Sunday, December 27, 2009

Away

We’re flying to Glasgow later for a few days, so I won’t be about for several days. We are flying with BA and this turns out to be a good thing given that, as there was the threat of strike action, they have given us 10,000 extra air miles to say thank you for flying with them. I already have my miles, G is still waiting but will hopefully get them after we have flown.

We are going to meet G’s new niece. She is two weeks old today. This is assuming we can land in Glasgow, as fog is expected tonight.

Christmas Day was nice. I got a Freeview Plus box, which has been put to good use already, and a new microwave.

The Day of the Triffids is on TV tomorrow and Tuesday night (BBC 1, 9pm). That is such a fantastic book and so hopefully the programme will be good too. If it is good then hopefully that will inspire you to read the book if you haven’t done so already. If it is rubbish then the book is much better and you need to read to read the book to undo the damage. Are you picking up on a message here?

Anyway... I will return here are sometime around the turn of the New Year. I hope you have a good few days.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

We braved the supermarket last night. It wasn’t actually that busy, but it was busier than normal (there were *two* people in the queue in front of me at the till). I didn’t enjoy the experience though, but it was a bit of a bargain shop because Sainsbury’s had issued vouchers to be spent in Christmas week to get £14 off your shopping. So we used those and bought such exciting things as dishwasher tablets and other domestic items.

On the way home we were listening to the radio and the DJ made some comment about the weather being bad and for people to be careful “as everyone has somewhere to go for Christmas”. Except that not everyone does and so the comment rather annoyed me and made me think that the DJ was rather thoughtless.

Here are some recent things I have searched for on the internet:

I wanted to know how often it snows on Christmas Day in London. This was because when we were at the Royal Albert Hall, the programme had a list of trivia, one of which was said “On average snow falls on Christmas Day in London once every twelve years, while in Glasgow it happens every nine years”. My mum did not believe the statistic about London and said I had to find out whether it was true. The statistic is about snow fall rather than it being a snow covered Christmas. Anyway, I had a look about and this website says that there were seven snowy Christmases in the Twentieth Century (which works out at an average of about once every 14 years, although given that it is an average there could be significantly smaller and bigger gaps, as that is how averages work…). You can also see some slightly complicated statistics here (as they cover the Christmas period rather than Christmas Day specifically).

We were also debating the words to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and whether the line is “good tidings we bring to you and your king” or “good tidings we bring to you and your kin”. G and mum were saying that it was the former, but said it was the latter. I was, again, commissioned to find out the answer. As we all know, the internet is never wrong, so I am pleased to say that I was proved to be correct and it is “kin” not “king”. You can checkhere, here, here, here and here.

I am unlikely to be about tomorrow, so I hope you have a Happy Christmas – and don’t forget to track Santa, so that you can be sure that you are fast asleep when he comes to deliver your presents. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sleep

It has been a busy few days. On Friday afternoon I went out for lunch with people from work and, whilst the meal was decidedly average, I was sat with some really nice people and we had a real laugh. I don’t normally work with any of them, but we just chatted away and it turned what could have been one of those awkward work-bases social events into something much more enjoyable.

We went to stay with some of G’s friends on Friday night and then had a bit meal with them and some other people on Saturday afternoon. I made a steamed pudding and that worked out pretty well. There was also a really nice trifle and a chocolate log that put my efforts at such things (a Swiss roll with a bit of butter icing on it) to shame.

On Sunday my nephew came to stay for a few days. While my sister was still about we went to my parents’ house and ate home baked cake and then went to a carol service. On Monday we watched some DVDs (Elf and a Wallace and Gromit one) and fed the ducks in the local park. Then on Tuesday we went into London, to the South Bank. On the way in we had to see who could do the best impression of Elf on an escalator and we (fairly quietly) sang carols on the tube and went on a merry-go-round. Then we took my nephew to my sister’s work and dropped him off.

