Tuesday, January 31, 2006


A century is normally something to celebrate. When you reach 100 years old the Queen sends you a telegram; it’s a great achievement to get a century in cricket; fireworks go off all around the world when one century comes to an end and another begins.

But today I don’t think there is much to celebrate upon the announcement of the 100th British soldier to have been killed in Iraq. Whatever you think are the rights and wrongs of the Iraq war and even though the soldiers signed up to be in the army, 100 soldiers being killed, or even one for that matter, is a sobering day.

At least if there were signs of things improving, of less bloodshed of Iraqis or troops, it might mean that at some point there is some good that comes out of the war, but it looks a long way off at the moment.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Well, I have survived two nights at the new place. Neither mornings have I emerged from the wardrobe followed by either a lion or the Snow Queen. However, I am not commenting on whether I emerge each morning as a super hero, as anonymity is normally a key part of being an effective super hero.

Everything was packed away rather nicely at the new place until I moved the last few bits in and now I don’t have quite enough space. I feel a cull coming on, at least of the mountains of paperwork I seem to have accumulated. I also found out today that the cleaning lady is away for a couple of weeks so I am going to have to vacuum my own bedroom – what kind of service is this?? Apparently if you leave your bed linen out the cleaner will even change your bed for you. I think I can say that this is a rather higher standard of service than I am used to.

My landlady obviously wanted to tell me some of the circumstances surrounding her divorce and mentioned some stuff last night and then a bit more this morning. I did vaguely know her husband and it all sounds rather unpleasant and he now doesn’t have anything to do with his children or her. I am not really one to pry about such things and kind of leave people to tell me if they want to but if they don’t then that is their choice. I don’t mind people telling me, it is just none of my business unless the other person wants to tell me about it. Anyway, she obviously does want to and she isn’t pouring her heart out to me, although it obviously troubles her that her ex-husband has been refused to have anything to do with the children (who are all adults).

What is helpful for me though is that she was saying that she needs a tenant to help pay the mortgage. Although I realise it is a business deal and she isn’t just letting me stay there out of the kindness of her heart, it is kind of helpful to know that I serve a purpose by being there. She also told me that the previous tenant flooded the bathroom, broke the DVD player and destroyed the ironing board and iron and she was fine with all of that. Not that I am accident-prone anyway, but it is nice to know that there is a lot of leeway!

There still don’t seem to be a lot of houses on the market at the moment. The friend I am buying with was trying to arrange a viewing this weekend but the house had already had an offer accepted and there has been nothing else about for ages. Hopefully things will pick up soon, not that I want to move again in the too near future but it would be nice to get my own place.

Anyway, I am off out to a greasy spoon now to go and eat something unhealthy for lunch.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


I have moved pretty much everything now, although if I am being really picky then that isn’t quite accurate as there is still all my furniture at the old place, plus my TV etc and all my food. I have stuff to eat for breakfast at the new place but nothing beyond that. My mum very kindly came to help me this afternoon and we moved lots of stuff to my parents’ house. How ever much dad may be unobservant there is no way that he will not notice the amount of stuff that is in the spare room, but I am coming back next Sunday to do a major clearout of things that my parents have accumulated over the years so that things can be packed away properly.

The slight problem now is that mum said she had a “huge favour” to ask me, that being will I consider staying at my parents’ house with dad for a couple of days in April if mum goes to Athens. I have already mentioned this here before as my sister had already said dad had been thinking about it. I just kept saying “No, no, no, no, no” (you get the drift), but mum isn’t sure if she can go if I won’t stay – not that dad would stop her, she would just feel guilty leaving him on his own. Mum did suggest that I could arrive really late at night and when I left for work in the morning he wouldn’t be up, so I basically wouldn’t have to see him. She said he sometimes wakes up in the night and he might want someone to be about. I did point out that I wouldn’t be reading him bedtime stories to get him back to sleep.

It’s weird with dad, when I was younger he was this incredibly scary man but now he is worried about spending even a night on his own. I guess as you get older you begin to see your parents differently and you realise they are not the all-powerful beings you once thought they were. Maybe I am a bit heartless but to me he should learn to face some of his fears. I am not even talking about anything major, he just won’t try anything new or different because he worries about what might happen. But surely if you face some of the small things you learn that it can actually go fine and then that builds your confidence to try more things? I don’t think dad’s brain works like that though. It’s going to b difficult to get out of staying with him in April I think.

Anyway, I am still off work tomorrow. It’s a good thing as I would not be in the frame of mind to be returning to the office as I still have a few more bits to do to finish moving. Otherwise I would just feel like it was hanging over me. I finally feel as though I have made some progress so as weekends go it has been fairly successful.

Oh and a totally unrelated thing but the whole blogrolling facility does not seem to be working properly at the moment, so it isn’t telling me when people have updated their blogs. How do they expect me to keep up with my daily reading? That’s technology for you I guess.

It's personal

I was thinking about What Would Dana Do?’s (how do you punctuate that correctly??) recent post. Toward the end of the post she gave some thoughts on writing things of a more personal nature. I can understand the dilemma, you kind of bear your soul and often those are the posts people are least likely to comment on.

I have often read people’s posts and have found them moving, sobering, challenging or a whole range of other emotions, but somehow it just doesn’t feel right to comment. What could I say that doesn’t run the risk of sounding patronising, clichéd or turning into an opportunity to respond by talking about myself in response “oh yeah, you’re so right, now read what happened to me...” It’s good for people not to feel that they are the only one but it shouldn’t be an opportunity to turn it into something about myself.

The blogging world is a strange place. You can know all sorts of things about people who you wouldn’t even recognise if you saw them in the street and, perhaps bizarrely, you end up actually caring about these people and what happens to them.

A while ago Gripes wrote a post and I read it and it was one of those posts that you really want to say something in response but words just seemed inadequate. What could I say? I was greatly heartened that someone else was in the same dilemma as me. I wanted to respond to the comment by saying “Exactly!” But I didn’t even say that.

I think that some of it is about commenting on someone else’s blog. That is their space and they have kindly invited you in and at times they say things that are personal or hard to say, but somehow at times it can also feel wrong to cross some threshold by commenting, as though I am unqualified to do so (which I quite clearly am!). At times it might feel more acceptable to write about it on my own blog, I suppose because that is my space and somehow that feels more acceptable. In fact now I think about it, I have done this on occasion.

So... If I read your blog it is because I appreciate what you write. I count it as a privilege to read those things that are perhaps harder to say, even if I don’t always comment. Maybe I should try harder, maybe I should at least try and acknowledge that I have appreciated what has been written. I suspect at times I will and other times it will just not be possible to come up with the right words. I appreciate it nonetheless.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The price of love?

This week I read in the paper that a third of single people would rather have money than love. Maybe to an extent people can have more control over how much they earn than whether they can find someone to fall in love with and them with us, but to decide that money is preferable seems a bit sad.

I guess getting badly burnt in a relationship could make you decide that it isn’t worth the risk. But although my last relationship did not end as I might have hoped, it doesn’t make me want to never take the risk again. I was in the relationship because there were some really fantastic things about it and I don’t want to let the bad stuff outweigh the potential to find someone who is as significant to me again.

The actual finding someone else isn’t quite so straightforward though. Aspiration is fine but the reality is not always quite so obtainable! Maybe people are also perhaps deciding that it is just too hard to find someone. I went on a few dates last year but nothing of any real significance came out of them and two of the people that there might have been a possibility with met someone else. Whilst not ideal, I have no particular issue with staying friends with people in such circumstances, I am not one to hold a grudge, but it is never great to have the whole “you’re a great friend but actually I prefer someone else to you” type conversation. I sometimes feel that I am doomed to always be the friend and never anything more.

I really rather miss all those things that are part of a relationship. Some of those are the more obvious bits, but I don’t just mean the good things. I am not looking for the perfect person. In fact if I was going out with someone who had never had to deal with some difficult stuff I think I would just be plain scared. I do actually have a friend who, by her own admission, has had little of any difficulty to deal with in her life. When her then boyfriend told her that he’d had a few indiscretions in his past, she was speechless and split up with him the next day. When she told me about it I said to her that I couldn’t quite understand why they had split up over it as it was in the past and he had been honest enough to tell her. But some people can’t necessarily cope with other people’s ‘failure’ (not the right word, but a more appropriate one evades me).

It’s not that I have a particular criteria that I am looking for but at times I have felt that maybe “breathing” should be about as picky as I should get. But then if I still don’t have any success I am possibly beyond hope. You’ll be pleased to hear that crossing that one criteria off the list would be a step too far, however desperate times get.

