I created Lookatbowen.com about twelve years ago partly because I wanted to create a web site that offered something useful for me to work on and because it was a great way to display photographs and post messages to family and friends back home (South Africa). It has since become a major part of our lives. In recent times I have become quite a gadget and phone freak and have used the site to review the various bits of software and hardware that I have bought or had opportunity to use.
Why Lookatbowen.com? I guess because it’s catchy and easy to remember and we want people to look at Bowen. There are multiple ways you can catch up with Bowen, through Twitter @lookatbowen, LinkedIn, Youtube, Google+, Spotify, About.me to name but a few social sites.
I met Jo back in 1997 while working as a network administrator at Rance Timber in Stutterheim, South Africa. In fact, I worked with Jo’s Mom (Jennie) and it’s definitely thanks to Jennie that Jo and I got together.
When I started at Rance Timber, internet and email was non-existant and it was my job to get the company into the 20th Century. At first, we only had one machine connected to the internet (mine of course), and so all incoming & outgoing email had to pass through my computer. I was the email postman as such delivering messages to everyone in the company. I soon discovered that Jennie had a daughter studying Veterinary Nursing at Onderstepoort, a fairly huge university campus outside of Pretoria. One thing led to another and soon Jo and I were communicating via email. This lasted for about four months when I finally met her in person, (Our first introduction and I had a large hamburger in my mouth… Talk about 1st impressions, I can only wonder what Jo thought.. Ha Ha!).
Jo had just graduated and decided to move to Port Elizabeth where she had been offered a job, so we continued to email and chat on the phone whenever we could, but it soon dawned on me that my future was in Port Elizabeth, so I bid farewell to Rance Timber and moved to PE. I got a job working for Q-Data as a consultant doing AS400 COBOL programming. Well, that’s a bit of a lie, because by that stage I had completed forgotten everything that I had learnt in programming at PE Technikon, and my programming diploma was pretty worthless to me. But it didn’t stop me getting quite a cushy job doing “context help” for a major record publishing company call Counterpoint Systems. So life was very comfortable in PE. Jo’s sister Jackie lived there as well, and one of my best friends from technikon was just down the road. We had a great time in Port Elizabeth.
After a year in Port Elizabeth I decided to make use of my ancestral visa and told Jo I wanted to vist the UK to work and travel. Jo was keen to do this as well. So we started planning our trip.
Then in 1999 my Dad died after a long battle with cancer. It didn’t come as a complete shock because we had seen him slowly struggle through all the pain. I had quit my job at Counterpoint a couple of months before hand to be with Mom though the difficult time.
Starting life in England
In July ’99 I came over to the UK. For me it was a way of closure from all the pain and suffering I had seen in the last few months of my Dad’s life. Jo followed a month later and so we started our lives in England. My first job was working as a contractor in Swindon in a massive blue chip company called Zurich Financial Services. I worked on a year 2000 project, and our main goal was to check and make sure each PC in the company (all 5000 of them) were year 2000 compliant. It was an awesome job. I worked from 9pm to 9am and only worked on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. So basically I had a long weekend every weekend. Jo got a job as a veterinary nurse in Swindon which was great experience for her. On the weekends we hired cars and drove all over England visiting castles and historic sites. We became members of the English Heritage, which gave us massive discounts into all the popular sites like Stonehenge, Dover Castle, Kenilworth castle, Balmoral, and basically anything famous. We had an excellent time. We spent Xmas of ’99 in the Lake District. What a beautiful part of the English countryside.
We watched in total amazement at the biggest fireworks display, London had ever seen as we said “goodbye to the twentieth century” and welcomed in the Year 2000. We were standing on Embankment in a two million strong crowd. It was the most awesome moment ever. We will never forget it.
It was rather disappointing in a way that the year 2000 bug didn’t cause havoc as most analysts were predicting. It would have created a lot more jobs for the I.T. market.
In January 2000, I moved to London. Jo had been living and working in Twickenham near the famous grounds at a vet practice. I had finished my Swindon contract and was desperately looking for a job in London. It wasn’t long before I found a three month contract working for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets as a Desktop Support Analyst.
In 2000, Jo started work at All Bar One (Butlers Wharf). We moved into a South African house share in Lewisham.
In the Summer of 2001 we visited Scotland and did a ten day drive/B&B around the country visiting many castles, did Ben Nevis, saw all the lochs including Loch Ness (did not see Nessie though).
Jo started work at the Ochre, a pub in the city (somewhere near St Pauls). I was still working for London Borough of Tower Hamlets. We moved into a house share on Greenland Dock, Canada Water.
Below is summary of what we have been up too over the years and months together.
- On the 1st of May 2001, Jo and I tied the knot and got married in London and had our honeymoon in Paris. We moved into a studio flat over looking South Dock in Surrey Quays.
- In the summer of 2003 we visited the Dominican Republic.
- Jo started working for MLS Business Centres as Centre Manager. (somewhere near Edgware road). We moved into a two bed 2nd floor flat over looking the Thames Barriers.
- July 2003 – We watch Bon Jovi rock Hyde Park. The concert went on for over 3 hours. One of the best concerts ever!
