Posts Tagged easter

Sunday Column (434)

Easter is over. We spend a lovely week in Germany where we met with lots of family and friends. We chilled, I really came down and relaxed. It was amazing. I was hoping to catch up on emails on the night before I went back to work but just was too involved in the family and too tired. That’s a good sign I think as I really detached from work. Result. And the boys were tired that night. A pizza, some wine and an early night for us, just after the boys hit the hay 😉 Travelling is exhaustive. I also picked up a bit of a tan, so I was told anyway.

Germany, my fatherland, but only one of two nationalities I hold. My relationship has changed a bit. It is a country in which I speak English with my family, feel less connected to and less understood. A nice and beautiful country where the standards of living seem higher than in other countries. But if you pull back the curtain, things are the same everywhere. Where is my home country now? Where do I feel home? I have had numerous discussions, and home is where your heart is. My heart, without a shadow of a doubt, is with my family. My boys. That’s where home is. Will it change again in the future? We shall see.

The future is more unknown than ever. A new general election was called. It won’t reverse Brexit but gives us a chance to change governments. I personally believe it will strengthen Theresa May’s position, catapult Corbyn out of the Labour lead. Then we reshuffle, have Brexit and a new election in 2022 or so. We shall see. We will master whatever is ahead of us. Politics. Oh, maybe Corbyn is underestimated and will make it. Wouldn’t that be fascinating?!

A note on driving in Germany or generally about driving. The speed, 120 miles/200 km per hour is fast. Yet it seems to work without too many accidents. People fill safety gaps I am leaving to the car in front of me, making it dangerous to drive. Yet still we survived but somewhat it doesn’t make sense. Maybe a good thing. But I enjoyed the freedom of driving as fast as I could. As of May the European governments will share a database of all drivers to prosecute beyond boundaries – something that hasn’t been done yet. Having said that, I think I would have had a few tickets. Fingers crossed I won’t 🙂

I also brought back some nice wine from Germany. Tax on alcohol is a lot lower, making it feasible to buy Australian wine or French wine at half the price compared to the UK. Also, just going shopping, taking me back to my childhood with a filled wallet, being able to buy all those sweets and crisps I enjoyed as a kid. Senses, particularly smell and taste, take me back to my childhood. Some things will never change. Just tasting the cherry lollipop I bought for the boys took me back to the doctor’s surgery where I got one after every visit. Strange, no?

In other news, there is a new Star Wars trailer which got my kids all excited. And me. They seem to be a lot more involved than me and understand more details of the movie and the personal relations of the characters than I do. Maybe I don’t concentrate hard enough? Or I am distracted, fall asleep or am less engaged. Great to see them identifying themselves with these stories which I think are brilliant material for thoughts on the future.

But I don’t want to get too sentimental. Life is great at the moment. It is changing, constantly, and busy and challenging. Just the way we want it.

Love and Kindness from my corner of the world.

Volker

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Sunday Column (433)

Happy Easter. I love Easter, mainly because I can spend a lot of time with the family. Good food, great chats and quality time with the kids. Particularly if you have the weather and can spend some time outside. It is nice and meeting great friends, chatting about what was and what there will be. Easter, for me, is about reflecting on the winter, the dark months, then to move forward towards the summer. It is also very close to my birthday, so making it a reflective time for me.

I started Easter with a run – a 10 mile run turned into a 23K run – as always I got lost. A lot of uphill and downhill. With the wife – and it was fantastic. I was knackered though. Being out in the woods, spring in the air, some drizzle, some views. Amazing.

This week I have been debating what and how much to write. It will be a shorter post I thought, just because I am really chilling out, relaxing and staying offline more than anticipated. This is a good thing. A friend of mine recently suggested that the trend goes towards digital cameras, MP3 players and any other ‘not connected’ devices. Away from an all in one, phone, connected device. I am not sure about that yet. However, maybe it is a trend and ‘humans’ will try to disconnect again. Hmm. Time will tell.

On productivity, a few weeks ago I started using Inbox for Gmail (by Google) which essentially let’s you snooze your emails to a time/date which is convenient for you. By doing so it removes the emails from your inbox. This way you easily get to inbox zero and also read emails when they are relevant (e.g. important ones in the morning, newsletters on a Friday afternoon). It gives you an immense satisfaction to clear your inbox by the end of the day, before a holiday or sometimes during the day. Latter is less often the case and it helps you to chase and remind people of actions.

