Monday, July 31, 2006

Another year

So today I reach the grand old aged of thirty one – or twenty eleven years old as I like to think of it. When I was thirty, I could just about get away with saying that I wasn’t actually *in* my thirties as I *was* thirty, so I figure I shall now regress to being in my twenties.

The strange thing is that the older I get the younger my mother seems to get and, if I am to believe what she says, I am now four years older than her. Whilst some may think this unlikely, who am I to doubt her?

A couple of birthdays ago A was due to phone me on my birthday but was unable to call me when it came to it and promised that the following year would be different and we would speak. Only when it came to it, we weren’t actually on speaking terms last year. I suppose I do somewhere in my mind hold out the hope that A will make contact on my birthday, although a phone call is a rather unlikely option. It won’t ruin my birthday not to hear from A because to be honest my birthday is pretty much like any other day, but it is a day when you might vaguely expect to cross someone’s mind if you were once significant to them.

Anyway, I had a busy day yesterday catching up with a few people and I went to a Spanish restaurant with my parents and so on. I went back to my parents’ house afterwards and a friend of theirs dropped round unannounced. Even though I hadn’t seen him for twenty years I instantly recognised his voice, so knew who it was before he even walked into the room. It’s funny how there are some people who you just remember and know instantly.

So today I am off work and need to do a few mundane bits like go to my solicitors and pick up a few bits at the supermarket, including some cakes to take into work tomorrow, as that it what you have to do when it’s your birthday. I’m meeting up with a friend in a bit and we will hopefully do something more exciting, but as I was greeted by a note from my landlady this morning which said “the estate agent is coming round at 2.30 leave the place immaculate”, anything is going to seem charming by comparison. So I’m off to lounge about and make the place look untidy. Nothing new there then.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Dead or alive

A rather vital part of my lap top seems to have gone missing. It’s the part that means I can dial into the network. I had it on Thursday night and then haven’t been able to find it since and have no idea where it has gone. I asked my landlady if she had seen it and she searched as well and couldn’t find it. She did ask if maybe one of the boys might have taken it and whilst it seems to be the only vague possibility of how it can have disappeared without any trace, it seems unlikely. The bit that has gone missing generates a number which then forms part of a password and it has no monetary value at all and is of no use to anyone unless they are trying to work my lap top because it won’t work any other one. So it’s all very very odd and I’ll just have to ask work to supply me with another one.

I met up with mum yesterday afternoon and we had a bit of a browse around some shops- or more accurately spent most of the time sitting drinking tea. I bought a book for my nephew called Russell the Sheepthat I thought was really nice and I’ll give that to him today but while I was there I saw another book that I was a bit stunned by, so much so I had to drag my mother into the shop to look at it. It’s a book called The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business. Basically it is the story of a mole and another animal poos on its head and then he spends the rest of the story wandering about with the poo on his head watching other animals poo so that he can work out if they are the culprit. When he finds the animal that did it, he then poos on that animals head. What is the youth of today going to turn out like if they read stories of animals pooing on each others heads? I think my nephew is going to be cheeky enough as it is and this could just add fuel to the fire.

Several times when I was with mum with us discussing various famous people and she would say “they’re dead of course” and I’d say “Are they?” and she’d say “yes they died a couple of years ago” Bob Monkhouse, Dudley Moore and so on. I’ve obviously been in a world of my own, but it was like being in some comedy sketch or playing a game of ‘dead or alive’ – which is that game where you name someone and someone else has to say whether they are dead or alive. The clue at to what it involves is in the name of the game.

I am meeting up with my parents and my sister, bro in law and nephew later and we’re going out for lunch, as it is my birthday tomorrow (day off work tomorrow hurrah!). I was hoping that my landlady wouldn’t twig to when my birthday is but unfortunately a couple of cards turned up in the post yesterday and she saw them and asked if it was my birthday. Not that I have actually opened any of my cards yet. They’re sitting on my shelf unopened until tomorrow. But I think I’ll open the presents from my family today or else I’ll have to open them on my own tomorrow morning which wouldn’t be as nice. Of course, I shouldn't presume because they may not have bought me anything and I'll just sit there looking all forlorn. So feel free to send me lots of presents for tomorrow just in case.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

This too shall pass

I met up with a friend last night and we had a quick bite to eat and then watched the world go by sitting in Trafalgar Square. While we were there Critical Mass cycled by – that actually makes it sound as though they were moving at a reasonable pace but given the sheer volume of people and the number of traffic lights there, it actually took quite some time. But then I think that is part of the point of what they are doing.

My friend had to go home reasonably early and so I wandered toward the station to take the tube home but instead of getting on the tube I went to Waterstone’s at Piccadilly (which incidentally is the biggest bookshop in Europe) and browsed the books there for a while. I think there’s just something a bit unappealing about going home at the moment. What with students keep coming to stay and the latest two being very noisy and seeming to make the house very busy, it doesn’t really feel as though I am going home to peace and quiet but that instead it is more like having to contend with other people invading my space and my privacy and that even when I am in my room I can still hear the boys crashing about and talking loudly. So the thought of going home doesn’t appeal much at the moment because being there is just a bit of a hassle.

It’s funny because there has always been something odd about where I live. I have never been known for spending much time with my parents even though they only live about a mile away but since I have lived here, I have gone home far more often than I have over the last several years. Maybe some of it is that as you get older you learn to deal with your parents better, but I think it is more to do with how the place where I live at the moment is very dark inside and so I like to escape and sometimes I can’t think of where else to go apart from wandering over to see my parents (and mum usually feeds me too).

I know it’s only a short term thing that the boys are here and I know that in a couple of months I should have a place of my own - which is light and airy - but just for now I don’t want to rush home at the end of the day and when I am at home I feel as though I would probably rather be somewhere else. Somewhere more peaceful and more calm. In fact somewhere that I feel as though I am not constantly having to compromise what I want for other people – for my landlady so that she can make a bit of money out of having students to stay or for the students so that they don’t feel as though they have to sneak round the house unnoticed. It’s not that I mind other people being about but I would like to think that I might get a bit of consideration from somewhere, but to expect that from a couple of teenage boys might be a but much to ask. I know that all that is going on at the moment is tapping into something deeper within me, stuff to do with mattering and I need to think about that and I know that ultimately this will pass but until then I will feel something that I have felt over a number of years in the various places I have lived - a bit of a visitor in my own home.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Almost an adult

Yesterday morning I was woken up at 6am by one of the boys who is staying talking on the phone. I was talking to my landlady about it last night and she said that she had sorted out topping up his phone the night before and put £10 on it and he’d called his parents but the credit had lasted five minutes and so he had been really upset. I felt quite sorry for him after I heard that and was glad I resisted the urge to get out of bed and tell him to shut up. However, I got woken up by him talking on the phone again this morning, so I might not be quite so kind in future. I'll mention it to my landlady and get her to have a word. I will be really annoyed if I get woken up really early tomorrow.

