Friday, February 29, 2008


Apologies for the lack of blogging yesterday. I was rather distracted by such things as finishing my decorating and getting my hair cut and other such things.

The decorating is now finished and I am pleased with the end result. I really will put some photos on here, but I still need to take a photo of the end result. Looking at the photos I think the way the room looked before I started was nice, which it was but it really needed to be repainted as the walls were a bit of a mess and it also did not go with my fireplace at all. There is now a distinct lack of colour in my living room now though, so new curtains etc are called for. Something else I want is a snake draught excluder. Maybe something like this. Only I would rather go and but one in person that over the internet, so if you happen to know of somewhere in the South East of England that sells them then I would be interested to know where that is. I have looked in loads of places and can’t find anywhere that sells them. At the weekend I took the opportunity to visit lots of shops that old people might frequent but was still unsuccessful. So any tip offs would be appreciated.

I still haven’t got my car back because they are having trouble fitting one of the replacement parts. I should get it back today. Hopefully. It’s a decided pain that it isn’t fixed though because I am going to the dentist this morning and it would take me about 20 minutes to get there by car, but about an hour and a half by public transport. I tried to call my mum last night to ask if she would give me a lift, but no-one was at home. I suspect my father was actually at home and just ignored the phone, as is his way. Fortunately my mum called me late last night and said she’d give me a lift, so it isn’t the early start that I had feared. I haven’t slept in any day this week, I’m not very good at making the most of my leave it seems. But at least the decorating is done. Anyway, I’d better go and get my teeth checked.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I am aching today. Decorating seems to have found muscles that I didn’t even know existed. I still haven’t quite finished painting but I should have done all the walls my about lunch time today and then I just need to paint the woodwork and it will be done.

I’m waiting for the chap to come round and service my boiler and he is due at some point this morning. I cleaned for a while before going to bed last night because when the chap came round to install my fireplace I made him a cup of tea and he said it was the first of the day because he had been to someone else’s house and it had been so filthy that he decided it was best to avoid drinking their tea. It’s just made me feel slightly paranoid that somehow where I live might not pass muster – and who wants to be the person in the next story of someone’s house who was so disgusting. I do actually have a copy of “How Clean is Your House?” and I am going to try and pick up some tips from that. Not that my house is dirty, I might add, I just really dislike cleaning and would like to find ways to make it less of a chore.

Anyway, time to get on with some painting. I’ll try and upload some photos tomorrow, when I have worked out how to get the photos of my new phone.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A catalogue of errors...

I had a really great time away – and am now about half ay through repainting my living room. The whole room is now white and in about an hour or so I’m going to put some colour on the walls (photos to follow…).

Anyway, you may recall that there was a mix up over our holiday booking. Initially they thought we were going in January and then when they realised it was February, they were already booked on the Thursday night. When we turned up the confusion continued because the room was till being used by someone who had been there for the first part of the week. They’d only said that morning that they needed the room all day and they were asleep init when we turned up. The owner was very apologetic but it was fine because we had already planned to go straight out after we’d dropped off our bags, so that we could get the last bit of daylight.

I had a pretty constructive time – I bought a new mobile phone and a work bag and I bought G a rucksack and part of my sister’s birthday present. So despite that all being a bit expensive, I felt as though I had got a lot done.

On Sunday morning we were woken up by the fire alarm going off. As we were about to make our escape, the person in the room next door shouted down to the owner and said that it was him who had set the alarm off – he’d moved his kettle to below the smoke alarm and the steam had set it off. Idiot.

Anyway, we went back to sleep for a bit and then wandered down for breakfast. They do such nice breakfasts there. On the first day I had some delicious pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, then I had a cooked breakfast the next day and was meant to have the pancakes again on the last day, but the owner was having a made moment and cooked me scrambled eggs and salmon instead! Although the place might sound like Fawlty Towers, it is actually a really lovely place to stay and we have had no problems staying there previously. For some reason there just seem to have been a catalogue of errors this time but none of it detracted from our stay and it was all so relaxing and I’d definitely stay there again.

