Category Archives: a musing

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My life’s essentials 14: Ilfracombe

Ticket to ride

This ticket started me on a journey 50 years ago on Saturday, 2 August 1969.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that train journey from Paddington to Ilfracombe, on the north coast of Devon, would bring me to the place where I would live 50 years later.

We had a marvellous fortnight’s family holiday, magical even, before returning home to resume everyday suburban life. That, it seemed, was it. But my family loved railways and I remember in my teen years daydreaming in school lessons about modelling the station at Ilfracombe. It seems the place had caught hold of me.

Now, I’ve always been a dreamer. Sometimes, when people ask me a straightforward question, if my mind isn’t in gear, I struggle to come up with an answer there and then, only working it out later on. However, deep down I’ve always known what I’ve wanted to do – write, create and communicate – although back then I didn’t realise I would do this with computers and the internet. 

What has started me thinking about my journey, in terms of my home, my work and who I am, is finding this ticket from all those years ago. I didn’t think I had mapped my future out, but, looking back, I took definite steps to get here. I started out in the corporate world, but after 10 years realised I did not fit. I remember, when working at British Airways, I visited the North American Air Fares department about a job there, which would have been a big promotion. As the chap talked, I felt my eyes glaze over and realised how stifled I would be in that role. I didn’t apply, but he rang me up after applications had closed to see where mine was. The job would have been mine, but I could never have stood it. And that’s how my career progressed, from Cromwell Road, Earls Court to Heathrow Airport to the Aldwych in London, back to a soulless business park in Maidenhead and then, when I jumped off the corporate ladder, to our spare bedroom in Windsor. Here I established our communications partnership with my brother Simon.

15 years ago, when Mrs Z and I wanted to escape the Heathrow noise pollution and mindless rush of the South East, I suggested moving to Ilfracombe. I thought she would tell me not to be so stupid. She didn’t and we moved. As with the rest of my career, it wasn’t easy. The telephone exchange had only just been upgraded to ADSL and the small population restricted, as it does still, the size of market for many sectors, especially mine. But with the internet, I worked virtually for clients across the country, some of whom I never meet. 

Am I happy? Apart from reaching the age where I often feel melancholic because of all the dear souls no longer present, I am content. I’m now close to celebrating working for myself, at home for 25 years, am just about to complete my dissertation for my History MA, launched a business magazine this year, which is giving me the most fun ever, and am organising a business exhibition in October. All in the loveliest place I can think of living. 

In summer, I start the day early with a walk on Woolacombe Beach with our spaniel, while in winter the two of us brave the winds as we crawl round Capstone Hill in a storm in December darkness. Mrs Z is content and our spaniel arranges our life so that we exercise and relax every day. What more could we ask?

Some say that Ilfracombe and North Devon are 30 years behind everyone else. I see them being 30 years ahead, because here many people value time more, are closer to nature, which I interpret as life and death, are more generous with their help, and appreciate what we all have. I think many businesses have forgotten these values, but perhaps more people are slowly realising how important they are. 

I do not have as much monetary wealth as I might have had from staying in the corporate world in the South East, pursuing opportunities purely because they were lucrative, but I am doing what I always wanted to do. And I am doing them where I have wanted to be for 50 years since the date on that ticket: Ilfracombe.

Posted in a musing, history, Ilfracombe, my life's essentials.

My three words for 2019: responsible – source – alive

In 2016 I chose three words to focus on during the year, following a suggestion by Chris Brogan, and I repeated this in 2017 and then 2018, when I chose: nibble – rest – clear. How did I do in 2018?

  • Nibble – I succeeded in making a lot of changes and once I had started, these seemed to snowball. Small tasks I completed grew into bigger projects that I am now really enjoying. It works to nibble at a big task to increase progress.
  • Rest – Whenever possible, I made sure I had a rest from work to refresh and recharge. It isn’t always possible, but it has certainly made a difference. A whole weekend away from screens is so refreshing and energises me for when I start the new week.
  • Clear – Being open to new ideas and not restricting myself in my thinking. My History MA has really helped here and I have learnt a lot in the year. Approaching a topic with an open mind is essential to learning.

Taking into account any progression, what are my three words for the year ahead?

responsible – source – alive

Why have I chosen these three words for 2019?

Responsible

Since my 20s, and probably earlier, I have believed in the power of taking individual responsibility to make things happen and to improve life, not just for me but for everyone. I can remember, way back in 1984, a discussion – on the A4 at Hammersmith in a shared car on the way to work – when I stated that I did not believe in rights, but in privileges. I believe life itself is a privilege and like any privilege it can be taken away from us just like that. This hasn’t been a popular view, but I don’t think I’m the only person to believe this. For decades, we have outsourced our personal responsibilities to government and other organisations which have eroded care and concern for individuals, leading to the current widespread loss of faith in ‘systems’ disconnected from people and built to fail. I believe taking personal responsibility is now more important than ever before. It doesn’t matter how small a matter is, taking personal responsibility will have a beneficial effect, which will snowball if more people do it. I understand that it’s not always easy and that not everyone is capable of doing it – I have been through times when I let so many things in my life slide into chaos that I was barely able to function mentally – which is why it is important for those of us who are capable to be responsible and why I am focusing on it.

