Hand-Built DB’s 4 GT

Aston Martin’s iconic model the DB4 is over 50 years old, but a new version of it is now to be hand-built at its original site in Newport Pagnell, England.

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Aston Martin, Newport Pagnell, Bucks, England

Currently the site restores Aston Martin Cars, so this will be returning the hand-built craftsmanship that has been missing for many years, albeit only 25 new cars.

But does the fact that this is a pastiche mean there is less Craft involved? Probably not, and its charming to see that hand built cars can actually still be produced in this over-mechanised world.

Blogging ‘eck

I’m keen to develop the discipline of regular writing, and a blog allows that in bite-sized pieces which suits me and my short-attention span! And yes I use exclamation marks much too often.

I try and write about things that interest me. My eclectic tastes include art, architecture and writing, as well as sports such as cycling, running and kayaking with other stuff just thrown in, a bit like life itself.

Oh and I moved from Blogger (remember that?), this time last year, so used the xml export/import with no problems. So this year thought I’d try and learn a bit more about blogging and get a bit more dynamic.

The weather outside is frightful…

For those of us of a certain age to hear “VIKING. Southerly or southeasterly 5 to 7, occasionally variable 4 in north. Slight or moderate. Snow showers. Good occasionally poor” brings back memories of listening to the shipping forecast on the radio. What it meant nobody knows, when was it on, seemingly always. I’ve recently started reading a book about the iconic BBC shipping forecast, and first of all it’s apparent that there are people who do know exactly what the forecast means, those professional seafarers who need to know what they are heading out into. One of the attractions was the feeling that you were listening in to some private conversation, like listening to a foreign language conversation, that although you couldn’t understand it, the intonation spoke volumes and told you this was important. Something significant was happening out there. Reassuringly you were safe, and even if VIKING become “hurricane force 12 or more”, it was happening somewhere out there, to people who understood what it meant and where equipped to deal with it. More importantly it wasn’t suddenly going to come crashing through your radio loudspeaker and flood the house.

But with the advent of digital radio the shipping forecast is lost. No more four times daily broadcasts on the radio, unless you happen to be able to tune into Radio 4 Long-wave. If the latter then you can listen in to the arcane forecast and don your sou’wester. But along with digital comes web access, so actually you can listen to the shipping forecast as well as get access to it online. And if you don’t have a copy of the book you can even look up the shipping areas (Tyne, Dogger, German Bight) and find out what it all means.

To do so, would it be like Mark Twain learning to navigate the Mississippi , would it dispel the mystery and magic. No. Somehow the shipping forecast is too ingrained, too much part of our national psyche to be so easily dispelled. That, plus the fact that there is too much majesty and exotic romance in Forties, Bailey, Rockall, Fisher; and to really understand it and penetrate the mystery you would have to be a child of albion brought up on the sea. So it is fitting that the only shipping area to be named after a person is FITZROY, which replaced Finnistere in 2002. Fitzroy founded the shipping forecast, along with the MET office, so it is to him we owe our thanks. Westerly, veering thankful to moderate.

Bees boost work morale or not!

You have to be careful when you scan read as fast as I do – not that I’m accomplished at this, it’s not a skill in my case more a wavering in-attentiveness – so when I first read this “London offices offered bee hives to ‘boost work morale’” being somewhat of a cynic I assumed this would be negative reinforcement along the lines of “Smith, go and stand in the rain with the smokers and try not to get bitten by the bees and then fall ill with an allergy while I consider your low performance review”

Instead the articles goes on to say this idea is to be seen as an employee benefit – um I’m not convinced about having your place of work surrounded by marauding bees! Helpfully they added “To ensure there is enough food from the off we’ve been filling five bike-lock planters with bee-friendly flowers since last autumn” so that’s all right then – oh no hold on if they adopt an equally cycle-friendly approach and adopt a cycle to work scheme that means every time you drop your cycle off you risk attack from bunch of bees – although somebody will assure you they are “docile ones” so those stings will hardly affect you then!

No I think having an deranged lion in the HR room is best motivation and just leave the bees alone, indeed leave them where they are in our gardens at home, and not force us to bring them to work.

Hotel Bookings

Having determined we needed to visit Preston to suss out the Uni there, we needed to book an inexpensive hotel overnight. We’d settle for an expensive hotel doing a cheap deal tho’! As we needed two rooms it made everything twice as expensive – can’t wait for Tesco to do hotels, you know, “buy one get one free”!

Having ages to get the best deal I was so pre-occupied with doing this that I missed the best offer which was to book a month in advance with the likes of Travelodge. With increasingly less weeks to go I started to rely upon the late bookings site to get the best deal. Fortunately we had a discount for one of the big chains and that offered a really good discount againt the standard prices and looked like a winner if nothing else came up.