Having more control over emails and being able to use inbox as a todo list, something I never recommended to do with a ‘standard inbox’, is a good way to keep your todo list small. On the other hand, the amount of articles lately that suggest to schedule time in your calendar for actions to get them done rather than using lists, is getting more. I will share them via the Thursday Flash, but only partly agree. Blocking time to get through your todo list and work on time relevant things is important and good practise. However, to schedule every task down to the hour only makes sense if your work is very task based and then you work through one after another anyway – hence could use a list. But as outlined in my book (link on the right hand side), the important thing is that you find a system that works for you and that you are consequent in using and applying it.

I enjoy my Easter break. The last 3 and a bit months have been very intense. In a good way though. Time to reflect, recharge and fly to the moon when I am back! The sky is the limit, really! Powered by Rocket Fuel 🙂 Sorry I couldn’t resist. LOL

Whilst I would say that, over Easter I had to explain a few people what we do and how we do it. Our industry is still so young and so far away from the big boys. No surprise there are the big boys like Oracle, Times, Adobe that get into the game. Fun. And surely more mergers and acquisitions ahead. What will life look like Easter 2018?

Anyway, I am disconnected too – a bit anyway. Not fully of course, that wouldn’t be me.

Have a great Easter weekend.

Best,
Volker

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Sunday Column (378)

A short week one might think. It started off pretty hectic. We moved seats in the office, changed desks and added desks and we also had to deliver Easter eggs. Yup, 1kg of chocolate Easter eggs to our clients. Hand delivered. That was fun.

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Then, a friend and mentor had an accident which overshadowed the week a bit. It makes you think where the journey takes you, and why. You start reminiscing on the purpose of life. The familiar reader knows, you realise you should stop more often, and smell the roses. And that’s what I did on Tuesday. A spring festival at school, and a play at the Beavers. My eldest, who is not really enjoying plays too much, had to do three performances in a day. Pushing himself past his comfort zone. Very proud. Quality time.

One cannot but look forward. Not sure this sentence makes sense. We don’t have a choice but to accept what life throws at us. We pick it up. We leave it there. We ignore it, we take it on. We move on. Time is precious and can’t be stopped. So we must continue, like the hamster in the wheel, until we find a way to change….the wheel, the cage or the exercise.

And the same is true for Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels. We cannot stop the wheel. We cannot stop using planes or public transport. We mustn’t be afraid. As I said to a cabbie, whilst delivering above mentioned eggs, my philosophy is that when your time is up your time is up. He said, he had a lot of things still to do, and is far from ready to go. Neither am I. Far from it. But if I have to go, what choice do I have? And if there is an hourglass somewhere with my name on, I hope it has a lot of sand left. Fingers crossed.

Not wanting to go into more details of morbid stuff, but I had a virus that came out end of last week. Not that I am the only one: half the office and half the industry is having some kind of bug. It’s a nasty one, that seems to form different symptoms a day, so you never know if you have a stomach cramp one day or just feeling tired the other. Hence I couldn’t wait for a few days off over Easter. My parents came to visit, the weather is rainy, yet Spring is in town. As a matter of fact, we had a wonderful Friday in Nyman’s Garden. I smelled some roses.

I feel like I am accomplishing something, getting something done, things are moving forward.
I feel like life is moving forward, the wheel is turning.
I feel good.

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Yet the virus slowed me down a bit too. I skipped some exercise sessions this week and cut down on a few kilometres running. Now catching up again. I feel pretty fit, so that’s good, with lots of energy to go and I will get things done. I must.

I keep looking forward. We made arrangements for holidays. We are discussing options to see people and I am still dreaming of the new car, which we won’t have for our trips to Scotland or Germany this year. And there might be a school reunion soon. 20 years since I graduated from high school.

In the meantime I enjoy the time off. Tuesday starts with a trip to the fatherland. I will be on the road again in the next couple of weeks. It’s good. Likewise it is good to stop. Reflect and smell my roses. Springs is here, and they are blossoming.

Love, peace and happiness from my corner of the world,
Volker

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Sunday Column (317)

A week with snow, long drives and mixed feelings lies behind us. Happy Easter.

We spend a few days with my parents in Germany. The long drive, and the crossing via the Channel Tunnel’s train, went very well, given our 3 little companions. Latter includes the dog which of course was terrified but coped very well. The boys behaved fantastically.

