Category Archives: eastbourne trip

Eastbourne, TD Record Month and ACHC Quiz Night

As promised in last week’s blog, this week has been rather quieter. I’ve done no exercise as my foot was giving me too much grief (my arthritis I think) and sciatica grumbling, so no runs across the downs, still no golf and only one dog walk. Not even a cross trainer session in the garage.

Snow in Eastbourne

Web Design Work

I spent the early part of the week in Eastbourne again helping out with hospital trips. It was also an opportunity to do a huge amount of work which I duly did. The bulk of the work was getting to grips with the new Fastbreak Sports web site project. I had I thought successfully migrated the data out of their SellerDeck V10 site and next was the large project of cleaning up the images (making them square) and picking out the larger ones. I was then in the process of importing into my local staging WordPress. I was trying a couple of plugs ins, the Woocommerce csv import and also a WP All Import plug in. I think i’m going to have to do a mixture of both to import all of the data. Something I do need to get my head around is the importing of data into custom fields for their Google Shopping feed. This will also then help me out for another couple of web sites – The Stapling Company and J & J Air Systems. I also did a lot of updating on both of those web sites this week.

British Battles

John Mackenzie of Britishbattles.com preparing another map

On Thursday, I popped in to see the very talented John Mackenzie who runs the British Battles web site which I helped to set up for him in early 2002. Until recently this was by far and away my busiest web site (now possibly Trading Depot) sometimes having 10,000 visitors a day. Since the rise of Wikipedia and other niche history sites, traffic has dropped off a little. I recently migrated their web site to new hosts Nimbus where the speed has improved and costs reduced. It is also hosted via Cloudflare to minimise the bandwidth through their caching service.

John spends a huge amount of time researching each individual battle / war and documenting accordingly. He also draws all the site maps under the John Fawkes name and which are some of the first source maps on the Internet. His Twitter site has over 13,000 followers and he is also preparing for a lecture tour, starting with a U3A talk on Braddock soon. A very interesting person and I always love catching up with him.

Fasthosts migration to 20i

This is still carrying on with a few sites a week. I’m now down to just over 50 packages to migrate – obviously the harder ones. I’ve also cleaned up the number of active customers I have – think it’ll be whittled down to around 75 actives sites that I host by the end of the project. I’ve extended the project timescale to September now due to a particular client who was frustratingly non-understanding of what I was trying to do.

Snow Arrived

We had another dumping of snow on Thursday, R & J were delighted as it meant no school on the Friday. I’m feeling particularly guilty though as I was going to go to Wycombe on Friday and means I’ve not managed to get into the Cater For You office for the last couple of weeks now. It was end of month though so handy to concentrate on that. I don’t particularly need to go in as the fabulous team can manage perfectly well without seeing me.

Rebecca spent the snow day baking and making snowmen and Jamie went out with his friends and came back soaking – just what he should be doing 🙂 We also dug out the long forgotten snooker table – I used to love playing it when I was a child and practised for hours. Molly loves it too unfortunately.

Trading Depot Record Night Out – Crazy Bear Beaconsfield

I did manage to join up with the Trading Depot team on Friday night out for a meal at the Crazy Bear in Beaconsfield, to celebrate a significant milestone in their monthly sales targets. The team are a very good bunch and all work tremendously hard, so fully deserved their pat on the back. I carried on with my dry January which I successfully completed so was not quite as much in the spirit as others, but I always enjoy their banter and laughter. I’m hoping when my Eastbourne trips finish that I can spend a day or two more a month working there (if they’ll have me of course).

Screaming Frog Insights

Screaming Frog

I carried on running a few reports on Screaming Frog to help reduce errors on my web sites. This was partly re-ignited by my chats with Darren on Friday evening. I ran it on this site, also linking to Google Analytics and Search Console. There was a huge amount of images from 10+ years ago that were missing, so after trawling through a few old backup hard drives, I managed to track them down.

Trying to find missing images to cut the 404 errors

More oddly, I also noticed that Google is waiting to index over a thousand pages from the site – they’ve been crawled but wondering if it thinks they are spam. The site hasn’t got many good inbound links, though does have an ok (nothing special) page and domain authority. I was wondering if duplicate content is hampering it, so installed a plug in to just show excerpts from my blog posts rather than the whole post. I shall keep an eye on that over the coming weeks.

ACHC Quiz Night

achc-quiz-night-140-people-feb-2019
ACHC Quiz Night at Amersham Free Church Hall – 140 People

The quiz night is one of the biggest social events of the Amersham and Chalfont Hockey Club year and significant fund raiser. Possibly only the end of year dinner dance is bigger, though that isn’t a fund raiser, more a celebration of the playing season. It was therefore a huge disappointment that Challoners Boys School cancelled the hire of the hall on the Friday due to health and safety concerns with the snow. The committee (well done to them) managed to re-arrange it to the Amersham Church Hall, but they couldn’t change the temporary bar license from Chiltern District Council as they need five working days (bureaucracy at its finest). So it was bring your own booze and ask everyone to donate generously to the raffle instead. We were the ‘No Animals, Just Vets’ team, the Over 40’s table and we came fifth, though I think drink was the winner.

Next week sees another couple of days in Eastbourne, hockey coaching after a two week layoff (depending on snow I guess) and hopefully back to running. Also expect to finally make an appearance at Cater For You again. There is also a big birthday to be celebrated, so my dry January will finally be (temporarily?) broken.

