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 However, I then discovered that they have been phased out and instead have been replaced by a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).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.