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Archive for June, 2011

The Brussels Trip

Following on from my trip to Lincoln, the next part of my week involved hopping onto the Eastern train down to Kings Cross – making the hop to the Chunnel and on to Brussels to attend various meetings hosted by ESBA (the European Small Business Alliance).

Speedo showing 184mph on the EurostarOf course, when I moved to THREE for mobile, it never occurred to me to check, with such an excellent deal in the UK, what Brusselstheir charges for overseas might be – and so you can imagine, surfing the web as we came up for air in Europe, I was rather dismayed by a constant stream of text messages “you have just spent £5 on data”…. “You have just spent £10 on data” etc..  Before switching the phone off in disgust, I did happen to notice on one of my navigation programs, the speed we were doing.  184mph. Very nice.

tmpB48BAs I was a guest of our Chairman, I travelled to Brussels with him – arriving there far too late to go out and enjoy the evening and so we headed off to our respective apartments – Brussels is very expensive, as you can imagine it would be and so we’d booked into a place called THON apartments, not the Ritz but self-catering apartments with a decent living and dining area etc.  Having been ripped on the way in for broadband we then discovered the apartments also charged for WIFI… so very different to my normal experience and the only downside of moving away from Vodafone who do a flat-rate £9 a day for using their dongles in Europe. It was a warm evening and so I settled down for the night, but not before European Parliamentnoticing a fine example of European wiring standards in action at the apartment which was otherwise very well maintained…

Brussels of course is just one of the places where the European Parliament meet to change our lives for better or worse but I have to say that it is very impressive indeed and you do get a definite impression of a place where important things happen.

Radisson BluOur meetings on Thursday took place in the Radisson Blu hotel just up from the parliament area but that didn’t stop me getting up first thing in the morning armed with camera to make sure I got my fair share of pictures. The area really is stunning and indeed Brussels generally has some amazing architecture both old and new. 

European ParliamentParliament BuildingsBreakfast of course consisted of croissants and powerful coffee and then the rest of the day was pretty much occupied with meetings, listening to and occasionally interacting with the various speakers. being relatively new to this I spend most of my time listening rather than talking.

StatueThe strangest thing happened…  at breakfast we were talking about an old pal of mine and in jest I said I would not be surprised if he was here. We walked into the Radisson and sure enough there he was standing in the foyer – I could not believe my eyes.  Turns out he has access to offices just down the road and so outside of the meetings we spent some time catching up – which gave me even more excuses to take some pictures.

At this point I’ll stop talking and let the pictures speak for themselves for a while… feel free to click on the images to see larger versions, especially the ones directly below…

 

Brussels

Brussels

Meeting rooms

The image you see below on the left is an actual part of the Berlin wall, as you can see, not that high really but with armed guards not too far away on the Eastern side, clearly there were effective. Parts of Berlin Wall shipped in

There is such a mix of stuff here, from amazing old architecture to super modern buildings that in themselves are works of art. Loved the place, though it’s not my first time there.

The second morning was taken up with an  ESBA meeting which I attended as a guest. ESBA is a pan-European small business organisation – you can find out anything you need to know from their website-  and that, basically was it. A short bus-ride back to the airport and a matter of a couple of hours later I was back in rainy Newcastle, all the better for the experience and the opportunity to get a tiny insight into how European bureaucrats work.

There are of course LOTS more photos and of higher quality – I’ve put the lot onto my Google Albums site and I recommend a trip here. The album also covers my trip to Lincolnshire (previous blog).

The Lincolnshire Trip

It’s been a very long week this week and quite an interesting one.  On Tuesday I packed my bags for a journey that would start in Lincolnshire and end in Brussels.

my cat who wanted to join the tripMid-morning I packed my bags ready for the journey, trying to pack the minimum amount as part of the journey would involve flying. After a false start in which for the life of me I could not find my passport, I packed the bag and went off to get my iPad. On my return I discovered I had a stowaway as you can see on the right. It took Ollie seconds to get into the case and be out like a light!! A nice idea but not too practical. 

