The long overdue, around the world Clipper race finally came to an end at the weekend arriving in London’s Royal Docks.
I love cooking and making films. As a creative producer for our monthly live cooking shows I get to do both and meet some amazing chefs in the process.
They say travel broadens the mind, so I’m glad I get to travel for my work.
Here are I am in Dublin launching our loyalty scheme.
With the recent death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh it sparked a memory of my time working towards attaining The Duke of Edinburgh’s bronze award. Back in the late 80’s the opportunity to take part interested me as I used to be a Cub Scout as a kid and I enjoyed the activities, camping and teamwork. I had learnt to map read, build a camp fire and the traditional learning to tie knots, along with other skills. I remember we got visitors to come in with learning activities like how to perform first aid, play sporty team games or have fun visitors like the K9 from Doctor Who and his creator. As you can imagine, those that know me, that was a really memorable visit. The scout group often felt like a military organisation with parades and standing to attention and forgetting the need to recite the scout law as it was then, “On my honour, I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to God and to The Queen, to help other people and to keep the Scout Law.”
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was formed in 1956 and is participated in 144 nations, engaging young people in a similar way to the Scout group created by Robert Baden-Powell in 1908. The DofE was different as it only required completion of the activities without the weekly meetings. I remember spending time with two emergency services. Firstly spending time with the London Fire Brigade and learning the various functions of a fire engine and how to combat a fire, although I never got to actually put out a fire. I do remember however cutting a car open with the jaws of death in the yard behind the fire station. What kids wouldn’t love that. The other service I was spending time with was the Metropolitan Police. I went out in a patrol car, following incidents as they were received by the radio and learnt to understand the various challenges they face. I remember I spotted a registration of a stolen car while on patrol that they had missed. Hopefully the victim got their pride and joy back.
The most memorable element was going the hiking, orienting and camping with my school friends that also took part. I got to use my skills gained from the scouts and I got to be the leader of the team to successfully complete the challenges set by the organisers. I wonder if this was the start of my interest in being a leader and learning to influence people to get something done, that would one day become my career as a retail manager? Maybe or I might just be bossy my nature.
I remember cooking food on a Trangia cooker in a field with fairly mixed results as our cooking skills were in their infancy. It was cruel when the DofE team came back one night to check on us with Fish and Chips for themselves. The smell was amazing and I’ve never felt so hungry. The power of smell. My friend Vip had been given some fried chicken by his parents that he forgot in the bottom of his rucksack. I’m not sure how long it had been in there, going green and sweaty but we ate it anyway and it was heaven.
I honestly can’t remember how long all this took as it was over 30 years ago now but I did complete the bronze award and I attended an awards ceremony with my parents. I got my certificate and bronze badge awarded to me by British Olympic heptathlete Judy Simpson. She later went on to become a household name as ‘Nightshade’ on ITV’s Gladiators.
It was a great time of life and its with thanks to Prince Philip for creating it. I would recommend anyone to do it and I’m sure that his death will create a renewed interest in him and The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
Some of you may know that I’ve been hunting street art for many years. Mostly I find these various size works in and around the Shoreditch area in East London or The Leake Street Tunnel near Waterloo station. Whenever I travel abroad I always try and find the local street art district with some amazing and well known artists’ work being visible in more than one country it’s always a nice surprise to spot a tag or style from an artist you’ve seen before. My Instagram page has been running since May 2020 and has organically grown to just over 1000 followers. This is just the tip of the iceberg of course, with the fandom and movement having at least 100 times that in street art fans in the UK and with some Instagram followers having well over 15,000 followers. I’m not shallow enough to worry about the followers that I get that much but it’s nice that people want to see my photography and my street art hunting efforts. That for me is the real enjoyment of street art hunting, the not knowing what you’ll find next and with most pieces changing every week, it’s an exciting and constantly evolving outdoor gallery and I also often get a good 15k worth of steps out of each hunt whilst wandering around the streets of EC1, so it’s good for my health too.
A couple of days ago I was asked if I’d like to see some street art created by Sonia Boyce to cover the wall protecting the new Crossrail line that runs from Abbey Wood and though North Woolwich, Silvertown and Custom House. This would be the biggest mural in Europe covering an area over 2km long. This should be interesting to see but I would always be a bit hesitant however about a corporation getting involved in an artwork project as the amount of bureaucracy and committee meetings often results in something very bland and disappointing.
