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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Ah, what a pleasant holiday. A week in Mallorca was just what the doctor ordered.

We had ummed and ahhed a few times about shelling out for a summer holiday but decided to go for it ealrier this year and I started to investigate possibilities. We decided to go to Mallorca as a number of friends had been to Cala D’Or and similar places and had said good things, especially around the kids opportunities.

I found a website called which allows villa owners to rent out their properties and is a really good cost effective way of getting some really nice villas or apartments. We were adamant we did not want to go to one of those big hotels full of English people and in fact did not want to have all 4 of us in a single hotel room so that meant an apartment or villa with at least 2 bedrooms. Obviously this makes it a bit more expensive but we found a place for around £750 for the week for 2 bedrooms and very close to the beach with a nice swimming pool.

Then I needed to book flights. Jesus, Ryanair are a bunch of money grabbing scumbags. I was willing to go with the lack of comfort and extras as I thought they would be cheap but once you add a bag or two (kind of necessary with kids) and taxes etc it still cost £800 for the four of us to fly. The annoying thing is online check-in. This costs £12 per person (£6 per flight). It means you can print out your own boarding pass. OK, sounds great. Does this mean you don’t have to go to the check-in desk? No, it does not. You still have to queue up and show your passport and the piece of paper you have printed out. OK, so what happens if you don’t use this service? That is not an option. You can’t actually remove this extra. So what is it for? Surely it is simply part of the price. Then you have to specifically opt out of travel insurance by finding “Don’t cover me” buried in a drop down, pay £2.50 for a confirmation text, refuse to buy a cabin bag, pay for your bags (£35 each way for 20Kg bag), and finally confirm, ignoring the push to try and make you get car hire and hotel rooms through them as well, nefore you come out of the other side felling as though you have been held up by your ankles and shaken until all your change has fallen out of you pockets like a cartoon bully. And that is just booking. You haven’t even gotten on the plane yet.

Next time I think it is probably worth spending a little more to go with someone llike Monarch or BA just to feel a little less like a victim. When going on your own somewhere, you can put up with this kind of crap but it makes the whole process pretty miserable when travelling with kids.

Car hire is not much better. I booked a car for the week which cost about £140. Not bad. Except I needed car seats for the kids which cost an extra £7 per day each (£98 total), then we find that on arriving, the car is full of petrol which we have to pay for and return the car empty. What a con. How am I supposed to return it empty? We managed to use about half a tank so basically paid twice as much for petrol as we needed to and it probably wasn’t a prticularly good rate either.

Travel insurance and airport parking were both brilliant though and pretty darn cheap by all accounts.

Got to Mallorca and found that neither of our phones worked abroad as they had not been enabled which then made it difficult to contact the people we were supposed to meet and could not use Google Maps when my pre-planned directions seemed to be inadequate.

We got there though, finally and after all the faff, it turned out be a wonderul place. The agents for the owners had called me whilst I was going through the security line at Stansted and told me of a double booking meaning we had been upgraded.

We spent 2 days in the first apartment which had a lovely balcony with a sea view and was very good quality before moving over the road to a 3 bed bungalow. This still had a sea view and was set around a different shared pool, Katie loved spending most of her time in the pool and went brown very quickly. I burned  my shoulders a bit on the first day but otherwise there were no sunburn incidents as we slapped on the sun cream every day. Harry really enjoyed the little pool as well as he was able to run around in the shallow water for hours on end and we got him a blow up  ring which he enjoyed using in the big pool.

We also went to the beach a couple of times. Once to a sandy beach that was in a really nice cove but unfortunately was very dirty. This was a bit of a shame. Another beach we went to was nicer and Katie and I swam out to a platform with a slide on it for a while. Katie enjoyed this a lot but there were a lot of teenagers there messing about which was annoying. She has no fear though. I don’t really like it that much when the sea gets deep.

A third beach we went to was a bit more rocky and stony and had a lot of coral under the water. I did a bit of snorkelling here and it was really interesting seeing the fish. What was weird though was when you stood still for a few moments in about a foot of water, these littel fish about an inch long came along and started nipping you. It freaked us all out a bit but you just had to keep moving. Again, Harry really enjoyed himself and surprised us how much he went in the water.