- March 2004, this year we spent a week in Courcheval learning to snowboard. Another awesome holiday although it was quite painful, very frustrating and tiring. It doesn’t feel like we had a holiday this year.
- May 2004, Jo started working for Your Space, another business centre type role.
- October 2004, I am still working for Tower Hamlets and looking forward to the XP rollout, which is happening in December. Jo is back at MLS Business Centre and working in Canary Wharf across the road from where I work.
- In August of 2004 we decided to buy our first house. We looked at one house at the estate agent and knew the minute we saw it, that it would be the house for us. We made an offer and it was accepted and the whole legal process took just two months to go through. We were very lucky.
- We moved into our first home on the 24th October 2004.
- If all goes well we will soon be starting a family (not the screaming, dirty nappies, no sleep for the next two years type of family)… Ha Ha Ha!, there is plenty of time for them. – No, we mean, we are adopting two pedigree cats and will hopefully have them in the first week of December.
- April 2005 – We bought our first motor car, a Skoda Fabia Vrs 1.8 Turbo Diesel.
- October 2005 – Where did the year go? We’ve been in our house for just over a year now. Still got to do some home improvements, Have had our two cats Tamsin and Magic that long as well.
- December 2005 – Have finally past the last hurdle in our attempt to get English Passports. In the new year we will be applying for British Naturalization/Citizenship.
- January 2006 – We have sent off our application to become British Citizens. Apparently it can take up to 6 months.
- February 2006 – Quite a milestone has been reached this month. I have been contracting at Tower Hamlets for six years. I wonder if they have got the hint yet?
- March 2006 – Magic, one of our Tonkinese cats passed away from a short and sudden illness.
- April 2006 – Whiskey, a tiny Tonkinese kitten joins the Bowen household. (little terror).
- July 4th 2006 – After waiting almost six months, Jo and I officially become British Citizens. We’ve waited almost 7 years for this. Let the world travel begin.
- July 14th 2006 – My luck starts to change for the better and I finally land a fantastic permanent job in the city (sadly not with Tower Hamlets).
- July 24th 2006 – I start my new job at Credit Market Analysis (CMA). It was a jack of all trades.
- February 2008 – Two week holiday to Mexico.
- April 2008 – The CME Group buys out CMA.
- July 2008 – Jo starts a new career at LiquidIT.
- August 2008 – Jo spends two weeks in Nice, France to learn French, instead comes back with good stories of partying and little French.
- February 2009 – A week holiday in Samoens, France where we snowboarded and ski’ed.
- July 2009 – Spent a couple of days in Madrid, Spain.
- September 2009 – Spent a couple of days in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
- Mike is actively using Twitter and can be found under the name @Lookatbowen.
- December 2009 / January 2010 – Spent three weeks over Xmas / New Year in South Africa and Namibia.
- March 2010 – spent a week in Courchevel 1850 on a ski holiday.
- May 2010 – Bailey a Tonkinese kitten joins the household. He is our third cat.
- May 2011 – Our ten year anniversary was spent in Jamaica at the Lady Hamiltion five star resort.
- August 2011 – Sold all my shares in LON:BLNX for 156p a share. This was one of my first dabs on the stock market and also my most successful share to date. Subsequently the share price plummeted to 97p and Mike has been buying ever since.
- September 2011 – Camino Pilgrimage with Mom.
- October 2011 – Jo joins IP Solutions and becomes an Operations Manager.
- June 2012 – CMA became part of S&P Global IQ.
- July 2012 – Mike passes the 6 year mark working for Credit Market Analysis. It is only the 2nd time in 13 years this has been achieved.
- September 2013 – Our first holiday to Malaysia and Singapoire to visit James Joyce. The highlight of the holiday was watching the Singapore Grand Prix and walking the track and grid.
- June 2013 – We watch Nico Rosberg take victory at Silverstone in an eventful race where 5 cars had blow outs including the leader at one point.
- July 2013 – Ten years almost to the day we witness an awesome Bon Jovi Concert in Hyde Park. Perfect weather and a wonderful set of rocking anthems.
- October 2013 – The BIG 40! birthday spent on holiday in Scotland and the Lake District with the family.
- December 2013 – Mike’s last month working for S&P Capital IQ (old CMA).
- January 2014 – Mike starts a new career working for Platts, eWindow team as a Global Operations & Support Manager.
- February 2014 – Mike’s first business trip to Singapore to meet the great people who started the eWindow team.
- March 2014 – Mike second business trip to Houston and Atlanta to meet the eWindow team and ICE.
- April 2014 – Easter at Sandos, San Blass, Tenerife, Canary Islands. (Photos in the gallery).
- May 2014 – After seven years we decided it was goodbye Skoda and hello to the all new Nissan Qashqai 2014. There is nothing like the feeling of seeing your brand new car on the shop floor. It was also the first time we have not had a red car.
- June 2014 – Mike’s third business trip to Singapore.
- July 2014 – Camping in the rain at Bedgeberry, Kent. It was only raining the first night.
- October 2014 – Road trip to Austria to watch the Red Bull Air Race.
- December 2014 – Jo celebrates Xmas in style with IP Solutions in Barcelona.