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?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Luxembourg- the lights are on but nobody's home!

Luxembourg is the financial hub of Europe. A small very green and pretty country but ask anybody you meet where they live and odds on the answer will be either France,Belgium or Germany. With 150,000 people commuting into Luxembourg on a daily basis it's clear that nobody actually works and lives here and am not surprised!
Shops close at 6 pm,restaurants open for dinner at 7pm and don't even think of trying to find an American chain of coffee shops for a tall macchiata with a dash of anything whether low fat or otherwise in the centre because it's not happening (unless you class McD's as a suitable substitute and I don't)! Is it any wonder that people finish work and get the hell out of Dodge? Even pedestrians get a hard time in favor of the money people in their German precision engineered cars- black only please!
In 2009, only 900,000 tourists came to Luxembourg. To put this number into perspective 9 million people came to the the Isle of Wight last year! Now maybe the country is so rich that they do not need to change and they are happy with the status quo but as any good farmer will tell you - never put all your eggs in one basket!
So come on Luxembourg, wake up and smell the McDonalds coffee, you are missing a trick here. Go mad, leave the shops open until 7 pm, serve Spag Bol at 5.30pm- what's the worse that could happen? Just maybe that visiting English businesswoman would have paid 750 euro for a Lancel handbag and then settled down to read her Daily Mail over a glass of Pinot Grigio and a Caprese salad instead of retiring to her hotel room with a packet of maltesers!
P.s to the shop that only stocks womens clothes in sizes 6 -one size does not fit all!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lunchtime gourmet

Lunchtime is always a conundrum for any office worker - where to go and what to have?
Working in Luxembourg Plaza in Prague 3 we are lucky enough to have the Flora mall opposite us and the Marriot hotel next door so we have a few restaurants to choose from but every now and again the food court is deemed to be the 'wise' person choice.The minute you step foot amongst the garish lights, plastic furniture and inhall that unmistabale odour of fried 'everything you've never wanted' you know you have made a mistake . Not being quitters we try and make the best of a bad job but oh dear oh dear! Even allowing for the fact that you might manage to find something that does not totally turn your insides you are then given the mightiest tool of them all -plastic cutlery. What on earth was going through the persons mind when they invented this idea? As a benchmark of the food you are about to consume though the plastic fork is a good indicator of things to come so take time away from looking at the various menus and instead check out their cutlery!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Death of the paperback?

Over the years have got used to the fact we are so far behind the rest of the world but sometimes am surprised by how little progress we seem to make in terms of awareness. Today a seemingly intelligent young man made a startling comment that nearly made me fall off my chair in shock. He claimed that although he realised people ordered books on line from Amazon it would never take off as people would always prefer to buy the physical book. This man did not even give credence to the fact that ebooks might be the way forward. He obviously had never heard of the Sony Reader or the Kindle and whilst he had heard about the I Pad he obviously had no idea there was an i Book app where you could download all the classics for free and buy tens of thousands more.
So what is it about the good old fashioned book that people in the CEE think is so indestructible and did people think the same thing about the record and then the CD? Certainly retailers in Central Europe believe the book store model still has legs as there seems to be no lack of larger than life all singing and dancing book stores. Admittedly they are more like entertainment centers than just pure book shops but even so the humble book store does exactly what it says on the tin - it sells books.For some people it's the physical action of flicking the pages, for others it's the smell of the paper or the look of the dust cover and have even heard it said that it makes some people feel intelligent to be surrounded by books!
What about me you might be wondering? I have fully embraced the digital age and am the owner of not only the Sony Reader, which,incidentally , have never read so many books in years but have also built up a not small virtual library on i Books. I love the fact that if I fall asleep I can easily find my place through the cunning help of auto bookmarking, I also love the fact that if I'm feeling my age I can increase the size of the print. Maybe if normal books had this facility I would not be as blind as a bat by now!
Time will tell on this debate (and I might even go out and put a bet on the outcome of this one) but one thing is for sure, no matter how we chose to do it people will always read and for that I am very grateful.
To bed now, time to read my free Winnie the Pooh e book!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Occupancy dilemma

You have a commercial building that's performing well and you have a huge multi national company wanting to take more and more space. Do you facilitate their expansion under their current conditions or do you hold out for better conditions and maybe a new tenant? If only the issue was that simple. On one hand the multi national is a great solvent tenant but on the other hand do you really want any one Tenant leasing a majority share of the building at non optimum rent ? For me its not about the m2 or about the money ,its all about the relationship you hold with them. When an important Tenant is rapidly expanding you should expect to fulfill the role of Landlord, expansion coordinator and confidant . The more you understand the clients needs for the future the better the result for all. I am a 'cards on the table' type of person and firmly believe if you can create this type of mutual relationship then everyone's a winner .

