Saturday, December 31, 2005

Looking back, looking forward

It seems like a good time to have a quick think back over the last year and a look toward the coming year.

As year’s go 2005 was quite reasonable. 2004 was quite possibly the worst year I can remember (although it did start as a very good year), and this year was certainly an improvement on that. I made some new friends; changed jobs (within the same organisation); had a great time walking the West Highland Way; finally got my act together on trying to buy a house- although I still need to actually purchase somewhere so I am actually maybe overselling that one; went on some very nice dates; and survived turning 30. Nothing earth shattering, but on the whole quite a good year.

I am not really into New Year’s resolutions. I don’t really need the turn of a year to encourage me to make changes in my life. If something needs altering then hitting my head against a brick wall until I finally accept that I need to take action usually turns out to be enough incentive to encourage me to get my act together. The pressure of a specific 12-month period in which to achieve a particular objective is just setting myself up for failure. But I think it would be fair to say that I need to make more effort to get involved with things. My life seems to go in cycles where I am totally run off my feet doing things, followed by periods where I seem to have not got around to arranging to do anything.

I am also an expert at putting things off "I’ll do that when I have bought a house", "I’ll go and see that when I have someone specific to go with" and so on. Only then I sometimes forget to enjoy life along the way. So maybe I just need to decide to enjoy life more, to do things because I want to do them rather than looking for a reason why I can’t do them at the moment.

So, once again, not exactly earth shattering ambition. If I was still at school and my homework was to write an essay on what I was going to do in 2006, saying "I’m going to try and enjoy life more" would not get me top marks, but to be honest I was never very good at doing my homework.

Friday, December 30, 2005

It's only money

What a freezing and miserable day. I tried to put off going out in the rain for as long as possible but I had to get to the sorting office before it closed at 1pm. A friend had sent me a Christmas present and, annoyingly, even though I was in I hadn’t heard the doorbell when the postman tried to deliver it yesterday. Anyway, it was three books, one of which was particularly amusing. It was the Christmas Story as told by Lego characters. If you like Lego stories then this link may be the one for you, although some of the stories may be a little less wholesome than the one in the book.

Then I decided to head into the big smoke (that being London). I had to renew my annual season ticket on the way as it expires tomorrow and I needed to get a new one before the fares go up in the New Year. It cost me the most phenomenal amount of money, about £1500, so it was a very expensive day.

Then I wandered about in London and got a bit of shopping, although most of what I bought wasn’t in the sales. Typical. However, I got some work clothes and a CD. I decided to go to a cafe in Selfridges for lunch. Not because I didn’t feel I had already been fleeced for enough money in one day, but I wanted to go somewhere that sold soup and all in, it only cost me about £5, which isn’t bad for London.

On the tube on the way home, this bloke kept turning and looking at me. Such things don’t normally bother me but I felt like he was keeping an eye on when I was planning on getting off the tube. I found it quite disconcerting. Then when I got off the tube, he looked at me and carried on watching me. Very weird and made me feel a bit vulnerable. However, he stayed on the train so that was a bit of a relief.

Sadly, I go on call tonight for the next week, so I had to phone work to ask if there was anything that I needed to know. It was only my boss and one of my colleagues who were in so I chatted to each of them briefly and wished them a happy New Year. I don’t mind being on call in that it doesn’t really stop me doing anything. I have to wear a pager 24 hours a day, whether I am the named person on call or not, so I am used to that and I just have to remember to dig out my work mobile. If anyone else had been on call they would probably have had to arrange a more low key New Year, as they would have to ensure they were sober enough to deal with any calls, whereas I don’t drink so it doesn’t make any difference to me. So in a moment of madness I said that I would cover the New Year period. The problem with being on call is that I have been known to get calls at three or four in the morning and because I am a bit paranoid that I won’t wake up if someone calls, my sleep is never as deep as it is normally. I have never failed to wake up, but even so I don’t sleep so well. So I now have a week ahead of poor sleep.

Anyway, I am off to Bristol tomorrow to see in the New Year. I might post some stuff later on the year coming to an end and some thoughts on 2006, but it depends if I have time. Otherwise, it will be in the New Year. So just in case, Happy New Year and I hope you have a good time seeing it in New Year tomorrow night, whatever you are doing.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Going straight to hell

I met up with my friend last night and we had a catch up. We didn't really make any progress on the housing stuff but just basically concluded that we would keep looking in the New Year. Anyway, she runs a bookshop and they were selling nativity scenes in the run up to Christmas. Apparently someone dropped a heavy object on one of the nativity scenes and broke Jesus’ arm. That’s right - broke Jesus’ arm. I think that in itself is probably enough to send someone to hell because breaking the arm of the Son of God, particularly given who his dad therefore is, just can’t be a good move. You are never going to win in the "my dad is bigger than your dad" type arguments either.

But not only is that person probably hell-bound, but so am I, as I found this story hysterical and kept laughing at the fact that someone had broken baby Jesus’ arm – social services would have been called in if it happened now (not that I would condone genuine child abuse or find that even vaguely amusing). I said that they could use it to scare shoplifters "don’t even think about nicking that book, look what happened to Jesus". Maybe somebody will take him in out of sympathy, apparently the RSPCA find it easier to re-house three legged dogs than those with the standard four, so maybe this will prove to be the case with Jesus, particularly if they put his arm in a sling. That would get extra sympathy points.

Anyway, today I went to my uncle’s house and various other relatives were there. I have very young cousins, a couple of whom are nine and six. They decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to get me to sing along to some karaoke type game. I can actually sing, but only when I know the words. I am obviously very out of touch with youth culture because I didn’t recognise half the songs. Or maybe that just reflects that fact that I have GOOD taste in music. It was a laugh anyway and I did manage to do reasonably well by just keeping pace with the words on the screen regardless of knowing the tune. Maybe I am already reaching the stage when I start thinking "music in my day used to actually have a tune and I can’t believe some of the lyrics in these songs. Disgraceful!" Perhaps a New Year’s resolution needs to be getting in touch with the part of my life that appreciates badly written trashy pop music. It’s always good to set major and life changing goals.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Entirely sober

Despite spending yesterday evening in the pub I was entirely sober. I don’t drink anyway, but even if I had I wouldn’t have last night because I was driving.

It was really cold last night and so I decided to make a hot water bottle to warm my feet up. Only when I was pouring the boiling water into the hot water bottle, I decided I also needed to scratch my head and rather than completing one task before starting the next, stupidly, I tried to scratch my head using the same hand as I was holding the kettle with and managed to pour boiling water all over my hand. Very painful. I also have really nice hands, so have no particular desire to damage said items. Bizarrely many people have said this to me, and not in some dodgy sex related kind of way, I just have really nice hands. I also apparently have really nice eyes and even my parents’ 70 year old (female) neighbour told me this once. Maybe people feel the need to say such things because they think the rest of me isn’t really worth commenting on. Oh well, you’ve got to take the compliments when they are offered.

