Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I'm in Paris

And just to prove it, here's a picture I took tonight of the Arc de Triomphe. Was a trip down memory lane for me as I went to see the road I used to live in 1991 - rue Brey - just near here.

I've not been back since I left to returned to London and it hasn't changed much. Ate at my old local restaurant and the food was still great.

I always remembered that French advertising used to consist of a naked woman holding the product as seductively as possible. Even today, when Orangina decide to feature cartoon animals, they try to make them as sexy as possible.
Long Fu Girls Reunion 2007

This is the 8th year that we've had a reunion of the girls from the Long Yan orphanage who now live in the UK.

The girls are 9 and 10 now and this year we stayed in a lovely old house near Monmouth in South Wales. Highlight of the event was the Talent Show organised by the girls where Lia was the star turn with her song from 'Annie'.

Next year Scotland. Can't wait.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Posh Hotel

Spent the day at The Hempel a very exclusive boutique hotel near Paddington. Very nice but a bit too cool and minimal for me. White walls, white flooring and staff wearing black.

Apparently Posh Spice was staying there. Didn't see her though.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Remember This?

I know the Rugby World Cup was really gripping, but there were few moments of magic. I can still remember this Gareth Edwards try in 1973 playing for the Barabarians against the All Blacks which is often called the greatest try of all time. Still brings a smile to your face.
The Dragon's Den

After Nigella, I watched the Dragon's Den, which was compelling but in a different way. I know its only television, but the dragons really are awful people. Aggressive, arrogant, incredibly condescending, bullying these poor desperate people, looking for a lifeline. i don't think I've ever seen Duncan Ballantine invest a penny.

However, there is a way to succeed and get your money.

1. Say you've had a poor, tough upbringing. The dragons hate posh people and love an underdog.
2. Know your numbers. If you get lost in your finances, they'll kill you.
3. Flatter the judges. Give them something that's personalised - however tacky - and it will play to their egos.
4. Never ask for too much. They won't risk more than £100 000 on any single investment
5. Be prepared to give up 30-40% of your company.
6. Don't waffle. They can't concentrate for too long.
7. Ask for money at the right time. Show you've sold something already. They won't back an unproven start-up
Nigella is Mad

I hardly ever watch TV, but with Karen and the kids away for half term, I tuned into 'Nigella Express' and came to the conclusion that she's barking mad.

She keeps saying 'if, like me, you find that..etc' as if anyone who's watching has a lifestyle that remotely resembles hers. Catching black cabs to Waitrose, people dropping round and expecting a slap-up meal, a pantry the size of a bedroom. Also the way she tore that chicken apart with her hands was like a horror movie. I'm sure her recipes don't conform to government guidlines on healthy eating. Condensed milk, peanut butter, chocolate and Haagen Dazs ice cream for pudding and she's SO greedy, diving into the fridge at every opportunity.

Having said all that, it's all very entertaining and will try and watch her next week and I do agree with her about tinned pears.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

We Should Have Won
No, I'm not referring to the rugby. It was the Derby's inability to beat Fulham on Saturday. Still, we kept a clean sheet and are no longer bottom of the league.
Craven Cottage is a nice ground to visit. It has a lot of character, there's a view over the river, it's small enough to be close to the pitch and there's a big away fans section. As ever, the Derby away fans were loud and passionate. One day the team may reward us with a goal.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Great Ideas

A lot of people I know are talking about the Radion 4 Show Genius, which is the funniest show around at the moment. It really does highlight the fact that there is little difference between genius and madness.

If you love new ideas, here's a couple of good sources. Idea a day. Where original ideas can be sent to you on a daily basis. Springwise a database of recently launched products and services picked up from different parts of the world.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Smiths of Smithfield

This is a great place to meet for breakfast. Was there this morning and had a really nice bacon sarnie.
The Brown Dog

Went to a really, really nice gastropub called the Brown Dog in an area of Barnes known as 'little Chelsea'. Small place, fabulous food, not too pricey and a cute logo. Recommended

Poor Steve McClaren

Never thought I'd say this, but I feel a bit sorry for Steve McClaren. I don't think he's a great manager, but after the defeat against Russia, everyone - including of course the Sun - are calling for him to go.

