Saturday, 30 March 2013

What's in a name

I have terrible trouble remembering people's names.

Even people I've known for some time and whom I've had long and interesting conversations.

My mind goes blank when we meet, and even if I recall their name in time to use it I panic that it is wrong and often bottle out. I worry I'll look a fool if I call them something else.

I think back to bumping into someone in Asda when Becky was with me, it was even more excruciating as I knew if I introduced her I'd have to introduce my 'friend' too.

On the odd occasion I've bluffed it and laughed and said why don't you two introduce yourselves.

At a friend's daughter's fifth birthday party the other weekend the children's entertainer prided himself on being able to remember every child and adult's name. No mean feat.

In under two hours he was able to recall every name in the room. And have linked children to parents. It's a wonder to behold.

So what is worse? Calling someone by the wrong name or not at all.

If I'm honest there is no real excuse for either.

While I can carry on claiming not to have a natural ability to recall names, deep down I know with a little more effort I could remember far more. And I know how important that can be when taking to people I know.

So that's what I'm going to do.

Starting off with everyone who works on the same floor as me at work.

I want to see if I can get to know every face I recognise and what's more I'm going to try and learn something about them. By finding out about what their partner does or their favourite past time hopefully their name will stick.

And when we meet I can impress them by asking about something other than the weather.

Mark my words my friends. I'm putting my name on it.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Put a smile upon your face

We have a saying in our house:

Put a smile upon your face and make the world a better place.

My kids are four and six. It doesn't take much for the tears to flow or the frown to suddenly appear.

But it's amazing how many times their little faces can light up again with a tickle under the arms or by starting off this little phrase and letting them finish it off with a smile.

This morning I asked them both to show me their best smiles. Both were pretty good to be fair. Then we ran up stairs to find some smiley clothes.

Before I knew it we were hatching a secret plan to go to the soft play centre as soon as mummy had left for work, together with secret maps and clues and everything. 

Turns out the play centre is shut until midday. Cue instant frowns all round. Quick smile check, then off to the nearest cafe.

It got me thinking how often I smile at people at work and the positive impact it has.

Where I work is generally a pretty bubbly kind of a place. We take our work seriously but not ourselves is how my old boss put it.

But by choosing (and it is a choice) to smile at people as they catch your eye it's amazing how infectious it is and how good their smile back makes you feel. Try it.

Anyway it's the book I'm reading that got me thinking about all this. There's a lovely ancient Chinese proverb quoted:

'A man without a smiling face must not open a shop. '

It's as true today as it was back then. Made me smile.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Three things I found out today

The Google offices aren't easy to find. Which is a tad ironic. They don't even have a big sign post on the front door.

There's a search engine called Duck Duck Go which as far as I can tell prides itself on not being Google.

And if you search for 'Dom Burch' via Duck Duck Go it returns something rather intriguing. On 13 July 1633 there was a battle between three Dutch Ships (the Texel, Arnemusde and the Domburch) and some Chinese Junks. The battle was called The Blockade of Amoy.

So my former self was a Dutch war ship. How thoroughly delightful. Or should I say lekker?

And to think I once lived in Holland and never knew until today. Puh. Google is so off the pace. Duck Duck Go all the way.

Friday, 22 March 2013

How to win friends and influence people

I've just started reading Dale Carnegie's classic How to win friends and influence people.

I'm only 16 pages in and it is already one of my favourite books of all time. It strikes a chord with me, but more than that I've been staggered how relevant it is in 2013 despite being first published in 1937.

Anyway you've probably seen this letter before on Facebook but it is still worth a read. It's called Father Forgets by W. Livingston Larned.

Dale Carnegie writes: 'Often parents are tempted to criticise their children. You would expect me to say 'don't'. But I will not. I am merely going to say,  'Before you criticise them, read one of the classics of American journalism.'

Here it is:

Listen, son; I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.

There are things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.

At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, "Goodbye, Daddy!" and I frowned, and said in reply, "Hold your shoulders back!"

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road, I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before you boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive - and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father!

Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. 'What is it you want?' I snapped.

You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.

Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding - this was my reward to your for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you alugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: 'He is nothing but a boy - a little boy!'

I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother's arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.


Makes you think eh?

Friday, 15 March 2013

Food glorious food

It's not often Becky and I go in for fine dining. Most of our meals out are fairly straightforward affairs. The odd fillet steak here and there. Or perhaps a nice piece of fish.

But every now and then we treat ourselves to some posh nosh. And yesterday was one of those days.

First stop was The Traddock at Austwick. Becky opted for dressed crab (pictured). I went for a gammon sandwich (granted doesn't sound very fancy but the home made bread and chutney made the difference). Then we shared a delicious rhubarb crumble.

Then onto Hipping Hall for a two night stay without the kids.

Hipping Hall is a delightful little boutique hotel just off the A65 near Kirkby Lonsdale. We first stayed here about five years ago. The attention to detail is first class. Far from being stuffy, the service is relaxed but attentive. The bedrooms are cosy with thick faux fur drapes and comfortable beds.

When you arrive you are invited into the lounge for tea and cake. Teas are complimentary throughout your stay. A nice little touch.

Anyway dinner is the main event. Aperitifs in the lounge and an amuse bouche, one of which was an onion macaroon. Then into the dining room with a roaring fire and a smokey aroma. A pre starter courtesy of the chef - a shot glass of lobster and avocado (a posh prawn cocktail).

For the real starters I had belly pork and Becky went for a turbot terrine with a tempura oyster on the side.

Then for our mains I opted for guinea foul, a first for me. It was like the best chicken I'd ever had. Moist and full of flavour.

Becky chose hogget. Sounds like pork doesn't it? Must be. Looks very meaty though for pork. Maybe it's the breed. One bit is quite tough to cut through though. Maybe it's beef after all. Damn I like beef.

No you idiots. Hogget is a one year old sheep. Not lamb. Not mutton. Hogget. I told you we don't do fine dining very often. Heathens that we are. Reminded me of years ago when we ate at a posh place in Edinburgh calked The Witchery and had to ask how to eat oysters. I'm glad we did though as we'd always assumed you chuck them down your throat. Not at all. Chew slowly like a muscle. No tobasco masking the flavour. Just a squeeze of lemon.

Anyway then Becky had cheese and I had an amazing apple tart / jelly / struddle thing. Gorgeous.

Then the evening was all wrapped up with a single shot of espresso together with petit fours and a rather large cognac.

Good night.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Back to the grindstone

Having spent the whole of last week gallivanting around in Florida, returning to work today was somewhat of a shock to the system.

But it wasn't the Arctic chill that got to me it was the relentless slog of back to back meetings all day. From the minute I walked in the door I was running from one thing to the next. Barely enough time to go to the loo let alone grab lunch.

It struck me how self defeating this can be.

Every conversation is rushed, every point made not nearly as well informed as it could've been. Nuances of meaning lost in the interests of ending the meeting 'on time'.

Which begs the question would it be better to deliberately do less in order to get more done?

I accept working like this on occasion is inevitable and ultimately it pays the wages and beggars can't be choosers. But I worry it is ultimately a false economy that can wear you down. Hence back to the grindstone took on new meaning.

As did another phrase I hadn't come across before.

A colleague in America asked me if she should run the traps. It was lost in translation. I didn't know if it was a dig at me, a joke or an offer to help. Here's her explanation:

"Running the traps" is a phrase from hunting. First you set or fix the traps, then you go back later and run or check the traps to see if you have caught anything in your traps.

Politically you are running the traps when you are testing the waters to see if a program you want or a law you need passed is popular enough to start the process of garnering enough votes and support to push forward with your program.

In everyday life, we use it to make sure something is okay before you do it – identify any problems ahead of time.

So I'd like to the run the traps on this idea. No more than three meetings in any one day. Clear one hour breaks between meetings to give myself time to think. And at irregular start and end times.

What do you think?

Or should I just get my nose to the grindstone and stop my pathetic whinging?

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Living Room gig

On Friday I had the privilege of having my favourite band come and play a gig in the comfort of my own home.

