Sssh (whisper it) Are any other artists out there enjoying Lockdown?

”Lock yourself in a room
Doin’ five beats a day for three summers
That’s a different world like Cree summers
I deserve to do these numbers”

Alcatraz, June 2016 Day

Pandemics are out there hiding in the long tail of the standard deviation of events that can shake our world. It is a real tragedy that so many have lost their battle with this dreadful disease. This is one of the most harrowing accounts I have read and left me in tears. It should be required reading:

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/health/2020/05/peak

Captain Hindsight 

Perhaps the restrictions could have been in place earlier? A recent study found that London bus drivers suffered disproportionately. It is always tricky to untangle comorbidities like diabetes, obesity, and smoking. I’m no doctor but it is safe to say that a sedentary lifestyle isn’t helpful for your physical or indeed mental health.

Even our good leader BoJo has saddled up his Nike’s and started to extol the virtues of working out. Remember kids you don’t have to treat yourself like a temple but do look after The Asset-your body- its the one thing they ain’t making more of.

Going nowhere fast

The Lockdown has been a long-overdue shot in the arm for cycling in the UK. Rewinding to the 2016 recession I applied to work at the new Evans Cycles- once I got to the interview it was quite clear I didn’t know my jockey wheel from derailleur. Sometimes in life, you just need to admit you are out of your depth.

In my latest position, I have been blessed to cycle 3.2 miles to the office. I takes just about 20 mins each way. (If you catch a break at the traffic lights). More than enough time to get the heart racing but no long enough to not be a sweaty mess. I should also mention it take a good half hour faffing around with keys, rain-gear and a change of clothes. Fellow commuters will relate to forgetting your pants and having to go commando!

Cyclin’s march to popularity is long overdue. In Aberdeen, many cyclists are viewed as second class citizens. Over in the twinned oil town of Houston, USA the situation is worse. It may be apocryphal but there is a story about a Ford F150 driving meeting a cyclist at a stop-light. The said driver winds down the window of his 5 litre behemoth and yells:

‘sucks to poor!!’

before riding away in his mid-life crisis rented midlife crisis mobile. Oh, the irony.

Warren Buffet talks about tap-dancing to work- cycling is my equivalent

On my travels

Canada has many things going for it…including free-healthcare! But it also has segregated cycle lanes. The folks there are happier, fitter, and more productive. A study closer to home in Scandinavia found that for every euro spent on cycling infrastructure there was an 8 euros return. Not sure quite how they arrived at that figure but sometimes prevention is better than a cure.

Here’s some fieldwork- Next time you are our take a look at the queuing rush hour commuters do they look as happy as this? 

Living for the weekend

Ever get that feeling that Hard-Fi rap about? The media support this- I call them the Thank God Its Friday brigade. It feels that enjoying-life is deferred to 48 precious hours Saturday and Sunday. Many people hit the hay on Sunday night with a sense of dread at hearing the alarm clock for another week in the meat grinder.

Side Hustle Nation

The Lockdown also provided ample time to start or even just lay the groundwork for your side-gig. We talked about some options here… but have a listen to Nick there are loadsa! ways to do it. It may be writing, making beats, or putting together painted bits of wood and calling it art. It doesn’t even have to make money and probably won’t for years! The important thing is that it takes you out of your head and gives you a project of your own to nurture.

Since getting into woodworking the Christmas Morning feeling is back! I canny wait to put my latest discount tool to good use.

There is nothing new under the sun

What I’m rapping about here is nothing new. Dan Pink had it down in his seminal work Drive. He outlines how a dollop of autonomy a sprinkle of mastery and a general sense of wider purpose make for a happy business owner. The reality is all of us are in charge of (insert your surname here Enterprises) and can benefit from running our life like a company.

Ok, final reason then I can get back to finally finishing Game of Thrones. I call this last one removal of The Tyranny of Choice. The best analogy is going to the supermarket and facing the bread aisle. How many different types of dough does one man need? With HelloFresh, Deliveroo and Just Eat, the Sun King is spinning in his grave! For Type A personalities like me the choices are overwhelming should I have wholegrain, seeded, seedless, or pumpernickel? In an extreme case, you may leave without a loaf. At least at Lidl and Aldi, you can console yourself with the latest Plunge Saw.

Lockdown has reduced our choices- there are/were no restaurants to mull, movies to goto , or spinning classes to choose from. But at-least we have Netflix. We should count our blessings and enjoy refocusing our precious attention on family, friends, and not forgetting ourselves!

Alcatraz, June 2016 Night

Fifteen Favourite Cricket Moments

I like football but I LOVE cricket. Here I look back at some of the memorable innings and wickets of nearly two decades of pure joy listening to and watching England.

