Having thought about this, read the articles, looked at my previous plans, I’ve decided I’m just going to make a list that includes things that are already on progress or has been booked and add more things over the year. So I’ve made a page for this – my Things to Do in 2015 – and will be tracking progress there as well as adding new things. So always open to suggestions!
Before I look ahead, surely it’s time to take a quick look back, even if just for a reminder for myself. For the first time in a few years, I did not set any new year ambitions for 2014. I’d been made redundant and really, was not in the mood! I was focusing on finding a new role, not thinking beyond that. So I can’t do a review and see if I achieved them. However, they would have been the usual – fitness and expriences. it’s all about that. So what did I get up to? Time to take a look at the photos.
January was a quiet month – it was looking for jobs and going for interviews. But I did take advantage of a sunny day to visit Kew Gardens for the first time in the year. I go there quite a bit, as I have bought membership – definitely worth looking at if you live in the area and want to support plant research (you know, the stuff that may keep us fed as the climate changes)
Once I’d got myself sorted, I too advantage of the opportunity to take a long weekend and popped over to Naples, primarily to see Pompeii. Having read reviews about visiting the preserved city in the summer, with the crowds and the heat, I was quite happy to have a dry winter weekend and the place almost to myself.
I got a couple of F1 events in during the early part of the year. First, the Zoom auction, which sells off signed photos from F1 stars to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital. There’s another one this January and you can buy some from the online store. I also went along to watch a filming of the Sky F1 show, something I did a couple of times. It’s always fun watching TV being made. Finally, the Not a FOTA Forum, an event run for fans by the ex-Secretary of the FOTA org, who got along some F1 insiders to talk and entertain.
Running went well in the first part of the year. I completed a couple of half marathons and then the big one – the London Marathon. I was very happy to get round in 4:30. No entry for me in 2015, but I’ve decided to run the Paris Marathon, so training is full speed ahead for that
The week after the marathon, I got the chance to go skiing, through a friend. Last time I tried skiing was when I worked in Scotland and dry slope lessons were part of the social club activities, but I’d never tried on snow. I think that’ll be my last skiing holiday though. It turns out I don’t do the mix of mountains and skis very well, or rather skis and edges. I’m not afraid of much, but I experienced physical terror on a couple of occasions. I did not like it!
June brought a trip to the Canadian Grand Prix, via a few days in New York and then Toronto to see old friends. Loved this trip, good catchups, good food and a great time in Montreal, which has to be one of the best places to hold F1, with the circuit right near the city with plenty of public transport.
The summer had a few of my regular events. I officiated at the Joint Services Regatta again, went to Kew fete and visited Goodwood and the British GP – it was a bit rainy for the latter, but the sun was out for everything else
In July, I ended up in hospital having emergency surgery for a detached retina, followed by 2 weeks bed rest before slowly getting back into things. All my running got put on hold and the autumn plan of 3 half marathons in 3 weeks did not happen, but I did manage to squeeze in a local 10k and half marathon in September,before heading up to Birmingham to run the Great Birmingham run, another half, with my sister. With minimal trianing over the summer, I was quite happy just to get round!
A few local events in the autumn, with the Tall Ships Festival visting Greenwich and the amazing installation Blood Swept Lands and Sea of Red at the Tower of London. I went fairly early in the process of building this and it was relatively quiet, but I’m not surprised at the corwds that developed over the weeks, via word of mouth as it was just an amazing site. I bought a poppy too. I managed to get to watch the Lord Mayor’s show for the first time (the problem with living in London is doing London events!). And I won the Army Rowing Club Player of the Year cup, for all my help over the past 19 (?) years
The year ended with a bit more F1, with a trip to Abu Dhabi GP (having won tickets at Silverstone) and also a prize trip to take a tour around the Mercedes F1 factory. I always say that if you never enter competitions, you’ll never win, so you always have to take a chance!
That’s it! A pretty full and fun year. I’m already got my plans for 2015 for holidays, but it’s the bits between them as well that make the year interesting.
At a slight loose end around Covent Garden, I decided to make a quick lunch stop at the Hawksmoor. Definitely one of my favourite steak restaurants, I don’t get there nearly enough.
You can go all out and spend a lot of money on steak, but this time I just decided to try out their Express Lunch. 3 Choices of starters and deserts, 5 mains to choose from, it’s a pretty reasonable £24 for 2 courses, £27 for 3. I ended up going with Potted Mackerel followed by the Rib-eye steak.
The Mackerel was well presented, served in a little glass pot, but was only accompanied by 3 slices of crispbread, which I found was one slice too few, even thought I’d spread the fish lavishly. Unfortunately, the crispbread was too crisp! It shattered into small bits when you tried to spread on the fish mixture. The fish itself was OK, but nothing special. An adequate starter only.
