The Timex IQ Chrono Timer: A quality timepiece

The last thing I was looking for was a real watch.

I haven’t worn a watch since I was in my late teens. I’m not exactly sure what happened to the one I used to wear at school. I think I left it at home when I went to University. By that point I had a crazily expensive mobile phone that boasted “a clock facility” as a key feature.

I didn’t look back.

I’m now 38. So about 20 years have passed since I walked through the hallowed Quadrangle of University College London, stared in awe at the wax figurine of the founder Jeremy Bentham (still on display) and began the rest of my life with a naked left wrist.

I’ve never worn a watch since then.

Until Apple.

Actually, strictly speaking, I started messing around with watches when the first generation of Android Wearables came out. The various models I tested never lasted that long and until the Apple Watch was delivered, I was resolutely free from a watch.

I’ve been wearing an Apple Watch more or less every single day since I got hold of one. If you ask me why (and I do ask myself this quite a lot) the ultimate answer is I like the alerts and I really like the fact it’s tracking my steps and fitness. I like to see those little fitness rings complete by the end of the day.

Then I had an email from a watch manufacturer asking if I’d like to try out one of their new range. Indeed, the email said, “Have a look, pick one, and we’ll send you one.”

Sounds good, so far?

Well, the challenge I had is committing to actually wearing something that wasn’t an Apple Watch.

I’m fine with that. Anything else, though? No. A real watch? And actual real one that does nothing but tell the time? I’m fine thanks.

That’s how I reacted initially.

And then I decided to try it out.

Have a look…


I selected what I reckoned was a distinctive looking timepiece (as they’re called in the trade).

I deliberately scoured the list of available styles and looked for something that I felt was a bit manly and that would match with a suit or a shirt.

Combined with the pinstripe suit and white shirt (with some Mont Blanc cufflinks) and the watch certainly looks distinctive. It fits.

So let’s get to the brand itself: Timex. The model you see above is the Timex IQ Chrono Timer and it retails for a recommended retail price of £159.99. 

It’s a thoroughly well known brand. I think my first digital watch was Timex. Yours, too, right?

I’ve got an affectionate place in my early memory for the brand, however, it’s not necessarily right there, front of mind, for me. Or it wasn’t.

Indeed, if I was going to buy a watch, I’d probably be thinking of something priced in the thousands.

I’m not sure why. I think it’s because that’s what some of my friends and colleagues do. I know a few good friends who absolutely obsess over their timepieces.

With this Timex IQ Chrono Timer, though, I’ve been really enjoying it.

From a feature standpoint, it’s waterproof to 100m. It’s got independent bi-directional motors and six dial hands! It also has an alarm function plus there’s also a 2 year guarantee.

I set myself an objective of wearing it for a week to give it a good enough innings, enough for me to evaluate how I felt — and, if I’m brutally honest, how everyone else reacted.

Before I knew it, I was into the second week of testing. Just, you know, just to be sure.

The third week passed and by then I realised I did very much enjoy the feel of the Timex on my wrist. I also liked looking at the ‘screen’ — or the face. I am particularly pleased I haven’t actually had to charge it. At all. I know that sounds very silly — but in the background I am continually thinking about available battery on all of my devices. So it’s rather refreshing not to have to worry about my watch.

Interesting. I just caught myself using the phrase, ‘my watch’. It’s been growing on my continually.

I do like the weight. It feels substantial on my wrist.

It has been bumping on things. I am purposefully trying to avoid this, but now and again, it does bump against things, especially when I’m trying to climb out of the tube during the commute, or rounding a corner in the office. Goodness knows what I’d do if it was a £10k watch I was accidentally bumping. Not only is the Timex very sturdy, it seems to be particularly impervious to the knocks and bumps I’ve exposed it to.

I really do react well to the cost.

The recommended retail price is £159.99. I found it on ShadeStation (first result via a generic Google Search for ‘Timex IQ Chrono Timer’) at £143.10 with free delivery.

At that price I am highly tempted to get a few.

The key test for me was how people reacted — in the office and out and about.

At first, no one noticed.

What I mean is this: If you see the watch peaking out of the shirt and suit as you do on the following photo, I don’t actually think you’d look twice — I think the watch looks super!


The rose gold combined with the blue face is a bold combination, but I don’t think it looks out of place. That is the key deliverable for me: The Timex fits into my work wardrobe effortlessly.

Similarly, when I’m dressed a little more casually, it sits nicely on the wrist.

I’m sure there are folk who can spot that it’s a Timex — but I can’t. I think the vast majority of us don’t really notice, beyond noting a ‘nice watch on the wrist’.

I did some surveying of my work colleagues after a few days and weeks. Some had certainly noticed the new watch.

When queried, everyone was under the impression I was sporting some kind of special watch. Some brand. Something substantial. Because I like my well made suits. So the Timex didn’t appear out of the ordinary.

