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Changes and Goodbyes

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On Friday, I said goodbye to my colleagues and clients as I embark on new challenges. I became a web development contractor a little over two years ago, and the design and media agency that I have been working for was the first contract that I have had. I have been there for just over two years and was hired for a large-scale project for a global car/motorcycle brand. I spent my first month on maintanance for an oil company's website before joining the large project that I was hired for.

Welcome to Shoreditch; please don't laugh at the locals

Before Christmas, they wanted to extend my contract six months, but I was worried about the "two year rule" (in contracting terms, this means that the government assumes you are permanent and will not allow you to claim expenses). The negotiation happened before Christmas break-up, so we hurriedly put through one month with the idea to extend in the new year when we had time and everyone was back from the holidays. However, the company decided to cut costs by cutting contractors at the time that my contract was up for renewal. They managed to hold on to me for one more month as otherwise they had no replacements ready, and I have been super-busy on that project. The past eighteen months have been particularly busy, and we've been under-staffed and promised another developer with the same skills, but that never materialised.

Brick Lane from the meeting room

I agreed to stay for one month and also received another position right after I renewed my one-month extension. I'll be starting my new position immediately, and that's exciting. However, this means that I will no longer be working on Brick Lane in London or in London for the next few months. The new company is based in the midlands, and I will be working from home after the initial first two weeks. I am happy that I do not have the long nearly-four hour daily commute to Brick Lane, which was slowly killing me. I will, of course, return to London on the weekends every now and again to get photographs of new street art and visit other interesting places. (I have noticed the progression of a new mural on the Village Underground wall, which I was disappointed to see was not going to be finished before Friday, so I will have to return to London one weekend in mid-March to get a photograph.)

Commute work, commute die

Last week was extremely busy and also sad as I'd been working with the same group of people for so long, and we made a really good team. I finally managed to get a couple of developers to hand over the past two years' worth of work to, but they only had three days with me and were thrown into the deep end a little bit.

The majority of the websites for the different European countries and divisions are now live, and we actually had two new websites launch this week. I will be adding some information about the websites soon. Hurrah! I hope it continues to go well. On to the next challenge for me...

Happy Valentine's Street Art and Update

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Happy Valentine's Day to my readers. I had my free tour of London's new Walkie Talkie tower (20 Fenchurch Street) today during my lunch hour, so photographs and a write-up will be appearing soon. I've also got many more interesting pieces in store over the coming weeks, as soon as I am able to find some free time to edit the photographs and write about them. This past weekend, I was extremely ill and did not leave my bed from Friday early evening. Whatever the bug was, it floored me for a few days. The cough and congestion continue to linger, and I've only got about 85% of my ability to taste. 


A couple of days ago, I had a wander around Shoreditch and Brick Lane to see if any new street art pieces had appeared. I found this little gem on the Pedley Street disused Shoreditch underground station. The piece is by Graffiti Life, a collective group of artists who paint custom street art and advertisements for brands and the occassional piece on a couple of different walls in east London. The walls of the disused underground station is one of the places that they share with other street artists, though some disregard them as they are not the typical "street artist" and are a bit more commercialised.

I have liked some of their work in the past, and this piece is another "win" for me. It brought a smile to my face because it features in a classic episode of The Simpsons. The not-too-bright policeman's son, Ralph Wiggum, gave this Valentine's Day card to Lisa Simpson. The card shows a smiley "Simpsons-style" caricature of a train with the play on words "I choo choo choose you" above it in the smoke. The train's face looks a little like Ralph Wiggum, and everytime I read the "I choo choo choose you", I hear his silly voice. By the way, I can do a pretty good impression of Ralph Wiggum.

Whatever you plan to do this weekend, I hope that a good time is had by everyone. Enjoy!

The Year in Review (2014)

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The year 2014 has been another busy year for me. I've taken a lot of photographs and here's a selection of some of the things I got up to but never posted about for the lack of time.

Lady Dinah's Cat Cafe Emporium (London's Cat Cafe). I visited the cat cafe a couple of days after it opened, and the cafe is located near to where I work, so I made other visits throughout the year. I also had some crowd-funding vouchers to use. My original post can be read here: London's Cat Cafe. On my second visit, I tried a bagel and macaroons. I spent half of my time on this visit working as I had my work laptop with me, so I did not spend much time with the cats. The bagels and other food are sourced from other locations as food is not made on site. The bagels are famous Brick Lane bagels from around the corner. 


Early was eventful. I bought flowers to brighten up the flat, and cupcakes are always a treat. We went to a birthday party in the Cotswolds for friends we have not seen for awhile who also love the MINI car. I loved the MINI birthday cake. They had also just fixed up their new house, which had to be completely re-developed. This was  a joint house-warming and birthday and was a nice party.


