Monday, 18 March 2013

The Tudor Arms Boat Trip

When I embark on any kind of trip away without my wife, I am always reminded to do the following three things: 1) Don't get too drunk, 2) Don't do anything stupid and 3) Come home in one piece. This generally goes without saying, as to most people this is just common sense, and I would like to think that I am mature enough these days to not need reminding. I am however aware that in the past I have done the opposite of all of those things on more than one occasion. There has also been the odd occasion when I have ticked all three of those boxes in the same night so I can't really object to a loving reminder to look after myself!

There were 13 players from The Tudor Arms including myself on the boat trip, which was to include a few football activities and the chance to meet Liverpool legends Ian Rush and David Fairclough. Our manager Barry had arranged the event, which was a 24 hour cruise from Stockholm to Turkku in Finland, departing Friday night and returning Saturday evening. We met up at the ferry terminal around 5:30pm on Friday where we enjoyed a few beers and chatted about the trip which laid ahead. I was to be sharing a cabin with two of my team mates from of the Veterans team, James (aka Kiwi) and Dave. I was quite pleased about this as it meant that I would probably have more chance of getting a good nights sleep than if I was to room with some of the younger lads! That proved not to be the case but I will come to that later.

We all knew it was going to be quite a heavy night and as we were boarding the ship we began discussing who were the likely candidates to go to bed early and, more importantly who would be most likely to spend the night in the brig. I have a tendency to slide off to bed unnoticed when I start to feel the effects of drunkenness so I was definitely one of the candidates to throw the towel in early but I wasn't going to mention that to anyone so I put my money on my room mate Dave...............not because he's a lightweight but purely because he was the eldest of the group. I managed to get that prediction wrong as well! I did however have no doubts that my crazy Icelandic team mate Draupnir, aka 'The Iceman', would be thrown into brig. This was purely on basis that he can become very unpredictable after a few drinks......................the question was 'would I be right??'.

Once we were on board, the plan was to chuck the bags in the rooms then meet up at the restaurant for a buffet dinner. The buffet was surprising good. There was lots to choose from and there was plenty of it. Not only was it all you can eat but there was beer and wine on offer too...................that wasn't sufficient enough for us apparently as it wasn't long before someone ordered a round of shots! After dinner we headed over to the 'Moonlight' bar where we met up with Barry, who was setting things up for the nights entertainment. He had also grown himself a mustache in tribute to Rushie....................what a legend!!

The bar began to fill up with Liverpool fans and soon we were in the presence of greatness, as we were joined by Rushie and David Fairclough. The evening began with a football quiz, which I was optimistic about winning as I have a good knowledge of football trivia. I found the questions quite easy actually and I was convinced my team would a least finish in the top 3, but in the end we finished with nothing! The papers were all collected and marked but we never got to know our score! I'm pretty sure we scored high marks based on the caliber of the questions but I had a sneaky suspicion that the prize winners were predetermined! Who wouldn't know who plays their home games at White Hart Lane?? I'm not bitter though!

After the quiz I got the opportunity to meet with Rushie and David Fairclough, and get a few photographs with them. We also got the opportunity to get our hands on a replica of the european cup! Magnus Hedman, who played in the Premier League for Coventry City, got in on the act too.................

Rushie, David Fairclough & Magnus Hedman

Dave, Craig and 'The Iceman'
Three Kings!!
After a few more beers in the Moonlight bar we headed over to a club at the other end of the boat. Things after that point are a bit fuzzy for me. By then the beers had got the better of me so I did my usual thing of sneaking off undetected. As it turned out, I wasn't the first one to throw the towel as when I got back to the room I found Kiwi tucked up in bed!...................his night unlike mine however was far from over. About 1am he was woken by a text message demanding that he return to the club to continue the shenanigans with those who were still on their feet. Having given into the demands he returned to the bar and was on hand to witness The Iceman being taken away to the cells by security! No-one, including Iceman, was fully able to recollect the events leading up to the 'incident' other than that it involved some women and some throwing of drinks. Alex, our club captain, recalled seeing Iceman throw a drink over a guy but could not be sure if it was in retaliation for something or if he was just a bystander who saw some drinks thrown and thought it would be fun to get involved! Either way my prediction was right..................although when I heard that he would be incarcerated until 4pm the next day I wished I wasn't! Both Alex and Kiwi then found out the hard way that there was little reasoning with the security guys either. Whilst trying to intervene Alex had the pleasure of being put into an arm lock and Kiwi had his arm slammed in a door!

From what I told the rest of the night panned out in usual fashion, with several of the players suffering the  indignity of being carried back to their cabins, followed numerous bouts of projectile vomiting. Those that were still standing decided, in true 'boys will be boys' fashion, to carry out a few pranks on those of us that were out for the count, with myself and Dave falling victim to the old 'tooth-paste in the hair' routine. A well known classic! Fortunately for me I woke up just as this was being carried out so I was able to identify the culprits. Unfortunately it was too late to prevent the inevitable, so I spent the rest of the night with some very questionable hair gel! I did however make it my goal to seek some form of revenge on those responsible before I left the boat.