The steak was 250g, just the right size for lunch and cooked medium as requested. A lovely piece of meat, served just sitting on the plate. I’d chosen buttered greens to go with it, and they were actually dark green instead of white cabbage I’d been provided at a previous restaurant so very happy with that. If I had to choose a last meal, steak and greens would be high on my list! I drank some very nice Moulin de Gassac, Syrah/Carignan to go with the steak.
Hawksmoor also do brilliant cocktails and deserts, so well worth a visit at any time
I’ve watched the Lord Mayor’s Show for years on telly, but despite living in London, it’s one of those events that I’ve never watched live. Like Remembrance Sunday, London Marathon, Trooping of the Colour etc. But I’m slowly working my way through them.
The Lord Mayor’s Show is one of the oldest of the big London events in origin, with the website stating it has its origins with King John in 1215, when the elected Mayor of City of London was made to come along to the next door City of Westminster to swear allegiance to the Crown. And so it continued over the centuries, by horseback, boat and now coach and horses, an annual parade of military, guilds and charities.
It was easier than I thought to find a place, wandering up along the Strand about 10:30, I stopped in the first clear place I saw, which happened to be right opposite the entrance to the Royal Courts of Justice, where the Lord Mayor alights to swear his oath – this year it’s Alan Yarrow, the 687th version of the position. It got a lot busier later, but this was about an hour before the front of the procession got there and over 2 hours before the Lord Mayor.
I took a LOT of photos – it was a long parade – and they can all be found on Flickr. But here’s some of my favourites.
Marching along with the Marines. I have NO idea what this guy was doing.
Gog and Magog – the giants take part in every parade
A lot of the military units had members in WW1 uniform
Some of the uniforms were even older – one group were all dressed as soldiers from Waterloo. They even had a French group, with a Napolean.
I wonder how big the market is for Guild Robes? I’m guessing there are only a couple of makers
At the end of the parade were all the horse and carriages, bringing along the officials. So dotted all lover London are these carriages that get brought out may once per year? They were gorgeous!
Trumperters announced the arrival!
And finally, at the end, the Gold State Coach, carrying the Lord Mayor – and this year, a Magna Carta as well. The coach can normally be found at the Museum of London and it’s well worth a look. Under the weak November sunshine, it looked gorgeous!
If you’re in London, it’s well worth a trying to see this parade.
You’ve probably seen this video. The ‘highlights’ of walking around New York for 10 hours, but not in a good ‘look at all this tourist stuff we visited’
The video troubled me and not just because it seems to be a very narrow selection of choices of the types of men who do interact with her. That could be deliberate, to get more coverage, or it could be as stated, that the majority of comments from white guys were not recorded well. It’s a film by a charity trying to get views and attention, it’s going to do everything it can to get watched and talked about/
It troubles me in two specific ways. The first is my reaction, the not all women reaction. I can empathise with men who use #notallmen in reaction to reports of harassment. it is human nature to want to put things in stories that relate to their own experience, so if it’s never happened to you or people you know, then it is hard to understand. That was my first reaction – in all the time I have lived in New York, doing lots of walking, I never got a commented on at all. So what is different?
You have to move beyond the first reaction, recognise it for what it is and then move to understanding, not explaining and denying. Then ask yourself the question – what can you do to change it.
The second troubling thing is tied into the notallmen reaction. How have we, as a society, for into the situation where good morning is seen as a threat by women or where men can be scared of saying it. Many of the comments on the video are about how can this ALL be harassment when it was lots of general greetings. Because it is perceived as harassment. Because the experience of this woman and many others like her is that the body language, eye contact and tone that go along with the bland comment are threatening. So how can we change both reactions – that men can just demand attention and that women now see that as a threat.
Restaurant: Great Queen St, 32 Great Queen St, Holborn
I decided to pop into here one wet Monday evening on the way back from work. I thought it’d be quiet. I was wrong! They managed to squeeze me into a small table, right by the bar and I watched as the rest of the restaurant quickly filled up. It may not be that buys every Monday, as there was a large party taking up half the restaurant, but I did get the feeling that it is never quiet. It’s not quite a gastropub, more like a restaurant with a very large bar.
I just decided to have the one course, partridge, with new season cannelloni beans and a bit of water cress garnish. I’d paired this with the side dish of ‘greens’, although I was disappointed that this was white cabbage. Very nicely done white cabbage, but I was in the mood for something a bit more dark green to go with the richness of the bird. Maybe some chard.
There was a small wait for the partridge, which they had warned me about. The bird had to be roasted! The main dish was tasty, cooked well, lying on top of the beans and tomato sauce. It was also a fun dish to eat – the finger bowl provided giving permission to pick up the bits to get the last remnants of the meat off the bones.