But would I ever reach the point where I just decided to chuck in the towel and decide that money was the answer? Money is not a great motivator in my life. Whilst money can buy a lot of things, I can’t imagine it ever being a substitute for a relationship and all that goes with it. Perhaps I am just old fashioned about such things.

Friday, January 27, 2006


The move has gone ok so far. I have moved quite a lot of my stuff and have managed to fit it all in to my room so far. Most of my books are now there but I have had to put two rows of books on each shelf which I think is probably sacrilegious but needs must. To be honest, I could have moved much more of my stuff today, but my heart wasn’t quite in it. Tomorrow I should have moved pretty much anything that I am taking with me to the new place, which then leaves various bits to take to my parents’ house and then some furniture that I am going to store in a friend’s garage.

I do actually find the whole process of moving quite depressing. Maybe it is just because change can be unsettling. I am moving in with someone I don’t really know, I will have a small room and am going to be back in a phase of having to decide if I have the space for everything before I buy it. I am hardly what you would describe as an impulse buyer anyway, but this is going to be even more reason to put off buying things. Having said all of that the flat screen TV will be a necessity given the size of my new room...

I got a call from work earlier to update me on some stuff for when I am on call, so chances are that I will not go undisturbed this time. My work mobile does have a habit of switching itself off without any warning, so there is still hope.

Better get on

I am now off work until Tuesday. Woo-hoo! Sadly I go back on call tonight. I am not quite sure why I keep ending up being on call when I am on leave, but I am hoping that I won’t get disturbed.

As it turned out I didn’t meet up with the chap who wanted feedback on why we didn’t select him for interview. I think I will now see him on Tuesday. The other person we turned down has now also got in touch. He sent me an e-mail which started “Thank you for your missive...”. We so did the right thing in turning him down.

The rat man is coming round again shortly. The little critters are remarkably resilient and have happily chomped their way through the poisoned bait that was out down for them. They (whoever ‘they’ are) say that cockroaches are the only creatures that would survive a nuclear blast, but I reckon these mice might be good contenders as well. Anyway, it’s not my problem as of tomorrow. Although apparently at the place I am moving to the cat does sometimes bring in mice and other such creatures. Lovely.

If you looked at where I currently live you would never guess that I was due to move out imminently. I think there is much work to do today...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Planning ahead

I am feeling decidedly unimpressed with Blogger as their service was unavailable for considerably longer than they suggested. By my calculations it should have gone offline about midnight, but it proved impossible to gain access for many, many hours longer. Other people did seem to be able to publish post during that time so I don’t know if it was just picking on me in particular.

Last night I went and picked up the key to where I am moving to at the weekend, so that is sorted. I didn’t take any stuff with me even though I probably should have. I think I am trying to put off the hassle of moving for as long as possible, but it does then mean that there is more to do on Friday and over the weekend, so it’s probably not the best plan. Using the word 'plan' does suggest that there is actually one in existence, which would be somewhat misleading...

At work yesterday people were trying to wind me up about having to sleep with my feet in a wardrobe. The chap I sit next too reckons I should sleep with my feet in a chest of drawers until I move to get used to sleeping in a piece of bedroom furniture. Another chap wants to know if once I have moved if I will have taken on a superhero persona when I emerge from the wardrobe each morning. I told him that he had no idea whether I already have my superhero outfit on under my clothes. I am not entirely sure that I would make a very good super hero anyway, unless indecisiveness and procrastination are now viewed as virtues that can save the world.

Anyway, this is the last day I have to get through before being off work until Tuesday. Although I will be busy moving house over the weekend, it will be nice to catch up on some sleep etc. Annoyingly though my return to work next week includes having to go to Birmingham on Tuesday night as I have to speak at a meeting on Wednesday morning. It also involves going to a formal dinner on Tuesday night. Not my thing at all, and will mean having to dress fairly smart. I will already have to wear a suit on Wednesday and now I am going to have to look smart the night before, but not be wearing the same clothes for both things. They obviously do not know what a limited range of smart clothes I own. But apparently I will get a present and there will, of course, be some free food, so perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much.

Another of the people we turned down for interview has got in touch to ask for feedback, so I am seeing him this afternoon. Hopefully he will be as good natured as the chap yesterday, who just kept saying that he had let himself down. I am hoping that I did not depress him too much. I think we should put a ban on offering feedback because people seem to keep taking us up on the offer.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


This whole not having a proper weekend thing does not suit me. I still feel the need to catch up on sleep – I was not designed to work more than five days a week. In fact I often doubt that I am even up to working for five consecutive days. However, the good news is that I am off both Friday and Monday. Mainly to move house but also because I just don’t want to be in work. Not for any particular reason, I would just rather have a few days off. I am actually terrible at taking leave and still have 32 days leave to take before the end of the leave year (end of February). It is unlikely that I will achieve this. These two days don’t count because I get lieu time for having worked last weekend. In case you are wondering, I get 25 days a year. So I reckon it is a real achievement to have more than my leave entitlement still left at the end of the leave year - and to have actually taken leave.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from one of the people who we turned down for the jobs we’re advertising. He would like feedback. I knew this chap would ask for feedback when I read his form. I could just tell from the way he wrote it that he would want to know why he hadn’t been selected for interview. Anyway, I am going to meet up with him later to go through his form. I always hate that we have to put in the letter that we will provide feedback. I know that it is helpful to talk people through where they went wrong, but I don’t really like doing it. Fortunately I have kept my notes and hopefully I will find a constructive way to explain that he failed to demonstrate any of the competencies. He got the lowest score of all of the candidates, so this isn’t going to be easy...

Last night I made some phone calls that I had been putting off. I have no problem with talking on the phone I just don’t always like having to make official type calls. I still need to phone the TV licence people to cancel it and get the money back. Anyway, most of the calls have now been made, so that’s good.

I also packed up some stuff. Admittedly not a lot of stuff but the difference between none and some is progress. I have packed some of my books but I do have a lot of books so it isn’t even half of them. I am going to the new place tonight to pick up the key and will drop some of my stuff off. The thing is that I don’t think I have previously explained how little space I will have when I move. In fact my bedroom is so small that I will have to sleep with my feet in the wardrobe (or my head if I want to sleep the other way around). I think you’ll probably agree that is therefore a small bedroom. At the moment I live in a Beatrix Potter story what with giving shelter to a family of mice but I will be moving to live in the Chronicles of Narnia.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The long arm of the law

I am decidedly impressed with the police at the moment. This morning they arrested the woman who took my colleague’s bag yesterday.

What I failed to mention yesterday was that, as well as a document that we wanted back, there was actually a lap top in the bag. However, we are generally not terribly alarmed by losing our lap tops as they just get written off.

Initially we didn’t know if some kind hearted Londoner would hand the bag in but thanks to police efforts they realised someone had taken it. The police did various checks of CCTV and worked out who had taken the lap top and arrested her this morning as she went through the station. She told the police that she was going to hand in the lap top today, but that she had disposed of the document. No-one has found this a very likely story, particularly given that she obviously sent through the bag and got rid of some of what was in it. According to the police it was just an opportunist thing as she had got on the train to see if anyone had left a newspaper and found a lap top instead. I am not sure how she will explain to her employer why she was so late to work today. Also in the current 'climate' would you actually pick up an unattended bag? I certainly wouldn't. I have handed in various bits of lost property I have found on the tube but if I saw an unattended bag I wouldn't pick it up, although I probably would report it.

My colleague is feeling decidedly better, despite the document not having turned up, and we are all really impressed with the police.


I was talking to my sister last night and she was telling me about when she went to my parents’ for lunch on Sunday. Apparently she was talking to dad and he said that mum is thinking of going to Greece for a week. Dad is incredibly bad at explaining things and originally my sister thought the plan was that my parents’ would go there together, but it seems that it is some work related thing that mum might need to do. My sister’s jaw almost hit the floor when he said “I’m thinking about asking [Random] to come and stay for the week”. (She was laughing a lot as she told me). It wasn’t shock that somehow our relationship must therefore have thawed to such a degree that he would deign to have me stay in his house, but that he was totally oblivious to the fact that this was the most unlikely scenario ever. We do speak to each other but it is little more than saying hello and we can be civil because we don't really spend any time together at all. The first time he saw me after he kicked me out of home, which was months afterwards, he called me by my sister’s name and didn’t even notice. Out of sight out of mind I guess. Or in the present case – he is actually just out of his mind.

It is not actually any indication of some grand reconciliation. He has aged very quickly. He is 64 but seems so much older than that. My parents’ are a complete contrast to each other. My mum is really sociable, works full time, has lots of friends and is always off doing things. Dad goes out of the house for a walk round the block or to buy a newspaper and that is about it. He doesn’t work, has no interests and doesn’t really speak to anyone. He just doesn’t want to be at home on his own for a week if mum is away.

