Posted in life, money, random

Nice or Niche.

This watch collecting thing, this horological world I have decided to delve into, is quite interesting. Like any niche, there is a degree of snobbery. Watches can be, after all, worth a lot of money. If you type ‘men’s watch’ into Amazon you will receive a wall of watches ranging from pennies to thousands of pounds.
Like the shoe designer, Emma Freud, who once opined that a pair shoes could not be bought for under fifty pounds, there are many in the watch collecting world who frown on any watch purchased for a price less than that of a small secondhand car.
Designer watches or fashion watches are derided and fakes are a definite no-no. Chinese watches, the kind available in their thousands on Alliexpress, cause a furrowing of the brow. As for homages, they seem to create a bit of a divide, the affordability of them appealing to many and that same affordability an affront to those who feel a true watch connoisseur would save up their pennies for a ‘grail’, that one special piece of horological excellence.
Admittedly, there are, from what I see online, far more people who just buy watches for how they look and because they like them. Yes, they may well appreciate the history and craftsmanship of watches from certain manufacturers but it is not the most important thing in life. Though like myself, there are certain watches that one might want and covet, there are just other things that take priority, not to mention the prohibitive cost.
So, what does one do if the watch you love or admire, or even if you are an ardent collector, is eye-wateringly expensive? There are some very impressive fakes available, fakes that even the most discerning watch enthusiasts would struggle to spot without the aid of a magnifying glass and a bit of a forensic examination. I am not talking about your local market fakes either, those you can pick up for a few quid and are likely to cease working after a few months.
I am talking about the sort of replica that is made for films or even high net worth individuals who would rather their real items did not get stolen. These sort of fakes cost hundreds of pounds – the price of a good watch of a lesser brand – and look amazing at a fraction of the price.
So why would someone spend hundreds of pounds on a fake watch? Besides the reasons given, there is always going to be those who cannot resist a ‘bargain’, convincing themselves that they are getting a legitimate item for a fraction of the price. Many feel there is no real difference between the watches, which, unless you check out some of the fake watches on a macro level, is true.
Not everyone cares about the horological history or provenance of a timepiece. To some, appearances are more important than the truth. What does it matter if it is a fake? Fake it ‘til you make it, right? If you’re not comfortable with that modern, popular, phrase and love a good timepiece but cannot justify spending the price of five nice holidays on a watch, how about going for the mildly riskier but honourable approach.
There are many smaller, high-quality watchmakers around. Some of these – known as micro-brands – watchmakers are already gaining great popularity. Helm, one such brand, sells beautiful diver watches – another obsession of watch collectors. Are they all divers? – displayed on its website in multiple iterations. Every single model is sold out.
Being a smaller brand, it is not targeted by the fakers and so the likelihood of one buying a fake, reputable, micro brand is small. Not only does buying micro-brands support an independent watchmaker, but it also enhances the watch industry as a whole. Obviously, it is nice to be able to buy a ‘grail’, especially if it is a personal reward for work well done.
The beauty of perhaps targeting micro-brands is, as the watch enthusiast and YouTuber Jody of the Just One More Watch channel points out, you are buying into an exclusive club. Many of these smaller watchmakers are, just because of their size, forced to produce pieces in fewer quantities, so you not only get a beautiful timepiece you get an original and rare one too. That has to be seen as a win-win.
Of course, the most important thing is to like and enjoy the watch, after all, are you buying it for yourself or for the Gram? I say if you’re going to be niche, be niche.

Posted in life, money, random, Uncategorized, what?

Choose Your Vice

I am not a rich person. I’m not poor but my wealth, such as it is, is not unlimited. Like most people, I have vices. Some are harmless, others less so. A vice is something that, emotionally speaking, you have very little control over. You might know it’s wrong or detrimental but you convince yourself that you somehow have it under control.

What comes to mind when people think of vices tend to be the more extreme ones, the ones that are frowned upon whilst simultaneously being embraced by society; drinking, sex, drugs and general hedonism. Food can also be a vice, both the over indulgence and, in a percverse way, the restriction of it.

