Guess The Names of The Loving Couple!

They met through a blind date organised by a friend of hers…

She is a little older than him…

They are different nationalities from each other…

He served in the British Army and flew in helicopters…

She has appeared on the television before she met him…

He is taller than her…

She has been married before and divorced…

They organised a spring wedding…

Theirs was a long distance love initially…

Have you got it yet?

The answer is…..

Debbie and Peter xxx

Well done to all those that got it right!

Oh and of course there’s a very similar couple following in our footsteps who’ve also announced their engagement today!

All our congratulations to Meghan and Harry we hope they’ll be very happy together – just like us! ūüėÄ

Guess The Names of The Loving Couple!

33 Years Ago Yesterday…

Without knowing it I became a father aged 25 while living in London, now I hasten to add this wasn’t a result of me blindly “sowing my seed” so to speak… ¬†In fact on the 27th February 1984 at 10.50am Debbie gave birth to David Alexander, known to everyone as Alex, in Merthyr Tydfil General hospital in Wales from her first marriage.

At the time I was blissfully unaware of this momentous occurrence in my life and as yet unmarried even for the first time! ¬†Debbie usually describes giving birth “like passing a football”, but on this occasion it must have been super sized as Alex had to be delivered using forceps which resulted in various indescribable stitches and her sitting on a rubber ring in hospital. ¬†Ouch!

alex1
Proud (if sore) mam!

I first met Alex on Saturday the 16th December 1989 as I walked through the door of Debbie’s house in Mount Pleasant, accompanied by Nana & Popsy who were on baby sitting duties that night, while Debbie and I went out for our blind date in Llanfrynach.

My first impressions of Alex centred largely on a quiff he had in his hair at the front that appeared to be gelled back.  The other things I noticed were a mischievous grin coupled with a very strong & high pitched Welsh accent.  He was also bouncing around the sofa in between Nana & Pops laughing at his mother struggling to get ready.

Now at the time although I’d seen Debbie on a video of a children’s party with his younger brother ¬†James Francis (D.O.B. 20th November 1987 of whom I shall write about later this year!) I’d thought it was Alex so it came as quite a shock to see two little ones running around the living room together.

For now though, let me return to the story and after a very successful evening in Llanfrynach, Debbie’s parents were¬†taken back home in my Sierra¬†by the friends that introduced us & chaperoned us during the meal, namely Rose &¬†Paul.

On their¬†return to collect me,¬†Debbie mutually decided I should not go back with them, but that I should stay the night! ¬†I pleased to report to those with a moral conscience that after a long talk together I stayed tucked up in a makeshift bed downstairs in the living room while she remained upstairs with the children…

I woke up alone & confused at around 6am the following morning to the worrying loud sounds of hammers on metal and flashing lights and immediately thought I was a dead man.  Fortunately it transpired that it was a group of workman working on the single track railway before the first train early on Sunday morning and so after a bit my heart rate returned to near normal.

After dozing a little more in rather troubled sleep I awoke to Debbie making me breakfast and a five year old Alex wanting to watch a film sitting next to me, with a 2 year old James fast asleep upstairs in his cot. ¬†Given Alex’s¬†age I grimaced at the prospect of watching Huxley Pig perhaps, but warming to the little chap’s¬†excitement I nodded acceptance.

With a wide smile Alex then recovered a VHS tape recording, borrowed from the local mobile library, not of some children’s cartoon but of an 18 certificate copy of Arnold Schwartzenegger‘s 1985¬†Terminator film! ¬†Now being of rather faint heart I’d not seen the film before, but it transpired that Alex new it by heart, scene by scene.

He proceeded to tell me in gory detail with his strong¬†Welsh accent things like “watch this bit, he’s going to cut open his eye with a scalpel and remove it” which heightened the horrific anticipation greatly for me and made me question somewhat Debbie’s parenting skills.

Feeling rather traumatised after the early morning railway maintenance works followed by a cyborg assassin some may have thought that this would have spelled the end of any romance but as you all know dear readers this author is made of stronger stuff!

Well, of course they say a photo tells a thousand words, so please find a selection of Alex’s photos ranging from his Christening, to riding his first bike, meeting Richard Branson, going on his first school trip to France, celebrating his eighteenth birthday in Charlie’s Steak house in Florida and finally graduating from Royal Holloway!

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Nana & Popsy at the Christening in Merthyr Vale July 1985
alex3
Nana & Popsy’s garden 44 Brynteg Terrace in July 1988
alex3-1
En route to Le Touquet Year 7 School trip with Emma & James looking jealous
alex4
July 1997 at the Virgin Group party 
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27th February 2002 Alex’s 18th¬†
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Alex graduating in 2005, yes I know, that’s me taking the photo! ūüôā

All these years later I can honestly say it’s been an absolute pleasure watching Alex growing up from that little boy with a quiff, to the very grown up 33 year old that marries Emily later next month and both Debbie & I are very proud of him!

