I created look at Bowen dot com sixteen years ago because I wanted a website 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 years 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 over the years.
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 were 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 daily via email. This lasted for about four months until I finally met her in person, (Our first introduction I had a large hamburger in my mouth… Talk about first impressions, I can only wonder what Jo thought.. 😉 )
Jo had just graduated and decided to move to Port Elizabeth, where she had been offered a job. 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.
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. It didn’t stop me getting quite a cushy job doing “context help” for a major record publishing company call Counterpoint Systems.
Life was very comfortable in PE. Jo’s sister Jackie lived there as well, and one of my best friends from PE Technikon was just down the road. We had a great time in Port Elizabeth.
After a year in PE 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 through the difficult time.
Bowen and Petzer start life in England.
My first immigration took place in July 1999. 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 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 every 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 Christmas 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 the 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 for Bowen & Petzer.
- 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. It wasn’t long before I found a three month contract working for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets as a Desktop Support Analyst.
- April 2000 Jo started work at All Bar One (Butlers Wharf). We moved into a South African house share in Lewisham.
- Summer 2001 – First holiday for Bowen to Scotland where we did a ten day road trip around the country visiting many castles. We saw Ben Nevis, experienced all the lochs including Loch Ness (yet didn’t see the damn Loch Ness monster (Nessie)).
- First and only marriage for Bowen & Petzer 🙂 On the 1st of May 2001, we tied the knot and got married in London and had our honeymoon in Paris.
- Jo and I moved into a studio flat over looking South Dock in Surrey Quays.
Life in London.
- March 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.
- April 2003 – First holiday for Bowen to Dominican Republic for two weeks. It was 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 overlooking 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 – First holiday for Bowen to Courchevel, France where we learned to snowboard. It was an awesome holiday although it was quite painful, very frustrating and tiring.
- May 2004 – Jo started working at 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 / Travelling the world.
- August 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.
- October 2004 – We moved into our first house.
- 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 – First brand new car for Bowen. A Skoda Fabia Vrs 1.8 Turbo Diesel. It was red and fast.
- September 2005 – I moved our website to the WordPress blogging platform. This About us page was the first post.
- October 2005 – 1 year in our house.
- 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.
- July 2006 – My career luck changed for the better and I landed a fantastic permanent job at Credit Market Analysis in the city. (Thanks Andrew Meyer).
- April 2007 – First holiday for Bowen to Northern Ireland & Rome, Italy. We also visited the Lake District and Jackie (Jo’s sister) visited us from South Africa.
- August 2007 – First visit to the Isle of Wight. We also watched the race of champions at Wembley stadium. The bathroom was also renovated that month.
- February 2008 – First holiday for Bowen to Mexico, where we spent two weeks in search of Mayan ruins, lizards, fresh water sink holes, sun and sand.
- 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 – Road trip from Kent to Samoëns France, where we spent a week skiing and snowboard in the Grand Massif. It was the first time we had skied in our lives.
- July 2009 – First holiday for Bowen 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, France on a ski holiday.
- May 2010 – Bailey a Tonkinese kitten joined the Bowen household. He was our forth cat.
- May 2011 – First holiday for Bowen to Jamaica to celebrate our ten year anniversary. We stayed 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 – First holiday for Bowen to Malaysia and Singapore. There we visited 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 – Bowen 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 Bowen 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 CMA part S&P Capital IQ.
- 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 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 Intercontinental Exchange (ICE).
- April 2014 – First holiday for Bowen to Tenerife, Canary Islands. We stayed at the 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 Bedgebury, Kent.
- October 2014 – Road trip to Austria where we watched the Red Bull Air Race.
December 2014 – Jo celebrated Xmas in style with IP Solutions in Barcelona.
- April 2015 – Bowen holidays for two weeks in Dubai and South Africa to visit Mom and Rob. We visited a fantastic game reserve in Natal.
- May/June 2015 – A week business trip to Houston, Texas/Singapore
- July 2015 – Bowen flew to Budapest to watch 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 kilometre 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 – First ski holiday for Bowen to Zel Am See, Austria. It was a fantastic destination. Austria was awesome!
- April 2016 – First wedding holiday for Bowen to Mexico City, Mexico. We joined Rodney and Sofia at their wedding. The holiday was also a road trip around the famous sites of Mexico.
- May 2016 – Bowen celebrated their 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 as part of an offsite for the eWindow operations team.
- June 2016 – Back to back business trips to Houston and Singapore. Not pleasant flying half way around the world in one go.
- June 2016 – Bowen watched Bruce Springsteen at Wembley Stadium on his ‘The River 2016 tour‘. The old bloke still has what it takes!
- June 2016 – Our dear Whiskey passed away after a long illness. RIP.
- July 2016 – Mike 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 – First holiday for Bowen to Krakow, Poland 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 – First holiday for Bowen to Lisbon, Portugal.
- April 2017- Track day at Brands-hatch, Kent where we drove a single seater racing car.
- May 2017 – Last Singapore work trip.
- June 2017 – Houston work trip.
- June 2017 – Bowen rocks n’ rolls at their first ever Guns N Roses concert – The “Not in this lifetime” concert at the Olympic stadium.
- July 2017 – Bowen dances the night away at the Kings of Leon concert at the British Summer Time concert in the park. First time seeing KoL.
- July 2017 – Bowen sung their hearts out at a fantastic U2 – Joshua Tour concert at Twickenham Stadium. Jo’s first time seeing U2.
- July 2017 – Camping at Graffham. Have tent must use 🙂
- September 2017 – First holiday for Bowen to California to celebrate Jo’s 40th birthday. Jennie joined us. See posts day 1&2, day 3, day 4. We stayed for almost 3 weeks. Someday I will post the rest of the road trip. 😉
- December 2017 – Bowen spent Christmas with our cats at a wood cabin in Norfolk, England. It was freezing cold (-7) and we were both sick. Didn’t stop someone sitting in the hot tub though! 😉
Best summer months ever!
- April 2018 – First holiday for Bowen to Crete, Greece.
- May 2018 – Bucket List – First weekend holiday to Washington DC, United States to visit Andrew and Keri. It was only for a long weekend, but it was awesome! Read the link to see what we got up to in one day!
- June 2018 – First major home improvements (new windows, new electrics, new kitchen) after 14 years in our house.
- July 2018 – Bowen rides London on their Brompton bikes.
- July 2018 – First road trip to Yorkshire Dales where we holidayed for a week. We hiked, walked, visited old villages and breweries. It was fantastic.
- August 2018 – Mike starts a new job at startup Semantic Evolution. It is not quite a startup anymore. Exciting times ahead.
- September 2018 – Mike and Jo take up go-karting.
- October 2018 – First time Bowen watched Michael McIntyre on his Big World Tour. He was really funny.
- Summer 2018 – the best summer months ever! The past 4 months have been incredible. We had over a month of days where the temperature touched 30 degrees. So many records were broken in the UK. The summer of 2018 will be remembered for a very long time.
- December 2018 – First holiday for Bowen to Prague, Czechoslovakia
- March 2019 – First holiday for Bowen & Wilkinson to Costa Rica.
- September 2019 – Holiday to South Africa to see family and friends.
- December 2019 – Christmas ski holiday in Norway.