Saturday, May 27, 2006

Off to Sunny Scotland

Time to go on holiday, and not a moment too soon. I think I’ve realised over the last few days how down I’ve been about a few things – work, house stuff, landlady, the ex and so on. Going away for a week will hopefully help to get me back on track a bit more.

I’m flying to Aberdeen this afternoon and picking up a hire car and then driving across to the other side of Scotland to stay in a cottage for a week. It would have been rather closer to fly to Inverness but it was over double the cost so, as I had to hire a car anyway, it was as easy to fly to Aberdeen. A friend is coming over in a bit and we’re going to go to the airport and when we land at Aberdeen, drive to Inverness anyway and pick up someone else and then on to the west coast of Scotland. There will be about a dozen of us and we should have a bit of a laugh, so I’m looking forward to it. A bit of walking, some not doing a lot, some eating, some enjoying ourselves. Just what I need.

Yesterday I contacted loads of estate agents to register with them. A couple of them said that it is a sellers’ market at the moment, so if I see somewhere I like they advised me to put in an offer asap. That’s not really ideal, as given the amount of money needed to buy somewhere, rushing the decision isn’t really my style. An interesting development though is that a friend e-mailed me yesterday and said she might be interested in buying somewhere with me. She could afford rather more money than my other friend which would be handy. The problem is that at the moment she’s travelling and when she gets back will need to find a job, but it’s nice to have options. I’ll see how it goes with trying to find somewhere on my own and then maybe revise my plans and buy with my friend if it doesn’t work out. So I spent some time yesterday filling out some forms for a financial adviser to start the process to find a mortgage and hopefully by the time I get back from holiday there’ll be some property details waiting for me.

I went to the library yesterday and borrowed various books. Normally I struggle to find anything that inspires me, but there were quite a few books yesterday that I quite fancied reading, so hopefully I will have some good reading while I am away. I just finished reading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (who I had always assumed was a woman but is in fact a man). I really enjoyed that, which I was very surprised by because I tend to hate “classis literature” because it reminds me of being forced to read various books when I was at school.

In case you’re interested and want something to read while I’m away, my current reading material is: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (who is in fact a woman, even though she sounds like she would be a man…); The Lovely Bones by Alice Seebold; Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz; Salem Falls and Keeping Faith both by Jodi Picoult. Happy reading – although none of it is terribly cheerful, so maybe that isn’t the most appropriate phrase.

I am hoping I make it back in one piece from this trip. I was walking on Skye a couple of years ago and came a little to close to plummeting to my death than I might have liked. I was with my friend S and he wanted to see if we could reach the top of a ridge, but every route we tried turned out to still not be the top. In the end we decided to climb back down, so we looked at the various options, none of which were ideal – even though it wasn’t that difficult getting to where we were, climbing down seemed much more of a challenge. In the end we picked what looked like the best route down and S set off first. It involved having to climb down facing outward and S picked out the route and I followed. This was working fine until one of my feet slipped and there was just no way to get a grip and I shot down the hill face at a rapid pace. Fortunately S was far enough ahead of me that when he, out of instinct, reached out to grab me he brought me to a shuddering halt. We both went rather silent and just sort of looked at each other and S just said “are you alright?” and I replied “Erm, I think so”. After a few minutes we very slowly made our way down to ground level and it was many hours later before we actually spoke about it because I think we were both a bit shocked by what had happened. I don’t actually think I would have died but it would have been a very long way to fall and I would have done myself some nasty damage. Anyway, should I never reappear, check the local hospitals – or mortuaries...

However, all being well, I am back next Saturday. I might have the chance to blog while I am away but very possibly not. So have a good week and think of me, in what will probably be torrential rain, wandering from tea shop to tea shop. Enjoy.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Rock

I'm now on leave, what a relief. Busy day ahead if I can summon up the energy to to all the things that I need to.

Anyway, at last, what was Gibraltar like? As I’ve already said, I just seemed to have a permanent grin on my face the entire time I was there, which was possibly just because I had escaped for a few days, but it gives an indication that I did like being there. Mind you, standing on your hotel room balcony in glorious sunshine looking out across the sea might raise a smile on a few people’s faces.

Gibraltar has a population of just under 28,000 people. Think of the number of people that could fit into most premiership football stadiums and you could fit in the entire population of Gibraltar and still have an echo. Gibraltar is only about two and a half square miles in size.

The first thing you notice when you land in Gibraltar is that the main road runs through the runway, as the photo on yesterday’s post shows. A Gibraltarian said to me that he thought they were the only civilised country where a road ran across the runway and I said a somewhat cheeky “surprising!” in response. Only about four planes land (and then take off again) a day so I guess it doesn’t cause too much inconvenience to shut one of the main roads closed a few times a day. Because the runway is so short, when we took off to return to the UK, the plane went right to the very end of the runway, turned round and then accelerated at full throttle going from stationary to airborne before it reached the mid-point of the runway. That’s quick.

The history of Gibraltar is interesting, but I won’t go into it here. However, you may be aware that there is some serious tension between the UK and Spain over ownership of Gibraltar. It’s a British Overseas Territory, but Spain have disputed this and wanted it returned to them. For about twenty years from the late 1960s, the border was closed between Gibraltar and Spain so it was impossible to go from one to the other – and even now the Spanish government won’t allow any flights between Spain and Gibraltar. In fact all the flights into Gibraltar are from the UK. Anyway, I was amused when I switched on my mobile phone and my network sent me a message which said “Welcome to Spain”. I guess they’ve decided who owns it then.

