Sorry Guys and Girls. I’ve not had time to write Moliblog for some time.
I’ll try harder this year to get back into it. I enjoy writing and I hope you enjoy reading the blog too? I’ve got lots happening this year and it would be good for me to get my thoughts down as the year progresses and maybe you can follow along.
Around a decade ago I took the long 23 + hour flight to Perth, Australia to catch up with my family that emigrated there back in the 1980’s. Having hired a convertible car that at the time was considered an unusual car to have due to the climate, I explored a relatively small amount of Western Australia. Perth itself is considered the most isolated city in the world and at the time I visited, it wasn’t heavily populated either. That’s not changed much now with less than 2 million people living there in 2018.
One of the places I visited was about an hours drive outside Perth to a very empty town called Fremantle, that at the time had less than 10,000 people living in it. Traveling with my cousin Nick on a hot day, we walked down a quiet side road looking for somewhere to get a drink. We stumbled across the ‘Little Creatures Brewery’ and that’s when I discovered my favorite Pale Ale. Despite my reputation for having a beer, I don’t really drink that much, more quality over quantity and this beer was most certainly a quality brew. Getting back to London I was clearly going to miss it and decided to find some way of getting it at home and remember having to pay through the nose to have a case of 24 bottles shipped over. In recent times supermarket chain Waitrose finally began selling the beer and for a reasonable price too.
Sometimes I was lucky to find a pub that sold it and would then feel obliged to share a fairly camp picture with Nick back in Australia.
Now things have reached a whole new level with Little Creatures opening a brewery in London’s Kings Cross area and naturally I had to pay them a visit.
It’s safe to say that lately we’ve had some Australian type weather, with a fairly intense heatwave. Along with visiting the brewery on a Friday night, it was always going to be busy experience. However, regardless of how busy it was, I was really impressed with the level customer engagement from the team of servers and the detailed knowledge they had of the brewing process and of course how each of the now local brews tasted. I was even offered a selection of tasters to explore my next choice.
The servers really knew their product and the history of the brand. I was particularly fascinated to learn that when the owner first moved from the UK to Australia he wanted to make his own cask Ale like he had been drinking back in the UK. However, warm beer in that climate was never going to work. So he created a beer using hops that were and still are imported from the UK. Doing this he created a beer that has a more intense and distinctive flavour.
I got chatting to a fantastic, customer focused manager called Madeleine whom I bored with the story above. She could tell I was a fan of the brand and she made my night by giving me a bag of goodies that included a Little Creatures Baseball cap, T-shirt, Serving tray and a collectable metal sign. I have to say, that was very unexpected and very welcome.
It’s rare to find great customer service, product knowledge and a great product all in one place. I’ve often found that that you either get one or two of the three. On those rare occasions when all the boxes are ticked, it’s worth writing about it and singing their praises as I have now. Hopefully you’ll get to pay them a visit some time soon and get the Little Creatures experience yourself.
In 1962 President Kennedy announced in a speech in Houston, Texas. “We choose to go to the moon,” the president said. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
As with all of humankind’s endeavors to explore and learn, the will and determination to do something must be the beginning of any success you should expect to get. The challenge was exceptional and along with the desire to make it happen, the political desire was equally as important with America wanting to win the space race to beat the Soviet Union, that had been taking all the success with the first satellite, Sputnik 1 and the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin.
Long before Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, thousands of people had to figure out just how to do it. They had to test their theories on propulsion, guidance and life support, then test them again and again. In tragic instances, some gave their lives as in the crew of Apollo 1 and a terrible crew capsule fire. The learning’s from that fire helped with changes to the design of the final crew capsule. I’m not going to give you a history channel blog and I just wanted to share my feelings about this element of the space race. So much of the space program is well documented but I just wanted to acknowledge the great many people that were behind the astronauts and ultimately in getting humans to the Moon.
