The Finnish connection

I’m writing this approximately one hour out of Seoul, at the end of a pleasant but very sleepless flight from Helsinki. I know from experience that today is going to suck donkey balls from a jet-lag perspective, so it’s going to be caffeine and excitement all the way.

We flew via Helsinki and I have to say the service on board both flights was top notch. We were on a new Airbus A350 from Heathrow to Helsinki and it was gorgeous – not something I usually say about planes. I’m not an aviation geek, but it was smooth and almost silent all the way over. (The only thing that detracted from my experience was the exceptional and overpowering stench of BO emanating from the woman across the aisle from me. It wafted over every time she moved around – and I know I wasn’t the only person who would smell it!)

The business class seats were just fantastic and I even managed a snooze.

Which is just as well, as I’ve been awake since leaving Helsinki on the second leg of the flight. By my reckoning, the key stats are:

  • 2.25 films watched
  • 2 podcasts listened to
  • 0.25 of a tv show watched
  • 2 delicious ‘Blue Sky’ champagne cocktails necked
  • 0 hours of sleep…

Anyway, it was all done in the comfort of the business class cabin, so I’m not going to complain. I’m just going to collapse into a hotel bed far too early later today.

We have a passport control to navigate, a bus connection to get right and a hotel check-in to complete. Right now, with my lack of sleep, that feels like an absolute mission. But let’s see how we get on.

A musical pal

On my way back from Cheltenham on Friday night, I passed though Paddington Station (which, bizarrely, now seems to smell almost permanently of burnt cooking oil and chips…). Stink and slightly drunk Friday night commuters aside, I was surprised to find a brass band performing at the end of one of the platforms!

They were from one of the railway companies and consisted of employees playing a selection of well-known tunes. The band attracted quite a crowd and as I got closer, I discovered why so many of my fellow commuters were leaning in to take photos with their smartphones.

One of the trumpet players was accompanied by a little friend, sat patiently next to him and watching everything else going on in the busy station.


He had the air of a dog who has seen a few concerts in his time and was very happy to be photographed. He didn’t budge from the towel he sat on (presumably to save him from the cold floor tiles) and looked up at each person taking his photo.

After I took a couple of pics of the little fellow, (I’m a complete and utter sucker for a cute dog), I stood back to enjoy the music for a few minutes. I noticed how so many others had gathered around, not just to look at the dog, but to enjoy the music. Smiles everywhere and a lovely feeling of shared enjoyment and positivity.

A few moments on Google revealed that they were the Great Western Railway Band, who play at Paddington every Friday evening. As a non-communter, I’m lucky not to have to pass through Paddington at 9pm on a Friday night. But if I were, I know I’d enjoy listening to this band and the positivity they created in the station.

Some significant Android regret

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I’m going to admit something pretty difficult now. It’s something that’s been bothering me for a couple of weeks now, so this post will serve as a kind of confession.

really regret selling my Nexus 6P.

You hear that? I’m sitting here, listening to a podcast on my iPhone 7 Plus and I’m pining after a phone that Google doesn’t even sell anymore. W the actual F?

If I’m honest, it’s less about the Nexus and more about Android. I miss Android. I miss Google Now and how it understood virtually every single verbal instruction I issued. It worked. The interface was so much more usable than previous iterations of Android and the first I’d used that didn’t feel like an experiment.

So what the hell is wrong with my new iPhone 7 Plus then? Absolutely nothing. It has an amazing screen, a superb camera and is lightning fast. That said, Siri still sucks. Especially when compared to Google Now (or Google Assistant, as it’s now called on Google’s new Pixel phones).

I have a three year old Nexus 7 tablet, and it does a better job of understanding my verbal instructions than my brand new iPhone. That’s not right. And yes, I’ve tried may different combinations of speaking to the iPhone and even when it does understand me, its responses are very limited compared to Google.

I challenged it to tell me the names of some capital cities from around the world.