So off I went on the first leg of my journey involving a drive to Newcastle train station. Not the greatest of starts because when I got to the station, there was absolutely NO parking available. With 10 minutes to spare I drove down to the not-so-nearby-if-you-have-a-heavy-case “Centre for Life” parking, the result being as I got to the platform and asked a jobs-worth if the train standing in front of me was the right one, she pointed out I was too late to get on… and point blank refused to let me on the train. 30 seconds later, the train departed. If mind-over-matter is indeed possible, she’s probably Bentley Hotel in Lincolndead by now. Having now blown a 1st-class off-peak £35 special ticket, I took the next train, cattle-class, as the 1st class price was too unbelievably high to consider.

3 hours plus a short taxi-ride later I arrived at my destination – the Bentley Hotel in Lincoln.. very pleasant, no doubt helped by the very nice weather. A phone call to check on a very poorly friend and then Dinner in an authentic American restaurant followed by an early night.

Wednesday morning the plan was to attend the Lincoln Agricultural show where FSB members had a tent – the idea being to go around and talk to the members.  This did not get started for the public until mid-morning so I took the opportunity to get up early and have a walk around the excellent Pennell’s Garden Centre a short walk away from the hotel. If you’re ever in the area, take a look- next to the garden centre there is also a GREAT Jacuzzi-hot-tub centre – again worth a look.

Pennells  Garden CentrePennells  Garden CentreHot Tub Store

Lincolnshire FSB MarketplaceOn time, my transport arrived and off we went to the Lincolnshire show! There’s not a lot to say other than to say it was excellent and well worth a trip (of course that kind of depends on the weather as always the case in the UK – it did pour down at one point but overall the weather while I was there, was excellent).

It would be unfair to single out any particular companies for praise as all the companies in the FSB marketplace seemed to be doing great business with lots of interest from the public but I soon found my favourites – there’s a lot of innovation going on right now and this was one place to find it – with a company producing printed Window Blinds from your photos and another offering the most spectacular decorative heating radiators I’ve ever seen.  The dining area at the exhibition was understandably massive and we all enjoyed a good lunch, my only regret being that timescales made it impossible to spend the amount of time I would have liked to. I reckon that actually seeing all the various businesses at the show would have taken a good day – which I didn’t have.

By mid-afternoon it was time to go and that is the subject of my next blog… I’ll leave you with some photos of the show in good and not-so good weather. Click on the images, they’ll all expand a little.

Lincolnshire ShowLincolnshire ShowLincolnshire Show

Coming home for the Weekend

It’s an interesting afternoon, I’m coming back from London Kings Cross on the 3pm from KK. Having been to a meeting this morning I ended up with an hour to spare and ventured into FOYLES bookshop in London – their technology section beats the pants off the competition (in the case of Newcastle and Gateshead that does not take a lot of doing, the number of computing books in most of the larger stores therein are a disgrace) – I was doing fine until I spotted a book on the iPad being put on the shelves by an Asian fellow, who, when he saw me looking at the book started acting like a zoo-keeper urging me closer to the book then digging a hole for himself by pointing out that it’s not just the young people who can use technologies….. and proceeding to tell me that “older folks” are often overlooked before digging even deeper.

I didn’t care to point out that I’ve more IT knowledge than a school-full of “young people” and don’t feel particularly “old”.  I suppose I could have been really cruel and asked him how he felt about the new features in IOS5…or asked for a critique of the book I’ve just bought therein.  Anyhow,   I’m now armed with something new to read (using JQUERY – about which I’m already up to speed but with a few holes I hope to fill with this book)… and I’m now in coach M just in time for the rain to fall in buckets.

There’s a strange mix of people in here including the crew who seem to be entirely French. One old guy keeps wandering up and down the isle whispering “ah yes” to himself which has given us a few giggles. He looks remarkably like the old fellow on the movie “UP” and clearly isn’t quite with it. Meanwhile the lady just over is struggling to get her iPhone to play through the headset instead of the speakers and just down the way, another lady has spent at least 5 minutes trying to figure out where, on her iPad, to plug her headset into (there are only 4 sides but she managed to go through each of them several times before getting it right).

A pleasant trip

Pop over to the Bedrock site – we’ve had a nice, stress-busting trip away to Spain for a few days.

San Javier Airport