Then this morning I woke up and had a really awful headache that made me feel quite sick. Kind of like having a hangover without having to consume the alcohol to cause it in the first place. I dragged myself out of bed anyway and pottered about for a bit. At lunchtime I went back to bed briefly to see if that made me feel any better. It didn’t, but then I remembered that many years ago those things called headache tablets were invented and took a couple of those and am now feeling decidedly better.

Good job, as I am off to the pub again tonight to meet up with my friend who I am trying to buy a house with. I really need to have a plan of action for that one because it is doing my head in to potentially be back in the cycle of moving house a lot and this time I would probably have to put stuff in storage which would not be great. I don’t actually have a lot of stuff, but what I do have I would like to have with me. So, hopefully some progress tonight even if it is just coming to the conclusion that I will have to buy on my own.

Catching up

Tonight I met up with some friends for a drink. It was organised by one of my friends who moved away a few years ago but he was back to see his family for Christmas. He is off to Australia for a month and I am dead jealous.

He is a remarkable chap. About five years ago he came home from work one evening and his wife had cleared all her stuff out of the house and disappeared. He was totally devastated and hadn’t expected it at all. After about 3 or 4 months of persistence, I managed to track his wife down and persuaded her to meet up for a bit of a chat to find out what was going on. We sat in a restaurant in the Midlands and just talked about what had prompted her to leave and in the circumstances that she had chosen to do so. Then I had to drive back down to London and talk to her husband and break the news to him that she still wasn’t willing to see him. It had been just a brief return to the UK and she was leaving the country again the next day. To see the pain and loss of hope in my friend’s face was hard to take, but probably not as hard to take as the news was for him.

A few weeks later she did agree to see him and a while later they were reconciled. They moved away to try to start again and I went up to see them not long before Christmas. I asked my friend how it was going and he just said to me "Not great, but she has said she won’t leave before Christmas". He phoned me on New Year’s Day to say she’d gone - but this time she had told him she was going.

A couple of years later he went out with my housemate, which sadly had a negative impact on my friendship with him because it felt weird to phone him or go and visit him. But they split up about a year ago now and it has been good to rebuild our friendship.

He is a very resilient bloke and whilst I don’t suppose you ever totally get over such things, he has coped much better than most probably would have. I don’t know what it is that gives some people the ability to heal and recover, but my friend most certainly has that ability. Thank goodness.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Exactly what it says on the tin

So, here is some randomness. Things that have just crossed my mind today.

1. I was driving round the M25 today and the traffic was pretty bad in several places. This meant that the traffic came to a stand still a few times. Twice I saw people get out of their cars to talk to people in other cars. Not because they’d had an accident or anything like that, I think they just knew people in the other cars and decided to get out and speak to them. I have to admit to not having read my Highway Code in some considerable time but isn’t it actually illegal to stand on a motorway carriageway and, regardless of that, just plain stupid?

2. I was reading Gripes’ blog earlier and just very much liked the fact that she would write this post. I am not entirely sure I can explain why but maybe just because basically, to me, it says that it’s alright that sometimes everything isn’t alright and it’s ok to ask for help. A friend came round this evening who had a particularly awful Christmas and is dreading New Year and we were talking about how it can be difficult to show people that weakness and vulnerability and admit that things aren’t always ok. I would tip my hat to you Gripes if it weren’t for the fact that I managed to lose said item on Monday.

3. I don’t really do profound or poetic, but Gripes’ post made me think of a poem we were given when I was at school. I am not entirely sure of the connection, but here it is anyway:

He always wanted to explain things
but nobody cared.
So he drew.

Sometimes he would just draw and it wasn’t anything.
He wanted to carve it in stone or write it in the sky,
He would lie out on the grass and look up in the sky and it would be only the sky and things inside him that needed saying.

And it was after that he drew the picture.
It was a beautiful picture.
He kept it under his pillow and would let no one see it.
And he would look at it every night and think about it.
And when it was dark and his eyes were closed, he could see it still.
And it was all of him and he loved it.

When he started school he brought it with him.
Not to show anyone else but just to have it with him, like a friend.

It was funny about school. He sat at a square brown desk
like all the other square brown desks and he thought it would be red.
And his room was a square brown room like all the other rooms.
And it was tight and close. And stiff.

He hated to hold the pencil and chalk
with his arms stiff and his feet flat on the floor, still,
with the teacher watching and watching.

The teacher came and spoke to him.
She told him to wear a tie like all the other boys.
He said he didn't like them and she said it didn't matter.

After that they drew. And he drew all yellow
and it was the way he felt about morning and it was beautiful.

The teacher came and smiled at him.
`What's this?' she said.
`Why don't you draw something like Ken's drawing.

Isn't it beautiful?'

After that his mother bought him a tie like everyone else
and he always drew aeroplanes and rocket ships like everyone else.

He threw his old picture away.

And when he lay alone looking at the sky,
it was big and blue, and all of everything,
but he wasn't any more.

He was square and brown inside and his hands were stiff.
And he was like everyone else.
And the thing inside him that needed saying didn't need it any more.

It had stopped pushing. It was crushed. Stiff.
Like everything else.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Happy Christmas, kind of

As you may have gathered, I am not the biggest fan of Christmas. After much indecisiveness I decided to go to my sister's for Christmas - the first one I have spent with my family for years.

It has been pretty good really but I find it really difficult with the whole presents thing sometimes. I know that I am difficult to buy for, as I don't particularly want anything, but I do find it a bit upsetting when I get given the same presents year on year - by which I mean exactly the same book or DVD (and I don't even have a DVD player at the moment) as I was given last year.

It's not that I am ungrateful but it just reminds me how little my family know me anymore, and despite that being down to me keeping myself to myself, I still find that hard to take. I ended up getting quite upset today by it all and that then upset my mum, who gave me some money because she thought I was just so disappointed by it all and then that upset me even more.

It's not actually that I am materialistic - like I said, I don't particularly want anything but it's really hard when I realise how little I allow people to know me sometimes.

Strange day. Happy Christmas anyway.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Meme

Well, here's your opportunity to learn a bit more about me. You can't wait I am sure.

