The Original App Store Was Your TV (or Radio)

Regular readers (ha!) will know that I tend to keep track (or a copy) of significant postings I make elsewhere on this site so that I have a consolidated view of my various ramblings. Don’t ask me why.

Earlier today my friend Austin sent me a link to the video embedded here. My original response was on Facebook but I’m saving it here because the video makes me smile.

Austin Scott shared this video today. It brought back so many memories. It’s funny to think that we downloaded programs from the television & radio in the way that’s shown towards the end of this video. “Stand by for the software transmission” (at 5 mins 30) is very funny but it’s really how we used to do it. Who could have foreseen the app stores? I remember recording programs from the radio which was much easier. Who had a TV that connected to a cassette recorder?

10 years after this TV programme aired, somebody asked me “why do we need email when we have the fax”? Naming no names here to protect the guilty.

Seeing the old BBC Micro really reminds me of my final years at school. My O-level computer project was to design a piece of software and I developed a contact & mailing management system. It was too great a task to undertake in BBC Basic. I finished it but only managed to submit the coursework thanks to my parents spending an evening printing the code (yes, we had to do that) and helping me file it properly. Today, I guess we’d call it CRM. If only I’d kept at it. Perhaps it could have been Salesforce.

Feel free to comment on Facebook.

My 2013 in Pictures

I’m about to ask you to step into your Tardis and pop back to 2004. A mobile phone with a camera was not exactly rare but also not very common either. It was at the very beginning of an era when cameras would always be with us. I discovered that the camera on the phone provided a unique perspective on the year. Almost every year since then, at the end of the year, I have curated some pictures that summed up the previous twelve months. Of course they are both very personal and also reflective of the year as a whole; if you materialise in 2012, for example, you’ll see images from the London 2012 Olympic games.

Equally fascinating is the technology that drives this yearly retrospective. In 2004 it was a Palm Treo (the first real attempt at a smartphone) that took the pictures that I manually filtered; the 36 of 2006 became a collection shared on Flickr while the technology had moved on and by 2009 the view was automatically created by dopiaza’s set generator, again on Flickr. In recent years, while I still create the automated selection (2013’s most interesting can still be seen on Flickr), I’ve stepped back to the personal curation. Sometimes, the machine is not always best.

The 2013 retrospective is, again, a uniquely personal memory of the last twelve months – a year when I spent more time than I could have imagined in airport lounges and on the other side of the world. Many of the moments in the collection are from Melbourne which was a fascinating place to explore.

This year the technology behind the images took another leap. 2013’s set was taken and compiled entirely on a smartphone using the Flipagram app. Fewer than ten years ago the phone images were poor quality pictures; now they are high quality images that can be manipulated quickly through the apps provided by the likes of Flickr and Instagram. No traditional camera and, really, no PC involved. Back in 2004 I think you’d have expected to set your Tardis 3004 to find that kind of technology.

This year I learned much about the community of YouTube which will, no doubt, the the subject of another blog post at some point. Flipagram allows the video it creates from the pictures to be uploaded as a video to YouTube. It marks another leap in the review of the images of the year.

So, here are my moments of 2013 – compressed into 15 seconds of video set to my favourite dance track of the year, Nabiha’s ‘Never Played The Bass‘.

And if you’re on a device that can’t see the video, try it over on YouTube.

My 2012 In Pictures

Back in 2004 cameras were not at all as commonplace on mobile phones as they are today. Back then, browsing through my phone’s images I realised I had a rather unexpected, somewhat candid, summary of the year in blurred low resolution photographs. I wrote about it, collated 100 of the pictures here and posted the pictures on Flickr. To me, the most interesting thing about that collection is that it’s made up of many of the small moments that I’d otherwise forget. Genuinely, my 2004 was reflected though the everyday. Of course, cameras on phones were of low quality and it’s likely that pictures of the most important events in my life that year were taken on a better camera. Happily, Flickr provides a way to see the year through all the photos I took but there remains something fascinating about the photos I chose to take on a mobile phone camera.

