Friday, March 31, 2006

All change

“We trained hard, but it seemed that, every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganised.

I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress, while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.”


I was in meetings all day yesterday, which included one about how the area I work in is going to be re-organised. Apparently my Head of Unit is going (which is obviously really good news) and my boss is also moving. My boss’ move will be soon and I have raised concerns about us not getting a replacement for a while (particularly as I will have to run the section until he is replaced). We have had so many changes over the last several months that to be honest it is just becoming par for the course.

I went to someone’s leaving drinks last night, which was good and it was nice to chat to various people. However, in the reorganisation the person who is leaving will end up working with is again – so I’ll be asking for the money back that I put in the collection.

Anyway, only today to get through and then I’m on leave. I can’t wait…

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Totally reasonable

Yesterday I had one of those days at work where you just don’t seem to have time to stop and think. I had to give a talk yesterday morning, which went fine. Except that what should have been a twenty minute talk lasted about 45 minutes because they kept stopping me to ask questions. I then had to leave before that meeting was over to have a meeting with someone else. I finally got back to my desk in time to eat a sandwich before having to speak to my head of unit to prepare for a meeting in the afternoon. I then went and gave another talk and finally walked back into my office only to be asked to go to a “quick meeting” that ended up lasting about an hour. I hardly got anything else done of use, am in a meeting pretty much all day today and am on leave as of the end of this week. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh *Focus on being on leave. Focus on being on leave*

So, Blue Peter has suspended free access to various attractions due to the shocking trade in their badges going on at e-bay. Do you see what happens when people abuse the system? It’s like one child being naughty in class and everyone getting a detention. As the programme’s editor said this is a “cynical trade” and I think if a stop isn’t put to it the people involved in this will be trading ivory and endangered species before we know it.

I am feeling a bit irritable at the moment, mainly due to that thing called PMT. I am generally fairly emotionally stable and reasonable but occasionally I may become slightly irrational. I met up with a friend for coffee on the way home from work yesterday and while we were talking I apologised for being a bit irritable. She told me that she’d read an article about how some drug has been developed that is meant to get rid of PMT. I asked her a couple of questions about it but she replied “Oh, I didn’t pay much attention to it because I don’t get PMT”. I don’t know how I didn’t know this, as we shared a house at university. Anyway, I stabbed her to death. Perfectly reasonable response to extreme provocation there I think, so I reckon I’ll get off.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Contains some nudity

Well, despite my excitement at us now being on British Summertime and us therefore having lighter evenings, when the clouds descend due to the rain, it is still pretty dark – and it makes for a rather less pleasant walk home. I shall have to speak to the weatherman and complain. I was amused the other day when I was watching the BBC London News and the weatherman said “we were going to broadcast from across the river on the South Bank but when we got there, there were naked acrobats”. Now that would have made for a rather more interesting broadcast, even if I might have choked on my dinner.

I read on the BBC News website yesterday that some researchers think that if you give people the hormone cortisol they might be more able to deal with phobias. They tested it on people who had a social phobia and some who were afraid of spiders. Now, as I have said before I am afraid of spiders and I can see two flaws with this plan.

First, don’t you think women have enough hormones pumping around their body already that make them potentially moody and unreasonable at a particular point each month. (Obviously this doesn’t apply to me, as I am sweetness and light every single day). Also, men with too many hormones might regress to being like 15 year old boys - and we all know what they get up to. So I think some more thought may need to go into this part of the research.

Second, I am scared of spiders so don’t actually want to reach a point where I can pick one up or wish to adopt it as a pet. They are horrible, spindly creatures that lurk about in the dark and then leap out at you when you least expect it. Why would I want to be on better terms with a spider if that is the kind of thing that they do? If a person acted like that, you would wisely tell me stay away, not try and make me befriend them.

So basically I am not impressed by this research and am not going to be offering to take part in any trials to test it out. Spiders are evil and I am therefore perfectly rational in my desire to rid the planet of them. Some kind of research on how to fulfil my quest to exterminate them would be a far better use of scientists’ time.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

First Aid

It was really nice to walk home from the station last night in daylight. I’d forgotten how much I like daylight and it feels as though winter might finally be on the way out.

On the way into work yesterday, when I went to change from one train to another, a woman was crouched down in front of a pillar on the platform with her head resting against it and she had been sick. I went over and asked if she needed any help. She was looking very rough and said she just wanted something to stop her mouth tasting really awful. So I dug out a throat sweet, as that was about all I had on me, but then realised I had some apples with me and offered her one of those. So that means yesterday I spoke to someone who had been sick - and wasn’t actually ill myself - and gave away some of my food. Unheard of!

I was also very shocked to learn that Blue Peter Badges are becoming a big seller on e-bay. All those children who earned their badges by white water rafting or saving an entire rainforest now discover that they could have just logged on to e-bay with their parents’ credit card and just bought one. Think of all those people who will be gaining free entry to stately homes by producing their badge which they should have got by carrying out acts of daring and bravery. This is bringing a great British institution into disrepute and must be stopped.

Oh and excitingly, there are some developments in the blogging world. We have the return of Fuzzy, who it now seems has moved on to the Elvis Years. If I recall correctly Fuzzy lost a lot of weight last year, so I’m hoping that it’s not the years when Elvis was eating a lot of junk food. Anyway, it’s good to have her back and the blogging world breathes a sigh of relief. We also have the welcome addition of Letters from a Norfolk Broad, which you may also wish to take a look at. I will update my links at some point in the not too distant future. Honest.

