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Author, business advisor, marketing expert and motivational speaker
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BARCELONA DECEMBER 2012 It’s an easy one-hour-and-forty-minute flight to Barcelona. “Please remember to take your children with you, if you don’t pick them up from lost and found we will sell them on Ebay,” says the flight attendant on arrival. “If you enjoyed the flight, please recommend us to your friends. If you didn’t, then recommend us to your enemies.” EasyJet have obviously relaxed their announcement guidelines. We are met with a pleasant evening sun and a temperature that is ten degrees higher than London. A twenty minute cab ride brings us in past the docks and to the Montecarlo... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2012 at Sod it I'm off
Helsinki December 2012 London is cold but Helsinki is colder. A few degrees above freezing versus a few below makes a big difference, but in recent weeks it has been minus 13. Early signs begin on the flight over. After the cloud begins to clear on the two-and-a-half-hour flight, the snow covered coast of Denmark appears in the bright sunlight, and everything is white from now on around the Baltic Sea. We land in a snowstorm but it disrupts little here. The snowploughs are out every day and mountains of the stuff line every road, but everything is working fine.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2012 at Sod it I'm off
The Iceland Air 3-hour flight from Heathrow is functional enough, but a little clinical. A drinks trolley eventually arrives, and it all needs paying for. Local time on arrival in Reykjavik is midnight, and that means ice on the hire car and a first trip in the dark. It’s route 41 out of Keflavik airport on the Southwestern tip of the island, and then a sharp right on the 43 to our hotel for the first night. This is the very specifically named Northern Light Inn, which is determined to clarify that there may be only one light. It is... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2012 at Sod it I'm off
Quebec City It was all going smoothly – a prompt cab, an easy run to Heathrow, the fastest of check-ins on Air Canada, and an on-time flight that found us on the southern tip of Greenland – until the Phillipino electrician a few rows from us had what appeared to be a coronary. After much toing and froing, complete with the traditional captain’s request “Is there a doctor on board?”, we diverted to Rekyavik’s Keflavik airport. As one of the comedians on the way to Montreal’s comedy festival observed: “He wasn’t that ill. He walked off the bloody plane.” 4,000... Continue reading
Posted Sep 17, 2012 at Sod it I'm off
AMSTERDAM JULY 2012 A whistle-stop tour of Amsterdam to fulfill a business training session. Flew in to Schipol via Easyjet from Gatwick. Simple Gatwick Express from Victoria and a 40-minute flight. Charming views from the air of the Dutch coast in the evening sun on arrival. Boy is it flat. The Netherlands has a 16m population squashed into 16,000 square miles – one of the world’s highest population densities. 60% of the country is farmed, and you can really see it from up here. Without the dykes, 65% of the country would be flooded daily, which is why the locals... Continue reading
Posted Jul 4, 2012 at Sod it I'm off
Dubrovnik, “the pearl of the Adriatic”, is an easy 2-hour flight from London. Leaving on a surprisingly pleasant easyJet flight at 7am means you are nestled safely in your hotel by midday local time enjoying a relaxing – or should that be chillaxing – pre-prandial drink. The airport is an easy 20 minute cab ride up the coast, and our hotel is on the beautiful Lapad peninsula which twins with another, Babin Kuk, a touch to the north of the stunning old town that greets you thousands of feet below from the coast road. After a booking cock-up we take... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2012 at Sod it I'm off
Four nights in the capital of the Czech republic, a country that has changed its constitution frequently. It’s a short two-hour flight to land in a modern airport that works well. No vestiges of communism here. We stay at the Angelo hotel on Radlicka in the Andel district of the city. We christen the first night with a meal in a traditional Czech pub, the Zlaty Klas. After several pints of Staropramen and Rozel Dark, we feel compelled to try the signature starter: Zabijackova Svetia Tlacenka Octem a Cibili, which the menu translates as “Hogkilling light headcheese with vinegar and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2012 at Sod it I'm off
VIENNA NOVEMBER 2011 A great BA flight over, only about half full. The sun sets orange on our right as the moon rises the same colour on the left. A military jet screams past in the opposite direction well below as an enthusiastic flight attendant tells us about the changes in their roles. 800 miles later we arrive in Vienna (Wien), a small chunk of former Germany with about 2.3 m people, nestled on the Danube, and hemmed in by the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy. The airport is in the south east and we are in town... Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2011 at Sod it I'm off
Air Malaysia takes you 6700 miles and it takes 12 hours to Kuala Lumpur, then 2 hours to Bali, Denpasar. We stop over in Kuta before driving 1hr 15 minutes to Udud in the nifddle of the island, through Sanur. These are endless roads adorned by carved masonry, gods, baskets, doors and bamboo. Scooters are everywhere, and most of the drivers have no crash helmets. The sophisticated Hotel Maya provides superb Indonesian cuisine, while the silly currency makes you a millionaire with just a couple of hundred dollars. A walk through the rice fields reveals snakes and spiders, collapsing dykes,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2011 at Sod it I'm off
Here’s a whistle stop tour of New York you can complete in a few days. Into John F. Kennedy airport and then drive to the centre of New York via the Queensboro Bridge - past Bloomingdales and catching the bottom corner of the famous Central Park. The Algonquin Hotel is the literary centre of Dorothy Parker and the Round Table. Be greeted by the hotel cat, bad cabaret jazz and cartooned wallpaper. My favourite example: two rich men are burning a pile of dollars, which are floating to the ceiling. “What a delightful surprise,” one observes, “I always assumed it... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2011 at Sod it I'm off
