• H is for Hemingway

    Ernest Hemingway

    Ernest Hemingway.

    I can’t imagine that anyone has not heard of him, but if you haven’t, go and read any of his work right now. I’ll wait.

    This chap could write. I realise that my last post also featured an American author, but I am not on the verge of becoming a literary critic. I promise.

    In addition to knocking out some cracking reads, Mr Hemingway saw a bit of life.

    An American, he lived in Paris, Toronto, Chicago, Spain, London, Key West and Cuba. He went to both World Wars, the Spanish Civil War and got married four times. He got amoebic dysentery on safari in Africa and sailed extensively in the Caribbean. Being flown to medical attention after a plane crash, he was instantly engulfed in a second plane crash.

    Impressive eh?

    Throughout his life, Mr H was fond of a drink. Actually, ‘fond of’ might be understating it a little. At the time of his death, he was rumoured to be drinking a couple of pints a day. Of whiskey.

    He was (incorrectly) attributed with inventing the Bloody Mary, drank his Martinis dry enough to make your eyes water, and memorably penned the following;

    “I drink to make other people more interesting.”

    Ernest Hemingway committed suicide. As did his father, brother and sister. Startling sad.

    His writing will live for ever.

    It’s Saturday. As you raise your glass tonight – raise it to Ernest. I think that he would approve.

     

  • Digital Overload

    overload

    It’s all got too much.

    I have scaled the peaks of the digital life and reached the zenith. From here on, it’s downhill.

    I have a Mac, a MacBook and an iPhone. I recently sold my iPad. This combination of very cool bits of kit mean that I am never more than seconds away from my Twitter feeds, (I have three) my Facebook profile, my Linkedin, my Pinterest, my Instagram. I am almost perpetually at Inbox zero. An email arrives and like a digital ninja, I am on it. Either it is responded to, archived, or deleted. I have resolved to read more – so I keep my kindle close to hand, and just in case, I have kindle apps on all of my other devices.

    Should you need to get in touch, you can comment on this blog, drop me an email on one of several addresses, send me a text, message me on one of several apps and each of my machines will ding, vibrate or beep. You may rest assured that I will be aware of your communication in seconds.

    I may of course, not respond instantly. I may be tied up. I may be updating my blog, scheduling my social media to tell you that I have updated my blog or even reading your blog. I may be checking that my feeds on feedly, medium, bloglovin and others that I have undoubtedly forgotten, are up to date. It is possible that I am resolving sync problems between my fitbit and my iPhone. How on earth can I lose weight if my phone is not correctly reporting daily steps? It may be that I am searching Myfitnesspal for the correct calorific value of 40g of porridge oats. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, right?

    If I am setting off for a meeting, preparations begin the night before. Laptop, iPhone, Fitbit all fully charged, chargers in bag too. (Just in case). Location of meeting entered onto device to ensure map available. Ensure that all recent communications with person that I am meeting are instantly available on all devices. I can revise on the train. Check out linked in profiles, Google +, Facebook. What music do I want? Playlists up to date? Which headphones? Noise-cancelling? Right – best check the battery levels.

    Then I need to update the calendar app – which in turn will update my wife’s calendar, so that she can be sure what train I’m on, where I’m going and what for. Obviously, her life won’t be complete unless she knows this. Once I get to London, I’ll take a quick snap and post some status updates. My friends in Ireland will undoubtedly be fascinated to know what the weather is like in London.

    It’s a wonder that I have any time at all for work or relationships or indeed life at all.

    At some point, the machines took over. The thousands of ways that technology was helping me, became the thousands of ways that it was oppressing me.

    I’m fighting back.

    I have ordered a diary. A big book made of paper and card. In it, I will plan my time. What an innovator I am. In this new-fangled thing, I will block off bits of time to check my e-mail, my social media and feeds. I’ll do these things at MY convenience.

    I have ordered a ‘dumb’ phone. It can make and receive phone calls. It can send and receive text messages, although only by using the numbers as a keyboard, so you should not expect too much. With only a dumb phone, I shall have to keep myself ‘connected’ only at scheduled times and at my keyboard. I fear that the world may stop turning – but I probably won’t notice without ‘notifications’.

    punkt_angled

    Calorie control, both input and burn. Well, I am going to eat less food. I am going to eat more ‘simple’ food and less ‘complex’ food – i.e. avoid the manufactured crap pushed at us from all sides. When I walk the dog, I’m going to count the flowers or the birds and not the steps. Maybe I’ll try to walk a little further. I’ll know its working if my clothes start getting a bit looser.

