Saturday 28 October 2017

Last week was the end of an era.

In February 1999 a little company called Oxford Bio-Innovation rented a suite of rooms in the newly established Cherwell Innovation Centre, turning one of them into a lab with coldroom, wash up area etc. That was the first lab in CIC and I was part of the team that sorted out the conversion, furnishing and equipping before working for that business for nearly 10 years and 2 changes of ownership.

Since then I had my own business in the centre (in the Diagnox Lab, set up by Lisa Mynheer, previously operations director of OBI) between 2009 and 2015 before I took on managing Diagnox.

Building 77 has been 'home' for a long time, and in many ways I'm really sorry to go. The Diagnox job was a good place to be in the time of shutting down my business, when I was feeling a bit bruised and like a failure from the time helping lead Heyford Park Chapel. It was quite relaxing to just sort out the mundane stuff associated with daily running of a lab, just playing janitor, and occasionally advisor to some of the businesses there. I'll really miss the team too, people I was able to love & serve a bit: that's often so much NOT a part of work because of pressure that this was refreshing, and almost validating.

It was also slightly amusing that, in true Diagnox style, Wednesday was my last day at work, but Thursday night I went back in to top up liquid nitrogen levels in the storage vessels because the other lab person was on leave. Hope he sorts things out in the future with other tenant companies or a deputy so they don't thaw.

The coatigan was a missed opportunity

This recently fashionable piece of outerwear might have instead been named the 'cardigoat', thereby making the world an happier, funnier place.

Sunday 22 October 2017


Thanks to Ben's efforts in the last week, I've just sold the Moto Guzzi V50 that I bought a couple of years ago for Ben to use as an example when rebuilding his bike. Less stuff is not a bad thing at all.

Saturday 21 October 2017

I would not have believed how much

...........can be fitted in a Mini Countryman.

Bike bag with Ben's enduro bike + spares & tools.
Snowboard bag with multiple snowboards
Medium-large suitcase holding clothes for snowboarding, cycling and living in

All with room for 3 adults + a rucksack as carry-on luggage.

My ghast was a bit flabbered, but it all went in, and we didn't even have to force the rear door shut.

Ben is off in the morning. Now if the ebay buyer who 'won' his BMW estate would actually get in contact to collect it that would be really helpful.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Twitter battles hate and upskirt images

I think it's interesting that when I read that title I saw a comma where none existed: at first pass it read "Twitter battles, hate and upskirt images".

Bearing in mind that it's not a site I use or even visit if at all possible, they appear to have a brand problem.

Monday 16 October 2017

Just 5 working days to go

Before I leave one of my roles to go full time in the other.

Exit interview - done.

Writing of handover essentials for my replacement - started.

Off-colour jokes hard to resist - (insert rude pun here).


The last 3 or 4 months I've been intentionally posting science and innovation articles on Linkedin, both personally and on behalf of the lab, and we suddenly seem to have started getting enquiries, plus we've sent out 2 rental proposals today for potential customers. In the summer I wrote a competition  entry for one of our previous businesses and they won 3rd place out of about 75 entries.

It would be nice to go out on something of a high. As I observed at my exit interview, this was a strange process, because I haven't resigned from a job with an HR dept. since 1989. There's a strange feeling of detachment, as well as a pressing need to clear up & throw my rubbish away so that I can leave with a clear conscience.

Life is going to become quite complicated over the next few months.

One of our tenant companies here is also shutting down, last day in the centre for them today, and saying goodbye to someone who has become a friend, albeit somewhat awkwardly, was difficult.

But life goes on.

Friday 13 October 2017

A good quote from CS Lewis.

“What do people mean when they say ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good.’? Have they never been to a dentist?”

Thanks to Ineke

Wednesday 11 October 2017

Having started to blog the Cretan holiday

I did not continue. In a nutshell:

It was wet & miserable the first couple of days, overcast with occasional rain the next 2 days and finally warm and pleasantly sunny the last 2 days.
Chris was ill, gradually recovering over the course of the week.
We had progressively increasing amounts of activity, finishing with a 7 kilometer walk at the end of the week, rather than the 18 kilometer Samaria gorge that we had hoped to do.
And then we went home.

