Woe betide the squirrels …

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George became part of our family in September 2001. We bought him as a young puppy from a farm in Dorset whilst visiting Donna’s parents, and we all remember excitedly driving him home, George sitting in the footwell between Donna’s feet.

He had a tricky arrival due to him contracting a nasty dose of campylobacter down on the farm, but once that cleared up, and once we had cleared up(!), he very quickly became the family dog, from thereon in inextricably linked with the 3 young kids (partners in crime) and mum and dad.

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As a young dog he came everywhere with us in our 7-seater people carrier, his preferred position being centre of middle row, in between two kids and resting his chin on the armrest between driver and passenger – prime spot.

Like most dogs he loved the outdoors. When he was young he often came running with me, although when he hit middle age he got wise to recognising the running gear, and took to hiding under the table whenever I put my running shoes on. From that point on we stuck to walks, often long ones where he loved sniffing in the undergrowth, chasing sticks and swimming in the river whenever possible.

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For the last year or so he hasn’t been able to walk due to a steady decline in his legs/hips – a common affliction in ageing labradors, and in George’s case this was exacerbated by rather bad arthritis along his spine. Nevertheless he continued to enjoy life, albeit a much more sedentary existence which stretched no further than the back garden.

Recently even the garden became difficult. He was struggling to stand up unaided and we often had to wait for a hoarse bark to signal a request for us to lift him so he could stagger outside, but often we were too late …

The best thing about George was his personality – he had an unrelenting warmth and a 100% good soul. From day 1 he had kids climbing on him, sleeping alongside him, pulling him, pushing him, waking him, chasing him, brushing him – yet he never once got cross. He did growl, but only when he had a bone, and only ever as a gentle warning, but never, ever, did he growl or bite or frighten a child in all those 14 years.

He did however have a pathological and irrational hatred of squirrels. He could spot a squirrel on a garden fence from 100 paces, and would always raise his hackles, bark fiercely and run out into the garden to chase them away. He had no problem with pigeons or any other animal for that matter, but squirrels were definitely persona-non-grata, perhaps it was the bushy tail. Even recently, with failing eyesight, he managed to spot a squirrel through the window and his genetically coded vitriol sparked into life – he tried desperately to get up from his cushion, but he just couldn’t manage it. The soul was willing but the body wasn’t.

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Over the last couple of months we have had several family chats about what to do with George – a horrifically difficult family subject to discuss at the best of times, but nevertheless a very important and necessary one, and we finally all agreed that George had reached the point where he no longer seemed happy. He had lost that sparkle, that mischievous charm, that spirit that made him George. Life had become a struggle with very little, if any, upside for him, and so as a family we decided to call the vet to the house, George’s home, to release him from his pain. He was 14, around 98 in human years, and during that time he had lived a perfectly wonderful, happy family life. He had given so much love, pleasure and happiness to our family, and in return he had food, shelter and as much love and attention as a family of 5 could throw his way.

George was as perfect a family dog as you could ever wish for and we will all miss him terribly, but we have to be thankful for the 14 brilliant years he shared with us. We have a huge memory bank of experiences and happy times to fall back on and enjoy recollecting, a treasure trove of George stories that I am certain will continue to be regaled by the family, and by friends, for many years to come.

His favourite ever spot was sitting in the garden where he would follow the sun, keeping watch for bushy tailed rodents. And whilst local Sherington wildlife might now be breathing a sigh of relief, if there are squirrels in dog heaven they had better watch out.

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What do you do?

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29 years ago today on 1st September 1986, I entered The Angel Centre – 403 St John Street, Islington, London – and nervously made my way to the 4th floor to start my first ever full-time job at British Telecom.  My boss wasn’t there, he was in a meeting, but on my desk was a hard-backed book describing the ‘fundamentals of digital data transmission’, and so I sat down, opened the book and started reading about Nyquist sampling, Pulse Code Modulation, Frequency Shift Keying and other such alien concepts (many of which I never really got to grips with).  A few people introduced themselves and someone offered me my first ever cup of coffee. I was aged 21 and unbeknownst to me I was on the road to becoming a “network planner”, a job description that would broadly define me for a further 21 years.

In 2007 I embarked on a different career track in a different sector of industry, this time working in the field of “mobile contactless payments”, an area I still work in to this day.

Andy the ‘network planner’ was pretty much the same person as Andy the ‘guy that works in mobile contactless payments’. Neither job tells anyone anything whatsoever about me – my fears, desires, passions, guilty pleasures, weaknesses, regrets, aspirations – all the things that actually define me as a unique individual.

And yet, look at the world we live in and what a strange model we have adopted.  Quite often, when people meet us for the first time, in a vain attempt to get to know us, they often ask: “What do you do?” to which most of us automatically reply with a brief description of our job.  We bizarrely allow our occupation to define us above and beyond everything else.

“What do you do?”
“I’m an engineer/accountant/librarian/chemist”

Imagine how life would be different, and more meaningful, if we stripped away these western, corporate focussed conventions and instead talked about us?

“Tell me about you?”
“I like nothing more than being outside in nature – gardening, hiking, running. I like the smell after it’s rained heavily and I love watching thunderstorms play out. I enjoy travelling overseas and sampling local foods and wines. I find words and language fascinating and I read as often as I can. I also like the smell of new-born baby’s heads”.

isn’t that more interesting and revealing than saying you work in contactless payments? Such human beliefs and values are neither right, nor wrong, yet they help us see the individual instead of the suit he/she is wearing. Telling me you’re an accountant tells me nothing about you, only about your career choice (probably made many years ago). For many people, a job is just that, something that enables them to pay the bills and further enable them to do the things they REALLY love. For such people, work enables life, and hence work is everything but life itself.

Two librarians at a party – one likes naked mud wrestling, drinking wine and bungee jumping whilst the other likes needlework, morris dancing and re-enacting military battles. Meeting these two librarians and discovering this information is extremely helpful and interesting, and I am sure most of us would naturally gravitate more towards the one who interests us most. We can actually start to make genuine, informed choices about people and who we would like to engage with – and surely that’s to everyones benefit, including both librarians, if we can all more readily identify mutual points of interest and avoid that dreaded small talk which just further exposes how very little we have in common?

Deep down, what we all want to know about others is what makes them ‘them’ – what makes their heart skip a beat, what makes them jump out of bed in a morning, what dreams they might dream at night, what makes them laugh, what makes them cry – human attributes that paint an accurate picture of the person and not their business ‘facade’.

Telling me you got a 2:1 at Warwick University in Stochastic Sales Development before going on to do an MBA and buying a 4×4 Range Rover just tells me you’re an ambitious status seeking bore, which is all rather tiresome, mundane and pointless, unless of course you are also an ambitious status seeking bore seeking a like minded individual.

Of course there is a time and a place for everything and a party isn’t quite the same as a corporate trade show.  At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona my boss would certainly want me to engage with prospects by talking about mobile contactless payments rather than my penchant for eating cheesy wotsits in the bath with a glass of wine.  Come to think of it my wife might also prefer me to talk about mobile contactless payments at a dinner party with friends too, but hopefully you get my point – most of us have two parts to our life and sometimes we mix them, often to the detriment of ourselves and everyone around us.

My cheesy wotsit fetish isn’t going to close the Barcelona deal, and my views on the pro’s and cons of secure element vs cloud based mobile payments isn’t going to win me many friends at the weekend dinner party, but perhaps there is a middle ground to be sought.

As with all my blogs I have drifted completely from my original intent and ended up in a place with little/no conclusion, but there you have it, that’s me, a cheesy wotsit loving wine drinker celebrating his 29th work birthday, cheers!

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