My sister did point out to him that he was totally insane to think that I would go and stay with him for a week. I have never spent a night at my parents’ since I left home and have no intention of doing so. It might be slightly more feasible if my mum was there, but there is no chance whatsoever if it was just dad.

It showed what a selective memory dad must have. I just spent most of the conversation saying an ever more incredulous “No! Seriously?!”. Anyway, it was a bizarre but kind of amusing conversation. I won't be packing my stuff just yet to go and stay there for a week. Mentioning packing reminds me that I have still done nothing toward moving this weekend. Maybe I'll start tonight.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Bloggies voting begins

At last the blogs have been published that have made it through to the voting stage of the Bloggies. Unfortunately, as far as I can see the London Underground Tube Diary didn't make it through, but there are a number of other great blogs that did.

So it's time to get voting or maybe it will just provide you with some new ideas for reading material. Voting is open until Sunday 31 January.


I made it into work this morning, although I did set my alarm to go off later than normal and sloped into the office about 9.30. I bumped into two of my team who warned me not to go into the office right away as our head of unit was dealing with some ‘crisis’. However, I thought it would look a bit bad if I turned up much later.

When I went into the office I was instantly summoned to see my head of unit about this ‘crisis’. I wasn’t even able to go and make a cup of tea. Someone in the unit had left a bag on a train containing a document that, although not vital, wouldn’t be ideal to lose. B, who left it on the train, was really upset and I spent a few minutes talking to him and telling him that these things happen sometimes and not to beat himself up about it. Unfortunately while I was having that conversation someone from another unit came over and said they’d heard something had been left on a train. But they didn’t realise was that they were commenting on this in front of the very person who had lost it. It just made B feel even worse than he did already. Poor chap.

My head of unit did also gush about what I had done this weekend. I guess it means that I don’t have to look for a new job then. Whilst it is nice to be complimented, my head of unit is a bit of a ‘sleeping tiger’ and you never know quite whether to believe her. Even if she is sincere you also don’t know if the next conversation you have with her will be with her tearing a strip off you. I work in a strange place.

I was too tired to do anything yesterday evening beyond watch a bit of TV and catch up on some bits. I suddenly remembered that I am moving house next weekend though. Not that I had ever forgotten but my mind had been more focussed on the work I had to do this weekend just gone. I have a lot of packing to do over the next few days if I am going to be ready to move in time. I plan to take Friday off work and need to get a key to the new place so that I can move things in.

Anyway, I am off out to buy some cake.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Return

Well, I have returned from the deep dark north. Work was actually really good and it was doing stuff like I did this weekend which makes me love what I do – unfortunately we only do these weekend projects three times a year, so the rest of the time isn’t quite as good. One person who was doing some of the work said it was the best weekend of his life. As I believe he is married and has children, I am even more surprised by that comment than I would otherwise be, but people generally seem to have got a lot out of it.

There were only two slight downsides to the weekend. One was getting up at 5.15 yesterday morning, I still feel really tired now. However, it turned out to be a good thing as I wouldn’t have eaten for hours if they hadn’t delivered my breakfast to my room then. Later in the day I was so hungry I could have chewed someone’s arm off. There was just no time to stop from when I started work at 7am right the way through to when I finished at 7pm. One of my colleagues disappeared off when he realised that I was not going to get to eat and came back with some hot food for me. I could have just wept I was so pleased – in case you haven’t realised this yet, my life really is ruled by food.

The other downside was that I had a bit of a run in with someone really senior from my organisation. In fact you can’t get any more senior... I was doing exactly what I was meant to be but he did not take kindly to it. A few of my colleagues saw what happened and said that I was absolutely spot on and had done the right thing, but I was slightly disconcerted by what happened. Anyway, hopefully it will be taken in the spirit that it was intended and I won’t find all my stuff sitting in a crate when I get into work tomorrow.

I did vaguely pick up on the whale in the Thames stuff (thanks though Annie for the update on your site) but access to any form of news was not very practical yesterday. I gather though that the story pretty much dominated the whole of the news yesterday. I think it is kind of sad that it died and had I been in London might have had a look at what was going on, but it seems to have been a really huge story, which seems a bit odd. Slow news day I guess.

In case you have tried to look at the nominations for the Bloggies, I have checked and it seems they have not been published yet. I don’t know what the hold-up is but hopefully they will be available soon. I’ll keep an eye on the site and put it in a post when you can vote.

Anyway that’s all for now and it's time to have a browse through the blogging world over a cup of tea.

Friday, January 20, 2006


So, today I head off to the wilds of the North of England. I am feeling tired already so getting up at 5.30am tomorrow is looking even less appealing than it was anyway. I went to someone’s leavings drinks last night and left at a reasonable hour, ate a sandwich and packet of crisps as my dinner on the way home and then wiled away my time until it was time to go to bed. At which point I realised that if I am going away for the weekend I probably needed to pack some clothes and tried to focus my brain on what I needed to take with me.

What is the golden rule of packing? Always pack extra underwear. This is not because I am always hopeful that I might get lucky while I am away, but merely because you never know if you might get stuck somewhere and therefore be grateful for some clean underwear if you have to stay away for longer than planned. I don’t take spare underwear with me when I go somewhere for the day though, so I am possibly not all that consistent in my policy, but it has stood me in good stead on the occasions when an extra night’s stay has proved to be necessary.

I am staying in a Ramada hotel. I am slightly ambivalent about Ramada’s based on an experience of staying in one in Albany in New York a few year’s ago. Albany is the state capital of New York state (if that makes sense - meaning as opposed to New York City). It is a really strange place and I was there on a Friday night and the entire place was deserted. It was one of those places where had you been murdered at some point you would not have been entirely surprised. Not that there were gangs roaming the streets or anything, it was just an eerie place. The day before I was heading to Albany I mentioned to someone I had to go there and their face just dropped and they said “Why?” as though there was no conceivable reason why anyone would want to go to Albany. I understand what they meant now but a stopover was required to get from Boston to Toronto on public transport and that was the easiest place to do it. Anyway, I stayed in a Ramada in Albany and it was a bit like staying in some kind of cell. The windows in the room were so high up that you couldn’t see out of them unless you were incredibly tall and the whole hotel was just this really run down place. The hotel manager was obviously really proud of it though and couldn’t do enough to please. He even gave me a lift to the station the next morning, along with a number of schoolgirls who must have been taking part in some ballet related thing as they kept dancing around reception in tutus. Suffice to say it was a strange place and I was pleased to leave.

On other matters, I am feeling slightly miffed with our building maintenance people. They have this policy that if food is out of date in the fridge they remove it and leave it on the side. First of all, to me something being one day out of date is not therefore automatically inedible. I have probably built up immunity to chemical warfare if the amount of out of date stuff I have consumed is anything to go by. I can understand that out of date stuff shouldn’t be left in the fridge for ages, but leaving it out so that what was drinkable milk turns to cheese is not a helpful way of working. Why not just throw it in the bin if they think it is unhygienic? But perhaps I should find better things to be concerned about.

At time of writing the results are not out, but the next stage of the Bloggies is due to start today. The first stage was nominations, then a select group of people were asked to go through them and cast votes to narrow the field down to 151 blogs across a number of categories. Now it’s your chance to vote for what you think is the best in each category. If you have a spare vote (assuming she has made it to this stage), perhaps you might like to consider casting a vote for Annie Mole’s London Underground Tube Diary in ‘Best British and Irish Blog’ and ‘Best Topical Blog’. My previous post explains a bit more.

Anyway, I shall return on Sunday. A special message to any fellow bloggers who read this: I would be grateful if you could write some engaging posts over the next 48 hours so that I can settle down with a nice cup of tea on Sunday afternoon and relax perusing your blog. Much appreciated.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


We have a number of vacancies in my section at the moment – and in fact I am going to another person’s leaving drink tonight. Yesterday afternoon I went through a number of application forms to select people for interview for a couple of posts. I did a pretty thorough job making notes on each applicant on if/ how they had demonstrated each competency. I always feel a bit bad about turning down people’s applications, as the forms are horrible and I always want to give them marks for just having gone to the effort of filling it out.

However, some of the forms were really poor and the likelihood of them being invited to interview is not very high. Their managers will have read the form as they had to endorse it. If I was their manager, I might have given a bit of advice to the applicant on how to fill out the form because you at least want to give the person a fighting chance.

- Giving some contrived example which seemed to be for the purpose of telling me what big posh university you went to is not going to impress me.

- Saying that you demonstrate the competency but not explaining how or what you actually did is not going to impress me.

- Using lots of acronyms that mean absolutely nothing to me is not going to impress me.

- Demonstrating that you have not even read what the competency involves is not going to impress me.

