Sunday, 30 December 2012

My day with the BT call centre

It all started innocently enough, or so it seemed at the time, with a call to my broadband provider last Friday to ask them to move us onto an unlimited broadband plan instead of the capped one we were currently on.

Didn't seem like a request that would cause any problems and indeed the lady I spoke to was happy to take the request and entered the order onto their system to effect the change.

The problems started when I spotted late that night that the order didn't seem to quite reflect what I had asked for.  I was registered as a user of the "Infinity" broadband service which offers faster download rates than the base offering.  I was hence expecting to remain as an Infinity customer but simply move onto unlimited broadband.  The order however seemed to be moving me off the faster service and onto an unlimited service based on the slower broadband.

A call to their call centre on Saturday thus took place and I was told that there did indeed seem to be a mistake on the order and that it needed to be cancelled and I would have to phone back today to get it resubmitted.

Well that got us to today and a series of phone calls that burnt through a good sized chunk of my day.

Bottom line seems to be that I have now been moved onto an unlimited broadband package but not on the super fast broadband service - because it is not available yet in my area!!  Given that my bills for the last 8 months have stated that I was buying their faster Infinity service it is safe to say this explanation did come as something of a surprise to me.   I does though explain the events of the last few days.   It's all been referred on to another department to take a look into what has happened and sort it all out - so I can no doubt look forward to some more calls in the coming days.

All very strange but hopefully all will become clearer when they do the investigation.

On the plus side I should note that all of the people I have dealt with on the various calls about this to the helpline have come across as competent and pleasant to talk with - no small achievement I suspect given the problems I'm sure they get to deal with every day.

On the less positive side a call to the technical helpline regarding a problem accessing the internet security software that should come with the broadband service led to a 30 min phone call where they were unable to diagnose what was causing the issue.  They have helpfully escalated it to the next level of support to take a look at but sadly they operate on a model of calling the user at a time of their convenience which in my case it seems won't be until next Friday !  Not what I'd call a timely response.

Not wanting to finish on a negative I'll just add that the various calls ended with enough daylight left for me to head out into the darkening countryside and find the last of the goecaches in my 2012 challenge to find all of the ones within 5 miles of my house.  There are a couple where I have had to log "did not find" records but in both cases I am in good company with others similarly logging problems so I suspect they are no longer to be found and that's good enough for me to claim success on my challenge - and all done with a whole day to spare before the year is out.   Time to start thinking what to aim for in 2013.


Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Honesty - the next virtue from the good project

Last month I wrote a blog post for "The Good Project" on the virtue of Hope.  Reflecting on the experience I noted how knowing that I was going to write a blog post on the topic had given me a focus for thinking about the virtue as the month progressed and how it would be good to do the same in subsequent months.

Well, here we are in October and this month's virtue is "Honesty".  Once again there is an impressive range of contributions from a diverse set of writers. Well worth a few minutes of your time to get over to the University of Winchester Blog and look at the October entries.

Reading Kay Plante's blog earlier this week I came across a post on Creating an Authentic Brand that included this comment :-

"Leaderhip gurus Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner surveyed a diverse cross-section of people around the globe to identify leadership attributes that induce others to follow. They discovered that the first question that potential followers ask themselves when deciding whether or not to follow a “leader” is “Is this person honest, i.e., do I trust this person to be true to his word?
The same test holds true of company messages – “Do I trust what this company wants to tell me?” If companies do not back their promises with actions that deliver on those promises, trust is broken."

So I think we would all agree that honesty is an important attribute and something that we look for in others.  But what does it take to be "honest" is it simply a question of not telling a lie?

Whilst not telling lies is part of the story I think we quickly realise that this isn't all there is to honesty.  Some of the blog posts that have been posted this month address this and start to explore the wider question of what it takes to demonstrate honesty.  Sometimes honesty will require us to speak up and correct an untruth (irrespective of whether we told it).  Sometimes it will be about not allowing a mistaken view to prevail.