The next morning those of us who managed to drag themselves out of bed headed to the restaurant for brunch. As I turned in at a reasonable hour I didn't feel too worst for wear the next day, although I did have a slight headache. After some food and a couple of aspirin I felt much better, and my mood was further improved with the sight of The Iceman walking through the restaurant towards us! He had been released early from the brig much to everyone's relief. Despite being locked in a cold prison cell all night, where he spent most of his time doing push-ups to keep warm, he was very upbeat about it all. If it had been me I would have been livid, having felt my trip had been ruined, but for him it was as if nothing had happened! He just grabbed himself a plate of food and headed straight for the bar!!

After brunch the plan was to meet in 'The Whiskey Bar' and watch premier league football for the remainder of the day. Now that might sound boring to some but for us it was heaven! Everton were playing Man City at 1:45pm followed by Southampton Vs Liverpool at 4pm, and for that game we were to be joined by Rushie and David Fairclough again. To make the first game more interesting we decided to run some sweepstakes among ourselves for the first goalscorer and the correct scoreline, with each bet costing 20 kronor (£2). As it turned out, Leon Osman scored the first goal and Everton went on to win the game 2-0.....................and wouldn't you know it, I had bet on both!!  I did feel a little bad for my team mate Konstantinos because the second goal was scored in the final minute of the game and he had picked 1-0..................however it wasn't because I had won the first bet that I felt bad for him it was more because he showed up to the bar with only shoe having lost the other one of the previous night!

Having won both bets I did the honourable thing of buying a round of fireballs for my team mates with the winnings..................which for those of you who have ever tried 'Aftershock', you will have some idea of what a fireball tastes like! Now it was time for the Liverpool match and with Rushie and David Fairclough in the house, the bar began to fill up quite quickly with Liverpool supporters. As it turned out the bar wasn't legally allow to show the game so we ended up having to watch another game instead! It didn't spoil the atmosphere though and both Rushie and Fairclough got up to say a few words to the punters to keep us entertained...............not that we needed entertaining!!
Konstantinos and Steve

The Iceman and Dave
It was at this point that I suddenly remembered that some form of revenge was in order for the toothpaste fiasco....................and I knew just the thing to do. The 'condom on the shoulder' routine is an old favourite of mine and will be fondly remembered by those who used to flock to The Millhouse Pub back in the day. It's a very simple prank, in fact it does exactly what it says on the tin. You buy a pack of condoms, open one then subtly lay it on the shoulder of your intended victim and then sit back and watch whilst they continue about their day completely unaware. Very immature, very funny, exactly what was needed! I managed to get all of my intended targets so justice was done however Barry was the subject of biggest laugh courtesy of The Iceman.

I only intended to get back at those who had pranked me with the toothpaste so I had no reason to do it to Barry but Iceman had other ideas. I tried to talk him out of it as I had reservations about playing a prank on Barry particularly as he was entertaining Rushie and Fairclough!!...................but as it turned out even Rushie got in on the joke! He saw the funny side though and by his own admission he couldn't have looked any more silly than he already did haven't given himself a 'Hitler' tache earlier in the day!!

After that the boat docked back in Stockholm and we headed our separate ways. All in all it was a very successful trip and a right good crack. I didn't get too drunk, I didn't do anything stupid and I came home in one piece. Mission accomplished yet again!!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

And the award goes to...............

A few weeks back I attended the annual Castrol Business Conference, which was my first since joining the company in May 2012. The conference is a opportunity for all the Castrol employees across Scandinavia to meet and review the previous years performance and outline the strategy for the coming year. The conference was held over 3 days at a hotel just outside of Stockholm called Sånga Säby, and as it was a little out of the way the employees from the Stockholm office were allowed to stay at the hotel along with those who had travelled from overseas.

Despite it being a conference, it wasn't all business. The organisers arranged an outdoor activity on the first night and the second we were having a gala dinner. Each day the conference finished around 4:30pm so for a few hours in the afternoon we could enjoy the facilities at the hotel..................which for most people were the facilities around the bar area! It all sounded like fun and as it was my first event I was really looking forward to it.

The first day consisted of a series presentations from various areas of the business. It was very interesting to me but I won't bore you with the detail! The final thing on the days agenda however was something worth sharing. The company had brought in a guest speaker called Rasmus Ankersen to talk to us about performance development.

He was really insightful. He is an ex-footballer and performance specialist, and has spent the last 10 years of his life researching what the secret is to sustained success in sport, and has found that his findings can be transferred into the business world. It was a real eye opener. He talked about how he quit his job and spent his all his money to travel the world for six months to train and live with the world's best athletes and their coaches in an attempt to answer all the questions he had on his mind.................why have the world's best middle distance runners grown up in the same Ethiopian village? Why are 137 of the world's 500 best female golfers from South Korea? How did one athletic club in Kingston, Jamaica, succeed to produce most of the world's best sprinters? His conclusions were really interesting and he ended up writing a book about it called 'The Goldmine Effect'.

