Monday, November 22, 2010

Eat that Frog!

Eat that Frog is a book by the great American motivational speaker Brian Tracey. This short book deals entirely with the concept that on everybody's daily 'to do' list there is always one task that is bigger and more important than the others but is a pain to do and hence we leave it until last or even worse we put it off until the next day. This leaves us invariably feeling inadequate at work and leaves us with this black cloud hanging over us. Brian Tracey tells us that we need to discipline ourselves, stop procrastinating and tackle  this task, or frog as he calls it , immediately. The sense of achievement associated with completing this task will then boost you through the day and your effectivity and self confidence will soar.
Yesterday I ate a huge frog and I could not be happier!
I have been studying internet marketing since late summer, I've bought everything that moves , watched more videos than I have in my whole life, written more notes than I ever did at school and have even bought the tee shirt . As many people looking to get involved in this field of work I fell foul to information overload and despite learning a whole new set of skills  the holy grail of internet marketing- having a product to sell on line- seemed no closer than the day I started. The frustration of not making progress in this has been horrible and as a result even the stuff I really enjoy, like blogging has taken a side line. To be fair to myself I got a lot closer than most people ever do ( helped along by throwing money at it!) and I have plans and ideas to keep me going for the next decade but there was always something blocking me.
Well yesterday I spent 7 hours hunched over the computer and voila, the frog is gone!
I cannot describe the feeling of accomplishment and achievement I feel. I couldn't be happy if I had won the lottery and its like the sun has come out on everything. Am writing my first blog in around 2 months and have numerous more ideas of things to write about. I got replies to emails that I had given up on, found someone to sort out my mess of a personal web site and got concrete info about tap dancing lessons I have been wanting to do for years. In general I have had a very positive day and am looking forward to starting my next on line product!
To all of you who are struggling at work or at home try identifying the frog on your list each day and dealing with it first for the next 7 days. See what a difference it can make to your work and your life. Worse case scenario you have more time in the day to do the fun stuff . Whats not to love about that?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Where has the romance gone?

According to an article produced by, possibly the largest internet dating site in the world, us women have changed our attitudes to dating. We are no longer looking for a knight in shining armour  instead we are looking for someone low key and who wants to settle down. Can this really be true, has romance died out totally and if so what was the straw that broke the camels back?
Pragmatic dating does seem to be all around us though. I also read this week that the most romantic gesture these days is usually an SMS or a Facebook posting. Bad news for the flower and gift card shops!
I can't help thinking though that this report must have been aimed at the older age group. At 42 I am sceptical beyond belief about matters of the heart etc but I refuse to believe that as a whole our cynicism with romance has been passed down to the younger generation in such a way that they do not even dream of the grand gesture. Maybe the internet generation are so used to instant gratification that it doesn't even occur to them that there is another way? Will this save them any heartbreak and anxiety along the way? Probably not, after all it is a rite of passage but what it does mean to all us oldies that once again the teenagers will be right when they say that we can never understand their angst. For that I am glad though because if anybody tries romancing me by sending me a virtual bunch of flowers on Facebook instead of buying the real deal( actually I hate flowers so skip that idea totally) or God forbid wants to dump me via text message then be prepared for a grand gesture Google style. Google will show me your house, tell me what web sites you visit,show me who your friends are, the list goes on. Actually now I come to think about it this non romantic pragmatic dating thing is quite fun!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

GDP growth-something to hang your hat on or a load of old cobblers?

The average man in the street used to have no idea what GDP was let alone what effect it had on an economy. It was only when recession hit that it was fully explained to us in plain mans language what it truly meant. Just in case it is all a distant blur I will recap - the qualification for officially being in a recession is that the economy has stopped growing 2-3 consecutive quarter's in a row. At its most basic level it means that people have stopped spending money.This whilst undoubtably true became a self fulfilling prophecy though because the more the analysts and journalists wrote that people were scared to spend money the more we started to believe them and really stopped spending money.
Eighteen months later and everyone is now trying to be positive and the analysts are blithely announcing that GDP is up, confidence has returned to the world and we can all put a smile on our faces and get back to business as usual. What a lot of boloney! Whilst I  have no doubt that statistically everything is on an upward trend I think we have to be cautious with this information.Whilst I think the world most definitely needs to have analysts I think the world is in even more need of people who actually get out of their office and step into the big world for real and comment on progress.
One look at the CEE up close and despite all the positive numbers and lots of charts pointing in an upwards direction it is very plain to see that things have not returned to normal, whatever that might be! People are still scared to make long term commitments and are still worried about keeping their jobs . Cash is still King and yes, I will have my shoes re- heeled rather than just buy a new pair! What these analysts are very shy to tell you is that these numbers are all relative because they are based in comparison to last years figures. Last year in certain property markets we saw absolutely no movement whatsoever so anything is better than nothing! Doesn't sound so impressive now does it?

So what needs to happen to get things back on track? 

  •  Banks need to stop hoarding money and start re-lending. Am not talking the silly loans and mortgages that caused all this but sensible 'lets get this show on the road' type of lending. Lip service is being paid to this but at interest rates of 5% + who is interested in that?
  •  Don't stop going on holiday, just do it at home - stay-cations as we call it in the UK. Keep your money in your own economy!
  •  Support your local businesses and buy products at  farmers markets etc. Tesco and the big guns can afford to lose your business for a while but the small independents need our support.
  •  Pay your bills in a timely fashion- if your local tradesman does a job for you then pay him on time. One of the biggest blights in Central Europe is bad payment moral. Its like traffic lights - if everybody was to run a red light then pretty soon the whole traffic system will grind to a halt. Without paying your bill the tradesman cannot pay his suppliers and the suppliers cannot pay the manufacturer - vicious circle.

Can these things really help? The short answer is yes. Talk to your grandparents and ask them how things were after World War II. Everyone will tell you that things were hard back then but everybody pulled together and bit by bit things came together. Will it ever go back to where it was? I certainly hope not ! One thing is for sure though, we all need to take responsibility and do our part . Its all too easy to blame the politicians and bankers  for everything but ultimately we all need to become responsible citizens. Only then will we have a chance to prove the analysts and their GDP growth figures correct.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Work horse or work shy?

Have never really bought into the idea that people should know what they want to do with their life by the time they leave school and if truth were to be told at 42 I still have no idea! I do feel quite strongly though that as with a pair of shoes you have to try on a lot of pairs before you find the right fit.
As a student I had a fantasy list of jobs that I wanted to try out whilst I had the opportunity and whilst non of these jobs would ever have figured in my ideal career list I figured that it couldn't hurt to try out the world a little bit. Between the ages of 15 and 19 I held the following jobs:

  • Checkout girl - loved seeing into peoples world via their shopping basket.
  • Breakfast waitress - chefs are mean and Germans want breakfast far too early!
  • Barmaid - good source of boyfriends.
  • Amusement arcade cash desk - english coins stink.
  • Bakery assistance - the silly hats do not suit anybody and cannot look at a chocolate eclair to this day.
  • Petrol station worker - night shift  on the forecourt is the place to be.
  • Fish + chip shop chef - how on earth I got that I will never know.