On Sunday we went for a walk at Beachy Head and we were starting to make our way back to the car but we realised that G’s hat had disappeared. G was really tired, so I offered to walk back up the very steep hill to see if I could find it, but it wasn’t there. I then caught up with G and a few minutes later I heard this little voice say “er… I’ve found my hat” and it had been tucked inside G’s coat all along…

Then G was really tired, so I walked back to the car on my own and then drove down to meet G. As we set off in the car back to where we were staying a light started to flash on my dashboard and when I checked in the car handbook it basically said there was a major engine failure (despite the fact the car was driving just fine and the only reason I knew there was something wrong was because there was a light on the dashboard). Oh dear… We got back to where we were staying and I called out the AA. The chap turned up in about 15 minutes and ran a couple of checks and said “well, it doesn’t seem to be mis-firing, which is good because that would have been really bad”. Then he plugged his computer in to diagnose the problem and… it was misfiring. Oh dear…

He looked at the engine and it seems that water has been building up and going into the engine, so all the sparkplugs and leads were corroding. He was surprised I’d managed to drive the car, but I really hadn’t been aware of any problem at all, despite the fact that this had been building up for months. Anyway, he managed to get it fixed but said I’d have to get it repaired properly. So I’ve now got my car booked in to be repaired on Thursday. Fortunately my car is only a couple of years old, so it’s still under warranty. I’m not using the usual Ford dealer that I go to (and won’t be using them again) because I think they should have been aware of the problem but failed to pick it up. So I’m taking it somewhere else to be repaired.

I was thinking about changing form the AA to the RAC, but was so impressed by the AA that I think I’ll stay with them now. The car was back running again in time for us to go the cinema (the first time I have been to the cinema since 2006!). We went to see Juno, which I really enjoyed and thought it was a nicely quirky film and Juno herself was a really likeable character and I liked the humour in the film. We both really enjoyed it. Then we went for a really nice Chinese meal, which was a good end to a slightly chaotic but still really enjoyable day.

Despite the great list of things that went wrong while we were away. It was still such a relaxing time and I didn’t find it stressful at all, which was good.

Now it’s back to painting…

Friday, February 22, 2008


Yesterday was really nice and G liked the birthday celebrations I had arranged. We went to The Landmark for afternoon tea and the food and relaxing atmosphere was lovely. We just sat there for a couple of hours chatting and relaxing. Then we went to see The History Boys, which G really wanted to see. We had both seen the film and it was interesting to see it in its original stage form.

I do sometimes wonder why people find parts of that play so funny though, particularly the bit that is in French, where people laughed *so* heartily. There is a part of me that wonders if some people laugh because they like to show that they can understand someone speaking French. I haven’t studied any French for about half a lifetime now and I could understand 99% of it, so it isn’t very complex French, and I know the acting was good, but people just found it all so amusing. I did think that maybe Alan Bennett was having a bit of a joke at the audiences expense because the play has some social class issues in it and is about some boys at school on Sheffield who are trying to get into Oxford or Cambridge and they’re being taught how to pass the exam and interview – a lot of which is about pretending to be intellectual and different even if you’re not. Which made me think that maybe that’s the point about the part in French, we can all pretend to be intellectual and a bit different because we can understand someone talking in French. Or perhaps, I am reading too much into it and I just missed the joke in that part!

Anyway, G and I are off down to the south coast until Monday shortly. Hopefully it will be a really nice and relaxing time away. Then I’m coming back to redecorate my living room next week. I’ll be back here on Tuesday, assuming that I can bring myself to put down my roller for a few minutes. Have a good few days all.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


It has been a decidedly slow start to today. A late start, a leisurely breakfast and a bit of lunch in a few minutes. Then we’re off into London for afternoon tea and then going to the theatre tonight. G doesn’t know what we’re doing yet, as it’s meant to be a birthday surprise. So I’m hoping it isn’t a huge disappointment…

On the way out I am going to put my job application in the post and then that will be finished for now and over the next few weeks I have to start getting answers to all my questions, in the hope that I get an interview.

As a final thought for today, you might like to be careful where you choose to eat and I would suggest avoiding this place. The article leaves me with two main questions. First, why would “oh it’s a message just meant to be seen by staff” somehow seen to be a reasonable explanation? Second, even with the incentive of a free meal, why would you go back?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wednesday is the new Friday

My last day at work before going on leave. Hooray! I also might have found someone who is interested in taking C’s job (if she goes) and have lined up a meeting on my first day back to have a chat with this person to sound it all out a bit more. So that’s good news.

