Client Visits, London and Hockey Coaching

Hockey Coaching

So I started the week with another session of hockey coaching with Paul. Again, I really enjoyed it and came away with a beaming smile. The session was tighter than the previous week and we tested the attendees with some extended basics and finishing with a game. I’m now almost certain that it is genetically impossible for anyone over 40 to cleanly reverse stick the ball whilst being second nature to the youngsters. Another common shout from me in the session was elbow out to exaggerate the dribbling to the top D. Unfortunately, i’m not able to attend the next two sessions as I’ll be down in Eastbourne with my parents. The club is very lucky (hard work by various voluneers) to have such a talented group of youngsters coming through the club and also the older generation still keen to learn and progress whilst giving support to the younger members.

Web Work

The first half of the week was all about Cater For You and J & J Air Systems. Cater For You is still knee deep in a new Magento platform’d web site design and we were presented with the drafts for the responsive site. If we can increase the lowly mobile responsive rate then that’ll pay for the project itself. I’m also sorting out images which can and cannot be used for the project. We still have a swathe of images not touched for 15 years and are too small or not suitable and we’ll need to re-take hundreds of photos. It has also prompted me to look more closely at dead stock / slow moving and whether we want to take them across to the new web site.

New VOIP phone system at Cater For You

We have also invested in a brand new VOIP telephone system. The team were complaining that the old analogue lines were quiet and with the increased number of phone calls and size of team they couldn’t hear customers very well. Delighted to hear that this system has fully resolved that and they can hear clearly. Only downer was the people who installed it did no training for the team which was a bit odd.

The end of the week saw me based at CSE and then Trading Depot, both companies I’ve been working for since the early 2000’s in various guises. The latter has released a podcast featuring me as the guinea pig for the first edition – the following ones do sound a lot more exciting – maybe download my one if you have insomnia? Really enjoy going there as there is always so much going on and first time I’ve seen them since the Christmas do – my Dad dancing seemed to amuse them….

If you do want to hear my voice and a 1 hour summary of how my career has progressed over the last 30 years or so, give it a listen. You can download the podcast from here or click below.

London with Becca

Banana Cake – Cater For You recipe

Rebecca had her braces fitted this week so we had made some nice soft banana cake for her to eat earlier in the week. She then asked that we do something together on Saturday, so obviously I jumped at the chance for a bit of time with her. We popped into London once I’d dropped Jamie and his bike off at a friends and headed straight for Oxford Street with the aim of being at Canary Wharf at darkness for the Winter Lights exhibition / show.

Whilst I cannot stand shopping, I do enjoy it with Rebecca and she milled around the various clothes shops buying the odd thing. What was interesting to me though was how busy say Top Shop, John Lewis, H &M were then went into my favourite, Debenhams and it was really dead. They are having a tough time with sales at the moment and teetering on the edge of administration, I wondered about buying some shares, but if their store has no footfall on Oxford Street they really are in big trouble. Obviously there isn’t a bit segment in the market for middle aged men who don’t go shopping!

Winter Lights at Canary Wharf

A quick search of what there was to do this weekend in London showed that this was the main attraction. When we arrived in a packed train, Canary Wharf was busy, though not unbearably. Surprisingly, it is the first time I’ve been there, despite the fact many of my friends have worked there of the years. It was quite an eye opener for us with the skyscrapers reaching into the starry sky. A cold evening, we trundled around a few of the sights, where eventually we picked up a map, and realised it was a lot bigger than we had thought! After seeing about half of the displays and stopping for some fries, we decided to pootle back home and defrost in the tube. Well worth going to though and we eventually arrived back home shortly before 10pm.

Batchworth Lake Walk to Cafe @ Lock 81

As I was spending half the week away in Eastbourne, I thought it would be nice to spend the morning with Sarah and Molly. I have previously mentioned on social media and my cycling blog posts that I love the Grand Union Canal by Rickmansworth and in particular the beautiful Cafe at Lock 81, so we parked up at the Aquadrome (currently free parking but soon to be paid for) and walked around Bathworth Lake and down the Canal to the Cafe. It was a crisp sunny morning, so a warm cup of tea and their fabulous bacon sandwiches were just the ticket.

Before driving down to Eastbourne, Jamie and I popped to the hockey club to mess around and practice whilst also having half an eye on B who was playing in the ladies Over 45’s game. Unfortunately they lost heavily to a very good Canterbury side who were a pleasure to watch.

As well as the dog walk, this week I went for the usual 10k run over to Chorleywood and back with Molly, couple of treadmill workouts and most importantly no golf.

Run with Molly – by the Dumb Bell field

Hockey Coaching, Playing and Work

Another busy week to keep me out of mischief, mostly working but all enjoyable and almost enough to get me out of bed on time.

Hockey Coaching

I was really excited about this. For almost the first time in 20 years I used my level 1 hockey coaching qualification. Unfortunately my good friend Mark has been long term laid up in hospital and so no longer able to coach the Monday evening Men’s session, so I volunteered along with the current Over 40’s Captain Paul to run the sessions.

We did a session plan over the weekend firming up via messages and having watched the 3’s and 4’s, we wanted to bring in several key elements to the session:

  • fitness (it was the first session after Christmas!)
  • basic skills – stopping, passing, slapping
  • moving with the ball and receiving on the move
  • finishing skills (who doesn’t like shooting at the goal in practice)
  • implement these in a game
  • make it fun and non-stop, I can’t bear it when coaches talk forever

With Paul’s leadership, I thought it went well, although ragged in some areas but I will learn from that if asked to re-run the session (which we were at the weekend). I was beaming from ear to ear on the drive back from the session – probably as it also allows me to play a little bit despite being injured which I miss so much.