The thing about a vice, about that something that you do that is not in your best interest, is you know it is not great for your psyche. Yeah, you might not hide it necessarily, might even half-jokingly boast about it, but you know it is not in your best interest.

In the grand scheme of things, of life, it may not be the worse vice. In fact, to other people it might not even seem like a vice. As I said earlier, drugs, excessive drinking, that hedonistic life, these are the ones that are recognised as vices.

My vice, and I suspect I am not alone, is spending. I spend money as though it were a contagious disease that I need to get rid of. I know it is a vice because it is not something that has just happened recently. I have always been this way. As soon as I get or earn moneyI look for a way to get rid of it.

It is not as though I am debt free and even as I write this I know it is juvenile to not be more controlled, to not resist the impulse to go for the short term dopamine hit. It is a head game and one I know I can win, even after all these years. I just need to adopt a different vice. Perhaps I will get obsessed with money management. That might be a better vice.

Posted in future, life, money, random, write it

A Timely Pursuit.

As a teen, I used to collect comics. This was way before the present, all-encompassing, omnipresent era of comic-book films, television shows and merchandise. Back then, in the early eighties, collecting comics was a niche pursuit, embraced mostly by teenage boys and the original comic-book nerds.

When I got older and the outlay for comics became, for myself, unreasonable, I stopped collecting them. The thing of crossover films and television shows, each teasing another morsel you would have to see in some upcoming film or show so, as to keep up with the over-arcing story, was something that started, funnily enough, in comics.

I have always been a person who dives into something. When I decided a few years back I was going to pursue filmmaking, I went out and purchased a whole lot of film gear and apps. The fact that the only parts of filmmaking I am really good at are the writing and editing and directing had no impact on my thinking.

I currently own several digital cameras, tripods, lenses, USB sticks – admittedly they are useful – and all manner of filmmaking gear that barely gets used. Admittedly, I am a raging consumer and love buying stuff. The number of times I have purchased an item only to get home and find I already own it is embarrassing.

I love clothes and buy many. Too many. The fact that I spend most of my life in sportswear – I own a lot of sportswear, naturally – but I love clothes, so when I see something I like, I buy it, hoping to have somewhere to show it off.

Logically, I know it is not sustainable – I am, after all, writing this whilst doing one of my three jobs! – and realistically, I cannot afford my extravagances. This I know logically. But what is life without a vice? I do not smoke and I drink moderately even when on holiday. Drugs have never been my thing, so I shop.

Lately, I have got into watches. Horology – if you want to be highbrow about it. I am starting off cheaply but I feel solidly with a couple of Sekonda models. I say that but even before my latest hobby, I owned several watches. Now, however, I am taking a more measured approach to watch collecting. Not so much for fashion, as before, but more for the appreciation of watches. Though, admittedly, how they look does matter.

Posted in future, life, money, past, random, what?, write it

CEO of You – part two

So, as I mentioned in part one, I had an idea to jump start or help one’s personal goals attainment. If you work in an organisation of some kind or have done, this should be not too alien to you. It will take a little bit of imagination and some role-playing. You can even write notes or, better still, take minutes.

The idea is, as the title suggest, that you are the CEO of the business or company that is you. Like most companies – and it is something that I feel they sometimes do just to tick boxes – you have meetings. At a well organised meeting you will have an agenda, a list of topics and to-do’s you want to cover.

You would imagine yourself around a table talking with various versions of yourself and discussing where you are at with regards to each goal. My meeting would go something like this….

CEO -Q: chair – in attendance; Author Q (adult), Author Q (children), Fitness Q, Linguist Q, Film Q, Finance Q, Social media Q and Love life Q.

Subjects – completion of books, regaining fitness, Spanish progression, Christmas script, finances, social media and love life.

CEO Q; So who wants to begin? Author Q (adult) what’s happening with the book?

Author Q (adult): I’m halfway…I think…

CEO Q: Aren’t you writing it?

Author Q (adult): Yes but…it’s complicated…

CEO Q: Complicated? How? You know the story?

