I created Lookatbowen.com thirteen years ago because I wanted to create a web site that offered something useful for me to work on and 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.
A little history about myself (Mike) and Jo Bowen.
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 met.
When I started at Rance Timber, Internet and email was non-existent 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 my colleague Jennie had a daughter studying Veterinary Nursing at Onderstepoort, a fairly large 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 until 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 completely 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 visit 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 passed away 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 9 pm to 9 am 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. Such 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 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.
Life in London
- In January 2000, I moved to London. Jo had been living and working in Twickenham at a vet practice near the famous rugby ground. 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 April 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).
- In the winter of 2002 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.
- On the 1st of May 2001, we 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 for two weeks. Such a stunning island.
- 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. One of the best locations we have ever lived . The Thames river is a mighty busy river and we saw many thousand ships, boats that passed our balcony.
- July 2003 – We watched Bon Jovi rock Hyde Park. The concert went on for over 3 hours. It was one of the best concerts ever!
- March 2004, We spent a week in Courcheval, France learning to snowboard. It was an awesome holiday although it was quite painful, very frustrating and tiring.
- May 2004, Jo started working for Your Space, another business centre type role.
- October 2004, I was still working for Tower Hamlets and looking forward to the Windows XP rollout, which was happening in December. Jo was back at MLS Business Centre and worked in Canary Wharf across the road from where I worked in Millharbour.
Living in Kent
- In August of 2004 we bought our first house. We looked at one house at the estate agent and knew it would be our house (in the middle of the street). We made an offer and it was accepted.
- We moved into our first home on the 24th October 2004 in Kent.
Starting a family
- January 2005 – We started a family (not the screaming, dirty nappies, no sleep for the next four years type of family) 🙂 We adopted two pedigree cats (Tamsin and Magic).
- April 2005 – We bought our first car, a Skoda Fabia Vrs 1.8 Turbo Diesel. It was red and fast.
- October 2005 – 1 year in our house.
- September 2005 – I moved our website to the WordPress blogging platform. This About us page was in fact my first post.
- December 2005 – We finally passed the last hurdle in our attempt to get English Passports. We were told we could apply for British Naturalization/Citizenship in the new year.
- January 2006 – We sent off our application to become British Citizens and were told it could take 6 months 🙁
- February 2006 – I reached a milestone. I had been contracting at Tower Hamlets for six years.
- March 2006 – Magic, one of our Tonkinese cats passed away from a short and sudden illness.
- April 2006 – Whiskey, a tiny Tonkinese kitten joined the Bowen household.
- July 4th 2006 – We are officially British Citizens. 7 years of waiting was over, let the world travel begin.
- July 14th 2006 – My career luck changed for the better and I landed a fantastic permanent job in the city. (Thanks Andrew Meyer).
- July 24th 2006 – Started my new job at Credit Market Analysis (CMA) as a jack of all trades.
- 2007 – Visited Northern Ireland, the Lake District, the Isle of Whight, watched the race of champions, renovated our bathroom, Jo’s sister Jackie visited.
- February 2008 – We spent two week on holiday in Mexico.
- April 2008 – The CME Group bought out CMA and our lovely free options matured. I was in for windfall.
- July 2008 – Jo started a new career working at LiquidIT.
- August 2008 – Jo spent two weeks in Nice, France to learn French, instead she returned with wonderful stories of partying and very little French. 🙂
- February 2009 – We spent a week holiday in Samoens, France snowboarding and skiing. It was the first time we had skied in our lives.
- July 2009 – Our first trip to Madrid, Spain.
- September 2009 – Our first dirty weekend in Amsterdam, Netherlands. What an awesome city it turned out to be?
- December 2009 / January 2010 – We spent our Christmas and new Year on the Orange River, the border between South Africa and Namibia with all the family from both sides.
- March 2010 – We spent a week at Courchevel 1850 on a ski holiday.
- May 2010 – Bailey a Tonkinese kitten joined the Bowen household. He was our forth cat.
- May 2011 – We spent our ten year wedding anniversary in Jamaica at the Lady Hamilton five star resort. It was a fantastic holiday!
- August 2011 – I 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 20p.
- September 2011 – I walked part of the Camino Pilgrimage in France/Spain with Mom. It was a fantastic experience, but tough on the feet.
- October 2011 – Jo joined IP Solutions and becomes an Operations Manager.