Monday, March 27, 2006

What has the tortoise taught us?

I have had a bit of an ache inside my head for some of the weekend. The computer at home is in a kind of alcove that has a wooden beam running along it. A number of times when I stood up I struck my head rather hard off the beam. It’s not that I am really tall, I am a pretty standard height, but the beam is very low. The thing is that you would expect that when you have done it a couple of times you’d learn and not do it again. However, it seems hitting my head doesn’t even have the added bonus of knocking some sense into me and me therefore learning not to do it again.

On the coffee table at home at the moment there is a booklet that belongs to my landlady called “Countdown to Moving to the Countryside”. Hmm, I think there may be a message there somewhere… I may actually be going to view a couple of properties later in the week. As my landlady was in Cardiff this weekend visiting one of her children she may have got even more of an appetite for moving there, so maybe some decisiveness on my part would be advisable.

I like Tina’s blog over at Cakesniffers Beware. She’s very, very funny and always a good read. Anyway, at the moment she is trying something called Infinite Blogger which I’d try to explain but to be honest she can explain it far better than I could. Bizarre but funny – unless you’re offended by somewhat rude words in which case both her normal blog and her new initiative include some naughty words and might be best avoided.

Oh and the title today is because of the death of a really old tortoise last week. They estimate it was about 250 years old. Sky News did some major story on it at the end of last week which included a timeline going through all the different events in history it had lived through. It’s a tortoise!! I don’t suppose it spent much time discussing what it did during the war or where it was when it heard Kennedy had been shot. Anyway if you speak proper like what I do then the words “taught us” and “tortoise” are pronounced exactly the same and it makes me laugh to say “What has the tortoise taught us?”, but people look at me kind of quizzically if ever I actually ask the question out loud. *thinks* Erm, maybe I shouldn’t be admitting that here.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

You don't have to be mad to be me but it helps

So, I’m now the proud owner of a new car. It’s very nice (what a totally non-descript word…) and I’m really pleased with it. We met at McDonalds and did the car exchange, as the dealer took my previous car in part exchange. I managed to escape McDonalds having only consumed a cup of tea and some strange barbecue chicken thing to keep me going until I got back to London. What was the first thing I did when I got back to London? Amazingly it wasn’t eating something, it was actually going to the supermarket, although I did grumble and sigh my entire way round the shop as I was hungry. But even with a shiny new car I still couldn’t resist going to the supermarket. It was like The Sirens were calling.

Yesterday a friend sent me some stuff in the post. As an aside, isn’t it exciting getting things in the post, well except bills and so on? I used to write letters all the time and have really lost the art of doing that, but getting letters is always really good. Anyway, there was something slightly jokey written on the front of the envelope and someone, I guess at the sorting office, had added a note to it to kind of supplement what was written on the envelope. I thought that was very odd and was kind of surprised anyone had paid enough attention to notice what it said on the envelope. At least the contents arrived safely but I will look at the postman suspiciously next time I see him.

My plans for last night actually ended up being cancelled, as my friend’s baby was ill. Hopefully we will meet up when I am off work the week after next instead. However, I managed to keep myself occupied. I spent some time amusing myself by watching the film Ice Age. This included switching the sound off the TV at various points during the film and playing some music on a CD and seeing if I could get them to fit together - so basically the CD was the soundtrack and the TV pictures were the video. It kept me amused for ages. Do you need any more proof that I should not be left home alone on a Saturday night? *shakes head in despair at self*

Oh and it’s Mother’s Day, so I am going to my parents’ house later to drive them to a restaurant my sister has booked for us to have lunch at. I have mixed feelings about this, but hopefully it will be ok. My mum is very nice, but these family things are often kind of stressful. If Mother’s Day is not one that brings you much joy either because it’s a sad day for you or because your mother was formed in the fires of hell then at least you have one less hour to endure of the day than normal what with the clocks going forward last night. See, things are looking better already.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Seeing is believing

So, it’s an early start and off to Bristol this morning to collect my car. I would have tried to catch up with a couple of friends while I am there but have to rush back as I am having my hair cut this afternoon. Then I’m off up to Hitchin (it’s near Luton) to visit a friend from school. She’s suffering from post-natal depression. She had the baby last July and I didn’t know you could get it so far afterwards, but she isn’t sounding great at the moment. Anyway, it will be good to catch up.

At work we were concerned that in the latest budget the Chancellor announced that they would be funding after school science clubs. So basically instead of playing sport and running round in the fresh air, they’ll be sitting in labs getting fat and probably making drugs to sell in the playground. Is there any hope for the youth of this country?

It was only recently I realised that Gordon Brown has a false eye. When I was at first school there was a boy in my class who had a false eye and we used to ask him to take it out so we could see what it looked like behind his eye. This was obviously in my less squeamish days and to be honest I think I have totally wiped from my mind what it looked like. It makes my hands tingle just to think about it.

On that note, I am off to Bristol…

Friday, March 24, 2006

End of Waiting

Fortunately, I am someone who can admit when their wrong. It turns out that the hired help had put my insurance documents somewhere very safe i.e. mixed in with a load of leaflets that had come through the door. I suddenly noticed there were some letters mixed in and when I checked there was the letter I had been waiting for. Fortunately I realised this before I got all fierce with my insurance company. They are incompetent and have regularly got my insurance documents wrong, but this time they were not at fault. Once they had to reissue my insurance documents about five times as they kept spelling my surname wrongly. I mean how difficult is it to spell ‘Reflections’? Obviously there will have to be a disciplinary for the hired help. Where does one get good staff these days? Anyway, today I am more sheepish than fierce like a bear.

