*flat. So, Ann went freelance last month too. For the last week we’ve been working side by side. New routines, a bit of adjustment, a list of things around the flat that need buying/changing to make life easier on us. It’s been pretty good!

Small Observation

I knew ahead of Ann joining me in the flat that I’d need to get better at a few routines, and restarting The Bureau of Small Observation seemed a good way of doing that. I also like writing in a different style to my freelance work.

Woods Bagot

I’ve started a longer-form bit of work for architecture firm Woods Bagot. Again, I’m basing the copywriting fairly directly off of a transcription. I found at the NHS that was an awesome way of delivering voice, tone and ideas back to a client, while still giving myself room for the restructuring, moving of thoughts and rewriting needed to make complex ideas much much simpler.

I’ve found something interesting with this one. Because it’s a much longer body of work than I usually do, I’ve been able to see patterns in thinking and content emerge from it much more clearly than is often the case. It’s an absolute gift for drafting.


Their new site is live! Lovely to be at their shindig the other week. I’ve also been helping them with blogging and pitch decks.


What else

Stayed at a barn on a nature reserve and watched an owl hunting, that was pretty cool. Painted some ghostly things. I’ll be spending a chunk of the next month going in and out of London helping look after some family, which means good train time/thinking time.


I’ll be writing about how the last month has been work-wise in a couple of days. This isn’t that. This is me writing overexcitedly “I got engaged! Holy shit! Ann and I are getting married! WTF!!!” but with a tiny bit more detail.


I’d been thinking about doing this for a while. Ann’s the best person I’ve ever met, she feels pretty similarly about me, and we’ve talked about “getting the government involved” a few times over the last year. In fact, she basically proposed during David and Becky’s wedding, but insisted something more romantic happen just for us at some point down the line. This was to be my responsibility.

The trigger, the ‘OMG I’m gonna propose soon ARRRGGG’ moment came watching her do the BAFTA game awards livestream. Something about seeing her look fabulous and professional and smart and totally owning her screentime just sort of clicked.


If you look closely, Ann’s wearing a necklace by Meshu I’d gotten her a couple of Christmases ago. Meshu’s ace, and personal, and… does rings.

So I popped our trips into the service and saw that basically our trips around the world make this lovely loop with a kinda/sorta diamond around the Nordic countries.


The where/when aspect sort of depending on delivery time. I imagined I either had to have the ring and blurt it out, or make it a bit more of ‘a thing’. It wound up being a bit of both, which is how I now understand these things go.

I remember it in adrenaline-tinged fragments. We were on a boat in the Skagerrak, somewhere between Oslo and Copenhagen (“‘Somewhere between Oslo and Copenhagen’ would be your dating profile” – Ann). It was after midnight. We were astoundingly drunk. Neither of us believed it was quite happening. Ann told me to ask again in the morning (and said ‘yes’, but I remember the other bit more vividly). Sunrise rolls around a few hours later, so I have another go. Engaged!

I feel like I should have some sort of conclusion, but there isn’t one yet. I’m just super-excited, and it’s not often I take time to type about things like this. It feels good.


Shortly after I resigned from, Russell asked if I wanted to help out at GDS for a few weeks. 198 weeks later, it’s time to move on.

Next month I’ll be leaving GDS to do freelance writing and strategy development. Exciting!

Since 2012 I’ve been part of a team that set new cultural habits and behaviours across government and around the world. I helped define how GDS talked about work and strategy. And it’s been great, I love that work. But to get better at it I need exposure to more cultures, more ways of working, more projects, more people… more of everything. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m not too fussed about whether it’s for big companies, new companies, public sector or private sector… just interesting projects for interesting clients. I have a few clients lined up over the next couple of months, but if you’re interested in working with me (or just having a coffee) drop me a line:

Meanwhile, colleagues, thank you. It has been a proper privilege to work with good people doing good things. I’ll miss you. Best of luck!

matt at GDS

2015: Birdwatching, Walking, Love, Home

As with last year, a hard one to write about. I don’t think Ann or I expected our relationship to be such a central part of the year, but it was, for reasons both deeply sad and completely fabulous. The result is we’ve travelled loads, started projects, been to a thousand weddings and made a home together. On balance, for me, it’s been amazing.

The year included A barrow by a beaconStudy Group, Hipsterhammer, The Bureau of Small Observation, and a plenty of work at GDS. It’s been busy, but I’d like to have done at least one meatier thing. I start 2016 knowing I need to pull focus onto my work a bit more… I’m good with that.

I sort of came into myself over the last twelve months, and I’m more comfortable in my own skin. As a result the photos that best sum 2015 up are ones other people took of me… but that’s not what this post is for.