There was a lot of not being impressed. When I still worked at a university I do recall interviewing someone and she wasn’t the best candidate. Half way through the interview the woman said “This is going really badly, I should just leave now really shouldn’t I?” I have to admit it was quite tempting to agree and ask her to leave, but instead we convinced her that it really was worth carrying on the agony so that we could formally write to her afterwards and turn her down. I am hoping that we may have more success with these candidates.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Guess who

I was talking to my friend K yesterday about someone we’d had a work meeting with just before Christmas. I couldn’t remember the woman’s name and need to send her an e-mail to check on some progress. It ended up like a game of ‘Guess Who’. “Does she have brown hair?” “Does she wear glasses?” “Does she have big ears?” K reckoned she knew who it was so I have some contact details now, but getting in touch and saying “are you the woman with brown hair, glasses and big ears?” might not be the best way to check if I am contacting the right person.

The rat man came back this morning to seal up some vents to stop the mouse returning. However, it seems that the mouse had been rather enjoying the bait that had been put down and in fact was no longer a mouse but was now in fact mice. They not only had eaten the bait but had licked the dish clean, so it had been particularly enticing. So it seems that I am now providing food and a roof for a family of mice, which if I lived in a Beatrix Potter story might be quite heart-warming, but as I don’t, they are just vermin. Anyway the rat man is coming back next week at which point they will have either moved the extended family in or have eaten a fatal dose. It seems that the mouse problem is therefore likely to be resolved the day before I move out which is good for the person who is moving in but not exactly what I had in mind.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Four things

Well, Gripes tagged me but she did it without tripping me up in the playground so I figured I’d carry out her request and fill out the meme on four things. I really struggled on some of them, but with a small amount of creativity managed to answer them.

Four jobs you've had in your life:
I actually haven’t had very many different jobs... Working on the ‘clearing’ lines for students looking for university places in my university summer holidays; various roles as a university administrator (for way too long); scrutinising the treatment of prisoners; work involving the provision of care to prisoners with mental health problems.

Four movies you could watch over and over:
It’s a Wonderful Life; Moulin Rouge; Singing in the Rain, Running on Empty (I’m never sure what the appeal of that film is but I have always really liked it).

Four places you've lived:
London; Coventry; Watford; London (it’s a big place!).

Four TV shows you love to watch:
I watch TV but can I think of programmes I actually love… Erm, well maybe some I have a passing affection for… I tend to watch US crime type series like CSI (the original one rather than the spinoffs) or Without a Trace or slightly trashy US teenage series like Smallville. I do watch more intellectual things too (honest!) *searches brain* University Challenge, when I remember it is on – although I did used to love Fifteen to One with good old William G Stewart when I was a student.

Four places you've been on vacation:
Canada; New Zealand; Scotland walking the West Highland Way from Glasgow to Fort William; Washington.

Four websites you visit daily:
BBC News; Google because I am always thinking of useless facts to clarify; London Underground Tube Diary; and The Gripes of Wrath (of course!)

Four of your favorite foods:
Soda farls; beef goulash (made by my mum); millionaire’s shortbread; roast chicken.

Four places you'd rather be:
I probably can’t think of four, but probably Vancouver (my favourite place in the world) and New Zealand would come a close second. Probably living in my own home without having to keep moving would be good as well!

Four albums you can't live without:
Probably individual songs have more of an impact on me and I listen to albums less often, so I don't think I could name four. I have somewhat eclectic taste in music - anything from The Killers, Razorlight, Athlete and so on to in the classical world things like Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring or Mozart’s Requiem Mass. And pretty much anything in between.

Four to pass this meme along to:
My Britishness makes me reticent to ask someone else to do it, so feel free to do so if you want to and if you don’t have a blog etc but want to fill it out just paste it in the comments below.

Sleep deprivation

I should probably go to bed earlier on Sunday nights because on Mondays I am often so tired that I just drift through the day. Yesterday evening I was really tired and went to bed at 9.30pm. Admittedly I did read the paper for a bit but the light was out just gone 10pm and although I did wake up a few times during the night I basically slept right through to 7am – and felt so much better for it.

I read an article recently about the effect of sleep on the first couple of hours after we have woken up. Basically, we are far more likely to have accidents and other mishaps within the first two hours and in particular within the first few minutes. Until about five years ago I used to drive to work and I look back now and wonder what impact it had on my driving ability. Despite all the jokes about women drivers I am actually a very good driver and can park without any problem at all as well. Perhaps that compensated for driving early in the morning.

I have a friend who cannot remember a time when she has slept for more than one or two hours a night. She lives on Diet Coke and whilst it probably helps to keep her going, I suspect it also contributes to the lack of sleep. However, as she doesn’t really eat anything else, to cut it out of her diet would mean she’d pretty much be living on air. The thought of having so little sleep would fill me with horror. Although to be honest I don’t think she is too thrilled by it either.

There is also evidence to suggest that sleep deprivation is the most effective form of torture. If you deprive someone of sleep for long enough then they will reach a point where the person being interrogated will agree to pretty much anything in order to be allowed to sleep. I think I would cave very easily.

I have to work this weekend, which means starting work at 7am on Saturday. But to start at 7am, I therefore need to get there at 6.30am in order to do a handover with the person who has been working overnight. That therefore means I have to get up at about 5.30am so that I am awake enough to hold a coherent conversation (or dressed for that matter). I have no idea how they expect me to be on good form at such a ridiculously early hour of the morning and remain functional all day until I finish at 6pm. I am not relishing this prospect. I think it must be some kind of human rights infringement to expect me to get out of bed so early – particularly for no pay. I am already feeling sleep deprived at the very thought of it.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Quest

I spoke to London Underground this morning and they looked at the refund applications and said they would send me the rest of the money. So that was all very simple.

I also just got an e-mail from the people whose house I am currently living in saying I can be there until 9 February. I will move out before then anyway because I have signed a contract for elsewhere to start the weekend after next but it takes lots of the pressure off to get all my stuff moved, so that’s great.

Anyway, on other matters, lately I have had real trouble finding any decent books to read. I tend to get books out of the library because I have no space for any more books. But I have just read so many bad books of late that I am beginning to wonder if there are any decent ones left. I used to have a policy that if I started a book I had to finish it, but I have decided that life is too short for enduring bad literature and now, whilst I will try and persevere with a book, I will eventually concede if I am find that I am totally bored by the prospect of picking up a book.

I have always been a big fan of reading and when I was really young would sneak onto the landing at night and read my book and then quickly have to sneak back into bed if I heard my parents coming upstairs. I kind of lost my interest in reading when things went downhill with the ex (not sure why that is the case) and have never quite got back into it in the same way.

There have been some books that I have enjoyed reading recently. I read the Da Vinci Code last year and enjoyed that. But I feel the need to say that it is an incredibly badly written book. Every chapter is only a few pages long, presumably to reflect the fact that people have the concentration span of a gnat these days, and each chapter ends with some exceptionally contrived cliff-hanger. I could also see some of the plot twists coming from a long way off. However, despite all of that it was engaging and perhaps the fact that it was easy just to pick it up and ‘go with the flow’ was part of the appeal.

I really like books such as Brave New World and To Kill a Mockingbird and so on. But I have an instant aversion to books by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and the like because of being forced to read them when I was at school. I should perhaps give them another chance though rather than write off an entire period of English literature. I did read Tess of the D’Urbervilles a couple of years ago and quite enjoyed that, but Thomas Hardy certainly does know how to do melodrama and one can only take so many emotional crises in a work of literature.

Finding decent new books to read always seems such a challenge. I like browsing in bookshops, but nothing much seems to jump out at me these days. Books that others seem to rave about I might find mildly engaging. I know several people who thought the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency was excellent, but I somehow didn’t find it anything to make a big fuss about. I have never read any of the Harry Potter books, in part because they have been so hyped that I think I might just, once again, wonder what all the fuss is about but also because there is only one more in the to be published in the series and so if I am going to give them a go and think they are good then I can read them all without having to wait ages for the next instalment to be published.

The quest will continue in the hope that one day I might actually discover that elusive decent book.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sanity returns

I’m feeling a bit more sane today. I am one of those people who can be spurred on by hitting a bit of a low, as strange as that may sound. Not that yesterday was a really bad day, more of a crisis in confidence.

My brain works in a strange way though. I can be faced by a situation and to begin with I can be paralysed into inaction by the prospect of dealing with it. Or when I have a difficult decision to make and don’t know what action to take, sometimes I bury my head in the sand until I have no choice about what to do and have to deal with the inevitable. Actually maybe that isn’t all that strange.

