200

Two directions at once

High Cedar Drive Bus Stop

A New Year’s Day walk to Wimbledon Common. Taking a minor diversion along Copse Hill you come to this bus stop (and there will be a similar one on the other side of the road). This bus stop is an oddity – although I imagine there are other examples elsewhere. – because this stop is going in two directions at once. It’s not an indicator to get on a bus in the opposite direction across the road, no, you can board here but you must get on the correct 200 because, for this little leg, buses going in both directions pass this stop. The Copse Hill and Atkinson Close stops are part of a loop that buses in both direction take. I don’t know why but I imagine it is to do with serving the expensive new apartments on Wimbledon Park Hill. Still, if you get on here, make sure you get on the one going to Raynes Park or Mitcham because in about 5 minutes from this point you could be going in the wrong directions.

The ladies who bus did this route back in 2009 and when they passed The Collier’s Wood Tower (once deemed the ugliest building in London) which they said looked like it was “about to be demolished” but turned out to be mid-regeneration becoming Britannia Point by about 2017. Also, the Waitrose at Raynes Park had just opened when they rode the 200 – the place that became a lifeline to so many this past year and I am very glad was opened.

The Prom

The Prom is a joy-filled song fest that works to keep the spirits up in these in-between Christmas and New Year days

I’ve spent a few hours re-reading entries from this time of year on my blog. I realise I wrote a lot of film reviews when I was blogging. As a result, I’ve been reevaluating what I thought about House Of Flying Daggers, Napoleon Dynamite, Love Actually and The Lord of The Rings. The main problem with this, of course, is that blogging is stuck in the early 2000s. So, what about a more contemporary review?

It’s December 2020 and London is in COVID-19 lockdown tier 4 which means that cinemas are closed and, thus, a film review may be hard. Having said that, streaming is the new cinema and tonight we watched The Prom on Netflix.

I do not come with preconceptions of the film based on any prior knowledge of the musical on which this is based. The film was recommended by my friend Rob and my Dad which suggests a broad appeal. The adaption is by Ryan Murphy, who I know as creator of Glee and one of my lockdown highlights, Netflix’s Hollywood.

The movie is set in world where ‘Eleanor: The Eleanor Roosevelt Story’ closes after first-night terrible reviews that tag the stars (played by Meryl Streep and James Corden) as the worst of self-obsessed celebrity. Somehow (and here my memory of any plot is gone), characters played by Nicole Kidman and Andrew Rannells become part of their ‘Broadway liberals’ gang.

Meanwhile, in Indiana a school’s PTA cancels the school prom because a female student – Emma – wants to take a girl to the dance. The schools head teacher seems to be the only supportive character in the town of Edgewater. Thus, a cause is created for the New York performers to prove they’re not as self-obsessed as the reviewers said. They all get on a bus to head to Indiana. This is not a Priscilla road trip movie and, before you know it, Broadway’s stars are trying to check into a Holiday Inn Express. Or something like that.

You do have to suspend disbelief here – in spite of the real-life roots of the story – because it’s a musical and the story is advanced in song. The premise manages to be both a big-old cliche and remarkably well-done at the same time. If you can work with the idea that an entire town’s moral compass can be re-pointed by an Andrew Rannells’ song and dance routine set in a shopping mall and using the water feature fountains as a central prop, performing a song called Love Thy Neighbor, then you’re going love this film. And, if you think you’re not going to find that concept remotely appealing, you probably should still watch this film because it’s funny, with the right amount of musical theatre camp to keep it rooted in a joyful place even when the story, inevitably has it’s downbeat moments. And at this point in 2020 we all need a bit of cheering-up.

The musical numbers are more Legally Blonde than Hamilton (although a pinch of Chicago, with all the associated jazz hands, is added for flavour) but they’re good fun and, in true Andrew Lloyd Webber style, move the plot on at a decent pace.

Two different story lines – the prom story and the redemption plot – work together so well that they can conjure up Tracey Ullman (but saying as who and why would be too much of a spoiler). Supporting cast, Kerry Washington, Jo Ellen Pellman, Keegan-Michael Key and Ariana DeBose are all excellent but we tuned in for the A-listers, didn’t we?