  • Cocktail waitress - stuffy and dull.
  • Door to door Double glazing sales person - thankless task.
  • Telemarketing - cold calling sucks.

Plus many more. Now some jobs lasted longer than others and some I did better than others ( will leave you to figure out which was which) but without exception I had a ball, earned enough money to keep me out of debt during college and definitely learnt valuable lessons at them all.
So what happened to this type of work ethic ? I don't see the younger generation in any hurry to go out and get any job - do they have too much money or are they just too precious to get their hands dirty? In Central Europe it is not uncommon for people to have their first job at 24! I just don't get it and more importantly how do we go about changing this mentality? Students leave university with such huge levels of debt these days ( tales of people still paying off student loans into their 30's) that logic tells you that the economic recovery is always going to be hampered if we do not instill a better work ethic into our youth. Jokes are often leveled at the Polish and Ukrainians and their willingness to do any job but my goodness give me this mentality any day over the sense of entitlement I see from the so called educated Westerners.
So, are there any jobs still left over from my fantasy list? Long distance lorry driver!!  I do, however , have some relatively new additions to this hypothetical list including working at Harrods in the music department and working on a cosmetics counter at Selfridges. Both of these are a million miles away from my current life working in the real estate sector in Europe ( which I love by the way!) and neither are motivated by money but who knows what will happen in the future? Its good to have a plan.
What fantasy jobs have you always secretly wanted to do? Drop me a line and share your story.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Easy Abs at Home - No Gym Membership required!

Girls, sick of going to the gym and not seeing any results? The sad truth is that the only thing that will happen when you spend time waving your arms around on the machines at the gym is you will be bored and disillusioned . Am sure, like me you have spent a fortune on gym memberships and machinery that claim to give you great abs in next to no time. The problem? 99% of these abdominal contraptions are just useless . With the right information you will quickly come to realise that you neither need machinery or a gym to get the results you deserve. These four exercises will have you working your way towards great abs in no time at all.
1) – The Squat – the ultimate exercise!
While the squat is primarily a leg exercise, it relies on the abdominals in order to keep the body straight. Squat as low as you can go but keep your feet flat on the floor.Don’t let your knees go over your feet. Once you get stronger and want to increase the intensity of the squat then you can use a weights bar, a plastic pipe or even a broom handle to hold above your head.  Move through the movement and keep your abs reasonably tense, and your chest puffed out. While your legs may ache right afterwards, it’ll be your abs that see the true benefit in a couple of months.
2) – The Sit Up
This is a classic but often neglected abdominal exercise, and is incredibly effective when performed alongside virtually any other lifting exercise . An Isolation exercise such as this is usually  best done at the end of your routine, as they stress muscle groups that have already been exercised . For extra intensity hold a weighted object between both hands.
3) – The Push Press
This is another weighted exercise, and one that also exercises your chest, shoulders and arms. Take a couple of small weights in each hand ( a tin of beans or bottles of water will do) and simply push the weights from shoulder height above your head, all the while using your abdominals to keep your body straight and upright. Once you gain in strength get heavier weights.
4 – The Leg Raise
Another great exercise to end your routine with. Lay on the floor with your arms by your side and your legs straight. Raise your legs until they form a right angle with your body  all the while keeping them perfectly straight and pointed.Don’t let your legs drop all the way to the ground though until you have done all your reps.Yes it will hurt but that shows it is working! 
So come on ladies - put your favourite music on LOUD and take positive action today!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mums and computers.

What most mums know about computers and the internet can be written on the back of a postage stamp, yet the over 55's are the largest growing market in the social media world!
With this in mind I am producing a series of short self help videos for my friend's mum for Xmas about computers and the internet. How to upload photos from her digital camera , how to create a file of important recipes etc etc.What do your mums / grandmas typically want help with that these videos might be useful for them too?  Would be great to get your feedback. Please take the time to click the link below to  fill in your answer and as a special thank you I will send you a copy of the videos once they are live!

Thank you!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I love blogging!

Someone once said that that everybody has a book within them. Not so sure about that but I certainly love blogging.
I started blogging in early June and now 3 months along the line I think about bogging practically every day. Its something I have even thought about giving my day job up for which is totally irrational. What started off as an exercise to see if I have the patience to write anything at all has rapidly turned into an obsession. My first month I went a little over board and published a blog every other day. Since then I have tried to temper my zealousness and get into a rhythm of writing around 10 a month which is I feel is sustainable.
Conservative estimates say that there are around 200 million blogs in existence. Some are just word blogs, some are just pictures and some are video blogs or vlogs as they are known. Everybody has their own motivation for writing a blog, some people want to earn money from their blogs by hosting adverts and some people just do it for pleasure. Some people like to write about one particular topic whilst others, like me, tend to ramble on about whatever takes their fancy. There are no hard and fast rules. Readership is another subjective topic. How many people read my blog is an irrelevance to me, yet I do know others who see it as a sign of their popularity. For me it is purely therapeutic and a form of relaxation that maybe one day I will be able to make some money from. Think I have a long way to go on that front!

I would urge any of you with a hobby to start writing a blog. If you love cooking why not write down all your favourite recipes and take a picture of the final result? If you like gardening write about the new flowers and weeds that have popped up in the last week. The possibilities are endless but more importantly it is a great way to catalogue a part of your life. Think what a marvelous legacy this would be for your Grandkids to look at when you are gone! Its really easy to get started and you do not have to be a computer genius. Just go to and follow the instructions.
My mum wrote her first book in her 60's and it was something that kept her occupied the rest of her life and by the time she died she had written and published 4 books. I would love to know if she would have taken to blogging in the same way as I have.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fresh produce rules!

I have just discovered the farmers market in Ricany and am loving it! If I wanted to be churlish I could say that it is just a few stalls in the local market place but in this case its definitely the thought that counts. If there is anyone amongst you that has never been to one of these markets then I can thoroughly recommend it but be warned , you will never be able to buy produce in the local supermarket ever again. Don't be fooled into buying the produce from the BIO section, this is all just marketing BS designed to get you to spend more money . It is not the same as buying from the farmers market.
Todays pick.

