“Carbonated Soft Drink” takes me around the world

1 – Chocolate takes me around the world
2 – Beer takes me around the world
3 – Sludge takes me around Warrington

In this the fourth series of where work takes me around the world.

My latest work travel takes me to a carbonated soft drinks factory in Sofia, Bulgaria.

This is exciting because it is more than 9 months since my last trip oversea and the first one since I’ve re-joined the company. From a work point of view, I am exciting to get away from the stress of the work I have in the UK. I love to escape and work in a different country, experience new things.

From a photography point of view, I am even more exciting to bring my new camera the Sony A6000 there. I will be heading to the capital Sofia where there are lots of historical buildings and sites to photograph. And luckily I will have a couple of days of free time for bit of sightseeing too and maybe some model shoots!

The site has also promised free and unlimited supply of soft drinks while we are there!!!

Now that I am back in the UK. I was lucky enough to have arranged 3 photoshoots while in Sofia. They were awesome models and I am really happy with all three shoots, some cracking shots too. To see more of my photos, please visit my photographic website at simonphotography.co.uk

Some teasers here, they are all shot with natural light only!

Model: Marina


Model: Joanna

Model: Celene

and finally me visiting the Rila Monastery and decreasing their trout population (Monastery Trout is the local popular dish)


Sludge takes me around Warrington

The third in this series, where I blog about where work takes me around the world. This is going to be a short blog as it is really uncool taking about sludge even though it seems I know quite alot about it.

This time is much less glamorous, but sludge is here to stay! I am not going to explain what sludge is, you can Google that if you don’t know.

I have moved jobs and since February this year, I have been working with a large engineering company. And for the very first time, “engineer” appears in my job title. I am no longer a waffling consultant who just give out advice, but now I have to do some real calculations and some real work! So far so good.

We have a long-term contract with one of the utilities companies and majority of my time is spent working on this contract. I get to visit a number of water and waste water treatment works. I also get to carry out lots of calculations of sludge, around sludge, with sludge and on sludge.

Sludge fun!

Sludge takes me around Warrington…

Soon there will be a 4th blog where a world-famous beverage brand is taking me around the world again 🙂


I want “Hebckoe”, NO “Kronenbourg” and NO “Paulaner”

I had a bad time ordering the Russian beer “Hebckoe” (pronounced Nevskoe)  in the hotel in Russia.

The problem is they don’t want to serve it to me (Chinese) but happily serve it to my colleagues (English & Czech)

So I complained to the General Manager of the Hotel via email who is German I believed.

Our Emails are attached below. (I have disguise  the name of the hotel and chain but there is only one westernised hotel in Novgorod!)

From me to him

Hi Benjamin,

I recently stayed at the Veliky Novgorod Hotel for my business trip

I was very surprised at a number of occasion that the staff at the lobby bar has refused to serve me the Russian beer “Hebckoe” instead I was offered the other beer Kronenbourg.

I was made aware that they don’t have Hebckoe and Kronenbourg is the only one they have.

But I was more surprise when my two European colleagues who had no problem of ordering the Hebckoe beer from the lobby bar and sometime even at the table when I was present.

I feel very disappointed and somewhat discriminated against.

I wouldn’t have even mind if they charge me a higher price for the Hebckoe beer because we prefer the taste compared with Kronenbourg.

Overall I was happy with my stay but certainly leave me with a bad memory of this negative experience.

I hope you can respond and clarify this is not a common practice at your hotel.

Many Thanks


His respond – I am disappointed that I didn’t get a free room, but he joins in and try to sell me another German Beer! Did he get the message – I want Hebckoe!!!

Dear Simon,

First of all thank you very much for sharing your experiences with me.

Please accept my personal and deepest apologies for the behavior of my staff and be ensured that I take the situation very serious.

Be ensured that your experience is not the regular standard that the PI Veliky Novgorod nor any other PI Hotel usually delivers.

We are in process to convert and rebrand the Hotel into an international standard delivering property.

Not only the hard ware like rooms and public areas are going to be changed step by step. The focus is also to train, teach and educate the employees.

The philosophy of PI is to hire attitude and to train skills. The Yes, I can attitude must be an essential characteristic for all personal that wants to work with us.

Dear  Simon, we have had development dialogues with our employees and have identified those that are capable to be part of the PI team in the future and will stay with us after 20 years of local management.

The process has started and will continue.

Could you please let me know when you plan to visit the PI Veliky Novgorod in the future.

I would like to meet you personally and show you the improvements we have done so far.

As of Monday we are also serving original Paulaner beer. (Simon: Paulaner is German!!! I want Hebckoe!) It would be a great pleasure for me to invite you also into the beerstube and show you that we are hosts as we can be expected to be.

Best regards


Chocolate takes me around the world

It was nearly five years ago that I went away on a two weeks trip to Nigeria working for a well known Confectionery factory in Lagos. This was suppose to be my prize! I had alot of fun, working along side a very senior and experience colleague who I share a great experience and have learnt alot from him. There were many funny and interesting stories that I still have strong memory of.