What time did you get up this morning? 10am – rudely awoken by my alarm or else I would probably still be asleep now.
Diamonds or pearls? Neither. Not really into such things.
What was the last film you saw at the cinema? The Chronicles of Narnia. Pretty much every film I have seen this year has been aimed at children in some way. I am not sure what that says about me.
What is your favourite TV show? Erm, there isn’t much on TV at the moment that I am interested in. I like Creature Comforts and CSI but beyond that just tend to watch whatever is on if I happen to be home.
What do you usually have for breakfast? Shreddies and a soda farl with marmite on it. I have the same thing most days and really enjoy my breakfast. There is also a reasonable possibility that I might injure a fellow commuter if I went into work without eating, so I am carrying out a public service by doing so.
Favourite cuisine? Chinese probably. I was in Hong King a couple of years ago and like dim sum and there’s a nice dim sum restaurant a few miles from where I live that I like going to.
What food do you dislike? I eat pretty much anything, which could explain why I was overweight when I was younger. Nothing really comes to mind, as odd as that may sound.
What is your favourite CD at the moment? I haven’t bought a CD in ages, but I like music a lot. I tend to listen to Xfm and Virgin radio, so whatever is on there.
Morning or night person? Night probably, but I do sometimes suddenly run out of energy in the evening. I usually find that if I go quiet, if someone feeds me I wake up again. I am easily pleased.
Favourite sandwich? I really like Pret a Manger’s Christmas sandwich. A nice bit of turkey, bacon, stuffing and cranberry. You can’t beat it.
What characteristic do you despise? People who are unable to say "I don’t know". Not knowing everything isn’t the worst thing in the world, I think it is just being human isn’t it?
Favourite item of clothing? I don’t think I have one. Although when I was very young I did have a pair of brown tracksuit suit trousers that I was inseparable from. The 1970s has a lot to answer for.
If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? I love both New Zealand and Canada (particularly Vancouver). I have been to both already but would like to go back to Vancouver and see more of Canada as well.
What colour is your bathroom? Blue, blue, blue. Very of its era. Once again the 1970s has a lot to answer for, but as it is not my house you have to take what you’re given.
Favourite brand of clothing? I am really not very into clothes at all, so I can’t say I have a particular brand I go for. I do, of course, wear clothes so I am in to them from that point of view. I wouldn’t want to mislead you there...
Where would you retire to? Vancouver.
What was your most memorable birthday? It was my 30th birthday this year and that was pretty good, I saw various friends, went to a concert, went out for a late dinner with another friend. It was good, it was memorable, including for a reason that I am not going to explain here!
Favourite sport to watch? Athletics probably.
Who do you least expect to complete this? No idea
Person you expect to complete it first? No idea
Person who is least busy? I am not sure I understand the question. At work? In their life generally? At this moment?
When is your birthday? 31 July.
What is your shoe size? 6
Pets? Nope. Might get a dog or cat at some point though.
Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? No, except that it’s Christmas, but you probably knew that anyway...
What did you want to be when you were little? I wanted to be an archaeologist or some other thing to do with history. As I got older I wanted to do something to do with crime. I had a diversion into another sphere of work, but have kind of achieved that second ambition. I think I should clarify that I mean against crime, I am not a shoplifter or drugs runner or anything like that, but I am not going to tell you what I do for a living.
What is your favourite flower? Poppy. I think they are kind of beautiful and you can have this totally untended land and there can still be some poppies that have come through.
What date on the calendar are you looking forward to? Probably July 2035, as I can retire then (my contract says I can retire at 60).
One word to describe the person who you snaffled this from? Tubeish. If there is such a word.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Scared of Santa

Seems I am not the only on who isn’t necessarily into the Christmas spirit. Follow this link to see an array of children who are not so thrilled by the man in the big red suit. He doesn’t always look too thrilled by them either and at times seems kind of drunk. Too many glasses of sherry while he was delivering the presents I guess.

Happy Christmas!

An attempt at finding christmas cheer

I am not a huge fan of Christmas. Enforced time with family. Trying to avoid said enforced time with family (which I have managed to do successfully for the last five years or so but this year have caved in and am seeing my family on Christmas Day). Searching for presents and never knowing what to buy – nor being able to think of things to ask for. Bad television. Sending Christmas cards and wondering if it’s ok to say that I have actually just had a very average year and haven’t changed the world or achieved some great ambition. Instead, I have just pottered on and had a reasonably boring year, with an occasional highlight. (In reality I just avoid writing anything much in cards and do the usual “it’s been so long since we last saw each other, must catch up in the New Year” but then never quite get round to it, despite good intentions).

But here are some things that I do like about Christmas:

Christmas Carols – because you can’t beat a good sing along. Well, possibly you can but it’s one of the few times you can sing in public without needing to either be very drunk or insulting an opposing sporting team. And I can actually sing reasonably well.

It’s a Wonderful Life – one of my favourite films. There’s nothing like watching a film about suicide and despair to get you in the Christmas spirit.

Chocolate log – because it’s a great excuse to eat both chocolate and cake at the same time.

Christmas dinner – turkey, sausages, stuffing and even Brussel Sprouts. I really like proper Sunday lunch and this is it par excellence.

Christmas lights – unless they are really tacky like the ones on Regent Street at the moment. Whatever possessed someone to think that sticking some cardboard cut outs from the film Ice Age 2 on some lights was actually festive?

Fairytale of New York – I really like that song and it is one of the few Christmas songs that I am always pleased to hear on the radio (assuming it is actually December when it is being played).

The Radio Times – the only time of the year that I bother to buy it, but somehow needs must. It is also the only thing I can ever think of to give my father for Christmas, as he does absolutely nothing except watch TV. Given that his birthday is on June, I renew the subscription on a six monthly basis. Sorted.

Time off work – speaks for itself really.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


I tried to be helpful earlier by signing for a parcel for one of my neighbours. I don’t actually know my neighbours and there doesn’t seem much point in getting to know them as I may be moving on again in about a month’s time. Anyway, I went and dropped it off a little while ago, only to discover that the person no longer lived there and it seems had moved out a while ago. The woman said she would take it anyway, but it does seem a bit odd for someone to have ordered something and not check that it was being sent to the right address. At least I tried.

I went in search of a Next with a homewares department and found one. Only the homewares department consisted of one sofa and a couple of chest of drawers – that isn’t a department, that isn’t even the contents of a living room. So I gave up on Next and found somewhere else to buy what I was looking for.

I was out shopping with my sister and at one point said to her that I just wanted to stop and have a complete strop and stamp my feet. But you’re not really mean to do that when you get beyond the age of about eight. Life can be so disappointing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Next next

London was fine, no bloodbath, but no shopping purchased either. I am currently in an anti-Next phase. All I wanted was their homewares department, so I wandered to Oxford Street and went to the Oxford Circus branch. I asked if they sold homewares they said “No, but the Marble Arch branch does”, so I dutifully traipse down to the Marble Arch Branch and ask the same question, to which they said “No try the Oxford Circus branch”. But I had just come from there... So I just gave up at that point and will try elsewhere tomorrow.

I did however go to Selfridges with my friend and drank tea and ate scones, so that was good. I am wondering if my latest posts make me sounds as though I am about 90 – having afternoon tea and singing the Boar’s Head Carol. I assure you I am not- try dividing that number by 3 and you will be spot on.

Anyway, I spend way too much time messing about on the internet when I am on leave. But here are a couple of thing that have amused me of late:

This link really made me laugh. Just a typical day out dressed as a milk carton.

