Monthly Archives: February 2013

Running – Cracked it!

I went for a run this morning. I went for one yesterday morning, and the morning before that. Yesterday morning’s run was the furthest I’ve run in months (I’ve just checked and it is the furthest I’ve run in over a year). This morning’s run was exactly the same route, but nearly a minute quicker.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going far (this so-called long run was only 5km) and I’m not running very quickly, but what I am doing is running… and enjoying it. It’s the first time in ages that I’ve done that and it feels great.

So, yeah, cracked it 🙂

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Monopoly

Have you ever played a board game and got so far, but been unable to finish it? We’ve just started playing Monopoly as a family and we love it – but it’s a long old game.

Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 14.04.09So instead of abandoning the game half-way through I decided to create a sheet that would allow us to record all the information needed so that we could finish off at a later date.

I thought that other people that played Monopoly might want to use it too, so I’ve made it downloadable from this site.

However, it took me a couple of hours to get it right, time that you won’t have to spend, so I’m  asking for just 50p to cover some of that time. You can print it out as many times as you like though.

Buy Now

Payment is made using Payforit – it’s open to UK mobile phone holders only I’m afraid, but the process is simple and you pay using your phone bill (or available credit).

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Swimming Lake Windermere

A lot of people seem to find this blog by searching for Windermere swims, so I want to provide some advice that’s easy for them to find.

I’ll write a full post shortly, but in the meantime if you’re looking for advice about how to swim Windermere, then you can read some of my posts here:

I’ve swum Windermere
Windermere Report
Open water swimming advice

Or the excellent Reminiscences of a Long Distance Swimmer and his report on his Windermere swim.

And of course my advice would be join the BLDSA and get as much advice, support and general help from them as possible.

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GRRR PR!

I don’t really like to talk work on here, but clearly this blog is turning into a place for my ramblings about life in general and not just swimming, so here goes.

Last week we found out that the PR agency I run didn’t win a new client we were pitching for. In itself it’s not that unusual – while we pride ourselves on being good and winning lots of new business it’s true that we lose more than we win (we probably average about a 1 in 3 hit rate). However it was how and why we lost it that really annoys me.

The company is a start-up and is pre-revenue and has been doing PR for a while, but it hasn’t provided them with the breakthrough that they wanted. So they looked for alternatives. Yet when it came down to making the decision they played it safe and went back to the old agency.

Having seen the work they’d done previously it makes it even more disappointing. For some people (agencies and clients alike) PR is about writing some things and getting them published. They think it’s about output, about ticking boxes and claiming success – they think it’s about what the agency does.

Rubbish.

PR is / should be about so much more. It’s about making a difference to the business – doing whatever it takes (from a communications point of view) to make a breakthrough. That’s especially true of a start-up.

Sometimes, although rarely in the case of a start-up, that can involve lots of writing and lots of very considered and worthy pitching to journalists. But more often it requires something different, a spark, a willingness to be bold and say and do things that get you noticed.

When you only seem to care about the output, you forget the end results. For too many PR agencies coverage is considered a result, yet it is only one step on the journey to real goal – which is usually increased sales. What you say is always more important than how often you say it – one piece of the right kind of coverage is worth more than any beautifully bound clippings books that some agencies pride themselves on. And sometimes you might not even need media coverage as it may be that the right word in the right ear makes a much bigger impact than a year’s worth of press releases.

PR agencies can and should be the catalyst for this of approach – they should match the end goals to the methods and define strategies to achieve the goals. PR agencies should be a strong creative force that drives the business forward – and don’t get me wrong, the best ones are. But too many aren’t, too many only care about their own output. But for this to happen across the board clients need to stop buying safe PR.

I wish this company well, from what I saw they have the potential to be a player in their sector. I fear that they will miss their chance though because they are afraid to be bold.

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Disappointing Day

I had one of those meetings yesterday.

I had thought that I would be pitching my business BoothChat to a few investors and I was excited. We only found out late on Wednesday, so Thursday was a whirl of activity getting things ready and writing a presentation. Friday morning involved an early train and lots of mumbling to myself as I practiced the presentation.

Then when the meeting finally arrived it was one bloke in a room who looked a bit distracted and didn’t seem to “get” it.

It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it certainly wasn’t good. And it got me thinking… and worrying.

This is what I do. This is what puts food on the table for my family. I’ve invested a lot of time and energy and emotion into this (and some money too). I believe in it, I really do, but when someone else appears not to then it’s hard. It kind of knocked the wind from my sails and put me in a bit of a funk for the rest of the day. I questioned what I’m doing and worried about whether it would ever be a success. To have to rely on other people in this way (whether it’s for investment, for sales or just to work with and support you in all the other ways that are important), when some of them don’t quite get it is hard.

I work hard at this, sometimes to the detriment of the time I can spend with my family, almost always to the detriment of the time I can spend on myself and the training I’d like to do and it felt that hard work was being ignored. Sometimes I’d just like the hard work to be recognised and rewarded.

Of course I know I’m not the only person going through these thoughts, but I’m normally quite a positive person (even if I can look a bit miserable at times eh Lucy!) and this is the first time for a long time that it hit me like this.

