Archive for February, 2007

It has often been said that consulting is a license to print money – but for once, the tables are turned. My new client, quite literally, has a license to print money. They produce all the notes for the Bank of England. Which made for some funny moments when we came to the part of the conversation where we negotiated fees.

In previous roles, I’ve often been given behind-the-scenes tours of their operations. I’ve seen loading docks, toured tankers, seen experimental labs and R&D facilities. Something tells me that this client might be a little more sensitive about who they let walk around their operations area, though!

Aude’s off to France this weekend to visit her parents and do some shopping for the wedding, and I’ve got a weekend in London catching up with some old friends. I’ve come equipped with a sleeping bag, which is about as close as I come to ‘roughing it’. The cats have been left with extra food to fend for themselves.

It’s been a funny old week. I’ve spent much of the week interviewing candidates, some good, some bad, some downright shocking. Those who were successful are attending an all-day assessment centre today, seeing if they’ll make the final grade. The rest can be summed up by the feedback I received from one of my colleagues: “She’s a lovely person. But she’d be a hopeless consultant.” They’re 90% enthusiasm, 10% capability. Nice in a puppy, but not in a colleague.

I managed to catch some sort of stomach bug so spent most of Wednesday in bed feeling rather sorry for myself. In my Operations role, one of the highlights of my week is reviewing timesheets. Apparently whatever I caught was going around – lots of people claiming hours off sick. I read somewhere that the second and third weeks of February were statistically plagued with the highest absenteeism of the year, something to do with the short days, post-New-Year blues, and long break since a bank holiday – I wonder if that’s the case or whether everyone was genuinely sick.

My Operations role has given me some really valuable insights into how a consultancy is run. Take timekeeping – the lifeblood of any consultancy. One of the things that you learn as you work in a consultancy is that you can get by for ages doing very little work if you’re creative with your timesheet. And you can be penalised for even a moment’s idleness if you’re not careful.

It’s all a matter of interpretation. Certain codes are red flags and get examined very closely – even an hour booked to ‘Unassigned’ gets careful scrutiny. Catch up over coffee with a colleague and book the time to ‘Unassigned’ – expect to get a talking to. Have the same cup of coffee, but book it to ‘Sales / business development’ and no one says a word.

My senior guys know this. They know where to stick their time in order not to raise any eyebrows, they do their thing, and everyone more or less leaves them alone. But some of my junior guys, even with all the coaching in the world, seem not to have cottoned on to the way the game is played. And then they wonder why they’re constantly being harassed by management for how they’re spending their time.

But their naivety really surprises me sometimes. It’s mid-year review time, and one of my junior guys booked 23 hours to ‘counselling and feedback’. And expected no one to ask any questions about how he’d spent his time. Even though my managers, who have to do appraisals for 5-6 people, generally only booked about 10 hours.

A group of the management team got together last night to take a state of the nation over a few beers. And we decided between us that we’ve got quite a few puppies on our team – enthusiastic and quite sweet, but needing quite a lot of handholding and not quite paper-trained yet.

Maybe I should hire a dog trainer?

Gung hei fat choi and a very happy Chinese New Year! It’s the Year of the Pig, and as always, we gathered a gang together to join in the traditional celebrations in Chinatown. The celebrations were earlier this year than they were in previous years, meaning at 7:45am start on a Sunday morning. Rousing the troops and getting them all pointed in the right direction took some doing.

We arrived at the (normally deserted) train station to discover that we were not the only people in Canterbury with the idea of celebrating the Chinese New Year. The platform was absolutely heaving with people all headed to Charing Cross for the celebration. We settled in and made our way up to London.

After a brief discussion about logistics, we took our positions for the (very short) parade. We were pleased to see that there was a group from Chartham participating, just down the road. It turns out that jumping isn’t the only thing that white men can’t do… they’re rubbish at dancing with a dragon, too.

Despite having no reservations, quick thinking and an early start mean that we were seated at New World restaurant for dim sum by 11:45am – just in time to beat the hordes of people. They do trolley service of the dim sum, and I think we must have hit every trolley twice. Stuffed to the brim, we went out to watch the dragons dance from restaurant to restaurant in search of food and offerings.

The gang for CNY

The gang take their position for the Chinese New Year parade down The Strand

Year of the Pig

It’s the Year of the Pig, so it’s no surprise to find this fellow as part of the parade


A dragon, part of the procession down the Strand


Dancers make their way down the street


Jerome finally arrives to enjoy the festivities. The phrase “better late than never” springs to mind!

Gerrard Street

Gerrard Street, in the middle of London’s Chinatown, is decorated for the New Year and filled with visitors


They say a picture is worth a thousand words!

Little dragon

Anne Marie is very happy with her little dancing dragon


Celebrating the Year of the Pig

Darren in Chinatown

Darren in the middle of Chinatown

A dragon

A dragon enters a shop in search of food!

A dragon

The dragon finds what it’s looking for!

The happy shopkeeper

The happy shopkeeper


Jiri relaxes after a long day

Some more snaps of my ever-tolerant models…

Aude writes her blog

Maintaining a blog takes more dedication and time than most people imagine. Aude celebrates after completing an entry on her own blog.


Daisy goes for a moody pose…


“Who are you looking at?”


“I refuse to play along with your silly game. Now piss off and let me take my nap.”

After months of debating, Neil has decided to give up his job and join the circus. Well, not quite, but he has decided to take a few months off to learn French and do some travelling. He’s off to Paris tomorrow to spend three weeks learning French and feeding Anne-Laure’s brother, then he’s off to India to catch up with Sandro and Virginie. We decided to catch up with him for a farewell lunch at the Dog Inn, a final decent English meal before he has to eat that awful French food for three weeks.

Anne Laure

Anne Laure seems secretly pleased that she’ll get some peace and quiet over the next couple of weeks!

The gang

Aude, Neil and Anne Laure in the car park of the Dog Inn

Well, it was only a matter of time before I went out and bought a new camera, having invested so much in lenses over the past couple of months. I bought myself a used Fuji S2 Pro on eBay, which should complement our D70s nicely. Though it’s an older camera, it does wonderful things for skin tones and shoots with very low noise at high ISOs — so it will allow me to take nicer pictures of people indoors, in other words. Since people indoors make up about 50% of my photography, I hope that it’s a worthwhile investment.

Fuji S2 Pro

My “new” Fuji S2 Pro

As always, there is a learning curve to the new technology. And for most of the morning, I didn’t realise that the camera defaults into ‘Preview’ mode — displaying each photograph on the screen, but not saving any unless so actively press “record”. So I spent all morning shooting photos of my friends only to discover that none of them had been saved and I had an empty memory card. I did take a few pictures — both outside and inside — and so far am very pleased with the quality. Like anything else, practice and familiarity should improve the quality of my results.

The Merchant Store

The Merchant Store

The Goods Shed

A low-light photograph at ISO800 inside the Goods Shed.