Posts Tagged ‘London’

‘Vigilance’ was an important word this month. Every political figure and journalist used it the week Osama Bin Laden’s death was announced and it cropped up again midmonth when a bomb threat was made against central London.

The Metropolitan Police sealed off areas like Trafalgar Square and the mall near Buckingham Palace, detonated an unusual bag in central London, and used a bomb squad to investigate several suspicious manhole covers and streets.

What?!? Someone forgot to mention these types of activities when we were discussing my transfer.

While watching a Die Hard movie or sitting around with buddies, it’s easy to say how you would handle this situation but those hypothetical, and mostly chauvinistic, plans disappear when you learn of a credible threat. It’s replaced instead by a million different thoughts and ideas.

The first for me was “Holy Sh!t.

It was quickly followed by “Is this real?!” and “I think I’m working late tonight.

Central London is quite large so the odds were on my side but the “Is this for real?” feeling stuck with me for a while as a new list of questions popped into my head. Do I take the tube home like normal or should I try the bus? Will they issue an ‘all clear’ or do we remain vigilant until tomorrow morning? If I stay late, how late should I stay? Is 8 p.m. late enough?

As these questions were passing through my mind, I was caught off guard by my colleagues’ lack of reaction. Was I the only person that received the email? They seemed to be the epitome of “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

In the end, the threat was minimal and nothing more than a slight hiccup from the Metropolitan Police department’s perspective. However, it was a good reminder of the British mentality. ‘Redesigned’ by the Nazi bombings in WWII and shaken by the 7/7 bombings of 2005, London is a strong city with a difficult past.

As someone that grew up rocking the suburbs, my colleagues served as a reminder that there will always be threats close to home and you should keep a watchful eye, but that doesn’t mean you should be afraid of the unknown.

Cheers,
Joe

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After immersing myself in the Royal Wedding prep and dabbling in the realm of foreign correspondence, the day of the Royal Wedding finally arrived. As excited as everyone was for the parade and celebration, I think most Londoners were excited for an extra day off.

Waking Up Early

To walk the wedding route so many times and not see the parade would have been crazy. So I did what only a few of my colleagues were doing, I woke up offensively early on a national holiday to stand outside in the cold snag a spot along the parade route. While this was incredibly painful – because it was early in the morning, not because I was hung over – it reminded me of the times I got up early as a kid for the 4th of July parade in Wisconsin.

I'm either practicing my Popeye impersonation or about to cause trouble.

Around 7 a.m. the route was four, sometimes five, people deep from the fences with little hope for in sight. Thankfully, a few late sleepers gave me a chucking and I didn’t feel so bad about my situation.

Eventually, relief came in the form of an open gateway across from the Horse Guard Parade. My spot was at a turn in the parade route and I think most people hadn’t settled there for fear that they wouldn’t see anything or that they were missing out on an even better spot close to Buckingham Palace, a terrible mistake on their part. From this turn, several thousand commoners were able to watch the Royals and foreign dignitaries pass by in Bentleys and Rolls Royces, while the second hour of 50 degree weather slowly crept into our bones.

A Hush of Silence and Collective “Aww”

As the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh passed our location, the Chief Superintendent for the London Metropolitan Police department meandered over to my area of the fence and in a voice just above a whisper said, “She’s 90 seconds away.” The procession was planned so meticulously that you could hold a stop watch to it and now were only 90 seconds away from seeing the woman two billion people were waiting to see.

Each car that had passed earlier in the procession received a loud cheer and applause as they went by but when Kate Middleton’s car approached, the crowd grew silent as everyone shifted for the best possible view. As her car slowly drove by, the air was filled with a soft and collective “Awwww.”

To everyone that “grew up” with William and Harry or watched William and Kate’s relationship develop, Kate was very much their Cinderella.

It’s said that when Kate arrived at the altar, the Duke of Cambridge looked at his bride and told her she looked beautiful. I think everyone along the parade route thought the same thing… And then most of us guys remembered it was her wedding day and we would have to settle for her attractive sister, Pippa. (Don’t worry guys, I handle this one.)

What You Didn’t See on TV

To the international media and out of town guests, the Royal wedding was like a college party. The host, London, got everything ready, all of the attendees were dressed to impress, the pictures looked great, the event had plenty of alcohol, and everyone got home safely. The downside for London is having to clean up the mess, steam clean the drapes*, and find out what happened to the awesome mixed CD we made for the party.

My friend Etosha and I walked the parade route a few days after the wedding and things were starting to look normal but it will take the flowers a little time to recover.

We made a few stops during our walk and noticed that only a few thousand barricades remained, the massive TV studios and scaffolding were starting to come down, and it wasn’t tough to find cheap trash and trinkets souvenirs.