I was very excited to see the monkeys – which are actually Barbary Apes or Barbary Macaques. I saw them up on the actual main rock part of Gibraltar and also at the hotel where I was staying. They would just sit in the road and cars would drive right up to them and they would slowly wander out of the way. I took quite a few photos of them and was really excited to see them. I do sometimes have the mentality of a five year old and get excited by seeing small fluffy creatures.

I was also really excited when I realised how close Gibraltar is to Africa. It is just over 10 miles from Gibraltar to Morocco. I’ve never been to anywhere in Africa and I was beside myself with excitement to see Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar. It wasn’t just some speck in the distance but was really imposing. I took various photos of that as well. I could actually see it from my hotel balcony but we took a drive down to the southern most point and looked at it from much closer. I don’t know why I found it quite so exciting to see Africa but I did. I think my only disappointment about being in Gibraltar was that I wasn’t there long enough to take a trip over to Morocco. Perhaps another time.

I actually managed to leave my work mobile in Gibraltar. Oops. Someone I work with is still there, so is going to bring it back for me next week. Good job I am not on call at the moment. In case you are wondering, I did actually do some work while I was there and my talk went well, but to be honest that is all just a vague memory from my time there now.

Anyway, I really enjoyed being there. Spending time in the sunshine. Staying at a nice hotel. Seeing the sights. Being able to just exist for a while leaving all my troubles behind was just great, and I just smiled and smiled and smiled.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Some pics

Well, I wrote my post on Gibraltar last night and appear to have forgotten to save it in the right place, so you will have to wait with baited breath until tomorrow.

So for now, you will have to settle for a couple of photos. The one above (which I have purloined from is of the rather precarious runway in Gibraltar -and the horizontal line that runs across the middle of it is a main road. They just put down level crossing barriers about ten minutes before to stop the traffic, sweep the runway and then the plane comes in to land.

The photo above was the view from my hotel room. Can you understand why I couldn't stop smiling the entire time I was there?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The return

Well, I’m back in one piece. Gibraltar was great and the sunshine put a permanent smile on my face. I just kept wandering about thinking how happy and content I felt. Getting away from it all into the sunshine was just what I needed.

I’ll post something tomorrow about Gibraltar and what it was like, but it was really great to be there and it is a shame to be back, although I am only in work tomorrow and then I am on leave for over a week.

I got back to the surprise that my landlady hadn’t totally rearranged my room, which I was amazed at. I also had £16 in refunds from London Underground so at least there were some pleasant things to greet me.

Anyway, I’d better get on with a few things including reminding myself what rain is like. Despite it being rather chilly at the moment I think my landlady has decided it is officially summer, so the heating has been switched off. Welcome home indeed.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Monkeying about

It’s time to escape wet and windy London for a couple of days and head off to Gibraltar. I am in work this morning and then off to Gatwick at lunch time for my flight. I was talking to a friend on the phone yesterday and said that I was going to Gibraltar to tickle a monkey, but concluded that sounded way too much like a euphemism for something else.

I am actually going there to give a talk tomorrow that will last about twenty minutes, but don’t fly back until Wednesday afternoon. I have prepared some slides and am going to speak without notes rather than reading a speech because I have given a similar speech several times before and to be honest it was a bit boring. So I’m going to be daring, as hopefully the panic when I lose my train of thought will make the talk sound more exciting and dynamic.

Anyway, so there really will be monkeys in Gibraltar, or apes to be more accurate. Apparently at the hotel there are notices up warning guests not to leave the windows open as they will climb in. Now that would be quite something to wake up to in the morning.

The temperature is due to be low to mid-twenties and sunny. What can I tell you? It’s a hardship but someone has to do it. I doubt very much I will have the opportunity to post anything while I am away, but somehow I suspect you might be relieved to have some brief respite from my rantings about my landlady (must think of a suitable name for her and “evil landlady” is already taken). Let me tell you, her obsession yesterday with telling whether my washing was dry or not and whether there was enough space left on the clothes airer for any more clothes was going to be a truly fabulous post, but I reckon you’ll cope. Anyway, be good and no tickling any monkeys.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Moving Times

Well, I had a really good day out yesterday which helped to clear some of the cobwebs out of my brain. I had a particularly successful time shopping. I got some new headphones for my radio, a couple of pairs of trousers for work and bought some DVDs. One of those DVDs was Running on Empty, which was being sold as part of HMV’s 3 for £18 offer. Bargain! Until now I have had a slightly fuzzy copy of it taped off BBC2 probably a good ten years ago and the soundtrack isn’t great in places, so I was really pleased to get it on DVD. Simple things...

I met up with my friend L and we had a really good catch up and it turns out that Running on Empty is one of her favourite films, and we were both kind of surprised that the other one liked it so much. Anyway, we ate some food, went for a wander and put the world to rights. It was a good evening. However, she really is between homes at the moment and apparently has been for a whole. She is living in youth hostels moving from place to place, which she is finding really difficult, particularly as she finds sleeping almost impossible. I did speak to her about seeing if she could stay where I live for a bit but it would be such a trek for her to get to work that she doesn’t think it would help.

It turns out my landlady came back early as she realised her ex-husband was going to be visiting her son for the weekend. They don’t speak and, even if they did, sharing the guest room didn’t seem ideal. Apparently at the interview on Thursday they offered her a range of jobs and so she is going to decide by Monday which one to take. She’s all set to move though and reckons she’ll be gone within three months. It also seems that her parents are moving with her, so they now need to put their house on the market.

