Wednesday, December 31, 2008


So yesterday turned out to be more adventurous than I had expected. Let’s start with going to my uncles’ house. That included my annoying cousin being stroppy because he didn’t like the presents he got. Mind you my mum did say that she’d got a CD of The Shadows she could have given him instead. I looked at her incredulously and she seemed to have no idea of why an eight year old would not have found that a appealing either.

Anyway, my other uncle was there, but he had come alone. His wife didn’t come because she was looking after their 20 year old son who had some kind of gastric condition. It seems it was worth her being there because it turns out he stopped breathing at one point and she had to call an ambulance. I think he is ok, but obviously not very well.

Then… I got home to find the police parked outside where I live. As I got out mum’s car I saw a policeman and asked him what was going on. Apparently my concerns about the windows being blacked out in the property next door were not unfounded – there was a cannabis factory there! The police weren’t overly informative, but one of my neighbours had been there all afternoon tracking what had been going on and it seems that the owner (who is the freeholder) had finally decided to visit the empty flat possibly to rent it out or sell it (this is a good thing!) and walked in to find that there were dodgy things going on. I didn’t think she called the police at that point but instead started removing the offending items from the property (for personal consumption?!). This does kind of illustrate what an idiot the freeholder is – you find that someone has illegally entered your property, so what do you do – start removing all the evidence? That’s bad enough in any circumstance, let alone when there is a cannabis factory and presumably the people will be back at some point.

Anyway, not knowing who this mysterious person was in the flat downstairs went down to find out what was going on and suggested she talk to the police and take all the stuff back in, which she did. The police arrived an hour later and were going through all the stuff and talking to the owner etc, when my neighbour heard a loud scream (the owner I think). One of the cannabis growers had come back and the police had grabbed him. He did then try to escape and fell over and injured himself, so an ambulance had to be called, but I think they arrested him anyway. How on earth you decide to sneak into an unused flat to carry out your nefarious purposes and blithely walk in having failed to notice police cars, police officers and other sundry people is a beyond me. Perhaps he had been smoking a bit too much of his own product.

So, although it wasn’t great what was going on next door, I am pleased that my concerns were not just paranoia. I had also noticed that there was condensation forming on the front window of the flat and was going to G (who was a biochemist until recently, so knows *everything*) if that is normal in an empty flat. I had also planned to write to the owner and speak to the police about it, but was trying to work out if I was just over-reacting because my suspicions didn’t really amount to much.

G reckons the reason they blacked out the windows, although obviously that would have just helped with not being seen, was primarily because you have to use very intense bright lights to cultivate cannabis and therefore it would have been glowing like Blackpool illuminations had they not done something to the windows. Anyway, at least it has been dealt with.

I do live in quite a nice area, by no means posh, but also by no means like some slum. It’s not the sort of place you normally find cannabis factories (or maybe it is and it is the perfect cover?!)

I’m going to go to the police station in a bit and ask them about it because the main things I want to know are:
- Do they think they arrested all the people or might we face problems if someone comes back and finds they have been rumbled?
- How do they think the people got in (to the property boundary), so that we can try and do something about it because if they could get in there someone could equally break into where one of us live and burgle us, although I do have a burglar alarm.
- Will the police help us put pressure on the freeholder to tighten up the security of the property as a whole, as I am hopeful this will mean she might be willing to take some action? Bizarrely knowing how lazy our freeholder is this might have exactly the opposite effect and mean that she finds it all too difficult and can’t cope, which is her normal reaction to things.

I should also check that the freeholder wasn’t somehow involved given that there was no sign of a break-in!

Anyway, I shall have to trust my observations and instincts more in future and hope that place will not be left unoccupied for much longer.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Not a lot to report today. G is back from Scotland today. Yay! On a flight that lands at 10.45pm. Boo! To keep myself amused today I am going to see one of my uncles and various other families will be there, including a very irritating cousin who is about 8 years old and incredibly rude and annoying. I am not a great fan – particularly as my sister and I always give him a Christmas present and we’ve never had one from him (yes… I know… he’s 8…).

Later tonight I’ll go and pick up G from the airport and tomorrow we will decide what we actually plan to do for New Year’s Eve, which based on current progress, is not a lot.

Rightio, that’s all for now. As you were.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Past

I can’t believe Christmas is over already. Fortunately I am still off work for another week. This is probably a good thing, as I seem to have slept for over ten hours each of the last two nights.

Christmas was good. G and I went to my parents’ house and that was nice and we went back there on Boxing Day when my sister and her family were there. I got some nice presents and generally had a good time. I did discover a new weird thing about my father though. It seems that whenever he eats fruit he puts the peel down the toilet. Oranges, bananas that kind of thing. My mum has told him lots of times not to do it, but he has ignored her. They had to call out the water board to fix a blocked sewer that was filled with… orange and banana peel. I think my father may now be convinced that paying for the water board to come out and unlock sewers is probably not the best use of money and putting things in the bin would be better.

Another odd thing is that a couple of days ago I noticed that the empty property next door has had its back windows blacked out. I am surprised the owner (our incredibly lazy freeholder) could be bothered to do that, so I am now wondering if there might be people living there – not that I have seen anyone there. I will be keeping a cup to the wall to listen for noises.

G went to Scotland on Saturday and is back tomorrow, so I’ve been mooching about and not doing a lot (apart from sleeping) but might go and do some shopping this evening when the crowds have died down a bit.

Anyway, I hope you had a good Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I woke up this morning to discover that the heating had been on all night. Somehow the timings had gone a bit haywire (this is why I don’t normally let G press any buttons*). The thermostat was registering the temperature as 24 degrees and I’m still waiting for the place to cool down.

One of my neighbours put a card through the door. When I moved here she told me that she was married but her husband lived abroad. I have never seen him and am pretty convinced that he doesn’t actually exist, particularly as she gave me a cheque recently and that had her title as “Miss”. Anyway in the card, it was signed from here and some chap. Except I have never seen a man there and have not been aware of there being anybody else at her flat. Perhaps she now has an imaginary boyfriend?!

Yesterday G and I went to see The Thirty Nine Steps, which was very good. It was a comedy and well done. It was definitely based on the film rather than the book, as I read the book recently and there were all sorts of things in the play that don’t appear in the book. After that we went for a bite to eat and then to the Royal Albert Hall for Carol’s by Candlelight, which was very nice and we got to sing along. Neither of us were in as good voice as normal though, as we both are a bit unwell. However, there was a choir and several thousand other people to make up for our deficiencies.

I will probably not be about here for the next couple of days so Happy Christmas. I hope you have a peaceful and enjoyable festive season.

*I don’t actually know that it was G, but *clearly* it can’t have been down to me.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


It’s been a bit hectic over the last few days. My nephew came to stay, which was really good fun. He discovered Wallace and Gromit and we seemed to end up watching “A Close Shave”, “The Wrong Trousers” and “A Grand Day Out” on a continual loop. We did manage to squeeze in watching Happy Feet and Finding Nemo as well and also fed some ducks and made some sweets and generally had a really nice time. I did have to tell my nephew off for throwing a stick that hit another boy. I told him he had to apologise, which he did, but afterwards he looked like so miserable and so I had to give him a cuddle for about 10 minutes to cheer him up – and showing him some really good Christmas lights helped as well. I’d be rubbish at being a parent because I felt really bad about telling him off. But that was a really small part of the weekend and we had a great time.

G was ill most of the weekend, so also needed looking after. Yesterday I got G registered as a temporary patient at my doctor’s surgery and arranged an appointment for about 30 minutes later. G is now on some very strong antibiotics. Obviously those are not going to kick in quickly enough for G to finish the Christmas shopping (or so G says), so I went out yesterday and bought Christmas presents for several of G’s relatives. I think I managed to get everything and now they just need wrapping. Hopefully I don’t need to do that as well…

This afternoon we are off to the theatre and then we’re going to a Christmas concert tonight. It’s a busy old time being on leave from work.

Friday, December 19, 2008


I felt so rough yesterday. I am hoping that I can get through today, go for a drink with some friends tonight and then make it home at a reasonable time without feeling like death warmed up. I thought I’d managed to shake off the cold I had but it seems to have come back with a vengeance.