Working Week

Donburi Plastic Bowls

As always, a busy week (though only about 60 hours according to my timesheet), so busy in fact there was no time for a quick round of golf! Cater For You is the majority of my work these days and my current day to day activities are uploading new products, monitoring the SEO, working on the data for the new web site – the last of these is primarily making sure all the images are good enough quality. This is a huge amount of work – I did something similar for CSE when I upgraded their site finding tucked away product images that have been not been updated for 15 years. Last week’s new products included some Japanese style Donburi plastic bowls.

Other work included some consultancy for AJH Cables, there is a lot of great unique content but Marc needs to put more order into it to make it simple for his customers to find the information they are looking for. He even gets lost looking round the site! Further updates to J & J were also undertaken. I’m very pleased with the progress we’ve made on the site, visitor numbers are higher than they’ve ever been even back at the start when there was no competition.

On Thursday I had a Trading Depot board meeting which I enjoy as I get to see a much more formal, larger scale view of how to run a business with views and inputs that I wouldn’t ordinarily come across. I’m popping in for a couple of days later this month to look at some innovations and Darren is also launching his podcast series which I feature in the first ‘demo’ one – i’m not sure I want to listen to it despite his assurances I sound ok!

Also on Thurday, I went in to see an old client in Chesham – Fastbreak for a catch up. I was delighted to be asked to re-do their existing SellerDeck site (which I launched many years back) and migrate it to WooCommerce over the coming months. Following that I popped in to see someone new on Waterside, Chesham. They are a trophy engraving business, but don’t think i’ll be able to help them out with my current skill set. I do enjoy meeting new people and hopefully helped by talking through a few issues with him.

I’m also still busy migrating my portfolio of customers from Fasthosts to 20i who have been a revelation with their support. I’ve started on the trickier customers now and the .com domains are proving harder as the propogation seems to be a lot slower. The newer instances of Outlook aren’t helping either as it wants to fetch the server settings automatically rather than let me override with the new ones so I have to make a double visit where customers need assistance. Very time consuming. Three more sites moved last week.

Over 40’s Hockey & Cycling

The Over 40’s under new captain Paul Mailey (I relinquished due to my long term injury issues) played on Sunday against Old Cranleighans. We had previously played them two years ago as our first ever competitive game (since we re-started) and had gone on to compete in Tier II. This was the first game of the Tier II so we had to win. This time though we were hammered 6-0, a scoreline which I thought was completely unjustified of how well we played. We had as much possession, as many short corners, but were missing someone who stayed on the p spot with clinical finishing (Martin in my opinion who I had a drink with on Saturday evening and is not going to be playing hockey for a long time if ever). My role was to cheer lead from the side and be an emergency sub for a few minutes if required. Unfortunately, and this is precisely why I don’t go along and watch, I couldn’t resist playing and came on for the last 10 minutes. Loved every second of it, though felt another couple of years slower. Fortunately my achilles was fine the next day but I did feel it in the warm down.

I didn’t do much running last week, but did drag myself out on a cycle ride along my usual route around Ley Hill / Hawridge and back through the Heaths. After about 5 miles of the 32, my feet were like blocks of ice, the rain didn’t help morale much either. I’ve entered the ballot for the Prudential 100 and hear back sometime in February so need to get the practice in. I did try and find a new cafe that has opened in Hawridge, but obviously not that hard as I didn’t find it – turns out it isn’t open yet!


Finally have a new gig to go to – Bootleg Blondie on 20th January. The word Bootleg though is a little misleading as Clem Burke the original drummer and mainstay of the band is playing in it. Looking forward to it – at Shepherd’s Bush. I’ve also updated this site with my original Billy Idol and Human League listings – I’ve also updated my Discogs entry with my complete listings of these two.

Chalfont St Peter

Chalfont Saints at the NSE under threat

I’m still loving being in Chalfont St Peter, my Molly walks are just fabulous in the countryside surrounding the village. I’m also still trying to find the time to update the web site I currently manage. I’m rather upset though reading social media threads to see such a lot of anti social behaviour in the village, car thefts, burglaries, fly tipping and other more serious crimes (cash points being stolen!). Hopefully the community can work together to overcome these issues.

The photos to the right above is of the Chalfont Saints pitches based on the NSE. This is a thriving sporting base for the local community, but I understand the NSE are having it re-designated as brown field and planning to build houses on it in the next couple of years. This is a real loss to the community but I hope they can find alternative sites on their swathes of greenfield they own to re-locate this valuable sporting asset.

HS2 Chesham Lane

HS2 is also in full swing – the photo above shows how much they are earth moving at the moment. A very helpful security guard came and chatted to me and told me they are only there until February (which seems a bit short term) and how many lorry movements they are making – I’ve forgotten what he said already something like 20 a day maybe). The lorries are churning up that corner of the village and not sure if the road will last, it was already full of holes before they started. That whole area might have to be straightened with the shaft, NSE building and maybe linking to the Newland Park development (also now underway).