Yesterday evening G and I met up with mum and we went to the Royal Albert Hall for a Christmas Concert, which was really good. I liked all of it, but I particularly like the version of “Sleep, Sleep, Sleep”. If I hadn’t been in a public place, I might have shed a tear at it. I can’t find a version that is quite like the one last night, but the version below is fairly similar (apart from the bits in German… and Aled Jones conducting an interview for the first 2 minutes 20 seconds (you might wish to fast forward through that…))




As we were walking to the station after the concert, mum fell over and hit the ground really hard. She wasn’t really sure what happened and she does have a bit of a history of falling over for no real reason (it’s a balance thing rather than anything else). G was pretty shocked having never seen this before, but we picked mum up and all made it home in one piece.

We are going to try and brave the supermarket later. Fortunately we don’t need anything very major, so hopefully we will leave unscathed.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Elements

I waved my neighbours off on their trip to Australia last night. They are flying out this morning but what with all the snow they decided they should stay in a hotel by the airport so that they can make sure they get their flight. They went about 9pm and they knocked on my door as they were going to give me some contact details and it was only then that I realised it had been snowing during the evening and it was starting to settle. I did tell my neighbour not to put her bikini on until she gets on the plane.

Normally I would hope that it might be an excuse not to make it into work, but we are going out for a Christmas work meal this afternoon and so I am hoping I will make it in, particularly given that we have all paid already. It is also my last day before I finish for Christmas so I should go in to try and finish a few bits off.

It’s a busy few days ahead. Tonight we are meant to be staying with some friends and then spending the day tomorrow preparing a Christmas feast with them (which we will then eat). Sunday my nephew and sister are coming over for lunch and then we are going to a carol service. My nephew is then staying until Tuesday and when I have deposited him back with my sister, G and I are meeting up with my mum and going to a Christmas concert. I will probably sleep the whole way through it, as I will be totally worn out from looking after my nephew.

Anyway, it’s time to face the elements.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Conversations

It was snowing in London yesterday. My team asked if they could go home. I told them that they couldn’t but we should go and play in the park (even though the snow wasn’t settling at all) but they didn’t want to build snowmen (with no-existent snow), so we just carried on and did our work.

I was talking to one of my team later in the day and I was saying that I don’t like books or films that are violent to which she said “I love things that are violent. I don’t even really notice how bad it is and I can’t be trusted to take children to see films because I can’t tell if they are unsuitable. Do you see why some people say I have serial killer tendencies?” I couldn’t decide whether it was polite to agree or disagree. In the end we just agreed never to make film recommendations to each other.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Believe

Given my nephew’s recent query about how many Father Christmases there are I have been asking people who have children what the ‘professional’ answer is to this question. The consensus seems to be to explain that Father Christmas is very busy at this time of year and sometimes he needs other people to help him. But, you always should assume it is the real Father Christmas because you never know when it will be him. My nephew is coming to stay on Sunday, so I feel a bit more prepared for his difficult questions now. I do actually have a book called “How Santa Really Works” and I think I am going to have to take him through this book in order to ensure that there are no doubts left in his mind.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Action

I was so tired yesterday. On Sunday night it took me many hours to fall asleep and so I knew Monday would not be good. I expected to wake up feeling absolutely terrible, but fortunately that did not prove to be the case, it was still a struggle though.

The potential strike action by British Airways is not good news because G and I are due to fly with them to Scotland just after Christmas. Apparently when there is strike action like that, it is the domestic flights that suffer the most. I don’t think we will go by alternative means if we can’t fly with BA because it will be too short notice and likely to be very expensive. G has a new niece as of Sunday and so it would be a shame not to be able to get there to meet her soon.

I have been diligently doing the Radio Christmas quiz, working out what all the programmes are. I have about two programmes to go (out of 50), but am really struggling now. I think I am going to have to watch a lot of television over the Christmas period so I can get some inspiration.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Insight

I never really know what to make of my freeholder, but I feel I built some bridges this weekend. Her husband cut the hedge outside where we live. It is a massive hedge and took hours to cut and he had to use scaffolding etc. He did it Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning and I went out and cleared up all the branches etc. None of my neighbours came out to help (I’m not sure all of them were about anyway), but I think it made it all the more noticeable to him that I did help as no-one else did. It looks so different outside now as it had been completely overgrown. Now the only problem is getting rid of all of the garden waste.

