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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

(Nearly) Up In The Air

Travelling with a laptop always has its beginning and its end, and I rarely spend much time on this in this blog. For one thing, it’s the most mundane part. Whatever the airport; whatever the destination; we still have our check in, our security process and potentially the inevitable ‘random’ screening. Then the trawl to the gate, and, finally, the wait for the plane…the flight attendants…Medallion members. Those bastards.

Today at Heathrow, ah beloved airport, they had really laid on the full experience. A bland, neon-vested chap described calmly to those 200-300 back in line:
 “Ah yes, well you see, we have 4 flights leaving within ten minutes of one another.”
Indeed? Well, that explains it then. What other possible explanation could there be for the delay? Or what solution? Nothing like, say, putting extra staff on the desk to offset the busy time? (We could all learn something from Tesco…sad to say.) Or, again, allowing silver medallion members to check in with Sky Priority agents? No, let’s just do the sensible thing. Remove all sense of a formed queue and allow the casually homicidal would-be passengers to form ever increasing lines of confusion. Did I say lines? Clumps, clusters, huddles of disaster may all be suitable synonyms.

In flight

And oh, the airport. Where else to find 200 identically dressed mussed-up-do blondes wearing Uggs of dubious authenticity? And jogging pants from Juicy or similar. Children who bring the art of screaming to a new decibel and pitch; parents who find arguments the best for of airport conduct. Or aimless discussions about when the plane will leave. Or what zone they are in. Or whether the announcements are really working. Or what time is it in America. Or whether they should have filed ESTA before travelling. Love-struck couples soppily kissing their farewells. [oh dear, talking about myself again.]

I love to wait in line. I do. I am British, after all. Where are the passport control people? There they are. They’re changing their mind about whether to continue working or go for tea. (Why are we wasting time on such question? Tea. In fact. Of course. Good decision.) Where are the security people? They are chatting. As I love to do when at work. No, in fact I have nothing better to do…I mean, who does?

I also love the security screening. It’s right up there with my favourite ten pastimes. Like listening to UB40's Red Red Wine and learning how to Morris Dance. I personally love to spend time behind the small group of individuals who still break with tradition and remain deaf and dumb to signs of guidance. “I have to put my laptop in a separate bin?" "I have to remove my belt?" "What’s that you say? My shoes?" "Ah, yes, I forgot about the toothpaste. Good point. And the razor. I meant to put it into my suitcase, I really did. What on earth is it doing in there?”  For these people, I would happily invest in a syndicate to implement Up In The Air’s security scene as compulsory viewing. Never mind the flight safety video. You’ll be preparing them for safety far better with a long-overdue lesson in airport etiquette.

Eventually reunited with functioning films...

Of course, it’s important to be at the gate on time. One risks missing out on the full waiting experience otherwise. Like when I arrived this morning. I am generally an obedient person when it comes to following transport instructions. One never knows when one might be left behind. So naturally it was with a cold sweat beading on my forehead that I marched down to gate five at 9.10am this morning to board my imminently departing flight at 9.25. The sweat trickled more rapidly with the calm at the gate. Had the plane already left? The patiently-seated few were surely the three-hours-early crew for the next flight? Such a waft of calm rested on the entire area of gate 5, that I wondered whether my eyes were deceiving me. Not getting any older, after all.

Two exciting trips to the accessible toilet later, am still no wiser. At this point, shaking with the consumption of additives + caffeine (diet Coke Zero and Kettle Chips) and dangerously close to the end of my range of Scramble with Friends contests, I am praying to the Delta Gods to save me please. And at last, an hour and a half later, it was answered.

Gratuitous George Pic. Well, why wouldn't I?

Fortunately, only a few restarts of the on-board in-flight entertainment system and I am free to watch my films of choice. Shame Up in the Air isn’t on offer.

The Delta crew provided me with the following delights today:

On takeoff, I learned I had a malfunctioning TV / sound system - absolutely unforgivable on long haul flights. After a 15 minute reset the sound was still providing screeching in my ear rather than anything resembling a film dialogue, so after yet another reset I was blessed by moving into a seat next door with functioning sound. Which was great until the flight attendant leaned across me to speak to my seat-mate and spilled water all over me. Thank you, Delta, for the miles you gave me to say sorry. And thank heaven for small mercies like these.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Telling Tales on Social Media

I was about to be very cross this morning.