He'd started to make some brave decisions. Picking Heskey and Barry and dropping Lampard. England were starting to play as a team. However his players have badly let him down. He showed loyalty to Robinson - who yet again made a basic error. His captain, Gerrard misses a really easy chance.

Despite what the pundits say, English players are NOT world class and we've been kidding ourselves for decades. They occasionally have a good game, but where would the top clubs be without the foreign players? Nowhere. Even Sven, who was ridiculed as an England manager, has transformed Man City largely through overseas talent.

Is there any upside? Well, we may well get Jose Morinho back as England manager. Now that would be interesting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

We Eat Too Much and We Drink Too Much

According to a report out today, not only are we overweight, but we're becoming a nation of alcoholics. What's most shocking is that its the middle classes who are most guilty, apparently knocking back far too much New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Chilean Merlot. So its not just the young Friday night binge drinkers or the working class beer drinkers - everyone's at it. How shocking.

So what's going to happen? My guess is - more regulation. Higher prices via taxation, more restrictive advertising, health warnings on wine bottles. In fact our whole lives are going to become more and more regulated as the Government decides that the British people can't be trusted to look after themselves. My predictions:

- parents will be fined if their children are overweight
- children will be sent home if their lunch boxes are not up to scratch
- late night pub licenses will be revoked
- we will have to pay for treatment on the NHS if the illness is 'self inflicted'

Are the British people able to self-regulate? Not sure....

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Walk in Richmond Park

Who'd have thought it would have been warm enough for a picnic in mid-October? What a lovely day.
Lessons From the England Rugby Team

1. Being able to handle pressure is more important than individual talent.
2. It's about how good you are, not how old you are
3. Play to your strengths, don't dwell on your weaknesses
4. Never stop believing in yourself.
5. Stick together during a crisis
6. Learn from your defeats

It's been a fairtale for the players. Especially for Jonny who has been crocked for the past 4 years and Jason Robinson who thought his career was over. I don't care who we play in the final. We'd feel more confident against Argentina, but imagine how motivating it would be to try and avenge the 36-0 defeat v South Africa. Now that would really be a miracle.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Friday Night at Tate Modern

Tate Modern is a great place to go to on a Friday night. Yesterday, there was a Silent Disco which featured a huge crowd wearing headphones and dancing to their own music. Another example of flashmobbing - spontaneous gatherings of people organised via word of mouth - that I'd read about but never witnessed. It was fun to watch. Didn't join in.

Also saw Shibboleth, the latest exhibit in the Turbine Hall, which is basically a huge crack in the floor. Compared to previous exhibits I thought it might be a bit dull, but it was actually very impressive. Don't understand all the blurb that explains what its all about, but its still worth a look.

There's also a bar with a spectacular view of our wonderful city and a very nice restaurant. Great start to the weekend.

The Brand Gym Birthday Party

On Thursday evening I went to the Cobden Club in Ladbroke Grove to celebrate the 5th anniversary of The Brand Gym, the brand consultancy run by David Taylor and David Nichols.

The 2 Davids are ex-Added Value colleagues of mine and it was like going back to a school reunion. I was struck by how many talented people had worked there, particularly under the Mark Sherrington, Peter Dart era. A lot of people have now gone on to form their own successful brand-related businesses, such as The Space Doctors and Insight Inside. It was great to catch up with them.