I spoke to the recruitment people again and explained the problems with the application form. They said to submit the form unsigned and I said I didn’t think that was acceptable, as just based on that they could refuse to include someone in the sift. So they said to post it instead, even though you are meant to e-mail it. *scratches head* I haven’t applied for a job in quite a while, but surely it isn’t meant to be this complicated?

I was interested in this article on the BBC which looked at the reasons behind three disparate communities across the world have populations that live well beyond the average. I’m not actually sure that I would like to live until I was over 100, but I guess if it was a good quality of life and your friends and family were still alive then it wouldn’t be so bad – and who would want to be the person who everybody remembered by saying “she died so young. Only 94 years old”. How embarrassing would that be after all?

We can conclude from the studies that in order to live a long life we should:

- starve ourselves, but when we do eat make it meat free with lots of tofu and soya.
- Eat lots of meat and make sure that there is lots of in-breeding within your family. The addition of a genetic mutation would be even better.
- Become a Seventh Day Adventist (no smoking, no drinking and basically no naughtiness generally) and if possible have a vegetarian diet.

Sometimes research shows that you should be grateful for your three score years and ten and not be greedy...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Just sign on the dotted line

So, I dug out all the details that I needed to finish the application form, which left me with one problem – signing it. It sounds like a simple one to solve: get out a pen and put a scrawl at the end of the form. Except, the form is meant to be e-mailed. So… I could print the form sign it and then scan it back into my computer to send it, but that is a massive amount of work and would actually then mean it would no longer be a word document, they then wouldn’t be able to separate out the diversity data, which is not meant to be included as part of the application etc etc etc. So, I phoned them but the people I needed to talk to weren’t available, so someone else took a message and they called me back and left a message on my phone saying to type my name at the end of the form and that would be fine. So when I got home I tried to do this, but because it is one of those forms where lots of the fields are locked on it – including the signature field – there is no way to type any text in there. These people are idiots.

They are a professional recruitment company but cannot get really basic things right like enabling you to sign a form. Despite it saying the form should be e-mailed, I am going to have to post it to them because presumably the form is invalid without a signature -because you are signing to agree a number of statements. All I can hope is that there incompetence means that lots of people mess up the application process and therefore get automatically ruled out. Every cloud…

Anyway, it’s G’s birthday on Thursday so we are going out with some friends for a meal tonight, which should be good. G is looking for a new job at the moment – partly to try and earn a bit more money and partly to get rid of some slightly psychotic managers. When I hear about jobs that sound interesting I usually suggest them to G – this has included being a tube train driver because I think that could be quite good and you get paid a lot for going up and down the same bit of train track. I have also suggested becoming a film censor, which I imagine would lead to quite an eclectic mix of viewing from children’s programmes to something a bit *cough* more mature. Now if G could combine those two career choices that would certainly make for an interesting journey to work each day for commuters. It’s all about using your imagination.

Monday, February 18, 2008


A short working week ahead – hooray! Only three days in work and then I am leave until March – hooray!

I finished my application form for the job yesterday and except for a few minor details (such as remembering what my current salary is), it is ready to go. I need to phone the recruitment people again today though because the form requires a signature and yet you are meant to e-mail it in, which therefore makes it a bit difficult.

I am actually not overly confident about getting this job. I think a lot of people will apply, some of whom will have more relevant experience than me. I am starting to come up with a list of questions to which I have to find out the answers, so that should I get an interview, even if they ask me something really stretching, I will have thought about it and hopefully have the answer (it’s a very long list of questions…). The problem with doing this is that it reminds me how much I would like to do this job and gets me even more interested in it, which therefore if I don’t get it will mean that the disappointment (and general lack of enjoyment of my current job) will be greatly magnified. But I need to do it in order to give myself the best possible shot at it. It does also cross my mind sometimes that A may well find out that I am applying for the job (the head of unit knows and is not terribly tactful for starters) and if I don’t get it, will probably be pleased. That makes me want to get the job all the more – not to be nasty, I just don’t like the idea of A getting pleasure out of my failing. I have very weird logic sometimes.

Anyway, if you were thinking of a change of job and had previously been imprisoned (a matter of months ago) for inappropriately naming a teddy bear, which of the following would you choose?

