Monday, December 22, 2008

Feeling Chrismassy Now
Yesterday we managed to visit Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park, have tea at Harrod's, go to Trafalgar Square and see Hansel and Gretel at the Barbican. If you're still looking to kick-start your Christmas spirit, a wander round central London will do the trick.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More Milan Pics

I Looked For David Beckham in Milan Today

But I didn't see him. Thought he might have been hanging around the Prada shop in La Galleria but he was nowhere to be seen. There were lots of other people instead, sheltering from the rain. It really is a miserable day. Did a little bit of sightseeing eg Il Duoma but was getting so wet I decided to give up and catch the no 19 tram back to my lovely hotel. Plus, there are only so many designer shops one can absorb in one day. Am here until Thursday evening. Hope the weather improves.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Nice Restaurant

Went to Orso in Covent Garden for lunch today which was lovely. Its in a basement location and has been around for a long time. It specialises in really delicious rustic Italian food, served in hand painted tableware. It had a nice buzzy atmosphere. The staff were really friendly and helpful too.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Derby vs Man United

Miraculously Derby find themselves in the semi final of the Carling Cup, where in January they will play Man U over 2 legs. Of course, there will be only one winner and Derby's aim will be to get through it without being totally humiliated.

Those will long memories will recall that it wasn't always like this. Check out this fabulous film footage of Derby playing Man U at the Baseball ground in 1970, featuring some of the best players in the history of either club, playing sublime football on one of the worst pitches ever. Happy days.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Favourite Christmas Ads

Tesco Featuring Des O'Connor
Reminds me a lot of the old Morecombe and Wise Christmas Specials, where Des was the butt of all their jokes. Funny - but with a strong value message.

Argos Garage
Very insightful depiction of the risks of last minute Christmas shopping. Its happened to us all, I'm sure. Slightly incongrous Stephen Fry voiceover, but adds to the humour.

Marks and Spencer
This is where I'd like to be on Christmas day - at Twiggy's lovely house with lots of good looking women and having a sing a long with Take That.

Beautiful production values, great soundtrack. Lovely images of people travelling home for Christmas.

Click on the titles to view them

Monday, December 08, 2008

Monday Morning
View from my office window.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Star is Born
Lia was the Wonderful Wizard of Oz at yesterday's Stagecoach performance at Honeywell School.
She was fantastic. The star of the show.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

What I'm Reading

I've just finished Murakami's latest book, 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running' and really enjoyed it.

Its a very slim book, more of a diary than a novel / autobiography that reflects on his pre-occupation with running and how it influences his life and his writing.

I happen to be a big fan of his and a regular-ish runner so I guess that's what appeals to me about it. As well getting to understand the author and his life, Its helped me understand the love/hate relationship I have with running and has inspired me to go out more often.
Recommended for all the runners and Murakami fans out there.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

We're Gonna Win the Cup

Tonight Derby beat Stoke 1-0 and are now in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup. The first time for 40 years, thanks to an injury time penalty.

Could be another trip to Wembley. Remember the last time we were there?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Karen's Birthday Party

Hurray - made it back in time for Karen's BIG party which was fab. Thanks to Richard and Grant for the live performance, Andy the DJ for the classic tunes, the caterers and all the helpers..and most of all to the friends who made it such a memorable event.

Wandsworth council officials came round early in the morning to tell us to keep the volume down, so apologies to all the neighbours.

For full, unedited photos click here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Still in Monza

I should be home by now. Instead I'm back in my hotel room. Because of the light sprinking of snow that fell in Milan today, all flights back to London were cancelled. I'm booked on the 7.35am flight tomorrow. I hope there are no more delays as its Karen's BIG party tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

In Monza

Its been Italy all the way recently. Tuscany last week, the River Cafe on Tuesday and am now working in Monza , just outside Milan. Monza is most famous for being the home of the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix. Have not see the race track. Apparently its only a few km away. Have been teaching all day, but have not been brave enough to speak any Italian to the group. Maybe tomorrow.