Anyway, the mortgage is now hopefully sorted. The slight complication is that I had to fill out the form as though I live at my parents’ address because that is where I am on the electoral roll. I have moved so often that it just seemed easiest to be registered there rather than keep having to re-register. What with pretending to be a proper adult by getting a mortgage, I thought I’d better continue that by phoning my dad and mentioning this to him. I think he was kind of surprised to hear from me but did at least realise it was me and not my sister. He did agree that if someone phoned and asked for me that he wouldn’t say “Who? Never heard of her” and in fact will just take a message – not that he knows how to get in touch with me, but that’s a whole different matter.

My financial adviser is such a nice chap and I always feel as though he is giving a well informed and honest opinion. As I know nothing about buying a house that’s just what I need. The mortgage chap who was also there even filled out the forms for me (I know he did them right as I sat there and watched him do it). Sometimes it can be really nice to have people do things like that for you and form filling can be a bit of a chore. I phoned the estate agent after that so that they knew they should be hearing from a surveyor next week. I want to make sure I sound keen and as though I am getting on with things – particularly as I am. The next task is to work out all the things that I am going to need to buy, how much they will cost and the priority for buying each because there is a lot of stuff to buy and money will be rather more scarce. It’s a shame that it is my birthday rather imminently or else I could have come up with quite a few things, but I haven’t had any time to think about it. My family will breathe a collective sigh of relief when I have bought my own place, as I will finally be able to think of things that I need. Roll on Christmas.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Chinese Laundry

I didn’t hear anything back from the estate agent yesterday morning and was just browsing on Right Move to sort of distract myself and saw that the property I like was under offer. Confused? So was I. I phoned the estate agent to ask what had happened and the one I had been dealing with wasn’t there. The other chap said he would get him to phone me back but then said he’d look on the database and see if he could tell me what was going on. Then he said “It’s your offer that’s been accepted. Congratulations!” I think there were just some crossed wires and in many ways the estate agent was very efficient and there was a letter waiting for me when I got home last night saying my offer had been accepted and that they had told my solicitor. They just hadn’t got round to telling me… Bizarre and they are actually a good estate agent, by far the best I have dealt with but they did miss out that vital step of actually telling me. Hmm.

Anyway, I am going into work late today so that I can go and sort out a mortgage, but that shouldn’t take too long and I’ll also have to find a surveyor at some point as well. It’s all a bit of a learning curve, but fortunately I have a really good financial adviser who is great at giving advice and a few pointers, so when I go and see him in a bit I’m sure things will make more sense then. Anyway… It seems I am going to become a home owner! I’m not counting my chickens though what with having been gazumped before.

My landlady spoke to the Chinese boys who are staying at the moment as one of them is still using my bathroom. What particularly miffed my landlady though was that he did his laundry in there (despite her leaving out a laundry basket and saying she will do it whenever they need it done) and then hanging his washing out on the gutter. She was so unimpressed and told him off and took all his washing from him. I’m still not entirely sure he understands though and probably can’t work out why he keeps getting told off for trying to keep himself and his clothes clean. Hopefully the other lad will explain to him what is going on and calm will return. The girls were so much less trouble. I do still have a pair of his stray underpants in my bathroom, but somehow am not tempted to move them. I am going to continue checking my toothbrush each day so I know that it’s dry before I use it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Well, I was indeed brave and put in an offer on the place I want to buy. I was decisive and explained the reasoning behind my offer and so on. Perhaps unsurprisingly the estate agent called back and after gushing about how grateful the vendor was, turned down the offer. Not that I have put in that many offers, but it is remarkable quite how “grateful” they are and how much “they wanted to thank you for the offer”. I must obviously only want to buy from people who are very polite and courteous. Nice to know.

So I had a think and decided to play it cool on putting in another offer but was going to phone late afternoon to offer a bit more money. Except the estate agent phoned me back first to say that someone else who had seen it on Saturday had phoned to see he would probably put an offer in so the estate agent wanted to know if I had thought about upping my offer. As I was going to put in another offer anyway, I did it then but stressed the fact that the owner had made an error by letting the lease run down so much and I was now going to have to pay for that error and that as a first time buyer there wasn’t going to be any problem with the chain breaking down. So… since then... I have heard nothing.

I am assuming the owner has either had an offer from the other chap as well and is deciding which to accept or the other chap hasn’t put in an offer and she is waiting to see if he does. Anyway, if it turns into some kind of bidding war I am not interested, particularly as whatever I pay, I am then going to still have to pay more money to extend the lease. I’ll just have to see what happens when the estate agent calls back.

As if I am not potentially about to spend vast amounts of money already, I am also going to book a flight to The Gambia today too. I spoke to my friend S’s parents and we are going to fly out there at the end of November. I managed to find a far cheaper fare than they had come up with, flying on exactly the same airline. Economising may the name of the game from here on, so I’d better start as I mean to go on. *focuses mind on the money saving rather than the extravagance of flying to The Gambia* Yep, I’m going to be good at this.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I used to be indecisive but now I'm not so sure

So... I might actually be brave today and put in an offer on the place that I like. I spoke to these people yesterday who gave me some advice on extending a lease and actually you have to renew it before it drops below 81 years to avoid paying something that means spending thousand to do it instead of hundreds. So it’s too late now anyway. The estate agent reckons it will cost about £4000 to extend the lease, so I reckon I will take that off the asking price and see what happens.

The Chinese boys arrived last night and they seem nice enough. They are. However, using my bathroom, which is somewhat obvious from the toilet seat being up when I go in there. But what bothers me the most is that one of them used the cup that I keep my toothbrush and toothpaste in and left toothpaste froth round the edge of the rim and so on, which I thought was kind of disgusting. Why would you use someone else’s cup anyway? Or do I just not understand the mind of teenage boys? I think my landlady is going to have a word and remind them to use her bathroom instead. Although I can understand that they might not be too keen as they have to walk through her bedroom to use it.

I had a nice evening last night though and went round to a friend’s house for dinner and we had a good catch up and she cooked some really nice salmon. I’m off out for dinner again tonight, so having had a quiet week last week, I am making up for it this week and it involves food. What more could I want?

Monday, July 24, 2006


It was a pretty good weekend and now it’s back to working for my head of unit again. She seems to have got the idea that she should mentor me until she leaves. I could therefore become an expert in how to use copious amounts of Elnett hairspray and how to delegate so that I don’t have to take responsibility for anything. What I don’t want to learn from her though is her dancing technique. She came into my office the other day and did a full Scottish jig with her own musical accompaniment. When she had finished I just said to her “I take it you have good news then”. Afterwards I spoke to the other person who had been in the office and we agreed that we would never speak of that moment. Ever.

The exchange students have gone. I was woken at about four this morning by one of them loudly banging around the place and phones ringing and so on, as she was heading odd to the airport. Sadly there is no respite though as two new students turn up today. They were meant to be two Chinese girls but have now turned into two Chinese boys, one of whom is 12. I am not relishing this prospect. The students are also not supposed to use my bathroom, even though one of the last students did sometimes and if it is boys I hope their aim is good, as I don’t fancy walking through their wee. *shudders at the thought* Anyway, they turn up tonight, so we’ll see what they’re like.

