rashbre central: July 2010

Friday 30 July 2010

all about the bike

all about the bikeBack to the seaside today, across to the Island ahead of tomorrow's appointment at Queen Victoria's old house. Yesterday saw a late finish in order to get everything done and despite the holiday season there seems to be plenty happening at work, which is keeping me busy.

On the ferry I started reading the bicycle book by Rob Penn, about his construction of a purpose built machine woven with the history of the bicycle. It's way more fanciful than any of my construction projects, but I can identify with the ingenuity.

Coincidentally, and to the amusement of others, a few weeks ago I ordered some 'bike parts' which arrived in an oversized un-smuggle-able box and have since been quietly assembling another machine in the garage. By comparison with the book's £3,500 budget, my paltry expenditure pales into insignificance, but I have a sneaking suspicion its almost as much fun (alright, without the travel to exotic locations to acquire headsets and sprockets).

But my cycle construction project must wait as I am away again for the next couple of weekends, although I have already finished reading the book, which I think only re-inforces the need to ride around on two wheels.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

wired for pedals

London Cycle Hire
The new little key thingy for the London Cycle Hire scheme arrived today. Its another radio frequency device that needs to be touched to the new bike stands to release the bikes.

We've all seen the stands being added around London, but its a few days before the bikes turn up. It should be an interesting experience to see how well this works and whether it adds to the bike-friendliness of London.

I've already checked the map for the nearest stands, but the map adds mysteriously that they may not all be shown. I've added the dongle to my keyring, and worked out that including car keys, I have six microprocessor based systems on my key ring now, plus an oyster card and my separate office access card.

Well wired or well weird?

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Monday 26 July 2010


GWR 5526 at Buckfastleigh
We headed back to the Smoke on Sunday afternoon.

I was still in the borrowed silver car but had acquired two extra passengers.

We'd left the sporty convertible at the farm and it was to be picked up again on Tuesday and driven to Cornwall. I needed to be back at work on Monday and then on to a rendezvous in an Italian restaurant for Monday evening.

So from a chilled out weekend, we were all soon back on our individual mini-agendas for the rest of the week.

But only after I'd taken my hostages to look at a steam railway on the way back.

Sunday 25 July 2010

Joey the Lips

Joey the Lips
We'd rocked the evening away yesterday, to a mix of jazz and funk as well as some improbable "anarchy in the UK" style folk-punk on a combination of electric mandolins and double bass.

I'd been sipping rather than guzzling which meant I could survive with little more than aching feet. Others were less fortunate and needed to lie down on the nearest grass.

By the time we'd all cleared our heads on Sunday, it was nearly time for lunch, so we ambled to the shoreline, which I described as a perfect landing spot for space cruisers. Others were bemused by this, but I'd just seen an old steam locomotive running along the opposite side of the river estuary and remarked that the landscape changes with different features of modernity. No-one thinks a row of moored pleasure cruisers and yachts is unusual nowadays, so why not have a few space craft parked there in a hundred years time?

The lunch was delicious.

Saturday 24 July 2010


The Ness
"Cock a doodle doo" started the day.

I was in time to see the amusing antics of the chickens leaving their hen-houses in the morning. It's like they all queue up behind the door to run out in a chaotic scramble of sizes and shapes. Then, after they shake themselves off, they start their earnest pecking around the yard.

Some of us were down by the sea, though, chicken-less, but with ships to spy and three cornered hats to wear. We'd be moving soon enough to a field for the day, but right now it was working out whether we'd need waterproofs or sunscreen.

Friday 23 July 2010

in which we flee to the country

We were down on the farm for Friday night.

I held one of the well-behaved chickens to see whether we saw eye-to-eye. It was fine until they sighted some wet bread and broke into a frenzy of crust grabbing.

Later our increasing gang took ourselves off to an adjacent open air table to sip some local ale and chatter. It was still early evening and hectic London a few hours behind us took a moments to flee as we became adjusted to our rural surroundings.

Thursday 22 July 2010

loaner car heralds large bill

My car was whisked away for its "D +" Service a couple of days ago.

I could tell it would be expensive because the normal service is a very reasonably priced "A". I also had a couple of little extra things to get fixed, like the driver mirror motor which had stopped working (not that I use it much) and another warning message which had popped up.

"Ring Ring," went the phone later in the day as the friendly main dealer called me. "The other warning is because the complicated high tech computerised braking system control unit needs to be replaced and they cost £900".


"...But the good news is the car manufacturer will pay for it; no charge to you."

Good news.

"So I'm arranging for you to have a loan car because yours will be with us longer whilst we get the part/fit it etc".

Two hours later the delivery driver arrived with the loan car with its "new car" smell and six wiggly manual gears. End of day I drove it home, marvelling at the Thunderbirds style pop-up Sat-Nav and the way it pestered me to get my phone number for its bluetooth.

I'll admit to a few kangaroo moments with the gearbox. I'm used to manual shifts, but my normal car is an automatic, and the extra gear seemed somehow one shift too many, along with a little graphic on the speedo which kept suggesting to me when I should change up to a higher gear.

I realised again that I'm really one of the people that likes a car to 'drive me' rather than having to drive the car.