Garden Club

My new membership arrived this week. I’ve been a member for many years, my Dad is a life member and he contributed far more than I ever have. I chip in with their web site which also needs a revamp and due a beer with one of the members who manages it on a day to day basis. I did update it to SSL recently which prompted me to start the conversation. The beer will have to be non alcoholic though as i’m currently doing dry January and considering extending it further (except for significant birthdays). Speaking of my gardening, something is digging through all the external patio planters and vegetable patches which is a shame. I am still growing peppers and chillis in the greenhouse though, remarkably long growing season.

New Year in Cawsand Cornwall

View from just outside the house we rented in Cawsand – wonderful to wake up to

We often go away with our good friends for New Year and this year was no exception. Al had found us a superb place by the seafront in a place called Cawsand in Cornwall. It is a small village on the other side of the River Taymar to Plymouth.

The four storey town house was ideal for the eight of us who went down (a pity there wasn’t a few more) and a great base for a few excursions in the five days we had down there (unfortunately we had to come back a couple of days early for school for Rebecca and Jamie).

We arrived early evening on Friday 28th and after a quick unload of the car at the front door (you block the whole narrow street whilst emptying the boot), and once rooms were sorted, we dumped the stuff and hot footed it around to the nearest pub with a few spaces and still serving food – the Half Way House. We settled in for the evening drinking the local (Korev) lager and bitter. I also remembered I loved Cornish cider brand rattler so tried one of those too, but it wasn’t quite as good as my memory thought. Korev though was the default selection for further pub visits. The pub team were very friendly and we had a variety of food, I chose the sea food pie and it was delicious.

Penlee Walk

The next day, Saturday, once we had finally arisen, we just did a local walk up to Penlee, a steep walk, but the reward were some stunning views across the Atlantic and coastline. There was also an abandoned building right at the tip of where we walked to. It is also the site where The Coronation was wrecked in 1691 and is a protected wreck site.

We wandered back into the village and indulged Molly with some more swimming in the sea. She absolutely loves it and wanted to carry on fetching a stick from the water even though she was shivering. The best thing about the five days away for Molly was just how clean she is now after daily swimming. She was also very tired each evening when we were settling down to a dinner.

Run round the Rame Coastline

Rame Head run view from St Michaels Chapel
Rame Head run view from St Michaels Chapel

On the Sunday, I wanted to do the whole of the peninsular and do the full circular walk, so went out for a run with Molly and just loved the stunning views. The run was a bit tough, both after the night before and also the elevation. I’m also still trying to get my fitness back after so many months out with my achilles problems.

Circular Walk from Whitsand Bay / Crafthole / Whitsand Golf Club

Whistand Bay Golf Club

Post run we all went out and did a scenic walk starting just before the military firing base at Whitsand Bay. The first part along the coast line was scenic, but we were only a few yards from the road. The next section was along a busy road until we turned off down a beautiful country lane before eventually picking up a footpath. The footpath took us past a disused reservoir and eventually to the village of Crafthole and then across the footpaths of the Whitsand Bay Golf Club which took us back to the car via the Military practice battery.

After the walk, we left the kids at home and went to the Devonshire Arms pubs for some cream teas. Oh my goodness, they were absolutely delicious, warm, soft scones (or scones depending on how you pronounce it) with lashings of clotted cream and jam. I’m afraid I over indulged and had 2 1/2 scones piled high with toppings. I was too busy indulging to take a photo of them washed down Prosecco and Korev.

Cotehele / Calstock / River Tamar Walk

The following day just the four of us wandered out for a further afield walk around the River Tamar for about six miles starting at the National Trust’s Cotehele. It was another stunning walk around the former mining pits of silver / arsenic and lead, the railway line that supported the mines and now connects with Plymouth. The viaduct carrying the railway was particularly stunning and we had a quick stop there for another Korev and some nibbles to sustain us (cheesy chips in my case!). This walk really was a beauty and highly recommended and put us in a fine fettle for the evening’s celebrations to welcome in 2019. Roast Lamb was cooked and it was delicious. The odd bottle of Prosecco and Port was also consumed in a great evening. Molly was again fairly subdued after the day’s walking and early evening sea swimming trying to help Jamie catch some fish.

Cawsand New Year in Style – Fireworks and Swimming

Beautiful morning for a swim on New Year’s Day – Yacht and Submarine in the distance

As I said at the top, we’ve been to a few places for New Year and this has to be one of the best, though we were staying in the centre of the village which is unusual for us too. Just before Midnight we noticed a lot of people wandering past our house, so we joined the throngs and wandered down and found a spot high up over looking the bay and proceeded to watch some fabulous fireworks for 10 minutes or so. A very pleasant surprise.

Fast forward twelve hours and the local villagers led by the village bell ringing mayor held a fancy dress swim in the bay. There were plenty of participants who took the icy plunge (though it was a very pleasant sunny day) and all seemed to enjoy with a few drinks and food afterwards.

New Year’s Day to Whitsand Bay

Whitsand Bay below the practice battery

After finally emerging from the NYE celebrations, the party split up and we decided to explore Whitsand Bay beach more fully as a family and we were treated to some spectacular views and fabulous memories. It is a steep walk down from the military base but well worth it. Molly loved chasing a tennis ball in and out of the sea whilst we appreciated the sunset. R & J both had wet feet so think they’d enjoyed it too.

So a quick walk on Wednesday which I should really have run and gone round the other side of the villages and round and we were off back home again. I did keep on top of a lot of work over the Christmas break, but I have a mountain to get through to start the year with. All of it is good, interesting work and I’m looking forward to it. I might work from home a lot to try and keep my focus. I’m also looking to 2019 overall and I’m hoping to make some interesting changes to my life.