I spoke to my friend J yesterday about the housing situation and said I might put an offer in on somewhere. As it turns out, she hasn’t even found out if she can get another mortgage yet, so there doesn’t seem much point in dragging my feet if there might not even be a possibility of buying with her. I looked at the lease details of the place I am interested in and there are actually 80 years to run at the moment but it drops to 79 years some time in September. When a lease goes below 80 years left to run it can become a lot more expensive to extend it, so I have found an organisation who can advise on these things and am going to phone them in a bit to find out what they think the impact might be. It could become something to negotiate the selling price to might make it unviable. Given that September is rapidly approaching, time is of the essence though.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

It's the taking part that counts

I asked my landlady how the open day went and she said two lots of people came round. So I don’t think that can be described as a rip roaring success. Nor as enough justification to have once again removed my towels and the toilet paper from the bathroom, moved various items about on my desk or thrown some of the paper that was on my desk into the bin, which I have now retrieved. I really don’t feel comfortable with her keep going into my room. It feels like such an invasion of privacy, but she just doesn’t see it like that as she thinks she is just being practical.

I went round to see the place I am interested in buying again and still think it is very nice. The estate agent who was there this time didn’t seem to know very much about the property so I phoned the one I had originally spoken to and asked him various things. There are 79 years left to run on the lease, so I want to know if the current owner has ever looked into having it extended. If I bought the place I would try to get it extended, but unless you have lived in a property for two years you don’t have the legal right to do that, so I would have to ask her to start the proceedings etc. It could cost quite a lot of money but then I guess that is something to negotiate on with the price. I also want to know what things like the service charges cover and who owns a somewhat abandoned looking car that is taking up one of the parking spaces. Anyway, I have said to the estate agent that I am interested and so that at least means if she gets any offers in the interim that she is less likely to accept.

The slight complication with this – isn’t there always a complication – is that the friend I spoke to a couple of weeks ago about possibly buying somewhere with is apparently very keen to do this. Except I don’t know this from her, I saw her dad yesterday and he said it to me. I said that I was interested in a particular place and might well put in an offer, but would phone J and find out what the situation is. She was meant to have phoned me back over a week ago to tell me what the likelihood of her getting a mortgage is, given that she already owns somewhere else, and I haven’t heard anything, so I don’t even know if it is viable. Anyway, I’d better phone her later and find out what’s going on. I did actually say to her when we spoke that I would carry on looking on my own though, but maybe she didn’t quite realise what that might mean.

I went round to see a friend yesterday afternoon, which was interesting. Interesting in the sense that we were walking her dog in the afternoon and whilst we didn’t have an argument, I was so annoyed by a couple of things she said that I almost handed her the dog lead and walked off. I managed to resist the urge though as storming off or putting the phone down on people really isn’t my style. When I was driving home last night I was on a dual carriageway and at one point suddenly noticed that a car was reversing toward me on the main carriageway. Surely this isn’t normal behaviour – or legal for that matter? Perhaps it was my friend trying to make sure she won in the disagreement. She can be very competitive. *looks all suspicious*

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Some progress

So it’s the Open Day today which is the master plan my landlady is using to try and sell the place that I live. Despite it being scheduled to last for four hours, there is one person booked in so far which is at 12.30. This does not bode well for success – although I suppose it only takes one person being interested in order to sell the property. I noticed the other day that my landlady seems to have reduced the asking price by about £30,000, but this still doesn’t seem to have drummed up any interest. Where I live is one of those places where you’ll either love it or have no interest at all and most people seem to fall into the latter category.

I have tidied my bedroom so that it looks presentable should hordes of people turn up for the open day. It’s kind of weird trying to decide what to leave out on view. Do I want photos of my nephew out? Do I want to leave out my normal reading material or should I leave out some books that make me look really intellectual – although I’d have to actually go out and buy some new books if that was the case, which seems a bit extreme. Mind you, I’m just hoping that the colour of my duvet cover is acceptable (it’s blue at the moment) and that they don’t rifle through my underwear drawer.

I had a nice day yesterday with my friend S and her husband. S said that her parents are going out to visit them in The Gambia in November and her parents had asked if I wanted to go with them. That would actually be quite good and I know her parents well, so it wouldn’t be really odd to spend time with them, so that might well be a plan. I think her dad is going to e-mail me and then we can see if we can sort something out.

I also saw a place on the internet yesterday that looked like somewhere I might be interested in buying, but I wasn’t entirely sure. I arranged an appointment for yesterday afternoon because I thought it would be handy if S and her husband could come along, as I knew they’d be good on giving opinions on what they thought and what to look for. As it turned out the place was really nice – two decent sized bedrooms, a decent sized kitchen (and we know how important that is!) and living room, although there was far too much furniture in the living room, which did not do it justice. It was in good decorative order, although the colour scheme was a bit questionable so would need a repaint in places. I’m going to phone the estate agent this morning and try and go back to see it with my mum today or tomorrow and then decide what to do. It would be good to finally find somewhere.

Anyway, I’d better go out in case there is an invasion of people wanting to by where I currently live and I can’t get out the front door.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Breathing space

Well I’m on leave today which is very welcome given that it gives me a break from working for my head of unit. I think I’ve already said that it hasn’t turned out to be as bad as I had feared, but she did seem to expect me to be still there waiting for her last night when she got back from a meeting at 7.30. I’d done some work for her but she wouldn’t let me send it before she went to the meeting and wanted me to send it when she got back, but it all had to go out in her name from her e-mail account and because she can’t use a computer at all she needed someone to be there and press the buttons. Fortunately my boss said that, as he had other things to do at work, he would stay and sort it out for her. So I was very grateful.

I’ve thought of a route home that means that I can do a reasonable part of my journey on a national rail train that has something vaguely like air conditioning. It makes such a difference, as although it means I have to change to and from the tube twice it so more of a more pleasant journey. Travelling on the tube is so hot at the moment that any respite from it is well worth it.

I’m on leave because my friend S and her husband are over from The Gambia again, so we’ll see how that goes. I have thought of somewhere nice to go for lunch today but haven’t some up with a plan beyond that. I think I will probably have to log into my work e-mail this afternoon though because I need to chase something up so I may not be able to entirely switch off from work.

In case you were wondering, the name of yesterday’s post ‘O tell me the truth about love’ is the name of a poem by WH Auden. I’m not generally into poetry because I usually have no idea what it’s about or miss all the symbolism and so on, but it’s a really nice poem and makes me chuckle. Also, here are the rest of the lyrics to “Drops of Jupiter” and you can check out if they have crow-barred in any other words that rhyme like “sticking” and “chicken”. Who am I to criticise? I think they did very well out of the song and it’s kind of catchy.

Anyway, to quote some US cop show that I can’t think of the name of ‘be safe out there’.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Open Days

I seem to have a lot of people that I need to phone this week. I realised a couple of days ago that I must still owe someone money for the holiday at the end of May because I only paid the deposit. I phoned someone last night to ask if she knew how much I owed and she called back while I was on the phone to someone else and left a message saying she wasn’t entirely sure, so I’m still none the wiser. I also need to phone a school friend who I have been meaning to meet up with for ages and a couple of friends from university and so on. Fortunately I’m not too busy over the next few days so will try and catch up then.

