Oct 09

Japan Day 5: Hakone

Japan Day 4: Hakone

So today we said goodbye to Tokyo and escaped to the wilds of Hakone, a mountainous region to the south-west of the capital. First up, we said goodbye to our suitcases, sending them by the luggage transport system direct to Nagoya.

The we boarded a series of trains. First the underground line. Then the local train line. Then, at Tokyo station, we got on one of the famous Bullet trains, the Shinkansen. A very mean and pointy looking train! But very comfortable. Just over 30 minutes later we arrived at Odawara, to board a train into the mountains, then one further train, running on a single track system, with passing only at stations.

Japan Day 4: Hakone

Each of the latter two were older than the previous.
It deposited us in a place called Tonosawa, a small village at the start of the Hakone region. Here we’re staying in a traditional ryoken, Ichinoyu Honkan, established in 1630. That’s older than most countries!

Japan Day 4: Hakone

Too early to check on, we headed on further up the hill, by the old train, then a mountain cable car from Gora. The intention was to take the dangling cable car (which they call the ropeway) and head over and down to the lake, passing a volcano and with a possible glimpse of Mount Fuji in the distance. But it was not to be, wind and rain and grounded the cable car and we were stuck this side of the mountain. Well, we could have taken a bus, but decided, not today!

Japan Day 4: Hakone

Back down we went, in the pouring rain, to find a lovely little cafe in Gora, called Studio Cafe Shima. A shout out to them for being lovely, with brilliant wifi and a nice line in train cakes!

Japan Day 4: Hakone

More travelling down the mountain to the ryokan, to find out bags in the room, a view over the waterfall, the water heater on for tea and the outdoor bath filled with hot spring water, ready for a soak. Brilliant. We LOVE IT!

Japan Day 4: Hakone

Divide and conquer again. Sofia used the room bath, I went to the private bathing room. (not ready to try the public rooms!).

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Then it was to the hotel restaurant for the included dinner. There’s little other choice in the village. No matter, this was a multi-course feast. Tofu, tuna, boil your own meat in broth, dumplings, salad, pickled veg, rice, miso soup. Then crisp pear sorbet. Loved it!

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And I did dress for dinner! Then time to roll out the futon time to relax before we head for the busy days of the F1 ahead.

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One last thing, just to confirm, we have spent the day avoiding touching doubtful things!

Japan Day 4: Hakone

Today’s photos can be seen on Flickr
Day 4 post: Tokyo still
Day 3 post – Tokyo
Day 2 post – Tokyo
Day 1 post – Tokyo

Oct 08

Japan Day 4: Tokyo still

Japan Day 4: Tokyo

Our last full day in Tokyo. As I said yesterday, we were planning a split strategy. Sofia went off to the zoo to see pandas and then to an out of town theme park to see Hello Kitty! I carried on in town. First up, the Tokyo National Museum, to look at the history of Japanese art and artifacts. An interesting overview, with some great quirky things, such as the terracotta grave statues which I wasn’t allowed to photograph. Or one of the very early editions of The Tale of Genji, the ‘first novel’. (by early, think it was 13th century)

Japan Day 4: Tokyo

By the way, cute. The Japanese appear to love cute. Everywhere has cute mascots etc. Here’s the museum ones.

Japan Day 4: Tokyo/

Then back down to Ginza, where I treated myself to sushimi. Not worth trying this with Sofia, as sushi and sushimi definitely not on her list. Again, I saw how pretty cheap Tokyo food can be, paying 1700Y for lunchtime fixed meal, of sushimi (prawn, tuna, salmon and other stuff), miso soup, rice, pickled vegetables, something with noodles and savory egg custard.

Japan Day 4: Tokyo

Then a wander round the Imperial East Gardens, the only part of the palace grounds you’re allowed to access. One of the challenges I’ve found is trying to understand the history of the place, as the signage, although much of it in English, does not seem to explain what things were or how they realte. this was true in both the museum and in the gardens. It wasn’t until nearly the end of the walk that I worked out that there used to be a HUGE palace in that area.

Japan Day 4: Tokyo

And I also saw my first Japanese style toilet. I’d read about them, but not seen them, until now. Thankfully for me, the bathrooms also had the western style ones too!

Japan Day 4: Tokyo

Back to the hotel, for relaxing, doing some washing and organising our luggage forwarding. We’re off into the mountains tomorrow and packing light. The luggage is going directly to Nagoya.

For dinner, we again stuck to local, heading up to the alleys around the Shenzi temple. After being refused service in one small restaurant (we think they were closing, it could just be they did not want to deal with English) we found somewhere that served up the Japanese omelette style of food, which I had with the deep fried pork cutlettes. Very tasty!

And that’s it for Tokyo. We’re here at the end of the holiday for one further night, but only limited sightseeing.

