Sorry to be the party pooper…but!

I dont want to be the ‘Party Pooper’, and I am genuinely sad about Prince Philip’s death, but 127,000 people have died in the UK from COVID19 in the last year and a half.

When you consider that the thousands of NHS workers, who fought to prevent these deaths (and in many cases paid with their own lives) have been told that they can’t have a pay rise, just a round of applause, the expense of Prince Philip’s funeral just doesn’t sit right with me.

A private family funeral, is a hearse, flowers and family, not military bands, a huge policing operation and license payer funded endless TV coverage.

Just saying?

The EV Mileage Test for ICE drivers

When I talk about EV’s I still get a lot of push back over range and charging infrastructure. It occurred to me that one way that potential EV buyers could establish if an EV would work for them would be:

1. Choose which EV you think you would purchase / lease etc.

2. Look at its predicted range on a website like EV database to get a realistic range forecasts

3. Spend a month or so treating your ICE car as if it was that EV. E.g. using your odometer, behave as if you had the EV range, looking for charging infrastructure as if you needed it (check it’s working at these locations too!) and based on the cars specs, take the same time that a recharge would at the chargers location. Also be aware that you would start each day with a full battery from your imaginary home charger!

I think most drivers would quickly realise that for a small habit change, they could have a better driving and ownership experience and that their fears about EV’s are unfounded.

Notes from a Care home Pt.2

Hands – Space – Blank Face

“It is perfectly reasonable to believe that someone is out to get you!”

So, lockdown continues and life in the Newland Avenue Care home has settled into a cycle of walking, eating, walking, eating and after another cheerful documentary about mass murder on Netflix, it’s back to bed. As the weather continues its determined attempts to make things worse, the highlight of the week has become a weekly drive to Knaresborough McDonalds for a drive through coffee and cheeseburger.

Patient ‘H’ also has a daily routine and somehow manages to make breakfast last until about 11:30, following which she gets dressed and arrives downstairs just in time for a short walk to the local Co-Op supermarket before lunch. Now this would of course be fine with the staff if it were not for the fact that she returns from the shop a walking bio-hazard!

As I write this, I have not yet had my COVID19 jab, unlike my wife and ‘H’, so I am naturally feeling vulnerable. You can imagine then my dismay at finding ‘H’ wandering around the Co-Op without a face mask. When I point this out to her she looks blankly at me for a moment before announcing “I know”. There are a few explanations for this reaction, a, she was embarrassed when she realised that she had forgotten, b, she knew that she didn’t have a face mask but decided that her need for crumpets outweighed my need to continue breathing or c, she, like the rest of her generation believe that they are indestructible.

“Don’t mention the war!”

I have come to learn that there is a strange attitude, common amongst the generation of British people that lived through World War II as children. Unlike the generation that actually fought in it, ‘H’s generation never shut up about the war. “Oh well, after what we went through, we just get on with things” she was heard boasting to her best friend when talking about lockdown restrictions. Apparently us younger ‘wishy washy’ types are not getting on with it by going out running, walking, getting coffee’s and shopping, whilst her generation are battling bravely on by sitting on their arses and watching back to back TV quiz shows starting with ‘Countdown’ at 2pm and not leaving the lounge until ‘The Chase’ ends at 6pm when we call her through for dinner.

They have an attitude of superiority about their wartime experiences but ‘H’ was 9 when it started and 15 when it ended, so wasn’t even old enough to serve as a ‘Land Girl’. To hear her and her friends bang on you would think that as little girls they had kicked off their sandals and with their pretty little floral dresses fluttering in the breeze, charged screaming up the beaches of France, their machine guns spitting death at the terrified Germans.

As the evidence shows, Harrogate (where ‘H’ and her friends spent the war) was not even a target for the Luftwaffe with only one bomb falling on the town and that appears to be by mistake. Unless of course Hitler had decided that if he could destroy the Harrogate springs, the devastation caused to supplies of expensive fizzy water would deal a crushing blow to the moral of the British.

This arrogance about the war feeds into that generations sense of being impervious to anything and therefore not needing to concern themselves with trivial matters such as not giving me COVID19!

PS: Since writing this I have now had my first jab but that is another story.

Planning meltdowns (and how Rocketbook cured them for me).

My collection of Rocketbooks
My collection of Rocketbook products.

Personal Organisation is Personal!