Option A: a nice local village in the UK, where the most offensive thing that is likely to happen is someone turning their nose up at the winner of the jam-making competition at the local village fete.

Option B: Perhaps a total change of career at the local Post Office. Maybe dealing with a few pensioners getting their Freedom Passes to travel on the tube at no charge to their hearts content. Plus perhaps an occasional robbery, but that’s why you’re grateful you’re behind a tough bit of glass (and they have signs up that say that aggression towards staff will not be tolerated, so they might give the person a good ticking off too)

Option C: You decide to go and teach in China*. A country that has one of the worst human rights records in the world and doesn’t allow freedom of speech or of the media.

I’ll leave you to work out which one Gillian Gibbons chose.

*Incidentally, I saw a headline on the BBC the other day that said “China expresses its regret at Spielberg withdrawing from the Olympics” and I just had this vision of the entire population of China (all 1.3 billion of them…) lined up like the Terracotta Army, looking very sad and saying in chorus “Mr Spielberg, we’re sorry you’re not coming to our Olympics any more”. It really is time I had some time off work.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Easily Pleased

Well, another Valentine’s Day over and a nice one at that. G and I went out for dinner at Giraffe, which was good and the staff were *very* enthusiastic and *very* friendly. If you went there for a quiet evening you might have ended up killing them, but as they gave G four small giraffes (that they normally give to children to go with their drinks), they were certainly in our good books. We’re easily pleased.

I phoned the company who are running the application process for the job I am interested in. There is something slightly wrong (or at least contradictory) in the way the job has been advertised and so I phoned to clarify. They seemed entirely non-plussed by this, although they were very nice and polite, and just said not to worry about it. Not that I was actually worried, I think there has just been a bit of a screw up in the way it’s been done. Nothing disastrous, it’s more that someone failed to check that they were being consistent etc and so they’ve missed something. Anyway, I shall mention it in the covering letter and leave it at that.

I do soooooooo need a new job though and today I have to meet with my head of unit to talk about my career plans for the future (the “where do you see yourself in ten years time” time conversation) and I’ll have to decide if I should just say “well, not working here”. When I was talking to my boss about it a couple of days ago, I was telling him that I have no interest in promotion and the more senior people become in the organisation the more insane and demanding they seem to be. But then I said to my boss “I realise I can’t actually put that down on the form though”. So what did I do? Well, lie, of course, and say that I might consider promotion “in due course” and maybe bigger and greater things in the “longer term”. Yea right... retirement at age 35 more like.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


So, C got the job, which was good news in one way, but not good news in the sense that she has got a new job and therefore is likely to be leaving her current one. There is a glimmer of hope in that there might be a problem with the terms and conditions (much too tedious to go into here) and so she is looking into that at the moment. It’s a good job that I have a job advert drawn up already and that I am also looking to move on.

I spoke to my mobile phone company yesterday, as I should be eligible for an upgrade. Despite my current contract having expired, every time I’ve logged on to their website to see what is available, it has told me I need to wait until I am in the final month of my contract. As my handset broke several months ago and I have been using one that belongs to G ever since, I do need a new handset. Anyway, it seems that because I am on quite an old tariff I am not eligible for an upgrade. I haven’t tried to upgrade for the last couple of years and have instead reduced my line rental. It seems that my options are: continue to stay on my current tariff with reduced line rental, but pay £1 more than in previous years and I cannot have a new phone as part of the deal; or, change to a similar tariff that gives me more call minutes that I don’t want or need, pay £4 more for the new tariff and have the eligible period to use the free minutes start at 7pm instead of 6pm (so in effect I lose about 30 hours of eligible time). I told them how unimpressed I was, that I thought they were offering me very poor choices and I would consider looking elsewhere. Having thought about it though, I suspect I will actually stick with the tariff I am currently on and buy a new handset. I can’t see the point in changing tariffs to get a “free” handset, when it clearly is not, given I would have to pay about £14 more a month to be eligible (that’s £168 a year! Surely I can get a reasonable phone for less than that?!), but in particular, I would no longer be able to make free phone calls until after 7pm. I think my mobile phone company is being really rubbish, but it is still more competitive than the others. Can I even remember a world without mobile phones now? How I hark back to those days.

Anyway, for any monkey loving readers out there, you’ll like this story (with apologies for linking to the Daily Mail. I used to think I had standards).