Today’s photos can be seen on Flickr

Day 3 post – Tokyo
Day 2 post – Tokyo
Day 1 post – Tokyo

Oct 07

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan, Day 3. Today was a day built on changes. The original plan was to visit a bunch of museums, all around Ueno Park. The problem was that neither of us had properly read the guidebooks and failed to realise that they all close on a Monday!

We first of all wondered through the Ueno Park, visiting some of the multiple temples that are present in the area.
Benton-do is built on an island in a pond, a pond completely filled with Lotuses. (if you know me, you’d know that I was disappointed that these weren’t the car variety). This temple is dedicated to the goddess of the arts, wisdom, the sea and the protection of children.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

It’s a temple with the same plan as all the others. Purify yourself with washing, wave the insense smoke at yourself, ring the gong, pick your fortune. The fortunes are apparently multi-lingual, so Sofia decided to take a chance – and ended up with good luck all round. To ensure this happens, she followed the plan and tied it to the washing lines.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Next stop was Kiyomizu Kannon-Do. This appears to be one of the real old ones, never rebuilt, inlike many of the others. It’s dedicated to women wishing to conceive, who would leave a doll here, a doll that would be ritually burnt every 22nd September. No photos were allowed of the temple, but it did have the best purifying dragon-statued fountain.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Plus this brilliant circular tree, looking over Benton-do.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Also, why do they tie bibs onto statues? They can’t be that messy eaters!

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

We finally wandered far enough to see the museums. And to realise they were closed. so a quick replan needed! It’s a good job we had our walking shoes on, we decided to hit another road passing through different neighbourhoods.

First up was Kagurazaka, what was formerly the geisha quarter and is now a brilliant set of small streets, with lots of restaurants and interesting shops. We managed to pick a lovely Tempura restaurant for a quick lunch (and cheap! so far, we’ve not being paying too much)

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

We made a stop at the Yasukuni Shrine which had a completely different atmosphere to others we have seen, a lot more serious.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Then we headed into the centre of town, crossing over 2 of the 3 moats that surrounded the Imperial Palace. The final moat is not crossed on a Monday, I’ll have to come back tomorrow.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

oh..we also saw a turtle!

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Then down towards Tokyo station and then Ginza, the major shopping street (think Oxford St crossed with Bond Street). Sofia was most impressed with the 6 storey Uni Qlo store (we did not pop in to shop).

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

After a LOT of walking, time to head for dinner. The guidebook pointed us towards a restaurant that was listed as French-style yakitori. Unfortunately, it no longer seemed to be there, having changed to being pure French. Never mind, it was pretty busy for a tucked down an alley restaurant, so we just went French…and it was great!

Heading back, you can tell it was a working day. The streets were definitely full of ‘salarymen’ either head down charging for home, or wandering slightly worse for wear after a few after work drinks. A change from the last couple of evenings.

Questions still to be answered – why are so many people wearing face masks. Are they worried about catching something? Or is it the polite thing to do if you have a cold? I definitely think the latter could be applied in London.

Secondly, every time we pass certain supermarkets, there are a row of men reading the magazines, just standing there. It seems to be accepted. Are they reading comics? Manga? Porn? A combination?

And that was today, day 3. Tomorrow is our last day in Tokyo and we are planning a split strategy. Museums for me, Hello Kitty for Sofia!

Today’s photos can be seen on Flickr

Day 2 post
Day 1 post

Oct 06

Japan Day 2: Tokyo continues

An early awakening, 6am, but nothing earlier than usual. So jetlag appears to not be hitting too hard today. First up, the hotel breakfast. Rice and meatballs and miso soup. Plus coffee and chocolate bread.

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Today was going to be a fairly light day. We caught the tube over to Shibuya to take a look round the shopping district there. One lesson learnt is that they stand on the wrong side of the escalators here, on the left hand side and you pass on the right. All very confusing.
It was easy to keep to the main shopping streets, they were the ones that were playing music from the loud speakers. Outside the main station was Shibuya Crossing, supposedly the model for the Oxford Circus crossing. Not sure what the fuss was about, it’s just a huge street crossing, but the Starbucks above it is great for people watching.

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

You have the girls in the typical costume of long socks and shorts (or short skirts). And men who would fit right in with the Shoreditch Hipsters.

Add a sprinkling of Western tourists, definitely a minority amongst the tourist population of Tokyo and the occasional women in traditional Japanese dress.

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

Shibuya shopping district is full-on on-trend stores, record shops and just loads of tiny boutiques. Plus the occasional multi-story amusement arcade, with grab-a-toy by the dozen along with photobooths of all descriptions.

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

We then started to wander over towards the Rappongi district, through more residential areas. Dotted throughout the streets are vending machines, such as this heavily sponsored set. Most are standalones though. And despite the theory that you can get almost anything from vending machines here, we’ve only seen ones for cigarettes and drinks.