It might sound obvious but all the produce at the farmers market is very obviously seasonal so don't go expecting to buy berries in February. You don't have to be an agricultural expert to realise that we don't have the hot weather to produce them at this time of year. Duh! Having said that I would urge everybody to experiment a little with what is on offer. I can't cook and quite frankly some of the vegetables I see I have no idea what to do with but I can tell that if its fresh and its a root vegetable then I can throw it into a veggie soup and odds on I will be pleasantly surprised. Roasting is another good option to get familiar with these vegetables as the roasting process takes the bitterness away but leaves you with the whole taste of the vegetable. Again nobody dies if you don't like that particular veg but at least you will know for future reference. It is only this year that I have realised that whilst I love green peppers in salads I hate them roasted.How many of us stick to the same old tried and tested vegetables for our Sunday roast? Wouldn't life be boring if we did everything the same year in year out- well the same with food!
Fruit is another fabulous thing to experiment with at the markets. It has to be said though that if you are expecting them to look as nice and shiny as they do in the supermarkets then I will say just one word to you. Chemicals! Yes the reason fruit looks shiny in shops is because they spray the hell out of it to make it look fresher and last longer on the shelves. Real fruit has bumps and bruises people!
For me though the real piece de resistance of the farmers market has to be the fresh farm eggs. For me the thought of buying eggs that have come from battery farmed hens is enough to make me cry. Am not saying that the nutritional value of the egg is any different but for me its a matter of animal rights. If that aspect does not have you racing to the market though then just crack open a fresh egg and the visual difference is astounding. The golden yolk is enough to tell you that this has to be better for you than the pale insipid yellow yolk of your shop bought option . Thought for the day - what do humans look like when they do not go outdoors? Yep, pale and unhealthy. Get it?!
Farmers markets are now a big thing in Prague and it seems that practically every district has them these days, usually on a Saturday morning. Again, some will be bigger than others and some will have better produce so shop around. If price is an issue ( although I would not say that they are any more expensive) then skip over the fruits that you can peel such as oranges and bananas as once you discard the peel you've also discarded any chemicals that might have been used . Stick to the real Macoy that you can see has come from the original source. Yes, am talking stalks on the carrots, dirt on the potatoes, fluff on the eggs. Go back each week and get to know the stall holders, they will happily tell you what to do with each product and when it should be eaten.
Get involved, your body will thank you!

P.S Just in case you needed some more persuasion - they always sell home made wine and spirits at these markets. Go along just for this!

Friday, September 10, 2010

On the eve of September 11th.

Is it really the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 atrocity? Time flies so fast yet for many this day remains engrained in their memories as if it was just yesterday.
Whilst I am not known for being a sentimental or religious type I always pause for a moment of reflection and thanks that I have never experienced this type of horror at first hand.
I also like to be thankful for the amazing job the emergency services continue to do around the world each and every day. In a world that is filled with so many selfish , self centered people its nice to know that there is still a small slice of humanity prepared to sacrifice everything for the good of others.
Many thanks to all these brave people .

Friday, September 3, 2010

Outlet malls - bogus bargains or the real deal?

Luxury items are a way of life today but how many of us are prepared to pay full price? The good news is that you do not have to. Welcome the era of the outlet mall!
Is there anybody in the world today that has never visited one of the all singing all dancing outlet malls ? From Woodbury Commons near New York city, Bichester Village in Oxfordshire, La Vallee within the Disneyland Resort in Paris each and every one of these offer fantastic bargains for all the big name brands. They are not, however for the faint hearted and if you think you can just pop by and pick something up then you are a fool because :

a) You can never predict what they will have on sale. How this is determined is a complete mystery to me but I guess it has to do with the last seasons stock, lack of demand,seasonal nature or just the time of the month. Seriously if anybody knows drop me a line!
b) Size. Some of these places are so huge that you can get seriously lost just looking for the car park.

Precision planning is required for a trip to these places and thank God for the internet. Go to any of the sites above and they all will have a map of the stores. Get a big marker pen and plot all the stores you want to visit. Don't even think of trying to work it like a supermarket and go down the aisles because by the time you are at the store you really want you will be tired and grumpy, not to say possibly penniless!

So, are you really getting a bargain at these places or is it all hype? Sometimes you have to hold your scepticism but I think in the large part the answer has to be yes. I know from my own experience that the Dior handbag that I picked up for 600 USD was definitely discounted by around 50% because I had checked out the prices in Europe. The jury is still out for me  though on fashion items . Yes a 50% discount on a jacket is nice but if you are only buying it because it is discounted and not because you love it and had already earmarked it at the normal retail price then there is an issue. The one thing I do know for sure though is that with a bit of smart shopping you can get even bigger discounts than displayed. How many of you know that if you pop into the information centre before you start shopping they will give you a discount booklet that can give you anything from an extra 10 - 20% off in certain shops? Make sure you pick this up!
These days though you do not  have to even venture from your settee to grab an outlet bargain. The amount of internet sites promoting these discounted brands is phenomenal. It seems like almost every day I end up on some mailing list that promotes designer gear on a limited basis ( usually a 3 day offer or until sold out). Fashion Days in Prague is one such site and again I can testify that the system works but the offers on these sites are definitely hit and miss and you have to get up pretty early to read your mail as otherwise all the good stuff is gone before your first cup of coffee!
In short there is nothing stopping you these days from buying that  it bag seen on the arm of Alexa Chung or the latest season designer trench coats from Burberry but with a bit of planning and a strong constitution you can buy the shoes and scarf to match and still have change for that Gucci watch.
Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lack of career advice in International schools.

My 15 year old daughter goes to a very good school in Prague and unusually for a school taught in English they have a selection policy so only the brightest get in Despite this I am amazed and upset that there seems to be no time allocated within the curricululm for further education or career advice. Not only this but there is nothing mentioned even about how the choice of subjects at A level or IB level will impact the eventual choice of University. Is this right? I know from living in the Czech Republic a long time that the whole educational system is woefully behind the times but things have to change. Bright Czech kids have always gone to University but due to the lack of language skills and financial restraints the majority still go to Czech universities. Very few have been educated abroad. Today this is not the case though and the world is their oyster but if nobody is educating them on their opportunities how can they make informed choices? Its maybe every parents wish to keep their child within arms reach for as long as possible but going away to University is a rite of passage and not just about getting a  degree. Without sending our kids off to fend for themselves in a controlled-ish environment how can we hope to turn out well rounded functioning individuals. What we get and what is still prevalent in the Czech Republic is a group of mummies boys and girls
Whilst I was in New York I deliberately looked in Barnes +Noble to see what sort of literature there was for sale about schooling and career choices and there were shelf loads to chose from. Everything from the more pragmatic list of Universities to how to write your admission essay! Still, despite all these resources I still feel the schools should be providing this info in house. Last week in the UK the A level results were published. Finally all the students will now know their fate and what they need to do if they have not got into their first choice of University. A stressful time I am sure but at least they know what their options are. Even BBC Radio 1 had a slot for careers guidance during the day to advise students. I want the same opportunity for my child and her friends and I will be making it my mission this year to get this rectified. I have come up with a list of 10 basic questions about the whole University process which I shall be sending to every University graduate under 30 that I know in my immediate circle  of friends and beyond. Hopefully from the responses I will get a basic idea of the trials and tribulations and will publish all these survey results in a book for my child and her friends to use. If you know of anybody that has graduated from Uni in the last 8 years please contact me at  so that I may enlist their help.
From the leaders of the future I would like to thank you for your cooperation.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

We all need goals.

