In praise of watches

My Metal Banded Watches

(Photo credit: alexkerhead)

I’m an affable kind of guy, I don’t want for much and I generally feel quite content. Put me in front of a roaring fire with some decent food, a nice bottle of wine and leave me. I will be more than happy.

At the weekend take me out for a wander along a beach or to grab a coffee and a look around the shops and I feel equally at ease. Which is fortunate as my wife is also very keen on both, perhaps leaning a bit more towards the retail spectrum as the winter approaches. So imagine the scene, there I am poking about in various shops (books and clothing mainly) and just about ready for a visit to Starbucks when I am stopped in my tracks by a window display. I was lost.

You see I am addicted to watches. Big ones, small ones, cheap ones and some not so cheap, I just love them. Which is why you should never leave me alone too long in a shopping environment. (I also love jackets but at least there is a single-minded aim there  – to find the ultimate jacket – something I have come close to on a number of occasions and a vice which is then largely under control for the moment).But watches on the other hand are always there, singing their siren song on web, in stores, brochure, magazines and newspapers.

Men don’t really wear a lot of jewellery and a watch provides us with a bit of individuality. They are also my favourite accessory, I have daily work watches, weekend watches, I even have evening watches. I have straps of rubber and straps of titanium, stainless steel and plain old canvas. Traditional watches, digital affairs, G-shock, diver, military, surfing, chronograph and LCD. All shouting “pick me, pick me”.

I have been known to buy a watch instead of food and go hungry in earlier years, I’ve also found myself hanging around the same jewellery store week after week gaping at a particular prize and desperately fighting the inner voices that want me to get “the preciousss, get it now”.

My favourite watch is probably a Breitling Avenger Seawolf with a yellow face, which at over £2500 is not on my Christmas list. For the smaller budget there is a bit of a look alike called the CX Swiss Military Watch SEAWOLF I Scuba NERO which retails for about £450. But to be honest I enjoy wearing different watches so much that I just can’t bear to spend that level of money on something that doesn’t involve a plane and a passport.

So with feet firmly on the ground my latest object of desire is a Tokyoflash Kisai Maze Watch which disguises the time in the spaces of a LCD maze, making it very difficult to the untrained eye to read, but easy for the end-user. I mean how cool is that? It is also a more palatable £87 and is water-resistant to 3ATM’s (whew).

I’m also quite taken with the Timex Ironman watch, which was on special offer during the Amazon Black Friday sale. An absolute bargain at £20 against the normal £65 price tag. Similar in many ways to the Casio G-Shock but if anything slightly more rugged. Sadly I missed out this time but will keep looking!

I’ve making every effort not to feed my addiction, but I did recently purchase two watches from Avon (long story), one which I love and one which I prefer not to talk about. So with Christmas just around the corner I really don’t know what is going to happen, but if you feel the need to intervene just remember that I want the silver strap and the blue face please.

Watch this space (if you pardon the pun).

Timex Ironman 20th anniversary watch

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)).

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“Wake me up before you go go”

Ed Milliband MP speaking at the Labour Party c...

Ed Milliband MP speaking at the Labour Party conference. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To my mind examining British politics is a bit like peering into a prefect’s common room to see Cameron, Miliband and Clegg ‘Minor’ taking turns to practice their end of year debating skills.“The right has it, the left has it, and aye the centre has it”. But can the centre hold?

“Who cares “says I

Well hang on, surely I care don’t I? I mean it wasn’t that long ago that I cheered on Labour because I wanted them to come along and make everything better.

Well they did, for a while, and it wasn’t really their fault there was a terrorist attack which led to a war, which helped divert attention away from the naughty little bankers and anyway, we were all too busy making the most of it and waving our credit cards in the air weren’t we?

But all good things come to an end and before we knew it the party was over, Blair called a cab, the iron chancellor creaked his rusty way onto the world stage and suddenly it all became so bloody boring as all the real characters exited stage right (or left) leaving an altogether less passionate group of politicians behind them and a country which suffered as a result.

Oh nowadays you will still get the rhetoric and big brown puppy eyes beseeching you to do the right thing, you will get earnest points delivered by politicos in tailored shirts with rolled up sleeves, you will even get tweeting and ‘likes’ on facebook but passion? Not a chance.