We had some really nice meals out too and had some good fish. Prices were pretty varied and we got stung a bit on one meal where Lesley and I had John Dory which ended up costing £60 on it’s own. Oops. Nice though.

Everybody was really friendly and we are defintely considering going back there.

At the end of the week the agent people pointed out that one of the apartments was for sale and I have to say I am sorely tempted. I doubt whether I could make the finances work but apparently they have a 2 bed aprtment, fully furnished for €180, 000. That is damn cheap. It would be interesting to work out what the mortgage would be like for that and how much you would get in rental just to see how the numbers stack up. It is a buyers market in Spain at the moment with the economy out there being a bit on the knackered side so you should make money back over 3-5 years.

Well, I can dream can’t I.

Right that’s enough about holidays, I might try and attach some pictures to make it a bit more interesting.

30th of July 2012 saw me start my new role as a solution architect at Sainsbury’s and I was pretty hot and sweaty as I walked through the front door at their offices in Holborn. This was mostly due to having to wear a suit and tie in the middle of the summer that had finally arrived and partly due to nerves. Yes, I was actually nervous even though I have been in the workforce now for 17 years. My main concerns were that I don’t know anybody and I don’t know anything.
My fears will no doubt prove to be unfounded as it should not take long to get to know people and part of the reason I am here is to learn new systems and processes.
The first couple of days were quite difficult as I did not have a pc or a desk so was forced to use the communal hotdesk machines. This at least allowed me to login and start using email.
Then it came to be introduced to the first few projects that I will be involved with. Small amounts of involvement to start with but this is good as I know nothing of the technical details of each of them. I am being asked to provide Solution Outline documents which are initial options and Solution Architecture documents which go into a bit more detail. I have not produced these kind of documents before but fortunately they have a well documented structure and lots of help into how to do them so this will a good learning experience for me.
In my first week, I also got to go to Aston for a “Petrol Innovation Day”. What? Well, a number of sessions from suppliers around the Sainsbury’s Petrol Filling Stations. What do I know about petrol? I just about know where it goes in the car but that about sums it up. It was surprisingly interesting though and given none of the other Solution Architects know anything about petrol either and they are all too busy on their existing projects it looks like I have been volunteered to become the resident expert. Yay.
So, after 8 days in the office, it is time for a break. Holiday time! Off for a week in the sun in Mallorca. Lovely.

Hasta tardes…

Last week saw me conclude my employment with John Lewis after a huge 11 1/2 years. I originally started working for at the start of January 2001 and shortly afterwards the UK arm of the company was bought out by John Lewis. We started working on the new John Lewis website straightaway and launched in the first week of October that year. Those were pretty exciting times and I couldn’t imagine how things would change over the following years and how much the site would grow. We had several years of 70% growth before it started to slow down and even now are still achieving around 40% YoY at times.
The first full year of trading we took about £21M of sales and last year we took a similar amount in one week near Christmas so it was a huge improvement through the years.
The last 2 years I have been involved with the biggest project ever, replatforming the website from a predominantly Microsoft based in-house written stack to a new ATG based stack using IHS, Java, Oracle, WAS, WebMethods and AbInitio. Lots of exciting new technology for me to learn and I thoroughly enjoyed it too.
However, the time finally came to leave after I had a job offer from Sainsbury’s that was too good to turn down. It’s not significantly more money but does give better opportunities to learn more new skills and improve myself as an architect and gives better career opportunities.
Everybody at John Lewis has been amazing since I handed my notice in and I have had so many nice comments from people which even made me wonder if I was doing the right thing. Nevertheless, time was up and last week I finally said goodbye to lots of excellent colleagues that I have been working with. But not before a few drinks to celebrate.
I just about managed to pace myself but it was a long evening so I was very drunk by the end and was very glad to be staying in a hotel only 5 minutes walk from the pub. I did not feel very well the next day though and in the afternoon it took ages to get round to see people and say goodbye to everyone. No tears fortunately.
Then a short weekend and straight back into the fire at Sainsbury’s on the following Monday.
But that can wait for another post.