Every year in January Jason Cahill, and I write down 10 goals that we aim to achieve that year. We started writing goals as a result of seeing the American motivational speaker BRIAN TRACEY at a seminar in He said that if you want to be successful in life it is not enough just to wish it but you actually have to do something about it.Without goals you have no focus! Obvious when you think about it . By writing these goals down they become more real to you but even that isn't enough. You need to figure out how to go about achieving that goal and then work on it every day for at least 10 minutes. By dedicating this time you are more sure of achieving what you really want. Again this sounds logical because if we say that we want to lose 5kgs the chances of us achieving this are virtually zero if we do not diet or exercise. How many of us make New Year resolutions only to have broken them by the end of January?
Only 3% of people have clear,written, specific, measurable,time bounded goals and these people accomplish 10 x more than people who do not write goals! Bill Gates and Richard Branson both write goals like this and there is no disputing how successful they are.
If you want to become more successful in your life I recommend you do what the smart people do and learn this valuable life skill. Take the time out today to invest in your future. Who knows where it may lead you.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Getting the extra sale.

I could quite happily shop 24/7 anywhere in the world but I particularly like it in the USA. Yes the clothes are cheaper and there is a better choice but the big difference for me is the customer service by the sales associates ( shop assistants to you and me). Every single item you buy in their store as a result of them helping you is money in their pocket,because they get paid commissions. How much nicer would you be to people if you had a chance to get paid for every person you came into contact with?
A good sales person will make a point of telling you their name immediately when they come to you and will make a point of sticking with you until check out. The really good ones will give you their business card in the hope that next time you come to the store you will ask for her. The excellent sales people will also get your number and email address so that they can keep you informed about any sales, special events etc. If you had that sort of relationship going with the girl at your local beauty counter ( and these are usually the masters of customer service) and she knew what you had bought, what suited you, your size etc how much more likely are you to go back and see her? Pretty high I would say! Its all about going that extra mile and getting that extra sale.
I will never understand the attitude of shops in central Europe where it is very evident from the minute you step foot in the shop that nobody gives a jot wherever you stay and buy anything, steal a few  shirts or drop dead in front of them. With the recession still hurting the retail trade how much more product do you think stores could sell if the managers implemented the American commission system in their stores and sales people were actually trained to be nice and helpful? I know without shadow of a doubt that I could increase sales by a minimum of 40% in virtually any store you care to put me in and you would see the difference within the first couple of days! Would that make a difference to your business? You bet it would!
Salesmanship does need to be learned and developed on a daily basis and it does not come easy to everybody but the rewards can be huge. Not a day goes by when I do not read some sort of sales motivational article and in every shop/hotel/restaurant/ business I go to I check out the sales people and calculate how much money the business is losing just by having the wrong staff and not getting that extra sale.
The only way we will ever improve the standards of customer service in central Europe is by showing our displeasure by not going to these stores and not buying their products. How much it will change things is debatable but we all work hard for our money so we can chose how and to whom we give our money. Demand excellence in every part of your life - you deserve it!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I do not think there is any excuse in this day and age not to have Wifi in hotels and restaurants . Have been to many hotels where they have Wifi designated zones which was OK a couple of years ago but not now. When practically everybody has some sort of gadget or laptop that they do not want to be dictated to as to where they can sit or not to use it. I was even in a hotel in Luxembourg a few months ago where they had no Wifi connection at all! Needless to say I will not be going there again!
Same story should be for restaurants and coffee bars. Now I know its not terribly polite to be in company and surf the web but people do still go out to eat on their own and am sure they would welcome the distraction, I know I would. How long before people start making this a factor when they are deciding where to eat? Its not as if it costs a huge amount of money either, its a question of providing an extra service to your clients.
Whilst in Madrid last month I found myself in Starbucks and even their policy surprised me. Not only did I have to jump through hoops to find out the wifi code ( given in ticket form at the cash register if you're interested) but after 40 minutes this was cut off and I wasn't encouraged to stay any longer! Strange but true!
My message to anybody involved in the service industry is to get on board the technology boat. It might not lose you business today but you can bet your life it will tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Vegetarian in Eastern Europe.

I have been a vegetarian now for nearly 22 years. I do not eat any meat or fish and I only eat diary because I have to. To say that it is hard living in Eastern Europe and being vegetarian is a huge understatement. It has got easier over time ( thank you Italien restaurants everywhere!) but the selection of food on offer is still woefully lacking. Tofu is available but not Quorn or any other meat replacement and consequently protein is a huge problem. Fried cheese and fried cauliflower used to be one of the few things on offer and even then you had to cut into it in case they had sneaked some ham into it. Ham, apparently, is not meat in this region!
Even the selection of fresh fruit and vegetables in the supermarkets is pretty lousy which I cannot fathom as everywhere you go in the country there are stalls selling fresh produce. I remember once stalking a woman through the streets of Prague because she had the most fabulous lettuce in her hand! Just this year the concept of the farmers market seems to have taken off with a vengeance so am hoping for a general up turn in vegetarian fortunes. Check out your local listings for these markets but to date I know of the one at Dejvicka in Prague 6, Pankrac in Prague 4 and even one in Ricany.
If you know of any more spread the word. Fresh fruit and veg rules!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Wine expert

One of my goals in life is to be able to understand wine. I enjoy going to dinner with my French colleagues as there is guaranteed to be a debate about the wine. They will discuss the relative merits of this or that grape and what will go best with their choices for each course. I sit there and nod sagely but its all Chinese to me. Coming from the North of England deciding on red,white, screw top or not is as far as it gets !
Over the years I have bought various books, been on numerous wine tastings ( no one ever learnt anything at one of these!!) attended wine festivals and have even bought cases of good wine based on what, I do not know. I am not by any means a stupid person but am just not able to retain any of this information. Am starting to think that this must be a cultural thing and that if you have not grown up in an atmosphere where wine is served with dinner from an early age then it is a goal that will forever remain out of your reach. Shame really because only this week I was reading how wine trading is a hugely profitable area. Apparently since the credit crunch the Liv-ex 100 index (which tracks trade in 100 of the worlds most celebrated vintages) has massively outperformed the FTSE 100 ( Independent July 4 2010). Guess thats another chance to become a millionaire out the window then!
What I have discovered though and what is keeping me hugely entertained on the internet is the world of wine according to Gary Vaynerchuck Through the medium of social media he has transformed his families small wine business to become one of the leading internet suppliers of wine and a foremost authority on wine in America if not the world. His daily internet shows are hugely entertaining and even I have learnt a thing or too! He does it all in a non elitest type format, spitting his wine out into a New York Jets bucket, using the same glass to try 3 types of wine but this is the beauty of the whole thing and the reason why he has become such a cult. If you have not seen him go check him out. Compulsive viewing!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I still hate gardening!

Finally got my garden tractor back yesterday.As you may remember it died on me 2 weeks ago for no apparent reason.The good news is that it is now fixed,the bad news is that I am officially a complete idiot! The reason it stopped working was that I had put diesel into the engine instead of petrol! I'd like to say that this is so not like me but sadly not In my professional life I am known to be pretty effective and even though I say so myself am extremely capable. This isn't the case in my personal life however in fact I would go so far as to say that I am a disaster on the domestic goddess front.  I digress though. The worse thing about the whole diesel/petrol debacle though is the fact that the canister I use for the tractor has also been used on another motor vehicle - my beloved Vespa. In my small pea size brain I am hoping that the two separated in the canister and that I only managed to pour the petrol into the engine. I realize that this cannot possibly be the case and am just waiting for the bike to konk out on me as I try to drive the bike home from the office !

