“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 🙂


Beer takes me around the world

Hola !

This is the followed up blogpost to “Chocolate takes me around the world

I am an Energy Consultant, my job is to help companies mainly factories to save energy and water, and hopefully contributes to saving the world!

Climate change is global, so we work all over the world, someone has to do it!

Last time, Chocolate company has taken me to Nigeria, Russia and Sheffield

This time, Beer company is taking me to Ecuador, having already taken me to Australia 😀 and Tanzania. 😀

Beer company wins on this one!

These are all great places to visit, but I know it will be extremely hard work I must say!

Will get the middle weekend to have a look round, and I am notorious as wondering around in middle of nowhere in a foreign country just with my big camera, and I am sure to repeat this 😀

And will share them on my photography website simonphotography.co.uk

There is a Chinese proverb,

“It is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books”

And I am just doing that 🙂

Also if I ever have a bucket list, one thing on there will be worked/travelled to 5 continents. After this South America trip I am one step closer.

Just need find a project to visit the Penguins in Antarctic and I am done!

Be well and take care.


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


Together We Drink

Every a number of week, our (now Australian) parent company would hold a Beer and Pizza event. It is an after work social to get people together. Free Beer and Pizza!

First I got conned by the low alcohol beer. It was a Carlsberg but only got 0.5% alcohol. I thought it was a proper one, but conned by the label until someone told me.

The emails went around the office before promoted the after party to be some kind of a must attend event. So I prepare myself for that and went along.

Got the tram into the office (was annoyed it had took me ages), so that I can drink.

After the beer and pizzas, we went over to the bar over the road from office. The turnout was actually quite poor; there were about 10 in the bar.

We had a couple of drinks and half of the people left and there were only 5 of us going into town to meet our new colleagues from our parent company.

As we were about to go pass Castlefield, one said: “This is interesting, I like to look into people’s flat and see them watching TV.”

Then I said: “I live in one of these!” and as the Tram went pass my flats, I point out where my palace was and offered to come out naked and wave next time his tram passes by.

We met the others in a pub on Deansgate, had a couple of drinks, spoke to a funny Kiwi guy who surprisingly live in one of those “you can look into on the tram flat”.

It was always the plan to go to Dukes 92 (my favourite and kind of my local), but more faffing about, not in sync drinking, forced the parent company colleagues to go first.

As we were about to head off some 10 mins later, some came back into the pub and said they have lost people who went home, oh…well…..

Once we have had another drink, we went to Dukes finally. On the way to Dukes, one has asked me what I thought about a Chinese Restaurant he’s recently been to in the Northern Quarters.

Well my answer was: “It’s excellent; I go pretty much every day!” No I didn’t say that exactly, I said “I am bias, but they are very good, next time you mention my name you might get an extra prawn cracker!”

It was Friday night and it was busy but wasn’t full at Dukes.

We sat outside for some more drinks and chit chat.

A pair of my lovely colleagues: Celena and Sharon, with Tony Morris from ITV Granada in the background! Who? You know who, the Trevor Nelson lookalike.

I went home at about midnight, but the rest of the gang headed out towards town for more drinks until 3am I was later told.

It was a shame that not more have came out. But I’m sure when the weather gets better; those party animals will come out.

Take Care


SOGS Dinner at Sweet Mandarin

This year SOGS dinner took place on the 31-1-2010 at Sweet Mandarin in the Northern Quarter of Manchester.

History of S.O.G.S = Salford Office Gambling Syndicate. It is not as serious as the word Gambling actually mean.

During a time in the Salford Quays office, I started to run regular sweepstakes amongst my colleagues. It was an important talking point, was not about the money, but about togetherness and a bit of fun.

The topic can vary, anything from New Born Baby Weights, IT’s respond time, Football and other sporting events etc

In fact the syndicate is dead now, we have not had a sweepstake for years. People had somehow stop bothering and also some people has left us too.

What remain is the Annual Dinner? Our normal office Christmas party is often Chinese Food. I always complain that the food at these Christmas dinner is poor wherever we go. So every year, I organise an alternative Christmas dinner in Chinatown with me ordering from the “Chinese Menu”. This year the dinner was delayed to January because of the takeover in that we end up having two Christmas parties. Another one would just be too much colleagues bonding!

I chose Sweet Mandarin (Twitter @sweetmandarin) because they won the Gordon Ramsey F word Best local Chinese Restaurant award. I was hoping to attract more people to come. But for several reasons that it turned out to be the opposite.

Nevertheless the spirit should be there, which is very very very important to me. There was people who don’t really know what SOGS is and the importance of this gathering. The atomsphere was not as high as I wanted to be. But let the food do the talking!

A pre-dinner drink at the Printworks, before we slowly progressed to our table at Sweet Mandarin. I have not been there before and with my trusted guide (Google Map), we have find the vibrant restaurant in Northern Quarters. When I walked in, Helen (one of three sisters who own the restaurant) greeted me (and already  knew I am Simon). Then I said hello to Lisa too. I have been talking to them via Twitter, was nice to met them.

The restaurant was buzzing, so busy on that Friday night. The restaurant is decorated to a very high standard, very warm and the atmosphere was excellent.