Happy New Year to all my avid readers – both of you.

Christmas at The Watts’ 2018

Rebecca and Jamie have been tremendously excited about Christmas since the beginning of December and Sarah has made a huge effort spending lots of time ensuring the Christmas period was as enjoyable as possible for everyone.

As usual we were lucky enough to have most of Sarah’s family round from mid-day. Sarah had prepared most of the food the day before so the cooking of the turkey with all the trimmings and the cooking was to perfection. My role in all this was to keep Molly out of the way on her two walks a day and a bit of oven opening and closing on the actual day itself. The Christmas Pudding and pouring with brandy and setting fire to it was as spectacular as ever as can be seen from the video below.

Chalfont St Giles to St Peter Meadow Dog Walk

Walk from Chalfont St Peter near the Water Hall

As well as the usual walks through Newland Park, I tried my favourite walk between St Giles and St Peter and it was sheep free, an absolute boon when walking Molly and having her off the lead. The second walk on Boxing day was particularly beautiful with the mist descending across the fields and the dried up tributaries of the River Misbourne. The circular walk is really spectacular, if the Misbourne is flowing then that is the icing on the cake.

Cookham Walk to the Bounty Pub

Over the winter, Molly has been getting pretty mucky, so we decided to take her out on another one of our favourite walks from Cookham to the Bounty pub alongside the Thames. The Bounty wasn’t open but the toilets were (fortunately for me) which was very kind of them. The land alongside the river seems to be owned by the National Trust as they are now charging for the car parking there. Which would explain why everyone was parking near the centre of the village and walking from there instead. It was an extremely busy walk, but Molly loves getting into the river and chasing sticks or balls. She was a lot cleaner by the end of the walk.

Thai Food and Golf Get Togethers

Yet another flat out week personally and work wise. After the huge meals on Sunday, a couple of days of famine were in order, so some reheated soup from the freezer – these soups in fact which we froze in their plastic containers. I also tried to step up the activity and did a few runs to try and burn a few calories off. Oddly, i decided to do a lot of skipping on Monday evening, i’m not sure how much, but maybe 7/800 or so and my calves for most of the week were really aching. Obviously need to do that exercise a lot more.

Chiltern Forest Golf Club with Marc from AJH Cables – stunning views across Aylesbury Vale

Chiltern Forest Golf

On Tuesday I caught up with Marc from AJH Cables at Chiltern Forest. He is focusing heavily on developing his export cable market and he had some really interesting customer stories that he has made great headway with. He is literally selling to every single part of the world and developing his huge range of contacts. He has also specified a brand new cable to be manufactured called Rawflex which is a reeling cable which he has also registered the name for. I’m running his web site through a few SEO tools such as Screaming Frog and SEM Rush to see how he can improve his site with some easy wins.

I do enjoy playing at Chiltern Forest, though it is tough – we started on hole 10 and these first 9 holes were a struggle and I marked my card with a shocking 57 but much like last week at Berkhamsted I turned it around with a 43 on the next 9 including a birdie (first in a while). As well as Marc’s company, the food was good and reasonable afterwards (skipped the soup and had ham egg and chips). The views are simply stunning on that course overlooking Aylesbury vale.

Wednesday evening was spent in Amersham town centre to catch up with Wardy who is back in the UK and Cremo kindly organised a few people for a meal at a Thai place called Tom Yum’s – first time I’d been there. It was fairly good, but the company was excellent and we finished off at The Beech House where the beers kept coming thick and fast! I’ve had too many beers this December so Jan – March 2019 will have to be a much more modest affair. Wardy seemed on good form and very fit and healthy with all his trail running he is doing. I was a bit upset to see Martin is suffering post knee op with sciatica and more.

Tom Yum & Beech House Amersham

I think there were also solid plans laid down for a golf tour in 2019 – this subject keeps coming up but nothing concrete planned yet. The last one was for Cash’s stag do in Porto almost three years ago now, but I think we will either go back to Portugal where a friend has a family villa or La Cala in Spain. The latter is preferred by my golf buddy who is currently laid up in ITU with Guillen Barre – something for him to focus his recovery on for mid next year hopefully. Very pleased to see a huge improvement with him this week when I popped in on Friday.

Queen’s Head Chesham

On Thursday evening Sarah and I popped over to the Queen’s Head in Chesham to do the quiz and have another Thai meal (two in two nights!!). Great fun with our friends there, an awful lot of giggling and laughter, but we didn’t win the quiz this time (Alvin and the Chipmunks, say no more). I was driving this time though giving my liver some recovery time and enjoying Sarah’s new car. Speaking of car’s, don’t panic everyone, but my trusty old Jazz passed its MOT again on Monday, so the filthy car will be my transport for yet another year… much to the children’s disgust.

The weekend carried on where the work week left off with a night out on Saturday evening and Sunday evening. The former was a delightful evening at the Tomlinsons to celebrate the last birthday of December (just the 5) which is Sarah’s Mum.