Back then everything seemed so wonderfully clear cut. With radically opposing parties scrapping it out for the love of the electorate, pantomime heroes and villains caricatured in newspapers and not afraid to stand up for what they believed in, even if it made them unpopular.

Not anymore.

Now it’s just dull – yellow, red and blue pale imitators carefully keeping to the middle of the road and avoiding extreme bends with their Volvo shaped policies.

Which is why the words of Commons Speaker John Bercow are so important:-

“”I think there is a wider dissatisfaction that people feel, partly that the parties are still quite similar and perhaps there isn’t a huge choice, and partly they feel, well ‘I said what I wanted, and I voted accordingly, but I haven’t got what I wanted or what I voted for two years ago'”

Well disaffection leads to apathy and apathy leads to boredom which destroys our desire to vote. As a result turnout drops and we are all the poorer for it as we end up creating a self sustaining prophecy.

In Scotland we have a secret weapon against apathy called Alex Salmond, a bogey man demanding independence and who is also coincidentally Scotland’s first minister. A paradox who is liked and loathed in equal measure and also one of the finest politicians of his generation.

First Minister Alex Salmond speaks at the laun...

First Minister Alex Salmond speaks at the launch of A National Conversation August 14, 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He has certainly rattled the ‘establishment’ which is why as I write this the mainstream press are preparing to castigate him with pitchforks and burning oil for telling fibs (allegedly).

But the point is he is gaining column inches two years before the vote for independence here, because both his personality and convictions mean something to others.

So can I suggest that David, Edward and Nicholas come and spend some time with Uncle Alex and learn how to inject some personality and life back into British politics?

Before we lose all desire to ever vote again.

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Can we talk?

I don’t want to bore you or rant for the sake of it, but… can somebody please explain to me why, in an open plan office with no partitions to speak off, there is any need for someone to conduct an entire conversation via email with their neighbour across the way?

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They aren’t discussing a confidential matter requiring discretion or idly gossiping about someone in the department. No this is mundane stuff, like when their next campaign is kicking off or when copy is expected back from the studio.

In other words, its typical ‘everyday’ office work flow which can be dealt with in seconds if only the ‘dumb’ person on the other side of the desk remembers how to talk, asks questions and gets answers; thereby creating knowledge we might all benefit from knowing.

But instead, in our ‘fast moving’ high tech offices, real work becomes lost in a maze of unanswered emails and numbed emotions as we tap away, trying to guess what the sender wants by the tone of their inquiry and wondering just what the heck that ‘emoticon at the end really means (recognition charts at the ready everyone).

So does technology in fact actually end up slowing us down? I think it might you know.  I mean how many times recently have you have found yourself labouring over an email, when a quick phone call would surely have sufficed? Or cursed the fact that no-one has got back to you, possibly because they are no longer with the company, or just gone on holiday and forgot to put their ‘out of office’ on.

My guess is too many times. So remember that the next time you fail to talk to your neighbour you are probably driving another nail into the coffin of decent conversation.

I look around my office this afternoon and seeing heads down everywhere I do begin to wonder –  What are they really doing? Working?  Emailing, on facebook perhaps, instant messenging?

Or maybe they are just plain scared to look up and catch my eye, in case I want to talk to them…

Face to face.


English: Waterstones

English: Waterstones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I probably spend too much time worrying about stuff. But honestly it’s the little things that can make such a difference. Take the other day, there I was in my local branch of Waterstones soaking up the atmosphere at one of my favourite bookshops when an all too familiar event occurred.

Now granted it wasn’t earth shattering but it did leave me feeling disappointed and that’s what is worrying, because I am a big fan of the high street, I like my routine at the weekend, browsing the shops, coffee and cake, you know that sort of thing.

So there I was busy reconnoitring the local shops, on the lookout for early Christmas presents for my daughter, a lively toddler who loves to challenge my creativity when it comes to gifts. Looking for that little something that was capable of exciting and delighting her in equal measure.

What better place then than Waterstones for such a gift? Not only do they have books aplenty but also some great toys and games and a fair few stocking fillers as well. Surely I would not leave there empty-handed?

But you see I did and for one simple reason, because in quick succession and from different parts of the store I found myself picking up a fairy model, a Christmas card and finally, next to the point of sale, a rather quaint wooden ‘model village set’ in a mesh bag. But not one of them had a price tag!

As I said not earth shattering, just hugely annoying because none were labeled with the price, nor were there prices shown on the shelves or above (I checked).

