Sunday, February 28, 2010

Goodbye February; Goodbye Rain?

What a horrible wet, windy and miserable weekend to finish February - visitor numbers have suffered as have spends in our shops and cafes - but it is no surprise that numbers are low in such weather and given the extensive live sport on TV to keep people at home - assuming of course you like a diet of rugby, football and winter olympics!

Roll on March and hopefully better weather as our start over the first two weeks has been decidedly average - as they say, things can only get better!

Last week raced along with a few interesting occasions including a visit on Tuesday to Confex at Earls Court. This event for years has represented the main show in the UK for the Conference and Events business and I have attended in some guise or other for more years than I can remember. This year we were merely represented on the Sodexo Prestige stand (as they carry out all of our catering at Blenheim Palace) and the show on the Tuesday/the first day was worrying quiet. The aisles were too empty and a number of regular exhibitors were not present this year - the doom merchants would cite the economy as the primary reason and I have no doubt that this was a huge factor - but I also think that people are generally working in different/smarter ways to engage with clients and to secure business. Familiarisation visits; one-to-one meetings and the power of the website (and other more modern media streams) are replacing the traditional slog (and expense) of standing at trade shows for days on end. We enjoyed a reasonably good Confex over the three days but it has in the past been much stronger - does this signify a turning point in how we do business? It will be interesting to watch and see.

Wednesday saw Roger File (our Property guru) and I joining the Carter Jonas conference at Blenheim Palace where we talked to them before lunch before hosting them on a tour around the Estate after lunch - Roger and I hosted a coach each as we visited the Bottling Plant and various development sites in varying stages of completion. All went well - well, all finally all went well! The coach route took us out of Combe Gate on the western side of the Park - a gate which normally works on the button press of a remote control - simple! - but on Wednesday the mechanism was faulty and the gate was locked with a huge chain and padlock. No problem, Roger gave me the four digit code - with various complicated instructions about what to squeeze and when! - and I got out of the coach to quickly open the gate at around 2.09pm - or so I thought. Unbeknown to me, the gate code had been changed at 2.00pm and a message had been left on my phone which was on silent in my pocket! I radioed Roger - with a slightly desperate tone in my voice - to find out that the code had changed. Roger supplied new code; Graham, one of our excellent managers, arrived on cue to open the gate and we carried on with our tour. The 50 on my coach thought it was very funny to see the CEO temporarily locked in; the 50 on Roger's coach were highly amused to hear the slight strain in my voice over the radio; and generally it was an entertaining moment for everyone on our radio system. Ho ho ho - we did laugh!!

On Thursday morning it was into Oxford early to attend the County Council/City Council Business Breakfast - a good gathering and a very valuable opportunity to network with colleagues in the public and private sectors. Especially important as the emerging Destination Management Organisation ("DMO") for Oxfordshire moves closer - exciting/interesting times. We are going to host the next Business Breakfast at Blenheim Palace in June - frightening to think that this will be AFTER the General Election which is now only a few weeks away. Poll predictions are swinging fast and furiously - it should be an interesting campaign.

The week ahead looks busy both at home and at work. The builders arrive to start work on the long awaited kitchen project (so we need to prepare ourselves for many weeks of chaos!); various meetings should move the DMO forward and most worryingly my mother goes into hospital for a fairly major operation on Tuesday. She is a remarkably tough 85 year old and I am sure she will be fine - but it will be a relief to know she is through the operation on Tuesday and I will go over to Cambridge on Wednesday to see her. Luckily my sisters both live very close to my mother so they are able to be more "on-site" if needed.

Roll on March; roll on some sunshine and lets hope the week ahead goes well - especially for my mother.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arranging a Group holiday to the Cotswolds so have been checking on places to visit - Blenheim Palace sounds wonderful - so hopefully we shall be coming. My good wishes to your Mum I hope all goes well. Regards.

March 1, 2010 at 2:35 PM  
Anonymous John Hoy said...

Blenheim looks glorious now that we have some blue sky and sunshine - so please do visit and enjoy this wonderful world heritage site.

Many thanks for your good wishes regarding my mother - very kind of you.


March 2, 2010 at 5:51 AM  

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