What is friendship 

If your anything like me, you will have spent some times in your life pondering the question, who are my friends?

The modern world has changed so much, and one of the key words which have been mounded to mean something new is the word friend.  You know what I mean… I’m your friend, well yes we are connected on Facebook but does that make us friends??

We work together, does that make us friends?  We know each other through our businesses, does that make us friends?  

I am blessed with the most amazing network.  Many many of whom I consider my friends.  I also have a much smaller network of people who I know if I needed to call on them for any reason, they would be there for me to the absolute best of their ability often at a cost to themselves.  I think for me that is the acid test.

Friendship for me is something that costs.  It may cost your time, it may cost your energy and often it will cost your money as well.

It’s equally important to stop making assumptions about friendships.  We all need good close friendships, and having a wide number of connections may not always mean that someone feels like they have a lot of friends.   As I was reminded sometimes the most outwardly popular people are the ones who are struggling the most with connectivity and a sence of good close friends.  We only have to think of Robin Williams, there was a man who to the outside world I am sure looked like he had many friends…   We each have the opportunity to come alongside others and be a good friend.   You already know that I think this will cost you, it may be inconvenient at times – but it will also pay you,  maybe not financially but so often in ways you can never imagine.  

To those who I am privileged to have in my life as friends, and you know who you are – thank you!  Not just for the ones who come alongside me when I need it, but as much and maybe sometimes more to those of you who are willing to metaphorically strip down to your underwear and allow me to stand beside and support you in what your going through.

So who can you come alongside today, who can you reach out to – what can you do….. PLEASE – do something, however small and do it today!  
Thank you…  your friend, if not now, then soon, I hope!

Is everything ok?

As I sit here, waiting to share lunch with my father and catch up on life, (don’t panic he’s not arrived yet). I got to thinking.

The man opposite me is on his second glass of wine and enjoying some cheesy chips with them… it was then that the idea struck me. The new waiter, yes I know he’s new because he has just been shown around the pub and advised which tables he is responsible for… came up to my friend and asked him how his cheesy chips were?
Ok so if it was a full meal we might have expected it, but the thought occurred to me, how often do we check in with our clients and see if they are enjoying working with us??
How much additional value could we deliver, how many challenges might we overcome, how many opportunities might we get to up-sell or cross-sell.
Do we wait till the end? Do we wait for them to complain or do we take the proactive approach and ask the question…

There is something beautifully organised about a station early in the morning…

I’m not a frequent traveller into London, but each time I travel I smile, there is something particularly British about travelling to London early in the morning

Everyone knows what they are doing, everyone that is except for the occasional traveller like myself. It’s quite obvious who the occasional travellers are, they have to request their coffee at the coffee shop rather than having the barrister simply confirm their order, they stand between the doorways on the platform. Not that there are any markings to say where they might be.

The train pulls in and reluctantly the young lady trying to get off the train is permitted so to do before the civilised scrum boards. Spotting the seasoned professional I follow left and into the adjacent carriage securing the final seat before checking around me for a more deserving traveller. None meet my criteria and so I return to writing this, pondering such things as the unseen challenges my fellow traveller may have that would make me happily relinquish my seat. I knew caffeinated coffee would have an impact on my day…
So as I sit with the Chiltern countryside flashing by outside and my colleagues and I catching up on world news via CNN or the BBC, family news via Facebook or Twitter maybe even business news here on LinkedIn I am challenged to think of those around me. Maybe you are too. How often do we travel through our routines oblivious to the needs and maybe even the reality of those around us? Maybe by taking a moment, saying good morning or passing on a genuine compliment we can transform the day perhaps even the life of someone next to us.
Just to prove my point the train stops, the additional passengers board and the gentleman standing next to me says “It’s going to be one of them days… I pray not sir, and I hope to wish you an amazing day before we get off this train”
So what about you – what will you do to change one of them days to a day full of kindness for someone you walk past, sit next to or share your lunch break with?

The power of Hope…

Land of Hope and Glory… The flags wave, the tears fall, the memories of all those lovely summer evenings spent listening to beautiful music, the strictly prom with all the sparkles?  Maybe thoughts turning to the new season, to the changes of the leaves from green to brown?  The unfortunate need to wear long trousers, and maybe even a jumper?  Tell me my friend…  Where are you emotionally today.