I was pleased to hear that Norman Kember has been freed. It has to be said that it was looking dodgy whether he would get out alive and must have been a horrible ordeal. Whilst working in Iraq was perhaps not the best choice, it’s a good outcome. I have read various accounts of Western hostages held in Beirut like Terry Waite and Terry Anderson. Norman Kember’s release reminds me of a poem by Konstantin Simonov quoted in Terry Anderson’s (who was a US hostage) biography.

Wait for me, and I’ll return.
Only wait very hard…
Wait. For I’ll return, defying every death.
And let those who did not wait say that I was lucky.
They never will understand that in the midst of death,
You with your waiting saved me.
Only you and I know how I survived
It’s because you waited as no-one else did.


Anyway, on less serious matters, hopefully all is now set for me to get my new car tomorrow. I’ve got to get up early and drive to Bristol to go and pick it up. We’re meeting in a McDonald’s car park. Doesn’t sound dodgy at all does it? So, if I fancy picking up some drugs and hardening my arteries by eating a Big Mac, then it is the ideal location. Woo-hoo!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Fierce like a (teddy) bear

Well my record of seeing famous people continues. Last week I saw Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen and Peter Andre. Yesterday on the tube I saw Michael Howard and even (accidentally) touched his elbow. I don’t think I caught anything though. You’re still more excited that I saw a stoat on Sunday though aren’t you?

Talking of things kind of politics related (that was Michael Howard rather than the stoat) there was apparently a coup in The Gambia yesterday. I have a friend who lives there and sent me an e-mail to say that she wasn’t allowed to leave work because all the roads had been shut off around the capital. On the BBC news website it said it was just a coup plot, but it seems that those in the know think that something actually did happen. I think the President took power through a coup several years back so I guess he knows that such things can succeed. I can’t really imagine us ever having a coup here though.

My latest irritation is not having received my insurance documents for my new car. I phoned my insurance company to ask where it was and they assured me they had sent it out first class on the 18th. I did point out that this was therefore an incredibly slow first class service – and whatever people may say about Royal Mail I am actually convinced it’s my insurance company who have messed up this one. He did offer to fax it to me but then I asked if a document that was not the original would be accepted by the Post Office and he said “no”, so I did point out that this was no use to me.

They are now going to send it directly to the car dealer but I spoke to the dealer tonight who has told me to phone back today and insist they send it out by first class registered post at their expense because they are legally obliged to provide the documentation. So I have to be fierce on the phone. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr. Just practicing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I had to work late yesterday which was irritating in itself, but even more so as it was due to someone else’s incompetence. They’d had a piece of work sitting ignored on their computer for over a week and then yesterday, the day after it passed it’s deadline, it was given to me. I spent most of the day working on it and then passed it on to someone else as it needed to go with some work she was doing, and was told that she’d deal with it today as she hadn’t done her part of the work. Unimpressed does not quite describe my reaction.

Anyway, at the moment I have a few bits of music on my computer at work and whenever my boss is away from his desk I put my headphones in and have a listen. Isn’t “Beautiful Child” by Rufus Wainwright a fantastic song? It can really lift my mood and was an excellent antidote to yesterday’s annoyances.

On the radio at the moment I am also liking "No Tomorrow" by Orson. Good song.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sight unseen

I didn’t do a lot last night. I had a wander on the internet and caught up on a bit of reading. My laptop seems to have stopped connecting to the internet properly which is rather annoying.

Anyway, a couple of updates. I no longer need to go to Glasgow as my boss is going instead. So that’s good and makes my head feel slightly less full. Not that there’s huge amounts in my head generally, which I think might explain why tunes seem to rattle around in there a lot. I have a few things to sort out this week, not least getting my new car *claps hands with glee*, so I now have a bit more time to do that. In case I haven’t explained this properly, I am picking this car up sight unseen. Maybe a weird way to buy a car but it works for me. I just tell the car dealer exactly what I want and a short time later there it is waiting for me. Apparently it is a silvery colour, which is quite radical for me.

I was also talking to a colleague at work about the stoat, as he knows about such things. Apparently it is not very common to see them and we discussed stoat sizes and it seems they are actually very small, so maybe it was actually an adult stoat. Do you care? No, I thought not.

Yesterday my landlady showed me the details of a house in Cardiff. Being a complete scaredy cat I didn’t actually say to her “So are you moving to Cardiff?” and instead we talked about how much work it might take to do it up as it was described as “in need of complete modernisation”. You see, I really do want to stick my head in the sand. Even with the evidence being given to me, and presumably all I would have to do is ask about her plans, in my mind it is better not to ask. Generally I deal better with certainties but when it comes to having a roof over my head I would just rather not think about it until I am forced to – although obviously I am thinking about it or I wouldn’t be commenting on it here. Women, we’re so contradictory…

Monday, March 20, 2006

Back to nature

Well, it seems that my landlady has applied for that job in Cardiff and is waiting to hear if she gets an interview. She hasn’t actually said this to me, I heard her saying it to someone on the phone. So, I’d better wait and see what happens really. I am not entirely thrilled by this news though.

I went for a walk yesterday afternoon, as it was sunny out and I didn’t want to be stuck at home all afternoon. There are some woods nearby and I went for a wander there. I wanted to sit somewhere and just listen to my radio and take in some nice views, but it was only when I set off that I realised the batteries were running out in my radio so that knocked that plan on the head. I went for a wander anyway and saw a stoat. I don’t actually know how big stoats are but this one was very small, so I think maybe it was a baby stoat. I am actually impressed that I know what a stoat looks like and wanted to take a photo of it on my phone but it ran off. Very cute though. I didn’t even know you could get stoats in London.

