The Daily Explorer

May 26, 2008

Basel Beckons

Filed under: People,Switzerland,United Kingdom — The Daily Explorer @ 3:11 pm
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Switzerland: May 2008

Mozzie Byte, Editor - The Daily Explorermozzie-byte-profile-44pt.jpg

Welcome back to all our Daily Explorer readers and greetings to those of you who are joining us for the first time. My name is Mozzie Byte (above) and I am the Editor of The Daily Explorer, responsible for the compilation of all of our publications on-line. In our last issue (Sun, Sea and Songkran), Ray had returned to London from a month in Thailand for a brief re-entry into the business world. And a lively couple of weeks in the social calender for our global traveller before heading off to Switzerland to begin work.

Recruited as part of a small team working on a corporate training programme for a global pharmaceutical company, I caught up with Ray as he arrived in London, to find out more about his preparations to begin working again. Why had he decided to get involved? “It’s a good question, Mozzie. Now that I have had over two years to completely re-design my life, I have reached a point where I would really like to experience a blend of work and travel, and continue to move around the globe whilst doing both” explained Ray.

“The commitment required from me on this programme is about 25 days of work this year, so I perceive little risk of getting pulled back into a regular working routine. And I am going to be working with some great people in an interesting environment where I can learn and contribute my experience, which was very appealing – not to mention the income that it will generate for me!” added Ray. “The icing on the cake is that the work is geographically spread between Basel (Switzerland), the USA and Asia, which fits very well indeed with my vision of having a portfolio of work around the globe” he told me.

Above: Ray set off for Basel towards the end of April as part of his preparation to join the training team he is working with. This gave him the opportunity to experience the new Terminal Five at Heathrow – “I heard that the opening was a bit of a catastrophe when I was in Thailand” said Ray, “so I was keen to see for myself how it was working” he told me

Below: As a new member of the team, Ray is required to familiarise himself with the programme and observe two complete training events before he is allowed to facilitate an event himself. He observed one in New Jersey, USA in November last year and this one in Basel, led by colleague and friend Simon Lovegrove (right) and Mark Fourman (left)

Had Ray been planning on travelling through Switzerland before he was aware of the work opportunity? “No Mozzie” was his short reply. “When I think about places I want to travel, Switzerland and most European countries would be way down the list, with India, Asia and South America heading it up. When I told Simon (above) about eighteen months ago that I might be interested in doing some work in Asia whilst I was travelling, he informed me that there may be an opportunity for me out there so Ieft it with him and carried on travelling” recalled Ray.

Fast forward a year or so and Ray was offered a chance to join the team. “The client had been considering running a “Creating Compelling Partnerships” course in Singapore, which is why I was originally invited to work on the programme. But it has turned out that this location may not happen for a while, so in the meantime, I have been sent to Switzerland and the USA instead” he told me. “Of course, I do not really mind as the work is the same, no matter where it takes place” he added.

Above and below: The city of Basel in Switzerland – quite a contrast from many of the cities in Asia that our global traveller has visited

Above: Like all professionals, Simon and Mark always de-brief on the critical events and learning points from the day as they ride the tram back to their hotel – “You should have seen the size of the cake I ate at lunchtime” says Simon (right). “Was it chocolate or strawberry?” inquires Mark (left)

Below: A tram ride through Basel is a lovely way to see the city – here, it crosses the Rhine

Above: Mark and Simon skillfully lead the delegates through the course material, designed to help them to become better at negotiating and managing key partnerships in their business lives

Below: Global corporations spend millions each year on educating people to improve how they do things, hoping that it will make them more competitive and improve their profitability

Above: Ray sent us this video clip, illustrating in a rather humorous way, the difficulties of trying to negotiate across different cultural boundaries!

I spoke to Ray as he was halfway through his three day observation of the programme to get some idea of how he was getting on. “It’s going pretty well, Mozzie” he told me. “Simon and Mark really know their stuff and they both give me a good model for how I could work with people in the training room” added Ray. “And I have observed Simon working one on one with individuals to help them apply what they are learning to their own unique situations at work – he is very good at doing this and I am learning a lot from watching him” he told me.

