Thought Leadership

On the weekend

By Colin Walls

Although I enjoy my job [mostly], weekends and other time off is important to me. Last weekend was particularly interesting because I took a day’s FTO to extend it to 3 days and there were some contrasting experiences.

Although I do not normally publish a journal of my life, I will see whether I can give you a flavor …

We spent Friday in Birmingham, the nearest big city to us. We had gone primarily to attend a musical performance in the evening [Katie Melua], but spent the whole day visiting places and shopping. Nothing very noteworthy except I spotted some chocolate bars in the “Christmas treats” section of a large department store, which had a use-by date of end of October. Do they not know when Christmas is scheduled this year? [This reminds me of last year, when some friends were staying in an Islamic country over the Christmas period. They phoned a restaurant to book a table for lunch on the Big Day and were asked “What date would that be?”]

Back home on Saturday. We live right next to the Malvern Hills. In the afternoon, a run over the hills was scheduled by a local athletics group and, since we knew a couple of participants, we thought that we would go up there to lend support. As it can be very windy high on the hills, I wrapped up well. When we got there, I thought that I had over-dressed, as ascending in the warm sun made be very hot and I took off my jacket to cool off. Within about half an hour, it had all changed [as it often does up there] – we were being battered by horizontal rain and hail. In due course, we were bitterly cold and soaked to the skin. Having cheered on our friends, we headed down. On the way, we passed a marshal who was calling instructions to the runners: “Take the corner slowly – it’s very slippery.” At this point, I slipped in the mud, landing on my back, emitting a suitably Anglo-Saxon expletive. “As demonstrated right here.” the marshal continued, not missing a beat. It was good to get home to a warm shower. Every item of my clothing was wet. At least the day ended well, with a nice supper with friends [including one of the mad runners].

On Sunday morning it was beautiful Fall weather – low, bright sun lighting up the trees, which are acquiring their Autumnal colors. My wife was busy moving some furniture with a friend, so I set off alone to go to a farmers’ market, which takes place monthly at a village about 25 mins from here. I got to the market in fine spirits and made my purchases: some good fresh veg [broad beans and cauliflowers with green and purple heads]; some beer; some excellent cheese [which I buy from the guy who actually makes it and speaks with authority on its current “condition” – sometimes he recommends keeping for a week or two, for example]. I set off for home, pleased with my purchases.

I usually have the radio on when I am driving alone. My station of choice is generally BBC Radio 4, as it was yesterday. The program at that time is called Desert Island Discs. This show has been broadcast for 70 years, so, for me, it has always been there. The concept is that each week they have a celebrity who will be “cast away” on an island with just 8 records that they have selected [they also get a Bible, complete works of Shakespeare and a book and luxury item of their choice]. Through the program they are interviewed about their life by the presenter and the 8 records are interspersed. At the end, when choosing their book/luxury, they have to select just one disc to save, if they were all being washed away. It makes for entertaining listening, particularly if one is familiar with the celebrity, but can also be good if the person is someone I have never heard of.

That was the case this week. The guest was Noah Stewart – an American opera singer. He sounded like a really nice guy and I was fascinated by his story. What really hooked me in initially was his speaking voice. He is a total sound-alike for a friend/colleague of mine. This got me wondering just how good a singer my friend is … In any case, I felt that I had good company for my drive home. I later looked up Noah Stewart on Spotify and listened to a few tracks – he has an exquisite voice. I suggested to my friend that, if his singing is half as good as this, he might want to give up the day job.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at