One thing that may have to occupy some of my time though is tidying my bedroom. Apparently my landlady is having an ‘open day’ on Saturday to try and sell the house. The house has been on the market for a good couple of months now and I think about three people have come round to see it. So I guess she needs to do something but I’m not sure her timing is entirely great. The estate agent forgot to advertise it last week and it is also the start of the Summer holidays so I am not sure how many people will turn up. The exchange students are also still here and I don’t think it is very fair for her to expect them to keep everything spotless but…let’s be honest, I am going to be the one who gets the biggest talking to about being tidy. My room is pretty tidy by my standards but I imagine if I turn my back for a moment the rug will have been removed from my room and my duvet cover will have been replaced by some floral monstrosity.

In some ways I think it would be interesting to be about on Saturday to see how many people turn up and so on, but I think it would be better to disappear off before it is all due to begin. Not that I know what time it is due to start or how long it lasts and so on, but I am sure I can come up with something to amuse myself for as long as necessary.

Anyway, I have to make it to the end of the week first, although I am off work on Friday so it’s a shorter working week than normal. The tube is absolutely boiling at the moment though and you can tell how irritable people are and it’s very hot when the trains stop between stations so there isn’t even any airflow. I guess the heat wave is all part of global warming, so do remember to switch off your lights and then that should make it a bit cooler on the tube. Or something like that. I never was very good at science.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Being assertive

Phew! It’s hot out there, but you’d probably noticed that already. Fortunately I work in a very well air-conditioned building so it is only when I walk out of work that I hit a wall of heat. It is with some relief that I am able to say that is all I have hit this week. I am *still* working for my head of unit and she has now come up with even more work for me to do. I think she sees herself as some kind of benefactor passing on her wisdom and worldly experience. I have been finishing off lots of the work that I have had to do of late but there are actually a couple of deadlines I am likely to miss because that particular work is of no interest to my head of unit. So I need to try and find some time today to at least get the work started and make sure I know what I need to do.

I managed to resist the urge to hit my head of unit when I had prepared a whole load of work and she just looked at it and said “You need to flag it” i.e. put those little coloured tag things on it. She couldn’t care less about the content, it’s all about presentation. Anyway, I replied “we’ve almost run out of the flags” and she just turned to me and said in a most superior tone “I hope I just misheard you. Sort it out!” My face must have looked like absolute thunder, not that my head of unit noticed, because someone else just looked at me and said to me “I’ll get some for you” and rushed off to find them. I really don’t appreciate being spoken to like I am her personal skivvy and we can’t even get the particular flags she likes from our stationery catalogue and the local Rymans has absolutely none in stock because we have already ransacked them for their stocks, but it is of no interest to her that we can’t actually get what she wants. “No” is not an answer!

The candidates for head of unit have still not been told the outcome of the interviews. Or at least, G, the woman I have been working with the last couple of weeks, hasn’t been told, which I guess could mean that she hasn’t got the job and they’re just waiting for the person they have selected to accept. Apparently our director has been unable to make eye contact with her for days, which doesn’t seem like a good sign. Oh please don’t let evil, bad tempered woman get it *wails*.

One of the things I have learnt from G though is to stand up to my head of unit a bit more. When H is being totally unreasonable and expecting me to work late just because she is very badly organised – or go to Rymans and buy some stationery (which it has to be said is not as bad as her trying to get various people to go to the supermarket and buy her fruit) – then I am kind of learning to challenge what she says more and to point out when she is asking things that are inappropriate. By the time she leaves I might even have learned how to say those things out loud and not just scream them in my own head. Actually, I have sometimes raised my hand and when given permission to speak have voiced an occasional objection. It was promptly dismissed, of course, but I like to think that one day I might be able to influence the choice of biscuits. *shouts* luxury biscuits not the basic selection! *looks all sheepish* Not that there’s anything wrong with bourbons or custard creams *whispers* I just like the chocolate and orange ones that are in foil...*voice fades away*

I’ll keep practicing.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Maintaining Standards

I had a very chilled out day yesterday. I started it at a leisurely pace and then headed to Oxford Street in the afternoon to do some shopping. I managed to get some new work shoes, a pair of trainers and a couple of tops for work so that was good. There were a lot of very odd people in London yesterday, maybe it was the heat – or perhaps they thought I was odd.

Today I am going to meet up with my sister and nephew. I don’t think my brother in law will be about though. We’re going to try and find some shoes for my nephew. Originally I was going over to my sister’s and we were going to try and get them somewhere near where she lives but apparently dad’s leg infection has to worse and is now oozing something green. So she’s going over to see him and I’ll meet up with her at my parents’ house. Hopefully going over there will go better than when I was there last time.

I was amused by a recent post on Little Red Boat. Let me be clear here. There is no excuse for using ‘text speak’ in work e-mails. If someone sent me a work e-mail that was in ‘text speak’ I would absolutely despair of them. I find it really odd when people send work e-mails that start “Hi [Name]”. “Hi” to start a work e-mail? What is the world coming to? Totally fine in a personal e-mail, not appropriate in a work e-mail - it’s not some banter filled chatty communication. If I was writing a work letter I would never be so informal, so I never quite understand why people think it is ok in a work e-mail. It’s not that I expect an e-mail to start ‘Dear [Name]’ and be that formal, but ‘Hi’ always riles me. There is someone who sends e-mails that say things like "PFA the agenda for the next meeting" and it took me ages to work out what he was trying to say. I may introduce corporal punishment at work.

When I send text messages I always spell words out in full and try and correctly punctuate the message. If I run out of space in a message then I redraft it so I don’t have to use text speak. If people send me texts that use abbreviations then sometimes I can’t even work out what they mean. That could possibly indicate that I am about 200 years old and despairing of the youth of today, but I like to think that I am just trying to maintain standards and I firmly believe that the Daily Mail would support me in this important campaign. If I was a teacher I would probably give lines to any pupil who submitted work or an exam paper that was in text speak. “I will not show my ignorance by failing to use the English language correctly. I instead I will craft beautifully constructed prose to convey my message and bring joy to the reader, like gazing upon a perfect sunset as the sun slips below the horizon”

It’s always good to give them something to aspire to. Enuff sed.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


I was hoping to sleep in late this morning but everyone else seemed to have other ideas. The exchange students got up really early and made loads of noise. Then my landlady’s son came round and was upstairs and kept shouting downstairs to his mum. Unsurprisingly sleep escaped me at this point. So I got up and made a cup of tea and went to eat a bowl of cereal, but as I poured the milk I realised it had turned to cheese. I’m hoping this hasn’t set the standard for the day.

The exchange students seem not to be the best of buddies. One is French and the other Italian so they are perhaps still carrying on the rivalry from the World Cup. They get the same bus as me to the station and whilst originally they would wait for each other to walk to the bus stop they now appear separately. Then when we get to the station there are two different routes that they can take to get to college so one of them takes one route and one the other. I guess there’s no reason why they should get on but it is amusing to watch them interact with each other (or otherwise).

