Up North for Le Tour

The Tour de France – the biggest annual sporting event in the world has come to Britain, and not just Britain in the obvious sense of a quick stop of for a stage in London, but a full on assault across two stages in God’s own country.

How Yorkshire embraced it too!

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There were all sorts of scandalous press reports about hotels ripping people off, and profiteering with car parking and inflation on everything you looked at, but put aside your cynical side and see this for the brilliant event it is.

The organisation is truly huge. It’s not just 198 cyclists and their entourages, it’s a wealth of sponsorship vehicles, that are even referred to as the caravan, and thousands upon thousands of spectators.

In Ripon it was probably the most exciting day the town had seen since back in the day when people knew their neighbours, you know, like D-day or something like that.

The market square was pulsing with people watching the events unfold on the huge screen, and then after the racing there was entertainment in the evening too – could it sow the seed of the Ripon summer festival?

And on the roads the throngs were huge.

We watched on the double roundabout of the by-pass where it heads up hill towards Harrogate. A brilliant spot as the riders took both sides of the roundabouts (bizarrely referred to as traffic circles by the English commentators).

Despite waiting for several hours and getting thoroughly bored at the time, when the event came though it was all worth it – even if it was only about 15 seconds, the rush of emotion, adrenalin and excitement through the crowd was palpable.

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Heading north for the cycling. Dinner at Aagrah.

I’m going to combine a couple of days working out of York, with a day in Ripon for The Tour de France.

It may never come near me again and so I want to make the most of what for me is the world’s most important, and exciting sporting event.

I’m staying at the Travelodge on the A64, in fact I’d best get checked out soon or I’ll need to pay more. Although they know me here and so it should be OK. Last night I walked across the road for a curry. That doesn’t sound too dramatic, but walking across the road is a life and death experience, the road in question is a straight fast dual carriageway that was still busy at 7.30 when I ate last night.

The Aagrah doesn’t look like it will be up to much – but this is truly a special restaurant. I’ve only been a couple of times and the service is often disappointingly surly, but the food is excellent. The place is often busy too which is surprising given its odd venue.

Here’s the dining room:Aagrah Tadcaster

Last night I had a couple of pints of Lal Toofan, poppadoms, followed by their chilli chicken achar with a couple of chapatis. A simple dinner, but it was completely bang on.

I have been gradually reducing the order to something that is just right, and I reckon next time I’ll just have one chapati and I’ll have it right. Maybe one pint would be a better idea too. That’ll get it under the target £15 too.

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Purpose at heart

Purpose at heart

I have thought a lot about business purpose since talking to that guy at the flash Manchester restaurant.

I am convinced that a business that is able to set out its purpose in a simple way can succeed in a way that a normal business won’t. If a business can articulate its raison d’être and share that among all its staff, and have it become the reason the staff get behind them then they are in a powerful place.

Many of us live our lives and run our businesses as they happen, just waiting to see what’s around the corner.

But what if we could determine what we wanted to be around the corner as the next step in a planned journey? Wouldn’t that be so much more fulfilling as a way of living our lives?

I’ve started to think about this a lot of late.

Y and I have always known that we wanted to move to Cornwall, but the thing that always scares us about it is determining what we will do when we get there. When we’re feeling bullish (or more likely drunk) we talk about just selling up and throwing ourselves into it.

But what if we had a plan.

What if we laid out each stage, knowing how much money we needed by that stage, and knowing too what was enough, so that we didn’t end up earning a whole lot more than we need, only to pay it to the tax man.

I have started to read the seminal 90s physiology book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I have only started the preview of the second habit, which is called Start With The End Goal in Mind, but it has me seriously questioning whether we’re going the right way right now.

We need a plan, we need to start with WHY?.

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Mega Travel Soap

My barber is a special kind of guy.

He can talk for England, and in fact the first couple of times that I went to him he badly got on my nerves, after all I want my trip to the barber to be a good relaxing experience. But now that I have been a number of times I’m getting to like him.

He’s certainly a bright guy and is always talking about potential new ventures.

One of which is a soap called the Gym Bar.

Now I have to stop for a moment and give this some context.

He’s my barber, he’s a guy called Mario, but I have no hair.

