Archive for the ‘top tips on the art of living’ Category

David John Tomlinson was born less than a kilometre from here in Mothers Hospital on Saturday 25 March 1964 where he became ‘little David’ to Paul and I who at that time were already nearly 5 and nearly 2 respectively…

When you get a label like ‘little’ within a family, it sticks with you and I seem to have viewed David with this ‘little David’ label throughout our carefree childhood.

Paul was too quick to catch so Mum and Dad gave me the ‘looking after little David duties’ and he became my virtual shadow as we grew up in what was then a rapidly developing area of Glenmore.

We attended a new community Church called Stella Presbyterian, first of all meeting in the old scout hut building and then moving to a purpose built little Church which still stands in a much larger building format today.

Our sister Jill was born six years later, much to David’s disappointment at the time (he really wanted a little brother to play with). Mum’s hands were so full with Jill, we were given a rare freedom as children to explore as widely as we wanted, provided we were always home for bath time.

We developed a wide circle of friends playing in the park along Fielden Drive and making camps in the bushes between Alton Road and Wanless Road and also exploring the wilds of the bushes behind Bobby’s house in Grosvenor Road. We enjoyed skateboarding together and the summers literally lasted forever…

As our boyhood friend Robbie Jennings wrote in an e-mail when he heard of the accident, “they were carefree days” and “David’s passing has somehow torn a hole in the fabric of my life”. I feel exactly the same!

In the battle for pecking order which young boys go through, David used to get involved in various scraps which I inevitably had to fight for him as he was too small… It was a respectable way to look after a little brother…

David and I shared a bedroom for around 17 years in total and we shared a lot more of life, then and in the years that followed.  We were confirmed into the Church standing next to one another when I was 16 and David was just 14. We had a wonderfully supportive group of friends who never forgot us, nor we them.

The only good thing the SADF ever did, from my point of view, was to call Paul up to army, as David and I then finally got our own bedrooms for a period! Paul returned from army in 1978 and David and I were back in one room again for another couple of years, until Paul & Helen got married.

In 1980 I went off to study in the States and when I returned a year later, our good friend Ron Mattig took me aside and gave me some valuable words of advice which I thank him for. He told me how David had stepped out of my shadow during the year I was away and that he was no longer ‘little David’ – he had become an equal member of our circle of friends known as the goat and our friend Ron insisted I respect him for that. Interestingly no-one ever explained to me why they started calling my little brother ‘the goat’ and I showed respect by never asking.

David and I still did many things together, particularly when I got my first car, but things were never the same – he’d grown up and now had his own motorbike, he was no longer ‘little David’ – such is life…

I studied at Technikon, while David went off to army in 1982 – he had a pretty lousy time in Pretoria before being transferred down to Natal Command where he worked as camp photographer on their news editorial team. This was probably the genesis of his love for photography & his advocacy of the Nikon brand.

Upon leaving the army, he worked as a camera man filming sports events and training videos, while driving his beloved Puma sports car. We would still end up at Ron Mattig’s house most weekends with our childhood friends, John, Miles, Bobby, Eric, Charl, Marcus, Remy, Paula and Trish Stewart & the list goes on.

David met Allison Krok in 1986 when he was working in Durban overseeing one of our Dad’s interests and Allison was working at Indigo. He was completely smitten by her and I recall his answer to my question of “what’s she like?” was “she’s a free spirit Neil – she’s different to your girlfriends and I don’t care what you think because she’s mine.”

That was David for those who knew him; never afraid to hold an opinion and never backward at volunteering his forthright views on whoever he was talking to. He wasn’t always right, but he certainly always believed he was…

David completely adored Allison and they were married on 26 August 1989. They had a successful marriage and have proven to be good parents, spending time ensuring their children’s education was paramount in their lives, giving them their best prospects for the future.