I was meant to meet up with a friend at 6pm yesterday, so at about 5.30 my head of unit decided that she wanted to go through a whole load of work. On several occasions I said I needed to go and then finally at 6.30 she said “Oh do you need to go and meet someone at 6.30” and I replied “At 6 o’clock actually”. I was still at work for another 10 minutes or so while she got me to finish some work for her. I hate being late for things because it’s really rude, but fortunately my friend was still waiting for me. I had sent a couple of texts to explain I was stuck at work, but even so, it’s rude. The woman I had the monkey e-mail exchange with sent me an e-mail saying “my chimp is loading his gun” which at least kept me amused. My head of unit also seems to want me to do some more work with her, so I have no idea when I am likely to go back to my normal job, which is not ideal as my new member of staff has not even had his objectives set or a proper job description. But such things are of no interest to my head of unit, as long as I am doing the work that she needs to be done – even if that means working later on a Friday due to her poor organisation skills.

Anyway, it’s the weekend, it’s sunny and I’m going to try and forget work for a couple of days.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Monkeying about

I think I’ve said before that my head of unit is due to retire some time in the next few months. Although I did hear the other day that she might just be leaving and not retiring, but as long as she no longer works with me, I will just be relieved she’s gone.

Anyway, yesterday they held the interviews for her replacement. I hope that you were sending out positive vibes at 10.15 yesterday morning when the person who gets the popular vote was being interviewed. There were four candidates and one of them is the person I’ve just mentioned. She works in the unit next to mine and we she is one of the people I have been working with the last couple of weeks. Everyone really likes her, she’s good at her job etc. The other candidates are another head of unit who is a nice enough chap; my old boss who is a bit of a control freak; and a woman who is an external candidate. We do quite a lot of work with her already and know she has a really nasty temper and is an absolute control freak. So guess who the money is on to get the job? That’s right, the external candidate. Several people have said they’ll leave if she gets it and I am considering that myself.

Anyway, when my nice colleague had her interview I sent her an e-mail to see how she had got on. This will once again show you how professional I am and how dedicated I am to my work, never getting distracted from all the important paper shuffling I have to do.

My e-mail

Are we feeling:


Hope it went well

The reply

Ha ha excellent.

Well I felt Ok but then I had a cup of tea with [H] so now I feel a bit...

My reply

I suggest this may solve your problem of people offering “supportive” advice

We find out who got the job on Monday.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Deals and compromises

Yesterday I saw that the chap who wanted to exchange a paperclip for a house finally made it. Some people in a town in Saskatchewan, Canada offered him a house in return for a part in a film. He’s exchanged all sorts of things along the way, including a snow globe. Sorted. Now, if only I could achieve the same it would make my life much easier. I did ask someone the other day if they would give me either (it’s always polite to offer a choice) a million pounds or a house. They politely declined. Now had I offered a paperclip in exchange that might just have sweetened the deal enough. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. *sigh*

Anyway, yesterday I decided to use the more traditional method for acquiring property and went to see another maisonette. An estate agent called me yesterday afternoon and I arranged to go and see it last night, partly because it meant I had an excuse to escape work promptly and also because the estate agent reckoned it would probably go quite quickly. So I phoned my mum and she agreed to meet me there so we could have a look together.

My mum is normally late for everything but for once it was me who was late because there were various bits of confusion on the tube due to the destination of the train changing at the last minute. Someone decided that the best thing to do was pull the emergency alarm so that they could get off and get on a different train instead. So that delayed the whole service and I hope they were deeply embarrassed by the chaos they caused. All they had to do was get off at the next stop but instead delayed the whole service.

The problem with viewing places with mum is that she doesn’t seem to have particularly strong opinions on places, so is a bit non-committal in her thoughts. It’s not that I want her to be really enthusiastic or critical but I had to keep pressing her for her to give an opinion particularly. Knowing what she thought would be helpful but I suppose that some of it comes back to the issue of ultimately it being my decision, so to a degree my own opinion is the only one that matters.

I went back to my parents’ house for dinner afterwards and ended up having an argument with my father who then refused to eat with us, so that was lovely, but it gave me the chance to see if I could glean what mum’s opinion was on the place we had seen. I think the conclusion we both came to was that it was nice but an awful lot of money and some of that money was because of the postcode. It was about £20,000 more than the place I put an offer in on recently, which is a lot of money. *Thinks* you probably didn’t need me to tell you that.

I am considering writing to Canada and asking if they have any other houses that are going spare and would like to donate to a worthy cause (that’s me, in case you weren’t sure), but the slight downside is that it would be a very long commute to work everyday. I know what you’re thinking “you’ve got to be willing to compromise somewhere” but I’m thinking anywhere more than a five hour journey by plane is probably a bit far. If I carry on like this I may end up in a cardboard box on the Embankment, which would be much closer to work, so would considerably cut my commuting distance – see? I am willing to consider all sorts of option.

*Wanders off to start collecting up the photocopying paper boxes – and a paperclip*

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Relative calm

Life can be very cruel sometimes. I woke up this morning and really wanted some more sleep. Then the news came on the radio and the newsreader said “It’s six o’clock”. “Six o’clock?” I thought “That’s an hour before I’m due to get up”. Only the newsreader was wrong and it was actually seven - although he never did correct himself, so there are probably loads of people running an hour later today.

Life can also be very nice at times. This morning when I got to work, I couldn’t find my work pass and one of the security guards came and spoke to me and asked if I was ok and then said he’d let me in anyway and I’d just have to get a temporary pass later if I didn’t find my proper one. I thought that was really nice of him because he could have been really jobsworth about it.

I think that things will be much calmer at work as of today. My head of unit said I should go home “early” at 5.15 yesterday afternoon but as it turned out I had various things to do until about 6.30 and then as soon as I got home I had to phone my head of unit to tell her something. I have learned that it is much better to tell her things in advance so that when she gets into work the next day she doesn’t immediately go into a total panic.

These are famous last words but the work actually went much better than I expected. It was a bit of a nightmare from the point of view of the number of hours I had to work, but my head of unit was on better form than normal - although I did think I hit a professional low when I seemed to end up in an argument with her about whether some printer paper was cream or white. Another person I was working with also took her to one side in the afternoon to say that she shouldn’t get so annoyed with people and that a lot of the problem came from her not communicating what she wanted properly. Apparently my head of unit now wants some feedback from me on her attitude and so on. I think I will carefully consider my response before I say anything. I have to do a whole load of work for her until at least the end of the week, so it’s probably best to keep her on side.

One of the problems with working for my head of unit is that if you do a bad job then she will tear you to shreds, but if you do a good job then she wants you to do lots of other bits of work for her as well. So you can’t win either way. Apparently she has been really pleased with my work, but to be honest I think I did my job but hardly did anything worthy of great praise. The last couple of days I have been operating on auto-pilot, so my ability has been somewhat impaired. Still I got the job done and managed to do this without going insane or any blood being shed, so I count that as a success.

Hopefully over the next few days I will think of more exciting things to write about than how tired I am and how irritating work is. Mind you, I’m not making any promises, but I’ll see if I can be more inspired.