Author Q (adult) goes quiet. CEO Q turns his attention to Author Q (children)

CEO Q: What’s happening with your book?

Author Q (children): It’s finished!

CEO Q: Good, excellent,

Author Q (children): But i think I’m going to rewrite it.

CEO Q: What?! Why?

Author Q (children): It’s not quite right…

An exasperated CEO Q looks to Fitness Q.

Fitness Q: I’m gonna start next week.

CEO Q: You said that last week.

Fitness Q: Had a bit of a chest thing…definitely next week. Defo.

CEO Q: Tell me something good please, Linguist Q?

Linguist Q: Me Español es muy bueno!

CEO Q: What?

Linguist Q: Entiendo?

CEO Q turns to Film Q.

CEO Q: Film Q, I can rely on you.

Film Q: Have I got a story for you! It’s going to have an Advent theme, reindeer, unicorns!

CEO Q: Go on…

Film Q: I haven’t started planning it yet but –

CEO Q: Oh for goodness sake!

Film Q: We’ve got a year –

CEO Q: You have to make a Christmas film before Christmas! Finance Q?

Finance Q: How – how much is a Christmas film going to cost because….

CEO Q: How are our finances?

Finance Q shakes his head gravely. Social media Q pipes up.

Social media Q: All good over here. Need a little more content but it’s all under control, especially WordPress!

CEO Q nods approvingly, good. He looks to Love life Q.

CEO Q: How’s our love life?

they all laugh heartily. The meeting ends.

I would hope that your own meetings would perhaps be a little more productive than mine! You get the gist though, you just talk to facets of yourself and, unlike CEO Q, advise where necessary what can be done to address any issues. Let me know if this helps.

Posted in future, life, past, random, what?, write it

CEO of You – part one

Like many, I have reflected on the past years and decade. As an adult the reflection is always fraught with ‘what ifs’ and ‘I should haves’ and a terse promise to do better next year, next time, going forward.

Whether it is to start some fitness routine, get a better job, improve one’s relationships or all of the above, it is something that you yourself have to do and involves an act of willpower and some degree of discipline.

The popular speaker and author, Mel Robbins, pointed out that once we reach adulthood all of the decisions that our parents used to make for us become our own. If we want to get anything done it is up to ourselves. If you are particularly disciplined, this is not an issue, you decide and you get things done. What if you’re not?

Truthfully though, how many of us have the discipline and fortitude to plan and execute the things we want to get gone? Plan and execute you say? Yes, plan and execute. Any goal that is not an absolute must in one’s life needs a plan.

The enthusiasm and gusto with which you hit the gym in those first few weeks of the year will not last. Gyms are boring and repetitive. I should know, I’ve worked in one for nearly twenty years. Benjamin Franklin’s oft-quoted statement is true: if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

So, how does one plan? Listing is popular. I’ve written a lot of lists. Loads of them. Does not work for me. It definitely helps if I occasionally read them I suppose. There is diary planning, not something I have ever done properly aside from noting relevant dates for holidays and weddings, usually on my phone.

There is a great emphasis, among the YouTube, Instagram and social media entrepreneurial gurus, on writing, as in pen to paper, one’s plans out. Something to do with physical act connecting better neurologically. Tried it. Not sure. It is not as though I don’t write, I have seven blogs on WordPress alone! None of them are planning blogs.

I have some plans – or dreams should I say as I have not planned them out – for 2020. As one gets older the speed with which time passes becomes more acute and experience, one of the benefits of getting older, tells one that you need to have some sort of structured plan to attain or complete one’s goals.

Having said that, sometimes – like this blog – I just jump in. This was meant to be a shorter blog but now it is going to be in two parts! In part two I will demonstrate a possible way to get yourself moving for the coming year, how to give yourself a good talking to.

Posted in life, memory, random, what?, write it

We’re All Norma Desmond

As both the protagonist and observer of your own story, you could be forgiven for missing some of the details. You’ve fashioned a most elaborate world after all. Richly populated, different social classes, languages, things and people you like and dislike, all very intricate, yes indeed.