Yesterday we had a Christmas party at work. It was a very low key thing, as no-one wanted to do anything too much. We just had a quiz and brought along some food and drink and had a bit of a laugh for a couple of hours. The team I was in won the quiz (very convincingly) and this may have been due to our expert knowledge of Christmas cracker jokes, as we came up trumps in that round. One of the questions was “where should a dressmaker build their house?”. We had a long think about this one and I came up with two answers, one of which my colleagues refused to write down. The answer I gave was “Soham” (as in “sew ‘em”. Get it?”). I did finally get them to agree to allow me to write it down. Had the joke been about children then I can understand that it would be an offensive answer, but it is just the name of a place, despite the rather horrible connections with it now. We did get a point for it!*

This weekend will not be a quiet one. My nephew is coming to stay tomorrow and will need a lot of entertaining. We will be making some things, watching a DVD, going out to see some Christmas lights and other such things. I did say to my sister that as he is the reason Christmas has been cancelled I might make him do all my household chores instead. Somehow I don’t think I would get away with this though.

*The correct answer was “on the outskirts of town”, in case you are desperate to know.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I was feeling decidedly annoyed last night. G’s landlady (who owns the house) phoned to say that she is moving out, as she is going to live with her partner, and has arranged for two other people to move in. No consultation nothing and the contract was already signed with the new people.

What annoys me is:

G wasn’t even consulted and didn’t have the chance to meet the people before the contract was signed.

They are in their early twenties (G is 35) and G thinks it will be like student living again.

G’s landlady seems to have done nothing about things like gas certificates, which are a legal requirement if you are renting out a property and don’t live there.

Suddenly all the bills have to be transferred into the tenants names and G will go from paying a fixed rent every month that includes bills to having to work out amongst three of them what they each need to pay (and get the money).

I am so unimpressed.

In other news, I saw this in the London Paper yesterday. Is it just me or have they potentially ruined some small child’s surprise Christmas gifts. I am surprised they didn’t get a zoom lens and then print Kate Moss’s entire shopping list. (Click on the image to read the helpful listing of what she bought…)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

And now for the bad news...

I have some bad news to break to you… There’s no easy way to say this… Brace yourself… Christmas is cancelled *gulp* I know, I know. It’s not fair. But let’s face it, life’s not fair. So how do I know this? Well I know everything – and also my mum told me so. She sent me an e-mail yesterday and told me there would be no present opening on Christmas Day and instead we would do it on Boxing Day *sigh*. So I guess technically Christmas is merely postponed, but I will be at my parents’ house on Christmas Day looking longingly at the presents under the tree but not be allowed to open them because we have to wait until the next day when my nephew will be about *sigh*

Anyway, I read an article on the BBC yesterday about some research being conducted by Heriot Watt University into relationships. The article is interesting in itself but you can actually participate in the by going here. It’s about relationships and the media. I think the initial survey is quite long but you can then take part in other follow up surveys that are shorter and I guess it helps to build up a picture of changing attitudes over a period of time.

On a lighter note and with thanks to the Vicious Chicken, even though Christmas is cancelled, you are still allowed to tune your television in on Christmas Day night and here’s a little taster of why…

Oh and I was making some sweets last night and I ate *waaaaaaaaaay* too much sugar…

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


My over friendly colleague lived up to his reputation even more than normal yesterday. I had my hair cut over the weekend and twice he came over and commented on and touched my hair. I just politely smiled changed the subject. At another point I needed his help to try and secure a cupboard, we’ll brush over the bit where I ended up on the floor on my knees while he leant across me to the cupboard. We did get it locked and he then moved the cupboard and the proceeded to try and show me his rippling muscles (not an easy task given that he doesn’t really have any…). I am just counting down to being on leave. Roll on Friday…

If you have a bit of time on your hands (and clearly the person who runs this website does) then you might want to find out what Garfield would be like without… Garfield… Amusing and I guess quite practical if you have pet allergies.

I am also thinking about putting in an official complaint to G having read this article. There is a part of me that is kind of relieved that I have never lost my hearing due to a kiss, but wouldn’t you think if you were going to lose your hearing that it was one of the better ways for it to happen. I think I’ll get over the disappointment…

Monday, December 15, 2008


I seemed to spend quite a lot of this weekend cleaning and clearing up. G decided to clean the kitchen and I tidied up the back bedroom. My nephew is coming to stay next weekend and I didn’t want him to drown under a sea of paperwork. It has been a mess for such a long time and only took a couple of hours to turn into something far more presentable. I am, however, still concerned that I might not be able to save my nephew from every possible injury having read this article. Who would have thought going to the toilet could be so hazardous? G and I will obviously have to be on toilet duty the whole time he is here.

I got all my Christmas cards written and have posted them (except the ones for people whose addresses I just cannot track down in the phone book etc, as I still cannot find my address book). G started to wrap some presents last night and I did point out that it was probably not entirely polite to wrap up my Christmas presents in my own wrapping paper. I am not sure if G was entirely convinced by this point.

I was so tired on Saturday night that I slept for about 10 hours and still felt really tired last night. But I only have five days left in work and then I am off for Christmas for two weeks.

You might be so caught up in chaos in the run up to Christmas that you need to be reminded of its true meaning (or something sort of like it…)

Well it amused me anyway...

Friday, December 12, 2008


I was on my way back from a walk yesterday lunch time when I saw this man standing in the road directing people around his van. As I got closer I realised he had hit a cyclist, who was sitting on his own at the side of the road. Just as I got to the cyclist he started to spew blood in large quantities from his mouth. I went over to see if I could help him, but just as I was asking him if I could help him, a paramedic arrived (without an ambulance or any form of transport somewhat oddly. I have no idea how he got there) and I left them to get on with it, seeing as I have no medical skills whatsoever and also am not great with blood.

I mentioned what had happened to a couple of my colleagues and one of them said that cyclists were so bad in London that he probably deserved to get hit. I said that I didn’t think any cyclist ever deserved to get hit by a vehicle and then decided it was probably best to change the subject. They then moved on to talking about how bad van drivers can be…

I was talking to G on the phone last night. We weren’t having an argument, but we were disagreeing about something (alcohol). Given that we had somewhat of a difference of opinion, it probably wasn’t the best time for my phone to run out of power, as G then thought I had hung up. I didn’t actually realise that the phone had switched off to begin with and assumed G was just thinking, and so had to phone back a few minutes later to explain what had actually happened. We agreed to differ on our topic of conversation and return to it at another point. Perhaps in person so that no-one could hang up.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I felt so off colour yesterday, which was unfortunate as I was in a meeting all day and probably looked like I was totally disengaged from it all. Although I don’t suppose I normally look all that riveted at meetings so maybe it was no different to normal.

I really need to get my act together on Christmas shopping. I have done the vast majority of it, but now seem to have come to a standstill. I think I might get to Christmas Eve and not have done anything more unless I get my act together. I have started my Christmas cards though, but still can’t find my address book, so it will be a bit hit and miss as to whether I can send some of them. Hmm…

Anyway, as a follow on to yesterday, here is some Ivor the Engine:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


As you may be aware, Oliver Postgate died yesterday, who was the creator of such programmes as Ivor the Engine and the Clangers and also Bagpuss. So here is a bit of Bagpuss to mark his death:

It’s continued here, in case you can’t get enough.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I went for a work Christmas meal yesterday, which was very nice. We went to the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar and I have never seen quite so much attention to getting things right, but with such an incredible waste of energy. We watch had a little card that we put in front of us so the staff could read our menu choices (that we had previously submitted) and then about three times someone walked up and down with an *actual* clipboard and compared what was on her list with what it said at each of our places. It still took over 30 minutes to get our started and we got our main courses after about an hour. The food was really delicious though and we had a leisurely afternoon chatting and eating.

Then they gave me the bill and I went through it because I had booked the table and knew what each person had paid etc. I just couldn’t get the maths to work out compared with what I had calculated people would be expected to pay and then I realised that they were mean to have taken off the charges for two bottles of wine, as they were free, but they had charged us for them. They apologised and recalculated the bill, but there was a part of me that wondered how often they forgot to take that money off the bill. It was very nice though, not as nice as the one on Loch Fyne, which and I went to in September, but it was good food.

I also managed to make it home nice and early and did various tasks I hadn’t had time to do over the weekend, like book a hotel for a wedding I am going to in February and send an e-mail to find out where I can but the notebook that G *really* wants for Christmas. A woman’s work is never done.

If you get the chance and, let’s be honest, if you’re looking at the internet you probably have at least a *little* time on your hands then go and look at Stray’s post and then wander over here and say what matters.

Monday, December 08, 2008


I had a really nice weekend. G and I went to stay with some friends for an early Christmas celebration. It wasn’t quite the same mix of people as normal and I think it was fair to say that they were a bit of an odd bunch but it was good to see our friends and eat lots of nice food and so on.