Went for a walk around the town centre tonight and had something to eat at a nice restaurant by the river. Pizza and ice cream. Last night saw Inter Milan on TV, where Jose Mourinho is the manager. Pleased to see he's looking a bit older and less handsome nowadays

Its quite chilly here and snow is forecast. Hope I don't get stuck. Big day tomorrow. Karen's party.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The River Cafe

Last night was Karen's proper birthday and ends with an 0. So went to the River Cafe, which is my/our favourite restaurant in London. Whenever you go back to a favourite place you're always worried that it will let you down and tarnish the memory. However, last night it didn't.

I love it, because
- its got a youthful, energetic feel, without being fussy or unpretentious
- the food is simple, classic Italian but with really, really good seasonal ingredients: Italian food doesn't get better than this
- the setting is lovely with the long bar and the big clock at the end
- I like the whole River Cafe story - with its 2 female owners (Rose Gray / Ruth Rogers) and the classic cook books which I still use all the time (esp the blue one)

No sign of the credit crunch here. It was packed even though the bill did burn a whole in your pocket. Probably won't go again until another big occasion so will treasure the memory.

Still London's No 1 restaurant, I reckon.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Skylon is Better than the People's Palace

Skylon is the restaurant within the Royal Festival Hall, which used to called the People's Palace when it first re-opened a few years ago. We went there last with our friends Michael and Eilis as Karen's pre-birthday treat.

It's better because:

- there's a nice bar in the middle
- its warmer and friendlier
- there's a brasserie as well as a formal restaurant.

Food was good - not great - but still good. And of course the views of London are amazing.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Grappa and Ice Cream

Am just back from a couple of days in Tuscany where I've been checking out progress on our house renovation in Italy. The good news is that after a year of planning delays, work is finally underway with an army of builders hard at work. Looks like is going to be ready before Easter. Met up with my neighbour and he's picked all the olives off our land. They're going to be made into olive oil on Monday so we'll have our first batch ready for the next time we visit.

Food as ever was a highlight. Is the mushroom season here and they feature on all the local restaurant menus. Went with my mum, who likes her liqueurs. On the last night I had a grappa and she had a cynar (made from artichokes). We also had a hazelnut and chocolate ice cream. Grappa and ice cream. Great combination

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Surprise Visit by Tevez's Mum

Monday, November 17, 2008

My New Blog

I've just created a new work related website. As well as showcasing what my company does, there's a blog which comments on marketing topics. If you're interested, click here
Facilitation Skills Training Course

I've got a new facilitation skills training course on the 5th December. It's an Open Programme with people from different organisations. I've got 2 places left, so if you're interested in coming along, please click here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Perfect For a Wet Weekend

I recently went to the Museum of Childhood near Bethnal Green, which as the name suggests exhibits toys, dolls and games that date back to the 16th century. It was a really enjoyable visit and satisfied many of the criteria I look for in a museum
1. its free
2. its not too big and can be done in an hour or two
3. kids don't get bored too quickly
4. interesting building / space
5. nice coffee

Next on my list is the Museum of Brands, which looks interesting. If anyone's been, do let me know.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What to Feel Inspired?

Then watch Barack Obama's Election Night Speech here

Friday, November 07, 2008

Most Popular Brands of 2008

Over the past 12 months I've facilitated many workshops where brands have been discussed ad infinitum. From memory, these following brands have had the most mentions. So, in no particular order....

1. Apple

It used to be the iPod, now its the iPhone. Usually someone has one and likes to wave it about, provoking jealous looks from those people around them. Occasionally someone says I hate Apple.. and receives pitying looks from everyone else.

2. Nespresso

Quoted more often by women. People admire its innovative route to market, the way it has built partnerships with suppliers and its aspirational brand image. Others just fancy George Clooney.

3. The Nintendo Wii

A brand with broad appeal which provoke many stories of how difficult it was to buy. Amazingly not everyone has played it. However having heard it described to them most people say ' why haven't you brought one to the workshop?' I must remember next time.

4. Bugaboo

A recent entry, this range of expensive baby buggies is usually mentioned by image-conscious young dads who would much rather spend their hard earned cash on a BMW but have been told they can't. They usually claim they choose one because of its 'great functionality'. Now we know this isn't true

5. Abercrombie and Fitch

A popular choice amongst the nubile females, gay men and people from Dublin. The real fans can describe not only the 'must buy' items, but also which stores in New York have the best ranges and the best times to go shopping there.