I think there is yet another dimension to it and Juliet Hancock talks in her blog post about the "willingness to admit weakness and to admit we don't have all the answers".  Here we have the idea that it's also about being honest with myself.  This is a theme that was also picked up by Hector Sants at the recent "Resetting the Business Agenda" symposium held at the Said Business school in Oxford.  As part of a panel discussion on "Regulation and Trust in Financial Markets" he talked about the need for honesty.  He elaborated that this wasn't just about not telling lies but also about avoiding self delusion.

Returning to the core issue of truthfulness I'll close with the question of the "white lie" - can there be such a thing?  is it ever right to lie?

Chambers defines white lie as "a minor falsehood, esp one uttered for reasons of tact". I'd like to propose that a lie is a lie is a lie.  To try and classify lies as "minor" begs the question on what basis should we evaluate them.  On the verge of uttering an untruth how can we possibly seek to assess the longer term impact of what we are about to say. One of my colleagues pointed me at a quote from Iain King in his book "How to make good decisions and be right all the time : solving the riddle of right and wrong".  He says "Deceive only if you can change behaviour in a way worth more than the trust you would loose, were the deception discovered (whether the deception actually is exposed or not)" Short term we may avoid some awkwardness through the "white" lie but longer term what is the cost?   No, I think the term "white lie" is actually a lie to ourselves (one no doubt we would argue as also falling in the "white" category) that we aren't actually doing something wrong.  We know that it's wrong to lie, we know we aren't a bad person, and hence it must follow that what I'm about to say can't be a real lie ... it must be something else... hence the mythical "white lie".

I'm with Martin Palethorpe and his exhortation that we strive to be well intentioned and what he calls "honest,  honest level 1".  It may not be easy, and we will often fall short, but it does seem to me to be the best course.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Geocaching milestone - it's another 3

From my geocaching account I can look back at my "Geocaching Milestones" - see below.

I'm sure there are some who would argue the 25th cache find is really no different from the 24th or the 26th but if you're going to pick some then why not these ones.

I'd spotted that coincidentally my 50th, 75th and 100th caches had all been the third in a series.  Respectively Barns 3 part of a circuit in the countryside north of Littleton, Ed's circuit 3 from a lovely walk round Compton. and Roman Road 3 from a decidedly more linear series of caches along one of the Roman roads heading out of Winchester.

As my 200th cache approached it seemed only fitting to try to arrange for that one to also be a 3.   I attempted to get there with a walk around part of the Hursley Circular trail but a failure to find one of the others in the series meant that  Hursley Circular 3 came in as my 199th find :-(

A trip to Little Up Somborne Wood and Clarendon 2-3 Bert 3 however came to my rescue and maintained the pattern.

Having kept it going for 4 milestones I suspect I may have created some pressure for myself in the coming months when we get to 300.....

Anyhow... that's probably sufficient text to ensure that the picture doesn't overlay the information on the right so here is the view of my milestone caches:

Monday, 24 September 2012

Some thoughts on the virtue of "Hope"

I was invited to write a guest blog post for "The Good Project" on the virtue of Hope and you can read what I wrote - here

So what's all this about I hear you ask...  well, The Good Project is a 1 year long initiative from the Hoare Centre for Responsible Leadership at the Winchester Business School.

For the next 12 months we will be invited to consider a series of different virtues.  Each month kicks off with a blog post from Karen, the project leader, to introduce that month's virtue.  For the next 3 weeks (or of course possibly 4 depending on exactly how the weeks split across the months) guest bloggers will pen their thoughts, providing a range of insights and hopefully leading to discussion.

I was invited to sign up for a couple of virtues and Hope was my first contribution.   You'll have to wait until March 2013 for my next formal contribution.

I've really enjoyed the process of reflecting on this month's virtue and am considering adding some thoughts on each of the virtues on this blog as the months go by - we'll see how that goes.

If you want to get involved then please do join the community and contribute to the discussion on Facebook, LinkedIn or via Twitter.

Monday, 3 September 2012

London 2012 Paralympic Games

A couple of days ago I managed to buy some tickets for Sunday night's (2nd September) Athletics in the Olympic Stadium.

