It’s the little things in life (or a room) that matter….

Whether it be for work or pleasure, I have spent many nights’ away at B&B’s and hotels all over the UK in last 12 months. I get used to being away from MAUN HQ, and have most things I could need in my overnight bag. I’m never without my phone charger, spare clothes to cover most occasions, or
my shoe shining kit – all just some of my stay-away-from-home essentials.Although I plan and prepare, one thing I have noticed during my visits, is the difference in bedroom designs and amenities offered in the rooms. It makes me wonder whether the designers, or even the owners/proprietors stay over at the establishments and experience it as a guest? Perhaps only then would they fully understand the true feedback of a guest stay, and the possible need for some simple solutions…..

  • How about a kettle that actually fits under a tap, so it can be filled easily. Or even a plug near the tea/coffee tray so it doesn’t mean backwards and forwards to the cups with hot water.
  • What about a plug socket next to the bed? People with Apple devices will appreciate the need to charge your phone on a regular basis (overnight) to maintain enough battery power for the next day. 
  • Bath towels big enough to do a proper wrap-around of your body (I could understand this would have been a bigger issue for the old ‘larger’ Stu, but surely the slimmer, leaner Stu should not have issues?).

On a positive note – I’m easily pleased. If I am welcomed to a room that offers fresh milk as standard (for a nice MAUNing cuppa) – that’s always a bonus! I’m sure I’m not the only one that hates the milk in the ‘jiggers’.
I once stayed over at my parents house, and offered them (cheeky) feedback of how to make my ‘business’ stay there more enjoyable. Needless to say to say they took all my comments on board and made changes for my next stay the following week! Admittedly the rate offered there was much more preferential than other establishments I have stayed at this year!! Haha.

What are the things that you like/dislike the most when you stay away from home?
Who gets it right in your opinion? Do tell…. 


A month of shows!

July has been a very busy month for me – working away with Pride of Britain Hotels – manning the exhibition stand at The Hampton Court & Tatton Park Flower Shows. It has certainly been fun!

Long days, and on my feet from early until late – but really rewarding to meet so many great people – both visitors to the stand and also the co-exhibitors. There was so much to see and do for visitors, and so much for everyone to spend their hard earned pennies on in the Country Living Pavillion where I was situated.

I came away with a new housey items from my friends Rimsky & Vilija at So Cosy and had a great laugh with Lauren and her team from Country Living. I couldn’t wait to get home after the show though – not only to see Kaylie (obviously!)… but also to tuck into the Cheddar and Dark Chocolate Cheese from The Truckle Cheese Company. Delicious! I can also heavily recommend the Heck Sausages too for your BBQ this year!

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It’s been a blast – and I look forward to working with the PoB Hotel members again in late August when we visit the Burghley Horse Trials to exhibit (see you there if you are attending!).


End of an era…

Over four years ago, I set up my own company – MAUN Consulting. At that time I concentrated on social media management – looking after a number of accounts and going out and training clients. With this came 24/7 work! Constantly looking at my phone, my iPad, my laptop. Today sees the last social media account I manage handed over to another agency.

My business is still going strong, in its fifth year of trading, but times change. I’m still very proud of the clients I work with, the work I do for them, and the value I add to their business. Long may this continue.

You’ll still catch me on social media – the odd post on Facebook, the occasional tweet – but for me a bit of ‘social media down-time’ is welcomed. It gives me a chance to concentrate more on other new projects I am currently working on – and they are just as exciting.

I’m looking forward to not having to constantly reduce things down to 140 characters!  :o)

Perhaps this mean I might actually talk to people face-to-face a bit more now!


A Stay in a Boathouse on the River Frome, Dorset

I was lucky enough recently to stay at The Priory Hotel in the beautiful market town of Wareham, Dorset, whilst completing some training with the team at the hotel. I was aware of the hotel, and have been for some time, as it’s a member of Pride of Britain Hotels.

What a truly delightful location and hotel. I was treated exceptionally well during my stay – even upgraded into the Boat House which sits on the banks of the River Frome.

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The hotel is somewhere where ‘the past is always present, and where peace and tranquility prevail’. It stands in four acres of lovingly cultivated English cottage gardens, and even has its very own ‘Pod’ in the grounds where guests can relax, and watch the boats pass by.