Monday, July 10, 2006

You may look vaguely familiar

I had a fairly peaceful day yesterday but I made sure I went out and did something so that I didn’t get to the end of my weekend and all I had done was work and feel tired. So I decided to go and look at a painting exhibition yesterday afternoon. There was one particular painting I wanted to see but as people could buy the paintings, it had been sold when I got there. I bought a couple of postcards anyway and the artist was actually there and so I spoke to him briefly and I might go back some time and have another look. Some of the paintings were not actually that expensive and there was a nice watercolour that would go nicely in a bathroom. Although, I could probably do with actually buying somewhere to live so I have a bathroom rather than decorating it just yet...

I have no artistic talent whatsoever, I can’t paint or draw and so on, although I did make a very good sheep out of fimo once now I think about it, but that was the exception to my artistic ability or lack thereof. Whilst I thought some of this chap’s artwork wasn’t brilliant, I thought others were really good and captured various images of London very well. It was just a shame that not all of them were available as postcards.

At one point I was at Trafalgar Square and there was a very amusing moment when a whole load of Italian students were standing on one side of the road and they spotted five French students holding the tricolore on the other side of the road. A bit of booing ensued between the opposing sides and then the Italians started to chant very loudly “Italia, Italia” and people just looked on both bemused and amused. The French contingent resisted the urge to head butt any of the Italians in the chest though (note the football related joke. Impressive, huh?).

It’s going to be another really busy day and I don’t think I will get away from work very early tonight. I added up the amount of overtime I did last week and it was 18 hours Monday to Friday and then another 10 hours on Saturday. If I am allowed to claim some pay for it, I can also get paid for some travel time as well, so that will take me to over 30 hours. I don’t think I will make my fortune out of the overtime as we are paid at well below our hourly rate for working extra hours. I have no idea why that’s the case but there’s nothing I can do about it and it is also discretionary whether they’ll pay for the week day hours at all, so I might get paid nothing! I would say that I do it just for the love of the job, but given the sinking feeling I had last night, somehow I think that it’s going to take a lot to convince myself of that, let alone anyone else.

Whilst I think I am still going to be working for my head of unit for a good few days yet, hopefully the really long hours will be over as of tomorrow and my sanity will be restored then. I was so tired yesterday that I was having trouble remembering people’s names. The names of people who I have known for years were just escaping me and I had to do my usual trick of running through the alphabet to try and prompt me. That technique normally helps me to remember pretty much anything, but yesterday even that was not helping me to fill in some of the blanks. So I think some decent sleep is needed - and I apologise if I look at you blankly in the street. Although that’s probably more to do with not knowing what you look like in the first place. Anyway, apologies.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Tired, tired, tired

I’m hoping to actually have a bit of a weekend today, at last. I left for work at 10am yesterday and I got home at 11pm. I hadn’t realised quite how long I would end up being at work for and my head of unit was keen for me to go in today as well, but I have other things to do this morning and so wouldn’t be able to get into work until mid-afternoon. I was talking to the other person I was working with and saying that if I never got to have a bit of spare time I wouldn’t have any food etc because there is no-one else to go and sort those things for me. I wasn’t saying this in a “woe is me” type way, just talking about how, practically, this wasn’t very helpful for me. I do actually need some time to do some normal things like washing and buying food and so on. What it is to have such ambition in life.

So, unless I do end up going into work, I am going to try and think of something nice to do this afternoon and to just spend a bit of time existing and hopefully not thinking about work. There’s an exhibition I would quite like to go and have a look at and there are a couple of other things I can probably think of to do. My muscles feel very tired at the moment though so I might have to do something that doesn’t involve having to move very much. Here’s hoping for a peaceful and stress free day ahead.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

It's off to work I go

Yesterday was a strange day. I felt really tired all day, mainly because it has been a long week at work. On Thursday night I was at work until gone 10pm and then went and stayed in a hotel around the corner from my office. I was very amused that when I checked into the hotel the receptionist seemed to be under the impression that I was going to be sharing a room with the colleague I was with. I think he’d sort of overheard our discussion about whose credit card to charge the rooms to and assumed we were a couple. I guess that is the closest I got to taking advantage of it being National Kissing Day.

Anyway, usually I sleep pretty well in hotels but I was woken up at about 3am by a bloke banging on someone’s door and shouting to be let in to the room. This went on for a while and I should have phoned reception, but I didn’t have the energy to do it. So when I dragged myself back into work yesterday morning I was really tired.

My announcement of the two-minute silence seemed to be spot on in terms of time. This is despite the first thing my head of unit said to me was that she had wondered if there had been a technical fault as it was late. But according to one of my colleagues, as soon as I had announced it was midday, Big Ben chimed on the TV, so I got the timing exactly right. This was no mean feat as there was no clock in the room where I made the announcement so I was relying on someone’s watch to give the exact time. We realised about 11.30 that the watch was showing the wrong time so we spent the next thirty minutes trying to get the precise time and this included phoning the speaking clock. But it was worth it because the silence went off without a hitch.

I had a really hectic day at work but managed to lave work at 6pm, as I went to St Martin’s in the Field to hear Mozart’s Requiem Mass. It seemed an apt thing to do given the day and as it turned out it was in support of the London Bombing Charitable Relief Fund, which I hadn’t realised when I booked it. It was really lovely to sit there and wind down after a hard week and listen to some music in tribute to those who died last year.

Having said that though, I have to go back into work shortly. I’ve been doing some particular work all week but the person who it is for refused to even look at it until this afternoon and, as the bulk of it has to be finished for Monday, there’s no choice but to go into work.

In her most condescending tone my head of unit told me that things are changing and we have to accept that working long hours and at weekends is the way it is likely to be for people from now on. I am hoping this isn’t the case as part of my normal job and this is just the exception. Because of working so late all week I didn’t have time to arrange a second viewing of the place I saw last weekend and another offer has been accepted, so I am even less pleased at having worked the hours I have. But who am I to naively want to have a life outside of work or to actually have time to buy somewhere to live? Let’s hope the end of this is in sight or I’ll be a homeless workaholic before I know it.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Year On

I look back on the events of a year ago and in some ways nothing in London changed and in other ways a lot did.

On the morning of 7 July, it was one of those rare days when I didn’t get the tube to work, so I have no story of how I could have been at one of the scenes or what a lucky escape I had. I was in Bromley when someone said to me that something had happened on the London Underground but they didn’t know if it was power surges or maybe something more serious than that.

I was in Bromley with someone else from work and when we realised it was something serious we then had to drive back into London because we had the work car with us. So as everyone else was trying to leave London, we were heading back in. As we drove in we were listening to BBC Radio London which was asking for people to call in and say what they had seen. They didn’t want any speculation, just for people to say what they knew. People were phoning in and given what they were saying it sounded as though this was going to be something really bad. Emergency vehicles kept going past at high speed with their sirens on and it was fairly obvious that something very serious has happened.

By the time we got to Central London the bus had blown up in Tavistock Square and all the buses had stopped running and we could see lots of buses pulled over at the side of the road and the disembarked passengers standing there not really sure what to do next as there was no public transport in London. We made really good time back to work because there were actually very few vehicles on the road and then we watched Sky News in the office and saw the events of the day unfold. Over the coming days we realised the scale of what had taken place, with perhaps some tinge of relief that, whilst any of the 52 people being killed by the bombers was an absolute tragedy, it wasn’t more people.

