Hamleys Dundrum the first flagship store outside Regent St? Don’t think so…

I read recently that Hamleys, the famous Regent Street toy store, are to open a three storey shop in the Dundrum Town Centre shopping mall in Dublin. As I live in Dublin this is nice for me.

However, I take issue with the claim that this is:

its first standalone store in Europe besides its Regent Street flagship.

When I was a kid growing up in Luton I clearly remember the opening of the first ever Hamleys store outside of Regent Street in a two storey shop attached onto the side of the Arndale Centre by the town hall. As a kid it was kind of a big deal, and a must-stop destination on the Thursday after school shopping trips with my Mum. It was there for a good few years in the mid to late 80’s. Checking Wikipedia there is no mention of it, but my memory does not deceive me. I might go and edit the entry but as Google isn’t turning up any references to the existence of the store somebody will probably take the edit down for lack of citation or something.

So, hard luck Dublin you are not the first to get a proper Hamleys Store (Airports and concessions in House of Fraser don’t count I’m afraid) you were beaten by the proud former holder of the worst town in Britain title. As a salutary reminder of the looming recession it is worth noting that the next tenants of the Luton Hamleys store when it closed down were no less than Poundsaver.

Golf lessons #1,2,3

I first had golf lessons about ten or more years ago whilst working as a student at Ford in Essex. They had a brilliant scheme whereby any salaried employee could obtain a yearly grant of around £200 to use for pretty much any learning you wanted. Brick laying, snowboarding, you name it (there was a list of approved activities but it was very wide.) I used mine to have six golf lessons. I’d never played before and unfortunately didn’t really start playing after. Thus, over the next few years I maybe played once or twice and lost the memory of everything I’d learnt.

When we moved over to Dublin I started playing with my father in law Bruce. At first we just made visits to the local par three course. It’s 18 holes and most are around 130-150 yards. There are two over 200 yards and four very short <100 yard holes. I would normally shoot about 85-90 for a round. There was obviously lots wrong. Over the last winter (yes, winter!) we progressed to the local pay and play full courses and whilst I could enjoy a round I was still really poor, never getting under 120.

Unfortunately, Bruce broke his wrist recently, so without a partner I’ve been wondering what to do. I don’t feel confident or ready to even think about joining a club and knew I needed to improve.

So, I’ve recently invested in a set of lessons. It was obvious to me that I needed to get the fundamentals right, so this seemed like the best approach. I went with Joe Murray at Hollystown Golf Club mainly because it is near work and it’s also where we’ve played the most. It occurs to me that I should probably be blogging about my progress, so here’s a recap on the first three lessons:

Lesson 1

On turning up Joe asked me what my handicap was. I replied Golf 🙂 Actually I didn’t, but I did get a bit embarrassed when saying I was a novice. He looked at my bag, complete with Nike Sumo driver and 3 wood and I said “All the gear and no idea!”

Joe started off just telling me to hit some balls with my 8 iron from the tee. About 20 balls later after watching from various angles he stopped me. He then proceeded to demonstrate my swing as-is and made a rather exaggerated backwards movement with the whole body bending as his hips shifted to the right through the backswing. At least I think it was exaggerated for effect, but then maybe not! The rest of the lesson focussed on position and posture through address – tucking my knees inwards and concentrating on keeping the legs still through a half swing with the aid of an inflatable beach ball.. I was soaking up the advice and put it into practice straight away. A lot of focus was put on getting the right address to the ball for the club length. I’d previously been standing way too close it turns out.

Inbetween

I hadn’t had any chance to put things into practice between the first and second lesson, but I had been doing the posture and swing exercises Joe had left me with.

Lesson 2

The initial hit of ten or so balls showed I’d retained the advice given. I was still finding a tendency to slice the ball, but Joe said he knew why and didn’t want to overcomplicate things at this stage. This lesson concentrated on the backswing and getting the correct takeaway, hip and shoulder rotation. Working with a 7 iron and 3 wood mainly. On a few of the balls there was some evidence starting to emerge of a ‘natural draw’ which encouraged me. I could feel a well hit ball, it’s a case of being able to replicate it consistently.

