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Sunday, 16 September 2012

Portsmouth vs Southampton - Pompey every time!

This week I was contacted by a web design company called Yescando. They have created this nifty infographic with the differences between Portsmouth and Southampton. 

For those who do not know, the rivalry between the two cities dates back a long way. It is said to date back hundreds of years, mainly due to the both cities prominent maritime histories. These days this rivalry is focused around the two football clubs and the South Coast Derby (did you know the derogatory use of scum for Southampton actually stemmed from the Southampton Club’s union acronym – S.C.U.M.)

Anyway, as a person who has strong ties to both cities (I went to Southampton Solent University and now live in Portsmouth), this infographic caught my eye. Speaking from experience, I would say that Portsmouth is definitely the better city to live in. Southampton may be bigger and have a better shopping mall, but who wants to live in city without a beach? 

Thanks Yescando for letting me share this.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Boris was right! My very special night at the Aquatic Centre, Paralympics 2012

I was sat at my desk, about to lift a forkful of healthy and equally boring turkey salad to my mouth, when the call went out to the office “Anybody fancy going to the Paralympics tonight?”


I am currently on an internship at a trade magazine in London and while central London is an expensive pain to get to every day, it does have some perks, such as being so close to some of the most interesting events in the UK. It was 1pm and the event started at 5pm. I would need to get from my office in Waterloo to a cafĂ© in the back streets of Hackney Wick by 4pm to meet a PR guy who had a spare ticket. 
Wallking into the Aquatic Centre

Now I’m not saying that I was top of their list but I felt incredibly lucky for the list of people to have worked its way down to a lowly trade magazine intern (the term ‘scrapping the barrel’ did cross my mind briefly). Apparently somebody had cancelled, somebody else couldn’t make it, someone had plans and somebody just didn’t fancy it. Their loss! 

I hotfooted it over to Hackney Wick and was met by a strange ensemble of competition winners, journalists and PR people, all cobbled together by Coca-Cola Enterprises to fill their corporate seats. We were handed Coca-Cola goody bags and made our way to the Aquatic Centre. 

When the Olympics tickets originally went on sale I, like millions of others, put in for a few events. When I didn’t get any joy on the first ballot, I lost heart and resigned myself to not going. When my best friend was in London and begging to go over to the village on the off chance, I convinced her that it would be ‘too busy’ and ‘not worth it’. After all it’s better to watch it on the telly…. Right? 

How wrong could I be? On entering the Olympic village, the buzz starts to become infectious. By the time we reached the Aquatic Centre, Olympic Fever was starting to take hold. When you walk in to the Aquatic Centre nothing can quite prepare you for how bright and vivid the experience is. The colours of the pool and the thousands of faces in the stands are like a visual feast. The warmth of the pool and the acoustics of the venue are quite outstanding. This is something that even the best 3D TV could not replicate. When the athletes come out and you see just how much it means to them and how they are so much better at swimming than I could ever dream of being, it really is quite breathtaking. 

The first race saw China’s Tao Zheng break the world record for the men’s 100m backstroke. The image of Tao romping to victory despite not having any arms is one that will stay with me and positively inspire me for the rest of my life. That first race was so emotionally charged even people in the audience were in tears of joy. 

Jonathan Fox on the podium
Later on in the evening, Jonathan Fox took to the pool. A friend of mine who works for The Newquay Voice had tipped me off to the Newquay-lad’s record-breaking time trials on Facebook earlier that day. When he came out, the place erupted. When he swam, the atmosphere was palpable. The Cornish-boy did Team GB proud and powered to victory, smashing his own personal best. What a performance and what a night. 

There were so many highlights that it is impossible to write about all of them. Here’s just a brief few - an Australian volunteer in the crowd behind us singing out her national anthem when Brittany Elmslie took gold in the 100m butterfly. Seeing the military so smartly bringing out the countries flags. Dong Lu of China being given the posy of flowers in the nape of her neck and the look of sheer joy on her face as she stood on the podium after winning gold in the Women's 100m Backstroke. The volunteers high-fiving people as we left the venue and the little boy on the tube home teaching me the difference between Mandeville and Wenlock. The night was special. 

Me outside the Aquatic Centre, what a backdrop!
I like to think that you make your own luck. I once watched a programme starring Derren Brown to the same effect. He said that if you have an open mind, accept invitations and just generally go with the flow, you are more likely to have a better life and create more lucky opportunities. At the start of the Olympics and Paralympics I was sceptical. When Boris declared these Paralympics as the ones to change opinions, the cynic in my scoffed.  When the Paralympic flame went passed my office, I stayed inside out of the rain and watched from my window. 

Now after accepting a rather late sideball of an invitation, I am completely convinced. Boris is right, these games are the ones to change opinions. The competitors are amazing. The whole event is amazing. I now stand in awe.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

How much should you share at work?

Finding myself in the tricky situation of starting at a new company, I am beginning to wonder just how much is the right level of sharing?

The balance is a hard one to find.

We have all worked with the people that over-share. You know the kind, the girl that comes in with all the details of the boy that she has just started seeing. You hear so much about ‘Joe’ that you feel like you know him, and then when he finally turns up at your workplace and you say ‘Hey Joe!’ and he looks at you like you are some kind of raving mad stranger.

How much would you share? 
On the other hand, we have all worked with the under-sharer. The person that is so silent and withdrawn you quietly wonder what their problem is and imagine them as some kind of weirdo recluse, possibly living with lots of cats and hoarding old newspapers.

I have been told that my personality can be kind of ‘quirky’, sometimes ‘thoughtful’, leading all the way through the spectrum to the downright ‘bitchy’. This leaves me with the predicament, tell all about my life and run the risk of being seen as a show-off or a big mouth or keep my life to myself be accused of being shy. It’s a tough call.

To add to all of this, we have the added nuisance of Facebook. Where’s the line? When do you add a colleague to your friends list? Is a smiley at the end of an internal email a hidden signal that you are now friendly enough to become cyber friends too? Oh the perils of modern technology.

After two weeks at my new desk, I feel the time has come to open up. I hate being seen as shy and from Tuesday this out of character quietness is going to stop. I need to talk. My internal dialogue is driving me mad. I need to let some of it out.

It’s very hard to like somebody that you know nothing about, but then it’s very easy to hate someone who is bending your ear when you have deadlines looming. Perhaps the key is to invite our colleagues to the pub after work? We are after all, a nation of Brits that form the majority of relationships after a pint or two. That’s my plan anyway, I’ll ask a few people to the pub and hopefully I can then ascertain the level of sharing required for a happy work life.

You never know, the quiet guy may have just been waiting for an invite. That’s if they accept the offer to go to the pub…. If they haven’t already made their minds up that I’m the weirdo recluse, or the even more annoying blabbermouth. ‘Till next week…