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sound investment?

I play golf each week at Konopiste ( with various real estate professionals and the one topic of conversation that always crops up is whether we would buy residential property next to or near a golf course in the Czech Republic. Next door to the course is a long abandoned development that died due to lack of pre sales but was it a victim of the recession or just a bad scheme? In Spain, Portugal the Caribbean or Florida these schemes are sold at a premium and mostly off plan so what did the Developer do that was so wrong here? The big thing for us is the commuting distance from Prague . Whilst 50km is not far and only takes around 45 minutes it only takes one crash on the motorway or bad weather conditions and your travel time is doubled. The other issue is what else is there to do in the area apart from play golf?Not a lot as it happens and the only decent restaurant for miles around is at the golf course. Schools are another issue especially for the expats. When you have more than 1 child attending the English or British International schools in Prague 4 then the mom taxi service runs into overdrive and the long travel time just does not work. But what about the golf tourists, couldn't you rent the houses to these people? Nice idea in principle and again this works in Spain but the main reason tourists still come to the Czech Republic is because of the historical centre of Prague and being 50km away does not cut the mustard.
So where do you buy property that works for normal family life, has good schools within an 8km distance, shops and amenities, an aqua park,sports facilities,nice restaurants and good accessibility? For me the sensible choice is Novy Svet at Benice. This multi phased development fulfills all the requirements of any multicultural family. Having sold all the show homes in the first phase the second phase has now been released with the added advantage that the internal fit out is done by you, enabling you to not only save money but have exactly what you want from day 1 without having to compromise on somebody else's pre chosen style. The price reflects this option as well so investment value is already built in. Will your house value be worth less than one of the show houses sold at a premium ? The answer is no and that puts you firmly in the sound, solid investment seat. For more information about Benice go to

Friday, June 11, 2010

Rocket Man

The great man himself Elton John was in Prague last night and what a concert! In his 63rd year and still rocking like a good 'un as they say in my native Yorkshire. Played a lot of oldies which had the majority of the Czechs rather confused but the hard core fans loved it! How can people not know Crocodile Rock?!The Rocket Man set was particularly awesome . All told he played for around 2.5 hrs and think he was prepared to play more.
Am a bit of an Elton geek having seen him around 7 times and have never been disappointed. His 60th birthday concert in Madison Square Gardens was a particular high point. Introduced by Bill Clinton and joined on stage by Robin Williams and Whoopie Goldberg - thankfully they left the singing to him but you get my drift!
Going now to watch the live recording of last nights concert which was available to buy immediately after the concert - way to go!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Al fresco

Had lunch with two of my most favourite people today, Jason Cahill and Marjan Gigov. New restaurant in Vinohrady Prague 2 called Zelene Zahrada. Lovely decor and the garden in the back has a fabulous water feature complete with Koi carp and the most sedentary 3 turtles in the world. Stuck on a rock in the middle of the pond they barely moved a muscle,worth ordering a bottle of wine to see who moves first!
The food was nice and the presentation good but the food took ages to come - hopefully these glitches will iron themselves out in time. A little bit more self promotion wouldn't go amiss either - not a business card was offered so cannot even mention their web page!
On the whole a good addition to the Vinohrady area and will definitely recommend the place to the new owners at Americka 11. Building finished now and ready to move in. More details on

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I love golf!

Just got back from the media day at Casa Serena golf course who were presenting the program for this years Casa Serena Open , part of the European Seniors golf tour. It's the 3rd year that this tournament has been held here and is proving very popular amongst the senior players. Hardly surprising really as the course is beautiful! Last year Peter Mitchell won. Maureen Chang, the founder of Casa Serena as ever was the hostess with the mostest and although non of us played terribly well ( do I ever) the sun was shining and a great time was had by all. Check out the web site for more tournament news on . Big thank you to our friends at Touax for the invite.

Monday, June 7, 2010

New beginnings

Working in real estate am pretty experienced at imagining how apartments or offices will turn out after construction or a refurbishment but its always nice to actually see the finished product. Our new tenant in Vinohrady, Prague 2 has really made my day. Fashion Days, selling discounted designer labels - has just repainted the office and it looks fabulous. Long gone is the old Spanish hacienda look and in comes a crisp,current, light and airy space suitable for selling the likes of D+G, Armani et al. Great work guys and I wish you loads of success.