As the weather started to warm up in the spring, I saw a deal to explore the Williams-Martini Forumla One musuem at their headquarters. The hedges in the front were designed like a pit stop and race car. We saw the trophies, helmets, and famous cars. All of their cars are in the museum. During race days, they offer a watch of the game with live feed from the team. I had so many photographs of this.


The summer was also a busy one, and a lot of different things were going on which I have already blogged about.


In the spring/early summer, my partner and I had a horrible train journey home as there were delays and we were both fed up. As a treat, we went to the Thai restaurant in Basingstoke. We had cocktails to start, followed by a meal.

We celebrated my birthday in Ireland and went on a long road trip. I still have most of my photographs from that trip to go through and post! We went to Pizza Express restaurant when we returned as they sent me a voucher for a free bottle of Prosecco to celebrate my birthday.  

I had my birthday cake in Ireland. My partner surprised me with a small birthday cake that he purchased on our visit to Cork! We celebrated my birthday in a nice bed and breakfast in Kilkenny. 

On Fridays, most of the office got to leave early this summer. I am a contractor, so it did not apply to me, sadly. However, I was feeling in a summery mood as the first day was so warm. We had so many warm days this summer. The bloke and I decided to go to TGI Friday's for a meal on one of these days because there were huge problems with the trains at Waterloo, and I suggested that we just head to Charing Cross and walk to Covent Garden for a meal instead of being uncomfortable.

At the end of July, we had taken the Friday off to go to Liverpool to see Giants. We went down the road toward Newbury and stopped at the American diner for breakfast. I had pancakes, and he had a bacon sandwich. Service was incredibly slow, and we ended up stuck in stop-start traffic all the way to Liverpool and it took over eight hours on a journey that should have only taken 3.5 hours. 

Tube strikes were a bit of an issue, and I walked from Waterloo to the middle of Brick Lane on one day. There's a nice photo of the Thames.

I went out to the restaurant Cafe Galvin in Spitalfields with a colleague, and I had a chicken salad and a cocktail.


I visited Lady Dinah's Cat Cafe again. I interacted a little more with the cats but did not stay long this time as I had some laptop issues. (Thankfully, they have recently given me a new laptop at last!) They had amazing rainbow cake, made by one of London's best bakeries that I will be posting about in the new year, and nice hot chocolate. The kitties were more playful this visit, and they have started to close the cafe on Wednesdays, so I think the kitties were more active. My visit was on the first Thursday after they started to shut on Wednesdays.


The Bowler - Gourmet Balls (meatballs) had a pop-up at the Horse and Groom pub in Shoreditch. I popped in and had a try of the turkey Thai meatballs, which did taste yummy. The sauce was delicious. 


Most of my time this year was spent on Brick Lane at work. I've taken a photo from one of the windows in the office. I stayed in a hotel on Brick Lane to lessen the commute for a few nights. The view was impressive.

At the end of August, we went to east London to Secret Cinema. The next day we had lunch and walked around Stratford Westfield. We went to Jamie's Italian, which I have been wanting to try for ages but ended up not too impressed with. We had some fruity drinks and I had a brownie with toffee popcorn and ice cream. It was a little bit rich.

Bird restaurant on Kingsland Road as The Doughnut Hatch. I had a cinammon-glazed doughnut, which was alright. I have been wanting to try this restaurant for awhile now, so I will have to make this a priority in the new year.

A lot of sculpture trails took place later in the year. I tucked into some macaroons from Westfield Stratford after a quick nip around the Olympic Park when I went to look for the London bus sculptures.

Mother Clucker sells fried buttermilk chicken from a van in Ely's Yard near Brick Lane. This is one of the popular pop-ups for colleagues at work.

After shopping in Basingstoke in the early autumn, the bloke and I went to Cafe Rouge. The food is always pretty good. I snapped a dessert photo. This is a chocolate "melting-in-the-middle" sponge and was good.

I've never been to Wimpey fast food restaurant chain before. The bloke and I finally tried the one in Basingstoke. This restaurant has been here for a few years, but I never tried it.

I snapped a photograph of St. Paul's Cathedral from Millennium Bridge on one of the sculpture trails.


At the end of November and the beginning of December, I went to Nuremberg in Germany. I was impressed with the postmarks. I have been active in Postcrossing ( this year, and I collect stamps and postcards, so I got some special Nuremberg Christmas Market postmarks.

Christmas trees for sale began to pop up in early December in London, and I liked the "PimpMyTree" stand outside of BoxPark. The office had a small Christmas Friday party. Every Friday, they offer free drinks. In mid-December, they had food and carollers.

I went out for cocktails with a friend at the Basingstoke Tea Bar, which I reviewed earlier in the year.