We stayed the whole weekend, but there was one chap who just came along for the meal on Saturday evening. I didn’t really warm to him and this was not helped by having only having said hello to him he then proceeded to share the chair I was sitting on that really was not designed for two people and then he just totally dominated the whole conversation talking about all his latest fads. During the meal, one person had to ask him several times to drop a particular line of conversation that was verging on the offensive because he was basically arguing that no word in and of itself offensive and people just needed to learn not to be offended (so various race or gender related words, of you get my drift…). I just avoided engaging him in conversation because he was one of those people who so liked his own intelligence and logic that he had absolutely no common sense or empathy for where others might be coming from.

G was pretty ill all weekend and so didn’t really do a lot and stayed in the warm while we went for a walk and didn’t eat very much at dinner. One of the other people who was there kept telling us how she could hardly eat anything because of some problem in her stomach, but seemed to polish off not only her own meal but anything that anyone else left on their plate. Bizarre.

I do also now have my Christmas tree and other decorations up and things are looking a bit more festive and today I’m going out for a work Christmas meal.

I am waiting for a delivery from Amazon from the Home Delivery Network and let’s just say that my experience is pretty comparable to the ones cited on this website. So unimpressed.

Friday, December 05, 2008

In the spirit

G ended up not going to work yesterday and so stayed at mine instead. This did cause a bit of a problem in that we are staying with some friends this weekend and G didn’t have a change of clothes. Nice. But we did manage to take advantage of the 20% off at M&S and I bought a couple of presents and we got some clean clothes for G.

On my lunch break yesterday I bumped into my old big boss and he seemed on reasonable form. I indirectly asked how things were going since D’s death and he indirectly answered by saying things were sort of alright and then we changed the subject. I think he took D’s death hard and it made me feel a bit sad to see him my old boss in those circumstances.

Anyway I have a nice weekend ahead involving a walk (if G is well enough) lots of nice food and lots of good company. I haven’t put my Christmas tree up yet so I will try and do that on Sunday and I will have to dig out my various (very tasteful) Christmas CDs.

To help you get into the Christmas spirit, I leave you with one of my favourite Christmas songs – I Believe in Father Christmas.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Promises, promises

G was feeling really unwell yesterday so cane to stay, clearly on the mistaken belief that I am good at caring for the sick. Instead I saw this as an opportunity to exploit G’s labour to help me in making some sweets. There are now some chocolate truffles made. The final instalment will be made tonight. In a couple of weeks, we are having a work Christmas do and we are meant to take along some bits to that, so I might try to do some of these again.

My overly friendly work colleague kept bugging me yesterday and took the opportunity to remind me that I had at one point said that I might try and make some lamingtons, as he has such trouble finding them – and as it is Australia Day in January, he is now hoping I will do it in time for that. I have never cooked a lamington in my life, so have no idea if I would be able to do it right and somehow I think if I do this, it may not mean that he then stops bugging me. I go through phases where I am patient with him and others when I want to kill him – and this can be in the space of a few minutes, if he keeps asking me things. Yesterday he was trying to sort some stationary out for me and then went back to his desk (all or 10 metres away) and phoned me to ask me something else. I need to start monitoring my calls better.

Last night I remembered that on one of the courses I was on yesterday I had to come up with three reasons why it is a good idea for the population to go naked and three improvements I wish could be made to the idea. On the latter one, surely top of that list is having far more of a say in who your work colleagues are? That could be such a scary prospect. Also people would have to come up with a new technique for getting rid of nerves than imagining their interviewers naked. I feel this proposal would need more work.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


I made some pink fudge and some peppermint creams last night. I slept for 9 hours on Monday night. This was not vaguely conceivable last night due to the massive sugar high caused by eating what was left in the bowl. I think it is fair to say that both recipes included a *lot* of sugar.

I was on a couple of courses again yesterday. One was on being creative if you are a logical thinker and the other was on conflict (I was also on a course on conflict last week, but this had a different focus. Not that I have a particular issue with conflicts, we are just running a series of courses at work. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it...).

Anyway, on the conflict course the facilitator said that they have found that at primary school, on average, children get 19 negative messages (tellings off etc) to every positive one. So it isn’t really surprising that we are in a society where we find it rather easier to criticise people or tear people’s ideas apart rather than trying to find more constructive ways forward. I like the idea that there are alternatives though and that it’s not all about “winning” an argument and that you can disagree with someone and still have a positive and constructive relationship. I am really enjoying the courses at the moment and they have really helped me develop some thinking I have been doing over the last several months, but there’s still more pondering (and applying) to do. Lots of food for thought.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I have moved to a new desk at work. My over friendly colleague was the one who organised the move. This gave him even more of an excuse to talk to me today. I did consider killing him and dumping his body in one of the packing crates. I managed to resist the urge. Today may be another story if he does the same again today.

I do actually have a horrible story about mice but instead I will give you a recipe to make coconut mice, as I was asked for this. So here it is...

You need:

250g icing sugar
200g tin of condensed milk
175g desiccated coconut
Red food dye
Sweets for the ears (something like white chocolate buttons)
Silver cake-decorating balls (to be the eyes)
Red liquorice bootlaces or similar to make the tail (or you could use wool if all else fails, but don’t eat that…)

Then you:

• Mix the icing sugar and condensed milk together in a bowl and then mix in the coconut. Split the mixture between two bowls.

• Add a few drops of red food dye to each bowl and mix it in. Then add a few more drops to one of the bowls so it is a deeper red.

• Dip a spoon into warm water and dip it into one of the bowls and take out a big spoonful of mixture and use the shape of the spoon to create the shape of the body.

• Put the shaped body on to some cling film.

• Pinch the thin end of the shape to make a nose. Press in the silver balls to make the eyes and the sweets to make the ears.

• Put a piece of liquorice at the other end to make a tail.

• Repeat to make more mice. This should make eight large mice, five medium mice and three baby mice.

I am not actually going to make these this week, but I will be making:

Milk and white chocolate truffles
Christmas crunchies (a combination of biscuits, dried apricots, chocolate drops, golden syrup and drinking chocolate/ icing sugar)
Pink fudge
Peppermint creams
Cornflake cakes

I am going to have a busy few days...

Monday, December 01, 2008


I had a really nice weekend. We went out for dinner with one of G’s friend’s on Friday and then went for a drink with some other people after that – and I managed to do some more Christmas shopping and so am probably about three-quarters done now.

Saturday I woke up and was convinced it was 6 December and was then very confused that for some reason I was running a week ahead of the rest of the world. Anyway, I did manage to get myself back on track and on the evening G and I went over to another friend’s house, whose girlfriend we have both been a bit dubious about for various reasons, but was really pleasant company and that has totally changed my opinion of her. They are going to New Zealand for a year in January so it was nice to spend a decent bit of time with them.

Then yesterday evening I spent a while catching up with a friend I haven’t seen for ages. He and his fiancée came round and it was nice to see her too, as I don’t know her very well. So it was all very sociable, which is something I’m not always that enamoured with, but it was a really nice weekend, with such a mix of people and things to do.

It is, of course, now December (I have no idea how that can be the case), which means that I might have to put my Christmas tree up in the next couple of days. G and I did have a mince pie and custard yesterday, which was *really* nice and we are starting to get into the Christmas spirit. There will be some Christmas sweet making in the next few days, which I may share with you and you can salivate at from a distance. I’m nice like that.

Friday, November 28, 2008


I was on a couple of courses yesterday, both of which were good and to the point and on interesting topics (one on conflicts and the other on influence). Anyway, we were asked a question, which was what the first piece of music we had ever bought (rather ashamedly I must admit mine was Pass the Dutchie by Musical Youth. Anyway, moving on…). One of the people on the course said “Do you mean on CD or tape?” and various people looked at her and one said “er… I think for some people it might be vinyl” and she looked at us all, as though she had just realised *quite* *how* *old* we were. The first ever music she bought was by Suede and I can’t remember the song now but it placed her somewhere in the mid-1990s. Mind you, one of my colleagues whispered to me that his first ever music purchase (as a child…) was of some Bach Concertos. I did tell him that knowing him quite well, I was somehow not surprised by this…

In other news, I finally managed to get the biscuits I needed. Waitrose came up trumps and they were even in date. I now also need to make a visit to Woolworths, potentially before it closes forever, to get some red liquorice bootlaces to make the tails of some coconut mice I need to make in the next few weeks. What am I going to do if they close down forever? How am I going to have any mice tails?

