Waking up over London

Moleskine entry: July 26th, 2009

Sam and I scored well on this flight.

Two seats back, in the middle of the plane, I spotted two empty rows of four. Heh. As soon as we were airborne and the seatbelt signs were switched off, we leapt to action and staked our claim on the free space. Nice.

I spent the entire flight stretched out and completely horizontal.

I also spent a long time in deep thought. Taking in the events of the last couple of days. Drifting in and out of sleep, dreaming of home.

See this is why I love flying: alone time, rest, thought and much relaxation. Hurtling through the sky, wrapped in 200 tonnes of metal at 600mph.

I am at peace.

Being up in the Mountains

Moleskine entry: July 25th, 2009

It’s been kind of invigorating. Refreshing.


I’ve been up in the Big Horns trekking, riding and herding as part of challenge two of the Lucozade Energy Challenges, although (I’m certain now), this much you know. What you probably don’t know however is that the powers that be have gone ahead and equipped me with some rather spiffy kit.

Including, amongst others, a sat-phone.

This thing worked FINE in Namibia. In fact, the photo above was taken and uploaded on the spot in the middle of the Namibian desert, this place in fact.

However, for some unknown reason, in the good ol’ US of A, it failed. Nothing. Nada. My glorious sock-rockin’ sat-phone, was… useless.

Which meant in turn, I was non-contactable for four days.
Say it again. Four days.
Say it one more time, and this time say it with me – out loud: Four. Days.

‘Liberating’ doesn’t quite do it justice.

At one point, we were sat by a lake some 10,000ft up, the air was thin, the horses were thirsty and the winners were discussing going for a swim. The sky was clear, the water freezing and the surrounding landscape, breathtaking.

Just pausing – for a moment – to take in what I was experiencing.

Four days with no signal. Four days in the mountains. Riding horseback every day, we rode down from 8500ft on the last day, Friday, and it took five hours.

I couldn’t tell you the total of how far we travelled or for how long. All I know is every day we were saddled up by 10am and we only got out again for lunch and then again at the end of the day for dinner and rest. I never thought I’d enjoy it so much.

Incredible really, incredible.

I wrote every day, trying to keep a personal journal as well as an official, Lucozade one is no easy task. But when there’s nothing to distract you except maybe the odd passing moose, you’d be amazed how one can focus the mind.

Perspective is a wonderful thing… and the view from here, is amazing. I know what things are important to me now. Not that I didn’t know before I guess.

But as I said, being up here sure does focus the mind.

For Rob

One key thing that was an amazing constant throughout the Lucozade Challenges was that no matter what far flung corner of the world we found ourselves in, we always had an awesome, local guide to train us and look after us.

For the last challenge, yacht-racing in the Caribbean, we had this guy, Rob Brinkworth.

An Englishman through and through, Rob took great pride in telling us about the Stars and Stripes yacht we were to race, he’d been looking after the boats themselves for years. In the short time we spent on St Maarten, Rob educated us all in the ways of the 12-metre challenge, he made us feel confident enough to handle this multi-million dollar winner of a vessel and at the same time made sure that we respected his word and his skill as a fine seafaring yachtsman.

A fantastic teacher, I remember Rob expressing to us at the end of the week how much he had really enjoyed coaching us all in the science behind sailing and reminisced about his days as an instructor educating school teachers on how to sail, preparing them for a Summer of PGL (a UK institution set up for children to take part in activity courses, such as sailing). He had rediscovered his love of sharing knowledge and, as we left St Maarten at the end of the week, I sensed that maybe there might be change in his future.

Sadly, Rob died last week.

Struck down by an aggressive illness, his life was cut short before he could put any such plans into action.

I heard the news late yesterday afternoon. Al, one of the winners from the challenge, had stayed in touch with Rob after we left. After he told me I immediately started trawling through my files… The following video is put together from all the footage I took while under his tutelage.