 David loved his 2 children; his beautiful daughter Jade, born on 13 December 1990 was the apple of his eye and he was very proud of his smiling son Mark, born on 17th August 1992. When David, Allison, Jade and Mark came to England on holiday in 1996, Allison was still David’s Alley Cat and Jade was very much his special girl. Mark just smiled.

David got into the Round Table movement in 1996, courtesy of his dear friend Geoff Burgess and we know he loved the fellowship he found in Tabling life. Geoff tells how he was enthusiastic from the beginning and was highly respected by his fellow Tabler’s, becoming Chair of the Wandsbeck council in 2000. He travelled internationally as a Round Table representative and stayed with me when he travelled to the UK as a guest of Gravesend Round Table in Kent.

David worked hard at whatever he did, applying his considerable eye for technical detail to analysing how things worked – everything he owned and worked with – it was never enough to read the instruction manual – he needed to research it thoroughly and then take it apart to ensure it was built properly and that he would understand it. To his family, he was always the gadget man…

When I finally got married in England to my wife Alison Tomlinson the 2nd (as David called her), David flew over for my wedding and was typically behind the camera from the moment he arrived. Alas I have no photos of David on my wedding day, because he was taking all the photos.

My Ali and I had the pleasure of staying in Mum’s apartment with David and Allison when we came over for a visit in December 2003. It was a privilege to meet his family properly and their circle of friends at that time. I’m eternally grateful for that wonderful Christmas we had at Paul and Helen’s as a family.

As has become a near tradition, David and Allison, Mark, Jade and Jasyn spent their last Christmas day together at Paul and Helen’s in Kloof and it was a good day! It was a BIG birthday for Helen, so there were more people there than usual and as was typical of David, he was the man behind the camera. Fortunately, this fact was noticed on this particular Christmas day, which was destined to be his and Jade’s last, and we are fortunate to have a few photos which include David this year, taken by Paul’s good friend Keith.

For me and many others gathered here, the world stopped for a period on Boxing day 2010 when this terrible tragedy unfolded. That a car crash should ruin a well planned family holiday is bad enough; that it should claim the lives of David and Jade seems plain wrong…  That 3 people survived the terrible crash, is a tribute to David’s evasive action as a driver and deeply ironic how he most certainly saved the life of the idiot driver who took theirs.

Paul and I had cause to repair Paul’s lawnmower on New Year’s day just passed, and we both expressed how David would know what was wrong and he would have been able to help fix what took us a few hours in considerably less time…

I’m sure there will be many more such moments for many more of David’s friends and family who knew and loved him. Our Mum had been storing up jobs for him to complete when he returned to England with her in April – alas this was not to be and the burden of fixing things now falls on people less qualified and capable like Jill’s husband Rob and myself.

The grief comes crashing in like waves which grab my gut and twist it till it hurts, burning my eyes and throat with tears that stop flowing, only to come back when I’m least expecting them.

It will be like this for a while…

But we can shed tears that they are gone, or we can smile because they have lived.

We can close our eyes and pray they will come back;  or we can open our eyes and see all they left behind.

Our hearts can be empty because we cannot see them;  or we can be full of the love we shared together.

We can turn our back on tomorrow and live yesterday…  or we can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

We can remember them and only that they have gone;  or we can cherish their memories and let them live on…

We can cry and close our minds, be empty and turn our backs… or we can do what they would have wanted us to do… 

We can smile, we can open our eyes, we can love and we can go on.

I pray we will all think and speak openly of David and Jade in the months and years ahead… 

That way they will live on in our memories and our hearts as we wish they did in our lives.

God Bless you both David and Jade…  May you rest in peace!

Neil Tomlinson
5 January 2011
Durban Botanical Gardens


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Today was the day when we finally got to see our latest creation – aka Aquapax in its 2009 production guise. It’s one thing to sign off a piece of flat artwork, and another thing to have a mock-up made in a different material, to give a degree of design perspective. But seeing the real thing as it’s come off the production line and ready to be warehoused prior to shipping to customers is something you can never ‘know’ for certain until you see it.