The kids loved spending time with the grand parents and exploring Germany. I am still hopeful they pick up German at some point, becoming more familiar with both the country and language. They genuinely enjoyed the trip. We had some snow, spend quality time as a family together and quality time as a couple whilst Oma and Opa were baby sitting.

It is good to be back in Detmold. Good to see that I still like it and that things are still the same but evolving. Could I consider moving back? I would be (emotionally) able to, but no. I am very much settled in the UK, my life and family are there. That’s my home. Yet, and I never thought I would say that, I like the little town of Detmold.

I heard good and bad news this week. The bad news is that my old teacher died of cancer suddenly. He was diagnosed with it about a year ago, I heard, and died about three weeks ago. Only about 4 years ago, maybe less, I visited him and he said to me “I always knew that you wouldn’t stay in Germany, Mr. Ballueder”. We had a “closing chat” without knowing it was our last encounter. He helped me through my A-Levels when I was struggling in German, struggling in life I suppose, after having spent a year in the US as an exchange student. He was a great man of his profession. A true mentor. May he rest in peace.

people come into your life for a reason

On the positive side of things, and I am not sure I remember the whole story, but when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, so about 1985/86 we had a refugee into our class. I remember being friends with him, playing with him, and we might have had him over for lunch a few times. If I say I remember we helped his family I might be making this up. But that’s the memory I have of the time. Now he showed up in the local newspaper supporting some Iraq project for a charity associated with some football tournament. It fills me with joy to see that people that came to my country with probably not much else than the cloths they were wearing, to turn into someone helping others and using the opportunity of a new start.

Whilst not a refugee myself, having moved to a different country, I also used the opportunity to become who I am. It is a new start, a new opportunity if you can start afresh. One must use it! And wanting to contribute and make life happen is a great opportunity that I feel sometimes gets lost if you are stuck in your own rod and your day to day life. Being able to break free is good. I hope that makes sense.

As so often the good and bad things are in balance. Life cycles I suppose. The good and bad things, the help to support and the unintentional closures. One must love life. One must accept its ups and downs. Use the opportunities one has. Meet with people one likes. Seeing my grandma, now almost 95, next to her great grandson, not yet 5, is an amazing picture. Old and Young, Ying and Young, Good and Bad, Hot and Cold.

I enjoyed my week off work.
I love life! I am positive!

With best wishes for the remainder of the Easter weekend, I leave you with deep thoughts of people that come to your life, where you make a difference and who make a difference in your life. Often those move on, sometimes they stay. But everything that happens in life, any person coming into your life, happens for a reason.

Grab the opportunity whilst you are on it.

Love and Happiness,
Volker

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Sunday Column (267)

Easter Sunday. Easter hasn’t got a religious meaning for me anymore, I almost forgot it was happening. With the building work to be finished, and with the MIL arriving and us going to a wedding, this is more a four day mini holiday to sort out the house, take a day off from and for the kids, go cycling and sort out some other errands. No, Easter for me is definitely nothing else.

Looking at this, I gain a better understanding why people in other countries don’t even get the Friday off. Life has changed over the years, we get too busy in our lives. Religion, whether you want to classify Buddhism as that or a philosophy is up to you, allows for retreat. For me, and I never saw that going to Christian church when I was a child, the belief in ‘something’ which helps you to focus on yourself, quieten your mind, and engage in nothing, focusing on something.

Essentially it helps you to focus, switch off from every day life, not look at your todo list and not having anything to do or planned or worry about. This can be nice. Almost a treat. This and the overall charitable, caring aspect of religion is what I appreciate.

We tried telling Colin about a guy called Jesus and Easter eggs and that he came back from heaven at Easter. His response was that they already spoke about Jesus in school and had now moved on to ‘Humpty Dumpty’ 🙂 Kids’ innocence.

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The last two weeks were stressful. The build, the heating not working, the niggles here and there. We believe we are on top of it now. We hope it is all finished, but the decorating. I should really post some pictures once we have the furniture and all in. A great transformation, making our living space so much better and nicer! A nicer home.

It is so important to have a place you call home. A place you feel comfortable in, the kids and wife are happy in. A place to come home to, a place for shelter. Often I wonder, looking at the bigger picture, how many people don’t have that privilege. When I look out into the world and feel privileged because I have hot water and food, a roof over my head.