Cartoon is from

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I watched Supersize v Superskinny last night and having seen it a couple of times previously, I have to conclude that the people who are majorly overweight are much nicer than those who are really skinny. Maybe it’s just that they are less self absorbed. I’m not trying to give anyone a complex and I’m also not trying to say “ooh aren’t all overweight people funny and nice”. I have just found that the people who were overweight were less defensive and generally more friendly, which is maybe surprising given that they probably wanted to gnaw the leg off the sofa.

I am still reading Brideshead Revisited and yesterday I read something in it that until about 6 months ago I had never heard of:

“Does your family always talk about religion all the time?”
“Not all the time. It’s a subject that just comes up naturally, doesn’t it?”
“Does it? It never has with me before”
“Then perhaps you are an agnostic. I’ll pray for you.”
“That’s very kind of you”
“I can’t spare you a whole rosary you know. Just a decade. I’ve got such a long list of people. I take them in order and they get a decade once a week.”
“I’m sure it’s more than I deserve”
“Oh, I’ve got some harder cases than you. Lloyd George and the Kaiser and Olive Banks”
“Who is she?”
“She was bunked from the convent last term. I don’t quite no what for. Reverend Mother found something she’d been writing. D’you know, if you weren’t an agnostic, I should ask you for five shillings to buy a black god-daughter.”
“Nothing will surprise me about your religion”
“It’s a new thing a missionary priest started last term. You send five bob to some nuns in Africa and they christen a baby and name her after you. I’ve got six black Cordelias. Isn’t it lovely?”

Er... so, with all its kind of racist ovetones, it's the “black baby box”. G was talking about this a few months ago and I slightly incredulously asked what it was. Basically it seems that the Catholic church used to (I know very little about the Catholic church, but I assume no longer does) get school children to put money (maybe a few pence) in the ‘black baby box’ and then it would be sent to Africa to do – I’m not really sure what specifically, but apparently it would be noted if you didn’t put money in (incidentally I’m sure it wasn’t to get babies named after you as in the quote above). Is it just me who had never heard of this very strange Catholic act of charity??

Anyway, on other matters, yesterday I helped C to prepare for an interview this morning. We went through each of her answers and I gave her some advice on how she could make them a bit more high level and maybe put herself across a bit better. Given that we don’t actually want her to leave, I’m not really sure why I am willing to help her prepare, but I guess it seems a bit mean not to do so. So fingers crossed that she doesn’t get it...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I had a busy lunch time yesterday. I went to M&S and returned some shoes. I only bought them a couple of weeks ago and they’re already falling apart. A couple of weeks ago Jeremy Paxman complained his pants were no longer up to standard. Well, let me tell you, there shoes aren’t much better. When I took them back, it looked like I had been wearing them for years, they were in such a state. Anyway, they took them back and refunded me my money and then I went elsewhere and bought a new pair of shoes that will hopefully last a bit longer.

I also got a phone call from my water company and they said that as I live on my own they will refund some of the charges for last year and will reduce my water bill by about £80 this year. I don’t have to fill in any forms or do anything else. I just have to let them know if someone else moves in. How very easy.

I then bought a birthday card and Valentine’s card for G. So many Valentine’s cards are very full on and seem to involve declaring undying love, so I had to choose carefully, but it’s a mine field. Obviously a card that basically says “yea, you’re alright” is no better, so I stood there for ages looking at cards trying to find one that was nice but no overly gushing. I am such a romantic…

I also talked to my boss yesterday afternoon. We had to discuss my plans for the future etc, as every one at my grade and the grade above has to go through some weird assessment process. I am very sceptical about this process. I already work somewhere that is basically about “jobs for the boys” and seems to operate on some old boys network (not that it’s actually gender specific) and I was saying to my boss that I thought it was really unfair that people now seemed to get jobs based on who they know – no more advertising posts, it’s about knowing the right people. I think this new process is merely going to exacerbate the problems. I have a meeting with my head of unit on Thursday and I will say the same to him. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t get out of this process and I will fill out the assessment, but I will be keeping an eye on the outcomes. Anyway, I hadn’t really planned to tell my boss about me thinking of applying for a new job because even though it was a meeting about the future, it wasn’t about specifics in that sense, but at the end he asked me if I was happy to carry on in my current post and I said “erm… interesting question…” and then explained my latest thoughts. I think my boss is now a bit concerned that I might leave, as might C – and that being the case he might decide to go as well! Anyway, it was all fine and I just said that I’d tell my boss what I decide to do etc.

