Seven: Magnificent

This is basically a quick overview of my year in lieu of any actual #weeknotes — I only did two days in Taunton and half a day in Swansea before getting ‘white boy wasted’ at the first Christmas do and needing all day yesterday to recover.

As well as these highlights, milestones and moments I also completed 40 books (hopefully a couple more before the end of the year), wrote 125 blogposts, saw 15 movies at the cinema and somehow managed to not put any weight back on since I reached my goal of losing four stone despite living away from home for the best part of nine months.

As years go this one was OK.


Finished at mySociety

Visited the Barbican for the Basquiat exhibition at the third attempt

Attended OneTeamGov unconference in Cardiff


Joined Notbinary and started at DVLA in Swansea

It snowed…a lot.


Spoke at Service Design in Government in Edinburgh

Turned 45


Spoke at Design Swansea

Spoke at Agile Cambridge


Travelled to Vancouver / Seattle /Portland

Flew in a seaplane

Spent a long time at MoPOP

Stayed in a ‘tiny house’ in Portland

Met Dan Hon

Started at BBC with the Datalab team in London


Saw Beyonce and Jay-Z concert in Cardiff with Laura

Had a #weeknotes meet-up in Westminster

Flew to Wellington, NZ — for a week and spoke at Delib’s Practical Democracy meet-up

Was in the BBC office three hours after landing after a 27 hour trip.


England were pretty good at the World Cup

St Pauls Carnival

OneTeamGov Global unconference


Spoke at NUX in Leeds


Mainly complained about the heat I think


Spoke at SwanseaCon

Went to ThoughtBubble in Leeds

Citizen Beta — the ONS reunion edition


Went to Mapcamp in Shoreditch

Spoke at the joint Delib/Weeknotes meetup in Bristol

Finished at the BBC

Went to New York for ‘AllTechIsHuman’ conference

Pitched to DfE in Sheffield the day I got back from New York

Started at UKHO

Did ‘Question Time’ event at Bath Digital Festival

Hit 700 subscribers on my newsletter.


Was broken by the commuting nightmare to Taunton when they closed Bristol Parkway station

Wrote 32 blogposts in 30 days

Sent my 100th jobs newsletter


Notbinary (well The Panoply) floated

Notbinary Swansea Christmas party

Notbinary ‘away day’ at the Shard (this is in the future — next Friday)

Not going to lie — I’m tired. Four working days left of 2018.

2018 Ambitions — check-in

I set these ambitions on January 1st and thought I would check in and see where I am with them.

2018 is shaping up pretty well. New job has been good and the recent time at the BBC great. My health continues to be good (touch wood). I’ve had some amazing travel experiences and am generally in a great mood. Not just because England are winning.

Lose 20lbs.

14lbs lost — I have decided for now to just maintain this and have managed that for 6 weeks now (it means I lost 4 stone altogether since last August).

Complete the 100 Pushups challenge.

Got as far as 40 pushups in one go. Haven’t done it in a while though intend to get back to it. Considering the Couch 2 5K thing as well — maybe.

Take up Yoga (or maybe Pilates — whichever has less of the ‘affirmations’ etc) and do at least one session a week (even if at home.)

Got nowhere with this really. Been away from home so much it has been hard — but maybe that is just an excuse,

50 editions of my jobs newsletter with a target of 700 subscribers.

Not quite on target for the editions I think. 25 sent out this year. I’ll probably be short of subscribers — up to 554 at the moment (I do have 100+ regular readers of the Medium post as well though.)

40 editions of a new weekly newsletter / blog to replace my #weeknotes*.

I did this for 10 weeks. I really enjoyed it but it was too much work in the end — maybe I’ll find a format that works.

Go to at least 6 evening meet-ups.

I might be close to this. I did a couple at Design Swansea, a tech one their as well, the #weeknotes social, a talk in Cambridge and maybe something else? I’m doing an event in Leeds at the end of the month as well.

Travel to the Pacific Northwest in May (Vancouver → Seattle → Portland → Eugene by train).

Did this as planned — it was amazing.

Also had an unexpected trip to New Zealand.

Travel to Malaysia** in December.

Probably not going to do this one now — I’m leaning towards Japan actually.

Read (or listen to) 50 books***.