6. Ocado

A life saver for all the UK based stressed business women. Non-Brits have never heard it, but are usually convinced of its merits after a long description of how nice and helpful the Ocado-man is.
7. Innocent

A brand admired for its 'tone of voice' and the cute woolly hats promotion. In almost every workshop I've been to someone has said 'we must do an Innocent with our brand'. This is usually followed by someone else saying our brand personality needs to be a 'bit more like Jamie'.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Night Out in Warsaw

A very friendly bunch of clients gave me a tour of Warsaw last night. What I didn't realise was that during the war Warsaw was almost entirely destroyed. Although the centre looks old - and is referred to as the old town - it was completely rebuilt in the style of the original city.

After a walk around the very pretty town centre we went to a traditional Polish restaurant where I sampled a whole range of classic dishes but more importantly drank lots of the local beer and many shots of Polish vodka. I had no idea that the Poles are such big vodka drinkers. I do now. I always find that Polish people are great hosts. They're very open and friendly and made me feel very welcome.

After a long day, I'm now in the Lot Airlines lounge waiting to fly home. Somehow I got put in business class and am looking forward to some relaxation and pampering. As Frank once said..its oh so nice to go travelling, but so much nicer to come home...or words to that effect.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

In Warsaw

Arrived a couple of hours ago at the remarkably mild Warsaw airport. Walked a couple of hundred yards across the terminal to the Marriott hotel where I'm staying. Flight on Lot was fairly relaxed, but food wasn't great. Ordered a bowl of Polish soup via roomservice which was delicious and flicked through all the TV channels. All the usual suspects - CNN, BBC World, Eurosport, etc showing endless pictures of Americans voting. Can't find any Adult Channels (not that I'm interested, of course). Probably because its a Catholic country. They're normally free in Dutch hotels. Missed our Italian lesson tonight. Will need to catch up before next week.

Have got a taxi booked at 7.15am tomorrow to take me to the client's office. Think its near the city centre, which would be good. Have never been to Warsaw (although I have been to Poznan before) Hopefully I'll get a chance to look around a bit. Will miss the fireworks tomorrow on Clapham Common which is a bit of a shame.

Have finished my book - Bel Canto - which I continued to enjoy. I always need a period of reflection before I begin a new one. Can't get iPlayer so will probably go to bed now. Need a good night's sleep so I can get into 'the zone' for the training course over the next couple of days.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Decision Time

I can't believe that the day of the US election has finally arrived and that after months of campaigning we'll shortly have a new President.
According to the Polls its a one-horse race. However, If there are any undecided Americans out there, please vote for Obama. The world needs you to do the right thing.
Allotment News

Dug up some Jerusalem artichokes yesterday. Strange looking things aren't they, with an even stranger name. Have never cooked them before and can't remember the last time I've tried them.

According to my sister they're nice when they're roasted, although I've also read a couple of interesting soup recipes. Wonder why they're not more popular?

We Were Robbed, Apparently
Whilst we were walking by the river Derby were playing Nottingham Forest in front of a sell-out partisan crowd at Pride Park. Derby hate Forest in case you didn't know.
According to various text messages I received the ref was useless and denied us a perfectly legitimate goal in the last minute. I guess we could have helped ourselves by not missing a penalty. It ended 1-1.
Anyway, at least it was exciting and will give the folk in Derby something to moan about.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

My Favourite Part of the Thames
I love walking by the river between Ham and Richmond, especially this time of year. You've got the meadows, Ham House and of course the fabulous cafe at Petersham Nurseries with their lovely cakes. A nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Every year it seems to get more popular to the point where Bonfire Night seems a bit dull in comparison. What's happened to 'penny for the guy?' We used to do this all the time. Shame, really.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

First Day of Snow in London

Walked to Tooting Bec tube station on a chilly clear morning. Got out at Arnos Grove in North London to discover several inches of snow on ground. Its a rare occurence in London and even more surprising given it only partially covered the city. According to the Evening Standard it was the first October snow in London for 70 years. Starting to feel Christmassy now.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thunderstorms, Scottish Dancing and Chinese Girls

Last weekend we held the 9th annual Reunion of the girls from the Long Yan Orphange at Dumfries, birthplace of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns. There were 8 families from all over the UK and in keeping with the location there was an evening of Scottish dancing on Saturday evening after a day of mountain biking in the torrential rain. We even visited a genuine Scottish castle.

