Category Archives: Uncategorized

Work Trip to Chandigarh, India

VIew across Chandigarh from our hotel

I was recently invited by my work colleague Darren House from Trading Depot to join him on a trip to India to meet up with a prospective new web design agency for their upcoming projects. After I had gotten over my surprise at the approach he was taking, he quite rightly pointed out that the local UK web agencies that had been used were all slow and unresponsive and generally also outsourced a lot of their work abroad too, so why not evaluate whether we could achieve the same things whilst cutting out the mis-communication of a middle man.

The agency Darren had arranged to visit is Axtrics who are based in the North West in Mohali, Chandigarh. They have a strong track record of developing web sites and systems for clients across the US, UK and more and had impressed with their initial proposal and Skype conversations.

Meeting with Axtrics

So off we headed on the morning of the May Bank Holiday Monday to catch a flight to their offices from Gatwick. Our first flight was an Emirates Airbus A380, the super jumbo, my first time on one of these and I have to say it was a magnificent experience. The ride was very quiet and the service was also very good. We arrived 9 hours later in Dubai at about Midnight UK time and hung around in the hard rock cafe bar for a couple of hours whilst we waited for our connection to Delhi. The three hour hop over to Dehli was slightly longer than usual apparently as the Pakistani airspace is currently closed after recent spats between India and themselves. Whilst we could have caught a bus or driven up to Chandigarh, the best option was to wait a few hours and catch another plane to our destination. By the time we arrived at what looked like a part civilian part military airport it was mid afternoon Indian time and we were pretty exhausted, not having had much sleep on the flights (we were flying economy, but I’m hopeless at sleeping in anywhere but a bed!).

Indian Driving Experience

For the whole of the time we were there, the team from Axtrics looked after us very well and extended much appreciated hospitality. This started with two of the team picking us up from the airport and driving us to our hotel, the Marriott hotel. This was the first time I’d been to India so the initiation into the driving styles was interesting. The first roundabout we came onto, the driver drove straight out between two cars who were approaching from the right (they drive on the same side of the road as us) as apparently they have to give way… which I didn’t know. I’m a nervous passenger anyway, but entering the roundabout at 30 – 40 miles an hour and slotting between to oncoming cars wasn’t something I was expecting. The theme continued as the driver and other drivers were constantly on their horns, realising later this was their way of telling other road users where they were approaching from. By the end of it, I almost got used to it – though Old Dehli was another level!

Marriott Hotel Chandigarh

Our overall experience in India was one of good service and everyone was very friendly with nothing being too much trouble. The level of security in the country was something I was not expecting and our first experience after the airports was at the hotel where they had security inspecting car boots and bonnets before they were allowed onto hotel premises and security bollards lowered. Before we could enter, we had to go through another security scanner ourselves. Once we were in we were greeted by very friendly personnel and shown to our rooms which themselves were one of the most luxurious rooms I’ve stayed in. The beds even had petals strewn across them!

Rare moment of relaxation amongst the exhaustion at the rooftop pool – complete with bathing pigeons

As soon as we had dropped our cases off, we headed to the rooftop swimming pool and bar, where we had a spare hour before going out for the evening with two of the owners of Axtrics including our main contact Rohan. The view was amazing with the start of the Himalayas in the distance and the bustle of street traffic below. I was keen to dip into the water, but wasn’t sure it was treated with Chlorine (I couldn’t smell it) and could see the local pigeons using it as an en suite. We could also see a beautiful metallic blue swift kind of bird swooping in and drinking from it and up above us an Eagle enjoying the thermals looking for some food miles below.

Japanese Indian Food

After an hour on the roof, we popped back to our rooms and got ready to go out with two of the owners to get to know them over some Japanese food – with an Indian twist. The food was delicious and it was great to get to know Rohan and his colleague Manjul over some tasty food and a few Kingfisher beers. We managed to cover many subjects including Brexit, religion and traditional Indian ways of doing business. Interestingly, Darren was very much the focus of attention as the project lead and main contact and conversations carried on as thus over the next couple of days of interactions – this was fine for me, happy to take a back seat to Darren’s starring role lol.