The Crossrail version of the Berlin wall certainly needs something to brighten up the area and I’m surprised that street artists or enthusiastic youths with spray cans and no idea haven’t already had a go at it with “Bozzo Woz Ere” but it seems mostly unmolested if just a dirty white wall. The pre-printed panels that are going up ready for the summer 2021 launch are pretty much as I would expect. Mostly a safe hospital style design of a black and white cityscape with flowers along the bottom. The panels are dotted with quotes from local residents and are mostly uninspiring. One quote did stand out though that I’m stunned actually went through the due diligence and creative process. The offending element was highlighting the crime and murders in the area. This will do wonders for the house prices I’m sure.
The quote read,
‘I love this area North Woolwich.
I’m glad I was brought up here, it’s like a village. It has a hairdresser, a corner shop, a post office, a library, three parks, a bakery and a pharmacy.
There’s the Police Station, there’s a Chinese takeaway.
It has everything all in one small area and everyone knows everyone.
The only negative thing is the crime and the murders, which has been increasing.
This is unfortunate, but other than that everything else is fine.
Also there’s a little beach and you can take a ferry ride.
It’s all so close.
Like a village.’
How on earth did that ever get approved? Having seen this I decided to Tweet about it on the @Moliblog Twitter page showing my shock and disappointment at the way Crossrail and the artist can think this a great way to promote the area?
Given the reputed £1m+ price tag, I can tell you that local community groups could really use that money post Covid more than hearing that they live in a crime and murder zone. It’s especially insensitive as less than 5 minutes walk away, a shrine is still in place to a young man that was the victim of knife crime. You could argue that the quote was honest and a temporary piece of commentary it would be challenging and inspire change, however as a permanent wall covering it falls short of any decency and consideration for local residents.
Crossrail didn’t reply to my tweet and why would they. However, after ITV news and The Evening Standard quoted my tweet on their websites, the story did get some momentum and I’m glad to say that Newham Council put out a press release asking for the offending panel to be covered up or removed. The Crossrail programme manager Jim Crawford appeared in ITV news that night and was frankly clueless about the whole project and claimed he would look into it.
I’m pleased to say that today the panel has been taken down and hopefully something more positive will replace it. A quote maybe about the power of street art that can bring people together despite a big dividing wall though the borough. At least they don’t have guard towers and searchlights. Yet.
The last time I wrote on my blog was back in May 2020. Goodness me!!!! I’m trying once again to get back into writing my blog and hope that someone beyond myself reads it and maybe actually gets something from it and engages with me. The consistency of writing is the challenge and of course an important draw for anyone wanting to get into reading my posts. I felt that the last few posts were focusing far too much on the fat orange American president, I’m pleased he’s now out of office and the world can think about other more important things, but sadly Trump hasn’t gone away entirely. The spectre of Trump and his brain-dead followers still remains sadly. Swiftly moving on. I’ve become fairly lazy with writing especially during a pandemic when all I’ve been doing is sit around my home watching daytime TV, eating far too much, taking part in alcohol fueled Zoom calls and walking the same 5 square miles around my home. It’s not much of a motivator for blog writing.
The 3rd Lock down has been the hardest for me. The 1st was tough at the start and then I got into a daily routine of eating, walking, cycling and watching all the shows I’d missed over the years and re-watching some classics like Gavin and Stacy, Spooks and Line of Duty, the second lock down was even easier as by then the routine was second nature, however I then lost my job. I’m still not sure how much Covid played its part in the option of redundancy as my old company seems to have weathered the pandemic fairly well and proved that trade can be done without stores as customers moved online but should they reopen after lock down, they have now lost the vast bulk of their skilled and experienced managers that were the driving force and backbone of the company’s prior success. I’m sure it saved them lots of money but it could also become a very short-sighted decision, especially when they actually want to get things done. Once this final lock down (fingers crossed) ends and the economy restarts, I guess time will tell for them. I’ve invested so much energy and thought in supporting that business, I can only wish them well and I have no desire to watch it burn and I wish them all the best.