Anyway, I thought I would give you a small insight into the workings of my brain. Here are some things I have looked up on the internet recently. I am one of those people who often thinks “I wonder why…”

I wanted to know why Frank Gardner was able to stand up on the news recently. In case you aren’t familiar with who he is, he is the BBC journalist who was shot and left for dead whilst reporting from the Middle East. It seems that he uses callipers and this allows him to stand and move about a bit but in reality he is still largely wheelchair bound. I think he is a very impressive person for his determination.

I also wanted to know how you can heck that someone who claims to be a solicitor really is one. The way to do this (in the UK) is to check via The Law Society. You can check a firm by looking here.

Another thing I wanted to know was about Teletext shutting down. It seems that today is the last day it will broadcast. This is due to drop in demand and the switch to digital services. Ceefax on the BBC will continue for now though – and actually I prefer that, as it is now filled with adverts. It’s still the end of an era though.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Carols

I went to a Carol Concert last night. There were meant to be three of us going from work, but one person was unwell. So I went with a chap that I don’t really know very well, but he is a nice chap (and quite posh). It was only when we got there that I realised that it is probably quite weird to sing in front of someone that you work with and I think we both felt a bit self-conscious about it, despite both of us being willing singers. It was quite a good concert, but they were a bit ambitious expecting the audience to sing along to the Hallelujah Chorus. It is quite complicated with various parts repeated and different parts being sung at the same time etc. I suspect it didn’t quite go as they had planned. At the end there was going to be wine on offer so some girls were pouring it out as the concert was coming to a close with a rendition of the Lord’s Prayer being sung by the choir. The girls were clinking the bottle so loudly that someone had to go over to them and ask them to be quiet. This all rather broke the spell of the moment.

Anyway, after work today I am going to visit someone from work in hospital as she had a big operation this week. The rest of the weekend is a blank sheet at the moment.

Have a good weekend all.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Battles

My freeholder has been driving me mad for ages – due to her complete inability to communicate about the work she was having done on one of the flats she owns and on my request to extend my lease. She finally wrote back to me yesterday (after me pointing out to her that I had been waiting four months for a reply, despite chasing letters!) and she suggested a price. The price is fine, but her reason for suggesting it is “to be friendly”. To be friendly?? Whilst I accept the sentiment (and I am getting a reasonably good deal), I think she sums up the problem with her understanding of her role as a freeholder. It’s a business relationship and therefore taking four months to deal with things is not acceptable. We’re not mates (and haven’t even been friendly with each other of late given her complete inability to deal with things or follow through on the things she has agreed).

Of course, there was a sting in tail because she also explained that she will be writing shortly to ask for the building insurance plus £7000 to carry out works. Fortunately, I will have to speak to a solicitor anyway about the lease extension so will seek advice on what I should be asking her for to substantiate a demand for that amount of money – and given that there is a huge deficit due to her failure to collect maintenance money for a number of years, I am wondering whether it should be for us to make up that loss. Very possibly yes, but a lawyer might have another view. I feel that I need to get the lease extended before I go into battle though.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Three

Half of my team is still off sick and the ones who are not ill don’t seem to be doing much better in other ways. One of them has had rather a bad run of things. First she was involved in a car crash on the way into work. Then she was stopped at some traffic lights and a police officer in the car next to hers indicated that one of her children was not properly strapped in. He had undone his seatbelt a few moments before to pick up a car he had dropped on the floor –and the officer saw this. So my colleague pulled over to the side of the road to do his seat belt up and the officer then pulled over and issued her with a fixed penalty fine for driving while her child’s seatbelt was undone. My colleague asked what she should have done to do up the seatbelt other than pull over e.g. should she have got out of the car in the middle of traffic and done it, but the officer (who was female) wouldn’t answer the question and just continued to write out the fine. I was very unimpressed by this and have suggested that she speak to a solicitor (we can do this for free through work) and find out what would happen if she tried to contact the fine and that she also should put in a complaint to the police.