While is would be a perfect opportunity to remind everyone that weddings are amazing and that the Royal Wedding is really about two people falling in love, I imagine Katie Couric beat that story to a pulp before she even landed in London. However, it’s good to recognize that this wedding was culturally important to the United Kingdom because it was a celebration of Great Britain’s traditions and heritage.

Planning Notes for My Future Wedding

1)      As the groom, it’s okay to wear a red jacket.

2)      You can throw an awesome party if you’re willing to spend £34 million.

3)      Find out what Pippa Middleton is doing in 2014.

4)      Make the wedding program available on iTunes.**

5)      The international media loves weddings. Save a space for Hessischer Rundfunk’s satellite truck.

6)      Make sure someone always has a camera on them – even during the planning stages.

Cheers,

Joe

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* It was a good college party when you find empty PBR and Natty Light cans behind your couch. It was a great party when you needed to rent a steam cleaner.

** You can download The Official Royal Wedding Program for free from iTunes.

“You’re going to be there for the Royal Wedding!” – The average female response when I announced my move to London.

Just when you thought all of the Royal Wedding news and nonsense was over, here’s a firsthand look at my immersion into all things Will and Kate and live in London leading up to the Royal Wedding. My apologies if you’re exhausted from nonstop William and Kate news. I’m in the same boat as you but this was an exciting time for me and my first opportunity to be a “foreign correspondent.”

Becoming a Royal Wedding Commentator

A few days after arriving in London, I received a Facebook message from a TV producer and friend in Chicago asking if I could chat about the Royal Wedding excitement during a few morning broadcasts.  To say I jumped at the opportunity is an understatement. Being a “foreign correspondent” or “man on the ground” for one of the world’s largest weddings is exactly the type of opportunity and challenge that interests me.

I called into the station twice and only chatted for a combined total of 2-3 minutes but love it. To prepare for the phone conversations I spent hours immersing myself in everything related to the Royal Wedding. While newspaper articles, gossip columns, BBC, and royal family’s Twitter handle were all helpful, the best insight and experiences came from walking the parade route and touring Westminster Abbey.

Searching for the Subtle Changes

During my five to six “fact finding missions” along the parade route, some of the best changes were subtle – like the discrete TV cameras installed at Westminster Abbey to show Kate Middleton’s walk down the aisle and watching the flowers outside Buckingham Palace changing from yellow to red. These changes were my favorite because unless you kept your eyes open, you missed them.

Cameras were mounted on pillars in Westminster Abbey to capture Kate Middleton’s walk down the aisle. Technically, you aren’t allowed to take photographs inside the abbey but if you don’t use your flash and pretend to be praying, no one will say anything to you.

On each side of Westminster Abbey’s entrance is a fake building that hid TV cameras. The large rectangles in each side of the temporary buildings were removable panels.

The Metropolitan Police, MI5 (the UK equivalent to Homeland Security), and the military played an important role on the wedding day but unknown to most is the presence they played leading up to the wedding. I chatted with a few officers during one of my walks and learned that the week of the wedding the parade route and neighboring parks were under 24 hour surveillance and the Royal Guards practiced drills along the parade route in the dead of night.

Changes With a “Wow” Factor

None of the changes were so monumental that they completely blew me away. Most of them were actually expected – a Union Jack on every corner, an over abundance of international media, people willing to camp out for days just to catch a glimpse of William and Kate as they leave Westminster Abbey. But it was tough to see some of them and not be astounded.

Four days before the wedding, Monday, the first camper arrived outside Westminster Abbey and he was a character. This clearly wasn’t his first camp out because upon arrival he walked up to the first Press Association photographer he saw and declared himself as the first camper. Decked head to toe in Union Jack items, this guy was all over the place and he reminded me of Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 3.

Lining the parade route were thousands upon thousands of fences. In order to get everything set up on time, flatbed semi-trucks and fork lifts were a frequent sight along the parade route.

To capture every second of the Royal Wedding craziness, the international media set up studios on roof tops, in parks, and across from Buckingham Palace. The left half of this picture is a three story broadcast studio, featuring 33 individual studios, across from Buckingham Palace. The right half is a two story broadcast platform across from Westminster Abbey. Both were built specifically for the wedding.  (Note: Having a blog did not grant you access to the media center across from Buckingham Palace.)

My Broadcast Debut (Please keep your laughter to yourself.)

Monday, April 25th – 4 Days Before the Wedding

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Thursday, April 28th – 1 Day Before the Royal Wedding

Many thanks to everyone that “Liked” these videos on Facebook, commented, or sent me a note. I really appreciate the support.

For the sake of everyone’s sanity, I broke my original post into two parts. Thanks for sticking with me and check back tomorrow for a “commoner’s perspetive” of the wedding day. (Teaser: I was along the parade route.)