Anyway last night I went out for dinner at Pizza Express, who seemed to have the slowest service ever. It took 45 minutes to get the main course. I wasn’t very impressed, particularly because I was really hungry. It is always a mistake to put a barrier between me and food, as I lose the ability to concentrate or speak coherently if I am hungry. My life really is ruled by food. Then I watched a DVD with my friend D. We watched Batman Begins, which was better than I had feared, but I had to explain pretty much every bit of plot to D and give a constant commentary of what was going on. She also screamed or flinched every time someone got hit or there was a loud bang. Perhaps I have become immune to violence on TV?

Today there was more food, as I went to see another friend for lunch. She has a couple of children who are very amusing and I spent a while chatting to the three year old, who kept making me laugh a lot. Then I came home and phoned my mum and asked if I could store some stuff at my parents’ house. However, if my dad saw the stuff he probably would not be very impressed by it being there and keep hassling me until I moved it all out again, so mum made sure he was busy watching TV while I took the stuff into the house. It is all nicely squirreled away and hopefully he will never know it is there. Bizarre as it may sound he really is so unobservant that he is unlikely to notice it.

My parents’ house is really odd in that it is very tidy downstairs but upstairs is very messy. They have years of stuff that has accumulated. Anyway, I said to mum that I would go back in a few weeks time and we’ll go through all of it and try and get rid of some of it and put the rest of it away better. At least I have finally started to move stuff and by the looks if it there might be more space to store stuff at my parents’ than I had thought. Hopefully, by the time I come to move out of here there will be very little left for me to move.

I can’t believe it is Sunday night. Back to work tomorrow and there will be various bits to sort out there, including returning the expenses overpayment. Doing that will be slightly less painful because I picked up a cheque tonight that is a £200 council tax rebate from when I moved out of my last place. I will have to give half of it to my old housemate, but that was a bit of a result.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I want a trio and I want one now

I haven’t done much in terms of packing since this morning. Instead I picked up the huge amount of rubbish that seemed to have collected in the garden – does no-one take their rubbish home with them? – and searched on the internet to see if I could find out if you can still buy Trio biscuits.

I used to love those when I was a child and was always really excited when there was one in my packed lunch. Of course this was in the days before children were banned from having unhealthy things in their lunchbox. My search seems to have revealed the disappointing news that they appear not to be made anymore, which is a shame because they were really nice and were made up of a biscuit and a layer of fudge type stuff and then coated in chocolate. It makes me peckish just thinking about it. I didn't dare do a google image search for Trio because somehow I think I might have got rather more than I bargained for...

Anyway, a friend is coming over in a bit and we’re going out for dinner and then renting a DVD. I think a comedy of some sort might be in order for tonight.


I spent some time this morning going through my stuff and chucking bits out, deciding what I am going to take with me to the new place and what I will keep elsewhere.

Despite having moved so many times, I hadn’t remembered quite what a depressing process it is. Looking at all of my stuff and deciding what is important enough to keep with me and what I can live without for a while. Suddenly I feel a distinct sense of failure. At the age of 30 I am still living my life out of cardboard boxes moving from place to place. It isn’t really where I had expected to find myself at this age.

It’s not that I need to own property to feel that I have somehow achieved something, but finding somewhere permanent would also mean hopefully feeling that I belong somewhere and no longer having that vulnerability/ transience that goes with renting. Years ago my father, the charming man that he is, kicked me out of home for being a “loser” and a “disappointment”. The fact that all these years later I am still not settled anywhere and instead am looking at my possessions deciding what matters, maybe there is a bit of me that wonders if he is right?

I just keep looking at my stuff and thinking that in two weeks time it all has to be gone from here and so the decision on where it goes will have to be made.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The weekend is finally here

Finally it’s the end of the week. I feel totally worn out and am looking forward to falling asleep tonight. I had better make the most of this weekend, as I am off up north next weekend for work. There are a few weekends I have to work each year and sadly next weekend is one of them.

Anyway, money seems to have been a bit of a theme today. Work has paid me my expenses for going to Poland – twice. So they have basically given me £400 for free. Sadly, I can’t keep the money because I would feel really guilty about not paying it back. I once found £5 lying on the pavement and picked it up. It sat on my desk for ages because I just couldn’t spend it – what if it was some poor old lady’s pension? – and in the end I gave it to charity. The annoying thing is that I am sure they wouldn’t notice if I kept the money but I’d feel like I had stolen it, so I had better phone our finance people on Monday and find out how to give it back.

I also got some refunds from London Underground today, but they were totally wrong. They sent me £1.40 per journey, which is nowhere near the amount they should have refunded me. I phoned their Customer Services department and spoke to a complete idiot, who sounded as though I had woken her up. I explained what had happened and she then couldn’t operate the computer system to look at my records. I explained to her the amount I normally got refunded, the journeys I had made and the type of ticket I have and she came up with some really annoying responses such as:

So you have a pay as you go ticket” No, which is why I just told you I have an annual season ticket.
We pay the refund pro-rata and as you get six months free on an annual ticket, that’s why we’ll have refunded the amount we have.” No, I pay for 10 months instead of 12, but as my ticket cost about £1300 last year (they are old refunds London Underground have taken ages to pay) that is still not free!
Actually I don’t deal with refunds, so I don’t know the answer and my supervisor has told me to tell you to write to us because there is no-one here who can help you”. Well, at least it was honest.

I have taken on the might of London Underground before and won and I am sure this will be no exception, but it is annoying nonetheless.

I met up with my friend K this afternoon for a coffee and we talked about the staff survey results and what could be done to make sure some action is taken. She used to work in the unit but was transferred out because she fell out of favour, which is bizarre because she is really good at her job. Anyway, she is considering writing to HR to try and make them take the results seriously. Someone in my team told me that our Head of Unit approached him last night and said “When you filled out the staff survey did you expect them to publish your comments?” By asking the question in the way that she did she was basically forcing him to say whether he had filled out the survey. Which part of it being an anonymous and confidential survey does she not understand?

A slow news day

We always have Sky News on in our office and today Sky keeps replaying George Galloway seemingly pretending to be some kind of cat (we don’t have the sound on so I am guessing). There is something quite obscene about it and when you have seen it for about the fiftieth time it really does become somewhat nauseating watching Rula Lenska stroke his moustache.

I haven’t actually watched any of this series of Big Brother but as most of it seems to be have been replayed on Sky News today, I might have to revise that statement.

Perhaps it is time to switch to BBC News 24.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

More feedback

Just got a text from someone I was having a bit of a will we/ won’t we have a relationship type thing with saying “I’ve started going out with someone else. Thought I’d better mention it”. Guess that’s the end of that then.

It seems the staff survey comments were definitely not meant to have been published and have now been rapidly removed from the intranet. It’s a bit late though as a lot of people had already seen them. My Head of Unit saw them for the first time last night when they were drawn to her attention. She seems to be remarkably calm but has had various meetings with people a lot of today. Although she might not be a particularly pleasant person to work for, I don’t actually want her to feel as though everyone hates her. A lot of the reason she treats people the way she does seems to come from her lacking self awareness and being rather insecure and the survey is not going to change either of those.


So, the staff survey results have come out at work. It would be fair to describe them as “damning”. To the objective observer having only 7% of respondents agree with the statement “where I work morale is high” would suggest that there is an issue. As would only 4% of people agreeing that “senior management are in touch with the views and concerns of staff”.

My Head of Unit held an emergency meeting with some of the senior managers and the conclusion was that last year was a difficult one but it was “time to look to the future”. They also decided that the “senior management” in the survey did not refer to those within the unit, but instead were the senior managers above the senior managers in the unit– if that makes any sense? Well it certainly didn’t to me.

Anyway, there was no sign of the comments that people had given on the survey, but then one of my colleagues was searching for something on the intranet and stumbled across the comments. Admittedly they were very well hidden and my suspicion is that we are not meant to have access to them, as there were absolutely no links to it and no-one else appeared to have been aware of their existence – but if it’s on the intranet, it is obviously for general consumption. Well, that’s what my colleagues decided.

Whilst the staff survey may have been damning, the comments were very damning or what might alternatively be described as career ending. Responses to the question “what one thing could be done to improve the organisation?” being “get rid of our Head of Unit” or more general comments like “I have never worked in such an oppressive atmosphere” again indicate that all may not be well.

The problem is that someone seems to have made an error, which might indicate that someone was just being over-efficient when they put the comments on the intranet. The problem is that you can identify who some of the respondents are to this anonymous and confidential survey and the blood certainly drained out of a few people’s faces when they saw that their comments has been reproduced verbatim.