United Kingdom? London! France? Paris! Ireland? Mega-long pause and then “here are some articles I found for you on the web about ‘what is the capital of Ireland'”. Seeing as Apple makes all its billions in Ireland (the magic of accounting), I’d have thought Siri would know what its capital is…

I know this is probably some form of sacrilege, but I felt slightly disappointed when Google announced its new Pixel phones. Disappointed in that I wanted one so badly. Yes, they’re pretty much as expensive as a new iPhone, but with the power of Google built right in. The Google app on iOS is severely limited compared to its Android equivalent.

But, here I am. An iPhone, an Apple Watch, an iPad and two Apple computers. They’re not going anywhere any time soon. But I have to admit that in a year, I’ll be seriously considering walking away from iOS and moving to Android. It will of course depend on the state of Google’s handsets (I’m not interested in anything from Samsung – no matter how cold it gets in London each winter, I don’t need a mobile that sets itself on fire to keep me warm!), but given how I’m using my phone, the leap to another platform would be more like crossing the street.

The vast majority of my apps are cross platform. I use Google Photos over Apple’s photo service. I don’t use Apple’s Podcasts app. I use Google for my contacts, calendars and email. I use Spotify, not Apple Music. I could go on, but you get the picture…

As for the Apple Watch, it’s a thing of beauty. But I got almost as much use out of the considerably cheaper and more ‘fun’ Pebble watch. Its battery lasted for days and days and it didn’t pretty much everything I needed from a smartwatch.

So why the hell have I once again found myself knee-deep in Apple devices?

The impact of Apple’s marketing. Honestly. I was sucked in, hook, line and sinker. I don’t think I was mis-sold anything (apart from Siri, which really doesn’t behave as advertised), I just managed to convince myself that I had to go with the upgrades.

Yes, the old tech was sold and it took the sting out of my new purchases. Plus, my phone is a business expense, so didn’t come out of my personal pocket. But really, it’s about the principle of the thing. I didn’t need that upgrade. I simply lusted after it.

And if I had my time over again? I’d go for one of the new Pebble watches and a Pixel XL.

Boom. There you go. My confession for the week. And I feel better for sharing it.

In the year ahead, I think we’re going to see an arm’s race in terms of verbal interfaces with technology – or ‘speakables’. Apple has Siri, Google as its Google Assistant and Amazon has the Echo. So far, it looks like Google and Amazon are light-years ahead of Apple in this space. Earlier this week. Nilay Patel and Walt Mossberg discussed this very topic on their excellent podcast and Siri was found to be lacking in several areas.

I really enjoyed speaking to Google Now on my Nexus 6P – setting timers, setting reminders, adding appointments to my calendar, searching the net. Attempting the same with Siri is simply a chore and I’ve all but stopped doing it.

I think what it boils down to is this: my iOS devices mostly work as I need them to. I get stuff done and they’re there when I need them. They’re slick and beautiful.

But they’re not fun to use.

I miss Android.

Coming out? Nearly every day…

So, yesterday was National Coming Out Day.

I had intended to write something about it on the day itself, but found myself collapsed in a heap due to workload and tiredness, crawling into my bed for some respite from the world.

I exaggerate, but you get the picture.

So, one day late, I’m here to share some thoughts on this relevant (to me, anyway) topic.

I know this has been said again and again, but really…coming out isn’t an event. It’s more like a process, or a series of coming out conversations, repeated over and over again. I’m 40 and even now I find myself explaining to people that the ring on my left hand signifies I have a husband, not a wife.

I used to let references to my “wife” slide by, feeling it was inappropriate to correct someone on this. But you know what? No. I got bored of that a long time ago. You’d surely correct me if I assumed you were gay and you weren’t, right? So the roles are reversed. Why should I let you go on with such a misconception about who I am?

Why would I correct someone? What would I want to potentially lead to more awkwardness in a conversation, embarrass someone or just run the risk of over-sharing? Or even being shunned.

Well, I’m damned proud of my relationship with @FrankDJS, so why would I want to hide it. It’s not 1950 and we live in one of the world’s great cosmopolitan cities. I have nothing to be ashamed of, so I have no intention of hiding it.