We had the Littleton and Harestock Show Service in the morning so, after a quick lunch, we headed for the station and a train to Waterloo.

Journey went very smoothly into Waterloo and then out to Stratford on the Jubilee Line and a short walk to the Olympic Park.  It was fantastic during the whole day to see just how good the organisation  was and how smoothly everything worked.

We'd been told to expect Airport Style security as we entered the Park.  I'd actually like to see airports starting to provide "London 2012 Style" security as, despite the volumes of people arriving, we flowed through ticket checks and then straight on and through the scanning getting into the event without hardly breaking step.

Reminded of "War of the Worlds"
It's a very impressive place with all the buildings but also all of the other parts - the flower areas, walkways, picnic areas etc all very well thought out even if this view does rather remind me of "The War of the Worlds".

The StadiumWe spent some time wandering around the park and grabbed a sandwich before heading to the Stadium.   This is one very impressive building.  Not only is it great to look at from the outside but is an amazing place to sit with the electric atmosphere generated by the crowds inside.   We had a bit of a Harry Potter moment trying to find our seats though.  The tickets said we were in section 110 so we go across bridge E turn right and start passing 102 and upwards.  The numbers climb as we walk 107, 108, 109, and then of course 111, 112, 113.   Huh?  Retracing our steps we leap again from 111 to 109.  Seeking help from one of the many Games Makers we are told that there is a special entrance for 110 .. go through that door and talk to security.   How puzzling but through we go and sure enough there is the entrance to 110.   Once we go through we reaslise what's happened - we are seated in part of the media area.  I guess that there is less demand for media seats for the Paralympics than they had at the Olympics so some of the seats have been made available.

From the back of section 110 looking down to our seats

Here's the view down to our seats - that's us down in the second row!  Comfy seats, a desk area to spread out our stuff, masses of space and fantastic views - it's fair to say that we were more than a little pleased.

Looking left from my seatView from my seat looking left ....
... and ahead of us we have...
... and straight ahead  
... and to the far right                                                                      ... and to the right.

Over the next 3 hours we were treated to an inspiring display of track and field events.  By the end of it we'd even managed to get a reasonable grip of all the various category definitions.  The first letter ("F" or "T") just designated Field/Track.  The first number indicated the nature of the disability so for example 1 meant "visual", 5 meant "wheelchair".  The final number indicates the severity with the lower the number being the more severe.  My understanding had reached a sufficient level to make me do a double take when they announced the F11 Discus event !  Amazing to see them manage to throw the discus so reliably - I can't begin to imagine the amount of dedicated training that must take.

After the Men's 200m T44

The men's 200m T44 was undoubtedly the most anticipated event of the evening and certainly lived up to its billing as a very exciting race.   Looking at the athletes after the race was over it was interesting to see how, with 10 blades and 4 legs, it was the legs that somehow looked anomalous.

We were conscious that if we missed the 2254 from Waterloo the next train was at 0030 so we'd decided to leave the stadium and make our way home a few minutes before the 2205 scheduled end of the session.   Sadly that means we missed the excitement of the Team GB win in the 5000m T54 event but we did make it back to Waterloo in time for our train home.  Again it is worth noting just how smoothly everything went.  Despite the huge numbers of people entering Stratford Station there was a steady flow of long tube trains arriving every few minutes to take people away.

A truly wonderful event and great to have had the chance to be there to experience the atmosphere and see all the things going on around the stadium that the TV coverage just doesn't capture in the same way.

In closing a word of thanks too to all of the Games Makers for the huge impact they have had in making our trip and the whole event the success it is.   The lady on the high chair outside Stratford Station getting the throngs of people heading into the station to join her in a rendition of "If you're happy and you know it..." was probably one of the most effective ways of defusing tension and stress at just the right moment that I've seen - genius.

If you want to see a few more photos from our trip to the Paralympics then they can be found in my Flickr Set London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

New Wine 2012

We started our summer holidays with our usual trip to the New Wine summer conference.  I think this marks our 11th consecutive year of wending our way to the Bath & West Show Ground for an uplifting, challenging and inspiring week of worship, fellowship and teaching.

