• In a time warp

     

    What Ho!

    It has been almost a full month since I last wrote.

    An exciting and exhausting month in the new business @ pocketnotebooks 

    Even Nero is feeling the pace.

    Mags has had carpal tunnel surgery on her right hand. In true Margaret style, she has twice had to return to A&E, but we think all is well now. It will still be several weeks until she has use of the hand.

    Anyone who has been involved in a new business (new to me at least) will have experienced time-warp. All of my focus has been on getting the webshop stocked and reassuring the very loyal customer-base that it’s business as usual. Days have been long, and to-do lists longer. I have found myself chasing people up:

    “Have you completed that task yet? I asked you ages ago.”

    “Umm…you sent me an email at 2120 last night. I’m just reading it with my first coffee.”

    “Ah. Right. Sorry.”

    As the month draws to an end, I have become marginally less unreasonable, although the to-do list shows no signs of getting any shorter and I still never have enough time.

    Talking of which…

    Keep smiling!

  • Pocket Notebooks

     

    Sorry I’m late.

    I promised to update you yesterday.

    I am now the proud owner of Pocket Notebooks

    I completed the transaction yesterday and spent the day doing all of the things that you have to do on day one of a new business. I believe that I managed to get through the entire day without breaking anything.

    The website was setup by two cracking guys from the North East. They have another business, and as it took off, by their own admission, Pocket Notebooks suffered a little.

    The site sells Notebooks. No, not powerful, miniaturised computers, but paper notebooks. I never go anywhere without a notebook, and I don’t always have a briefcase with me. So, I’m a big user of pocket-sized ones.

    There is a renaissance of pen and paper. It is not a rejection of technology, but rather a recognition that for some things, technology is brilliant, but that for others, the analogue way still works best.

    So, my new company, Loggedoff Ltd, will be offering a place to come and buy some old fashioned technology; Pocket Notebooks. You can even subscribe for a regular delivery of a curated collection of notebooks.

    It will take me a few weeks to get everything stocked up and firing, but as I write I have two new lines in transit and some old favourites on their way down from the North East.

    P.S. Forget the App, there’s a Pocket Notebook for that…

  • Progress Report

     

    Glass of Sherry

    Much underestimated; sherry.

    I have been quiet recently. Progress has been slow. Unusually for me, I have been working.

    I wrote before about setting simple goals this year. As January draws to a close, this is a progress report.

    Progress

    I haven’t lost two stone, or published a novel. I have bought a company though. Look at that. January not yet finished, and I have one of the year’s three goals in the bag. How’s that for progress?

    I have signed the contract for the deal, but I can’t reveal what it is for a couple of days yet, not until I have paid for it. They can be funny like that; vendors.

    My last venture was in partnership with a great friend, and this one is no different. However, this time, I am the senior partner. Allow me to introduce my Chief Operations Officer, Tamodan Midnight Sun, or Nero as he is more commonly known.

    Nero, COO of pocketnotebooks

    Nero Assessing Progress

    CV

    This is his first real management position, but he is off to a flying start. We have had several management meetings, and he is never short of an apposite bark or dismissive sniff.

    We have secured ourselves a very desirable office on the Castledown Business Park, and tomorrow we collect the keys.

    Exciting times.

  • A word from King Barry

    Stuart is away this week.

    I, King Barry, Snow White’s father, will provide you with an update.

    Stuart is, thus far, doing OK on all goals for 2017:

    1. Talks continue with a few potential business acquisitions.
    2. The fitbit indicates that he is keeping his nose ahead of his friends group. (Just. That Ger woman is pushing hard.)
    3. A whole kilogram has been lost, no seriously, a whole kilo.
    4. Every day has been a writing day.

    Naturally, the highlight of the winter for Stuart has been the opportunity to play me, King Barry, in the Abbotts Ann village pantomime. The production was a roaring success, playing four sold-out performances in early-December. The show was put on by the Abbotts Ann players, a group with sufficient talent to produce a good show, even when hampered by novices like the big boy.