Meryl Streep is a pure joy to watch as Dee Dee Allen (she has two Tony awards, you know). A really solid, believable performance and you could watch an entire movie based on her character. James Corden, as Barry, manages to hold the camp to right side of funny – and tragic, when it matters – while walking a tightrope where he could, at any moment, fall into the offensive side. I think he handles it well. For me, Nicole Kidman playing a Chicago chorus girl is under used, especially at the start because she manages to be the only Broadway liberal to manage empathy and, I think, that provides the thread that holds the story together. Andrew Rannells’ character doesn’t quite have the depth of the others to make him quite so real but it’s a great perforamance and, after all, manages to convince an entire shopping mall that same-sex relationships are not an abomination in under 4 minutes. It’s a work of genius.

The Prom is a joy-filled song fest that works to keep the spirits up in these in-between Christmas and New Year days. And it’s on Netflix so, if you have a subscription, you can spend a couple of hours laughing for no extra cash. An actual New Year bargain

Instra Rewind: 2020

Crank it up to 11 pictures from my 10-year retrospective. Why not?

I felt there was a little flaw in my ten year of Instagram posts which is being corrected.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Because I decided to choose a picture from each of the calendar years in my ten-year Instagram retrospective, a quirk of my plan is that there really should be a picture from 2020 even though that would make eleven pictures. There are a lot fewer pictures in my feed this year for obvious reasons. Being stuck indoors for much of the year means that I have felt that there are fewer opportunities snap something interesting. I wonder what the numbers are for posts?

Anyway, I decided I should commemorate 2020 regardless. One of the most joyous moments from the year is captured pre-lockdown at the little show lounge at Brasserie Zedell. La Voix interviewed choreographer Arlene Phillips. I’d never seen La Voix before and the evening was fabulously entertaining. This one was, really, an Instagram story so it’s supposed to expire after 24 hours. It did make one of my 2020 Instagram Story highlights because, well it really is. La Voix’s Instagram feed has become a regular source of entertainment during the lockdown but this moment in February, with some original members of Hot Gossip who had been in the audience too, is a joyous moment that could not foretell what was to come just a month later.

And that’s my retrospective. I wonder what the next few years will bring and if they will also be documented on Instragram. One way to find out is to follow.

Insta Rewind: 2017-2019

In the third part of the my epic 10-year time travel adventure, I’m off to California, King’s Landing and the London Palladium.

I’ve really enjoyed looking back at 10 years of my photographs on Instagram. I realise there is a massive amount of sentimentality involved in writing this. On this blog I am, unashamedly, sentimental in December. So, let’s get to number ten …

Thursday, 12 October 2017

There was a team meeting in Palo Alto and everybody travelled for it. We held them, in different locations, each quarter to bring people together to discuss plans for the next 13 weeks or so. I think this was the last time it would have been held in California because most of our team, and our management, moved to London sometime after this. Our immediate team didn’t actually work together that much, each of us distributed over other projects, and so these regular meet-ups were an opportunity to share ideas. There was always a great deal of thought in the planning. I don’t recall what everybody else did on the Thursday night but, from memory, the people in this picture were working on video advertising projects and we, therefore, had our own breakaway group evening. We went bowling at Cloverleaf Family Bowl. I’ve since read it has closed, being unable to survive the 2020 pandemic lockdowns. Back in 2017 it was a lot of fun.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

As the caption on this picture says, I didn’t watch Game of Thrones but I was reliably informed the view of old Dubrovnik was, at least in part, King’s Landing in the series. This was taken on our first day there. We’d stayed at a Gatwick Airport hotel the night before as the flight was 8:30am. The aim was to get a good day looking around Dubrovnik before we got on a boat on the Sunday for a holiday around the Croatian islands. So, we had rented an apartment in the old town, checked-in in the pouring rain, then walked the walls of the old town as the sun came out. I thought this was a great view over the iconic rooftops. Turns out it’s a pretty classic tourist shot. It was a great start to what tuned out to be a beautiful holiday.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

PY first took me to see Shakespears Sister in July 1992; they were one of his favourite bands. He had been waiting from 1983 until early 2019 to hear that Siobhan Fahey and Marcella Detroit would reform and perform again – he was straight-in when tickets went on sale. We had the full meet-and-greet package for their November London Palladium show and it was an unforgettable night. While stood in line for the meet, I remember having no idea what to say, and even now I can’t recall what we talked about. But they were friendly and the fans were thrilled they were back together making for a wonderful atmosphere. The show, which was actually on the Tuesday night, was a triumph. I must have posted these when I got home and clock must have tripped into Wednesday.

And, that’s ten years. It feels odd not to include this year. Maybe tomorrow?