David Taylor is a prolific writer of marketing books. His latest is Called Where's the Sausage. Check out excerpts and details on his blog which is one of my links below.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Gordon Brown's in Trouble

Driving in the car today I heard Gordon Brown being duffed up by David Cameron on Prime Minister's Question Time. He came across as defensive, hesitant and frankly a bit dull. I was always confident that he'd make a good PM but now I'm not so sure.
The worst thing was, the trouble was of all of his own making. If Alastair Campbell was still around, I bet it wouldn't have happened.
I bet Tony Blair's having a little smile to himself...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Legendary Gina Birch

I first met Gina and her husband Mike a few years ago. Like us, they'd also adopted 2 girls from China and we used to have Mandarin lessons at their kitchen table in Notting Hill.

What I didn't know at the time was that Gina was - and still is - an extremely influential figure in the music industry. She founded the all-female band The Raincoats in the late 1970s producing a series of critically acclaimed albums. Today she has a successful solo career as a performer and music video director.

Last night we saw her perform at the Bush Hall in Hammersmith with her own videos as a backdrop and she was fantastic. Great songs, brilliant music, amazing voice. She's a really unassuming, modest person but when she's on stage holding a guitar she's transformed into this charismatic performer with such power and confidence.

No wonder she's held in such high esteem and if you can a chance to see her, you should.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Two Out of Four Ain't Bad

Well - I got the England prediction right. There's nothing sweeter than beating Australia at a sporting event. I know most of the world complains about English arrogance, but before the game the Australians were completely disrepectful and were guilty of breaking the most important rule of sport - underestimating your opponent. They're not saying much now and they've got 4 years to think about it.

Lewis Hamilton blew it, but it ain't over yet. I guess its great that it all comes down to a winner takes all last race.

Derby - still winless away from home and still to score a goal. Fortunately we're surrounded by other teams in a similar situation and there's a long way to go. However, we've done nothing so far to suggest we shouldn't be relegation favourites.

And yes - I did complete the 80km road race. A really enjoyable day out.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

This Weekend's Sporting Predictions

Q1. Will England beat Australia in the Rugby World Cup?

Ans: Yes, think we're getting a bit of momentum, plus Jonny and Jason are back.

Q2. Will Lewis Hamilton become world champion this weekend?

Ans: Yes, I think he'll finish ahead of Alonso

Q3. Will Derby beat Reading on Sunday?

Ans: Think we may get a draw, but our recent away record's not good.

Q4. WIll I complete the Ride of the Falling Leaves on Sunday? 50 miles.

Ans: Weather will be good, but am worried about the hills. Hope so...

Friday's Should Always Be Like This

Yesterday, was a perfect Autumn day. Warm, sunny, still with a bit of a chill in the air. Shorts weather. In the morning I cycled to school to drop Mae off. I had a couple of conference calls in the morning and caught up with my work. I then played Karen at tennis at her local club. In the afternoon I managed to do pick up Mae again, nip to the supermarket and do a bit more work. In the evening I cooked dinner for friends (roast chicken and polenta).

These were exactly the kind of days I was imagining when I started to work for myself: time to see the family/friends, fitting in a bit of sport whilst still doing a good chunk of productive work.

In 2008 I must do more of this.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

American vs British Sports Commentary

American sports commentators bore me to tears. They're obsessed with statistics: yardage gained, % pass completions, etc, etc. Its so dull and uninvolving. Compare this to the British commentator who generally tries to conjure up the emotions of the game - as if you're in the stadium itself.

My favourite piece of footie commentary was by Barry Davies, describing the goal scored by Francis Lee for Derby against his old club Man City.

'Interesting, very interesting. Just look at his face'

Click here to listen to this and other great bits of sports commentary compiled by Radio 5 Live

Monday, October 01, 2007

Have been in Budapest for 2 days now and have seen nothing of the city. The workshop I'm involved in goes on until quite late, so there's no real time to get out and about. It's a real shame as Budapest is a very nice place with lots to see. Its certainly popular with the coachloads of Japanesese tourists who always seem to be gathered in the hotel reception Thank goodness I've got my iPod and the BBC website to keep me sane. Must check out the latest episode of the Archers.