Also, ‘Tis the Season indeed for reflecting on Christmas, but not as we currently know it...

Disaster Management

So, I am off to meet up with a friend in a bit. We are meeting in Trafalgar Square and then might have a wander round the National Portrait Gallery followed by a bit of shopping. I actually hate shopping, I am definitely not a browser and like to go out and buy whatever I have gone out for and then go home. My friend J loves shopping and spends hours wandering aimlessly buying presents when she doesn’t even have anyone in mind to give that particular item to. It could end in bloodshed.

I have known J for years and there is normally some level of disaster connected with us meeting up. A few years ago we went to Slovakia on holiday and on our second day away J left her passport, money, plane ticket and entire life on a cable car (well probably not her entire life, but most women are totally lost without their bag). We happened to be on exactly the opposite side of Slovakia to Bratislava where we would have to go to get a replacement passport. So the next day we got up at 5am and took various trains that finally got us to Bratislava. After a bit of waiting about we managed to arrange a replacement passport, but had to come back for it later. Unfortunately this was the summer of 2003 which was about the hottest there has ever been. Wandering about in the middle of the day didn’t really improve me and I managed to get heat stroke, was sick in a really beautiful Bratislavan street, and had to find a pharmacist, who I had to communicate with through sign language and a very out of date Slovakian- English dictionary in order to get some medication to make me well enough to face the long train journey back to our hotel.

We spent last New Year together as well and were staying with a couple of friends in Sheffield at the house of another friend of mine who had kindly lent me his house in his absence. It all went fine except for J opening the curtain one morning and pulling down the entire curtain and curtain pole. Fortunately my friend was very understanding when I called to tell him.

And then there was when we went to Barcelona and had a run in with some pickpockets and some bloke who was pleasuring himself in a local park. Anyway, you get the idea... Adventure and mayhem usually ensue whenever we meet up. So I shall see what the day holds and given our track record I will be very disappointed if we have an uneventful day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


I am going to a carol concert at the Barbican tonight. It should be good and might help to get me into the mood for Christmas a bit more.

Thinking of Christmas carols reminded me that when I was at school, in the last assembly before Christmas, the Upper Sixth used to have to sing The Boar’s Head Carol. The head girl, regardless of singing ability, used to have to have to sing the first verse and each of the deputy head girls would sing one of the following verses and then the rest of the year would sing the chorus. We would all be dressed in black and carrying candles and they would turn off all the lights in the hall and we would walk in behind the head girl who was carrying a papier mache boars head. Now I think about it, it sounds a bit like some cult ritual, sadly my school days were never that exciting.

I have to admit that I did go to a private school, but it wasn’t very posh (despite what the above may suggest) and while I was still at school the mother of a friend said to me “The girls who go to your school are all so well spoken and so well turned out. What happened to you?” Enough said.

On another matter, I did enjoy The Chronicles of Narnia. I am rubbish at writing reviews, so won’t even attempt one, but I would recommend you go and see it if you get the chance.

Christmas letters

I got a Christmas card today from someone I have known for years and enclosed was a Christmas letter. This letter entirely consisted of writing about her young child. There was apparently no other news in her and her husband’s life. When you have children do people cease to have anything else to talk or write about?

I also got a Christmas letter from one of my housemates from university. She and her husband have gone abroad for 18 months and this is their first Christmas away. Their letter contained the vomit inducing line “what we appreciate most about being here is that we get to spend more time together”. Some may think this is a really nice thing to say (which it is), but this is the same couple who just cannot bear to separated from each other for even a moment. They could be in a room with 100 empty chairs in it and S would have to sit on her husband’s lap. The worst thing they have ever done- and I think most normal people would agree that this crossed a line – was when we were about to go up an escalator and S said “P and I have to carry on our usual tradition whenever we go on an escalator or ‘kissalator’ as we like to call it” and they then proceeded to kiss each other for the entire time it took to get from the bottom of the escalator to the top. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself and certainly didn’t watch, so focussed on hoping the escalator was a particularly fast moving one. So I was just thrilled to learn that they get to spend even more time together.

I am sure I am just bitter because I am single and have nothing of any particular interest to write in a Christmas letter. But even so, am I the only one to find such things somewhat nauseating?

Monday, December 19, 2005

The number you have dialled is incorrect

I just switched on my work mobile because I wanted to call work to ask something. My voicemail immediately called me and there was a drunken message for Alison (which is not my name) from a very drunk chap called Pete, which he had left in the early hours of yesterday morning.

It seems he is not having the best of times and has lost custody of his daughter and seemed somewhat depressed. I feel kind of guilty that this message was left on my phone, even though it was not down to me that it was.

Anyway, if you happen to know someone called Pete who has a friend called Alison and they haven't spoken for a bit, perhaps you could mention that he called the wrong number.

Thanks very much.

Confirmation of why I don't go to the doctor's

I saw this on the BBC News website earlier. I hate going to the doctor's and I'll take this as one more reason to continue to avoid doing so. Ick.

Day one of freedom

So, it’s my official first day of leave. The rat man was meant to come and seal up a vent but was running late, so is coming this afternoon instead. Then I went to the dentist, which wasn’t too bad. Despite having a really nice dentist, it wasn’t the most pleasant experience.

I was meant to have lunch with a friend but her husband phoned to say she had a migraine and was in bed, but hopefully I will catch up with her later in the week. I went to Tesco instead which was nowhere near as exciting but served a purpose. You can tell what an exciting life I must lead.

However, tonight I am off to see The Chronicles of Narnia, which should be good. I was talking to someone about the film last night whose main focus seemed to be on describing the hairdo and outfit the queen was wearing in the film. So if I hadn’t read the book I would be none the wiser on the plot.

Anyway, here is a slightly tangential review of the film by Creepy Lesbo, but I rather like it. (Warning: be cautious about reading Creepy’s main blog if you are bashful).

Sunday, December 18, 2005

An Extravaganza

It turned out to be a really great afternoon and evening. I went to see one of my housemates from when I was at university for some mince pies etc and then we went to a carol service. However, the term 'carol service' doesn't quite cover it, more of an extravaganza really. Some carol singing, a bit of drama, some dancing, as sermon that included clips from Polar Express* and even some pan pipes (I only actively participated in the carol singing part, the rest I was merely an observer).

The pan pipes were slightly bizarre and included a rendition of "The Wind Beneath My Wings". Very concerning and I think not the kind of thing that should be repeated in a hurry. The rest was good though and then we went back to my friend's house and had more of a chat and ate some more food. It turned out to be a really good day. Just what I needed.

*If you follow that link it will take you to IMDB and the listing says that Jim Hanks is the main voice in the film, who apparently is the brother of Tom Hanks, although I have never heard of him. However, surely it is Tom Hanks who is in Polar Express?