Yesterday on LinkedIn I was carefully considering a new article cited in the Harvard Business Review group. The article, from Psychology Today, is fascinating whatever your profession or lifestyle, because on some level we all interact with people.

The Inside Story - Psychology Today

After reading the article I decided to comment myself. As those of you who have patiently followed my blog know, I'm not exactly posting on a daily basis. While I remain very enthusiastic about social media in its many forms and can be found on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn among other sites, I maintain my blog only when I feel like I have something to say that is potentially of interest. Ah, fortunate reader, otherwise it would be all laundry, time and expense reporting and Friday night margaritas every week. The latter creeps into this blog more often than it probably should.

The article explores our need for narrative and story telling, and how we respond to it. As someone whose career has centred around people's ability to change (including mine) I commented. The crossness I refer to above resulted because I then received a message telling me my comment was under review. "Fine", I thought." That makes good sense - it would not speak well of any publication to let the logic or grammatically-bereft of the world's populace comment willy-nilly."

How wrong I was. Within minutes of posting my comment, the following appeared:

Not quite Daily Mail, but really, people. Logic, thought, grammar. Ringing any bells at all?

Whilst trying to remain calm, it was as a rather disgruntled blogger that I went about the rest of my day. I don't consider myself the expert on change, but I do think that my voice is as relevant to this discussion as any change specialist. Plus I don't make grammatical errors, or post randomly ill-considered bilge.

And what is a blog for, but for the creation of discussion where one's own passions and opinions are at the root of the posts?

So in this post I am recording for posterity my two pence / five cents. And also Tears for Fears' wonderful "Everybody Wants to Rule The World" for irony and for the pure joy of it.

Happy Tuesday!

Everybody Wants To Rule The World. (And I would quite like to be featured in HBR's comments, thanks!)

My comment: now posted in LinkedIn's Harvard Business Review group (thanks!):

"Narratives are powerful because they allow us to connect. As a former teacher, working with some of the most challenging of London's children, connecting with (e.g.) a 12 year old self-harmer, abandoned by both parents, with a shared story - however insignificant (a love of Haribo, a common interest in the weekend's Chelsea result) begins the path to connection, acceptance and trust. To teach is to develop that trust and use it to lead - and leading through stories often fast tracks that learning onto the highway. 

Now I work in change management for businesses, I have not forgotten the importance of the story. How can I get 3000 people to use a new system? They don't like change; they would prefer the old system - it has its problems but it's familiar and they can do their jobs successfully using it. 

The first step towards adopting change is understanding, so we write the once upon a time stories of how this all began. We tell the people why things are not working the way we need them to for them, for their customers and for the company to keep growing. We don't just tell this story once, we tell it again and again with new examples, with key leaders sharing this so that the same message becomes a powerful tool. This is where the stories begin. As we continue on this journey of change more and more people in the company become story tellers for change. 

Training and communications are vital components of all change pieces. It is when the trainees become agents for training other through stories, and communicate the need for change that the entire organisation commits itself to success."

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Frankenstorm and Frankenmuth

Stormy weather stalked New York on Sunday 28th October as if to hail the arrival of a real life Halloween. I’m told that American teenagers delight in smashing pumpkins at this time of year. In New York this year I'm not sure they had the chance, as natural forces claimed the land and all of its possessions.

Reservoir View -  New York in the Fall

Not that you would have known this had you been at brunch in New York on Saturday. Everyone and his mother (as they say here, when they mean ‘the world and his wife’) was out celebrating the falling leaves and hailing the arrival of hat, coat and boot season. I would have expected more drama around the weather predictions than the murmurings of an impending super storm rustling around brunch tables like scattered dry leaves.

Prosecco-fuelled and dazed, I realised it was probably time to evacuate if I had any chance of flying home to England from Detroit the following week. Luckily I made it onto a Saturday Detroit-bound flight, and found myself in the familiar surroundings of the Westin Southfield once again. And while there are blips in the service as with any hotel, the beds and showers really are heavenly and the comfort of a hotel room that looks (now) like home, is something, even if I wouldn’t exactly picture it when clicking my ruby slippers together.

My local subway station during the storm. No downtown trains, then.

And here endeth my personal experience with Frankenstorm…So Sunday in Michigan…what to do?

