Does East Lothian have the best coastal walk in Scotland?

On Thursday I had a most wonderful post Christmas walk from Dunbar to Cockburnspath in East Lothian. We managed to find a window between the heavy rains, and the sun was low in the sky, giving a lovely light over the sea.

Scotland has amazing countryside, from mountains and munros to lochs and lakes. Some of my favourite walks are along the coast. The highlands have emptiness and drama. The western isles have the longest white sand beaches. Orkney and Shetland have prehistoric coastal settlements. The north east coast has craggy cliffs. But East Lothian is one of my favourites. The John Muir Way runs right along the edge, past golf courses, a nuclear power station, beautiful towns, classic beaches, cliffs, and rocks. All kinds of coast in one short walk.

Where is your favourite coastal walk?

Ten reasons Christmas is my favourite day of the year

Christmas is my favourite day of the year. Always has been. I wonder why.

My tree
  1. I love the anticipation. Probably more than the day itself, I love the run up – getting things prepared, making plans, organising.
  2. For a little while everyone seems friendly. When I am out walking the dogs, strangers greet me with a “Happy Christmas” instead of ignoring me. People all seem to smile a little more, be more patient.
  3. I like food. I like drink. I realise it can be excessive, especially the Christmas lunch. But there is a generosity in excess that I love.
  4. So many happy memories of Christmases past. As a child excited to find out what Father Christmas had left. As an adult making it just right for my own children.
  5. I love the carols and ceremonies. My Dad was a vicar, and even just the smell of a church at Christmas reminds me of the time when we came out of a midnight service to find snow falling on Christmas Day.
  6. I love the decorations, the tree bedecked with baubles and tinsel, the cards around the rooms, the lights.
  7. I love hearing from distant friends. Even if it is just a note in a Christmas Card once a year, it maintains the connection. We had a visitor from New Zealand this week, who we had only seen once in the past 30 years. But we had stayed in touch at Christmas and it made this week’s visit possible and memorable.
  8. Cold is good. I much prefer cold weather to hot weather. Last week in particular was crisp, bright and very cold. Nothing better than going out for a bracing walk, and then returning to a warm house and a wood burning stove.
  9. I really like Christmas films. I am a real weeper for soppy films and they don’t get much more soppy than at Christmas.
  10. It is all about family. We are fortunate enough to have our sons with us this year, and I am so looking forward to our time together – playing games, eating, drinking, chatting, slobbing.
My fire

On the narrowboat, the dogs food is kept in an old Christmas tin, with the label “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”. Hardly a day goes by through the summer, when I don’t hum the song to myself, because for me it is true.

To my blog followers and readers, whatever your faith, I wish you a very merry Christmas and hope you too enjoy a bit of seasonal magic this year.

Do I need a PA?

I am probably from the last generation of managers that worked with a personal assistant (PA). As I was promoted in my last few years, I found my successors did not get the privilege. Automation and cost cutting meant that PA’s were seen as a thing of the past, like smoking at work, or executive dining rooms.

This week I have been organising a visit to India in February. It is just for a vacation but when I was working this would have always been a job for my PA. And this week I realised quite how hard it is. Getting flights, hotels and meetings all to fit is no easy thing. I think I have managed it but I do wish I had a PA.

You can see how old I am from the fact that I have printed off my confirmations. I can give you the excuse of experience of India airports where you can’t enter the terminal without a printed ticket, but in truth I needed the paperwork to give me confidence that I had everything booked. I think I did OK but I do know that when something goes wrong while I am travelling (which it will) I will want to call my PA and will miss them.

So I want to say thank-you to all my PAs over the years. You were awesome and made me successful.

Can robotics really ever replace a great PA? What do you think?

Four ways to make customer service terrible

I have had experience this week of great and terrible customer service. The great service was from Highland Park distillery in Orkney. A year ago I bought a coat from them when we were visiting, but it is only this winter that I have started using it. The zip broke on the third time I wore it. I expected a protracted discussion about it being a long time ago, that I would have to return to Orkney, and that the zip could be fixed. Instead they immediately said they would send me a new coat and just asked I give the old one to a local charity shop.

By contrast I have been trying to chase what has happened to my passport. It has had a visa added and has been sent back to me with a delivery firm called DX. It has been an awful experience. I think there are four key reasons.

  1. Automation is great – when it works. I was sent a WhatsApp saying the package was to be delivered on 25th. That was not suitable but with a few clicks I was easily able to rearrange for 29th. Great. Except on 29th nothing arrived.
  2. Webchat is great – when it works. In many ways I prefer webchat to voice calls. I can do other things at the same time, and I usually get a written record of the conversation which can be useful. But DX obviously do not have enough agents because the webchat always goes to “we are sorry but there are no advisers available”.
  3. Phone calls are great – when they work. The website says “use the numbers below to speak to a customer service representative about one of our services”. But when you ring the number you just get an automated system for rearranging deliveries. There is no way to talk to a person, and the system refers you back to webchat.
  4. Complaint support is great – when it works. I have filled in a form with all my details, but no-one ever responds to it.

I am a big fan of automation and robotics. They take out cost and often make life easier for customers. But there should always be a way to deal with exceptions, and a way to talk to a real person. Just like my new friend at Highland Park.

Blog at

Up ↑