Feeling most unfestive and still somewhat miserable but I am going to a carol service later preceded by going to a friend’s house to eat mince pies and other festive fair. Hopefully that will cheer me up a bit.

When I got home from work on Friday there was a card from DHL saying they had tried to deliver a parcel and asking me to call to get it redelivered. I phoned yesterday morning and was going to suggest they deliver it on Tuesday as I am off work all week. But before I could suggest it, he said he could drop it off in 45 minutes time. As it turned out it was almost spot on an hour later that he delivered it (bizarrely, wearing a Royal Mail uniform but he assured me he was DHL) and even apologised for not turning up when he said he would. I was really impressed and as it was some Christmas presents I need to give some people, I was pleased to get it so promptly. I thought that was really good service and worthy of mention.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A rolling stone

Looks like I will probably have to move again. The people whose house I am living in will probably need it back at the beginning of February. They will confirm on the next week or so.

I feel a bit miserable about it really. I hate keep having to move house. I went out for a rink with some people from work last night and I mentioned it to a chap that I used to work with and he said I could probably stay with him for a bit if that would help. It would mean moving to a totally different part of London, but I might well take him up on the offer. I am just hoping that it wasn’t a slightly drunken offer that was then promptly forgotten.

It was actually a really good time at the pub and I had a laugh with my colleagues. It also gave me the opportunity to say thank you to one of my colleagues for being a really good friend to me over the last few months and tell her how much I have appreciated that. I am now off work until the New Year and that is certainly worth celebrating.

Friday, December 16, 2005


I went to Porters last night in Covent Garden for a work Christmas meal. I think this is the third year in a row that I have gone there – and each time I have been working with different people. I can never quite work out what people think is so great about eating there as it never strikes me that the food is all that exciting.

Anyway, it was a nice evening and I had a good time with my colleagues and there are no embarrassing stories from it to haunt people for years to come. We have a work party later this afternoon, so maybe people will do all the things they live to regret then!

It’s my last day on the office until the New Year so that is something worth celebrating at least. However, I am not in a terribly good mood as I have got a message to phone the person whose house I am living in. I am slightly concerned that plans may have changed and that I might have to move out. Hopefully not because I haven’t sorted anywhere else out yet, but we shall see.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Listening to the public

There seems to be a lot of anger out there about the decision not to hold a public inquiry into the July bombings.

One of the bombing victims, Rachel, wants an inquiry because she wants answers to a whole range of questions and to know what factors led to the bombing taking place.

Annie Mole has also commented on it and people have expressed a range of views about the decision on her blog. I suppose my thoughts are that I am not necessarily sure what a public inquiry would achieve. Those really important questions that might be what people really want answered probably would never be able to go into the public domain. For example the Security Service is never likely to reveal its surveillance techniques or what they didn’t which that meant that the July bombers were able to carry out the attacks. The more that is put into the public domain the more it could highlight our vulnerabilities – and therefore make us more of a potential target.

However, this does not mean that there is nothing being done to address issues that came up during the bombings. The London Assembly has held meetings on what happened – although some might question the wisdom, or taste, of playing a phone call made to the emergency services in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Also each of the emergency services involved will have had de-briefs and identified lessons learned.

That isn’t necessarily any comfort to those who are looking for answers though. It doesn’t necessarily make you feel any safer out there or help people to feel that the likelihood of it happening again is in any way diminished. So I think it is about finding a balance. Allowing people’s voices to be heard and for them to raise their questions. After all if all the “official” people involved i.e. the emergency services, government etc are able to put forward their issues then why aren’t the very people who were directly affected by the bombings? Why can’t their questions and concerns gain some level of official recognition even if it isn’t through a full public inquiry? Are their views somehow of less value?

After any major incident the government put a lot of effort into the “getting back to normal” message, but what if you no longer know what normal is?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Finding the festive spirit

I still haven’t decided what I am doing for Christmas yet. I could go and stay at my sister’s but I haven’t spent Christmas with my family for years as it always seems to end with arguments, which distract from the ‘festive season’. However, if I don’t make up my mind about what I am doing I might end up spending Christmas on my own which isn’t an appealing idea. The last few years I have spent Christmas with various friends, but none of those seem to be options this year.

I am not generally a huge fan of Christmas, I just tend to find it rather a miserable time of year. However, this year in order to get into the mood I am taking next week off work and will catch up with a few people and find some Christmas related things to do. This is the first time I have ever booked leave from work with nothing major planned – which could explain why I still have so much leave left to take. I am hoping that it will encourage me to take more leave from work. However, as the first two things I have planned are a visit from the ‘rat man’ to seal a vent and then going to the dentist, those are perhaps not the most enjoyable use of leave.

So, now I just need to come up with some ideas of what I can do to get me in the festive mood. Any suggestions?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Early starts

I went to Liverpool for the day today. I therefore had to get up at 5.30am in order to get the 7.13am from Euston. I got there with plenty of time to spare – only the person I was going with didn’t make it in time so we had to wait an hour for the next train. Not a good start to the day.

I also tried to post a birthday card while I was waiting at Euston but they have only left a really letter width slot to post items through, presumably to stop bombs etc being put in there. However, this was a standard size card and the slot was not wide enough to fit the card in so I ended up taking it all the way to Liverpool and back again and then finally posting it on the way home having missed today’s post.

We could see Hemel Hempstead from the train and there was a huge plume of smoke curling into the sky. I have spoken to a few people, one has a son who lives in Hemel Hempstead and his front door was blown out. Another friend, who lives a reasonable distance from Hemel Hempstead, had a board covering over her fireplace and that was blown into the living room. Another friend works at Dixons Headquarters, which is right next door to the depot. Apparently the impact on the building has been quite bad, but my friend is off to Paris for a couple of weeks, which is good timing. It’s still amazing no-one was killed.

Feel really tired this evening. Early starts do not suit me. I did manage to get all my Christmas cards written on the journey back from Liverpool though so at least I feel as though I have made some progress in my preparations for Christmas.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Torture and untruths

I was thinking about the decision not to allow evidence obtained by torture to be used in the UK courts. I have to say that I think this is a good decision. If you allow evidence to be used that has been obtained in such a way then you are in some way condoning that behaviour and allowing it to continue. The fact that the torture did not take place within the UK is irrelevant in my view, you are still saying there is something acceptable about it by using the evidence.

In Friday’s Metro they summarised some of the questions posed by the ruling. Here’s a snippet:
Q: Why does it matter if evidence emerges under torture?

A: Someone being tortured may say things that are untrue.

Those pesky torture victims - what are they doing telling untruths? Erm, maybe I am being a bit naive here, but isn’t the fundamental problem with obtaining evidence under torture that it is totally unethical and is against human rights. Perhaps I am in the minority on that one.