    I daresay that the iPhone with all of its apps and the fitbit will be waiting for me in the desk drawer, but I’m quite looking forward to unplugging. Although…what am I going to do in restaurants while everyone else checks their phones?

     

     

  • Swimming

    Swimming Walrus

    In a preemptive comment, I can confirm that the picture is not in fact of me. It is an image from a You Tube clip posted here by Heinrich Eggenfellner. Although, there is a striking likeness in a certain light.

    Earlier this month I posted about my first, and last, spinning class.

    Wisely, I am pursuing an exercise regime more appropriate for a man of my age and size. I am walking the dog, playing golf and swimming. Usually not at the same time. I am even paying some attention to what I eat and drink. Shocking, I know.

    To call me a strong swimmer would be a little inaccurate. Alright, it would be entirely inaccurate. Rather than powering through the water like our tusky friend above, I sort of float aggressively. There is forward motion, in much the same way that glaciers do move, but you would be hard pressed to actually perceive it. You may have experienced something similar before. Lying on a beach in the morning, you might catch sight of a large tanker out to sea. It appears stationary, yet when you pack up at the end of the day, it has most definitely moved across the horizon. Watching me swim is like that, but with more splashing.

    I try to tuck myself into half a lane (it gets busy where I swim) and float along without causing too much harm. I always have a cheery smile for the pensioners as they pass me, walking sideways through the water. I try to keep out of the way of the proper swimmers as they power up and down with designer clothes pegs on their noses and lycra condoms on their heads.

    As the traffic passes me on both sides, I console myself that even going this slowly, I am getting some exercise, moving my muscles and burning some calories. I also have plenty of time to people-watch.

    There is one fellow that is fascinating me at the moment. Like me, he is a fat boy. I see him when I am at the pool in the evenings. Usually, he emerges from the sauna, hot and flustered.

    He sits himself down on a wooden lounger and pulls out a book, which he reads for ten minutes or so. (Almost a full length of the pool for me). Then he rinses himself in the shower.

    This next part is the part that mystifies me. He then puts on a pair of flippers. Full-blown, honest-to-goodness scuba diving flippers. Then on goes the clothes-peg and the goggles. Into the pool, three kicks, two arm strokes and he bangs his head against the far wall. Then he turns around and does it again.

    The pool is only twenty metres long. He looks like some sort of demented pin ball being fired at the far wall, before bouncing back.

    Why would someone do that? Go to the pool to do some exercise, then put on flippers to avoid doing the exercise.

    Don’t get me wrong – if that’s what he wants to do, then fine by me.

    But why?

    Perhaps I should ask him.

    If I time it right, I can surely outrun a fat guy who is wearing flippers?

     

  • Ugly Social Media

    Click on this if….

    No. Stop it.

    Gradually, I am overcoming the dramatic gastric impact of Spinning, which is a great relief to the dog and many local residents.

    However, I am increasingly annoyed by the tactics some organisations are using to garner positive social media statistics. You know the posts that I mean;

    “Like this page if you believe that a soldier who saved his platoon, sacrificing his life should be honoured while this malicious paedophile should not!”

    Seems a bit of a no-brainer.

    Then you look to see that the post originates from a page called “Lovely fluffy British folk”. Curious fellow that I am, I look at this page.

    It turns out that the page should more accurately be called;

    “Racist, xenophobic dimwits? You have found your online home.”

    Many of these ‘like-farm’ posts are using images of the military to lure people to anti-immigration or anti-muslim organisations. The implication being a polar relationship. “Military Good, Military fight Bad. Immigration Bad. Muslim Bad.”

    I thought I might take a moment to relate to you an anecdote.

    4-British-Army-Getty

    (Getty Image taken from the Independent website)

    I live adjacent to Salisbury Plain, home to Stonehenge and essentially an adventure playground for the British Army. I play golf (badly) at Tidworth Garrison Golf Club, which as the name might suggest, has strong military connections.

    Tidworth is a garrison town.

    On Tidworth high street, I went for a haircut in a busy barbers. Three barbers were working and four more customers were waiting. I’m fairly certain I was the only non-serving military man there. I was the only one not in camoflauge for a start.