2003

My first test-match – @Headingley.

The summer was marked by Graeme Smith’s epic batting.

2004

Rain! typical in Manchester meant I saw no action on Day 2. England still ran out winners by 7 wickets with Thorpe hitting a century and Rob Key chiming in with 93.

New Zealand – Strauss debut:

2005

Well there was a certain catch

Vaugnies clickety click one hundred and sixty six. This time the Manchester rain wasn’t a problem and I was privileged to see it live.

And if you have time during lockdown the whole 8hrs are here….

2007

V West Indies, Trent Bridge. Monty!

Got my minature- bat signed by Mark Nicholas! (Masssive!!)

2008

For whom the Bell tolls-

2009

The Ashes regained on home soil

2011

Ally Cook’s Finest

2013

He bowls on the left he bowls on the right…..

MITCHELL JOHNSON (11705174114) (cropped).jpg
Mr. Money Mustache (@mrmoneymustache) | Twitter

These two look separated at birth !

2014

Joe takes Root

2015

Steve on the double at HQ.

In a parallel universe h e is probably still batting away…..

Broady 8 for 15!

2017

Yip another double hundred for Captain Cook.

2019

Nuff said

Only topped by….

(Never did make many runs playing for Portcullis or The Rockhoppers...) I’ll stick to watching…

2020

Broady’s 500!

To be continued….

Money Making Scheme # 5 -Airbnb

‘You talkin’ crazy taking a stranger into your own home?’ 

‘You’ll end up with a crazy guy using your carcass like a sled down Union St.’

‘Airbnb- isn’t that all over now cos Covid-19’

Sharing is caring

We are taught as young children to share. That philosophy seems to evaporate in our teenage years and twenties to be replaced with a Keep up with the Jones arms race. Essentially who can be the Big Swinging Dick (BSD) and Uber around in a Matt Black Bentley? But during the Airbnb battle, it is who has the most spare-rooms that matters.

MySpace

You don’t need a McMansion with an acre of orchard or even a condo in the hottest part of town. I have a pokey small two up two downconverted 70’s bungalow. No way Airbnb can pay your mortgage? Here is the proof in spreadsheet-o-vision:

I rest my case…

During the peak, I was making an extra £4-5k a year which equates to extra 80 squid a week. More than enough to buy a few bevies on a Friday night at The Bobbin.

Other justification for inaction –

  1. I’m worried about being robbed. To be fair this is a legitimate challenge every day we step out the front door. The reality is that your next guest is incentivised not to steal your beanie baby collection. The review system cuts both ways. Plenty of people said the same thing about eBay and that turned out ok. At the heart of it, people are as a rule good and honest.
  2. Insurance- ‘If this random guy I met on the internet burns place burns down- who do I call?’. Ok, again fair point that’s why I encourage you to occupy the house. Hell you might find they chip in with chores or as a guest from Chennai did- make me authentic curry with authentic masalas (not that canned pish) he’d brought over.
  3. The Bank. What they don’t know can’t hurt them 😉 and with £36Bn in revenue last year- do you think they will go-under if take your balls out for the banker’s jar 5 years early?

Remember Jim Rohn kids ‘ if you don’t have enough reasons you’ll find an excuse’:

House Hacking

All this is to say – If you are still in your twenties the memories/nightmares of sharing at uni are fresh. If you can survive living with a lass or laddie who licks their cheese then you can manage to share with a working professional Mon-Fri.

  1. Interesting folk come to stay. The people who want to avoid soulless Holiday Inn’s are the kind of people who you want to share a cup-of-chai with. Generally, they will seek out adventure and hunger for a (your) local take on a city- Airbnb has capitalised on this tendency and now offers Experiences
  2. Last time I checked George Osborne encouraged it- I think you can earn up to £4k a year tax-free from a spare room.
  3. You’ll find you start to appreciate having some peace and quiet when you don’t have guests. On the flip-side when you do have a booking it encourages you to clean out your closet and get your sh*it together. Anyone else have a tendency to clean up before the cleaner arrives?

2014, 2015,

They say its 7 years feast 7 years famine. It was more like two. ’14 ’15 were the prime years with large demand driven by $150/bbl oil every Tom-Dick n’Harry was going offshore. Supply was also restricted, not many had got into the Airbnb game in Aberdeen- many were forced to stay 60 miles away in Dundee to attend the BigOil conference. Basically, back then Airbnb in Aberdeen was a Blue Ocean!