Insta Rewind: 2014-2016

Looking back at my Instagram pictues – this one is all about travel. But where did I go?

Yesterday we had Christmas, a Royal wedding, the Olympics and Nico Rosberg to sum up my first 4 years on Instagram. Let’s dive in to the next few years and see what we can find.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

From late-2012 through the March 2014 I spent some time in Australia. The company that was a start-up in the 2010 picture had grown and been acquired in the years since and one of our largest customers was based in Melbourne, a city I fell in love with over the time I was there. I spent weeks on-site with them – one the nicest organisations I had the pleasure of working with – right up until we turned on the software about 10 days before this picture. I feel blessed to have been able to visit Australia and see some wonderful things: Melbourne, The Great Ocean Road, Sydney for the Opera House and Mardi Gras and The Great Barrier Reef. By this point, I’d completed the project and, deep down, I knew this would be my last visit as I was pretty certain I’d accept a job offer from another company when I got home. Looking back, the caption hints at it. It was my first ever Uber ride, booked from the hotel to the airport, and as I saw a view of the Melbourne skyline behind me, I knew I should take a picture to capture the memory.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

We used up our holiday allowance early in 2015 with a trip to Vietnam (including time in Cambodia and Hong Kong). Hoi An was the third stop on our visit. It’s beautiful and was quite different to Hanoi where we’d started the visit. One of the unexpected finds was a teahouse, in the heart of Hoi An, staffed by speech and hearing impaired people. Nobody really speaks, there are these little blocks and a notepad to communicate your order. It’s a tranquil oasis and, even though there were some memorable assaults on the senses elsewhere on the holiday, the peace and quiet of this teahouse, with a view of the street, really sticks in my mind.

Friday, 22 April 2016

I went to France to give a presentation about native advertising on Facebook. I recall the team arrived fairly late in the day on the Thursday and went straight to the office for a rehearsal and equipment check. I think this was my first big presentation for them, so I was a little nervous. As we were leaving for the evening a group of people were pulling apart a section of the office reception. We went to dinner and thought nothing more of it. The next morning, a car, props and video backdrop had appeared, seemingly from nowhere. After we had finished our presentation and could all relax a little, I got to wear a silly hat while waving in a static car. It was the first video I posted on Instagram. I remember the talk went reasonably well, the lunch in the canteen was excellent but I most remember everybody on the team having a go in this car.

Right, I’m only doing three years this post which is, primarily, a reason for another post tomorrow but also because today was my last day in the office for the year and I’ve already has a glass of wine so I don’t trust myself to sit here and go through any more.

Insta Rewind: 2010-2013

Christmas, a Royal wedding, the Olympics and Nico Rosberg in a single blog post. Really.

Last week I noted that it’s 10 years since I first posted in Instagram and that I was going to spend a little time to find one picture form each year that invoked a memory. Here goes:

Friday, 24th December 2010

2010 was a year of change. I moved jobs and had gone from a company with thousands of employees in the UK based in Victoria to one where there were 2 of us working in Britain for a US adtech start-up. We based ourselves in a small serviced office just-off Tottenham Court Road. We put up some magic whiteboard so we could scrawl on the walls without damaging them. We didn’t hang Christmas decorations because they would also damage a wall we couldn’t afford to pay to fix, so, as PY & I were spending Christmas in London and I worked Christmas Eve in the office alone, I drew a Christmas tree to make it feel more festive.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

The wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton was to take place the next day at Westminster Abbey. Wedding Day, the Friday, was declared a UK holiday and we’d all have the day off, which made for a nice long bank holiday weekend. While my Dad was working away, we invited my Mum to come to London and be a little closer to the action. She arrived just after 2pm on Thursday afternoon and, after I met her at Euston, we strolled through the city to soak up the pre-wedding atmosphere. I recall walking through Green Park to Buckingham Palace and seeing worldwide TV crews preparing to cover the main event. We walked along The Mall chatting to the crowds already camping out for a front-row view. There were people from all over the world and some of them had Royal family masks. I recall it was a lovely, party-like, atmosphere.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