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

Once at Rappongi we found our destination, a pub to watch the Formula 1 from Korea. However, instead of watching in the local language, by some technology miracle, we watched Sky tv. At least I think it was Sky…could have been a mild hallucination after I tried the snake venom drink :-)

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

Finally, heading back home, i got my first try of local food. A restaurant called Komagata Dojo, which has been there for over 6 generations in the same family. Dojo are small, eel-like river fish that are served in all sorts of way. The house specialty first cooks them in sake, then miso broth and then finally at the table, where they are heated over the table stove, with spices, sauce and loads of spring onions. Very, very good. We learnt the hard way that you don’t give tips here..as the waitress ran after us down the road to hand us back the 500Y coin and then was very surprised and very, very thankful we had left it for her. We’ll avoid that then! (She totally deserved it, was very very good and showed us all the things we needed to do to prepare the dish)

So that’s day 2. Another easy evening before we go mad and hit up a whole load of museums tomorrow.

Food at Komagota Dojo

For the full set of photos, See Japan Day 2 on Flickr

Sep 29

The London Marathon

You know, some things seem like a good idea at the time. Way back in April, before I’d ever run my first race, the ballot for the 2014 London Marathon opened and the proceeded to close pretty quickly. 125,000 people signed up for the possibility of 25,000 places in the London Marathon. I was one of those who signed up, more as a speculation than a certainty. I had no idea if I could run a 10k race, never mind over 4 times that distance. There was also no chance I’d get in, the web is full of mentions of people who did not at their 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc attempt. It’s not a straightforward 1 in 5 chance, they apply some assessment as well, so most chances are low. The ballot is one of 4 ways to get into the race. You need to be invited/be elite – that means they could be paying you for the entry, as these runners attract the media. You can be good for your age, getting a qualifying time at another marathon. Or you can go for a charity place, committing to raise at least £1800 (that seems to be the going rate) for the charity of choice.

You’re guessing the punchline already. I got in. With all the odds stacked against me, I got in. Which was a shock, to be sure. My sister, whom I entered as well, did not get in and she’s not sure whether to be upset or happy she didn’t – fitting in the training will be a problem. I’m the same. Happy and astounded one minute that I’m going to be running in one of the biggest events of the year; terrified and wondering what I have let myself in for.

However, I’ve paid my money, I’ve committed to setting off for the 26.2 miles on April 13th next year. I’ve committed to 6 months training to up my distance from a half to a full marathon through the cold winter and dark nights. The fitness journey continues.

Meanwhile, one consideration I need to make is if I’m going to raise money for a charity or not. So far, that’s not been done. I decided I needed to focus on running rather than money raising for the races I’ve done so far. But for the London Marathon, I’m considering my options – it is the biggest fund raising event in the world apparently. As you look through the websites of the charities, you see that there is a huge competition for fund raisers, with different packages on offer by the big charities. These usually consist of training support, a vest for the run, a pre-race pasta party of some kind and a post race feed and massage. this is why I assume that as well as committing to raising money, charity places often have to pay an admin fee to cover these extras. So do I raise money? And who do I choose? Questions to ponder.

Sep 11

Meeting the challenge

Way back in January, I took at look at my ambitions for 2013. One f them, in typical New Year fashion, as a physical change. I’d tried before, and failed, but hoped that by adding another dimension to my tracking would make a difference. And it absolutely did. Using the Fitbit, Myfitnesspal and a long term goal, this year has been one of physical change.

On 8th September 2013 I ran a half marathon in an official time of 2 hours, 16 minutes and 18 seconds. If you have known me at any time over the last 20 years, you know that me doing that is a minor miracle! I don’t run. I have never really run and even at my fittest, when I never ran.

Ready #rttb Run to the Beat

But running is the easiest exercise to fit into the day. It’s also the easiest way to meet my step target that the Fitbit sets. So I started, In January, with a Couch to 5k programme, finding it hard to even run for a minute. If I was going to be doing this running, I set a goal, entering the Run to the Beat half marathon, that a friend from work had completed in 2012. My sister also entered – so now the challenge was on.

It’s 9 months later. I’ve tracked 3,464,503 steps on the Fitbit. I’ve tracked 419,289 calories eaten, 573,251 calories used. I’ve lost fifty pounds in weight. And I’ve ran a half-marathon in a not too bad time for my first ever race of that distance.

The targets have been met…now to keep it going! New challenges and goals to set, to keep me focused. have I mentioned I’ve entered the ballot for the London marathon?

Mar 21

2013 Week 10

2 Mar to 8th Mar

After the quiet of last week, this week was a little more exciting.