Every year its a joy to see the girls growing up and to catch up with the familes. Next October we'll be south of the border. Liverpool? Southport? My vote's for Blackpool.

What I'm Reading

Over the weekend I've spent several hours on long train journeys. Its during these times that you're really grateful to have a good book to pass the time away.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett is a really enjoyable read. Its the story of a group of wealthy people, including a famous opera singer kidnapped by terrorists in a Latin American country. People fall in love, strange alliances are formed and they learn to survive in unusual circumstances. Ann Patchett also wrote 'The Magician's Assistant' which I also really liked. This is even better, I think.
Thanks very much to the lady in Dublin airport who recommended it to me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Another Nice Lunch

Thanks to a recommendation from my sister Silvana, I went for lunch today at Hix Oyster and Chop House, located around the corner from Smithfield Market. As the name suggests, oysters and various cuts of meat feature prominently on the menu. The atmosphere was informal with a long marble bar where people could sit and eat, white tiles and dark wooden floors. Lovely food. Nice staff. Definitely worth a visit.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nice Day For Lunch at the South Bank

Monday, October 20, 2008

Posh Cocktail Party

Last night we went to a reception at the Italian Cultural Institute to celebrate a season of Italian films being shown at the London Film Festival. We were invited by our Italian teacher Tina and it was a very stylish affair. I know its a cliche, but Italians are so well dressed and, of course, are very good looking. The great and the good of the Italian film world were present and it was a lovely way to end the week.
Shock Horror! Derby On a Winning Streak!

Derby have now gone seven games unbeaten and are 1 point off a place in the play-offs. The world of football is so surprised that they've decided to launch an enquiry into a match fixing allegation following Derby's away win at Norwich. Bloody cheek!

Am particularly pleased that Tottenham are doing so badly at the moment. The people who run the club have never struck me as being particularly pleasant and I can't stand the way their fans continue to abuse Sol Campbell. Hopefully they'll go down this year.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I'm Currently Reading
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, told through the eyes of a Pakistani Muslim with a high-flying job in New York during the time of the attacks on the World Trade Centre. I've read about 40 pages and I'm really enjoying it. Its very precise, sharp and compelling. The kind of book I'm looking forward to reading again, which will probably be during my flight this afternoon to Hamburg. My friend Clare lent me her copy. Thanks Clare. Good choice.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Cavolo Nero

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The End of the Allotment Year
It was a beautiful Autumn day on the allotment. There's not much left to pick apart from the remaining runner beans, leeks and red cabbage. However, cavolo nero - is looking really good. Need to get out the recipe books - ribolito is all I can think of.
The biggest job is clearing everything away and filling up the compost bins. Luckily my father-in-law Maurice who has moved in recently is able to give me a hand - thank goodness.

We Got Our First Christmas Card Today
Thanks Ronnie, Charlie, Ben, Hannah, Rosie and Josh. Much appreciated. Is it that time of the year already? Maybe they operate on a different Calender in Wirksworth.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food.
I'm really enjoying Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food. whereby he's trying to get the whole nation to cook again by passing on recipes.
This time he's dealing with issues that are much more deep rooted and complex that any of his previous campaigns and I really admire what he's trying to do.
This is much more than a cookery programme. It exposes some of the key issues facing Britain today.
- our ongoing class system and the north south divide
- poor education, with people who can't read recipes and have never been taught to cook
- family breakdown and the consquences of single parenthood
- the growing gap between rich and poor
- our obesity epidemic and resultant health issues
Jamie represents the middle class, self made, foodies at the heart of Britain's 'food revolution' and I love the way he can't quite get to grips with people who can't/ won't cook for themselves and prefer to spend what little cash they have on fags, booze and takeaways.
There are no quick fixes here, but well done Jamie for raising awareness of the issues and having a good crack at them.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I saw Gordon Ramsay this evening sitting by a swimming pool

This evening I went to pick up Mae from her swimming club at a school in Wandsworth. Gordon Ramsay was there too, talking to his wife. I only noticed him because Mae asked him to move so she could get her bag.