Always though, at the centre, you. You don’t like the attention? Tough. You’re the star, the one everyone has come to see. Suck it up buttercup! Nobody comes to see the extras! This is your show and you need to put on a performance. Everybody else is doing their part.

That guy you see on the eight-ten train every morning? He’s a walk-on. Resting bitch face girl? Extra. Gaggle of school children you encounter when you catch the later train? More extras. They are all there to tell your story, to fill in that rich tapestry you are weaving.

They’re watching you know, the rest. Of course they’re watching, you’re the star. Everybody looks to the star, the main attraction. You can’t shrink from it. They are all here for you. Yes, it’s pressure but what are you going to do? Wilt? How disappointing would that be! They want you to win.

All of them? You ask. Yes. Even the ones and things you do not like or want. They’re part of your story and you are part of theirs. If you win, they win. What’s that? Who’s the antagonist? You are. It’s all you. Don’t you get it? It’s all about you.

Posted in future, life, memory, money, past, random, what?, write it

This Truth, That Truth

It was not as though he did not already know it. People, women, liked to pretend. Even lying to themselves that it does not matter. It all depends on where you are at in life, he thought.

Daddy Long Legs gave him some hope. A mature man who falls in love with a woman, a girl, young enough to be his daughter. Daughter? More like granddaughter these days.

There is the unwritten rule of course. For the unwashed, male masses, those that are single, there are criteria. There has to be. On a planet heading towards ten billion humans trying to find just one, the one, person they can be compatible with and like even before loving, well, that is some task.

One looks for commonalities, mutual attraction, proximity, after all, we are not all as financially flexible as the fictional Jervis Pendleton of Daddy Long Legs. Most will find a someone who is close by, who grew up close by.

The body grows old, closer to the dirt every passing day but the eyes, the eyes forget. The brain forgets, fools, lies. Attractive to twenty-year-old eyes are still attractive to fifty-year-old eyes. Life is not fair and men, able to sire into their dotage, benefit more from that.

A millionaire or billionaire will always have more options, age-wise, than the rest. Morality or indignation aside, that is the way of the world. They also get the pick of the prettiest girls and women. Many will say it is not the money and that may well be true but money, the security it affords, definitely makes a difference.

That difference tends to be reflected in confidence, regardless of age. Confidence is attractive. Money, not necessarily the numbers but the ability to accumulate it, is the weapon of the modern warrior. The fiercest warrior always got the most desirable mate.

Still, the mind wanders, dreams. What if? The lie that romcoms peddle might be true. Maybe it is all about attraction and love and sweetness and singing, laughter and a frisson of something that just makes one know they have made the right choice.

The realist, cynical, pragmatic voice says that is so much hogwash. What person beyond the age of adolescence would entertain such nonsense? Be a grown-up and conform. The dreamer looks at the pragmatist, the cynic and knows they are afraid and are tiptoeing their way to death, hoping there is some reward for doing ‘it’ all right.

Posted in future, life, memory, money, random, what?, write it

Yabba, Dabba, Dabba, Dabba,Dabba, Dabba, Dabba, Dum!

I am not alone, this I know, in daydreaming or just dreaming about what I would do if my financial circumstances were to change in such a way that people addressed me by my surname and prefixed it with mister.

For many of us, besides the eradication of any debt, whether it be the anchor of a mortgage or educational debt or even debt created by the peer pressure of keeping up with the Joneses, with the practical aside the mind turns to purchasing.

It might be a new car, home, wardrobe overhaul, it could be something impermanent such as a holiday or the ultimate spa weekend. Whatever it may be, if it is an extravagance that is presently outside of your financial power, it is a dream.

We all like to think that we would be good at being rich. Yeah, I might go a little crazy to begin with but after that I would invest, buy property, be sensible, right? Of course you would. Not going to be one of those crazy, cautionary tales of people who won a life changing sum on the lottery or pools or some such and five years later were broke! No way! That is not going to be you.

Why not? Obviously, there are lottery winners who have not gone broke but a lot of them were not struggling in the first place. They may not have been millionaires in the sense of having financial liquidity but many were comfortable.