There were a few special bits, but we have concluded that because of our travels we are now a bit jaded and what was once amazing is now expected, plus the world is no longer 'innocent' when one visits as a tourist. So the palace of Knossos outside Iraklion was crowded, and areas where we could once walk were now of limits - it was a real anti-climax. Tavernas supply 'village sausage' instead of loukanika (λουκάνικο), Greek omelette instead of sfougato (σφουγγατο) and giant beans instead of  gigantes plaki (γίγαντες πλακί). There were some beautiful views along the way, so at least we're not completely spoiled, but the holiday wasn't special as I think we'd hoped.

We had a little 'excitement' on the way to the airport, with signs either defaced or removed, and the phone navigation software unable to recognise the words Chania Airport despite them actually appearing on the map, making finding the airport a little more of a final challenge than expected. Obviously we got there in the end. :-)

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Welcome to sunny Crete.

I believe the rain has stopped for now.  Or not – within a minute of typing that it had begun to hammer down, notified to us by the noise of water hitting foliage.

Yesterday I was reminded of why package holidays make life easier – rock up at the airport and the tour company take over all the effort. Not that yesterday’s travel was especially difficult, and in some ways was the kind of exploration we enjoy, but Chris was feeling really unwell with a nasty cold and the early start combined with a really crappy hire car raised the challenge level. There is also something about Greek that I had forgotten, that words frequently don’t get translated the same on every occasion, so that having managed to find the sister hotel to the one we were using (Dimitrios village hotel instead of Dimitrios beach hotel) and then entering the street address, sat nave declared that the address was not known. (The difference was down to the ‘official’ address being on Apostolon street and the map address being Afpostolon).

We drove this way 30 years ago, when Chris was pregnant with Ben.

I recall the drive quite well. Mostly it was beside the sea on a smallish road that sometimes had bits of dual carriageway, and we were able to drive right up to the town of Rethymno (or Rethymnon – as it used to be, names being updated round here). Now the coastline has been covered in hotels, shops and apartments, and the occasional ruined house was evidence of how things used to be. The roads between these buildings are tiny, narrow affairs that look like driveways or garage entrances, and when the satnav tried to take us down the first one I drove right past, thinking there was no road there.

Arrival eventually happened, and we slithered across slick marble floors to check in.

“Please sit over there just 2 minutes”

That was from the hotel receptionist, on seeing our reservation paperwork. Someone else was called, phone calls were made, another “2 minutes please wait” request made, and eventually a still smiling and cheerful receptionist showed us to our room.

The hotel was clearly once self-catering apartments as shown by the kitchenette in our room, but presumably a change in the tourism market made them go all inclusive, which is the package we have with them.

The room itself is the opposite of the one we had in Turkey last year – spacious and light (instead of small and dark, well designed) but with odd arrangements (wash basin in the main room, little wardrobe space, mirror + hair drier just a couple of feet in front of a pillar, tiny bathroom).  We got our bags in and then I hunted down a parking space, fortunately just round the corner by the sea front.

Chris went to bed with her cold, and I unpacked. Thrilling. ;-)

Dinner was the typical buffet thing, and pleasant enough, even though the dining area was crowded, and the first table we were allocated was taken by someone else while we got food. It’s a little odd to have wine and beer on tap for the taking, but the days of feeling like a kid in a sweetshop have long gone, and we just eat & drink what we would normally have as much as availability allows before hitting the slightly firm sack.

And it was night and it was morning, the second day.

We must have been tired yesterday, because we were in bed for 10 hours, and Chris had already slept some during the early evening.

So as alluded to in the introduction to this piece, today is another day with rain. It’s not cold – about 20’C – but it is a little humid and everything is damp outside. Given the nature of the hotel it’s tempting to explore the limits of the ‘all inclusiveness’ but instead we’ll probably head out for a moist walk along the sea front.

Monday 9 October 2017

The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word Biocoal?

For me, it was compressed poo.

On investigation, first impressions are, in fact, correct.

Where there's muck there's brass - and calories - as the phrase has it.