I have sent an e-mail out to my team to ask them to treat the comments with due care, particularly given the personal nature of some of what has been said. They’re a decent bunch so will do the right thing, but if it were me I would want to check the comments to see if mine had been published. But the thing is that despite the weight of evidence, I think the whole situation will still be a whitewash. Only now we will have to face our Head of Unit’s wrath because she is likely to turn it into a bit of a witch-hunt to find out who made the comments. Well, I guess if you express your views it is good to know that they are acted upon. There are interesting times ahead.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

On being English

This week a list was published of icons that represent England. The twelve items that have been published so far are Stonehenge; SS Empire Windrush; a cup of tea; Jerusalem (the hymn not the place); Punch and Judy; Alice in Wonderland; Holbein’s Portrait of Henry VIII; Angel of the North; The Spitfire; The King James Bible; The FA Cup; and the Routemaster bus.

I have to say that I am not entirely convinced by this list – do they really epitomise what it means to be English? The more cynical amongst us might instead list things such as well... cynicism or maybe sarcasm; football hooliganism; pointless RMT union strikes; a media that can one day be praising someone to the heavens but the next day tearing them to shreds – and the day after that, and the day after that... There is also our rather stilted English accent, just like Hugh Grant, or Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones, losing sports teams and, of course, phone boxes – with the glass all smashed out.

Although I was born and bred in England, I wouldn’t particularly class myself as English, instead I think of myself as British. I cannot really think of many things that would be classed as purely English. Afternoon tea? A Sunday roast? I am guessing that the Welsh might occasionally have a bit of lamb to go with their leeks or the Scottish some beef to go with their tatties and neeps. A sense of fair play? Well, whilst I hope that is indeed a British trait, I don’t think it is something that can only be claimed by the English. Despite what American films and sitcoms might have us believe we can’t even claim the Queen. There is no Queen of England, she is the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

It is not that I am opposed to people being identified as English, Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish, I just don’t think there is necessarily anything that is English rather than British.

Hold on. What’s that voice at the back? You’re the voice of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? What’s that you’re saying? We can have the Morris dancers? Oh right... erm... thanks... So what do I have to do to be Scottish?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

She's leaving home

So, the house contract is signed and it’s time to start to prepare to move again. You’d think I would be used to it by now given the number of times I have moved over the last decade or so.

There were the various houses I lived in at university, all of which were remarkably nice. I remember being horrified at having to pay £28 per week in rent. Those were the days...

I have lived in a number of places since but none surpass the memories etched on my brain from living with the woman I affectionately refer to as ‘evil landlady’. I wouldn’t claim to be the perfect tenant but it seems that my incompetence knew no bounds if the number of things I got told off for (and that is the correct phrase!) while I lived in her house is anything to go by. Let me give you some examples:

Not doing the washing up correctly. Did you now that it is wrong, wrong, wrong to fill a sink with water to do the washing up? What you actually must do is wash up under a running tap – but don’t run the tap too fast as that is also unforgivable. It is almost as bad as using that terrible Fairy liquid stuff. Instead you should be using some specially imported environmentally friendly washing up liquid. I remember doing the washing up sometimes and hearing evil landlady's approaching footsteps. I could feel the tension in my back and my mind would start to whirr "Am I running the tap too fast?" "Am I using the right cloth?" "Have I used too much washing up liquid?". You get the picture.

But the errors of my way were much worse than that… Too many crumbs in the toaster; too much steam when cooking vegetables; items that could be recycled being put in the bin. Now I am all for recycling but an occasional error in judgment being picked up because… wait for it… she used to go through my rubbish, began to grate just a teeny bit.

And let’s not even get on to arguing at 7 o’clock one morning when she announced I needed to leave one week before my notice expired because she needed the room back. A little tip, don’t even attempt a conversation with me at 7am, let alone one where you are going to try to renege on your legal obligations. The list could go on, but suffice to say that when I tunnelled my way out she did not get another tenant and not once did I regret the decision to escape.

Then I moved to the place I lived in until November last year. I lived there for over two years and it was a nice enough place, although very much more my housemate’s place than my own. There was also the chap who lived downstairs who liked to threaten both his girlfriend and his neighbours on a regular basis. I think the police and council were working on an ASBO to try and keep him in check when I moved out. Now I am set to move to another temporary abode, having just sorted the mouse problem where I am currently staying. So it has been an eventful few years. Anyway, hopefully after that I’ll move to a place that I will have bought. It would be nice to live somewhere that feels rather more permanent.

The new place looks good with the added bonus of a cat and no longer having to live on my own. I am not suited to solitary living. It’s just a shame that I will have to put some stuff in storage. I will have to work out how much I need something to be immediately at hand. My biggest concern is my books though. I won’t be too impressed if I have to pack loads of those away. I had actually put a ban on buying new books over the last few months and yet I still seem to have about 30 more books than I did when I moved to where I am now. How does that happen in the space of two months?

Monday, January 09, 2006

A deer in the headlights

Not only did I make it into work without any delays but I also made it home with no problems at all. Actually I possibly got home marginally quicker than I would normally because the train didn’t stop at one of the stations. What’s the point in having a tube strike if I still am able to get into work?

This evening I have been practising a talk that I am giving tomorrow. I waited until I got home to practice the talk because people tend to think you’re weird if they walk past a room and see you talking to no-one. One of my colleagues had offered to be an audience but I politely declined. It is a general presentation that we give to various audiences and there are no speaking notes, there are just some slides for me to speak to.

I have to give the talk twice tomorrow and there will be a couple of people who will be at both sessions. It will either mean that they will not find my extremely humorous jokes funny on both occasions or maybe the second time around they will pick up on their cue and start the spontaneous laughter. It’s a small audience, maybe a dozen people. I much prefer talking to bigger audiences. It is much more difficult to see the boredom in their eyes when there are more people.

I have to speak for about twenty minutes and then take questions. When I was practising this evening I just kept talking and talking and went over the time limit. I am hoping that, if nothing else, I might be able to hypnotise them with my voice. Children up to the age of one or so seem to find my voice fascinating and sometimes watch me intently when I am speaking. It’s not that I hang around small children a lot. I can be sitting in a restaurant or a park and suddenly notice this pair of eyes looking at me and I have managed to transfix another small child. Fortunately I only ever use my superpowers for good.

Anyway, I am hoping it goes ok in the morning because I have to go back in the afternoon to do the second talk even if I stand there like a deer caught in the headlights the first time around...

To lighten your day

Unfortunately, my tube journey was totally unaffected by the tube strike so I made it into work. Actually, when I say “totally unaffected” that is not entirely true. There were less people on the tube so it was more pleasant than normal but the roads were in chaos. I would not want to have been one of the community support officers directing traffic near where I work. Absolute mayhem. I shall keep an eye on the station closure in the vague hope that the situation may worsen and therefore provide me with an excuse to leave work early.

Anyway, with thanks to Annie Mole at the London Underground Tube Diary, here are some amusing announcements that may lighten your spirit if you have had a bad journey to work, or if you don’t live in London make you even more grateful that you don’t.

"A friend of a friend (etc..) worked as a station assistant at Warren Street station and one day whilst making a public announcement re busking/begging on London Underground, got the two slightly confused and came up with the following gem: "London Underground would like to remind everyone that buggering is not allowed at any Underground station!"

"Will the lady going down the escalator please lower her umbrella. It doesn't rain underground".

From the station announcer to a bunch of schoolkids on the platform:"You lot sitting where you think I can't see you - put that fag out, what would your parents think?"

"My friend was waiting the other night for the Northern Line when the tannoy burst into life with the following, which I think sums up British understatement: "When the gentleman urinating on Platform 3 has finished, would he ask the attendant for a mop and bucket. Thank you"

Heard from someone's college days with the wacky prank of pretending to teeter on the edge of the platform: "Will all passengers wishing to kill themselves please do so at a different station. Thank you."

"Could the guy who has decided to defecate at the end of Platform Two, now please be aware that all the rest of the passengers waiting for their trains know you are there and you will have to walk past them to leave the station. There is no other means of escape."

In the mornings there is always a delay with the change of drivers at Rickmansworth on the Metropolitan line and one morning a commuter found out why from the station announcement: "Mr Adams would you please stop gassing to Mr Farnham and get this bloody train out of the station".

"This is the Line Control Room at Baker Street. The Bakerloo Line is running normally today, so you may expect delays to all destinations."

There are many more such delights on Annie’s site here or you can read her blog here.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Leisure Pursuits

I bumped into my ex-housemate this morning and we had a bit of a chat. It was friendly enough so I think all is well there. That was the first time we’d had any contact since we went our seperate ways in November, in fact she didn’t even send me a Christmas card which I find a bit weird, but anyway it’s all fine.