Oh and by the way, Debbie’s choice of DVDs nowadays is very different, “Houseboat” anyone? ūüôā

33 Years Ago Yesterday…

Keep Calm and Carry On

 

170px-Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan

I finally went to sleep this morning around 2.45am after watching on the BBC in bed the EU referendum results as they came in.  Eventually enough was enough and my eyes closed to join Debbie lying next to me in sleep.

Apart from early signs that the Brexit vote were stronger than expected, it seemed at that time to be a dead heat & with London’s vote still to come I pretty much concluded that the Remain vote would prevail.

I woke up around 7am to find that not for the first time my forecast was wrong…

Let me give you some background thinking of what I think happened and how the political class i.e. most MPs, the media as well as the pollsters, misjudged the mood of the majority of people eligible to vote in the United Kingdom.

I’ll also share my concerns about the dangers of emotional overreaction from both sides and the need to “Keep Calm and Carry On“.

This result seems to have surprised many of the people actually voting Brexit. ¬†This vote also appears to cross normal party political lines as most MPs voted Remain. ¬†Geographical majorities in Scotland, Northern Ireland & London agreed with them, ¬†while the rest of England & Wales i.e. the majority of the British population didn’t.

Demographically there also seems a dichotomy in that most younger voters tended to support Remain, while the majority of the older population voted against, although as I can see from dialogue on Facebook today there are many exceptions to this!

So what do I think are the main issues that drove the majority towards Brexit?

Immigration and national security concerns, including increasing the burden further on over-stretched public services I’m sure played a part. ¬†A perception of the financial waste and lack of oversight & accountability of the remote EU political class, together with the eventual loss of national identity¬†added to these concerns.

The common theme I sense is the fact that many voters felt that their concerns were not being listened to and that the Remain arguments were largely based on negative campaigning against Brexit, rather than promoting its positive virtues.

For example, labelling anyone supporting Brexit being racist or xenophobic I’m sure didn’t help balanced reasoning and as a recent migrant into Wales I’ve very sensitive to such concerns.

So where do I stand and why?

First you have to understand that I’ve changed my views as I’ve got older. ¬†In my youth I was a fervent supporter of ever closer European integration and a supporter of the Euro currency. ¬†I’ve always worked in European HQ’s of American global multi-nationals since graduation, so free trade and free movement of skilled workers across the globe¬†¬†was a no-brainer & a common experience to me at the executive level.

I suppose what I didn’t realise the way that multi-national business would ruthlessly exploit EU countries such as Ireland and Luxembourg for tax advantage, nor appreciate¬†the impact of constraints the Euro would eventually put on the economy and people of Greece.

As the EU expanded I also didn’t appreciate just how much immigration of low skilled workers would displace younger indigenous workers from employment opportunities &/or hold down wages. ¬†Finally I never envisaged how countries such as Belgium & France in the Schengen agreement area would have the lack of border controls exploited by terrorists, nor the lack of unity across the EU when it came to dealing humanely with the refugee crisis.

I personally have come to the conclusion that ongoing rapid economic growth is not necessarily always a good thing.  Witness my relief in moving away from the polluted and overcrowded but economically so prosperous South-East.

The relentless growth of Heathrow near where we used to live sickened me in terms of the ever increasing noise & air pollution, those supporting it rarely lived with the consequences in reality & repeated broke promises in terms of expansion.  It got to the stage where I dreaded commuting into central London and the overcrowded public transport system as well as flying away on business.

That said, there are many consequences of this referendum result that do concern me.  The first is increasing polarisation of much of the population and potential emotional overreaction.  This is exacerbated by worries for many old friends and ex-colleagues who have migrated here and how they feel about their perceived ongoing welcome.  The increased possibility of the break up of the United Kingdom is also something I dread.

So what are the potential benefits of this democratic decision? ¬†As I see it the ability to control our borders & set realistic immigration levels sustainably should not be underestimated. Slowing down the population growth in the U.K. as a whole is important to me as I feel it just isn’t environmentally sustainable and intrinsically not good for our future generations.

Let’s just hope that after the initial furore dies down, that common sense will prevail and that we all make the best of this outcome together.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Marriage Guidance

One of the few problems of being an Englishman living in Wales & married to a Welsh lady is the semi-regular occurrence of England vs. Wales (or is that Wales vs. England) in the Six Nations rugby!