Personal Organisation is, well, personal. No one method suits everyone and it’s not just about your planning method, we live in an age where you have a choice of technology, ranging from good old paper to paper-like ultra thin tablet devices.

Some people just work with a ToDo list on a notepad, scribbling in the tasks of the day on the corner of their ‘page per day’ diaries and others like multi-level task lists and project managers on a PC, but whichever you choose, it is about what works for you.

There are however a significant number of people (as I have recently discovered) who, like me, suffer from a kind of ‘Organisational Nirvana Hunt’ bouncing from planner to planner, system to system. We sometimes end up in a state of ‘Paralysis by Analysis’, having organised ourselves to a standstill and finding ourselves staring at a plan that isn’t talking to us, we sit head in hands cradling a stress headache, unable to do anything.

Planner Tech – From Paper to Paper like.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a gadget addict. In the 1990’s I was nicknamed ‘Inspector Gadget’ by a colleague (after the cartoon character) because I never did anything the easy way when there was some sexy technology that could really screw things up and by the 00’s I was totally reliant on Microsoft Office and especially Onenote and Outlook.

There is nothing wrong with Outlook and the more recent integration of MS ToDo is great (although the integration is only really achieved if you access Outlook through a browser) but one thing I have always found that it lacked was a really easy to use GUI. It’s familiar, largely due to is global reach (unless you are using an Apple or Linux based product, your company probably has you using Outlook) but it somehow just doesn’t flow visually and I find that it does not help get your life in order!

Another thing that really appealed to the gadget addict in me was taking notes in Onenote on my company touchscreen laptop, oh yes, very high tech. The trouble is that I often found myself also using the laptop for Powerpoint presentations so taking notes at the same time is not possible. I have owned an Amstrad PDA600, assorted Psion devices, Palm Pilots and of course the ubiquitous iPhone, but if I am honest, whilst all of them (yes including the PDA600) were great in some way or other, for me, none of them took me to planning paradise.

On the paper side of things, I was a Filofaxer in the 80’s and in the early 1990’s was issued by my then employer, Telemecanique Ltd, with a very expensive Time Manager System from TMI International. Now, the Time Manager was a beast of an organiser, backed up with training workshops, manuals and lifestyle books and I was completely drawn into that world.

My long serving and well travelled Time Manager, ready for eBay

Time Manager was a good system but for a planning addict it was also an easy way to get trapped into over planning and I can clearly remember having a review with my then marketing manager because he was concerned that unusually for me, my productivity had dropped. Suspecting that he knew why, he took at look at the massively detailed plans in the Time Manager and realised that had literally planned myself to a stop.

Rocketbook – The cure for planning ‘brain fog’

And so it continued, me switching from one system to another looking for that perfect solution, especially making repeated efforts to make Outlook work for me, a situation that just kept stressing me out. Then, about a year or so ago, a colleague showed me a notepad that he had bought. It was from a company called Rocketbook, and this notepad was different for a couple of big reasons. Firstly it was reusable, you could write on it with a Pilot Frixion pen and then erase it with water and a cloth, but also it came with an app that made scanning your notes easy and automatically sent them to tools like Onedrive, Onenote, Google drive etc. so that you had the convenience of paper note taking but then had easy access to the notes within MS Office apps.

I was hooked, this was the best of both worlds and what’s more I found that I really liked the feel of writing on the pages of the Rocketbook, with the ink free flowing onto the pages. You have to give the ink longer to dry than on a traditional piece of paper but after a short while you stop smudging everything that you write!

So how did this help with my organisational problem? Once in the Rocketbook world you find yourself watching youtube tips and tricks videos as there are so many ways to adapt Rocketbooks and whilst doing this I can across the video below

The Rocketbook Panda Planner

Apart from the fact that the Rocketbook guys spacesuits always make me laugh, this video caught my attention as it was a planner based on Rocketbook tech, so I dug deeper. The Panda Planner is all about planning for what you want to get out of life rather than just ‘here are your tasks, do them’ and is set up so that you actually have a plan to achieve your goals. For me, having just taken early retirement and now working self employed as a copywriter, it is perfect. Since most days are my own, the Panda Planner stops one day from blending into another whilst letting your goals drift off into the distance.