To bring it back to the swimming etc, what I love about this is that you don’t have to rely on anyone else. You define success and then you strive to achieve it through your own physical efforts. For me last year success was defined as completing the Windermere swim, this year I’ve set some time-based goals, but they’re all down to my work hard. I don’t have to “sell”, to convince others to be a success.

Not only that, but the time spent training can be a great opportunity to unwind, relax, recharge and almost meditate. This morning I got on my road bike for the time in possibly years. I didn’t go far (17km in 50 mins), but I enjoyed it, relaxed and got yesterday’s disappointing day out of my system.

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Like my Dad

On Wednesday night there was an England football match on. I’d actually forgotten it was on, but during the day I was reminded about it. I couldn’t actually watch it as I was on the train home from London, but I did check the score and read a few updates – it sounded like a good match.

So when I got home just in time for the highlights what did I do? Well, I didn’t bother to watch it. I watched something else for a bit and then went to bed. I could almost hear my nine year-old self sighing in disbelief. And then I realised that I’ve turned into my dad.

When I was a kid I was mad about football. During the summer holidays I would play football on the street or in the local park from 9am to 6pm, only stopping for meals. I didn’t have a local team I was a fan of, but I’d watch it on TV as much as I can. In those days we didn’t have non-stop football on TV, it was Football Focus and Match of the Day only, with FA Cup final day the exception to that, when we’d have nearly a whole day of football as the TV channels would build up to the 3pm kick off.

My dad would watch a bit with me, but he wasn’t really that bothered about football. We had an occasional kick about and despite being reaaalllly old and fat (to my nine year-old eyes) he was pretty good – he used to play left-back for the school if I remember. Yet he still wasn’t that bothered. And I couldn’t understand it – how could you not be bothered about football? How?

And here I am, not bothered enough to watch an England match. And not only any old England match, but one in which we beat Brazil and Lampard scored a great goal. But I couldn’t and I still haven’t and I never will.

And I realised I’m turning into my dad.

Although not watching football is absolutely, completely the only way that I’m like him!

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Any Questions?

On Friday night I was lucky enough to go to the recording of Radio 4’s Any Questions programme – for those of you that don’t listen to it it’s a radio version of Question Time (for those of you out of the UK – it’s a political debate programme). It was recorded at the Minster School in Southwell, where I live.

I really enjoyed going, it was interesting to see how it is all set up and how it happens, but in the end I left a little frustrated – mainly because it’s not actually a political debate programme, it’s a political shouting match and name-calling exercise. I don’t think that this problem is anything to do with the programme itself, instead, unfortunately, it is the nature of modern politics.

The time and space to have reasoned debate seems to have disappeared and with a media (not to mention a Twitter audience) that is hungry to dissect every utterance then politicians always have to be “on-message”. The problem is that they focus on being on-message to the detriment of actually producing a coherent message.

Most issues in modern life are complicated, complex and interlinked – there is rarely a simple or easy solution and there is rarely a single solution. The issue of the economy, or of international terrorism, or of the environment need people to sit down together to work through, they also require everyone to make difficult choices and accept some things that they might not like to create a greater good.

Instead what we seem to get is an almost involuntary dismissal of anything that the other side proposes.

It is childish, silly, unhelpful and in the long-run if it continues is a far bigger threat to the very future of politics than the expenses scandal or any other similar expose.

To bring it back to Friday, here are my “scores” for the participants (from left to right as the panel was sitting):

– Ruth Porter – seemed nervous and slightly out of touch with real life, a little too keen to state her rehearsed point
– Ken Clarke – played the relaxed uncle role well, his demeanour and approach impressed me even if I didn’t always agree with him
– Keith Vaz – toed the party line, but had nothing of real interest to say, I really can’t remember him saying anything of interest
– George Galloway – a non-stop showman which ruined many of his points, I agree with him about Iraq and the start of that war, but he can’t concede a single point which ultimately makes him easy to ridicule and ignore

On a side note, George Galloway actually disappointed me the most. A couple of times he got Ruth Porter’s name wrong during the debate, but instead of acting like a human being and apologising to her after the show, he donned his fedora and swanned out of the auditorium. A human touch would have made me like him, would have made me understand that his aggressive approach was an act he felt necessary to make his political points. Instead it made me think that it’s the limelight and not the politics that he cares about.

I may change my mind on this when I listen again (as you can here) and I’d still happily go to another recording, but all in all it just made me a little sad for the state of politics.

UPDATE – 7th Feb

Not too long ago the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, announced a new policy for exams, recently he changed his mind.

Now I’m not to comment on whether the original policy was good, or the change of mind is for the best, but when a politician does change their mind and nearly all the reporting is about a “humiliating u-turn” you can understand why they don’t do it more often.

This tribalistic approach to politics is why we don’t have more debate, consensus and generally working with the other side. This approach is what makes people stick to bad ideas, want to win no matter what the cost and attack good ideas just because the other guys thought of it.

This is why we can’t have nice things people.

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