'Can I get my bag please' she says, ', 'oh, sorry' says the man. Blimey, that's Gordon Ramsay I thought.

I guess one of his children goes to the same swimming club.

Dublin Airport in The Rain
I often buy books at Dublin airport. I don't know why. It's just a habit I've acquired and there really isn't much to do there. A woman was browsing next to me. I recommended the Wind Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami to her and she recommended Bel Canto by Ann Pratchett to me. We both bought them. Must talk to strangers more often.

Monday, October 06, 2008

From Paris to Dublin

Spent most of last week travelling. Had a fabulous dinner last Tuesday in Paris (foie gras, cote de boeuf) followed by a workshop, then a day in Dublin on Friday reporting back on some market research findings. (haddock and chips for lunch, by the way)

Was very impressed by the Paris bike rental scheme, whereby you can pick up a bike at the metro station and deposit it at any other parking station in the city. According to the Parisians I've spoken to, its been a massive success.
Would love to see a scheme like this in London. Am sure it would be a big hit. Come on Boris, time to make your mark.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Is Jamie Oliver the most influential man in the UK?
Saw Jamie Oliver on the Jonathan Ross on Friday launching his latest campaign to get the nation cooking again.
We're all aware of the country's obesity problems - we're the 3rd most obese country in the world and we're always being told what to do about it.
However, despite all the government's efforts I'm convinced Jamie will have a much bigger impact. People like him. People listen to him.
Is he the most influential person in the UK? Probably.
Its 0-0 and QPR start the second half convinced that they can retain their 100% home record against a Derby team that has not won away from home for 2 years.

Emmanual Villa has just put Derby 2-0 ahead. It's the 90th minute and Derby have just completed a thoroughly deserved victory. The fans go wild! We are Derby, We Are Derby, Super Rams, We Are Derby....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cycling in London
On Sunday we all took part in the London Freewheel Event, where along with 45 000 other cyclists we cycled along a traffic-free 12km route in central London.
The weather was perfect and it was a fantastic day out. Fresh air, sunshine, exercise - what more could you want?
London is a brilliant for communal events and there seems to be so much on at the moment. We've recently had the Thames Festival and the Open House Weekend. Watch out for the Big Draw events which will take place throughout October. They should be fantastic.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Latest Self Development Book

I'm always on the lookout for books that help you re-think your life. This particular book was recommended to me by a friend so I decided to give it a go. As with most of these books, particularly written by Americans, you have to cut through the author's massive ego trip - 'I'm such a cool dude - makes you jealous, huh', and the 'kick ass, haul ass, way to go!' language.

Having said all that, I did enjoy it and found it very helpful. The basic messages of eliminating excess baggage in your life, automating and outsourcing the mundane and liberating yourself to focus on experiences are very sound and insightful. He's also very generous with his suggestions of additional websites/ authors to look up.

You won't want to read all of it as there is a lot of padding. However, I'd still recommend it as I'm sure most people would find some useful, practical advice within it. You might want to visit his website too.
From Amsterdam to Dublin

I've not had time to blog anything this week. From Monday to Wednesday I was in Amsterdam, or more specifically the Holiday Inn outside Amsterdam. I've still not been around the city centre, despite visiting Amsterdam several times this year. Is it because I'm really too busy? Have I become bored with travel? Think the real reason is because I'm not a great solo tourist. What's the point of seeing something amazing without saying 'wow, isn't that amazing' to whoever you're with. Must get over this. Think I'm missing out.