I have so many pictures of 2012. The Olympics came to the city and for two months there was an incredible buzz everywhere in London. When reviewing my feed I thought it might be hardest to select an image from 2012 but this jumped out. As 2012 progressed, I’d taken a few pictures of the Trafalgar Square countdown but every time I saw that clock the Olympic events still felt a long way from happening. My morning commute was a train to Waterloo and walk across the Thames, up Charing Cross Road to the office. This was the morning I saw the first of the signs that would guide visitors to Olympic events: they’d put it up at Waterloo and on my way to work I snapped a picture. And it was the first time I’d really seen the Olympic pink in such a huge block. Suddenly it all started to feel quite real and, therefore, exciting. In many ways this was the beginning of the amazing summer.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Every year, for about ten years, I went to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix. Each year, bar the year I only went for the day, I was on a campsite opposite the circuit. Except, for 2013, when we paid a stupid amount of money to stay in a Snoozebox (a kind of prefabricated, portable hotel) that was erected – almost on the circuit – for the event weekend. That year we were grateful for the shower, power and shelter at this point of the weekend when it was still very wet (I recall the race itself was dry). Seeing F1 live is different to watching on television: the smell of rubber at the start and the noise of the engines which can not be conveyed in a broadcast. First practice, on the Friday morning, is always one of the best experiences for the pure joy of seeing – and hearing – the cars on the track for the first time. I spent years trying to perfect a picture of an F1 car at speed. I am not sure I ever succeeded but on a wet Friday morning, a Mercedes turns the corner at Luffield, and I thought the picture worth posting. Nico Rosberg went on to win (I think this is Nico but the picture is a little blurry).

So, my ten year review is taking longer than I imagined, the next three will be tomorrow (I hope).

It’s Burbn*

It was a suburban snowy view: housing, parked cars and the occasional bare tree branch. It was also the first picture I posted to Instagram.

It was Saturday 18th December, 2010. I don’t remember what time I woke. I do know that I’d been to see Lady Ga Ga at the O2 arena the night before – so I don’t imagine I got up that early (I don’t have many specific memories of the concert except that she played the piano at one point and I remember that, whatever the song was, it was incredible).

A blanket of snow greeted people that morning in Earlsfield. At some point before lunch I looked out the window, snapped a picture of an undisturbed car park outside the house where we lived then. The cars had a couple of inches of snow covering their windows – still to be swept away. I was heading to the Southbank for a Christmas meet-up and I wanted a picture of the white carpet before it was disturbed by feet. It was a suburban snowy view: housing, parked cars and the occasional bare tree branch. It was also the first picture I posted to Instagram.

I’ve always liked Instagram. The filters were ideal in an age of early mobile camera technology when most pictures were really not that good. But, somehow, it’s just become an interesting snapshot of ten years. Back in 2004 I wrote something about the pictures taken on a mobile phone presenting a different perspective on your life when compared to those taken on a camera. In the intervening years the phone has become the camera but my Instagram timeline reminds me of the early mobile camera rolls: a collection of pictures taken in a moment when, perhaps, once upon a time, I would never have pulled out a camera.

The world has moved on. For me the intervening ten years have been full of wonderful people and places and a lot of them have been recorded on Instagram. Instagram has changed from being a place to post classic square pictures: it’s added video, it’s got stories and reels and now it has added shopping too (big-up the Instagram PMM team working on this). But the feed is still here and all ten years are recorded.

Next week (because I think there is some effort involved here), I intend to try and pick one picture from each year to sum up that year as seen via the Instagram lens. It’s pure sentimentality but if you can’t be a little sentimental in December then when can you be?

Footnotes

* According to their Wikipedia entry, Instagram was orginally a mobile check-in app called Burbn. My unwavering – continuing – loyalty to Foursquare would have meant I’d never have used that.

Polar Express Revisited

Does The Polar Express stand-up to a viewing 21 years later?

Back in January 2005 I wrote about the Polar Express on my blog (because film reviews were a thing I seemed to do quite a bit back then). I said that I could see the film enduring.

Almost 21 years later we watched it again, streaming from Amazon Prime. It was £4.99 – I wonder what we paid the first time? In 2005 I really enjoyed it and I did on this viewing too. I may have seen it once in the intervening years but, unlike The Nightmare before Christmas, it’s not a Christmas staple in my life so there were many things I didn’t remember (and that’s no criticism because I don’t remember the detail of many films that I have seen).

I saw the original in it’s big screen 3D glory and noted that the filmmakers “used the 3D format to full-effect” but I don’t think it lost much on my 2D television.

I said I thought this film would ‘endure’ – meaning it would last – and I think it has lasted well. In my opinion, Tom Hanks is still brilliant as the main voice of this movie. Glad I watched it again.

