Thursday, 20 July 2017

Bookshops speak to our soul

Bookshops are some of my favourite places on earth. When I'm in a bookstore I am happy.
When I walk into a good bookshop I enter my own little world. A world of fantasy and imagination. A sanctuary of the soul. A magical place where I can spend hours on end, discovering all sorts of things.

One such place is Daunt Books for Travellers in Marylebone, London. With a beautiful interior layout, the Edwardian building adds so much character and style to the store that it's easy to be swept away by the romance of it all. Whenever I'm in the neighbourhood I find it impossible not to drop in.

And to prove bookstores are blessed by a higher power, I visited one in Maastricht, the Netherlands last year that is located in Gothic settings. Boekhandel Polare brings a whole new meaning to enlightened reading. There is a cafe in the back of the church-slash-bookshop where you can have a coffee and take it all in.



Named as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world by numerous media outlets this 13th century church acts as a glorious stage for the written word to perform it's magic show.

In my opinion books will never lose that magic. Their appeal is eternal. They speak to our soul. Technology supplants many things but books are not one of them. It would be like the spoken word going out of fashion. Books represent the backbone of learning and knowledge. They are the gateways to the story of our history and the guardians of our time. The places they are stored are their sanctuaries and thus are sacred. 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Are people talking more or less these days?

With the emergence of WhatsApp and social media I wonder whether people are talking less but connecting more. Are these connections of any substance and if not then what kind of communication is it?

We are truly living in the age of technology and social media but how much of an impact is it having on our daily lives and our interpersonal interactions? Are we losing the ability to "be social"?

These days it is considered normal to have your telephone lying next to you on the dinner table. If you get a message you read it, checking yourself out of the physical interactions around the table. In the 20th century this was unheard of. The dinner table was for talking about your day, school, plans for the weekend. Not for responding to the latest WhatsApp message or Facebook post.

So we have become more socially interactive but in reality, less socially active. We are all used to seeing people with their heads bent over their smart phones, busy checking their latest messages and un-social media posts. This behaviour was borne in by the Xennials, inherent in Millenials, and second nature in the Generation X-ers. It is imprinted in their DNA. 

As a Xennial I experienced life without and with modern information technology. Today's young professionals have never known a time without. For them it is hard if not impossible to imagine a world without smart phones and constant social media coverage. Talking to eachother is out of fashion. Many large multinational companies have scrapped voicemail services altogether to save money. A medium of communication that is slowly dying out is being replaced by another. A cycle that has gone on for decades and has seen the fax machine and the written letter rise and fall.

My father was an international trainings manager, traveling the globe teaching employees how to improve their training procedures, face to face. He lost his job in large part as a result of the transition to video calls and conferencing. It removed the necesity of growing travel expenses during times of financial difficulty. 

But is this lack of face to face or vocal communication going to far? Are we losing the ability to socialise in person? Can we link this shift in communication media in part to say the increase in dating sites or online shopping? Are we becoming more and more isolated?

Food for thought. 

Or should I say 🍔 for thought....

Monday, 17 July 2017

Age of Champions

We live in exciting times...

We are very fortunate to be living in a time with some of the most remarkable sporting talent that has ever been. I was never privileged enough to have witnessed Mohammad Ali box (and talk) live in one of his epic battles through the years, nor was I quite old enough to marvel at Ayrton Senna's numerous miracle drives. However I did grow up watching Michael Jordan defy gravity and belief on the basketball court. I witnessed Tiger Woods demolish the opposition at Augusta in 1997 to win the Masters by 12 strokes. I have followed Roger Feeder's mind boggling career from start to finish, having grown up the same village as him (Bottmingen).

These are but a few of the unbelievable sporting greats that have graced the past 30 years. Which, if you come to think of it is remarkable. Not only for the reason that professional sports have become professional to within the smallest details. Every calorie counted, every minute of the day maximised. Across the board this should eliminate the possibility of any single athlete repetitively outperforming the rest, yet somehow these stars have risen to the top and shone brighter than any of their peers and done it over an extended period of time. 

As a sports nut I have loved watching all these stars over the years. Without sport and everything that it stands for I would not be as happy as I am now. Playing sports myself has not only given me endless joy, but just watching and learning from these stars has given me equal pleasure.