She then phoned me at home last night and said that her car had been broken into and she had left her handbag in the car so she had lost all her bank cards, money etc etc etc. She was also worried that she’d had her work passes stolen as she didn’t know how to report those as lost, so those were the only things that she hadn’t sorted. I didn’t know either, but will check at work today.

I did say to her that they say these things come in threes (not that I am superstitious, but it seemed the right thing to say) and so hopefully it was going to be better from here on in.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Chores

Three of my team were off sick yesterday. One had swine flu. One probably has swine flu and the other has a bad cold. Somebody else didn’t come in because her central heating broke. So there was a grand total of us three of us in. I think the rest of the office was grateful we work in another building, as clearly we need to be in quarantine.

We put the Christmas decorations up last night. That took quite a while and clearly should have been on the chores list (as an annual chore), as it took up a lot of time. We are now only willing to do things if we get full credit for it. We have possibly released a demon by drawing up the chores rota.

Tonight G and I are meeting on Oxford Street to try and finish the last bits of Christmas shopping. After tonight we should pretty much be done, although extra present requirements seem to keep appearing (I have now had to buy two different Secret Santa presents), but hopefully the Christmas shopping agony will soon be over. I am very short of Christmas present ideas though and a few people have asked me what I want and I have no suggestions at all. My normal suggestions of a house or world peace don’t seem to cut it.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Awkward

I am not sure if this shows that we have too much time on our hands or not enough, but yesterday afternoon G and I spent ages writing a list of all the chores that need doing, room by room, and then we turned it into an Excel spreadsheet and then we worked out how often each one needed to be done and then how long each job takes. It is now stuck on the fridge as a chart and we can tick when we have done each one. We are terrible at doing some chores and so are hoping that a new system will help, and perhaps show how long it has been since we have done certain tasks. I have no idea if it will work or just show how inadequate we are.

On Saturday we met up with my mum and nephew and went to see Father Christmas and then went to a puppet show. As we were waiting for the puppet show to start my nephew turned to me and said “so, are there two or three Father Christmases?” I asked what he meant and he said that the one he had seen that day looked different to the one he’d seen previously, as this one wore glasses. Mum warned me to answer very carefully and I after playing for a bit of time explained to him that a lot of people changed their appearances – so my mum sometimes wears glasses but sometimes doesn’t, but she was still the same person. Sometimes people just look a bit different. I think he took this on board was still a bit sceptical. I think all Santa representatives should have to sign up to a particular “appearance code” to avoid awkward questions like this.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Lonely

I am going to the dentist this morning, which means that I will be late into work. This is probably a good thing because I am the only person in my office today. Someone is coming over for a bit in the afternoon so we can talk through some of her ideas before she changes jobs in the New Year, but beyond that I think I will be on my lonesome.

There should have been a couple of other people in, but one of them has swine flu and the other has some symptoms of swine flu and her husband has full blown swine flu. This is despite swine flu apparently being on the decline. Another person in my team hasn’t been in this week because her children have got chickenpox so she needs to be at home to look after them. Hopefully there might be a slightly better turn out next week.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Revelations

My trip Up North went fine, despite a somewhat dodgy northbound journey. I felt a bit ropey by the time I got off the train and said this to the woman I was travelling with, and she said she felt the same. Then a woman who got off the train at the same stop said she had felt the same. I don’t know what was going on during that journey, but I was not a fan.

