Category Archives: Travel

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Latitude: Family Match Report

Sixteen+ mossie/insect bites – including two on the face
Two days of walking at least 14 miles (30k steps)
Two terrifying lightning storms whilst in the tent
Slap in the face from sleeping child: one
One two hour battle with the elements to drag gear back to the car
Beautiful sunsets: two
Pleading with nice lady to lend me her trolley: once
One limited edition pink tophat made of stickers
One red neck (see below)
First aid kit used: many times
First Aid Kit listened to: just the once
Havianas broken in mud: two
Disgustingly sweaty tee shirts: lost count
One freehand drawing workshop for non-drawers (me = hopeless)
One 90 minute singing lesson around Matilda the Musical
Avoided Lily Allen?: success
Avoided Haim?: partial
Two helter skelter rides for eldest daughter
One cut across the nose, narrowly missing daughter’s eye: check
One epic 90 minute festival-closing set from the Black Keys
Massive cheesy grins: four
Alcohol drunk: virtually zero, somewhat unbelievably

Underwhelming: Tame Impala, Damon Albarn
Good: Crystal Fighters, the War on Drugs, James Vincent Mcmorrow, First Aid Kit
Superb: Jungle, Asgeir, Goat, Clean Bandit, Black Keys, Bombay Bicycle Club

Missed (next time): George Ezra, Parquet Courts, Mogwai, Jon Ronson20140721-163449-59689786.jpg

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Call For The Dead

An Alternative To Dan Brown

Hands up anyone that’s purchased the latest Dan Brown novel, Inferno.

This kind of thing is a source of some debate amongst my friends and in our office, dividing the literary purists from those that are happy to grab a page turner to throw in the suitcase.

I’ve always been amongst the former but as I get older I’m happier to read books that I would have previously been far more snobbish about, as I think there’s a great value in the escapism offered and, much like cinema, a good book can come from any genre. Whilst it may lack credibility, popularity isn’t necessarily a mark of catering for the masses at the expense of quality.

Nevertheless, as someone looking ahead to a holiday in the coming weeks, I thought I’d suggest a number of books that I’ve recently enjoyed – and a couple that I am hugely looking forward to.

Firstly, I’ve just purchased Peter May‘s third part of his Lewis Trilogy: The Chess Men. The first two parts – The Black House and Lewis Man are both superb, so I have high hopes.

I’ve wanted to get stuck into George Smiley for a while, so I’ve gone back the the beginning and purchased Call for the Dead, the book that introduces the character.

I’ve been blasting through some David Baldacci in the last few weeks, to finish a few that I had lying about. It’s the equivalent of literary popcorn – and some are undoubtedly more engaging than others – but I’ve just finished Simple Genius and First Family. They’re OK if you want something light.

One of the books that I’ve enjoyed the most recently has been Leviathan – a Steampunk book aimed at young adults, based loosely on the facts leading up to the Great War. It’s the start of a trilogy and I have no doubt I’ll be picking up others.

Finally, I can’t recommend highly enough Gideon Defoe’s Pirates series. They seem to have attracted a few celebrity followers (Ardal O’Hanlon) and it’s easy to see why. They’re a little one dimensional by the time you reach book four (of five) but as a lighthearted summer read, they certainly hit the mark.

Oh and yes, I have bought Inferno, despite myself, having watched Angels & Demons again recently. Let’s be honest, at least it’s not 50 Shades of Grey…

Cleaning Up The Mailroom

Cleaning Up The Mailroom

Over the last decade or so – since we started Punch back in 2003 – the volume of mail coming into my inbox has steadily continued to grow in size year on year, from what now seemed to be very lightweight, to become the ever-demanding, resource-sapping monster that it is today.

Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with email – I tend to get anywhere from a couple of hundred to up to five hundred or more mails per day on a heavy day. However, for me it remains a terrific tool for being able to delegate quickly, cutting out the need for superfluous meetings and providing a mechanism for tracking back to see the evolution of a conversation. Clearly CRM systems can handle that aspect of use, but then it’s the ease of access, whether by phone, webmail or desktop on many devices that makes email remain so attractive.

I’ve tried various routes to keeping it in check – having had my work and personal lives completely entangled for the last nine years, I made what was a fairly big step for me recently, to set up my first personal email account that I actually intended to use with family and friends. This enables me to keep a little space between work and home, particularly whilst on holidays. Whilst that’s great on holiday, enabling me to turn off work more fully than I could previously, the rest of the time, it just adds to the management burden of coping with email.