75 miles north of Southfield is a small German town, settled originally in 1845, sometimes known as little Bavaria, but actually called Frankenmuth. No link this time with Mary Shelley. The city is named “Franken” for Franconia (in Bavaria) and “Mut” for courage. Like me, the original settlers arrived from New York – but travelled not by Delta’s *best* fleet but canals and the Great Lakes, on a mission to preach Lutheran Christianity to the Native American tribes.

The road to Frankenmuth

Although I visited the city museum (a bargain at $2) it is clear that Frankenmuth has morphed into another kind of experience – one largely geared towards a combination of the German and Native American traditions I will summarise as: cheese, beer, fudge and moccasins.

Haus of Cheese

I have never seen so many essential major food groups with their own shops – taffy twirling in the window, fudge fresh onto the marble slap and cheeses of all kinds (even chocolate cheese!). To stay in Frankenmuth is to play Russian roulette with the cholesterol gods. And I wouldn’t wager too many would come out unscathed!

Fudge Kitchen

After sampling some (alright all) of the above food groups and walking around the city, I made my way back to the outskirts for the one last stop I knew I really had to make: Bronner’s Christmas Store – “The largest Christmas store in the world”. Now this I had to see.

Would this make you feel welcomed at the Bavarian Inn? Hmmm.

And no, I was not disappointed. The stuff of the Grinch’s nightmares (and probably of many atheists) Bronner’s is Christmas what Disney World is to saccharin childhood cartoons: larger than life and frankly terrifying in some cases! I’ve captured a few choice pictures. I wisely decided not to open my wallet in the Christmas store, lest $1m later I emerged with a larger than life sized Wise Man and about 4 baubles costing $30 apiece.

Bronner's. Possibly the most terrifying Christmas store in the world. Ever.

So, departure from the storm was departure from reality for a while. Frankenstorm - I'm glad I escaped. Frankenmuth, I hope to see you again.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Summer of Love

When you meet someone who you love, you really love, it's very hard to describe how fantastic it is. As much as I love writing, I find it very hard to write about Mat except to say that I love him very much. We now live over three thousand miles apart, and this makes it harder than ever to explain. And harder for a lot of people to understand. It works for me because there's only one person for me, and that is Mat. Whatever you want to call it, it is pretty wonderful.

One of the best things about Mat is the way he loves his food and drink as much as me. Many a fun night and day is spent in New York (or wherever) discussing the very important business of lunch and dinner. And possibly breakfast if we've risen early enough to make our day a trio of gastronomic delectation. When Mat first told me about the wonders of New York- for him - it was the ability to get a sandwich at 4 ' clock in the morning. Now the only time I've ever seen Mat awake at 4am is on New Year's eve, and sandwiches are rarely called for at that time - rather more cheese and whatever drink's going...

Here is a taster (!) of our culinary escapades this summer. Needless to say in September we both went for rather more restrained fare, to discourage our strained waistlines!

His and Hers.Vesper for Mat. Margarita for me

 French Silk and Fudge - two scoops!

One scoop of Marion county blackberry. YUM!

En route to Chicago for the weekend we tried out Sherman's dairy bar in South Haven. Wow, they know how to make ice cream!

Completely delectable Italian appetisers, also in South Haven

Among the pictures were many other shared meals. We did brunch at Sarah Beth's East on the upper east. Mat and I tried to order sensible amounts of food. And failed. I took my leftovers home. Mat manned up and ate all of his!

Mexican at Mole on 2nd avenue, and tacos at Cascabel Taqueria - also on second - were eaten up with gusto. Pork Pibl, Burritos grande and enchiladas all sound like heaven, and the $5 happy hour margaritas aren't bad either!

And more in New York... Death and Company for the truffled macaroni; Artisanal for the cheese plate, or just the cheese in general; Bareburger for fantastic burgers from many different cattle; Parlor for brunch; Ooki for Sushi and Brick Lane (right downtown) for fabulous Indian food. Not to mention Momofuku, which we didn't get to this time, but will definitely be on the menu for us next time Mat visits.

As Shakespeare once said in his McDonald's days, "If burgers be the food of love, eat on." Amen.

Carry on at your Convenience

Evelyn Waugh's sage advice in Brideshead Revisited was “You spend the first term at Oxford meeting interesting and exciting people and the rest of your time there avoiding them.” And while I certainly did meet interesting and exciting people, I have to say, Mr. Waugh, that some of those very people are - nearly 14 years later - my best friends. 