Five years on, I am still here but much of my colleagues have changed. We are at a different phase. On Monday I will be setting off again for the same well known confectionery company but this time their two sites in Russia. Now I am five years older (slightly wiser amd just a little thinner) but I am more established, able to standup with my own two feet. I am more confident in what I know and what I do. I am no longer learning. I am going out there to do a job, a job that I know well.

But like any opportunities or experience come before me, I always have huge expectation of what I want to get out of it. And yet to be honest I have not found that yet with this trip. Not saying I am looking forward to it, but that penny has dropped yet. It will when the first drop of Vodka goes it. It will be cold there, so drinking for the sake of keeping warm!

I am very curious and as such will be fascinated by the different culture. I also have the Chinese spirits – We are everywhere! We live anywhere! and we will find our place anywhere in the world!

Just like last time in Nigeria, I open the curtains for the first time in my hotel room. My room overlook a shop and a Chinese Restaurant with a big neon light sign. I was shock to be honest, to come all this way and find a Chinese restaurant!

Well the second week I will be staying in the site camp the so called Portacabin, so definitely not going to see a Chinese Restaurant!

I am sure I will discover Russia like I discover Nigeria and have a wonderful time.

It is one good side of my job that lets me explore the world and thank you to the well known confectionery company.

Hope I will be able to blog while in Russia and post some photos too.

Looking forward to Flying, eating Chocolates, blowing bubble gum, drinking Vodka, but definitely not the Portacabins! (Caravanning in Russia I am going to call this!)

Take Care


Ng – caught (Gin) bowled (Tonic)

I was at the one day international cricket match between England and Australia a day before my birthday.

The ticket was £45, and to be very honest, I didn’t really see much.

Not because we play rubbish or anything I got drunk and when I get drunk I go to sleep.

I went with my school mate Anthony and his friends. I join them for their gin and tonic picnic.

My breakfast was a pint and then I used the pint glass for a series of super large gin and tonics.

I don’t recall alot, saw Pointing got stumped (the 2nd wicket) and then headed down to the loo.

I sat near the wheelie bins afterward to be feeling very sick…

But I remember a lovely lady gave me a bottle of water. Because it was the hottest day of the year.

She thought I was dehydrated. Thank you for your kindness…

I got taken to first aid, I simply went to sleep there.

It was also when England played Germany in the world cup. Anthony picked me up from first aid on his way to catch the football game. I got myself on to a taxi shortly after leaving the ground. I went home, slept and even missed the football match (still have not watch it seen and actually I am glad I didn’t)

Slept and Slept until Helen came round and took care of me.

Sorry I didn’t even eat the lovely lunch box she made for me. To this day I still hunting for the person who ate my lunch box.

So there you go. I got drunk at the cricket big time, pint of g&t is not a very good idea on a empty stomach and such a hot day.

In fact, I am a bit scared of alcohol now…

know your limit and take care of yourselves and each other.


An hour early

“An hour early” was a form of birthday present at my Boarding School. It was not really a present; it was more like a plank!

This involved changing his clocks, watches to an hour early while he is fast at sleep. So he would get up an hour early!

I don’t know if this still exist amongst modern boarding schools but this is a classic.

Of course I did get the same treatment. But I made them work hard! As in those days I never took off my watch, so it wasn’t easy for them to change the time on my watch without waking me up.

So they did, and so I did wake up at an hour early. While I was getting dress and ready for Breakfast, I was surprised that no one was up, everyone was still asleep. I turned on the radio a little to find out that I have been done. My roommates were pretending to be sleeping and started to laugh at me.

I said “You bast@rds!”, before I burst out laughing too!

I know I soon be another year older. Although I don’t have any roommates, but this morning the time on my alarm clock was set to an hour early. It must be me during my sleep! As I was about to leave the flat, I noticed the real time from another clock. I was done… by myself!

Happy Birthday to myself then, my inner self send me a present, thank you! LOL!

It means that I am at work an hour early, so I am finishing early, after all its date night on Monday nights!

Take Care

Goalkeeping Mistakes

My Goalkeeping CV

95-98 Truro School – 3rd Team

98/99 UMIST – 3rd Team

99/00 UMIST – Chem Eng Team

Then I retired!

I love playing in goal, even though I was rubbish! My reflex is very good, it is just my handling is poor, and so is my kicking.

The feeling of catching a ball or making a great save is magical! I rather save a goal than score one.

I can remember lots of great saves but I also can remember lots of mistakes too! Most of those mistakes end up giving goals away. (Even now, playing in 5-a-side!).

It is a huge understatement to say that I know how “Green” feels. Even a world class keeper makes mistakes. You are really playing with luck sometimes.