Eventually we got back to the hotel about midnight, exhausted after practically no sleep the previous night whilst we travelled for over 24 hours to our meeting place.

Web Meeting

On Wednesday after a deep, deep sleep and hearty breakfast, Axtrics very kindly picked us up and we made our way to the office to talk about their skills, Trading Depot and the overall projects. After the 30 minute or so car journey where I was slightly less unnerved by the Indian driving style, we were taken to meet the team. They tend to follow the clock according to where their customers are based ie USA, UK or elsewhere so we met around 30 of them, all of whom stood up in unison as we were introduced. Suddenly I had two thoughts, I’m back at school and I really should have worn long trousers to look slightly more professional!

Biryani in clay pots including goat and butter chicken

The meetings themselves were very productive, they all have amazing skills, in depth knowledge, and spoke superb English. We made a lot of constructive progress in them understanding the finer details of what the projects require. Again at lunch time, we were treated to an amazing curry, authentic local biryanis and butter chicken in clay pots. Oddly, they said they just threw away the clay pots rather than give them back to the original take away outlet. Included in the biryani was a curried goat on the bone – it was delicious.

Another thing we noted was that the vegetarians left the room whilst we were eating meat although they didn’t in the restaurant, but all the menus listed vegetarian food first and then non-vegetarian as the last options. Interesting as a completely opposite way of how we do it culturally. However, I did mention in my recent podcast I did with Darren that the vegan industry is taking off and very innovative in the UK so who knows, maybe we’ll catch up with India in a few years!

Chandigarh Lake

Chandigarh Lake and The Rocks

Once we had finished our marathon meeting by 5, we dropped our laptops back at the hotel and went straight out with some of the team who volunteered to guide us through the traffic and show us a couple of the best spots in Chandigarh – the Rock Garden and then the lake. Interesting the rock garden is made from waste products from around the area so a display of switches and sockets was oddly appropriate for a trading depot visit. The lake was beautiful with views for miles and across again to the HImalayas, though it was also extremely busy. Again we were grateful that some of them had taken time out to show us around their home town of which they were rightly very proud.

Chandigarh itself was a very decent place, built along similar lines to Milton Keynes with a grid system (though several decades before MK was built into the new town it is today) and has a huge potential to be somewhere special. The odd things were though the ‘mess’, what I would consider fly tipping around our village of hardcore bricks and soil etc were just everywhere and litter was also everywhere. Whilst we try and fix our plastic problem in the UK, if some of this goes into the oceans, there is little point in us trying to do anything. The same if not more so was applicable to Old Dehli which we visited the following day. I was really impressed with the education of the people we spoke to, the pupils who performed best were on the front page of one of our newspapers we were given, yet we also saw absolute poverty along the roadside – though again, nothing like Old Dehli.

That evening, we were again extended more hospitality, joining the team at ‘The Boat House’ a brewery and also more great Indian food. However, the owners were more than distracted by the big screen and the IPL – it is true, most non work conversations were based around whether we liked cricket, did we watch the IPL and who will win the forthcoming World Cup (in England!). Even the barman at our hotel showed us a fixture of a few of the International IPL players staying there.

Trip Home Via Dehli

I was looking forward to a decent sleep on the Wednesday ready for the long slog back home again, but unfortunately I was too keen to listen into the Spurs Champions League score vs Ajax and stupidly didn’t go to sleep until about 3am. Anyway, up at 8 for breakfast and then packing and off to the first leg of our trip from Chandigarh airport to Delhi. The stop over at Dehli was the most interesting as we had about 6 hours to kill. We dumped our bags at a hotel and caught a metro into Old Dehli. After making our way through the incredible smog and pollution, we had to go through security at the station before catching the very clean and fast metro. We then popped out to the most intense noise, heat, pollution and street business i’ve ever encountered. We took a quick stroll into the heart of Old Dehli, the shops, the street markets, it was utter chaos but brilliant at the same time. However, at the heart of it you felt just how poor a lot of this community is and we had to be aware of ourselves all the time. Walking down narrow alleyway where stray dogs, mopeds, motorbike and tricycle tuc tucs were passing from all sides. See the video Darren took on his phone for a sample of what it was like. We passed rows of beggars on our way back and also took our lives in our hands with a 10 minute tuc tuc ride back to the metro station – though it was completely safe and I loved it!