Elsewhere: People Power Makes it Happen

I wish the world was looking in a different direction. In fact, I wish it was looking towards South West London. Tonight, AFC Wimbledon played their first league game at their new ground – albeit longtime spiritual home – of Plough Lane.

I just posted something to Facebook.

AFC Wibbledon Logo

The world appears very divided right now. A lot of the world’s attention is on the US. That’s understandable.

But, I wish the world was looking in a different direction. In fact, I wish it was looking towards South West London. Tonight, AFC Wimbledon played their first league game at their new ground – albeit longtime spiritual home – of Plough Lane.

After a controversial FA decision in 2002 to permit Wimbledon FC to move to Milton Keynes there was a groundswell of people power and Wimbledon supporters – grounded by a community that the FA commission somewhat dismissed in 2002 – founded their own club. The new club was supporter owned and supporter run (The Dons Trust is the not-for-profit, democratic organisation that owns AFC Wimbledon football club) .

I’m just an observer – but I have seen AFC Wimbledon play on several occasions and I have been lucky enough to watch supporters put their heart and soul into founding a new club, financing and keeping it running, securing Kingsmeadow and, finally, acquiring the old Greyhound Stadium land that’s just 200 yards from where the original Wimbledon side played for 80 years. Every donation and every raffle ticket mattered.

It’s an amazing story of what people can do when they come together and share both a passion and a dream. When people work together amazing things can happen. In a little corner of South West London, people power meant that amazing happened tonight.

Really, if the world had a few more Wimbledon supporters there might be a a little less division

Among The Trees, Hayward Gallery

The brutalist concrete of London’s Southbank Centre, some of it originally set for the Festival of Britain in 1951, seems a place at odds – if not an odd place – to hold an exhibition that asks us to think about our relationship with trees and forests. But, that’s what the Hayward Gallery’s ‘Among The Trees’ is asking us to do.  It reopened yesterday after being closed at the start of the COVID crisis and is now extended until October, so ignore the out-of-date dates on promotional banners.  Visitor numbers are limited and there’s a one-way system introduced so that social distancing norms can be observed. 

I’m no art critic, but I think I am with the ES Magazine’s “there’s much here to absorb, unsettle and even, occasionally, provoke wonder” over Time Out’s “the rest just sort of blurs into one, and by the end, you can’t see the art for the trees”.  Most reviewers seem to agree that Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s six-screen, horizontal video of a giant Finnish spruce is the most powerful piece and it is visually very impressive.   Eva Jospin’s forest from cardboard, which is one of the first exhibits you come to, reminds us of both the beauty of the forest and the damage caused by humans.  Later, Steve McQueen’s Lynching Tree, depicting a tree that once served as a gallows for slaves, provides another reminder of our cruel and destructive nature.

In many ways, that grey concrete architecture – a material which itself replaced the need for wood in some construction projects and is the core of the Hayward Gallery – is the perfect backdrop to the trees that form the exhibition. Perhaps my only criticism is that there’s not enough of the contrast, the hard and the soft, exploited within.

The restrictions caused by timed-entry and fewer people in the gallery space, may not be great for the gallery’s finances, but make the experience itself very nice indeed.  No real queues, except to get into the shop afterwards,  and no crowds around the big art pieces. And, given how much of the world is closed off to us right now, the reopening is a  real treat. Although, perhaps we should be spending these beautiful summer days in nature for real.

Red Rose Radio: In memory of St Paul’s Church

Back at the end of January, Bauer Radio – one of the UK’s biggest radio groups – announced the closure of its studios in St Paul’s Square, Preston (home of Rock FM) and the transfer of broadcast operations to their studio centre in Manchester.

In many ways the story is just another small step in the consolidation of UK radio. Increasing shared programming and networking allows radio station owners to create the kind of big, modern radio brand you need to stand out in 2020 without the costs of maintaining lots of studio locations. It was reported that, in recent years, the only programme to originate in Preston was Rock FM’s breakfast show, fronted Joel and Gemma. The rest came from other locations in the Bauer group.

SMS satellite dish outside Red Rose Radio

But this isn’t just another studio move. Red Rose Radio was unusual because the founders commissioned a broadcast complex in an old church, where thick walls could help with soundproofing. Apparently, Red Rose Radio Limited paid £35,000 for the St Paul’s church and brought the conversion project in for £778,000. From my time at SMS, I have a very grainy scan of a photo of the company’s satellite dish outside the church. There’s a documentary on YouTube going behind the scenes of the station in 1993 where you can very clearly see the church architecture in the offices.