I highlighted the brand to them and got a lot of surprised looks. Likewise friends and family have just assumed it was an expensive timepiece. It looks the part!

I reckon a selection of these Timex watches would be quite a useful addition to the wardrobe ensemble.

I just had a look on the Timex website and immediately spotted this one — it’s called The Waterbury Chronograph and is only £89!  (Or £81 on Shade Station)

I definitely like the idea of something like this for the weekend! I particularly like the aged strap.


And then I came across another one as I was flicking about the Timex website:


That’s the Timex Quartz Yacht Racer. I love the gizmos on this. I’ve no idea about sailing yachts but I reckon this one might look good on my wrist. Until, that is, someone says to me, “Oh, you’re a sailor?”. Yeah, not quite. This one’s a £199 RRP!

I like to have nice things. I like to have quality things — hence the name of this blog — and often, ‘nice’ and ‘quality’ can often mean a considerable cost. With this Timex range I’m impressed. It’s a good reminder — a good reset. You don’t need to fork out thousands to be delighted. I think two or three of these from the latest Timex range in the drawer with one on the wrist would be ideal.

Thank you to the team from Timex for getting in touch and suggesting I try the watch.

If you’ve any questions let me know in the comments.

Here’s the gallery of photos I took…


Gaucho: My favourite Steak restaurant in London

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I’m quite a fan of the Gaucho chain of steak restaurants. I really do enjoy the premium experience they strive to deliver. Their focus is on Argentinian food (steak, of course) and superb South American wines. 

There’s quite a range of steak houses nowadays arrayed across London. I’ve tried most of them. Hawksmoor, Miller & Carter, Goodman… I’ve had great experiences.

I do like returning to Gaucho, though. I think it’s the focus on service and consistency that really appeals. Most restaurants aim to try and meet your expectations, but there’s clearly a bit of work going on at Gaucho as I feel they’ve stepped up this approach way more than others.

They keep notes about you. I love this. If you’re a regular customer, they keep a record of the wines you’ve tried and the things you tend to like.

I’ve often been with one of my friends and we routinely ask the waitress to check what we had last time. Sometimes we’ll stick with that — the memory of that particular bottle still fresh — other times we’ll use that information to try something completely different.

The process at Gaucho starts like this… (and, I should point out I’m modelling this based on the 1 Bell Inn Yard “Gaucho City” restaurant supervised by Trisha, but it’s the same in the others across the city.)

First, you arrive into the restaurant. I always get there early. My favourite Gaucho is an empty one. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of atmosphere, however I quite like eating earlier in the evening so I can get home at a reasonable time! 

Walking down the stairs (Bell Inn Yard is underground) you usually catch sight of someone waiting in reception. They’ll immediately welcome you and offer to help you unload your coats, bags, umbrellas and all that jazz. They’ll check your reservation. I’m usually the chap who does the booking (via Opentable) so they’ll find me and then they’ll tell me if the other people in my party have arrived. Often they have and I’ll then meet them or wait for them by the bar.

I’m usually served at the bar within 15-30 seconds which is absolutely ideal. 

Then, when we’re ready to eat — often we’ll go and sit down at a table right-away rather than hanging around — a simple nod and a word to the barman or any passing staff and folk start talking into invisible microphones and within seconds you are ushered to a table. 

I then like the fact that the waitress/waiter then introduces themselves almost immediately. We’re old hats at the experience so if the waitress is new (they have surprisingly low turnover at Gaucho from my experience) we’ll head straight to the meat board.

This is an old tradition and a key part of the Gaucho experience. Other steak restaurants — particularly the larger more mainstream chains do their best at this section, but routinely screw it all up. Here’s how Gaucho does it: The waitress will have greeted you, sorted you out with any immediate drinks and then will soon return to the table with a massive wooden board containing about 6 different raw steaks. 

With your leave the waitress will introduce each steak in some detail, answering questions and making recommendations based on the interaction from the table. They know their stuff. I usually have a Fillet but now and again I’ll change it up so it’s useful to get this regular briefing. 

The next stage is usually the bread bowl. Sometimes that comes before the meat, because it’s delivered by the support waitress staff. That’s right: At Gaucho you’re assigned a key account manager in the form of the waitress and they are supported by a team of glass wranglers, plate removers and so on. 

My friends tend to really like the little cheesy mini rolls they bring along with some normal and some flat bread. If it’s the usual waitress who has read our file, then we get a bread bowl full of these cheesy rolls. If it’s a new waitress then we usually request for the bread bowl to be returned chock full of the cheesy rolls. They are excellent.

Swiftly the waitress will be back to take the main order and then it’s time for the wine. I do like that stage because they are usually exceptionally well briefed. I’m not looking for people to have spent holidays with the owner of the vineyard. I just like it when they can accurately describe a particular bottle or help us hunt for a general type of (red, always) wine. 