For now I will have to settle for the fact that grass cutting duties can begin again in earnest. Am particularly excited because it will give me a chance to try out my latest addition to the useless garden equipment that I have bought. Yep, the lure of the garden centre was too much and an innocent trip to buy tractor oil resulted in the purchase of a rather large composter. Now am not really sure what a composter is but apparently it will revolutionize my life,said the nice man and I will never have to buy mulch again. Sold! Now, what the hell is mulch!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Oil painting collector.

I am now an art collector . This started 2 years ago when I attended a charity art auction for the Orco Foundation  I never intended to buy anything I thought I would just go along to show support but as any dedicated shopper will testify it's not that simple. I came away with 4 large oil paintings.
I should say that I am not an art officienado, I like what I like and that is it. Being a pragmatic person I tend towards art that I can see instantly what it is without having to stand on my head!
As any novice when you get involved in a hobby its the little things that surprise you. The biggest surprise for me was the fact that the pictures were not framed. Duh, it's not Ikea Karen!
The second surprising thing says more about my personality than anything else and just goes to prove that we are creatures of habit. All the pictures, although different in theme and painted by different artists were all virtually identical in colour and style, lots of bold strong primary colours with a dominant central image
I have continued to buy art since that time , the art broker now knows what I like and at least twice a year he brings a selection of canvases to my office where I make my selection. Very civilized don't you think? I've even managed to get them framed if not quite hanging on a wall!
Not sure if ever any of these pictures will be worth anything, even though some of the artists are relatively well know in their field but that is not the issue. Art, like music brings people pleasure and we should all strive to surround ourselves with things we love and that give us pleasure.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Forever Butlins!

My parents were professional ballroom dancers and worked from the late 50's to the early 70's for Butlins Holiday camps as Redcoats. For the Americans reading this Butlins is just a working class version of Kellermans in Dirty Dancing but without Patrick Swayze.
My memories have just come flooding back to this time in my life as an old family friend from the Butlin years,Rocky Mason has just set up a Facebook page entitled FOREVER BUTLINS  The aim is to get all the memories and photos together as a tribute to this bygone era. Rocky was also one of the original Redcoats and was entertainments manager at Filey when I was growing up. I used to spend all my time on the camp along with his daughter Sam Mason who herself became one of the youngest Redcoats to tread the boards at 14 years old. It's a tremendous idea as there are thousands of ex Redcoats, some famous, some infamous but all characters in their own right and all of us have our own special memories and photos. This type of holiday is a dying breed now but in it's day this was THE solution to keeping the whole family happy. It was the Redcoats job to keep all the Campers, as they were called then, happy and entertained. Their day was savagely long starting with breakfast with the Campers at one of the two sittings (the buffet concept never kicked in until many years later) then would come the activities, the Knobbly Knees contest, the Donkey derby, the obligatory activities around the outside pool which always resorted with at least one Redcoat being thrown in the pool. Good clean fun! This whole holiday concept was immortalized in the 80's in the TV show Hi-Di-Hi, whilst based in a rival camp, was Butlins through and through. I do not think there was a Redcaoat alive or indeed a Camper that did not watch this and identify with most of the story lines. My parents Anita and Cappy were exactly like the snooty dance couple - the ballroom dancers always thought they were head and shoulders above the other entertainment's staff!
Evenings were the best times at Butlins where after dinner the shows would start and the ballrooms would open. This gave the Redcoats a chance to shine and show off their acts in the hope of being discovered. Lots did! All the Campers would put there kids to bed in the chalets and go back to the theatre to watch the show. Patrols would be sent out to see if there was any babies crying - yes really they were left alone - and if so the patrol would head back to the theatre and a big display board would light up with 'Baby crying in chalet no 465'! Hilarious to think about that happening now but again this was a different era. After the shows everyone would go to one of the usually 2 ballrooms to join in an evening of dancing and fun and games. The Glamorous Granny competition was the stuff of legend and the title was always highly fought over. Again it was the Redcoats job to make sure everybody joined in with the fun and should some shrinking violet be standing in a corner on their own they would be persistent in getting them up on the dance floor.
The night would always end with a rousing chorus of the 'Goodnight campers see you in the morning 'song  followed by the National Anthem. Good times!
Please, if you have ever spent a holiday at Butlins worked at one of the camps join the Forever Butlins Facebook site share your memories with the group. You might finally be able to put a long forgotten name to the Redcoat face in your old holiday photos.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thai massage.

At the last minute this weekend I booked an anti stress massage whilst up in the Czech mountains. Anti stress? You are having a laugh. The least stressful part of this was actually paying for it- 25 Euro if you are interested. What part of having a little Thai girl crawling over you and then putting some red hot cloth on you is supposed to take your mind off things? Don't even get me started on the Richard Clayderman with birdsong music that they always seem to play at these establishments.
To be fair to the Thai lady I am not known for being a massage lover. I try, God knows I try because I think I should like it but it just doesn't do it for me at all. Have tried the normal oily massages, the hot stone massage, the lymphatic drainage massage, have even done the 'get smeared with mud and then wrapped in tin foil' massage all to no avail. Massages just irritate me!  I refuse to give up though and maybe sometime soon I will find some type of massage that hits the spot. Any suggestions?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I hate gardening!

A very wise older friend of mine once told me that he had never in his 60 odd years ever bought any gardening equipment and had always had a gardener take care of things as it worked out cheaper in the long run. Boy, I wished I had listened to him!
Gardening is a full time and very expensive hobby and just when you think you have got it figured out another thing pops out ( literally ) from the bushes to surprise you.
I have had gardeners over the years but the good, reliable and business savvy ones seem to be rarer than Dodo poop! Why do they seem to think it is OK to cut my grass once a season and that for the rest of the year it will take care of itself. They of all people should know it doesn't work like this. Last year I had an excellent one who came at least twice,got me all excited about doing some big Japanese feature at the back of the garden and put in an irrigation system and then disappeared off the face of the earth. Did he win the Euro lottery and doesn't need to earn any more money ? I think not !
As a result of all this I now have the following equipment littering the periphery of my house:

1)Diesel lawn mower that I cannot start because the pull thingy is just too hard.
2)Garden tractor that replaced the above which is currently lying idle after conking out after doing half of my garden last week. Do not even get me started on the fact that Mountfield promise a 7 year guarantee yet the service guys are so rude and unhelpful that am sure noone goes back to them.
3) Hedge trimmer still in it's box because I have not got a ladder tall enough to get even close to what I want to trim.
4) Strimmer for cutting borders and the places that have turned into jungle when no.s 1 and 2 go on the blink.
5) variety of medieval torture instruments that are supposed to make life easier but have no idea how!