She wants me to stay on in the house until it is sold and she thinks that might take some time. So from that point of view it should actually make things easier for me, but I still need to get on with buying somewhere. She also mentioned something about reallocating the rooms, which I think means I will end up with a different bedroom, but I am not entirely sure what she has in mind.

Maybe I am overly picky but when I got home tonight she had sorted out my washing and done my ironing. I’m not entirely sure I want her going through my underwear and there is something which is a bit like she thinks she is my mother – but I already have one of those and wasn’t really looking to acquire a new one. It was nice of her to do my ironing, but I feel as though she is being a bit controlling in some of the stuff that she is doing. I also thought I had kind of mastered the slightly crumpled look. Anyway, if you want your ironing done, do drop it round and I’ll see what I can sort out for you.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Shattered Peace

So I had a nice relaxing weekend planned. Getting up late today, just doing a few bits at home and enjoying the peace and quiet. Then the phone at home rang last night and I didn’t bother to answer it. I usually answer my mobile but the home phone I just normally ignore and let it go through to the answerphone because it normally just means me taking a message for my landlady and the answerphone can do that as easily. Anyway, I checked the message just in case and it was my landlady asking me not to lock the front door as she would be back really late last night. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! I thought she was away until Sunday - if she was returning at all. *evil laugh* Anyway, my oasis of peace, from being badgered about the tidiness of the house and how rugs make rooms look small, has been shattered.

Fortunately I have a fairly busy day ahead that includes doing some bits of shopping and meeting up with a friend this evening who I haven’t seen for ages. It seems she is, quite literally, homeless and so I’ll have to ask her what has happened there, although as she was living with her ex and her ex’s new partner in a one bedroom flat, it didn’t seem like the ideal setup. I’m hoping things have picked up for her a bit as she’s had a really awful year or so and has had some pretty major depression and it isn’t like her to get depressed and it has shocked her to not know how to deal with it. Anyway, it will be good to meet up later and have a catch up.

I see that if you buy a Kit Kat at the moment you could find a golden ticket and become one of the contestants on Big Brother. Now there’s a reason to give up chocolate...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Sometimes I think I'm invisible

I had my end of year appraisal this week (really it is May, but the reporting year from April to April and then there is a bit of leeway on getting the forms in. Anyway…) It went fairly well but the only slight criticism I got was that I am not a tough enough manager. He said that I am a supportive manager and stick up for my staff but need to be more demanding of them. It was only afterwards that I thought I should have said that because people in my team were given such hard time by both my manager and, more particularly, my head of unit, that it just never seemed great for morale for me to be really pushy as well. As I seemed to spend a lot of time stopping staff from walking out or giving them a chance to vent so that they didn’t go and punch my boss, I actually think I did quite well.

I have spent some of this wondering if I am just so inconsequential that I might actually be invisible. What with my landlady seeming to think that she can go into my room and reorganise it and also talking to my sister yesterday and feeling a bit as though what I wanted was entirely irrelevant. My sister phoned me at work to dad was still not going to be discharged from hospital. We spoke about that for a couple of minutes and then I said that I hadn’t been too impressed by my sister talking about some stuff in front of my parents which I had specifically asked her not to. She just sighed at me and told me I was being ridiculous and pathetic and then she decided she couldn’t be bothered to speak to me anymore so finished the conversation. I just seem to be going through a phase where what I might want is not seen as very important. I hope this doesn’t continue to be a theme.

But it made me wonder, what if I actually was invisible? Would that complement my other super power of mesmerising small children with my voice? Would it be a good thing to be invisible? I think being able to go to the cinema without paying or maybe getting on a flight to somewhere in the world without having to book could be good, although I’d have to be careful no-one accidentally sat on me. But what if I stepped into the road without looking? I think I could well come to an untimely end. Also, would I still have to wear clothes? I suspect that it would still be kind of chilly so wearing them would be a good idea. But when invisible people wear clothes, are their clothes invisible too? I think there are some flaws I would need to iron out before going down this route, but I know what you’re thinking: How could I deprive the world of someone this good looking? You’re too kind.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gone Away

So, my landlady has ‘gone away’ for a few days. It’s up to you whether you choose to think that it’s true that she has gone to Cardiff for a few days for a job interview and then to visit her son or that I did in fact find someone kind enough to bump her off and all they wanted in return was for me to be happy. Oh and a fake passport and a whole new identity. And a house in the Bahamas. *evil laugh* But oh, it was so worth it...

Yesterday morning was as irritating as many have been of late. My landlady reminded me of the need to keep my room today, what with me being five years old, rather than a paying tenant. Then she said “Last year the house was on the market for months and it wasn't much fun” Great, so by keeping my room tidy I am therefore making the house more saleable, thus raising the chance of losing the roof over my head AND I get to be miserable as well. Woo hoo! Just in case the previous offer of 'assistance' doesn’t work out, do feel free to put in your bid for bumping her off.

On the way up to my office yesterday I was in the lift with another woman and she leant backwards and accidentally pressed a button setting the lift alarm off. Concerningly there was the sound of a phone ringing and then a message to say that it was not possible to connect the call and to press the alarm button again to call security. So she pressed the alarm button again. I did point out to her that as there wasn’t an emergency she didn’t actually have to automatically follow the instructions. She looked at me kind of surprised, at which point we both walked out of the lift, so I have no idea if well-honed emergency procedures were launched to rescue a (non-existent) stranded person or if we should have just breathed a sigh of relief that we didn’t really need help as no-one would have known. If I disappear one day, do send help.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Back to square one

We’ll move on from yesterday because obviously I wasn’t serious. *whispers* But in case you are still in two minds about whether to offer your services, you are looking even better today than yesterday, as if that is even possible!