As you might imagine, Gaucho, with it’s huge South American pedigree, is a super place to get a really nice Malbec. 

We often ask if they’ve got any bottles open so we can do a small taster to help make a buying decision. I like that they do this. I’m sure it’s an unofficial policy but it really, really helps, especially when we’re looking to spend a good amount of money on a bottle. 

The environment is lit in a very soothing manner. If anything, it’s actually rather dark in almost every Gaucho I’ve visited. There are usually South American cow hides on the chairs and the decor is infused with a smart, current Argentinian vibe. The quality is clear, though. They’ve invested in nice things. The restrooms are typically well managed. The other clientele varies from couples to friends to business meetings.

Most nights you’ll usually get a visit from one of the managers or senior staff. Sometimes they announce themselves but usually they pick a moment to politely ask if you’re enjoying your meal.

That’s the key: Picking your moment.

It’s a flipping arse if you can’t get the attention of the wait staff and at Gaucho they tend to have a good ratio of wait staff to diners. They also tend to hire experienced individuals who are capable of ‘reading’ the table to work out when to interrupt. Sometimes the customer needs to be interrupted — when you’re bringing their meal — but there’s a technique to observing the most opportune time to engage. 

I really appreciate a fine balance between assertive service level management and being left to get on with talking with my friend(s). They’re good at this at Gaucho… which is why I like the place so much.

I’d welcome your recommendations for good steak places in London! 


The business of buying a tumble dryer

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We needed a tumble dryer when we were renting a while ago back in 2011. Since we were living on a temporary basis we didn’t want to spend a lot of money or do much in the way of thinking regarding a tumble dryer. We just needed a fairly basic cheap one.

In the end we settled on a Beko model from Currys at £219.

Thanks to the wonders of gmail, I was able to query the original order for the date and price. We placed the order on the 6th of September 2011 and the machine was duly delivered on the 10th of September. Job done.

The dryer has served us faithfully and we brought it with us to our new place.

On the 9th of July — a few days ago — the machine developed a fault. It wouldn’t spin. The ‘dryer’ bit worked but not the tumbling.

This means that we had 2 years, 9 months and 29 days worth of tumble drying service for £219. And I should note that our boys are young so we’ve been giving the machine a good amount of use. Almost twice and sometimes four times daily.

Rounded down to the nearest whole week, we’ve had service for 147 weeks or about 1,033 days.

That equates to £1.49 a week in terms of the cost of the machine. (£219 divided by 147 weeks) Or 21 pence per day.

Not bad not bad.

The question I have been pondering is ‘what next’?

Is it time to grow up — that is — go and buy a more expensive brand from John Lewis and take out the company’s famous X years guarantee?

Well, I’m not so sure.

My parents always bought the best (i.e. Miele). So I was browsing John Lewis the other day and came across both a £600 and £1,499 option. To the totally untrained eye they don’t look that different from the bog standard Beko in terms of capabilities.

I was getting quite excited at the prospect of buying a decent tumble drying machine. A proper brand.

I was circling around the £600 Miele model (this one). I could extend the standard 2-year guarantee to 5-years for £140 from John Lewis.

That’s £740 and already I’m thinking that’s getting into MacBook Air territory (a useful barometer of value, I feel).

Let’s do some sums.

Presume that we can get 5 years uninterrupted service from the Miele. That’s 5 years x 52 = 260 weeks. This equates to £2.85 per week cost — almost double the price of the Beko. I recognise we’re not comparing precise like-for-like in terms of service duration. (Incidentally the Beko has an energy rating of B, the Miele is a C! And obviously I’m assuming both will use a similar amount of electricity.)

Am I better off just buying a new basic tumble dryer every time the old one fails? Yes. I think so.

I was browsing around hunting for someone to come and fix the existing Beko until I found some sample call-out charges. They were pretty shocking. Indeed I reckon a visit from an engineer would probably top out at about £75 once he’s come, discovered the problem with the motor (or whatever) and then come back and also charged us for the (I’m hoping, reasonable cost) for the parts.

That’s almost 40% of the cost of a new machine.

I could mess about with insurance, yes.

However I want things to be easy and simple. I don’t want complications and I especially don’t want to be exposed to traditional British ‘service’ — you know the kind of experience whereby through a whole lot of ‘not my fault, but’ situations you end up without a tumble dryer for 3.5 weeks.

That’s perhaps the biggest problem I’ve got with any sort of insurance or warranty extension. It’s all very well if the issue is fixed free of charge, but if the experience is unpredictable or poor and it takes days for an engineer to visit, I would be particularly annoyed as the boys’ clothes begin to pile up.

As it stands we had to suspend the clothing logistics for just over 24 hours.

