Archives for category: General

In this second in a 3-part series in praise of the Electric Picnic music and arts festival in Ireland, I look at accommodation. And what a choice there is. While your ticket entitles you to put up a tent in ‘general camping’, there is a large array of additional options.

It all depends on your preferences for comfort, company, noise and location. You can bring a motor home. You can opt for eco-camping, as well as family camping. You can take one of the several ‘glamping’ options with the common denominator being that the accommodation is ready for you when you enter the festival, and you leave it set up when you head home. This makes an awful lot of difference to the amount of gear you need to transport to and from where you’re sleeping. But it come at price. There are lots of different sizes and types of tents and huts, from the functional to the fairly luxurious.

These posher camping options also come with better toilet facilities, showers, and are generally located closer to the action so you’ve less distance to trudge to get to the entertainment and sustenance.

We went with a modest pre-erected teepee-style tent in the glamping area. It pretty much doubles your entry ticket, but it’s worth it, especially if you’re the wrong side of 40 and can’t be bothered to slum it any more. It was also a mere 5 minutes’ walk to the main site, which is very handy if a change of weather calls for a wardrobe change, an occupational hazard at the end of August/beginning of September.

As you might expect, the nicer the accommodation, the nicer condition the place is left in when you leave, and the less of a hammering the site takes. I’m told the general camping is like a war zone on a Monday morning, and I’m inclined to take people’s word for it. I simply wouldn’t go if all I could get was general camping. I’m not 20 any more.

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For many who attended the largest music and arts festival on the island of Ireland during the Summer-Autumn cusp of 30th August to 2nd September, it is but a distant memory. With my tickets for 2020 already in the proverbial bag, however, I thought it would be worth paying a 3-part homage to the event.

I’m going to tackle this 3-part blog series as follows: music, accommodation and people. For music fans EP is a chance to connect with many major acts that you’ve not seen before. The kind of acts that you might not go and see specifically, in isolation. You’re probably not going to see the huge global acts coming to EP, but you’ll still get some major players making the trip down to rural county Laois. Performers play a huge variety of venues, from the main stage which can accommodate 50,000 people, to the big tops that will hold 5,000 and the little corner venues that will just about seat 50. Some of them are unknowns, some are on the rise, some are massive, and some were household names a generation ago and are still playing the lucrative festival trade.

There’s also a bourgeoning comedy and arts side to the festival, which tends to get dominated by the over 30’s, but again it’s a chance to hear and see some major people in their respective domains.

Many folk do their research beforehand and mark the shows they definitely want to see. Often there are clashes and agonising decisions to make: do I catch one or the other or try and do a bit of both? For me, though, the real benefit is going from venue to venue, stumbling onto stuff I’d never heard of and either giving it 5 minutes or else staying for the entire gig and making a note of them for the future.

I’m never quite prepared enough for the weekend, by which I mean I haven’t listened to enough of the pre-event playlists to make sure I’m not missing out. I tend to listen to the EP playlists for a few days afterwards and come to the realisation that there was so much more music I would have seen if I’d only had the knowledge, and more time.

If you like your music, there’s no better place for gorging on the sheer breadth and volume of it than at EP.

As I write this, daily and even hourly developments in the UK get filed under the ‘you couldn’t make it up’ column. As you read it, I expect the same situation is currently prevailing.

I heard an interesting story the other day, another symptom of the ‘every man for himself’ panic that sets in during similar times, affecting everyone from your neighbour up to national governments, causing us all to pull decisions, funding and the plug left, right and centre. If only we could be so decisive in our positive actions.

Anyway, this training company was offering programs on business growth. All very worthy in any environment, never mind today’s. Front and centre in the program was Brexit planning and mitigation.

Attendees were signed up, trainers were assigned, everything was ready to go. At the last minute, three companies pulled out, causing the program to be re-organised and two trainers to be let go. The reason they pulled out? Brexit! The irony that you’re pulling out because of concerns around the area that the program is focused on helping…

Remember recently when I mentioned organisations pulling marketing at the first cost-cutting sign of hard times ahead, when the one thing that can differentiate them in a challenging economy, and even grow at their competitors’ expense, is marketing? More of the same :-).

One of the fascinating characteristics of the universe is entropy, the notion that eventually everything gets messed up. Or, as the Americans might say, it all goes to sh*t.

This has never been truer when it comes to large political, financial and economic systems. They’re pretty easy to get into it, but after while you’re well and truly tangled up and they’re really hard to extricate yourself from. Perhaps that’s why there was no real plan for how a country comes out of the euro, or why the UK is finding it so hard to come out of Europe – whatever that means. Maybe the sages knew this all along and kept quiet.

Someone told me the other day that if there was another referendum on Brexit, ‘remain’ would win comfortably. Not because of the recent experiences, though. More because in the last 3 years many of the elderly who voted to leave have shuffled off their mortal coil. For them Brexit turn out to be a final parting gesture like when the Terminator disappears below the surface and gives us the thumbs up, except this time it’s the middle finger.

That is the true Brexit irony. We’re over 3 years further on, and how far have we got? Governments are composed of people, and as people we have a tendency to leave that washing up, that job, that year-defining dissertation til much later. Let’s take a break first, rather than immediately planning for the finishing tape and getting a sense of what we need to do right now to hit the deadline.

Now, with the deadline looming ever closer, and almost no progress made, we’ll be hoping for another instance where productivity accelerates hugely before the due time and we get it out the door, something, anything, just get it out.

Or maybe we’ll ask for more time, again. And if we don’t get it, and the deadline passes, will it be like Y2K, or WW2?

If you’re reading this post on the day of its publication, I’ve been blogging for exactly six years, to the day. If you subscribe and you’re reading this post at the moment of publication, then I’m asleep, or at least blurry-eyed and limp-tailed at the end of a rather tiring music festival in central Ireland.

Six blogging years. Six bloody years you’re probably thinking, or six blasted years if you’re slightly more polite. Six years ago today I published my first post. 941 blog posts later and here is post number 942. A moment ago I cast my eye over previous blogging milestones and I’ve been rather tearing the seat out of this theme. My ‘sixth blogging year’, ‘my seventh blogging year’ – from a calendar point of view, four years blogging, and so on. I’ve been milking every anniversary and many ’round number’ posts since I started this 3-times-a-week blog.

I promise there won’t be any fanfare for blog post 950, since that’s barely a fortnight away and not really an important enough round number. It is, however, perilously close – 58 posts or less than 20 weeks – to a rather large monument, which is 1,000 posts.

At previous milestones I’ve introduced the idea, more to myself as I think out loud, that I might quit at 1,000. I think as the closer I get there, the more likely that is. Maybe that’s a symptom of me running out of things to say, though since the tagline of this blog is ‘Musings on stuff I come into contact with’, that seems an unlikely reason, unless I lose 3 or more of my senses. Maybe I’ll get to 1,000 and, rather like Forrest Gump running across America for the umpteenth time, stop.

Anyway, I hope you’ve been able to take something from the musings of the last six blogging years. Happy Monday!

In the preceding post I wrote about the bites Brexit is already taking out of our daily lives at work and play. It’s really hard to fathom what the economics of it are going to be. Bad is the universal opinion, but how bad and in what areas?

The trouble with economic models is that they are not very good at predicting the future. They’re great for explaining and rationalising the past, but that’s not much good when you’re staring down the barrel of the single most important macro event of the last half century. The last economic downturn took some of us a decade to recover from. This one looks like being at least a generation, and not just economically. For the last few years we’ve been in a period of serious isms – isolationism, protectionism, lookafterourselvesism…and this is the background against which Brexit is going to play

The central banks’ methods of, for example, keeping down interest rates to stimulate the economy while at the same time making it more difficult for us to plan for a financially secure retirement, may well not work in 2020 and beyond. They might have the opposite effect. We simply don’t know.

Business uncertainty makes businesses worry and stop spending on the only thing that’s likely to bring them growth, namely marketing. Why is it that the practice of positively influencing the exchange of outcomes between you and your customers the first thing you stop doing when the going gets tough?

Personal uncertainty makes us stop spending money and consuming as much as we were, which of course impacts businesses. It’s the downturn death spiral.

Who knows, perhaps any impending hardship will actually force us to properly embrace the environmental tenets of reduce, reuse, recycle, like our parents and grandparents had to do in wartime eras? Perhaps this kind of economic downturn and conservative/conserving/conservationist behaviour is just what the planet was hoping for. It might re-engender some genuine altruism and community spirit, and turn us from a diet of me-ism to we-ism.

Brexit is a subject that’s possibly broader than any other. It’s pretty much like saying ‘the global economy’, except that it’s broader again, with huge cultural and environmental implications. That’s the problem with a connected world: everything’s connected. Fine when everything is going well, a house of cards if it isn’t.

And, as I write this, the implications of it – uncertain but massive – are starting to bite into the apple of our daily lives. It’s true that business hates uncertainty, but the recent doom and gloom of the Irish broadsheet press is hard to ignore.  Mrs D is very scornful of my comment that I don’t think Brexit is going to affect me very much. I should have perhaps qualified that by saying I was talking about my work. For someone whose business is sales and marketing strategy, the international aspect of this should mean that I’m actually busier.

In truth, while, paradoxically, we’re pretty close to full employment in Ireland, the state bodies that part-fund a lot of business initiatives – and therefore indirectly fund some element of consultants’ income – are reviewing their programs, reducing initiatives and reducing the number of companies on them. At least to my partly-tutored eye.

At an individual and personal level, and as an Englishman working in a die-hard EU country, it’s hard not to feel insecure. Where do you go to insulate your financial future from the impending onslaught that might last long enough to prolong the entry into retirement for those who might be twenty years away from it?

Probably worth a follow-up post on this, I think.

Culture, practice and customs seem to highly sway the concept of punctuality. In some cultures it’s considered bad form to be late; in others, it’s considered the norm.

Context is another aspect to punctuality. There’s no point turning up fashionably late for a train, a flight or a show, but in many cultures it’s advised for things like parties. Perhaps that’s why the rather helpful ‘7:30 for 8’ invitation works so well. Don’t turn up any earlier than 7:30, but the important thing starts at 8 so come and have a chat or nibbles and don’t be later than 8. A 30-window is enough for the top 90% of organised people.

Which got me thinking: speaking for my culture, punctuality is one thing, but being early is often as inconvenient to your host or the person you’re picking up as it is being late. If someone says they’ll pick you up in 40 minutes, which gives you enough time to pack, shower and get ready, and then they turn up 20 minutes later, when you’re in the shower, you get a rushed and stressed start to your day.

There always has to be the first people to arrive at a party, but have you ever got the time wrong and arrived early? Misread or misremembered an 8 til late as a 7 til late? It’s a major pain, for you and your host.

Same rules apply in business and work, methinks…

When you live in the west of Ireland, it’s easy to get down about the weather. This is especially true if you’re not from here and you’re used to a slightly kinder climate. It can be wet, windy and cool, all at the same time. It probably pours, rains, drizzles, mizzles or spots at some point during the day, 300 days a year.

I’ve taken a very crude measure of the weather in Galway every day over the past 10 years. If it so much as rains one drop, I put ‘Wet’ in my diary for that day. I daren’t go back over a sample 12 months and count the number of Wets, which is why 300 is an intuitive guess rather than evidence-based fact.

The amount of times I’ve been on the phone to my Mother, a mere 300 miles away in the south of England and it’s been tipping down here and glorious there…

Anyway, I know I’ve been looking at this wrong. I’m not trying to underplay the seriousness of SAD syndrome, but I know I’ve been looking at it wrong.

Weather is wallpaper. It’s simply there, in the background. Sometimes you notice it, sometimes you don’t. You get on with things regardless.

There are many benefits to a temperate climate, after all. And anything dry, or warm, becomes a bonus. Then, the background comes to the foreground, is more noticeable, and is enjoyed for that.

I think that’s what people from here have been doing all along…

Town planning is a tricky but fascinating thing, isn’t it?

When you think about your own town or city, is it new or old? Has it grown organically or in a more structured way? Can you easily get where you need to get to, and out again? What’s the transport infrastructure like for public and private travel to a big event?

I live in a small town and I work from home a fair bit, so my measure of how well a town has been planned is how quickly I can get to strike all the errands off my list at lunchtime. You’d be surprised at how much you learn about traffic flows, parking, accessibility if you’ve only got 20 minutes and 3 different places to go.

My town is well served by trains, but not well served by bridges, which means it’s well served – if that’s the right word – by train barriers to block pedestrians and vehicles while the train traverses the road to get from A to B. The upshot of this is that it’s not uncommon for you to be caught for 5 minutes at a barrier both on your way into town and out of town. If you’ve 20 minutes for errands, driving or walking, you’re stationery for half of it in this scenario. Your alternative is a long detour round the town’s medieval and therefore maddeningly narrow one-way streets to use the one railway bridge.

We have loads of train advocates in our area, and it does provide an important link to the east and west of the country. I’m not sure, however, if those advocates factor in how it plays with the other 2 modes of transport, especially at lunchtimes when you’re under pressure.