Picture of Karl Lagerfeld designed Christmas tree

2017 – It got turned upside down!

So shortly we’ll be doing the usual “out with the old and in with the new” festivities and crazy sales shopping! I’ve certainly had a year of disposing of old for sure, the house has completely taken the fun out of 2017, or so it seemed, so I’ve actually been quite glad to say goodbye to it.

What went wrong…

  • The house continued to kill our souls, finances and time – endless weeks of something else going wrong, needing to be fixed, requiring a survey, builder, consent form, something… Dreary!
  • Aside from that, I now wear casual fit shirts, WTF! #old
  • Specs descended upon my nose! Yes, I know wear glasses – This is actually both good and bad as they’ve solved my headache problems and I look rather good in them, apparently… #old
  • No “proper” holiday – Despite our best endeavours, for one reason or another we never made it away properly. Flew to Spain and kitted out the holiday home in some upgraded gear (in lieu of furnishing our place!) and got some well-needed vitamin D, but that was the extent of the foreign investments this year…
  • Lack of sports and gym activity – Time constraints and minor injuries kept me off the 5-a-side pitch, work prevented gym sessions and #2 put a halt to the tennis plans
  • Left 23 unfinished, unpublished, blog posts – Always been something more important to deal with, I’ll use the Christmas period to post hopefully :)
Picture of Harrison boarding easyJet flight to Spain
Goodbye rain, hello sun, sand and soft play!

However, when you actually spend a little time (plenty of that on my daily commute from hell… Moan, moan, moan) thinking, it certainly wasn’t all bad, here are some highlights that more than counteract the grim stuff…

  • The best part… I’m a hugely doting Dad of the most wonderful little boy! Managed to make plenty of time for fun with this awesome dude despite the madness this year and there really is no better a time than with him <3
  • Everything (and I nearly mean everything, including some bricks and mortar!) is new in the house – I learnt a lot about renovating and a lot of new tricks, not to mention all of the new toys I have to play with… My lovely Ryobi One+ gear; Impact Driver (a personal favourite!), Jigsaw and Wood planer. The wonderful Makita Circular Saw and Multitool. Yet the cheapest and most used was simply the super reliable Stanley plasterboard cutter. #needed
  • Work saw a dramatic improvement in personnel and process, and that’s helped clear a path for less frustration and more productivity – Always a positive!
  • At 40, the guys have finally agreed that annual trips somewhere are good for us – We started in Edinburgh for our joint birthdays and despite a small turnout and far less thrill-seeking than originally planned, it was a great time for just wandering and talking, instead of rushing down a pint whilst discussing politics and football in the local (or someones local) pub. Plans for 2018 are already in progress…
  • Talking of 40, there were plenty of 4oth birthday parties. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to all which is a shame and I didn’t have time for my own, but an “End of 40” party to start the new year should work well in my beloved Greenwich!
  • Hobbies took a back seat but I did manage to find time to embark on a few new projects outside of the day job. I won’t expand on those just yet, but watch this space – All are exciting and going to be BIG :)
  • Commuting, despite the horror show that is SouthEastern Railways, has been a million times more enjoyable. Netflix and Amazon Prime have come to the rescue with a constant stream of great new seasons of favourites and totally new shows; Halt and Catch Fire, Startup and 13 Reasons Why. Looking forward to more in 2018!
Picture of Edinburgh Castle, town of the joint 40th birthdays
Edinburgh Castle

Now, is this a diary entry, brain dump or something else? Well, to me it’s a reminder that no matter how hard, frustrating and downright fucking annoying times can be, that if you look back positively, there’ll be great learnings from the year with plenty of pockets of loveliness. And to never forget that we’re super lucky to live in exciting and privileged times!

Life is great, live it, love it, learn.



Picture of Karl Lagerfeld designed Christmas tree
Beauty often comes in a strange and unusual form…



Dear UK, please cancel Black Friday next year…

…the fun of the sale has gone! [rant]

“Why, why, why” I hear you scream (maybe, unless you’re working anywhere around Central London today and dreading being able to move!), well…

For a start, the “Black Friday” sale no longer appears to be a single day. This year all forms of retailers and service providers have decided to start this “Friday” thing a week before or have extended it to the following Sunday. It’s no longer a special day. At the very least it needs renaming! Any suggestions?