My boss was on leave last week but is back today which should be ok but usually means more hassle about stuff. He can be a bit of a control freak at times, although not as much as my head of unit. Apparently my head of unit has now indicated that she wants to take early retirement, so that’s sounding hopeful. I am off to Glasgow at the end of the week so at least it is only a short week in the office. In the next couple of days I have to get round to writing a talk for when I am in Glasgow as I don’t think any of the ones that I have at the moment are up to the job. Better get thinking...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Passing Notes

The chap I sit next to at work really makes me laugh. Think Roy Cropper from Coronation Street and you’ll have an idea of the kind of chap he seems to be, but underneath that meek exterior is a really wicked sense of humour and he makes me chuckle a lot. I was meant to arrange for him to move desks a while ago due to some staff changes, but I dragged my feet on it in the hope that it wouldn’t have to happen and my procrastination proved successful.

Anyway a couple of days ago he said to me and a colleague, C, that he needed some advice. We were both intrigued and asked him what it was about. He was slightly embarrassed and just said he wasn’t really sure what to do. It seems that a woman who works in another unit had been sitting by his desk talking to him and when she left there was this small blue card, maybe 4cm by 3 cm, left there on the desk. He picked it up thinking that she’d forgotten it but when he looked at what it was, he wasn’t so sure. On the outside it said “In case you haven’t guessed…” and then when he opened it said “of all the friends in the world, you’re the very best”.

What do you do in that circumstance? Do you phone and ask if they have forgotten something or say thank you or just ignore it? C said he should phone her and see if she had forgotten it but we decided that this could get very awkward- what if this was like in the playground and she was saying that she wanted to be his best friend? He was so bashful and just didn’t quite know what to do with himself. In the end we decided that burying his head in the sand and ignoring it was by far the best way to deal with it, always the best approach in such circumstances I think. But he’s kind of embarrassed about the prospect of seeing her again. Maybe we’re wrong though, perhaps we should go back to those days where you went up to someone at school and asked them to be your best friend. Much simpler days.

I have a new issue to stick my own head in the sand about. It seems that my landlady is looking to apply for a job in Cardiff. One of her children lives there and she’d vaguely talked before about moving there but now seems to be making approaches to organisations to see if there are any suitable jobs on offer. I think my brain is set to implode if I have to move again before I finally buy somewhere. Maybe it will all come to nothing but there’s a huge part of me that doesn’t want to think about it and just wants it all to go away. *sigh*

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Planes, trains and automobiles

I think I have probably said before that I am going to Scotland on holiday at the end of May. I was hoping to catch the sleeper train but a friend phoned me this morning to say that all the seats had already been booked, even though booking had only just opened. They only release one date at a time, so if you want to book a return ticket you have to wait until the second date has been released or else go to the expense of buying two singles.

I am kind of disappointed. When do you normally get the chance to sleep on a train? Actually, technically I do that every morning on the way into work but that’s not the point. It would have been really interesting to get the train up through the Scottish countryside, particularly as last year I stayed at Bridge of Orchy in a hostel which is literally on the station platform. Before you went to bed at night and when you woke up in the morning, the sleeper train would stop at the platform. You are slightly taking your life in your hands by staying there as there are triple bunks and if you’re in the top bunk, as I was, it is a bit precarious as there isn’t even a safety bar to keep you in.

When I was about 7 or 8 we were on holiday in Denmark and I fell out of the top bunk of a bunk bed on to the hard concrete floor below and injured my arm. Since then I have never been very keen to sleep in bunk beds, although admittedly I do seem to recall with that incident in Denmark that I was actually experimenting with how easy it might be to fall out of the top bunk. Erm, no, I’m not entirely sure why I needed to know the answer to that one, but I did find out... I therefore, of course, ended up in the top bunk at Bridge of Orchy last year, due to some German blokes (they are mixed dorms) being most ungentlemanly and taking the lower bunks.

Anyway, I now need to sort out some flights instead now. I should really fly to Inverness but it is probably much cheaper to fly to Aberdeen so I might do that and then get a hire car from there. *starts to count down to going away on holiday*

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

No Hablo Espanol

Although it was good to be in Madrid, one of my frustrations about being there was my inability to speak Spanish. I was in Barcelona a few years ago and did give it a go but people just kept looking at me, as… well, as though I was speaking a foreign language, which was what I was meant to be doing, but it obviously wasn’t Spanish. I assume that something got lost in translation. I am actually quite tempted to learn Spanish, so might look into that at some point. Of course had I followed these pointers I would probably have got people’s attention, but probably not in the way that I might have hoped.

I always feel there is something slightly patronising about assuming people can speak English. Often that is true but if I am in another country, why should I expect them to speak to me in my language? Fortunately most people were very gracious and we found some way to communicate reasonably effectively.

My talk was simultaneously translated and I assume it was reasonably accurate, although to be honest I have no idea. I also met up with someone who, although British, is fluent in Spanish and was kind enough to do lots of translation for me.

I had to get a few taxis while I was away and at least my lack of Spanish meant that I didn’t have to engage in the usual taxi driver banter. I did think the taxi drivers were a bit cheeky though as they started their meters even before I got into the cab. Yesterday morning I had ordered a taxi for 9am, I went to wait for the taxi before 9am and he was already there and had started the meter as soon as he arrived even though he was early. Of course, I couldn’t complain, what with not being able to speak the lingo.

