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Quotes for every situation

I have always loved a good quote. The right quote at the right moment provides much needed perspective and wisdom, and can lift the spirits. Below are some of my favourite ones:

Life

Comparison is the thief of happiness (Theodore Roosevelt)

Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor (H. Jackson Brown)

The answers to our problems lie in the future and not in the past (Anonymous)

Do not regret growing older; it is a privilege denied to many (supposedly Meryl Streep)

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful (Anonymous)

Grief

Grief is the price we pay for love (Queen Elizabeth II)

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard (Winnie the Pooh)

Forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past (Anonymous)

Worry

I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened (Mark Twain)

Don’t worry as worrying only makes you suffer twice (Anonymous)

Love

Love is a great beautifier! (Louisa May Alcott)

The heart of a marriage is memories (Anonymous)

Don’t be afraid to be the one that loves the most (Anonymous)

Creativity

The creative adult is the child who survived (Anonymous)

Taking on the Seven Sisters

The Seven Sisters in Sussex has been on my to-do list for a long time. Advantages include:

  • It’s an easy day trip from London
  • It gets some fresh coastal air pumped into those lungs
  • The scenery is knock-out every step of the way
  • It’s well serviced by buses along the way if you decide to pack it in early
  • You can feel smug when someone asks you what you did over the weekend!

The plan of getting the 8am train from London Victoria to Eastbourne failed hugely – we ended up beginning our walk from Eastbourne station at a quarter to 12. Unbeknownst to us, this spelled disaster for lunch plans later in the day!

Our route involved walking from Eastbourne to Exceat and then getting the bus to Seaford station and a train back to London. I would really recommend this approach as it’s a five-hour walk (which could be done in a shorter time but I stopped every 3 minutes to take photos of the incredible scenery!) Some friends previously did the round trip, walking back to Eastbourne but to amateurs like us, that felt excessive! Especially given the walk is rated 9/10 for toughness in online forums.

Here are some of the sights that illustrate why you need to do this walk!

DSC05770Note those rolling hills! Prepare yourself for a lot of them!

IMG_7969
DSC05768

DSC05766QAUB6583Still bursting with enthusiasm several hours into the walk!

IMG_7972Bit of a cliff-hanger!

IMG_7964Proper countryside!

DSC05759IMG_7963Some much needed sustenance en-route! The grass on top of the white cliffs reminded me of green icing on a sponge cake. Possibly was quite dehydrated/delirious at that point!

We got to the Saltmarsh Kitchen in Exceat at 4pm. It was open until 5pm so we were salivating at the thought of a feast for lunch. When we got there, we were told the kitchen had closed but crisps were on offer. I had an internal meltdown and was convinced I might not live the hour due to hunger but then pulled it together to walk a bit further to the Cuckmere Inn where I ordered most of the menu!

Lunch fail aside, it is one of the best day trips I’ve ever done from London – get yourself there!

Some final tips

  • Given how strenuous some of the walk is, it’s not necessary to bring 2 coats, 2 jumpers, a scarf, hat and gloves! I ended up carrying a mighty heavy backpack!
  • As you’re quite exposed, suncream and a hat is a good shout!
  • Start early to avoid lunch disappointment!

Andy Murray: Serving up branding lessons to corporates

Andy Murray has recently become the number 1 tennis player in the world which will further enhance his brand. What branding tips can companies follow from the Scottish tennis player?

By replacing Novak Djokovic as the world’s leading male tennis player, Murray’s brand value has been significantly increased. The 29 year old Scot has already built a strong brand; he is well known for his integrity, quality and sense of purpose. This has made him a very attractive option for sponsorship. Many of the characteristics of the Murray brand are what companies strive to be known for. So, what branding lessons can corporates learn from Murray?

sun-ball-tennis-court

Be selective who you partner with

Murray is renowned for how picky he is when it comes to endorsing products. According to Matt Gentry, the managing director of his company 77:“If it affects his training schedule, or he doesn’t believe in the product, he won’t do it, regardless of the money.” This approach has apparently cost him a millions, especially since winning Wimbledon in 2013, but it has been effective in ensuring he hasn’t diluted his brand.

Murray’s main endorsements are linked to sport or technology. For example, he has a sponsorship deal with Under Armour, a company that sees itself as a company ‘run by athletes for athletes’. The two core brand pillars of the company are athlete performance and product innovation, which complement Murray’s interests and personal brand.