Today is the big match in Twickenham, not that far away from where we used to live.

Passions are running high already in the household, Debbie refused to let me take James to work this morning in my new England rugby shirt saying it was far too warm outside (it isn’t) or that I could get beaten up later when we plan to go to M&S in Merthyr….

Apparently all I’m allowed to do is sit inside the lounge, watch the match on TV with her dressed in her new Welsh rugby shirt, me in mine, but with the curtains closed!

I asked her this morning if she was ashamed of me being English and just for a second there was a slight pause, followed by a faraway look into the distance, a grimace followed by “of course not love”…

Weapons are now drawn, victory will be decided on the field of combat with the results posted later…

 

Marriage Guidance

Near Death & (Welsh) Team Building

Stuart D was offered the role of International CIO at Howmedica (one of the SBU’s of Pfizer Hospital Products as it was known then) after being the lead KPMG partner overseeing a strategic review of our technology portfolio.

KPMG gave me this hat!
KPMG gave me this hat!

He actually joined as our European CIO due to a reorganisation in-between him accepting and arriving with a different boss to what he envisaged too but that’s another story best told by him!

Subsequently all was put right when he got promoted to be global CIO of Pfizer Medical Technology and relocated to the US, but before he left and appointed a replacement IT Director for Europe (Nic O.) he had the (great) idea to bond his newly restructured European MIS Management Team together by having a team building session in, yes you’ve guessed it , Wales!

His management team of six consisted at the time of Peter R Рhead of applications (of My Old Dutch fame Рsee previous post), Alan F Рhead of development (exclusively AS/400 RPG!), Marina J Рhead of service delivery, Steve T Рhead of security & myself  Рplanning, strategy & infrastructure.

The last supper
The last supper

Just to prove it’s a small world the facilitators he chose for the weekend just happened to be two of my officers in Int & Sy Gp (V), namely Captain David M and Lieutenant Henry D who operated as “The Paradigm Learning Group Ltd” at that time.

The proposal..
The proposal..

The team building event entitled “Accelebrating to Perform” was scheduled for 18th-20th January 1996 (yes dear readers, nearly 20 years ago!) at was held at Caer Llan in the Wye Valley, just up from Tintern where driving Stuart’s Jaguar car I managed to curb his passenger side front alloy wheel.

Obviously a future VP!
Obviously a future VP!

The weekend (remember Stuart is Scottish!) followed the normal theme of team development through forming, storming, norming and performing stages. ¬†At that time we were definitely “storming”, Stuart because of his alloys, Alan because just before I’d called him pompous, Marina because I called her a whinger¬†for not wanting to do anything physical, Steve as I’d described him as a “barrow boy”, Peter didn’t get off lightly either as his company car was a Ford Scorpio while mine was only a Ford Sierra…

I saw Stuart's wallet first (we later found out it was empty)!
I saw Stuart’s wallet first (we later found out it was empty)!

As a result I wasn’t totally assured when one of the first group tasks was for a “volunteer” to be hoisted up by rope a tall tree and remove a bottle of champagne that someone from Paradigm had placed in a box at the top. ¬†Now given I was persona non grata with 100% of the people pulling me up on a pulley with no breaking system apart from the palms of their hands you can see dear readers how I approached this task with some trepidation.

Lynching, or winching?
Lynching, or winching?

That said, alcohol deprivation is a great healer and triumphant I was gradually lowered to the ground & somehow we started the bonding process.  Being a great hoarder of trivia (due to my appalling memory) I even have a copy of the song we wrote together celebrating the event so here goes:

There once was a VP from Staines
Who had outdoor events on the brain
He dragged us to Wales in clothes bought in the sales
We were never the same again

We didn’t much want to get mucky
Till Eastwood said “Do you feel lucky?”
And a strange Cary Grant who spoke more like my Aunt
Helped us to be much more plucky

We tramped through the mud and the mire
Till we thought we would never retire
Then a man in a mask said “Here is your task”
And Steve bounced him out by the fire

“Find a box” said a strange Mr Shark
Then we blundered around in the dark
As we puzzled and skied we all tried to succeed
It ended up being a lark

With Marina to map-read the way
We soon found where all the clues lay
If left to the rest we would have all gone West
She ended up saving the day

The box was high up in the tree
There was no easy way up to see
We sold Peter a pup, he was quickly strung up
And he got us some champagne for free

Now the moral of all this training
Is “Don’t try catching goats when it’s raining”
We met more than one horse while completing the course
Though I never heard Peter complaining

All friends together (now)...
All friends together (now)…
Fin..
Fin..
Near Death & (Welsh) Team Building