Reading

Doing

  • Went shopping! Yes, not that much of a strange activity for most, but for me to volunteer to go shopping with friends is very, very unusual. It was all to do with getting out and trying on some new sized clothes, as I appear to have lost about 2 dress sizes so far this year. (well, at least in some stores). Bought one top, but had a great time trying things on, then drinking fizzy stuff, which is the only sensible way to finish off a shopping trip
  • Work dinner at BAFTA, A chance for the senior team to get together and let our hair down a little, even if it was a Monday night. A lovely full service dinner was pulled together plus a few drinks. A few of us even ended up in the Ritz, some place I’ve always wanted to have a cocktail in, even given the slightly large price! I was sensible and went home relatively early, others were not so and ended up not very well the next day!

    Cocktails at the Ritz

The rest of the week was the usual round of work, a bit of gym, and that’s about it! I was saving myself up for the next few buys weeks I think.

Mar 20

2013 Week 9

Sat 23rd Feb – Fri 1 Mar

You’d think i could do this, wouldn’t you. One post a week, that’s all I need. But no, I end up doing other things over the weekend and then at work time and the one post gets left behind until major catch up sessions like this one! So what did I do way back at the end of Feb?

Reading

Not a lot. I have no saved links for this period, so it must have been quiet!

Doing

  • The weekend was spent washing, tidying and sorting things out after a week away. And sorting out all my photos to organise the F1 ones into teams. One of those non-exciting housework weekends.
  • The rest of the week was fairly quiet too. Well, except for being a person down in the team,, so we were covering that work. And I was finalising a slight re-organisation of the team. And I was reviewing the interview results from the previous week, where the first round interviews for my replacement person had been taking place. We decided who to invite back and set them a brief to respond to, concious that by doing so, we probably compromised their next weekend!
  • On the Friday, I went along to ‘An Evening with Joe Saward‘ who’s an F1 journalist. It was set up as a Q&A session where the audience just threw out questions and Joe answered and told stories based on his long experience with the sport. It was interesting how different the crowd was to the other regular F1 event I go to (#badgerbash, more on this later in the year) with the audience being primarily mature men with very few women. I think that’s a result of who the journalist is.

Well, that was a quiet week (outside of work!).

Feb 26

2013 Week 8

A quick follow up to catch up the weeks.

Reading

  • Fitbit talks about tracking and privacy. I’m using a Fitbit and I love it. Just wearing it makes me think about being more active, to climb the stairs instead of the escalator. As mentioned in the article, the ecosystem is great and I hope increased competition does not restrict this.
  • A comment on whether Silicon Valley really is a meritocracy or if that’s just the white male view. The concept of privilege is not going away, nor is the vastly different perceptions of it.
  • Moshi Monsters and why kids love them. Yep, building a new kids property is hard. Moshi pretty much nails it
  • Why Americans are WEIRD. A challenge to the accepted wisdom that people’s behaviours and perceptions are fundamentally the same, based on biology, so using western (and primarily US) people for studies would apply worldwide. this research shows that is not the case and Americans are often one of the most outlying of groups

Doing

  • HOLIDAY! yes my first holiday of the year. Now, most people would not call what I did as a holiday, but I enjoyed it. It was a trip to Barcelona to watch the F1 testing. So every day, travel up to the circuit and sit and watch cars go round for 7 hours. In the freezing cold and occasional rain. Then back to the city for tapas and red wine. A lovely week and one that is planned for next year too!

    2013 Barcelona F1 Testing Day 3

  • Forgot to add this for the last week entry, but I have completed a further 2 stages of the LOOP walk. Over the two weekends, I have travelled from Bexley to West Wickham Common. Three sections done, 21 to go!

    Walk the LOOP 3  -Petts Wood to West Wickham Common

Jan 03

2013: Change, Connect, Challenge

So yesterday, I took a look back on the mixed bag of 2012. But am I going to do something different in the upcoming year, or just let the world drift on as it is and see what happens. As you may guess from the title, the answer to that is no. 2013 HAS to be a year of difference, where work is put in and I don’t just enjoy what life brings.

I’ve decided to think about #themewords for the year. Many of the people I admire have been using this for a few years, whether it’s just the one like Tara Hunt or 3 words, like CC Chapman or Chris Brogan. Thinking of themes and words makes you contemplate the year, what you want to get out of it and clarify your mind. And writing them down, sharing them with the world, makes it more likely that you will follow them through (or so said the psychologist on BBC Breakfast this week :-) )

The words are straightforward, but what do they mean for me?

  • Change: Looking back over last year, there are many things that need to change. far easier to say, so my focus has been on methods to drive the change, through small, easily adopted methods. This is not the rip it all up and throw it away kind of changes I am looking at, but ways to take behaviours and techniques from areas of my life that work and apply them to others.
  • Connect: As I said yesterday, my default mode is hermit. I’d rather be home reading than out partying. But that means I am losing connections with family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. I need to bring that back together and maintain those connections, or reconnect where they have been lost.
  • Challenge: Or this can also be challenges! I need to change what I’m doing. I need to get others to challenge (positively) what I am doing. And I need challenges to motivate me to do things.