School term dates meant that this year we were attending the second week.  The week before had been hot and sunny so thankfully the ground was in good condition for camping.  Given the huge volumes of water descending from the skies in the preceding weeks this was by no means a foregone conclusion.  We had a more mixed week with some sunshine and some rain - including some very heavy downpours but we were treated to a marvellous double rainbow over the site (which this photo doesn't do justice.... should have taken my wide angle lens with me...).

Rainbow over New Wine

My measure of good camping weather is that at a minimum you get to pitch the tent in the dry and get to pack it away dry as well and we achieved that.

The morning bible studies were given by David Parker from the Desert Vinyard church in California who spoke powerfully from Acts 3 and 4 looking at the story of the healing of the beggar at the "gate called Beautiful".  As ever it was great to have such a concentration of time looking in detail at a familiar story, giving the chance to look into it in depth and consider its wider meaning.

In the evening sessions we were treated to a range of impressive speakers including a memorable talk from Canon J John that included the story of the donuts (challenge to us all but nice one for church treasurers) and the one about the cat in a tree along with many more.

On the day off we headed out to have a look at the National Trust Tyntesfield House  Inside Tyntesfield House - somewhere that we hadn't been before and which proved a really interesting place to explore, both the house and the grounds.

All too soon the week was over and it was time to pack away the tent and head home....

Pitch vacated and ready to go

until next year.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Said Business School Venture Fund Final

Held at the SBS in Oxford on 6th June 2012 this was the 6th SBS Venture Fund final with 4 companies selected to pitch to a panel (Karl Peterson, Sir Victor Blank and Sir Philip Green) for investments up to around £150,000.

Over the previous 5 years the fund has invested around £750,000 in companies and four of them were scheduled to give quick updates on their progress.

First up we had MoBank which produces mCommerce platforms talking about their latest software which seems to be aimed at retailers looking to develop a mobile commerce capability.

Next was Cignifi - interesting idea this.  There are lots of people with phones but no bank accounts.  When it comes to offering loans to these people they have zero data to look at for conventional credit scoring so Cignifi has developed analytics based on the mobile phone usage records to determine a credit rating score.

Third to present was GreenPrint Technologies - focusing on solutions to measure manage and reduce printing costs in organisations.   One system looked like it would advise a user that there was a better printer option than the one they had selected and offer to reroute it for them.

The final company due to present to us was HiretheWorld a system for offering work out to tender over the web and engaging freelancers to complete it for you.  We saw a short video of how it all works and then the plan was that we would have an update presented via a web conference - sadly some buffering and delays on the link made this impossible.

The investment committee had narrowed down the many applications to a shortlist of 7 and those had then been further whittled down to the 4 companies who got to pitch on the evening.

Kinosis was first up.  This company was founded by a group of 4 surgeons and they are in the business of developing and marketing interactive education apps that utilises touch screen devices.  Their primary target audience are trainee surgeons.   Idea is that surgeons can use their iPad, or similar device, to practice surgical techniques and understand the mechanics and decision making required during an operation.

Then we had LabMinds - some companies you can immediately see and understand the market that they have been set up to serve.  I thought this was a good example of a company set up to address a problem that most people will be unaware of.   It seems that a lot of time is spent in labs preparing the chemical solutions needed to do the real work.  They have a machine that is intended to purify water and automate solution preparation thus saving time and money in the lab.  They hope to have their first machine installed in one of the Oxford labs before long but this did make it a very early stage for investment.

The Argentinian based online food ordering and delivery website was next.  There seemed to be a large market potential with many restaurants available who could be approached to sign up to the site and scope to grow beyond their initial focus on Buenos Aires.

Last to present was Oxford nanoSystems (surprisingly website is under construction) who want to improve the performance of heat transfer systems starting with boilers.  I think I heard them say that they wanted to make the surfaces in the heat transfer units "nano rough" and hence dramatically increase the surface area and performance.  usually the focus with a coating is to make it smooth so they would be utilising a process that was know but poor at creating smooth surfaces and hence not used much currently but could potentially suit their requirements.