Above: Simon works with one of the delegates during one of the breaks (left) which gives Ray the opportunity to see how it should be done, and our global traveller enjoys lunch with some of the delegates on day two (right)

Below: With the three day observation complete, Ray packs up and heads back to London – “I am coming back in a few days, and next time, I will be taking the training with Simon as opposed to observing” he said. “I have some prep work to do in the next week or so in England and I intend to be ready for my return” he said confidently. We will be bringing you the story of what happened at Ray’s first training event in the next issue of The Daily Explorer

Back in London, Ray had a couple of weeks to reflect on what he had observed and make final preparations in order to be ready for his return to Basel, for his training debut on the “Creating Compelling Partnerships” programme. “I’ve still got a fair amount of work to do” he told me, “but I also have a couple of important social engagements before I go back to Switzerland” added Ray.

One of these events was the 50th birthday of Adrian Hollister and I was curious to know what his connection was to Ray. “Originally, Adrian was one of my clients” explained Ray. “He was introduced to me and we worked together on and off for a year or so, which was very productive” he recalled. “As time has gone by, the boundaries of our relationship have changed and we have become personal friends as well as business associates, which I am very pleased about. We even met in New York last Christmas for lunch when he was over there with his wife Katie” added Ray.

Above: The New Mill at Eversley, near Reading was the venue for Adrian’s 50th birthday – “Katie had organised the most wonderful surprise for him” said Ray. “He thought he was going to be having a small, private and quiet dinner with close family and received quite a shock when he realised that Katie had assembled a huge group of friends and family from every part of Adrian’s life” recalled Ray

Below: No one does countryside scenes quite like England – “It’s definitely one of the things I appreciate about being in the UK – this was a wonderful choice of venue and co-incidentally was the place where Katie and Adrian had their wedding reception! There is no other country like it for pubs like this” observed Ray

Above: Adrian enjoys meeting all of his guests (left) – “He is a very kind man and his guests definitely reflected this” observed our traveller. When he made his speech, I think he was a bit overwhelmed by it all (right) but I am sure it will last long in his memory” said Ray

Below: Katie and Adrian kindly invited Ray to stay at their house after the party – “Will you still love me now that I am 50?” asks Adrian. “Of course I will, as long as you keep wearing my favourite hat” replies Katie

The second event that Ray was scheduled to attend was also a 50th birthday party, this time of his long time friend Scanes Bentley. “I left Adrian’s house mid-morning so that I would arrive at ‘Bentleyham Palace’ in Hindhead around lunchtime” recalled Ray. The house may be familiar to Daily Explorer readers as it was featured during one of Ray’s visits to the UK earlier this year. “Scanes and his wife Sarah are brilliant hosts and their parties are a bit of a legend” said our global socialite. “They moved here a little while ago, just in time for the birth of their baby daughter Hannah, and the party was created to mark all three events” explained Ray. “Knowing their is always the possibility of bad weather in the UK, they had thoughtfully erected a marquee in their garden so that we could all avoid getting drenched if things went pair shaped” added our traveller.

Above: ‘Bentleyham Palace’ in Hindhead – venue for the wonderful party to celebrate Scanes’ 50th birthday, their move to the house and the birth of their daughter Hannah

Below: Scanes (third from right) greets some of the guests as they arrive – “I know the Daily Explorer is not quite the same as Hello! Magazine, which he would probably love to be featured in, but I hope these pictures do him proud” said Ray. “The event was a massive success as many people there had worked together in the last 20 years and has led to some speculation that a formal re-union may be organised for many of these ex-Merchants alumni” he told me

I asked Ray to tell me a bit more about his thoughts regarding a possible re-union. “Whenever I have attended a social event like this where I meet many of my former colleagues from Programmes and Merchants, I am always delighted to see many of the people that congregate as our working relationships were very close and extremely creative, so every person has some kind of special place in my heart” explained Ray. “Because we do not see each other that often, the conversations inevitably drift towards the “Do you know what so and so is doing now?” type of questions, so it occurred to me that a massive re-union would be welcomed by a lot of people” said Ray. “As I do not have many commitments and I like doing that sort of thing, I may have a go at organising something, depending on how much support and interest there is for such an event – we’ll have to see” he said.