The menu appears to change regularly, with a definite season vibe to it. The wine list is all Old World, mainly French, although quite small – or should that be select and exclusive? What that means is that the wines by the glass/carafe are also limited in choice, but I did enjoy the Poivre d’Ane Syrah/Grenache blend.
Overall, a lovely place to have a meal and I get the feeling it would be easy to spend a fun evening with friends here.
If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll have seen my daily photos charting the renovation of my bathroom over the last few weeks. Finally it’s done!!! After 2 weeks of having to shower at work, it’s over and I get my own bathroom back.
I’m pretty sure that the bathroom was original, with the suite installed when the flat was built back in the 50s. The council added central heating since then – running the pipes in front of the bath, but everything else has stayed the same. This is why you have a toilet cistern that may contain asbestos and a cast iron waste pipe on a very weird angle that means the toilet needs to be raised up a few inches off the floor. But in generally, it works, so no need for me to change it, up until this year.
Now it’s done and I’m happy, especially with the increase in storage so I can hide everything away. It was installed through London Bathrooms, a small local firm. Very happy with their work and with the excellent finish. I gave the owner (Rufus Landricombe) instructions and he recommended the suite and fixtures/fittings; I’m not someone who wants to spend ages on details of this! And the fitter was extremely tidy, leaving it all packed away at the end of each day. I would definitely recommend them.
What it looks like now
What it looked like
Another session from Social Media Week London, this one social media, Wimbledon and their partnership with IBM.
Alex Willis (Wimbledon)
In 2011 the Wimbledon team set out a 3 year plan to improve their digital experience. At the time they had started to engage on social, with 300k FB fans and 150k Twitter followers. They had 2 websites (one for all year round and one for the championships), and used radio and video; they had an app same as site. But their channels were not connected.
Their 3 year plan was about:
- Extending reach
- Ensuring everything on brand
- Extend channels and apps
Their position is “to be the next best thing to being there”
- Some numbers: 1.7m downloads of mobile app, 400k on iPad. These both provide a personalised experience. They have a ‘live at Wimbledon TV channel online/apps/YouTube. They had 1.3m streams – 58% of this on the .com. 17.1m visit website; 4.5m social audience. The .com is 80% of the digital audience – on desktop. (Wimbledon audience very different to CPG trends for example – so at work?, content needs the real estate?)
- The have developed a clear tone of voice: Tradition, heritage, prestige, pinnacle, English. A slightly bumbly English gentleman. They look to be relevant, useful, unique.
- During the Championships, they have 1 person per platform, to make sure they make the best of the each platform and to ensure the different roles are clear. (this is temp only, rest of year it is just Alex)
- They have far higher outbound activity and earned conversations than the other grand slams. They have extra freedom as they are not limited by commercial constraints, they don’t promote sponsors and they can stay true to the brand.
- They have started to focus on content partners for the different platforms. They worked with Grabyo for video; with specific player interviews and Q&A. Partnering with players who then shared on own accounts; they did some quirky stuff with them as well in videos. . They ran different promotions per platform, eg a Queue Selfie on Twitter, #MyWimbledon on Google+, Live video channel on YouTube. They had a Facebook photobooth in the players lounge, but it did not get any traction. They tried a Murray Digigraph, tweet and get a response from Murray.
- They have experimented a lot with Video headlines on YouTube, they can be a lot more informal then their same video on their own site. They also did a content partnership with YouTubers and got Tom Daley involved in a partnership.
New in 2014 was Hill vs World. Which was an in-ground activation, something they are trying to do more. They asked questions on the screen and compared answers with those not there.
- They have tested out foreign language, so 3 Chinese feeds on Weibo, geotargeted Japanese content on Facebook
- They have had very good growth – without paid media. FB1.6m to 2.4m; Instagram 100k to 200k; Twitter 700k to 1.18m; G+ to 1.2m. YT 15m views in the 2 wks, a 61% growth. Facebook ORGANIC reach of 12.7m on 6th July.
Chris Thomas (IBM)
Their requirements were frequent data updates (every 5 mins); the ability to identify trends and themes; be part of the conversation; demo the power of social media to their clients; provide easy to use visualisations; fully automated; offend nobody (so heavy filtering and management). Their social media hub at Wimbledon was in public view and was used for client entertainment.
Tech wise they provided Watson Content analytics, which is NL analysis. The IBM emerging tech services provided apps; the IBM research/Customer Experience labs identified influencers. It was all hosted in the Soft Layer (cloud). It was all presented through a very, very nice dashboard.
The dashboard allowed you to dig, slice and dice in may ways. Volume of conversations, trending topics, sentiment. Eg on 3 July sentiment dipped negatively, all because Sharapova commented about Tendulka. (#Wimbledon mentioned stayed positive). They could did down to show what was being said, they could then amend and change topics to keep focus on the tennis.