I shall leave you with some words from Amnesty International Secretary, Irene Khan:

“Human rights are for the best of us and the worst of us, for the guilty as well as the innocent. By failing to protect the rights of those who may be guilty, governments endanger the rights of those who are innocent, and put all of us at risk.”

Things that go bang in the night

Well, that was quite some explosion in Hemel Hempstead today. I live a long way from there but got woken just gone 6am by the sound of the explosion at the oil depot. I even got out of bed and looked outside because I though there must have been a crash or something similar. I then went back to bed and wondered if it was the sound or burglars breaking in and decided that if it was then I didn’t want to come face to face with them so went back to sleep instead.

When I went out just before 11am, the birds were screeching in the trees. I have never heard anything like it but I assume they were traumatised by the explosion. Not as traumatised as the people at the oil depot I imagine. It is fortunate that it happened when it did, so there were relatively few people about.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Journeys on the underground

Really annoying journey to work today. When I got on the tube someone pushed passed me to get the last available seat. We then travelled a couple of stops and a bloke asked if I wanted a seat that had just been vacated. I thanked him and sat down and was thinking how nice it was to sit down - but when I looked up there was a pregnant woman standing in front of me, so I offered her my seat. She didn’t even say thank you.

So I was standing up again and when we got to the next stop two people stood up and got off the train. A woman to my right was looking as though she wanted to seat immediately to my left but I pointed out there was a vacant seat right behind her and she sat down. At which point a woman pushed passed me and sat in the other seat that was vacant that I was about to sit down in. I did say “thanks very much” in a slightly sarcastic tone to her and she seemed kind of surprised that I was bothered. She did kind of offer me the seat but I said it was ok – and then the woman who had just taken a seat offered me hers, but I said it was ok too.

So the lessons from today are to barge my way passed other people on the tube to get a seat and bury my head in a book so that I don’t notice pregnant women. It’s such fun travelling on the tube.

Monday, December 05, 2005


I was talking to my mum on the phone yesterday and she said that she had been driving home a few days before along a dual carriageway and noticed that cars ahead were suddenly changing lane. She then saw that a dog was running backwards and forwards across the road through the moving traffic.

The dog then stopped in the road in front of mum’s car and so she had to suddenly come to a halt and sat there staring at the dog, which was dressed in a t-shirt and (dog) coat, trying to decide what to do. She got out of the car and just picked up the dog and put it in the back of the car and drove off.

Mum tried to phone the RSPCA who apparently were hopeless and there was just an automated message to say contact the local dog warden. Except the dog warden only works 9-5 and this was the evening. So in the end mum contacted the police and dropped the dog off with them.

I have no idea what I would have done, as I guess it isn’t every day that you get stopped driving by a dog eye-balling you in the road.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Some further thoughts on forgiveness are on their way, but in the meantime here are some thoughts from someone who is far better informed than I am.

A few days ago I wrote about Rachel from North London and her ordeal at the hands of a rapist and then, more recently, in the London bombings. Her original article is here.

Today in the Sunday Times her father, Phillip McFadyen has given some further thoughts. I imagine it was a very difficult article to write because no caring father would want his child to go through what Rachel has. I thought he showed real insight when he said:

"Communication, openness and trust are the basic requirements that make for healing and reconciliation."

Of course, the need for healing and reconciliation is not just for the victim, but those who love and support that person. So, Phillip McFadyen is living out what he has said through his communication in the Sunday Times today – and I hope that not only Rachel, but also those who love her find that peace.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Thought for the day

"The ageing process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball"

Doug Larson
Hurry up and snow...

Friday, December 02, 2005

The wanderer returns

So I have made it back from Poland. It was a good time away and my speech seemed to be well received. This might in part be because I was the only person who provided the translators with my speech in advance, so that they were able to prepare. Given that most of the audience was Polish, mine was probably the talk that most people could understand. So the audeince seeming to appreciate it might mean nothing more than that they couldn’t understand other people!

It was quite cold over there but bearable, and people were very hospitable. A few observations:
- An awful lot of middle aged men have moustaches.
- People wear wedding rings on the other hand than we do in the UK.
- I don’t know if it is a Polish thing specifically, but on the flight there and back to the UK, the Polish passengers had undone their seatbelts and stood up as soon as we touched down and were still taxiing to the gate. On the way home today, the stewardess had to very sharply tell someone to sit down because the plane was still moving. Maybe they are less safety conscious.

Anyway, it was a good trip. I ate some nice food, my speech went well and I even got some gifts for speaking. Now I am back in the UK and it’s probably time to start thinking about Christmas, as we have finally made it to December.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Back soon

I am off to the airport shortly to stay over night, as I am flying to Poland tomorrow to speak at a conference.

It is an obscure part of Poland that the guide books seem to suggest is not included in the tourist trail. Wherever I was going in Poland I think it would be freezing. So I shall have to wrap up warm.

I realised yesterday that I needed to get an E111 - which is the form that shows you are entitled to free medical treatment if you are taken ill in another EU country. However, I then discovered that they have been phased out and instead have been replaced by a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

I gave the EHIC people a call to find out what I needed to do and they took down my details on the phone and I'll get a card when I get back, but they have given me the details of what to do if I need assistance while I am away. I was very impressed by the service. It's highly unlikely that I will be ill while I am away but if it runs as smoothly as sorting it out then it will all be very straightforward.

Monday, November 28, 2005


I recently finished reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I thought it was a really engaging read and I particularly liked this passage:

Now I know that I have already lost you. I have lost everything. Even so, I can’t let you go forever and allow you to forget me without letting you know I bear you no grudge, that I knew it from the start, I knew I was going to lose you and that you would never see in me what I see in you. I want you to know that I loved you from the very first day and that I still love you, now more than ever, even if you don’t want me to.


All I wish is for you to be happy, that everything you aspire to achieve may come true and that, although you may forget me in the course of time, one day you may finally understand how much I loved you.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Forgiveness, some initial thoughts

Imagine being raped a couple of years ago and then being one of the survivors of the London bombings in July this year. Well you can’t quite imagine it can you? Well, Rachel from North London has actually lived it and has started an excellent blog to write about some of her experiences.

She wrote a post a few days ago that asked what people think about forgiveness. This is what I said in response:

To me forgiveness is about not being beholden to someone or allowing them to somehow influence my life, particularly when I may not want them to.

If I don’t forgive and instead harbour thoughts about that person that make me angry or bitter or resentful I allow that person to continue to influence my life.

If my forgiveness is conditional on them being able to admit or acknowledge that they did something wrong then I am again allowing them to influence my life. If forgiveness is conditional on the actions of that other person, if they are dead then it seems that forgiveness would never be possible.

Instead I see forgiveness as something that I do because it is to my benefit. That sounds really selfish putting it as starkly as that, but I guess ultimately we can only truly control our own part in something and so that is what we have responsibility for. So if forgiveness is the issue then the only part of the process we have any control over is whether I as an individual forgive.