The Scot’s approach to endorsements is in contrast to other sports stars such as David Beckham, who is happy to put his name and face to a wide range of products. Companies can learn from Murray’s position of being selective with who you collaborate with, ensuring that potential partners have similar values to you. This helps enhance both brands.

Speak up when it matters

Murray is well known for his directness and honesty and while his candour has made him unpopular at times, it has helped him build a brand based on integrity. For example, after winning Wimbledon for the first time in 2013, he told the media that tennis players get paid “probably too much”. He weighed in after his sponsor racket manufacturer Head publicly supported tennis player Maria Sharapova after she tested positive for banned substances, saying he thought it was a “strange stance”. He has also spoken out about how younger players can be exposed to match fixing and need to be educated on it to protect the sport’s integrity.

As companies are increasingly expected to provide thought leadership, they can take a cue from Murray who offers frank opinions on topics that affect his industry. He doesn’t jump into any conversation but instead speaks up when he feels it’s right to do so and he is in a position to offer a valuable opinion. This considered and responsible approach is very applicable to companies.

Be aware of archetypes

Archetypes such as the ‘joker’ or ‘hero’ are often used when comparing brands. The newly crowned world number 1 has always been considered a ‘rebel’. He likes to do things his own way and his ferocious tenacity on the court has meant that he has often upset other players by fighting back and winning matches.

By contrast, Serena Williams is positioned more as the ‘hero’ as she has come from a tough background and has overcome challenges, while Roger Federer’s dominance and power has secured him as the ‘King’ archetype. Read more on archetypes in tennis.

Murray has built on this perception as a challenger with some of his recent investments in start-ups. For example, he has put money into the ‘Uber of beauty’, Blow.LTD, which is a start-up that sends hairdressers to users’ homes.

Interestingly, in becoming the world number 1, Murray can no longer be considered the ‘challenger’ or ‘outsider’. This should open up more sponsorship opportunities but he’ll need to be careful that he doesn’t weaken his brand. Businesses can learn from Murray by identifying what archetype their brand is closest to and playing up to that. In times of acquisitions, mergers or big company changes, companies will need to be flexible in adapting their brand, much like Murray will have to do in the coming months.

Thankful Thursday!

Going to a staff conference today, I was not expecting to leave uplifted, inspired and with a host of new quotes to add to my ever-growing list of favourites! And you know my love of quotes!

After being told that we are only half-way through a decade of austerity and that further cuts would be needed, things seemed bleak by mid-morning of the conference. Once we returned from the break, however, we were greeted with a guest speaker- Chris Moon.

Chris has had a varied, exciting and hugely challenging life. When clearing landmines in Cambodia, he was kidnapped by the Khmer Rouge guerrillas and became one of the few Westerners to avoid execution. In 1995, he was blown up by a landmine in Mozambique and lost his left leg and arm. He survived, even though he had severe blood loss, and was told he would remain in hospital for over 6 months. Three weeks later he left the hospital and within a year, he ran the London marathon, despite being told ‘This is something you can’t do’.

He said that after losing 2 of his limbs, he focused on the thousands of things he could still do and didn’t dwell on the 100 or so things he could no longer do.

Since then he has run the Marathon des Sables and the Badwater Death Ultra Marathon and continues to push himself physically and mentally.

Telling us about his experiences, it seems that a very positive attitude, a great sense of humour, an extreme mental strength and a dogged determination is what got him through his toughest experiences. Below are 10 pointers I took from his talk today:

  • Take ownership of the way you think
  • Never play the part of a victim – it triggers a reaction in a perpetrator
  • Focus on what you can do and not what you can’t do
  • Shit happens in life and shit sticks- no one wants to sit beside that person. We all need to find ways to wipe it away!
  • Don’t take things personally as that always results in you putting blinkers on and not seeing other perspectives
  • Don’t assume others are wrong
  • Be realistic- think about what the worst case scenario could be and put a positive spin on it- for example, when he was blown up, he thought that the worst thing would be if he lost all limbs and his manhood. When he realised he had 2 limbs and his manhood still intact, he became optimistic!
  • Everyone assumes that when you’re in a near death experience, your survival instinct will kick in. This isn’t always the case- if you are in agony, the easier option is just to give up and get respite from the pain
  • Every day, think about what you have to live for and what you are grateful for. Being thankful releases an even bigger endorphin than shopping!
  • Chris also quoted Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, saying: “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

A lot of what Chris said has stuck with me. One really interesting thing he discussed was that when he nearly died, he didn’t see his life flash before him. What he saw instead were all the things left that he hadn’t done yet. It got me thinking about what I’d be rightly annoyed about missing if it all ended tomorrow! Not seeing Peru and Colombia were top on the list. What would be on yours?