I can honestly say that I’m happier with the real thing than I was with any of the computer generated images, despite their function being to portray an item in its theoretical ‘best light’. There’s simply no substitute for feeling the paper folded around the water and knowing that without absolute commitment, we would never have got this far! As I sit here looking at the subtleties of what I believe is an iconic design, our new Aquapax already feels like a pair of old jeans, that ‘just fit’ whenever you put them on.

I had a conversation with a very professional journalist on Friday who was reflecting that ‘packaged water’ is an unnecessary drink. I conceded that I still drink tap water at home, but that in an increasingly obese world, it’s irresponsible to keep knocking water in favour of flavoured beverage options. The fact is that our ‘packaged water’ Aquapax gives health conscious thirsty people the best option possible for calorie free natural hydration, with a natural mineral balance that you can taste for its purity, and the absence of anything that shouldn’t be there.

Aquapax is quite simply healthier than other beverage options, and (to be fair to our plastic competitors) while any packaged water has a lower carbon footprint than any other packaged beverage option, Aquapax is uniquely packaged in the proven lowest carbon footprint package option compared to all other portable packaged waters available.

That is why we claim Aquapax as ‘a pure thirst for the environment’ along with our other trade mark, ‘think inside the box’ – it just makes ecological common sense. I’ll caveat that with “unless you’re in a position of impossible luxury, where you have fresh drinking water on tap whenever and wherever you feel thirsty!” 🙂

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Following the snow of a couple of weeks ago, we had some pretty severe winds last week and lost a fence post plus 2 panels between us and our neighbours. It’s our responsibility, so this last weekend was spent digging up the old broken post and ‘planting’ the new one.
I was quite surprised on taking the old fence down to the local MRF (materials recovery facility – aka ‘dump’) that their wood recovery facility (tip) had all sorts of metal and other elements attached to anything remotely resembling wood. I’m unclear how they recover/recycle/reuse any of the wood afterwards, but based on what I saw, it certainly can’t be simple.

It’s one of those sod’s laws that one bag of post-crete wasn’t quite enough to finish the job properly, meaning a trip back out to the DIY store for another bag. So I’ve now got a 3/4 full bag of postcrete left and was’nt able to finish the job before losing the light. Aah well, these things are sent to try us…

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Why? we keep on being asked… Because I grew up on a beach and every time we are out walking on a beach or in the countryside, we are distracted by plastic bottles which will never ever go away… all it took was one plastic bottle too many to turn an otherwise rational businessman into the ethical and environmental entrepreneur within.

The funky and compact Aquapax is the result – a majority sustainable and wholly recyclable paper carton containing a premium quality pure mineral water that’s even suitable for infants (no nitrates). We had to look beneath a protected nature park in Germany to get our Aquapax packaged with suitable quality water. The Tetra Pak carton we’re using is already accepted over there as the only one-way package that’s exempt from package deposit tax (because it’s environmentally advantageous) which made the alliance pitch with the packer a little easier. – Yes we have carbon balanced the business so there is less net carbon impact from food miles than with a comparable UK bottled water (if you could find one that tastes the same) and besides, I’m not aware of any plastic bottles starting their life in oil wells located across the home counties…

It’s all about customer service now, as more and more retail and wholesale customers give us space for a trial, we simply blow them away with a responsive and focused customer care that big business pays marketing consultants to talk about. It’s really not that difficult – just close your eyes every now and then and visualise who your customer is and what they want – that’s what customer service is fundamentally all about.

Aquapax are currently on sale throughout the UK and Ireland through independent minded wholesalers and retailers, with a loyal distribution base that keeps on growing encouragingly. In fact there’s a great correlation between how our sales are going and the degree of take up for carton recycling across the UK. Carton recycling is currently up to 85% of all councils in the UK – not bad really despite the urban myth still suggesting they’re impossible to recycle (wrong!).