Anyway, what else is going on in my incredibly exciting life? The section meeting on Monday afternoon went ok, although didn’t really deal with the substance of our work or the fact that we have various meetings that we don’t have anyone going to at the moment because no-one has defined our remit yet. But you cannot have a section bonding session without the compulsory cringeworthy “getting to know each other” activity. We had to give three statements about ourselves one of which had to be a lie and then everyone else had to workout which was the lie. People were remarkably ingenious in the things they came up with and it certainly was an education about some of my colleagues.

So, we got to my colleague D and completely deadpan he reeled of his list of “good looking; rich; comedic”. We all instantly laughed so we felt able to infer that one of them was certainly true. However, we were then left in the position of deciding which of the remaining two was the lie. Despite D assuring us he was very rich in personality, we concluded that the most tactful response was to conclude that being rich was the lie. At least it gave us a laugh.

In other news, my father was admitted to hospital on Monday and I went to see him last night and he seemed ok, if a little bored. I don’t think he will be in hospital for too long, it’s just a matter of the antibiotics kicking in so that the infection in his leg subsides. He has cellulitis, which doesn’t sound entirely pleasant.

My friend is moving to Bristol so it looks like I will be buying somewhere on my own. It wasn’t a surprise, given that I had kind of assumed that was what would happen anyway, but it’s back to square one on buying somewhere to live. I also could have bought somewhere last year if I had realised that this was how things would turn out. Oh well, such is life. I’m not going to do anything for a couple of weeks though as I am away for a couple of days next week and then no holiday the week after. It gives me time to gather my thoughts and to take a few deep breaths.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Strangers on a blog

My dear blog reader, have I told you how good you look today, how funny you are, how intelligent? What a sheer pleasure it is to see you today. Today of all days, today being the day when I may need to ask a teensy weensy favour…

But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start at the beginning. Let’s turn the clock back to 6.30pm last night when I got home from work. There I was quite innocently wandering into the kitchen to cook my dinner and I thought I would drink some squash while it was cooking. But, as much as I looked I couldn’t find the squash bottle anywhere (and still can’t for that matter). At which point a voice came from above that the bottle was in a cupboard somewhere and there were people coming round to view the house at 7pm. Just to clarify, it was my landlady calling down from her bedroom, not God.

So I put my dinner on quickly and thought I’d better look at my room and give it a quick tidy. So I wandered upstairs and opened my bedroom door to be presented with a room that was substantially tidier than when I had left for work this morning. At this point my landlady appeared and said that she’d given my room a quick tidy and a hoover and a dust. When I removed my jaw from the floor, I said a somewhat weak “Erm… right…” whilst my brain is screaming at me “She’s been in your room! She’s moved your stuff! She’s looked through your things!”

My jaw dropped again when I realised she had:

• Removed the rug (which does actually belong to me) from my room. Apparently they make rooms look smaller. It’s a small room! It doesn’t just look small, it is small!

• Moved a card my mum had sent me that was on the bookcase by my bed and stuck a pin through it on my notice board. I was actually quite upset that she had kind of defaced the card. What difference does one card make?

• Moved some paperwork which included some stuff that was personal. Not anything embarrassing, but personal nonetheless.

• Hidden my (empty) bin.

• Put my Easter eggs in the cupboard under my bed. I realise I shouldn’t still have Easter eggs, but I do. So she looked under my bed, where I could have been storing all sorts of things and put the eggs under there. Where actually I keep my dirty clothes. Nice... It’s ok, I won’t offer you any of the eggs when I do eat them.

• Went into my bathroom and hid all my shampoo and soap and other bathroom stuff, including the spare toilet paper. Somehow, I don’t think they would have been surprised to see toilet paper, but maybe that is just me? And… and… removed my towels and put in one of her own instead. I have no idea what was unacceptable about my towels but they too did not pass muster.

Fortunately I was going out last night because I was not in the mood to be at home with my landlady. The thing is that the estate agent has a key anyway so they can let themselves in whenever they want, so am I going to have to hide my towels every day?

Anyway dear reader, I can hear you asking where you come in to all of this. Well… have you ever seen the film or read the book ‘Strangers on a Train’? Basically, two strangers meet on a train (you’d guessed that, hadn’t you?) and they strike up a deal that they will each kill someone for the other person and because there is no connection between them no-one would ever suspect them of the crime. I think one of them wants his wife killed and the other his father. So each of them agrees and then one of them carries out his side of the bargain and the other one tries to back out of it. The point is that most of my readers don’t actually know me in person and, well, I was kind of wondering if you might be able to help me out in this spot of bother by, er, bumping off my landlady? I seem to be very blood thirsty lately, but the provocation has been great. How would anyone ever connect us, surely it’s the perfect murder? So, I’m hoping that you will take pity on me by bumping off my landlady, hiding her body somewhere and maybe help me come up with a way to pretend she is still alive so that I can continue to live in the house. I don’t think that is too much to ask.