 

What not to say in an interview

There are very few people who relish the prospect of interviews. They are such a fine balance between selling yourself so that you tick all the job description boxes and trying to come across as normal person who others would like to work with.

With so many things to consider- how formal should you dress, how enthusiastic is too enthusiastic, should you make jokes – they can  be a minefield of social awkwardness.

As an interviewer, I’ve had some shockers of answers to very standard questions. They were unstrategic in the extreme! Granted it’s hard to give all the right answers but there are some things that should never be said. Examples include:

Did you take a half day from your job for this interview?
Nah, I just called in sick

Why did you apply for this role? (These were given as stand-alone answers)
The location is really handy
There is too much work to do in my current role
I’ve always wanted to work here. It’s just this feeling I can’t explain
I’m looking for a more relaxed atmosphere

What do you think of our product/service?
It’s not as bad as I was expecting

What preparation did you do for this interview?
None. I’ve been doing so many interviews lately that I haven’t have time to prepare. I am really passionate about this job though

What appeals to you about the role?
(Takes out a copy of the job spec and proceeds to read out the job description word for word)

You say you’re a very creative person. Can you give some examples of when you have been creative?
Hmm, it’s hard to think of any on the spot

What are some of your strengths and development points? (Candidate is applying for a content writing role)
I guess a development point would be learning how to write content

What type of person would you find difficult to work with?
Probably someone like myself

So take comfort in the fact that while interviews may fill you with dread, if you steer clear of these types of answers you’re already winning!

The best £14 you’ll spend all summer

I went to Wimbledon for the first time last week and for just £14, I got to see some of the tennis greats chase that yellow ball and got exposure to a quintessentially British experience- queuing in an orderly fashion. It was money very well spent!

The low down

Lots of people set up camp the night before going to Wimbledon so that they are first in the queue. Personally, I’m hoping that uncomfortable nights spent with stones digging into my back and mornings without showers are behind me.

With this in mind, I opted to try my luck after work on Wednesday. I joined the queue at 5.15pm and was handed queue number 12,914 and a manual on how to queue. This did not fill me with hope.

We were told it would be a minimum of 2 hours before we got in and we joined the back of a very long queue in a field. I couldn’t hear any crowds cheering which concerned me- how far away were we from the courts? Was this going to be like the  horror show that is queuing in Disneyland where you think you’re almost at the top of the queue only to be ushered into another room with an even longer queue?

As I was with Wimbledon second-timers, we came prepared with supplies- picnic blankets, wine, plastic cups (genius!), strawberries, bread, cheese and meats. We nestled into our spot and cracked open the wine. We chatted amicably to our fellow queuers which served as a refreshing break from the regular London decorum of avoiding eye contact with everyone at all times.

After about 15 minutes, the queue started moving very quickly- almost too quickly as we were enjoying our picnic and in less than an hour we were almost in! As we approached the main entrance, there were cardboard silhouettes of players saying ‘Nadal welcomes you’, ‘Sharapova welcomes you’ etc.

Suddenly we got excited and jovial staff were there to assure us that it wouldn’t take much longer. It was the most ordered queue I’d ever been in and as ticket numbers were assigned, there was no fear that anyone was skipping at any point.

We went through security which was a process so stringent that it made Gatwick airport seem lax. We then finally stepped foot into Wimbledon (or the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club as it’s officially called) and there was a great energy. It felt like the volume button of a TV was constantly being turned up and down as crowds roared and clapped and then immediately fell silent again as play started on matches throughout the grounds.

Ground admission

We bought a ground admission ticket which costs £14 after 5pm (or £20 if you arrive before 5pm).

This type of ticket allows you to access the unreserved seating and standing areas for court 3-19 which is perfect in week one of the tournament as it means you will still see get to see the big names.

Once you’re in, you can buy tickets for a centre court or court 1 match.

Highlights

Henman Hill (much more catchy than Murray Mount!) was filled with people watching  Djokovic beat Stepanek 6-4, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6. We managed to get a picnic table and watched the tense 4th set. It seemed that it could easily go to a 5th set but the number 1 seed held his nerve and won (much to the very visible relief of his coach Boris Becker!)

We were lucky enough also to get seats at the end of William v Kalashnikova/Savchuk match which they won in three sets 5-7, 6-1, 6-4. It was an exciting last set and moved at a huge pace.