You see, Elgar, reminds us that we are to be a land of Hope… I think it is so easy to forget the importance and value to hope.  We live in a world that can often feel hopeless.  We watch our television screens as day after day events in our world, our land can make us feel hopeless…

Hope is a Gift, and sometimes it can take something as little as a smile across the crowded carriage to spark hope into the person who feels no one cares.  So to those of you who struggle with the idea of hopelessness, who have not had a season in your lives where things have felt hopeless, be greatful… If however you are all too familiar with hopelessness, then may I encourage you to find hope wherever it may be.  Sometimes we have to consciously magnify opportunities for finding hope.  

As the Autumn starts to take a hold and as the nights draw in, let us take a moment to think of those around us.  To ensure that we can be proud to live in a land that for so many is summed up in the words of Elgar, that aspire to be a land filled with Hope.

Don’t carry that heavy burden alone….

As I sit here, it’s shortly after 2 in the morning, and it’s dark, the only light is the glow from the iPad screen and I sit doing one of my favourite things, I’m brain dumping…  I’m allowing the events of the past days and weeks to flow through my fingers into my journal. 

It got me to be thinking how much we carry.  How the burdens of life can sometimes become so heavy that we can no longer manage what we have to carry.  It is at these times in life that we need to find ways to unload those things.  There are many ways you can do that.  Some are healthy, positive ways, whether that is speaking to friends, Going for a long walk, an hour or two at the Gym?  Some are less so, that 3rd bar of chocolate, 4th beer, I think you get the idea.

There are 2 other ways I would reccommend, one is to write them out, journalling is something which is so powerful in these circumstances, It gives you the opportunity to get the feelings and thoughts out of your head and in a place where you can see them, perhaps process and adjust your thoughts on them and work out a plan for how to move forwards.

Then of course I would suggest prayer, the joys of a faith journey is that Jesus always said that he would help us carry our burdens, as his words are recorded in  Matthew 11

Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

We all need people we can go to with our burdens sometimes people who are not living in the middle of it are better to speak to than to those who are journeying through it.  I have the most awesome privilage of being a safe place for people to share, to unload and to give and recieve encouragement to carry on – if I can be that for you – I am only a call or a message away!

First trip to the supermarket and other challenging aspects of the transition 

I was not expecting today to be an easy day, I guess I anticipated it being one of many that would provide challenges…

Today was first going to Asda, having spent a little time thinking through what options we would need to try, we decided that going to the free from aisle before working our way around the rest of the store… It soon occured to me the most amazing amount of things that are on the no can do list….

Reframe it!!  As with so many challenges it became clear that as this was a whole life change, it would be necessary to find what I can eat and with the help of my amazing wife I now have a selection of chocolate and non chocolate treats. See the picture above…

Having dropped the kids off to sing at a wedding we proceeded to a local bar which does breakfast.  It was obvious there would be a number of things I could not have, so we ordered and it was only after I had eaten 2/3rds of my first sausage did the idea that not all sausages would be gluten free.  I will check next time.

The afternoons  took me back to my roots, drinking sugarless jasmine tea, Remembering lots of enjoyable dim sum and other Chinese yummies… I want to thank you, my community for your encouragement and support.  I am quite excited about the conversation with the doctor on Wednesday, to be able to say I am already putting into place major steps to improve my diet, loose weight, increase my excercise (you heard about my treadmill desk?). Hopefully that will all get a good response when she thinks I don’t know about the results yet…

W.D.C. Just put your food waste into your black bin…. Really???

Yep – that is apparently the new instruction…Those poor little food waste boxes have a rough deal!  

Or at least our bin did…  

Recycling has been something which has become part of our daily routine in our house – left over food waste goes in the little bin in the kitchen and then ever so often it gets emptied into the bigger bin which is then…. Sorry you really don’t need to know all that…

Except for the fact that when our bigger bin got damaged when being emptied one week I then forgot week after week to get it mended and replaced..  Last week it went missing.  I suspect it ended up with the rest of the rubbish but that would be a guess…  

So today I dutifully called the council to enquire about having it replaced.  I was advised by a lovely lady that I could pay £5 and get a replacement bin delivered to me – or I could drive to Amersham and pay £4.  I explained that as I had not caused the damage or the loss of the bin that maybe it would be reasonable to have it paid for by  them, however what was said next took me back…

If you don’t wish to pay for a replacement then just put what would have been in there into the black bin – it’s perfectly OK to do that.  In truth I had to ask her to repeat herself, which she did.  It is perfectly OK for us not to worry about our food waste and to add it to what we put in our black bin…

Hmm I am wondering whether anyone else has a view on that?  