Above: I wonder why Ray is interested in organising a re-union event with his former colleagues? Could these three gorgeous ladies have anything to do with it? “Oh stop it Mozzie!” said Ray. “They are all happily married and are all good friends” said our traveller, as he showed me this picture, taken at the party, of Sally Rustom (left), Andro Donovan (centre) and Annabel Dennis (right)

When Ray is in London, he is always welcome at the home of his brother Paul and sister-in-law Kitty. “They know how much I appreciate their hospitality as I regularly tell them” said Ray. “But someone I believe I hadn’t thanked enough was their au pair, Nienke” he told me. “When I visit, she cooks meals for me, takes care of my laundry and makes me endless cups of tea – it’s true, she does these things as part of her family duties, but none the less, I really appreciate her support and I was not sure if she knew this” added Ray.

Above: Nienke is Paul and Kitty’s au pair and has been very kind to our traveller during his visits in the last year. After yet another supper she lovingly prepared (left), Nienke was given a gift by our global traveller in appreciation of her generous support (right) – you’ve guessed it – a free lifetime subscription to The Daily Explorer!

Laura Jacobs has featured regularly in previous issues of The Daily Explorer and her and Ray met up a couple of days before he left for Basel. “She is a great friend and I really enjoy her company” Ray told me. “So when she invited me to a conference for Social Entrepreneurs, taking place at the Barge House near the Oxo Tower on the river, I was delighted to accept” recalled Ray. “It is something which interests her because of her work, whereas I saw it as a chance to meet some interesting people and enjoy a day by the river” said Ray.

Above: The Barge House is a rather run down but interesting venue adjacent to the Oxo Tower (right) on the River Thames

Below: London is a fantastic place for visitors – “I am always struck by this, as absence has opened my eyes to this magnificent city that I used to reside in and allowed me to appreciate things I use to take for granted, like the amazing view of the skyline along the river (left) and the creativity of enterprising people who come up with interesting names for hat shops (right) although I am not sure if I agree with their philosophy” remarked Ray

Above: Our traveller enjoys a quiet moment by the river as he reads the latest Marianne Williamson book – “I am asking a lot of questions about the ‘mid-life’, conventionally thought of as the period of your life from 45-57. Mine so far has been unusual and many of the events unexpected, so I am curious to discover other people’s experience as they move into this period of their own lives” said Ray

Below: The London skyline is right up there with the best cities in the world – the footbridge at the Embankment (left) and the Royal Festival Hall are just two of the many spectacular sights in the city

When he used to live in London, Ray was a regular attendee of the Monday evening talks at ‘Alternatives‘, which take place at the St. James Church in Piccadilly. “If you are interested in expanding your mind, then London is a brilliant place, with hundreds of seminars, talks and events on a wide range of topics. And the programme at Alternatives is one of the best I have come across” said Ray. “I highly recommend the Monday evening lectures in the church. They are usually thought provoking and I invariably meet interesting people there. The people who I have listened to there include Neale Donald Walsch, Masuro Emoto, Jack Canfield, and Robert Holden, plus a few whose names I don’t remember” added Ray.

Above: St. James Church in Piccadilly, which is home to the programme of talks and workshops run under the ‘Alternatives’ banner – “Laura and I decided to attend a talk by Lynne Franks (the PR guru and supposed inspiration for the Edina character played by Jennifer Saunders in Absolutely Fabulous) whilst I was in town, which was a poor decision as it was one of the worst I have been to – far too self-aggrandising and no useful information” said Ray

With everything in order for Ray’s pending trip to Basel, I made contact with him in Southfields to find out if he felt ‘ready’ for his training debut. “About as ready as I will ever be” was the philosophical reply. “I have got all my material ready, all my logistics are sorted and clothes are packed, minus one or two items which I will be retrieving from my mum’s attic and then I am off” he told me.

Above and below: With everything organised for his trip to Basel and some time in hand, Ray enjoys some harmless fun and games with niece Rebecca (centre, top) and nephew Daniel (right, top) in their garden (Photos: Kitty Martin)

For those readers who have not known Ray very long, he grew up in a small town about twenty miles north of London, called Welwyn Garden City. “I am never surprised if people have not heard of it” said Ray. “It is the sort of town where you either grow up and leave early on or you end up marrying someone and having kids and staying there your whole life – with me doing the former” he explained. “The only thing that Welwyn Garden City is famous for is Shredded Wheat (the factory was there for years until its closure) and the golfer, Nick Faldo” added our part-time historian. “However, one of my favourite clients lives out there, quite close to my mum’s house so I am very pleased that I will be able to have a coffee with him before I leave the country” added Ray.