Source

What are we? We are what we eat and drink and breathe. What is true? The news? Gossip? Videos? Stories? Where do the things we use come from? From mining? Agriculture? Factories? Everything we use, from ideas and beliefs developed from what we read, hear and see to material items like phones, clothes and cars, has a source. Often we don’t know where something comes from, whether it be a rumour or a gadget, and I believe it is important to know. Because we are often so far removed from the source and production of things, it is difficult to know what impact we have when we consume or use them and whether, if we switch from one thing to another, it would be better for everyone and the environment. 15 years ago I switched to a diesel car because it seemed less polluting, only to find it was not necessarily the case. Being aware of the source of things, ideas and beliefs is essential to trying to understand our place and our impact on this world, and to living a better life and making life better for all.

Alive

As I grow older, life passes faster. It seems so. And every second is more precious. Living vicariously through the record of others’ experiences is a waste when every second can be used to experience raw life. Whether walking in wind and rain, catching a rainbow or surprise sunset, or simply being with another soul, just being together in silence, is what makes us come alive. Joy, sadness, laughter, melancholy, excitement, weariness, wonder, fear, hope – all bring us alive. I will be more selective in my online presence as I spend more time feeling alive.

Starting now . . .

I’ve already started with these and will be interested to see where they go.

Do you have a direction you have set for yourself in the year ahead?

Good luck with what you believe and want to achieve, and may you have a wonderful New Year.

Posted in a musing.

The genuine article

pencil | robzlog.co.uk @robertz

I’m not a fan of clipart or stock photography.

I think this comes from seeing so many web sites and brochures showing pictures which have nothing to do with the organisation publishing them. If a company wants to demonstrate that it has happy, smiling employees, why not feature photos of its people rather than stock photos of idealised employees?

It’s something that puts me off a web site when the first thing I see is a stock photo. If the company can’t even be bothered to take an original photo, how bothered will it be to look after me as a customer?

As for clipart, I know that it can be useful for demonstrations and explanations, but very cheap, amateur-looking clip art does not give a good impression.

strawberries and clotted cream | robzlog.co.uk @robertz

Readymade images are obviously convenient, but original photos and artwork can make a web site or document stand out from the crowd. Isn’t that what businesses want?

Original imagery takes time, thought and creativity and can cost more if you don’t have a good photographer or designer in your team, but I think it is definitely worth it. And with today’s digital cameras and phones, it has never been easy to create original photos and video.

Well, that’s my Thursday rant. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

Woolacombe sunset | robzlog.co.uk @robertz

Posted in a musing.

Waste not, want not

Clock | robzlog.co.uk @robertz

The clock in our kitchen stopped working at the weekend. It’s a quartz clock with a battery in it, nothing special, but it’s useful for keeping an eye on the time when cooking or when we need to go out or do something at a specific time. We changed the battery, but it wouldn’t go. We tried another battery, but it still wouldn’t go. We thought we would have to replace it.

Now, we don’t like waste. Also, it’s sad that items on sale now just don’t seem to last as manufacturers cut corners to cut costs. We’ve found this with many appliances, even those produced by companies with a supposedly good reputation. And it doesn’t seem to make a difference whether they cost a little or a lot.

I didn’t want to buy a new clock for these reasons, so I took it down and fiddled with the contacts and put the battery back in. The clock went for a few minutes and then stopped. I had another go later in the morning and the same thing happened. I tried it several more times and eventually it carried on working and is now keeping good time.

I’m glad I persisted because there was no need to get a new clock and it would been a waste to throw this one away.

It’s a small achievement in the war against unnecessary waste.

Due to family members ageing and passing away, we have accumulated so many things that we need to find new homes for. We don’t throw them away because many of these household items, quite ordinary in their own way, are far superior to anything you can buy today, yet few people value them. We have been taking them to car boot sales, advertising them on eBay and generally trying to find people who will appreciate books, china, ornaments, tools and a lot more. It would be a waste to throw them away.

This has also led me to declutter my own collection of possessions. There are many things I have accumulated over the years which I have no real use for and recently I have found owners who will appreciate them.

Because of this approach, I’m a terrible customer for retailers because I just want to maintain the things I have and not buy anything unnecessary. It matters because the economy relies on appliances breaking down being replaced regularly. I think this has to change.

I am glad I got the old clock working. I don’t like waste.

Posted in a musing.

Open up

Cool blue sea and sky | robzlog.co.uk @robertz

I am working with a business colleague to launch a new business exhibition in the area. It’s quite exhausting, but also frightening to get this off the ground. A lot of preparation has gone into it and we are just starting to promote it. We’re at the stage when you do things and get no response, and start wondering whether it was such a good idea.

I have organised events like this before for other organisations so know what results look and feel like.

Over the weekend, I relaxed by baking a cake, cooking some meals, working on my art project and reading a history book for my MA, as well as walking with our dog. I deliberately didn’t spend any time on business so that I was fresh this morning.

Just now, I heard an email arrive and when I looked, I saw that our first exhibitor has booked their stand.

I now think: We are on our way.

It’s almost as though I had to back away to give it space and let things start to happen.

Being asked to blog for the Ultimate Blog Challenge on a song lyric or phrase that sticks in my mind, the following suggested itself:

“Just open your eyes, and realise,
The way it’s always been.
Just open your mind and you will find
The way it’s always been.
Just open your heart and that’s a start.”

This is from The Balance, written by Graeme Edge and Ray Thomas for the Moody Blues’ A Question of Balance album way back in 1970, but I think the words have a lot of value.

Sometimes I find myself focusing too narrowly so that I pass by other things without seeing them. I need to consciously relax and open up to other influences and see what happens.

Opening my eyes, mind and heart seems a good approach to life.

Posted in a musing, music, books and writing.
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