Finally, I also see that the BBC plan to film a version of The Day of the Triffids next year, which I will eagerly await. But could it ever be as good as the book. We shall see.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I went back to Sainsbury’s today to see if they had any more of those biscuits – but this time in date. They did have some of the biscuits on the shelf, but as it turned out they were exactly the same packets that had been on the shelf the previous day. So when I spoke to them about it at the customer service desk and they apologised profusely for selling out of date biscuits, they were soooooooo sorry that they re-shelved the biscuits. They did try to suggest that maybe they were packets from the stock room that had accidentally been shelved but I assured them that they were exactly the same packets. Anyway the end result of all of this is that I still don’t have the biscuits. Grrr… I also haven’t heard back from the woman who sent me the rude e-mail a couple of days ago. Perhaps she is masterminding some plot to bring about my downfall – or alternatively it is causing her some difficulty to write an e-mail that doesn’t sound stroppy and finger-pointy.

Recently my boss said to me that he imagined I was the sort of person that would buy next years Christmas presents in the January sales. I said to him that whilst I probably should be offended by what he had said, I could see why he would say that and therefore it was a bit difficult to be too offended. But I did assure him that I have never done that and have no plans to do so. We had been thinking about trying to make a joint bid for Gatwick Airport, but we have now put that on hold, which is probably for the best, as he would probably think I would try and pick up lots of bargains in the duty free. My boss was also thinking about trying to buy Woolworths – all those sweets and all you would have to pay was £1 (and pick up the £274 million debt. Details. Details.). Bit late for that now though.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I got an e-mail from someone at work yesterday and it was one of those ones where you read it and have to walk away or else you will send a really annoyed reply. It was the e-mail equivalent who jabs their finger at you to emphasise each of their sentences. Fortunately I went off to a meeting and when I got back sent a rather calmer e-mail that, in as constructive a way as possible, pointed out that whilst what they said might be entirely correct her department had dealt with two other things totally differently and what I had done was based on advice given by her department. I actually wrote back a very nice e-mail explaining the history of what had happened etc. Bu then at the end of my reply I said that I had been concerned by her tone and I hoped I had misinterpreted it and that we could proceed in a more amicable way from now on. I still await her reply…

I did, however, get an e-mail from someone I do lots of work with and he was apologising for being really off with me in a meeting yesterday morning. I just scratched my head and wondered when he had been really off with me! He’s a really nice guy, and one of my most favouritest people I have ever worked with and we often debate and argue through issues (in a positive way to try and move our work forward) and it hadn’t even crossed my mind he might have thought there was potentially an issue between us. It was nice that it mattered to him though.

I went to Sainsbury’s yesterday and bought a packet of biscuits and I just happened to look at the back of the packet as I was walking down the road and noticed that they were about six weeks out of date. I went back to the shop to change the packet and then found that all the packets were totally out of date. I got a refund, but unfortunately then had no biscuits. Grr…

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I had a really busy day at work yesterday and seemed to just got from meeting to meeting and had loads of e-mails and phone calls to deal with as well. I prefer being busy though so it was good. I did manage to find time to go out at lunch time though and I bought a Secret Santa present. Surely this is the best present ever (for under a fiver)? Or if that isn’t quite right, then how about this?

There is also another website that has some great Christmas present items. I really like this cup (builders brew every time). You could also have this rather unusual teapot to go with it as well. I do also need to try and get G this notepad. I wasn’t aware of this being a particular issue, but G saw someone with one of these notebooks on the tube last week and now really wants one. But I want to find a shop to buy it rather than ordering it over the internet, so this may be a problem… Although G sulking on Christmas Day or leaving me post-it notes written in blood (due to a lack of any other writing implement obviously) may be more of a problem.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Another weekend over and this time it included such highlights as seeing a play that my mum was directing. Whilst it was amateur dramatics, fortunately it wasn’t one of those toe-curling instances involving wobbly sets and lots of very bad acting. It was Lady Windermere’s Fan and I was surprised quite how many famous quotes are in that play.

“I can resist everything except temptation.”

“Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it.”

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

“In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”

“A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

And so on...

G and I also did things like buy Christmas cards (and G has now written some of them…), I’ve worked out various Christmas presents I am going to buy and have prepared most of an internet order and other such exciting things.

I did also have to deal with a few irritating things like not being able to access the internet via Internet Explorer (a problem I still haven’t fixed, but I know why it has happened). I know various people rate Firefox, but I have just never seen the appeal, it seems like now might be the time to make the move though.

Anyway, a busy week ahead...

Friday, November 21, 2008


I was on my way into work yesterday morning and walked passed someone who I know was famous, but I have no idea who he was or what he is famous for. I’m hoping I will see him on the TV sometime soon and will then it will all fall into place.

I went to Oxford Street last night. I walked over 17,500 steps yesterday. It was very busy and made even more so by the sale on at M&S. While I was in M&S I overhead a woman saying “I think Vernon Kay is trying to look more and more like David Miliband”. I can’t imagine many people aspire to that. Not that there is anything wrong with how David Miliband looks, I just can’t see looking like the Foreign Secretary is many people’s ambition in life.

When I got into work yesterday morning, this was waiting for me on my desk*. It was from my overly enthusiastic colleague. I thanked him for the pre-licked stick. Apparently he did wash it before he left it on my desk. I am grateful for small mercies.

*The note says: The ice cream (milk chocolate - no dark) was like the movie - disappointing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


G came over last night and we went out for dinner with some friends, which was really nice. They are people who like the finer things in life (I once told C that I relate the sound of a champagne cork popping to her), but are very down to earth people. It was C’s birthday and we had this lovely meal and just chatted away. I did have to apologise at one point because G and I were talking so much and I explained that we don’t get out on a week night much. We gave her a cake book and she was really pleased with that and said that specific book had been the top item on her Christmas present list. Anyway, it was a really good evening, but I’m a bit tired today as it turned into rather a late night.

G pointed out an article in the paper saying that couples who don’t live together are helping to fuel the housing shortage. So I think I am now meant to be considering that us living together is a social responsibility and for the good of society as a whole. Right...

Is it just me or is it slightly ironic that John Sergeant, the BBC’s ex-political correspondent stood down from Strictly Come Dancing because he was worried the democratic process would actually let him win...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I am pretty near the end of Fooled by Randomness now and whilst I am enjoying the book, the author is incredibly arrogant and that is matched by an equal dose of being incredibly opinionated. This is not an entirely endearing style of writing. But it is an interesting read nonetheless.

One of the things he said was that he tries to avoid situations where people criticise him – so he doesn’t read reviews of his work, or deal with unsolicited comments on his books etc and compares himself to when Odysseus got sailors to tie him to a mast so he could hear the Sirens call but not be enticed to his death by them. His sailors had wax stuffed in their ears so they could not hear the Sirens call, but could ensure that eh didn’t break his binds. Taleb, the author, compares himself to the sailors and says that he does the equivalent of sticking wax in his ears so he does not get distracted from his course. I don’t think it’s that he can’t take criticism, I think it is that he is so committed to what he is doing that he wants nothing to distract him from it. And really quite arrogant that there isn’t really much he can learn from others. Whilst I think his book is really interesting, I find his approach to life more widely bizarre. Surely we can always learn things from other people and it’s about sorting the chaff from the wheat – and learning to take criticism or how to respond to it, is part of growing up.

He also said:

“We are designed to respond to hostility with hostility. I have enough enemies to add some spice to my life, but I sometimes wish I had a few more (I rarely go to the movies I need the entertainment). Life would be unbearably bland if we had no enemies on whom to waste efforts and energy”

He does like to make quite controversial statements, but there are just so many things wrong with what he said. Whilst our instinct may be to respond with hostility to a given situation, surely it is better to aspire to ways that are more measured and about achieving peace and drawing a line under hostility. Surely we should aspire to a life where we have no enemies and don’t have anyone to hate or who hates us. What a pointless waste of energy to hate anyone, and ultimately, even if we cannot forgive, surely for our own sake, if not for that of the other person, we should seek to find a way forward that is about no longer letting any given situation keep us within its hold. That quote strikes me as the words of someone who has never really taken the time to comprehend what they really mean.

Choose peace, even if it can be a painful road to get there – and don’t wish for enemies or you might just get them. I don't mean that in any terribly profound way, more as a statement of fact. I am not impressed by anyone advocating actively pursuing gaining more enemies. I despair a bit that anyone would think this was a good thing to include in a book, particuarly one mainly based on mathematical principles.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


My car is being serviced today and despite knowing that is what I need to do today, I am still feeling a bit paranoid that I will still walk out the front door, straight past my car and head into work - like I did a few weeks ago when I was meant to be getting my bumper repaired. I still feel as though I have no short term memory at the moment.

I had my mid-year review yesterday and that went well. My boss seemed really pleased with how things are going and said that he thought I should think about promotion at some point, but I told him that I am just not interested (which he knows, but wanted to reiterate this anyway). If the right job came up then I might consider it in order to do that particular role, but beyond that I have no interest in promotion. I used to have ambition, now my priorities in life are to have a good work-life balance and to get home in time to watch Home and Away. I’m a simple soul.