When I got back to London, I met up with G and some friends for a drink. One of them didn’t turn up though as she was unwell, and she had been unwell the last time we met up. I asked her partner if she was ok and he explained that she was mainly unwell in the morning. I think G and I took a few moments for the penny to drop and we then picked our jaws up off the table so that we could say congratulations. G was fairly quiet for the rest of the evening, I think due to the shock of this news! It’s good news, just totally unexpected and I think G thinks their friendship has changed so much over the last few years that this will just change it all the more. Not that G is a selfish person or isn’t pleased about their news, but it does mean quite big change. We were actually meeting to discuss the menu for a Christmas meal we are going to have, and we did manage to discuss that and come up with a truly delightful menu that appears to include my mum making s steam pudding. I am not sure how that happened…

I would also like to say that tube travel does make Londoners aggressive. I am not sure if that justifies me being a grumpy commuter or should make me try extra hard to break the norm.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Food for thought

Early mornings and late nights do not mix. So to get you in the Christmas spirit, I think it is time for you to start thinking about what you are going to have for Christmas dinner, so I am going to suggest some turkey and some sprouts.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Peak

It’s an early start today to head up North. I don’t like early starts. I am going with someone else and she is new to the office, so she is coming on the visit with me. I spoke to her briefly yesterday to explain a bit about the visit and I also thought it was a good opportunity to tell her the rules of train travel which are “you don’t have to pretend to do lots of work on the train. If you want to read a book, read a book. If you want to go to sleep, go to sleep” and so on. I thought it was best to avoid those “am I going to get into trouble if I’m not looking really busy the whole time” situations.

At work, I still don’t have a new contract. My only concern about that is that I need to make sure I am still on the payroll, as I really need to get paid at the end of December (as I do any month actually…). I can’t seem to get confirmation at the moment and the payroll cut off date must be fairly soon, so I need to get someone to confirm this for me asap.

Welcome to December, by the way. I hope you are starting to get into the festive spirit. I now have a Christmas meal to go to every week until Christmas. I hope I don’t peak too early.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sorted

So I have now done the vast majority of my Christmas shopping, and the bits I haven’t done I pretty much know what I am going to get and where I am going to get it from. I also managed to convince G to get started as well – as you might recall, last year I had to do it a couple of days before Christmas because G was really ill and had been for most of December. We have even managed to get a present for a friend’s dog.

I think I have a busy day at work today. I foolishly offered to help another manager out as she was a bit snowed under. She gave me a really difficult piece of work to look at and it took me most of the day on Friday (and then my computer froze and I nearly lost it all. I phoned our IT people who said it was unrecoverable. I didn’t believe them and tinkered a bit more and got all my work back. I am in the wrong business…). I still have some stuff to write up to do with that as I need to give some feedback and an indication of areas that need further work. I also need to get myself organised as I am out of the office all day tomorrow, as I am heading to the North. I need to brief the person who is going with me and work out everything I need to cover while I am out of the office and train times etc. Life is much easier when I can spend the whole day at my desk.

I have a busy week ahead socially as well, so it could be a tiring few days. It’s hard work being sociable.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Commute

Yesterday was actually a calmer day. I know who my team will be as of January. Two of them are from my current team and three others are people I know, although not particularly well. Now we just need desks and other such minor things and we will be sorted.

Last night I was meeting G after work and I got on the bus and sat in one of two empty seats on the bottom deck. As I sat down a woman looked at me half in pity and half imploringly, at which point I realised the man I had sat next to wreaked of alcohol. He had been talking to the woman and she had been responding as she probably felt she had little option. The man then started to talk to me as well, and my heart sank, but then I realised as I was there and moving wasn’t really an option (or a polite option anyway). So I decided to engage in the conversation as it also gave the woman a bit of respite. So every time he asked a question, I would answer it but then ask him a question about himself and hope it was one that involved a bit of a story to answer it and if he said things that made the woman feel uncomfortable I would ask him a question to get him to talk about himself again. Other people on the bus were clearly amused by our conversation and when I got to my stop I said goodbye to him and told him to be nice to people and he assured me he would. Perhaps I should try and engage with my fellow commuters a bit more.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Power

I do feel much better now I have had some time off work, but I am coming to the conclusion that it has not really dealt with something more fundamental that seems to be going on at the moment. I just feel angry about so many things at the moment – and it rumbles below the surface and generally manifests itself in feeling very resentful of other commuters and other such pathetic things.

