night out in Reading, Thursday 15th December. It had just panned out that way with the Operations Team going out for a few drinks and exchanging Secret Santa gifts in Yates on Friar Street. It felt good to be working for a team that took these annual traditions seriously, even though I would have preferred the exchange to have taken place in the office. (Who wants to carry around a Christmas gift all night). In any case, it was a double celebration for me as I would not be back in the office until Monday 2nd January 2012. More than two weeks off, I was going to make the most of my time away, including New Year celebrations across the border in Edinburgh.
While trying not to give away too much information about my personal hygiene regime, I tend to shave Monday to Thursday mornings only. Allowing for a more casual rugged looked on Fridays, the dress down day in most modern offices. However, with the extended time off, I decided to stop shaving and for the first time in my life, grow a beard. The results were mixed to say the least. Some people loved it, others (including my dearest wife) not so much.
As if a long weekend break to the Scottish capital was not enough, a few days later I was off on a ski trip to Austria. I have to let you know the response received once I appeared to meet up with the extended group of friends at Gatwick Airport on the Saturday afternoon of our flight. (I had given a lift to Geoff and Foxy). Emily’s direct question to Geoff was, “Who is this tramp you have brought along with you?”. Now I can understand the reason for this negative feedback, their beard was hardly maintained to any satisfactory standard, either by myself or a barber. It had been a spontaneous decision, born out of the fact that I had no need to keep a professional appearance, I would not be at work for over two weeks. I wanted to see what it would be like to have a beard, particularly as my Dad has had a beard of varied length over the years. (Quite the fashion statement in the 1970s with his signature long hair, not sure if he was modelling himself on Des O’Connor or somebody else).
The response when back in the office on 16th January was again mixed, with many of my colleagues unable to recognise me under the hairy forest. Some people said it suited me, others were not too sure, preferring the clean smooth Andrew they had grown used to for the past four months. The experiment did not last that long, after five working days in the office, the beard was removed on Sunday 22nd January and in the process, I took five years off my life. The only evidence of the beard was on my train photo pass (which I have kept as a momento) and the photographs taken by my friends on the ski trip in Mayrhofen.
On Thursday last week, as it was the day of our Christmas Lunch at CA, I decided to not shave again and after seven days growth, thought it be good to take before and after photographs and let the blog reading public decide. Should not be hard, as I have about three readers in total.
About two days ago, I had reached the itchy phase and was constantly scratching my face, which is not a great habit to get into, trust me. My ex-MS colleague, Harps had recommended a barbers down Wexham Road that he uses, which would be the best place to go to keep my beard trimmed and tidy. We shall see. I may decide to grow the hair again, later in the year. Although feedback has been mixed, some colleagues love it, other colleagues, friends and even my dearest wife, believe I look much better rocking the clean shaven look. Plus it does make me look younger. Having said that on Friday evening, I was requested ID by the door staff at Browns in Windsor. Now, I know I have baby face features but there is no way I look less than twenty-one, even with the stubble.