Sunday, 5 July 2015

Think, for a minute.....? The value of a good break

"Think, for a minute, Stop for a minute" 
Toilets as art
Stellenbosch Uni botanical garden
If you are of a certain age this lyric from Housemartins will perhaps have you humming along ?  Our recent family holiday to Cape Town in South Africa reminded me how important it is to, once in a while, take some time out and p-a-u-s-e.  We were re-visiting one of our top five tourist destinations, after a 15 year absence, a trip that enabled us to introduce the African continent to our children for the first time.  

Some of use find in our uber busy lives one of the few moments that afford the chance of personal reflection are visits to the smallest room.  Sitting on the proverbial pot can be a rare and much needed disconnected moment for pondering and pontification.  My undergraduate students will smile seeing this photo, as we have shared a memorable loo lecture experience, focussed on inducing a market segmentation for an unlikely product.  Toilets as practical art is a new one I had overlooked, I will now be adding this to our analysis, with a very personal touch.  In the last year I have added a constitutional walk or swim to my routine, I find it can be very productive thinking space and I no longer consider it a purely leisure activity.    

On our Easter holidays, with some less great weather, we needed to find activities that appealed to all the family, as lounging around the pool was just a little too cool.  South Africa often has amazing weather, even out of the peak season, so I was disappointed, but I need not have been.  A friendly masters student serving us in a restaurant explained their long break, oddly in June and July, the southern hemisphere cold patch was like "an English summer, when the sun shines it warms up."  Of course the most desirable aspect down south is to be north facing - more challenging upside down thinking for you.  

So we entered a craft village, recommended by a local 9 year old and met this happy snail sign.  It was more than worth it to taste a sublime country bread toasted sandwich with bacon, banana and peanut butter, dubbed an Elvis Presley because it was favoured by the King.  Breath deep, chill out - we were in for a relaxing experience.  I do not do heights easily but my older son was very keen to try out the 5m high wires, with zip lines and obstacles suspended in the pine trees up the hill. We have in the past used the same activity (Go Ape in Bracknell) as part of the MBA induction, to challenge and excite whilst bringing out leadership and fast tracking some team building.  I got to eat my own challenge, with the peer pressure coming from my sons.  It was ok, after a while.  

We had some amazing food. I do not much care for social media that posts images of the food you are eating/ate/about to eat.  Ostrich steak, seasoned and cooked slightly crispy on a wood fired oven was sublime. A meat heavy ploughmans platter.  Beautifully hung steaks.  Italian ice creams.  But I broke my own rule so I never forgot this baked bean pizza, eaten at the top of Table Mountain.  What other pizza toppings are yet to be popularised ?

David's unite to challenge global Goliath's ?
If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I am very interested in beer. Two reasons, one it is an innovative water selling business that relies heavily on marketing to create consumer preference and to drive a price premium and second because it offers a story of consumer lead rebellion against global giant brands.  So this unifying 'support local' sign had a strong appeal.  Help your local economy, buy local.  

Of course, I also encourage you to drop your email in the white envelope on the right hand side of the screen if you are using a mac or PC - somewhere buried in the menu bar if you are on a mobile device.  

Elephant in the room ?

Yes ! there is an elephant in the room.  And one of the most exciting things we 
did in Knysna was to walk with elephants.  

Clearly bonkers and a little bit scary, the rules around health and safety are likely to mean that this kind of up close and personal approach to natures gentle tanks is something you will not be able to do in Europe any time soon.  

And as you see from the photo on the right, I got to touch the elephants skin.  When you get this close you realise that elephants are pretty hairy, thick sparse strands stick out all over their body.   Learning insights from getting out there and experiencing first hand.  

Cape Point baboon
not eating ice cream
If you want reasonably dangerous animals to stop bothering tourists, stop selling ice creams and sweets on site.  Sounds pretty straight forwards, but this is what I learned.  Pre-kids we had visited this stunning peninsula and friend Sarah dropped her ice cream whilst being confronted by a local baboon.  The ape proceeded to chomp the sugar rich food on the top of our hire car and we were blessed with a dollop of goop that resembled a giant bird poop for the rest of our trip.  In sharing this image with the original touring party on social media we just so happened to connect up with Andrew who is currently based in Hong Kong, holidaying with his children, our god son Ben and trainee teacher Izzie.  

Universal sockets  for global travellers 

Lastly in this off-centre look at our family holiday in South Africa we noted a jolly good idea that really should have been popularised more widely, universal sockets.  You do not need to get everyone to adopt a single standard - like driving on the left, or the same QWERTY key board layout.  But if, particularly where your customers are international, you installed these universal sockets the problem of compatibility goes away.   Too clever for words,  one of those small points of difference that gives you an amazing feeling of attention to detail and a quality experience.  Why have I only just learned about them ?

South African standard socket