I don’t really know for certain why. I think some of it, maybe a lot of it, is down to feeling very out of control of a number of things in my life at the moment. Where I live the freeholder, who also owns the flat next door has been having worked carried out for 11 months. I repeat: 11 months. I find it very invasive and, whilst I have drawn issues to her attention in the past, she doesn’t really seem to care about the impact. So being at home can be trying and I often feel wary about what I will find when I get home when I just want to be left in peace and not to have my privacy invaded. But equally, I also need the freeholder to reply to various letters I have sent her to sort out my lease extension, but we have made no progress on this since August. As I type this, it does (literally) make me put my hands up in despair because I feel as though I can do nothing about these things. I get a certain sense of security out of where I live, but that seems to be slipping away.

Work is fine expect that people keep invading our work space, which probably wouldn’t bother me if I didn’t feel the same thing was happening at home, plus my contract runs out on Tuesday and, as yet, a new one has not been forthcoming. I also have to move offices at the beginning of the year and that has its own stresses, for reasons I can’t be bothered to explain.

A used to say that depression is anger turned inward. In some ways I would rather my response to these events manifested itself primarily (only) as depression. I am not suggesting that depression is preferable as such, rather that it is more insular rather than being something that is directed at other people. I have been feeling elements of this for ages and I had hoped that taking time off work would have made it a bit better, but I didn’t really think that it helped. I am just not really what the solution will be – if it mainly the result of feeling powerless about various things, I just don’t really know how to get that ‘power’ back so that I feel a bit more in control of my own life. If you were to bump into me, I don’t think you would think I was some seething ball of anger, on the whole I think I would appear to be rather placid, but I need to do something or my cover will be blown at some point.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Distractions

There is something a bit mesmerising about this video. Make of it what you will.



That is all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stretching

Going back to work went ok. I felt remarkably wide awake, which made me realise quite how tired I was before I had time off. My team have been working away in my absence and gave me lots of work to deal with on my return and it looks as though we could achieve the rather stretching target I set them to achieve by the end of this month (which was more stretching than the stretching target they had been set for the entire six months because they achieved that about six weeks early. They have often commented that I keep asking more and more of them...).

Today I should find out who from the office has applied to be part of the new project that I will be running in January. I know three of the names and they are all decent people and I think at least two people from my current team are going to apply, so hopefully it will be a good group of people – although I am hoping that I will get exactly the right number of people because I don’t really want to have to turn anyone down. I feel more enthused about the next project now that I feel more able to function, so hopefully that will be a good project too.

It is so nice not to fell totally worn out – and now I only have four weeks until I am off for Christmas.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Limits

We had a nice few days away. We were staying in Lymington, which is in the New forest (but on the coast). Despite the rather mixed weather, we had a good time. We went for a walk in the New Forest on Friday and we did have to change out route a bit due to a ford being flooded, but it was fine apart from that.

On Saturday we went to the Isle of Wight. I have never been there before. When I was at school we were meant to go there on a school trip, but it was when teachers were striking a lot and so they weren’t running school trips. So about 25 years later I finally got to go there. I am not good on water and so wanted to get some travel sickness tablets for the ferry journey. The lady in Boots was incredulous that I would want tablets for the trip and assured me that no-one had *ever* been sick on the ferry. I rather sheepishly asked if I could have the tablets anyway. She then pointed to a colleague and said that her husband worked on the ferry and there was no way I would be sick. I asked for the tablets again. She sold me them. I was relieved that I managed to get out of the shop without her making an announcement of the voice address system asking everyone to look at me, point and laugh.

In my defence, I was sick on the Great Barrier Reef once and the crew of the boat I was on described it as one of calmest crossings they’d had. Also, the ferry was cancelled last weekend due to bad weather and there was a risk of it happening again this weekend. I know my limits and sometimes begging for medication is the only answer.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Spent

Over the weekend, G and I were looking at how much we spend at the supermarket each month. By my calculations, we spend, on average, £163 per month. Last month was actually our cheapest month and the bill came to about £50, but there have been some very expensive months. So the plan now is to be have more of a budget for food – and it is to be set at £120 per month. We’re also going to keep accounts, so that we keep a proper track of what we spend.