Thursday to Friday - after a quick pit stop in London - I was Dublin. I spent most of my time going grocery shopping with Irish women. This was bone fide market research, nothing weird, honest. They were very chatty and I learnt loads. Really enjoyed it. Must do more.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Oh Happy Day!
Derby have finally, finally, finally won a League game by beating Sheffield United 2-1 on Saturday after 36 games and almost a year without a win.
Played well too, apparently. So of course, now we've got a win under our belts we're going to start moving up the table rapidly and are dead certs for a play-off place at least. Crisis? What crisis?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ian Fleming's Thunderball

Having read and enjoyed the Sebastian Faulkes version of a James Bond novel - Devil May Care, I decided to read an 'original' novel by Ian Fleming. Am in the middle of Thunderball and am really enjoying it. Written in 1961, it's a great period piece. What strikes me in particular is:

- the amount of smoking that takes place, how glamorous it all seems

- how women are portrayed. They're objects of desire. They talk too much, are terrible drivers and only interested in money

- how everyone drinks hard spirits especially whisky and cocktails. No-one's had a pint of beer yet

I want to see the film now. Must have a video of it somewhere.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Growth of the Cornish Pasty

In recent times I've noticed that there are more and more Cornish Pasty shops in central London. Virtually every train station seems to have a West Cornwall Pasty kiosk - the one with the black and yellow awning. I also saw a place called the Pasty Shop at Victoria station last week.

Why are they becoming so popular? I thought we were all becoming more health conscious nowadays.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Latest 10K Run

On Sunday, I ran the Clapham 10K. Finished near the back, didn't break the 1 hour barrier, but still enjoyed it. Luckily the rain held off and it was good to run with the neighbours from our street - the Pretoria Panthers.

Looking out for a race in October - the Dulwich Park 10k on 5th Oct looks promising. Might do this.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Natural Confectionery Company Campaign

I really like this new ad campaign from the Natural Confectionery Company. Charming, quirky, with a strong product message. They could easily have gone down a worthy, good citizen direction but chose not to - which is great. Nice sweets too.

Well done Cadbury's. With the recent Dairy Milk (yes - the Gorilla again) and Trident (Mess with your Head) Campaign they've made some brave decisions on the choice of their creative work.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What's The Best Marketing Job in the World?

Brand Manager of Puma. You've got Usain Bolt as your brand ambassador - undoubtedly the coolest guy on the planet. You also get to go to parties like this.

Dancing Man Videos

I read recently that the videos of Matt the Dancing Man are the most popular on the Web with over 10 million hits on You Tube. He's made 3 videos. For the latest one, click here.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Derby Are Bottom of the Championship

We've gone 36 consecutive League games without a win. This must be some kind of record. I remember when Arsenal went 36 games undefeated to win the Premiership title. I think not winning for 36 games in a row is even harder to achieve.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

How Can London Top This?
I loved the Beijing Olympics. The performances were incredible, the ceremonies were spectacular, The Bird's Nest was stunning. So how can London follow this? We can never attempt to emulate this type of event, but instead we need to play to our strengths. Here's some suggestions.
1. Focus on the Individual Not the Collective
During the ceremonies we should focus on individual creative flair rather than the mass co-ordination that the Chinese are so good at, showcasing our global stars of music, theatre, etc.
There should be much less of a corporate feel and there should be the opportunity for different communities to come to the fore.
2. Showcase the Whole of London
Ensure that the world sees all of London rather than just the Olympic Park. It's great that other fabulous settings such as Lord's, Wimbledon, Regent's Park and Wembley will feature in the Games. I remember seeing a lot of Barcelona during their games. We should show off the beauty of London.
3. Create a Party Atmosphere
When Germany held the World Cup, they set up big screens in public places. We should do the same and encourage communal viewing of the big events. There should be a real sense of celebration everywhere with street parties and free public events. We should make the Olympics feel light hearted, entertaining and slightly eccentric. Boris set the tone with his 'ping pong's coming home' speech. More of the same please.
4. Involve The Fans More
In Beijing not all the stadia were full for various reasons. We should ensure that true fans get a chance to go to the events so the crowds can create an intense, passionate atmosphere everywhere.
5. Ignore the Cynics
We're brilliant at negativity in the UK, constantly predicting disaster and moaning about how crowded London will be, how we'll mess everything up, etc. The organisers must ignore and ride through all this and not let the cynicism drive us down.
6. Focus on the Legacy
After the Games we should ensure that everyone has an opportunity to use the facilities and that they don't become empty testimonies to extravagance. We should involve, children and schools before and during the Games so they develop a love of sport and get a chance to develop their talents.
I'm SO looking forward to London 2012. It's a privilege to be given the opportunity to host them and I think they're going to be amazing.

