When did success start?


1996 was a really significant year for me.  It was the year I left my local IT Managers job in Ipswich and started my role as a Technical Trainer in London.  A Microsoft Technical Trainer.  It was a year of discovery for me.  A year of really big things.

I became an MCP, MCT. MCSE, MCSE+I.  I learned how to present.  I learned how to properly present to very large audiences, to captivate and engage, inform and train.  I developed a new set of friends too. Colleagues that also spent over an hour commuting into London to get together and share their knowledge.  And I discovered the delights of the sausage pub, where Gary the barman (who still works there 14 years later), served dubious sausage sandwiches for lunch and a break in the training sessions.   I made some great techy friends, 3 of whom are still in touch even now.  I discovered the London life, deep technology, and found out that I was good at my new technology career.  Really good. 

And now, in late 2009, after 5 months of emotional upheaval, I’m working for myself.  I’ve had several great conversations with clients, some good prospects for my new company, some purchase orders “on the way” and on Friday, October 30th.  I received my first client cheque for the work I’m doing for Teched Berlin. 

So now, I’ve started a tradition.

I’ve decided, that for each different client who pays me for work I’ve done, I’m going to buy a bottle of champagne that I’ve never tasted before, some cheaper, some more expensive, depending on the value of the contract I get.  But an opportunity for me to create a champagne bottle bank of client memories.  And I’ve started with the champagne that I’ve coveted for years.

Cristal Champagne.  I’ve always loved the story about why the bottles were clear and the fact that it was specially produced for the Russian Tzar back in 1876.

The bottle is also different to all of the other champagne bottles I’ve ever seen before – its got a flat base which is really thick.  No dimple in the bottom.  That’s really unusual.  Apparently the bottle is made from Lead Crystal, to give it the extra strength it needs, so I now know that’s one bottle that will never be making its way down to the bottle dump.

I went down to the Food Company to buy it.  I’d been in there weeks before, asking the manager if they actually held it in stock.  The Food Company have a great collection of champagnes, and the wine manager is really knowledgeable about the fizzy stuff.  There were 2 bottles of Cristal there, one white 2005 vintage, and one rose 1996 vintage.  Which one did I want?

Of course it was more expensive.  Much more expensive.

Of course it wasn’t the bottle I’d planned to buy originally.

But as soon as I heard the words 1996, all of my old IT and London  memories came flooding back to me and I realised that that was “really” when I started the new, the exciting, and the best stage in my career.


 So I thought it was really appropriate, that with my first client cheque, that I should buy a bottle and share it with all of the people who have helped me, supported me, believed in me and encouraged me when I started my company, and have been with me every step of the way whilst I got things going.  These friends have kept me going when I wasn’t sure, they’ve guided me, and they all made me believe that I could actually do it for myself.

And 6 of us carefully sipped a glass each of this amazing drink – along with another 1996 bottle of Winston Churchill from my business mentor Jon, and supermarket bottles of Veuve Cliquot and Banrock station.  We toasted my success with my first client bottle for my bottle bank, and invited themselves round for many more “nice” champagne tastings in years to come.


So special thanks go to Kim for helping me to start off this amazing tradition with such a special bottle of fizz.  And thanks to everyone who just knew I’d be successful.  The taste of success is definitely Rose…

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They’ve  been talking about connecting our village to the mains sewerage system for 25 years now.  All 42 houses have septic tanks which we manage ourselves, and enjoy the benefits of a 40% cost reduction in our annual water bills.  Well Anglian Water recently put a note through all houses in the village telling us that they would do a survey to see if the vilage and all of the properties in it were suitable for mains drainage.  I hope this is an opt in project.  I quite like managing my own waste water – it makes me much more aware what I’m putting into the sewerage system.  And I like the lower costs and environmental impact too.
So, the surveyors came round today to "assess" the place.  They were in the back garden looking at our septic tanks when one of the hens laid an egg.
"Did I just hear a CHICKEN?"
Yes, they’re over there….
"Aargh.  I’m allergic to chickens"
Don’t worry, they’re in a pen and run and can’t get out…
"Right I’m off then…"
So many questions must now be unasked.  Till they return.
Somehow I think I’ll be on a septic tank system for some time yet…
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Ready for visitors