We don’t buy very much meat, we don’t often buy any alcohol (and, technically, I never buy any, what with being a teetotaller), so that cuts out some of the more major items in a lot of food bills. We will be able to carry forward ‘credit’ from one to another, but we’re going to give it a go to see if we can bring out food bill down. It should also, hopefully mean less waste, not that we throw very much away - and we compost a lot of things anyway. We’ll see if we end up under-nourished and constantly hungry.

Tomorrow we are off to the south coast for a few days, so I will probably be back here on Monday, as I think it is unlikely I will have time to drop by here tomorrow. Have a good few days all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Refreshing

Yesterday I started Christmas shopping. Despite doing a bit of wandering in London I actually did all of it online, but started is started. I am going back into the centre of London today to meet up with my mum and we are going to do a bit of shopping together – or perhaps shop separately and then meet up for refreshments at various points.

I think G is a bit traumatised that I am off work. Yesterday G said to me “when I got up in the morning and was wandering about and it was all quiet, I thought this is what it would be like if you were dead”. Right... which basically means no-one to make the tea, put out all the breakfast stuff (the night before no less) and to put the toast on. It’s nice to have my uses.

Over the last few days, I did also discover that G had a very sheltered upbringing. I found G buttering some cake - surely that is not normal? G has similar form in that earlier in the year I was given a hot cross bun that was not sliced, toasted or buttered. Surely a *very* sheltered upbringing. Every day is a school day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Relieved

I saw Celia Imrie on Friday night. Hooray! Had I sat in a slightly different seat I would have been offered a piece of cake by her. I said that to my mum and she said that the problem then would have been that I wouldn’t have eaten the cake and would have needed some way to keep it forever. I am not sure it is quite appropriate to embalm a piece of cake though.

I went to my volunteer training on Saturday and that went quite well. We were practicing some things and the trainer said it had gone quite well “but this is the last time I will be so nice about what people are doing”. There was a collective gulp in the room. We always had this Saturday coming off and then had three more weeks to go, but the training has now been cancelled for the rest of the year and will start again in January. We were all quite disappointed by that as it takes some of the momentum out of what we are doing and we were also starting to gel as a group and now won’t get to see each other again until next year. I really need to practice some things before we meet again though, particularly “active listening”.

Yesterday we watched Mamma Mia. We felt that this film was at rather the opposite end of the scale to Slumdog Millionaire and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Brief

I was hoping to go into work late today and finish somewhat early, but as it turns out, I am the only manager in so I probably need to be about just to show willing. However, after today I am going to be off work for a week, so I can rest and recuperate then.

Tonight we are going to the theatre to see a play that has Celia Imrie in it, which hopefully will be quite good. I then need to try and get home at a reasonable hour because I have to be up early for another day training for my voluntary work.

Life feels quite busy at the moment. It is good timing to be off work for a few days.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Drains

I can’t remember if I said previously that I can stay on where I am working for longer. Yesterday ones of my bosses phoned me to say that they wanted me to run a new project for them, which I have said I will do. Although I am actually so tired at the moment that I would rather just sleep for the next six months. The project starts in January so hopefully the Christmas period will give me time to recover and then it will be tome for a new challenge.

On Wednesday night my upstairs neighbour was at home briefly and in the short time she was there managed to leave a tap dripping – and has now disappeared off again for who knows how long, as is her way. It was like Chinese water torture during the night. So yesterday morning I went outside to see if I could do something to deal with the problem but the noise is actually coming from the water hitting the inside of the drain pipe, so I had to put my thinking cap on.

As I left work today I said to one of my colleagues “I am off to put a sponge up a drain pipe” and then said “and that’s not even a euphemism” and she just turned to me and laughed and said “whatever turns you on!” and I decided it was best to go home.