Having worked since I was 15, the idea of not working has taken me some time to adjust to. It’s actually very different to being furloughed where I would still have a sense of purpose and would still keep in touch with my colleagues by running competitions and delivering online training courses. Now however, I feel fairly lost and without any purpose beyond trying to find a new job which has been mentally challenging and has left me feeling sad at times. I’m also having to try very hard to remain positive with the thought that I will one day, get another job and someone out there will see value in my 20+ years’ experience as a Sales and People leader. I’ve been applying for the few jobs currently available, along with writing my covering letters, doing recorded video interviews and also trying some less conventional methods to find my next career but so far, it’s not yielded a new paymaster. As a result, ‘Lock down 3’ feels more depressing and constricted with no certainty of a future for me or frankly any light visible light at the end of the tunnel. I just have to hope it’s there, but just a long way off yet.
Some of my previous colleagues have been in touch which has been amazing to catch up with them and some have ghosted me. I’ve always known people can be two faced but I’d like to think I’m a good judge of character and it’s been eye opening how you really can’t trust people to be anything but self-serving to the point of faux friendships. People I would have walked over hot coals to help just cut me off and that has been an interesting life lesson. Not having the daily personal interactions also made me realise that I’ve really missed the daily routines and banter with my work colleagues. I’ve just started watching a comedy show called ‘Superstore’ on Netflix that seems to be a fairly close critique of the antics and people in big box retail. I’ve certainly found similarities and I wonder if the writers ever worked in retail as the stories and attitudes are very well aligned. I personally worked with a wide range of cultures and characters with a mix of very smart and switched-on people and sadly some (not all) very immature and workshy millennials and generation Z’s. The latter never liked being managed or challenged and preferred to sit around and ignore customers while also feeling very entitled. Their previous life experiences from school never really prepared them for a working life and they often got upset that they didn’t get a gold medal for turning up to work that day or when asking to go out for yet another Vape and would often sulk like a toddler when they couldn’t all go out to lunch together or get their own way. I’ve worked with so many people over the years and I know that being the manager was never going to result in loads of friends, I never wanted that sort of relationship anyway and always wanted to remain professional, especially with my work ethic being focused on delivering a successful business and a positive customer experience with the often typical push back work ethic that Gen Z’s preferred that was always lacking and constantly required managers like myself to challenge performance and attitude. I’m happy that the few colleagues that I have kept in touch with me are the very best of the people I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside and learn from, and I’m proud to have call them friends. You know who you are and long may that continue. Having had my first vaccine, I really can’t wait to get back to work now and find a new challenge, develop some new friendships and have a purpose.
At the beginning of the Covid 19 lock down I was feeling a bit trapped like a caged animal. My last blog some time ago actually resulted in some dear friends offering me help and being concerned for my well being. That was so kind of them and not only shows that some people actually read the rubbish I write about but actually care enough to reach out to me. The others either don’t read my blog or couldn’t give a shit about me. Who knows. Help wasn’t something I needed in the end, it was the willpower to stop eating crap food and stop me gaining weight like it’s a new olympic sport. One that I would win gold for but would be too unfit to actually claim as I couldn’t climb to the top of the podium to collect the medal. Just throw it at my bulbous body!
For me the turn in mental approach came with retail therapy. I became Amazon’s number one customer for things nobody really needs. I’m sure I must have pressed a filter that only shows me items that I’d might like but don’t really need. Chief among these odd purchases was a Fratelli Campana designed umbrella stand. It’s lovely and we all need one of those during a pandemic, right?
I’ve drunk enough tea to sink a battleship and dunked many a digestive biscuit. When I finally managed to get regular online supermarket slots after the panic buying and vast empty shelves, I was able to enjoy learning to cook new things and of course eating them. I’ve made the most amazing triple chocolate brownies and kick arse Yorkshire Puddings. Lamb Kebabs, Burgers and Monkfish Curry’s.
My true saviour in the early days during the cold and miserable days of lockdown was my XBOX One. I finally paid for a game pass to get it online and then bought a selection of games that took my mind off the wider world for a while and of course helping me avoid the potentially infected population outside my home. The highlighted games for me were Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Train Sim World 2020. The first was a bloody amazing game that with a pair of headphones on allowed me to immerse myself in a world where I kill lots of people. A very cathartic experience but don’t worry I won’t be taking this into the real world any time soon, especially as some 14 year old usually kills me in about 2 minutes while I’m still trying to remember how to walk forward. Often it doesn’t need anyone else as I always forget which button throws a hand grenade. Normally resulting in it landing on my feet and me still not knowing how to walk away from it. The second game was a real shock for me how much of a nurd I am. I found nothing more OCD satisfying than bringing in an express train on time to Baden-Baden station. The amount of working from home I needed to do was nil to minimal and this gaming was a welcome distraction but I’m still not bored enough to play Goat Simulator.
