Well, loads happening at the moment.

Last year was a superb year for our department. I normally take my team out each year, but Ive been conscious lately, that as it happens each year, perhaps those concerned, may think its a matter of routine, rather than a celebration of genuine achievement.

That wasnt the case at all. We had a 2 course lunch, and at Dan’s request, we even invited Joe from Unitron marketing.

I know that a lot of company’s social budgets have been cut lately, but I’d point out, that I paid for everything with my own money. If you have a position of rank in your company, your achievements are directly linked to the energy and focus of your team. Isn’t it worth putting away a couple of quid each month to celebrate !.

Ive been out walking again with the Chester and District walking group. By absolute co-incidence, we ended up in Llangollen 2 Sundays running. I’d decided to go camping this coming Easter, but had debated the venue. It definitely Llangollen, with some amazing hills, comfortable campsites, everything from Curry houses to Chippy’s and a couple of really good pubs. If you end up going there, I’m sure Ill run into you.

I was supposed to be walking the Weaver Way this weekend (with stop offs in Nantwich and Northwich). I decided that I’ve taken on too much lately, so decided I’d have an entire weekend doing nothing. The plan is still in place, and The Weaver way, along with the Gritstone trail will be completed before my birthday in may.

Talking of my birthday, I was seriously considering not having my usual birthday celebration in Chester, and instead going off on my own, camping or suchlike.

Some of my friends said they were really looking forward to it, so its back on, put the 5th of May in your diary, would be great to see you.

In the last 10 days, I spent some time, catching up with old friends. The first was Julie Coffee (previously Julie Dermody). Its great to meet with friends like this. As the saying goes, times change but people dont. Over a delicious meal at Cafe Rouge, I get to re-align my compass. Despite all the experiences Ive had, and the skills I’ve gained, I’m still the same person, and its great to reflect on my earlier self, with someone who was actualy there (it wasnt all about me though, Julie is doing incredibly well at work).

I’m busy organising Munich at the moment for the end of the month. I don’t normally return to places ive been before, but it was 20 years ago that I was last there, for 5 hours and I promised myself I’d go back.

I’m determined to visit the Black forest and Bavarian mountains while there (not in too much detail, I’m using it as a recce for a future budge airline/rented car combination. Annoyingly, day trips to the Eagles Nest, featured in Band of Brothers isnt run in Winter. Instead, there are trips to  Oberammergau and Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for the Disney logo, built by Ludwig the 2nd. Theres obviously loads to see in the city itself, including a pub built in 1328, the BMW museum and the Olympic park.

Mad busy at work, but this is the time of real opportunity. As Mark Twain said, a calm sea never made a strong sailor.

Ive been for a couple of beers in the Lock Keeper (the newly re-opened pub, formerly the Frog and Nightingale, formerly the Fortress and Firkin, formerly Greens (before my time).

It has that amazing pub paradox, which I haven’t experienced since the early days of the Northgate Arms.

A good pub for relaxing, reflecting, light reading etc, is normally pretty empty.

A good pub from the point of view of the owner, is full.

Obviously, one contradicts the other. Whilst I wish them well, I have to say (in the nicest way) that I hope it doesn’t do well, as it will continue to be quite and Ill continue to enjoy it !.

In other “news”.

I watched haywire recently. Some years ago, I used to see a girl from work. I remember she commented once “if your going to kiss me John, do it like you mean it !”. That was years ago, but to film makers. If your going to make one, why don’t you do that like you mean it ?.

Put simply, this film was terrible. But how could it be anything else ?  Acting, direction, cinematography and script were all done with a have a go attitude.

Good news is work have now moved to Orange, so I will get the 2 for 1 deal on Cinema and Pizza’s.

Mell, Chris and Jean’s leaving do is schedule for the 18th of Feb. If you don’t have the details, give me a shout.

While I was back home, I took a moment to visit the tourist shop, and pick up this mug.

Its inspired by a quote from 24 hour party people, a film a still enjoy watching about the Manchester music scene.

In the film, Wilson reaches a dark point, where his wife leaves him, and he drops her off at the train station. He quotes F Scott Fitzgerald who said “American lives don’t have 2nd acts”. Wilson comments “This is Manchester and we don things differently here !.

Ive also been putting some new stuff on my kindle, for the 23 min train journey from home to work. Cicero and the Fear Index, both by Robert Harris.

All I can say, is what the hell happened to this guy. This is someone who wrote Fatherland and a host of other books afterwards, such as Enigma and Archangel, which I couldn’t put down (nearly 20 years ago, I phoned in sick, to finish reading Enigma !).

Im giving another talk in March at the Globetrotters. Its Lisbon this time. Lisbon, according to Simon Calder is the cheapest capital in Europe, and Ill be talking about my experiences there, and the place itself, as a budget travel destination.

One final thing I must how you, are these folding loafers. When I come into money, their going to permanently join my travel gear.

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