Driving in Madrid was also kind of hazardous. Cars would edge past each other coming within centimetres of coming into contact. I’m a London driver so am used to impolite and aggressive driving but we are amateurs by comparison. There are also hardly any signposts so if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re going to struggle there. Mind you none of the taxi drivers seemed to know where they were going either and relied on their satellite navigation to find anywhere. Now you wouldn’t get that with a London cabbie, now would you? But, somehow I’d still rather be in sunny Madrid right now.

Oh and today is the Ides of March and apparently you’re meant to beware of that, so er, well, be careful out there.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sun, Spain and stars

I survived Madrid and have made it home in one piece. Lovely weather, being wined and dined, given gifts for speaking... It’s a hard life, but I endured it.

If I were a more seasoned traveller I would obviously have to look with disdain at those who find flying business class worthy of comment. But I think it would generally be fair to describe me as ‘cheap’, so when someone else is paying for me to get free stuff, it’s like all my Christmases come at once.

I arrived in plenty of time to get my flight yesterday, which was a good thing as the queues to get through security were massive. Well, I’m not trying to make you jealous here but while I was waiting to check in, I stood within about two feet of both Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen and Peter Andre. I know! How could one could one person be that lucky?! Don’t shake your head in despair quite so much...

When I finally made it through all the security checks and into the British Airways lounge, I was pleasantly surprised by their facilities. I do usually fly business class with work but I usually fly with airlines like Lufthansa. The most you get with them is free liquorice allsorts, some pretzels and as many beverages as you can drink, which to be honest isn’t the most appealing. So free access to the internet and so on was dead exciting. *Note to self: must get a life*

So, what can I tell you, seeing celebrities (I use that term loosely) and free stuff even before I left the UK, what more could a girl want?

Madrid itself seemed like a beautiful city, although to be honest I didn’t get to see much of it. However, wandering round sunny streets in temperatures of about twenty degrees having just left a rather gloomy and chilly London was really rather lovely. Suddenly I could understand why some people have to escape the UK winter and spend some time in the sunshine. It was a bit like having a cloud lifted – which promptly, literally, descended again when I returned to the UK earlier!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The survey says...

I went shopping yesterday afternoon to buy my nephew a birthday present as it is his first birthday party today. As I was walking through the town centre this chap asked me whether I would take part in a survey. I wasn’t very keen but asked what the survey was about and he just gave a vague answer and said it was about lots of things and it would become clear as the survey went on.

He started to ask me questions, which began with “How often do you buy household products?” I asked him what he meant by a household product e.g. did he mean a fridge-freezer or a bottle of bleach? He replied “Just anything for the household” and then he asked me a couple more questions but he wasn’t making a note of any of the answers.

It seems I got all the answers right as he then said “Now to continue with the survey follow me into this building” and I just looked at him and said “Why would I want to follow you into a building?” He looked surprised by this and said “well the survey is on my laptop and so we have to go inside to fill it out”. I looked at him kind of incredulously and told him I wasn’t following him anywhere. Again he seemed surprised, at which I point I decided that was the end of the conversation and walked off. Is it just me or was that all totally weird?

Anyway, it is my nephew’s birthday party today (it isn’t actually his birthday until later in the week), so I stayed at my sister’s last night. We watched The Island on DVD, which was quite a good film, but I have never seen a film that has so many product placements in it. Close ups on Puma trainers, bottles of beer, MSN products and so on. Really, really blatant stuff and we spent a lot of the film watching for the next product placement rather than following the plot. Interesting film though, despite the distraction.

I’ve got to get to bed at a reasonable hour tonight as I am off to Madrid first thing tomorrow morning. I’ve got to dig out my passport and have now realised that I have done nothing about getting any foreign currency etc, so am perhaps not the best organised for this trip. The people running the conference I am speaking at are paying for my flights and originally they said I had to fly economy *blood runs cold*. However, I managed to convince them that I should fly business class - one has a certain standard to maintain. I have to be at the airport just gone 7 tomorrow morning so at least I will have a slightly more comfortable seat to fall asleep in while I am waiting for the flight. Then a busy afternoon in meetings, speaking at 7pm, some more meetings on Tuesday morning and then I fly back to the UK at lunchtime. At which point I will go home to collapse- and may get round to posting something new here.

On other matters, tomorrow (Monday) the results to the Bloggies are due out, so you may wish to take a wander over to see who the winners are.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Strange behaviour

I went home via Sainsbury’s last night to pick up a pint of milk and a few bits. A really drunk bloke was in the store and as he went down the aisle where all the alcohol was, he decided to smash as many of the bottles as he could. He created chaos until the security guards managed to restrain him. People are weird though, as loads of shoppers just stood there and watched while the security guards restrained the bloke like it was their Friday night entertainment. It made me feel quite uncomfortable that people were quite so voyeuristic and just stood there staring and pointing and commenting.

Anyway, I’m back on call for the next week and this morning my head of unit phoned to ask me to check something. I was actually in rather a state of undress at the time as I had just got out of the shower. Is it wrong to speak to someone on the phone when you basically have nothing on? I then had to make a few phone calls, although I did get dressed before I did that. I’m hoping I won’t get any more calls this weekend and when I am in Madrid I won’t be on call, as our pagers don’t work abroad. It would have been slightly embarrassing for my pager to go off part way through my talk, so that’s probably a good thing.