I’ve been enjoying Netflix like most people it seems. White Lines has been excellent and I finally caught up with Gavin and Stacey. I know I’m 10 years too late but I just never got around to it, I actually love it and I’m annoyed I didn’t see it the first time around. What surprised me was just how few episodes were actually made and I was able to catch up with everything in a couple of weeks. I’m probably not alone at wanting more. I’ve also past the time with Succession, Killing Eve, Better Call Saul and re-watching Spooks.
The weeks of isolation have also passed with Zoom calls to family and friends, 40 minutes of people talking about my and their lockdown beards, weight gain and new cough. Early on many different groups of friends wanted to do quiz nights that involved doing lots of research on a subject and making the questions so difficult not even a Chaser could answer them. I now realise that not many people wanted to do these catch up calls. Once I stopped asking, nobody else seemed to be bothered either. I still do two regular calls, on a Thursday and a Sunday. The Thursday is a beer and burger call that lasts about 4 or 5 hours and the Sunday one is for a family catch up that lasts no longer than 40 minutes. Both I still look forward to each week and if the clubs and pubs don’t reopen any time soon they will continue for some time yet. On the whole personally I’ve enjoyed the time away from work and that in itself is something to ponder. I’ve spent quality time with my fiancée and although our wedding plans for this year have had to be put on hold we can save for a bit longer and wait until it’s safe to have the wedding we’ve planned. I can speak for both of us when I say, we don’t want our wedding to be remembered for being the one that wiped out both of our families out. We’re not the Mafia!
I can’t say I’m looking forward to being in any crowded places for a while or returning to a crowded work place for that matter. No matter how many risk assessments are done and planned out, how many hygiene stations and one way systems are in place. You can’t plan for dumb. You can’t plan for stupid arrogant people that won’t follow the rules and help to protect front line retail staff and other customers. Before this pandemic hit, most of the time, the public treated retail staff very badly with selfish and aggressive behavior. Now that sort of attitude will put lives at risk and anyone not following the safeguards should be treated as an assault. Companies clearly want to get back to earning profits and I fear they won’t be willing or able to protect against the public’s unpredictable nature. An example of this is a friend that got into a lift with his girlfriend. The signage clearly marked that only 2 people should be in there at any one time and having waited in a line to use the lift, they entered it when the door opened. As they went in a 3rd man jumps in behind them both. When it was pointed out that it’s only 2 people at a time for social distancing, the guy turned to them and said. ‘You’d better leave then!’ The lift door closed and a slanging match ensued but more importantly, that idiot has put them all at risk. Arrogant and selfish behaviour will put lives at risk. It made me so angry hearing this that I’m more and more convinced that people cannot be trusted to do the right thing. When I finished off my last blog 759 people had died from Coronavirus in the UK, 14,543 were confirmed infected including the Prime Minister. Roll on 10 weeks or so and that number has now become 37,837 dead and 269,127 infected just in the UK with America massively out of control and with little or no lock down to contain it. It seems that we have faired better than expected as the Nightingale Hospitals were hardly used and the London hub having a tiny fraction of the 5000 beds actually being used which is great news. Talk now of life returning to a new normal in the UK with shops re-opening again soon, to allow people to do no essential shopping. This all feels a little too soon to be relaxing the lockdown in this way and countries that were ahead of our timeline are already seeing second spikes in infection like China and South Korea. I really hope I’m wrong.
Tonight will potentially be the last clap for carers. The first week was a bit light on support around these parts but the subsequent weeks were much better and a fair few neighbours were clapping and showing support with nobody really knowing when it was time to stop clapping. It was nice to hear local ships sounding their horns and the whole experience actually gave me a bit of hope and pride for humanity. That we can come together and maybe we will be okay. However, I now find myself getting annoyed at those that don’t come out to show support. The NHS and key workers have done an amazing job and one day life may return to normal. The key workers are the best of us. In this world war on Covid 19, they are ‘The New Few’.