Instead of buying from Currys (where we got the last dryer), I went straight to (Appliances Online) and ordered. I clicked straight through to their ‘best condenser dryer‘ page and coincidentally saw a Beko product featured. If you read my recent experience with on Mobile Industry Review you won’t be surprised when I just hit the buy button.

The next day at 11am, the Beko dryer arrived. It went into production within 30 minutes. Boom! Incidentally I paid an extra £9.99 to have AO take away and recycle the old Beko.

Now then: Is this the right thing to do? What is your electrical appliance policy? Am I missing out by not doing the John Lewis thing? How do you handle the unplanned downtime even if you’re covered?

I won’t be impressed if my now beloved £189 Beko conks out next month. Or next year. But on the basis that these things seem to be pretty well made (we also own a Beko fridge!) I am hopeful we’ll get at least 2-3 years without any exceptions.

I would very much welcome your perspective.


Whoop! My The Chapar Trunk has arrived…

I got home last night and found that my first trunk from The Chapar had arrived. Sadly I was being sensible. I got home late and had to be in the City early so I haven’t had a chance to open it up and have a browse yet. Tonight, though! Tonight! I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve selected for me.


Part 1 of the Center Parcs experience: Booking

Long term and patient readers will recall that I have been closely evaluating a Center Parcs break. I think it’s taken me a year to get comfortable with the concept.

Center Parcs UK, according to the Wikipedia entry, is a network of four holiday villages offering a range of family friendly activities.

And it’s the family bit that appeals to me. We have two young children (an almost 3 year old and a newly 1 year old). Friends and work colleagues have described the best part of the Center Parcs experience being that you can “chuck everything in the car,” and then once you’ve arrived, “dump the car for the week.”

We’ve opted for a New Executive Lodge. We made the decision based on the 6 or 7 pictures displayed along with a stupidly small badly scanned floor-plan layout. I simply cannot stand this approach used by so many travel companies. Why can’t they show full size images? And MORE than 6 or 7? And why can’t they show huge full resolution ones so my wife and I can umm and ahh properly? Instead we had to squint and then buy it the Apple way — i.e. look down the list to the most expensive one and make a base assumption that we a) wanted to spend that amount of money and b) that this offered the best range of facilities. For the dates we were booking there wasn’t much cost difference between the different styles.

I realise that elsewhere it’s possible to find bigger images. I don’t expect to have to go hunting for them though. However, I recognise why. The Center Parcs online presence hasn’t been overhauled for years. Or, if it has, it’s been done excruciatingly badly. It’s fundamentally a bolt-on to (I imagine?) the physical brochures that I’ve never ever seen. The assumption, I suppose, is that you’ve phoned up and asked for a brochure. The website appears to be a transaction engine — a flipping rubbish one, by the way — rather than the portal for managing your vacation experience in the run-up to the event.

Registering an account
The first thing I did when we sat down to “book” was to hunt around for the “create an account” or “register now” button. I thought it would be useful to establish a record of business with the company. You know, get the account sorted with the name, address, children’s details and whatnot so that it would make things easy for the actual booking. I also thought they’d probably want to take my credit card then so that I don’t need to type it in during the booking. I am, you see, intending booking multiple Center Parcs experiences.

There’s no account facility. None that I could see.

Fine, fine.

We began the booking process. That was fairly pedestrian to begin with. Select the party size, desired location, holiday type (weekend, mid-week, etc) and finally the dates.

The different types of lodges are then displayed along with pricing and relevant notes (“Just 1 left!”). Again this is all good.

Having selected the lodge we then needed to choose our desired locations from the available FOUR choices. Heh. We had a choice of four specific villas, each helpfully numbered. However in order to make a decision, we had to download a huge PDF file that took — I kid ye not — about 3 minutes to download. (We’ve a pretty fast internet connection!)

My wife and I just stared into space. I sat cursing the Director of IT / Commerce — whoever he or she is — at Center Parcs. Who decided this was a brilliant fix? Why not pop-up a simple screen showing the locations in context and… oh I can’t be bothered to even write it out.

So this was a rubbish experience. We arsed about trying to find the various numbers on the plan. As folk new to the whole thing, we didn’t have a clue.

I wanted a choice though. You can just turn up and be allocated somewhere. I felt we should at least have some degree of control. So we paid the extra cash — £39 — and selected one of the villas.

Or, more accurately, I selected a drop down villa number from a list. How experiential.

Adding Extras
I felt a little more at home at the extras screen where we were given a long list of additional things we could add to our package. I selected two bikes. Friends have told me it’s wise to get them booked ahead of time. I then read the small print and found you’d have to order the other bits — like a seat/hats for the children and whatnot — when you’d done your main transaction. Stupid. But acceptable, given we’ve got this far into the process.

I impulse bought some fire logs. That appealed to the caveman inside me. We evaluated whether to buy some discount meal vouchers (25% off) and decided that this wasn’t a big enough incentive.

We scanned the rest of the list then, content, proceeded to the next step.