Photos

 

Wimbledon
The Williams comfortably beating Kalashnikova and Savchuk

Wimbledon 2014
Serena and Venus showing us how it’s done

Wimbledon 2014
Super excited to be at Wimbledon!

Wimbledon 2014
Henman Hill watching Djokovic beat Stepanek

Tips 

  • bring cash – payment for tickets is by cash only
  • bring food supplies – it can be a long wait before you are through the entrance and queuing for anything hungry will probably make you unbearable company!
  • you can carry one bottle of wine or two 500ml cans of beer per person
  • know the order of play – this will ensure you get to the right courts as quickly as possible
  • go in the first week if you can as the the big players can’t all play on centre court in the early rounds

Wimbledon facts

Carefully dropped into conversation, these will make you sound hugely knowledgeable of all things Wimbledon*.

According  to the Wimbledon website

  •  over 200,000 glasses of Pimms and 28,000 kg of strawberries are supplied each year
  • there are 38,500 spectators in the grounds at any one time (this made my ticket number of 12,914 more palatable!)
  • 54,250 tennis balls are used during the tournament
  • the first Wimbledon took place in 1877 with men’s singles and there were 22 competitors
  • the longest match lasted for 11 hours and 5 minutes in 2010 over 3 days between Isner and Mahut
  • since 1922, there have been 7 championships that haven’t been interrupted by rain

*People were not as wowed by these facts as I thought they would be- tough crowd!

Croaking at Croagh Patrick

I’m embarrassed to admit that until this Christmas, I’d never successfully climbed Croagh Patrick in Mayo. This is despite the fact that my family has a house almost at the foot of the mountain.

I had tried and failed in a particularly unfit state several years ago. After the gluttony of Christmas, I felt this Stephen’s Day was the perfect day to re-tackle the beast.

Armed with my dad’s good sense of direction, my mum’s common sense about what clothes to wear and some power ballads from Celine, I finally climbed the mountain in a respectable 3 hours round trip (and I only fell twice!) The striking views over Clew Bay and south Mayo more than compensated for effort the climb required.

Below are some photos from the day and some facts about the ‘Reek’ (they may or may not largely be from Wikipedia)

1. Croagh Patrick is considered the holiest mountain in Ireland and many climbers feel the need to climb barefoot. Strangely I did not have this inclination.
2. The Irish is Cruach Phádraig which means “(Saint) Patrick’s Mountain
3. Croagh Patrick is reputed to be the site where Saint Patrick banished snakes from Ireland. There was not a snake to be seen on the hike so he obviously did a good job.
4. It’s the 3rd highest mountain in County Mayo at 764 metres (2,507 ft). It certainly felt it
5. You should incorporate Campbell’s Pub into your climb to socialise with your fellow hikers. Irish pubs at their best!

 

Review: London Science Museum

History meets science in the permanent exhibition ‘The making the Modern World’ in the Science Museum which showcases memorabilia from the last 250 years that have impacted our lives. Objects on display range from the oldest steam locomotive from 1814, the V2 rocket from 1945 and the EMI Brain Scanner from 1971.

While the inventions themselves marked exciting breakthroughs, the displays didn’t evoke a similar sense of spark or creativity.

The layout was one issue that impeded the exhibition. Upon entering, your eye is immediately drawn to the metal airplane hanging in the rafters, the row of stacked antique cars and the impressive railway machinery. Quickly, however, the vast number of objects on display in all three sections becomes overwhelming.

Many of the items showcased were fascinating, particularly the 1820’s mail coach, the Tucker Sno-Cat that crossed Antarctica in 1955 and the DNA model, but these highlights became lost in a room crammed with objects. All items in the side sections such as tea-sets and hammers are packed together behind glass cabinets mimicking a junk sale stand.

Another issue is that it lacked interactivity. So much of science is about investigating but the public aren’t able to interact with the displays. There was a lot of scope to make it dynamic such as having a mock x-ray machine to x-ray your hand rather than just looking at an x-ray picture. Video footage of recent inventions would also work. There was an app available that was meant to make the displays livelier but it had to be paid for.

The exhibition would have benefitted from more movement and sound to generate the wonder of these new inventions. As everything was stationary, it was hard to get the impression of advancing progress. A child’s train tracks traversing the hall, noise from a rocket taking off or the sound of horns honking from the Ford model T car could have helped captured the dizzying excitement at the time of all this change.

Taste of Dublin Hits Iveagh Gardens

For any foodies out there that missed Taste of Dublin recently, below is a recap on what the Irish capital has to offer in the fine dining stakes.

