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.