ACHC Fancy Dress Mixed Hockey

Sunday was a particularly special day as Olivia had organised for the resurrection of the Christmas fancy dress mixed games. I always looked forward to these every year when we could make them (normally on Boxing days) with various shenanigans happening and often ending up at Winkers. This was the first at the new club almost two years after we first started playing there. I think we ended up with roughly 18 a side and it was a joy playing with Jamie and Sarah. Rebecca was going to play too which I’d looked forward to all week but she had no mouth guard or shin pads and no point taking the risk. The game was good fun and great to see juniors with parents and many other members all playing a sensible, semi competitive game of fun hockey.

It was also my first game since the Over 40’s and I thought my achilles was fully repaired (I’d done a 10k trail run fine on Saturday with Molly), but alas, I felt it niggle half way through the second half and this morning it is lumpy again – rather upsetting as loved being back on the pitch. Will have to stick to my original target of next season in the 5’s with Jamie eligible for Saturday adult games.

Sunday evening was fairly impromptu with a quiet pint with Paul up the Dumb Bell. Bumped into my old friend Banner and we carried on until we were the last in the pub as usual. Rebecca has been after a part time job too and might have sorted that out for her. A great way to round off the blog week.

Dumb Bell Pub

Quiet Sunday evening drink sorting Rebecca’s job prospects

In between all that I did also do a mountain of work for Cater For You and various web clients. I’m trying to generate a lot of content and promote various sites to improve back links and domain authority. It seems to be working already as C4U has gone up in ranking and domain authority.

I’m looking forward to a quieter start to 2019! Merry Christmas to you all, have a good safe one and see you on the other side.

Christmas Meals and Golf

A beautiful walk across the Downs with Rebecca and Sarah at the weekend

Another busy week with work and play.  A few old hockey boys got together for a Christmas golf jaunt around Berkhamsted Golf Club to chew the cud and play some average golf.  I arrived on time for tee off as I was busy finishing off some work phone calls and emails.  It was an interesting course to play in beautiful countryside with no sand bunkers but plenty of gorse and hillocks to test us.  I was playing off my ‘Golfshot’ advised handicap of 22 and managed to hit my 36 stableford score – though that was by paring 4 of the last 5 holes – my front 9 was an appalling 51.  The main issue with my game is 0-50 yards to the green – anything up to 160 i’m ok and putting is fine, but this short game often costs me 15 shots a game, extremely frustrating. Thanks for Davey for sorting it out again.  There was also plenty of talk in the bar after of an overseas golf holiday for next year, we’ve not been on one since our Porto trip a couple of years ago.

I really enjoy seeing my old hockey mates many of whom are from the old debauched days of 20 years ago up to the current day where many are now directors in major companies.  The topic of Brexit obviously cropped up and it was distressing to hear just how many jobs have already been moved abroad and contingency plans for wholesale uplifting of operations.  Funnily enough, they aren’t announcing these moves in the press – one involved a subsidiary which has already moved 700 jobs.  The damage being wreaked on the UK economy is really upsetting.

Work wise I’ve been doing some liaising on the new Cater For You web site which has now slipped back to March.  I’ve an awful lot of content and photographing to do in January ready for the new site.  One of the customer service team has also tendered his resignation which is a real shame, though it is to work with his Dad’s company.  Just the third long term member of the team to leave in the last 8 years.  We will see how Brexit pans out and whether we should replace him.  Starting to consider contingency plans in case the economy comes to a full stop with a hard Brexit. Also uploaded a few more new products including a full range of bakery food packaging.

I had a catch up with an old colleague from CSE who has set up at AJH Cables Ltd.  He helped me a huge amount with content at CSE and helped to really push that business forward – he is now doing some really exciting things with his own business, particularly in the export markets.  I said I would help give him some top level ideas for him to implement in the digital area and i’m looking forward to hearing more about how his new venture goes.  Amusingly, we are both through to the SME Bucks awards in Milton Keynes in February so will share a drink and story with them too.

On Thursday I popped in to see a very old client of mine – John Mackenzie who has created the British Battles web site and which used to be my busiest web site peaking a few years ago with 10,000 visits a day, quite astonishing.  The web site really is a tour de force of work and I always marvel with the effort that he has put into researching each battle and painstakingly documenting them from many sources of information.  The more recent battles are as long as any degree dissertation.  Hosting cropped up as an issue though as bandwidth is huge with the images and volume of visitors. We currently have a dedicated server and Cloudflare, but need to reduce the cost as it is unsustainable at present levels.

On Friday afternoon I finally managed some Christmas shopping.  I popped into Amersham, where I also accidentally topped up on some Vinyl records too.

Friday we popped down to my parents for my Dad’s birthday.  Great to see my sister and her boys again for a lovely meal at the Sundial Restaurant. We’ve been there several times to celebrate various events and they always serve a meal of the highest quality.  The meal was a good standard again and everyone on top form.  We unfortunately had to walk the dog in the evening in the dark and wet and windy weather, fortunately The Tiger Inn was welcoming and we dried off with a couple of local pints of lager, warm fire and friendly bar team.

On Sunday we went and walked off the Saturday and also made room for two Christmas dinners that we were having that day.  Firstly a wonderful family meal in Eastbourne by Mum and then three hours later at the Scott’s for the ‘B’s Dining Club Christmas Special’.  Fortunately not as raucous as last year when there was heavy snow. We went to bed thinking we’d re-run the Vicar of Dibley Christmas special though.

Exercise wise it has been a bit quieter with a round of golf (as above), treadmill run and a few Molly walks, but that is it.  Things need to be stepped up a bit, not least to work off the weekend and impending Christmas dinners. 