If you believe strongly enough in something, sometimes, you just have to create the change yourself. I know there are others who understand – they’re the ones buying Aquapax and we’ve just encountered our first competition in the North American market…

Join the revolution why don’t you? Plastic is passé and glass is oh so pretentious…  🙂

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Life continues at pace with weekends whizzing into weeks and back into weekends again – a good way to tell the difference is that people smile more at the weekends…

Last weekend Hagar manned the stand (ok it’s a gazebo) at the St Mary Bourne village fete and a sunny old affair it was too. If only more villages were as community minded as the folk in St Mary Bourne, the world would be a nicer place.

They turned out in force to support their local community event in the gloriously sunny weather. It made a change to not have to explain what an Aquapax is to people as well, considering The Village Shop (run by the community for the community) is supporting our quest and selling Aquapax to thirsty residents and visitors alike. It is quite amazing how people with taste will always find a way to get hold of our wonderful water and thanks must go to Diana for the particularly amazing support she has shown for Aquapax…

Hagar had ‘the long straw’ on this occasion as I got to do store merchandising in Brighton on Saturday, followed by a long over due family BBQ on the Sunday. Both of these have potential to be a real pain, but fortunately, the BBQ went down really well and despite a lot more smoke than usual – the weather held out and the food was very tasty. My family seemed to enjoy themselves and the Brighton shopkeepers showing support were happy with their POS material promoting our recent QATRAH award win.

This weekend we’ll be making an appearance down at Newquay for the ‘Unleashed Music Festival’ in Watergate Bay – our friends at Good Mood Food will be manning the Chickpea Chariot and helping revellers quench their hunger and thirst with Aquapax and the best falafals outside of London (where they’re normally based). Falafals and water (perhaps a little wine too) it’s the only way to dance – or is that trance?

We’re also planning our mission for this year’s Cowes sailing week where we have a fabulous speedboat for the Monday and Tuesday and are hoping to tie in with a yacht to further promote Aquapax to the crowds thereafter. Aquapax is proving a hit with the sailing fraternity, as they have to take water for hydration on board their boats, but are fed up with the fact that empty plastic bottles take up as much space as full ones.

We were on board 3 of the first 4 yachts in the around Ireland race in June and should be on a few more boats for the Cowes to Madeira race taking place later in August. There’s at least one boating and marine safety retailer satisfying the demand so far and the intention is to find some more during the week ahead.

As if that all weren’t enough, the new Aquapax design (remember the guy named Tom) is coming together very nicely, thanks to him and his friends Nina and Susie, and the trip to the USA to take Aquapax over there with Robert and his boss Terry – haven’t met him, but Robert says he’s cool, is coming together with the passport office having returned my new passport today.

So it’s all looking very rosy indeed one way or another – stay tuned for further up-dates…

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Whenever a business sets out its stall as even trying to ‘bring about change for the good’, human nature is such that it looks for any weakness rather than embracing the positive commitment that business is seeking to make. The inevitable weakness is often then used as justification for knocking it and ‘continuing business as usual’ with whichever company has kept its head down.

This is essentially an extract paragraph from an earlier blog I wrote about becoming a successful ethical business and it’s something that came back to me at the weekend when we were promoting Aquapax at the Horsham eco-fair in Horsham Park AND at the Lambeth Country Show in Brockwell Park. [Not bad going for a company with limited resources and not possible without the heroic efforts of a certain ‘friend called Hagar’ who a number of new Aquapax customers are meeting at events across the country this summer.]

By and large, the majority of people who we meet at these events are open minded and wanting to learn, after all, that’s why they presumably left their homes on any particular day to venture out to a fair.

Irrespective of whether these people ever buy an Aquapax from us or from one of our retail partners, the fact they enquire about our less carbon intensive production process, the recycling options, the reasons why we chose the very particular Fläming Felsenquelle source water, how we actually carbon balance our business and ensure the thinking is all joined up, is done with genuine interest and sometimes with humorous challenge and fun along the way.

