Tonight young Harry and I went Christmas shopping. I drove him so he could freely bounce his ideas and explore gifts for his mum, sister and Gran. We had a planning meeting first at the drive through, messing about and losing napkins to the wind.
Once we got into character Harry ninja'd it in one shop and in under 35 minutes. And we larked about on the escalators.
I will put on my dinner jacket later this week. I enjoy wearing it as it is well made and I am long and tall and I wear it very well. In this particular instance, I am indifferent about the event as I don't know the people or the firm well enough yet to feel anything but on guard.
In fact, I have two dinner suits and I always enjoy the game of 'what was I doing when last I wore it?', a game played by not emptying the pockets on getting home from the event.
I don my dinner suit every eighteen months or so, although in my rspb job, it was a deal less frequent than that.
Thus when I took it from the cupboard tonight, and on this very day of days, of completed years since significant things, was it with remembrance or regret?
Black Friday was a story of rare, pitiable fights in American retail just three years ago, when viewed from here in the UK.
Two years ago it remained an all American story.
A year ago it caught on a little in half a dozen British high streets, but was already strong and prevalent on line.
This year and today, it was in absolute full swing. Almost every retailer had some sort of offer, with 20, 30, 40 and even 50% off everything, right across the high street and into the coming weekend. Full-on POS and window posters too, and appropriate staffing levels, in this orgy before Christmas and coinciding with pay day for most.
I worked Black Friday in Cheltenham, hardly renowned for vulgarity, and yet the streets were full and the elbowing, grasping disposition was there. These well to do pictures are all within 100 yards of each other on The Promenade at Cheltenham, and even there the buying was forceful.
Elsewhere in the UK (north London and the north west), fighting, police intervention and vulgarity seemed present all day.
It is here! For ages and ages I have reviewed, contemplated, tried-in-store and considered an Iphone 6 plus. After many a pause in an Apple Store (at pretty much any city I have worked in that has one), today they were available to reserve and in good number. So I reserved one....
My Iphone 4s had not worked properly since the week before my brother's Stag do (June 2014) and it had a virtual home button only, meaning once the screen went to sleep I could only wake the phone up by plugging it in. That meant I had to switch off the sleep mode, and in turn that meant the battery lasted about as long as a suet ball once my resident crow has clocked it here in BS5.
So, off I went to the Apple shop at Cribbs Causeway on this merry Saturday off. I was pretty excited.
Now I am into Retail for work, and these fellas have it down. Service was flawless end to end; polite, knowledgeable, professional, courteous, fun, and in no hurry to move me on from the store until I was happy. Perfect in fact. I also visited my phone provider to swap out to a sim only tariff. At Apple I took the massive plunge (largely the majority of my considered thought) and bought the phone outright, figuring that a much, much, much lower monthly tariff was a better deal in the long run.
Playing with it now, and here are some pictures from Store to home.
I am not much of a one for design appreciation but each iteration of the Apple box is a keeper!
Dunster is a wee little village in Somerset, just tucked in from the Bristol Channel. 817 people are registered as residents. It has a Yarn Mill in the high street where local yarns were traded from 1609. It is also the village where All Things Bright and Beautiful was penned, and the location of Dunster castle, built by the Luttrell family in the 17th C and given by them to the National Trust just a few decades ago.
Each year Dunster has a festival, Dunster by Candlelight. I am working at my store for this year's event and we will trade 10-10, so I will work the whole day and stay overnight. I am really looking forward to it - store event days are often fun, fast and hard work. Customers are usually in a good mood, and all in all it is a pleasure rather than a chore.
I will take my own pics in a couple of weeks but here it is from a previous year, along with some village shots.
Three weeks is really the gap, but after a spurt of blogging delight this year, the mundanity of regular work has kicked in via my new job and I have been getting home zonk-out tired every day.
So here's a blog burst; a quick unloading of phrases as they occur to me tonight.
M&S Chocolate sprouts
Gambled spoons & games of cards
Dry Requisite Trousers
A zip pocket suit? FFS.