I recall creating a similar collection for 2005 but I can’t find it anywhere. I created a list of 50 images that summed up 2005 and curated another 100 mobile pictures on Flickr in 2006 (and a 36 for 06 collage), a reduced set in 2007 and, randomly, 176 in 2008 when the camera on my Nokia didn’t seem to be that much better than the 2004 Palm.

In 2009 I relied on a computer,’s set manager and Flickr’s social features to automatically generate the most interesting 36 images for that year – mobile or not – and you can see them on Flickr. It’s a different way to look back on the year and – because it relies on other people’s selection – it’s inherently less personal. Looking back on them now, after 3 years has passed, you’d be forgiven for thinking the only thing to happen to me in 2009 was snow.

I don’t appear to have curated (or automated) collections for 2010 and 2011. I could set the machine to do it today but I think that moment has passed. I guess I was reviewing the year in other ways at that time.

Olympic Rings at Tower Bridge

Now, the cogs in the machine have been doing the same for 2012 and the 36 most interesting of this year’s pictures are collected on Flickr. Pictures surface to other users on Flickr for a wide variety of reasons and these collections change. The most popular of my 2012 photographs, as I post this on New Year’s Eve 2012, is a picture (not snapped on a mobile phone) taken at the end of June of the Olympic rings hoisted high on Tower Bridge. If you’re reading this at a later date that might not be the case.

Stumbling across that collection, as I did earlier, made me wonder what I would choose for 2012. This has been a memorable year and I wondered how my chosen pictures would differ form the machine’s collection. At first I considered using Instagram as a way to view the year yet, despite the recently-added ability to view the pictures on the web, there didn’t seem a way to collect a group for the year.

So, I went back to my phone and decided to quickly collate a set; for speed I opted for a simple rule: one photograph from each month that appeared in my phone’s Photo Stream from the year. So, I have “2012 Year In Review: The 12 of 2012“. As you would imagine, both sets feature the London 2012 Olympics often, and there are a couple of over-lapping pictures, but they are subtlety different. I imagine to an outside observer they may be remarkably similar but I can tell the different at a glance.

Both Twitter and Facebook have provided me with an alternative way to review my 2012 via my Year On Twitter and my 20 biggest moments according to Facebook but, somehow, the 12 photographs below work better (also on Flickr). Of course, the full London 2012 Olympics set on Flickr brings back a lot of memories but these 12 put the year into a little more context.


There’s always a ‘they’ and, in this case, ‘they’ say life begins today. If that’s true then quite what the past forty years have been I have no idea. For some reason that I have yet to understand, turning forty is a point when people look back. They don’t do it so much at 39 and, I imagine, not so much at 41 either.


A 40-Yr CollageThere’s always a ‘they’ and, in this case, ‘they’ say life begins today. If that’s true then quite what the past forty years have been I have no idea. For some reason that I have yet to understand, turning forty is a point when people look back. They don’t do it so much at 39 and, I imagine, not so much at 41 either.

Still, maybe it’s not such a bad thing, this looking backwards. Perhaps looking back helps, as someone once said, refreshes the eye, “to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward”. Or perhaps it’s just what we do.

A potted geography would look like this: around forty years ago I arrived in this world in a place that wasn’t too far from the wooden planks that made up the place Wigan Pier would have been had it really been a pier. I was too early for it to have been the tourist attraction it became. As I entered the second decade of my life – around the point they thought they should have a pier tourist attraction and the moment the new romantics took over the music scene – you would have still found me in Wigan (where, I was reminded earlier this week, Spandau Ballet’s To Cut A Long Story Short was the first record I will admit to buying). We got used the fact Kajagoogoo’s Limahl, who was a local boy, was being played on the radio and it was somewhere around this time that I became fascinated by the voices coming out of the radio. By the middle of the decade we lived in Shropshire, where my first proper paid job was for BBC radio there, and by the end of it I was in studying in Scotland. At the height of the Britpop 90s I’d moved to London, trying to make advertising systems work, first for those voices in the radio box and then for the emerging online industry, and that’s where I’ve been ever since. I entered my 30s as we took in the new millennium, realised that I was lucky to live in the most vibrant place in the world, and was working with computing systems all days long. Like father, like son, huh?