Change, Connect, Challenge. The theme and underlying philosophy for what I will do this year, across the focus aspects of my life. But what does that mean in some practical terms?

Physical

Measure, measure and measure again. I’m no stranger to the idea of the quantified self, but the reality has mainly been location check-ins rather than physical measurements. I’m very good at location check-ins, it is a habit that is now ingrained – my 569th check-in at the office this morning definitely proves that. Knowing what I am doing by measuring makes me think more about the actions and allows me to change things. if you don’t know, then there is little you can do to change. When I’ve tracked activities and calories in the past, it works to change things, but the practice stops and then the behaviours drift away. I know that measurement is a key driver for me to permanently changing exercise and eating habits… so to make the bigger changes, I’m going to be focusing on a smaller change of extending my tracking behaviour.

This starts with the purchase of a Fitbit (partly funded by the Christmas voucher I got from work) to track the everyday activity. Add to that Runkeeper (for runs and walks) plus MyFitnessPal (for food/calories) that is giving me enough tracking – and more importantly reminders to phone and email – to keep me focused.

It’s not quite enough though. I’ve switched gyms, so it is now about 2 minutes from work (instead of the 15mins it was before). But more importantly, I have a gym buddy who has also signed up and we will be encouraging each other. That is a big change and should work to keep things going and help change habits.

Relationships

This is all about driving the connections. Picking up the phone more – so simple things like putting in reminders if all I’m only connecting over social media!! Getting out and about more when there are things going on. And I’m trying internet dating; I’ve had mixed reports from colleagues about this, but I may as well give it a go.

Career

I’m in my 3rd year in this role, with the 4th one heading rapidly towards me. it’s time for a change I think. Not a massive change, but I’m looking to try a few new things this year and have been talking to the management about opportunities. I’m going to be actively looking for speaking opportunities as well, to get back into that and build up a wider reputation. I know I’m good at what I do, I will be looking for occasions to get external recognition for it.

This year, I’m also going to be a mentor. I’ve been informally doing this with a friend over the last few months and now will be adding a formal mentor relationship through a group company initiative. Through a ‘Women’s Leadership Network’, they’re bringing women together across the wider group of IPG companies to support us in our careers. This brings in challenge – part of mentoring is challenging your own expectations and assumptions as well as the mentee’s, so that will be fun.

Experiences

There’s no Olympics this year – so what am I going to do! I’m already working on this. I’m going to be visiting Japan for the F1 and I can’t go all the way there without doing other things as well. I’ve set myself the challenge of completing the London Outer Orbital Path (or LOOP). Another challenge is to visit all of Wren’s churches in London. There’ll be more, I’m sure.

2013 ahead

So that’s it. Again, no resolutions, but this time a different way of documenting my ambitions and about how I frame my thinking for the year. Change. Connect. Challenge. It’s all about that.

Jan 02

2012 Review

How was 2012 for you? For me, it was pretty good – although not so good for some of the people around me who faced their own set of hard challenges.

But taking a look back at what my ambitions for the year were, they were not as successful as they should have been. For some of them, I over achieved…but for others, didn’t really even scratch the surface. I’m not going to go through each point, but going to take a larger view, ready for this year’s ambitions – splitting up my aspects of life into Physical, Relationships, Career and Experiences.

Physical

This started to so well, with consistent training to get myself ready for the Sports Relief 3 Mile run. I gathered the sponsors and prepped the body and ran up and down the Mall for 3 miles. That’s probably the longest I have run since cross-country at school. But then, it stopped. No goal, no driver, so back to bad habits. The occasional gym session, the occasional long walk, but not consistent, so no sustained change made. It’s not as though I don’t know how it all works, just not got the motivation!

Relationships

Reflecting on this over the holidays, it was definitely a poor year. And not just on the dating front (dating, what’s that?). I let family and friend relationships wane at times without putting enough energy into them. Because I was too busy at times doing other things – see the experience section! Also because my default at times is to be hermit like.

Career

A holding year. Carried on as usual, although some team members changed in my direct team, the peer group stayed pretty much the same. On a wider front, there was an occasional TV or press appearance, but again, quiet and low-key.

Experiences

Lots and lots and lots. Mainly Olympics! Think I’ll do another post with a full review of the activities I did get up to this year. I did not get a volunteer role, despite being on the reserve list all the way to the Games but made up for it by buying lots of tickets for Olympics and Paralympics.

The 2012 Ambitions

This is what I said I was going to do over the past year. Some worked, other’s didn’t.