Rob, this is for you mate:

While waiting for the video to export, I checked through my notes to clarify a few dates and I found this entry, the last one I made before we left the Caribbean –

Moleskine entry: September 16th, 2009

Race Day

“Later at the bar that evening, Rob tells us that today’s race was kind of a big deal for him. The night before he had called a meeting between our crew, the opposing crew and the race judge. They all agreed that the race today would be ‘for real’.
You see they race these boats day in and day out and could’ve quite easily made some decisions (that wouldn’t have been obvious to us), that meant they would’ve handed us the race. Rob, having trained us all week and seen how we respected the skill and the effort that went into it, insisted that this would be the case.

He told the rest of the staff that the race was to be exactly that.
No fudging it for anyone.

“Throw everything you’ve got at us.” he told them “Try and thrash us. If you do, it’ll be their fault. If you don’t, well then.. they’re awesome. Either way, these guys will not appreciate being handed the race and will know if you do…”

Wow. What a guy. I for one am very glad he called it like that because, come the finish line, yes we came second – a very close second in fact. But boy did we earn it.”

Good luck Rob, wherever you are.
Your friends, old and new, remember you well.

Wagon Wheel

I’ve been in Helsinki for the past 24hrs so excuse me while I dig around in my video archive for something that I haven’t published here before…

What I’m about to share with you isn’t specifically ‘new content’ exactly, however it is something actually quite special and I hope you enjoy it.

Meet Stewart Reed.

Stewart, believe it or not, is a genuine cowboy who lives and on a ranch out in the small town of Shell, Wyoming.

One night in July, while we were camping up in the mountains (and after we’d watched the Sun go down), we stayed up late drinking whisky, sharing jokes, telling tales and, eventually – after some cajoling from the group, Stewart fetched his guitar out from the pickup and started to play…

There, up in the mountains, in the long dark silence… a real, live cowboy…  singing.

It was magical.

This one, Wagon Wheel, is by far and away my favourite.
Give it 30 seconds or so before he gets going, after that – just enjoy…

Love your N95? Get the Nokia N86.

That’s right, I’m back… and I’m bringing my N86 review with me.
In short, as the title suggests, if you were a fan of the N95 – then the N86 is for you.

That’s right, I’m back… and I’m bringing my N86 review with me.
In short, as the title suggests, if you were a fan of the N95 – then the N86 is for you.

The Nokia N86 8MP
The Nokia N86 8MP

You may remember a few months back that fellow Really Mobile co-founder Ben Smith and I sat down to argue discuss the merits of Nokia’s much heralded saviour of 2009, the N97.

It’s a testament to the industry we watch, work and live in today that this now seems like such a long time ago. Here we are some eleven weeks since that post went live and already, I feel like I backed the wrong horse. You see, I was only impressed with the N97 for what is wasn’t. The firmware wasn’t buggy, the hardware wasn’t a let down and the camera wasn’t incapable.

But what did it really bring forward?
Aside from a new form factor, not much.

I said back in the Spring, way back before we launched Really Mobile, when discussing the N97 that I was in fact looking towards to the N86 more than anything else on the horizon…

“…to my mind the N86 is the true replacement for the N95 8GB.”
— James Whatley, April 19th 2009

…and I am very pleased to announce that I was not disappointed.

When it came to choosing a handset for the Lucozade Energy Challenge, the N86 was the only option. I’d read about it, seen videos about it, hell – I’d even taken some shots with an early prototype myself.
This handset has been everything my N95 8GB ever was and more.

Having used the N86 solidly now since the end of June I can safely say that this is my phone of choice and will be for many months to come. You all know I’m a Nokia fiend but of late, that love has waned. Especially in regards to the previously mentioned, N97.

However the N86, the beautiful Nokia N86 8MP – to give it its full name – that which we first glimpsed way back in February of this year at Mobile World Congress, is an excellent phone in the traditional sense.

And it’s this last part dear reader, that is the keystone to the whole of this piece.

You see – I doubt that we will ever see a phone like the N86 ever again. The sheer elegance and sophistication that goes into this perfect combination of this phone first, camera second device is as gorgeous as it was the first time you ever laid eyes on it.