In other news, I see that a new Mr Man has appeared and he is called Mr Rude – and is French. No cultural stereotypes there at all then. You can find him here, along with the whole Mr Men and Little Miss family.

I have also now set up my book blog, which is just a way of me keeping records of what I have read. My boss said to me yesterday that I have strong analytical skills, but I’m not sure you will find that my book analysis is always that insightful!

Monday, February 11, 2008


How can it be Monday again? Fortunately this is my last full week in work until March, as I am on leave half of next week and all of the following week. Not that I am counting down you understand.

Anyway, it was a good weekend, despite being incredibly tired on both Friday and Saturday nights. Saturday G was over and my sister and nephew came round for lunch and then we all met up with my mum and went to a farm. The farm was ok, but there didn’t seem to be as many animals as there were sties/ pens/ stables etc, which was a bit of a disappointment. They did have some guinea pigs there though and they were very, very cute and one day I might think about getting one. I’m glad I liked them more than, say, a cow. My nephew caused us a couple of frights though. First, he was running round on some haystacks that had been set up for children to play on and misjudged where he could jump and went plummeting down to the ground. Fortunately there was a mat there but he was very shocked and upset by it all. He got back on the haystack again but I then had to keep climbing up to wherever he was because he was too nervous to jump down on his own. Then just as we were about to leave, he disappeared and it took quite some searching to find him – he has merrily wandered off and was playing in a playground area. My sister was not best pleased with him, but all was well.

We then went back to my parents’ house and had dinner. My father was his usual odd self and could be found standing in the dark just watching what was going on a few times, which is just a little bit creepy... he is an odd man...

Yesterday G wasn’t very well, so we didn’t do a lot. I did, however, fill out the application for the job I am thinking of applying for. I have sent it to a friend to ask her to look at it and will see what she thinks of the examples that I have used, but I keep having moments where I think there is no way that I could get the job and that I shouldn’t build up my hopes that I might get it. I guess you never know unless you try. I’ve still got time to decide though and have a chance to rework the answers if I want to. I’m glad that I have done the bulk of it though, as the hardest part is probably already done. Except... I have a one to one with my boss this afternoon and I have to decide whether to mention it to him. That might seem odd to some, but at work we basically normally have to tell our managers if we are applying for anew job, as they usually have to endorse the form in some way. In this instance he doesn’t, but it seems odd not to tell him and maybe a bit unfair. I’ll maybe see how the conversation goes and decide at the time.

Oh and I’m still progressing well on the book reading front and am in the process of (very slowly) putting a little compendium together of the books I have read on a new blog, which I’ll link to at some point when it maybe has something to look at – although it is being done more for my own sake than that of others. Anyway, it will probably appear some time soon.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Friday at last, although I’m not actually going into work first thing, as I have to go and give a talk this morning. I will wander into work after lunch (as I get free sandwiches after the talk and I’m not one to turn down free food). Then hopefully I’ll have the chance to catch up on the work that has built up while I have been out of the office this week and then head home.

I went to a meeting yesterday morning and arrived in time for the start but the chap at the reception desk was so slow that it took almost twenty minutes to get a pass and he then directed me to the wrong meeting room, so I had to go back to reception and ask him to tell me the correct one. He couldn’t find out so then I had to go somewhere else and find someone I knew who did know where the room was and he took me there. I was a mere thirty minutes late!

Given that my mobile phone broke last year and I am therefore using G’s old phone I want to replace my handset. My contract expired on 1 February, so I logged on to see what the options are but the site says that I’m not eligible. I phoned my mobile phone company to ask them about that and some other things and when they checked they agreed that my contract has expired and that I am now eligible for an upgrade but they get exactly the same message as me when they try to look at the options – I’m not eligible. So now I need to phone back today and they’ll see if they can work out the reason why. I could upgrade over the phone, but I want to be able to look at all the different options for myself first and then I can call them after that if I want to speak to someone. Why are these things never straightforward?