I go to Mario to have my head shaved, and a beard trim, probably once a month.

Anyway, when he first started telling me about the Gym Bar I bought one, it was only polite after all.

And then yesterday after carrying it around in my bag for at least a year I finally used it.

And.

It.

Is.

Wonderful!

I have super sensitive skin, and tend to use a black seed oil based soap, but I couldn’t get any this time around so I tried the Gym Bar. Wow! It creates a super soft bountiful lather and yet didn’t upset my soft skin in the least. Brilliant!

Cheers Mario. I am now officially spreading the word!

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Travel made simple

I am grumpy about travel.

I love being in foreign places, eating different foods, admiring beautiful women, and generally commenting on how ugly their men are!

I love new experiences, whether that’s great scenery, or getting a feel for the true culture of a place by going to the town that isn’t touched by the tourist trade, and sitting in a bar, listening to the banter, whether I understand it or not.

However what I have no love for is hauling my bags through airports, in and out of taxis, up numerous flights of hotel stairs because I was too tight to find a place with either a porter or a lift.

I often travel too light just to avoid the whole thing becoming a chore. This is my proper rucksack – but it costs loads to send that in the hold, and I’m too impatient to wait for it at the other end.

RMR85 BLACK BIG

And now of course the discount flights are so desperate to make some money on anything other than the flight that they have made it almost impossible to travel just on hand luggage. 5kg weight limit? What? Well, I can get away with that if I’m travelling solo to somewhere I know is going to be hot. But only if my book is in my other hand and my iPad is strapped to my chest!

So you can imagine my delight when I discovered Send My Bag! This is the service for the man like me, but also for the family with far too much luggage, and for the lazy ones who want everything done for them. It’s genius!

Use the app to arrange pick up of your luggage, and drop off wherever you’re going, and then the only thing you have to remember is to not pack everything you want to wear – after you’ll need something to travel in won’t you?

I’ll let you know how it goes as soon as I’ve tried it. I was recommended by a fastidious mate so I have confidence.

 

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The power of recommendation

I know the old adages about recommendation and word of mouth being so much more powerful than advertising.

People are becoming more globally wise, they have travelled more, they have the world at their finger tips, and yet those who have had these great experiences are ever more appreciative of authentic localism.

It seems strange to me that in the past I may have gone to France and been disappointed that there were too few Chinese or Indian restaurants. What was wrong with me? Was I really just looking for the thing I most loved eating out in Britain but on foreign shores?

Now the thought of even eating a MacDonalds in Greece, or Morocco, feels so horribly wrong, but I bet that many of my fellow Brits see the golden arches as a taste of home.

Let’s get back to the subject. Last week I had that amazing meal at Manchester House.

Before I left I was lucky and caught the chef, Aiden Byrne, at the coat check and I asked him how he had trained all of his people to deliver such a good all round experience. He explained that their purpose as a restaurant is to deliver a brilliant dining experience to each individual who goes there. He went on to say that the food will always be amazing, but that they understood that the food was only part of the experience.

I think that he has got it bang on there. Everything from the check in, the introduction to the waiter, his knowledge of the food, and his attentiveness, all contributed to the total experience.

And I have told everyone who I thought might be interested, and a good few who probably weren’t!

I’ll try to shut up banging on about the great Scouser chef now, but I will continue to ponder the power of purpose.

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Manchester House – living it up big time!

There was a time years ago when Y and I would eat out at quite flash places a lot.

We were both well paid marketing peeps and had agencies taking us out on a regular basis. But then we stopped all that business, and ate out more often, but cheaper. London did that to us. There were so many options to have amazing food, but then there were also many options to eat well for not very much at all. We ate cheap tapas, curries and most of all we ate Vietnamese, the nearby Kingsland Road had a load of Vietnamese opposite each other, cheap booze from dodgy Russian off licenses, and we could get fed, have fun, and a load of beer fro less that £30.

This week I had an absolute treat that was of a rather different nature altogether.

A friend who I do some writing for at times took us to Manchester House.

manchesterhouse-tables

Y has been with suppliers of late and told me that I’d love the place. But I knew nothing about it, other than that their bar at the top of a small tower block on the edge of Spinningfields is by far the most flash, yet enjoyable, bar in Manchester.

