Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Happy bikes

After 3 months of back and shoulder injuries, I got out on my bike this weekend.
Lance Armstrong wouldn't be worried.
To be fair, neither would his grandma.

But it was nice to be a kid again.

Today I was going to write about the new Walkers promotion. I thought it was nice that they'd made a real effort and redone the packs for comic relief. I thought that red ears was OK, but felt sorry that little kids were going to get their ears flicked in the playground. Yada Yada.

Then I saw this promotion in the metro. And I followed the link to the discovery channel.

So what, you say. Climbing documentary. Metro promotion by the production company. Woo woo what a tomato.

Ah, but its a can of worms you see. read this.

Now its most definitely not for me to comment on the morality of people leaving others on a mountain to die. I've read Touching The Void, I've had to sort people out when they've dislocated a shoulder climbing 10 minutes from a road in the Lakes, and seen rescue teams searching for people in the Alps. There's lots of things at play in these situations and what seems easy in front of a laptop is much more difficult when you're faced with someone's death, and potentially your own during a rescue.

However I find the democratisation of the high Himalaya truly frightening. Chris Bonington wrote in the Everest Years about Everest Base camp being polluted to a point where drinking from streams caused illness. Berghaus ran a campaign to clear it up in the 90's - making a replica mountain out of all the rubbish they'd carried off. Now you read about high numbers of deaths, people queuing on fixed ropes and arguing with their guides. I find the whole situation quite shocking.

High altitude mountaineering isn't skiing for a week in an Italian resort. It isn't even a trip skiing off piste in Canada. The early pioneers had a shocking death rate, and they knew what they were doing. Just because you can afford, doesn't mean you can.

Now I don't want to put down anyones achievement, especially when they've probably saved all their lives to go. But I look back to the time when people climbed with a group who'd chosen each other. If it went wrong, they were on their own. You looked after each other, or you died.

Anyway, I started this thinking about promotions. Particularly the metro one for the discovery channel. And then thought I'd give my perspective on the issues behind what looks like a normal promotion.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Scrambling in Snowdonia

And so, it came to be that 3 aging bears climbed again.

We gathered at Papa Bears house on the hill; Papa, me and Big Dave Bear, kissed goodbye to the kids, admired their dinosaur underpants and rocketed of to the wilds of Wales. Papa is having a bit of a mid-life crisis, and revelled in the velocity of his new car. I did not share his glee - the Ogwen valley was never designed to be seen at the start of a jump into hyperspace.

Big Dave just looked sick.

The car park arrived somewhat quicker than necessary and we shrugged our fur under further layers of fur whilst cursing the student mini buses and reminiscing about our own studying days. Avoiding the potential irony of this situation we quickly moved to a dicussion of espresso machines whilst trundling to the heald of the valley.

Caffeine doesn't agree with Big Dave Bear, so he looked sick again.

Its fair to say that the weather was not clement. In North Yorkshire, they call the penetrating mist and drizzle The Rauk. The capitals are definitely well earned and we were most certainly flat of fur by the time climbing started in earnest.

Still, hardy little bears that we are, the weather did not dampen our spirits and we revelled in the romance of the mountains. Well, Papa and Big Dave Bear did, I revelled in casual observations that "it was maybe time for lunch" and "mmm, I've got some lovely sandwiches and tea in my bag.

I was ignored until we reached about half way, when the view under the clouds was quite a reward. The other bears felt that it was still far too early for lunch, and pressed on upwards.

The clouds seemed overjoyed to see us and raced down in greeting, just as we scampered upwards with empty stomachs. Papa and Big Dave Bear finally succumbed to lunchtime pangs and called a halt in a wind tunnel with. I expressed my joy at this beautiful dinner setting by pouring tea in Papa's rucksack and showering Big Dave bear with cheese crumbs.

To ensure our fur was supplied with warmth we endeavoured to stock up on calories. A rather piquant mixture of bagels, onion baguettes, cheese, chicken, stuffing, cup a soup, crisps, crunchy bars, fuit and unsheathed bananas was consumed before we continued into the growing murk.