The only bad thing…..I was there to work! If that means that I have to return another time with Kaylie, so we can both relax and enjoy this wonderful hotel – then so be it!……


“So when do you finish?”…..

It’s that time of year when the majority of the country are on ‘wind-down’, getting ready for Christmastime; looking forward to spending time with loved ones; and more importantly leaving the daily office tasks behind them. Nearly every conversation I have had recently involves people asking me the question: “so when do you finish?”…..

When I took the decision to go self-employed nearly four years ago, I knew that I would never actually ‘finish’ work when national holidays came round – especially as some clients are in the (never sleeping) non-stop hotel industry. Do I mind? Not at all! I’m sure I will find some down-time over the festive break – and although I can’t guarantee an iPhone/email/tweet free day on the 25th, I will definitely make sure I devote plenty of time to enjoy this special time of year.

Wishing you all a very relaxing, enjoyable and safe Christmas.

Thanks to all of those who will continue to work hard over the Christmas period in so many different industries – hospitality, retail, emergency services (and many more). Keep up the good work folks. All the best for 2015!

Merry Christmas


A good Monday night challenge

There’s nothing more than I enjoy than sitting down on a Monday evening and tuning into BBC2 at 8pm. Some may be surprised to know that one of my favourite weekly shows is University Challenge. I absolutely love testing my knowledge along with the teams, and of course enjoy listening to the put-downs that Mr Paxman comes out with.

My personal best is 7 questions correct in a single show – which actually isn’t that bad is it? I even feel good when I get a question wrong, especially when my answer matches that of the boffins on the panel!

I’m determined to get to a double figure of questions answered correctly – so watch this space. I think I’ll need to brush up on religion, the monarchy, chemicals and literature before that happens though!


We’ve been expecting you Mr Bond….

This MAUNing I tuned in to Sky News on my laptop just at the right time – to catch the live announcement and unveiling of the new 007 movie. I grew up (as I am sure did most of you) watching Mr Bond, week in, week out, loving every single moment. I still get excited to this day, when the producers announce that filming has started for a new installment. Naturally, the films have bigger budgets nowadays, bigger star names, more computer enhanced graphics – but the kid in me, still eagerly awaits the release. Anyone else with me on this?

So here’s to SPECTRE hitting the large screens in November 2015 – I can hardly wait!

Daniel Craig - New James Bond movie Casino Royale Spectre


Proud of the Pride….

Sometimes I have to sit back and reflect on how lucky I am.

As many of you will know, my career has mainly been in the hospitality industry, and therefore to continually work with Pride of Britain Hotels (as I have done for the last few years) is something I am extremely proud of.

Pride of Britain Hotels is a consortium of independently owned hotels in the UK – with an emphasis on great hospitality. Currently, there are just shy of fifty member hotels in the luxury consortium – and I’ve had the pleasure in visiting, staying at, or dining at about half of them! I consider myself very lucky. This year I had the pleasure in staying at Dormy House Hotel in the Cotswolds – following their £10m refurbishment. What a hotel! Simply stunning. No wonder it scooped the AA award for ‘Hotel of the Year’ this year (not to mention a number of other hotel and spa awards throughout 2014).

Next on my list is the beautiful Lucknam Park Hotel near Bath, which is the chosen venue to celebrate my 38th birthday in February 2015.


2013 – A Year to Remember…

As the clock chimed midnight on 31st December last year, there may have been some who were not necessarily looking forward to the year ahead as it would be a full year ending in the dreaded number 13! For those that suffer with triskaidekaphobia, you can understand why they now may be counting down the days until they can put this potentially superstitious year behind them. I, on the other the hand embraced 2013, and will be sad to see the back of what has been a truly memorable, life changing, different, challenging year, but has without a doubt been a most enjoyable and fantastic twelve months.

Here’s my recollection of the year – for me to remember and for you to read or ignore, whichever you choose.

Where to start?……

Life certainly has changed from that of recent years. As many will know, mid 2012 saw a mutual decision to end married life and with it a relationship of nearly 10 years. This year therefore has, in an unselfish way, been all about me. For the first time since the good old school days, I was a single. Some say you need massive changes in your life to ‘find yourself’. I tend to agree now. It was certainly one of the biggest and bravest decisions of my life. With such a dramatic change to my personal circumstances, I grasped the positives and just remained happy in knowing that I had made the right decision.