It was a magical experience. One that I didn't want to end. At one point I was trapped between trying to lap it all up and enjoy the moment and capture it on my flip cam so I could relive it all over again.

If you have never come across Hope and Social I strongly recommend you look them up. They are fantastic musicians. But more than that they understand better than any band or brand for that matter the importance of ensuring everything they do is good.

They invest time and effort into creating lasting impressions. Their gigs are more than performances they are entertaining all encompassing experiences where the audience is part of the music not merely a passive observer.

I absolutely love them for their honesty their generosity and because they make me laugh and cry.

My very own Living Room gig was priceless.

The memory will live long. And the YouTube clips will be played to death for many years to come.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Expanding my horizons

Even with the time difference I can't really get away with claiming this is Monday's blog. But hey ho. It was a self-imposed rule and I'm over it already.

Yesterday was a good day for me, professionally speaking. I got the chance to attend a meeting with some cool people who do marketing around the globe. It always strikes me how much we have in common despite our vast cultural differences.

I've always enjoyed engaging internationally with people.

Before I left Direct Line ten or so years ago I got the chance to go to Italy and Germany with my then boss to suss out how we were going to launch in those two countries.

Then a few years back I went to Mexico City for a corporate affairs summit with Walmart, visited stores and went to a remote village producing small amounts of produce for the company. And more recently I've had the chance to visit the techie kids of San Francisco and now Orlando.

There's no doubt the chance to travel is fun at first. It is still a novelty and therefore the work is even more stimulating as a result.

But I also relish putting my thinking to the test to see whether my views on social media translate across borders and time zones.

So far so good.

The next twelve months however are going to be fascinating.

If I keep my eyes and ears open it could also teach me things I can barely even imagine today.

The pace of change is dramatic and the opportunity to do some really powerful and exciting things is tantalising.

I literally can't wait to get started.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

A post from 36,000 feet

I'm just about to get stuck into my third film of the flight. Argo and Skyfall duly dispatched.

I've decided to go for a feel good movie next which is slightly dangerous. I have a habit of getting a little emotional on flights. Put it down to the air pressure or something. In fact scratch that it is nothing to do with air pressure. It has everything to do with how sentimental I am.

Anyway I'll return to this topic in due course. The adverts have finished and the flick has commenced. Laters.

Part two
Ok I'm back. Film three was Ok. Easy watching. No lumps in throat so that was handy as it's a day time flight and the guy next to me doesn't look the type that would appreciate a blubbering wimp like me sobbing to some chick flick.

Flying around the globe definitely gets me thinking. It almost hurts my head how connected we are yet living such very different lives from continent to continent. I read a crazy fact on twitter earlier:

"If we could shrink the earths population to a village of 100 people, the ratio would be: 57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 Americans & 8 Africans."

So there you go.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Another lazy day

Do you ever fall into the trap of taking the easiest way out. Choosing to go down the path of least resistance. Taking the lazy option. I'm ashamed to say I do.

I have to fight the urge to be a slob when I'm at home sometimes.

Today is a good example. My four year old daughter really enjoys going on trains. And I kind of promised her we would.

But after walking the dog and eating a piece of toast I thought I can't really be arsed. I looked at the time and knew it would be too much of a rush. Instead we may as well just wait for Becky to get back from my other daughter's dance class with the car.

Then I saw her little face and realised I was being a meany. If we got a move on we could still make the 10.26.

So we grabbed our coats and ran out the door.

Such a simple thing to do. And no skin off my nose if I'm honest. And all it took was a little bit of effort to make my four year old a very happy girl.

Friday, 1 March 2013


I haven't blogged today. And the problem now is that I'm tired and I've had a glass of wine. But I'm determined to blog every day for a year. So here's the deal. I need your help dear reader. Whoever you may be.

Amongst you there will be friends and acquaintances, plus the odd person who doesn't know me from Adam. But let me open up and tell you all something. I live for feedback and encouragement. So if you can leave a little comment below or an @ reply on twitter then that will be a jolly good fillip and will see me through tonight. I promise to invest more effort in tomorrow's post.