The whole story may have passed me by had I not been searching for some recordings that I have on cassette, stored in an old box at the back of a cupboard, on which I discovered a snippet of Red Rose’s closedown audio from the early years and decided to have a look what was the station was like today.

Back in the early years of UK commercial radio, stations would often launch with a broadcast schedule that did not operate around the clock.

On that tape, the station’s first Programme Controller, Keith Macklin, is delivering the ‘goodnight’ announcement that was played each evening. The audio fades a little in the middle but remains audible. From memory, I would have recorded it when the station used to closedown after the news at midnight. Back then I was a big fan of late night phone-ins on Piccadilly Radio, listening under the covers when I should have been asleep. On the same tape was another piece of audio, the engineering announcement that played every few minutes through the night. This was obviously later in the year because the broadcasting hours had been extended to 2am. Who knows what I was doing to get that recording; I can only imagine there was no school the next day.

I thought the closedown audio and the closedown of the studios seemed correlated. So, I upload that audio in memory of St Paul’s church, Preston.

The audio is also on Soundcloud. See other audio I have uploaded on the Listen page.

Tweetless or Tweet Less?

I realised I only tweeted 10 times in 2019 so I wondered (to myself) what I had written about.

My morning routine, after I have arrived in the office, usually entails eating breakfast while reading a couple of blog posts before diving into my email. This morning, I thought about some content I used to follow on Twitter and decided to look it up. It’s still there: but that’s not the point of this post. Then I thought I would write something to welcome the new decade as, although a day late, I thought it worth marking in my timeline.

That’s when I realised I only tweeted 10 times in 2019. That’s pretty terrible really. I used to use Twitter a lot. Sadly, I find it a pretty depressing place most of the time which – I think – is why I have generally shied away from the platform recently. I’m pretty certain if I had the time I could curate a list that was much more positive to read.

Nonetheless, I decided to look at the topics I did tweet about in 2019 – my logic being that if I use the platform so rarely then what I did tweet about must have been worth the effort of opening the app and might be interesting to see what I cared about in 2019. Sadly not. Here’s my ranking:

So, here’s the tweet I went with:my first of the new decade. I thought about something I’d seen earlier in the day which seemed like positive news:

Give this is my 11th tweet in just over a year, I thought I would look at my posting trends. Using TweetStats and picking July as the sample month for no real reason except it was the first month on TweetStats’ graph, my tweet trend is not looking good. Maybe I should do better.

Currently, I am better at Instagram. Come join me there. As an aside, if Twitter made curating lists and generally managing your feed easier then maybe I would spend time creating the view I want.

In another ten years’ time Who can say what we’ll find

Looking back is fun. Futurology is exciting too. Let’s mix them in a big pot of pointless predictions!

On Christmas Eve I wrote a follow-up to my 2009 piece, ‘Looking Back 10 Years‘. So, now, if I was going to create a new list, what would I add?

Time to ring in with the new …

Video Conferencing Still Doesn’t Work

I admit it’s highly correlated with my comments on business travel but over the last ten years more and more of the office spaces where I have been working come pre-equipped with video conference facilities in every meeting room. And, almost universally, people find them difficult to use, difficult to hear the other side of the conversation and incompatible with the facilities the people on the other end of the call use. I’ll admit that over the last few years colleagues have become more and more comfortable with the idea of running a meeting where one or more people are on screen but I think that’s due to how easy it is to call family on Skype, FaceTime or Facebook Messenger. The fact that most office systems are incompatible with each other means that all that expensive in-room equipment is often wasted. Currently, I work in a office equipped with Google Meeting but work closely with a company that uses the BlueJeans conference service. And so, only one side can ever use the cameras in the room they are sitting in. I have worked in a company where it worked well but they had spent a lot of money equipping the space and it was still only useful when other people were on the same system. And don’t get me started on people trying to hook-up to share a presentation.  Still, it’s better than those awful conference calls.

Music Has Vanished From The Workplace

Even in the last ten years, I have worked in places where we put music on in the background. Communal music adds atmosphere to the workplace and can create a positive mood. It’s true that, often, you end up with an easy listening sound (we loved Magic in one place I worked) but I find silence quite oppressive. But, thanks to streaming music services everybody now has their own music library on-demand and we all don headphones all day. That has changed the office atmosphere and, I don’t think it’s for the better.

