Thursday, December 29, 2005

Out with the old

The year is finishing at an unexpected pace - it's December 29 and I'm sat at my desk judging a communications competition and planning no fewer than three projects, all of which kick off next week.

The competition judging has proved very interesting - I'm judging three classes in a business communications awards scheme. I spent last night judging the writing category. About a third of the entries were engaging, well written and deserving of recognition. From those I was able to pick my winners. Another third were solid efforts, but nothing exceptional while the remainder were really not very good. Had I been the publication editor I'd have been sending them back to the writer for significant reworking. What I wouldn't have been doing is entering them for awards. Is this a sign of me getting old - or are we beginning to see the outcomes of the age of 'deferred achievement'? Perhaps those who have only recently moved from education into work are so used to getting a certificate for anything they do that they expect one for a mediocre piece of work. Well, they won't be getting a pat on the back from this curmudgeon.

Two more classes to judge today and this morning's effort has made me smile. I have to judge special issues of existing publications - but none of the entries has sent me their standard efforts to judge the special editions against.....

Anyway, I'm gearing up for a busy January with three projects around change. One is long-term as a company transforms its IT function into a global, customer-led entity, while the other two are tactical, covering a head office relocation and a factory relocation. It's great to be involved in all three, but so noticeable that communication has only rated any interest when the big changes are upon them. Somehow that ramps up the temperature far more than necessary. Had communication been part of the culture of these organisations prior to committing to transformation, I'm sure the waves created would be significantly less seismic.

Anyway, ours not to reason why - ours to get in, do a good job, and enjoy the benefits.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Famine or feast

Flippin' eck - it really is famine or feast in this business. All that crossed my business viewpoint in October/November was tumbleweed. So what did I do? Write, phone or turn up on the doorstep of virtually everyone I know to see what work - if any - was around. Luckily Jac has got locked into one client on a six month project, so there was still some money coming in. As for me it was a case of making some very thin work stretch a very long way.

And so we headed into December and I was sufficiently worried to start looking at roles working for other people - not something I want to do after almost six years of running my own show, but there appeared to be a creeping inevitability as the days clocked up, but the work didn't.

However, the knocking on doors seems to have paid off. I was invited to become part of a project at Cadbury Schweppes, and that will really step up in gear after the New Year. I've now just heard that I've won another pitch - and the client wants to get cracking on Jan 3 - and there's another project from a longstanding client that'll also ramp up in early January. Suddenly I'm not going to have sufficient days available to meet all the demands on me. But that's what evenings and weekends are for. January looks as though it'll be a demanding month - but no doubt by the time I'm three or four months into 2006, the feast will be abaiting agin and I'll be looking for the next bite.

The moral of this little tale? Enjoy the half full glass, because something will always turn up.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Having had a euphemistically 'quiet' November, December has really taken off, and the pipeline looks good for the New Year too. Typically, as the work hots up so has the social front with Christmas approaching and all that.

Last weekend was one of contrasts - Saturday morning L-B completed her swimming levels (and knocked off 72 lengths of the pool to celebrate!), Saturday night saw Jac and I foot-stomping away to the saw Doctors at Shepherds Bush Empire, and Sunday saw Rory and I undertake our first and probably last pilgrimage to Stradey Park.

My 12 year old has always been a bit of a fish in the water and over the past couple of years she has worked her way through a set of levels that test everything from stroke to speed to stamina via agility and courage. I'm immensely proud of her - she has a towel full of achievement badges and is far and away the best swimmer in the family. I'm also delighted that I'll no longer have to get up at 7am on a Saturday to take her down to the pool for an 8am start! Anyway, she now has a term off, and then is going to train as a lifesaver - and I'll bet she'll be a good one!

Having already been up for more than 12 hours when we got to the Empire on Saturday night, I was waning a bit and could have done with a sit down. But Saw Doctors gigs aren't like that. This is where the folky end of country meets punk in a football crowd.

It was the first time Jac had been to a SD gig - and she confessed to being a 'little too English' as 2,000 members of the diaspora communed in all things Irish. There's more than a sentimental edge to the SD's lyrics, with plenty of hand-wringing over leaving the 'oul country' and heartfelt commitment to the green and red of Mayo and the claret of Galway. But it's done with such fun and such energy that it's impossible not to be swept up in the football song refrains that infuse just about every slab of Saw Doctor material.

So for about three hours drinks passed overhead, strangers hugged and jigged and we were all back on the N17 (stone walls and the grass is green) - a great night.

Up early again next morning to hit the M4 and the 360 mile return journey to Llanelli. Now with Wasps having drawn one and lost one of their opening Heineken cup fixtures, this was a must win occasion. They didn't. They lost....tamely.

Still I'm glad to have visited Stradey Park, the west Welsh acre that spawned Carwyn James and Phil Bennett. To tell the truth, it's not very impressive - less intimidating than Bewery Field in Bridgend for instance and with a softer, friendlier crowd than some other Welsh venues. Like so many historic sporting homes, it's set to disappear under a housing estate in a year or so as Scarlets move to a new home on the edge of town.

It was a long drive back in the fog, but good to spend a day chatting with Rory - even if the rugby lived down to expectations.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Little vices

Chocolate is my vice.

I do a reasonable amount of sport, eat my vegetables and have fewer than the allowable number of units of alcohol each week. But for the last five or six years I've gradually gained weight - virtually all of it around my stomach. I have a terrible sweet tooth and could live on Cadbury's Dairy Milk.

Today I won a new contract for what could be an interesting and relatively long term asignment..........with Cadbury Schweppes.

Sonmehow I don't think the waistline's going to be shrinking much in the next few months.