They measured influencers across the day/topics and this allowed them to understand the conversations and connect with it. They measure (and this seemed to be on Twitter only):
- Engagement – responses
- Activty – number of posts
- Authority – who RT etc
- Timeliness – how quick were responses
- Followers – numbers
In summary, their key learnings were to integrate the digital and social strategies, you need a consistent brand experience and you need to organise yourself to listen and act. You need to have the right people in place who understand the digital world.
Some responses to audience questions
- An audience question was about the bottom line and Wimbledon are in the slightly unusual position that it does not matter for them, there is no objective to make money from the digital. But it does open up opportunities as they are using the metrics to identify new territories to focus on based on interest, allows them to focus.
- They have started a process to engage with the other grand slams to co-ordinate some activity across the year.
For IBM it is a showcase for new business to show what they can do with partners
- Wimbledon continuously look to innovate (and are planning next year). They tried a Fantasy format this year.
- They are starting to use their historic archives to keep engagement going all year.
Less then 5 minutes walk from where I work is a tiny little sushi place called Sushi Tetsu. I’ve walked past it plenty of times and always meant to book. When I finally got round to looking it up, it turned out that it was almost impossible to get into. It has 7 seats only and opens for booking only 2 days a month, when you apparently have to be very, very stubborn and keep redialing until you get through. Or? Or, you can try to keep an eye on cancellations on Twitter and have the number on speed dial. Which is what I did and was lucky enough to pick up a single place for a Friday evening.
They ask you to pre-book if you want the Omakase, which is basically a tasting menu with special sashimi, more fish sashimi, nigiri, a hand roll and a desert of a sweet omelette. That’s what I chose, so when I got settled in my place all I had to choose was the sake. Then I just watched the chef Toru prepare the food for us all round the bar and chatted occasionally with his wife Harumi about travel, tv, food bloggers and other restaurants. (she recommended Hedone!). Because of the setting, I only ended up taking the one photo, the rest of the time I just enjoyed watching a master at work. Everything was done with care, in a ballet of prep as Toru kept all 7 of us supplied with a steady supply through our various meals.
From the first taste of the edemame beans, all the way through the courses, I loved this sushi. A huge mixture of tastes and textures, many I’d never tried before. I loved the seared marinated mackerel. The seaweed marinated turbot was just sublime. The snow crab was sweet and the the seared scallop just perfect.
Hopefully, I’ll get lucky again with the phone another day and get another chance to experience the show.
So Andy Hayler, a great food blogger (who is from Chiswick too), pointed out that there are 992 foodblogs writing about London, or at least 992 who have signed up for Urbanspoon’s blog list. I don’t pretend to be a regular food blogger but I do LOVE eating out..and taking photos of the food, so I thought I’d join the list
The last time I booked for Hedone, I ended up being unconscious on the operating table having my retina re-attached at the time I was supposed to be eating. So this time, not that I’m superstitious or anything I didn’t book too much in advance just rung up an hour before to get a ‘bar stool’, which I normally where I end up sitting. I chose the 7 course menu, with accompanying wine. I didn’t take photos of everything, but I did take some notes! This is my 4th time eating here, the last time was in February. Even with only a few visits, the maitre’d still remembered me – last time I was there I was reading the Naples guidebook and she came overto ask how my trip had been. For someone who is really bad at faces…this is extremely impressive!
The meal started off with a couple of little bites that were not on the list. There was a little cherry meringue, with fois gras and raw button mushroom slices. Loved the cherry and fois gras combination, the button mushrooms provided an earthy flavour that did not quite gel. Then a tiny cone with mini tuna nicoise salad. That was tasty. The first listed starter was poached oyster with granny smith foam and a violet. This seems to be a standard here. Didn’t take a photo this time, but here’s one I made earlier.
Next up was a cucumber medley – cucumber flan, cucumber sauce and a cucumber granita. Hedone used to serve a unami flan and they seemed to have used this as a base and added the cucumber to it. The sauce carried the pure essence of cucumber and was gorgeous! Next, another staple of the restaurant, which was sweet onion and pear. I could have eaten a lot more of these
On paper, the liquid parmesan ravioli, with onion foam, bits of smoked ham and more sweet onion, was potentially my least favourite, as I don’t really like parmesan, I have no idea how they have liquid cheese that does not burn the tongue! But it worked extremely well,the cheese flavour modified well by the onion. The plate was scraped clean!
The ‘main’ now: venison, beets, radish (and a little more onion). Just great ingredients served lovingly, nothing too clever here.
Then the first of the deserts was a trio of lemon with figs. Lemon sorbet, cream and jelly (or syrup or something). I’d watched all the figs being cut up earlier in the afternoon and seen the care that went into making sure that everyone was perfect. The whole combination was great.
Finally, another standard, the chcocolate and raspberry desert. The sharp raspberry powder just set of the chocolate perfectly.
