Living the Dream – 33. Settled

My trip to the UK presented an unexpected challenge. Snow had settled. The aircraft landed on time, I switched on my phone and it burst into song. Multiple message notifications flooded in.

Settled
Localised settled snow

Snowmageddon

Landing late at night rules out public transport as a realistic option, although I usually permit myself a private transfer at any time of day. However, my driver couldn’t get to me. Paul has never let me down and is a straightforward man. If he said he couldn’t get through, then I was happy that it was impossible. Heading to passport control, I called a hotel or two. No room at the inn.

Eventually, I found a room and headed to the shuttle bus-stop. Cold though it was, there was a distinct lack of snow. Not a flake of it had settled, in fact. The snowfall was unusually localised. The real problem, for me, at least, was around Basingstoke, with the M3, A303 and A34 all being closed. Lorries had jack-knifed.

Fortunately, I had no commitments for Saturday morning and was able to get down to Mum early the next morning, before hooking up with some friends to catch up, drink beer and watch rugby.

Work

The business elements of the trip went well, (you can read about the pen show [here](https://www.nerosnotes.co.uk/blogs/news/south-west-pen-show)) and I was soon back in to the swing of being on the road. Tuesday night, I slept in my own bed back in Cyprus and prepared for Thursday, where I was scheduled to attend a Symposium on Financial Crime.

After a couple of months working remotely, I was suddenly back into face to face mode, from a pen show, through client meetings, to full-blown conference mode, all in the space of a few days.

It strikes me how easy it is to switch mode. The trick, I suspect, is going to be maintaining a balance between my various incarnations. After a few days talking financial services and compliance, I see plenty of opportunities for both business and travel. However – I didn’t come to live here so that I would never be here.

Work on the house has dragged on. Errors and wet weather each playing their part. The garden is completely fenced now, with an electric gate at the bottom. My office is hardwired through to the modem upstairs, and we have a range of electronic security measures in place. Next week, we will be hooked up to TV services.

Settled

I finally feel settled to get on with my writing, my consulting and my ‘notebooking’ from my new home. This feeling will, of course, be immediately tested by warming weather, and inviting golf courses…

Working Tools 8 – Messenger

“A Messenger bag. That’s what I need.”

The ink had barely dried on “Briefcase” and I was already second-guessing the decision. Neuroses apart, an element of my decision was use-case. I explained that a backpack and or a messenger, although my favourite bag style, didn’t work for me when I’m suited and booted. True enough, but actually, this trip, I’m not going to be in a suit. I’m corporate on Monday, but the two scheduled meetings are informal, and it’s winter. I’m likely to be wearing lots of layers and a warm coat.

This changes the calculation. Without the need to look formal, I’m looking for a bag that’s comfortable to carry both in conjunction with a wheelie bag and when manoeuvring through public transport. In both London and Bristol, I’m likely to be walking a fair bit.

So now, my key concerns are carrying the bag around town and in-flight performance. My eye dropped to the Pac-Safe Carryology collaboration. It’s out of stock now, but there are alternatives on the site, and some great images too.

This will be packed light, with the majority of my kit going into the wheelie. Therefore, the messenger will sit easy across the body and have space for any shopping that I might pick up at any point. Somewhere to stow scarf, gloves and hat will be useful too, England in February can be many things, but colder than here seems a safe bet.

The PacSafe’s security features are useful. Living away from the big city has eroded my street-wisdom very quickly. Being able to anchor the bag to the table/counter is a comfort.

The Pacsafe is more capacious than the Tumi and less rigid. It’s therefore more flexible. The bright orange lining is a real feature too. Finding things in the bag is a breeze.

I carry my iPad in the pocket designed for it, and my notebooks sit where the laptop would live, if I carried one. There are a host of useful internal pockets and the large external, protected by a security zip, is a great spot to drop my passport and mobile phone when navigating the airport. This feels a good solution for my travel bag – and currently serves as my daily commute here in Cyprus.

Commute? Allow me to explain, while Spice is still in training, I take the early-morning shift – so I work upstairs from 0530 until around 8, and at various times during the day while Margaret makes our home-life work. Even though the commute is literally a flight of stairs, the Pac-Safe is flexible enough to act as my remote desk.

I’m happy with this change of direction – although that may well have moved on before this even gets posted. To borrow a catchphrase from the PenAddict – “There are worse addictions to have, right?”

Living the Dream 32. Travel

As this post publishes, I’ll be setting out on a trip back to the UK. Travel was always going to figure in Living the Dream. I have two businesses based in the UK and though much can be done remotely, sometimes, boots on the ground are required.

The attack on Margaret and Nero led to a reschedule of plans, but as February begins, it’s time to get on the road. Or at least on the plane. I’m visiting my Mum, then off to a pen show to sell notebooks, before coming over all-corporate cobra and meeting some clients for my consultancy business. The trip is as short as I can make it; Margaret remains nervous and even though her sister is here, she will feel better when I’m back home.

Throughout the nineties and the noughties, I travelled extensively for work and developed a love/hate relationship with it. Mostly, I love a little travel, am comfortable with more travel and hate lots of travel. As with so many things, it’s about balance. It has been four months since I boarded a plane, so I am looking forward to this trip.

Cyprus to London is a five hour flight or thereabouts. Add on check-in times, transfers then the whole exercise takes nine hours. I’m flying in the evening and will either catch up with some work or some reading. I’m hand luggage only, so that cuts out some of the inevitable hassle of checking in, waiting for bags etc. Living from a small case, is, I discovered, liberating. I have made the decisions ahead of time, when packing. I’ll know what I’m wearing each day, weather and changes of plan be damned.