All of the rooms are completed, immaculately tidy and at that wonderful new pristine state before the tiredness of living in a place takes over, I’ve painted, sewn, chosen the appropriate pictures to go in each room and closed the door on the completed room with satisfaction.  Each door has a wonderful lovingly made and painted salt dough shape, created by hand for me by my good friend Bella.  So guests can go in the hearts room, or the barley twist room, a wonderful touch, she painted them to match the decor too.  And they look fantastic.
I made the landing curtains this weekend, hung with padded goblet pleats, a bell pull and tassles.  So the landing is almost finished – apart from the bannister rails.  it’ll seem strange being able to walk close to the edge of the stairs knowing I won’t fall off the ledge.
I’ve started to paint the downstairs bathroom (this was altered somewhat when we moved the staircase that cuts through it).  Something nice and art deco, something art nouveau.  something different to bare plaster…
We’re ready for people to come and stay with us, but have we got any friends left?  Perhaps they’re tired of waiting for the invite.  Don’t worry.  As they say, it’s in the post…
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Waxing lyrical

The doors are finally in place upstairs.  They’ve been in the entrance hall for months and months now.  we’ve only got round to hanging one because Mum and Dad were visiting for Christmas so we thought we’d better get a door on their room to stop the kitties barging in and fighting on the bed in the middle of the night.  So we hung one door, and it looks like its always been in place.  All doors are exactly the same wood (pitch pine) as the doors downstairs, were made in the early 30′s and look really similar (downstairs has 2 panels below the centre bar, upstairs has 3).  They fit perfectly too.  We measured all of the apertures and worked out which door went into which doorway, and they didn’t need any modifications at all.  The only problems are that the door handles have been changed several times over the last 70 years and there are 2 keyholes and several door knob holes in the wood.  We’ve found some door handles that "look" like bakelite, but cover most of the holes in the doors.  So they’ll do…
All the doors are fitted now, and I’ve spent the day treating them with brush on wax and buffing them fiercely.  And very nice they look too.  Now all I need is to fit all of the door furniture, and then I can hang my satin dressing gown up instead of artistically draping it over the mirror for the cats to drag down and sleep on.  I also need to find my ear plugs too to block out the sound of scraping paws on the door as the cats try to get back in to sleep on "their" bed…
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Bedroom style….

Bedroom 2 is finished now.  I even have 5 robe hooks, complete with hangers marching across the wall.  The shape of the room means that with a double bed in place, there isn’t really enough space to position a wardrobe, so I came up with theidea of just having stylish hooks along the wall instead.  Actually it wasn’t my idea, but one I pinched from the St. Martins hotel in London, a hotel so stylish that there are no lights in the corridoors, just dim lights at ankle level, and the room numbers woven into the carpet.  And the light switches? Where the heck were the light switches?
We’re not that stylish at home, so I have gone for functionality with visible light switches and hooks that you can see… Practicality over style for me.  I had a bit of a brainwave about the bed though.  The bed is tight into the corner and the inboard person is under the slope of the roof which starts 9" above the duvet.  The outboard side is where the bathroom door starts.  Hmmm, no room for a bedside table for tissues, false teeth and table lamps.  So I had the brilliant idea of moving the head of the bed away from the wall, putting a shelf behind the headboard where all of the paraphernalia could be placed. 
Very stylish.  Born out of practicalities, I’ve ended up with something that looks really nice.  I’m impressed.  Now all I need are some friends to take advantage of my hospitality…  
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What a Drip…

I’m enjoying my new life upstairs. I can go upstairs and clean my teeth, and go to bed without climbing all over boxes of building materials, plumbing things, and clothes that have been in storage for over a year.  I wander upstairs regularly to marvel at the amazing transformation upstairs.  The place looks better every time I see it.  So I was a little bit dismayed to come back from my wanderings around Europe last week to find that a large hole had appeared in the kitchen ceiling and buckets were on the worktop to catch the drips.  We had a leak.  From  upstairs in one fof the new bathrooms.  Oh no.
The leak appeared to come fron the wall in between both bathrooms.  Steve became convinced that he’d punctured a water pipe when he fitted the shower panel in the guest bathroom.  But how could we check which bit was punctured?  There’s laminate and glass all along the wall in the guest room, and the master bathroom is finished, painted and looking perfect.  It was looking like we’d have to destroy the plaster to chase the leak.  Then I had a brainwave (it’s amazing how creative I get after a couple of glasses of wine).  Why not cut the hole in the wall behind the bathroom cabinet in bathroom 1?  It’s almost directly behind the shower panel and we’d be able to see instantly.  So the hole was cut, the soggy glass fibre insulation removed, and the drip traced upwards.  At least the shower panel wasn’t the culprit. It was coming from the loft area.
5 minutes later in the loft there was an exclaimation "I don’t bloody believe it!"  The pipe had been punctured right at the top, when the plasterboard for the wall was screwed on to the batten at the ceiling.  Easily fixed, re-insulated, pressure tested and water returned to upstairs within an hour.  And the best bit?  No more drips.  Phew… 
And I suppose I can get used to looking at the joists and chipboard for a few more weeks, till we get round to re-doing the ceiling.  It only looks bad if I look up…
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Jet setting