I don’t want to get sentimental. Of course I am annoyed I had to reset the heating daily for a while. But it was working then. Others don’t have heatings and if I told some people you have to go to the loft to light the heater, they would be happy to have heat whilst we are annoyed at having to manually light it.

So maybe Easter is a bit of reflection too. A bit of looking inwards. Of looking outwards and seeing were we are in the greater scale of things. To understand and make our kids understand that we are actually quite lucky. That the reason daddy goes to work in the morning is to have food and a house, and that Daddy has work should not be taken for granted either.

A first world problem that is I suppose. Comfort. So let’s think of the ones that are less fortunate, and let’s be thankful.

Have a great Easter.

Cheers,
Volker

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Buddhist Thought: Mind & Body

Easter is upon us. Time to relax, unwind and recharge.

This mind is an uncertain thing. This body is uncertain. Together they are impermanent. Together they are a source of suffering. Together they are devoid of self. These, the Buddha pointed out, are neither being, nor a person, nor a self, nor a soul, nor us, nor they. They are merely elements: earth, water, fire and wind. Elements only!

– Ajahn Chah, “Bodhinyana”

Above quote is split in two parts for me.

Part 1 speaks about the uncertain things: the mind and the body. They are constantly changing: Impermanence. Both together cause suffering. They are free from (your)self.

Part 2 speaks about that neither body or mind are “anything” – they are just another element.

From my point of view we are looking at a simple thing: the impermanence of mind and body can cause suffering to us. However, thinking about it, you will soon realise that they are only elements, and not a being or anything. They are not connected to yourself, they are just what they are.

So free yourself from them, detach yourself from the feeling of “your body” and “my mind”. Let your thoughts flow and realise that YOU live on forever. Your mind and body won’t.

Would you interpret it the same way?

Happy Easter,
Volker

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Sunday Column (112)

Another week has gone, and Easter is here. What a fantastic weather we have been enjoying in London over the last week. Summer, sunshine, degrees in their 20ties. Great! It lifts the mood but almost puts a damper on when sweating away in the office.

Btw office: we have now finalised most of the equipment we need in the office and moved in 99.9%. We still need to do some smaller things, but overall the office is ready to use with white boards, board room, video conferencing and all. Looking back to when I first launched the company in the UK last year, renting a desk in a basement office with a laptop, we came a long way. Onwards and upwards, our 2nd anniversary was this month.

So I am happy. Work is great, good lunches with great people, fantastic meetings with intelligent people and good strategic conversations with smart guys. On top of that I am developing some new ideas from books about energy households, innovation and business structures to work on some cb consulting ideas 🙂

On the other hand, I am annoyed at an SEO company that seems to rip of my friend, charging her money for not doing the job right, making use of her ignorance. It really pisses me off, as my understanding of running any business is of going the extra mile, delivering value for money and delivering results. And if companies don’t do that, don’t deliver on promises, and make use of people’s ignorance, then this is wrong and unsustainable. Rant over.

As you have seen in my earlier blog post about London this week I got the chance to be on top of Tower Bridge. A fantastic networking event organised by Improve Digital. Those are the moments when I absolutely love London, enjoy the company and fall in love with this city over again.

Of course, going back to work in overheated and over crowed train carriages the next day puts me back down to earth. It isn’t all as nice as it could be, and my wife and I have ongoing discussions what to do next, where to go and what might be best for our family. Don’t worry, nothing will change any time soon, but thoughts are brewing 😉

In the meantime we enjoyed a socialable Easter weekend. We had our neighbours over for dinner on Thursday, friends on Saturday for a BBQ and went to Winchester today after we had to cancel that trip the other week. Only visited a good friend and his young family and didn’t stop to see everyone we know down there but will do so again this year.

We are content, happy, and we love seeing the kids changing and growing up each day. Colin loves the garden, the sand (sand box to arrive soon), and watering the flowers.

Life is good.
Happy Easter.

Love and happiness from Beckenham,
Volker & co

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Sunday Column (58)

Tired – and I have said that for years – really sums up this week. Switzerland left us very tired with sleepless nights. We tried catching up this week. My busy work schedule resulted in me getting tired too, e.g. on Thursday at 6pm I was just totally tired.

Good news is that Colin is getting better. He doesn’t have an ear infection but a virus infection that might have looked like an ear infection last weekend. The comment of a doctor in the UK, after seeing the drugs we got in Switzerland, was “where did you get those, you would have never got them in the UK“.