What it isn’t is a planner like Time Manager. Yes you plan the steps you need to take to achieve what you want out of life, but it doesn’t have task sections, or multi layered task planning and that’s kind of the point of it. I won’t go into detail here as the video below gives a great introduction to the Rocketbook Panda Planner, so suffice to say that task management sits outside of the planner but you bring your projects and ToDo items into the Year, Month, Week and Day plans along with your goal actions.

In my case I still use Onenote to manage my copywriting projects and keep notes on progress. I also have Amazon Echoes around my home so my ToDo list is on the Alexa iPhone app and the task are added mostly verbally, but however you manage your tasks and projects, the Panda Planner brings them all together. Its pages are clearly laid out and being an physical document it sits in view all day, unlike Outlook, which even with a multiple monitor set up, inevitably gets hidden behind your other apps as you work.

The planner also gets you to spend time on reflection about the day ahead and the week just gone which I find helps me to really make sure that I am spending my time and energy wisely.

A great overview of the Rocketbook Panda Planner

Cure yourself

In summary, if you are someone who really struggles with finding a planning system that helps you feel in control, and keep your mind clear and calm, then I can highly recommend the Rocketbook Panda planner.

Rocketbook – Smart Notebook – Reusable Notepads (getrocketbook.co.uk)

PS: By co-incidence I found this this blog entry that was posted by Rocketbook with ideas about managing your To Do lists, take a look:

Notes from a Care Home

Part 1 – ‘Near-death In Paradise’

I’ve decided to keep a diary of recent events to try and get them clear in my mind, and Andrea suggested that I should share them with you.

It’s coming up to four months since my wife Andrea and I retired to Harrogate to unexpectedly find that we had set up a private care home. It’s a small affair, with only a single resident, who we refer to as ‘Patient H’, the Mum in Law. Conversion of the former dining room into the office and staff relaxation area is nearly complete, as are the private staff sleeping quarters.

I say private, but they are regularly invaded by H, who still can’t remember that none of her stuff is still there. My underwear drawer was on my bed while I was refitting the drawer rails to the cupboard, when H casually wandered in and without a word, started to rummage through my collection of boxer shorts! Quite disturbing really.

As with all care homes, when we first arrived it smelt of piss and Ralgex, but after some considerable effort, we can say that it no longer smells of Ralgex.

It has been an eventful few months, including H having a car crash that happened without even leaving the driveway and two attempts to assassinate me with COVID19!

If I make it past the next few days I will update you again…..

The Loneliness of the long-distance worker

5 tips for surviving lockdown homeworking

“…..so with a countrywide lockdown imminent we have decided that all field sales visits will end, the office will close and all team members will be home based until further notice”

Photo by Serpstat on Pexels.com

And breathe! 

For a busy field sales engineer, this announcement is a blessing in disguise.  I have the chance now to make CRM a shining example of self-discipline.  My company car will be restored to showroom glory and I can step up my weekly run to a daily challenge and turn myself into a healthy Adonis.

I don’t know about you, but the announcement of lockdown really felt like a chance to reset my work life balance?

There was something therapeutic about clearing all appointments from my Outlook calendar, removing tasks from the ToDo app which were now irrelevant since I was to work from my home office and no longer feel the pressure of filling my day with meetings.  And so this is how lockdown started, full of determination and self-motivation.

Skip forward a couple of months though, and now that early optimism was fading.  The occasional chat with a colleague on Teams was starting to be reminiscent of the depressed and clueless vultures in Disney’s Jungle Book.

After that initial phase of planning and tidying, the days started to drag out.  The weather was nice but being neither furloughed nor on holiday meant that being away from the mobile phone or laptop was not an option.  Very soon my Laptop and monitor had in fact come to feel like a wall between me and the sunny world outside, a world apparently filled with (socially distanced) happy families, joggers and car washers!

What to do?

I now had a clear choice, wallow in self-pity or find a way to break up the days whilst still achieving what my employer expected of me.  The first step was to ‘Get Out’.  Each day I would either run, walk or both, before work or often in place of the grazing that had become the norm at lunchtime.  I initially used this as a time to catch up on my favourite podcasts but in the end, I realised that the best therapy was to enjoy natures playlist.

With so few cars around, not only could you hear the birdsong and the breeze, but they were made perfect by the sweet-smelling air that had replaced the smell of diesel in the morning.

man in white t shirt and gray denim jeans outfit on green grass field
Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Pexels.com

Next job was to tackle the loneliness of the long days, and Microsoft Teams provided the answer. 