My last meeting is on Monday afternoon in London and I’m not flying until Tuesday morning. It may be that I catch up with some people, or perhaps not. A quiet evening in London might be just the ticket. If the weather is fine, I’ll walk around town, enjoying the shops, the wine bars and some food. If it’s wet, I’ll nest in the corner of a warm restaurant with a bottle of wine and a good book. As a young man, I loathed eating alone in a restaurant. Now, firmly middle-aged, I rather enjoy it.

Short trips focus the mind too. Having invested time and money to be somewhere, there is a natural inclination to want to make the most of the opportunity. I find myself more determined, persistent and absolute when travelling. There is a certainty about need to make a deal there and then. One thing that I have learned and integrated into my approach, is that I endeavour to complete all trip follow-up before I disembark the return flight. I compose E-mails, formulate offers, ready to send once I have had a chance to review them the next day. This contributes to maximising value from the trip.

Once off the plane, I’ll soon be back at home, playing with Spice and relishing the warmer temperatures.

Working Tools – 7. Briefcase

I co-host a podcast, 1857. On episode 51, we inadvertently touched on one my neuroses. Bags. Backpacks, messengers, briefcases, holdalls and everything in between. I am constantly on the hunt for the perfect bag (or bags). Interest was huge! People coming back with questions, advice and suggestions. Many wanted to know what I plumped for – so here we are. For everyone’s sanity, I’ll limit this post to my work bag, nobody is interested in how I pack my shirts. Mostly, I work from my home office, which is directly below my living room. From time to time, I attend meetings, either here in Cyprus, or elsewhere. This might be in my guise as a compliance consultant, the notebook guy or possibly even both. So I need a bag that will sit comfortably with both of those personae. One that can come to a pen show or to a boardroom.

I love Messenger bags and backpacks. However – I don’t like either with a suit. I know that many suits use these types of bag daily, but I find that the bags do not sit right with the jacket. I don’t see the point of making an effort to look smart, then destroying that look with the bag. A specific and personal opinion, I know. Therefore, I am left with briefcases / shoulder bags (some of which can be worn across the body too). The specific trip that I am packing for is, 4 nights, 3 days. 1 day leisure, 1 day being the notebook guy at a pen show and 1 day as a compliance professional. I fly out on Friday evening and return home Tuesday.

Contents

This is what I’m taking:

Digital

Digital Tools
For a short trip

iPad Pro 10.5 (2017). Bose Comfort 35 Noise reducing headphones. Anker charger (4 x USB), Kodak battery pack, AirPods, Punkt M01 feature phone, some lightning cables, and an Apple Watch charging cable.

Analogue

Briefcase analogue contents
Paper, pens and pencils

My LT1917 Metallic A5 and pen. 2 Bellroy wallets. One for pocket carry and 1 for additional cards. Smythson business card holder and LT1917 business card holder. Pocket Notebook and Nock Tallulah mini pen case for a few writing instruments.

All of that will slot into my Tumi briefcase that I bought several years ago, in Helsinki, I think.

Briefcase in Black
Corporate Cobra!

Conclusion

The briefcase is made for a laptop around the 13 inch mark. I can squeeze my 15 inch MBP in, if pushed. The dimensions in cm are 42 by 30 by 10 or so. The bag will fit comfortably under an airline seat, which is my preference. I like to be able to get to anything that I might need without doing the whole seat dance thing.

However, the briefcase is quite rigid and as such requires a ‘everything in its place’ approach. Rummaging around in this bag is uncomfortable. It hurts. It does unzip all the way open, making it TSA friendly. Of course, the rest of the world cares not a jot about the TSA, so don’t think you can leave your laptop in it for scanning at Heathrow.

Briefcase opened out
Only useful in the US

The shoulder strap is detachable and adjustable. It can be worn over the shoulder or across the body. It’s very high quality, and I suspect will last forever. The slim profile means that duty free shopping etc is not going to slot in this bag, but will either need to live in its own bag or be slipped into the wheelie with my clothes.

If I was slipping down to a coffee shop to prominently place my notebook and iPad and look the ‘hipster writer’, I’d want a softer, less corporate briefcase, but that is,
a: Because I’m a poseur
b: For another post

Overall, this is a high quality briefcase, well-designed and built. It sits between the minimalist “cool” size and the corporate road warrior “all bases covered” size. Yet still, I find myself drifting to bag websites…

Edinburgh

 

photo3

Last week, I spent a couple of days in the magnificent city of Edinburgh.

The picture above of Edinburgh castle was taken from the breakfast room of the hotel that we stayed in.

I may be a little biased in that my Dad comes from that neck of the woods, but Edinburgh is a fantastic place to visit.

Every August the city and its environs host the Edinburgh International Festival and its unruly, less high brow, younger brother, the Fringe.

The Fringe has comedy, pop art, kids shows – pretty much anything goes.

Every theatre, gallery, library, book shop, pub, cafe and broom cupboard becomes a venue.

The Fringe is now the biggest festival of its kind in the world.

Also during August, Edinburgh is host to the Military Tattoo, which is what I go to see.

I will post about the tattoo separately, but it is an event that should be on every bucket list, in my opinion. Simply awesome.

The city itself positively throbs with visitors from near and far.

Bars, restaurants and cafes are full to overflowing from mid morning until long after dark.

For my trip, the sun was out, the winds were down and Edinburgh could have been a southern European city.  The party spilled out from the hostelries onto outdoor terraces and decks. It was gorgeous.

With one exception, the businesses of Edinburgh welcomed us with open arms.

August is, I’m sure a bonanza for the hospitality industry.

Everybody is excited, having fun and looking to have a good time. We ate, we drank and most of all we laughed.

Stuart LennonI was travelling with my wife, her cousin and her husband. (We are in the picture right) We met up with my cousin and her man. (That’s them below on their trusty steed)

photo1

We laughed until our sides ached.

Where is your favourite city?