I’ve been rather busy recently.  I went to Dublin for a week to attend a Management Excellence course which was a fabulous learning experience for me.  I discovered what I’m good at: Influencing people and engaging people, both because I’m really friendly to strangers and really approachable, I find it easy to gain peoples trust within a short space of time.  I also learned what I’m really bad at.  Conflict.  I absolutely hate any discord, if anyone gets angry with me, I get really upset and worried, and I feel really uneasy when people argue just for the sake of things.  I’m good at keeping team morale up (this may have something to do with buying them wine when the going got tough) and I can stay cheerful even after 13 hour days.  Tiring though.
After 3 days at home, I went on my trip around Europe with the Unified Communications marketing manager.  I was running the hands on labs and doing a demo for customers and partners. We’d planned a hectic schedule.  Wednesday, I flew to Athens, changing planes in Prague and getting to the hotel in Athens at 0330hrs.  The event had been cancelled so I had a nice Thursday visiting the Acropolis and the Parthenon before Flying into Zagreb (changed planes in Milan).  We got to Zagreb at 2230hrs and were met by Boris, our Taxi driver.  Boris looked like the archetypal secret service agent all dressed in black with a huge handlebar moustache and a large dark Mercedes.  We drove for 45  minutes north east of Zagreb to a small town called Varazdin (the Baroque capital of Croatia) and checked into a very basic hotel called the Hotel Turist.  Hmmm.  Slightly odd – but then again, I was past caring at midnight when I checked in. 
We delivered the training and went back to Zagreb for a weekend as a tourist, flying to Warsaw (changing planes in Munich on Sunday night).  We repeated our event on Monday and left Warsaw for Vilnius on Tuesday evening.  I finally said goodbye to Eastern Europe, leaving Vilnuis for London Stansted (changing planes in Copenhagen) on Wednesday night.  So nine planes in a week.  Not bad for someone terrified of flying.  To be honest, I was past caring after getting on plane number 6.  I was too tired to worry any more…
So I arrived back to Stanstead, but my luggage stayed in Copenhagen.  Apparently, EasyJet are a point to point airline and ignore any bag in transit. Even though it belongs to them.  You have to check your bags in again.  This piece of information didn’t really help me at 2330hrs when I arrived to a deserted airport, tired and tearful.  I’ll remember that next time. Grrr…
My bag finally arrived on Friday evening which was a bit of a relief.  I needed all of my toiletries for my next trip which came around all too soon.  I left home again at 1100hrs Saturday morning after only 60 hours at home.  I flew to Barcelona for ITForum, a technical conference for IT Professionals.  What a luxury to be able to stay in the same hotel for 6 days.  I could actually hang stuff up in the wardrobe.  Such a difference compared with the frenetic week before.  I was really looking forward to get back to my own bed.  My flight landed at Stanstead at 2230hrs, I was collected by James (my friendly taxi driver) and taken home for midninght.  Only to get up at 0400hrs and get ready to drive to France with my friends Bella and James.  What a bit of poor scheduling!  This weekend was the only weekend we were all free and available.  But tired didn’t even come close to explain how I felt!  Shopping helped a bit though, as did copious quantities of beaujolais nouveau, croissants and coffee. 
So I’m home now – for 25 hours this time.  I have interviews tomorrow so I have to get into the car in a couple of hours and to drive down to the flat to stay tonight.  I want to stay at home, catch up on my sleep, my home life, family life, friends, gardening, hot tub and kitties.  Only one more week of travelling though before life gets back to normal.
And how much am I looking forward to this?  You haven NO IDEA how much.  This jet setting life certainly has it’s down side…
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