Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Get real

One of the reasons I enjoy, participate & spend time with social networks is that I believe in transparency.

Do you?

I love sleek design and intellegent ways of putting content together that make it accurate & accessible. Not "dumbing down" - at least not at the expense of the truth.

"Nothing but a lot of talk and a badge" as Robert de Niro said as Al Capone in Brian de Palma's (truly excellent) The Untouchables. Now in that case, de Niro?Capone was wrong - but I guess we all like to put a bit of polish on so something appears better than it is.

I struggle with that. Do you?

I reckon (from experience of my own life) that honesty - and in particular integrity will always beat cheating. It might seem that shortcuts get people there faster, quicker, cheaper - but at what cost. I'm not saying they're always wrong, and certainly not saying they're not worthwhile. But we've all seen what happens to Biff Tannen in Back to the Future...

But will our journey of life mean as much if we spend too much time looking over our shoulders for what *might* catch us out? And as we live more online, our networks will either back us up, or knock us down.

Will my Facebook friends complain if I'm posting irrellevant content - or just plain lies? I'd hope so.

Will my Twitter followers decrease if I start spouting on about how great I am (cue sarcasm in the comments)? If I have any kind of listenership, then yes.

I love that the networks we're connected through are part of our digital identity. And they're becoming an increasingly important part too.

I dunno, but there's something in me that wants to connect with people (and organisations) that act with integrity. That probably means local organisations for now, but as the world becomes more digitally connected, that shift will happen to enable global connections of a more meaningful scale.

We can laugh together. This is funny.

We can cry together. This is awful.

We can take action together. Do this now.

What's your take?

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The future, eh?

The future. It's what you make it, right? If Doc Brown taught us anything, then it's that our future isn't set in stone. If Jesus taught us something about the future, it's that we don't need to worry about it.

I was reading this post on the PopTech blog earlier and found their list of what people said the future would be quite interesting. Have a read.

My favourites:

The future will be a remake… Didier Fiuza Faustino
The future is waiting – the future will be self-organized. Raqs Media Collective
The future will be whatever we make it. Jacque Fresco

What's your favourite?

Monday, 28 December 2009


Nearly two years ago, Mrs theWeir surprised me with the gift of an iPod. A very extravagent gift for my 29th Birthday.

A bit of context, if you'll permit me.

Since the demise of the cassette Walkman as a practical way to listen to music on the go, and a brief flirtation with Mini Disc (via a gift from work), I'd been off the mobile music for a fair few years. Other than having a car, but that was a bit big to carry around with me.

Back to the iPod. I'd been adding our CD collection to iTunes pretty steadily since we'd gotten the Powerbook two years earlier. But picked up the pace a bit when the iPod arrived.

Then, after a couple of months (okay, six) when listening to a radio programme, I heard them advertising some newfangled "podcast" thing. Wait. That sounded familiar. Oh yeah, I've seen that mentioned on iTunes.

So, I had a quick look for some podcasts on the iTunes store. And I was hooked.

I have about 20 podcasts I try to listen to regularly - from faith (the stories on something beautiful) to fun (the stories on the Moth).

What makes this medium so effective for me is the authenticity. That you get to hear the real people talking about what's important to them, about what they know. Sharing their views.

There's been one risk of all this pod-tastic content. Like being bombarded with flour bombs, there comes a time when you can't move. Fuelling the thirst for more & more content sucks time - and brain power - and leaving less time for being still. For personal reflection. In my case - for being quiet and waiting on God.

Despite this challenge, I can honestly say that I have learned so much from all the podcast content I've listened too that I have grown. I have learned. I have come closer to God through people's stories.

I'm still refining my top five recommended podcasts, will post them later this week.

In the meantime, it's the time of year when lists come out on the TV, so what are are your favourite podcasts?

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

In case we hadn't noticed, it's Christmas Eve Eve.

One of my favourite things about Christmas is the chance to take some time off work. Especially before the new year starts.

I guess like a lot of people, I can take a few days to transition from work- to holiday-mode.

I think that ever since I started full-time employment, I've worked until 24 December, sometimes taking the days in-between Christmas & New Year off too. Earth shattering news, I'm sure you'll agree.

This year, thanks to the way the dates fell, things getting sorted at work and the graciousness of McColleagues, I finished work on 18 December.

That's meant I had a few days to get my head together before Christmas. And it seems to have made us more organised too. Which is most excellent.