Colleagues and I went out to St. John's Bread and Wine restaurant in Spitalfields, but the food is not something that I would typically have. The menu is a little strange. I settled on beans, ham, and duck egg. This was served cold. It was not to my liking. The desserts (I had chocolate cake and rapsberry ice cream) were nice. They also do an excellent brownie and the best bacon sandwich.

I made chocolate mousse. Yummy.

The Tower of London poppy display brought in many visitors. 

I love photographing macaroons.

I did some walking in London with the sculpture trails - Tower Bridge and London's Little Italy.


On some Thursdays and Fridays, Spitalfields Market brings classic cars (courtesy of classic car clubs) to the square, and I always like to see what they have on display when I walk past in the mornings, before the market opens.

I captured raindrops on flowers in front of a pub across from Spitalfields Market one day in the spring.

There's a flower shop near to a hotel on Shoreditch High Street. Next to the flower shop a hole-in-the-wall shops sells coffee and smoothies from a window. In the summer, they sold ice lollies. These were pretty dear, but I bought one as we had some very hot days in the summer. The lolly was pure watermelon juice.

Shoreditch always attracts camera crew constantly. I've seen The Apprentice and commercials shot here. These guys were shooting a commercial, but I forget what the brand was.

A design agency located on Hanbury Street sometimes use their window for attracting pop-ups and games. Conker King was one of these games with a play on retro games and the game 'conkers', featuring conkers (horse chestnut, or buckeyes to my American readers) on strings. A set of rules is located nearby, along with 'Player 1' and 'Player 2' designated conkers.

I love Muriel's Kitchen in South Kensington (originally posted here), and this spring I noted that one had opened in a prime spot in Leicester Square. I got hungry on one day when I was spending the whole day tracking down Paddington Bears, so I decided to stop in and had a chicken burger and a brownie.

Gelateria 3BIS is located in Borough Market, and they sell ice cream and other snacks and coffees. I visited with my parents in the summer and we were just looking for a quick place to sit as we'd been walking for awhile and were tired. I had my favourite, pistachio ice cream. I did not expect much, but this ice cream is delicious and I intend to visit it again.

This Christmas, Marks & Spencer launched some new desserts for their Chrismas pudding range. These pictured were dark and white chocolate mousse stars and chocolate mousse crackers, and they were delicious. They also had other delicious-looking desserts on offer, but I did not try them. The mousse crackers were one of the best desserts that I had eaten in awhile.


Christmas this year was spent in Scotland. There's a photograph of the Christmas tree before we went away. We spent a day in Liverpool and ate our dinner at an Asian-fusion restaurant Yee-Rah and had cocktails earlier in the day at Albert Dock at Circo, a circus-themed bar. I took several photographs of Liverpool's Christmas lights too.

Here's hoping for a better 2015 for everyone.

Happy Christmas and 1000 Posts

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Happy Christmas to all of my readers. On this day, I am celebrating my 1000th post on! I first started my blog as my portfolio website with updates in 2001. I originally started it to provide updates and new pieces of work, and then included inspiration on topics such as technology, visual design, user experience, web development, photography and art. The blog has grown to cover a bit more based upon my interests in the subjects already mentioned.

Snowman cupcake

Happy holidays and New Year. I hope that you have enjoyed following me.

Spring Flowers and Sunshine

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For the first time in what has seemed like ages, I saw the sun shining. I do not know about everyone else in Great Britain, but I am tired of the rain, winds, clouds, and flooding that we have been having. I know that my family and friends "across the pond" in North America are tired of the snow. My partner bought me flowers for Valentine's Day, and I choose yellow roses because it is one of my favourite colours, and I needed some bright colour. I thought that I would share. 


I do hope that spring is now on its way and that we have a sunny and warm summer ahead. I do think that spring is on its way at last because I saw the first snowdrops yesterday.

Happy Easter

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It does not seem like spring with the cold weather, but Easter is finally here. I hope all of my visitors have a great spring and great Easter. Maybe the weather will finally warm up and it will begin to feel more spring-like. I've photographed some cupcakes and posted them below. Enjoy!

Easter cupcakes, from Fiona Cairns

S'mores cupcake from Selfridges

Millie's Cookies cupcakes

Fiona Cairns sheep, cow, and pig cupcakes

I'm Going to be a Contractor

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While working at a past employer, I developed a few websites using the Adobe CQ5 content management system. This was self-taught and a new experience for all of us in the team, and we found quirks and established methods that led us to complete the projects. I've been wanting to make some notes on these areas for a while as I discovered my own methods and made more sense of the application. I hope to be working on CQ5 as well, as this was the plan before I accepted another position, so I thought that I'd dig up a few of my notes from the past and try to remember as much.