On another level, I’m sure most people would appreciate knowing the truth – especially British people, for whom ‘putting their foot in it’ is a lifelong worry. So clarifying the situation – if it’s raised – is something I now do to get it out of the way and move on.

(And if you don’t appreciate finding out? Well, I don’t think we have a lot more to talk about then. Toodles…)

Another reason is visibility and recognition. I don’t want to hide behind a falsehood and I want to let people know that others all around them are gay, getting on with their lives and contributing to society. It’s not about leaping out of a closet and waving some pom-poms (tempting though that image is), but more about putting it on the same level as “Oh, my mum is from France too” or “I’m a twin” or any of the other multitude of factors that both make us individual and make us part of a collective.

I do this because I can. I do it because so many people can’t because of where they were born, the religion forced upon them by their parents or the bigotry that surrounds them in their community.

In the last year, I’ve had two very different reactions to my clarifying that I have a husband, not a wife. One person (actually a client) simple said “Oh I’m sorry, I simply assumed you had a wife when I saw the ring”. We then moved on with the conversation and it wasn’t mentioned again. Simply because it wasn’t relevant to our discussion and, in my estimation, he processed this like just another piece of information about me.

Another person overreacted to an embarrassing level, telling me all about their gay friends, how they have “terrible gaydar” and how they’d “never have guessed” as if it was a compliment.


Did you expect me to walk through the room like Mr. Humphries from ‘Are you being served’? Do you somehow think it’s a compliment that you “couldn’t tell” my sexual orientation simply by looking at me?


Again, more sighs. It was quite an effort to keep smiling through it all, yet I was also annoyed at myself for feeling so apologetic. Nothing to apologise for here, now move along.

Anyway, when it comes to coming out, brace yourself.

Because it’s not over in  flash of fabulousness, it happens every time someone makes an assumption about you that you’d like to clarify.

Sometimes it lands with about as much impact as “I like to drink coffee of a morning”, but sometimes it lands like a fart during a funeral. Not everyone will welcome you with open arms, because simply put, a certain percentage of every population on the planet are arseholes.

Ignore them.

Be yourself. Tell who you want. Get better at telling them. Get more comfortable over time. Keep coming out. It definitely gets easier.

Royal Parks half-marathon 2016


I live! I didn’t just survive this year’s Royal Parks half-marathon, I enjoyed every minute of it! It was, as ever, a well organised and very picturesque race. But the addition of some unexpected sunshine was simply an added bonus.

My pacing was a little off due to navigating early crowds and needing to stop for an emergency toilet break about a kilometre in. Nerves! But the remainder of the race was a joy. I kept up with the pace-setters aiming for a 2:00 finish. Bear in mind that while my personal best on this course is 1:42, I didn’t think that was realistic. Instead, I aimed for an injury-free sub-2:00 run.

And I succeeded! I came in at 1:56. Hot. Sweaty. Exhausted. But elated.

I had enough in the tank for a final sprint, but I somehow managed to hurt my left should doing so. I know – only I cold hurt my shoulder while running. A few painkillers and a snooze on the couch later and it’s a lot better. I’m guessing it was due to some overly-vigorous arm-pumping over the final 400m.

And now for some photos of the morning, courtesy of @FrankDJS who gallantly accompanied me to the race, held my valuables and snapped me as I ran around in the sunshine.

The best news was that as I passed over the finishing line, I got an alert on my watch letting me know of another sponsorship pledge, taking me over the £500 mark. All raised for Epilepsy Action. If you’d like to add a pound, euro or dollar to this, you can do so via this link.

Royal Parks Half – here we go!


I’m sitting in my kitchen, sipping a coffee and preparing to get dressed. At 0900, I’ll start the Royal Parks half-marathon and run 13 miles / 21km around London’s stunning parks.

All in aid of Epilepsy Action.

Training has gone well and I’ve been very pleased with my longer runs, both in terms of pace and energy. Today’s the day it’s all been leading up to and I have to admit I’m slightly nervous. And excited! I’ve genuinely enjoyed my last few long runs and hope today is as fun.