Its probably not very "Top Gear" but I'll be looking forward to getting my car back...Once fixed, I'm pretty sure it will again drive better than the loaner. Not bad for 120,000 miles on the clock.

Friday 16 July 2010

trading statues

Nelson's column and Lion
Trading statues today as I headed back to London in time for some meetings this afternoon. After the return landmark strewn ride to Leonardo da Vinci airport, I found myself as the solitary business person in the midst of holiday makers and large parties of school children.

I'm usually good at zoning out at airports, but as I queued for the flight, I could't help notice the sheer decibels of mayhem around me.

Then a sequence from one of those Guy Ritchie films. Flight. iPhone movies. Iris eye scan. Meeting. Car. Traffic Jams. Meeting. Car. Home.

Thursday 15 July 2010

more of the sweet life

la dolce vita PR shot
An eight o' clock start, but my first meeting was by phone, so I managed to grab a small room service breakfast whilst I was on the call.

Then to the main lobby, to meet others before the main session started. The main meeting was scheduled to run through to 7pm before we were to adjourn to a nearby restaurant at around 8pm.

We did pause for lunch and emerged blinking into the heat and sunlight of Roma, where we sat at a street-side cafe before restarting the session. To others we may have looked relaxed, but it was all still part of our shop-talk.

Suffice to say we finished the main session late, with enough time to return to the room, drop off miscellaneous papers and then head directly to a special rooftop restaurant in the nearby Via Vittorio Veneto. Elegantly prepared Sicilian specialities in the Roman street that featured the paparazzi of the Fellini film.

And the start of a night in Rome.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

la dolce vita

taxi roma
"Would you like the air-conditioning switched on?" asked the taxi driver in Italian.

I thought I'd heard a 'whoosh' sound as the car door had opened and the pent up heat hit me like a stun grenade. It was 33C outside but I think the driver was storing heat for the winter.

"Prego!" I uttered, realising I wouldn't have enough Italian to last me into the centre of Roma.

The driver floored it and entered the traffic system at Formula 1 speeds. I think he was trying for a personal best as he swept me along the Autostrada, then joggling through roundabouts, skittering across cobblestones and eventually past famous landmarks. The Coliseum, The Roman Forum, The Trevi Fountain, Piazza Repubblica and eventually to a posh hotel.

Probably a world record for sight-seeing during a taxi ride, and I've little idea how everything I glimpsed linked together. I realise that although I've been to Rome several times, I only have an episodic knowledge of it rather than any real sense of the geography.

Then to a florid room with its own rather excessive chandelier but I was more preoccupied to fire up the wifi and deal with the charts and diagrams I needed for tomorrow's meeting.


Twinkling lights of London as we flew around in circles through dusk and into dark, before arriving, eventually, back at Terminal 1.

Its surprising, with reflection, how little I use T1 now, compared with even a couple of years ago, when it was the main BA terminal.

There's been plenty of subtle changes, with the new airside shops emphasis moved to the circular area and the old shops no longer quite such the central hub.

There was a brief period when all of it was fully operational and the whole terminal looked busy and purposeful, but now there seem to be a few dead ends blocked off with white painted boarding.

Of course that's nothing compared with the complete disappearance of T2, and the arrival of heavy digging machinery. No wonder we walked down the steps from a far corner of Heathrow near to Terminal 3 and had to be bussed back to the main area.

Today its further London time, before more travelling, although I must admit yesterday evening I was counting the days in the week and was slightly surprised it was still only Tuesday.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

bin schon gelandet

Well, I found the hotel easily enough.

I used a form of advanced commuting that wouldn't have been available a few years ago. I googled the hotel and saw it was less than a kilometer from the airport terminal.

Then I switched to satellite mode and zoomed in to find the footpaths and access routes around the airport. Sure enough, a route from the middle terminal through a car park, across a road and I'd be at the main entrance of the hotel.

Much easier than waiting around for a shuttle bus.
Much better than having an argument with a taxi driver about a measly EUR3 fare.

So I walked and it took about 6 minutes. I was in the hotel at around the time the plane was officially due to land.

A good result.

Monday 12 July 2010


Sitting here waiting for the coffee to take effect.

Today's London has lost the blast of sunshine colour and become more muted again. Damp drizzly early pavements but not enough rain to quench the yellow deserts of London's Parks.

I'm about to go into a couple of meetings and then later I head for Germany. I'll be staying at one of those hotels that has 'Airport' in its title, but could be anything from 'on site' (I doubt it) to ten kilometres away.

I know that the taxi drivers won't like it though, because the fare will be less than a trip into the city.

Sunday 11 July 2010

the octopus was right

"Will you be watching the match?", I was asked in the early evening. I'd gone away somewhere quiet to do some work, which needed to be ready for tomorrow morning.

Post England's defeat, I'd chosen to support the Spanish on the basis of being in a lively Madrid when they beat Portugal a few days ago.

The thing is, when I'd watched the lack-lustre England matches aggregate two goals, my interest waned to the point I wasn't even sure I'd watch the final.

