Air dried ham update

This leg of gloucester old spot was bought in January, this year.

It was cured for a whole month in salt.

It has been hanging patiently in my garage for three months, wrapped in muslin.

I thought I’d have a cheeky looksee.

It’s coming on well and mostly smells just like cured ham from Italy or Spain.

Except there’s a small bit just near where the bone protrudes that smells a bit funky (only a bit).

I’m hoping it will go away, so I wrapped it back up and hung it in the garage again.

Roll on Christmas – when it’s ready to eat. Talk about slow food.

The best customer service experience I’ve ever had

I like to think I’m not too shabby when it comes to technology.

I’m a bit of a geek – as you know – and as such, I can pretty much work my way around most techie problems. Or so I thought.

After the new iPad purchase I noticed I couldn’t transfer the movies I’d bought on my AppleTV device. It was annoying as instead of buying physical movies in DVD format these days, we download them from the iTunes store. It works a treat.

Except my AppleTV thingy wasn’t set up to sync with the main house computer and this was the transfer issue (bear with me). So I tried everything and as a last resort, I thought a reboot was in order. This promptly lost me all the content (music, video etc) for the past two years.

Arse.

I then discovered a chilling little fact – if you lose all the content you’ve downloaded, then tough. Apple’s iTunes Store says you can only download once. Double arse.

Then a colleague said that he’d done something similar and he’s emailed Apple and they’d sorted it for him and why didn’t I give that a shot? Nothing ventured etc. So I mailed Apple in a ‘help I’m a buffoon’ tone of voice and waited for a reply.

Three days later I got an email from a Jarrett in Itunes Store customer Support. He explained that he understood how frustrating it was to lose files and how Apple would do their very best to help me get the files back. He sent me a link to download every file I had downloaded from the iTunes Store and full details of how I can back all the files up so it doesn’t happen again.

I was flabbergasted.

This kind of customer experience is not the norm for me. Usually it’s a ‘sorry mate there’s nothing we can do about it’ or ‘rules are rules, sorry’. It really felt like they were going the extra mile – it wasn’t just a bog standard letter either, it was personalised all the way through.

Impressive.

We all know I’m a bit of an Apple fanboy. And I’m sure when they looked up my recent spending on Apple products, my query was probably put at the top of the list with a post it note saying ‘keep this guy sweet, we’re making a fortune out of him’.

But that’s irrelevant. There’s plenty of brands out there who I spend plenty with and I’m still persona non grata. The key thing here is this Apple acolyte just got more enthusiastic and even more evangelical about the brand, products and service.

I know the web and in particular the blogosphere is the place where people complain about brands and the way they behave. And I do believe this has become a very powerful way for consumers to apply the kind of pressure onto the big organisations to change the things they don’t like.

No business is perfect and Apple’s recent Chinese Factory suicides is a case in point. But what they did do is take it board and act quickly, recognising the power of the consumer in these issues.

I hear a lot of negative stories and I think these outweigh the positives by around ten to one. I just thought for once it would be good to talk about amazing customer service in the context of a company that I think is getting a lot of things very right.

It’s the little things that make all the difference.

Hard Graft

In Yorkshire, the word graft means work. And hard graft means proper work. I think it may translate South, but either way it means something to us working class Northerners.

When I happened upon a very cool company making poncy laptop sleeves and ipod accoutriments based in Austria, I thought it was interesting. So interesting, in fact, that I bought some of their very lovely product. It turns out that there’s indeed an English link with one of the founders from round these parts (ie the North).

If you’ve not come across them yet, then you’re missing out.

Have a look here and you won’t be disappointed. Your wallet might be quite a bit lighter than when you started, but I guarantee that although the products may seem expensive, they add value to my day to day existence – and it’s not often you can say that.

Now the iPad is lovely, so I won’t witter on about that again. But I wasn’t impressed with Apple’s shoddy rubberised case/stand thing – it looked cheap and devalued the beautiful design of the iPad. So I needed a real case. Hard Graft were on the case (see what I did there) with a few options and I went for the newest – and most expensive – option as luck would have it.