If you have a teenage child that doesn't yet know what they want to do for a living suggest that they become a landscape gardener because there is a serious lack of them in the world and with a bit of business knowledge they could become richer than God quite quickly. Just send them round to my house first though

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hotel Guadalmina Spa+Golf hotel

Just recently I went to the Costa del Sol for a few days and stayed at the Hotel Guadalmina Spa and Golf hotel in Estepona. This resort has just reopened after being bought by an institutional investor who spotted an opportunity in a basically good hotel that was having financial troubles,was badly positioned in the market and was stuck in the 90's,they didn't even use the Internet for bookings! The investor has his heart in the right place and yes am sure people will be impressed that they are splashing the cash by putting new LCD televisions in the rooms but where is the common sense factor? Surely someone from the investment company has spent enough nights in a hotel to spot the problems associated with keeping on the existing staff and can spot how to improve things with either minimal capital outlay or in a lot of cases absolutely non at all. What I saw over the four days was enough to break a girls heart.

I travel for business alot and I always give feedback about how to improve things but honestly, I ran out of space on the suggestion sheet here!
I wish the Hotel Gualdalmina a whole lot of luck and hope things turn out well but I have a sneaky feeling that if this is how things are running in the first couple of months then it is a slippery slope back to where they were before.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Video star!

I am a video star! Ok, maybe I should quantify that a bit, shopintheknow and I have started filming short promotional videos for the residential portfolio of Orco property Group. So far we have done about 4 but it's great fun and has been well received by our fans ( ok our employees).
We do not have some big plan or a script we just point and shoot. I do all the talking as I can talk for hours about real estate with no encouragement at all and Jason does the shooting as he does not have ADD and by and large the camera stays in the right spot without spinning on it's axis like something from the Exocist!
Prior to the recession we would have paid an agency several thousand Euros to do this type of thing , plus a huge fee for the star of the film and the production planning for it would have run for hours if not days. Once filmed there would have been at least another weeks work editing and tweeking it and photoshopping the stars spot out of the centre of his head. Why, what were we all thinking? From start to finish our process takes us maximum of one hour and that includes the obligatory stop at Starbucks to pick up coffee prior to shooting! Now I do not think we will be collecting an Oscar any time soon for our filming skills and so far Hollywood have not come knocking on my front door begging me to star in their next film as George Clooneys love interest but we got the job done with minimal cost and pain. More importantly it's out there in the big bad Internet world just waiting to be picked up by some discerning property investor.
My advice to any of you working for companies who are still throwing the big bucks out there to some agency is to stand up and be counted. Say " I can do this" grab your camera and a colleague and go out there and do it! What's the worst that could happen?
To see the fruits of our efforts check out Orcoworld on Facebook.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Vespa PX 125

One of my little pleasures in life is my Vespa. She is a work of art and lives in my house. I bought her 2 years ago in Paris and had her shipped over to Prague. My biker friends tend to be very dismissive of my choice of 2 wheels but I don't care because ever since I saw Quadrophenia I have wanted one.
So far I have only done 600 km on her which I realise is not a lot in 2 years but just like my limited edition Cartier watch, I don't have to wear it every day to know that I have it and to get pleasure from it.
Actually, who am I kidding? The reason I have only ridden 600 km is because I suck at riding it and am an accident waiting to happen. Have ridden lots of 50cc scooters in my time, even owned a Simpson 50cc when I first moved to Prague. I even drove a 150 cc something or other into and around St Tropez one year with my daughter on the back but the one thing I forgot when I bought the Vespa is that it is not an automatic and there in lies the problem. Its one thing to push the start button and go but another thing dealing with the choke and if necessary having to kick start it. The hardest thing for me though is changing gear or should I say changing gear smoothly without flipping the bike! My anti talents do not stop there though. I can't 'bend' into corners -my head leans to one side but that is about it; I have a problem with the foot brake due to having a dodgy knee and so have to sit so far back on the seat am in danger of sliding off and am generally unsteady all round. Added to this I don't even have a license for a 125cc!

Despite all this I love bobbing around the villages on my bike. Vespa's have a distinctive engine sound so everybody stops and stares and whenever I stop at the pizza shop ( yep, could nearly get an job as a pizza delivery girl!) people come and ask me what it is and where I got it from . I particularly like sharing the little waves from the other bikers on the road - its nice feeling part of a club that normally you would never have a chance of belonging to - or even want to for that matter!
We all need to have things in our lives that give us pleasure and no matter what it might be or how bad you might be at it stick with it because whatever makes you happy can never be a bad thing.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Gay Pride

I happened to be in Madrid a couple of weekends ago when it was Gay Pride weekend. It's no secret that I am gay friendly and have been now for over 20 years since the training instructor at Stakis Casinos yelled "come on sisters we've got work to do"! I am also proud to have the most fabulous guy who just happens to be gay as one of my best friends. I don't seek them out but I am attracted to them and vice versa, like a moth to a flame.
Gay Pride was an absolutely fabulous experience and shall definitely be back next year. From the waiter in the restaurant squealing in delight when his friend bought him a rainbow coloured tiara to the guys in the hotels lining the Gran Via throwing water on the people in the streets on procession day it was camp fun at it's very best. Thousands of people must have been packed into the Chueca district over the course of those 3 days but unlike any other huge gathering of people I was definitely feeling the luurve!
I know there is a lot of mixed feelings amongst the gay community about the benefit of the increasingly popular Gay pride events that have cropped up around the world ( Dublin springs to mind but seriously, gay Pride in Dublin?!)but I personally cannot see the harm and if you take it for what it is, good clean fun then why not? Ultimately if you don't like it then stay home - less people in the shops vying with me to buy that rainbow coloured tiara!

My summer mountain home.

I am ashamed to say that I have owned an apartment in Spindleruv Mlyn in the Czech mountains for 3 years and yet never once have I used it during the summer months! I came here today principally to get away from the oppressive Prague heat and I am loving it!
Who knew that a place could be so different without the snow? All along the river bank are now small pebbled pathways with nice landscaping and over the last two months since I was here last they have built little observation decks with park benches where you can sit and watch the river rush by you.They have even built a new bridge to take you from one side of the river to the other. Not only does this suit my lazy nature but it is far safer for the pedestrians as once the snow comes you have no other option to walk on the road. I forget how many times I have stumbled in my ski boots and fallen into the road.
All the restaurants have newly built terraces and the recession seems to have been good for the town in as much as the Czech tourists have come here rather than going to Spain, Egypt or Croatia. Even the mini golf has opened this year! Whilst there is plenty to do for the mums and dads keeping the kids amused is always a tough challenge and the town have put a lot of thought into it this year realizing that the beautiful nature is not enough. For the small ones there are bouncy castles and a small fun fair in the centre. Towards Medvedin is an extreme rope climb/ bungee type contraption and a monster climbing frame. You can rent bicycles and take them up the cable car to the top of the mountain (they run every 30 minutes)and you can even do something called Kangoo jumping which is basically a cross between a skate and a pogo stick. Further down the town there is even a go- kart track. If all else fails there is the suberb Aqua park where you can easily spend the whole day without getting bored.
Tomorrow my plan is to get up early go up and down the cable car on both Medvedin and Svaty Petr, spend time in the jacuzzi at the Westend hotel (luxury, have booked it all to myself), have lunch at one of the best restaurants in town,the Elan then grab a massage at the Windsor hotel followed by an ice cream sundae at the Bognor cafe overlooking the river and head back to Prague in the early evening. What a perfect day!
For those of you wondering how you can justify buying a second home in the mountains just for the 4 month ski season then I can categorically say that once you start coming in the summer you will never want to spend another weekend in the city again.
Try it, call us to book a free nights accommodation at Le Mont and I defy you to tell me that you would never use it enough to justify the cost.
See you next weekend!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Times They Are Changing