Above: Ray grew up in Welwyn Garden City

I discovered that the place where Ray had arranged to meet Mike O’Brien (below) had some personal significance for our global nomad. “When I left school in 1976 and started working at the local branch of Lloyds Bank, our first Christmas Party was held at the local Clock Hotel. The cabaret for the evening was the ‘up and coming’ comedian, Jim Bowen (Bullseye) and it was a typical boozy bash. I have not been back there since in 32 years, so there is a touch of nostalgia for me associated with that era” he told me.

Above: Ray arranged to meet Mike O’Brien (right) at the Clock Hotel in Welwyn – “Mike is a very special guy and was one of the best clients that (my ex-wife) Charlotte and I ever worked with during the First Place Era. Funnily enough, he also knows Simon Lovegrove very well (who I’m working with in Basel) – it really is a small world” said our global traveller

Talking of the First Place era, I discovered that it was rather a strange co-incidence that Ray had work to do in Basel. “When I was married to Charlotte, we visited Basel once or twice to see her Grandmother when she was alive, so I had a little knowledge of the place. And Charlotte now lives with her husband and children in a small village called Steckborn which is near Zurich. It was amazing that of all the places I could have been sent in the world, I would end up so close to her home for my dip back into the business world” remarked Ray. “Naturally, I made the most of the opportunity and went over a couple of days early so I could spend time with her and her family and meet her son Joey, who was born on 1st April. It was also my first opportunity to meet her husband Patrick since our divorce four years ago so I was a little nervous too” admitted Ray.

Above: The Swiss are famous for their chocolate and watches, but their railways run like clockwork too!

Below: After weeks and months of anticipation, Ray finally meets his ex-wife Charlotte on her own ‘home turf’ as she arrives to greet him in Steckborn – “We were both thrilled to be seeing each other and our friendship has gone from strength to strength over the last four years” said Ray. “I am delighted that she has found happiness in the life she has there” he told me

So what was it like meeting Patrick? “It was actually a real pleasure” said Ray. “I was anticipating a small amount of either hostility or awkwardness, as I was entering Patrick’s home – his ‘turf’. However, he made me feel very welcome, was friendly and hospitable and I felt quite comfortable spending time with him and his family. I am very glad we have met each other for the first time, both for myself and Charlotte as she is such a close friend and our ongoing contact had been a bit of an issue prior to this” he told me. “I was also thrilled to see her two children, Lola and Joey. I had met Lola in London on a couple of previous occasions but Joey was only born a few weeks ago and I was really looking forward to seeing him for the first time” added Ray.

Above: Charlotte and husband Patrick were married on 9th September 2005

Below: The local guest house in Steckborn overlooks a huge lake and is close to Charlotte’s family home. Judging by the table mat, they must get a lot of overseas visitors!

Above: Charlotte with new arrival Joey (centre) and Lola (right)

Below: Ray and Charlotte were thrilled to see each other for the first time in nearly a year – “When I remember that we lived together and worked together 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 12 years, I realise why I miss her so much! Still, I am glad that we have had this brief time to catch up properly” he told me

Above: Ray with Lola (left) and Charlotte with both of her adorable kids (right)

Editors Note: Ray has now departed Steckborn for Basel. In our next issue, you can find out how he got on during his training debut and subsequent trip to New Jersey, USA delivering the programme to executives there. After that, Ray is due to return to London for his brother Paul’s 50th birthday and will be letting us know where his travel plans take him after that. We will keep you posted!

We have also received a few requests from readers wanting to know more about the history of The Daily Explorer. If you would like more information, click here.


Above: Look out for the next issue of The Daily Explorer, in which you can find out how Ray got on with his training work in Basel and New Jersey ……

Below: …. and his brother Paul’s 50th birthday party in London. Paul (right) is pictured here getting things ready for a major influx of guests at his home, assisted by his son Daniel (left)



  1. James and I enjoyed reading your blog so much, especially seeing the pics of you with your ex wife Charlotte and her children. We’re glad the meeting in Switzerland went well for you… strange seeing you looking ‘dressed’ and smart… great images from London too… what a contrast to your last month in Thailand? We’ll be in London next month so hope we may meet up at some point?

    Comment by Susie Moberly — May 27, 2008 @ 1:36 am

  2. Lovely to read all about your life – with lots of energy and enthusiasm in your writing and living. And to see old friends in your photos, too. You’re a natural journalist and very funny!

    Comment by Jane Harries — June 23, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

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