Overall, I enjoyed working with CQ5 as it allowed me to use some of my skills in Java as well as my skills in front-end development. I was diverted from this due to being head-hunted for a different position, which I accepted after much thought as I was considering contracting, but I felt that the company was wrong for me and the role I was sold never materialised. I took the risk, as I did have some reservations; I had a 50% chance of it working out and becoming the perfect role and perfect company. I did enjoy the role and provided a large amount of ground-work for the company to take what I've achieved to the next phase: research, user personas, user journeys, wireframes, visual designs, detailed features, site-maps, documentation, CSS, HTML templates based on the HTML5 Boilerplate, and responsive tablet/desktop framework. However, I feel that I am destined to do greater things.

I am really looking forward to "getting my hands dirty" again and working with other like-minded individuals who are passionate about technology, visual design, best standards/practices, and quality. I am really looking forward to using CQ5 again.

Over the next few days, I will be posting some information and tutorials related to CQ5 development. I've just formed my own company, so I intend to be contracting for a while. I feel that this is the right path for me, but we will see once I get a contract. Exciting times are ahead. (If you do need someone with my skills, please get in touch with me.)

I'm wondering if my visitors are contractors/freelancers or permanent staff? I'd like to know your thoughts. Do you have any advice? What do you enjoy the most? Do you miss being a permanent employee?

New Website Design Launched

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Hello, visitors. Happy New Year's Eve. You may have noticed the new website design for was launched at the weekend. There's still a few bits and pieces that will be sorted out in due time, but it's best to get it up and running, and I am pretty happy with my new design. Of course, there's a few areas that my perfectionist mind wants to work on. 

(Overall, the transition would be a much smoother one if this was my full-time job, but it isn't, and I've fallen into the trap that many web developers and agencies fall into with their personal websites: keeping them up-to-date.) 


The new website is responsive, so there's no need to scroll left-to-right on mobiles or tablets anymore. The website also uses HTML5 (to some extent) and CSS3. I've also prettied up the URLs, and I will be doing some work on the portfolio content in the coming days. In addition, I have another task to change the template of my blog to fit the site design, and that is best left as a project on its own.

There's a few issues on IE7 to fix, and I am not officially supporting IE6 anymore, so I need to do a few bits and pieces with this, and I also need to design some nice error pages.

I hope you enjoy the new design as much as I have building it.

Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings

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I hope that everyone is having a great day today and that everyone's holidays and New Year celebrations are full of friends, family, and happiness. I wish "Season's Greetings" to all of my visitors, and I hope that you all have the best 2013. I hope 2013 is better than 2012 was for you. Now, enjoy a virtual cupcake. *smile*

All the best,


A Sneak Peek at the New Web Design

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Hello visitors! I have been keeping this quiet, mainly because I have been putting my focus on work tasks over my personal projects recently. I had started a new design earlier in the year and had made some good progress on it early this spring. (I know, that is quite a while ago and it does seem to be the norm that a developer's/designer's or company's website takes a back seat while other work has been completed. I have seen this and experienced it numerous times.)

However, a few more hours spent last weekend, and my new design is now fully responsive. It looks good in IE8, IE9, Chrome, and Firefox. (IE7 does have a few issues that I need to sort out.) I still have to work on the body content and some integration with the blog, but a good chunk of my work will be some code reuse PHP database calls for my portfolio content. The sneak peak screenshot is below. (Obviously, there's the bits I need to fit in to the main content area and a few minor design tweaks.)


I've decided to give my new design a 'vintage' treatment, and I am in love with some of the vintage fonts that are available. In fact, I've used a few of them for this website, combining Google Fonts and CSS Fonts and FitText.js for responsive font displays. I've also used other vintage design elements.


Like my previous portfolio web designs, I have tried to create a neutral design, but I have also tried to give it some colour. I'm conscious that I do not want the design to overpower my portfolio pieces, so the primary colours must be neutral. 

The other element that I have focused on is making my design responsive. The current design is ancient; I designed it in early 2006 while I was living in Bath. Unfortunately, the idea was half-baked, and I was never happy with it as I rushed to launch it in early 2007. I actually prefer the previous design, and I still do. In early 2006, the world was not too concerned with mobile devices, and iPads were not even invented then. Now, these other devices are important to design for. Below is the design for the website that fits on a mobile device, such as an iPhone.


The image below is what my visitors will see if they visit using an iPad. (In both this image and the one above, visitors will be able to see more body text. I just don't really have that area designed yet enough to give it justice, so I cropped it from the images.)


I've included some screenshots of my previous portfolio designs below so that you can see the evolution. I started off with the neutral folder-like appearance, then I added colour and new fonts to each section. (Sorry that some of the images are broken; these images are from I then decided to create a pixel-art-inspired design with buildings that visitors could click on the images of to go 'inside' to see more about the projects. The design was featured in the four seasons. 


I am happy with my new design. What does everyone think? Leave me a message and let me know.

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