New Addition to the Franco Household
Talullah Lollipop Starfish. 9 weeks old. From Streatham Hill Vet.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Great Film
Recently saw The Lives of Others. It's a German film that re-enacts life in East Germany in the mid 1980s under the watchful eye of the secret police known as the Stasi.
It has everything. Outstanding acting, a gripping story, great soundtrack. No wonder it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. A few of us watched it and we all loved it. Can't recommend it highly enough.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Weekend in Glandore

For the past 9 years we've spent the Bank Holiday weekend staying with friends in Glandore in West Cork. Weather was a bit iffy, but it was still great to be there. I always take a picture of Mae sitting at Hayes' Bar. Here's the latest.

Have just arrived in Jakarta. My home for the next 3 days. Flew on an Airbus A380, the biggest passenger plane in the world, in business class with Singapore Airlines. So much space. Was the most luxurious flight I've ever been on. Saw Kung Fu Panda and Ironman. Both very entertaining. Kung Fu Panda slightly more violent.

Nice hotel - the Kristal - with a very inviting pool. Shame I've got work to do.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Same Old, Same Old

Two home games for Derby, two 1-0 defeats. The margins aren't as big, but the results are the same. We've not won a league game for almost a year. Will we be relgation candidates? Looking likely at the moment.
Olympic Withdrawal Symptoms

I can't believe its over. What am I going to do now? I've loved the Olympics. Thought the Games were amazing. BBC coverage was superb. The Chinese put on an incredible show. The athletes were outstanding. Feel inspired and uplifted. Can't wait for London 2012.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Back From Hols

Getting back into work from 2 weeks in the sun is really tough as:

1. The weather's awful
2. The Olympics are on the telly
3. I'd much rather be on a beach in Italy

Whilst away, I managed to get through 3 good books

John Dickie's Delizia: if you love food and you love Italian history, then you'll love this
Sebastian Faulkes' James Bond novel: glamorous, escapist nonsense
Russel Brand's Booky Wook: frank, honest and funny. I'm not a fan of his but I realluy enjoyed it.

Am loving the Olympics - particularly Usain Bolt jogging through his 200 metre heats and the British cyclists. Very distracting. Must get back to my work.....

Friday, August 01, 2008

Can On You Rams!

Can you believe it, the new footie season is about to begin. Over the Summer Derby have bought 11 new players - a brand new team - in an attempt to return to the misery of the Premier League.

So..will need to learn lots of new names and try to work out who's been sold. Trickiest name - Przemyslaw Kazmierczak - Polish midfielder. As with all footie fans, I'm feeling optimistic. Hopefully Paul Jewell will be able to record his first ever win as Derby manager in our opener against Doncaster.

He's bought the players so there can be no excuses. My prediction: Derby in a play off position by Christmas or else Jewell will be gone. Let's hope it's the former.

First London game: QPR on 27th Sept. Anyone want to go??

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Love This Ad...

for Drench Water featuring Brains from Thunderbirds. Ticks all the boxes. Clear product message, funny, clever and....with celebrity endorsement.
Dove Advertising

Whenever I show Dove advertising in classes there's always lively discussion. A year or so ago most peple loved this viral ad called evolution which became an award winning Youtube sensation.

In more recent times Dove has produced this follow up called Onslaught. Opinion on this is much more divided. Is the brand becoming too strident? As a key player in the beauty industry Is it able to take such a stance?

Dove also sells skin tanning products. Is this really about honest, natural beauty? Dove is in a difficult position. It's gained huge admiration for its Campaign For Real Beauty. However it is still in the business of selling beauty products. A fine line to tread.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Offensive Advert?

This recent Oasis Cactus Kid ad is currently under investigation by the ASA following complaints that it normalises / glamourises teenage pregnancy and discourages people from drinking water. Do you agree? Should it be banned?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Emotional Rollercoaster

For the past 3 days I've been running a marketing training course with 20 people looking at the world of chocolate. These are very intense experiences. You're usually staying at a hotel / conference centre. You're with the same people all the time and get fully immersed in their problems and issues. As a trainer you have to stay 100% focused and maintain high levels of energy throughout - even if you're feeling exhausted. I hate to think how much coffee I've drunk or how much chocolate I've eaten this week.