Five weeks ago I lived a relatively anonymous existence and the only contact I had with social media was a Facebook account. Today I run 3 Twitter accounts with over 2000 followers, I co- write the OrcoWorld Facebook page with the lovely Jason of fame and I write 2 blogs, this one and -a guide to property investing. All this I do on top of my full time job! So what happened? Life happened thats what and in the words of the sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer 'social media is a tsunami and some of us do not even know how to swim'! How very true. Social media is taking over the world and you have to be in it to win it. There is no point in sticking your head in the sand and hoping it goes away but if you do choose to take this route then do not be surprised to find yourself obsolete within the next two years.
The good news is it is not rocket science. The marketing agencies would like you to believe it is and believe me they are running scared. They have no more experience than you and I and as I have discovered over the last few weeks they are not ready for this revolution either. The fact that some of them are charging you to get ahead in the social media stakes whilst learning on the job is an issue that makes my blood boil!
So how did I suddenly become an authority on this ? Commitment,hard work, an appetite for learning new things and the wish to improve myself - thats how! No short cuts to this guys just dive in and get started. You never know where this social media journey will bring you!
P.S Don't forget to follow me on Twitter -

Monday, July 12, 2010

Beautiful island of Hvar

Maybe its because I am English but I love small islands. My adopted home in the UK is the Isle of Wight, my favourite holiday destination is Tenerife and my preferred place for an extended break is Hvar in Croatia. I came upon Hvar late in life in 2005 as a result of Orco Property Group buying the Suncani Hvar chain of hotels. From the first time I stayed in the Palace Hotel on a rather splendid 20 oC in December I was hooked. Since that time , and in line with the refurbishment plan of all the hotels I have returned on a regular basis and whether it be for business or pleasure I have always had a fabulous time. Nothing is better in the late afternoon sunshine than sitting on the terrace outside the Hotel Riva with a nice glass of wine in hand and watching the boats coming in to dock for the night.
Some people might complain about the lack of beaches but for me having grown up by the seaside this is back to the simplistic holidays of old,the kids all clambering over rock pools ,looking for shells and chasing the crabs. Personally I am not one for the beach anyway, I'm looking for a little more luxury and the Hotel Adriana fits the bill nicely with its roof top pool and beautiful sun decks overlooking the harbour. A waiter at the ready to bring your lunch direct from the excellent restaurant downstairs life doesn't get any better than this.
The island of Hvar is more than just Hvar town though so make sure you go for a ride around the island - my favourite is by renting a little 50cc scooter from the shop at the end of the marketplace. Traffic is light so no matter how bad a driver ( and I am bad) you should be OK. Drive up over the mountain towards Starigrad and smell the lavender fields - unbeatable!
Conde Naste in their latest edition has just added Hvar into their top 50 islands and its easy to see why. The word has also spread to Hollywood and just last week Eva Longoria was spotted partying at the popular bar Carpe Diem, next to the Riva .
If you still have not booked your summer holiday please check out our website and see what the island can offer you. For something really special though I recommend to book at the Hotel Amfora in a Deluxe sea view suite. This room is just awesome and has an unparalleled view over the bay and with the newly opened water lagoon it really is a small piece of heaven.
What are you waiting for?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

PHD in hop on hop off tourist bus .

I love traveling with my daughter and wherever we go we always try to experience the city by means of the open top tourist bus. What a great way to see a city without getting blisters or lost! Obviously by now we are something of an expert in this tourist activity, not only do we have endless dog eared maps but an array of red earphones, discount coupons and in the case of Budapest a very 'fetching' straw hat. Well it was hot !
You might think that all these trips are the same but you would be wrong. For me the biggest difference and often the highlight of the tour is the commentary. With an array of languages on offer it cannot be an easy job and some cities make more of an effort than others. I do appreciate the native language speaker aspect the most but even that can be fraught with danger. Get an American with a too strong accent and it grates on the Brits ears but get a Brit with a regional accent and the Americans have no chance of understanding. What is not OK is the local who thinks he can speak fluent English - have news for you buddy, no you don't! It can be pretty hilarious though!
Another irritating thing is when the bus driver hits the play button in the wrong place and you end up looking at a concrete wall yet hearing about this fabulously elaborate architecture of some church that is nowhere near. Some also have a habit of talking over the commentary and telling you which is the next stop. Yes, thats you Madrid and what's with the 'lets wait until you are on the stairs going up and down and then take off at speed' routine? Did nobody teach you anything about 'elf and safety?
So which cities have the best and the worst?
The best without a doubt was in Boston and the Duck Tours. Informative, fun and very entertaining.
The worst - sorry Milan but you take this dubious title because it was dull dull dull.

Friday, July 2, 2010

No hablo ingles.

Madrid has always seemed to me to be a pretty sophisticated place . As capital of Spain I always imagined everything to be bigger bolder, faster brighter. With 3 million inhabitants it has to be pretty vibrant right? In general the place is all of these things. The shops are well stocked with fashionable clothes, the latest electronics,the high streets have a good mix of the largest chain stores and the small quirky independants,the buildings are pretty fabulous, the tourist destinations are attractive and promote the best of Spain, , it's clean, has a strong police presence so presumably it is pretty safe- the list goes on. Yet how is it that the language skills of the locals seems to be so poor. Have been into shop after shop and in every case my Spanish is better than their English. Have been in restaurants and nada, have even been in the airport and once again not a sinner speaks even the odd word of English. I have never really studied Spanish, have just picked up the odd word here and there through numerous holidays to the Canary islands but am amazed at their lack of talents in the language department. Have no idea how many hours a week they study English in schools here but can tell you here and now,it isn't enough.
With the job market getting harder and harder all over the world I feel that it is not acceptable for any country just to pay lip service to the issue of language teaching. Get them while they are young when their brains are like sponges and don't just leave it at 1 hour per week. I appreciate that every government must balance the books but the return on investment here would be visible practically from day one particularly in terms of the unemployment figures. In a day and age when apprenticeships are hard to find and justify how else are the less academic kids to survive. If they had learnt a foreign language from kindergarten just maybe they would not be on a minimum wage or on the dole whilst new immigrants who speak a smattering of several languages get positions serving the tourist industry.
Come on Madrid, get your fingers out and show the rest of your country the way forward.

Sent from my iPad

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Happy Birdie!