I openly cursed the utter idiots who designed the pay screen: What sensible right minded person puts the credit card EXPIRY date ahead of the start date? I had to do some double-takes.

That seriously annoyed me. It indicates someone wasn’t really paying attention. On every credit card I have, the sequence is start date then expiry date. Gahhh.

We hit purchase.

And the credit card transaction failed. The Center Parcs system unhelpfully told us there had been a problem with our card and, thank you very much, please start again.

I stared open-mouthed at the screen, unable — for a few moments — to deal with the user experience.

You what?

We have to start again? The 20 minutes we’d invested was erased in a second. Remember all that time we had to spend waiting for the PDF to download to determine what villa to buy? Not good.

My wife wasn’t impressed. I was flipping furious.

Quickly we realised I’d got the expiry date wrong on the card. Idiot. But goodness me where was the error checking? Or the “oops, that didn’t work, try again?” screen?

To just terminate the process is utterly ridiculous.

We started again.

And I had a sneaky suspicion that the villa we’d spent ages selecting would no longer be available. It wasn’t. Of course not. I suspected that it was probably locked in the Center Parcs booking system pending my other transaction.

So we ended up booking another one.

I did give serious consideration to not bothering. But I relaxed. I thought of the children. 😉

The transaction complete screen was a big relief. We were then presented with a huge amount of other options that we could add to our package in the run up to the commencement of the break.

I immediately hunted for the cycle seat things. Our boys can’t ride bikes yet but we’re relatively sure they will enjoy riding on the backs of ours. So I found the “Bike Seat” option and added two of them.


Nothing happened. The basket just said “empty”. I tried clicking to check out and confirmed the basket was empty. Arrrrrgh.

I tried again and again.

I wondered if the session had expired. Probably. Something wasn’t working.

I thought it would be worth trying again. Although I’ve no idea how to login yet. I suspect there must be a reference number and email combination to get you back into your booking. I shall try this later.

My wife and I then spent a little while browsing the huge list of activities on offer. It’s true that almost everything at Center Parcs costs extra — but I don’t have a problem with that as long as there’s value.

For example, we were pretty excited at the possibility of getting a meal delivered from the Center Parcs restaurants in the evening. That should work nicely. I didn’t know this was possible or offered.

We had a look at the menus which, alas, took nearly as long as the villa map to download. That really needs a fix Center Parcs. Either make it lower resolution or convert it to HTML or JPG. There is absolutely no need to publish print-ready resolutions for your customers. That’s a sign of a really lazy webmaster or a silly ineffectual system.

I was significantly irritated by the whole transaction process. But I recognise that the system is probably sitting on about 10 other systems, most of them built in COBOL or something back in the 1980s. Whilst it was very annoying I don’t think it’s going to impact our on-site experience.

At least I hope not.

I have to point out that I’m pretty impressed at the idea of receiving a physical letter of confirmation of my booking. How old-skool.

Still. I am looking forward to the whole experience. Standby for Part 2.

General Observations

The Railway: Keeping Britain on Track

I’m commuting most days for at least 1.5 hours each way.

Ridiculous, I know.

But that’s the situation.

Actually, it’s been working out rather nicely because it has given me an enforced opportunity to get work done ahead of time (on the way into the office) or afterwards. Often, though, I don’t feel like working. And now and again I flick up BBC iPlayer to check out what’s available.

I’m pretty traditional with my iPlayer use: Top Gear…. and that’s usually it. Unless something really catches my eye.

Recently I thought I’d check out: “The Railway: Keeping Britain on Track”

It’s a typical BBC production. The team spent a year traversing the UK to create a series of 60 minute documentary style episodes focusing on different sections and regions of Britain’s railways. I’ve actually found it very interesting to watch, particularly as I’ve usually been on a train at the time. It has given me good insight into the logistics required to deliver the train service I take every day.

I found myself pretty embarrassed watching the outraged reactions from commuters at being told their train is 12 minutes late (or something like that) when we — the audience — have just been hearing that the reason for the delay is that someone’s just lost their life in a tragic accident. I’m never one for screaming “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON???” at train guards and customer service team members — but I do often get rather frustrated internally when I arrive at Waterloo and find the trains delayed for hours.

I think it’s “not knowing” that causes the real frustration. Standing there on the platform I don’t mind if the train is going to be delayed by 20 minutes. Or even 60 minutes or more. Tell me, so I can plan accordingly. The documentary has reset my expectations — principally because I’ve been able to see that, a lot of the time, the railway teams don’t actually know what’s going on. This is simply because they need to wait for an engineer to travel to some distant location, find that some thief has ripped all the cables out of some newly installed switching cabinet and then assess the damage. Fair enough.

You can still catch the episodes on iPlayer right now. Worth a look, especially if you’ve a bit of time to use up when you need to decompress after work. On the train.