Anyway, it’s the weekend ahead, which might include a visit to a farm with my nephew and some application form writing. It’s an exciting life.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


My trip north of the border was good, despite the flight taking off over an hour later. Fortunately I happened to be on the same flight as the chap who was chairing the meeting so it couldn’t start until we got there anyway. I flew on BMI and it turns out that if you join their loyalty scheme you can have free food and a cuppa on the flight (normally you have to pay). I fly BMI quite a lot, so I’ll be signing up for that. I do like a bargain.

The flight home left very promptly and I landed back in London early. All went well with my journey home until the final bit which involved a bus. There hadn’t been one for ages and when it finally came up in the board that it was 13 minutes away I decided it was going to be quicker to walk because the traffic was terrible and there was a reasonable chance that it would be too full for people to board anyway. So I set off for the 35 minute or so walk home (with my luggage, but I do try and travel fairly light) and when I was about 3 or 4 minutes walk from where I would have got off the bus, it went past. So I didn’t really save any time, but I did at least get a bit of exercise and didn’t end up stranded at the bus stop.

The job I was thinking about applying for was advertised yesterday. Looking at the application form, I think I can come up with examples for everything they require, including the specialist bits. I’ve got until the end of the month to send it in, so I need to get thinking about what I’m going to say and then put pen to paper. The chap who heads up the work sent me an e-mail last week (in response to one from me) and seemed quite keen for me to apply and someone else from that office sent me a text and said she’d sent me an e-mail to tell me the advert was out and then said “Apply!”, so there is a nice bit of encouragement from people. I’m certainly going to give it a go filling out the form and if I feel comfortable with it when I have completed it, I’ll send it in.

I might also have found a solution to the affordability of being able to go to Canada...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Day of the Triffids

I finished reading The Day of the Triffids on Friday and thought it was excellent. I would never have read it were it not for my new found quest to read a whole variety of books over the next year or so. I am now reading “If not now, when?” by Primo Levi, which is going ok, but hasn’t immediately grabbed me.

Anyway, Day of the Triffids was well worth a read and told the story of the aftermath of a comet shower which left most of the population of the world blind. The only people who weren’t were those who happened not to see the comet shower, such as Bill Masen, the main character in the book who was in hospital with his eyes bandaged due to an eye injury caused by a Triffid.

When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.

It is, in itself, just a good read and you can read it for the story telling power of it. But I thought it also raised a whole load of interesting issues about society. First of all was the expectation that the government, emergency services etc would be there to take control of the disaster. Only because each of those resources relies on people and they are no more immune from the ill-effects of catastrophic disasters than anyone else, they weren’t there to help.

What also struck me, which admittedly was at least in part because the main character was sighted and we were following his account of what happened, was that if you put yourself in the position of what you would do, you assume that you would be amongst the sighted. But given that probably 99% of the population was blind chances are that you would actually be amongst them.

Various ethical dilemmas came up as well. There were sighted people who saw their first and primary duty as to help those who were blind. There were other sighted people who saw that the ideal was to help those who were blind but that the sheer scale of it was beyond being able to save anyone if they did that, so they had to make a tactical withdrawal and focus on the vast minority who might make it. Then there were those who either killed themselves out of despair at what had happened, particularly their ability to cope with instant blindness or the sighted who built their own barricades and would allow no-one to get close in case they took the little that had been scavenged.

You know, one of the most shocking things about it is to realise how easily we have lost a world that seemed so safe and certain.

There was also the view of the law. Given that the entire infrastructure had been destroyed. Did it become ok to break into shops and houses in order to obtain items to ensure at least basic survival? Also given that there was no longer anyone in authority, what kind of society was ahead? Did people want to rebuild the same social order as before based on the same laws and morals and cultural practices – or was it time to start again, to take a pragmatic view that with so few people repopulating England, having a viable population that allowed time for some to think and to plan and not just toil was more important than say marriage laws (taking into account this book was written in 1951). Really fascinating thinking about which decisions you would make – assuming you were one of the few that was fortunate (if that is the right word) enough to have survived.

Until then I had always thought of loneliness as something negative-an absence of company, and, of course, something temporary. That day I had learned that it was much more. It was something which could press and oppress, could distort the ordinary and play tricks with the mind. Something which lurked inimically all around, stretching the nerves and twanging them with alarms, never letting one forget that there was no one to help, no one to care. It showed one as an atom adrift in vastness, and it waited all the time its chance to frighten and frighten horribly-that was what loneliness was really trying to do; and that was what one must never let it do.