24 books so far. About a week behind at the moment but have turned back to one of my favourite crime writers for some easy reads for a couple of weeks.

Some kind of drawing challenge (tbd)

Didn’t really get going on this but have an idea of designing all my own Christmas cards — bespoke ones for everyone I send to (which isn’t that long a list but is probably a couple of months work and I’ll need to sort printing etc..)

Vancouver → Seattle → Portland May 2018


This is Day 14 of my holiday to the ‘Pacific Northwest’ and I’m pretty worn out to be honest. The trip was a reward to myself for hitting my first major health milestone after my Diabetes diagnosis last year and honestly it has been a wonderful break. For the first time I can remember I was genuinely able to shut down my work worries and the fact I have a better relationship with booze at the moment combined with my improved health generally meant I didn’t ‘lose’ any days due to hangovers or general ailments.

The only problem was that I remain unable to realign my body clock successfully on these long haul trips — it basically took 10 days to get close to in sync really (by which time I probably shouldn’t have bothered!)


  • The weather. Contrary to every warning I received it has been glorious for 12 out of the 14 days — it hasn’t rained at all (which is actually a little disappointing!). Hell, I even have a tan!
  • The street art. Vancouver and Portland have been a joy when it comes to street art. I had no idea about the scene in Vancouver really and it is spectacular — some of the pieces I saw were as good as I’ve seen anywhere in the world. The weird coincidence of AirBnB sending me the details for the Portland Street Art Alliance tour (which is an AirBnB ‘experience’) and me actually opening it seemed like fate. Especially as it was on my first day there. It was a great tour, organised by truly passionate people.
  • The food. Not sure it has done my diet a lot of good but the food has been amazing — whether it be the JapoDog, Pok Pok Chicken, a grilled cheese in a school bus, eye wateringly spicy fried rice or the many fried chicken sandwiches 🙂
  • The public transport. Weird one I know but I’ve totally avoided any cabs or Ubers and travelled via → plane, train, bus, tram and sea plane! I have managed to successfully explore Seattle and Portland pretty comprehensively via bus (Vancouver not so much!).
  • Catching up with Hayley and meeting Dan. Doing these trips solo I can go into my shell quite a bit and go days without speaking to people. It was thus lovely to catch up with Hayles to find out about her new life in Seattle. Dan is a ‘friend from the internet’ and genuinely one of the people I admire most in our corner of the online world so it was a real pleasure to shoot the shit about Government digital over breakfast. I’m thankful they both found the time for me.
  • MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture). Honestly I could have just stayed here all day — and slightly regret I didn’t go back. It is truly as close to geek heaven as exists on this earthly plane! The Marvel and Star Trek exhibitions were worth the entry fee alone but the sci-fi exhibition is also wonderful and the fantasy and horror spaces are good fun also.
  • Vancouver’s Stanley Park and waterfront. Now this was the cause of me walking far too far and hurting my leg but it was so pretty and relaxing around the sea wall and in the park and that whole area near the water was lovely.
  • Powell’s Books. Who knew book shops like this still existed. Really wonderful place. Amusingly though I ended up with an armful of books before remembering I’d have to lug them home so ended up putting all but a couple back.

Less good bits

  • The Space Needle. Really not great — basically a construction site at the moment with no restaurant and limited views.
  • The bars. I never really found a bar I liked in any of the cities so I never really settled on an evening. It wasn’t that they were bad but none were great (or that friendly).
  • The dogs. I don’t like animals — especially dogs. Sorry. They are everywhere here — including bars and restaurants. Not a fan.
  • Seattle’s hills. Grey’s Anatomy did not prepare me for the bloody hills in Seattle. My god. I mean I am from Bristol so I am used to the occasional steep incline but my thighs were burning for days.
  • The homelessness. Maybe it is where I was staying but Vancouver and Seattle seemed to have a LOT of homeless. It was pretty heart breaking at times.


I’m going to see the Han Solo movie this evening and then on a flight home tomorrow afternoon (and thankful it is a bank holiday weekend so I have the Monday to recover before I start new project on Tuesday in London!).

Now need to plan my next trip — maybe Chicago → Nashville → Memphis → New Orleans 🙂

How to Hotel..?