I’m aiming to finish, injury-free. And I’m aiming to beat my last race time of 2:02. I don’t anticipate smashing my personal best of 1:42, but let’s see how the morning goes!

If you’d like to support my fundraising, you can donate a pound, euro, dollar or any other currency via this link. It all goes towards Epilepsy Action’s great work in education and advocacy for those living this with most common of neurological conditions.

See you on the other side!

Finally! Matcha green tea frappuccinos in London


They’ve been a guilty pleasure on every trip I’ve taken to Asia…a visit to a Starbucks for a delicious matcha green tea frappuccino. Malaysia. Singapore. Japan. It’s always the same.

That said, I’m not normally a frappuccino drinker – if I go to Starbucks, I have a very ordinary coffee. No syrups, no cappuccino, nothing flash. And especially no pumpkin spice abominations!

But the green tea frappuccino is something else. Made with matcha, ice and some cream, it’s ice cold, definitely not too sweet and very refreshing. I know that matcha is an acquired taste – but it’s one that I acquired on my first visit to Japan four years ago.

And despite the extensive menu in London’s Starbucks coffee shops, they’ve never offered this delicious green tea concoction here.

It was purely by chance that @FrankDJS came across them within the Starbucks app. A couple of hours later, we were in our local Starbucks in Canary wharf, quaffing one each and reliving some very tasty memories.

I’ll be honest. It doesn’t taste 100% the same, but it was enough to trigger happy memories of drinking one while looking out on Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo and that’s fine by me.

They’re definitely not an ‘everyday’ drink, given how calorific they are, but for an occasional treat, they’re excellent. Let me know if you’re a fan or if you’ve been inspired to  try one!

Inching closer to Japan…

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In 11 days, I’ll be hopping on the first of our flights to get us to Japan (with a lovely little stopover in Seoul on the way!). Yesterday, we got one step slower when we picked up our JR Rail Passes here in London.

These passes are fantastic – we’ve used them before and can thoroughly recommend them to anyone considering doing a bit of travel in Japan. We can basically go anywhere in the country by rail – even using Shinkansen – with makes for lots of day trips out of Tokyo, as well as covering our journey from Osaka to Tokyo.

The pass also includes use of railways within Tokyo (as opposed to metros), including the extremely handy Yamanote line. It’s a massive circular railway line that takes in several of Tokyo’s most interesting neighbourhoods.


We found it incredibly useful on the last visit, as our hotel was located really close to one of the stations (Meguro) and it made it very easy to get to Shibuya, Harajujku and Akihabara – to name just a few places we visited.

We still need to pick up the actual passes once we get to Japan. You have to buy them before you arrive, while proving that you’re not Japanese or a resident in Japan, and then exchange a token for the real pass once you get there, in one of the main stations.

I still have my last one, pasted into a page of my Midori Traveler’s Notebook from last year. That and a bunch of ink stamps from some of the stations on the Yamanote line.

There’s still a lot to be done before I’m definitely ready to leave, including making a packing list, a shopping list (duh…), a plan for Seoul (the last-minute decision to fly there still makes me smile) and actually pack some bags. But Japan is once again within sight and I’m getting really excited at the prospect.


This bed, though…


I travel for business a lot. That means dealing with the rough and the smooth when it comes to hotels and hotel beds in particular.

Right now, I’m working in Cheltenham and staying in a really rather lovely hotel. And I have to say, it has one of the loveliest hotel beds I’ve ever crawled into. I didn’t touch it when I first arrived yesterday afternoon, as I had to hop straight onto a phone call and then sat at the desk at my laptop for several hours.

But when I finally got into bed….wow. I’ve had a run of pretty awful sleep lately and wasn’t looking forward to another night away from home. But last night, despite all the awful news on TV, I slept like a baby.

Right through until my alarm went off this morning.

I prefer a firm bed, but this one enveloped me like I was back in the womb. I drifted off in minutes and really found it difficult to come out from under the covers.

I have to admit, I immediately made myself a coffee and got straight back into bed so I could enjoy just a few minutes more.