Scarily, this is post 900...

Monday, November 17, 2008


This weekend I:

• Ate the New Covent Garden Soup of the month, which is called “Choc Full of Beans”. It’s lots of nice beans with a hint of chocolate and is remarkably nice.

• Ate Paul Rankin’s cinnamon and raisin bread. That is also very nice.

• Managed to convince G to put up the mirror in my living room. This turned out to be a remarkably large amount of work for G (up and down ladders, lots of measuring and drilling), but for me mainly consisted of making tea and providing food.

• Was reminded how observant children are and you therefore have to be careful what you say. We went to visit one of G’s friends. He has a daughter who is about 18 months old and recently was teaching her about dog’s having “waggy tails”. Said child then saw him with no clothes on and pointed out that he too had a waggy tail…

Friday, November 14, 2008


Yesterday I went to pay the deposit for my teams Christmas lunch. Where we are going is just round the corner from where G works so we met up and had a stroll and a chat, which was a really pleasant way to spend my lunch break. Despite the rain. It did seem to stress the restaurant that I wanted to pay the deposit though, as the manager was off dealing with an ‘emergency’ and everybody else seemed too scared to touch the computer system. I did finally manage to get them to take the money, but they did huff and puff a bit. Who would have thought that it would be so difficult to convince a restaurant to take your money?

I then asked colleagues to say what they would ant for each course of the meal and one person, who claims she isn’t a fussy eater, had to have every item described to her in detail so that she could see if there was something she didn’t like in it. It turns out she won’t eat raw salmon, doesn’t like tomatoes, won’t eat anything that might have been friend. You get the idea. This is the same person who said that wherever we picked would be fine with her – but then when I ran through a list it turned out she won’t eat Chinese, Indian, fish and chips, Mexican, Spanish... Again… you get the drift. She is a really nice person, just possibly not very self-aware.

Since I read War and Peace I have lost a bit of my enthusiasm for reading. I think it might in part be because it is quite difficult to think of a book to flow on from that with (and might explain why one of the book’s I am reading a children’s book!). A book I am reading at the moment though is “Fooled by Randomness”, which basically looks at whether we too easily see patterns that we think can predict the future, including in the money markets etc. We also draw assumptions because we basically see the past as a really key determining factor of the future, but often we base this on flawed data or just not enough of it or assume that because that is what happened in the past that it will therefore happen again. It’s an interesting read, although it would be an easier read if I knew more about the money markets. He does kind of argue for a simpler and less complex life though and I am interested in his take on that (but he is somewhat arrogant and kind of rambling though…). Anyway, there was a quote in it that struck me:

“I was at the age when one felt like one needed to read everything, which prevented me from making contemplative stops”

Sometimes I think I need to take more time to let the things that I have read sink in...

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I think I was feeling in a bit of a bolshy mood yesterday. This might in part have been influenced by taking part in a conference where we knew one of the speakers was going to absolutely slate what we were doing - which he did, but it was fine. Afterwards he said he was really grateful for how we had responded to his criticisms i.e. we let him say his piece and acknowledged his concerns and on a personal level didn’t give him the cold shoulder etc and treated him the same as we would have had he been really supportive. I guess it comes down to being able to identify the difference between the views someone represents and who they are as a person and you have to learn not to take things personally.

I watched Home and Away on Fiver last night and as the presenter introduced the programme she described one of the characters, who is suffering from serious mental health problems, as “going cuckoo”. I was so unimpressed and for the first time ever contacted a TV broadcaster to make a complaint about what had been said. I was really shocked that anyone would have thought that an appropriate comment, let alone on TV like that. I don’t suppose me getting in touch will make much difference, but I did say that I hoped this did not represent the channel’s view of mental health problems and that there wouldn’t be a repeat of such a comment. I just can’t believe that in this day and age someone would think that it was ok to make a comment like that.

Anyway, yesterday morning someone parked outside where I live (as in our private parking area) got out the car and walked off. I saw her come back last night and went out and spoke to her because I had seen her car parked there several times and had no idea who the woman was. Before I even uttered a word she started telling me that she was a friend of one of neighbours and she’d never have parked there without permission etc etc. I said it was fine and she still kept telling me that she was on a training course and again I said it was fine. Clearly she thought I was going to have a go at her. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I should have put down the bloodied axe before I went out to speak to her.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Yesterday was a busy day and seemed to involve from one totally unrelated task to another. I had to announce the two minute silence across the building and that went really well. I hate doing it because the message goes out to over 1000 people and some of them are very important (well they all important obviously, but in an Animal Farm sort of way, some are more important than others) and if it goes wrong it is a *major* mistake. But it all went fine and various people said to me afterwards that I had done it really well, including me using my best BBC Radio 4 voice.

I got an e-mail from my old big boss yesterday. I had sent him a card on Thursday to say how saddened I was at D’s death and that he was in my thoughts because I was sure it would have been a great loss to him personally. He sent me back a really nice e-mail thanking me for the card and telling me how he and others in the office were coping and reminding me of when the funeral is. I do feel greatly saddened by D’s death and I was talking to G about it the other day and suddenly remembered that he did my leaving speech when I left the office and things like that just made me feel more sad. I think I just feel quite sombre about a few things at the moment.

There are many thoughts going round my head about the need to make life simpler. I think we often have so many demands on our time and thoughts, and with that comes all the stresses of those demands. I just think that somehow we should be able to avoid those conflicts and stresses of life. I think in part my thinking, and perhaps some of my general sombreness, is due to stuff still rattling on about what C said was the ‘truth’ about what happened with A etc. Despite the fact that I have no interest in discussing any of that stuff or putting the record straight, it seems to continue to have a negative effect, partly because C feels awkward about what she said and seems under the impression that I would therefore feel awkward if I saw her. Except I wouldn’t because a) I would only feel awkward if the things were true and b) I do actually have a level of maturity that is far more concerned about moving forward than dwelling on something that I can’t do anything about – and actually wouldn’t be fussed about doing anything about even if I could.

I suppose I find the whole thing quite tedious really and am wondering when we’re all going to just shrug our shoulders and decide that there isn’t actually a problem. I’m not in touch with A, we have no reason to come into contact with each other and I am happy to steer clear of situations where that might happen if it might cause other people upset. I haven’t got an issue with A and would be perfectly friendly and civil if we did happen to see each other and the same goes for seeing C. So I just find it incredibly boring to somehow be in a situation where people are not really sure what the next move is (C is actually away at the moment, so I am hoping that the next move is she will come back from holiday, we’ll meet up for a drink and simply move on) and yet somehow there is an ‘issue’. A sent me that e-mail over two years ago now (my, how time flies) and ended it by saying something like “let it go” and I am wondering why it is only me who is meant to be following that instruction. Most tedious and all rather unnecessary – and a continuation of how things currently are is actually far more likely to create an issue and provoke a discussion about what did actually happened. I can see nothing helpful coming from that conversation and can’t see the point in having it. I just hope that we can go for the simple option and indeed “let it go” and end this tedium.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


On the way to work yesterday someone activated the emergency alarm in the carriage I was in. We came to a sudden stop in the tunnel and then the voice of the driver came over the speakers (bizarrely to the entire carriage) and asked what the problem was. I didn’t hear the reply (this wasn’t broadcast to the entire carriage) but when we got into the next station the driver came to reset the alarm and a man basically pointed at his own very young child and said “it was the kid, it was the kid”. Next time I need an alibi, I will make sure there is a small child nearby and blame them*.

I went out for a walk on my lunch break yesterday. This was a mistake. I had to wring my trousers and socks out when I got back to the office and my feet were like blocks of ice by the time I left work due to being in wet socks and shoes all afternoon. Exercise may be a good thing but perhaps I need to find a less weather dependent one at some point.

I was helping someone arrange some work related stuff yesterday. It was important, but in the grand scheme of things not very significant. I was feeling a bit annoyed with the whole thing because I felt as though I was filling in for other people’s lack of willingness or experience etc and there were various e-mails being sent and so on and I just felt annoyed by the whole thing. I didn’t know the person I was helping and had never met him, but yesterday afternoon I met up with him briefly to run through what needs to be done today and while we were waiting for someone else to arrive he just commented that he wouldn’t have even known where to start if I hadn’t been available to help him etc and that made me feel a bit ashamed of my attitude really. I didn’t feel smug or anything like that because of what he said, it just made me think that I need to try and be more willing to try and see things from other people’s perspective. In some circumstances I can do it easily. If I know the people in involved I usually try and give a lot of leeway (G might not necessarily agree with this!), but where I am being asked to do things by people, who might ultimately be asking something perfectly reasonable, it sometimes brings out the side of me that puts up some degree of resistance and resentment. If I then get to meet the people involved I am then often struck by a sense that if I had just been a bit more compliant in the first place the road could have been a bit easier and the goal achieved more quickly, without all the frustration along the way. I’m not sure I’ll ever learn though – and that frustrates me and makes me feel even more irritated by the whole thing, or me really.