There was also the issue of how do you cope with losing all your support, all those things that you thought would always be there – from basic utilities, to your home, to your friends and family. Instead you have to find safe places away to start again and build relationships with people who you never even knew existed before disaster struck. You have to work out whether you can trust people who are in as equally a desperate situation as yourself – is it better to work together or to rely only on your own resources? If you only rely on yourself, what a way to face a new world where you have to rely on tilling the land and with no outside communication and no-one to rely on. Food for thought.

It did end on a note of reasonable hope, but also didn’t have a nice happy ending – which would have been rather an unsatisfying end actually.

It was a really good book and was not what I would think of as science fiction, but more taking every day life and saying “what if...?”. If you want to read it, the text is online here – but I think it must have been optically read and that the reader had trouble telling the difference between “b” and “h”! Also, don’t print it because it would be about 150 pages. If you get the chance give it a go and let your mind start to imagine...

Anyway, I'm off to the airport. I'll be back here on Thursday.

Monday, February 04, 2008


Another weekend over and I am once again on the countdown to the weekend and being on lave in a couple of week’s time. I’m actually off north of the border tomorrow and Wednesday and am probably not in the office on Friday either so hopefully the week will go fairly quickly. I feel like I’m wishing my life away, but am still surprised that we have made it to February already.

It was a nice weekend and G and I went for a walk on both Saturday and Sunday around the local area – mainly just to get some exercise in rather than just vegetating at home. We didn’t get our 10,000 steps in on either day but got a lot of the way there, which is better than most weekends.

We also spent a bit of time thinking about holidays – the plan was Canada, but as yesterday evening went on, G went quieter and quieter and a couple of times I asked what was wrong, but G said everything was fine, which I didn’t believe (and said so). Then after a while G said that it just didn’t seem affordable. G does earn quite a bit less than me, and I think it would mean there would no money left at all for any other trips away during the rest of the year. So I think we may have to come up with another plan. Last year I only went out of the country briefly with work a couple of times, so this year I have to escape the UK for a break. Not that I don’t like the UK, I just need to go abroad though. So now, I need a reasonably priced destination that we can both afford and still have money left over for a few more trips away. I shall have to ponder this one more carefully.

Friday, February 01, 2008


I was talking to someone at work the other day, who as it turns out has been really ill over the last couple of months and almost died. She was explaining what had happened and whilst she did not go into great detail, I began to feel me head start swimming and had to bring the conversation to an end before I ended up passing out. I had to sit down for a few minutes until my head stopped swimming. I am such a wimp.

Yesterday my boss told me that there are proposals for more changes at work. My heart just sank. We have been through so many changes already – the place I work has grown at a massive rate, names have changed, priorities have changed. I was in a unit that merged with another unit and then a few months later we split off again. I’ve had countless changes of bosses (at a range of levels) and probably lost of other things that I have chosen to forget. Now the suggestion is that part of another organisation joins us. I think this would be really bad news for me and I am hoping that it won’t happen. Certainly everyone I know is arguing against it, but it is for others rather more senior to take the ultimate decision.

I have actually been feeling quite down about work this year and have been thinking that maybe I just need to move on from the organisation in which I currently work. Yesterday’s news just made me think that I cannot stand working somewhere that is in constant flux. I want to go into work, know what it is that I am trying to achieve, get that done and go home again. I’m not sure that is possible where I work. I try to focus on what I have to do and let the other stuff range on around me, but it is easier said than done.

So yesterday afternoon I sent a couple of e-mails to old bosses and just mentioned that I might be seeking out a new job. I knew that one has a job going but applications close today, so I didn’t want to apply for that right now. That old boss sent me a reply and said she didn’t know of any other jobs coming up in the near future but she’d keep me in mind if one came up. The other old boss replied as well and said they are actually advertising a whole load of jobs next week. So that’s good news. The down sides are: it’s a massive open competition and I think it will be pretty tough to get one of the jobs and it would be working back in the same place as A again. I was talking to G about it last night who said that if I the latter issue dissuade me then A still has some control over the decisions I make about my life and so I should just do what’s right by me, which I have to agree with. So we’ll see what I think when the job adverts come out...