But to me this seems to leave two questions:

First, what is forgiveness?

Is it saying that what someone did was ok or does not matter? Does it mean that we have to forget what they did? Does it mean being reconciled to that person? To me the answer to all of those questions is no. Depending on what the ‘offence’ was reconciliation etc might be possible but I don’t see it as an integral part of the process. In a lot of ways I find it easier to say what I think forgiveness isn’t rather than what it is beyond finding a way to be at peace about something so that it no longer has a hold on me.

Second, how do you actually go about forgiving someone?

Another difficult question. As suggested by others, empathy could be part of that but you can end up excusing someone’s behaviour and making them purely a sum of their circumstances. I don’t think someone raping a woman ‘excusable’ because, for example, they themselves were abused as a child. It is still an act that violates another in one of the most extreme ways possible. And, of course, others who may also have been abused as a child don’t go on and rape. We take away any responsibility from the individual if we empathise too much.

However, empathy can perhaps take some of the ‘heat’ out of the situation and help us to understand it from their perspective a bit.

I think in someways it is about making an active decision to not allow something or someone to control you. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? What if that person is continually making things difficult for you?

I don’t really know the answer but will continue to think about it. Forgiveness is a really difficult issue.

But as is apparent from what I wrote, there are still any number of unanswered questions that I want to turn my mind to. So over a period of time I will try and do so here.


Well my brother in law has put up three sets of lights so far – only 27 sets to go.

It’s really cold here at the moment. I have to go to Poland for a couple of days this week to speak at a conference and I suspect it will be rather more cold there. I had better pack some thermals.

Poland is now part of the EU so I won’t get a stamp in my passport, which is disappointing. However, I get paid the most phenomenal expenses, so I guess that might ease the pain.

Christmas is coming

I went to Oxford Street briefly yesterday and as I came out of Oxford Circus tube station there were four different people preaching through megaphones on each of the corners. I am not sure if they were in competition with each other or if they had some kind of gentleman's agreement that they wouldn't encroach on each other. Kind of a strange experience. And if you don't like the people with megaphones, particularly the "sinners and winners" man, here is the person to blame

I wasn't too impressed to go into a shop and hear Christmas music playing. It's November! Having said that I am helping my brother in law start to put up the Christmas lights today. There are so many to put up that he has to start early - and then next Sunday there will be the grand opening ceremony. Seriously.

Friday, November 25, 2005

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

So, George Best has finally died. The media must have made it one of the most drawn out deaths ever. This morning’s newspapers were already writing about him in the past tense which, despite his death being imminent, seemed a little premature.

There are mixed views in my office about his death. Some think it’s sad but others think that he was given a second chance through his liver transplant and he wasted it.

It will be interesting to see how he is remembered - for his football or for his lifestyle. Perhaps a decent balance between the two would be good - if it wasn’t for the football we would never have heard of him, but if he had lived a more quiet life, we might not have remembered him this long after his playing career came to an end.

I am sure the media will look at his life from every conceivable angle, so take your pick.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


On the way home tonight I got on a very full tube train as the announcer was saying that people should get on that service. Except- the strap on my bag got stuck in the door and it wasn't possible to dislodge it. The train set off and I was calculating in my head whether the doors were going to open on that side of the train again before I needed to get off. The problem being which platform would it go into at the stop I needed to change at. I decided there was no point in panicking and was so relieved when the train stopped and the doors opened on the right side. I am not entirely sure what I would have done if it didn't. Pull the emergency alarm? Stay on the train until it reached a station where the doors opened in the right side? Perhaps the easiest thing to do in future is to take more care when getting on a train.

Rodent update:

It seems the creature is likely to be a mouse. The droppings were those of a mouse. However, the way it had eaten the bait was like a rat would. Apparently mice crack open the grain and only eat the middle, but rats eat the whole thing. The rodents had eaten the whole grain, which still suggested there might be a rat about somewhere, although it is unlikely. Maybe I have a mouse who aspires to ratdom. So relief all round then.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The rat man cometh

I spoke to a vermin exterminator this morning and he is coming round tomorrow at 7.15am to try and track down the rodent. I described the evidence of its presence and the chap reckoned it is probably a rat. Hopefully it won’t take too long to get rid of it, but I may well come across a body at some point.

On another matter, this morning my Head of Unit was dealing with a “crisis” – her actual word. What was this crisis? An empty office we have in the unit was too warm, so she needed someone to come out instantly to deal with it. Good proportionate response there then.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Conversations on the Underground

On the tube on the way in this morning two people were having a conversation about books. At one point the bloke said "I love Northangar Abbey. It's so post-modern."

What does that even mean??

Oh... and I'm now worried that the mouse might be a rat.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Of mice and men

I have had a very industrious weekend. Yesterday I went back to the flat and what should have been a reasonably quick clean up turned out to be rather more than that. One of the walls had some mould stains on it and I was just going to go over it with a bit of paint, but it was so obvious that I ended up having to repaint the entire wall.

My mum came over with a Dyson and vacuumed the whole place for me, which was really nice of her. We then ended up going shopping briefly and then traipsed round Tesco Extra. My mum showed much patience.

I spent all of today sorting stuff out, chucking out paperwork, doing washing and so on. But the day started with me wandering into the kitchen and thinking there was something wrong. I was correct... a mouse had gnawed through a bag that I had left on the floor and pulled a couple of teabags out of it – fortunately the only "edible" products in the bag. I went out to get something to deal with the mouse. I haven’t had the heart to put the stuff down yet though. Where’s a man when I need one to rescue a damsel in distress?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Presentation is everything

It’s been a weird day. I seemed to spend most of it writing a presentation for my Head of Unit. She had to talk to someone really important (in the world in which we work- in the grand scheme of things he isn’t really all that important). My new boss said to me at one point "it’s a good job you didn’t have any other work to do today." I think he is beginning to realise how much everything revolves around our Head of Unit and if she says something has to be done for her then everything else has to be put on hold as a result.

Two people in my section told me they have got new jobs. Both said they want to leave because of our Head of Unit. They have calculated that about 20 people have left in the last 4 months, which is about half the unit. People have just had enough. Not good.

Since I have moved house I have had to get a different tube line into work. I had forgotten how unreliable that particular tube service is. Fortunately I seem to always be able to get a seat but the delays have been phenomenal. I console myself by thinking about the refund you are entitled to each time you are delayed for 15 minutes or more. It’s great – I either get to work on time or get the money back. Seems fair enough to me and stops me getting stressed.

Longer journey to work though so I might have to consider getting out of bed earlier. I think I might take some convincing though, as I don’t want to be in work much anyway.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The grass is always greener

I have moved all my belongings now and have settled into the new house. There is loads of unpacking to do but most stuff is dumped in the spare room and I will work my way through it and turn chaos into order – hopefully.