All in all, I love this place, would go far more often if I could!
For Social Media Week London, I managed to get to go to a few sessions, fitting them in around the working day. The first one I attended was run by Ogilvy, who presented about using social across a shopper journey – Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Loyalty, Advocacy.
Well presented and a good model, it sort of set the scene however for the week – I’m probably not quite the right audience for this week, it looks to be more targeted as the less experienced end of those who work (or would like to work) in social media. I’ve been using a similar model for years! So I only attended a few talks and looked for some new figures and case studies
If you’re interested here are the slides:
Some interesting facts and figures that came out of this session
- 22% of Facebook fans (of a brand) were ambassadors. But 55% of ambassadors are not Facebook fans. So you need to look outside the obvious and easy places if you want to engage with different types of advocates. Just like it used to be before Facebook
- As social moves to mobile, we continue to look for easier ways to pay – as form fillign is terrible on the phone. WeChat did a brilliant promotion to get people to add their details, leveraging New Year when Chinese typically send people envelopes of money. 5million joined, 20million envelopes sent. All of them added payment details which can be used for future social purchases
- Adding a + to a bitly link can provide numbers (if not liked down). This was actually something I didn’t know, so worth going for that!
Thought it was time to give an update on where I am with the eye The headline – it’s getting better!
I spent 7 days days doing nothing but lying on my side to keep the gas bubble in the right place, to keep the retina pressed on the back of the eye and give it a chance to heal. I went back to my own place the following week and still spent a lot of time horizontal, but was moving about more and more. A check-up on the Thursday confirmed that everything was healing to plan, although there was a slight concern over the pressure in the eye, so I was given some new drops to use, beta-blockers. I found it slightly strange that eyedrops can impact the breathing, but apparently they can so I was asked numerous times if I suffered from asthma as that was a contra-indication.
The following week I returned to work, but not full time. Staring a a computer all day was not recommended, so I needed to vary my activity. I did short days all week which were still exhausting – most likely a residual effect of the anaesthetic. This week I’m still working shorter days but slowly getting back to normal in energy and the ability to do work.
As of today, 3 weeks after the surgery, I still don’t have full vision, but it is improving everyday. The border between the gas and the liquid is slowly moving down the eye and I can see more and more over it – when I look through the one eye. Using the two, it’s still a very weird experience as it the blocked area just gets in the way!
My next appointment is at the start of September, so I’m hoping by then all the gas will have been absorbed and I’ll have my normal (glasses-enhanced) vision back!
I had a lovely weekend planned. A haircut, lunch at one of my favourite restaurants, the the British 10k race on Sunday. All of that got blown away Friday afternoon when I looked up to find my eye full of floaters, dark strands filling the vision. They settled down, but over the next few hours, a blurred spot started to grow at the edges of my site and the eye now appeared to be filled with dust. Myy first thought was to pop in to the opticians on Saturday morning to see if there was a problem but some internet reading on the NHS site led to articles about retinal detachment and worried me enough to decide to give the 111 service a ring, just to check.
Now, as I’d just got off the train (I did not want to walk the 10mins home if I had to go right out again), the initial conversation was a little silly, The first thing they want to do is find out where you are just in case they need to send an ambulance and Chiswick Station was not in their list, so I offered them a pub name. They eventually found something that matched but seem to have issues without postcodes, which is just sill for a service that is part of an emergency response, you may never know where you may be if you want to call them, We worked our way through the questions – no bleeding, no breathing issues, no migraine, but, after a few minutes on hold as my call taker consulted, i was told to make my way to A&E within an hour and given the address of the nearest. But this was a mistake, as they should have told me to go to the specialist eye A&E at the Western Eye Hospital. When I got to Charing Cross (which is in Hammersmith, no idea why), the receptionists thought i should be elsewhere but said i should be seen anyway. The doctor immediately sent me to the eye place!
Two hours after arriving, I got seen by the doctor who spent a long time staring at the back of my eye and as long on the phone to her boss. I definitely had a retinal tear, she thought I had fluid behind the retina but there was nothing she could do then, so I had to return in the morning where I would be assessed by her boss and a decision made. Just in case, I was to be nil by mouth after 1am.
Saturday morning, 8am, I was back. Pretty much the first to be seen, the next doctor spent slightly less time looking at my eye and decided that i was a surgery candidate. But his boss, the consultant/surgeon, needed to make the final decision. So more hanging around the waiting room for her to arrive. She was already on her way in to do a procedure on a child as an emergency, it looked like i was to be the other on the list. Finally, I was examined by the surgeon and it was all agreed. I needed emergency surgery to fix the tear and get the retina back connected with the eye. Continuing the trend, the most senior spent the least time looking at the eye. The more experience you have, the easier it is to recognise things.