Since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by space exploration and the Apollo years. I remember having posters on my bedroom wall of the rockets, space walks and those amazing people walking on the Moon.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo’s 11’s historic landing on the Moon on the 20th July 1969 and I’ve been lucky enough to meet some Astronauts and see the rockets and equipment up close. A couple of years ago, I went to NASA in Cape Kennedy and I remember being impressed when seeing the Gemini program rocket, however nothing prepared me when I got up close to the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
I actually got emotional when I realised I was standing next to a real piece of space history that I had watched launch in my lifetime. I never thought I’d get that close to the orbiter and for me it was overwhelming. Later in the day I took a tour over to launch complex 39 where Apollo 11 and the later shuttle launches took place. The real treat was seeing the true epic size of the Apollo series Saturn V rocket stages.
These engines were a real contrast to the size of the small capsule at the top where the crew traveled.
The trip to NASA was a dream of a lifetime and I really didn’t want to leave. As an extra unexpected treat, the current Space X Falcon 9 Heavy rocket launched as my Virgin Atlantic flight headed back to London. Seeing the flash of the engines upon launch and then seeing the rocket rise past us at 39,000 feet was a rare and amazing experience timed purely by luck.
Many years earlier I was lucky again to meet astronaut Buzz Aldrin. I didn’t get much time to talk with him but I’ll always remember shaking the hand of the second man to walk on the Moon. I really should try to smile in pictures.
I’ve always loved meeting the people I admire in films, TV or Sport and I have a fairly well stocked signed photo collection. Some of those people I meet are my hero’s that have either lived up to my expectations or been a big let down. I wouldn’t say that Buzz Aldrin was the friendliest person I’ve ever met but he did sign one of the most important images in human history for me and a prized piece of my collection. The picture Neil Armstrong took of him that became one of the most iconic of the whole mission. The refection of Armstrong in his visor and the Luna lander, ‘Eagle’ clearly visible.
After 50 years the space program has taken a different direction with deep space exploration being completed by drones that have explored Mars, passing Asteroids and Comets instead of humans which I personally think is a real shame. Should the technology have been available, would we have sent a drone to the undiscovered countries, instead of exploring them for ourselves? I think not. We should go and see them with our own eyes and take the risks that go along with it. I’d do it in a heart beat.
Man’s Giant leap was a long time ago and I’m please that NASA are now developing the Space Launch System for a possible manned mission to Mars. Here’s to the next leap. I just hope I get to see it in my life time.
To the Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and the men and women of NASA. Thank you for proving humans can be brave, amazing and an inspiration for us all to be better to each other and the planet we all share.
Today is the 6th June 2019 and the world is remembering D-Day. Watching the memorial service on TV makes me thankful that thousands of men sacrificed and lost their lives to invade the beaches of Europe and to fight for freedom. The beaches of Normandy code-named Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, Sword Beach, Juno Beach and Gold Beach were stormed by British, Canadian and American soldiers. Ordinary and brave men that walked into a hail of enemy fire that no movie will ever truly depict. Films like ‘The Longest day’ (1962) and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (1998) have done their best to give us an insight into that day. I honestly can’t imagine young men today doing their bit. The closest they and I have come to this might be playing ‘Medal of Honor’ on the PC years ago. I died very quickly but unlike those brave men they didn’t get another go by pressing the reset button. Instead another man had to push on with the battle while watching their friends die around them. Truly horrific.
It’s 75 years since that day and this will certainly be the last time the veterans will be attending any commemoration. The 60th anniversary was widely considered the last time but these men just keep living and remembering. It fills me with pride to still be able to hear their stories and experiences in their own words. Having grown up talking to family members and veterans especially around Poppy Day. I’d always take time to hear about their experiences and understand why their sacrifice was needed. Some didn’t want to talk about it as the images and memories were so awful that remembering still hurt them. They did have one thing in common. They all considered themselves to be the lucky ones, they got to come home.
Today I was watching and listening to a man called Alf Hicks talk about filming the landing for the news and for history. At 19 years old and armed with just a revolver which he couldn’t use as he was holding and pointing his camera. He captured some rare and stark images of that day, so we can now and forever get some understanding of that time. I can’t say I’m much of a fighter but I’d have chosen that role for myself if I had to do so. Recording the images for all time in a hope that future generations understand the sacrifice given and to avoid having to do anything like ever that again. Just as important in my eyes than any gun.
It make me feel sad that the few veterans that are now in their 90’s and won’t be around much longer to tell their stories and more significantly for us to say to them, Thank You.