Streaming Is Everywhere

Streaming music has changed the workspace and I predict that streaming television will do the same. The iPlayer maybe 12 years old tomorrow (having launched Christmas Day 2007) and, at home, we may have more choices than ever (Apple TV+ and Britbox have arrived in the last month alone) but outside of the home I think streaming video content will change the workplace. Aside from streamed conferences, streamed training courses and streamed meetings, we will move from the above-mentioned video conferences to connecting offices and home workers via a streamed camera, always connected all day long. And where streaming video comes it is closely followed by addressable TV advertising so, at work or at play, brands will be able to target us more effectively.

Voice Control Is Coming

In the last decade, three new people moved into your house. Alexa, Siri and the one who only responds to the phrase ‘OK Google’. And they want to follow us into the office too. I have been surprised about how easy it has been to shout commands to the box in the corner of the kitchen or to dictate a message into my phone without having to type on the keyboard. I’ve observed the way children have taken to talking to machines without any of the awkward feelings adults have. It’s bound to come to the office at some point very soon although I am not sure, exactly, in what form. But if they could take minutes in a meeting to remind us of our decisions (because in this day and age no human does), it would be a great help.

We Are All Storytellers Now

If one of the big trends of the last decade, that I didn’t really mention in the 2009 piece, involved the rise of the social platforms in our personal (Facebook) and work (LinkedIn) spaces (or both, Twitter) then the rise of the Story format across platforms (and, into messaging apps) is the social trend of the late 2010s. Inevitably, that will come into the workplace in some way. We’ve already seen the arrival of the work chat and social tools (Yammer, Teams, Slack and Workplace) and the visual – and temporary – nature of the Story format will invade the workplace in the next few years. As a company’s marketing team embrace the format for promotion and advertising then it will arrive as a corporate communication tool as well at as team level. A fun picture of your CEO ahead of a board meeting with a flashing ‘yaaasss’ label – it’s bound to happen!

Of course, in many ways, these are fairly minor changes to the way in which we work and the spaces in which we work today. We are undoubtedly going to see more and more automation in all aspects of our lives and, I suspect, we’ve only just started with the impact of ‘Big Data’ on all aspects of our lives. Workplaces, especially in customer-facing spaces, will finish the transition to cashless and all of us will be working in more environmentally friendly ways over the next few years – we have no choice in the latter and, I suspect, the same goes for the former.

As I said at the end of the last one, “If I am lucky enough to remain employed for the next ten years, I wonder what changes will appear?” – hopefully, I will around to update you.

(thanks to Abba for the title)

Looking Back on Looking Back

We’re playing the nostalgia game again. This time looking back to the last look back.

Life is full of repeating moments, isn’t it? This morning I got up at the usual (weekday) time. I went to the station, tapped-in and got on a train. Pretty much the same as every other working day this year. But somethings repeat themselves on a lesser frequency. Say, once a decade.

I wrote these words on Christmas Eve 2009:

It’s not unknown for me to state the obvious, so here goes. Today is the last working day before Christmas. And for many, including me, it was the last working day of the year. It has also dawned on me that it’s the last working day of the decade.

curnow.org, 24 December 2009

As I haven’t written very much on this site in 2019, I thought I’d look back at my comments from the end of the last decade and see if they still ring true to me and my experience working in the last ten years. And, next week, I want to see if I can come up with any new observations on workplace trends that may see us through until 2029. 

First, out with the old …

Internet Access Is Ubiquitous In The Workplace

The first one is not really worth discussing: almost every job has been impacted by the internet and not just those who work in offices. Is there an industry in 2019 that is not, somehow, connected? And who would have predicted that I’d be walking around with access to 25GB of mobile data every month. Also, how do I end up using most of it?

Digital Connectivity Hasn’t Cut Travel

I stand by the comments that travel has not been cut; I probably travelled more for work in the second half of the decade than I did in the first. The planes were marginally more energy efficient – but not that much more comfortable – but that ubiquitous connectivity I mentioned isn’t ubiquitous in the sky, thankfully. Nobody really needs to answer emails 35,000 feet up in the air, but when you do it is kind-of fun.

Business Travel Still Sucks

Even when I wrote those words ten years ago, I had a disclaimer: “But, as long as you know it sucks, then it’s still a great deal of fun”. And, as I travelled more for work I really did enjoy it more. My general travel mood was improved by my self-imposed rule that 4am starts should be avoided at all costs and – at the very least – travel to arrive the evening before you need to start rather than on the day itself, even for short distances. For work, this decade, I travelled further than I ever had done before for a business meeting (11,400 miles) to Auckland, New Zealand where I really did have to avoid traveling all that way for just one meeting.