Well, here’s something that really annoys me. Geoff has been told by Transport for London to remove all TfL maps/ fake maps, images etc from his website. He is a really good chap and holds the world record for visiting all the London Underground stations in the shortest amount of time and raised money for the victims of the 7 July bombings and so on. Do TfL lawyers really have nothing better to do than browse the web looking for supposed infringements? Morons!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Lightning strikes

We had a major power outage at work yesterday. There was some kind of power failure caused by lightning and all the lights and computers went off. Fortunately I didn’t lose anything very important on my computer. Sadly the power was restored after a bit and we could carry on with our work.

I was flying back from Dallas a few years ago and the plane I was about to board was struck by lightning. They did initially say that we would have to get another flight but in the end managed to restore the instrument panel and the flight left. I usually work on the philosophy that the pilot would refuse to fly the plane if he thought there was a problem with it, because if I am going to die then so is he. I am hoping that this continues to be the case when I fly to Madrid on Monday - the bit about the pilot refusing to fly a duff plane, rather than that both the pilot and I are going to die.

I do actually love thunder and lightning but didn’t get to see any of the storms yesterday.

Anyway, on other matters, here is a strange thing lurking about on the weird wide web. Take a look. Although if you are a big fan of George Bush then it’s probably best avoided.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Neighbourhood Watch

I was very naughty last night. I decided I wasn’t going to have any dinner, so I had a bowl of cereal and some toast, which is remarkably like what most people would have for breakfast but it was just the easiest thing to eat. I also had a Tunnock’s Caramel biscuit and a cup of tea. However then I decided that I did actually want some dinner, so then proceeded to cook and eat a normal dinner. I did, however, restrain myself from eating a yogurt for dessert.

Anyway, I am coming to the conclusion that I have got very nosey neighbours. When I was moving in my landlady told me that everyone who lived nearby was really nice and it was a really friendly community. Well, it seems that what this actually means is that they like to twitch their net curtains to ensure they know exactly what is going on.

I have never spoken to any of the neighbours – I’m such a friendly sort – but they seem to like to watch exactly what is going on. Once I drove into the road to park my car just as another car was leaving and they came back and watched what I was doing, drove off, then reversed back up the road and had another look. All I was doing was carrying some cardboard boxes into the house.

Then a couple of days ago I parked my car as a bloke was getting into his car and he just sat there and watched which house I went in to. I did try and give him a look as though I was suspicious of what he was doing, but somehow I suspect this was lost on him.

It makes me want to move about under cover of darkness or from shadow to shadow to try and slip through their surveillance procedures. There’s Neighbourhood Watch and there’s being totally nosey and kind of big brotherish in your behaviour.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

And back again

So, I’ve made it back from Lincoln in one piece. The talk went quite well but I need to rewrite it at some point because I usually get half way through it and think “I’m bored”, so I dread to think what other people are thinking.

Anyway, I managed to head home nice and early, got drenched in torrential rain and arrived home looking slightly bedraggled. Nothing new there then.

When I arrived home there was a catalogue waiting for me so that I can choose the colour of my new car *rubs hands with glee*. I’m thinking blue but I might be daring and go for silver. I can be very impulsive at times.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Somewhere Else

I’m off to Lincoln this afternoon, as I have to be there for work tomorrow. I have to give yet another talk. Hopefully I’ll be able to set off for home tomorrow at a reasonable time and maybe even get home a bit earlier than normal. How will I survive without access to the internet for over 24 hours??

Anyway, talking of being somewhere else reminds me of a song (painfully tenuous link there, sorry...) – ‘Somewhere Else’ by Razorlight. I haven’t commented on a song for a bit so maybe it’s time that I did.

I think this is a really great song. The kind that makes me turn the radio up whenever I hear it.

You're an emotional wreck
You don't know who you are
You never say what you mean
And you keep your mouth shut
And your nights stay still
And then you come and call on me

I can do ‘emotional wreck’ well sometimes. I can look at things and see all my faults, question who I am, wish that I was somewhere else or at least hope that things could be different.

And I met a girl
she asked me my name
I told her what it was
She looked at me
I tried to explain
Exactly what I lost
But now I just can't help myself
I really, really wish I could be somewhere else
Than here
You give me everything I need
but I really, really wish I could be somewhere else
Than here

Although sometimes I can explain myself reasonably well, at others I just don’t quite know how to put things into words and silence seems easier. Sometimes you can’t quite describe someone or something you have lost and instead it just seems a bit easier to want to make it all go away. Just to be somewhere else.

Sometimes when I look at life and feel frustrated or disappointed by it, I can hear this song and it picks me up a bit. You can sing at the top of your lungs how much you want to be somewhere else and somehow it gets some of it out of your system and things look maybe just a bit better.

Dig out a copy of this song, put it on and feel better…

You're an emotional wreck
You don't know who you are
You never say what you mean
And you keep your mouth shut
And your nights stay still
And then you come and call on me

You say I just can't help myself
I really, really wish I could be somewhere else
than here

And I met a girl
she asked me my name
I told her what it was
She looked at me
I tried to explain
Exactly what I lost
But now I just can't help myself
I really, really wish I could be somewhere else
Than here
You give me everything I need
but I really, really wish I could be somewhere else
Than here

Just anywhere else
Just anywhere else than here

And I won’t forget
No I won’t forget
No I won’t forget

And when I saw you there it was the first time
And you just walked on by
I was catching the sparks that flew from your heels
And trying to catch your eye

But that was
somewhere else
somewhere else
somewhere else
I really, really wish I could be
somewhere else
somewhere else
somewhere else
I really, really wish I could be
Cos I just can't help myself
I really, really wish I could be somewhere else
than here

And no I just can't help myself
I really, really wish I could
I've got everything I need
I really, really wish I could be
somewhere else
somewhere else
somewhere else
I really, really wish I could be

Monday, March 06, 2006

Back to reality

I had a really good weekend and feel as though I got loads done.