Since I decided to start writing my blog again, I’ve found it more difficult than before to find something interesting to write about. Maybe I need to get out more? Certainly I’ve been fairly busy with work and not had much fun stuff to share. I’ll try harder.
Recently I visited the BFI Southbank to see a screening of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971). I’ve seen the film many times at home while it was banned on a dodgy copy VHS tape and in HD when the ban was finally lifted. This screening was my first chance since 1971 to finally see it with a paying audience and on the big screen.
It’s been 20 years since Stanley Kubrick’s death and the BFI are showing a selection of his films to mark this sad anniversary and they even have the carpet from the Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining’ (1980)
Clockwork Orange remains one of my favorite films and still looks good and just as relevant today, I recommend that you watch it at least once.
It’s central Character Alex is played by Malcolm McDowell and I was lucky enough to talk to him about the film, working with Kubrick and to take this portrait below of him. It was amazing to meet a fellow Droog.
Also I have a 20 year anniversary. On May 10th 1999 I started working for PC World in their business centres as a Sales Manager. I am proud to say I was very successful in that role for 10 years and when the company restructured I moved into retail management which I’m still doing today.
I’ve worked in many stores around East London and Kent. I’ve worked in Superstores, Megastores and High Street stores with my current posting in Westfield, Stratford City being the busiest by far with over 50 million visitors passing through the centre last year alone. I’ve met some amazing colleagues that have kept me sane and made the past 20 years enjoyable and full of laughs. I’m very happy to still call many of them friends but sadly I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like. I’ve even kept in touch with some of my old business customers too that I built lasting relationships with and one of the reasons I was successful. I always try my best to look after people and that was paid back to me in friendships. The business years got me invited to Downing Street by a client, The House of Lords, The Lord Mayors residence and many corporate Christmas parties as a thank you for being part of making their business a success as well as making a success of my own one too.
I’ve been part of two teams that have been nominated for our Chairman’s shield award and came runner up once and won the other time.
As with all jobs, we have our high points but we can also have low points, however I’ll keep this post positive and professional. We can all moan about our lives and anyone that’s driven to succeed will always be disappointed not have everything they want. Working weekends, late nights, Boxing days and having alarm call outs at 4am can be fairly testing, however we can all have good and bad days in any job but in refection my career has given me new skills, new experiences, new friendships, curve balls to surprise me, challenges to test me and I get to work with all the amazing technology that has always interested me. I was there at the introduction of the internet and the death of VHS. I can’t wait to see what comes next!
I will celebrate my anniversary on my own as I’m probably the only one that actually knows about this personal milestone. I’ll do my best to remember all the teams I’ve worked with and our adventures together.
Here’s to the future. Probably still with a plug on.
As I write this the Cathedral of Notre Dame is still smoldering after a devastating fire. Having visited Paris many times, I only visited the cathedral once as the queues to get in it are fairly epic having around 30,000 visitors per day. I’m not religious but the historic and architectural loss is heartbreaking. Coming within 30 minutes of being lost forever, the French firefighters have done an amazing job of containing the fire and giving the world a chance to rebuild. Here are my photographs from 2005 of how it used to look.
Anyone living in London would probably agree that we take our traditions and attractions a little for granted. From time to time I try and do something on the tourist trail and always find it interesting. The last time was on my birthday when I visited and rode the Royal Mail train that used to run under London. Small doesn’t cover it but a great experience.
Something I’ve always had a vague interest in seeing is the Oxford vs Cambridge boat race. However I’ve never been that bothered enough to actually see if live. Normally the weather is bloody awful and frankly, watching two sets of very privilege people rowing boats against each other just made me resent their elitist institutions even more. This year was the 165th year of the boat race and I finally found the motivation to attend.
I got myself alongside Hammersmith bridge and waited for the race to start. As I looked around at the fairly large crowds that were gathering, I started to realise that the race was really an excuse for a big party and of course, drinking alcohol The atmosphere was actually great and the Mungos and Ruperts weren’t too annoying. The Womens, Mens and reserve races were dominated by Cambridge university taking victory in all the races. This year the men’s Cambridge team had former olympian James Cracknall on hand to help them. Anyone using a rowing machine in the gym will know how hard it is and the amount of training and dedication needed for these men and women to compete in the race and over the distance is impressive. How they find the time to study is beyond me.