Hope you have a great Christmas.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

it's nice to be reminded how small & important you are

I'm on holiday from work. This is a good thing. however can occasionally lead to moments of getting caught up in my own self-importance.

I was catching up on some reading earlier (while listening to babyB bounce around in her cot...) and was struck by how small this planet is.

How minute.

How microscopic.

When you see it in context.

I guess the same could be said for traffic jams, delayed post, rude people and other things that ruffle our feathers from time to time.

We are not the centre of the universe. But we are all loved like we were all that mattered. And that's a very encouraging thought.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


Originally uploaded by weir thru a lens

I enjoy the City of Edinburgh, but this shoddy attempt at Christmas decoration far from meets the advertising on the banner

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Can you hold music?

Isn't it funny what listening to hold music does to us.

We can get impatient - the pace at which this happens depends on the reason we were put on hold. Having worked in the front line of a customer service department for 7 years, I've not got a problem with being put on hold. Far from it.

I found myself on hold, all in all for about 15 minutes last night. There was music playing while on hold. It was romantic-period classical music, I think. Nearing the end of this time on hold, I found my mind drifting to the episode of The West Wing where Josh is trying to call someone (I can't remember who, and not had a chance to watch episode 14 of season 2 to find out) and ends up in "some kind of hellish hold world of holding".

To me it's such a memorable portrayal of that character's exasperation - and our impatience. I was chuckling at my own trip into the stereotypical response - then suddenly I heard what the flute player was doing. I head the effort that had gone in to making the sounds I was listening to. I heard the breath that flute player was pushing into that piece of metal with such skill that the notes were dancing out.

At that moment, I really didn't mind being on hold. I was caught by what I was hearing.

How often is music (be it on hold or in person) limited to a nice, useful, background noise? There was so much effort put into developing the craft of playing the instruments as the passion of people's lives had been poured into it. And I could listen to it nonchelantly as though it was hardly even there. Perhaps it's because the atypical hold music is bland?

All of this reminded me of the clips in The Matrix where you see the *code* that sits behind the construct. That there's depth to our lives we can miss by not being fully present.

Sure we can't give attention to all that's going on around us, but I'm confident there's times where I can be giving my attention to far fewer things, and as a result paying more quality attention...

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

I see people

Catching up on my Google Reader feeds earlier, I read what Garr Reynolds' short piece on "we notice faces". It reminded me of something that's gone 'round my head for a few years.

I'm sure we've often had moments of thinking "do I know you...?" when we genuinely don't. For the more socially awkward, this can lead to embarrassing moments of "you look just like my last best friend" or "you look just like my old boss. I couldn't stand them".

They say you can tell a lot about someone from their face. I for one have been prone to more than the occasional bit of facial leakage. You know, where you inadvertently pull a face when speaking with someone - or doing something. However, I have often wondered if you can tell which strand of the human genome - not that I *really* know what that means - from the features on someone's face.

I remember faces, I guess because I try and remember what things look like. Don't we all. It seems like I remember features of faces too though - and not the extra-ordinary ones, but the regular, ordinary - just-like-me faces.

Sometimes you see the similarities between people - they might come from different parts of the country, or the world, but there might be a defining feature that looks familiar. The way their eyes sit on their face, the way their nose hangs like a piping bag that's lost some of it's icing.

I would love to have some pictures to share to demonstrate this, but I've found it tricky to ask people if they'd mind taking part in this wee un-scientific experiment.

Next time you are near a lot of people, look at their faces and see if you can spot the bits of their faces that are similar. Or maybe I'm just a wack-job!

Why? Well, if we're all connected, then it's nice to be reminded of that now and again.

Just don't stare to hard, or you might end up with a few extra features on your own face!

Monday, 7 December 2009

The Reason

"The reason they want you to fit in... is that once you do, then they can ignore you."

Thanks, Seth

Friday, 4 December 2009


In all the listening, reading and participating in *ahem* social networking, one thing screams to me as being really important.


In fact, it's important that we live life with integrity - which I think means they are authentic.

It would so easy for us to create an online persona, something that isn't us, that mis-represents who we are. It's called being double-minded. And I don't think that does anyone any favours.

I get quickly fed up with unreality. With false. With forced.

Now, I'm not saying we can't benefit from things that are un-real, or that there's no value in perceiving more than just our present circumstances - but there's so much to be said for acknowledging that we are where we are. We are here because of the journey and what happens next needs to be real.