    A friend attended the opening night, and did not go to the pub until AFTER the show had ended. His comment was telling;

    “I think that it’s great you live in a village that still does things like this. It’s brilliant.”

    It’s unusual for any acquaintance of Stuart to utter anything halfway sensible, but I suppose the exception proves the rule.  People are quick to rue the loss of their local pub, or corner shop, and they moan about how the street, estate, neighbourhood, ‘never does anything’ any more. Yet, it is this very same people that drove past their village shop to get to the supermarket. The same people who don’t attend the fireworks night, because they are busy. The same people who don’t use the pub, don’t attend community meetings etc…

    I, King Barry of the Kingdom of Elate (on the nice side of the A38), leave you with this, my regal thought. YOU are your community. YOU can make it thrive. Stuart tells me that it’s also, really good fun.

    And remember…

    “You are my first, my last, my everything…”  Barry White, the Walrus of Love. 1974.

  • Dry January Goal

    “Goal: Dry January,” you say?

    Let me stop you there.

    No.

    That is that nonsense out of the way.

    January the first is my Mum’s birthday. Happy Birthday Mum!

    Soon she will join us here for lunch. As I type, my fantastic wife is cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Beef Wellington, accompanied by this sumptuous, velvety Rioja from Muga. This is a beautiful wine. Buy some and enjoy it. In February, if you must.

    Last year I wrote about my goals and how I was filling notebooks with them. I had goals, objectives, sub-goals, milestones, action plans, all sorts of things intended to keep me focused and ‘on mission’.

    How did I do?

    Well, regrettably, I am not 4 stone lighter. For a while, I was a stone lighter at one point but now I’m probably a pound lighter. Not a dazzling success. Must do better.

    Single-figure handicap golfer? Nope. Not yet. Playing off 12, which is an improvement. Good progress.

    Publishing third novel? Nope. Not published the debut yet. Unacceptable.

    I could go on for pages. Overall, I did reach several of my goals, but I did so at the expense of the core ones, the ones that I really wanted to achieve.

    There is danger in over-complicating things, or being too ambitious. The older I get, the more I learn that multi-tasking is a word that means “doing lots of things poorly”.

    This year – I’m not filling notebooks with goals, milestones, measures etc. This year I’m keeping it simple and I’m going public.

    1. Publish a novel.
    2. Lose 2 stone.
    3. Buy a company.

    What are your goals for 2017?

  • English Humour. Drier than gin.

    Many will be delighted to see the back of 2016.

    We might be better to look forward to what exciting things are coming in 2017.

    Watching “The Dambusters” on television today, I was reminded how dry the English sense of humour can be.

    It’s a brilliant movie; if you haven’t seen it, look it out.

    Throughout the film, humour is used by the airmen as a coping strategy for the very real peril that they faced. (Of the 133 that took off, 53 were killed that night.)

    Early in the piece there is a wonderful example of dry english wit at its withering best, as designer Barnes Wallis attempts to get resources to develop his bouncing bomb.

    Official, Ministry of Aircraft Production: You say you need a Wellington Bomber for test drops. They’re worth their weight in gold. Do you really think the authorities will lend you one? What possible argument could I put forward to get you a Wellington?

    Doctor B. N. Wallis, C.B.E., F.R.S.: Well, if you told them I designed it, do you think that might help?”

    (From “The Dambusters”, a movie based on Chastise, a real operation carried out by the RAF in 1943.)

    I don’t know whether the line was genuine, or a bit of artistic licence. Either way it’s genius.

     

     

     

  • Christmas Time

    Merry Christmas!

    I’m looking forward to some tasty food, some classy grape based beverages and the company of friends and family – including the little fellow above, Nero the dog.

    The world’s media and thousands of talented bloggers will produce long, detailed and weighty reviews of 2016. I daresay there will be much talk of war, terrorism, politics and death. It really has been quite some year.

    Nero’s year has been altogether simpler.

    Food has been plentiful. Walks too. He has been particularly pleased with the variety of armchairs, couches and beds provided for his comfort. Most satisfactory.