Papa had a little meander near the top and we thought we'd lost him. However this opportunity to wander around in the fog shouting failed to materialise as he bestrode the mountain like a colossal teddy bear.

And thus we arrived at the top. And began our descent.

Well no, that's not true.

And thus we arrived at the top. And fell in some unsuspected snowdrifts. And nearly lost each other again. And walked slowly looking for the path down. And walked slowly looking for the path down again. And again. Eventually we found it.

And began our descent.

Anyway, we blundered down, got in the car and drove home.

The End.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What comes first

...the review or the stars.

I was disappointed by The TImes today. On the front cover they ran with a header that Blood Diamond had got 2 stars.

Now, I'm all for teasing the reader and getting them to turn the page, but giving the score away on the front page.

Reviews should be read.

The point of reading them is to find out someone elses point of view. And, you get a few stars to remind you of that view. You get to read about all the other films they've seen and how they interrelate. How Jimi Hendrix joined with James brown and funk and Grandmaster Flash and further into Hip Hop and then to bling culture and then to the growth of diamond sales and war zones cashing in and the abuse of workers. And on and on...

Lets put the stars at the end please.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I was in a coffee shop the other day.

Drinking coffee.

I chose cappuccino.

Anyway I remembered a time when I first moved to London and I watched an older couple walk into Starbucks.
"What can I get you" said the helpful person
"Cofffee" said the old couple.

Cue blank looks all round.

Anyway, I saw a stat the other day which said you can order 2400 types of coffee in Starbucks. And another which said that in London their are 300 starbucks within 15 minutes (or something similar - you get the idea).

And it occurs to me that, how do things which confuse everyone on their first visit become so successful.

I've always believed that customers need brands to take the choice out of choosing. Make it easy. Coffee shops make it complicated.

I suppose there's huge customer need been created. And all coffee shops serve the same level of complexity. So customers settle into acceptance of this and understand the language. So customers get complexity immunity early on in their starbucks life.

I guess also that there's a decision making tree at play here. One about coffee or tea or fruit juice. Then one about latte or cappuccino or americano. Then one about exra flavours - which you're never going to do at first... And so on with more decisions as you get more confident. Then you go back and order the same thing every time.

I like that decision tree idea.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ear muffs

Twas very cold on the train platform this morning. I drove through snow, managed the frustration of the ticket man's computer death and the cancellation of the train, then shivered in a manly fashion whilst waiting.

My day was brightened by a pair of pink earmuffs.

I've not seen them for years, and I must say, they're overdue a return. A pair were donated to me a while ago during an ear piercing incident.

I like the idea of ear warmth without that recurring issue of overheated head. I'm wondering what style a chap should sport this winter.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A good blow

Hannah's being the wind.
Yesterday it dislodged a tile on the roof, blew away her shed and smashed up the fence. The bit I rebuilt last weekend is still there though, so I'm feeling smug in a man/wood/nails/testosterone way.
Power lines down, car crashes; its all very exciting and scary. And with snow on the the way its fuelling my weather obsession in an unhealthy fashion. Just need to speak to my Dad now and see if he's seen any mysterious portents in the way moss is growing in the shrubs and we won't be short of conversation for months.

Its a nice distraction from Big Brother, but since I've started, here's my take on the media manipulation going on.
Endemol/Channel 4 wanted more ratings, so they probably placed the original story. They got what they wanted, and why not. Their job's not to be guardians of our opinions.
Carphone Warehouse wanted airtime, brand presence and fame. Now they've pulled out so evidently it got out of their control.
The unholy trinity of Jade/Danielle and Jo wanted TV and media contracts. That'll now bite them on the bum.
Shilpa wanted increased fame in Britain but didn't imagine that she'd be taking part in what has, ever since the first series, become a freakshow - that's what the people want folks.

And the moral of the story. I guess its to be very careful what you wish for, and how you get it. In the end, its hard to control everything.