The geography provides the markers on our own life-map but, of course, it’s the people who provide the highs (and, I guess the lows) which make up the contours on our map. And, while I take my moment to reflect I want to say ‘”thank you” to everybody who has made the last forty years so wonderfully rich.

When I was a child I imagined you would get to this point in life and you’d be able to write your own life’s acknowledgements, as though life was bound between two hard covers, but now I’m here I’m fully aware that it’s not the final chapter so the words won’t get written. Plus it’s hard. Of course, my family have been there throughout but I am not sure you can ever repay the debt that you owe them. But Mum, Dad and Jez have been there from the beginning (well, not Jez, he was some months later) and, while the bad bits are all me, they should get the credit for guiding my good points. Friends come and go in your life (and, thanks to the wonders of Facebook, they come back too). I don’t want this weekend to pass, however, without thanking all my family, acknowledging all those I’ve met along the way who’ve made sure this has been a blast and, of course, to Paul who – when I add it up – has been here for more than half of it and really makes it all worthwhile.

So, I’ll raise a glass to all of you. Here’s to whatever the next forty bring.

Elsewhere: Jon Curnow Joins aiMatch as Director of Product

aiMatch announced today that Jon Curnow has joined the team as director of product. Jon will spearhead the company’s product development efforts to ensure its advertising intelligence solutions continue to meet the needs of publishers around the globe.

Press Release: Jon Curnow Joins aiMatch as Director of Product

RALEIGH, NC, July 29, 2010: aiMatch announced today that Jon Curnow has joined the team as director of product. Jon will spearhead the company’s product development efforts to ensure its advertising intelligence solutions continue to meet the needs of publishers around the globe. Jon has more than 13 years of experience in the online advertising industry, and joins the fast growing team of industry experts at aiMatch including executives Jeff Wood, Guy Taylor, Ryan Treichler, Steve Perks and Chris Hanburger.

Based in the UK, Jon most recently served as head of product management for Experian Digital Advertising. There, he was responsible for defining product requirements for the European launch of Experian’s addressable advertising products with major European portals. Working across multiple business groups, he also defined technical requirements, coordinated data management processes, and developed work-flow and ad-platform integrations with clients to successfully deliver audience targeting products.

Prior to Experian, Jon worked with many of his aiMatch colleagues at Microsoft Advertising, Atlas Europe, Accipiter Solutions, and Engage. Throughout his online advertising career, he developed online advertising solutions for new platforms including mobile, television, gaming and outdoor environments. He also served as an evangelist for emerging media platforms to publishers, advertisers and media/creative agencies. For years, Jon has provided European product expertise and direction and contributed to the  development and execution of EMEA strategy for these leading online advertising technology companies. He has also held positions at Dynamic Logic and IPC Media.

“I’m excited to rejoin my former colleagues at a company that’s so focused on delivering cutting-edge solutions to help digital media owners better understand – and control – their online advertising business,” said Jon. “It’s also a great opportunity to work with an experienced team of experts who are leading ad platform innovation and development.”

“Jon’s experience includes roles in nearly every aspect of online advertising, giving him a unique and powerful perspective of the entire online advertising ecosystem,” said Jeff Wood, aiMatch CEO. “That experience will enable him to work with our customers to make sure they get the most out of their online advertising technology investment.”

aiMatch has created a single, comprehensive solution for publishers to create, forecast, model, deliver and analyze online advertising products. aiMatch delivers advanced advertising intelligence tools to help customers manage sales performance and analyze the data that impacts revenue, and to take intelligent action based on that data. aiMatch overcomes the limitations of traditional ad serving solutions by enabling the analysis of unlimited amounts of data, ranging from the very simple to the extremely complex, and making that data actionable.