 Sebastian Loeb - one of the most successful rally drivers of all time, winning the world championship a staggering 9 years in a row from 2004 until 2012. A true great of the sport. With today's on board cameras, watching this guy manoeuvre his car around the Rally of Corsica or through the 1000 lakes stages of Finland is so breathtakingly spectacular it is hard to believe anybody would have the balls and the pure skills to do something like that.

Valentino Rossi - The most charismatic and gifted motor racer ever to have ridden a motorbike. Has won 9 championships of which 7 in the Moto GP. The GOAT of his sport, el Doctore, Rossi made me fall in love with the sport of motor racing. The way he could (still can!) throw the bike around corners at 200mph is beyond belief.

Usain Bolt - The fastest man of ll time. Dominating his races to the point where he could ease off after 60 meters, I think it will be a very long time before we see another athlete run as fast as The Bolt. What a fantastic character as well.

 Michael Jordan - The greatest basketball player of all time. His competitive drive and incredible athletic ability allowed him to dazzle crowds around the world. He was the first true global superstar coming out of the NBA and brought the sport to heights it might never otherwise have achieved. 6 NBA titles. 2 Olympic gold medals. 10 scoring titles. 6 finals MVP's. The list goes on and on. Possibly the first truly global superstar of the modern era.
I grew up watching Michael Jordan winning NBA scoring titles and championships and like millions of other kids he was the reason I spent hours and hours on a playground trying to hit that game winning three pointer at the buzzer. Difference is, I rarely made the shot while he did it every few days. 

Roger Federer - Having just yesterday won his 8th Wimbledon title what more can be said about one of the most remarkable sporting champions of our time. Holding more records than you can possibly imagine and a longevity that is the envy of most athletes Federer is the most graceful of tennis players. On top of that Roger Federer is incredibly marketable, well spoken in 4 languages, honest (a rare trait in global superstars) and engaging.

Tiger Woods - The most dominant golfer ever to play the game. To get an idea of how ridiculously far ahead of his peers he was in his pomp, have a look at some of his records. I am convinced we will not see a player of the like again for a very, very long time.

Michael Schumacher - 7 time world champion. 91 race victories. 68 pole positions. Schumacher built the Ferrari F1 team around his image into the most dominant racing outfit of the modern era. Winning 5 championships in a row the sport made modifications to their rules just to level the playing field. That says it all really.

 These are only a handful of the sporting champions that I have been privilaged enough to grow up with. I now realise that although every generation has its sporting heroes the last few decenia have been particularly rich in sporting greatness. Here are a few of the others that deserve a mention...

Floyd Mayweather Jr
Michael Phelps
Wayne Gretzky
Sachin Tendulkar
Serena Williams
Dan Carter
Shane Warne
Phil Taylor
Lionel Messi

What a privilage to have been an avid spectator for all the sporting wonder these last 30 years. Long may it continue! 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Cycle with a Smile

In my opinion the most enjoyable form of transport in urban environments is the bicycle. Yet in London 9 out of 10 cyclists seem inherently angry. They love to shout at everyone and if anyone dares to encroach on their 'personal cycle space' they scream murder and lash out with anything at hand. On most occasions this is a verbal diarrhoea of obscenities.

 I don't understand this bell-endish behaviour. Where does it come from? Cyclists in London seem to have a massive, lycra covered chip on their shoulders. Since the London Olympics, cycling in the capital has really taken off and we are now slowly coming out of the novelty period. The UK is still in the early phases of a bicycle culture. Everybody is still getting used to having more cyclists on London's roads and it will take a few more years before things settle down.

If you look at other cities, such as Amsterdam or Beijing, where cycling is much more integrated into everyday life you will find they also went through these periods of adjustment years ago. Yet one thing I am fairly certain of is that during these periods of adjustment the Chinese and the Dutch weren't so angry and didn't dress like fat amateur wrestlers with helmets and clip-in shoes.

Cycling should be a pleasure and an enjoyable way of traveling, not an outlet for your insecurities and shortcomings. Get on your bike with a smile and get off your bike with a smile!