So – the personal goals (or bucket list) for this year….

I’ve never been entirely happy with my weight or the way I look, and always made excuse after excuse as to the reason why I couldn’t lose weight. The fact of the matter was that my diet was poor, my exercise was almost non existent, and my eating habits were terrible. All in all a disaster, with only one end result. I decided a ‘little’ weight loss was needed. On 1st April 2013 I decided enough was enough. The (non electronic) scales were heading a second time around – they’d reached 19 stone. It was the heaviest I had ever been (admittedly I had put most of my weight on during the days of running pubs that had a reputation for offering large portions). Many who know me, will know that what I set out to achieve something I’m a bit obsessive – and don’t do things by halves. I once completely quit chocolate for nearly 5 years, and still remain tee-total after nearly 10 years!

And so the regime began – cycling, canal walking, running (made easier through the wonderful weather we have had in the UK this year), swimming, sweat, aches & pains. As did the diet – sensible eating, portion control, goodbye biscuits and chocolate. No more snacking. No more service station treats. Just the 3 sensible meals a day. Simple.

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For those who have dieted, you’ll know progress is slow…. The scales just didn’t seem to move. However, the vision, the commitment and the plan didn’t change. I remained totally focused. 6 months on – was it worth it? I’d say so. Five and half stone lost in total. A complete new wardrobe (a tad expensive!), and more importantly a fit & healthy Stu. The comments I get now about the way I look are so rewarding and give me a massive feel good factor. With weight loss naturally came added personal confidence. I feel great. Epic in fact. Happy with the way I look. Happy with the way I feel. Happy that I don’t get out of breath walking up and down the stairs anymore!

On the business front, my company has entered its third year of trading. What a year. Already smashing my targets and exceeding trading figures from the previous years. Business continues to evolve and my skills continue to develop. Working with some great companies in many different industries, offering a number of different services. Some new, some loyal customers who continue to see the benefit of my services year after year. Perfect to keep the mind active. From IT to Hairdressing; Energy Lighting to Football; Luxury Hotels to Theatre. Every day is different – it could be social media one day; light fittings the next; conference speaking; football match days; event planning – a bit of everything. MAUN Consulting Limited certainly has been, and continues to be a pleasant daily experience. My boss is pretty decent too!

On a sporting side, I continued my interest with my two clubs : Stafford Rangers FC and Coventry Blaze Ice Hockey.

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I may, just may, have been a curse on both of these teams, as neither has particularly shone this year. Both, once the top of their game, have fallen short with their achievements of late. In fact, after following Stafford Rangers for the last 26 years, I can honestly say it has been the worst 12 months of football I can ever remember. But life goes on, and so I remain as positive as I can do about the situation! I’m a great believer in positive mental attitude. I can’t stand negativity or people that just want to moan in life. What good does it do? Life is too short. Friends have been dealt tragedies this year which really puts everything into perspective. Live for today and be thankful for every day you draw breath. I’m growing too old for disagreements or the kindergarten going ons.

Charity has still been a personal and business focus for me this year. I continue to support the local Air Ambulance and the wonderful work they do. They’ve also benefited from plenty of clothes this year during the complete shed of my wardrobe!

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I’ve also been very proud in arranging and organising charity events for clients this year – events which have proved to be very successful, raising thousands for worthy charities such as the Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Katharine House Hospice in Stafford.

Family time has become more special to me over the last twelve months. My new relaxed, laid back approach to personal life has proved a good thing. I’ve enjoyed some great quality time this year with them, and worked through all those little challenges that have been thrown our way. The power of FaceTime has certainly helped me ‘see’ my parents more!

What’s the phrase about buses. You wait for one…..Well it happened with weddings this year…..three in fact. All special and enjoyable in their own ways. Someone even picked me to be Best Man! I can’t help thinking others must have turned the role down before I was asked!

Another day of wedding celebrations to look forward to next year too.I hope they’ll all be as happy as my ex-wife and I thought we were going to be :o)

I’ve also managed to discover my new addiction this year – Coffee!