Now here's a thing. The Met Police Commissioner, a certain Mr. Bernard Hogan-Howe, is introducing "Total Policing", and to celebrate the fact he has posted a very exciting letter outside Scotland Yard. In the seventies it was the Dutch who... Continue reading
Posted Oct 25, 2011 at Expert Advice
CHICAGO We start with a 4,000 mile trip to Chicago, my favourite US city. O’Hare airport is busy and so is the freeway into town – what is usually a 20-minute trip takes an hour and a quarter due to Friday afternoon mania. We check into the Palmer House hotel on East Monroe, a stone’s throw from Grant Park. It’s enormous, and has the faded grandeur of the Algonquin in New York, but the staff are friendly. After a most welcome beer opposite the Institute of Art, we stroll through the park to the waterfront, providing a great opportunity to... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2011 at Sod it I'm off
A first visit to Turkey, on the southern coast. To the west, Greece, Albania, Macedonia, and Bulgaria. To the north, Istanbul and the Black Sea. To the east, Armenia and Georgia, and Syria to the south. We fly to Dalaman, a vast, new airport that is practically empty, and drive 20 minutes east to the small town of Gocek. The rich and famous call this the St. Tropez of Turkey, and the size of the boats in the marina lay testament to the claim. Twelve islands lie offshore, part of a National Park that restricts building and helps preserve the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2011 at Sod it I'm off
Why Budapest? It’s in a fantastic central European position on the Danube, surrounded by seven other countries in the Carpathian Basin. Here hilly Buda on the west bank meets flat Pest on the east. There is a fascinating collision of cultures: Austrians, Magyars, Soviets and Nazis all jostling for position in a grizzly political soup. And the cars stop for you at zebra crossings. What do you miss most when you are away? My daughters and partner, unless I have brought them with me. What’s the first thing you do when you return? Hang large prints of the best photos... Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2011 at Sod it I'm off
This is my birthplace, and a return fifty years later. My father was station commander when I was born here on October 24th 1961. This also tallies with my mother’s 80th birthday and so provides a good excuse for a trip down memory lane. Gibraltar is truly an extraordinary piece of rock, being precisely the same type and height as its equivalent Pillar of Hercules 12 miles to the south in North Africa. This gateway to the Mediterranean was created when the African plate split from the European and the Atlantic flowed in. As a site of massive strategic importance,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 1, 2011 at Sod it I'm off
PART 1: HOTEL INSTRUCTIONS Badly translated instructions are often a source of hilarity, and those in my hotel in Saratov, on the mighty Volga River, were no exception. Dear guests! We are glad to see you in the night. Settle down. This is a tall building with 15 floors in it. You may get from accommodation service the first medical aid. Beauty salon. Full complex, cosmetological services, including hardware techniques. If there any fire origins in the building you will hear about it from loudspeaker in the phone. Your actions in an emergency ease. Please save tranquility and report immediately... Continue reading
Posted May 30, 2011 at Sod it I'm off
Flying into Mumbai works well. With a mini-upgrade we have the whole of World Traveller section to ourselves, which really helps on an eight-hour flight. 4500 miles later we touchdown and head for the ITC Central hotel; a massive tower in mid-town. The room is 20 floors up with a good view over town and the bar is 30 floors up. From here you can watch the ubiquitous black kites swirling over the endless construction projects. The skyline is unrecognizable from our previous visit in 2003. So is the population: 1 billion has become 1.3 billion in less than 10... Continue reading
Posted May 30, 2011 at Sod it I'm off
Winston Churchill once wrote that PERFECTIONISM is spelled PARALYSIS. In other words, when you pursue it, you never get anywhere. This might come as a bit of a shock to all the perfectionists out there, particularly if they have been... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2011 at Expert Advice
So many people are talking about the need for a ‘big idea’ that it may be time to go back to first principles. In 1983, David Ogilvy wrote this: It will help you recognize a big idea if you ask... Continue reading
Posted Mar 23, 2011 at Expert Advice
Having spent a lot of time in meetings listening to macho businessmen explaining how we need to ‘put in the hard yards’, or ‘do the heavy lifting’, I feel it’s time to work on some new distance-related phrases to lighten... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2011 at Expert Advice
Del Monte announced last week that it is to give its bananas a second skin, by packaging them individually in petrol stations and convenience stores, and marketing them as a "natural energy snack on the go." This ridiculous attempt to... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2011 at Expert Advice
For those of you who frequent crowded drinking establishments, I strongly recommend the Rogano Crouch. Named after the legandary Rogano's bar in Glasgow (est. 1935), it involves cradling the pint right into the armpit with a twist of the wrist,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2011 at Expert Advice
I was very taken by this comment on meetings by Joseph Heller in Closing Time, his brilliant follw up to Catch 22. “…the art of conducting without dissension and bringing to a close on time a meeting lasting two hours... Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2011 at Expert Advice
At his gig last night Mark Earls, esteemed author of Herd, demonstrated first-hand his theory of harnessing our true nature. His 'Marky Mark is not influential' model was clearly shown, as the crowd ignored him completely and went ballistic in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2010 at Expert Advice