Dead Peppers, Eastbourne and Litter

Trip to Eastbourne

Run across the Downs from Crows Link to Birling Gap
The Jazz arrives in Friston

Thank fully a quieter week this week as I spent the first three days down in Eastbourne to ferry my Dad to and from the hospital. The least I can do after they’ve supported me for almost 50 years. It is always good to spend time with them, though the continuous antiques programmes can become a little tedious, though I can see why they are addictive… It did mean however that I managed to get through large volumes of work just sitting there from first thing to last thing. The other thing that is good as I’ve mentioned before is that they are right on top of a hill in the Downs. I therefore had a couple of beautiful runs across stunning countryside, and was fortunate that the weather was just cold and not wet.

Eastbourne Hospital

When we popped down to Eastbourne Hospital, a few things struck me. Firstly was the litter shoved in the bushes around the car park and looked like it was from people standing around smoking. Quite astonishing. I think the litter was particularly in my mind as I had to skip the FPA’s annual environment conference up in London, always very interesting. We are lucky in that we had free parking, but apparently the parking is outsourced and in their attendant hut they have three people and a ticket payment machine so surely someone could a. pick up the litter and b. the break even of the car parking must be high and exasperate the level of car parking charges for sick people and visitors. Overall though, the service from the NHS has been nothing short of superb.

Runs Across the Downs

View between Crows Link and Birling Gap

As i’m continuing my rehabilitation back from my achilles problems over the last couple of years, it was a pleasure to get back out across the Downs and absolutely stunning countryside. I did two runs, one up towards Jevington and another to the coast and Crows Link / Birling Gap. The latter is much tougher in terms of elevation but each have stunning countryside.

Jamie trying out his new stick at a snow covered Amersham and Chalfont Hockey Club!

Jolly Farmer Meal

On Wednesday when I got back, from a green Eastbourne to a snow covered Chalfont, we popped straight out with the family and a few good friends for a meal at the Jolly Farmer in Chalfont St Peter. I’ve only had a couple of meals there since it re-opened after transforming from ‘The Village Hall’ and they’ve been superb. The service I think is something that sets it apart from similar local establishments. I had the full starter, main and pudding, delicious. I’m still doing dry January so stuck to lime and soda’s. Not sure how deep I will go into the winter with my lack of drinking, i’m quite enjoying sobriety again. I did it last year and previously for my half marathon too.

Run to Amersham

I decided to have a go at just extending my running my an extra mile, and I was unfortunately really slow and struggling. A real shame as it was a favourite run of mine a couple of years ago down by the Misbourne, through the fields and woods from St Giles to Amersham. It also means Molly can have a stroll through the Misbourne and drink at the turn. It is odd that the flow is still strong there and nothing from Chalfont St Giles. I’m afraid there was still no golf again this week, though my friend is back from holiday next week so may try and shoehorn a quick round in. I did also get my hybrid bike service at Dee’s Cycles in Amersham for a princely sum, so also hoping for a few more trips down to the canal and a bacon sarnie!

Web Work

As I alluded to above, I managed to get through a huge stack of work, even working all day Sunday again unfortunately. There was some decent updates on J & J and The Stapling Company where I popped in and took a lot of product photos and updated the layout somewhat. I’ve designed their site using the Genesis Framework on WordPress and they wanted a table layout for their product categories so bought a plug in from Barn2 Media, which unfortunately didn’t work out of the box. I was extremely grateful for both of their technical supports to guide me accordingly.

We also had the mock up of the new Cater For You web site mobile / responsive design. I think it needs more work, especially given the lowly conversion rate at the moment compared to desktop. I also sourced some eye watering quotes for hosting, but Magento is a high powered beast!

My Deanta Internal Doors blog post for Trading Depot also saw the light of day after the WordPress update I did was fixed by Darren! The V5 upgrade didn’t go quite as smoothly as others I’ve done.

Greenhouse Clearance and Switch Off

So after the last electricity bill and blaming Jamie and his Fortnite playing, I wandered into my greenhouse and it was warm…. much warmer than the snowy outside… so no wonder the peppers and chillis were still growing ok! So this Saturday I’m afraid was the big switch greenhouse heater switch off and a clean up with some Jeyes fluid. The propagator was also cleaned ready for new seedlings in the next few weeks and more electric consumption.

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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 http://www.tradekitchensuk.com/ 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.

Weekend in Eastbourne

R and J chasing Bubbles
Sarah was galavanting round the gorges of the Breacon Beacons last weekend, so I took the opportunity to take flight down to Eastbourne and catch up with the family, once I had taken R & J to a couple of parties they were invited to.

We turned up after some long traffic jams on Saturday afternoon and we made some giant bubbles which was great fun. Their garden really is extraordinary, so much room and things in it. The selection of fruit and veg is astounding.

Sunday we popped down to Auntie Sarah’s for a bar-b-q which was jolly good fun indeed and R & J throughly wore themselves out.

On Monday the Birger family turned up for more Rebecca present giving – her birthday lasted more than 8 days which is fairly impressive! Rebecca was over the moon to see her Uncle John. They stayed up rather late and for the first time in years I had to wake both of them up on Tues morning at 8.00.

Great stuff 🙂

John and Rebecca