Watching the IPL in a sports bar

When we got back from the metro to where our hotel was, we stumbled on an upmarket bar, restaurant, hotel and cafe area with all the major financial institutions around us and had a few Kingfishers. There we pondered the depths of poverty and state of the environment just 20 minutes down the metro line vs where we were sitting which could just as well have been in Canary Wharf.

Unfortunately our flight from Dehli was delayed and we ended up sprinting across Dubai airport in the early hours to catch our flight back to London. The doors were closed behind us as we just about snuck on and returned to Gatwick on Friday lunch time.

So a whistle stop tour to and from India, six plane flights, several fabulous Indian meals, a few Kingfishers and a very impressive meeting with a professional web agency who have a very skilled workforce and capacity to take on large ongoing projects. My thoughts on India after just 36 hours is that it has huge potential, but has a struggle to take the huge population along with it whilst taking care of their beautiful country, the environment and suffocating smog. It really was quite a whistle stop work trip.

Video walking and in a Tuc Tuc around Old Dehli

Below is a video of some footage I and mostly Darren took around old Dehli to try and give you a flavour of what it was like – Darren is a very good photographer so thanks for sharing the videos with me!!

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.

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…

BBC License Fee

BBC License Fee Irrelevant

I was thinking about upgrading our TV the other day from our perfectly adequate 12 year old plasma TV to a much more energy efficient LED Ultra 4k HD (and other buzzwords which I need to research further) when I started to consider our usage in the house and what we actually need.  I then also thought about the BBC scrapping BBC3 and my thoughts veered towards the fact that the BBC licence fee is completely irrelevant in this modern era and should be ‘scrapped’

We only watch a fairly limited amount of television in the house these days, primarily it is tuned to Disney channel or if I throw a big enough tantrum, I get to watch the football.  However, what generally happens is that I invariably ‘watch’ the football on my dual screen set up whilst working on my other screen.  If the Tivo card is removed, the kids simply switch to YouTube and their devices to watch what they want – invariably though they watch YouTube whilst also having the TV on in the background.

So all in all, we actually watch very little BBC content and even the radio I listen to is usually non BBC stations.  However, when I do tune into TMS or 6Music, quite often they have texts / emails etc from listeners who contact them from various locations across the world.  Which also got me thinking as to why can they do that, probably not have to pay their license fee and subsidised by a compulsory tax on UK residents, except the over 75’s.  Many of my friends live abroad these days and simply bypass the BBC’s geo restrictions via VPN and don’t pay the license but watch and listen to the content anyway.

With my commercial head on, I was wondering why on earth this system is still in place and that the BBC should change its role in broadcasting.  The media industry is now global and local rather than by country.  It has a magnificent brand across the world, why not sell the content globally as a content provider rather than the outdated UK only content provider.

As an example, Amazon has purchased Top Gear (not the brand, but the essential branded content) and is basing its business model for Amazon Video at a cost of £79 / year (yes I know it includes other things as well) on this content.  The BBC has a huge bank of content it could put on demand to compete with Amazon, Netflix, Sky and everyone and still make the license fee optional with a large number of people taking it up not just in the UK but across the world.  I’m sure it could then also bid for sports again and other events by scrapping the flat rate everyone has to pay into a tiered model, basically doing what Sky and BT are doing.

I’m amazed that the BBC isn’t pushing to do this (the fear of change i’m sure) and wanting to move from a 60 million customer base to a 6 billion customer base and delivering multiple content channels across traditional broadcasting and on-line mediums thus boosting its revenue from the current £5 billion or so (similar to Sky who have a lot less content).

Mushrooms October 2013

Autumnal Mushrooms

Living next to the countryside we are lucky with our wildlife and tranquility.  Throughout the year we have many mushrooms appearing in the lawn before disappearing.  Here’s are few photos of the October variety:

Mushrooms October 2013 Mushrooms October 2013 Mushrooms October 2013

Almost end of Summer Term

Wow, its almost a full school year since I last blogged.  Jamie today went to his graduation to Key Stage 2 and Rebecca will be moving up into year 5 and coming up to her 9th birthday.  Time is elapsing at such a scary pace.