At this point the investment panel retired to deliberate on their decisions and we were treated to some presentations from companies supported by the Oxford business X charity.  These companies are founded by secondary school pupils with a small loan from the charity.  Three of the companies came along and were truly inspiring.  BandIt was set up to produce and sell a series of coloured wrist bands that you could collect and when you had a complete set of all 7 possible ones you send them in and get a single multicoloured one instead.  The 7 bands relate to the 7 Olympic/Paralympic values which I now know are Respect, Determination, Courage, Inspiration, Friendship, Excellence, and Equality. was set up to help schools make better use of their facilities by making them available for commercial bookings when not being used by the school.  Teenage Dirt Bag was setup to make and sell a festival survival kit in a small bag.  Struck me as a great idea with potential well beyond the festival market that they are initially targeting.

The panel returned to the auditorium and provided their feedback.  They were interested in exploring a couple of the companies in more detail but didn't make any investment offers on the night.

After some closing remarks by the Dean of the school we were directed to the common room a fantastic BBQ that had been laid on and a chance to chat with other attendees at the event.

As ever with these things I had a good evening and learnt a lot through the presentations and listening to the panel and their questions.   As a keen watcher of Dragons Den it was interesting to see how the questions the panel asked fitted with what I expected them to ask - and generally it did.

Being a father of 2 daughters may make me more susceptible to noticing such things but I was struck that while there was a clear geographic mix of people presenting the 4 people giving updates on previous investments plus the 8 people presenting new ideas were all male.  When we had the presentations from the companies supported by Oxford X though, it was good to note that 4 of the 7 presenters were female.  Small numbers so could simply be an anomaly but did set me wondering where the role model female entrepreneurs are and why they weren't there trying to secure investment.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Littleton Jubilee Weekend

The village where we live has a fantastic community spirit to it (one of the reasons we moved here) and that was very much in evidence for the Jubilee weekend.  A team of volunteers had arranged a full program of activities over the 4 days.

Saturday morning the fun started as people placed their scarecrows in position for the royal themed scarecrow competition.  In total there were 33 entries including 2 from our family.

 Carol and Alice did one of King Alfred 11 - Who burnt the cakes?
and I helped Helen to make a balcony for her display.20 - The Balcony

It was great to wander around the village seeing all of the scarecrows that had been created.   There is a prize for the best ones so there were also score cards to be completed and debate about the relative merits of each one - do you give points for neatness or deduct marks if you can't see straw?    We also got to chat with a lot of friends and neighbours as we spotted them outside our house judging ours.

On the Saturday morning there was a set of walks around part of the parish boundary.  Carol and I did a 6.5 or so mile walk (you can see where we walked - here - it was a circular route, the gap just after the 2 mile mark was down to the pause button getting pressed on the phone ......)  which coincidentally passed by the site of 3 geocaches we hadn't found before so we were able to bag those as we passed.  

In total around 250 people took part in either this walk or a shorter one that day.

Monday there was a children's activity afternoon and then in the evening a mass picnic on the recreation ground.

 I'm told there were around 800 tickets sold for that !  The organisers definitely picked the best day for this - we had lovely sunshine and dry conditions for the picnic and enjoyed dancing on the grass to the live band.
Live music from the Jubilee Band

At around 10:15 a beacon was lit on the adjoining MOD land of the Winchester Training Regiment - I'm not sure what they used but it certainly started with an impressive whoosh !


(I should add that it was behind the tree - it's just the angle of the photo that makes it look like the hedge is going up in smoke)

Some fireworks finished off the evening's entertainment other than the challenge of packing the picnic away and taking the gazebos down in the dark :-)

To finish things off on Tuesday there were 9 people opened their gardens for people to look round.  Sadly it rained pretty hard for most of the afternoon but Carol and I donned our wet weather gear and spent a couple of happy hours wandering around Littleton & Harestock being impressed by what others have done and feeling like we should lavish some more time and attention on ours!