That evening we were split into teams and were given the task to prepare and cook our own dinner..............which was all to be done inside a large tent within the hotel grounds. We were all given the same ingredients and had to make 3 courses which we would then eat. My main job was the prep the vegetables. I had no problem with this as it meant that once I was done I could relax with a nice cold beer.....................with 'cold' definitely being the appropriate word!

After dinner we retired to the bar to watch Sweden take on Argentina in an international friendly, which Sweden went on to lose 3-2. In other circumstances I would have probably dished out some gentle ribbing to my Swedish colleagues but in this case I did not.................for two reasons: a) they were playing Argentina and b) it had only been a few months since Sweden had beaten England so I thought it best to keep quiet!

The conference continued the following morning, with more presentations on performance and strategy, but the afternoon brought something new entirely. We were again split into teams but this time our task was to make a film, which would be shown to the rest of the group during the gala dinner that evening. Each team was given a 'theme', which the film was to based upon, and the company had brought in a film crew to shoot and edit our 'movie' once we had come with an idea. The theme for our film was 'respect' but first of all we had to assign roles to each team member. We needed a director, a scriptwriter, a props manager and of course actors. I'm not much of an actor but I know my movies so I was given the role of director. We decided to link our film to how we interact with our customers and how we need to 'respect' them..................the customer is always right after all! The plot was based around how and how not to interact with people, and how making a good first impression is very important. My colleagues Mika and Jonnie, who are both sales reps for Castrol, played salesman who were meeting a client for the first time. Mika played the good sales guy and Jonnie played the bad guy.

We were instructed that the film should only last 1 minute and we only had 30 minutes with the film crew to shoot it. Due to the time constraints 'my vision' wasn't quite realised but we had a great laugh shooting the 'movie'.................

Mika Engstrom - The Good Guy

Jonnie Levin - The Bad Guy
I toyed with the idea of putting the film on here but having shown it to Aicha and received her feedback, I decided against it! During her assessment, the word 'lame' kept coming up for some reason.........?? To be fair if you are on the outside looking in then the final product would look quite lame to you, but we had great fun doing it and that's all that I didn't the type of budget or resources the likes of Spielberg and Scorsese have!!

Next it was the gala dinner...............which felt more like 'The Oscars'! The hotel converted the dining area into what looked like a banquet.................and the foyer into a red carpet area!! They even had the 'paparazzi' there catching a glimpse of the stars as they arrived..................

The evening was hosted by a Swedish comedian called Erik Haag. Apparently he is quite famous in Sweden but I had no idea who he was! He introduced each movie over the course of dinner and then afterwards he was to present an award for best actor, best actress, best screenplay and best film. Before that though there were a few other awards which were to be presented.................which was something I knew nothing about.

An award was to be presented for the best performer of 2012 within each team. I had only been with company since May I was as shocked as anyone to hear my name read out as 'best performance 2012' for the pricing team!! I could not believe it! I was genuinely chuffed to bits! To be recognised for my work in the short amount of time I have been here really meant a lot to me. I got a nice bottle of champagne and a man hug from from Erik Haag! Jonnie also won the award for 'best actor' so our table won two awards that night!

The Host - Erik Haag

Scorsese, De-Niro & Pacino
After that we partied long into the night. I don't remember much after midnight.................other than trying to attempt a dance routine 'Gangnam Style'! The conference continued the next day but I was needed back at the office so I headed back into Stockholm. It was not the most productive day to be honest. Hangovers are a bastard....................I'm not as young as I used to be despite what 'drunk Bob' say!

Over the last few weeks since the conference, my days have been filled through a combination of work, football and Netflix. Pre-season training is now well underway with the Tudor Arms and we are undefeated in all our pre-season games thus far. Our form has been quite impressive and if we can continue this into the season once it begins in April, I really think we can be up there challenging for the title.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Netflix, it is an online media service where you can stream movies & TV shows on-demand. Since we've had it installed, we have quite literally turned into 'couch potatoes'! If I had it my way I would never leave the house! There is so much on offer to watch on Netflix its ridiculous! Over the last few weeks we have watch the entire series of 'How I Met Your Mother', which I think is one of the funniest sitcoms around at the moment. Barney Stinson has to be up there as one of the best TV characters ever, alongside Ari Gold from Entourage!

Next weekend is the Tudor Arms Boat Trip to Finland, where we will be joined by our special guests Ian Rush and David Fairclough. There are around 15 of us from the team going at the moment so we will have a good crowd on board. It will also be good a chance for me to get to know my team mates a little better.................and to see what they are like off their faces!! That is definitely something to forward to! I can't wait!

It's going to be legend.........wait for it.............dary!!!!