The restaurant apparently had a Channel 4 series made about it, not that I have seen the TV in ages.

And wow! What an experience it was.

From the beautiful, yet demure girl at the front desk who introduced our waiter, Dale, to every touch point, the place has been super well thought out.

The food was amazing. I had pidgeon leg and breast for starter – but it included a cherry that wasn’t a cherry at all, it was a blob of foie gras that had been frozen, then coated in a cherry reduction, with a candy stalk. Mad. But great.

Even though we pushed the boat out and had great wine, yet we only spent about £100 each. I know £100 is an outrageous amount for dinner, but the place is so very special that didn’t seem too awful. Certainly worth saving for, in between fish and chip sand curry!

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Reviving my old Orange P7

My first mountain was an Orange P7. It cost a huge amount when I bought it but I was able to get it through my school mate’s bike shop and he let me have it at trade price. Even then it cost over ££1500 which seems loads now – but that was 25 years ago and so it was massive and certainly more than I would have paid for a car at the time.

That one got stolen from my parents shed. There was something interesting about it like the insurance company sent two cheques, but I don’t remember that too well.

I ten bought another P7, but even better spec, it had the best Shimano group set that was available and it really was the dog’s doodas. It was lighter than almost every other mountain bike out there and it was when the market was introducing suspension all over the place, but the Orange was hard tailed and front.

I rode it for thousands of miles, firstly in Birmingham, then London where I used it to commute to Canary Wharf, but then when we moved to Manchester I bought the fixie and that took over. The Orange has languished in the shed at Lou’s place in Cornwall for several years, gathering rust, losing its finish, and going to pot.

But right now it’s in a bike shop, being completely stripped down, having a new headset (it had ceased up), new saddle, new more subtle bar ends, a slightly shorter stem that will make up for teh slightly stiffening of my back as I get older. It’s going to cost quite a lot, like £150, or maybe even more, but it will be great to have the Orange back – I’ll get some photos posted when I pick it up next week.

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Keeping track of stock with Data Label.

I have recommended working with Data-Label to so many small businesses who I have worked with as a consultant, or just a friend. The little labels (or big ones if that’s what suits your business) can hold a whole lot of data on a barcode that help you keep track of stock, or keeping up with stuff that needs checking on a regular basis, like PAT testing, or even safety testing of stuff.

I didn’t know though that they’ll actually produce any labels you might want, so if you’re a car seller they’ll do the stickers to go in the back windows, or a rugby club or anything else. Self adhesive labels produced by Data Label in the UK came to mind the other night as a few of us were sitting in the back room of The Beech having a few too many Landlords, and the amazing Parlour Dogs that they now sell. We were inventing silly bumper stickers and some were good enough to try out. Matt suggested that Data Label could produce them and we looked up their site to find that yes, they do them.

So if you start seeing stickers in car windows saying “The closer you get, the slower I drive” then it might just be the result of our silly night in the pub.

It won’t make our fortune, but it might be fun.

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Spotify.

Once music was everything to me.

I used to want to be a truck driver (OK, so I still quite fancy that) and my two motivations were to have my Parson’s Russell terrier ride everywhere with me, and being able to listen to music, my music, whenever I wanted to.

Here’s a Parson’s. Bascialy a Jack Russell on proper length legs. Having read a bit about them on the Terrier Rescue sight that I found this pic on it sounds like I’m lucky not to have found one, the leg length comes from crossing them with sight hounds, which means that as soon as they see something they might consider to be prey, they are likely to be off and no amount of shouting will get them back.

SONY DSCAnyway, this is about music, not dogs.

I need my own space for music.

I like music to be loud.

And I like it to be varied, tremendously varied.

This morning I was listening to Beethovan before breakfast. I love the seventh and eighth symphonies.

Now I’m listening to Nick Cave, on Spotify.

I subscribed to Spotify ages ago, then got annoyed with it and dropped it for a while.

Now I’m back to it and I’m trying to find my way around the up to date iPad app.

When I’m sorted it’ll be great. Right now I’m lost and annoyed (again) by the silly radio stations that don’t match up to Apple’s Genius playlists in the least.

 

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