So this little cartoon from spleenal reminded me that in everything I am - how I am as a husband, father & son, in the things I do at work and in my interactions with you, that it has to be authentic. Or it's just breath in the face of a force 10 gale.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

a few of my favourite things

As a growing-up person, I loved Lego. I still do.

Infact, if I had time, it's not impossible to imagine that I'd want to have fun making stuff with Lego.

8 years ago, I watched The Matrix for the first time. As a small-time fan of Sci-fi, and a big-time fan of great stories, and the retelling of familiar stories, I quite simply loved it.

Imagine my delight when I came across

Check it out:

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Advent approaches

As Christmas approaches, maybe it's time to think how we love people. is it by giving more things they don't need - or doing something in their name?

Friday, 27 November 2009

Had to share this with you

I have, on occation, played musical instruments. Often in bands. Sometimes things were pretty good.

I've not been as musically active in recent years, not because I can't be bothered, but there's just other things happening that are pretty cool.

Watching this video made me think that I'd love to make music again. And I'd love to make it in this kinda style. Remix, Quirky, Individual, Happy. Love it.

(thanks Ian for sharing)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Dunbar's Number isn't just a number, it's the law

So, here's something interesting; 150 friends. That's all we can handle.

I was reminded of something I picked up from Mitch Joel sometime ago on his podcast. Do you measure success by the number of connections, or by the (positive) influence on you can have on those you are connected to.

We could have 2000 people as our friends on Facebook, or 2000 followers on twitter - but if you are paying attention to what they are all saying that's basically giving you more reading and stretching your time. It also becomes about broadcasting, rather than interacting. If I follow 100 RSS feeds - am I really benefiting from them all or (as has been my experience recently) do I only have time to skim the majority and then focus in the *really* important ones. Not sure how we decide that as content changes so often that relevance and importance are such fluid concepts!

Back to the connections thing. If you have 150 friends/followers/contacts, there's loads of opportunities to connect with what people are saying and develop more meaningful interactions. I think I've drifted towards being a broadcaster in recent weeks - as I try and soak in as much content as I can - and also as I process a few things going on in life that I'm not ready to share yet.

As I reflect on where I'm at and in light of the reminder from Seth Godin on his post; I'd rather be influenced by and share my experiences with a smaller group of people. I'd rather be alive in a smaller group than observe the stream of consciousness that a large group would deliver. It's going to mean we can learn from each other and grow.

And that's always a good thing, right?

Thursday, 29 October 2009

what is truth?

Alas, this is not a diatribe on the origins of truth, reality or justice.

No, this is about a book.

This book, actually.

I was loaned a copy of it by McColleague and for the first time in ages, started and finished it in a few days. It helped that I was off work for a couple of weeks.

I stayed away from reading what others had said about the book online, preferring to leave that until I'd had the chance to read for myself. Glad that I did as I think I'd not have bothered based on what others have said.

This does not mean that the book is rubbish. Okay, it's okay writing, but it's the validity of the style - and content - that left me wondering. How much is true? I have no idea.

It's likely that there's bits of the book that are true, and plenty that's rumour, conjecture or just fiction. I have a problem with that - as the book is being presented as a likely retelling of what happened - and I'm sure plenty people will read that as "this is the whole truth, but Mr Zuckerberg wouldn't confirm it, 'cos he's got something to hide". The Guardian report about the book (before it was published) offers some insight.

A look at the Facebook fan page for the book (ironic, isn't it?!) are covered in the news that the books being made into a film. Adapted by Aaron Sorkin. He who created the West Wing, Studio 60 and What is that all about? Does that lend credibility to the content of the book - or simply confirm that there's a story people will pay money to watch?

I have a tendency to believe what I read. Mainly because in the past, I have only read things that were true - or at least telling you how *true* things were. I'm learning to become more objective in my reading - and questioning what's there. It challenges me to find out more about the subject and not just believe everything at face value.

That said, I don't want to turn into a cynic. The world has enough of them...

If your website is going to be down, it's best to have a sense of humour*

*unless it's a matter of life and death.

Posted via email from theweir's posterous

Monday, 26 October 2009

out for a wee bike ride to South Queensferry on a glorious autumn morning.

It's nice to be cycling for the fun of it, rather than simply to get from A to B.

Posted via email from theweir's posterous

Friday night is alright.

I'd like to think that I have a healthy balance between being hyper-organised and letting life unfold as it happens. "Riding the wave" has been a phrase on my mind recently.

Particularly when working, I create a mental plan of what I'd like to see happen - packing my bag with stuff for work the night before, ironing shirts in a batch, rather than one by one (they're the only thing I iron as a matter of course). That's all normal, right? You do that too, don't you?

