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Archive for March, 2014

A Week of Conference

ed milibandAs the FSB’s conference week draws to a close it is worth noting the hard work that went into what for most is a 3 day affair – the Annual Conference and AGM. I went over there on Tuesday afternoon to take pictures of Manchester – sadly it rained solidly which limited that aspect but at least that night my guys Nigel and David and I went off into town for a somewhat expensive Italian at a haunt apparently beloved of footballers – which was nice – those of you who follow my antics on Facebook may have noticed lots of Manchester pics already. On Wednesday we started the ball rolling – most of the guys were in conference-related meetings while I just made a fleeting visit to said meeting as I had my own IT meeting and discussion as to how we would do our bit for the event.

The conference was a big affair in Manchester Central Conference Centre and some of us stayed at the rather nice Midland Hotel opposite the venue which is smack in the middle of Manchester itself.

The exhibition opened on Thursday and that evening we held our AGM with no big surprises and the conference got off to a proper start on Friday with Ed Miliband and George Osborne but to name a few of the personalities.

tmp78B7At one point I caught Ed as he was passing the IT room where my guys were beavering away and asked him if he’d mind coming to say hello. Despite a tight schedule, he not only came with me to the room but went around and shook everyone’s hand much to the delight of the guys who spend most of their time seeing these personalities only via a screen.

Friday night was a 70’s disco, not something I normally like but I have to say it was once of the best I’ve been to with half decent food, no shortage of drink and absolutely excellent period music. It helped that I managed to get a hug and photo with Naga Munchetty – which was nice. As you can see by the photo of Maureen and I on the left, we dressed accordingly. Some were WAY more ambitious.

Saturday during the day was much like the day before, we spent our time editing video, processing pictures and generally ensuring the IT worked ok – I spent some of my time answering questions at the Twitter bar and talking with FSB colleagues and people I’ve come to know from ESBA – the European Small Business Alliance some of whom I keep in touch with via Facebook – it’s interesting to see how many of our older generation are now starting to ask serious questions about social media, but it’s also disturbing how many still come up with a smile and take delight in telling you they don’t “do” social media.

Their loss I guess. I distinctly remember thinking the same about a guy at driving re-habilitation which I’ve now done twice for the serious crime of doing 2mph over the limit and I recall him saying “I don’t know what they think they can teach people our age”!! There is ALWAYS something new you can learn.

Maureen and PeterAnd so onto Saturday night dinner -  a black tie event – I had no special expectations and indeed the food and singer were a little average – but I was delighted to meet up with and get the chance to introduce Gemma Vasquez (who is the chair of Gibraltar FSB) to Maureen – as well as chatting to Patrick Gibbels and David Caro from ESBA (the latter gave me a nice supply of chocs for the IT guys upstairs – though sadly not all of them made it up the stairs) – we ended up having a nightcap with friends in the hotel – what a great way to end a great day.

Tomorrow Maureen and I went off to pick up her new Chinese smartphone in time for her trip to the states next week. Despite initially showing mainly Chinese, after a little hacking and upgrading it’s now running a recent Android system and looks for all the world like the latest Samsung Galaxy phone but with TWO SIM sockets! How’s that for sub-£100

Conference information including pics, videos and reporting at http://www.fsb.org.uk/conference2014 and for those who prefer to pick things up from Twitter, the hashtag #fsbconf just about has it all.

Dying to get back to work on my thermostat for a day to sort out whatever’s making it crash so I can fit it up in the cottage in Bellingham and start getting control of the heating, before starting yet another round of FSB and ESCO meetings.

Scargill’s 60th Birthday

60th birthday and I officially go from middle-aged to ancient – a joyous occasion, well, it might have been had EASTERN AIRWAYS not screwed it up for me.

The plan was to fly to Cardiff last night in time for a nice Indian dinner before embarking on a 3-day meeting session. I specifically booked flights to make sure I had plenty of time including the 1-hour trip and half-hour on-going journey in Wales. Sorted.

10 minutes before our flight was due to leave, the assistant announced that the plane would be delayed due to “engine testing”. No problem as the flight left a fair bit of time before dinner. 10 minutes later… “the flight has been cancelled”.

We were ushered back by the now hapless-looking assistant up to get our bags and go back to the checking desks where he had the NERVE to offer 2 Easy Jet seats – to the WRONG airport – and with an £80 surplus (yes, we pay them!!!) which of course they would refund – eventually. Given that the last cancelled flight refund is taking us 6 weeks to get back, I was not having that and said so quite loudly but it made no difference as two people, clearly desperate to take anything going, had already claimed the seats.

Here’s the best bit. Eastern Airlines had a flight this morning at 6:40am – but actually had the nerve to suggest that they could not put up passengers for the night if this was their originating location. I lost it I’m afraid – Maureen dropped me off here without any keys – why would I need keys – I’m being picked up in a couple of days! After I calmed down, the attendant, powerless to make any decisions other than when to go to the loo, went on the phone to ask permission to put me in a Hilton Doubletree hotel which just happens to be walking distance from the airport – and that is where I ended up – with a voucher which had just insufficient in it to buy a decent meal.

5am this morning I arose, cleaned up and headed off to the airport. After the usual anti-terrorist stuff, I ended up with minutes to spare for take-off – just in time for a message to say the flight was DELAYED. 2.5 hours later and with another £5 voucher – just enough to buy a sandwich but not coffee, we eventually set off and by 11am I was in Cardiff, a mere 16 hours later than planned.

Why did I chose to fly? To avoid nearly 6 hours of driving – on reflection – at least I would have arrived on time.