It turned out that we were all feeling this isolation and the singletons amongst us felt this even more acutely.  At least I had my long-suffering wife to grumble to of an evening (she is a key worker so still had a life outside the house) whilst they had no one to share with.

So we setup a scheduled meeting on MS Teams twice a day that the whole team would attend. Work talk was forbidden, this was to be a sanctuary of idle chit chat, quizzes, and the occasional moment of inspiration.  And now it involved the whole team, so the bored silences ended and a real feeling of being in this together developed.

The final action that made the team rediscover its mojo was to stop hiding behind email.  This had become a bad habit that we had all slipped into.  We started calling our customers.  Actually talking to them! MS Teams meetings with these customers became a regular event and these developed into what one of my colleagues describes as ‘Deminars’ a combined webinar and product demonstration.  But the key thing though, was the human contact.

woman using laptop doing a video call
Photo by Matilda Wormwood on Pexels.com

5 Tips for surviving lockdown homeworking.

Here then are my 5 tips:

  1. Exercise – Make it a ‘must do’ and enjoy natures playlist
  2. Talk to colleagues daily – Not about work, about them & how they are
  3. Talk to customers – They are often at home too and glad of the human contact
  4. Don’t hide behind email – This can just make your isolation worse
  5. Routine – Keep a routine, it helps to avoid drifting into slob mode

So, how’s it going for me?

Well, I have stuck to my exercise routine (mostly), running most days, so I am slightly less moon faced than at the start.  I now see my Laptop as a useful tool again and not a barrier to the world, in fact it’s where my friends are to be found.  My car is only slightly less grimy than it was and the less said about CRM the better…..no one’s perfect!

As we remember those who gave their lives for the freedom of Europe. Why are we embracing division.

WTF Stu

I find it incredibly sad that as we remember the end of the war in Europe, we are witnessing the kind of disunity that lead to war in the first place.

As the world wages war on COVID:19, in the UK, our Prime Minister insists that Britain’s future remains outside of the EU.  Using the pandemic as an excuse, Hungary has now become a de facto dictatorship and we see the increasing popularity of right wing political and populist groups.

We will always remember those that fought and often gave their all for our freedom but we also seem to have forgotten how we ended up at war.  A populist right wing politician, rising to power by promising to strengthen a nations power, claiming racial superiority and blaming minority groups for holding the nation back.  Unity in Europe has kept peace for 75 years after a long period of almost constant war somewhere on the continent of Europe.

Photo by vectors icon on Pexels.com

During the BREXIT campaign, we were told that Britain needed to be independent, that somehow, we were in conflict or competition with our EU allies, this kind of talk is to betray the enduring peace that so many Nations fought side by side to achieve.

The flag waving triumphalism seen this week would be fine were it not for the fact that many people seem to think that the UK won the war alone and conveniently forget that the nations that they now blame for our own shortcomings, sacrificed thousands of lives to help us defeat the kind of philosophy that is now on the rise.

We must not forget our ‘Key Workers’ when COVID:19 is gone

Thoughtful Stu“We have the opportunity to change our nation for the better as a result of this health disaster by making our kids realise that they can genuinely make their mark in the world, not by some vague dream of fame but by working in the key worker careers right in front of them”

Since the UK was put into lockdown, the profile of NHS workers, care workers and those people who work in the food supply chain has rightfully been raised.  The weekly ‘clap for NHS heroes’ has expanded to be a celebration of everyone who must risk catching the COVID:19 virus in order to keep the rest of fed and in the case of the NHS, keep us alive.

One thing that really concerns me is that when normality returns, and we go about our normal lives, we will forget these ‘key workers’ and go back to worshipping vacuous celebrities on Love Islands, overpaid footballers and wealthy movie stars.

In the midst of the COVID:19 crisis, with most of the population confined to their homes for the larger part of the day, we have all had the time to take a look at the world through different filter and with the noise of normal life gone, and a very clear and present danger outside our homes, we have begun to see what really matters to us.  Separated from loved ones, we can see that it is time with them that we need and miss.

It is an unescapable truth that over recent decades we have worshipped the rich and famous.  Many  kids began to believe the lie that ‘wining the X-Factor’ or some other generic talent show was a career choice, and it was not about the music, it was about the fame.