To a goalkeeper, you have to wait. You have to wait for a shot, a cross to come at you. A goalkeeper can only respond and play then. Sometime you only get one chance to show your skills. Lack of concentration will make you do silly things. Well Green you just have to wait until your next match. Although I think James should play, Capello will probably stick with Green. Finger crossed, you are not cursed with making blunders like me.

From a failed Violinist to a unique hands-recorder player

When I was in Hong Kong, I noticed something under my bed. It was my violin. My name was written across the case. Then a flurry of memories came back to me.

BTW It was a waste of money because I wasn’t any good and I gave it up early.

I did not start learning until first year (aged 12 ish) in secondary school. I was still in Hong Kong then, in my “Form 1” at a school in Aberdeen.

School Choir, Trips and First Experience of the Violin

Every student was encouraged to take some extra curriculum activities. I chose to learn the Violin with a few of my school friends. However I had experienced playing the Violin a few years before that. It was while I was in Primary School, I was part of the school choir (yes I was!). It was seen to be a “cool” thing to be included in the choir. There was not many other external activities. To be in the choir, it meant school trips to Competition, Music Concerts and The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. It was that trip to the HKAPA where I first got my hand on a Violin.

The building itself was an art on its own. There are number of theatres and practice rooms. While touring inside the building, you could hear and feel the music coming from various musical instruments. We were all sat down inside one of the theatre rooms. Our guide at the academy was showing us a range of musical instruments. She pick me out as a volunteer to demonstrate some of the instrument on display. I picked the Violin. There I was in front of 30 odd0 people, played my first few notes on the Violin.

Violin Class and Teacher

I went to a boys school, and our Violin class was in a group. I think we muck about more than actually learn to play the thing. I am sure that our teacher was more focus on getting us to behave rather than teach us to play the violin.

But I did start to learn and like it. It made me feel more talented and whatever…

Taking the Violin to the UK

I didn’t stop when I came over to the UK. I asked my Hong Kong teacher to source me a violin, it wasn’t a top of the grade but it was expensive enough. I continue my lessons at school but it was becoming *uncool* and a burden. I didn’t really practice, so progress was extremely slow. Even more so in my school at Truro, everyone had to have some after school activities. My housemaster Dr Allen was so kind to arrange me to join the orchestra. I was only Grade 2 or 3 then ie not good enough to play there!!! But I went along, it was an horrifying experience. I didn’t know how to play, all I could do was “Pretend”, I was such a good actor that I didn’t get found out! So there I was playing air violin all that hour, so painful! Of course I never went back for a second time, even though I was sharing a music stand with a lovely girl. (Still have a thing about girls playing the violin, *wink*)

Unique hand-recorder player

In the end, my love of sports has taken over me. It was becoming more and more difficult to pick up the violin. I have no doubt that I will play again. I have no doubt that my violin will be used again, but for the time being it is safely stored under my bed in Hong Kong.

However there is one instrument that I am still practising and playing with, that is my hands-shaped like a bowl-sounded like a recorder thing. I have been playing it for more than 20 years. Never failed me as a party trick, or impress people. When I am brave enough, I will queue up for Britain’s Got Talent. But I think I will youtube it first and blog about it.

The only song I can play is the English National Anthem. Who would want to see/hear that? It beats the violin anyday!


Sorry for not writing a post for a while. Back with some deep stuff I guess…

Do you reflect? Reflect on what you do? How’s your day been? Where you are heading?

When I was little, my mum taught me to reflect every night before I go to sleep. Consider what I have and haven’t done well! Sometime I have to admit that looking back can be painful. I would rather look forward only. But you cannot really go forward without looking back, as your baggage becomes heavier and heavier.

One must learn about how ones behave today to correct ones behaviour tomorrow.

Reflecting is like facing your demons. I am human and make a lot of mistakes. Do I go over every mistake and learn from them? Probably not, but I try to. There are good days and there are bad days. But as long as you are honest with yourself then you can really clear your mind burdens.

Reflecting helps me, and gives me strength to get up the next day, do the things I do well and tackle the things I don’t do well. It is not all above criticising either, sometime it is also very positives. I can be jumping up and down before I go to sleep, because I have done something I am proud off. Give yourself a pat on the back!

You answer to no one, you answer to yourself. Why would you let other people judge you when you can be your own judge?

Reflection or Reflecting is actually a learning and self continuous improvement technique. You can probably find out more from Google.



Can you shuffle like Simon?

I can shuffle a pack of cards.

The actually name of my shuffle is called “The Riffle Shuffle”.

When I was very young in Hong Kong, we used to play alot indoors, whether it is cards or board games.

My auntie Iris and Peggy taught us (the little ones) how to play cards and shuffle.

Few weeks back, I went along to a poker game with colleagues. I just pick up the pack of cards and did my shuffle.

I kind of announced myself to the table, since no one else can shuffle like Simon!

This shuffling technique is actually very simple, watch and learn.