Inbetween

Between lessons 2 and 3 I made a couple of trips to the par 3 course over the weekend. On the first I went round in 74, never hitting more than 5 shots in a hole and getting par on a handfull. No birdies yet, but I hit the green in one a few times, including on the 212 yard 12th with my 3 wood. My shots off the tee were a hundred times better than they used to be, but my achilles heel was chipping around the green and putting. My chips were very inconsistent and either coming short or running off the back of the green as I topped them. They never got any height either. Putting from distance I tended to under-hit them and mis read the green.

Either way with scores of 74 and 76 there was marked improvement.

Lesson 3

Lesson 3 started with chipping after I’d told Joe about my scores (I neglected to mention the bit about the course being par 3 at first though 🙂 ) It was immediately apparent where my chipping was going wrong. I was too square in the stance whilst trying to open up the club face. My backswing was stilted and I was trying to force the ball into the air (causing the topping) All classic errors. Joe opened up my stance, put my weight more to the left foot, choked down on the grip and got me to swing more naturally. They were better and with a sand wedge there was some backspin on them as well. The ground was very wet however so it looked better than reality!

We moved back to the full swing for the second part of the lesson and got the driver out for the first time. We worked on getting more of a full shoulder turn and keeping the club on the right plane. To be honest I wasn’t at all happy with the swing and put in this lesson and could feel it going wrong. Whilst it was a bit of a come-down to not feel myself moving on in leaps and bounds it’s a case of keeping practicing and getting the right feel. When I feel it going wrong I have a tendency to over swing and try and force the ball too much, losing the natural swing and rhythm.

So, that’s it so far. Lesson four is tonight and from now on I’ll blog about each of them. If anything it acts as a handy review of what I’ve learnt – helping to keep it fresh in my own mind.

iPhone 3G first thoughts

  • It wasn’t hard to get one if you were prepared. I pre-ordered early the day the pre orders started and was ok. There was a bloke in front of my in the O2 Blanchardstown store who pre-ordered a 16GB and was only offered an 8GB, despite his protestations about being ‘the first person’ to pre-order.
  • O2 ported over my pre-pay number right there and then. I’m used to this taking days in the UK.
  • Sign up and activation was painless. I think mainly because I had it all done by 10am Dublin time and Ireland is a small country anyway.
  • The device is noticeable heavier and fatter than my 16GB iPod touch, which is not a criticism, just a difference to be expected and gotten used to.
  • The Home button seems to require more of a firm press than the Touch.
  • The multi-touch screen seems like it has been slowed down a bit from the Touch. Presses need to be a bit firmer and scrolling seems slower.
  • Love the volume and silent buttons. LOVE the speaker and not having to find a pair of headphones just to watch a quick video or listen to a song.
  • It makes and receives phone calls.
  • No visual voicemail – now I have one I honestly don’t care. I maybe get 1 voicemail a month and never have to trawl through any others to get to it. I can understand the value for heavy users, but that ain’t me.
  • It sends and receives text messages. I honestly cannot remember the last time I sent or got an MMS – not bothered about that.
  • Wifi with enterprise access at at last. However I haven’t been able to get it to work at work, due to the fact that there is a rogue unprotected adhoc access point somewhere with the SSID I need to use and that’s all the phone will see.
  • I need to get over the mental hurdle of being stingy with using cellular data. So far I’ve used 244K of download. I still get a slight panic when I tap on Weather or Stocks and it just goes off and gets data. So I only (only?) have 1GB per month, but I need to just go with the flow and treat data access as a normality.
  • App Store – immediate downloads: Twitteriffic, the light saber thing, Facebook and Exposure.
  • App Store – there’s lots missing from the Irish store. No games at all, and certain other apps are not there. I WANT SUPER MONKEYBALL!!!
  • The Remote app is teh awsomeness. It may just make me get an Apple TV just to show it off!
  • There’s lots of crud and no way to get through it other than scrolling. More evident on the iPhone interface than iTunes. Let me ignore the app developers producing ebooks or bible stuff please!
  • I’ve not paid a penny for an app yet. I want to hear the wisdom of those who have. I want a good weight of reviews.
  • GPS – well I went outside and it knew where I was, so it works. So does cellular triangulation.
  • Maps – tried to search for ‘Hotel’ when located at home. It gave me three results. IN THE WHOLE OF DUBLIN! I know this isn’t a phone issue, it is a data issue. Come on Irish companies, start advertising yourselves – your market just got a whole lot more mobile.