There really is not much I can say about this phone’s feature set that hasn’t already been said. One would imagine that most of you know that the N86 sports a rather fetching 8MP camera (which, on my recent travels around Africa, has yielded some spectacular results). It would be frivolous to assume that the amazing video output from this stunning piece of kit has completely passed by that of even the most casual of mobile fanatics. And I would certainly be completely mis-judging my audience if just for one second I assumed that none of you had noticed the glorious industrial design mixture of glass and metal, making the Nokia N86 one of the smoothest and cleanest handsets one could ever have the great fortune to hold.

A dying breed?
A dying breed?

Give it a silver finish and you could be forgiven for thinking that it was an E-Series.

Yes, it really does feel that good.

It is fantastic. It is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

What it makes me feel though, is sad – and not for the reasons you might think.

I just can’t help thinking that thanks to all sorts of things; the iPhone, the advent of Android, the upcoming Maemo war on Symbian. Phones like this will soon be consigned to the history books. I just have this horrible, dreadful feeling that what I’m using here, is an ending.

The phones of tomorrow are iPhones, are Androids… The N900 looks nice, but the 5MP camera doesn’t come to close to that of the N86. The new Nokia X6, with its capacitive (read: iPhone-esque) screen and its deep level music-based DNA still doesn’t match up to the content creativity skills of my beloved N-Series.

Yes, iPhones are lovely – we know this. Even the HTC Magic came close to swaying me from the Finnish fold some time ago too. But the days of just being able to push real and actual buttons will soon be gone. Relish in them while they’re still here. Remember that feeling. Take happiness from it. And treasure it.

Reading on Symbian-Guru this past week that, as of Nokia World 2009 – ‘Nokia is Touch’ – I shed a tear.
As the Finnish giant moves to embrace Maemo as well as further expand its Symbian 5th Edition range, it stands to reason that the N86 could very well be the last great N-Series device.

Get yours while you can.

6000 miles from home: Cape Town

Apologies if this is a little out of time, but – as I mentioned in my last post – that’s how things are going to roll around here for a bit, at least, when it comes to talking about my epic Summer of travel.

Cheers and as always, your comments and questions are welcome 🙂


Moleskine entry: July 5th, 2009

All aboard...

Day one of my epic Summer of travelling so far has consisted of… well not very much really.
Admittedly, I’ve moved a certain distance, what with hurtling through the sky at 500mph and everything, but I’ve actually spent most of the time sleeping.

Night flights are my favourite kind.

There are six of us on this trip. Me, your official storyteller. Sam, my partner in crime and also my one and only constant over the next ten weeks… and of course our first four competition winners.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Lucozade Energy Challenges as a concept, let me tell you that it was a brand new one on me too. One winner, plus four of his/her friends, every other week taking a particular challenge for which a new skillset is required. Each activity is set in a different far-flung part of the world and they all require the chosen four to learn said skill quite quickly before partaking in a competition of some kind. All in the name the new Lucozade Energy tag-line ‘Do More’.

The full list of competition details can be seen on the Lucozade Energy Challenge website, meanwhile – let’s get back to our story shall we?

Me, as you know, got this gig just a couple of weeks back. Sam? The same. However, his role is different to mine in that he to be the group’s designated ‘Chaperone’ over the coming weeks and, judging by the first few hours, he’s going to be good very company indeed… 🙂

Time to meet the winners of the first competition; Manzoor and his three friends, Shofat, Suhel and Foyce.

They’re a good bunch of lads. Football players from Brum would you believe, and they’re just a little bit excited.


At the time of writing we’re about 10mins from touchdown in Cape Town, Shofat’s just woken up and we’re discussing the prospect of seeing some Black Rhinos over the next few days. You see, this particular challenge – Sandboarding in Namibia – isn’t all about the taking on the extreme sports of the Skeleton Coast, it also involves tracking down the aforementioned huge beasts as part of a desert safari.


There’s got to be something to fill in the gaps between all the epic sandboarding, right?
Next stop: Namibia!