Secondly, as a consumer, this is not enjoyable and although operationally easier no doubt to spread it over a longer period (security concerns, etc.), I’d suggest it hurts sales of goods due to human-beings inability to make a choice when given too many at once! The apparent sense of 5-7 days of procrastination, hmmm, I fear it’ll end in no purchase. Forgetting that point, it also puts enormous pressure on Christmas shopping… All of sudden you’re thinking “I have to buy presents on Black Friday, I’ll save so much”, only to find the things you want aren’t in the sale and you’ve bought a load of things you didn’t want.

Lastly, and most importantly IMHO, the sale items are largely made up of stuff that wasn’t worth the original value anyway or like the ever-growing number of “brand outlets” around the country, its surplus stock or defected stuff that shouldn’t even be on shelves anyway… (what I like the call The Next Effect, after the crazy jumble sale style shopping madness after new year in store when they pull out all the old crap from 3 years ago and people perceive this as a bargain!!!).

It’s rather amusing to me that in the UK the term originated from the police and support services having to plan for the annual drink and disorderly binge before Christmas, codenamed “Black Friday”. Yet now the panic is with the businesses running the sales and thier ability to cope with the binge shopping and disorderly shoppers, which now seems to spam a similar length of time as Christmas!
I must say that 2014s Amazon sale, John Lewis’ sale last year and our sales figures sky-rocketing for a day, have all been both enjoyable and rewarding, but this year has been a constant flow of annoyance… The ever-distracting marketing emails have gone absolutely crazy, I swear one-in-three that I receive says “Our Black Friday sale starts today” or “be first to know about our Black Friday sale…”, the latter being the most irritating as it’s like saying “we want to jump on this bandwagon but haven’t decided how or what to sell yet”, then there’s the radio advertising that has been completely taken over by them, coupled with the more closer-to-life situation of having to prepare ourselves at the office for a busy day on the infrastructure. I don’t even want to mention social media, as this place is literally insane! Lucky Google and Facebook for creating such a profit making product, Twitter-schmitter…

So far, and thankfully, “Cyber Monday” has hardly been mentioned. I can only assume because “Black Friday” is now effectively “Black-Week-And-Weekend-With-A-Friday-Between”.

Rant over. Happy Friday! (oooh, there we go, let’s call it Happy Week – closely followed by the realisation of spending more than you planned to and becomes Sad Week or I’m Broke Before Christmas And Can’t Afford To Go Out And Enjoy It Week)

Scary! Only 47 days to go and I don’t feel anywhere near prepared

Scary! Only 47 days to go and I don’t feel anywhere near prepared :/ http://ow.ly/i/6JPrP #marathon #denver @RunRocknRoll @RunKeeper

The Other Art Fair

Seriously cool stuff by tea lover @HelainaSharpley and @damilolaa at the @TheOtherArtFair – at Ambika P3
View on Path

The rise and fall apart of London

According to Knight Frank, Asian buyers account for as much as 70% of all new-home purchases in London. The majority of whom do not live in the country, and at present won’t pay “second-home income tax” on those properties if they sell them.

The result of this is a 13.8% increase in London house prices (to the end of February 2014), which far exceeds the income rate, which as it stands is actually down 3.8%, leaving good hard working “real” Londoners 17.6% out of pocket. London is falling apart.

Prince Charles recently correctly stated that “This isn’t sustainable and risks driving away talented young individuals who are starting their careers in London and spending most of their income on rent. Home ownership for this generation is seemingly becoming further and further out of reach”. This Guardian article I was reading however went on to ridiculously suggest that building more “affordable houses” would make a difference! Get real! All that would happen is that the foreign millionaires would just take even more advantage of crazy system. Hello Government, where is your common sense?

Affordable housing near Canary Wharf
New apartments by South Quay near Canary Wharf, a good 30% of them made “Affordable Housing”

An effective short-term solution to London’s housing crisis would be to abolish the contradictory demand on property developers to provide “affordable housing”. This immediately pushes up the prices of the adjacent properties, thereby massively harming affordability of those to the general public.

Now, I’m not targeting issues around “affordable housing” (or “social housing”) directly here, this is a completely different subject, one that I won’t cover in this post and is not something that I’m against. The only thing I will say is that I’ve had first hand experience of the moral-zapping consequences of it. It simply shouldn’t be implemented in areas focused on business, such as Canary Wharf.

I spent 2+ years watching an apartment blocks being built around the old site of London Arena, a view I had directly from my old office window. Minimum price to the general public was set at £280k for a studio! On the weekend of build completion, an entire block (what appears to be at least 30% of the entire build) filled with families on income support, disability benefits, people that neither work in the financial services industry nor ever would (even if they wanted to work at all!). Not only is the block and entire development in an ideal location for commuting (and I mean by foot or bicycle here, not cramming more people onto already stretched public transport infrastructure, again another topic!), they were/are occupying all types of apartment; from the basic studio, right up to the mezzanine floored Penthouses!