Football players have been able to earn obscene amounts of money ‘because winning is what matters’, and actors earn more money pretending to be surgeons and doctors saving lives than real surgeons and doctors could ever dream of earning for ACTUALLY saving lives.  This is a world gone mad.

We have the opportunity to change our nation for the better as a result of this health disaster by making our kids realise that they can genuinely make their mark in the world, not by some vague dream of fame but by working in the key worker careers right in front of them.

Whatever the education level of an individual, they can find their place in the health sector.  Not everyone can become a doctor, surgeon, radiographer, nurse or any of the medical careers that require qualifications, but everyone has a chance to become a care worker and although the doctors and nurses get most of the coverage, it is often care home workers or home support workers who can make the biggest change to the quality of life for the elderly or those with special care needs.

Care workers can make a real difference and be real heroes, every day, to someone.

Surely it is time to look at the world differently and reset things.  It has not been film stars, footballers, city financiers, Youtube influencers or reality stars who have been making a difference during the pandemic.

We need our young people to stop feeling that the only measure of a successful life and contribution to society is fame and money.

We have seen ordinary people do special things, from medical workers putting their lives at great risk for others, shop and food warehouse workers pulling long shifts to get food delivered, through to individuals like the now famous Captain Tom and his charitable efforts in aid of the NHS and Care Workers.  Let’s keep that better side of humanity alive after COVID:19, lets make sure our kids see the value in working in health and care sectors and we must push our politicians to keep their word and protect our amazing NHS.  Oh yes, they could also make sure that NHS workers and Care Sector workers get paid properly for the care that they give and the real difference that they make….we will be watching Boris.

NHS Breast Screening continues during the COVID-19 Outbreak but with no PPE, its staff are at high risk #COVID-19

Hmmm Stu

While the country is being told to ‘social Distance’ and hundreds of people are dying each day around the world, my wife and her fellow Mammographers are still being made to screen hundreds of women each, every week.

While Tesco protects its staff by making shoppers stand behind taped lines, Each Mammographer is working inches from the face of 25 women, every day with NO PPE!

It’s a disgrace and surely a breach of ‘duty of care’ to NHS staff and their families AND the women being screened? In a weekend where Italy lost 700 in a day, how can it be right that screening is still not cancelled or if it must continue because of its diagnotic value, then at the very least it should be halted until PPE is available.

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: NATIONAL SHORTAGE!

20200320_090714601_iOSThe government today announced that the country is suffering from a major shortage. The chief scientific officer has confirmed that after careful analysis, he can announce that it is getting increasingly difficult to find any common sense. This shortage is leading to unnecessary panic buying, leaving the elderly unable to buy basic food and supplies because large numbers of ill informed and ignorant people have decided that they need 40 toilet rolls, 8 bags of pasta and a freezer full of meat in order to survive a possible 14 days of isolation.

Many people say that they read on Facebook that most toilet paper comes from China so it will run out and that is why they bought so much. If you rely on Facebook for your news and information you are of course an utter idiot!

There is No shortage of food and supplies except for the one caused by selfish imbeciles. Even in China at the peak of its crisis, you could get food and toilet paper. In Italy, the shops are open. Not bloody TopShop, but food and supplies are readily available, so stop being so selfish.

It is a sign of our collective ignorance that until forced to close, many pubs were still full of stupid people who just do not grasp that being jolly old Brit’s will not mean that we will not suffer the catastrophic devastation that Italy is suffering.

The saddest example of suffering caused by the utter selfishness of panic buyers was the story of a little old man in our village. He cannot travel far, so relies on our local supermarket. On one of his daily trips he arrived to find that all the toilet paper had gone and he had only one roll left at home. The staff could see how upset and stressed he was. He had no one to shop for him and no means to travel around shop after shop to find loo paper. The staff gave him one from their supplies to help him.

These same kind people are having to put up with idiots accusing them of stock piling toilet paper for themselves and the delivery driver found himself surrounded by a intimidating crowd as he tried to offload a cage of toilet paper.

Is this all it takes to reduce us to a selfish, angry mob? No sign of that Blitz spirit as far as I can see.

The comfort that I take is in those little acts of kindness like the supermarket story and the people offering help to those old people trapped in their house. They show that not everyone is the same as the mobs that have swept through the shops like locusts.

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