What we want, what we really want …

The single best thing for the British economy this year would, in my view, be a long hot summer, starting in May and finishing in late September. Such a summer would encourage us to stay at home and spend our pounds at home. We need 150 days of temperatures in the high 20s. Temperatures that encourage people to stay home and spend pounds in the UK – pounds that are going to be in short supply, of course, but nonetheless, pounds that we want kept here.

Another summer like that of 2008 – rain, rain and more rain – would have the opposite effect. No matter how strong the euro, we’d all go abroad – desperately searching some respite from the gloom of the UK – and spend our weedy pounds (wait for the £100 and £200 pound note coming soon to a place near you), further negatively impacting the UK economy.

Better still would be a great UK summer and a poor European summer. The Europeans would come here and spend their Euros – more than they have even in the last month. The shift in spend would further bolster the pound and bring yet more money into the UK – and we have to be grateful already for those Europeans and Americans who have come to the UK in the last to months.

A decade ago I ran the operations of Citibank France. On New Year’s Eve back then, we were bringing in the Euro – the banking incarnation of it at least (it wouldn’t reach the hands of consumers for three years – and then I was in Austria ready to take fresh euros out of the ATM just after midnight on the first night).

I found this graph earlier showing the life of the euro versus the pound since its incarnation. It’s 2 months of data short, so I’ve added a line that approximates how the pound has fallen apart since the end of October:


What a stunning change in fortunes for the venerable pound sterling. Something needs to change very soon. As I sit in Switzerland, watching a foot of fresh snow fall, pondering a Swiss Franc exchange rate that has moved from 2.4 to 1.5 in the last 4 years – or even from just under 2 to 1.5 in the last 9 months, I can only wonder what 2009 will bring.

Here’s to a Happy New Year to everyone that I know, that knows me, that reads this blog and to those who have yet to read it who might yet still, one day.



What is quality? Ah, indeed, one of those great unanswered questions of our times. This comes from MatthewT who was very keen for me to post it here and so here it is.

There’s room for a whole separate blog here – send me your wanted and unwanted whiteboard shots and i’ll see if i can find a good domain name for them – suggestions welcome.

Things You Didn’t Think You’d Hear in 2008

Apart from “Barack Obama elected” and “Lehman collapses” … Lyocs lives?

The FT carried a story yesterday where they noted that Apple’s performance in the holiday season was looking strong …


200812231352.jpgWho even knew that Lycos was still around? I’m sure you’ll remember their catchy tagline “meet you there” along with the dog logo. I didn’t. Do you think they put a press release out saying “hey, we’re still here and did you know that both of our users searched for ipods in december?”

According to its own top 50 list, the top 10 didn’t include Apple or iPod or anything similar. Few of the top ten (and not even many in the top 50 made any connection with me – I guess I don’t know my Clay from my Holly, let alone my Ivy). Apple did make it in at Number 30 though.

200812231358.jpgOne of the odd things about the Internet is still seeing domain names high up in the list of searched items – in this case YouTube and Facebook. Many zillions of people must have google or, who’d have thought, Lycos (!) set as their home page and so navigate to every other page through the search bar.

Barack Obama made it in at No 26, ahead of Apple of course and way behind both Angelina Jolie and Sarah Palin (wouldn’t have thought you’d have had both of those in the same sentence either). John McCain was in at 43 – who said search engines can’t predict election results.

More flipchart signz

From Dan, comes this brilliant example of a flipchart that means nothing to you unless you were in the room at the time (and I’m not even sure it would have meant much even then)


Not Box Office but “Box office” … light and shade … not shock and awe (or sock and awe as it’s become known … and then … the one that throws all vaguely possible sensible interpretations away “too much information”

Tracking Progress – London Marathon 2009

I’ve had a poor couple of weeks for running. A return of my 2005 bugbear, shin splints, stopped me in my tracks for the last 2 weeks of November and only this weekend have I been able to put in a couple of proper runs (one of 6.25km and one of 12.25km). I think I may have beaten the shin splints this time thanks to some intensive self-administered massage (following a technique taught via the shinsplintcure.com site).

I took a look at my progress so far, measured against the last few marathons I’ve run. The graph below shows training distance in blocks of 30 days counting backwards from the marathon day itself (and including the 43km run on that day):


So far, so good is, I think, the conclusion. I’m tracking some way ahead of the distances I covered in previous training regimes. This isn’t part of some kind of grand plan to do more mileage, just a reflection of getting two good runs in each weekend – one of 12km and often another of 16-20km. I’ve dismally failed to get any mid-week runs in for most of the last 4 months and will have to correct that once I get to January.

You can see from the Paris 1999 chart how little training I did (I ran 4:13) – 6 years and 30lbs later, I struggled through London (4:44) and then in 2006 I ran London in 3:51, after a much more disciplined (and less injury-inflicted) training routine; NY was 3:58, despite the apparently higher mileage in the last 4 months.

I have set myself a few goals for the run-up to London at the end of April, all aimed at getting to my 3:45 target. They are:

1. Find time for more than 2 runs over 30km. In both of the last two marathons, that’s all I managed and I think there is room to do at least two more than that this time. I’m planning to get one per month during January, February, March and April. I’m hoping that this will give me better stamina in the second half of the run. For instance, this graph from London 2006 shows how I slow down from km 33 onwards. I don’t think I’m going to deliver a negative split, but I’m sure there’s more I can do to reduce the time I lose in the second half.


2. Run fewer distances under 7km. Time being what it is, I often end up getting a quick run in after hours – and all I have time for is 6.25km (that’s an easy loop over two bridges and home). I plan to make my shorter runs longer – at least 12km. I know I’ll still do the 6.25km loop, but I plan to run it faster, using it less as an easy run and more as a speed training distance. The fastest I’ve ever run it is 29m 30s, but I tend to average around 32m.

3. Actually follow some kind of varied training plan. My style so far has been “go out and run”. I’ve seen all the fast/slow, hill, wind-sprint and whatever plans laid out, but I’ve never really tracked against one. Sure, I’ve tried to run faster each time than I did the time before, but that can’t be done every day. So whilst I’m not going to get along with any of the plans I’ve seen on the web – they all require me to run pretty much double what I run as it is – I am going to vary my routine a little to see if it helps me get closer to my target of 3:45.