I went into London last night to buy some DVDs and then went back this afternoon too and had a bit more of a browse. I was hoping to meet up with a friend but she is rabbit sitting at the moment and the rabbit has picked up some kind of bug infestation from the Christmas tree, which doesn’t sound entirely pleasant. What kind of bugs can you pick up from a Christmas tree anyway? I had to head home at a reasonable time because there is due to be a tube strike starting at 6.30 tonight.

It is an unusual strike in that the trains will be running but some stations may be closed. Station staff are meant to be striking because they are having their duties changed. There was a strike for the same reason on New Year’s Eve but the impact was fairly minimal, not that I was in London anyway at the time. I am hopeful that when I get up tomorrow I will discover that the stations I need to use for my journey to work are closed so that I can’t go in... Anyway, if you want some comment on the strike then Annie Mole’s blog is a good source (and don’t forget you can still nominate Annie’s or any of your other favourite blogs in the Bloggies. See my previous post if you have no idea what I am talking about).

Sadly my Head of Unit is due to return to work tomorrow. I can feel the cloud descending already. I get sent a round up of people’s diary so you can tell when people are in the office. My Head of Unit is meant to be having Blackberry training on Friday. I find this particularly odd as she can’t even use her computer. She can just about switch it on, but gets her secretary to print off all the e-mails and then dictates her responses for her secretary to then type and send on her behalf. So I have no idea what she would want a Blackberry for, but I am secretly hoping that it is an early retirement course where they teach you how to eat fruit and other such leisure pursuits. If eating fruit counts as a leisure pursuit...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

A chill in the air

My computer was a bit under the weather earlier. It seemed to object to loading pretty much anything. One of the few things it seemed not to object to was my own blog, so at least it had good taste.

It was freezing when I got up this morning and it was even snowing a bit. The snow now seems to have passed and we are just left with cold and rain instead. Anyway, I dashed into London earlier to see someone for about 15 minutes and then had to head straight back home again to get my hair cut. My hair is now neatly trimmed and I am sure my ear will soon recover from coming up against a particularly vicious comb.

I haven’t done a lot today beyond showing the ultimate in laziness by phoning the library to renew my books, even though it is about 50 yards from my front door. I also went to Tesco. I loathe supermarket shopping and today was no exception, particularly as they seemed not to stock any of the things that I wanted. Even the totally bog standard loaf of bread that I usually buy. Absolutely useless.

Anyway, on a totally different subject, you might be interested in the website Political Compass. You basically answer a series of questions and it plots your political leanings based on economic and social factors. I came out as an economic left social libertarian but reasonably near the centre. (-4.38/ -3.59 if that makes sense). That is pretty accurate. I definitely lean toward the left, but am not particularly extreme in any of my views. It might keep you amused for a few minutes.

Friday, January 06, 2006

A lighter note

I thought I would write a slightly more cheery post than the one earlier today.

As weeks go it went quite well. Only a four day week and although I was on call, I did not get one call the entire time. I think that is practically unheard of. So that was good and meant my sleep was left undisturbed. Always a priority.

I walked past Westminster Abbey tonight and as I did so the bells started to ring and it was really rather lovely walking through Parliament Square with the bells chiming in the background. I don’t think I have ever heard the Westminster Abbey bells before (unless it was on TV). Anna Overseas wrote a nice post about visiting London, including Westminster Abbey, a couple of days ago. I must try and go and Evensong there sometime, her description sounded really beautiful. I must also go on a London Walk. I have been meaning to for ages. [I’ll put a link to the actual post soon but it doesn’t seem to be working properly at the moment].

I also saw that Cadbury’s Creme Eggs are on sale. I know that it is totally ridiculous that in January you can buy a product related to Easter – Easter is in April!! – but I do like Cadbury’s Creme Eggs, despite them being really sweet and seemingly shrinking in size every year. I would do pretty much anything for a Cadbury’s Creme Egg or a Cadbury’s Double Decker for that matter. Mmm.....


I was decidedly unimpressed to learn that the Evening Standard and The Times published photos of a woman committing suicide. They not only published a photo of her standing on the top of the building preparing to jump but also of her as she plummeted to the ground. Apparently a passer-by took the photo. I don’t know the circumstances of it ending up in the hands of the press but I cannot imagine what would justify giving it to the media, or for them publishing it. A friend of the woman who died has made a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.

To me, pretty much the worst photos published about 11 September 2001 were those of the people who jumped to their deaths from the twin towers rather than remain trapped in the building. Showing anyone at the most desperate point of their life strikes me as unjustifiable. It couldn’t necessarily be avoided when images were being broadcast live on TV but there is a level of editorial decision-making when it comes to publishing something in the newspapers. Apparently the media have now agreed never to publish those photos again.

Anyway, I was thinking about that story, as they were talking about it on the radio this morning. However, it became a bit more pertinent to me at lunchtime today when I met up with a friend for lunch. C is one of my best mates and we meet up pretty much every week for a cuppa and a chat. She had phoned me earlier in the week and we’d chatted briefly. She’d mentioned that her mum was really depressed and it had come on very suddenly a day or so before Christmas. Without going into the circumstances, it seems that a couple of days ago her mum decided that suicide was the only option. Fortunately, it worked out so that she didn’t go through with it but these are still very dark days.

We just sat there and talked about it. My friend’s mum doesn’t want to see anyone at the moment, so C doesn’t know whether she should go home or not, in case it makes things worse. She is also trying to support her dad and her brother, who are wondering what to do. Normally there is at least a trigger for her depression but this time it seems to have come from nowhere.

Depression can be triggered by something specific or seemingly nothing. It is also something that you cannot come up with a one size fits all solution for. Some people respond to medication, others need counselling and so on. But anyone who reaches the point of even contemplating suicide doesn’t need images of others’ plight broadcast for all to see.

I don’t know why I continue to be surprised by the new lows to which the media can sink, but once again they have surpassed themselves.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Time to pack again

So, the house was nice and I am going to move in at the end of the month. I am going to have to put a lot of my stuff in storage as there won't be room for it there. The woman who owns the house was really friendly and I spent a while chatting to her and one of her sons and his girlfriend over a cup of tea.

Anyway, more tomorrow as I am feeling really tired. Working a four day week is really hard work. What am I going to do when I have to work five days next week?

Sleep well.


I had a really delayed journey home last night. Someone was taken ill on the train so we had to wait for an ambulance to turn up before we could continue. The person must have been very ill because I have been on trains before where people have been taken ill and London Underground staff just get the person off the train as soon as possible to keep the service moving. A woman fainted on the train once and they carried her of and put her on the platform so the train could move off. Charming. Anyway, three paramedics arrived and eventually wheeled the person away.

The friend I spent New Year with set me a target of claiming back 80% of my tube fares this year. Basically if you are delayed on the tube for 15 minutes or more you can fill out a form and they’ll refund your fare. However, an 80% refund would mean getting back about £1200, which is no mean feat, particularly as the most I have ever claimed back is £120. But you never know unless you try and I have now claimed back about £4 of it because of last night’s delay, so only another £1996 to go.

One of my colleagues said to me this morning that her six year old daughter would be willing to rent me her Wendy house that is in their back garden. Apparently it has a full range of (to scale) appliances and would include free use of the garden slide. The rent would be in the form of sweets. So this could be the fall back plan if tonight’s house viewing doesn’t work out. Always good to have options.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Things are looking up

This evening I had a long conversation on the phone with the woman who is looking for a tenant. It seems she hadn't got the message that I had left, so it was a good job I had phoned back. The house sounds really nice and I am going over to have a look at it tomorrow night. It's £340 a month including bills which is very good by London standards.

I am feeling much relieved. Of course, I may decide I hate the place tomorrow or think the woman is awful, but somehow I doubt it. Suddenly feeling much more positive.

The calm before the storm

I feel much better today, as whatever was making me feel unwell yesterday has gone. It was probably a combination of getting up while it was still dark (which I think should be banned), returning to work, and using a mug that had sat on my desk unwashed for the couple of weeks I was on leave. I did wash the mug before I used it, but perhaps I should have used an industrial strength cleaning product.

Last night I phoned and left a message for the woman who might possibly have a spare room, but she hasn’t called me back yet. Hopefully I will speak to her tonight to find out the situation. A friend texted me last night and said that I can store some stuff in her garage if I want and I am also considering offering to loan some of my furniture to a friend who has just bought a house. I don’t suppose he can have very much furniture and so it might help him to spread out the cost of moving a bit more and would mean that my stuff was at least being put to some use. So I am trying not to get stressed and am instead focussing on planning what to do about my impending move.

You will probably have seen the story in the news about the miners in West Virginia. They were trapped in a mine following an explosion and through mis-communication their families were told that all but one had survived, but in fact all but one had died. That must be really awful for the families. It would be hard enough losing someone but being given that brief glimmer of hope to then have it dashed, must make it all the worse.