  1. Consistently do exercise. This needs to be built into my daily activity. I’ve reactivated my gym membership – a work benefit – and am getting support through Twitter. This used to be easy…now too many things get in the way.
  2. Do 6 planned walks over the year. There’s a great book about walks around London, with the Capital Ring also looking good. A few more of these to be added this year.
  3. Visit 5 new UK places. I’m running out of close Cathedrals, but still got Bath on the list to do.
  4. Do 5 new experiences. No idea what this will involve. Hopefully it will include volunteering at the Olympics. I’ve had my first interview, just waiting to hear if I get accepted.
  5. Blog more. I’m in my 6th year of blogging and I don’t do nearly enough!
Jan 15

Playing the tourist

I decided to take a day playing tourist around London yesterday, something I do often other places, but rarely around the town i live in. The day started with Westminster Abbey. At £16 entry, it’s not cheap and unlike StPauls there’s no right to re-entry across the year, it’s a one stop deal. It’s expensive and only going to be worth it if you like wondering churches a lot! However, if you take the plunge, I recommend paying the extra £3 for the guided tour. You get over 90 minutes with an expert and get to go in places the other tourists don’t, such as under the rood screen and, prbobaly most interesting, into the shrine area of St Edward the Confessor. My biggest disappointment was that we could not take pictures at all inside the Abbey. You can buy postcards, but that does not work if all my other cathedral collections are digital!

London in Jan

Next was lunch at Asia De Cuba, in the St Martin’s Hotel. It’s not somewhere I’d normally go, but they were cooking at A Taste of Christmas and pushing their fixed price lunch – very good food, lovely surroundings.

Coconut Explosion

The National Gallery was next, to spend some time in my favourite room. If I was only ever allowed to see one gallery room again, it would be this one, Room 34. It has Whistlejacket by Stubbs dominating and is full of masterpieces from Turner, Gainsborough and Constable. A wonderful place. I also went to stare at the Ambassadors for a while.

The Ambassadors

Then across to the Savoy hotel for a cocktail. It’s one of those things on my list of ‘you must do this’. Great cocktail, gorgeous surroundings, brilliant staff and obscene prices. I’ve done it, but won’t be rushing to do it again – unless i win lots on the lottery. Then I’d buy a glass of their cheapest champagne (£17) and their most expensive (£162) and and see if I can taste the difference!

Final event of the day was my first trip to the National Theatre, to see A Comedy of Errors with Lenny Henry. I loved this, an engaging production in a modern setting. Shakespeare can be difficult to follow (I’d read up on the plot before hand, just in case) but all the players really brought the story to life. I really need to go to the theatre more, given I live in a city which has loads of productions. This is the first show I’ve seen for years.

In summary, a brilliant – if expensive – tourist day. I need to plan more!

A Comedy of Errors

Jan 02

Past and Future 2012

Time to look back and look forward again. So how did I get on with my ambitions for the last year?

So here are the 2011 ambitions.

1. Lose 1 stone. Again, not a huge target, but it’s achievable with minimal changes. I’ve got the iphone apps all set up, with Shapeup for food tracking and Runmeter for walking/running tracking and I’m writing up my exercise plans.

  • It worked…for a while. The training was happening, the food was being tracked and then it all stopped. I got a cold and a chest infection and was not able to do anything much for nearly 2 months…then I never picked it up again. I need a support structure to keep the motivation going.

2. Do 6 planned walks over the year. Last year, I did 3 group walks, which I found a good way to get some exercise and meet new people and just get out and about!. So I’m going to double that number, through a few walking groups in the areas.

  • I just about managed this. Petworth, Kinver, Canterbury to Whitstable, Boston, Cheddar Gorge, Brean Down and Southampton. Not all of them were long, but they were out and about.

3. Visit 5 new UK places. Another repeat, but just carrying on with the theme of cathedrals. I’m thinking at least Canterbury, Bath and Chichester..we’ll see about the others.

  • I did more foreign cathedrals than UK ones, but I managed the new UK places. Canterbury, Whitstable, Southampton, Petworth and Chichester.

4. Do 5 new experiences. The first is getting set up, a driving experience at Silverstone. I’m looking at Burlesque dancing classes, cooking classes and a few others, but open to suggestions!

  • I did the driving experience, in fact I ended up with 3 different varieties of them this year. Single seater around Silverstone, driving Mercedes on skid pans and being a passenger in a dragster and race car in Abu Dhabi. I went to Goodwood Revival and spent an afternoon with VIP treatment in the Paddock Club at the German GP. I went to a pop festival and a classical conference; cycled along the Santa Monica beach in LA and had a cooking lesson. I went to 4 GPs, explored Prague and Istanbul. I camped – 3 times! A great year for doing things :-)

So how about 2012. What are my ambitions for this coming year. Well, first of all, I’m repeating last years. Why not, they make a good base for the year.

1. Consistently do exercise. This needs to be built into my daily activity. I’ve reactivated my gym membership – a work benefit – and am getting support through Twitter. This used to be easy…now too many things get in the way.

2. Do 6 planned walks over the year. There’s a great book about walks around London, with the Capital Ring also looking good. A few more of thise to be added this year.