    The standard cut seemed to be, “number 2 back and sides and short tidy on top please Kemal.”

    You see the barbers were all Muslim Turks. Really.

    Immigrants too. Good heavens.

    Please don’t associate images of the British military with stupidity, ignorance or prejudice. They’re way too good for that.

    Incidentally – best haircut I’ve had in ages.

  • Sky. Stupid.

    sky-logo-2

    I have just finished a telephone call.

    A charming-sounding lady called me. The phone indicated that she was calling from Derby and she told me that she was calling from Sky.

    The call was not entirely unexpected, as I have recently informed them that I will no longer be taking their services once my contract expires at the end of April. I daresay that Sky has an entire team dedicated to getting customers to change their minds. Good for them, I say.

    I have no problem with Sky TV, but I have come to the conclusion that we were not getting value for money from it. Essentially, we were watching channels that are free to air, with me occasionally watching some golf.

    In effect, it came down to paying £70 a month for me to sometimes watch some golf.

    Watching golf in the twenty first century is not something to be taken on lightly. Watching a round requires planning and organisation as well as the ability to watch the same adverts over and over again. Professional golf takes an age. We are talking 5 to 6 hours per round. A full day of golf coverage can quite literally be from dawn until dusk.

    Frankly, I can’t be bothered anymore. Too many other things to do. During a day’s coverage, I can walk the dog twice, play a round of golf, write a blog post and eat three meals.

    I digress. I was telling you about my phone call.

    The call was to explain how any transactions (pay per view purchases etc) between now and the termination date would work, I was told.

    The caller and I agreed that my name is Stuart Lennon. The fact that I had answered the phone with the words “Hello, Stuart Lennon speaking” was a pretty big clue, I thought.

    The caller asked me to confirm my address.

    Reluctantly, I did so.

    Then she asked me for my password. I politely declined to do so. I did provide the rationale: “You called me.”

    There may be some asking yourselves, “Why would Sky need to identify a customer to explain that with no contract, he couldn’t buy pay per view events?”

    Well done! They don’t need to identify me for that. They need to identify me just in case the charming lady is able to convince me to change my mind, or to accept a reduced price.

    I got the impression my caller was a little niggled. Nevertheless, she persisted.

    “OK, will you give me your Mother’s maiden name?”

    “No.”

    “If you google the telephone number that came up when I rang, you will see that it is a Sky number.”

    Honestly. That is what she said. All of these warnings about phishing and passwords, all nonsense. All that one needs to do apparently is Google the caller’s number. Then be free and liberal with your personal data and even passwords. Hurrah!

    I’m reasonably certain that it was Sky calling and not some criminal mastermind, but surely companies should not be phoning up their customers asking for personal data?

    I suggested that if my caller was unable to continue the call without my mother’s maiden name or password, she might want to discontinue it.

    We parted as friends, but I have the distinct impression that she was a little miffed.

    I had a quick ten second trawl on Sky’s website.

    I quote from their section on security;

    “Identity theft/Fraud
    A few simple rules could help you guard against criminals stealing your personal details.

    The risks

    •Phishing – being tricked into giving private information, such as bank details, user names and passwords”

    Is it any wonder that people are confused about online and telephone data security, when there are massive multi-national companies being so incredibly stupid and half-witted?

    Stupid, stupid, stupid Sky.

  • Whining on Wine

    glass_of_wine_book_candle

    Me again.

    This morning I awoke full of the joys of the New Year. I had resolved how the next few days would be spent.

    I am particularly looking forward to a couple of nights away with the long-suffering wife, Margaret. In a particularly sensitive moment, Nero the dog has gifted us a stay at a very posh hotel in the Cotswolds.

    Walks in the countryside, lounging in the spa, delicious food and fine wine with the love of my life. What could be better?

    Then the Chief Medical Officer (Dame Sally Davies) came on TV to tell me how dangerous drinking was. “Drinking any level of alcohol regularly carries a health risk for anyone…”

    Fortunately, I have recently read “Doctoring Data” by Dr Malcolm Kendrick. If you read only one book this year, read that one. Actually, read two, because I’m going to release a novel too.

    Dr Kendrick very mildly points out that we might want to be a little bit careful about guidance and advice issued by people like the Chief Medical Officer.