The impact on those caught up in those events whether because they were on one of the tube trains or the bus, or knew someone who was, is hard to imagine and I don’t suppose their lives will ever be the same again. I think there was far more wariness from people travelling on public transport in the short term and I know a couple of people who avoid travelling on the tube even now. But most people have probably returned to their normal commute to work - ignoring fellow commuters and not wanting to be troubled by anything other than listening to their iPod or reading their paper. Clearly illustrated by me journey home on the tube last week. In some ways it is good that people just carry on as normal but I hope that people have at least learnt to keep an eye out for other people a bit more and have a willingness to take action if they think there is something suspicious.

So at midday today I shall pay my own tribute by announcing the two minute silence over the voice address system across the building and will remember those who were killed, injured or otherwise caught up in those tragic events. We will remember.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


On the 6 July last year London was awarded the 2012 Olympics. I remember I had gone out to get something just as they were about to make the announcement and I knew that London had been awarded the Olympics because I heard some cheering from a nearby building site. There was much celebration across London and the news started to report on the plans for making sure that everything was ready for seven years time.

But less than 24 hours later the celebrations came to an abrupt halt when bombs exploded in London. I’ll say more about that tomorrow, but I’ve had to put a bit of preparation in to planning for tomorrow because I am announcing the midday two-minute silence at work. Given that on Remembrance Day last year the person who was meant to do it didn’t make the announcement at work, I had a discussion with a couple of people and agreed to do it this time. Every Friday we test the fire alarm and someone has to make an announcement to say it is going to happen, so last Friday they asked me to go and announce it over the voice address system so that I could practice for tomorrow. It was very nerve-racking, over 2000 people work in the building so that was in the back of my mind and I could feel my hands shaking when I made the announcement, even though all I was doing was reading off a sheet of paper. I found it much harder to do that than to do my normal public speaking, I’m not sure why, but I was much more nervous. But I used my best BBC English and tried not to trip over my words. I did actually used to make quite a lot of the announcements at work, as part of some things that I do that are in addition to my normal job, but I haven’t had to make any announcements for over a year so I am a bit out of practice.

I don’t generally worry about travelling on the tube. I am usually more concerned about having a quick kip or reading a book. But tomorrow I think I will plan to be off the tube before 8.50am (the time the explosions happened on the tube). Not that I think anything is going to happen, I would just rather have finished my tube journey and be back in the open air. I suspect the tube will be much less busy than normal anyway, as I think a lot of people will either travel in at a different time or have taken the day off. We’ll see. Although having said that I may have to stay in a hotel tonight I might be working really late and then have to be back in work early tomorrow morning. So I may not be on the tube at all.

But on a more light-hearted note and perhaps one that I should take more to heart ‘just in case’, apparently today is National Kissing Day. I’m not sure if that means you’re meant to just approach anyone and give them a quick peck or if you could use it as an excuse to kiss that person you’ve fancied for ages but have never plucked up the courage to pursue before. Mind you “how about going out for a drink?” might be less risky than trying to kiss them in the stationary cupboard, but maybe I’m just showing my risk averse nature. Most of our stationary is actually kept in a filing cabinet drawer and that could just get plain complicated if you tried to kiss someone in that. Anyway, use the day wisely and there are probably some wise words about kissing a few frogs, but I wouldn’t recommend it as someone might call the RSPCA.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


I finished reading ‘We need to talk about Kevin’ yesterday and it left me rather speechless (a rarity I assure you). It took me a bit of time to get used to the style of the book but I found it really engaging and was a bit stunned when I got to the end of it. I suspect it is one of those books where you ‘pick sides’ in it - probably coloured by your own past. Really interesting read though and it quite cleverly intertwined real life events with a fictional story, which given that the book was about a high school shooting must have been a challenge to write. Anyway, I would recommend it, but it is perhaps not for the faint-hearted - or anyone with access to weapons who is feeling a bit disgruntled.

Work has been really busy. I finally got home from work about 9pm last night. My head of unit has hardly been about so it actually hasn’t been too bad and today she is due to be on leave, so I am hoping for a day of being able to get things done. I am slightly concerned that whilst I am doing lots of work, I am not really bringing much to a conclusion and there still seems to be an awful lot to do. I hope it just means that things will suddenly start to progress rather than just unravelling in front of me. My head of unit seems to think she will have to work at the weekend though, which therefore means that I will have to as well, but if I have to go in, it will just be to appease her rather than to do anything constructive. Anyway, it looks like it will be another late night tonight. I just need to focus on the fact that at some point this will end and I can return to normality.

My landlady has some exchange students staying at the moment. The first turned up late Monday night and the second late last night, so when I go downstairs in the morning there is an ever increasing number of strange people there to be polite to when all I really want to do is operate on auto-pilot and then walk out the door and go to work. When I was really young my parents used to have exchange students to stay and one day at school I’d had to paint on a black beard for some reason and for some even more inexplicable reason refused to wash it off. I then went with my mum to collect two poor unsuspecting students from the station with full beard still in place. I think they probably thought I was just some weird English child and I confirmed every odd story they had ever heard about the English. I haven’t been tempted to do this to try and welcome the exchange students. The things you can get away with when you’re young.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Injuries and independence

I survived my first day working for my head of unit, each day that I make it through without suffering any injuries is counted as a good day – whether they are emotional batterings from my head of unit or otherwise.

As I type I can see an injury sustained at work last week. One of my colleagues was messing about and clipped my arm as I was walking along holding a freshly made cup of tea. So freshly made that I hadn’t even put any milk in it. It went all over my hand and despite running it under a tap, I ended up with painful blisters on a couple of my fingers. I hadn’t realised quite how hot the water was but it must have not been far off boiling. The pain was quite considerable until the following day but now the blisters have pretty much gone and there is just some redness to my fingers where they got burnt. Have no fear though, it hasn’t put me off drinking tea, I will just have to wear protective gloves every time I fancy a quick brew.

It is of course Independence Day which is something to do with some people setting sail for America and sticking two fingers up at us Brits – and look where that got them. One of the richest nations in the world with pretty much everything life has to offer, including the ability to elect a president who gets less votes than the other candidate and then re-electing him four years later. Yes, they made a true victory for democracy when they left these shores a couple of centuries ago.

It is also three years since Barry White died. May you remember the Walrus of Love - and on your journey home why not make someone’s day by serenading them with “Can’t get enough of your love baby” or “You’re the first, the last, my everything”? Maybe try it on the bus on the way home- it doesn’t matter if you don’t know them. Mind you if you try “What am I gonna do with you?”, you might get some surprising answers in return. You never know your luck.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Patience required

I have what I shall tactfully call a “challenging” week ahead. Basically I have to do some work for my head of unit, H, all week and she keeps reminding me that it is going to involve working long hours and so on. Having said that, this may turn out to be for three weeks according to some e-mail I saw, which is definitely not what I agreed to. My head of unit is one of the most picky people I have ever dealt with but is far more concerned with presentation than content. I once spent about three days altering a chart because she kept wanting the margins to be moved and the colours to be changed, but the content was of little interest to her.