Constant Connections Means No Off Time

We have even less downtime that we did. Who’s answering Slack messages at 10pm? Now, that is a sentence that would not have been written ten years ago but the development of more of these productivity tools has meant we can answer questions everywhere. If you’re in the right job that can be empowering but, anecdotally, I know people who feel their employers abuse it. So, nothing changes here and maybe improved connectivity has made it worse. Still, it’s acceptable to use emojis in work messages now.

Companies Haven’t Embraced Remote Working Opportunities

Of all the items on my 2009 list, this is probably the one that had changed the most. I think many more companies are embracing some kind of flexible working even if it’s not totally remote. I did spend about 18 months working from home in the last decade and I thought I would enjoy it but, in the end, I didn’t. I found it isolating and – at times – quite lonely. When the staff of my local Starbucks started to become my only connection to other people during the working day I knew it was time to find an office again. In doing so, I ended up working in some incredible offices spaces for people who were less concerned about the 9-to-5 than getting the job done (although they all adored instant messages and so my previous point stands). I think many workplaces have improved over the past ten years: I learned that stand-up desks are one of the most productivity-enhancing improvements for office-based workers but I also learned that almost no companies want to pay for them. A desk that could be raised really did work for me when I access to one. Maybe I should talk to my current boss (but maybe a raise of the pay type is a better first ask in a new decade).

So, I think my big five from ten years ago have more-or-less continued and have become workplace norms. Perhaps they were already quite well embedded in the way we had been working by the time I wrote that piece. I didn’t talk about the rise of the social platforms in our personal lives and the impact they would have on our professional lives but they did impact working life and I think there’s a lot more to come on that.

I’m going to save my thoughts on trends of the last ten years until after Christmas. I won’t be working on Friday but it is, officially, a working day so I’ll aim for then. They say you should always tease your audience, don’t they?

In the meantime, Happy Christmas.

turkey.rats.lobby

Although it was not squeezed in anywhere – the grounds of the old house were substantial – it was squeezed in

When I was 14 years old my family moved house to a place on the road into (or out of, depending on where you are heading) Shrewsbury, Shropshire. In my mind, I probably have a bunch of stories buried from that time. But one thing that sticks our from the first months (or maybe years) that we lived in Shrewsbury was how difficult it was for anybody – including, at times, the Royal Mail – to find our house.

We moved to a newly built house with an address supplied by the Royal Mail. But the building was in the grounds of another, much older and grander, house and our patch of land was out of view when looking from the main road. Although it was not squeezed in anywhere – the grounds of the old house were substantial – it was squeezed into the postcode and numbering system that existed along the road. It was 89a and, a few years later, we were joined by a second new build home imaginatively numbered 89b.

If we’d been dwelling in a property along the main road, perhaps a property split into multiple units, then I think that deliveries would have easily found us. But, being out of the way, behind the trees, it was hard for people to know we were there. When talking to visitors I was able to describe the post box on the street and the driveway to the right which needed to be followed. In the days of online delivery where every address is database-matched it was harder to leave instructions for somebody to actually locate the front door.

Last week I was introduced to a piece of technology and a mapping algorithm that would have solved all of that. In fact there’s a lot of problems this solves. For example, I work in a large building in central London. The main entrance in on one street while the goods entrance is around the back on another street. But they have the same address. Think about how many times your GPS has taken you to the front door of a building when you’re actually in a vehicle and need the car park at the rear. Or what happens if you need emergency help stuck in the middle of the countryside at a site devoid of postcode and building number?

I haven’t written about too many technologies recently but the possibilities for this one are amazing. If your shopping is to be delivered by drone then much better given them an address that is actually your roof terrace or your back garden rather than the pavement in front of your door.

So, do go and get what3words (there’s an app). They have divided the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and assigned each one a unique 3 word address which is easy to remember, clearly located and remarkably simple to use. You are able to talk about specific locations, in multiple languages, with real recognisable word sequences. Words are easy to remember and, usefully, are simple for voice assistants to understand.

But, I do have to wonder, if the Queen really uses Buckingham Palace’s entrance at turkey.rats.lobby: https://map.what3words.com/turkey.rats.lobby