    Every time Margaret and I return, Nero jumps up and down at the back door, waiting to hear the key in the lock. When he does, he speeds across the room to his toys, selecting one as a welcome home present. Whether we have been gone five minutes or a few hours, his enthusiasm is entire and unlimited.

    He loves curling up on a couch in front of the fire, even more if he can share the couch with us.

    Each morning, I awake to Nero tip-tapping across the wooden floor in the bedroom. In between long yoga-like stretches, he has taken to ‘huffing’, ensuring that I’m awake.

    Together we head out in the early light for a walk around the village. We take the same route each morning, yet every day is a brand new adventure, full of exciting scents, animals to chase and people to deafen with barks.

    We make the world very complicated.

    Be more Nero.

    Merry Christmas everyone!

  • Review

    img_20161129_083442

    Ducks on the Pill Brook at the end of my street.

    This morning, I was watching a very brave journalist broadcasting from Aleppo in Syria.

    I do not claim to have any real handle on the rights and wrongs of that terrible conflict. I watched in horror and shame. Will we ever stop being a cruel and murderous, species I wonder?

    I am fairly certain that the involvement of this joker hasn’t helped.

    It is difficult to maintain any sort of perspective in relation to the events that I mention above, but I thought I might provide a review on a variety of things.

    IT. I posted here about moving away from Apple, and here about moving to Google. My Pixel XL phone is great. Reliable, efficient and fast-charging. I can say the same for the Chromebook. The biggest change though works regardless of hardware. Turn notifications off. All except phone. This one simple step puts you in charge of your apps, rather than they in charge of you.

    Politics. A lot of nonsense continues to be talked about Brexit. A favourite is the clamour for the government to publish a plan. A plan for a negotiation. A chocolate teapot. Eventually, the PM realised that all she had to do was agree. She will soon publish a plan saying – “We want free trade, and control of our borders.” Remainers will cry foul and demand to know what is going to happen. The government will respond – “Don’t know. It’s a negotiation.” Still. It keeps them busy.

    US Politics. From a field of two, one candidate won. He is certainly a departure from the usual. There is a lot of noise about the inherent unfairness of the electoral system, and at the moment, outrage that a foreign power is alleged to have attempted to influence the outcome of the election. Apparently such claims made with no trace of irony. How will ‘The Donald’ work out? I really don’t know. I suspect he will continue to delight in upsetting any apple-cart that he can find.

    The CaminoThe word alone brings a smile to my face. Somehow we managed to ensure that the pilgrim with the photos is the one least able to share them, so I have not written or posted as much about that week as I had planned. Walking twenty miles or more each day certainly simplifies life and I can’t wait for the second instalment next year.

    Journals, organisers and stationery. I have chopped and changed through a myriad of schemes to organise myself. Both digital and analogue. My preference is analogue, yet digital is far better for sharing. Thus, I use a hybrid. My calendar, shared with Mrs L, is kept on Google; accessible from multiple electronic devices. Many events, I also transfer to my Economist desk diary. Here, I get some perspective on how my week looks. I find this more attractive than an electronic output and better for my weekly review. On the move though, the diary has too much heft. I now carry a simple paper A6 notebook with a Fischer space pen. I would rather use a fountain pen, but I often dress casual – and ink and jeans can be uncomfortable companions. Here, I employ parts of the #BuJo system to run my daily tasks. Of late, I have even developed a double page system to prioritise. I also have a reflective journal – which I would like to keep daily, but often is neglected. Joyfully, the journal has no notifications function, and therefore does not berate me for missing a day.

    Corporate. I have a couple of clients for whom I provide support in anti-money laundering systems. I have also been reviewing a multitude of potential acquisitions. Both of those things are, by their very nature, confidential, but hopefully the work done this year will lead to good outcomes.

    Writing. The last few months I have done no work at all on Sean. I have been perpetually busy on everything above. Now, given that I am largely (when Mrs L lets me) master of my own time, I have to ask myself why it is that I can find time for anything, anything at all, except writing.

    That’s probably another post all on its own.

     

     

  • A great read.

    img_20161209_102312

    What Ho everybody!

    Gratuitous photo of the Christmas tree and Nero the Schnauzer at his devastating cutest.

