Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The 17.15 home from Paddington- a train that beckons.

And so it is nearly here, this exit from a job I have enjoyed and succeeded at for five and a half years.

In my first year my charitable stores turned over £1.2m -  for the year that ended last F.Y  it was £1.5m. On many measures trends have improved. Across my tenure, the teams I support have made a direct charitable contribution of £1,849, 000 to our cause (plus a good slug extra since April '14 that will nudge it over £2m). Not too shabby and not a share holder or dividend in sight.

I have opened three, closed three, maintained a core of five and enjoyed low staff turnover, solid morale and very, very few customer complaints. I almost didn't go for it when offered the interview but wiser heads prevailed in my interest back then. Work has generally been a delight since.

My last day is a London handover later this week and I have a range of feelings about it. The train in and out will be more reminiscent of Paddington aged nine with my mother, than with work aged forty-two (on first arrival there 33 years ago I stopped and looked, and I knew I liked it for good). The London handover on Petty France will have integrity and that is down to hard work, humility, self-confidence  and a ready, easy capacity for articulate rapport earned gratefully at school.

I have learned a lot from a good Scottish boss, a hand-grenade English boss and an easy going last boss in place since 2012. I know a good deal more about the cause than when I started and I know a fair bit more about my own capabilities too, in many things. It was a good gig in which to turn forty just a couple of years ago.

These are the thoughts and pictures as the next, welcome gig comes along - on a horse as it strangely turns out. I bagged that one on the merit gained in this one.

Possibility, fulfilment and stretchy trousers beckon.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

My day off treat.

Toot toot!

My day off treat: seeing this fine steam train coming into Temple Meads and hanging about afterwards. A pal in Bath told me all about it and it coincided with a day off. Fellow BS5er Stevie Hopes and I took a ton of pictures and happily stood out as train spotters!

Wednesday 24 September 2014

BR(S) Merchant Navy Class 4-6-2 no 35028 Clan Line


Steam hauled: Victoria-Bristol-Victoria

0.0London Victoriad 08:4535028
Stewarts Lane Jn08:53
Clapham Jn09:01
Hounslow  09:21
Staines  09:32
Ascot  09:50
Wokingham  10:09
Reading Spur Jn  10:18
Reading New Jna 10:21
d 10:34
Reading p7  10:36
Southcote Jn  10:40
Newbury Racecoursea 11:03water
d 11:20
Heywood Rd Jn  12:10
Hawkeridge Jn  12:14
Bradford Jn  12:24
Bathampton Jn  12:36
Bath Spaa 12:40
   d 12:45
N Somerset Jn  13:02
Bristol Temple Meads p10a 13:10

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Belt and bracelets.

At the end of last week I stayed  with good pals in Caergelliog,  a wee little village on the island of Anglesey. It is near one of the reserves where I support a retail team in my capacity as Area Manager.

Matt, Bethan and I go back as far as University days, and that's twenty years ago now. I have known Cassidy and Mycroft since they were born. To them I am Uncle Bong, the tall man who is happy to goon about and be silly. Evidence below.

I was mightily pleased when C&M gave me these bracelets, made especially for me.

I will wear them today on my bicycle ride to the Lock and Weir pub,  a few miles from here.

Thank you Cass and Mike!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

South Stack, finish and pack.

This week I carried out final scheduled store visits in my current job. I have six working days left with the organisation across the next fortnight and most of that is Store cover for a local manager who is not at 100% fitness. After that I have time off and then adventures new.

So my last visits were in Wales where the majority of my 9 stores ply their trade. The one mentioned here was the very last and sits contemplatively on South Stick cliffs overlooking Ellen's Tower, South Stack lighthouse and many miles of sea all the way to Ireland. I have visited here once a month or so for three of my five years in post. Trade has grown and grown and grown as has profit, so between the team and I, we must be doing something right. Come rain or shine it is always spectacular.

I have seen puffins, chough, guillemot, razorbill, dolphins, seals, and the world's ONLY patch of Spatulate Fleawort (which must be more exciting than it sounds to someone, somewhere). I have also visited as a customer in family-holiday mode when I did such things. That was a good day with steps aplenty and laughter down to the lighthouse.

Here are the pictures from a terrific September visit that could easily have been......July.

And only ever July.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Free entertainment!

Today is Tuesday and I have a rare mid-week day off. The sun is shining. Bonus.

I was snoozing away at 08.00 am (unheard of) when KERRRRPPPPOW!, this crew arrived to unleash, noise, havoc and machinery in BS5. I had to move VX52 down the road and the fella who knocked the door to ask certainly didn't tickle the wood.

Anyhow, I moved the car, got a fast pot of tea on and for the last 45 minutes have been enjoying the noise and the hollering and the kit!

It reminds me of a visit to Shanghai in 2002 when my brother and I cracked out two beers and the kitchen chairs to watch some concrete pouring on a city street near his apartment. I think the Chinese construction dudes thought we were tapped...

Here's the scene in BS5. It is pretty entertaining stuff.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

That would be plenty...

Last weekend at the Dorset County Show, I happened across the Badger beer truck where a merry crew were dishing out small tastes of their new beers. I like Badger beer very much -  they have lots of brews and a marketing campaign that is smart and fun but not too up itself.

In this picture of hope, I am entering a competition to win my height in beer! At 195 cm/Six four and a wee bit, I would dearly like to win.

No news yet from this eagerly entered competition.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

A country show

I do enjoy a country show and the Dorset County show was the last hurrah of the summer.  It took place last weekend and I attended with my mum and dad, aunt and uncle, first cousin and her son Lucas, who is a terrific ball of fun at 4 years old.

Before I attended, I had a tick list of show stuff that I wanted to see (detailed in the previous post). As tick lists go, it was a good haul and I added to it unexpectedly too!

Here are some pictures from the day. The start was just fine with the last run of the summer special train from Bristol to Weymouth. A weekend off and it started with a geeky Class 43. I rode the one pictured here but liked my attempt at artistry by snapping another one through the window.

Various other pics: giant veg, tractors, a beer tent, the big wheel and hairy piglets!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Last gasp of summer

This weekend I am off to the Dorset County Show. It is held at a show-ground near Dorchester and good weather is on the cards. It has been a tumultuous week in BS5 (of which more in a few days' time) and a weekend of larking about is most welcome.

I am travelling down on The Weymouth Wizard, the last summer run of an Inter City 125 seaside special from Bristol. I am very excited about this part as it's a train journey, not for work and on my favourite machine!

At the show I am looking forward to ticking off:

  • Pigs
  • Sheep
  • Moo Cows
  • Chickens
  • Working dogs
  • Vintage Tractors
  • Combine Harvesters
  • A quality pork pie
  • The Badger Ales tent

Show pictures to follow!