About aiMatch

Founded by a team of online advertising technology experts who have been entrenched in the industry since its inception, aiMatch is dedicated to putting advertising intelligence (ai)  in the hands of online publishers, helping them create new and better defined audiences, create new revenue opportunities, and maximize the value of their advertising inventory.

At aiMatch we understand that premium, guaranteed inventory is a publisher’s primary online advertising asset. That is why the aiMatch solution equips publishers with a comprehensive platform to help them make intelligent decisions. We solve the complexity of business intelligence, forecasting, simulation and delivery with unprecedented and scalable capabilities that match the best use of a publisher’s online advertising inventory.

aiMatch connects insight to action, enabling users to view and interact with data in the “big picture” – to be proactive and effective in inventory placement, packaging and pricing. For more information, visit

Looking Back 10 Years

It was the last working day of the year and, as it turns out, the last of the decade. So, let’s play the looking backwards game. You know, the one where we all try to find something interesting to say about the last year, or in the case, decade.

It’s not unknown for me to state the obvious, so here goes. This was/is that 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. I guess, therefore, that I’ll play the looking backwards game. You know, the one where we all try to find something interesting to say about the last year, or in this case, decade. So, what have I learnt about working in the twenty- first century? Firstly, it isn’t different to my working life at the end of the l st decade/century but I’ll skip that marvellous observation and present the top five things I’ve seen change – or not – in my last ten working years.

Internet Access Is Ubiquitous In The Workplace

I ended the last decade having just left an organisation where you had to have special permission to have online access. Ironically, I was part of the team building their web content. And, although my world view is biased because of the industry I work in, I think access is fairly ubiquitous. Of course that’s lead to the rise of personal blogging, Facebook, instant messaging and shopping in your working day. I do see a trend the opposite way: corporate filters and blockers are in place in more and more organisations to restrict access. Sorry chaps, it’s a losing battle. You should trust your employees more.

Digital Connectivity Hasn’t Cut Travel

I’ve spent a decade in industries supposedly working in ‘new’ media with organisations you would hope would embrace virtual conferencing to reduce the carbon footprint of their employees. It simply wasn’t the case because the need to actually sit face-to-face with prospects – for them to shake your hand and know if they can trust a word that you’re saying – remains. It’s only the economic climate that’s cut travel budgets but I don’t believe it has cut the need. In fact, digital connectivity may have facilitated more travel because you can be connected everywhere so why not send somebody off to cement the deal?

Business Travel Still Sucks

Business travel has an air of glamour. Lunch in Amsterdam, dinner in Milan sounds fun. How wonderful it could be. Generally, it isn’t. Unless you’re the boss, you’re on cheap tickets at the last minute with early starts and late finishes. Fly in, taxi to an office, meeting, taxi to airport and home by midnight to do it all again tomorrow. It’s generally bad for your sleep patterns, bad for a social life and it’s really, really bad for your waistline. In the last ten years the relative reduction in the cost of flying has meant business meetings abroad are really more affordable than they were. But, as long as you know it sucks, then it’s still a great deal of fun. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to a lot of places over the last ten years that I probably wouldn’t have gone to if my boss hadn’t sent me. And I would not have changed that opportunity for anything. I’ve eaten cuisines of the world and seen – albeit often from a taxi window – many amazing places. It may be unpleasant but it’s unpleasantness worth enduring.

Constant Connections Means No Off Time

This is one that I think most employees find themselves powerless to fight. Now that the last ten years have connected us, we’re always connected and so we’re always at work. Wasn’t the digital future meant to give us all more leisure time? But now, we’re answering emails when we get home and on the train heading into the office in the morning. We can answer calls from the boss while waiting in the doctor’s surgery and speak to an overseas office while sat in the pub (I don’t recommend that). Digital connections and a mobile infrastructure mean we have an expectation of immediacy and I, for one, remain to be convinced that it’s a good thing.