This annual food festival, set in the beautiful Iveagh Gardens, showcases food from Dublin’s top restaurants such as Chapter One and Pichet.

Twenty restaurants set up camp for the four days and offered samplings of their signature dishes. Over 100 food and drink producers also set up stalls, giving out free samples such as Keogh’s Crisps. It was great to see so many small Irish businesses participate in the event. Below is some of the best food that was on offer:

1. Starter- 777

Slow-stewed chicken taquitos. Tasty morsel with black bean puree and avocado-Mexican heaven! If you are willing to queue and down margaritas while you wait, this restaurant is worth a visit (and is pronounced treble seven if you want to sound in the know).

2. Main- Dylan Restaurant

Fillet of Cod in lemon & thyme batter with chunky chips. This hearty portion was authentically presented in a newspaper cone and was delicious. The restaurant is very focused on quality Irish produce and apparently has an excellent cocktail bar.

3. Dessert- The Chop House

Chocolate Fondant. A chocolate lover’s dream. You need to sample this.

One of the most interesting sessions this year was ‘Dine in the Darkness’ where customers were served three courses in complete darkness that had been prepared by Irish chefs. It was run by Kanchi which is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to change mindsets around disability. Visually impaired hosts served the food and customers had to rely on heightening their other senses to try determine what they were eating. Conversation flowed between strangers as they shared the experience and diners were surprised when the chef showcased the meal in daylight.

Some said they hated squid but liked the dish when they didn’t know what it was! After revealing what we had actually eaten, Bon Appetit chef Oliver Dunn stressed that when ordering food, you should always choose a dish based on the sauces rather than the meat type as that is where the real flavour comes from. The aim of Kanchi is to change perceptions and in this regard, they were successful.

Classic summer’s day in Ireland
Chop House Chocolate Fondant
Oliver Dunne extolling  the virtues of squid!
Oliver Dunne extolling the virtues of squid!

10 signs that you are hurtling towards 30

I would like to preface this piece by saying that I am a VERY young 28! That said, 30 feels closer and closer and below are several signs that I have spotted in myself and my friends that indicate we are coming to the end of our 20s.

Let me know what other patterns you have noticed.

1) Your Facebook feed is no longer filled with photos of boozy nights out- it is now largely made up of pictures of newborns/new pets that are a test-run for newborns/engagement rings/marathon times

2) Dinner parties are now a legitimate social activity and sometimes preferable to a proper night out

3) Suddenly you find yourself opening up savings accounts and feeling that all the money you earn isn’t purely for your own immediate enjoyment. Frightful words like mortgages enter your vocabulary.

4) Up until recently, people were competitive about how many shots they had downed over the weekend. Now, they compete on how many miles they ran on Saturday morning. They have also replaced said shots with juices made up of wheatgrass, kombucha and flax…I think the shot would probably be more palatable. This sudden obsession with exercise seems to fit in with a bigger need to appear to be ‘functional’ and ‘balanced’. Suddenly carb-free lasagna recipes are being shared around and debates are had on whether Vinyasa or Ashtanga yoga is a better practice.

5) You start spending money on skin products like eye gels, night creams, day creams, mid-morning and dusk creams…anything to stop the erosion of your face! You also begin noticing wrinkles on yourself and others and use it as an indicator to guess age.  When I was stopped from buying wine recently as I didn’t have ID, I pointed out my crows feet as a way of proving there was no way I was under 18. While this method didn’t work at the time (a stranger in the shop had to buy the wine for me), it’s worth a try!

6) A city break no longer involves staying in a 20 bed dorm. Instead, you ‘go local’ by staying in some trendy, city-centre airbnb apartment or else you get yourself to a hotel.

7)  You start to assess your relationships more critically. As 30 approaches,  you want to be 100% certain about someone if you are going to stay with them. A lot of long-term,  seemingly content couples have broken up over the last year or two as they aren’t completely sure about being with that person for life. On that note, check out this video by Garfunkel and Oates which compares the perspective of a female at 29 and 31.

8) New slang has to be explained to you by the younger generations . I embarrassingly had to ask my younger sister what YOLO meant earlier this year.

9) You get panicky about parents/grandparents ageing and you make a much bigger effort with your family.  I have recently started taking photos of my granny every time I see her- to a ridiculous extent where we will just be walking down the street and I’ll begin snapping away!

10) If you aren’t completely settled, you have a strong compulsion to quit work, go travelling and study something new. Nothing focuses the mind like a deadline and as 30 creeps up, you make big life changes while you still can.

Hurtling towards 30
Hurtling towards 30

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