The slight downside to this plan is that if we are to follow the story properly then I should be offering to do something for you in return, but I would remind you that I am very squeamish and cannot stand blood or gore. But if you wanted me to do something in return then I’ll see what I can do – however it can’t involve me having to expend any energy or do anything that requires a skill because I am kind of lacking in both areas.

So feel free to send a brown envelope containing your ‘price’ for assisting me in my hour of need to my e-mail address and we’ll see if we can strike a deal.

Monday, May 15, 2006

And another week...

Yet another week begins. I have a section meeting this afternoon which my new boss asked me to set up. Hopefully by the end of the afternoon I will have some idea of what we are meant to be doing as a section. Although I am not entirely convinced this will prove to be the case.

Anyway, yesterday I went over to see my parents and this mean that I got to see my father’s leg. It’s very red and swollen and looks like he has got elephantiasis. He is going to the doctor’s this afternoon and mum reckons he will be admitted to hospital because it really isn’t getting any better and he can hardly walk. So we’ll see what happens.

I still haven’t heard what is happening about my friend moving to Bristol. She has to decide by today so I’ll text her later and ask her. In my mind I am assuming that she is going to accept the job and therefore I will have to buy a place to live on my own. I think sometimes I assume the worst case scenario because then if it happens it isn’t a surprise and if I doesn’t happen then at least it will be something better than I had feared. Not that I am scared of what will happen if she moves to Bristol as such.

The prospect of buying somewhere on my own is not my ideal, because the responsibility feels a bit daunting, but ultimately I have to face my fears and get on with it. I sound more philosophical than I actually am. Sometimes I have to say things to myself enough times so that I can deal with the reality. I have to kind of get used to the idea and once I’ve done that I can take whatever the action is. So quite how long I will take to face my fears is another matter, but at some point I guess I will have to do so. Particularly as my landlady is still going through the entire house to get rid of any bit of clutter she can find. The estate agent is coming round this afternoon to take photos of the house. I am assuming they’re not going to take any photos of my room unless they want to illustrate how much stuff it is possible to fit into a very confined space. Anyway, hopefully later today I’ll have more of an idea of what is going on in terms of housing.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The law is an ass

I had a really nice day yesterday. I met up with a friend and we had a day of eating food and wandering. This included going into the centre of London and eating more food and wandering. One of the places we ended up was Piccadilly Circus where we saw... the sinners and winners man. That’s right the chap who just last week was banned from using his loud hailer to harangue people in public. However, proving that the law can be an ass and that ASBOs are not necessarily the answer to all of life’s problems, there he was. I suspect he wasn’t actually breaking the terms of his ASBO. I think the ASBO said he couldn’t be within a certain distance of Oxford Circus or use a loud hailer. So there he was at the opposite end of Regents Street and using a microphone and amplifier. You’ve got to admire the chap for his persistence!

We also went to the café in the crypt under St Martin’s in the Field church at Trafalgar Square. I think I have mentioned that place before, but it is a really nice place to go and just have chat and a drink – and some very nice apple pie. If you’re ever in the area, I would highly recommend it as a lace to escape the bustle of London for a while.

My mum phoned while I was out and I think I am going over to my parents’ house for lunch today – roast lamb in case you’re interested. Anyway, mum also said that she thinks dad will have to be admitted to hospital because his leg isn’t getting any better and she thinks he’s going to need to be hospitalised to get it fixed. I find it very difficult to be particularly concerned by this, but I’ll go home anyway and see what’s going on.

Then later I think I am going to walk a friend’s dog. I really like animals, and dogs particularly, so I do actually find that an exciting prospect. It also seems that my landlady is not going away over night tonight so I will escape for a decent bit of time today instead.

So another fairly busy day ahead, which hopefully will distract me from returning to do battle at work tomorrow.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Brief ramblings

I did have a fascinating and witty post for today but it got lost somewhere along the way, so you will have to put up with some brief inane ramblings.

The housing stuff is looking interesting, what with where I am living due to go on the market this week and the friend I might be buying with having been offered the job in Bristol. She has until Monday to decide what she is doing and hasn't made her mind up yet. She texted a few days ago to tell me and I replied and said well done and to just let me know what she decides. I have no idea which way it will go at the moment.

I had a really late night last night and am feeling a bit like death this morning. Friday night's are often the night I go to bed earliest, but I think I finally went to bed about 1.30 last night. Oh well, it was a good evening, so I'm not complaining.

Anyway, I am off out imminently. I have various things to do today, so had better get on or I'll miss the bus - I shall of course remember to say thank you to the driver if I do manage to catch it though.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Small talk

Fairly regularly when I am on the tube I see people with their work passes on and this therefore broadcasts, to anyone who cares to check, what their name is. I’m sometimes tempted to strike up a conversation as though I have suddenly bumped into some long lost friend to see how they react and if they would pretend they knew me just to be polite. If I seemed to know their name I reckon it would be fairly easy to convince them that somehow we knew each other. I think it would be rather amusing making up some story about how we had met before and having to work out from vague clues they might give some yarn that seemed believable. But sadly I don’t think I would ever have the guts to do it. It would also mean having to speak to someone else on the tube – what was I thinking of? I’m a Londoner. We don’t do that!

When I get on a bus, I always say thank you to the bus driver. I am never really sure why I do. Yes, it’s polite but am I saying thank you for stopping the bus and letting me on board - because that’s kind of their job to do that isn’t it? I remember seeing a Garfield cartoon once and Jon (Garfield’s owner) is there waiting at a bus stop and when the bus stops and picks him up, he says to himself “A whole bus stopped just for me!” That always made me laugh. I don’t know why. It just did.