More Parties, Work Week and Running

Crow Link Coastline

Crow Link Coastline Low Tide

I was wondering when I thought about re-starting this blog whether I would have enough material to do a ‘weekly’ blog post summarising what i’d been up to.  The first two weeks have been busy!

This week started with a trip down to Eastbourne so I could ferry the parents to and from a couple of hospital appointments (to carry on a theme for last week!).  A tough time ahead for them unfortunately.  On the flip side, it meant that I was able to do a lot of work in peace and quiet and managed to crack on with some more J & J Air Systems CompAir and Bambi Air Compressor updates and of course Cater For You.

Whilst I was there, I also managed a couple of runs from their Friston base with the Downs and stunning countryside literally on their doorstep.  My Achilles recuperation is coming along well, I still have a bit of pain in the left one but it is definitely getting there.  Unfortunately, i’m still a long way from playing hockey which I miss dreadfully.  It is now almost two years since the right achilles went (tendinitis) with only a few months of fitness before the left one went in the Over 40’s final.  I’m targeting a return next season when Jamie is eligible to play and pootling around in the 5th XI with him and possibly the odd Over 40’s game this season if we are short (think that will be too soon though). I have been asked to try my hand at umpiring, but I’ve always been appalling when I’ve tried previously.

JJ Air Systems

JJ Air Systems Champion Air Compressors Photography

Once I returned on Wednesday afternoon, it was back to normal and a hectic work schedule.  Thursday was a catch up with J & J to plan some more developments and a quick pop into Cater For You to catch up on the comings and goings.  I’ve a backlog of about 20 products I have to put up on the site ASAP which i’d promised Jason (our fab purchasing manager) I would put on-line the previous week. Fortunately none of the products are Christmas products.  We also had the latest designs for our new site which is an evolution of the current web site but looking absolutely fabulous.  The timings seem to have slipped already which is a bit of a worry as we have the toughest development / integration bit still to come.  I’m still really pissed off about OGL / ProfitPlus API not being developed ready for our project, despite it almost being ready when they demo’d it at the start of September.  Then again, we cannot integrate our new VOIP phone system and they took many months to sort out MyHermes after disputing it was a major carrier! Anyway….

On Friday I had a series of meetings / catch ups with clients which I always enjoy, though you don’t actually manage to do any work! I started the day badly by going out in the rain for a short run and somehow managed to hit a lamp post with my shoulder – I was wearing hi vis so not sure how that happened… (idiot)… First up was the Community Centre where I was too early and hadn’t actually said I was going so went off to CSE where there was a chat about how to finish off their new CSE UK web site.  This has been in progress for way too long and this was to try and get it over the line and operating as was originally intended.  Good to be back at CSE as they have a great Marketing chap working there now meaning I’ve not had to do any work there for many months.  I started working with John in 2001 and he is also my C4U business partner – I thoroughly enjoy working with him.  He also bought me fish and chips for lunch, what’s not to like!

After CSE / Wooburn Green, I popped over to Fastbreak Sports in Chesham where they were having an email order confirmation problem. Turns out it was an issue from me moving one of their domains over to my new hosting company 20i from Fasthosts.  This is proving an immense project trying to migrate over 200 domains and hosting and I’ve not started on the trickier ones yet.  20i has been a revelation of customer service and also price point – I guess things might change as they get larger (I hope not).  Once Fastbreak was sorted, I caught up with someone else in Chesham to talk about moving forward with a brand new business – I’ve registered and will put some holding information up for them soon to get it propagating.

Once these series of meetings had finished, it was a quick change and off out to the Cater For You Christmas dinner at Taplow House Hotel.  The team has worked tremendously hard again this year, and I know they were all looking forward to being there.  We had partners along again this year and we numbered a total of 28 people, a record.  We’ve added three more people to the team in the last year. The meal was very good, the venue was very impressive, though I didn’t get to mingle as much as I could of done.  My impromptu speech in the bar at Midnight could have been a lot better too!  I did particularly enjoy catching up with a lot of the team, a highlight was with Sue and Partner Steve.  I’ve been working with Sue since 1992, she is an inspiration to me and just a brilliant person as well as pure silk on the phone when chatting to our customers.

Philips Wood Trail Running

Philips Wood Trail Running with Molly

Peppers from the Greenhouse

Peppers from the Greenhouse

Saturday morning was a late start, but I did take Molly out for a 10k jaunt over to Chorleywood and back.  Like my parents, we are very lucky being so close to the stunning Chiltern’s countryside though HS2 is re-starting in earnest at the back of us.  The run was a bit muddy as they’ve been doing tree work in Philips Wood but Molly and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  There are also some sheep on the way which Molly enjoys seeing, fortunately they are well fenced in to keep Molly out. I also attended to the greenhouse where absurdly I still have peppers and chillis growing.  I was hoping to have it all cleaned and empty by now ready for the start of a new growing season in February.

Saturday evening was a night out I was particularly looking forward to, a few beers with some old Robertswood Dad’s to catch up on a few months. Just very chilled and relaxing in the Merlins Cave Chalfont St Giles.  I think that is my favourite pub at the moment.  Such a shame they’ve closed my old second home the Waggon and Horses in Chalfont St Peter, but it had gone downhill in recent times with some poor landlords and Greene King just wanting to cash in on the property value rather than manage it properly.  The Dumb Bell has had some investment into it over the last year, but I just don’t seem to have the urge to pop in there as much.