Last night I watched “Not Forgotten: The Men Who wouldn’t Fight, which was about conscientious objectors in the First World War. It was a really good programme and if you get the chance to watch it then do (it’s on every day this week at 4pm on More 4 or 9pm tomorrow night). I was struck by an epitaph written by WH Auden called The Unknown Soldier which says:

“To save your world you asked this man to die:
Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?”


*it was actually the child who did it. He managed to reach up from where he was sitting and pulled the alarm.

Monday, November 10, 2008


So it was a marvellous weekend away. We set off down to the south coast after work on Thursday and got to the place we were staying at about 9pm, which was when we said we would arrive. They had forgotten we were coming though and so made us a quick cuppa while they rushed off to make up the room. They were mortified about it, whereas we were rather more laid back. I did assure them that a cup of tea fixes everything and so they had nothing to worry about.

Friday we went for a really nice walk and then ate a huge lunch (it was meant to be a small lunch but turned out to be huge) and we managed to dodge the rain all day. In the evening we went to a Polish café for dinner, which was lovely. The lady who ran it was so welcoming and the food was really nice and we had this lovely Polish drink, which was hot orange juice and apple juice mixed with cinnamon sticks and cloves. I had beef goulash, which is one of my favourite meals and was really good. At the end of the meal she gave us some home made cherry vodka and I decided I would try it, as she had gone to so much effort for us. I am a complete teetotaller and let me tell you that vodka is quite a shock to the system. I did drink some of it, but G rescued me.

Saturday I managed to convince G to buy some new jeans. This was a major achievement, as G hates shopping but did actually end up buying three pairs. This also gave me the chance to get started on my Christmas shopping, so I got a few bits done. In the afternoon we went back to where we were staying and watched Poirot, drank tea and read the paper and it all felt very civilised. Then in the evening we went for a curry. It was a nice meal, but some of the prices were far more than I would expect to pay in London (£12 for a Biriyani!). It was a nice meal though.

Then yesterday we slowly made our way back to London and I then spent a while clearing up all the leave in my garden and G made us a late lunch and we generally came to terms with having to go back to work today. It was a really good weekend and having that extra day on the weekend made such a difference. Only about six weeks until I am off for Christmas now, and not a moment too soon.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Yesterday I was really saddened to hear that someone I used to work with died. I don’t actually know the details of what happened, when I left work yesterday I switched on my phone and there was a really brief message from someone telling me he’d died. He’d had cancer but I thought he was in remission. I don’t know any details at all of what happened though, but assume it was cancer related. I had expected to see him a couple of weeks ago (with some other people) but he didn’t turn up. I’d asked if he was ok and people seemed to think he was and I didn’t really think anything of it. I was really shocked to hear that he had died. I’ll send an e-mail to my old big boss today to pass on my condolences. I’m not really upset, I was just rather shocked and saddened by the news.

There’s a new chap who has started at work and he seems ok, but there is something about him that I was just a bit uncertain about, but I couldn’t work out what it was. Then I realised that there is something about him that reminds me of my father. Oh dear. I am still not certain what it is that reminds me of my father but I think we may have a slightly challenging relationship with each other.

My overly friendly colleagues, who is meant to be on a course for two weeks, came and spoke to me yesterday and showed me his latest acquisition, which was a Kookaburra card (think birthday type card with a photo of a kookaburra on the front which when you open it makes the sound of the bird). I feel like his mother, on Monday he told me what he had learned that day and now he is showing me his latest toys. I guess that could be preferable to other options of how he sees me, but as I am over twenty years younger, still very, very wrong.

Anyway, I am off to the south coast tonight to soak in some seaside air. Back here on Monday.

One final thought: I think it is really great that Obama is going to be the next US President and it does really feel as though we are on the brink of change, but I was always slightly bemused by the Obama campaign signed such as these saying "Change We Need" (click on the image for a larger version):

Every time I saw them I heard Yoda saying the slogan in my head. Perhaps that was just me... I shall leave you with some Yoda wisdom, surely you can hear it too...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


At work yesterday one of my colleagues was telling me that due to the Presidential election I was living through a key day in history and I needed to take note. Not that I wasn’t paying any attention to the Presidential election – and we have the BBC News Channel on at work so it is almost impossible not to know it is happening (and also about some incredibly obscure pieces of news that qualify as ‘breaking news’ when you have to keep broadcasting 24 hours a day, such as some time ago them regularly broadcasting that the toilets had stopped working on the international space station). But anyway, remember that you were a part of history. Despite (probably) not being in the US or having the right to vote there, of course. Great result though and maybe we are now in a time of real change.

I am really on the countdown to going away on Thursday night. Yesterday was really busy and I didn’t get to eat my lunch until nearly 2pm – it is almost unheard of that I would at lunch that late and it does tend to make me want to kill someone if I get hungry. Be warned that I am not particularly picky about who that person would be. By the time I go home I was really tired and then as the evening wore on my cough came back. I seem to be caught in a cycle of tiredness and coughing (which are probably not unconnected) and also my memory is getting bad again. I just keep forgetting to do things, even if someone has left a note on my desk to do it. Last night I forgot what day it was and thought it was Wednesday. I think I am just easily confused at the moment. I am pretty certain I won’t forget to go away this weekend though.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I have slept so badly the last couple of nights. I have a cough and when I go to bed it takes on a life of its own and keeps me awake. I really had to drag myself out of bed yesterday morning and force myself to keep going enough to actually get to work and then to do anything vaguely constructive while I was there. G and I are going away for the weekend on Thursday night for a long weekend on the South Coast and I cannot wait.

My over-friendly colleague is on a course for the next two weeks and yet he did still manage to come back to the office and had brought back some biscuits, one of which he deposited on my desk. I did ask him what he had learnt that day and he replied “that a day apart from you is a sad day for me”. I thanked him for the biscuit and hoped that he might learn something else tomorrow.

Yesterday I read that some councils are trying to make officials stop using Latin in their correspondence. I haven’t got any opinions on that particularly, although stopping using words like ‘via’ seems a bit much. But… I was a bit perplexed by the closing sentence “A Campaign spokesman said the ban might stop people confusing the Latin abbreviation e.g. with the word "egg".”

What?? I don’t think I have ever heard anyone mistake e.g. for egg. Surely there must have been a better (and more convincing) example than that? Anyone? Anyone??

Monday, November 03, 2008


I had a fairly busy weekend, but felt decidedly under the weather when it came to sleeping at night, which was particularly frustrating as I felt pretty much ok during the day. Anyway, it didn’t stop me doing anything, so I went over to dinner with the parents of a friend of mine – I used to live with them several years ago and haven’t seen much of then lately so it was good to catch up with them. Then Saturday my sister and nephew came over and we had planned to go on a miniature railway, but decided it was too wet and cold to do that, so we had to entertain my nephew, which I think G did fairly well- and has the bruises to prove it.

All the rain meant that there was some quite major flooding outside where I live. I was already due to speak to someone from the council about it this week, but I took some photos and sent them to him to see if that made the point a bit better:

It's not the best photo but everything in the foreground is water and you can see the car drivign through it.

Then yesterday morning I was woken by someone from the council dropping off a very large compost bin for me, so my new project is to fill that. This may take some time… it is 220 litres… My council was giving them away for free and I wanted one anyway so that worked out quite well. A lot of councils seem to be doing this at the moment, so if you want to do it then now might be a good time. Even if you don’t intend to use the compost, it is better to let all your garden waster, food waste etc go into compost than into landfill because it breaks down differently and doesn’t harm the environment (it’s the difference between it breaking down organically rather than inorganically and therefore releasing methane, which is bad for the environment. I only know this because G told me…).

I was amused to read this story on the BBC. I am now thinking about having all of my e-mails translated into Welsh to see if they come back saying something more sensible than what I sent them. One can but hope.

Friday, October 31, 2008

You'll like this. Not a lot...

G stayed over on Wednesday night and for some reason we ended up having a conversation that went as follows:

G: You’re my Debbie McGee
Me: I’m not sure I like being Debbie McGee
G: Well that makes me Paul Daniels, so I think I got the short straw here.
Me: Oh yes, good point. I’ll be Debbie McGee.

Unfortunately this does not make G a multi-millionaire.