It’s a brave new world out there… Have you come across the book, Wool?

I was captivated by this Wall Street Journal post about the eBook marketplace. Here’s the quick summary:

Hugh Howey’s postapocalyptic thriller “Wool” has sold more than half a million copies and generated more than 5,260 Amazon reviews. Mr. Howey has raked in more than a million dollars in royalties and sold the film rights to “Alien” producer Ridley Scott.

And Simon & Schuster hasn’t even released the book yet.

In a highly unusual deal, Simon & Schuster acquired print publication rights to “Wool” while allowing Mr. Howey to keep the e-book rights himself. Mr. Howey self-published “Wool” as a serial novel in 2011, and took a rare stand by refusing to sell the digital rights. Last year, he turned down multiple seven-figure offers from publishers before reaching a mid-six-figure, print-only deal with Simon & Schuster.


The story goes on to highlight that the publisher has now got involved and has put Mr Howey on a standard media tour. The publisher is busy banging the traditional marketing drum as that’s how they’ll make their money. What I find so fascinating is that having heard about the book, I think I might check it out.

What I mean is that I’ll probably buy it. It’s $5.99 or £5.39 for the eBook. I don’t want a physical copy though.

I wonder if the Wall Street Journal piece this weekend was effectively delivered via public relations paid for by the publisher? Because it’s helping the author — I’ll buy his book, he’ll get 70% of the proceeds — but that certainly won’t help Simon & Schuster. Not at all.

I wonder how many other people will hear about the book via traditional channels such as television, print and radio and then reach for their Kindle or Kobo?

Interesting times.

Here’s the blurb for Wool:

In a ruined and hostile landscape, in a future few have been unlucky enough to survive, a community exists in a giant underground silo.

Inside, men and women live an enclosed life full of rules and regulations, of secrets and lies.

To live, you must follow the rules. But some don’t. These are the dangerous ones; these are the people who dare to hope and dream, and who infect others with their optimism.

Their punishment is simple and deadly. They are allowed outside.

Jules is one of these people. She may well be the last.

Cars Observations

The All New Range Rover: Redefining quality and luxury; I think I need one!

My first car was a Range Rover.

For most of my early twenties I was too busy messing around with dotcoms in central London to bother with cars. I then borrowed my brother’s Ford Ka now and again when I needed to get around… until I got a very rude awakening. As CEO of a pretty successful interactive services firm, some of my clients were incredibly confused as to why I would turn up to meetings in a Ford Ka. I realised rather quickly that my vehicle choice didn’t match their expectations. I thought this was ridiculous. Indeed I spent a lot of time ruminating over the need to simply get from A to B.

But image and perception is important. I’d mismanaged it with these chaps. They actually began to question the success and validity of doing business with me. I know that might sound rather shallow — I certainly thought it was a bit silly — however I was so pleased they actually voiced their concerns and connected them to the car. These executives were in positions of influence and control. It was business critical for me to fix, especially given the contract with them was worth hundreds of thousands. They couldn’t understand how they were paying my company something like £300 per hour for my services yet I was driving what they considered to be a “rubbish” car. They were all driving an assortment of Mercedes, Porsches and so on.

I resolved to fix the issue.

I thought carefully.

I tried “Porsche” on as a brand. I tested an Audi TT. For a while I was seriously considering getting a Mercedes SL55 or similar. I thought about an Aston Martin until I saw similar parts had been used in the Ford Focus. I swear the window buttons were the exact same ones in each car.

Eventually I settled on the Range Rover.

There are many, many reasons to love and appreciate the Range Rover. Perhaps the most important to me — at this point, in this situation — was that there is no other car that beats a Range Rover in the standard masculinity brand line up.


Oh there’s plenty of possibilities for faster cars. But in terms of refinement, reputation, quality — you can happily park a Range Rover next to a Ferrari or a Bentley Continental GT and not feel inconsequential. It’s just a different choice. Invariably the Ferrari chap will nod with respect. It’s a different choice, but not a sub-calibre one.

You might argue all you want about whether an SL55 tops a Bentley, but you can’t quite compare a Range Rover. They fit nicely into any situation, whether in the country or the city.

I bought the Range Rover. The original, not the Sport. I certainly appreciate the Sport, but I like the extra headspace and the size and presence of the original Range Rover.

The Evoque is a handsome car — as are the Land Rover and the Freelander. However I prefer the original.

The driving position is the best I’ve ever experienced.

It’s road presence is second to none. People seriously do defer to you. Even London Taxis and that’s saying something.

I’ve had someone ram me as I was stationary in the Range Rover at 30mph+. His van was a virtual write-off. I got a bit of a bump and there was some minor paintwork damage on the rear bumper. (More about that here).