Now, that makes me think. Think about what I have been thinking for a while, having been in London for almost 6 years and the UK for 9 years. Should I stay or should I go? This is a fundamental question, and no question that I would answer within the next year or so.

But let’s look at it realistically:
– Health care: I believe that other countries, including Switzerland & Germany have a better health system
– School system: I could find a good school in the UK but have to pay for it.
– Job: I earn well but pay high prices in London. If I moved away from London, I earn less, pay less, and possibly have fewer career prospectives (not necessarily). But would I consider a life in the UK outside London?
– Weather: After 6 months of rain, snow, constant heating and many bugs, I could imagine living somewhere where the average temperature is around 20 degrees.
– Living standard: housing in Switzerland & Germany and many places are just more solid. Of course some countries re-built their houses after the 2nd world war, whilst Britain still has many 100 year old houses. Still, whilst here they still talk about some energy efficiency, other countries are far more advanced.

Now, this might sound like a moan but it isn’t. It is German honesty. I get accused a lot of being negative, but I am not. Actually I am a very positive person. However, I realistically look at my current living standard, working hours, expectations, surroundings and what would be best for my family too.

There is no doubt I will be in the UK for another 3 years, job wise and some personal reasons, however there will be the point when we need to make a decision. And, that would be when the wee man goes to school.

Would Germany make me happy? I doubt it. I don’t think I want to go back to Germany, and if of any places there, it would have to be Munich – high living standard, work-life balance but also high prices and a big town.

Career wise Hongkong or Singapore could be of interest. I have never been, but living quality seems to be not as good. Then maybe Sydney or New Zealand. Of which both might be too laid back for me, or as a friend said “these countries are not fast enough for you, Volker“. Who knows?

America – there is an idea. But comparing living standards, health and school systems with the UK, I’d rather stay. So maybe Canada, but the weather is just a bit colder than 20 degrees. I think, and that is without consulting my wife, that Sydney, Vancouver, Munich or Wellington seem to be the next possible places to live. But who knows what happens in the next 3 years, ey?

So finally I got a topic I could write about this week. Guess I had time to relax this weekend. My parents were over from Germany and we had a fantastic time. Happy Easter by the way 🙂

We went down to Tonbridge and Tudely to see the Chagall windows. A nice trip for an Easter break. The weather wasn’t fantastic but ok. we had some rain showers. However, it is great to see the grand parents to see their boy and it was good to see my parents. Sometimes they are just too far away.

Have a good rest bank holiday weekend and a good and short week.

Volker & Family

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Sunday Column (7) – Happy Easter

Easter Holidays 🙂

What an exciting week we had. After last weekend’s DIY efforts this week passed very quickly.

Not much excitement. I met a good friend for lunch whose partner is about to give birth – so it was good to meet up with someone who understands exactly in which situation I am in…and vice versa. So fingers crossed everything goes well, they are about 6 weeks ahead of us and by the time I write this, there might already be another baby born! Good Luck!

I had a day off on Thursday. Hurray. Besides watching a movie, going to the gym and doing the shopping, not much happened. Social night with the Tai Chi club and a Tesco that was busier than at Christmas. Horrendous. Glad I got it all done though. We had another scan of baby Ballueder and everything is fine. He is developing well and looks cute 🙂

Friday we met our neighbours. They have 2 cats, a 9 months old daughter and live close to us, as neighbours do. Sounds familiar? They seem to be just one year ahead of us. It was a great afternoon with some great German wheat beer, and some vino. Shame the weather wasn’t as great, otherwise a BBQ would have been a perfect round up. Next time.

Saturday I finally finished taking about half a centimeter off the door to the kid’s room. My hand was in agony and I didn’t make it to the gym. Never thought it would be that difficult to take “a bit off a door”. Even used a saw. Crazy but finally finished. One thing less on our DIY list.

On Saturday night we went to see Kate Rusby in the Cadogan Hall. Kate was brilliant and joined by Donald Grant and the Red Skies String Ensemble to perform exciting new arrangements of Kate Rusby classics. She also played some new songs of her latest album Awkward Annie. My wife is a great fan and I really enjoy listening to her too.

Sunday morning started with another long gym session and 6K on the elliptical machine. Wow, now I am all knackered and will sleep for a while before preparing the Sunday roast: corn fed chicken with a special Ballueder marinade with roast vegetables. Yummy.

So, have a happy Easter Sunday.

Volker

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