So I was admitted and found a bed and a gown. A few hours later, off to surgery, under a full anaesthetic. The decision was to fix the tear cryogenically and inject a gas bubble into the eye to keep the retina in the right place. From going into the operating theatre to waking up took 2 hours. They’d left me with a patch to protect the eye. I then had a choice to stay overnight, which given I had to be back in for checks in the morning I decided was the best thing to do. I did help that I was in a private room.
Everything was checked as Ok in the morning, so off home I went. But the surgery does not fix it immediately. I have to stay lying down on my left side, keeping the bubble pressed on the right side to keep thee retina flat until the fluid behind it has gone. All I can see is light and dark and large movements, until the gas bubble has been absorbed and the eye starts working again. There is a 90% chance that all will be fine, but still a risk i have lost some sight. We just don’t know until it heals. So 5-7 days lying down, another week off work before I go back for a checkup then still a few months for everything to get back to normal. It’s just one day at a time.
Canada is one of the few F1 circuits that offer access on the Thursday before the race meet starts. You don’t even need to have a race ticket to access the track. So off we went to hang around the pitlane for 3 hours – along with a lot of other people! But it was not that crowded, the circuit had done this plenty of times before and had the organisation sorted. A queue, a bus to the pitlane and then the chance to queue up for driver autographs or just walk up and down the garages.
Neither of us wanted to get autographs – the queue was long, you never knew who you would get and neither of us tend to collect them – so we just went straight to the cars, taking lots and lots of photos. We also saw quite a few drivers heading out for their track walk.
Back into town and a bit of tourism – the Notre Dame Basilica. Built by the Francophone community, it’s completely different to the churches I usually visit, with the English reformation stripping out all the decoration back to the raw stone. I prefer the unadorned grandeur, but I can see the reasoning behind the decoration.
We ended the day with a trip to Crescent St, which is blocked off and turned into a F1 party street, with lots of sponsor stalls and events. This is supported by the official sponsors; a few blocks over on Peel St seems to be slightly more unofficial, with non-sponsors getting into the act. Both a fun places to wander around! We bumped into a few F1 fans we knew from Twitter and ended up with a few drinks.
Wednesday was another travel day. I met up with Sofia at the train station and we jumped on the 5 hour trip to Montreal. Definitely not as much beautiful countryside as out last train trip (Prague to Budapest) but pleasant enough. The plane trip itself would have been cheaper (we went business), but when you add on costs to get to and from airports, the time for that, the time waiting, the train was a far more pleasant and convenient experience, when you add in the large seats and the free drinks and meal.
The rest of the day was basically eating, a few drinks and a lot of lazing around! The hotel was to the north of the town centre, near the Village and the Latin Quarter, with a high level of students and good, cheap places to eat. The row of pink balls all along this section of the street gave an indication that this was the ‘Gay Villiage’ – or that could be just because that is what it was called on Google maps!
The day started with coffee and chat. Gaming, game design, trademarks, AI, the future of humanity, startups, population growth and Malthus. Just your everyday small talk A great chance to talk about different things, that I don’t have chance to think about in my everyday job.
Next, off to the airport for my next phase of the trip, heading up to Toronto. Newark airport was pretty painless, except for the need of Air Canada to charge for bags – why not just put it in the original price. They were not overjoyed at my insistence of paying cash though. Especially as there were a lot of crumpled dollar bills!
My original plans for Monday night fell through, so instead I headed to Canoe, a gorgeous fine dining Canadian restaurant, where the tasting menu included things like elk, pickled maple leaves, stinging nettle puree and coniferous cream. The chef makes a point of using local ingredients as well as bringing in his influences from Japan, with the desert of rice cake, green tea custard and red bean sherbert. I sat at the kitchen table and watched the chefs rush to meet the demand of a full restaurant, which was pretty good for a Monday evening. I absolutely adored this meal!
Tuesday dawned foggy and damp but the sun quickly came out and the humidity went up. The first thing to do was sort out a phone sim for the week – despite the wifi ubiquity around and about, the F1 circuit won’t have that, so need to be able to connect there.
Then a walk round town before meeting Jeremy for lunch and catching up about the last 6 years or so since I saw him. More walking and another catch up, this time with Rick – it’s probably been 8 years since I last met him.
Great to spend the first few days of the hols just catching up with old friends, before heading off to Montreal to make new ones!
It’s another holiday! This time to the continent of North America, with a combined trip to New York, West Milward (In New Jersey), Toronto and Montreal for the F1.
An easy trip to Heathrow and all the way through the security ended with a slightly worrying beep of the machine as I went to board. Had my ESTA run out, what was the problem? It turned out to be a nice surprise instead as the computer had said yes and I was given a lovely upgrade to World Traveller Plus – bigger seats, small cabin, Yes, a good start!