    Mrs L has decided that the tree should be in a new spot this year. Mostly, I think that she enjoys watching me move furniture about. In fairness, the tree does look great next to the fireplace and the move has created a little nook, ideal for my armchair.

    This morning I sat in that chair and read. A book. A real one. You know, with pages and everything.

    I spent three hours finishing off an excellent novel with the dog at my feet. I suspect it is only a matter of time before Radio 4 becomes the soundtrack to my life.

    The novel was ‘Rather be the Devil’ by Ian Rankin. It is the latest in the immensely successful Rebus series. I should disclose that I am a massive Rankin fan. I’m not quite stalking the man, but I did attend a book signing in Guildford recently and whenever in Edinburgh I accidentally fall into a pub from one of the stories.

    In this latest instalment, Rebus and his old adversary Cafferty prove useless at being retired and skirmish again across Edinburgh.

    For hardcore fans like me, this novel is bittersweet. Rebus is showing signs of mortality, reminding me that he is getting a bit long in the tooth and has not exactly lived ‘clean’. Still, he’s off the cigarettes and has cut down the booze and takeaways, so perhaps he is going to get a second wind. Gloriously, he remains maverick with a determined, pathological distaste for authority.

    A great read.

    I know that I have read a great novel when I feel sad that I must leave the world of the book. In my head, the last few days I have been hanging out in Edinburgh pubs, trying to piece together clues to the mystery. Now, the mystery is solved and I must return to the real world with sulky regret.

  • The roof of the world

    What Ho!

    It’s been a bit quiet here. The front row has been recovering from the camino experience.

    The tighthead is currently recovering hard with The Sheep and the Decorator. Were I a betting man, I might suggest that some rugby will be watched and some beers consumed, even as I type. Stu will also complain about the cold one hundred and thirty two times and how hungry he is, eighty four times. (Today).

    The loosehead, concerned by slight camino-induced weight loss, resolved to bulk up. After a month’s solid, non-stop eating, the concern has lessened, particularly as he can no longer see his feet.

    The hooker. Last we heard, the Duck was in remarkable form, having greatly enjoyed the camino. Naturally, his reaction to walking one hundred and twenty miles in six days was…to go for a walk.

    rsz_topoftheworld

    Delighted though we are that the Duck has been ‘en vacances’ with his charming son Leon, Laurent is in sole possession of the vast majority of the photographs – some of which, we rather hoped to share here. Carrier pigeons and bounty hunters have been despatched.

    This picture is from day one, our passage along the route Napoleon through the Pyrenees. At this point, it is fair to say there were some gritted teeth. The enormity of what we were taking on was hitting home. Stu, obviously, stayed behind me at points like this, well away from any drop-offs.

    At the summit, it was cold and wet. We had passed through the clouds, and the wind was icy. It really felt like the roof of the world.

    The descent into Roncesvalles is steep and many of the surfaces are loose. Rain doesn’t help. I was thankful that none of us was carrying any injuries.

    “Ah boys. I forgot.”

    “Did you hear that Stu? He didn’t swear.” (I really am that annoying.)

    “If I fall, and there is any bruising or bleeding – you must take me immediately to the hospital.”

    Stu and I looked at each other, and then surveyed the stark emptiness all around.

    “Why?” We chorused.

    “Ah…I don’t know. Something to do with the f*****g drugs they give me?”

    “Anti coagulant?” I ventured.

    “Yes. That’s it.”

    I counted to ten in my head.

    “Right. So, as we tackle these vertiginous scree drops, we should keep in mind that should the Duck go arse over tit and cut himself, he will bleed to death all over us.”

    The props shared a look and put their heads together.

    We tacked down the hill, looking to all the world like skiers with no skis and no snow.


    Later, as we waited for dinner, the Duck asked,

    “What did you two say at the top of the hill?”

    “Ah, nothing Laurent. We tried to imagine what Terry would have advised us to do.”

    “Mais Non! Put***. What did you decide?”

    “If he dies, he dies.” We answered in unison, raising our glasses to him.

    “Bunch of c****” he replied with a laugh.