Then yesterday morning the radio came on and we were listening to Christian O’Connell and people could phone in and ask questions they wanted the answer to. One person phoned in to ask why biscuits crumble in a cup of tea when they don’t in a cup of coffee (apart from it obviously being punishment for dunking it in a perfect drink, of course). G said “I know the answer to that” and then went on to explain that tea is an infusion (tea bag in, tea bag out, but basically a cup of hot water) and therefore is hotter than a cup of coffee which is made with granules and they are at room temperature so they cool the coffee down. Dunking a biscuit dissolves the sugar in the biscuit, which breaks down its structure and makes it collapse and the hotter the liquid the more likely this is to happen. G knows everything.

One final thing, whilst I think it was very unpleasant for Andrew Sachs to have got those offensive phone calls from Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand, was it really worthy of 32,500 complaints. That is 32,500. If that many people put in the same effort protesting about poverty or working towards achieving world peace then it might actually have been something that could have had a significant impact. Instead it was about a radio show that overstepped the mark. Look what the readers of the Daily Mail can achieve when they join forces.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Peace Descends

So War and Peace is no more. All 1358 pages are now read and I am beginning to realise that I have some element of freedom back (that is a terribly amusing War and Peace based joke, but clearly if you haven’t read it, it will pass right over your head. Or it could mean that it’s not funny. Or that it’s a bit obscure even if you have read it. Take your pick).

Did I enjoy it? Sort of. I certainly found it very engaging at times and I wouldn’t have read it at the pace (five and a half weeks) I did if I didn’t get something out of it. I particularly liked Volume 3, which was when the narrator stepped into the story more and gave his views on people’s rile in history and how leaders think that they are somehow in control and yet any event in life (however great or small that life is) in that moment it is the culmination of a whole load of unconnected events that have gone before and people are not able to operate outside of that and take the credit for things that are really ultimately beyond their own control. I thought it was a really interesting idea and one that permeated the whole book.

As a story it would be right to describe it as epic and it brought together all the different parts of human experience and I was surprised at how funny some bits of the book were, but equally some were very tragic. I have to say that at times it was difficult to keep track of the story, but I think I just about managed to keep up.

Would I recommend it to others? Hmm… It was a good read and I liked it far more than I expected. But if someone wants to read it, they have to want to read it for themselves. I don’t think it is a book to take on lightly because it could easily turn into a test of endurance. I think reading it at a good pace is the best way to do it or else it would be quite easy to put it down and never pick it back up again. It is a definitely a more rewarding read if you read a reasonable chunk at a time (and it also helps to remember what happens as well). So, give it a go if you want to, but you do need to want to.

On other matters, it snowed in London a couple of nights ago, but if you missed it, you can make your own snowflake. Get cutting.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


The tube problems continued yesterday and I didn’t make it in time for a meeting. Fortunately it wasn’t an important meeting and it was easy to opt out of it, but very irritating anyway. So that’s £126 claimed back this year so far then…

Anyway, TfL are inviting people to participate in Together for London which is meant to encourage us to show more consideration to each other on public transport. You can join in discussions but this does seem to be seen as an excuse by many to just moan about things. But then it is probably preferable to killing a fellow commuter. I did actually see a couple of people have an argument with each other on the tube yesterday morning and I think if they were to log on to the website one would say “Don’t block the doors” and if the other person started the discussion would say “Don’t push people when you get on the tube. If you do you are a twat”. They did actually argue about if the first guy was a twat and called each other some lovely names. I was just glad I was sitting down and could just get on with reading my book. Londoners are charming.

I’m now on the closing pages of the epilogue to War and Peace, by the time I get home tonight, I will be finished (bar pestilence and flood)!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I had a terrible journey to work yesterday and a tube journey that would normally take me just over half an hour took me an hour and a half. It seems I was not the only person with a bad journey, as most of my colleagues seemed to have a horror story of their journey to work. Perhaps London ground to a halt yesterday. I claimed back for yesterday morning and also a bad journey on Saturday night, which will take me to £122 in refunds for this year so far...

My overly friendly colleague came over and spoke to me at lunch time and told me had a present for me. He is Australian and had been to the Aussie Shop and bought me a Cherry Ripe, which was very sweet of him, as he had bought three others and ate those within a couple of hours of purchasing them. I had said to him last week that I might try and make some Lamingtons and so he is trying to bribe me now. There are worse things in life I guess.

I now have less than 100 pages to go of War and Peace. Technically I guess I have actually finished it, but there are two (!) epilogues to the book that total 100 pages. Nearly there...

Monday, October 27, 2008


There was reasonable success at tidying G’s room, but I am wondering if a sticker chart system might be the answer. G seems to respond well to praise and if there was something like a chocolate bar awarded for sustained room tidiness then this could be the solution. Or possibly a flame thrower. G’s landlady may be more keen on one solution that the other though.

Yesterday we went to my parents’ house for dinner. My father was as odd as ever, but was trying to make conversation with G. My mum and I were sorting some stuff out and dad turned to G and said “So, I can’t remember if I have asked you this before, but are your parents still alive?”. I guess I should appreciate that he was trying to make an effort, but I am not really sure he had quite thought through the possible fallout if the answer had been “no”. I think perhaps he needs to work on his small talk a bit more.

Progress was also made on War and Peace and I have less than 200 pages to go, so I am expecting to have it finished before the end of the week. Hopefully.

Friday, October 24, 2008


My neighbour put a cheque through my door yesterday for the damage to my car. So, as long as that doesn’t bounce, that is sorted. I then bumped into him as I was going to the supermarket and I thanked him for the cheque and he told me that he had tried to phone the garage to get them to refund me the money and for him to pay them directly. The garage had said they wouldn’t do it. But I just can’t work out why he would want to do that because he knew I’d paid the bill already. Perhaps he thought it was helpful in some way. Odd though.

I went to Tesco, which I don’t actually frequent very much these days. As I walked round it I was very aware of how much marketing there was, how often they tried to direct you to a particular product because it was a “bargain” and how whilst it had an awful lot off stuff in stock, it was what they wanted to sell me rather than necessarily what I wanted to buy. It all made me feel a bit uncomfortable really and I always feel as though when I shop at Tesco that I have to say to myself “but do I actually need that product or is it just appealing because they are trying hard to sell it to me”.

I have always been a bit sceptical about Tesco anyway, but over recent months as my mind has given more thought to why we think in certain ways that I have become even more sceptical about the reason why we believe the pitches of places like Tesco. I will expand more on some of the stuff I have been thinking about but my thinking is at a very embryonic stage and I need to do some more reading and thinking (and I can take a long time to allow things to ferment in my brain, so it might not be any time soon).

Anyway, it is another Saturday ahead of transforming G’s room from a bombsite to an oasis of calm. It’s an exciting life.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Computer Unsupport

My internet connection has been rubbish recently. I phoned my ISP last night to see if they could fix it for me. Three phone calls and about an hour later there was finally success. I rather suspect that their IT support is outsourced to India, which isn’t a problem, but I don’t think they outsourced it there due to the great skill of the people dealing with calls because they could clearly only help me if my computer did exactly what it said on the screen in front of them. I don’t think they were very impressed with me when my computer didn’t comply. I think the first woman put the phone down on me because she didn’t know what else to suggest. I was waiting for her next instruction but instead the phone went dead.

I phoned back and spoke to someone else who took me through all the same things the previous woman had and then did a few bits more. It still didn’t work but she assured me that if I switched my computer off for 20 minutes it would then be working again. It wasn’t. I had to phone back. The second woman did amuse me though. She was giving me a password to type in and would give me the letter and then a word that started with that letter so I got it right. I was very confused when she kept saying “Q for cubic”, but I decided that it was probably quite rude to point out that cubic starts with a C. It was only later when I spoke to G about it that I realised she had been trying to say “Quebec”. The phonetic alphabet only really works if you know the words involved...

I phoned back a third time and after running through all the same stuff again, this woman managed to get my connection running again, but did have a bit of an officious tone if I queried what she asked me to do. Let’s be honest, if I knew what I was doing would I have to have phoned them? Anyway, it’s fixed for now.