I know who some of the organisers were but I'm sure there were many many unsung heros behind the scenes who made this weekend of celebration possible - my thanks to them all whoever they are.

More pictures from the weekend can be found in my Littleton Jubilee Weekend Set on Flickr

Friday, 1 June 2012

Responsible leadership and the power of a good question

Over the past few months I've attended a number of talks at Winchester Business School’s Centre for Responsible Management (part of the University of Winchester).

I've listened to Steve Holmes from ASK Italian,  Gin Tidridge from B&Q,  Keith Abel of the eponymous Abel and Cole, and this week Ralf Schneider from Better Business Consulting.

Whilst there has been a strong theme around Responsible Leadership (as you would expect) the areas they have covered have been very different. Each speaker shared insights into their work over many years and talked about challenges and successes that they have seen.   Ralf's talk was the exception as, though it did cover things he had done, it focused more generally on the societal and business pressures that make responsible leadership ever more important.

As I reflect back on the series of talks I was struck by the common theme of a timely, well placed question in each of their stories.

For Steve's it was the corridor meeting with the CEO where he asks should we be greener?  For Gin's it was the organisation being asked whether they knew where the timber in their products came from.  For Keith's it was the organic farmer who asked him if he knew what chemicals were on a potato.  For Ralf ..... well most of his session was deliberately about important questions rather than answers.

Reinforces my belief in the power and effectiveness of leading through asking good questions rather than through command and control.   Also opens up the interesting question of how as a member of an organisation you can ensure that you are the sort of person who is turned to when the big questions are being asked. I suspect that in there lies the key to disproportionate influence over the outcomes.


Tuesday, 1 May 2012

"The Double X Economy"

Linda Scott gave her inaugural lecture as the "DP World Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation" at the Oxford Saïd Business School last week.

As a formal inaugural lecture there was a degree of ceremony to proceedings and the event started with the lecturer meeting the Vice-Chancellor outside the lecture theatre and them processing in "preceded by a bedel" - which, though an Oxford term, is one that escaped me during my 3 years there.

Ceremonial entrance and appropriate cap tipping over she started her talk in which she looked at a number of aspects of gender inequality.   To quote from the abstract of her talk.  "Global data collected in the past fifteen years has shown that gender inequality is a measurable phenomenon that occurs in all nations and has massively negative effects on a range of important dimensions from national prosperity to environmental degradation to violence and disease levels.  Closing the gender gap is therefore now a world priority.  The data also show, contrary to years of academic arguments, that industrial capitalism, far from being the cause of gender oppression, has actually produced better conditions for women."

In an hour she could clearly only scratch the surface of the work that she has done over a number of years but she made a compelling case and identified various issues with conventional economic thinking in this area.  She also spoke about 2 specific projects that she has been involved with drawing lessons and insights from them but also recognising the challenges and some of the negative press that these sorts of activities can engender.

The lecture finished with another round of cap tipping and then she and the vice chancellor (preceded of course by the aforementioned bedel) processed out of the lecture theatre.  It was at this point that the audience, being upstanding for their exit, realised that it is difficult to know when to sit down again if a procession goes past you to an exit behind :-)  Social etiquette dilemma duly resolved we made our way out to a drinks reception in the foyer.

The lecture is available on the Business School's YouTube channel and if you are interested in the topic I think you'll find her an engaging and compelling speaker.  Text and slides for the lecture are on her Double X Economy website

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Tumble Dryer repairs in the internet age

Our tumble dryer stopped working recently and today it is repaired and seems to be working again.  Nothing interesting in that.... except as I reflect on how it happened I realise just how much the emergence of social computing, mobile devices etc has changed life.   Allow me to explain...

I first discovered that the machine was broken when I spotted a facebook update from my wife

One evening a few days later I took the back off the machine to try and diagnose what the problem was.  In this I was assisted by the advice on various forums - found by doing a Google Search.