One of my friends, Kristian, is heavily into the wedding years as her friends in the UK and US are getting married in droves (and I guess I include myself in that group!). For the wedding of New York friend Ana I was delighted to welcome Kristian to my 5th floor walk up for the weekend...apart from the fact that the poor woman had sprained her ankle (on her birthday, no less, cruel fate) and had to hobble her way up four flights before being installed in my little pied-a-terre. Which, of course, is not so a-terre as one might hope in this situation.

Evenings with Kristian are now are delicious rare treat because of our very busy, transatlantic lives, so we happily installed ourselves in my front room for the night, knowing that wine was a couple of feet away in the fridge, and sushi a mere phone call from our door, to catch up on all the latest news - mine of apartment searches and work tales, her of tales from the PhD and of her medical exploits to date (alas). Exhausted after another week's work I tend to crash out very early, and wake earlier still.

At 3am, then, I woke and visited the bathroom...and discovered this missive...

There was also a wire coat hanger, stretched into a thin line, on the toilet tank. Puzzling.

Waking up, it turns out that Kristian had had a slight mishap in the old bathroom. Well. no evening could be complete with some kind of hilarity. And in a modern version of a Joe Orton sketch Kristian and I kept missing each other throughout the night. She hobbled into the bathroom and had her accident. I stumbled there at 3am and was puzzled by the whole thing. I ended up going running as she slept, then came back and snoozed while she woke. All in all, a typical evening.

Some like it Kitsch. The Bathroom

It turns out that some rather flimsy smalls were the culprit. Down the plug hole they had dashed - I do have very enthusiastic water pressure...couldn't be helped really.

Luckily our local hero hardware store, none other than Wankel's itself, came to the rescue.

Wankel's. There's really nothing more to say.

That's right ladies and gents, it doesn't get much more carry on than this! We purchased a long claw like plastic drain clearer and a wrench. We ladies don't mess about.

All was well that ended well when the u bend came up trumps and Mr. Calvin Klein's upper east side dignity remained intact. Just goes to show that we Brits still know how to have a jolly good adventure. Thank goodness for Wankel's and for great friends.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Tourist in My Town

New York City feels to me like a place I will never have fully explored, and that makes it even more appealing - it remains quite the elusive figure: she whose depths will never quite be plumbed. Luckily, excited friends visiting often have their own ideas about fun places to go. And I can host and go along for the ride.

My great friend Nina visited me a couple of weeks back, armed with the latest copy of Time Out - circled in black throughout with the must-sees and the might-sees. I've known Nina for ten years, since we both worked on an American study abroad program(me) in Oxford, she as a visiting professor, I as British student mentor. On our very first day of meeting we discovered a shared love of literature, films and cocktails. A potent combination for friendship. Ten years later our weekend plans, perhaps unsurprisingly, included a bar or four, a movie and a trip to St Mark's book store.

The Original Speakeasy Look

A long established trend in the city of New York is a revisiting of the drinking heritage of speakeasies. Once the way around the prohibition era, the speakeasies paved the way for women's entry into bar life. (Well, if you make drinking in bars illegal for everyone, what's to say that some are more illegal than others?) An FBI study proved that the longest time it took - across America - to get an illegal drink in any such speakeasy from the time one arrived at any railway station, was about 3 minutes. (In New Orleans they even had a speakeasy in the station. Smart thinking!)

Two modern speakeasies of note are PDT (Please Don't Tell) - which I will obey and leave mysterious for now (though I'm pretty sure that those in the know need no telling anyhow) and Death and Company. Addams' Family-style doors and a sombre, soberly dressed doorman lead the way into the dark bar, lit by candles and not much else. Air conditioning and credit card payments the two key modern attributes of this otherwise authentic looking bar. Well, that and the hipster clientele.

A candle-lit Vesper - chilled and delicious

Further to the speakeasy trend, the prevalence of bearded New York city bar tenders only contributes to the air of casual subversiveness. I'm not quite sure why this is. Bill Bryson is someone I'd never describe as casually subversive in this way, beard or no beard, but the young, bristly bearded men seem like they've said, "Aesthetically I'm over the studied chic. It's time to let it all hang out." So maybe Sixties cocktail lounges will be next.