Food done, sleep done, no issues with immigration, remembered how to use the subway and made my way to my hostel for the evening – where possible, I’m sleeping cheap and eating expensive! The Chelsea International is probably your typical hostel, standard welcome, rooms with lockers, basic functional place. But, clean, tidy, secure and works fine.
A quick lie down and then out for my a meal, at Craft. I thought about the tasting menu but decided it was too much after a day of travelling so settled for American Wagyu Carpaccio, Monkfish and chard, finished with Banana Tartin with Peanut butter icecream. Enjoyed it and everything was well sourced and well excuted, but the nothing outstanding. Waiter was great but some of the servers not so much – my starter got delivered to wrong table..
Next morning, I jumped on a 90minute bus ride out to the wilds of New Jersey, to see a friend from my New York days. Breakfast at a 24/7 diner than out to the stables to see his horses and spend some time helping out building a fence for the stables, which is a rescue centre relying on volunteers to get things done. It was quite a change to be out in the sunshine doing physical work instead of sitting in an office all day.
We finished the day at a local sushi (local in these parts being a 20min drive away!). And at that point an early night to chase the jetlag away was needed.
The day started off early! 5:30 wakeup to get 6:30 bus. I always prefer to be early and hate travelling in crowds and achieved this extremely well. Saw very few on the bus, tube or train and got to the meetup point 20 mins early, just before 8. So meet up with a few people from a running forum, plus with Angela, she’d volunteered to run with me – and I was extremely happy she did.
We entered the gathering area about 9ish, made the obligatory loo visit and then got ready – sun cream and vaseline. It was too warm to wear my throwaway clothes, which I’d dragged all the way there (and then took all the way back). made our way to Pen 9, and found a corner to sit and wait. When I’d entered, I had no idea what time I’d do, so probably put something close to 6, therefore we were at the back.
And we were off. I’d made the decision to run 9:50-9:55m/m as far as I could, knowing that I would fade and that’s what we settled into and pretty much managed for the nearly 30k. The first 5k was fairly quiet as we went through Woolwich areas, with the men yelling ‘hump’ making me smile, especially the kid who just kept up yelling. Nothing much to report about the next 5k, we just kept ticking the miles down. the crowds around Greenwich were brilliant and my family had managed to get a spot right by the Cutty Sark so that was the first photo opp, even though by this point I was starting to look a little like a drowned rat, as I’d been pouring water over me in an attempt to keep cool.
All the time we were playing dodgems, trying to get around people and at times we were definitely slowed by the crowds. In Surrey Quays, one guy ran right into the traffic island marker and took a very bad fall right in front of us, Angela helped him up (and then he did the ‘I’m OK’ and just limped on. I noticed there were lots of crowds around the shopping centre, assuming they’re combining their day out. And all through the earliest parts, heaviest crowds were round the pubs. I didn’t take any of the beer that was been offered though
At Tower Bridge and I definitely had a emotional moment, very close to crying, but got through that and made sure I was smiling for the camera. At this point, I was definitely starting to feel it, half done, another half to go. It was time for another gel, which I was taking every 4.5 miles. The hips were starting to get sore (although they were fine at the end of the race) and from about mile 16 my arms and legs were basically pins and needles and there were times when I could not feel them properly – not a nice feeling at all! From about mile 17, my ability to sport gaps and move into them had started to go and I got stuck behind people a few too many times. From here, Angela switched from running with me at my pace to encouraging me and keeping me going!
I was having to dig in now and mental goal changing from finishing in a time, to just finishing. The heat was getting to me, I was feeling sick and pins and needles were getting worse. At 20 miles I did 30 secs walk and that was to try and shake some feeling back into the limbs. That then became the pattern for the rest of the way, it was my mental reward for making the mile. Saw the family again at mile 22(ish) and there was no pause for photo, it was a matter of keeping going! On and on, with more more people walking or trying to stretch out cramp. you could just feel the determination and grit to get to the finish here. The Blackfriars tunnel was good, loved the Lucozade balloons.
Onto the final stretch, the Embankment. I’d run along here a fair bit during training and now it was just full of people rather than cars, a far better picture Everything was focused internally now, keep going, keep going, one step at a time. There was nothing in the legs at all, no ability to increase the pace. Although looking at the Garmin, I was moving faster than I thought! The last 3 miles were run at a pace of 10:33, 10:45, 10:45 which is still faster than my LSR pace, it just felt a lot slower. It was all about the mind games. 1 mile, it’s the run to Kew Bridge, 800m, it’s 2 laps. Round the final corner, wash hoping the sight of the finish would give me a boost, but no, nothing. Plod, plod, plod. Tried to raise arms for camera, nope, not happening. I’m still pleased with my final time though, 4:30:10 is pretty good. And I completely smashed the others from work
Through the finish and the everything stopped. The legs didn’t quite want me to stay upright, so Angela and a friendly marshal supported me until I convinced the legs to work again! Timer chip cut off, medal collected (oh yes, I LOVE that medal) and bag collected. OMG, the walk to the end of the mall to get into the park, then the queues and crush to try and get somewhere. All I wanted to do is sit and have a drink and stretch out. Finally out, drink, snack, change the shoes as my feet were so sore! Then met up with Malcs (and others, I can’t remember!), and he and Angela made their way to the pub and I went to meet the family at the Help for Heroes meeting place, which was a welcome haven. Quiet, a seat, food, drink and a massage on the legs. I also got a second medal, as well as a round of applause as I walked in
My first marathon done, a wonderful experience even with the pain. So what could I do differently?