Sunday didn’t stop either.  When I finally got out of bed after watching some dispiriting politics programmes about Brexit, I got to work on the garden and clearing up the leaves.  The oak tree has finally shed its last leaf and so I could get to work.  I managed to fill our green bin and four recycling bins with leaves before having to just push them to the edges ready for when the composting has started and the next empty green bin.  I need to do a lot more work on the garden and hope to put a bird friendly new hedge in down one side as soon as spring starts springing.

Next off we’d been invited to Milton’s Cottage for John Milton’s 410th birthday party.  I have been working on their web site on and off since around 2002 through Sarah’s Dad who was Chairman of the Trustees for many years from the 80’s to the 2000’s (I think).  We happened to randomly bump into a few hockey faces too but it was particularly heart warming listening to fond stories of what Philip did for the cottage over many years.  The current trustees though are a world away from that era and have done an astonishing job to secure the future for generations to come.

To round off the week, the road had a festive get together at one of the houses who were overwhelmingly generous with their hospitality.  It is great getting together with everyone, we are very lucky having such a close community in the road and though we were late it was fun catching up with everyone.

I always thought I was fairly busy, and another week recounting what I’ve been up to kind of confirms that!  The week coming up is no different.

Christmas Parties and Work

PET Cake BoxesIt has been another very busy week since the last blog post and the upgrades to our data networking around the house,  On the work front I have been continuing to do some preparation for the new Cater For You web site.  With the help of SellerDeck, I finally managed to extract all of the data out in spreadsheet format to see what needs to be updated.  I thought I / we’d been thorough when adding new products – something that I think differentiates us from our competitors who just put the basics supplied by manufacturers and why we are near the top of the Google rankings… but I was wrong.  So that means I’ve a huge amount of measuring, weighing and photographing to do before February.  Unfortunately OGL who supply our finance system ProfitItplus have been incredibly unhelpful in finishing their API for data exchange, but fortunately we have a fall back option and everything is still on track for February.

We have a number of new products that I’ve been very slowly adding to the site – there is a great range of new PET cake boxes (photo above) ready to go up as soon as I’ve finished preparing the photographs I took last week. It is currently one of our peak times at C4U so I also spent a few hours in the warehouse putting stock away whilst the rest of the team were coping with the landslide of orders.  The seasonality of the business has always struck me as slightly bonkers and impossible to have the right resources available for all areas, but there is not a lot we can do about it.  Only a few more weeks and then it is low season until Easter next year (hence why we do our major projects between now and then!) and all our mince pie boxes are tucked away for another year.

I’ve also been doing a fair amount of work on the new J & J Air Systems web site where we’ve doubled the traffic since its relaunch, along with the enquires. In addition to the CodePath tool I bought for the SellerDeck extraction above, I also renewed my subscription to Screaming Frog SEO tool, I did a blog post on my Chalfont Web Design to cover that. Some good news on this front was that I had a successful ballot application for a ticket to BrightonSEO in April 2019.  Love going there and absorbing the best techniques and what is coming up in the future, it really is insightful.  We still also use the services of a dedicated SEO company for Cater For You for the really technical areas, but there is so much that most web sites can do easily to improve their rankings relatively easily.

Amersham Hospital ParkingI popped into Amersham hospital this week to have a blood test to check up on my Psoriatic Arthritis numbers and was staggered how busy it was and how much it cost.  For the first 30 minutes it is free, but after that it was £3.50 for the next 2 1/2 hours.  I would have preferred to use Chalfont St Peter hospital as it is local and free parking, but unfortunately, a few years ago they scrapped the queuing system and they outsourced the booking of appointments, where the telephone line is open for 3 hours and it is normally engaged.  Surely that outsourcing cost would have been better employed paying the phlebotomist for another hour a day rather than a third party telephone service – it is almost like the local health authority are trying to make it difficult to be used and maybe close it due to under use.  Saying all that, I was lucky to get a space at Amersham, the queue as I left (two 1/2 hours later) was almost back to the main road.

CSE Bowling and Curry night out

So after a busy week, it was a busy weekend.  I was very lucky to be invited by a couple of my customers to Christmas do’s on Friday and Saturday.  The Friday was a pleasant evening out with the CSE Distributors team in High Wycombe bowling and then a great curry in the Chutney.  It has been ages since I went bowling and enjoyed it.  I also enjoyed spending some time with the CSE team too as I’ve not seen them for a while since they employed an excellent full time marketing person.

Saturday evening I was out with the fabulous Trading Depot team who have worked tremendously hard this year to keep up with the growth in the business.  It was a great night out at Windsor Race Course and parties organised by Best Parties Ever with acrobats, good food and decent disco afterwards.  The facilities were top notch, though not sure my Dad dancing was…

Home Networking Upgrades

Loft 5 Amp Socket and Network Router

Loft 5 Amp Socket and Network Router

It has been a while since I’ve regularly blogged and since then, R & J have tipped over into double figures and thus heavy data and device usage.  I have the best broadband from Virgin Media at 200mbps (though on checking it turns out not the best, they now have a whopping 362mbps!) yet we were all struggling with enough bandwidth over wi-fi.

Jamie asked for an x-box, a very straightforward request we though as after all ‘all his friends have one’.  That isn’t quite how it turned out.  First the old plasma television we had ear marked for the job didn’t support HDMI and Scart connections weren’t good enough, so we had to acquire a new television.  Then apparently, the wi-fi wasn’t good enough for Fortnight (yes that kiddie crack as one of my parent friends put it) and it kept lagging out.