Companies Haven’t Embraced Remote Working Opportunities

I’ve established that the last ten years has connected us and thus allowed us to work all the time from anywhere. But I think employers as a whole – large and small – are failing to embrace remote working. There are many jobs – and I know it’s a long way from being all jobs – that are not so time sensitive that the 9-to-5 has to apply. There are few jobs that need to be done in the same office in those hours. But organisations – or maybe it’s the boss – fail to embrace the flexibility this could offer them. With many of the companies I have worked with (rather than for) I hear tales of how working from home is frowned upon and the thought of working from a holiday villa for a week is a no go zone. Now, I believe workplace culture is important because employees need to belong and interact with colleagues. But, we don’t need to be there all the time and we can work from 7-3 or 12-8 and be just as productive. We can work from our houses, a friend’s house, the local coffee shop and, in some cases, at 35,000 feet above the planet and still reply to your email. Remember, it’s results that count.

And so, that’s my random five observations. I could have noted how tools like Twitter are changing the way we interact with customer or how they’re replacing industry-centric publications by connecting you directly to people. I could have noted how smart phones mean office workers aren’t carrying laptops quite so much but you still see far too many laptop bags on those overcrowded commuting trains (why haven’t we solved that dilemma?).

If I am lucky enough to remain employed for the next ten years, I wonder what changes will appear? I suspect that the idea of remote working will be embraced by more and more offices where there are huge overheads in central office space that could be removed if people spend part of their time working remotely. I know it doesn’t apply to everybody but I suspect increasing broadband penetration and cloud computing means it’s becoming more and more feasible. I’m looking forward to the next decade. In technology terms, I really believe it will be the decade of the cloud.

The 2007 Collection

The 2007 MosaicAnother New Year and time for the regular yearly review as seen through the pictures that I take on my mobile phone. At least this year I am posting the pictures at the very beginning of the year! This year’s mosaic features 7 rows (for 2007) of 5 pictures.

The original idea was that pictures captured on a mobile phone provide an interesting view of the year. This year the Flickr photostream for my mobile shots shows 74 photographs – but many are from earlier in the year. See the full collection at Flickr. Of course, they only represent a snapshot of the year; a fuller collection for the year can be seen under the 2007 Flickr tag.

36 For 06

I have been re-arranging and organising some of my photographs on the site today. In a bid to ease the effort it really would take to maintain this site I am moving all my online photographs to Flickr. I have been using Flickr for a number of years and my installation of Gallery on this site had not been used for a long time. So, shortly, the domain for will point to a new page about my photographs.

2006 Mobile Mosaic

As a result I realised that I had not created the mobile set for 2006. In recent years I have been collating photographs taken with my mobile ‘phone camera into a story board for the year. In 2004 I selected 100 but for 2005 I only managed 50. In 2006 I was again able to select 100 images that told a brief story of the year. You can see the 2006 set at Flickr. The last couple of sets were illustrated by the inclusion of thumbnails of each picture. I decided against that this year and instead created a mosaic to showcase a random selection from the 100 best mobile picture.

So, the mosaic is a brief selection of the 100 mobile pictures that tell the story for 2006. Click here for the full set and feel free to comment the set at Flickr.

50 – 05

It’s that time of year again. I get to look back at last year based on the photographs stored on my mobile ‘phone camera. This year I had the Treo 600 and a Nokia 6230 to use but I didn’t seem to be a prolific as last year as I could only really find 50 pictures to sum up the year.

I have been using Flickr more and more this year. I find it’s the best place to store and share photographs. You can see more of these pictures (and comment on them) in the Flick feed for mobcam 2005.

Again, they’re very raw but they do show me what I did in 2005: Spain, winning the Olympic bid party, Formula 1 and more work travel including Egypt. I enjoyed it all.

2004 In Pictures

I don’t think it’s such a bad idea to mark the passing of time. I am, ultimately, sentimental. So, although I am not going to write a great deal about 2004, there is one thing that has fascinated me this year: some of the pictures of the year.