3. Visit 5 new UK places. I’m running out of close Cathedrals, but still got Bath on the list to do.

4. Do 5 new experiences. No idea what this will involve. Hopefully it will include volunteering at the Olympics. I’ve had my first interview, just waiting to hear if I get accepeted.

5. Blog more. I’m in my 6th year of blogging and I don’t do nearly enough!

That’s all. I know it’s more of the same, but they work for me.

Jun 02

Motorsport at the Palace

I like F1, a fandom that has crept up on me over the last few years, but my experience of in-person car events has been limited to work related trips, the Paris Motor Show (which was far more shiney than any tech show) and a McLaren F1 test day at Silverstone (the benefit of working for a sponsor at the time).

However, this past weekend, there was an opportunity to change that, with Motorsport at the Palace, a sprint event being held for the first time in Crystal Palace for the first time in 10 years. It’s a timed event, run over a short course open to cars of all kinds, from a 107 year old Humber through to this year’s Tesla, an all electric car. The crowd in general skewed older than the average tech event I’d usually go to, but perhaps with a similar gender ratio. There were a lot more families though, many of them Dads passing on their passion. I had a great time, so looking forward to my next trip to something similar.

The Humber, built in 1903. Definitely a case of sitting ‘on’ the car.

Crystal Palace Sprint Racing

The Tesla, 2010. Many, many comments overhead in the crowd about this, mostly astonishment at its acceleration without any noise at all, except wheel spin.

Crystal Palace Sprint Racing

May 11

A Media Circus

With all the political shenanigans, I thought I’d wander down to Westminster to take a look at the media circus and see what was going on. All the news groups have mini studios set up and lots of politicians, ex-politicians and other commenters were coming and going. I was busy just taking in the atmosphere and grabbing the odd photo.

Loving this one of Alastair Campbell who got grabbed by a bunch of Glaswegian schoolgirls for a photo op.

Westminster Media

Then two old political adversaries, Tony Benn and Douglas Hurd, called in to do a round of interviews.

Westminster Media

Jan 04

New Year’s Ambitions

This year, I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions, but am stating some ambitions for the year. I’m only starting with 2, although more may be added later.

1. Be able to run 5k. It’s been a long time since I could do this comfortably, so the ambition is to get back into shape to be able to make this target. It involves eating better and doing more exercise, but it is all tied into a achievable goal instead of more nebulous aims of ‘exercising more’ or ‘eating less’.

2. To visit 10 new cities this year. Some of these are already planned in, I’m planning to see Melbourne and Adelaide in my trip to Australia so will count these. Following on from last year’s cathedral trips, I’m planning on going to Canterbury and Ely. Everything else is up in the air, so any suggestions would be welcome. The only condition is they need to be low cost to get to by public transport (or a cheap flight) and be doable in a day or 2 at a weekend.

How about you, are you doing resolutions this year?

Oct 12

Guardian Gagged

According to the Guardian they have been prevented from reporting on a story concerning a question that is going to be asked in Parliament this week. They say:

The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.

According to Guido Fawkes at Order-Order, this falls foul of the 1689 Bill of Rights. According to Wikipedia, the right is:

Freedom of speech and debates; or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.

As the Guardian says:

The right to report parliament was the subject of many struggles in the 18th century, with the MP and journalist John Wilkes fighting every authority – up to the king – over the right to keep the public informed. After Wilkes’s battle, wrote the historian Robert Hargreaves, “it gradually became accepted that the public had a constitutional right to know what their elected representatives were up to”.

Accordingly, the UK Parliament site shows what appears to be the question in question.

ref(292409)
Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.

Yes, a gagging order really works when the government website publishes the story, It just makes me want to know what else the Guardian know

Update: Here’s the Minton Report (pdf) that Carter-Ruck don’t appear to like people seeing. It’s on Wikileaks

Jul 29

Telegraph Visit

Telegraph Visit

Last night, I went along to The Telegraph to take part in a focus group, about various aspects of the paper. A completely mixed group discussed values, requirements, possibilities and likes and dislikes (yes, I’m being vague, they’re doing research and it’s polite not to mention what on) It was a surprisingly fun 90 minutes as we all got a chance to express what we thought of the paper. Then we had a quick tour of the newsroom which gave me an insight into what happens.

  • it’s a hub and spoke mechanism, with the editors meeting taking place in the centre. the closer you are to the centre the more ‘important’ you are in making editorial decisions.
  • The working environment looked great but they seem to cram a lot of people in. When we walked through, it was extremely quiet but I’m guessing noise can get loud when busy
  • Despite all the technology present, there was still a layout board with a bunch of papers and a scalpel sitting there.
  • The news and information input is large – as in huge screens. They have screens showing all the major news channels, the website and a updating list showing the most visited pages on the website, to generate soem healthy competition
  • They have what looks to be Twitterfall running continuously on a big screen, with an eye on the trending topics.
  • I loved the reference library; I want one
Apr 16

A weekend trip

The other week, at a dinner, I volunteered for what sounded like it could be an interesting trip, taking 2 launches (small, motor driven boats) from Putney up to Wallingford. can’t be too hard, we though.