Yesterday a friend came over for lunch. She’s the person I might be buying a house with. However, she said to me that she might be applying for a job in Bristol, which would obviously rather scupper these plans. Hopefully in the next month or so we’ll have more of an idea of what is going on.

Anyway, we had lunch (roast gammon – yum) and then went for a walk in some nearby woods. I knew she was scared of dogs but had no idea quite how scared. She seems to have this radar that picks them up at a thousand paces. Dogs just seemed to emerge from everywhere and she actually climbed a tree at one point because she saw a dog, even though it was actually nowhere nearby. At that point we abandoned the walk and went back to my house.

My exciting news is that I should be the proud owner of a new car next week. Not brand new but rather newer than the one I have now. The electrics are starting to go a bit dodgy on my car. There seem to be a few strange things going on with the central locking. I was driving my car yesterday morning and the central locking operated unaided and locked all the doors, which obviously isn’t ideal if you happen to be outside the car when that happens. I know absolutely nothing about cars but figure this is probably the start of things going wrong. Once I’ve bought a house buying a new car might be harder, so I’m going to bite the bullet.

I have bought my last three cars via the same car dealer (who is actually female). She has always got me really good cars at a decent price and so I know she’ll come up with exactly what I want. The first time I saw the last car I bought was when I went to pick it up, but it was exactly what I had asked for. She does, however, live about 200 miles away so to get the car and give her my current one in part exchange we might have to meet at a motorway service station. Slightly bizarre but there you go. She’s sending me a colour chart in the post because that is, of course, the most important factor when choosing a car.

Anyway, after a really good weekend, now it’s back to work. But, a very happy birthday to What Would Dana Do. Hope you have a good day.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

I don't care what the weather man says

Since defrosting from Friday evening, it’s been a busy weekend. Starting with me getting up at 8.30am yesterday to switch on the heating.

Anyway, by noon yesterday I’d been to the supermarket, washed my car and put some washing on. Supermarkets do my head in, but even so I seem to spend a large amount of time in them each week. Yesterday I went earlier than I would normally and Tesco was filled with lots of slow old people. No offence to old people but could they not go at some other point during the week? They just seemed to walk slowly along every aisle and cause lots of traffic jams.

The supermarkets near me are rubbish anyway. The main criterion for judging this is if they sell soda farls. If the answer is no, then they are rubbish. I realise it is a limited test, but I find it effective. If I want to go to a decent supermarket that stocks everything I want then I have to go to the Tesco Extra which is about 15 miles away. I tried Morrisons recently but didn’t really like it. I have been to other of their stores and they’ve been fine but the one near where I live is horrible. They do also seem to sell dodgy looking cuts of meat. The nearest Asda to me is quite a trek and is a bit like going to a jumble sale and Sainsbury’s just never stocks what I want. Life can be such a disappointment…

My sister and nephew came over for lunch and it was truly a miracle that I was willing to be anywhere near my nephew as he has some kind of eye infection at the moment. We went for a walk round the nearby reservoir and my sister then went over to see mum for a bit and I looked after my nephew (because mum is ill my nephew couldn’t really go). He snuggled up on my shoulder and was very cute and so I might even forgive him the gunk from his eye that he must have wiped on me. However, he was probably being cute to get me to give him some white chocolate buttons. He already drools at the sight of chocolate. An addict in the making.

Then I went out for dinner with a friend and we went to see the film The Weather Man at the cinema. I think it would be fair to say that you shouldn’t go and see that film if the person you are going with has major depression. It isn’t the most uplifting film and unfortunately the friend I went with is going through a really bad time at the moment. I did actually enjoy the film and found it engaging but if you like your films to be a light-hearted and a diversion from every day life then this isn’t the one for you. It didn’t aid my friend’s depression who hardly said a word on the way home. I’m not selling this film to you am I?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Baby, it's cold inside

I don’t suppose you’ll need much convincing that it is cold at the moment in the UK. Really, really cold. The thing is that you would think that when you went indoors it would be warm. But nope. On the tube in the mornings it is really cold as the drivers don’t seem to think there is any need to put the heating on. I bet they’re lovely and warm in the driver’s cab. My feet are like blocks of ice when I get to work and not only do I sit there and drink a cup of tea whilst perusing the wonderful world of blogging but I also now have to wait for the circulation to return to my feet.

But you might think that getting cold feet on the tube isn’t all that unlikely, but what about when you get home from work? Don’t you expect your home to be nice and warm so you can thaw out from trekking home? Well, you’ve guessed it, with me the answer’s nope. The house I am living in at the moment is cold, cold, cold. A few weeks ago I was sitting in the living room fully dressed, with a towelling dressing gown on over the top of my clothes and sitting under my duvet and I was still cold.

A friend came round on Thursday night and he hadn’t realised how cold my house is and was only wearing a t-shirt (and a pair of trousers), so was more than a touch chilly. I gave him lots of cups of tea to warm him up.