    Equipped with the mental tool kit that Dr Kendrick has equipped me with, I was able to note a few things that I might ordinarily have missed from the brief item on the morning news.

    In my head the conversation went a bit like this

    “Have the new findings and recommendations come from a thorough and rigorous test that has recently finished?”

    “Um. No actually. Broadly speaking, we have read a lots of the studies that have already been done and reported on and sort of put them all together.”

    “I see. So every single study?”

    “Well No. Not all of them. Some were a bit dodgy.”

    “Let me guess. The dodgy ones were the ones that suggested that a few glasses of wine with dinner and friends was actually good for your long term health?”

    “Spot on. You are clearly a very perceptive man. Outrageous that a study should suggest something like that isn’t it?”

    “Hmmm…”

    In a nutshell, there is absolutely no new evidence.

    Let me repeat that.

    ABSOLUTELY NO NEW EVIDENCE.

    Some very well meaning folk (all of whom have spent their entire careers telling us that drinking is BAD) have ‘proved’ that drinking any alcohol increases your risk of cancer, and they have proved it by reading a lot of studies already done.

    Dr Kendrick explains it a lot better than I do. Read his book.

    I don’t want to rant, nor do I want to suggest that lots of heavy drinking is good for you. I’m pretty certain that It isn’t.

    I will leave you with this little nugget that appears at the end of the BBC News website coverage of the story.

    “Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, an expert in understanding risk from the University of Cambridge, said it was important to put the 1% risk in context. He said an hour of TV watching or a bacon sandwich a couple of time a week was more dangerous.”

    I was going to have a bacon sandwich for breakfast, but for the sake of my health, I’m going to turn the TV off and have a glass of wine.

    Cheers.

     

  • No Dickheads

    IMG_0674

    I posted last week about a Golf Day that I attended – BattleBack versus Rugby’s Golf Club.

    Once the golf had finished, we repaired to Tedworth House, a Help 4 Heroes Recovery Centre, for a spot of dinner and a charity auction.

    I bought the print above. The original (complete with signatures of many famous sports and media folk) was presented to Welsh Rugby legend Cliff Morgan on the occasion of his retirement.

    One hundred prints were countersigned by the man himself to be used for charitable purposes.

    Now I have one in my house. This makes me feel inordinately pleased with myself. My wife is, for the moment, reserving judgement.

    Rugby’s Golf Club relates to the game of Rugby, not the place. It binds people with interests in Rugby, Golf and doing good. Jason Leonard is the club President.

    After dinner – one of our number stood up and spoke about The Rugby Business Network. His name was Colm Hannon.

    Colm, like me, played prop. Unlike me, he was good at it.

    Colm played professional rugby in Ireland, England and South Africa. I daresay that he made a pretty decent living.

    Post Rugby – he identified a need for something like The Rugby Business Network and went out and set it up. Good on him.

    He presented to us what it is and what it is for.

    I may get a word or two wrong, but I’m sure that he will forgive me;

    “Essentially there is one criterion for membership. Officially we say that at any RBN event you must say “How can I help you?” – but unofficially, it is much simpler.”

    “No Dickheads.”

    If you played Rugby, then I suspect that you understand the nuance.

    Certainly many in the room nodded their understanding, although of course, this may have just been people nodding off as the wine took effect.

    I have a feeling that Jason Leonard knows exactly what it means and I am sure that Cliff Morgan would have too.

    No Dickheads means team first.

    Your teammates come before all else. No ego. No bullshit – not on the field, not off the field.

    If there is anything that anyone takes away from the game of rugby – then it is this. (And a lot of very imaginative and graphic song lyrics)

    In many ways, it is a good maxim to live by – in business, in sport, in everything.

     

  • Perspective

    Battleback

    “More Golf?”

    Now, now, dear reader. Relax.

    You sound like the wife.

    This post is only tangentially about golf.

    Yesterday I took part in a golf day at my home club Tidworth Garrison Golf Club.

    It was a match between BattleBack Golf and Rugby’s Golf Club. I slipped in with a few other club members to even out the numbers.

    Please do check out the links above, a great golf club and two superb sports initiatives. All the links will open in separate pages.

    Back with me? Good.

    I was playing with the two people in the picture. They were playing for the BattleBack team.  – That makes them injured service people.