But I did, and the Spanish deserved to win in what was choppy and unsatisfying game with a large number of fouls and yellow cards being distributed. After 90 minutes and nil all, the commentators were getting ready to talk about penalty shoot-outs.

Replacing skill with gamesmanship seemed to form an important part of the match, especially from the orange ones. If this is the best the world has to offer then perhaps FIFA does need to think about some rule changes to make the game more interesting.

Saturday 10 July 2010


Really, its too hot for shopping, but I need ice cream, cool beers, stuff like that.

Friday 9 July 2010

hot oct hot

I was chatting to someone yesterday who is about to head out to Riyad, which is where I worked for a while.

I guessed that the temperature would be about 45 degrees Centigrade at this time. The Riyad air could be just hot without any breeze, and no real difference in the shade.

Another time when I drove across the slightly cooler 40 degree Joshua Tree Park in California it somehow seemed hotter, because I can remember the wind, which outside the car felt like a permanent fan heater blowing in the face.

The strange thing is that the even cooler 32 degree UK seems just as hot a the moment. I open a window and there's that fan heater air blast.

Its probably that we Brits are just not as geared for heat. I'm guessing British temperature tolerance (especially we Southerners) is something like 0-20 degrees C and either side we either slip over or burst into flames.

So I'm predicting a slow weekend if the weather holds. Al fresco dining and the football on Sunday. Predictive Paul the Psychic Octopus has already told us that Spain will nail the world cup final, despite that Dutch parakeet's argument to the contrary. With my recent time in Spain when a match was taking place, they've become the natural third choice for me... 1) England, but pah! 2) Slovenia because of the office sweepstake and 3) Spain - whose supporters know how to party.

So I'll predict a "¡Visca EspaƱa!" as the mainly Catalan team play the orange ones on Sunday.

Wednesday 7 July 2010

getting through the gaps

Suddenly its half way through the week again.

Originally I was to have been travelling but all of my plans have been thrown into the air.

Luckily I'm used to living in a permanent state of being rescheduled. Kind of weaving through the streets and calendars, trying not to scratch the edges.

Its not overly alarming, but it requires placing bets about the future state of meetings and expecting one thing or another to bounce.

My agenda gambling is mainly working, but I still get those moments when I'm cleaning my teeth in the morning and calculating the next evening when I'll be (a) home or (b) able to get a full night's sleep.

Sunday 4 July 2010

Sloane Ranging

Will Young
Yesterday afternoon and evening we were listening to live music at the Mercedes Benz place and then on to a bar. Two strong acts with real musicians playing and singing and several others that were using backing tracks.

The picture shows Will Young and his band relaxing before the concert started. They, and Scouting for Girls produced engaging proper live sets; the others were still popular with the audience, but I find it disappointing to go to live music to then hear recordings played back.

I do still have a suspicion that The Saturdays will get more hits on my flickr account than the others, however. I shall check in a few days.
The Saturdays
This morning was an early start to meet and celebrate Alex's birthday with breakfast in the King's Road. We were to rendezvous at the Bluebird Cafe and in the bright sunshine it was ideal to sit at one of the round tables, which today had huge tennis balls lodged on it as a symbol of the Wimbledon men's final to play out later in the day.

We had other plans and after breakfast our gang split into groups; the shoppers, the wanderers, the glow-stick massive on their way to another concert in Hyde Park and even one of us to do a proper 4th July party at the American place (yes, that one).

Saturday 3 July 2010

orange elephant moves to join Chelsea herd

A few days away from London and I see that the elephants that were sprinkled around London have finally moved along. One of my favourites was the lovely and slightly orange one outside of the Horniman's in Hay's Galleria.

It's part of the ever-changing nature of things, although I hear they have been clustered at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, prior to being auctioned by Sotherby's.

For me, its far West London this afternoon, for an open air concert which will probably finish around midnight. Then onwards in the morning for a pre-arranged brunch involving glow-sticks.

In my own agenda, amongst the travelling, I'm hoping to see the elephants all together at sometime during the weekend.

Friday 2 July 2010

welcome to the buffer zone

day in the office
Chained to a desk today.

A big project to finish which involves me from more or less when I wake up until when I go to sleep. The travelling around I do can also create accumulations of other tasks that don't get done.

Despite taking conference calls on headsets from airport lounges up to the minute I get asked to switch off the phone on the plane and sitting in coffee bars with PC fired up tapping away at the workload, it can still create a backlog of activity.

And, to be truthful, don't most of us look at 'people like that' with a slight groan. Eek - I am (sometimes) a blackberry and iphone totin' one of them.

And then, tonight, dealing with a foreign system that won't accept my uploads long after sensible people are in the pub or watching telly.

Time for some brain defrag.

Thursday 1 July 2010

Esta noche vamos a volver tarde

hotel corridor
Sometimes things can get a bit random.

There was a moment when I stepped into the lift to reach my floor and accidentally pressed 4 instead of 10 (its easily done?) and found myself in a metal catacomb.

I staggered around for a while, suitably wild eyed, until I spotted the lift area on the outside of the building and got back into one of those bubble-lifts to reach my own floor. Only a momentary glimpse of someone else's world, but even a short view can provide a new perspective.

Same with the city. First time for me, but I can feel the appeal.