Gym buddy

It tuned out that it was so early that a properly developer who I shared the local Spin Class with hadn’t heard about it. He was busy renting out via Booking.com (so 1995;). I did a double-take, this felt like taking Rishi Sunak out for a beer and him not being able to explain GDP! Airbnb most certainly should have been in his wheelhouse. In the end, I came out with a £70 referral fee and he walked away several thousand better off. In the final analysis, we both came out ahead…

Twas ever thus

All good things to an end and oil prices dried up faster than nuns’ ehem…as did the tenant inquiries. Cheaper hotels went up (next to the airport) – the old conference centre across from my house- is scheduled to be knocked down. This drove room prices down to unsustainable levels- £15 a night? Not much point changing the sheets for that is there…

It is a real shame because as well as missing out on an extra bit of diversified income we lost a human connection. You never know who will be staying next and just when I was at my lowest the manager of the university incubator hub came to stay. What goes around comes around.

That’s Airbnb Karma.

Up, Up and Away

Why you should NEVER go to work in a bank

There’s an old phrase in Texas

‘fool me once shame on you..’

‘all hat and no cattle’

‘Why do you rob banks? –‘Because that’s where the money is’

I love finance- one of my earliest memories is counting up 5 GBP in shrapnel and safely stowing it in my piggy bank. I felt like the richest man in Babylon. A few years later there was a popular children’s tv show- Matt’s Millions I remember a scene in the opening skit where coins were literally flowing out of his computer. To clarify this was well before, Pets.com, broadband or iPhone would change the world. We didn’t even have a janky dial-up modem at this point.

Fast forward to my 20s and I started reading investing blogs- my favourite is www.theescapeartist.me He’s got pretty popular. So popular that on my last psychiatric admission I discussed his latest blog post with one of the orderly who is about my age. Unfortunately, he was simply reading the likes of Monevator without acting. It’s a bit like going to a BBQ without bringing beer. You really just have to dive in and get started.

How did it come to this?

So then like a tidal wave the 2014-2016 recession hit the oil and gas world. I was left heading for the lifeboats- AKA being sh*tcanned. During the ensuing scramble for jobs, I applied for a position at one of the big banks. I won’t name names but they have just fired tonnes of people in Asia, originally from Hong Kong and got their start in opium- I’ll let you connect the dots.

So long story short I loved reading, talking, and learning about investing. When I am not typing into the computer I’m tuned in to Matt and Andrew at Listen Money Matters. So I figured I’d enjoy working at the world’s local Bank…BIG Mistake.

A brief laundry list of why it sucked:

  1. Customers are generally in the bank because they are a) stressed about their finances b) need to complete a form c) have locked out their online banking. The last thing they want to be told when turning up at the branch is ‘you know you could do this online at home’
  2. Paperwork- its no exaggeration to say you have to fill in a form to sneeze.
  3. Back to school. No way to sugar coat this – the managers treated us like children. During one memorable morning, I headed upstairs. I struggled with low blood sugar crashes –(until I fixed my diet (link) so back in the staff room I reached for my trusty banana only when my irate boss burst in. He explained I couldn’t take a break as everyone one of the rank and file drones in sector 7G would want one. It was a harrowing experience and one I will not forget in a hurry.
  4. Lunches were scheduled – you had an hour to grab a sandwich and not a minute more. Forget about meeting friends for lunch if it was 11am and you and that was your slot you’d have to go.
  5. Cold calling- we had this list of customers which was for some reason called ‘the golden basket.’ The process was as you would imagine- outbound calling to ‘check-in’ read – flog products to high net worth individuals. How would you take to being called by your bank?…chances are you would hang up thinking it was a scam.

Benefits

There were a few highlights. I got to meet one of the founders of Brewdog who turned out to be a very nice chap. Remember it takes risk to start a business and kudos is due James and Martin two seem to have done well by it. (link)

Looking back it was probably a good lesson and a pertinent reminder of why a job with autonomy, mastery and purpose is so important.

To be clear the folks I worked with are good people. It is a challenging job on many levels and I was simply not cut-out to do it. I sometimes wish I had more people to people jobs growing up. Instead I was insulated from waiting tables, pulling pints or serving burgers on match day (well actually did this). Instead, I was off working on web-design for local companies who couldn’t afford a professional! For the record, I still can’t code to save my life even the word MATLAB brings me out in cold sweats.

Sticky fingers

It was also clear that like the oil industry the future of retail banking ain’t so bright. The falls ‘bout to put a period on the summer, probably. The four horsemen of the apocalypse, Bitcoin, the Cash AppMonzo and Ethereum are all technologies that are now at scale. In the coming years, these could likely knock down brick and mortar banks or entirely remove the sticky finger middlemen from our financial lives. Without putting a finer point on it- when was the last time you went to your branch?

That process will bring its challenges. For now it seems that the only people who still send cheques are my Mum and HMRC. I can confirm you can still cash cheques through Monzo.

What do you think the future of banking will be in 5 years or so?

Let us know in the comments below.