The deal was that some friends were coming down river over 3.5 days, coaching a couple of women’s 8s and they needed to get the launches back up river, whilst the rowing boats and crews were bussed back. Sounded a good idea, in the diary and ready to go.

Now I’ve started doing a little detailed planning and it’s a little more epic than I though. It’s 80miles, through 25 locks, with a speed limit of just under 5 miles an hour for the majority of the way. It looks like it’s 9.5 hours on Saturday to get to our desired stopping place (although we may have to stop short and camp) and at least 12 hours on Sunday. That’s a LOT of time to be sitting in a small boat.

Practically planning, food and clothes are easy. Bathroom breaks are easy – there’s public toilets at most of the locks. The difficulty is the electronics, or rather the phones. I had planned on tweeting and videoing and picturing my trip, but as the N95 battery lasts less than a day and I’m not guaranteed the ability to charge up the phone, it looks like I need to buy a spare or not bother, which is annoying.

Anyway, if you’re out and about the Thames over the weekend and see two launches being driven at the speed limit, give a wave. I’m not going to have time to stop, but I can always wave back.

Thames Map (screenshot from National Trails site)

Thames Map (screenshot from National Trails site)

Image from National Trail

Nov 24

Survivors – What would you do

Survivors, a re-imaging of the 70′s series devised by Terry Nation, started last night on the BBC and there was a minor Twitter flurry of discussion about it. There’s been mixed reaction to the episode, including these from Jason, and from Savage Popcorn.

One common question that popped up is what would you do in that situation, how would you rebuild. Well, the odds are that you, or me, or most of everyone would be dead anyway. The show said something like 90% infection, which would still leave 6million in the UK alive, but the impression was there were a lot more dead than that. Even if you weren’t killed in the first infection, you’re going to have to be lucky and good to escape ongoing death from disease, cold or starvation in the first year or so.

The first episode ended with our group of heroes finally meeting and wondering what to do next – only one of them had done any thinking and collecting of goods to get to the next stage. The rest seemed woefully inadequate in their outlook. But, if, by some chance, you did survive, would you have any idea of what you would have to do? I thought I’d throw up some thoughts – and these have been done with no research, just mulling around what would need to be put in place. I’m pretty sure if I looked, I could find a whole bunch of websites giving me the information I needed. One assumption is that there is enough stuff around to survive the first month or so. Canned food, bottled water and transport with available fuel, to get to somewhere. This is about longer term thinking.

  • Key things are shelter, water, food and sanitation. You’ll need a place to live, which has its own water supply – a well or a spring – and has arable land to grow food. Ideally, it should be defensible; law and order won’t be around and humans tend to fight a lot, especially over resources. A septic system would be a advantage.
  • Ideally, you’d want to be away from any nuclear plants and from prevailing winds that could bring radiation. I’m not sure how safe these plants are with no electricity, no water and no manning, but some may go boom.
  • You’ve found your farm, castle or where ever it is. (I fancy Windsor Castle actually, but probably a little too close to major population centres for the start, so it would be smelly and potentially disease prone in the beginning.) Now you need to start stocking it. First of all, work out where to get fuel, stock up some tanks so you have transport as long as possible. Go and raid supermarkets and get enough food (tinned, dried) for at least a year.
  • Find a library/book store and grab lots of practical books for the things below. Also writing things and lots of paper, so you can start recording the new history.
  • Hope the farmer had a shotgun and rifle, if not, go find some. You won’t be the only one, you’ll probably have to defend your place and you can go hunting.
  • Tools – axes, knives, carpentry, farming, scissors. As much as you can
  • Find some generators. You’ll need to have the option as you build up for the longer term
  • Clothes and linen- stock up with tough stuff, it’s going to have to last. Store a lot for future use – including material. You’re going to have to learn to weave at some point but t may have a lower priority than starting the food supply.
  • Growing things. Find agricultural suppliers and get everything you can – seed, fertiliser, pesticides.
  • Animals – sheep for wool, cows for milk, meat and leather, pigs for meat, chickens for eggs and meat. Rabbits, guinea pigs and all the small stuff could be good.
  • Farming. you may have a tractor and enough fuel for one year, but longer term I’d be looking for a plough and some horses. You should probably grab some horses for transport as well, along with some bikes
  • Medicine. It’s not going to last, but grab what you can. Antibiotics, diarrhoea medicine, painkillers, antiseptics. (Stock up on soap as well). Iodine tablets may be useful as well

Now, you have to learn how to use all these things, how to farm, how to metalsmith, how to manage sanitation. A bit of medicine.

What have I missed, what else would you add to the list to gather and control in the first year?