Today at Konopiste golf club playing the Radecky course on the 8th hole, par 3 I got a birdie. Not an amazing feat under normal circumstances but I was 80 metres away from the hole with my pitching wedge in my hand. GET IN THE HOLE!!!! For non golfers to give them a hint at the magnitude of the occasion I should explain the last time I did a shot like this I was 21! I was playing on a municipal course in Leeds, it was 7.30 am in the morning and I was in a bunker below the green and couldn't even see the hole from my position.
Just like most people will always remember where they were when they heard the news about JFK, Elvis, John Lennon ,Princess Diana or Michael Jackson I guarantee you every golfer always remembers these special shots. For this reason do we golfers , come rain or shine, get up early and drive for miles just to hit a small white ball backwards and forwards across a 6km field.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

School's out for summer

Across Europe school finished yesterday and the question in every parents mind is " what do I do with the little darlings for 2 whole months"?
Camp is the obvious answer, the choice is endless : biking, golfing, horse riding,canoeing,hiking, painting, circus skills and much much more but here is the dilemma . Give little Johnny a choice early on in the year and although he will have happily taken part in the discussion, allowed you to pay for everything, bought the equipment to keep his interest up etc around about now he will be shaking his little head and stamping his feet about not wanting to go. I have tried to force my daughter to go on a camp and what you are left with is an ill tempered child for the whole of the summer- not nice.
Another solution is to book a camp at the last minute and whilst bargains abound in the last minute travel industry the choice left to you in the last week of the school term is usually hideous- anyone for snail watching camp? No,didn't think so . Even should you manage to find something last minute the only available date always seems to be the exact first week of the holiday leaving you rushing around like a loony and still be left to wonder what about the other 7 weeks?
The Americans seem to have got this right by having a long standing tradition of whole summer long camps and most kids seem to buy into it. Ok lately Fat Camp seems to be the most talked about but again the choice is huge. My friend even told me she used to go to Jewish camp as a kid- who knew!
So what have I done with my child this year? Next week we go to Madrid where I will leave her in the very capable hands of the people at TASIS at for a month long intensive Spanish language camp for 14 - 17 year olds. She will be based in Salamanca for 3 weeks and the last week will be spent on the Costa del Sol so its not all work.Now I must confess I am so jealous because I would love to have done something like this but I come from a generation where we didn't really do that type of thing( we got summer jobs!!). Am hoping that during this month that her Spanish will come on in leaps and bounds. Cheap it isn't but when you consider that next year she will take her IGCSE in Spanish and that the Spanish oral accounts for 40% of the grade then I think this is money well spent.
Now, the only question left to ponder is what I will do with her for the remaining 4 weeks!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beach bum or builder's bum?

There are not many things that I would say the Brits are the best in the world at but we are world beaters when it comes to mens swimwear policy . Somewhere along the way it became an unwritten law that our menfolk were never allowed out wearing the oft seen 'grape smugglers' so beloved of the European nations. This education starts from a very young age in England and pop into your local Mothercare store and you will be hard pressed to find a pair of Speedos even for your 3 yr old. In short it is not big or clever to be experimental with your swimwear and noone wants to see any part of your anatomy wrapped in tight shiny lycra ,especially not that part anyway! I don't care if you do think you look like Ronaldo in them - because you don't.
In my ideal world the only swim shorts that would be allowed are made by Vilebrequin.. Not only do they offer classy and individual swimwear they also have the most fantastic web site. Check it out and then the next time your man steps out on the beach in anything less sartorial you know what has to be done!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Word to the wise.

Do not tempt fate by blogging about everything turning out all right on the night as I did last night.
I got up at squat o' clock this morning to drive to the airport ( 90 minutes by the way)got there with 30 minutes to spare to find out the plane had been cancelled due to technical difficulties in Warsaw. Would Madam like to check in on the next flight this afternoon at 2.30pm? It was supposed to be a day trip not an hour and a half trip so no thank you!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Last call to everywhere-ville!

Tomorrow I go to Warsaw for the day and in typical Hartley style I have no idea what time my flight goes or comes back. Its not that I haven't got a flight booked( thanks Jana you are a star!) but I just have this pathologically cavalier attitude to travelling that stops me from paying any attention to the details. Hotels never get booked until the same day of the stay, transport to the airport never gets booked until I need to leave,the office address where I have my meeting remains a mystery- in short why do today what you can put off until its too late! The margin for error is huge and sometimes is quite stressful but do I change my habits? No, not a bit of it, I thrive on the excitement! On the whole I am amazingly lucky and in the last few years nothing disastrous has happened but I am a permanent accident waiting to happen. Even family holidays are given the same treatment and if by some freak of nature I do go mad and book the flights and hotel in advance I will leave the mode of transport to the hotel to chance, just in case a better option comes along. This did badly backfire once when I arrived in Florida on Xmas day at 2am with a cranky 4 year old child in tow and expected to hire a car to get me to a resort that I had not even bothered to print out the address for!
I have tried to analyse this odd behaviour of mine and I would generally say that because the rest of my life is so structured and planned that I like the buzz of not having everything under my control but just maybe there is something deeper at the core? The first flight I ever took was on my 18th birthday and I decided to go on my own to Tunisia . This holiday was of course only booked the day before and I guess the travel agent thought I was an experienced traveller because I was given my travel documents and that was it,leaving me to figure out the journey from Harrogate to Gatwick . My flight was due to leave at 2.45pm on the Saturday and to cut a long story short I missed the flight by arriving to check in at 2.30pm! I spent my birthday in Gatwick aiport and you'd think I would have learnt an invaluable lesson from this but instead I awakened a beast. My unwavering believe that it will all turn out OK is maybe just a quaint personality quirk of mine but whatever it is I apologise to anybody who ever has to travel with me and suggest that, unless you have nerves of steel, you make your own travel arrangements !

Monday, June 21, 2010

Get super nourished!

I am a gadget geek and if we are really being specific I love kitchen gadgets. Whether it be a juicer, steamer,blender, salad spinner,crock pot,deep fat fryer etc it does not matter just so long as it has a plug on it . Nothing special in that I hear you say until you realise that I cannot cook to save my life. My child used to say that my speciality was Egg mayonnaise sandwiches but once puberty hit even that dubious distinction was taken away from me. When she had to take food into school for a party or a school fair I was the Mum allocated with the packets of crisps! My kitchen looks as good today as the day I bought it 12 years ago with not a scratch on it so I suppose I am even saving money by not being able to cook.
So why on earth did I suddenly decide this evening as I got home to juice the entire contents of my fridge? I had ,in all fairness, signed up to email updates from and even gone so far as to print off their juicing by colours guide which was very easy and informative. With my new found knowledge at hand in went the green lettuce (easiest green vegetable to juice apparently) the cucumber, the courgette and the carrot ( lots of sugar in them so be careful). The result? I can honestly say that if being healthy relies on my drinking this smelly disgusting gloop then sign me up for a permanent diet of double burger and chips! Anyone want to buy a nearly new juicer?