On London buses you don’t even pay the driver any more. On a lot of buses in Central London you have to buy a ticket at a machine on the pavement before you board, or with the introduction of Oyster cards you just touch the card on a reader and your sorted, so even acknowledging the driver is no longer necessary. But still I say thank you every time because it just seems rude to walk by without saying anything.

Anyway, a busy and good weekend ahead. Looking forward to it.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


My landlady is away for a few days. In fact over the next couple of weeks, she is away more than she is about, and then I am away at various points during the couple of weeks after that.

I think my landlady has gone away on a walking holiday for a couple of days. It is kind of a relief because she has been doing my head in by purging the house of every bit of paperwork she can find. I think I may have to start locking my bedroom door to prevent her starting on my room.

The house is due to go on the market next week and my landlady has said that the house will need to be kept tidy. Translation: Your room is a complete state, sort it out. Well, we’ll see. She also said that the house was on the market for six months last year but she didn’t get any offers. Despite any good intentions, there is no way that I will be able to keep my room tidy for that long. My bedroom is really small – clearly demonstrated by me sleeping with my feet in a wardrobe – and I have no spare space in the room at all.

I don’t know how easy it will be to sell the house anyway. It is valued at over £500,000 (!) and has four bedrooms, but three of them are really small. In each of them you have to sleep with your feet in the wardrobe - and my bedroom is not the smallest. I think that is a phenomenal amount of money to pay for a house where three of the bedrooms are tiny.

I also find the house really dark, particularly downstairs, and that puts me off going home in the evening, especially on a nice sunny evening. I like light and airy houses and this certainly is not. It’s a house that you will either love or hate and I am hoping that it will take a while to sell as that gives me more time to decide what I am doing.

Anyway, some days of freedom ahead. Woo hoo!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

War Zones

Well, it looks like I might need to take that sicky day if things carry on the way they are at work. I had to go and speak to my ex-manager yesterday as he wanted to talk to me about the appraisals that had been submitted for a couple of members of my team. Basically my head of unit saw the reports and rejected them, as she didn’t think the people deserved the high box marking they got.

I sat there and argued on behalf of both of the people, although admittedly far more strongly for one of them than the other. Then I went and spoke to one of them, S, to explain the problem and will talk to the other one tomorrow. S is the one who made the comment the other day about gunning down his colleagues. I don’t suppose this will help, although in the current circumstances I wouldn’t blame him.

I just find it galling to think that he might not be seen as deserving a high box marking. I asked my ex-boss what more S could have done to have therefore deserved it but he didn’t reply. Some of the problem comes from the fact that our director has said that he wants less high box markings. My head of unit is the sort of person that if you set a target of 10% she will make sure she achieves 15% because she constantly seems to need to prove herself. I have never met anyone with that much power who is quite so insecure. It affects her ability to manage staff fairly or decently. Achieving the target is more important than doing the right thing.

I look at what S has done and he is always willing to do far more than is required of him. He did a whole load of extra work last year and because he got paid overtime for it my head of unit refused to let him have a bonus. She said he had just done his job. Working all night on a few occasions, sometimes after having worked all day, does not strike me as just having done your job.

S says he will speak to our director to make his case if necessary and I told him that if that’s what he wants to do then he should and I’ll speak to him as well. S thinks that our head of unit basically has it in for him as she thinks he wrote some of the comments in the staff survey (which he didn’t). Maybe he’s right. I don’t know. But there could be war brewing over this.

There’s a job possibility out in Kabul at the moment. Perhaps I should apply for it because it sounds preferable to the war zone in which I currently work.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Different Strokes

On Sunday I was at my sister’s house and mum phoned to say that she’d been at the hospital most of the day with my father. He woke up Sunday morning and felt really unwell. He thought he’s had another stroke and must have been really concerned about it to have gone to hospital. He has had two or three strokes already and it means that he can’t walk very well and it has quite majorly affected his mental faculties. I can’t quite explain the impact on him mentally, he just has really bizarre mood swings and it can be very difficult to have a rational conversation with him – mind you that pretty much sums up what he has always been like!

Anyway, he hasn’t had a stroke. In fact he has blood poisoning. He’d had some kind of abscess that he didn’t get treated and that then led to the blood poisoning. Apparently the symptoms can be very similar to that of a stroke. I think he sees the deterioration in himself and wonders if he will survive many more strokes – and I don’t think he is the only one who wonders about that. Sometimes I think that I should consider the implications of that more. How would I deal with my father dying – whether in the not too distant future or many years down the line? We have hardly had a good track record and for various reasons have been at odds with each other for most of my life. I need to apply my brain to this at some point really, but I just don’t have the energy to do that right now.

Enough of such things. I am somewhat miffed that this is a five day week, I haven’t had a normal week at work for several weeks now. However, it is only this week and next week and then I am off to Gibraltar for a couple of days with work, and then the following week I am on leave. There is also a possibility that I might get to go to Manitoba (Canada) with work in November, which would be good, particularly as I love Canada and I have never been to that part before. However, I am wondering if my Head of Unit might decide to go instead, even though I think she will have retired by then. We’ll see, but that would be something to look forward to.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Going Postal

Last week was a somewhat tiresome week at work. My new boss seemed to think that having a team meeting at the end of May/ beginning of June was somehow going to be sufficient to make the section feel managed.