Then there are the frustrated comedians who talk about water coming out of the sky and laugh heartily as they reference only drinking tap water while simultaneously carrying an overpriced (and well known) brand of flavoured tap water in their rucksacks (I don’t mind them – at least they’re cheerful) or the third type – the energy sappers…

These people wander around at shows without any apparent joy; they attack with energy and robust (loud) rebukes as if we were peddling something outrageously illegal and then walk off rapidly without giving any opportunity to engage at an intellectual or any other level.

I actually got accused of being an irresponsible cause of the well publicised credit crunch by one ‘gentleman’ and it’s sad that following a weekend of great positivity, the venomous comments of ‘a nutter (in my humble opinion) who wouldn’t engage’ hurt the most. I don’t feel in the slightest bit responsible for any crunch in the credit market, but it’s always sad to see someone growing old without learning anything…

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I had a mailing from Datamonitor (the research people) on Thursday, offering a series of research reports, one of which is headed ‘The Cult of Celebrity’.

Their sales pitch includes the following ridiculous (imho) statement that “Voyeurism has achieved a level of acceptability and marketers need to meet consumers’ needs for accessibility and information on celebrity endorsee”.

The scope of the report apparently includes “Insights into how and why celebrity remains a powerful tool in a marketing context, along with assessments of its limitations and challenges.” And most importantly (please forgive my sarcasm) “Strategic conclusions and actionable recommendations on effectively harnessing the power of celebrity endorsement and branding”.

To me, celebrities who endorse goods for cash are often prostitutes by any other name; degrading skills or any ability they may have unworthily for incongruous personal financial gain.

To me, a product’s integrity has to be the hero and that’s the stance we’re taking. Aquapax is ‘one of the purest natural mineral waters on the planet’ – our brand communicates honestly and stands up on its own as ‘a pure thirst for the environment’ referencing its more ecologically aware package and light (carbon balanced business) footprint on the planet. Having to support an inadequate product proposition by using someone else with no real connection to the product is not somewhere I really want us to go.

SO what else happened Thursday? Well it was world environment day, but you had to look really hard to find anyone who knew… We sent out press releases full of anticipation, referencing how we’re carbon balancing our business impact and the amount of energy a carton of water saves versus an oil based plastic bottle or a pretentious glass bottle (complete waste of carbon) – generally highlighting how we’re working at making a real difference.

A baby emu made the no. 2 item on BBC national TV news on Thursday! Not only was our PR not picked up, I didn’t notice any others on the world environment day subject either. Maybe I should have dropped Mark Corbett’s recent reference to me as ‘swimming against the flow like a returning salmon’ into the press release – I like the noble analogy and that may even have caught a research assistant’s eye.

I find it quite sad – not because our genuine ecological efforts didn’t make the news; journalists appear to have moved on from a subject they don’t really understand or want to spend time researching to more familiar ‘journalistic’ territory of sensationalistic drivel. Where is the next Kate Webb? We need you to write and stir our conscience on this very real subject – not just on world environment day, but constantly, until the message gets through!

A few other things happened on Thursday – some are only shared with those who know me personally – I am SO happy (and exhausted) right now 🙂 . I also did another in-store demo at Whole Foods Market in High Street Kensington, where we had a few export enquiries from North American visitors and 2 more interesting people wanting to understand the ‘potential investment opportunity’. Who needs trade shows – people are people first and if you’re in their frame of reference, they seem to find you.

The final thing I’ll mention was the beginning of something I foresee as a potentially wonderful future with a design guy named Tom. He and his fellow designers had spotted Aquapax in the Sunday Times Style magazine – they ‘get it’ and they’ve approached us to help others ‘get it’ too. Following my intuition makes decisions relatively easy, so watch this space – we plan on helping them (& us) become famous… oh yes, when we are, I promise not to do any celebrity endorsements without all the proceeds going to charity.

Keep smiling – even a lemon tastes good after tequila.

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