When making plans for say a holiday or a day out with babyB, I'd hope to not get so obsessed by The Plan that there's no flexibility though!

Anyway, some time ago, I read an article about why it's a good idea to get some exercise at the end of the working week. I'd totally recommend reading it. If I could find it. And I can't. I've spent about half an hour searching online for it and had no joy. Tried four search engines, a myriad of search terms and no joy.

The article pointed to a study that showed your weekend would be more energised if you spent about 30 minutes doing something active on a Friday night - rather than simply heading for the pub and singing a few shandies or babychams.

All this to ask you to consider changing your plans a little for a Friday night - or whenever you see the end of your working week to be. As part of the *rest* you need to give yourself, take a little time to stretch the muscles (internal and external) and see how you feel. I've seen me chicken out a few times, so please don't think I'm Mr Perfect. Not all the time at least... ;-P

Possibly rough the first time you do it, but it's worth it for the post-exercise buzz that gives you a lift as you live your weekend.

Give it a shot and see how it works out for you - and let me know if it's not working and I'll stop too (maybe).

Sunday, 25 October 2009

playing games around my feet

When I was on holiday, I'd get up with babyB and let Jenny get some more sleep. It's kinda normal for me to do that given the way the rhythms of our lives are running at the moment.

And mainly because I can often fall into the typical male stereotype of being unable to wake up when there's baby crying unless there's some significant amplifying of the audio level...

When at Center Parcs, I tried to get out for a run before breakfast - so would spend some time stretching in advance. There was something special about these times as babyB got involved in the process - pile on being one of the simplest games ever.

It reminded me of the song Turning Thirty I mentioned on this blog post at my birthday. And of being grateful for the grace we live in.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Competition and Surfing

I was reading Seth Godin talking about "Top this" the other day. There's a tension for me sometimes between doing better and doing things well. I'd like to think I get this balance right, but it's not true. Then there's too often a third strand - just getting it done. Doing enough to get by and hope no-one notices your heart has not been in it.

You might think this a little abstract, but then isn't a lot of what I write about! I applies to much of our lives though. Am doing just enough to be an *alright* Dad? Am I so competitive at work that I'll step on anyone to get ahead? Do I (metaphorically) beat myself up too much about making small mistakes or letting people down?

Overcoming a panchent for perfectionism is something I've been walking through for a while - but here it gets interesting:

To continually improve is the drive for self-perfection. To continually expect yourself to deliver great outcomes (be that product, art, food experiences) is the drive for self-fulfillment.

Does this leave (little or) no room for contentment? "I'm only satisfied when...[fill in the blanks]" says that right here & right now something just isn't good enough. An undisciplined, or perhaps unaware response is to look for something or someone to blame. Then that can lead to frustration and pushing even harder.

Ultimately, I think this tension can be our undoing. It can ruin our soul. I have no doubt that there's a great many things that I could have done better. I have no doubt that there's things in my character that can (and will) be improved.

But at the end of the day, I am where I am. Right now, this is who I am. This is what I have and what I can give.

My hope - my prayer - is that I live in the light of who I am in Jesus. There's a future I can co-create with the King, but I only want to do that by recognising that I can't do it on my own. I can't magic my way into the *dream* job (whatever that is!) or into having the *dream* house. I want to blow where the Spirit is going and ride the waves.

If I've learned anything in the past 30 years of living, it's riding the waves that will be much more fun than trying to make it all happen in my own strength.

Friday, 23 October 2009

10 years? That was quick

I've shared a few photos of the events that Jenny and I enjoyed 10 years ago today.

We got married in the old "Church of Stabrok", built in 1185, but known as St Nicholas' Kirk. It was the same building that Jenny's elder sisters were married. I loved that it was an old building, still in use and that it was small enough to feel cosy with our guests. Especially as we got married toward the end of October!

Among many clear memories of our wedding (including me bubbling like a softy as we read the vows we'd written to each other) was the day before. We drove to Balbirnie House, leaving our car there overnight. The drive was a welcome break from all the arranging and sorting out that had been going on. It was a lovely, bright and crisp day and was just the right pause for breath before the big day.