Having and keeping money is like anything else, some are good at it and some are not. Like most things, one can learn how to be good with money. You may never become a ‘Messi’ of money but few of us are like Warren Buffett. Money – and not being rich myself I’ll have to take this on faith and from what I’ve read and seen – amplifies what a person is.

It most definitely does not make you happy. That I am sure about knowing people, personally, who are in a far better financial situation than myself yet seek out unhappiness as though it were some sort of badge of honour. Still, in a society and world where covetousness is encouraged and even with my lucid, pragmatic psychobabble, I still would like to be rich.

Knowing myself and my spendthrift ways, it might not last long and it might end up a wistful memory but it would be fun to try. Yabba Dabba Dabba Dabba Dabba Dabba Dabba dum!

Posted in future, life, memory, past, random, travel, write it

Speed of light (life), the last night and other musings.

It is the final night of my second sunshine jaunt in the space of a month. By the time I get back to Blighty the Christmas season 2019 will be in full effect.

Older people always say life goes by fast and if the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it speed by which 2019 has disappeared into the past is anything to go by, I am now in the realms of an older person.

I spent a lot of this year….ruminating. It has definitely been a year where I have been too much to inside my own head. Not in a melancholy way – well, not often – but just trying to analyse my life.

It has, admittedly, felt indulgent at times. Life has had, as is the norm for many, a good deal of challenges this year. Though looking back there have been more highs than lows. It just feels as if the lows have been more persistent.

It’s twenty days until Christmas Eve. Eight days after that we will be in 2020. As I sit on the bed here in La Santa, Lanzarote, as one of the world’s privileged people, waiting for a football game to start on my iPad, I wonder if it not about time I made ‘next’ year, my year.

It is, of course, a head game. It is still, even after all these years of knowing and living and even experiencing it, a confidence thing. Confidence has a huge influence on one’s life and productivity. A confident person decides. When lacking confidence, you let life happen or hope it will work out.

On this final night in La Santa, as I wait for lasagna and drink Prosecco, I am thinking it is time to align confidence and experience and chase life a bit more. Hello 2020.

Posted in memory, random, travel, what?

Viva Las Vegas

Memories of Las Vegas: It is five thirty-five in the evening and I am heading to work as the memories of four days in Las Vegas, the flight from which I alighted from only a few hours before, jump around my psyche. For my first trip to the United States, Las Vegas was some introduction.

Taking a flight from London and changing at Dallas, my first excursion to the US of A was memorable and, mostly, positive. Here I will list seven things I learned travelling to and experiencing Las Vegas. With a flight time to the States of some near ten hours, we took an American Airlines flight at a respectable ten o’clock in the morning.

The image of the flight attendant as a young, model-like chaperone of the sky is a myth that has been most dispelled over the years as I have taken flights to various places. As a person who has dealt with the general public for most of their working life, l know from firsthand experience how awkward they can be.

Add a pressurised flying tube and altitude of plus thirty thousand feet and having to be on your feet for hours on end and one can understand how some of them may not seem as pleasant as their sales ads would have you believe. Having said that, this is not an accusation that can be levelled at American Airlines.

With very few of the attendants under forty years of age on the flights I frequented, one might have thought that they would be a little jaded from years of flying and dealing with the quirks of the ever-demanding masses. Not a bit of it. The attendants on American Airlines are the nicest, friendliest and most efficient I have ever flown with. They helped to make a laborious flight in the cheap seats more bearable. I would happily fly with them again.

The positive experience with AA leads nicely to the first point on my list:

One – Customer service is important.

As I mentioned before, I have worked in public facing jobs all of my working life and, admittedly, there are days I would not want to meet me as a customer. In the UK, outside of sales jobs, and even with a lot of those there is no guarantee, providing a good services tends to have very little impact for the individual providing the service. They tend to get paid regardless of the standard of service they provide.

In Vegas, their entire city is geared towards providing services. With the multitude of hotels, retail outlets and gambling venues, everywhere is vying for the attention and patron of customers. Good or excellent service helps to get those customers. With hotels creating a vast amount of employment opportunities and so many people employed to serve, that leads to the second point:

Two – Tipping is the rule not the exception.