I was going to say something more profound today but my computer conspired against me. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Last night I went to someone’s retirement party. It was for someone I worked with years ago (when I worked with A) and I was somewhat surprised to be asked, but it was a personal invitation and it also wasn’t at a pub, so I decided to go along. I had a really pleasant evening catching up with old colleagues (a few of whom I see anyway actually, so it was also an excuse to see them) and the head of unit came bounding and chatted to me for ages and it was really nice to see him. I always massage his ego a bit and I was suggesting what he could do as a future career when it was his turn to retire which was to become a Lord and we spent a bit of time trying to decide what his full title would be. I have no idea how you actually become a Lord (beyond being a hereditary peer), but if there is some kind of nomination process for life peers I may have given myself the task of getting him his peerage…

I was slightly apprehensive about going because I didn’t know if A might be there, but as it turned out that would never have been the case as apparently A has been off sick for he last couple of months. That made me feel rather sad because although we may have had our differences I wouldn’t wish anything bad on A and in other circumstances I would have hoped that I could help in some way. I think it makes me feel sad that I am so utterly powerless to do anything to help someone who was once such an important friend to me (and the friendship was always the more important thing to me than anything else) and that A is in a bad way. But I guess it is none of my business really.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Spellcheck has a lot to answer for...

I spotted the above sign on Saturday. It seems that we may be at war with Australia before we know it and that the slave trade is alive and well. *thinks* 99p is a bargain though...

I was on the Victoria line last night and several times heard the driver say “We’re running a special service tonight. Ignore the destination on the train as all Victoria line trains say Seven Sister’s. When we get there I’ll tell you if the train is going any further”. He kept repeating this as though thee was nothing odd about this at all. I like to think that the Victoria line was running a Magical Mystery Tour though and we could all have ended up somewhere very exciting. So not Walthamstow then.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Food for thought

I had a pretty busy weekend. I had dinner with one of housemates from university on Friday night. We used to see each other very week but over the last year or so we haven’t been able to see each other so much, so it was time for a catch up. She is also a very good cook, so it was also time for her to feed me again. We talked about loads of things and one of the things I mentioned was that I had been to a lecture at LSE on Monday and, as it turned out C knew a lot about the work of the guy who gave the lecture (this was the lecture incidentally) and not only does she know a lot about him but actually has written various article related to his and others work (on uncertainty in the work place etc). I was surprised that she knew who he was, let alone writing articles about him. We have very different careers and one the surface you would think they have very little in common but it is weird how often our lives cross each others both in work and outside.

Saturday I went over to G’s to do a mass tidy up of what is meant to be G’s bedroom but generally has more of a resemblance to an apocalypse. As I seem to recall I managed to spend a lot of time sorting it out on my own because G was off doing other things, but I did manage to create order out of chaos. I think I am going back next weekend so that we can try and keep up the momentum and get rid of various things. G often has trouble sleeping and an untidy bedroom apparently can be a big contributor to that, so hopefully this will improve things.

We then went out for dinner in the evening and ate at a Colombian restaurant, which was quite nice. We had intended to eat at a particularly Italian restaurant but when it came to it G couldn’t remember where it was so we ate at the Colombian place instead. I imagine this is a very ignorant comment, but quite a lot of it did seem fairly similar to Mexican food.

Then yesterday we went for a stroll near where I live and bought some cheese at a French market, which was really nice. I spent quite a bit of time reading War and Peace and am now on something like page 800 – only another 550 to go… I think that makes me about 60% of the way through the book, not that I am counting.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Under the skin

A few weeks ago I heard a certain famous explorer give a talk (he shall remain nameless because what I am going to say is quite personal about him, but there are clearly a limited number of people I could be referring to). He gave a talk giving his tales of expeditions and tests of strength and endurance. Should I ever have had an ambition of being an explorer, they were knocked on the head that day because living in a tent unable to step outside for months on end and running the risk of constant frost bite etc is not my idea of fun.

Anyway, at the end of the talk the person I was sat next to asked him what he saw as his greatest achievement and he replied that it was that his marriage had endured (although his wife has now died). She then went up and spoke to him afterwards and he thanked her for asking that question and he talked to her about how he worried that his constant striving for more and more challenges and somehow contributed to his wife getting ill and dying. She replied that she suspected his wife knew that had he had to give up his expeditions he would always have lived a life that was dissatisfying and somehow would never have quite been who he wanted to be, so in reality she probably supported him in what he did because she wanted what was best for him. He thanked her for what she’d said and said he’d never thought of it like that and would think about that some more. I was just really struck by how we can look at people who are able to conquer the world and think that somehow they must be totally different to you and me, but they can have the same fears and anxieties and need the same reassurances as us. We are all vulnerable in our own ways, regardless of how we are seen by the world around us.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's not going to kill you...

In the past I have expressed concerns about what my hands come into contact with when I travel on the tube each day. Well, it seems I had even more to fear than I thought. If you never pay attention to any other advice that I might give, please pay attention to this: You should wash your hands after you go to the toilet. It’s one of those things that should become second nature to you: use the toilet, flush, wash your hands and then dry them. The thought of coming into contact with other people’s faecal matter is really quite abhorrent and I may now have to disinfect anything I might wish to come into contact with on the tube.

You should do it for your own benefit. Let alone anyone else’s. Think of how often your hands get near to your mouth, how often you use your hands to eat, how many other people you come into contact with. When you go to the toilet and you flush the toilet and then unlock the cubicle door, think how many people have done exactly the same thing before you and have therefore left their own ‘intimate samples’ on the toilet flush or lock. Even if you think you are somehow immune to your own waste products then surely you still don’t want to be wandering around with other people’s on your hands. Come on people, how difficult is it? It’s not going to kill you. Honest!

I sent the article to G and pointed out that the problem seemed to get worse the further north you go in the country, so people in Scotland surely should only be approached if you are wearing a full protective suit. For some reason G was not amused by this.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mother knows best

I woke up yesterday morning and felt decidedly sleepy. I have been quite busy of late and have various things ticking round in my head and so on and it’s all just made me feel very tired. I guess ploughing through War and Peace isn’t the most relaxing thing either, but I have started it and I intend to finish it, even if it kills me. Anyway I managed to get my act together enough to get both me and G out the door for work and we got on the tube and I was reading my book and suddenly my blood ran cold as I remembered that I was meant to have dropped my car off to be repaired. Somehow I had just totally forgotten. I can’t think of another instance where I have totally forgotten to do something like that.

So I got off the tube, phoned my boss to tell him what was happening and headed home. Strangely on the way to the station I had seen a plane boarding pass on the pavement and as I walked home I picked it up and it was mine from when I went to Manchester last week. I guess I must have dropped that on the way home last night. Anyway I got home and drove my car to the garage and arrived at work about 10.30am in the end. Not a great start to the day. My memory seems to be doing bizarre things at the moment, particularly my short term memory and it also now seems that I am discarding items in the street. This is not a good sign. I did get loads of work done yesterday and only got out of work just in time to get to the garage about 5 minutes before it closed.

In other news, I may have mentioned before that my mum has always said that I’m not allowed to eat kebabs (because, of course, I always do what my mother says) – and now I know why.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Yesterday I overheard some colleagues talking about the programme on Channel 4 on Sunday night “Britain's Got The Pop Factor And Possibly A New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly On Ice” and were saying how TV had reached a new low that people had to have such issue sin their life to be on these programmes and how they exploited people etc. They then brought me into the conversation and asked if I had seen it and I somewhat sheepishly said “you know that was a spoof don’t you?”. They both looked utterly shocked by this and took some convincing that it wasn’t a real programme. I would have thought Peter Kay dressed as a woman was a bit of a give away but clearly not. Or even the title of the programme for that matter. Or… well pretty much the entire content of it. Sometimes my colleagues scare me.

I went to a talk at LSE last night which was on probability. I have to see that it was not a particularly accessible talk. They lecturer was a philosopher who had quite some disdain for economists, econometrics and pretty much anyone who tried to predict any sort of trend. But he did make some interesting and challenging points, three of which I give you here:

- Probability is not in itself important, impact is.

- Past performance does not necessarily predict the future, particularly if this is based on creating predictions based on rare events. This is primarily due to lack of data and that when we do have data we often impose our theories on it rather than allowing the data to speak for itself. Therefore we create trends based on flawed theories and that is partly how things like the current economic crash. People looked at past performance and predicted that it would continue based on drawing incorrect assumptions.

- It is important to be able to say “I don’t know”, especially if pretending you do know something could have a high impact. On a more basic level, which was evident from the attitude of the lecturer though, it is also quite freeing to feel able to say you don’t know something. You state what you do know and you admit what you don’t. By doing this you are acknowledging that the world can be unpredictable and that we don’t know everything and probably never will. Accepting that we live in a world of uncertainty is part of coming to terms with understanding that economies crash, floods happen, society changes and so on – and can also mean that you can stand up in front of a lecture theatre and be asked lots of intellectual questions and be willing to say “I don’t know”. Somehow I think it would take a huge shift in people’s thinking for this approach to become generally acceptable but there is something quite refreshing about it. We live in a culture where we have to be experts and always want to win the argument, but what if we could just admit we don’t know everything and we don’t need to? Interesting.