A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

Working on a social media strategy in Riga. How to take advantage of fine weather and get some good work done too.

Deep in the midst of developing a social media strategy, I asked one of the team of people I’m working with about their use of Flickr. The particular channel they shared with me relates to the Latvian armed forces, and when I asked why they used it, I got a very simple reply:

‘A picture paints a thousand words’

It was late afternoon and the hot Riga spring sunshine was streaming through the windows as we were started exploring the possibilities of using visual aids: photos, videos, info graphics and more, as part of a wider communication strategy. Rather than continue to let the fine weather distract us, I invited the team to split into three groups and go and photograph the city. Each team would then present their view of the city back to the group in the morning, as a way of promoting the city for the upcoming EU Presidency. Extra points would be awarded if the slideshow could capture the three Latvian EU Presidency values: Involving, Growth and Sustainability.

The following day we reconvened and were treated to a series of interesting and entertaining slide shows of Riga. Here are a few excerpts:

Often when the town or city where we work is just somewhere we walk through every day, we take it for granted. It was great to get out and enjoy the sunshine, sure, but the feedback that really interested me from this exercise was how much people appreciated the opportunity to see their city in a different light.

Take it outside

Hi – how are you? Did you have a good Christmas, a happy new year? I hope so. I’ve not been around to ask you these questions because of my determination to take a proper break from work. I haven’t written for well over two weeks and though putting the tools down felt odd at first, I soon relaxed into things. Until my Dad bought me a DeWalt drill for Christmas and that led me to toolish adventures of different kinds. More of that another day. Perhaps.

I went for a run with Carole on Friday morning. She runs often and I’ve not done so since leaving school. When I was at school I was one of the saddos who volunteered to do cross country running. Yep – I did it by choice, I enjoyed the grinding muddy trudgery enormously.

Why did I agree to this run on Friday? Well I’ve learned not to say no to Carole 😉 and I thought doing something out of the ordinary would help me get my getting ready for work head on. And those of you who’ve been around here a while will know I’ve done some fairly serious cycling before now. Riding up huge French mountains, 100 mile time trials, that kind of thing. After a couple of nasty moments on my bike a couple of years ago I’ve fallen out of love with cycling somewhat. I’d like to get back, so this short run is the beginning of a return to some fitness. I’ll set me a few small goals and let’s see how I get on – more of that down the road.

What struck me most about this short run was the simple beauty of being outside. OK my shortness of breath bothered me too sometimes, but simply being outdoors is fabulous. The picture above is taken at my outdoor gym. I confess I joined a regular gym once. I hated it. Smelly, impersonal, stuffed with toned and buffed showoffs – I’m never going back.

Did you make any new year resolutions? I hope not – new year resolutions suck. And if you are thinking that a healthy body makes a great double act with a healthy mind then I wish you well. And please – take it outside. Gyms suck your enjoyment and your soul and dump them somewhere unspeakably damp, smelly and horrible.

How did I get on yesterday? Well I made it all the way (3.6 kilometres) without stopping, Carole tells me I did pretty good and that will do for me. Thanks for the encouragement Carole. Hello fitness, I can see you way off there in the distance and I’m coming to get you.

Update: Hat tip to Mervyn Dinnen for pointing out this article in the Telegraph about gym rage.

Update: Hat tip to Jorgen Sundberg from Link Humans for pointing out this article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s a backhanded list of reasons to help get the best out of the gym, I like these two observations:

“Fancy gyms can be seductive, but once you get past the modern couches and fresh flowers and the water with lemon slices, you’re basically paying for a boutique hotel with B.O.

If you’re at the point where you’ve bought biking shoes for the spinning class, you may as well go ahead and buy an actual bike. It’s way more fun and it doesn’t make you listen to C+C Music Factory.”

Windy wet and wonderful

The camping season has started! Ever since I was a boy scout I’ve enjoyed spending time under canvas (or whatever it is that tents are made of nowadays), and becoming a dad 8 years ago added even more excitement to the mix. We go camping several times a year with a group of families. We share our camping stuff, our food, our beer, and most importantly, our company. These trips are an essential part of life, and often I’m just too busy relaxing to recall quite what it was that made the last trip so memorable. This time though I felt I was tuned a little differently, and a few things stood out.

It was a very windy weekend, at times quite cold. This motivated us to be out and about much more than usual. We took a lovely walk from Beaulieu to Buckler’s Hard and watched buzzards soar, and sailing boats get whipped down the river. It’s good to feel the wind in your face.

We also took a walk to a pub for lunch. All of the 8 kids on the trip wanted to cycle and Pete bravely stepped up and agreed to lead the ride. This was Keira’s first time out on the road and I was pleased to see her so excited about it. The trip was just over a mile and a half passing by New Forest ponies and through a pretty village. Under Pete’s gentle guidance they had a great ride and there were loads of smiles waiting for us on arrival at the pub. It was great to trust a good friend to take Keira on an important journey. Letting go can be fun.

Keira with her bicycle at camp

Toasting marshmallows round the fire with the kids before they head to bed is a regular treat. On Saturday Keira was sat in Carole’s lap and we were reflecting on the fun we’d had as a group and a family that day. As Keira went to get ready for bed she pointed at the starry sky and said “Say good night to Grandma Anabel”, and gave my hand a squeeze. With a lump in my throat I did just that. Knowing where you’ve come from is vital.  

The inevitable rain came – though it had the decency to wait until our last day. I sat beneath a shelter watching for a few hours before facing up to the reality of packing a tent in the rain. And I really enjoyed it. The night before I’d been talking with Adrian about his and Laura’s recent walk along the West Highland Way which had been peppered with foul weather. Adrian said that they enjoyed everything Mother Nature hurled at them – it was all part of the experience. I recalled that encompassing thought as I stood in a soft English spring rain getting soaked, and I loved it. I went out of my way to take as long as I could to remove every peg, and tie every rope. Making the very best of what you can’t change can be strangely inspiring.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend too?