Shrewsbury pop up
A bit pissed in Cardiff
Massive screen clarity
Comfort of Bath tobacco
Brother going to Spain
Fixed vacuum cleaner
Feeling taller than I did three months ago (actual, not spiritual)
Nudging 12 stone again
Tractor theft in Los Santos
General theft in Los Santos
Earning immoral dollars in Los Santos
Sixteen bit Lolitas (Pete Tong) Mac u'g to Mavericks
Yolanda 3800 miles already
Where to rest for Christmas?
Like using my fountain pen
This week I have started to find my stride in my new role. Some things still challenge, and some things aren't quite parked up in the immediate recall part of my mind in the way that so much RSPB retail was and still is. That said, it is coming together as I end my third week.
The shop floor part I get instinctively; I am excellent at customer service and I am good with store teams - what I need to secure is the product knowledge to glue it all together, and this is no more a task than familiarity, exploration and eating the current catalogue.
The week has taken me far and wide. I started with a long day driving to Milton Keynes but I did stay the night at a fabulous hotel... this one. I think our Christmas do is there too. The venue was terrific as was the reception team but the barman was a rude, (Russian?) surly, ignorant chap who genuinely did not know what beer was. I politely asked for beer and he just said vee have lager - three times.
The day after I sat in front of our design team who showcased next year's range. It was rather like Project Runway and it was very entertaining. Across the rest of the week I visited stores in Cowbridge, Dunster, Exeter and Wimborne, all of which I will eventually cover. I finished off the week in Salisbury today and drove the till and talked to customers. Checked off Christmas window POS (point of sale, or in store printing & posters) and got to know the store team a little better. 12 hours door to door and some middle ages agricultural roads home but I enjoyed it.
I also engaged in some fine digital hooliganism in Los Santos with my BS7/GTAV Wingman mid-week, and that was the high spot of the week, truth be told. Had some kind texting across the week too, but from a county I did not drive through this week (amazingly, considering my route).
Here are some images of the week, as well as some from my timber expedition last Sunday! The peacock was live, real, brave and in absolutely no hurry at all.
This week in my new role, I began to visit stores that I will manage as well as calling in at our flagship store in Covent Garden. I also attended an invite-evening for our customers who take a size 8/extra small. We invited then to our Guildford store to meet the Chairman and to feedback on sizing, range and garment construction. They were vocal, passionate, polite and not averse to spending.
It was quite a week!
Leaving BS5 on Monday I took a there-and-back-in-the-day drive to exotic Milton Keynes (work HQ) . I also took in Paddington, Covent Garden, Guildford, Winchester, Salisbury, Lymington and Southampton. Home late on a Friday night via a sardine-can train.
More 'my' stores next week, with a west-country shape to the route planning.
I am enjoying it, although my new colleagues drink coffee unceasingly.
It is a map that shows my store locations with each to be visited on a regular basis.
I have been to two of them so far with the rest of my opening days spent at my head office. This week I will take in three more of mine and two more that are not mine (necessitating a train hoof into London to visit Covent Garden store). I like the train element but I am also enjoying the solid comfort of the car.
I have not had occasion to post an entry like this one in the 7 year, 4 day, 1243-entry history of BlogBS5.
In all that time, I have delighted in owning VX52, my faithful, reliable and much loved Mercedes Benz. VX52 (a he) is solid and well put together. He has been with me longer than my blog and he and I have notched up 91,000 miles all over the place and with beloved passengers along too.
Now, however, in October 2014, I have landed a new job. I have left the RSPB and moved on to become an Area Manager for this firm: Rohan. I have twice as many stores to look after across roughly the same geographical region. The role is on probation for three months, and then moves to permanence. Fair enough and quite the norm these days.
I have a company car with this job. Three years old but new to me, and only three years old because it makes sense for my firm to allocate an 'old' car my way until they and I decide if this gig is permanent; at that point a newer one heads to BS5.
So, in the meantime, please meet Yolanda.
Yolanda hails from Liverpool and she has rather hussy-like red brake-callipers. To be perfectly honest she is a bit racy, at the top end of her model range (a VRS) and pretty fast. VX52 is unsure...
I have to confess I had driven Yolanda 140 miles before I realised she had a sixth gear (oops). She's a diesel, as sporty as they come and if you get at her , she can really belt along, although thus far I have honestly not exceeded 71 mph in my opening 300 miles. Of course, like any good woman, she has plenty of torque.