I sent him an email a few days ago to raise some concerns and he replied saying that we needed to be more ‘flexible’ in our approach. I sent him another e-mail explaining what the section was dealing with at the moment and some issues that needed to be addressed urgently and I said that the section was very flexible, particularly as we had been reorganised about four times in the last year, without complaint. He replied and said “I appear to have touched nerve” and that we should have a meeting. So, we did. Sadly, as expected, he seems to be a somewhat ineffective chap. Lots of “well we have to make the best of it” and “I don’t really know what is going on either but you’ll just have to trust me”

Now perhaps it is just me, but I find it somewhat hard to trust someone who I know showed my head of unit the e-mails I had sent. Or someone who decided that the first thing that he should say to me is “I get the impression your team is a bit stuck in its ways”. I responded by going through the skills of each member of the team and suggesting that he judge them by their work rather than hearsay. I had already warned the team to be careful when dealing with him and not to take him into their confidence - because I know that he tells our head of unit pretty much everything.

One of the people in my team came and spoke to me the other day, as he was somewhat frustrated with how ineffective some of the managers are in the unit. He came out with the rather classic line “I can understand why some people in America go into work with a gun and shoot dead all their colleagues. I wouldn’t kill you though.” Right, nice to know. If he’s kind enough to forewarn me, I might take a sicky that day, just in case.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Cuteness and hellfire

I spent all day yesterday looking after my nephew. He as recently learnt how to walk and can now move at the speed of light. I think both of us were totally worn out by the end of the day and once again he fell asleep half way through me feeding him. My sister said he doesn't normally do that, so I have no idea what I did to put him to sleep. He was very cute though and at one point we spent about 20 minutes just sitting in the dining room looking at the aquarium and he just sat there with his head on my shoulder watching the fish swim around.

Anyway enough of such cuteness.... I see that one of London's landmarks has been given an ASBO. Anyone who has ever been to Oxford Circus must have heard the 'Sinners and Winners' man who seems to always be there evangelising through a loud hailer. Well, he has now been silenced, so that people who take offence at statements such as "Your hair's going grey, your skin's sagging and that's because you're a sinner. You are going to burn in hell." (a genuine quote!) no longer have to put up with his charming and presuasive words. The end of an era, but anyone who has ever been trapped on the traffic island where he often stands, desperately waiting for the green man to appear so they can finish crossing the road, I suspect will be breathing a huge sigh of relief. If he's been wearing a hoodie, he'd have been carted off months ago. Somehow I suspect ASBO or not his voice will reappear somewhere in London.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Raving reviews

So, I survived last night, which was partly assisted by me finding some of the performances so funny that I was actually crying. For example, the seniors dancing on to the stage (seniors being about 15 or 16 years old) and concentrating so hard on what they were doing that they didn't notice the mattress which was a prop on the stage and one of them fell over it. Or the five year olds who were just in a little world of their own and would get transfixed by something mid-dance and someone would have to prompt them to keep moving vaguely in time to the music.

Anyway, my cousin was, of course, fantastic. Afterwards I told her that I had never seen such a realistic looking dancing skeleton, which was indeed true. But in case you doubt her talents, let me tell you that Kym Marsh from Hear'Say was there in the audience and when she wasn't texting on her mobile phone or chatting to the person next to her, she was obviously transfixed by the performance - and in particular that of my cousin (of course). My theory is that she was actually looking for choreography tips for her next song and let me tell you she will certainly have been inspired by last night. The fact that my thirteen year old cousin lost the will to live and I had to keep reassuring him that there really weren't that many more dances that they could think of that had a rather tenuous link to the somewhat dubious 'plot' is no indication of the quality of the performance.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Show Must Go On

I have seven cousins, none of whom are similar in age to me or my sister. The eldest is probably 15 years older than me and the youngest is almost 25 years younger than me. It’s kind of strange because my parents are really similar in age to each other and their siblings are all within three or four years of them in age.

Anyway, tonight one of my younger cousins is in a dance show. That’s right… a dance show... So I am going to spend my Friday evening watching my nine year old cousin and her school friends dance around a stage. I think somehow it might be seen as rude to take along a book or my personal stereo. Although, having said that, I reckon watching her will be fine because at least I know my cousin, it’s all the other children that might get a little wearing.

As a child I did do a bit of tap and modern dance, but never really liked it so didn’t do it for very long. Long enough to appear in at least one dance show though now I think about it *mind reels at the horror of it*. In fact, it wasn’t only a dance show, we also had to sing. In fact I seem to think it may have been a pantomime. I’m not sure I was ever a very graceful dancer and there was one unfortunate moment where we were all kneeling at the front of the stage singing and I suddenly realised that I was much to close to the microphone and the main person in the chorus you could hear singing was me. I think I have been scarred for life. I have, however, appeared in many a pantomime because my mum is in to amateur dramatics- there was a bit of singing but fortunately no dancing. I’ve been a rat, an Egyptian mummy, a playing card and much, much more. I tell you, I’m very multi-talented.

So tonight I shall do my cousinly duty and watch avidly and be suitably enthusiastic when she comes bounding out afterwards and asks how it was. I guess it will give me good practice for all the things I am likely to have to go to in years to come for my nephew. Oh the joys of family.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Just put a cross in the box

So today is a day to cast your vote. Or I assume it is, but I seem to think it depends on where you live in the UK. Anyway, in London there are elections today, so here you can vote. Except I have to confess that I think it is very unlikely that I will. Mainly due to laziness at the thought of having to go back to where I used to live in order to cast my vote, as I am still on the electoral roll there.