In January 2004 I acquired Treo 600 mobile ‘phone. This was the second ‘phone I had with a camera on it and it certainly isn’t the best mobile phone camera on the market. However, I took a few photographs and then, towards the end of the year, I realised that I had a photographic record of much of the year and it had been created unintentionally. It was quite a shock to look at them and put the year into context. Sure, many of them were taken with friends after a few drinks but I don’t think that matters too much. It certainly sums up a lot of the year!

A couple of days ago, I sat down to review the pictures. There were 265 of them. Some are blurred and useless, some pointless and some I really don’t want to show anybody else. However, I thought it might be an interesting idea to get the pictures down to a collection of 100 that sum up the year and I can keep as my Moblog memories for 2004. It’s a filtered collection limited by the technology (the pictures are very low res) and by the photographer (I am not keen on holding my phone and pointing it at people) but I think it does represent 2004 quite well.

Click on the image for the larger version and, if you want to read the captions, see 2004: A Review in my gallery.

Weekend Away

A weekend with my mum was a great deal of fun even if we had to pretend it was Christmas early!

I’ve spent the weekend with my mum at my parents house. PY was there for some of the time but he came home yesterday while I stayed for most of today. My dad is working away and she is off to join him for Christmas later this week so, in effect, this was Christmas for us. I did eat Christmas pudding at the restaurant yesterday afternoon but that’s about as far as I went (although the amount of food I have eaten means gym buddy will be very unhappy with me this week).

It’s been a very enjoyable weekend. When I sat down to write something I was going to say much more. I was going to write, for example, about how I feel closer to my family now than I have done in the years since I moved south; how it felt like a proper adult weekend with no flashbacks to being a teenager again or, simply, how much fun the whole thing was. Instead, I think I want to relax in the joy of it all.

UPDATE 14 December: My mum was worried about traveling alone for the first time in a few years. And, of course, everything was OK apart from the fact her luggage remained in London. Whenever either of my parents have taken connecting flights in recent years one piece of their luggage is always left behind. I wonder if that says more about them or the airlines?

Eleven Years In The Big Smoke

I’ve been in London eleven years now. Things have moved on a bit in that time.

Eleven years ago today I started my working life. It was my first post-university full-time job. I was a support engineer on a satellite audio network: the shifts seemed awful and the pay (at least in the first few years) not much better but I loved the job and the people. Many of those colleagues continue to be friends to this day although we haven’t worked together for seven and a half years. It also means that I have been living in London for eleven years, yesterday. I’ve been trying to locate things that have changed in that time. I live in a different place (but only the second place I’ve inhabited in London) and I’m on my 5th job. I don’t work the shifts anymore but, in many ways, miss them and the routine they gave you. I’m wi-fied, pda’d, multi-channeled and mobile (in the phone sense) where I wasn’t – which I guess means my money is being spent on more frivolous things.

London has changed that’s for sure. We have a Mayor and Congestion Charging. Docklands has grown beyond all recognition in the last eleven years; there are some new building on the skyline and the Southbank has been opened up considerably. Like Edinburgh, there are now branches of Starbucks (and every other coffee shop you can imagine) where once there were other retail outlets. The Gap no longer seems to be the height of fashion but then again I can no longer wander into a branch of C&A looking at all the clothes I don’t want. There’s still a good sandwich shop on every street but they’re now mixed in with branches of Tesco and Sainsburys who seem to have rediscovered town centres.

I know an eleven-year working life has allowed me to travel to places I, perhaps, would not have gone without work (and many I couldn’t have gone to with the cash from working). It certainly has allowed me to try more restaurants and cuisines of other countries than I ever though possible. I imagine I own more than I did back then but I can’t really quantify it (I may be a frying pan down and a dinner plate up but I’ve never really counted them).

I’m older, but fitter, than I was eleven years ago. I have a wider circle of friends in London than I could have thought possible eleven years ago. I’m always short of time now whereas I used to have to find things to fill the hours when I wasn’t working.

Of course the biggest change in those years has been social use of the internet: email, usenet and the web were not commonplace when I started working. It was that first job that introduced me to more than academic networks. When I first got an email address I only knew one person outside of my company who I could give it to. Now, it’s given me a career, a whole new way to express and organise myself and – probably – hours of entertainment.