How much more insulting can it be, when you’re sat working hard in the office across on a hot summer’s day, slaving away, only to peer out of your window and see these people sunbathing on their balconies and terraces!? Over-looking the river with a beautiful view, all amenities and services you could require, all for around £300 a month, the majority of which (if not all) being be paid for by UK taypayer, i.e. me sat in the office!

In contrast, at the time I was traveling well over an hour to work by 2 trains and bicycle, working a 10+ hour day, often struggling to catch the last train, spending nearly £3000 per year on travel, all because buying a property closer was not financially viable. This is wrong.

I’m now live in Zone 3, in a 1 bedroom flat where I’m simply paying the mortgage for someone else. If I were to buy the “box” I rent, it would cost me close to £300k, a price that simply sickens me. Again, only last week I read that Battersea Power Station studios (yes, I did just write “studios”! You know, those 0 bedroom, bathroom and kitchen in the same (small) room as your bed and living quarters, “homes”) are being sold for £800k!!! This is not a “home” this is legal extortion!

At present the UK Government is alienating the young, the old, the educated, the entrepreneurs, even the wealthy UK businessman. It’s heading towards severe instability and has huge potential to implode, not only on the housing situation but also in society as a whole. According to RICS latest figures, UK house prices are at a six-year high and forecasters are suggesting an increase of 9% year on year until 2020 in the capital.

RICS forecast on house price rises in The Times
RICS forecast on house price rises in The Times

This blog is not just simply a moan! I’d like to gather support for changing this situation and will happily campaign and petition for common sense and new structure to be applied. What I see as a simple and effective solution for resolving this problem (which I’m sure the Government would hate!), are two important changes:

  • Lockdown zones 1 and 2 for only UK residents* and workers** (read more at the Lockdown12 official website)
  • Stop buy-to-let mortgage providers from stipulating minimum rents that landlords must command from tenants

The website will be host to all future ideas on this topic and act as a campaign tool going forward. Until the e-petition is agreed from the Government there is direct way to add your support, but feel free to add your comments here and let me know if you want to be part of that. If the e-petition does not get approval, I’ll update the website with a “Sign-up to this campaign” mechanism directly.

Lastly, and to expose the greater scale of the housing situation in London, the transport system should also be considered. With all this new housing (including the “affordable housing”, has transport been reviewed at all? The latest crazy tube station closures come at Bond Street this year, which is probably one of the busiest stations in London and next to arguably the busiest (outside of London Bridge and Waterloo), Oxford Circus. Bond Street is due to close on the Central Line from April 23 until late June, then on the Jubilee Line from December! How exactly do they expect to cope with the already manic commuter, shopper and tourist route on at Oxford Circus?

*A “UK resident” is someone that lives and resides in the UK for the majority of the year, has UK citizenship and has lived in the UK for the last 3 years.
**A “UK worker” is someone that works in the UK and has tax records in the UK dating back 3 years. Similar to a credit check.

My London…

Whilst on my way home last night I was clearing the work brain reading (or more browsing) the Evening Standard, when I found myself reading a section called “My London”. I’ve read it before, I think, but recently I’ve been appreciating where I live and the ease of access I have to things much more than usual.

With such a great respect for how lucky I am to live in such an awesome city, I thought I’d share my favourite parts for others to agree, disagree or add to, in much the same way as the Standard does:

The day starts in…
Greenwich (well actually Deals Gateway, an oddly named pocket between Blackheath, Deptford and Greenwich) – For me ideally situated, close to my favourite areas and with transport links to everywhere

Magical market - Greenwich

The grindstone
CTO @ printed.com/goodprint.com (Tangent Plc), Great Portland Street, London – I absolutely love my job, enjoying every minute of it. I have the best team and we’re innovating and expanding all of the time!

Coffee fuel
Kaffiene, Great Titchfield Street – Amazing vanilla lattes and laidback atmosphere

Breakfast munchies
Scandinavian Kitchen – Just up from Kaffiene, the staff here are awesome.. They have a kind of boardroom area where I occasionally run our Scrums

Lazy lunch
Roka – It’s just cool

Favourite park
Greenwich Park – The place is tranquil amongst the chaos, and the view from the top by the observatory always impresses

Where I like to wander
Regents Canal – A walk up from Limehouse to Broadway Market on a Saturday, taking in Victoria Park and boating lake on route, endearing

Fun dining
Duck and Waffle, Heron Tower – Partly for the view of course, over-priced food but tasty and with delicious cocktails!

