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Archive for the ‘ESCO’ Category

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.

The Brussels Trip

Brussels Airport SouthIn an unusual break from my FSB activities, this week I headed off to Brussels to perform my duties as vice-chairman of the EESCO ICT group. This is a small-pan-European group involved in creating a language-independent reference for jobs, skills and qualifications in ICT – not a trivial task and something that will run for around 2.5 years.  We meet bi-monthly in Brussels and this is my second trip.

On Wednesday afternoon I headed off to Edinburgh airport for the mid-afternoon flight which would get me into Brussels early enough for dinner. I’d planned to meet one of the team, a fellow from Sweden called Kenneth OE Sundin with whom I get on well, for drinks. Sadly I got off to a bad start. Having not realised there are TWO airports in Brussels (the second being Charleroi South) and despite many trips there in the past , I ended up at the wrong one, a small affair situated an hour (by coach) away from Brussels centre and even then a further trip by taxi to my normal part of town. That pretty much kyboshed my early evening plans and I let Kenneth know I’d not be around.

Hotel La Madeleine in BrusselsAs it happened just as I arrived at my hotel expecting a quite night at the Hotel La Madeleine in downtown Brussels, a message came in from an old friend to say that the EESC (European Economic and Socwreckial Community) were having a bash which was going on late and if I got there quickly there was still time to salvage the night. I jumped in a taxi only to end up in the centre of Brussels not moving as there’d been a rather serious crash involving a motorcycle downtown and the traffic was gridlocked. After watching my fare jump from 5 to 10 Euros without actually moving, I jumped out of the taxi and took a brisk walk for the last half-mile to the venue.

Downtown BrusselsThe celebration was for the incoming Latvian President of the EU and the whole event was themed Latvian from the food to the (live) music and even some traditionally-clothed dancers. I was rapidly introduced to to a whole succession of Europeans involved in the EESC while enjoying a range of Latvian foods and of course the odd beer.

My meeting the next day was not until early lunchtime and I was invited to return to the EESC building for an early (8am) start, a chat and a visit to one of the plenary meetings, this particular one on the issue of a pending EU directive on smoking. I have to say I found the whole process fascinating and would not had had great difficulty in contributing to the arguments in a massive Auditorium with projectors and stage, banks of translators on the ready behind huge glass screen and some lively conversations going on. My headphones filled with live translations of the manu languages used and I stayed for a couple of hours during which time I also had a fascinating chat with one of the accountants who explained the funding setup and I have to say everyone I talked to made me feel quite at home. No doubt that won’t be the end of that.

Late morning I headed off on foot for my ESCO meeting a few blocks down downtown at Rue Joseph II – we ended up in EU offices smack in the middle of town with no air-conditioning and our pan-European team roasted for much of the afternoon while we listened to a series opizzaf talks and discussed how to progress our mission. The meeting ended at 5:30pm and we went our own separate ways.  Kenneth and I headed off down to our hotels near the Grand Plaza and agreed to meet up later on for drinks at the Plaza itself.

Brussels Central Plaza is a wonderful place in summer and just about every bar and restaurant had outside seating backed with enthusiastic travellers from all over the world. We picked a corner spot We’d previously visited but they were out of space so we went to the next bar along. That didn’t last long as they were charging 6 Euros for a Leffe beer whereas their competitors were offering 3 Leffes for 8 Euros!

Yes THAT much difference. Finally we settled down at a VERY reasonable pizza restaurant, had another beer and in each case one of the best pizzas we’d had in years (sign in the window “Pizzas au feu de bois”). The guy took great delight in telling us the place had 25 years experience- the bill came to under 20 Euros each – what more could you want.

Today I have a very full day with ESCO not to mention the usual FSB email mountain) then after the rather longer than planned trip to the airport I’m off home, arriving back in Wark at a not-unreasonable hour after the two-hour drive down from Edinburgh airport (Newcastle is just too unreasonable requiring a stop-over in London). Next week I’ve a fairly full week of FSB meetings before heading off to Spain for some real sun.

Peter Scargill elected as FSB National IT Chairman

Another year goes by, they seem to get shorter every time. We’re sitting in the FSB’s annual elections and I’ve just been re-elected as National IT Committee Chairman (unopposed) for another year. This allows me to continue the many IT projects I’m working on and also to continue my work in Communications within the organisation. This, along with my new EU role in the ESCO project should keep me busy for another year.