My bedroom is generally really nice and warm, but isn’t necessarily the ideal place to be entertaining people. Although I guess it would depend what type of ‘entertaining’ I was doing of course. Anyway, as we all know, I sleep with my feet in a wardrobe so there isn’t much space in my bedroom for anything other than sleeping. Moving on…

By the way, did you know yesterday was National Doodle Day? I realise this is a day late to acknowledge it but you might be interested to follow the link anyway. For the next few days they are running an auction through e-bay of various famous people’s doodles, so if you want to raise money for charity and/ or buy a doodle drawn by someone famous then go take a look.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Take a break

I was standing in the supermarket last night trying to decide what to buy, as a friend was coming over for dinner. A fairly old bloke came up to me and said "I saw you looking at the chicken. When bird flu gets here, you should stop buying it. They'll inject all the chickens with antibiotics." His embarrassed looking wife wandered over and said to him "Look now you've found someone else to tell. Let's go" and he said "But I have racing pigeons. I've been through all this before. When they got the injections it turned their heads round the wrong way." I thanked him for his advice and he wandered off. So there you go, if you go to buy a chicken for Sunday lunch and it's got its head on the wrong way, I'd advise against eating it. I think we can safely say I am quickly becoming the definitive source on all things bird flu related.

On other matters, I have finally been daring enough to submit my leave card to book some time off work. Our new leave year started on Wednesday and I was actually wrong about the amount of leave I am carrying forward. It is in fact 33 days, which gives me a grand total of 58 days leave to take this year. 58 days... isn’t that about three months worth of working days?

Anyway, I plan to take a week off at the beginning of April. I have one thing planned but have to think of things to fill up the other days. I have also booked a week off at the end of May, as I am off to Scotland for a week to go walking.

I must try and get some more ‘exotic’ travel in though. I am actually going to Madrid with work in just over a week’s time. But there is no way to extend the visit as I have to be back in the office.

I am flying out on the Monday and had considered going there for the preceding weekend but realised it is my nephew’s first birthday party on the Sunday. I did kind of raise the subject with my sister but was met with a stony silence. That’ll be a “no” to missing his party then.

I might go to The Gambia to visit a friend, but we’ll see. Anyway, ten and a half days booked off so far, only another forty seven and a half days to go...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A cure for bird flu

I don’t really know what to make of all the stuff on bird flu. I think the bulk of any panic will be because if/ when it reaches the UK, people will think that they can catch it. My understanding is that unless they are in regular contact with birds it isn’t possible to get it and that at the moment human to human transmission is not possible. I suspect some people will panic though and will start to report to doctors if they get anything vaguely cold or flu-like. Of course the Daily Mail really got to the heart of the issue when bird flu reached Turkey (the country rather than the bird) and their front page headline was about whether it was still safe to go there on holiday. Yep because that is what was important. Words fail me...

The other day I read that bird flu has now been transmitted to a cat in Germany, which made me wonder if it is possible to predict the future pattern of transmission based on the nursery rhyme “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly”. Obviously this is based on my vast scientific knowledge gained from my Biology and Chemistry GCSEs that I took over a dozen years ago.

The woman ate various things, including a spider (eek!), but she then ate a live bird, which I would think in the current climate would be unwise and would greatly increase your chances of getting bird flu. Then she ate a cat, a dog, and a goat, followed by a cow and a horse. All live, and therefore presumably whole, so it must have been quite a task. Anyway, if we follow this pattern I think we can clearly predict that dogs will be the next creature to fall prey to bird flu, followed by a goat, cow and then a horse.

However, as you may recall it was the horse that finally killed the old woman. So if you decide to follow this eating pattern, then it seems like a potential way to avoid bird flu, what with it killing you by eating all the animals. I suspect you would probably not make it to the horse anyway - if the dog doesn’t get you, I reckon a whole live goat would.

So in fact not only are we now potentially able to predict the future onward transmission of bird flu but we also have a cure - because the least of your worries will be bird flu following this diet. If this turns out to be the future transmission pattern of bird flu, you heard it here first...

Disclaimer: the above diet is not recommended and should not be attempted without full consultation with a medical professional. Might I suggest a psychiatrist?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Considering a life of crime

Perhaps it’s just me, but isn’t Sky news actually being unhelpful by broadcasting every aspect of the search going on for the missing millions in Kent at the moment? Isn’t it kind of tipping off the people who carried out the raid how close the police are to finding anything significant? In itself surely it isn’t even that interesting showing lots of police vans and policemen standing in fields etc - but I guess with 24 hour news they need to broadcast something.

I was, however, grateful for the details in the press the day after the raid about how the robbers pretended to be police officers and pulled the bank manager over and then kidnapped him. That’s a very useful tip should I decide to go down the route of a life of crime.

Giving things up

I have caught up on some sleep, vaguely regained some sanity and hopefully have a less busy week ahead of me at work now. Without meaning to sound like an old person, how can it be the beginning of March today? This year seems to be flying by.

So, it’s the beginning of Lent. I didn’t have any pancakes last night. In fact I am not even sure I know how to make them. No home economics lessons when I was at school. I have never given up anything for Lent and this year is unlikely to be any different – unless I happen to stop doing something by coincidence. Last year my old housemate gave up TV or watching EastEnders or something like that. I can’t quite remember, but she certainly got her mum to record EastEnders for the entire length of Lent. So there was probably some cheating going on there.

Mind you, what would I actually give up? I don’t drink, smoke, take drugs or any other such ‘vices’ and I haven’t even come up with a guilty pleasure yet. I probably do eat too much stuff like chocolate and biscuits but I’ve got have some excitement in my life and the sugar rush is probably about it at the moment. Hmm, so maybe I need to take up something new in the run up to Easter. Which rather defeats the point of it all of course but I am obviously in rebel mode again.