Here she is with VX52 looking on in the last shot. I should sell VX52 (reluctantly) but may just hold on, in case three months is the end of the line! I hope he doesn't hold a grudge towards me and I trust semper fidelis will top out until I have to move him on.
A week ago today (Sunday) I spent the afternoon with my brother and terrific sister in law. We took Toby and Quaddy for a romp and a run in Windsor Great Park (about 11 miles from their house and 2.2 miles from the Queen's).
I had not been before and it had pretty much everything to tick the boxes for a Blog BS5 post. We saw a massive statue of George III; a terrific view of Windsor Castle; loads of planes on the final approach to Heathrow (including an A380, which was massive); runners, cyclists, gallopers on horseback , and some very big sticks and a stinky pond. Needless to say T&Q took advantage of those last two, and the car journey home was fragrant.
With thanks to Georges Seurat for the title, here is a post about Sunday.
I am leaving BS5 this morning to stay with my brother and sister in law. Their house puts me in decent proximity of a new job that I start in the morning.
Whilst my new Area is fine for living in Bristol, my new head office is in Buckinghamshire, so I want to be there in good time on day 1, hence completing most of the journey today. I will catch a Paddington train shortly and meet up. Our afternoon plan is a doggie walk in Windsor Great Park - a new venue for me and I will blog about it later.
Here is my desk as I leave - I am nervous about tomorrow and excited too - 5:95 in that ratio. I gave of my best in the interview and they readily offered me the job, but tomorrow it starts for real!
This is the last weekday of my week off between jobs.
I have been a busy chap today, driving to and from a nearby hospital to take a good pal for his check up and appointment (all seemed well) and to collect him again a couple of hours later.
Once I had completed that errand I had a bit of time just to lark about on my own and to drive my car for the pleasure of it.
I visited Cribbs Causeway, a retail outlet not too far from BS5. New jeans, (decent leg length at Gap), new handkerchiefs for work, and a new belt, and also a new fountain pen having left mine on a train ages and ages back and wishing for one since. I made the lady in John Lewis blush by going back to her later in the trip and thanking her for her excellent service on buying a Cross Fountain Pen, and next to a colleague who happened to be her boss too! She was grateful for my feedback and it felt good to make someone's morning. Always nicer to say thank you than to complain.
After that, it was the mundanity of Morrison's for flour, fish, new shoe polish and dull old laundry items. But then....! I drove towards home and called in at the Mercedes garage to try out a £124,000 S-Class. It was terrific. I sat in the front with adequate room and then tried the back which was still enormous. I am buying one if my ticket comes up, but not the AMG model I sat in; Mercedes will sell you one for a more modest £77,000 and that one returns 50.2 mpg!
Here is the view from the back seat of a £124,000 vehicle. Below that, my new fountain pen.
Tonight I am blogging at my Mac, half way through this Monday-Friday between jobs.
It has been an interesting week of emptiness, but also full of fine things to do with lots of space to think about them.
Today I submitted final RSPB expenses, totalling around £700, mostly deployed on train fares. I took a suit to the dry cleaners, I had my hair cut (asking for more off, once I put my specs on again) and I cooked dinner which went down very well indeed. I also worked right through my kitchen cupboards, tidying them up, replacing lining paper and squaring stuff away.
A moment ago I looked at my desk, so often full of work things pertinent to the next day and a train to somewhere, but tonight on hold awhile.
I like that. I like the shadow of the wine glass too. Most of all I like my collection of train tickets, a goodbye card from the last gig, and the wooden holder for my cufflinks, a gift from leaving the office three jobs ago.
Last week I finished up after 5 years, 8 months at The RSPB. It has been my longest tenure in post in my retail career. It was a pleasure to work there but the right time to move on to my new opportunity.
The new opportunity starts next week with a post to follow once I am in; I am not a tempter of fate and won't blog it early.
At the weekend there was an atmosphere of letting things go and just enjoying the crisp start of the autumn. It involved good friends, tanks (virtual) dogs, logs, cats, lamb (twice), views, beers and Gloucestershire and Herefordshire larks. A few delayed trains out of Paddington were in the mix too.