To rectify this (or so I thought) we asked Virgin Media to move the broadband router into the lounge for the new TV (Amazon and Netflix were also cutting out and poor quality on the wi-fi) and add another Tivo box upstairs.  I naively thought I could have them run the broadband upstairs too, but that it turns out is not part of the deal!

Cat 6 LAN Cable UTP Solid 4 pairs

Cat 6 LAN Cable UTP Solid 4 pairs

So, for several months we had network cable running all round the house and veritable trip hazards including up the stairs to the Fortnight hibernation room.

I therefore turned to our local fab electrician Vincent who popped round and scoped out networking the house so that no more wires were required to run along the floors.  We needed the cables running from the new router location in the lounge to the garage, study and upstairs bedroom.

He proposed CAT 6 networking cable run up  the side of the house inside some trunking on the side where it is more exposed to the elements into the loft to a new network switch. From the loft back down into the garage and the X Box room.  Vince also put a cable directly back into the study.

At the same time, we decided to deal with the issue off too few USB plug adaptors by swapping over a few plug sockets with new ones that have USB points included.  These have proved particularly useful at overcoming the problem of other people unplugging someone else’s charging device and missing adaptors, hunting in obscure places for where they may be hidden.

Study networking USB socket

Wired broadband in the study and USB Socket

The net result of all this is that we have super fast broadband in four rooms with the capacity to drop cables into many more rooms from the loft if required.  I can now do my web design uploading and downloading much quicker than over wi-fi, the TV streams programmes no problems, I can watch football on my laptop in high definition in the garage doing a work out and Jamie doesn’t leave his room for days on end as Fortnight no longer ‘lags out’.

Not just an X-Box after all…

London to Brighton Cycle Ride

Ditchling Beacon pano

About a year ago, in the Dumb Bell over a pint or two, Cashman and I were chatting, as we do and drifted onto the subject of cycling. I was in yet another enforced hockey injury sabbatical (see previous Hockey Masters post and my achilles issues) and needed something to keep me fit to try and limit the risk of my Psoriatic Arthritis coming back.

Bacon Sandwiches at Loch 81 Cafe So we decided to enter the London to Brighton cycle ride and started our ‘training’ going down to West Hyde. From there we picked up the canal (nice and flat) most Sunday mornings and had a bacon sandwich at Lock 81 Cafe (highly recommended) and a cup of tea before cycling back.  That ride is a measly 12 miles or so, not quite the 56 or so miles for the London to Brighton cycle ride!

Spring arrived and Cashman bought a new road bike as we thought that it could be a bit tough on his old mountain bike and we started doing some more training.  At this point, we owe a huge thanks to Finchy, a seasoned professional who showed us some of his favoured local routes.  Shortly before the actual ride I was riding 2/3 times a week through the long sunny evenings normally over 30 miles each time.

Training near Ley Hill

Training along the country roads near Ley Hill

I used to love running as I explored the surrounding countryside and places I had never been before and beautiful views.  Cycling takes this to the next level and Finchy showed us a whole series of routes around the Chilterns, predominantly via Ley Hill (where I might have occasionally curtailed a ride to see my mate Martin!), St Leonards, Cholesbury, Hawridge, Hyde Heath and more.

I surprised myself with my training and even hired a bike on the Isle of Wight, completing the round the Island cycle route with my brother in law.  That was an epic achievement over a whole day covering almost 70 miles, glorious countryside and a lot of hills – who knew it was quite so hilly.  The roads (unlike Buckinghamshire) were like cycling on a billiard table.

So the day itself came along and I had no qualms about finishing thanks to the IOW trip, just the odd worry about a puncture – but I have tyres that minimise that risk.  It was a dry day, though overcast and cold at the start at Clapham Common.  Thanks to Cash’s better half Ang for driving us there for our start (and for driving my bike back from Brighton too).

We set off a little later than we hoped at 8.30 and were quickly on our way.  The initial few miles were a series of traffic lights and roundabouts, which was tricky with clip in pedals and we saw one or two people falling off their bikes at the lights!  We were soon out of the suburbs and into some beautiful Surrey villages coasting along with the crowds.

London to Brighton Lunch Stop

London to Brighton Lunch Stop

We did stop for lunch, but the queues were so long we decided to press on without eating – we had plenty of reserves about us, so confident we could keep going.  The ride was a delight until we arrived at the hill at Ditchling.  This was an absolute killer, but I had gone ahead of Cashman so thought I would try and cycle the whole way up and relax at the top.  I managed it!

The final ride into Brighton was a delight and the city is really geared up for cycling though again the constant traffic lights were there to stop and start us.  By the end of the ride, I was tired but also ecstatic that i’d achieved what we had set out to do and tick it off my non bucket existent list.  The time of just over 4 hours was pleasing too.

The beer with Cash and our families in glorious sunshine and hot weather was well deserved, even if I had to drink it out of plastic pint glasses.

The two long rides have really whetted my appetite and I’ve entered the London 100 cycle ride and hear in February whether I’ve got a place or not.  In the meantime, with the darker nights, my cycling is restricted to the weekends and maybe a few more bacon sandwiches…

Below is the Strava route (slightly short) and a few photos of the day.

A huge thank you to everyone who sponsored me too, raising over £400 for Versus Arthritis.