When I was asked to do this I told my boss that I really didn’t want to work for H but couldn’t come up with a legitimate excuse to get out of it. Although I could have said that I couldn’t work really long hours I suppose. There is someone else doing this work too and she has said that, as she is more senior than me, she will try and be a bit of a buffer between me and H. In fact H was not in the office on Friday and although I spoke to her a few times on the phone, basically I was able to get on with the work and just dealt with the other person in the team and that was a really good day and we got loads done. However, our pace is likely to drop considerably despite us having huge amounts more work to do this week.

H has also been taking the opportunity to have a dig at the people in my section. She got my boss to send out an e-mail to tell us that we were not following the travel rules properly. So my boss sent us this edict saying that we had to ensure we travelled by the most economic means possible etc. I sent a reply back saying that people of particular grades are entitled to travel first class for train journeys etc and that I wasn’t going to prevent them from doing so because it was part of their conditions of service. My boss spoke to me in a sort of apologetic tone to say that he’d had to send the e-mail because H had told him to and I said that I understood that but he couldn’t take away people’s entitlements. Then he sent me another e-mail of three abrupt bullets telling me to sort it out and make sure that people travelled by the cheapest fare possible. I sent back a very qualified response agreeing to remind staff of the rules but not being willing to give him the assurances he wanted when they were unreasonable. We now have a section meeting this morning and it will be discussed then.

The thing is that my boss is a nice bloke but is incredibly two faced. He will send out threatening e-mails to please my head of unit but then apologise for it – and then promptly kick you in the teeth again. So, for example, he even copied the e-mail I sent him back to my head of unit. Thanks very much.

The thing is that when he became the head of section a couple of months ago he said that his real skill was making sure that he took everyone with him when decisions were being taken. I did comment to someone else that if that was his area of expertise that it was a real shame that it didn’t apply to his own section who basically have no respect for him and think he is totally ineffective. I am hopeful that things will change when my head of unit leaves in the next few months. Maybe then it will mean that we don’t spend the whole time trying to appease our head of unit and can just get on with doing our jobs.

Anyway, it’s going to be a fun week.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


I decided not to put in another offer on the place I was interested in. It just didn’t feel right and I think I should go on my gut instinct on this one. It just don’t want to put in a higher offer on somewhere that I had some serious reservations about. It’s not that I am unwilling to compromise, it just needs to be in a way that doesn’t make me feel nauseous.

An estate agent phoned the other day and left a message saying he had some really “interesting news” for me. Seeing as I had never spoken to him before I was slightly sceptical how interesting this news could be beyond him having a new property on his books. Anyway I returned his call and had to leave a message for him and then he never called back, so maybe it wasn’t all that interesting after all.

Yesterday I went to see some more properties and two of which were really nice. One was a ground floor maisonette and it had a very decent sized main bedroom and a really nice garden. The chap who was selling it is all set to move because the original buyer suddenly pulled out of the deal a few days ago even though all the conveyancing etc had been done. I’d want to go and have another look at it before I put in an offer and I don’t think I am going to have time before next weekend so it might well have been sold by then anyway. The other place was a first floor maisonette and was nice, but I preferred the other one, but it is maybe one to keep in reserve.

There seem to be a few places about at the moment and one of the estate agents said to me that because of the World Cup the market had been really quiet, as people didn’t want to be bothered about buying and selling houses while it is on. Mind you, given yesterday’s result in the football, things may pick up more now. I did actually watch the match yesterday and England did play pretty well in the second half, when they had gone down to 10 men. But then when it came to coming up with the right result, they couldn’t do it and, as ever, it was a toe-curling experience watching it, reminding me why I usually avoid watching England play. But I did my duty *thinks* unless it was me watching that made them lose...

But just to illustrate how my brain works the thing that I remember most from the match was the montage that the BBC ran at the end which was of the highs and lows of the England teams World Cup competition this time and it was set to “Numb” by The Pet Shop Boys and I thought that was really great. I am often really impressed by the way the Beeb put together all the different clips and then find a really great piece of music that just sums up the moment. I don’t know quite what that says about me, but despite the unimpressive result by England I thought the BBC summed it up really well and I’ll remember that much longer than the match.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


What a relief to have made it to the weekend. It was a very busy week and looks set to be even busier over the coming weeks. I was hoping to get home at a reasonable time last night, but ended up getting home much later than normal. There were huge delays on most tube lines because of “communication problems” and lots of parts of the tube weren’t running. However, I thought of a route home that would take a bit longer than normal but I’d still make it home at a decent time. Alas this was mere conjecture on my part and hadn’t taken into account the ‘human factor’.

I was making decent progress but as the tube moved off from one station I looked up from the paper I was reading and there was a black rucksack totally unattended. I turned to the woman next to me and said something inane like “do you think that bag belongs to anyone?” and she looked at me kind of blankly and said that it probably didn’t. I asked the bloke opposite if it was his and he said no. No-one seemed terribly bothered and my brain started whirring – was it just making a fuss to do something about it? What if it was something and I just ignored it?

Anyway, we got into the next station and I walked to the door and spoke to a woman about to get on to see if she had seen a member of staff on the platform because there was an unattended bag. She said she hadn’t seen anyone and then just pushed passed me and got on the train and sat down. Then the doors started to close on the train and despite a voice in my head saying “it can’t be anything. Nobody else is concerned by it. Think of all the delay it’s going to cause” and so on, I pulled the emergency alarm.

All the doors reopened on the train and after a few seconds the driver’s voice came over the speaker and asked what the problem was. I said there was an unattended bag and he said “Ok. I’ll come and have a look”. Unfortunately I was in the very end carriage so it took him a while to amble down the platform but when he finally got there I pointed to the bag and he looked at it and then said he’d get the station supervisor to have a look. The supervisor then turned up and I explained that at the previous station a bloke had got on the train and then rushed back off just as the doors were closing. I didn’t know if it was his bag but I hadn’t seen it there before that.

The bag was totally sealed and there was no way to find out what was in it without opening it. The train driver said that he thought it was a very bad idea to even consider opening the bag, so the supervisor walked off and the next thing I knew there was an announcement saying the station needed to be evacuated immediately. I wasn’t really sure if someone might want to speak to me about it but the station staff seemed kind of busy so I just wandered out of the station and found a bus to connect to another tube line to go home.

The staff at the station were good. I suspect the events of last July changed the attitude of a lot of London Underground staff. Before the bombings there were various stories of people finding unattended bags and pulling the passenger alarm and train drivers telling them they had delayed the service and should have sorted it out themselves. But now I think the attitude is very different. More sober.

The thing is that if I hadn’t done something, I’m not sure that anyone else would have. I think I even heard someone make a comment about how it seemed a bit extreme to delay a whole train because of a bag. I have no idea if it was something serious or not, and the whole time I knew that chances were that it was nothing. Just someone carelessly leaving their bag behind. But what if it wasn’t? What if I had got off the train at my stop and it turned out to be something and my ignoring it meant people got killed or injured? I suppose in a lot of ways I am just surprised how apathetic people were. How unconcerned they were by the bag. Not that I thought people should have been running around panicking but that no-one was interested because it was too much trouble to care.