It is still really quiet at work. In fact there seem to be less people in today than yesterday. There is also the added bonus of my Head of Unit not being back until Monday, so that has made it rather more pleasant to be back in the office. Somebody said to me yesterday that it makes such a difference to the atmosphere at work to not have our Head of Unit constantly giving us a hard time. It is amazing the impact that one person can have on your working environment, but I shall enjoy the peace and quiet while it lasts.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Back to work

I have been feeling decidedly unwell most of the day. I am hardly ever ill. I haven’t had a day off sick from work for almost five years, so when I feel unwell, I don’t really know quite what to do with myself. When I was at work I was thinking 'Should I go home? Is the journey home going to make me feel worse?' I just feel really sick and can’t quite stand up straight as that makes me feel more ill. I also feel really, really cold and my hands keep shaking. These are probably not good symptoms.

I wanted one of my colleagues to wheel me to the station on my office chair and then deposit me on a tube train seat so that I didn’t have to move myself. However, you probably aren’t meant to remove items of furniture from the office, so perhaps that isn’t the best idea.

When I got home I had some soup and a bit of toast. It was wonton soup because it was all I had in the cupboard but I guess if Chinese medicine can make you better then maybe Chinese soup can. Right?

Beyond feeling ill, it has also been a frustrating day in that there was an e-mail from the people whose house I am living in at the moment saying that they need the house back at the end of January. Although not entirely unexpected, it is still somewhat unwelcome news. I have only just settled in and now I have to pack everything up again. Not that I have anywhere to go as yet. I sent a friend an e-mail this morning to ask if a possibility they had mentioned to me a few weeks ago might still be available. I have now got a phone number and will phone the woman in a bit to find out if it might be an option. I really do need to sort out somewhere permanent to live because moving house a lot is not a life I am suited to.

Apart from that work was fine. Very few of us were in, but I spent a while talking to one of my team about his concerns about the high turn over of staff that we have at the moment. The main reason for people wanting to leave is that they have had enough of our Head of Unit being so rude to them. Our staff survey results are starting to be published now and I am hoping that at last some action might be taken about the way people are treated. In the interim we need to hang on to staff though, as they are good people and deserve to be treated better. A few months ago I even approached HR about my concerns because I thought it totally unacceptable that people were spoken to in the way that they are. HR agreed but said there was little that could be done.

I also found out today that one of my team got an honour in the New Year’s List, for something non-work related though. I am, however, taking personal credit for it. One of my team was given an honour in June. I had been his manager for about two weeks when it was announced. I had been the manager of the person who has just been awarded an honour for about 3 or 4 weeks before it was announced. Coincidence? I think not. [Actually in case you don’t know anything about the awards process, you are nominated for it months and sometimes a year in advance of it being announced, so it has nothing to do with me being their manager at all, but I obviously have delusions of grandeur].

Anyway, it has been a mixed return to work, some good stuff, and some bad. Now I need to put my thinking cap on and find somewhere new to live.

The Bloggies are coming

It’s the Bloggies time of year again. What are those you may be asking? Basically, they are the blogging world’s equivalent of the Oscars, but without the statue.

Anyway, if you want to nominate your favourite blogs, here’s the link. This is not actually a plea for you to nominate me. I have done my nominations and I assure you I was not within them. However, it is a request for you to consider noimnating Annie Mole’s blog London Underground Tube Diary in the categories of ‘Best British or Irish Weblog’ and ‘Best Topical Blog’. If you don’t live in London then her site may not be of primary interest to you, but it is a great blog and she has just been awarded the World’s Best Urban Blogger. She has twice got through to the finals of the Bloggies but has never actually won. So maybe this is the year for her?

Even if you don’t vote for Annie, you probably have various blogs that you really like reading, so why not nominate them? You have until 10 January to make the nominations and you can then vote for the blogs that get through that stage from 20 January onwards. I will try and remember to put a reminder up.

My nominations are in, so I cannot be bribed, but the people I link to over on the right tend to feature pretty highly in my nominations, if that helps to massage any egos.

Update: [You have to read this in a whispered tone, as the person I am going to mention has gone all coy]. Someone else you might like to consider nominating is Anna at Little Red Boat. Another jolly good read. But obviously it's just a suggestion and it's up to you who you may wish to nominate.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Dutch courage

Sadly it is my last day of leave, as it is back to work tomorrow. It seems to have gone by so quickly. I spent the day with my mum, sister and nephew, which was good. My nephew is 9 months old and is very cute. I am also now the proud owner of a shiny new DVD recorder. Woo-hoo! I shall wire it up later.

Anyway, on other matters, recently I was thinking about the fact that I don’t drink alcohol. I have seen the ill-effects of alcohol consumption too many times to have much interest in it.

However, there are some things that I think maybe I lose out on by not drinking. The main thing is that my inhibitions are never lowered. On the whole that is probably a good thing, I am never going to wake up next to someone and think "I don’t even know who you are". I also don’t end up giving away people’s secrets in some drunken moment. But it does mean that I am always looking at the world from the same, entirely sober, perspective.

I am someone who is reasonably risk averse. That has changed to some degree over the last few years because I think as you get older you reach a point where you realise that if you aren’t willing to take risks you will end up achieving nothing. Doing anything new involves an element of risk because there is some unknown element within it and you just have to work out which risks are worth it. I suppose that’s where the problem comes into it for me though. As I have just said, I have to "work out" whether it is worth the risk, there is always that element of analysing it. It never seems to be totally off the cuff. That’s not entirely true, there are times when I have done stuff because the opportunity has presented itself, such as a sky dive in New Zealand a few years ago. If you ever get the chance you should do one, it was fantastic.

Anyway, if I am having dinner with people, I can see them relax a bit more when they have had a drink. Whereas sipping a diet coke doesn’t have quite the same effect. I am generally reasonably shy, when people have known me for a while they say they don’t think that is true. People at work also find it odd if I say that because I can stand up in front of a couple of hundred people and give a presentation without it worrying me. But I don’t think that is the same thing, my shyness comes from unfamiliar situations. Meeting new people brings out my shy side, so that doesn’t apply when I have known someone for a while, and if I am giving a talk, I usually know the topic reasonably well and so my confidence comes from the familiarity of knowing my subject. Networking should be a big part of my job, but I hate it so much and sometimes think that maybe a glass of wine would make it slightly more bearable and give me the ability to relax a bit more whilst making small talk with people I have never met before.

Often people only say things when they have had a bit to drink. I went to the pub with people after work on the day I finished for Christmas. As I was leaving I stopped to say goodbye to my colleague K and thanked her for being such a good friend over the last few months. She is the person I called when I bumped into the ex a couple of months ago and we sat in the cafe at work and I cried and she gave me words of wisdom. One of my other colleagues overheard what I was saying to K at the pub and made some comment about needing to be drunk to say what I was. I wasn’t actually saying anything very profound, I was just saying thank you in my usual stumbling way. Somehow though it seems more acceptable to compliment or thank someone when you have had a bit to drink, and people think you are a bit weird if you do it when you’re sober.

So that seems to make my choice to either take up drinking so that I can tell people I appreciate them, or to remain sober and be silent. Isn’t that more strange? I guess at least people know I am sincere when I say things. However, it means that I have had to learn to pay someone a compliment just because I want to, rather than having a bit of "Dutch Courage" to encourage me. Being sober can therefore be a challenge in its own way, as you never have an excuse to do or say things. I try and push myself anyway to show people a bit of appreciation and respect if I feel that I should say something, but sometimes it would be good to have a bit of help!

As you can tell, I also obviously have the ability to ramble without the need for a drink...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

And another thing

Today I was reminded of one of my favourite blog posts from 2005. As usual, I can’t really explain exactly why I like it so much (I do actually have an A-level in English, as unbelievable as that may seem), except that it’s one of those posts that you read and you can just really feel what it says and think how great it would be if someone were actually to say that to you. It also made me laugh, in a nice way.

Anyway, here it is. It’s called "Fire" and is from the Fuzzy End of the Lollipop

I never thought for one moment she might have the similar insecurities about her body as I do. I look at her effortlessly female lines and I want to know every part of them. She asked me ‘are you attracted to me?’ as I held both hands on the steering wheel. ‘Yes very much so’ doesn’t really cover it and maybe I should have said ‘I spend most of our time trying not to touch you too much, cause I want to all the time, touch you. I go around with this fire inside ever since we first kissed and the very thought of you threatens to engulf me in flames.’ But maybe that is coming on a wee bit too strong.

Great post and Fuzzy, you should have said it! I would, once again, tip my hat, but I still haven’t found the blasted thing.