At the end of the session you feel a huge sense of relief that its all over, happiness if its all gone well and sadness as you say goodbye to all the people you've got to know so well over the past few days. Then a combination of exhaustion and depression takes over as you try to re-enter the normal world and get back into a daily routine.

It really is an emotional rollercoaster and when the next session comes along It'll start all over again. Still, managed to return home with some chocs and sweeties. That'll make me popular.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Nice Restaurant

Went for lunch at a really nice restaurant called Dalchini on Friday. Just by Wimbledon Park tube. Chinese food, with an Indian twist. Affordable and very tasty. Recommended.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer Reading

I'm off on a holiday in a couple of weeks time and I want to take some stuff to read whilst I'm sitting by the pool or listening to crickets at night. Not too trashy, but not too heavy. Could be new or an old classic. Am a bit stuck. Any recommendations?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fabulous Film

Saw 'Son of Rambow' on the flight to Bombay and really, really enjoyed it. It's about 2 boys who are making a home-made movie, based on the Rambo films. Set in the early 1980s it captures the feel of the era and the two main actors are so good - as are all the child actors. Highly recommended.

Back From Bombay

Just back from 5 days in Bombay. Being the monsoon season it was hot, sweaty and overcast most of the time and a bit of a shock to the system. The last time I'd been to Bombay was maybe 15 years ago, on holiday. Some things hadn't changed. It was as crowded and chaotic as ever. The traffic was still dreadful and the drivers as still the worst I've ever experienced. They think they're in a video game.

However, it does feel like a city on the move. There are certainly far few beggars on the street, there are lots of roads being built and quite a few brand new air-conditioned shopping malls with the usual international labels.

Highlight for me was the fabulous food, although I did stick to cornflakes for breakfast. As a visitor there's not an awful lot to see in Bombay, so it's the not the kind worth making a special trip to. Even the Gateway of India was covered in scaffolding.

Nice to be back home again. I like going to India but it is very full on. Makes London feel like a haven of tranquility. Am suffering from information deprivation as I had no internet access and am looking forward to some plain English food. Mmm...beans on toast.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Asics British 10K Run

Yesterday, along with 25 000 other people I took part in the British 10K run around central London. It was a sort of mini version of the London Marathon with the famous landmarks, cheering crowds, and stirring music to keep you going.

I've not been running for the past couple of weeks due to mad work pressures so I wasn't really ready for it. Managed to finish OK, but didn't feel great and my time was rubbish. Still, a nice day out with family and friends and great to back running again.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Thanks, Big Al's
Today was the Ravenstone School Summer Fair and I was helping to man the barbecue. Fortunately the rain stayed off and profits to the school were boosted by the donation of free Big Al's burgers from my friends at Kepak Convenience Foods. They were very popular, which was not surprising as they are Ireland's number one brand.
Thanks again. Much appreciated

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Is there any good news out there?

M & S share price plummets, Starbucks closes 500 outlets in the USA, oil price hits $146 a barrel, mortgage approvals down by 28%. All within a week. Was walking around Kingston town centre today and noticed that the furniture retailer New Heights has closed down. Also there was a 50% off sale at John Lewis.

So is anybody thriving at the moment? Apparently luxury brands are doing OK. Fashion sales at Harrods are up by 30% and Harvey Nicks is in pretty good shape. Equally discounters are continuing to grow. Like the Germans, we're discovering the joy of Aldi and Lidl. Key message for me. You either have to offer exceptional quality or exceptional value to survive nowadays.

Apparently alcohol sales remain buoyant. The best way to deal with the recession? You've guessed it..head for the pub.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

In Windsor

Am staying in a hotel right opposite Windsor Castle. I wonder if the Queen's in. There's some lights on. Bet she's watching the tennis.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Valerie Singleton, Sex Goddess

What was most shocking about her recent revelation was not the disclosure of her affair with fellow presenter Peter Purves, but her denial of ever having lived with Joan Armatrading. I first heard this about 30 years ago and was convinced it was true, as did all my friends. How disappointing.