The safety aspect was looked after by Chiswick RNLI that did an excellent job protecting the crowds along the riverside and with actually on the water.
The boat race party continued long after the races were over and I was impressed with it all. I don’t know how often I’d go along but I’m glad I did. Make the most of your local event and attractions. You can’t assume they will be around forever.
In the early days of the internet I remember a website called ‘Rathergood.com’ with great little films designed by Joel Veitch around the year 2000. For some reason I was think about them recently and was pleased to find that they have now been put onto Youtube as the original flash films are no longer supported. They still bring a smile to my face. Enjoy!
I’ve been thinking about what to write this time. I really don’t think I’ve spent any amount of time looking at Brexit and that might have been a good idea actually. Politics is a fairly emotive subject to say the least. Some people say that in polite company you should never talk about religion and politics. I’m not about to offer an opinion about the result of the referendum or the subsequent negotiations that have taken us to the agreed leave date on the 29th March 2019.
Brexit has been a national focus for our politicians, the media and the vast majority of our population. It feels to me like a national obsession that regardless of which way you decided to vote, everyone, every day since has been reading and talking about Brexit. Frankly I’ve had enough of it myself now but like most people, I just wanted to see where we end up and maybe we can move on with other important national issues that have taken a back burner. On a side note, I’ve always thought that the name, Brexit was loaded in the subconscious of the electorate to enable the leave campaign to have an advantage. It wasn’t called, BRIT-IN after all. Anyway, yesterday was deadline day after 3 years of negotiations, planning, votes and political arguments and we didn’t leave the European Union. During the referendum campaign I thought I knew what Brexit meant, however now I’m not so sure that the information given to the electorate was true and accurate. The fallout from the result has now created many difficulties which appear beyond resolution and to the satisfaction of the majority of our MP’s.
Without supporting either campaign or side of the argument, I decided to see what the area around the Houses of Parliament would be like on the big day. I noticed a big crowd gathering on TV and wondered if I’d encounter a movie like environment akin to ‘V for Vendetta’ with an angry mob, hell bent on the over throw of the government or just a peaceful demonstration demanding the vote be honored as promised for so long. However, it was neither of these things and what I witnessed disturbed me.
A found myself walking out of Westminster station and into a mob of bald headed middle aged men drinking beer from the nearby pub and singing the short version of ‘God Save the Queen’ on repeat while in the distance a big screen shows guest speakers demanding our very own Independence day with the likes of Tommy Robinson telling the crowd what they wanted to hear while they applauded and lapped up every word in between glugs of beer.
Some of the crowd were holding placards demanding ‘Leave means Leave’ and ‘Brexit Betrayal’ with their anger and views being understandable given the current situation. They were exercising their democratic right to protest and we should expect nothing less. I was shocked however that among this gathering were groups of people that spent far too much time talking in terms that basically resembled, ‘England for the English’ and with all the sentiments of an English Defense League gathering. It was so uncomfortable to hear these people talking in such abhorrent terms that I had to move away from them and I wanted nothing to do with their views which should never be connected to subject of Brexit.
I walked along to Abingdon Street gardens where the media always set up for live broadcasts. The camera crews and lights had very little space between them with the worlds media finding the perfect spot for a Westminster background. I spoke briefly to broadcaster Jon Snow about the day which we both agreed was a very strange experience.
I will note, that not all of the people I came into contact with were racist thugs and some had a great understanding of the subject and could articulate themselves well and why they felt the need to voice their anger and concerns. It’s my hope that more people want to be associated with those people and not the latter. My final experience as I moved back towards the station was when I met another broadcast journalist and political editor for ITV News, Robert Peston.
As we started to speak, a group of angry men started calling him a BBC left wing cunt. They kept shouting at him and not giving him the chance to respond. Then came the spitting at him while the police did nothing. Shocking and disgusting. According to reports, only 5 people were arrested that day. I think the police took a very wide view on what constituted a crime that day and allowed such disgusting behavior to occur.
We are a nation that are very divided on so many levels and we have millions of individual views on what Brexit should look like. I can confirm that no longer know what Brexit means.