- Don’t get injured! I missed about 4 weeks of training, at a point where it was high mileage and a lot of running on tired legs. So when I hit that in the race, I had no experience to fall back on.
- Think far, far earlier about my race pace – and don’t change plans! I’d trained at 10m/m but given I wanted that as an average, started off quicker. Would I have finished quicker if I’d started off at 10m/m and then still slowed, I don’t know.
So what am I going to do now?
The goal for the summer is to build on my speed, with the aim of bringing my half time down as far as possible, Sub 2hrs should be pretty easy (I hope, but let’s see where I can get to) So I’m going to join in the local running clubs Speed work evenings – and hopefully get some coaching on form as well
I’ve got 3 halfs booked for September, with Ealing being my main focus. I’ll be running through the P&D plan for that. And I intend to keep the mileage up over the summer as well.
- Assessing moderator impact on communities. If you run a community, you’ll already know this, but communities work better when there is a moderator to manage and cultivate.
- The year I didn’t retweet men by Anil Dash. An unannounced (and unnoticed) experiment by Dash to only retweet men in 2013. it made his experience better.
- How Digital Acceleration teams are changing Nestle. Digital change does not just happen, you need to train and support people. This is how Nestle are doing just this.
- I am not a primary school teacher by Mat Morrison. The lessons Mat learnt when he decided to partake in a meme (how something will spread on the internet as a way to teach children) and it went out of control.
- Russell T Davies meets Jeannette Winterson. Fascinating interview about story telling.
- Twitter’s Other problem – keeping the users it has. Twitter grows in sign-ups but the active users are not growing the same way.
- The story of ebay’s turnaround. How one manager toook a chance to change ebay.
- The Return – Hayley Campbell took a trip to a dildo warehouse to see what the business was like. Brilliant storytelling.
- I started a new job, although it’s a contract for a few months, I’m back working. More about this another week.
- Went to a evening at Ogilvy, taking a look at what they are up to in the social space.
- Had drinks with my ex-colleagues. Slightly too much, but it was a great night!
- Ran the Dorney Half-marathon, a last minute entry at the beginning of the week. It went brilliantly and I got a new PB. I also met up with a group of people from a running forum I’m taking part in.
Overall, it was a pretty good week. The runs all went to plan, in fact were slightly easier than expected. The training is working. There were 2 key sessions, one with 5 * 800m fast intervals and the other the half-marathon, which was a test of marathon pace with a faster last 3 miles. The race went perfectly to plan and I knocked 7 mins off my personal best, at 2:07:03.
A bit more activity this week
- The Truth about the luxury of Qatar Airways.Horrible story of Swedish staff of the airline, which seems to treat them like indentured servants with terrible rules and behaviour.
- Life is a Game. This is your Strategy Guide.By Oliver Emberton. Not a new metaphor, but an interesting take on it. Another must read would be Straight White Male – the lowest difficulty setting there is by John Scalzi.
- Trending: Mortality (New Yorker). The different approaches to a celebrity death that people use on Twitter. I’m one of those that rarely comments, as I have nothing to add. Personally, I can’t stand the now obligatory celeb comments whenever somebody in the news dies.
- I started mentoring for this programme Digital Mums. A good scheme to teach new skills and the support local businesses.
- I went to a leaving do, a friend from Momentum who has moved on and caught up with a lot of ex-colleagues.
- I went to the Zoom F1 auction, which was selling pictures taken by F1 journalists/drivers/team members. A good night – and a chance to wear my new slim styled dress
A slightly heavier week, as mileage ramps up. It’s 9 weeks until the marathon and things, in general, going well. Hopefully, this weeks issue won’t cause a long term problem. As well as the recovery runs, I managed the following sessions
- 6 miles progressive, where I started slow and increased speed every mile, finishing with a 8:50m/m
- 20 miles steady. My longest run to date. Went well, but needed to fuel better.
- I started but had to abandon the 16 miles with 12 at marathon pace. A cold was the first issue, so my heart rate was all over the place, but then also had a hamstring issue that meant it was not a good idea to continue. Lots of stretching and rolling ahead.