I was almost in a crazily serious accident, driving along at 29mph when a BMW 3-Series came out of nowhere doing about 70mph swerving around a corner — if I’d been in a Mini, I think he wouldn’t have seen me. He’d have hit me square on. He couldn’t help but notice (and then panic) at the hulking Range Rover coming into view. The panic, I think, caused him to swerve into a tree instead. That was when my wife turned to me and said, “Right, yes, I get the Range Rover thing now.”

Since then we’ve been a Range Rover family. At one point we had two of them. One for me for the occasional commute and one for her to cart the children around in.

Our last Range Rover went the way of the dodo — after about 10 years of service it required a substantial amount of work to recondition, so we let the local garage take care of that. We needed a car so I quickly snapped up a top-of-the-range “pre owned” Volvo V70. It’s a nice car, I’m delighted with it, but it’s not the Range Rover. There wasn’t time to think though. I gave some thought to hunting for a second hand Range Rover — but with a young family, a car was much needed and I didn’t have time to go around the garages. Instead I asked my brothers to find a quick fix. That was the Volvo.

Meantime I had heard that the original Range Rover was due a refresh.

It turns out that refresh was yesterday. Well, at least a slight reveal. The full reveal is due in September — so not long.

But what a refresh! Have a look…

That is looking simply gorgeous.

Here’s the summary overview from Land Rover:

· World’s first 4X4 with a lightweight all-aluminium monocoque* body structure
· Created in Britain; designed, engineered and manufactured in the UK; lighter, stronger and more refined, the world’s finest luxury 4X4
· The pinnacle of Land Rover refinement, with a more spacious and luxurious interior and a truly composed driving experience
· Enhanced all-terrain performance with introduction of Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 Auto®
· State-of-the-art exclusive Meridian audio technology
· Unparalleled levels of craftsmanship and impeccable material quality
· An evolution of the iconic Range Rover design first launched over 40 years ago
· An unrivalled breadth of capability with transformed handling and agility
· 420kg weight saving over previous model delivering improved fuel economy and CO2 emissions

Oh yes please.

In case you were wondering about that asterisk by the word monocoque, here’s what it denotes: A single unit formed from the body and chassis. Like a unibody MacBook laptop!

Here’s the full release from Land Rover:

With ‘Best of British’ being celebrated by nations across the globe, Land Rover, one of the world’s most iconic British brands, offers a first look at the all-new Range Rover, a modern interpretation of a classic design icon. A handful of first images have been released ahead of its global reveal in September.

The world’s first 4X4 with a revolutionary lightweight all-aluminium monocoque body structure is 39 per cent lighter than the steel body in the outgoing model enabling total vehicle weight savings of up to 420kg.

The all-new Range Rover is the most luxurious and capable Land Rover yet. Lighter, stronger and with new levels of design and technology refinement, the Range Rover reinforces its position as the world’s finest luxury 4X4.

Designed and engineered at Land Rover’s development centres in the UK, the all-new Range Rover will be produced in a new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at Solihull, UK.

John Edwards, Land Rover Global Brand Director, said: “The new Range Rover preserves the essential, unique character of the vehicle – that special blend of luxury, performance and unmatched all-terrain capability. However, its clean sheet design and revolutionary lightweight construction have enabled us to transform the experience for luxury vehicle customers, with a step change in comfort, refinement and handling to create the most capable Range Rover ever built.”

The fourth generation of the unique Range Rover line, the all-new model has been developed from the ground up, capturing the innovative spirit and iconic design of the original model which changed the world of motoring when it was launched over 40 years ago.

The sumptuous interior incorporates distinctive Range Rover design cues, but executed with a very contemporary treatment, and clean, elegant surfaces which are flawlessly presented using the finest leathers and veneers, all sourced from the UK. With over 120mm more legroom, the rear passengers benefit from increased space and comfort, with the option of a new two-seat Executive Class seating package for the ultimate in rear-seat luxury.

The all-new Range Rover has been engineered with the latest developments in vehicle technologies:

· Exclusive Meridian surround sound music systems
· Power upper and lower tailgates
· Industry-leading new Auto Terrain Response system, which analyses the current driving conditions and automatically selects the most suitable vehicle settings for the terrain
· World’s first 4X4 with revolutionary lightweight all-aluminium monocoque body structure

The all-new Range Rover has a clean and elegant shape, derived from a fresh new interpretation of Range Rover design cues. While instantly recognisable as a Range Rover, the new vehicle takes a significant step forward with a bold evolution of the model’s iconic design language.

The lightweight aluminium body is 39 per cent lighter than the steel body in the previous model enabling total vehicle weight savings of up to 420kg. This delivers significant enhancements in performance and agility, along with a transformation in fuel economy and CO2 emissions.

In addition to the strong and rigid lightweight body, an all-new aluminium front and rear chassis architecture has been developed with completely re-engineered four-corner air suspension. While the luxurious ride has been retained, the vehicle’s handling and agility have been significantly improved. The new suspension architecture delivers flatter, more confident cornering, with natural and intuitive steering feel.