My ex-housemate sent me a text last night to ask me to go and cut the grass at the place we have just vacated. I texted back and said I don’t think it is normally expected to cut the grass in November and that I reckon the grass will be too wet to mow anyway. I don’t think she was too impressed by that but I wasn’t impressed at being asked to do it and I suspect she has left me al the things that she doesn’t want to do. Maybe I am being unreasonable but I have no desire to carry out chores that I don’t need to as I have plenty to do already. At the new place a gardener will come and sort out the garden – and not even at my expense. Marvellous.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Remember, remember the 12th of November

Perhaps not the most traditional night to have fireworks but I am off to my sister's tonight to see last week's postponed fireworks. They thought my nephew had chickenpox, so cancelled them last week. However, as it turned out he was fine. I don't think I have ever had chickenpox - my mother can't remember any of the childhood ailments I may or may not have had - so didn't want to take the risk anyway. Apparently chickenpox can be horrible as an adult.

Anyway, tonight is the new night for the fireworks. Will head over there with my mum in a couple of hours. I have been moving my stuff into the new house today. I had forgotten quite how many books I have. The house seems to smell slightly of urine, but maybe that is just my sense of smell and it is just slightly damp - which putting the heating on would probably fix. A couple of weeks ago I kept thinking that I could smell fly spray - and then I realised that it was actually my deodarant. So my sense of smell might be slightly off. Let's hope so or I have been making a terrible mistake each morning with the spray can I have been picking up.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The silent silence

So, the nation fell silent at 11am. Everywhere that is except where I work. Our building contractors were meant to make an announcement over the voice address system to start and end the silence. Except that they forgot and when they realised that hadn’t made the announcement the moment had passed.

How could they forget? Isn’t it 11am at the same time every day? I have lodged a complaint, but unfortunately it is too late now.

We will remember them, and we did, despite the forgetfulness of others.

Lest we forget

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Lawrence Binyon

It seems to be a time of remembering of late. Last week was the memorial service for those killed in the July bombings, and this week we remember those who have given their lives in combat.

Most days I walk past Westminster Abbey and this week, as is this case each year at this time, the Field of Remembrance has been “planted”. This was first established in 1928 and allows people who wish to remember people who were killed to leave a tribute marked by a poppy and a cross. It’s a sobering and moving sight.

I am not particularly pro-war but the Poppy Appeal is the only tribute or appeal to which I have any allegiance. I think it is important, whatever the justification (or otherwise) for a war, that we acknowledge those who have died.

I was in Washington a few years ago and went to see the war memorials while I was there. Etched on the Korean War memorial are the words “freedom is not free” and those words have often struck me and made me consider the cost of the freedom that I am able to enjoy.

We will remember them.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Making a mark

Picked up the keys to the house tonight, so will probably move some stuff in tomorrow night. The heating certainly works because it had been left on for a few days and the place was like an oven.

I can’t believe I am going to have a whole house to live in – and somewhere that has stairs! I live in a first floor maisonette at the moment and have rather missed being able to go upstairs to go to bed. I am obviously very easily satisfied.

I think when I get home from work tomorrow night all of my housemate’s stuff will have gone, which will include the sofas, so the sooner I move the better. I am taking the day off work on Monday to go and pick up some bits so that I have something to sit on when I move into the new house. I am rather looking forward to it really.

For the last couple of years the place I have lived in has felt like someone else’s home because my housemate rather took it over. We were joint tenants but I can never be bothered to try and make a mark on a place. So I’m looking forward to feeling as though somewhere is mine and has my own stuff in it, even if it’s only for a little while.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Moving on

I am due to move house this weekend. I got sent a house contract in the post today that I need to sign and send back. I am being allowed to stay in this place as a favour and they are not meant to rent it out - so I just need to pay £1 per month to live there (to be paid in advance, of course). Can't really complain about that. I will give them rather more money than that but I don't suppose I will ever live somewhere again where all I have to pay is £1!

I haven't packed a thing yet, so might not be moving as promptly as I intend to. I have always been a last minute packer. Let's hope I have honed my technique.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A bird in the hand...

We have Sky News on in the office at work, so we have the joy of seeing every item of "breaking news". One particular item that caught my eye a couple of weeks ago was:

"Bush to release new single next week".

My immediate thought was "George Bush is releasing a single??" My brain clicked over and the penny dropped that this was in fact referring to Kate Bush – and oh how I laughed...

I am not really a fan of Kate Bush as I usually find her songs annoying (excellent critical appraisal there) but compared to a song by George Bush it has to be the better option. Now what songs would George Bush have on his album?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Three little words

The annual work staff survey came to an end on Friday and they are now meant to be collating the data from it. We have been told that they are going to publish the results, including the comments, at unit level.

The particular unit I work in is fine - except for the completely insane Head of Unit. She epitomises everything that gives women in positions of power a bad reputation. She is driven by her ego and totally insecure – a really dangerous combination. I have never dealt with anyone who is such a control freak, even down to stopping the handyman at work from fitting a door handle without her standing watching him to make sure he put it at exactly the right height. Or her latest decision is that she is unable to open her own cupboard and get her papers out or turn on the TV that is on her desk. So she has asked a member of my team to do it each morning. I have protested, as I cannot believe how lazy she is, can she not even switch on a TV - and if any of the papers went missing the person from my team who got them out would be directly in the line of fire. The list could go on and I am sure I will give many more examples over time. You’d have to be there to really understand what goes on...

I am slightly dubious if work will be able to stick to its commitment of publishing the results because what will be said by most of my colleagues will be so damning. I am hopeful though that if the results are made known there will be so much outcry there will be no choice but to consider whether she should stay in post.

I was talking to an ex-colleague on Friday and we were trying to decide whether we thought the full results would be published (even the statistics would be really telling, let alone the comments). Anyway, K said three little words to me that made my heart sing and left me with a big grin on my face. So, what were they...? "Freedom of Information".

Where I work is covered by the Freedom of Information Act and so I might have to take the law into my own hands if necessary and request the information if it is not published. Fantastic – I love the law!

And so it begins...

So, I'm kind of new to this whole thing but I have read other people's blogs for a long time and thought it about time I started my own.

I'm still trying to work out if I am going to have time to keep it up to date, but I'll never know unless I give it a go.

Life's kind of busy at the moment what with work and imminently having to move home again. I have lived in 6 or 7 different places in the last 10 years, even more than that if I go back another couple of years. I have lived where I am now for the last two and a half years, but it is time to move on again... Went to have a quick look at a place this morning and should be able to move in next weekend. It's only a temporay thing though, so next year I'll be on the move again. Keeps life interesting I suppose - and means I end up throwing loads of stuff away. Amazing how much I am able to accrue nonetheless.

At least I know where I will be living for Christmas. Somehow seems wrong to be mentioning Christmas at the beginning of November. I think they turned on the lights in Regents Street yesterday, so I guess I am behind the times anyway.