Well it arrived today and as per my previous purchases, it was exquisitely packaged. They certainly have an eye for the texture, presentation and quality of not just the product, but the way it is unveiled before your eyes.

Apologies for the packaging porn, but I couldn’t resist the lingering images of foil blocking and embossed loveliness. There is a symmetry here – a joy and care in the presentation, that reflects the time and effort taken to getting the sublime product just right, a feat that remains unattainable to┬áthe mainstream brands.

Brilliant

Every night I drive home through the city to where I live on the outskirts of Leeds.

It’s a pretty mundane journey, I know the sights and what to expect. I’ve been doing it a few years and even my new job has meant I pretty much take the same route.

About two weeks ago, I spotted an odd thing on the side of a fish and chip shop in Wortley. A blank space, painted white. Underneath it said ‘Tailored by Wortley’. A few days later, the number 16 appeared above it, well painted in Gill Sans. In fact, the whole thing looked cool, guerrilla and definitely on brand — for Umbro.

I was none the wiser. So I took a picture, and here it is (this is not a bad chippie by the way).

It was so nicely done (type and execution) it had to be a viral campaign of some sort. So tonight, after a few weeks of passing the damn thing, absent-mindedly thinking what it might be, I googled it.

And I was genuinely gobsmacked.

Number 16 is James Milner’s number in the England squad – and he’s from Leeds. It turns out Umbro have created a one off piece of ‘street art’ representing each of the England squad in the towns and cities where they are from. Each of these is in a ┬álocation that meant something to them. Excuse my french, but that is fucking brilliant. What an idea.

Check it out here

Of course, there’s two in Leeds because we not only have James Milner, we have Aaron Lennon, whose wall is in Chapeltown (two Leeds lads in the England squad, when did that last happen?). Even Capello gets his own wall in Italy.

This idea passes the ‘wish I’d bloody done that’ with flying colours. Not only did it get me to take a picture of the wall I passed, I googled it and then discovered one of the nicest and most footballest ideas I’ve seen for a long time.

Maybe on the eve of the World Cup, I’m getting all misty eyed, feeling good and bad about the rollercoaster of emotions we’re all about to set off on.

Either that, or I have to take my hat off to a genuinely lovely idea that must have cost nack all to do. An idea that reinforces Umbro’s position as a grass roots football brand that cares about where we’re from, and more importantly, where we’re going.

Here’s to ideas and come on England!!!!!

Veg patch update

It’s been very sunny over the past few weeks.

It’s rained a lot in the last few days too.

The veg garden is growing for fun at the moment.

The potatoes are turning into mini trees.

The radishes are instantly gratifying.

Courgettes have shrugged off their frost frazzled leaves.

The beans look exciting.

It’s all happening and it’s a joy to see it.

The art of looking sideways

Alan Fletcher is one of the most highly regarded graphic designers of our time. One of the founding partners of one of the greatest design companies Pentagram, he is responsible for a vast array of iconic, timeless logotypes such as the superlative V&A branding. He sadly died a couple of years ago, but his work lives on in many of his books.

The art of looking sideways is his best book by far in my opinion. It apparently took him 18 years to complete and I’m not surprised – it’s a marvellous compendium of Fletcher’s inquisitive and explorative life. Like a magpie he’s spent all his life, bothge professionally and personally collecting thoughts, ideas, things and finding his inspiration in pretty much everything he’s seen or done.

It’s a great book to have lying around at home on a coffee table or in the bathroom. No matter how many times I pick it up, I always find something new and fresh or I’m reminded how clever a little drawing is or find new meaning in a profound phrase.

If you’re in the creative industry, you should have this book already and if you don’t, what are you waiting for? If you work in another sector not related to design in any way, then this book is for you too. The art of looking sideways is just that – by taking a different perspective we can either solve a problem or see things in a new light.

Regardless of our job or status, we can all benefit from this outlook.