Available in over 160 markets worldwide, pre-orders open from September 2012 [market dependent] with customer deliveries scheduled to start from early 2013.

Well count me in as a fan already.

I have to say I do like the idea of the two-tone (shown in the above picture). The black roof, the silver body. Inside is looking familiarly sumptuous as well.

I’ll need to give some serious thought to which one I should be buying. What colour? What configuration? Bring it on.

Good work Land Rover. I look forward to the official launch!


The 2012 Olympics has made the Union Jack acceptable again — about time!

I used to wave the British flag — the Union Jack — a lot when I was a child. I grew up in Linlithgow, a little town about 9 miles west of Edinburgh. Every year, Linlithgow celebrates “the Marches”. These are an internationally known thing. They’re mentioned in the town’s Wikipedia page. There’s even a dedicated website. Like all of these sort of events, there’s a good bit of history that is, from the point of view of the town’s children, totally irrelevant.

For me as a 7 year old, The Marches meant floats — lorries dressed up to look like the Loch Ness Monster — driving down the High Street. Indeed, one of the most memorable parts for me is the chap walking in front of all the floats yelling (in a highly theatrical manner), STAND WELL BACK. At which point, the town’s children would squeal with excitement as the monsters-on-truck-wheels approached. Folk would wave from the floats. Some would throw sweets. Bands would march by. And we waved flags.

We were proud of our Britishness. We were Scottish, too. But the flags being waved were invariably of the Union Jack variety.

Every year mum would buy some Union Jack flags from the local shop and we’d take great delight waving them at everyone who marched up the High Street on the appointed day.

More recently — indeed for much of my adult life in particular — the Union Jack flag has been an object of negativity.

It’s been something that I’ve been highly disappointed with. At some point or other, the flag was co-opted (or became associated with) highly the wrong sort of people.

It got so bad that many newspapers couldn’t get through an average week without running a story about how some councillor has demanded some guy remove the Union Jack from his house because it might offend folk.

I’m not kidding. Here’s a BBC news video story from *LAST YEAR* in which some members of a English village are clearly shown objecting to the local council flying the flag repeatedly.

I can understand the perspective that finds — or found — the Union Jack offensive in the context of it promoting rather right-wing viewpoints.

I was disappointed it had come to that, though.

The last two week’s of Olympic glory has, I hope, completely reversed the fortunes of the good old Union Jack in the United Kingdom. I’m sure quite a few of us watching our athletes drape themselves in the flag for the first time might have involuntarily thought, “Uh oh, that’s, er, a bit inappropriate…” but it didn’t take long for that view to be overturned.

Seeing the Olympic stadium and other stands crammed full of folk dressed in Union Jacks and waving Union Jacks.. that made a big impression for me. And I’m sure, for the rest of the country.

Is it safe to assume the Union Jack’s reputation has been rescued and rehabilitated by the likes of Jessica Ennis and Co?

I think so. I hope so.

I think it’s gone better than that. I reckon it might have become fashionable! Last week I kept on having to get out of the way of crowds in Richmond all clad in Union Jacks — I was rather impressed to see a very well-heeled lady actually wearing a Union Jack shawl. Or throw. Or whatever you call it. It wasn’t a flag. She’d actually gone out and bought a piece of clothing!

Welcome back to the Union Jack!

[And in case you were wondering, I found that rather fetching Union Jack chair in a photo of some rather swish Moghul Interiors Union Jack curtains.]


HBO’s The Newsroom: I’ve added this one to my must-see list

I really, really enjoyed The West Wing by Aaron Sorkin. The fast-paced (positive, idealogical) dialogue together with the legendary “walk-with-me” one-shot scenes were simply fantastic to behold.

When I heard Sorkin was back with another show — this time based around a news room — I thought, “Brilliant”.

I’ve been scouring the internet for trailers and snippets in the run up to the airing of the first episode of The Newsroom here in the UK. When I was in the States, I turned to HBO and found it showing wall-to-wall trailers and background videos one evening. I devoured each one. Genius.

I couldn’t wait.

Then I watched it live on Tuesday.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Indeed I think I’ll need to go back and watch it again, just to make sure I get all the references. The dialogue really is fast-paced.

There was a brief moment when some of the staffers were (rather randomly) screaming and shouting at each other when I thought, “Errr, what is this? What am I seeing?” but I was patient. For just a moment the image shattered. But it healed itself swiftly and I have to say, the buzz of watching the team deliver a live show around a breaking issue (that we, the audience, all knew about) — well, that was great. I even took a deep breath when the team went off air. Heh.

If you haven’t checked it out, then I think you should — especially if you enjoyed The West Wing.

Here in the UK it looks to be airing every Tuesday at 10pm on Sky Atlantic.

And now, here’s the trailer from HBO: