A 1200km bike ride, exhibition photography and a wrestling showcase – what CYB did this year
It’s been a very busy and rewarding year for Caution Your Blast Ltd (CYB) - and not just inside the office!
Away from work, our team has been busy this year following their passions, pursuing their hobbies and achieving all sorts of life goals.
From bike rides across France to becoming charity trustees to graduating with a Masters, there's been lots of varied activity. Some of our people write about what they have been doing in 2023.
A 1200km bike ride across France – Alvin Chan, Service Designer
As a keen cyclist, I decided to challenge myself and participated with some friends in this year’s Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) Randonnée in August. It first ran in 1891 as a race, 12 years before the 1st Tour de France. It is no longer a race, but riders have to finish within 90 hours, just under 4 days. A big ask!
I set off 2-3 hours before sunset, so the first quarter of the ride happened overnight, otherwise we wouldn’t finish in time. The temperature would drop significantly into the night as the chilly mist settled in. As daylight came by, we would be riding under the scorching sun and hot air. As we got through the first stint, we were already sleep deprived having already rode overnight once, and to rinse and repeat for at least 2 more times didn’t sound comforting!
You would have to find places to rest - most riders would just lie on a grass field in the countryside, or find a spot in the checkpoint canteen. Half way through, I noticed my left knee was tightening on every upstroke of the pedal. It was up to the point where I would even struggle with barely bending it.
A long standing tradition, the local communities come out and watch with friends and family. Many would also be willing to supply riders with free water, snacks, cake, or even hot meals. It was very crucial to have that support so we knew we weren’t alone.
In the end I finished in 87 hours - 3 hours before the deadline. It was a great moment! Although my knee is still not back to where it was…. But who knows, I might get the bug to ride London-Edinburgh-London in 2025, which is even longer - 1500 kilometres under 120 hours. Watch this space!
Graphic design for a drinks company - Dominic Houston-Watt, Full Stack Developer
I have been a graphic designer for years outside of being a software engineer, and one of the longest and most fun projects that I’ve had the opportunity to continuously work on is with Cruice (a Glasgow based soft drink company founded by a former colleague) as a designer for their drinks packaging and branding. From the start, the founder Aidan has always given me creative control on how the drinks look, which has been a great place for me to grow creatively and do something a little different than what other brands are doing. I’m given a brief on how we want customers to *feel* when they are holding and drinking Cruice products, and from there I get to work.
I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve redesigned labels until deep into the night, tweaking the colours, shapes and positioning of words. Starting off as one simple, fun and fantastically named drink “Lemonaidan”, Cruice have launched their second soft drink, a ginger beer named “Space Cadet”, with a third coming out early 2024 and even more on the horizon! I’m super proud of everything that I’ve done with Cruice. While holding Lemonaidan and Space Cadet in my hands, I've found myself staring at the cans a lot longer than any normal person would, with a sense of happiness from seeing my work with my own two eyes. https://www.cruicejuice.co.uk/shop
The joys of running - Christine Fent, Head of Design
Move aside, Usain! Running is something I’m ok at – not bad but not great either. Over the past year I have created a training schedule (me? a training schedule?!) and surprisingly stuck to it. The goal was to get me out of the house regularly – particularly on the WFH days – and to improve my endurance in running longer distances. But to my great surprise it had two unexpected side effects. Firstly, I really fell in love with running! Before running was more a ‘this is good for you, so do it’ type of hobby. But I found the repetitive movement particularly over long distances has a wonderful meditative effect and helps me to relax and clear my mind. And secondly – and here comes my proud achievement – I massively improved my speed at 5k Parkrun to a level I never thought would be possible. The actual time isn’t important as it’s just a number. But the experience confirmed again that if keep on doing something through pleasure and pain, you will get results.
Having photography chosen for major exhibitions – Anita Chandra, User Research Lead
2023 has been the year I got back into my photography, which I haven’t really done since the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as redesign my house - renovations and interior design - so getting my creative brain back in action felt great. I love doing wildlife / animal photography as I am fascinated by animal behaviour - taking time to observe them. When doing animal portraits, whether it's cats, wildlife or chickens, I like to portray their individual personality, using a unique style that brings out the best in them, their expressions, the look in the eyes. Most of the wildlife photography was taken in South Africa over the last few years, pets and domestic animals were taken around the UK in parks, farms and household pets. I had lots of wildlife photos from last year to process and I finally redesigned my website - it only took 2 years! Four of my images were selected by two major photography exhibitions in France and Cambridge University, while next year more will be displayed in two different exhibitions in London. It's incredibly exciting to see my work displayed! https://www.anitac.co.uk
Rediscovering a love of boxing - Richard Grove, Director of Digital
This year has been a fantastic year; my daughter started school, my son is at a delightful age and my partner is as wonderful as the day we met (me, less so!). I guess we are kind of coming out of the other side of the crazy world of tiny children, so I started to focus on myself again. Specifically, I made a promise to start something I used to do and missed…boxing. I boxed for years, then due to work/travel/relationships/the-usual, gave it up about a decade ago. This summer, I started back and it’s a whole new lease of life! I think the main thing that’s changed is I’m a decade older and I listen more. I think age has taught me that experts are there to help, and I don’t know it all, and to take criticism and keep working working working. It’s been brilliant and is now a thing our entire family does, and long may it continue!
A unique rewilding course – Ben Stewart, Founder/Managing Director
Earlier this year I had an unexpected opportunity to join the first Rewilding course in the UK. A long-time passion was triggered and I found myself one of 50 new students staring into the flat conference screen trying to make sense of expert science. What unfolded was a journey into the groups’ passion and extraordinary devotion to the living world. A few residential weekends later and along with new friends for life, I can see life itself stands to blossom with the hearts and minds and efforts of these special folk.
Became a charity trustee - Vicky Hewlett, Head of Marketing Communications, Give A Little
This year I fulfilled a long-held aim to become a Trustee of a charity. I chose to apply for the volunteer role at The Young People’s Puppet Theatre, a small charity that is inspiring children from all backgrounds, giving them confidence and building their social skills through the arts. The charity runs large-scale creative puppetry and puppet making projects for children and young people across the UK and it really appealed to me, partly because I had previously worked at the National Film and Television School where the Model Making Diploma was my favourite. It is really beneficial to my role at Give A Little to experience working directly with a charity, and it is also a really good way to give back to society - it's also good for personal development, as you get involved with strategy and business planning as well as governance, HR, finance and more. One of the first things I did to help was to get the charity set up with a Give A Little account as they regularly go into schools to host performances but didn't have a way to ask for donations. They were really pleased with the results as they raised £400 in just two nights! Anyone can be a Trustee - if you’re interested (and I really recommend you do it!), you can find out more here.
A once-in-a-lifetime wrestling show - Luke Zigler, Full Stack Developer
I went to a wrestling show during the Summer called AEW All In, and it was definitely a once in a lifetime experience for a professional wrestling fan. Being a fan of wrestling is… odd. The more you watch it, you gradually morph into a sort of guardian of it, and before you know it you’re talking at a group of people for 30 minutes about this one match from Japan in 2016 because someone said “wrestling is fake though, right?”
In the UK, chances to go to huge wrestling events don’t come around very often, and being part of a 90,000 strong audience, all equally as invested in the next 5 hours as you are, gives you a rush like nothing else. The vibe for the whole show was set in the very first match on the main card, CM Punk vs Samoa Joe, where after Punk went for a dive to the outside, Joe did his signature disinterested walk away dodge, and punctuated it with a “very British hand gesture”. The crowd went feral at this, and that adrenaline didn’t stop until the whole show was over. If you ever get the chance to go to a show like this (the same show is coming back in August 2024), I’d encourage anyone to try it out!
Graduating with a Masters - Delayne Rutter, UX Designer
This year I graduated with my MA Interaction Design from UAL. For me, this was a huge achievement. During my final semester, I went through a health scare, which resulted in me having some major surgery. It was a scary time and required some adjusting to – both what I expected of myself at work with CYB and with my studies at uni. With my family in Australia, I needed extra understanding and support which I got in spades from CYB. I can honestly say I couldn’t have done it without them - from getting through the masters and surgery, to the long recovery and return back to work. It’s been a journey!