- June 2012 – CMA became part of S&P Global IQ. (Yes yes yes).
- July 2012 – I passed the 6 year mark working for Credit Market Analysis. It was only the 2nd time in 13 years this feat had been achieved.
- September 2012 – Our first holiday to Malaysia and Singapore to visit James Joyce (No not the dead writer). The highlight of the holiday was watching the Singapore Grand Prix and walking the track and grid. Vettel won the grand prix.
- June 2013 – We watched Nico Rosberg take victory at Silverstone grand prix 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 witnessed another awesome Bon Jovi Concert in Hyde Park. It was perfect weather and they played a wonderful set of rocking anthems.
- October 2013 – My BIG 40th birthday was spent on holiday in Scotland and the Lake District with the Mom.
- December 2013 – My last month working for S&P Capital IQ (old CMA).
- January 2014 – I started a new career at Platts, as their eWindow Global Operations & Support Manager.
- February 2014 – My first business trip to Singapore to meet the great people who started the eWindow team.
- March 2014 – My second business trip to Houston and Atlanta to meet the eWindow team and developers of WebICE at Inter Continental Exchange (ICE).
- April 2014 – We spent Easter in Tenerife, Canary Islands, our first visit to Sandos, San Blass. Such a beautiful volcanic island.
- 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. Bronze is the new red.
- June 2014 – My third business trip to Singapore for an operations off-site.
- July 2014 – We camped in the rain at Bedgeberry, Kent.
- October 2014 – Road trip to Austria – we watched the Red Bull Air Race and our British pilot won the championship.
December 2014 – Jo celebrated Xmas in style with IP Solutions in Barcelona.
- April 2015 – Two week holiday in Dubai and South Africa to visit Mom and Rob and a fantastic game reserve in Natal.
- May 2015 – A week business trip to Houston, Texas.
- June 2015 – A week business trip to Singapore.
- July 2015 – We flew to Budapest to watch the Red Bull Air Race. By now we were hooked on the Red Bull Air Race.
- July 2015 – I travelled to Atlanta, Georgia for a business meeting at ICE (InterContinental Exchange).
- September 2015 – We travelled 2500 kilometer on a road trip to Cannes and Nice (Southern France) to holiday with the family. We drove back via the Millau Viaduct and captured this awesome view of the bridge.
- March 2016 – Our first ski holiday in Zel Am See, Austria. It was a fantastic destination. Austria is awesome!
- April 2016 – Our first visit to Mexico City, Mexico to join Rodney and Sofia at their wedding. It was also a road trip around famous sites.
- May 2016 – We celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary in style watching a Bryan Adams concert at the O2. It was in the Summer of ’97 when I met Jo. 😉
- May 2016 – Visited Bali in Malaysia for the first time.
- June 2016 – I visited the eWindow team in Houston, followed by a trip to Singapore.
- June 2016 – We watched Bruce Springsteen at Wembley Stadium on his ‘The River 2016 tour‘.
- June 2016 – Whiskey passed away after a long illness. RIP.
- July 2016 – I celebrated 10 years service at S&P Global (6 years at CMA, 2 years at S&P Capital IQ, 2 years at Platts).
- August 2016 – Indy joined the family, our first non-Tonkinese kitten and our 5th cat in 16 years.
- September 2016 – Visited Krakow, Poland for the first time for the wedding of Monika and Shane. It was an awesome weekend in a very special city.
- October 2016 – Work trip to Houston, Texas to see my colleagues, share and gather ideas, and eat some very large meals.
- November 2016 – Work trip to Singapore to see my boss and colleagues, share and gather ideas and eat and experience great food.
- December 2016 – Holiday to Cape Town and Knysna to see the family.
- March 2017 – Holiday to Lisbon, Portugal.
- April 2017- Track day at Brands-hatch, Kent.
- May 2017 – Singapore work trip.
- June 2017 – Houston work trip.
- June 2017 – Guns N Roses – Not in this life time concert at the Olympic stadium.
- July 2017 – Kings of Leon in British Summer Time concert in the park,
- July 2017 – U2 Joshua Tour concert at Twickenham Stadium .
- July 2017 – Camping at Graffham.
- September 2017 – For Jo’s 40th birthday we celebrated with a road trip around California. See posts day 1&2, day 3, day 4. More to follow soon.