Friday 11 February 2011

Friends reunited

On Twitter I've started following various Egyptians...I may be becoming obsessed with this whole revolution thing. But then I think it could reshape the world. I feel for them after all the hopes that were raised yesterday were dashed by Mubarak.

I must be getting soft in my old, my last post was all about Facebook, and here we are friends reunited. Being friendly is not my natural state.

There was one of those mobile phone conversations in our home this week. You know, the ones that go "JESUS CHRIST YOUR BILL THIS MONTH IS FORTY QUID." This on a £15 tariff that gives unlimited texts and 300 minutes of calls. Fortunately,common sense took over, and before World War 3 broke out, we headed to bed to sleep on it and had a sensible talk the following day. It's nice when you can do that. I'm quite a battler, but in all honesty, I'd rather not go head to head. I think the outcome was good for us both. As it turns out, one of the most frightening charges was £5.58 for one call to directory know the one with the moustaches. The enquiry itself had cost £2.73, but he had then been put through to the number. Wowzer. Anyway, they have agreed to refund the cost. But that's a real lesson.

Grandma in Cyprus pointed out that last Friday was the first Friday of the month, so it should have been First Friday Photos. But I forgot; I had other things on my mind. And I'm not really taking so many pictures at the moment. Some people have constipation, some people have writers block, I'm just going through image emasculation. It may just be that both The Cat and The Boy got fantastic cameras for Christmas so I'm feeling long lens envy.

But here, in any case, is a picture:

This is the 2010 annual reunion of the old boys. This was taken last night. Yes 2010 has spilled into 2011. The sharper eyed of you will have noticed that not all of those present are male. Although as we went to boarding school, I guess it's entirely possible that some of us wear dresses. But we don't. We had a few girls in the sixth form, and one of them popped along to say hello. The other I'm not sure why she was there...lovely lady, was also at the school but I couldn't work out how she was invited. Perhaps we've reached that age where we need female company. So in no particular order... there is one person who had worked for a company for twenty years which went into receivership last year; there is one person who gave up running his own business last year because "there's only so much you can borrow"; there's one person who now works with his wife from home running training courses as he's never got back on the corporate bandwagon after falling off a few years back; there's one person who was a children's programme producer for the BBC giving up marriage and children to pursue a career only to become freelance last year; there's one person whose daughter achieved notoriety by running off with a famous pop star's husband, there's one person who is so important that his salary would make a Premier division footballer blush. And then there's me.

We all had a brilliant time.

Pass the Berocca.

Thursday 10 February 2011

Friends old and new

I've not seen Social Networking...I hear it's a good film; I see it's up for an Oscar or two. It may even beat The King's Speech, which would be a shame, as I know, I just know, that Colin Firth is better. And I don't even like Royalty. In fact I'd have happily been in Piccadilly shouting off with their heads.

I remember a very, very long time ago being introduced to Facebook. A client mentioned it and saw the potential for marketing purposes. He's clearly a cleverer man than me, because when I went and had a look I thought it was a dating website. After all, it asked my relationship status, and was I interested in boys or girls. I felt obliged to sign up, but then for several years didn't look at it from one month to the next, occasionally gathering friends until I had about 15 of them. That's Johnny no mates level.

In the meantime, the world moved on, and The Boy and his generation realised it was a brilliant way of keeping in touch. If only Aunts and Grandmas would use it, they could even avoid writing thank you notes after Christmas. They haven't yet spotted that the bacchanalian photos will blight their careers for life.

A couple of years ago, I realised that I was in danger of being left behind, so started Facebooking properly, and building up a bank of REAL friends on Facebook. It even identified someone I'd not been in touch with for nigh on twenty years, and as far as I could work out there was no obvious link or common friends. I was pleased to have been put back in touch.

With access on my mobile, I began to actually enjoy it. Annoyingly though, it kept popping up with a little notification about my friends who had found more friends using friend finder. I ignored it, but the drip, drip, drip of repetition finally got to me, so yesterday I clicked on the button. And a peculiar thing happened, it revealed the names of people who have left a comment on Don't Panic. I clicked away, so you may well have a friendship request from me. I'm pleased to have got acceptances back...from people who I already regarded as friends...but for anyone who has got a strange request from some middle aged bloke they don't know...that'll be me! I won't be offended to be ignored or declined.

My mistake was then to get carried away, and I've ended up with a client who is now a Facebook friend, and I've spent many a pub hour telling people to keep Facebook for personal stuff. I've been hoisted.

There were a thousand or more other suggestions for friends from Mark Zuckerberg, many of them The Boy's school chums, but I'm not sure befriending sixteen year old girls is a good thing.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Liquorice Allsorts

There's been a fair few mistakes in my life, but none bigger, I think, than deciding to follow the Top 10 design blogs. They seem to publish hourly so all the interesting blogs I like to read just get lost. It was one of those 'it seemed a good idea at the time' moments that you have when you're drunk. Not that I was, so I have no excuse.

On other blogging matters, I've discovered that I've rocketed up from being number 5 in the list of Daddy Bloggers to number 4. And I've returned to the Tots 100 list at number 80, up 188 places. I've no idea why, I'm not doing anything different. I guess everyone else is slacking and needs to pull their socks up. I'm sure there's many a pop star that would like to achieve the same in this week's 'Hit Parade' as they used to say. You can tell I've recently watched The Boat That Rocks makes us all laugh and has a great soundtrack.