I mean WHY? How on earth does that help me, the customer to make an informed choice? How does it keep my desire in place to stay there and shop some more? ONLINE is killing you for goodness sake, shops are disappearing at a rate of knots and you make it difficult for me to buy. What earthly reason could there be for this lack of foresight?

It is not just Waterstones of course. There are many other outlets too numerous to mention that seem to have forgotten how to use the little sticky tape machine. But to see a bookshop forgetting how to price their stock seems absurd.

By the way I just looked up a similar wooden model village online; it took me seconds to find a shop called, appropriately enough, Past Times who were selling one at the very attractive price of £6.00

Perhaps someone can let Waterstones know?

Is the writing on the wall?


handwriting (Photo credit: eef-ink)

I listen to the radio a lot, mainly because I drive, a lot, which is why my inspiration for this blog often comes from having heard something that has struck a chord with me, leaving me feeling sad, happy or indeed sometimes howling with indignation.

Today’s emotion is unfortunately sadness, as I found myself listening to a perfectly enjoyable radio interview with Michael Palin on Radio 2 which touched on writing letters – fan letters to be precise.

Chris Evans, the presenter, commented on how ‘old school’ performers who used to appear on a previous show he presented would always write a letter afterwards thanking him for their invitation to appear. Something he said just didn’t happen nowadays.

This got me thinking about just how few letters are sent nowadays and how little joy the ones we do receive bring to us, corporate missives and bills in the main. How sad I thought that courtesy and manners are slipping along with the art of letter writing

What a coincidence then that upon arrival at work I found that I had received a handwritten letter, probably the first that I’ve seen this year and gosh did it stand out; mainly I think because the writing itself was beautifully presented and grammatically correct.

Personally I think that handwriting is a wonderful way of gaining a personal and unique insight into the sender by painting a picture about them that is sadly lacking in today’s world of quick emails and tweets.

I remember being forced by my parents to write endless thank you letters to relatives every Christmas and birthday when I was a child, looking enviously at my sisters beautiful writing and comparing it to my spider scrawl, never realising that in the future my skills would only be tested on keyboards and computers, mobile phones and tablets and that my poor handwriting really wouldn’t matter anymore to anyone but me.

My parents were great letter writers, their courtship was conducted long distance and their correspondence provided them with the means to express themselves to one another in a way that would prove impossible face to face and boy did their letters rock. Many years later both have passed away but their carefully preserved conversations remain an affectionate and living testimony to a deep and abiding love.

So it is fair to say that my emotions fluctuate between deep affection for the lost art of letter writing and a sense of sadness that later generation’s just won’t ‘get it’. Don’t get me wrong, I am not slating anyone. Indeed I wonder if I would have even noticed the fine detail in today’s handwritten letter if I hadn’t been prompted by the radio this morning.

But one thing I do know is that even though the contents of that letter were not what I wanted to read, their method and delivery softened the blow and allowed me to continue my day with a wry smile and a burning desire to put pen to paper again.

Now where do I keep my envelopes?

Autumn shadows

Gosh its starting to get cold in the morning. Twice this week I ‘ve had to scrape ice off the windscreen and wandering across the car park is no longer a case of grabbing my suit jacket but a full on overcoat job. Still it’s nice to see a change in the season and I feel ready for the winter months now with new boots and a very warm jacket indeed.

What is truly great about this time of year though is the amazing light in the sky. First thing in the morning and last thing at night it is truly inspirational. I spent about twenty minutes on the road today moving through traffic on the way to work and was fortunate enough to cross the Forth just as the sun broke through the cloud and just set the rail bridge blazing.

Scotland is blessed with beauty and cursed with rain. But sometimes you can be lucky enough to catch the perfect moment. Then it all seems worth it


(Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)


Fast cars

English: The Skelta G-Force, a car produced by...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Am I the only person in the world who is constantly disappointed with the drivers of little sports cars?

I mean, every day I drive to work and back, amble to and from the shops and on occasion even wander further afield. Yet hardly ever do I feel any sense of well-being when driving past smart cars or luxury vehicles.

I live in hope that just once the driver will match the promise. Maybe this time they will be a gorgeous female model or a smart suited city gent tanned and handsome. But no, invariably they are old, dry skinned, fat or far too skinny with all the life leached out of them. Maybe that’s why they look so very unhappy with their lot. Which is a shame when you think about it.

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