Please note… I would have happily paid the £5 for the replacement but if they don’t care…. Should I???

Don’t wash the mirrors of your car – a saliatory tale

This afternoon was due to be a chilled out afternoon, you know the one…. Sunday papers, snooker on the television or was that darts?   A glass of something in a crystal glass…  I digress not to mention forget… That we have 2 small children and the world is never that simple…

 The first task of the afternoon was my downfall.  You see as I drove home from church this morning I realised I really should clean my mirrors on my car as well as the passenger Windows to increase the safety of getting to work tomorrow…
Well as you will remember, our boiler busticated on Friday night, So getting hot water for anything means boiling the kettle.  I poured the hot water into the bowl to take out in order to clean the mirror and managed to spill half of it all over the floor of the kitchen, which I had started to sweep.  Ok so that meant I would need to mop the entire floor.  

Half way through mopping the floor, the broom broke into two pieces so with 15 mins to get to Asda before it closed I dashed off, joined the queue of thousands, well maybe hundreds… Ok 20 or so, to pay at the basket queue in the supermarket that gives you more.. To pay for the new mop.  

So here I am writing my blog post for the day – with a clean floor, a clean set of mirrors, a delicious smelling roast dinner and a desire for tomorrow to be Sunday, a Sunday with nothing to do in it – how was your day???

The Windscreen story…. The choice of process or client satisfaction… you tell me


That moment when you see the chip in your screen, you just know it’s going to be fun having that sorted.  At least it’s cost free when done through the insurance.

Step 1 – Call Autoglass…
So I ring the dedicated number which Budget have provided me with, now is it just me or if there is a dedicated number is it too far a stretch to think that the people at the other end might be able to confirm what your policy is without you having to fight your way through your filing cabinate in order to find it?  Sadly not, however so long as I had a copy of the insurance certificate when the man comes to do the windscreen that is fine…. Great 🙂


Step 2 – A wet day…

No issue here, you need a dry day in order to do your windscreen, so they called.  I was really flexible and they appreciated my flexibility…


Step 3 – The day we missed…

Ok so many of you know life has been a bit hectic on the home front, well on the day in question, I was in London, forgot to tell the office he was coming.  They did not want to give my keys to someone they did not know was coming and the man went away without doing anything – all of which was NOT their fault.  All mine and I was more than happy to appologise and rearrange.


Step 4 – the best bit.

Yesterday the man called to say he was on his way.  It had been raining so I half expected the event to be called off again.  I was told he would be with me in 25-30 mins.  close to an hour later, I had a call.  All done Mr Blake, could you just sign this and I will be on my way.

And so I smiled, in fact I laughed.  I really don’t know what Step 3 cost everyone, but it certainly could have avoided step 4 had he taken the same approach.  Oh and they never did ask for the insurance documents either.

I had to smile – People should not be used when trying to get a job…

measure riskI was reminded as I was enjoying my coffee and dark chocolate biscuit from Lidl (yes that’s significant, my new boss is converting me slowly to the joys that is)  Of a conversation I had a little while ago with someone who complained that a coffee shop was requiring it’s potential staff to work for them for a few hours without pay and that this was totally unacceptable.

What you may ask made me think of that?  Well it was a post publicising a job (I use that term loosely) on linked in.  It read as follows

I am currently looking for ex Marines or Para Reg who have recently left active duty or are planning to leave in the near future (undertaking resettlement). I am looking for individuals interested in partaking in a anti-poaching exercise in South Africa, specifically anti-Rhino-poaching efforts.

These individuals will not be paid. However, they will be provided with food and accommodation on the game reserve they are tasked too (when not out on patrol), return flights to South Africa, and a week holiday at the end of your rotation sponsored by one of the game reserves involved in the scheme.

If that was not enough to whet your appetite it went on to say…

This is an amazing opportunity to not only experience Africa like no other, but also gain operational experience in a high risk (and gents, this is high risk) environment which would look great on a CV and potentially lead to other opportunities.

You know what?  I think I will pass, but when I look back at the poor youth who is making coffee for a few hours, and I’m guessing he got a free cup or two while he was there… I think he had the better deal – what say you??

And in case you were interested in the role http://ow.ly/XTcuZ