2019 - The Year of Advancement

New year, new theme! Well, it doesn’t feel much like a new year anymore, as I write this in February(!), things have been moving very quickly indeed. 2019 will be the the second year using the theme concept and I’m really excited to get started having learned all that I did last year.

This year’s theme is The Year of Advancement. With a focus on Optimisation, Development and Improvement of things which already exist - no big changes! Essentially, taking what already exists and making it better, doing better at it or progressing it. Of course there is one big change and that’s getting married and frankly, that alone is a big enough change for one year (50 days to go!).

While I plan on keeping the theme concept there are a few alternations I’m going to take after thinking though last year. The first is to combine the theme with a high-level list of target areas and goals. The shift from a fixed list of annual goals to a theme was good, it gave space to allow things to happen more naturally, but at times it felt I was ‘riding the wave’ rather than driving progress. So instead I am going to maintain both, the theme in addition to a list of focus ares to help move forward - some of these are more traditional fixed goals, others are areas where I just need to be more aware and keep them in mind.

The second change I am going to make is to hold monthly checkpoints - I’ve found checkpoints a valuable process when running projects and hopefully a similar activity will help ensure that everything is still aligned, if it isn’t it will serve as an opportunity to do something about. I’m unsure how to implement this but my hope is that I can become accountable to the checkpoint, perhaps that will be a blog or tweet - who knows!

First beers of the stag party

First beers of the stag party

Aside from this wedding planning is coming along well, almost everything is done! Victoria has done a fantastic job organising things and I very excited for our big day and cannot wait to have all of our friends and family in one place - something that's never happened before...!

That time I went to... Rome & The Vatican State

August 2017 and the project to deploy SD-WAN at Cushman & Wakefield was just kicking off. Given the scale of the project I felt that it’d be sensible to make sure we give the first site some extra care and attention before we let the train leave the station at full speed. Turned out that the best location was Rome, Italy since it was reasonably small and the staff hadn’t all left for their summer holidays.

I was pretty excited about Rome, I’d never been before and it was a great opportunity to nudge the country count up by visiting The Vatican State at the same time. On the trip I’d be accompanied by our Italian IT Manager and an engineer from our deployment partner who would be working with us on the project. Since this was the first deployment the plan was to run through the installation script we’d built during the pilot and ensure there were no teething issues for future installations.

Civitavecchia, Rome, Italy

Civitavecchia, Rome, Italy

I flew out early on Sunday morning to Fiumicino (where British Airways were good enough to bump me to Club Europe!), this was to be a quick two-night trip so I wanted to make sure that I had a chance to see the Colosseum and visit the Vatican as well as do all necessary work. The hotel I stayed in was wonderful (Hotel Barocco), it was not the cheapest but being the height of summer there weren’t many rooms left in the city. I would absolutely stay here again if I were to come back.

Delicious Olives, Rome

Delicious Olives, Rome

After settling in I met up with the engineer from our partner and we got to work on the tourist hit list, first up was of course the colosseum, where we found a fantastic bar/restaurant overlooking the complex. We sat outside and sunk a few beers here and had some of the most gorgeous olives, definitely recommend this spot, it’s on a street called Via Nicola Salvi. Interestingly, the BrewDog bar which has opened between my visit and the writing of this post is on the same block(!). The colosseum is truly stunning, it’s enormous and and while there are a bunch of tours and history walks just enjoying the view was perfectly adequate.

Colosseum, Rome

Colosseum, Rome

Next up was the Vatican, it really is as tiny as people say, we walked along Via della Conciliazione and found a nice little bar just off St Peter’s Square where again we sat outside and enjoyed the weather and views. The area was pretty quiet since it was a Sunday afternoon but we could see the famous guards, St Peter’s Church and all the things that are recognisable from TV. I took nowhere near enough pictures, but as interesting as the place was, there was nothing that isn’t already photographed a thousand times over. From St Peter’s square we walked back towards the centre of Rome, by this point it was blindingly hot, certainly over 40 degrees celsius and so hit some en-route bars in order to stay hydrated!

St Peters Basilica, Vatican State

St Peters Basilica, Vatican State

We ended the day in the Hard Rock Cafe (like true tourists) since by the time we were in search of food all the restaurants had decided to close. The only reason I remember this is because I have a picture of Yellowcard playing in the restaurant (which I presumably requested!) date stamped at 11pm on Sunday.