(Previously: 2014, 2013)

01 Richmond02 Bewl03 Winchester04 Whitstable05 Malmo06 Copenhagen07 Brixton08 Amsterdam09 South Downs10 Hyde Park11 Hyde Park12 Eastleigh13 Mersea Island14 Mersea Island15 Golden Lane16 GDS17 Rome18 Stockwell19 Tokyo20 Naoshima21 Naoshima22 Kyoto23 Kyoto24 Kew

Deleting things

Just read Warren’s musing on deleting tweets (and noticed, on clicking for that link, that we use the same WordPress theme). I did that. Got my 16000+ tweet archive, hooked up tweetdelete, got on with life.

I spent far longer than I thought I’d have to removing tweets from my timeline. I did about a third of them manually, which was a thing. Eventually I found a script (and the confidence to implement it) and got through them without affecting my follower list.

It feels fine.

Japan is awesome (and so can you)

I’m just home from a two week holiday in Japan and it was *amazing*. Everything I imagined and more. I’m sure the bulk of the amazing things will appear on Flickr over the coming weeks in some form or another.

I’m going to jot down some things in case the like of Greg or Davids or Becky ask for Japan tips, while this is all fresh in my mind. Also, so I stand a good chance of remembering them myself.

Ann and I were hugely indebted to past travellers like Chris, Yumiko, Chrissy and David for tips and guidance. I couldn’t match them for knowledge, but these are things what might be worth keeping in mind…

Don’t go too many different places – we visited Tokyo, Naoshima, Kyoto, and Oshino, all different and all brilliant. But we could have done with maybe a day longer in the cities, minimum, if only to feel more grounded (changing hotel in Tokyo didn’t help).

Stay put for the first few days – so, everyone I know deals with jetlag differently. For us it came on hard the first few days, but having the relative luxury of the Hyatt Regency to retreat to was a smart move. Shinjuku’s a super place to explore any time of day, so being around there was good too. If we’d jumped on a train across the country a few days in (our original plan) it’d have wrung us out.

Do all the touristy things – because OMG it’s wonderful. Seriously. It also meant we could have extremely different experiences in Kyoto and Tokyo without taxing our Japanese phrasebook. Generally this is something I want to get better at in other countries anyway (prompted in large part by a wonderful experience at the Space Needle), but the rewards paid off hugely throughout this holiday and we did nothing I wouldn’t recommend.

Get internet – a last-minute tip from Chris and immeasurably smart. We used the eConnect 3g package and the whole thing worked without any effort on our part.

Tokyo does an awful lot of hard work for you – very easy on tourists, that city.

Try cycling around Kyoto – we didn’t, but it likely would have been a wonderful way of exploring the town. Lots of people cycle there. Related: cyclists in Kyoto give no fucks.

Bean paste is a nasty trick played on naive visitors – it’s just the worst.

Go deeper at the big temples – two of the most magical moments of the trip came from pushing a little beyond the surface. We went in to the formal garden at Meigi Jingu where we saw a man feeding birds by the ponds. He gave Ann a few seeds and soon after a couple of birds had flown to her hand to eat from it. In Nanzenji we mooched up to a quiet temple before exploring a path behind it that led into the mountains, where we found a little waterfall behind a shrine that visitors can shower in. We did so as the sun set, in total seclusion. It was freezing and incredible.

There is so much of everything – seriously, there’s so much to explore. You’ll never see everything you want to see, and you have to be okay with that.


BONUS Foursquare links:
Ann’s lists for Tokyo and around Mount Fuji. My lists for Naoshima and Kyoto.

Class dismissed


This last year I’ve been making a podcast. It’s been a lot of fun. A pretty tight high-concept (lovey people review every episode of Community‘s second season) that basically acted as a McGuffin for a bunch of fabulous people to spend some time together.

The last episode just came out (scheduled posting willing) and I thought I’d type a bunch of things I’ve learned in case I do it again…

  1. Batches are good – we’d never, ever have managed to do this if we were trying to do an episode a week
  2. Talking is hard – recording in batches generally meant that we had lurches for the first episode where people got up to speed thinking aloud… It was a little weird… I don’t know how Ann gets past that doing One Life Left every week
  3. Publishing these things is harder than it should be – despite the maturity of the medium, it involves bumping up against a lot of unloved technologies
  4. Fewer voices in less time is better – too big a table and we all get lost (although the last two episodes are ace)
  5. It’s worth regimenting some of it – the more I listen actual, proper podcasts the more I hear the way they guide you through it (we had to record a special episode 0 because the cold start of episode 1 was AWFUL)
  6. It’s actually really easy to get a chunk of the way towards looking professional – I think we got about 75% of the way there… I imagine that last 25% is very, very hard to do
  7. I need to learn more about recording if I do this again – actually, I need to make that bit someone else’s problem

Anyway, I had a blast. I think Chrissy, Kieron, Ann and Tom did too. If you’ve got time in your life for more than ten hours of chat, check it out.