My new job means working away from home during the week in a mix of hotels, serviced apartments and AirBnBs depending on the week (for the immediate future at least — depending on how things shake out I might find a longer term solution.)

Anyway given how hard I have worked to get my physical health moving in the right direction — plus the fact part of the reason for the change of job was to also make some proactive changes to avoid my mental health taking a(nother) nose dive — I have been seeking out some advice on how to make the most of this living out of a suitcase lifestyle.

Confession time: I have never watched Alan Partridge but am aware there are probably a whole bunch of related GIFs etc related to that show and this post!

As it happens I know a lot of people who are doing this sort of thing for work so immediately got some good tips:

I already stick to my little pots of porridge in my hotel room so that is a ✓ and I don’t drink coffee so no need for an Aeropress. I do need to improve my charger coverage though and taking comfy hotel room clothes is totally a thing I’m doing next week.

..boom! Totally. In fact it is already in my case — I did take my Chromecast but the wifi wasn’t great and this would have been really useful 🙂

A book a week was already my target but I think I am going to make use of my Google Pen and Pixelbook and maybe see if I can improve my drawing again.

I’m really bad at accepting midweek invites but I was already determined to try and attend more meet-ups etc this year so will strive to do better.

I’d love a locker in Swansea but it seems unlikely for now. The wash bag suggestion is 100% happening.

Funnily enough I did take my own cutlery — just plastic stuff but that isn’t very sustainable so I might get something like this Emily suggests.

I also realise I need an extension chord / power strip for hotel rooms with stupidly position power sockets! None of these seem particularly travel friendly though.

I also need ear plugs as one nights sleep was ruined by other guests.

My extra wrinkle I guess is that I don’t drive and prefer to either walk or get public transport as much as possible — I will get cabs but it is a last resort for me — so I want to travel pretty lightly.

So far my travel kit looks like:

  • Pixelbook + power supply (I also have 2 work laptops that I can thankfully leave on site!)
  • Kindle Paperwhite (wondering if I need this with the Pixelbook + phone)
  • Sony noise cancelling headphones
  • Anker power pack
  • Extension cable (if I can find a decent one)
  • Misc USB cables
  • HDMI cable
  • 5 sets of pants, socks, t-shirts (obviously I’ll arrive wearing a little more!)
  • Tracksuit bottoms
  • Washbag (now including earplugs!)

I already have my newsletter(s) as side projects and am intending to get back to regular blogging:

Maybe I’ll try and combine my drawing project into that somehow (puts thinking cap on)..

Any other advice? The more the merrier.

A couple of good late entries!

This is spot on for me — I actually have a list of films and release dates I want to see this year so will be trying out the Vue and Odeon to see which I like best!

This is a good tip from Nicole for me — at the moment the hotel I’m in is only a 5 minute walk to my desk! This is great but also means I didn’t walk as much as usual last week. There is a better hotel 25 minutes walk from the office so I might give that a look if the AirBnBs don’t work out.

I really hadn’t considered this given I tend to stay at pretty budget chains. However I’m going to do a bit of research into this!

2018 ambitions

Here are my personal goals for 2018 and I’m going to try and measure/track them again just to see how I’m getting on. Hopefully I’ll give myself a better grade for 2018 than I did for 2017!

Nothing too hard this time hopefully — also nothing about public speaking either. I’m leaning towards taking a year off from doing talks to be honest.

Lose 20lbs.

Complete the 100 Pushups challenge.

Take up Yoga (or maybe Pilates — whichever has less of the ‘affirmations’ etc) and do at least one session a week (even if at home.)

50 editions of my jobs newsletter with a target of 700 subscribers.

40 editions of a new weekly newsletter / blog to replace my #weeknotes*.

Go to at least 6 evening meet-ups.

Travel to the Pacific Northwest in May (Vancouver → Seattle → Portland → Eugene by train).

Travel to Malaysia** in December.

Read (or listen to) 50 books***.

Some kind of drawing challenge (tbd)

*format to be decided but a mix of links, thoughts, reviews and mini interviews — basically merging all my previous attempts at formats 🙂

**subject to change as I don’t know about rainy seasons etc but Asia in December is the broader goal.

***this is my initial reading list (though I’ve already bought one new book since writing this.)