I’m swimming the Vietnam coastline!

Ok, that’s not quite true – after all, Vietnam’s coastline is 3,444 kilometres long! Instead, my challenge is to swim 3,444 metres, which is about 138 lengths at my local swimming pool – a distance of just under 3.5km.

Why am I doing it? My daughter Lucy will travel to Vietnam in July on a three-week expedition run by the World Challenge organisation. While there she’ll work with a local community to help them build flood-proof housing.

Lucy’s already worked hard to raise the cash she needs to get to Vietnam – but she’s not quite reached her total yet. Will you help?

Please donate what you can – before 16 May at:


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Trump could learn from UK’s infrastructure rebuilding

American president Donald Trump says his plans to spend $200bn on infrastructure in the US will now have to wait until after the mid-term elections this November.

Across the pond, infrastructure projects like Crossrail are part of a big push that’s already under way to rebuild the UK.

That construction work was the focus of a feature I wrote recently. Here’s a pdf version of it to download. You can also read it online in Wealthsmiths magazine (p10), which is put together for wealth management company Sanlam by Wardour publishing agency.

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Lord Mawson: I’m just a Yorkshireman who likes to make things happen…

Social entrepreneur Andrew Mawson is one of those people I get the privilege to interview who’s really making a difference.

Now a cross-bench peer, he’s spent more than 30 years working to bring the UK’s private and public sector together to improve the lot of people living in struggling communities.

He describes himself simply as a practical Yorkshireman who likes to make things happen – a doer rather than a talker.

My interview with him was published in Perspective magazine for wealth manager Brewin Dolphin, and was put together with my colleagues at Wardour marketing and communications agency. Here’s the interview in full as a pdf.

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Microsoft upgrades to new workspace ideas

Microsoft is introducing workspace that’s designed to encourage its people to get up from their desks and talk/collaborate face to face. Yep, that’s right, instead of emailing the person who’s actually just a few paces from where you sit! Radical stuff.

I got to see how they’re doing that at the tech giant’s base in Paddington, London. The layout includes collaborating spaces instead of meeting rooms, lounges where you can play guitar (if you want to), quiet corners, back-to-basics lab spaces and many other areas that seem to merge and yet are distinctly different.

The architecture practice that’s pulled all this together – and on a modest budget – is Gensler. Read a pdf of the feature I wrote for netMAGmedia’s Architects’ Datafile magazine.

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Renwick Hall – great Harpenden venue for community events

A quick plug for Renwick Hall, run by the Harpenden Trust, after I helped to stage a successful general knowledge quiz there to raise funds for a good cause.

It’s competitively priced with good facilities. A big thanks to all the volunteers who make the trust tick.

More details on how to hire the hall here.

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Table tennis trauma

With my footy-playing days looking like they are finally over, I’m looking for a replacement sport and hoping table tennis will be the answer.

However, I’ve just started playing in a local league in Hertfordshire and the warnings from my friend (who’s played in the league for a few years) are coming horribly true.

I’m playing for my club’s B-team and deservedly so it turns out: everyone is playing me off the table. That has included one player who’d just celebrated his 80th birthday and another with two artificial hips!


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Mixed-race adoptions: Marlene’s story

It was the nicest possible surprise recently when I was contacted by Marlene Ellis, who was the subject of an article I wrote about mixed-race adoptions back in 1993.

I was working as a journalist for the Hertfordshire Mercury at the time and Marlene wanted to speak out on mixed-race adoption as a black child raised by a white family in Hertford.

Looking at the piece now (see link at top of this blog), what Marlene says seems reasonable enough, but it was brave of her to tell her story so publicly.

Marlene hadn’t read the article since it was first published 24 years ago but a friend recently sent her a copy and then she passed it on to me, thanking me for writing it with “such care”.

I’ve written thousands of articles and features over the past 30 years and it’s always rewarding to hear that the effort that goes into them is appreciated. Thanks Marlene!


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