Friday, 16 September 2011

Good things come in threes

Last night we all went to the cinema to see 'One Man, Two Guvnors' starring James Corden. Of course, this is not a film, but a play that's on at the National Theatre and has been selling out faster than Nick Clegg. We saw it earlier this year, and it was just the funniest thing ever. Really. No really. So we took the opportunity of seeing it again, this time at the cinema when it was live broadcast by National Theatre Live. It was a one night showing. And second time round it was just as funny, may be even funnier. It's going on tour, so if you get the chance, do go and see it. Travel if you have to. I promise you won't have a better evening out this year....even if you're not a theatre fan.

It's not ever that I write about work...I like to keep business and play apart. No chasing secretaries round desks at the office for me. I don't know about you, but I mostly find working a bit of a chore. A bit of a drag. Something that gets in the way of me having a good time. That's even though I run my own business and have been doing so for the last fifteen years. I do love it, but boy can it be a real slog. And not surprisingly it can be somewhat repetitive. It's hard to find something that really stimulates me. The business is called Mandarin, and I often get asked it after the orange, the duck, or the senior government official? No I say, it's because Mandarin is the language spoken by more people than any other...and that's entirely appropriate to my business. So I love the name, and actually I would not rather have done anything else over the last decade and a half. But this week I did something I've never done before, and it amused me immensely. I sent out a press release in Chinese. That's right Mandarin sent out a release in Mandarin. Here's a snippet....actually, unless you're interested in customs and border control in Australia, it's not very exciting. But it IS in Mandarin.

CCD Design and Ergonomics Limited (CCD 设计和人机工程学有限公司)与澳大利亚海关及边境保护局 (Australian Customs and Border Protection Service) 携手合作,重新为该局许多重要的港口与机场设计闭路电视控制室。这些采用最先进技术的新设施可以为该局一线员工提供最优质的技术、桌面、室内环境和控制界面。

澳大利亚海关及边境保护局的科技与实施能力全国代理经理 Nicola Viney 说,这些新设施将协助该局员工开展重要的边境保护工作。

Viney 女士说:“这些新设施确保了本局员工拥有任何时候高效完成工作任务所需要的劳动工具。”

“我们知道,业务的成功与否取决于员工与设施及设备的互动情况,因此,我们邀请 CCD 与我们携手开发本项目。”

为了设计既满足该局员工的需求,又能支持控制室中开展的复杂监视、跟踪和通信活动的设施,CCD 在既有控制室中开展了人的因素和行为研究。

The other thing that has put a spring in my step, but should have you weeping into your collective pillows, is that today I received an invite to audition as a performer in the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. Now as anyone who has heard me sing, or seen me Dad dancing at weddings, bar mitvahs and funerals will know that should I succeed all the efforts of the London Olympics Organising team will have been in vain. Humiliation for the country will be complete. My left leg will be swinging sideways as everyone else is swirling gracefully to the right, I will be singing Lalalas when everyone else will be humming oooohs, they will be clapping whilst I'm waving. I'll be frowning whilst the rest of the ensemble has a fixed smile on their faces, and no doubt I'll be tripping over my shoe laces as everyone else marches forwards as one synchronised unit. The nay sayers will be triumphing about how right they is true that Britain can't organise a major international event. For the rest, abject humiliation, that their dreams of a return to being proud of being British have been dashed by my foolishness.

Of course they may spot my ineptitude before then, in which case I feel there may be a collective sigh of relief.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

'twas ever thus

I walked into the devil's cauldron on Tuesday evening. A birthday celebration for the Muffin Dad was held at a restaurant in the middle of Canary Wharf, so there was no getting away from the Bankers. I tried to scuttle through from the tube station to the restaurant, but losing my nerve as I got close, I checked on the satnav on my mobile phone to see whether I was heading in the right direction. It told me I needed to turn 180 degrees. As I was late already, this was annoying. So I turned around, then turned right, followed the path, turned left, followed the path until I was told to turn left and a little way further on turn left again. Yes twenty minutes after I'd checked the satnav I was indeed back where I started...with a little message coming up saying "Your destination is not located at this point". In fact it was just a little further on. If only I'd had the courage of my own convictions in the first place. A lovely evening spent consuming haggis, whiskey, venison and steak, wine and whiskey was had by all. Even if Wednesday was a little hazy.