    On the left we have Fiona, who was injured while training and has had and continues to have multiple operations on her shoulder and knee. On the right is Jimmy who managed to get himself shot five times in the leg on Operations.

    Both people that might have some justification in feeling a bit hard done by as well as not a little bit sore.

    Not a bit of it. They were both bundles of energy, out to have fun. Out to get recovered.

    It’s all a matter of perspective apparently.

    Jimmy has not yet got a handicap, and was predictably a bit erratic. When he got it going the right way, you can take my word for it, that ball stayed hit. As his leg recovery continues, and he continues to play (he has just started) he will comfortably pass me in golfing prowess.

    Fiona is an accomplished golfer. To demonstrate the point, she knocked in a hole in one on the thirteenth. (That is the green that you can see on the left of this page.) A beautiful shot and her first hole in one.

    FionaGrayHIO

    The purists will of course need to know that Yes, poor Fiona was hit for a very large round of drinks!

    Quite apart from sharing in the delight of that rare thing, the hole in one, the whole day was brilliant.

    Dinner was hosted at Tedworth House.

    Here food was eaten, some jokes were told, some wine was drunk and there was even a little auction action.

    A gentleman called Mark was asked to say a few words about Help 4 Heroes and what it had meant and continues to mean for him.

    I cannot recreate what he said or how he said it. I am not sure that I can adequately express how much sincerity weighed down each and every one of his words.

    I can write that BattleBack and Help 4 Heroes are important. Like life and death important.

    Days like this are about perspective, and understanding what things really matter in life.

    My perspective? How lucky am I to have the chance to write what I want, do what I want – because brave Men and Women go out and serve.

     

  • I’m Back

    Stuart Lennon. Abbots Ann, Hampshire. April 21st 2015. Copyright Warren James Palmer. www.wjpphoto.co.uk 044 1264 848 056

    Stuart Lennon. Abbots Ann, Hampshire. April 21st 2015. Copyright Warren James Palmer. www.wjpphoto.co.uk 044 1264 848 056

    Me again! Hello there. How have you all been? Or perhaps that should read how have you both been? I’m back.

    I have been a busy busy boy. My Mum is now living around the corner, which is great; and I have access to a lovely place in Cyprus.

    I have played a fair amount of golf – burned some meat in the name of the British summer and even kept the garden quite tidy.

    Life is good.

    On the corporate front, I’m looking after a couple of clients AML and CTF needs, which is keeping my hand in and provides a welcome trickle of revenue.

    I even have appointments set up to review acquisition opportunities with my business partner. Look out World of Commerce – we’re on our way back.

    What I have not been doing, is very much writing or communicating on social media.

    Procrastination? One of those things?

    A bit of both, I suspect.

    But now…I’m back.

     

  • Y is for Yank

    yank_100644

    Yanks. They are just such a nightmare.

    Loud, uncultured, ignorant peasants. Always have been. Always will be.

    I know this, as I was taught it from a young age.

    Then, I met some.

    Some loud ones. Some quiet ones.

    Some uncultured ones. Some cultured ones.

    They even came in a multitude of colours, races, creeds and religions.

    Annoyingly, I have met some spectacularly amazing people that, God forbid, were born and bred in the USA.

    On the quittrain.com there are some folk who are genuine, bona fide superstars from the States. Nancy, Babs, Colleen, Ava, DD, MQ, Sonic. Joe, Rez, Bakon – all on my bucket list of people to visit, thank and raise a glass with. (There are more too on this incredible site.)

    I once posted on a golf site about having the possibility of tacking a day or two onto a trip to the US so that I could play a golf. Within 24 hours, it was arranged that I would be staying at someone’s house in California with guaranteed tee times on Pasatiempo, San Juan Oaks and…Pebble Beach. – Yes. THAT Pebble Beach.

    The host was a Yank.

    A Yank with exceptional taste in left bank Bordeaux.

    I met a wonderfully intelligent, hospitable, humorous couple whom went out of their way to ensure that I enjoyed every second of my time in the USA.

    It all came as a bit of a shock.

    My eyes were opened to the enormity of the USA. Are there some bad things about the US? I am sure that there must be – guns would be an immediate question mark in my mind. However, in my experience, there are an incredible amount of positive things too.

    Most importantly – the vast majority of Yanks seem to be ….well, quite normal people really.

    A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

    Some great A to Z Challenge Blogs can be found here