Cheers,

Joe

From a logistical standpoint, moving to London wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined. Almost every year since 2004, I’ve packed up my belongings, evaluated my clothes, and moved into a new space. Flying to London is no different than flying to New York, Miami, or St. Louis. International and domestic travelers are together during the TSA screening process, my American Airlines gate was next to a gate for people heading to Tampa, and a bottle of water is still $4 at the newsstand.

Just like writing this blog post, I delayed and ignored the toughest thing on my to-do list: saying goodbye to everyone. I avoided it because as long as I didn’t say goodbye to people, boxing up my apartment was no different than the countless times I’ve moved and packing my bag was just like packing for a long vacation.

Flying over the Atlantic Ocean

When I started to say goodbye to people in my office, it finally hit that I was moving to London. I reminded people that I would still be in the company network and we would even have some overlap in our work days. We said Facebook would keep us connected and agreed that my visit to Chicago during the summer isn’t that far away. At the time, these conversations were “easy” because my apartment was still a mess and I had 1,001 things to do before my flight.

One of the people I spoke with was a person that connected me with my job in London. We celebrated for a moment, she wished me the best, reminded me to work hard, and then told me something no one else had mentioned, “This is going to be tough. It is going to be really difficult and it will take a month or so before it gets better. But hang in there. You can do it.”

She was right. This transition is difficult. Dealing with banks, understanding a new currency, finding a permanent address, learning a new phone system… and accidentally spending more on a sandwich than my temporary phone. (I’m not too frustrated, it was a really good sandwich.)

I'm pretty sure my phone was designed in 2003. It's key features include a "simple design, colourful screen and large, separated keys."

But life here hasn’t been all bad. I have great co-workers, I’m meeting people from around the world (e.g. Last night I went to a party with people from Germany, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and Russia), I’m excited to travel, and I have great people, like you, supporting me.

Thank you for your support. Thank you for the Facebook messages, wall posts, Tweets, and text messages. This new stage in my life is easier because of friends like you.

I didn’t have time to give a proper goodbye to everyone in the States and I’m sorry. I tried to do small things like coffee, lunch, or drinks at night, but I didn’t have much time between the day my move went public and the morning I left for the UK. If I were to step back a few weeks, I wouldn’t have put off the goodbyes as long as I did. I hope you forgive my poor planning. It was the result of an overwhelmed person trying to pretend everything is normal.

I’d love to know everything going on at home. So feel free to send me an email or drop a note in the comments section below.

Cheers,

Joe

More than two and a half years ago, I moved to Chicago and embraced the city as my own. I’ve eaten some amazing food, watched the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, survived three football seasons as a Packers fan and met lifelong friends. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start my post-college life.

The corner stone of my Windy City experience  is my office and my co-workers. The environment is challenging but nurturing, our clients are industry leaders, and the people I work with are intelligent, driven, and some of my best friends. I’ll never be able to replicate this group of people and the environment but I’m excited to say:

I’m moving to London.

Source

Where did this come from?

A few months ago I started searching for opportunities to diversify my experience and set myself apart from my peers. After a week in New York, I came back to Chicago and reached out to my mentors and the agency’s leadership for guidance. During one of these conversations, someone pointed out that my plan didn’t exactly line up with the goal. It was during this conversation that we started to talk about opportunities abroad and how to make the most of my skills.

When am I leaving and for how long?

My plane leaves Chicago on Saturday, March 19th, less than two weeks from today, and I’ll start working at Weber’s London office on Wednesday, March 23rd. My apartment in Chicago is already down to the bare minimum, thanks to Mama Piehl, and I’m quickly evaluating everything I own and deciding what will come with me. My work visa is for three years and near the  end of each year, I’ll evaluate my experience and work with the London office to determine if I’ll stay in the UK or move back to the US.

Am I nervous?

You bet! I’ve been looking for new opportunities since September and have been discussing logistics with London since the middle of January. You would think this is enough time to overcome any fear or doubt, however, the reality of my situation didn’t sink in until this past Wednesday when my friend Sami gave me a book about Chicago and wrote on the inside, “Now you get to keep some of Chicago with you!” Like a slap across the face, I finally felt the reality of my transition.

Thankfully, the timing couldn’t be better! My apartment lease is up at the end of this month, my family is tremendously supportive, and there is nothing permanent connecting me to Chicago. I’m going to miss my friends and it seems weird to move now that I’ve established myself in the city’s different networks and social circles, but my fear is that if I don’t do this now, I never will. As a fun bonus with this change, I’m able to cross off two of my 25 in 25 goals in one move: visit Europe and move some where new.

What’s next?

Packing and partying – but not necessarily in that order. Help packing is always wanted but it’s not expected. However, this upcoming Friday I’m tearing it up and enjoying my last weekend in Chicago. Location: TBD.

Cheers,

Joe

Windy City