When someone leaves Punch, I tend to redirect their email to me, so not only do I get the benefit of my junk, I also get theirs. And over the course of time, that’s now quite a few email addresses. So, over Easter I snapped, and took the time to unsubscribe from every incoming mailer, newsletter and list-based mail that I was getting. It took a good deal of effort – and, one month later, I’m probably still only 80%/90% done – but I’ve managed to cut down the amount of incoming junk each night from upwards of 50+ junk mails to 5 or less. I also get less during each day of course. In short, I think I’ve cut down my incoming mail volume by at least a third – and perhaps by as much as a half.

The reason I’m bothering to share this is to convey how much better email is after a good clean up. Whilst it only takes a few seconds to register and delete each spam item, the effect that the clutter has in terms of preventing clear thought and concentration is massive. And that’s even with a decent spam filter in place.

In short, it’s no longer so necessary for me to cut out the superfluous to be able to identify the important – which means the whole process is less taxing. So, next time you’re having a physical desk clear out to clear up your physical workspace, I urge you to think about spending a bit of time doing the same to your email. A few days of effort can make a massive difference.

(NB – On this subject – here’s a post about TechCrunch’s MG Siegler and his attempts to give up email for a month).

Cavos

I had a great night last night – visited Restaurant Cavos in Munich – which is apparently famous for Bayern Munich WAG wannabees, particularly on Thursdays (for some reason, best known to people locally). The greek food was great and then they crank the music up. It took a little while for them to decide to turn of the NOW 45 compilation and play something half-decent, but then it kicked off.

Weirdly, the general age was a fair bit older than I’d expected – lots of grey hair on show (including my own). Still, everyone was having a good time.

Despite having nothing harder than orange juice, I still thought it best to bail by about 1am. Nevertheless, it was still a school night – and I’m not as young as I was…

London vs Munich Hotels

I’ve been out a couple of days on the trot this week, what with Christmas parties and the usual weekly travel. We had a late night Wednesday and an early start on Thursday so I thought I’d stay in London that night before heading to Heathrow later Thursday.

One of the Punch team found me a room – which, admittedly, was dirt cheap – that purported to be four star. I’m not normally prone to such diva-like action but for the first time ever I turned around and walked back out again. The tiles on the floor were cracked, the bedding looked mouldy and the wallpaper in the rooms was hanging off. London was extremely busy that night but we did manage to find somewhere near Paddington, which was where we were headed for the event that evening. It was not too bad – tiny rooms but relatively clean. Not one I’d recommend though. The wifi was £15 and the room was about £150.

Having landed in Munich last night, I have a room for a similar price which, by comparison is, frankly, palatial. It has a living area, a kitchen area and air conditioning that works. OK so wifi isn’t free here either (although I’ve found it usually is in most decent German hotels) and breakfast was on top of the room rate – but for me, it’s a huge eye opener in terms of the relatively poor standard, space aside, of hotels in London versus what can be had for the same price elsewhere.

Even having stayed in a decent hotel recently – St Martin’s Lane, last week, upwards of £300/night – there’s really little comparison.

When staying in Sweden it’s even more apparent – the hotels are clean, open, simple and relatively cheap.

It has to happen sometime I guess, but i’ll not be looking to stay over in London again any time soon, even if it involves a bit more travel and the odd expensive (early) train ticket.

Pour Some Sugar On Me (In The Name Of Love)

I’ve realised that Copenhagen has quickly become my favourite airport. It’s clean, hassle free and, on a good day, I can now go from walking into the building to getting through security in about ten minutes.

Possibly my favourite aspect of the airport though is the Danish guys that await the other side. There’s an airside coffee shop which has put a smile on my face every time I’ve been to date.

The Baristas are a group of young guys that are a weird combination of hip young things with edgy haircuts and throwbacks that look to pay homage to Tom Cruise in Cocktail, circa 198x.

On going through today, the music was fairly modest, merely a recent Michael Jackson album – which those behind the counter still seemed to great with a little more gusto than it merited, in my opinion. However, I mentioned in a tweet a few weeks back, last time I went through they opted to crank out Def Leppard (which, I’m assured by people more groovy than I, are currently enjoying a renaissance – although I confess that I’m struggling a little with that conceptually).

Whilst I, like many others, rocked pretty hard to ‘Animal’ when I was about eight, it’s fair to say I haven’t heard it in a while – and I greeted it with a snort of derision. However, I was completely unprepared for the Baristas’ collective response, which was to meet the opening track’s strains with whoops, high volume vocals and throwing coffee cups/smoothie ingredients to each other across ever greater and more perilous arcs.

It was all a little Salvador Dali for me – up until the classic moment when ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ was let loose and even I had to crack a smile at that point.

Lunatics they may be – but I now make a point of going back every time in passing through (which seems to be pretty frequently at present) just to see what they’re up to.