Having signed up for another one of the chains i was trying to get a best deal on that, except the best deal was always better on the public site, and often said they had spaces, whereas when i tried the “preferred site” they often said no availability. Unfortunately, the public site would have its own idiosyncratic ways, as their price would fluctuate. So with two weeks to go i was still waiting on the best deal, starting to have a niggling feeling that I’d end up paying full price somewhere just to get in!

So with a week to go I was sure the next time my chain had a deal i would book it – with five days to go their price stayed as it was. I figured maybe with less days to go they would change and drop the price – No it didn’t – So while i needed to book quick i also didn’t want to pay a higher price than was strictly necessary. With two days to go I went to book and decided against it – give it one more day! Had a sneak look at work in morning and still price remained – mindlessly checking it in the afternoon the price had gone down! Ah book it now! Except I didn’t have my details with me – so got home that evening and fortunately the lower price was still on offer – booked that, and Job done. Checked the next day and the price has gone back up and stayed there. What’s that all about then! I do know this experience means I would be rubbish on ebay, I just can’t take the pace. Better start thinking about booking summer holidays i suppose!

Fit to print

Being in marketing I sometimes get glimpses into future trends and novelties, but occasionally get taken aback by what seems to be retrograde steps. The latest news from Michelin that they were re-introducing the michelin man (bibbendum) took me aback – you mean they dont currently use it? Years of i-spy book and shodding my car with michelin means i had no idea. Most laughably they stated they are thinning bibbendum down to be in line with customer expectations. Um. More like double the size in line with social trends!

Even better (or worse) MG have changed their moniker. MG being synonymous with sports cars of the late 50’s and 60’s – try saying MG without adding “B GT”, like saying audi without “quattro”. They announced that they are changing from Morris Garages (whenever did anyone associate MG with Morris Garages?) to the epitomy of 21st century stuff – “Modern Gentlemen”. Of course, you would wouldnt you. That captures the always-on i-pod generation doesnt it. Unlike this luddite marketeer who imagines some edwardian gentleman with a bloke with a red flag 50 yards ahead. Um us creative types sometimes dont know what good for us!

Shut Down

Well it will be shut down for a while as I’m going away on holiday and not taking the laptop and trying to avoid any place that have networks!

Curious isn’t it that the Americans take “vacations”. That sounds rather “professional” as if they’re going on some form of self-improvement or doing something charitable (if spending US dollars in England can count!). By comparison “holiday” sounds a bit 1950’s to me, it does sound like a “jolly” – which is only right, as that is what it should be, time to re-charge the batteries and put a fresh perspective on things. I rather like the French idea of shutting down the entire country and disappearing off to enjoy three weeks of fun. So back late August with fresh inspiration!

Why is it so expensive to leave this country?

I know this start is a conversation killer but….I watched a great TV programme yesterday. It was about David Walliams’ heroic efforts in swimming the English Channel for Sport Relief. End of that plug.

It did strike me that swimming the channel is actually quite a good way of evading modern-day piracy, which is what ferry companies seems to be doing to us on this little island. Why is it so expensive to leave this country? While technology increases and lowers costs, prices creep down and inflation is low. Yet it still costs an arm and a leg to take a short hop on a boat. You’d think a sea-faring nation we’d be able to do better that that!

Unless you have a PhD in reading timetables and an almost telepathic knowledge of arcane bargain-buys, coupled with the sheer tenacity of endurance to arrive at a ferry port on the south coast at 2am, then the reality is a ferry ticket is the price of a small house. That’s without factoring in the size of your car, height of roof rack and top box, inside leg size and hair colour. Want to travel across the water quickly and easily – No chance, Sit in line and wait. I thought the tunnel may shrink the cost and compete with rip-off ferries, not a bit of it, they both increase their prices – it must be the most expensive per mile trip, aside from the Virgin flight to outer space, and at least they don’t charge extra for a return ticket!

Swimming the channel. Suddenly seems like an easy option to me.

twenty-four seven

Well the internet is 24/7, but I’m not, so had the weekend off and here I am again Monday morning. I’m rather in agreement with my friend, who provides technical support, as he says, 24/7 between the hours of 9-5!

We need our downtime and this obsession with having everything available all the time is self-defeating. As we rely more and more on unlimited access to everything from supermarkets to service help, it creates an unrealistic demand on ourselves and on each other. What started out as flexible working soon transforms into the modern equivalent of shift work. That useful tool, the mobile becomes a slavish necessity. People start to never switch off, and then find they’re stressed out. And in reality this “always-on” isn’t that great. Sure the shops are open, but then they only get one or two deliveries a day, so all the fresh bread is sold out by the time you get there at 10pm!

So what are we gonna do about it? Well I for one am moving my daily blog to a weekly one, freeing up my time for some more “quality time” with myself. Try it, be selfish, don’t answer that email, switch off that mobile. Ah bliss, the peace.