I've been thinking about all that we've enjoyed in life together since that day. Sharing and building a home together for the first time, getting used to living with someone else (more of a challenge for Jenny than for me, I'm sure) and Jenny passing her driving test in the first month was great. And I think about Jenny getting her job at Standard Life Bank, launching CDs with IndigoEcho, we bought the Pug, touring with the band, moving into and renovating our current home, more CD launches, Jenny went back to University to study Midwifery, we visited New Zealand for 7 amazing weeks, Jenny graduated with honours (not that I'm proud of her, or anything), we lost a baby, we visited New Zealand again, we bought the Astra, Jenny was pregnant, and very ill with it, babyB arrived and here we are.

Not to mention those *landmark* 21st and 30th birthdays, changes in role at work for me, trips to more local destination, celebrations, tragedies, leaving the band, trying other things and the richness that comes from living as full a life as we can. Some people have remarked that we got married very young. My reply had always been that we wanted to grow up together - and I think we're still doing that. And I love it.

I say this to boast. To boast in the Grace and Mercy of God who has kept us safe, provided for us and in Love for these 10 years. The One we have cried to and shouted about. I love my wife, my baby girl and an grateful for every day we have.

As Gary Houston would say:

"Every breath is mercy."

oh yeah, and 10 years ago, in the middle of our *first dance* (Andy Williams singing "You're just to good to be true"), our friends held up scores on our performance. Genuis, comedy and the perfect distraction from my (intentionally) bad dancing. If only we'd had You Tube back in the day, we'd have been viral video stars!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Stereotypes are always a right pain, aren't they?

I thought it was very cool to see that a fisherman off the West of Scotland handed in a couple of rare fish to the local Sea Life sanctuary. These were Grey trigger fish that are not normally found in the waters where he cast his nets. The story is here, if you've not seen it.

Perhaps we're more used to the image of factory-boat fisherman who trawl everything over a huge distance, not bothering about unexpected - or unwanted - sea life.

I wonder what the statistics are for the number of "good" fisherman for every "bad" fisherman. Or maybe we can substitute fisherman for bus drivers, car salespeople or call handlers?

Today, I'll try and keep clear of presuming I've got it all figured out before I interact with people. How 'bout you?

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

I did something new today

I got through the to-do list with time to spare. A good day.

Last week, I had another day where I did something new: I got stuck in a lift. Not something I've been actively persuing as something to achieve, but it happened, nonetheless.

My first thought? Press the emergency buzzer and have a short & productive conversation with the security person on the other end of the line. Although, it was slightly concerning that he asked "which lift" I was in. I held back the retort "why, does this happen often?" as I was unsure how dry the fellas sense of humour was. An engineer would be dispatched as soon as possible. I found out later that they literally came running. Which was nice of them.

Second thought? I'd better tell the world (starting with Mrs Weir). So, a few conversations over Facebook & Twitter ensued (here's the photo taken with the fuzzy lens of my G1 that @RobinsonsS asked for):

After about 10 minutes, I realised it was getting warm. Hmm.

When the engineer arrived, banging on the doors and shouting "hello", there was the sound of panic in their voice. Like they were concerned about the lift brake systems immenent demise. It was important then, for there sakes, that I remained calm.

I was informed that the lift would be winched up manually and they'd get me out as soon as possible. This gave me visions of a gang of people heaving away at the other end of the rope to move the lift. Needless to say, as the building has counter-weight powered lifts, that wasn't how it would work. So I'm told.

I read and replied to a few emails & messages.

Anyway, once the lift had been lifted, the engineers (there were two now) got the doors open and there was the rush of conditioned air into the small box but I wasn't allowed out.

I could see the floor (the one I was heading for) and, okay there was a 2ft drop from the edge of the lift to the landing, but I've got long legs, I'm alright with that.

But apparently, HSE regulations prohibit people exiting a lift in this state. Really? In case the lift fails. I can't imagine a scenario when I'd want to stay in the lift when it's failing. By which we mean falling, right? Other than maybe the buiding failing. But that's a bit too Wylie E Coyote.

Then a third engineer, named Otis (;-p) gave the all clear. I could jump, if I was willing to take the risk. Let me think about that...

That's my experience of being stuck in a lift. You had anything far more exciting?

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

so what's next?

I'd hoped to write this series of posts about my current role at work over a few consecutive days. Given that the first one (here) was written on 3 September, that's clearly not happened. Let's see what can be done to rectify that.

So, a few months after I did that job for Garry, our Director, I was working in another team in our department (on secondment) as an eCommerce Development Consultant (what on earth was that?!).

Around this time, there were some stronger gusts from the winds of change than usual. It was putting pressure on the way our department was funded and how we got things done. We had enjoyed some level of autonomy and that had brought a good measure of success, but it wasn't as easy as that.