Favourite hotel
The May Fair Hotel – swish and pretentious! Really want to try out the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch though, potential to knock this one off the favourites list

Riding House Cafe – Semi-celebrity hangout, but this isn’t why I like it, it just feels good

Gig venue of choice
O2 Brixton Academy – This proves that size doesn’t matter!

Cinema experience
Everyman, Hamstead – The whole cosy feeling and table service make this an easy choice

Magical market
Greenwich – Again! I know most would say Camden or Notting Hill, but I love the size of this place coupled with the artistic influence and the boutique shops that surround it

Place yet to visit
Dulwich – Always told this is cool place these days, must head over and check it out

London pub
The White Horse, Parsons Green – Unfortunately don’t get over there much these days, but still love the vibe of the place when I do, especially in the summer when the crowds spread to the common

For now, that’s it… Any requests for other topics, let me know and I’ll do a part 2!

The Year Of The Horse.. What Does It Mean?

This morning whilst chatting to my amazing girlfriend, I randomly said that we should be out in Chinatown getting involved in the Chinese New Year celebrations, stating “it’s the year of the horse”, to which she replied (and after agreeing this would be fun to do!) “What does it mean?”. “I don’t know” I returned, with it suddenly occurring to me how uncultured that is! Remembering that I was born in the year of the snake and being someone that loves information, I immediately started researching whilst on my way to the shop for groceries.

ShiraLikesToDraw Chinese New Year 2014 Horse

As I was reading I realised how many horse-related things I’d been involved in over the last 24 hours…

Yesterday morning I was busy sorting through paperwork and filling in some forms for an impending (and life changing) future. One of the things requiring my attention was an update to the Council Tax registration. I couldn’t find the paperwork, but I knew I had saved a PDF of it fairly recently so opened the Mac and searched for “522”. I generally have a good mind for numbers, and knew that this was the last 3 digits of my account number. On seeing returned results, indeed there was the PDF (amongst a hell of a lot of other stuff), but interestingly right next to a photo I took recently of a horse (below)!

Horse in a field

Afterwards, I headed out for some lunch. Whilst wandering around Greenwich market, and being aware of my girlfriends (immediate) need for new shoes, I stumbled across a lovely little shop called The Shoe Embassy, the logo as you can see on their website is of a horse. At the time, I thought nothing of it!

With my delicious market food in hand, I continued my usual meander around the Old Naval College and along the Thames. Plenty of thoughts running through my little head, I questioned whether I would bump into anyone I know on my travels (it often happens) and wondered if this time it could be my lovely ex-colleague Lorraine who lives in the area. I remember thinking strangely and for no apparent reason (other than maybe a subconscious understanding of the Chinese celebrations going on elsewhere) that she once spent a Christmas horse-riding in Croatia!

As I arrived at Waterloo station at the start of a fairly drunken night out with the best mates a guy could have, I was walking through hearing “The next train to leave platform 8 is the blah blah blah to Reading via Ascot” and seeing many guys and girls dressed to the 9’s presumably returning from a day out placing bets on horses!

Following this and whilst being impressively insulted over my choice of beer (lager or piss as he described) by the owner of the The Kings Arms, I noticed the “proper” beers he was trying to persuade me onto all had taps of horses! Of course because the rest of the decor was of hunting… The subliminal messages go on…

This morning, one of the first posts I read on my Facebook wall was by an old school friend and fellow technie now residing out in Melbourne Australia. On what looks like some form of stag do activity, he posted his antics and entitled it “Riding with the boys”. Thankfully this was accompanied by pictures of them all on horses somewhere in the outback!

The meaning…

The year of the horse, is apparently actually the year of the wooden horse. Wooden horses are thought to be strong, stable and possess great social charming skills in their interaction with others. Like our zodiac signs, the years and animals related to the year are birth signs, the children born under these are assumed to grow up with those characteristics. To Chinese people, the horse is a symbol of absolute happiness.

I’m not going to write about the whole meaning and philosophy behind this here, like me, you can find it anywhere on the Internet, but all of a sudden the year of the horse means a lot to me. The weekend wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t spent with whom I’d have preferred it to be, but it was full of nice little memories, a lot of progress towards a goal and some wonderful conversations, all of which have added to the way 2014 has begun for me. The only thing left to do now is to find a good stable to learn how to ride!

As this is my first post of 2014, Happy New Year in every way, bring on the year of the horse…

Illustration by shira likes to draw, horse photography by Lee McIntosh :)