Advent of wifi and tablet means of course that I was able to stand over the opened machine, iPad in hand, reading the forum posts and looking at wiring diagrams.

Following advice on the forums was able to check that the 3 thermostats were all OK (who'd have thought there'd be that many).   So deduced that it was most likely a problem with the element.

Later that evening, iPad in hand once more, sitting on the sofa I search for suppliers of spare parts.  Light upon a supplier on eBay who seems to offer a good price and has lots of good feedback (score of 291617 and so few negative comments that they show a 100% positive rating!)

Part duly ordered I wait a couple of days and it is delivered to me.

Today I open the machine up again to replace the element.   Once I have it opened I can take a quick photo

of the situation as I find it (iPad again) before I start undoing any wires.

Remove the old element and start fitting the new one - referring to the nice big photo on my iPad to ensure that I have things right - discover I don't and rejig to get it right.

Close everything up and test all is well and as an added bonus thanks to @davenice I have a suggestion on what to do with the old one.

... and to round things off I blog about the whole thing !

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Ed's Circuit

Ed's Circuit is a series of 16 geocaches laid on a circular walk from Compton.  It is clearly a popular series of caches to do as the footfall of previous seekers has worn extra paths to some of them....

Cache path

Last weekend we did the first 7 caches and today we decided to risk the rain and return to finish it.  Started with an extra one in the grounds of Compton Church and then headed down the road to No 16 and from there round the circuit in reverse order all the way back to where we finished up last weekend.

On the way round we liberated an African Mask trackable which headed out on its travels at the start of this year in Rhône-Alpes, France and we will now move on to a new home.

We timed it well, only having a few mins of rain now and again to interrupt the sunshine and had a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours walking through some really lovely countryside.

Logged a total of 10 cache finds - a new "personal best" daily find score :-)

Also pleased to note that the number of caches left to find to complete my 2012 challenge ( to find all of the ones within 5 miles of our house) now stands at 99 - first time below 100.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Half a century of geocaching

I noticed that I have now passed the half century milestone and found over 50 geocaches since I started back in June last year.  For those not familiar with the concept of Geocaching - Wikipedia describes it as "an outdoor sporting activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches", anywhere in the world." Astonishingly there are some 1,689,466 geocaches worldwide according to the activity's home -

As with so many things, once you start you discover all sorts of benefits that you never imagined before.  Seeking to locate the caches is providing a wonderful incentive to get out and go for walks in the area and I'm discovering lots of parts of Winchester and surrounding countryside that I'd never explored before.  Looking to see if there are any caches nearby can also lead you to some surprising discoveries - such as the cache at the site of the old quarry at Leigh Delamare (East bound) services that I was introduced to the other week.

I recently paid the modest fee to become  "premium member" and hence access to lots of lovely statistics.

Here are my figures for the number of finds each month....

I've not found any really hard caches yet (though I have to say I've struggled to locate some of the ones I have found).

Most have been close to home but I've found a few further afield....

 ... and this accounts for the further afield ones....

My target for 2012 is to locate all of the caches within 5 miles of my house - as of today there are a total of 161 with 126 still to find.   Given the recent flurry of new ones that have been created in this area however it may prove a bit of a moving target so we shall have to see how we do but I'm looking forward to continuing to explore new parts of the lovely countryside round Winchester in the process.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

"Let's do it"

Yesterday evening Carol and I paid our first visit to The Anvil in Basingstoke.  We were there to see Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag's show "Let's Do it".

It was a great evening of music, song and dance.  Elegant and impressive dances from Anton & Erin and their supporting dancers were interspersed with music from the orchestra and songs from Lance Ellington (one of the singers from Strictly).  As well as their intrinsic entertainment value these gaps provided the time for Erin to change her way through a bewildering array of dresses.

During the second half there was a Question and Answer session - the audience having been invited to write questions down and post them into a box in the Foyer during the interval.   In response to the selected questions we got toning advice from the 2011 "Rear of the Year", insights into favourite dances and dancers, a discussion on shoes, and some reflections on Riverdance.  All delivered in an engaging and fun way.