Had a good weekend with a bar-b-q and some friends round and Martin’s 40th over at Ley Hill – the vodka ice was hilarious.  ‘Unfortunately’ I couldn’t drink as I was on anti-biotics for my head after having a lump removed earlier in the day.

Friday night was also very good, went out with the team at Cater For You to celebrate last year’s record and the last quarter’s record sales.  It is a great team of people there, I hardly ever pop in there any more and leave them to it, concentrating on my web site design business instead.

Walk in the Woods – Buzzard

Half term this week, and I was lucky enough to have today off to be with Rebecca and Jamie.  Whilst lying in bed, I was wondering what to do with them today, however, when I finally hauled myself out and downstairs, R & J had already decided – “Can we go on a wildlife walk Daddy”.  Blimey.

So we trundled off down Chesham Lane and to one of the footpaths that go towards Rowands Nursery.  As soon as we came off the main road (which was pleasant but I was surprised how much litter there is at the side of the road) and into a field, Rebecca spotted flocks of Pigeons flying off and thinking it was us Rebecca then pointed out a much larger pigeon – or on closer inspection, a Common Buzzard – what a majestic bird.  Fortunately it came to rest and I was able to take a photo of it with my camera on full zoom and sat still for a few minutes for us to appreciate it.

Common Buzzard

Common Buzzard

Off to watch the hockey

Off with the usual suspects to watch some semi final hockey at the olympics today … Sadly not the GB team. I’ve arrived at chalfont and latimer station rather early so thought i’d write another blog on my phone…

Yesterday was another great day with r and j, we spent most of the day doing some gardening tidying up and planting lots of grass seed. They then went for a swimming lesson at amersham then the family hockey at newlands.

Jamie is really taking to hockey still he surprised me last night by doing a double spin with the ball last night – i cant even get that low to do it. I’m still feeling my hamstring too its gone about four of the last three seasons … Despite lots of physio visits. Also played with a few of the other youngsters who are moving through the club and they look very competent indeed.


Denham Country Park

Checked the weather forecast today and it said fine until 2pm this afternoon, so decided to explore Denham Country Park.  I’d never been there before and knew very little about it except for what is available on the web site.  It is a sister park to Black Park which we went to last week for a rather nice afternoon out (though it was packed).

First of all was finding it – Google thinks it is on the A412 (which it isn’t at all) but it is on the mini roundabout just before you get on the A40 to London and the turn off for the Buckinghamshire Golf Club.

Tree Climbing

Tree Climbing

An empty car park awaited at 10am (though still cost £2.50 – thanks Bucks CC) and we went out and explored.  After a brief distraction with some excellent climbing trees, we went across a field / meadow which R & J renamed as slug field and was very boggy and marshy.  We soon ended up at the Grand Union Canal which we wandered along for a short while again, past Denham Deep Lock and then over a bridge to a couple of beautiful lakes with superb scenery…. the perfect location to test out my marginally upgraded camera (out with the Tamron lens in with the Canon).

The Swans and Cygnets

The Swans and Cygnets

I remembered to take some bread along and at the River Colne we fed a Moor Hen and  Coot and then at the lake we fed some swans / cygnets.  The most popular part of the day though was playing pooh sticks – great fun.

Pooh Sticks Denham

Pooh Sticks – Good job their heads didn’t get stuck

I also discovered that there is a quick way from our house to the Canal down Denham Lane, a quick right then left into Denham Village Road you can quickly tie up with a bridlepath and cycle down to the Canal safely.  So I’m now looking at my next little excursion on the bike as down to there then see how far into London you can get on the canal tow path.

Heron and Cormorant

Heron and Cormorant

The Heron the other side of the lake

The Heron the other side of the lake

Red Kites in the Garden

Whilst working from home last week, I suddenly noticed that there were three Red Kites swooping in and out of the garden and the woods.  They were only a few metres away and just glorious to watch.  I quickly swapped lenses on the camera and popped outside for a better view and a couple of photos.  Below are a small selection of the photos I took:

Red Kite 4

Red Kite 6

Red Kite 1

Red Kite 5

Red Kite 2

Red Kite 3