River Tiber, Rome

River Tiber, Rome

The two days of work went very well, we completed the deployment of SD-WAN and the activation was a breeze. There were a few snags we picked up in the script but nothing major, the first European site was all up and running! Rome is a great city, but having now been I wouldn’t rush back there is a LOT of history here, obviously, but Ancient Rome isn’t really my cup of tea.

That time we went to... Vienna, Austria

This is a new mini-series in the Blog, an attempt to write posts that I should have written at the time but failed to do so. Enjoy!

September 2015 Victoria and I went on a long weekend to Vienna, Austria. It was a bit of a treat, we spoilt ourselves to Business class flights and a fancy room in the Hilton on the banks of the Danube. We had a fantastic time although there were a few hiccups along the way...

Burgtheater, Vienna

Burgtheater, Vienna

The first hiccup was taking the airport train in the wrong direction, which meant we spent some time at the very quaint Maria Ellend station, not ideal but we were back on our way reasonably quickly. The second hiccup was on the way back to the airport, where we were fined several hundred euros for not having the correct ticket, absolutely not the highlight of the trip. Note to travellers, the Vienna all city pass does not include the city's airport.

Old Fashioned, D-Bar, Ritz Carlton, Vienna

Old Fashioned, D-Bar, Ritz Carlton, Vienna

Aside from that, the trip was fantastic! On our first night we spent time walking along the banks of the River Danube and enjoyed watching the boats slowly pass by from our hotel room. We visited the Hard Rock Cafe (#culturalhighlight) and afterwards stopped by at the Ritz Carlton Hotel for drinks - which was very lovely indeed.

Scumbag Tapir, Tiergarten Schönbrunn, Vienna

Scumbag Tapir, Tiergarten Schönbrunn, Vienna

The following day we managed to see Pandas for the first time at Tiergarten Schönbrunn (Vienna Zoo), which is famous for being the oldest continually operating zoo in the world. We even found Panda haribos imported from China in the gift shop! The best memory from the Zoo was the 'Scumbag Tapir' which walked into it's enclosure and into a beautiful clean pool of water and proceeded to violently defecate, no shits were given.

Zum Schwarzen Kameel, Vienna

Zum Schwarzen Kameel, Vienna

Sunday was spent enjoying the city; we walked around the Heldenplatz, famous for Hitler's 1938 speech following the annexation of Austria. We saw the beautiful Burgtheater and had a spot of lunch in the wonderful Zum Schwarzen Kameel restaurant, which founded in 1618 was pretty darn old (it was also in a film of which I can't recall).

Sachertorte, Vienna

Sachertorte, Vienna

Wrapping up the day we had some of Vienna's famous coffee and of course, Sachertorte; this was really rather lovely and we enjoyed it at the original Hotel Sacher for added authenticity. 10/10 would go back.

Quick Beer in Hastings

Last year I did very poorly on my quest to explore the UK and complete my Rail Map. The only piece of new milage I managed to complete was from Birmingham New Street to Worcester Shrub Hill. This was unplanned, a last ditch attempt to get home from Birmingham via Oxford during the January snow. My failed attempt left me stranded at Shrub Hill where after hours standing in a freezing cold station I admitted defeat and went back to Birmingham.

This year I am determined to do better with the map and that determination was supported by the long-promised 26-30 Railcard being released on the 2nd of January. The new railcard is pretty much exactly the same as my much-missed 16-25 railcard and allows 1/3rd off all off-peak journeys nationwide. Since there is no better time than the present, @geekyjames and I thought we’d give our shiny new app-only railcards a go and take a 148 mile round trip journey to Eastbourne for a quick beer.

Tunnel between Hastings and St Leonards Warrior Square

Tunnel between Hastings and St Leonards Warrior Square

We had originally planned to go to Hastings but after checking online it turned out that the journey to Eastbourne was actually cheaper, despite being further away and reached via Hastings. Since we had off-peak tickets we could break our journey which meant we could go to Hastings anyway...! So, top tip… If you’re not buying an advance fare, check to see if selecting a further station brings down the price of your ticket.

Here’s a clever link to my twitter thread from the day with some pictures and details of the journey. The beer in Eastbourne was delicious, a pint of English bitter from Nelson Brewery which is brewed less than a mile from home! In all the journey time was around 4Hrs 20mins, excluding time waiting for connections.

The next trip is being planned…! Watch this space.