When and if you go to Vegas, whatever monies you have set aside for entertainment – eating out, taxis, bars – add twenty percent. Not only do you tip everywhere, it is expected. Many of the restaurant bills we received had a helpful breakdown of how much a ten, fifteen or twenty percent tip would be on top of the bill.

Unlike in the UK, in Vegas tipping is pretty much factored into their economy. There is no getting around it. Vegas is not a town full of college kids hoping to make a few tips so as they can go backpacking across America. Most of the people working in the various services jobs were mature adults, probably with families, who greet and smile and walk up and down helping strangers all of their work day.

They work hard and deal with all walks of life and their basic wage is not large. They need tips. Everybody tips.

Three – Do not go to Vegas if you’re a causal gambler.

What’s that you say? You’ve heard Las Vegas is the gambling capital of the world? Exactly. If you’re a professional gambler, you do it for a living and strategically use your money, by all means go to Vegas. If, however, your idea of gambling is five lines of lottery numbers, do not go to Vegas.

Vegas is built on taking money. Your money. The dollar is king. There are slot machine in the airport. A lot of them. I did not go into one hotel that did not have hundreds of slot machines, blackjack tables and other ways to part a person from their cash.

Slot machines have lovely, comfortable leather chairs in front of them. Waitresses walk the floor offering a drinks service so as one does not have to leave the machines. You are actively encouraged to gamble with gigantic screens showing every type of sport and odds on every outcome.

If you want to spend your money in the hope of short term gain with the odds against you, Las Vegas is the perfect place for you. If not remember, the house always wins.

Four – Their toilets (restrooms) are not blocked.

If you are from the UK or even other parts of Europe, the water line in the toilets is going to look disturbingly high. This is normal. Their toilet bowls, in Las Vegas at least, have water half way up the bowl. It is so high you feel that it might touch your butt when you sit. It won’t but you will be conscious of it.

The cubicles, in the male toilets at least, are oddly open. There are walls and a door but there are also large gaps below and – just like in all those high school movies – you can climb over the wall into an adjoining cubicle. A little disconcerting.

Five – Buffet is the way to go.

There are many places to eat in Las Vegas. Denny’s, a diner that is open 24/7 is not a bad place and we enjoyed a meal there the first night we arrived. Unfortunately, it is THE place for a cheap eat. Returning the next day hoping to eat breakfast, we found a queue about forty deep waiting outside of the already full restaurant.

The Foodcourt, which as the name suggest, sells various foods, is a good inexpensive place to eat but if you want something a bit more upmarket and good value for money, you should checkout one of the many buffets that are available in the hotels. We, unfortunately, did not discover the quite excellent buffet in our own hotel until the final day.

The buffets are vast with every type of cuisine you can imagine freshly prepared. Hot and cold foods, desserts, beverages, soups, if you want to eat big and eat well, a buffet is the way to go.

Six – You can smoke inside.

Like I alluded to earlier, Las Vegas hotels and gambling emporiums do not want you to leave. To this end, as well as encouraging the two vices of drinking and gambling, they allow smoking in most buildings. It is not considered taboo and though only one of my party was a smoker, he never felt awkward or out of place.

Marijuana is also legal in the state of Nevada and the pungent smell of the popular recreational plant was evident in many places.

Seven – There are nice hotels and there are Las Vegas hotels.

Unless you are amongst the wealthy of society and even if you are not, you may have stayed in the odd nice hotel – large foyer, pleasant staff, good food, lovely rooms, a good view. In Las Vegas hoteling is a competition. The skyline is dominated by hotels. The foyers, reception areas, are vast and beautifully design but even with this commonality, they are all very different in look. I saw modern, artistic, colourful, retro and everything in between. We were in one of the smaller hotels and it had over three thousand rooms.

If you cannot find a hotel you like in Las Vegas, you won’t find one anywhere.

Going to the States, Las Vegas, was a brilliant experience and one I would happily repeat. The next time I will be better prepared for all Vegas has to offer. Viva Las Vegas.