Visiting Gilbert and George's London Pictures, East Village NYC

Discovering new places with old friends is one of the greatest pleasures of catching up - when there's so much in the way of catch up conversation, but there's also enough new experience in the mix that one can fluctuate between the two - take a break from one and get back to the other. Bar hopping, gallery dipping, cinema viewing (we saw Headhunters - Danish crime / suspense drama) and book shop browsing provided perfectly poised antidotes for our incessant catch up chatter.

Sushi at Ooki, to finish it all off on Saturday night, was a perfect end to a perfect 'staycation' with a great friend.

Jubilee Jubilations - Back Home!

Back on the plane on 31st May it has been 7 weeks since I left the UK for a whole new, New York, adventure.

Jubilee Jubilations at the local kitchen shop InSync

Being back home in Teddington with Mat once again, it was hard to shake the sensation of unreality thinking back to the project and my apartment. In a different time zone, with different accents, currency, climate (certainly) and surroundings the project and New York experience felt farther away than a half remembered dream.

Dr and Mrs...Back Together Again

Not wishing to rend the pictures here a host of before to after photos of my rapidly expanding waist-line, owing to all the food and drink consumed (liberally) with great friends over these few days, I will stick to bunting and views mostly, and let the pictures talk for themselves.

A very flat tyre indeed

One small homage, however, to the drama of my visit home in the shape of the above - a very, VERY flat tyre. (For Americans reading, please note the use of the British spelling of the word tyre.) Travelling home to the UK, I wanted to visit my family and Mat's, so our little used old car was put to her paces to schlep up the motorway to Nottingham and back on my first full UK day.

Alas, the journey home in the perpetual English drizzle had more excitement than planned when the car began to shake (literally) in the right hand lane of the motorway, whilst travelling at about 90 MPH. Oh dear! We pulled over (thankfully - safely) on the hard shoulder, happily right by a rescue telephone, and were able to connect with the AA. 

Much to the bemusement of passing motorists, not even the rain and spray from the speeding traffic could
dampen our high spirits at being back together again and safe, so the two stray roadsiders enjoyed hooting from the road as we hugged and kissed in the rain, and giggled at how ridiculous - really - it all was.

Back Home - St Paul's in the Sunshine

Wherever I am in the world I always feel connected to Mat - and we live in a fortunate age of video chat where we can see each other every day, and 'date' when we feel like it. That said, being at home back with my husband was wonderful. I can't wait for Mat to be here for the summer so we can explore a whole host of New York adventures together.

Richmond Riverside from our Proposal Spot

The remaining days passed without traffic incidents, and weather behaved itself just enough to allow to odd jaunt out for a walk to such beauty spots and favourite places as Richmond Riverside. As you will see below, we saw that some people viewed the Jubilee as less pomp and circumstance and more, well, pants.

The Jubilee - Pants on Parade

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Finding Chi in Chi-town

It's Memorial Day in the US this Monday, so I'm experiencing my first ever USA long weekend, with no work on Monday, and have come to Chicago to visit a dear old(!) friend for the pleasure of it. Finally I'm becoming accustomed to the block and grid set up of New York, when I arrive here to find yet another layer of simplicity and reason added to the mix. In Chicago, not only are there streets named with numbers in ascending order, and avenues as 'cross streets' but each property's number corresponds to the number of the street - meaning that 2200 is on 22nd Street and so on...No more getting completely lost with numbering when I realise in the cab I have the number of the building and know what avenue but not what street / vice-versa. People who have problems with orienteering should live here! (More info on this available here! Chicago Encyclopedia - Street Numbering.)

The Downtown view, from 9th Floor Hyde Park (through mozzy guard)

Chicago's Hyde Park area used to be a getaway destination from the downtown commotion and bustle of the business world, and is situated by Lake Michigan and surrounded by trees. Most of the buildings here were build to cater for the holiday crowds, and although they are now apartments these tall, biscuit-coloured buildings used to be hotels in the main, and some still are. The building across from my view here has rooms with fur safes...I have a good UK friend I may have to send in this direction if ever she and her furs make it to Chi-town. The safes have all required features of security, including the addition of a climate control feature.