The ongoing disturbances in the Middle East are fascinating me...I can't keep away from the news. The UK's most well paid MP (William Hague) is currently trotting around the area shoring up the defences of British foreign policy. As well he might, we created half the mess there in the first place. Egypt is the key...I can't see how it won't get messy.

And it looks like the bankers are finally beginning to be forced to clear up the mess they made. Mind you I detect a large element of spin going on...the amount they are being forced to lend is a pitiful increase on last year, and at the rates they are charging, it's no great help to any business. Bonuses are still being paid at levels that make my eyes water....we could do with some of that Egyptian spirit here.

Closer to home, The Boy has made his A level choices...German, Geography, History and English. IMHO great choices, and all subjects he loves, so that should help over the next couple of years. The Cat is still deciding. And quite possibly will be five minutes before the deadline. She's very good academically, so whatever she chooses she'll do well - but that doesn't help her narrow her choices. It's hard for The Cat's Mother (and me a little bit)to provide the right guidance.

I might suggest a lucky dip.

Tuesday 8 February 2011


It seems the Americans have gone into panic overdrive in the Middle East. Their overt posturing in the last few weeks has achieved very little by way of the positive, and now it seems Obama's administration is sending out mixed and muddled messages....or at least it doesn't know whether it's coming or going. The West has spent years, decades, centuries meddling in the affairs of the middle east...and it is even possible that now we will lose all influence by having backed the wrong horses. That will create an interesting scenario. As you can tell, I find the whole middle-east fascinating.

The Boy and The Cat are now of an age where the school wants them to do some work experience. Fingers crossed and with a following breeze, The Cat may be sorted doing some stuff at The may yet not happen, but there are 'contacts'. So that's all good. The Boy is more tricky, my own network is generally made up of micro-businesses that have enough trouble looking after themselves let alone a teenager for a couple of weeks. I feel some pressure to sort some thing. He, given half a chance would like to do something related to his German learnings....I hope the school can help. But who knows. So if you have any ideas they will be more than gratefully received.

And in other news, work for me is changing too. After fifteen years hard slog pushing sand uphill, it's all getting a bit hairy, so I'm looking at how I shape my working future. I'm not the only one. A friend who sold his agency and has been living in Devon with wife and kids copy writing has found it so tough going that he is beginning to look for a job...that may mean him returning to London. The consequences for his family life can't be good.

I've had to make The French Girl who's worked with me for the last six years redundant. I've reached a stage where I can't keep pouring money into the business. She's just bought a flat and a new car with her boyfriend. That's really hard...I know what it feels like having been at the receiving end in previous lives. Jobs, of course, are not just jobs...they are your entire life, so it has a terrible, terrible impact. For me, there are always options, and fortunately the office is not my only (or even main) source of income...and I have some exciting opportunities to explore. The plan has always been to stop this when The Boy goes off to University, so we're working two years ahead of schedule. Ahead of schedule sounds good doesn't it?! But it seems a bleak 2011 at the moment. Recessions are all about change, but the economy seems woefully unbalanced and the Government quite ineffective are creating a vision for the future.

Monday 7 February 2011

Broken promises

I've spent my entire working life in PR. So I know the press pretty well. Inspite of the glamour that goes with it, it is a pretty harsh life. Strangely full of disappointments, and having to sell your soul on someone else's behalf. And that generally explains why there are so few nice people in PR.

On Friday, there was an urgent request for people to talk about leaving their kids at home alone. What age is it OK to do that. Legally, there's no set age...any age is fine, providing nothing goes wrong...if it does, then you're in the poo.

I started leaving The Boy at 11 to allow me to get out of an evening. I always used to tell people (and I may have told you before) that I'd always left him playing with matches and sharp knives with the front door open. One night, I came home to the smell of burning.

He'd been doing some history, making a poster for some Elizabethan period homework. To make it authentic, he'd cut it roughly, smeared it with a damp teabag before burning the edges.

I thought it was a good little story, and so did the journalist on The Sunday Times. They would send a photographer Saturday morning. We could keep the photos afterwards she said. The Cat's Mother was excited, The Boy was excited, The Cat was excited, even offering to fore go her Saturday morning sleep in to see us pictured. When he didn't appear, I contacted the paper, to discover, eventually, that no they weren't sending a snapper. But not to worry I was still part of the story. I took it in my stride; The Cat's Mother was saddened..."That's not very nice" she said.

Opening the paper on Sunday morning, the article was there in all its glory. But not a word of mention of The Boy's tale. We'd been edited out. Totally. The Cat's Mother was seriously upset, The Cat was quite unhappy, and even I was saddened. Of course, it was probably just the subs whose job it is to make sure that an article fits the space. But it has altered everyone in the house's perception of the press. The Cat's Mother thinks that if they treat everyone like that, it's no wonder they're such horrible people. She's right, the press does act with thinking about the consequences to the people who come into contact with it. This is a minor, minor case, but imagine how it operates on the bigger stage.

I've seen this all before over the last 25 years, but today it is making me wonder about the business I'm in....I don't like letting down the people who matter to me most.