All in all, I think I am a wiser, happier and more contented individual (perhaps I little more stressed). So, happy anniversary to me.

Dawn Traders

At 5am there was queues at bus stops that must have had ten or more people in some of them. There were many more twenty-four hour shops than I had imagined (why isn’t there one near me?) and plenty of road sweepers and street cleaners – people generally keeping the city going for the rest of us that usually awake later in the morning.

Yesterday, I rose at 4am and took a taxi to London’s Heathrow Airport. This is not an uncommon thing for me to have to do. However, I imagine that I must have been a little more awake than usual as I started to pay attention to a great deal more than normal as I was driven out to the airport.

At 5am London’s streets are far from deserted. In Shrewsbury, one of the places where I grew up, I am pretty certain it would have passed for a busy morning but for London it was quiet. People were walking all around the place. At 5am there was queues at bus stops that must have had ten or more people in some of them. There were many more twenty-four hour shops than I had imagined (why isn’t there one near me?) and plenty of road sweepers and street cleaners – people generally keeping the city going for the rest of us that usually awake later in the morning.

I worked a milk round when I was younger. I am used to people being up and around in the still hours before most people awake. This, however, was different. It was busy and, in places, bustling. It was not remarkable to see a few people in the streets but it was very startling to see so many people around.

When you walk home late at night and the buildings remain lit you imagine that, just like you are about to do, they will soon be settled in a dark sleep. Yet, as we sped through West London, I was struck by the number of buildings that contained offices or shops with all their lights blazing. Many of these were shut but were fully lit as though some invisible nocturnal customers were going about their shopping. Offices were lit as though an army of night-time workers were sat, invisibly, at terminals turning the wheels of trade. When you walk home late at night this seems normal yet, in the early hours of the morning before dawn, it seems eerie.

Most unusually there was a market stall selling, I think, fruit and vegetables. It was open and lit on one of the main roads heading westwards. I can not imagine there was sufficient trade but the stall was stocked, well lit and ready for the odd customer that would pass. Who is the strange stall-holder who works the dark hours sat by the street waiting for customers to buy his fruits? Shouldn’t he have been at New Covent Garden collecting his goods at that time, not sat on a cold A-road with no passing trade?

Then there was the man who pastes the new advertising billboards. At 5.15am he was on top of his ladder with a bucket of sticky stuff gluing a new poster for the morning commuters to see on their way into the City. I had always imagined these were changed in the mid-afternoon not in the middle of the night. It must have been far too cold to be doing that job.

There is a whole world that I am not familiar with. It’s really quite strange to come face-to-face with a city you do not recognise.

Alcohol Free

I gave up drink for Janaury.

consumption of alcohol is not permitted signI didn’t mention this before but I am rather pleased with myself for having given up alcohol for the whole of January. I don’t want you to think I’ve been craving drink or anything like that, but I decided it would be good for me after the all the alcohol you tend to consume over Christmas.

The interesting thing I learnt was that the most difficult thing was nothing at all to do with the actual drink. The hardest part of the exercise was dealing with other people. To start with people question your reasons. A test of will power became my default answer. Then there was their behaviour when I was around. It seems that having a wholly sober person in the room while you drink can be very difficult or un-nerving for some people. I had no idea people would react in that way – perhaps it made people face up to the amount they were drinking.

I also found some social situations very difficult because, deep down, I am quite shy. Drink is certainly a social lubricant and without it some situations where a little awkward. By the end of the month I was definitely feeling better about meeting people in pubs and at parties without drinking, but it wasn’t easy. It’s also not easy to be in those situations and find an alternative. London pubs do not have the greatest of choice. After a evening drinking colas and orange/lemonade drinks your stomach feels worse that it would have done on double the beers. My top tip is to drink Virgin Marys.

As to my health, I honestly don’t feel any better or any worse for the lack of drink. I guess it proves I never really over did it anyway but I expected something to change.

I imagine that I will have a beer tomorrow.