The Fur Safe Apartments (as they should clearly be named) (through mozzy guard)

Running along the lake shore is a lovely start to the day, as is a visit to Om on the Range yoga in one of their two studios in this city. I've been doing their podcasts for a while now, so it was a real treat to experience Baptiste yoga first hand in their spacious (yet over subscribed!) and 94-degree studio. After a night out drinking gimlets and eating spicy sushi rolls, a morning of fast, hot yoga seemed somewhat daunting, as did the unsavoury notion of sweating it out for 75 minutes in a room half filled with lithe, tanned yoga goddesses, and half with sweat-drenched male, middle aged yoga-fans with an unhealthy desire to practise bare-chested in swimming shorts. Hmmm. Perseverance, though, is often rewarded, thank goodness, so leaving the studio more zen than when I entered seemed a lovely release from some of the stresses of finding, acquiring and furnishing an apartment within a two week period!

Welcoming Sign outside Studio at Om on The Range

Tonight, Thai food and rose; tomorrow, possibly pancakes, and the architecture river cruise. Happy holidays everyone in USA. UK friends, I'll hope to see you in a week's time!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Bed, Bath and Beyond...before and after

It's spring time in New York, and the streets are full of butterflies. Among the tourists and commuters hankering for sidewalk space, the red admiral butterflies particularly seem very keen to get into Foot Locker. But seeing nothing in his size, I presume, one headed on to Bank of America instead.

The spring time weather brings out the hipsters in their shorts and sunglasses, the bohemian types in sun dresses and sandals, and on Sundays the smart sun dresses and flats for champagne brunches. And for shopping, which seems less a pastime here than a sport and a necessity.

View from my bedroom area through to the front room

For me, this was the time to find an apartment. Having successfully acquired a bank account with little to no trouble, I was excited to start this process and looked through hundreds of adverts on Craig's List and many other sites to find the perfect New York pied-a-terre. All lined up to spend my first Saturday hunting for apartments with a broker, I never heard from the guy after our first phone conversation, so was immediately off-piste looking for individual places online.

It seems that the fast life style in New York most certainly applies to apartment hunting. Within seconds of texting a potential apartment contact I had lined up an appointment for three hours later, and took myself off to the Upper East Side. To see the smallest apartment I had imagined. Literally, a small boxy room which could house (I would guess) a futon or sofa bed, a small table and a TV. In one room. Tiny closet. Tiny kitchen, tiny (powder blue) bathroom. (Comparatively) massive price tag. And facing onto 2nd Ave, where the 2nd Ave subway is being constructed at a snail's pace.

Exposed Brick Wall in the Front Room

Only one set of applicants were able to apply for each apartment at the same time. And sadly, a couple were ahead of me in the race. Such a shame. Luckily, they left quickly and I pounced on the broker for another opportunity, and she took me to a larger apartment which no one had seen yet. It was when I left and realised that I was already decorating it that I knew I had to attack. With a nifty trip to Staples on Sunday, suddenly I had produced all the documentation I needed and one week later I moved in!

Kitchen (I) complete with US sized fridge

Kitchen (II) with new stove

American apartments usually come unfurnished, so the first weekend moving in focused on fairly important matters like: finding a bed to sleep in, a chair to sit in, and making sure the A/C worked (it does!). And then thinking about the bathroom which Miss Piggy would probably feel more at home in than I did...


One sunny Saturday a week ago I had no furniture.  One week later, and it's my second weekend in New York. I have trawled the SoHo, downtown and my neighbourhood thrift stores for many different kinds of furniture. Finally I got a bed, a chair, a rug, a dining room, media cabinet, kitchen cart...and a TON of stuff at Bed, Bath and Beyond, where I spent an OBSCENE amount of money.

 Enjoy the before and after pictures and let me know what you think! More on New York lifestyle next time...

After pictures...purchases!

Front room with couch, rug a-la-Mondrian and media cabinet (and the NYC view)!

Bedroom (I)

Bedroom (II)

For some reason the bathroom picture won't upload the right more to come of that...

Monday, 7 May 2012

Motor City / Big Apple

London Pride on Thursday at an English pub on the UES. Hello UK!

After three and a half weeks in the USA I realise what a terrible correspondent I am when I'm on a first project. Everyone who knows me (apart from my husband...thank goodness) may have noticed my lack of correspondence and I'm very sorry for this.