The Vickers Report has been published, and so the future reform of the banking sector has been set. After lots of bleating from men in the finest cashmere suits, the reforms won't actually come into effect until 2018. Now even with my basic grade 'A' at 'O' Level I can work out that is a full decade after the great crash. Wow. That's impressive. Even after all the pain and misery the financial sector has caused, the politicians still can't help but suck up to them, whilst the vast majority of the electorate see massive falls in living standards and complete job insecurity. That I regard as breath taking arrogance on the part of the axis of evil. I don't really know whether the changes now proposed would have stopped the nonsense that was going on, because it seems that it was hyper levels of arrogance and stupidity that got us in the mess in the first place...the selling-on of worthless pieces of paper at inflated prices, based on opinions from the Credit Ratings agencies, who have got away Scott free whilst they continue to turn the screws. It seems little has been done, is being done or will be done to stop this happening again. And that impacts on the futures of all our children.

On a very positive note for me, the Palestinians are in the process of applying for statehood at the UN. I have long been a fervent supporter of their cause, and believe that a Palestinian State is reward for all the injustices they have suffered over the last century. The Europeans are divided on the issue, whilst the Americans are scrabbling around trying to prevent this very historic event - not surprisingly really. The US has never been even-handed in their dealings in the middle-east, and it has always felt to me that this policy has created enormous instability in the region. Worse still, it has fed the anger and misguided ideology of organisations such as Al Qaeda. And we all understand the consequences of that. I have signed the petition at Avaaz supporting Palestinian statehood, and I would urge you to as well.

Should I mention the kids? No. They're doing fine. Back at school, getting to grips with their 'A' level work, and peace and harmony reigns supreme. Marvelous. I'm putting notches in the bannister to see how long this lasts.

Monday, 12 September 2011

A tyring weekend

Oh oh oh. Can you imagine it? 19 middle-aged Essex women on a Greek Island for an extended (four day) Mama Mia themed party.

Yes, this is what The Cat's Mother abandoned me home alone with the teenagers for last week. I feel I got the better end of the bargain. Hopefully she feels that she got the better deal. Sometimes it's good to disagree.

I haven't posted my usual selection of photos this month. Not on First Friday, not Second Saturday, nor even Second Sunday. It wasn't that I forgot, it wasn't even that I couldn't be arsed. It's just that in August my ability abandoned me. I have a fine fine collection of snapshots which hold brilliant memories, but frankly and bluntly nothing worth posting up. Not even the man playing sax on the banks of the Seine, not even night time at Somerset House, nor the dozens of pieces of street art, or a boat trip on the River Lee. Hopefully, normal service will be resumed in September, although we're half way through and it's not looking good.

Saturday I had to get new tyres for the motorbike and at the same time watch The Boy play his debut match for the First team this season. I dropped him off at the ground at 8.45, drove home, picked up The Cat, dropped her for kick off at 10.00 ( how loyal, she volunteered to come and watch and cheer...I explained some of the rules) and watched the opening minutes of the game before rushing off to the garage. It may have been a wise move as the Firsts didn't manage a crushing victory, so came away deflated. The tyres on the bike were inflated, unlike my wallet which was some £316 lighter! I think these are more expensive than the car tyres which are four times the size. I came away a little flat.

After a four and a half hour long cycle ride street-art spotting on Saturday afternoon, it was perhaps a little rash of me to commit to cycling in with the The Muffin Dad on Monday morning. But I did. He's a decade younger than me, fitter and of a more sporting bent. Plus he leaves at between 6.30 and 7, and I leave at 8. So whilst he was pootling along admiring the scenery, I was huffing and puffing, wiping the sweat from my sleepy eyes as we battled the hurricane force headwind. He comes in on a route that I need to know as the canals are not a good idea during the mid winter. I'm amazed he's still alive as the route is a treacherous one on a very, very busy main road into London, and he does it every day. Even the new blue cycle highway is designed to kill you...peppered with bus stops as it is, so you have to swing out into the traffic which largely seems to consist of white van drivers....some of them actually driving white vans. Still we managed to avoid getting splattered...although every traffic light was against us. Anyway, he was very gracious (and sporting) about it all.

After we parted ways, I continued to hit a red light at every much so that the guy cycling next to me felt the need to pass comment in a heavy South African accent (or was it New Zealand?) "You're just bad luck mate". And indeed it was the case as a little way later, my back tyre went flat, still some 5 km shot of my destination. As I didn't have a repair kit and wasn't allowed on the tube or the bus, there was no choice to throw it on my back and walk the remaining distance. Nothing like a brisk walk in the morning is there? A Chinese tourist (actually he may have been Korean) felt the need to video me as I crossed Tower Bridge. That may well be my fifteen minutes of fame.