I did the food ordering of course. Every time I try a new restaurant, I always try their signature dishes, and this time no different.

1) Mabel’s Claypot Chicken
2) Lily Kwok’s Curry Chicken
3) Buddha Golden Basket

The food was good but it is not as authentic as the food I had trained my colleagues to eat all these years. It was tasty don’t get me wrong, and I would probably go back but it is different from the true authentic Chinese (Cantonese more specifically) food you can order from the “Chinese Menu”. But this really deserves another blog to discuss.

Next year I am banning any partners, sorry but they dampen the atmosphere. It was only Andrew who were keeping to the spirit of SOGS.

Anyway after more food and drinks, it was the big event of the evening. The “Sweepstake” on the bill. In this, each person would bet £1 on the final value of the bills. Just two simply rules.

1) If you are over you are out
2) Everything including VAT (ie the biggest number on the bill)

SAME RULES every time, is it because of luck that I always  win? Although I am the one who ordered and everyone else thinks I have insider knowledge, sorry but I don’t. The reason must be I am just pretty good at guessing!

The bill was above 200, roughly £25 per head. Everyone had gone for below £20 per head, I am the only one on £20 per head. So I win once again! £7 pound better off woo hoo. I was hoping if I didn’t Andrew would, because he made great effort all night.

I have to say it was not as fun as last year, or the year before, or the year before before, or the year bbb bbbb …….. etc…

We rumbled over for more drinks around Northern Quarters and slowly lost everyone.

I think next year’s dinner, chicken feet, roast pig’s head, ginger & spring onion tripe, Beef entrails, Pig tongue, Duck gizzard, all have to return to satisfy my not so “gweilo” colleagues…

Debrand has forced me to Rebrand


I registered this domain as my silent protest about being gradually debrand at work.

It is inevitable after the acquisition.

As I am the last employee for March Consulting (2 acquisitions before the current one),  I feel very lucky to have spotted this domain became available.

I have not done anything spiteful, it is just a laugh…

But dare I say it will make a come back one day.

Simon (724)

March Consulting – Knowledge Innovations Solutions

Office Christmas Party (2 of 2)

Dodgy Swap > Dodgy Beef > Dodgy Drink > Dodgy Health > Dodgy Simon > Dodgy Night

I swapped dinner choice with my big boss. So I had Soup then Steak instead Soup then Turkey.

Anyway, not sure whether it was the drinks or the meal or the fact that I was full of cold.

Sorry to my colleagues, I was not a great company, dodgy Simon appeared.

I didn’t feel well at all, I became an immature lunatic.

So I dragged myself home very early (didn’t even finish my last drink)

I collapse to my bed for my recovery.

End of Story.

Office Christmas Party (1 of 2)

This is the first Office Christmas Party with our new colleagues from the parent company, the second one is this Friday just with ourselves and a few from the old company.

The Fashion Gear

Unfortunately I had a change of heart at the last minute, didn’t like the Boxfresh shirt I was going to wear. I was going to wear a Hamnett one, just remember I wore it before in one of my last 7 office Christmas dos. So I went with my not so posh River Island short sleeve stripe shirt. Even when I was picking the pair of shoes I was in two mind. I hear you shout: “Simon! You’re such a women!”

The Walk

I live in Castlefield andthe Hotel is in Piccadilly. I walk along the canal then on Portland Road. In all it took me about 20-25minutes. It wasn’t bad at all.

The Pre-Chat

There were two types of people from the new company.

  1. Young and here to have a good time
  2. Experience and here to let you know of their proud careers.

The Dinner

3 Courses Turkey christmass dinner cooked by a machine (I think) and served by a gang of daleks (I think).

The food was somewhat mass produced. The tomato soup was aweful, a canned soup would taste much better. The turkey was surprising well cooked and very eatable, the pudding was pretty standard stuff you can buy from the supermarket.

Now the waiters, the gang of daleks I refer them as eariler.

They dress in black and ten all come at once.
They all ask the same question – “Have you finished with that?”
They show both their hands, take the plates and run back to the kitchen all in one breath.
They come back out, stand in a line and starred at each other!

Please  self-destruct!

The Party

Normally our office support staff hit the dancefloor before anyone else, but this time they were overtaken by a man from the new company. He seemed to be enjoying himself very much !!! Not sure how many he had already.

The Dance-Off

Run DMC’s song came on and there was a dance off between the new company and ourselves. Dare I said we won 3-0.

1st Round – our breakdance seal won with no reply

2nd Round – our spinning-on-his-backside-man won with no reply

3nd Round – our afician-shoulder-electrical-wave-dance won with no reply

(PS I am currently practicing my MJ moonwalk every day! Might come handy in the next dance off!!!)

The After Party

Sorry this never existed, most of the bars were shut when we finished and some decided to go home then. So I walked home with the Manchester rain.


There was no surprises, no rumours, no gossips, nothing that happen shouldn’t have. Everyone was enjoying themselves, and time has travelled fast that night.

We are all looking forward to this Fridays, I am sure something more interesting and funny things will come up.

There is of course the pre and after drinks at my penthouse this Friday. I am not sure the after drinks will be feasbile, apprently the party don’t finish until 4am!

Let the force be with you!