Laptop Battery Woes

I’ve bought a new laptop this week, which frankly was a fairly expensive exercise that was primarily to address one issue – battery life.

I bought a spare battery for my current machine for just over £100 a few months ago but it seems to have made minimal difference so obviously the old one wasn’t quite as far gone as I’d thought.

On a few occasions recently I have realised quite what a pain it is to have a two hour battery life. On one occasion in particular I was on the move for eight or so hours as a result of flight delays etc – and, as a result, simply lost about six hours of productivity. Whilst I’m happy to seize the rare opportunities for calm as and when they arise, I really could have done without it on the day in question as it simply meant that when I did arrive at my destination at 1:30am, the first thing i had to do was to plug in and get online, to make good on a promise that I’d made several hours earlier before I realised that I was, literally, powerless to action it.

So, the appeal of the promised 8 hours+ charge on the new machine far outweighs the other benefits (although 35% more on-screen info is not bad either – but not enough to justify an upgrade on its own).

I’ve managed to see out the week without having opened it from it’s shiny wrapper, so Monday morning I’m handing both it and my current machine over to someone that is far less likely to fiddle and break things than I. Sad really, I used to have more time to muck about…

Stimulants & I

So, I’m back to my favourite subject – sleep – once again. Or, at least, the effect of specific stimulants on the quality of my sleep and therefore my life in general.

Post-holiday, I’ve now consolidated my abstention of booze with the added sacrifice of caffeine – or at least, caffeine in it’s most potent and obvious form, ie coffee (nb – I have drunk green tea today which, I’m told, can contain more caffeine than regular tea).

For the last three years I’ve joked about being on the caffeine & nurofen diet – and whilst the latter factor is a nod to the adage that the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a good story, the truth is that my coffee consumption has veered between ‘excessive’ and ‘through the roof’.

As a non-smoker – and, at present, a non-drinker – I’m wary of sounding too evangelical about this kind of thing. However, although any benefit i once felt from having given up alcohol is long since forgotten, conceptually I know I’m significantly better off without it (and can swiftly reel off a number of perceived benefits). In my case at least, the reality is though that my body hasn’t actually felt any better than it did whilst drinking for some time – it’s only my memory that recalls how physically wretched it can make one feel.

This weekend was weird. I had no no highs/lows in energy whatsoever, which I assume is due to a further stabilising of my blood sugar through now also opting out of coffee – and consequently took great pleasure in doing the simple things with my family all weekend, which is exactly how it should be of course.

Unlike alcohol, I don’t think that an all or nothing approach is necessary with coffee, more a simple need to find some sort of balance rather than consuming one after another all day long, as I have been doing.

Strangely I haven’t actually slept very well the last week or so -
either one or both daughters have been up every night – and yet I feel more rested. Perhaps the gym is also a factor as somehow I managed to go every other day last week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday – which has left me achy but keen for more.

So, I’m not quite sure where all this is headed but I’m certainly enjoying the lack of reliance on certain habits and the resulting impact it seems to be having on my physiology. Having apparently cracked the willpower element, I’m conscious not to become too puritanical about all this and will probably start re-introducing all these factors back into my life on a gradual and careful basis, to see how it goes.

Perhaps not quite yet though.

Hit Pause

The last week or so before holiday is always berserk – and this week has been no different. With three new joiners in the last few weeks, a leaver today and a couple of major new projects onboarding right now, the adage that ‘it’s never a good time’ is perhaps more applicable than normal at present.

Still, for all the passion and effort that gets poured in the rest of the year, most people are really good about recognising that we all need to take a week or so at some point, even when timings aren’t ideal.

So, I’m leaving my laptop at home, turning off the wifi and roaming on my phone (although I suspect if I find wifi I may be looking at weather reports, as March is a little early to guarantee good weather on the Med) and bracing myself for the 4am arrival of the cab tomorrow morning.

If I get to wear flip-flops, play with my kids and just catch up on my sleep for a couple of weeks, that’ll be just fine…

Finding More Hours

This week my body clock has steadfastly refused to accept local time (Pacific, ie 8hrs behind the UK) to the extent that with two days to go, I really no longer want to acclimatise before turning around and going home.

To be fair it has allowed me to wake up, typically between 4am and 5:30pm each day, get online with the Punch team for an hour or so, call home to my girls, get down the gym and get breakfast before work each day – and still be at the office for 9am-ish.

If I wasn’t so completely aware that at some point I’m going to have to pay for this, I’d be pretty happy about squeezing more hours in.

Anyway, on the upside, I’m writing on the one hour shuttle flight between San Francisco and LA – and the flight attendant has just announced that it’s currently a balmy 83 degrees at our destination.

Unless I misheard of course, which is entierely possible in my sleep- addled haze.