When I moved to the last place I lived I got the form to get transferred on the electoral roll but as I was about to fill it in, I found out I was going to have to move again and so didn’t fill it out. Then I moved to where I am now and got another form, filled it out and then couldn’t remember whether I’d sent it off or not. I even phoned the council to ask them and after the woman stopped laughing at me she said she’d send me another form. But by then it was too late to get it sent back in time to vote and in fact I think I’m going to get myself put back on the electoral roll where my parents live, seeing as I seem to move so often. Seems like less hassle and I need to make sure I am on the electoral roll as it affects your credit rating and they’ll check that if I apply for a mortgage.

Anyway, I do usually vote. I have always voted in general elections and mayoral elections and so on and would normally vote in local elections, and just typing those words makes me feel really guilty at the thought of not voting. So maybe I will, but as I head home from work tonight and my mind wanders to eating my dinner and then when I settle down on the sofa in front of the TV, somehow I think I might convince myself otherwise. I’d carry out some research into ‘voter apathy’ but, to be honest, I just can’t be bothered.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Live like a millionaire

On Monday I met up with my parents for lunch, and a friend of theirs came along as well. He is the father of my oldest friend and is this kind of scary looking West Indian chap who has an opinion on anything and everything and, apparently, is always right. But he is actually absolutely lovely and once you get used to him, you realise you can be really cheeky and can argue back at some of his more outrageous statements.

He always has a special place in my heart, as many years ago he helped me learn how to tell the time. This involved a cheese triangle box lid being turned into a clock face. It changed my life I can tell you and has aided me in catching trains, turning up for work on time and, more importantly, working out the exact moment when I can escape work and go home.

I suppose nowadays with the advent of digital watches and so on, being able to read a normal analogue watch may become a dying art. It’s like children not knowing what a rotary phone is because now all phones have buttons that you press and the number often comes up on a screen. A friend said to me a while ago that those toy phones that a lot of children had when I was a child just confuse children now because you just don’t get phones like that any more.

My parents’ friend is also quite a big fan of the lottery and buys a ticket for the draw on both Saturday and Wednesday. But he never checks the result the day of the draw, instead he waits until the day before the next draw. So, on a Friday night he checks the result from Wednesday and so on. I once asked him why he does that and he said that it’s because in those days between the draw and when he checks to see if he’s won he might be a millionaire. So for those couple of days he can assume he’s a millionaire and live his life in that belief– and if he checks and discovers that he isn’t, then he only has one day of disappointment before the next draw, and once again he might be a millionaire. Sounds fair enough to me.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

And back to work again...

I had a real 'Sunday night before going back to school' feeling last night – despite it being neither a Sunday night nor me being at school any longer. I rarely remember my dreams but a while ago I dreamt that I was sitting my A-levels and had totally forgotten to revise for them. It was such a horrible feeling, but in some ways not all that far from the truth.

Anyway, the weekend was nowhere near long enough and I feel a bit hard done by that I didn’t get the full bank holiday complement of days off. Oh well, I am on leave at the end of the month and am going to Gibraltar with work in about three weeks time as well. *Gets excited at the thought of seeing the monkeys*

As of today the section I am in has been split, the majority staying with me as their manager and the rest going with my now ex boss. It’s all been incredibly badly handled and my ex boss has basically cherry picked everything that he wants and dumped everything else on to other people. Lots of people have commented on it. I never had a particular problem with him as a boss, but I know that some other people really dislike him because he seems to spend lots of time chasing them to see if they’ve done some work, even though they’re already working on it and the deadline is ages away. The words ‘control freak’ come to mind. He is rather too much like my head of unit for a lot of people’s liking.

While I was working over the weekend, one of the people I was working with told me she is joining my team. I expressed some surprise at this, what with being the team manager and having no idea that this was the case. I don’t know why I am surprised at finding out things like this any more, as we always seem to find out things by accident or have decisions made and then get told at the last moment. I will have to question my new boss in the next few days but he is not about until the end of the week.

It’s only a four day week. Focus on getting to Friday...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mayday! Mayday!

So, it’s May Day, the day to commemorate emergency calls for assistance. Oh no, hang on - or is it the day to have riots and smash up your local McDonalds? I always get the two confused.

Without meaning to sound really old, I can’t believe it’s May already. This year seems to be flying by. Not that I have done anything very constructive with my year – do you see why it was a wise decision to not make any New Year’s resolutions? I’d be almost half way through the year and have concluded that my life was not really huge amounts different to how it was in 2005. This way I can take comfort in routine and my lack of progress in buying somewhere to live etc.

Last night I exchanged a few texts with the friend that I might be buying a house with. It turns out she was in hospital for four days last week, as she had serious stomach pains. I would have gone to visit her had I known, but she said she didn’t really have the chance to tell anyone, as they rushed her to hospital. I think she’s ok now. It meant though that she missed her interview for the job in Bristol so that is now next week some time. That should mean that I know in the near future whether it is going to impact on us buying somewhere together.

I was looking at what is on the housing market at the moment and there isn’t much about. Although a house we saw back in January, and quite liked, seems to have come back on the market. I’m not sure that either of us liked it enough to want to put in an offer though. It was a nice house but there was something about where it was located that bothered us both. Anyway, I might have to get more decisive about what I’m doing soon.

By the way, just in case anyone is inspired to attack their local McDonalds as a result of what I have written and therefore I might get sued, please don’t do it. It’s bad.