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Rarely a day goes by without a Nero, Costa or Starbucks – or simply a milky Gold Blend at home or in the office! I suppose I could be addicted to worse things!  You can’t beat chilling for a couple of hours in a coffee shop, watching the world go by, and of course people watching (or stalking as I like to call it). A close second addiction would be my new found love of Tic-Tacs! A great little treat for all of those car journeys I’ve encountered this year – and only two calories each. Bonus.

 

2014 then…. What does it hold for me?

Well I can guarantee even more positivity, happiness, laughter, fun and even more success. Yes I can’t deny it would be great to find a special little someone, a companion, someone to share fun times with, theatre trips, nice meals out, to cook for. Until Mrs Right comes along then I’ll happily plod along. We all need a bit of love and romance now and again though, right? I suppose now after a life changing year, I’m happy to make other big changes and commitments in the year ahead.

I must make sure I find time to holiday next year. Perhaps a trip to France, to visit French friends I’ve known for 20 years. I always found holidaying, and trying to ‘switch off’ a bit tough. But I think once every five years I can make do with! I have enjoyed a couple of self-chill times in hotels up and down the country. The Village Blackpool takes the gold star award for me though whilst up that way with footy this year. My weekly stay overs at the B&Bs in the North West and Yorkshire provide me with a bit of chill out time too.

I’m a target driven person – so I will continue with my ultimate goal to drive down my mortgage – Imagine being mortgage free. What a wonderful feeling. At the moment although it is my ‘home’ it feels a bit like a laundrette, after journeys to and from the Wirral, York, Stafford or wherever. But it’s there ready for when I need it to be a warm cosy habitat. Until then, I shall carry on enjoying my weekly ‘mini-breaks’ when I’m away with work. It certainly gets me to see new places up and down the country, and of course pop in and see great friends who live away from me.

You can never say never about anything in life I suppose. So who knows about family. Miniature Mauns? Adoption? Fostering? I’m more open minded nowadays. Something I never thought I’d say. Whatever’s meant to be, and all that….

I enjoy spending time with my friend’s kids and of course my wonderful godchildren when I can. It’s nice watching them grow up. Uncle Stu’s rules of eating as many sweets, as much chocolate and running around having fun, always seems to go down well with the munchkins!

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So, farewell 2013 – A year I stopped something; a year I lost something; a year I tackled something. Roll on 2014 – plenty to look forward to.

I’m exhausted now writing and reading all of the above!

Wishing everyone good health, continued happiness and plenty of success in the next 12 months. No regrets folks.  God bless.

Thanks for reading.


6000 Miles – Done

From Wolverhampton to Whitby; Blyth and Buxton; Rugby and Rushall; and Nantwich to North Ferriby – I was there throughout. Season 2012/13 at Stafford Rangers FC will be a memorable one for me. It is one the season I witnessed every league and cup game of the campaign – home & away. Fifty eight games in total – Every ball kicked; Every goal; Every booking; All the excitement – and of course some disappointments.

Journeys totalling up to over 6,000 miles whether it was via car, people carrier or coach – I made it to each and every game and ground this season. Some achievement and something I am very proud of. It was something that I nearly achieved last season – however due to other work commitments that could not be changed, I missed the trip to Matlock Town in the 2011/12 season. Still another great achievement meaning that this is the only game over two season that I haven’t seen.

I certainly am part of an elite club, especially in non league football, where many people (including myself) have other major commitments and work away from their supported clubs. What might be even more of an impressive fact is that as many know my journey to ‘home’ games actually consists of a 100 mile round trip from Nuneaton! The season 2012/13 did provide me with somewhat of a more local and definitely welcomed ‘home tie’ – with a cup match against Rugby – about 15 minutes from my home!

Well, I am already looking forward to next season – and looking forward to mid July when the fixtures are released. To me though, it doesn’t matter where , when or who we play – I just know that my commitment from mid August to the end of April – I can pretty much guarantee I have a plan for every Tuesday Night, Every Saturday Afternoon, and every Bank Holiday! The joys of football. Next season we will have an additional four league games to look forward to!

A thoroughly enjoyable 9 months though. I have met some great away supports, some very hospitable away club Directors, and spent some great quality time with my friends, my colleagues and the SRFC Team at Stafford Rangers. Who’d have thought that the first game I attended, when I was ball boy at Marston Road in 1986/7 season, would lead to this…..

Long may it continue.

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