There were looming changes to reporting practices and requirements for greater levels of detail in those reports. At the same time as this, a friend from the Powerpoint band (where I was playing drums at the time, and nothing to do with Microsoft products) shared a link on his blog. It was to a presentation inspired by the style of Lawrence Lessig and it completely blew me away.

On two counts:

1) the way he spoke and the material he used to help articulate his points (his narrative) and

2) the content he was sharing.

After a few hours (over a few days) of looking at Lessig's blog (now in hibernation), finding Garr Reynolds blog on presentations (one of the *best* resources you will find) and then watching Dick Hardt's video from OSCON, I was suddenly properly aware of the power of online tools to change the way the world interacts.

You might suggest that I was hooked, and I'd probably agree. I found iGoogle and started tracking people's content online.

I shared the Lessig and Hardt videos with a colleague and friend, Robert McGill. He said "we could make something like that" about where we worked. So we did.

Storyboarded, created and distributed in about a week and a wee video about "where I worked" caught some pretty big attention from our business and IT bosses.

It didn't save the department from going through a rough time, and it probably resulted in me taking my eye off the ball a little on my day job.

Through this process I realised that communication - and really storytelling - was what I loved doing. Agile development (from a business & user perspective) is all about stories. Making our little video was all about stories. Making slidedecks is all about helping someone tell their story.

It was around this time that Garry, David and I spoke about maybe doing some work to help our area tell it's story better. But that's another story.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

More than one currency

When catching up with some podcasts a couple of weeks ago, Mitch Joel spoke with Tara Hunt on Six Pixels of Separation (podcast) spoke about there being more currencies than Money (capital). She mentioned Information (learning), Relationships (social).

It's about making friends, finding your place and sense of significance in the world. Money used to deliver this.

  • Autonomy (make your own decision),
  • Confidence (love it for the challenge),
  • Sociality (feeling of belonging),
  • Set points (always happy/cynical/grumpy etc).
You can adjust the first three to impact your sense of happiness.

It's an interesting, thought-provoking and at least partially accurate observation. I wonder if we can invest in all four of these currencies?

Have a listen to the conversation here and see what you think.

What about faith. How does it impact (or underpin) these things?

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Thank you, RAC.

Last year, we changed car insurers and opted to take seperate breakdown cover. At the time the old Pug was a bit fragile so we thought it best to get something fairly comprehensive, especially with babyB on the scene.

The RAC got our business by being 1) well priced (ie cheapest), 2) easy to buy online (most convenient) & 3) covering the drivers, not the cars.

We never needed to call them in 364 of the days of the policy. Today, day 365, we did.

On a wee road trip to collect her parents from Glasgow Airport a few weeks ago (that's a 40 minute motorway journey from home), Mrs theWeir was in her parents car with her sister & babyB. Then the electrics on the car packed in on the motorway.

The car kept running, but no speedo, lights and left indicator permantley on (presumably the car's way of saying "I'd like to stop now"). They pressed on the airport. On arrival at the pick-up point, the car (a four-year old Ford Mondeo) died. No power, kaput.

Mrs theWeir phones me, gets our membership details and phone number them pulls out her RAC card and phones them up. Helpful people on the phone (first star to RAC). Van on it's way. Ticket man at the Airport drop-off point is really great - very understanding of the situation and keeps checking in to see if he can help. Nice.

Van arrives in good time, mechanic confirms a dodgy alternator (it's less than a year old) and quite rightly says - you're not driving that back through with four adults and a toddler. He can't tow it back as there's too many passengers - need to get a flat bed.

He confirms this with RAC control (I think) who arrange for a flat-bed tow lorry to collect them all and take them home. Might be an hour or more - sorry they can't have one right away. But then RAC man leaves (to do other calls, or maybe have a tea break, either's good with me). But the call centre keep in touch, confirming when the flat bed was dispacted and giving an eta. (Second gold star).

Flat bed driver was great, babyB and Mrs theWeir get front fow seats and the car is loaded up. They head for home. Then the call centre phones again to make sure everything has worked out okay. Now that's what I call service.

Thank you RAC for looking after my family. I'll be renewing our cover you now, rather than looking for a *better deal* anywhere else.

That's my story, but I'd love to know if you've had anything similar or worse from RAC too. Just to bring balance

FULL Disclosure: I've never earned any freebies from RAC, or been paid by them. Just so we're clear.