Something about the work and the hubbub of consulting life makes every week a blur of activity. I reach Thursday and get on the train - or, now, the plane - and I exhale. Life suddenly comes back to me on that journey away from the office. I might try to sleep; I might be too excited to sleep if I'm going to visit my wonderful friends and family; I might be spinning from the day and caught up in my thoughts. My head is overrun with these thoughts - whatever they are that day.

Delta Delight

I haven't even read a book until this weekend, when I read - and I really do recommend - the excellent Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Definitely read it!

My mind becomes so absorbed in new projects that I find myself dreaming of the spreadsheets, or the PowerPoints, or the messages that are so important to our efforts. I want to do a great job and this invades every hour of my day...even the sleeping hours, so it would seem.

Friday night Marg at Prime Meats, Court St, Brooklyn. GO THERE!

So. I decided with my husband that at 30 something years old this was the perfect time for us to explore new worlds and avenues - modest enough a salary to be able to jump over the pond without giving up a 'job for life' in one place, but at the same time taking the step to stay with my company, which I love, and to commit to exploring new facets of my abilities in different cultural, industrial and geographical locations. And then we dithered and deliberated and reflected on this pipe dream together. A life outside London? A place to live? A job? How could that be possible?

New York State of Mind

And then I was asked to decide much sooner than I wanted to. And being the stubborn person I am - that my husband and I both are - we decided that we would embrace this move and taste the excitement and opportunity; and spit out the bitter gall that required the decision to be made.

Went to the Strand hotel roof top bar - with a view of the ES building. Amazing. Thanks for the complimentary prosecco and margs on Kentucky Derby day...

Derby Day...I was not wearing a hat. I was drinking prosecco.

I am now working in Michigan, in Southfield - near enough to Detroit to make me feel the hum of the roads everywhere I look. The trees are lined with trees and the offices also contain beautiful greenery where I am. Thank goodness for the greenery and the oxygen to dispel the toxic fumes of Motor City - beautiful though some of its industrial qualities may be.

Towncenter, Southfield Michigan

My colleagues are amused at my English-ness (more of that to follow, no doubt!) and I am confusing all manner of waiting staff by my unreasonable (and incomprehensible) requests for "Warrrrter".

So, stick around and let's see how I do. And I'll be home again soon, so we can drink together and catch up in person. I miss you.

The Last 12 Months. Blast from the past...

I can't help but appreciate the difference between a job where I spend four months working at home, sporadically visiting the office for one meeting or another, but mainly alternating between consulting in my scruffs in the flat and wondering when to pop out to M&S to buy supper, and then where I spend one month (of many more to come) getting on aeroplane after plane...from one destination to another travelling around like the nomadic consultant I feel just as at home being.

Life has certainly taken a turn in a different direction from last year when I was in Ghana and Ethiopia. Since then I've visited my home town of Nottingham on a good many occasions by working there for a full 8 months. My mother and I (and my brother and father to a degree) became accomplices in experiencing Nottingham as bonnes vivantes, sampling Wagamama on cheap nights and on Champagne-suitable nights throwing the towel in and paying through the nose for our delicious dinners. I worked for a rather famous retail client for the last 8 months of 2011, and loved every minute of it. One: I was home. 2: the people were FABULOUS. 3. I got MEGA bargains (perhaps not quite as good when I consider the percentage of my salary I contributed to their overall turnover, but hey, they would have been happy!) and I have come away with friends for life.

Nottingham from my hotel. If you know where to look, you can see where I went to school

Nottingham and my last experience was one of the most exciting times in my consulting career. Every day bringing something different (and challenging!) but the fantastic spirit of our team pulling us through at every single hurdle. And occasionally a small amount of sugar to keep us on the right path. Herewith I publicly out Sarah, Heather and Glenn for completely irresistible sweet treats. Oooh, I could just fancy a slice of lemon drizzle.
Sarah and Heather, half way up a mountain!

So after leaving the best project I've been on so far - with the best people - where could measure up next? Probably nowhere, I thought. And I wondered about where I could go next. I wondered in what direction I should be moving now.

And that direction, and that place, turned out to be America. A place I have always felt drawn to, and have made countless visits to in the past - to nearly half of its 50 states now, near enough. - and have felt excited to be a part of. "High performance in USA vs. UK will be different", I knew, and told myself - especially after experiencing the amazing work in play in Care International's Atlanta head office. So. Off to America. Easy. Errr, no. But did I get there? Yes I did. Ladies and Gentlemen, Jessica has flown across then pond once more.