It did work though...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Trauma

We watched Slumdog Millionaire last night. I was traumatised by the end of the film (and throughout). Why did no-one tell me what the film was like? I thought it would be some nice heart warming story instead there was murder and mayhem - and some Bollywood dancing at the end.

I tend not to watch 18 rated films anyway because I don’t like films that are violent. But now we might now only watch U rated films and I am not sure if that can include ones that “contain mild peril”.

Last night’s experience reminded me of an episode from Friends:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Answers

I think I have discovered the reason for the current rage that is gripping the UK. X Factor. Need I say more? Probably not. But I will anyway.

I know a number of people who are apoplectic with rage about the result on Sunday night’s X Factor. I know two people who didn’t sleep properly on Sunday night because they were so angry about it. G and I are actually not going to watch the programme anymore. We are actually starting an official boycott of X Factor. All those people who have said they are not going to watch it again: stick to your guns and boycott it.

It just isn’t British to do what Simon Cowell did. He had the chance to do the right thing, and to live up to what he had previously said, by evicting John and Edward. Instead he went for ratings and more money from votes. Don’t let Simon win! Don’t get me wrong, I actually quite like John and Edward, just not in a musical talent sense, and I thought that there reaction was Lucie was sent home showed that they are nice lads. But Simon Cowell is manipulating the British public and let me tell you that it’s not a good place to be in Simon Cowell’s hands *raises an eyebrow*

People are genuinely angry about X Factor and I see now that it is the root of all the anger going on in this country at the moment. Before the X Factor we were a peaceful, law-abiding nation – and now look where we are?

Do the right thing and watch another channel on Saturday night or read a book or go out to dinner or talk to someone. The safety of this nation depends on it.


I can’t believe that I have devoted a post to the X Factor. Doesn’t that tell you the depths to which this nation has sunk?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Rage

I don’t know whether this is true of other parts of the UK, but I feel as though London is a very angry place at the moment. I have noticed a fair few bad tempered people about and can’t say that I am always of the sweetest disposition at the moment. Even G, who is a very good natured person, has got from home from work a couple of times recently having nearly committed commuter rage.

Yesterday we went out for a walk in the local area and I was this man and woman walking along and they saw a car being driven by a woman with a man in the passenger seat parking in a disabled bay. He shouted over to them and said they didn’t look disabled. The man got out of the car and started to shout “are you disabled?”. He squared up to the pedestrian and then gave him a bit of a head butt. The other man then took off his jacket and glasses and punched the first chap. The two women then got involved and finally managed to separate them. The man got back in the car and he was bleeding and then had to be restrained by his wife from getting back out of the car and going back to deal with the other man. After a few minutes they drive off in the car.

G and I were sort of surprised by what happened, although interestingly G had missed everything before the punch was thrown and so thought the pedestrian was the bad guy in it, whereas from what I had seen I thought it was the man in the car. There used to be an advert for The Guardian (I think) which showed a yobbish looking man running along the street and you start to draw your conclusions about what was going on and then they show it from another angle and you see that what he was actually doing was running to push someone out of the way because something was about to fall on them from a building site. Sometimes it can all be about perspective.

Anyway, somehow neither G nor I were surprised by what we saw and thought that it just summed up how things seem to be in London at the moment. It makes you wonder if it is worth challenging other people and if relatively minor incidents might actually lead to entirely unintended consequences.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Tours

I have decided to take the whole week off work the week after next. So I only have one week to get through before I have some time off work. I am not entirely sure what I will do with all that time, but the plan is still to go away at the end of the week. I feel much better now I am going to have some time off work – and this week has gone remarkably quickly, so if next week goes as fast that will be marvellous.

Sometimes when I have been walking to and from work I have seen Hairy Goat being advertised. I rather like the sound of this (rather small) organisation. You get to go on photography tours of London for a mere £20 – it seems that you will see new things even in places that you might know very well. I am actually a rubbish photographer and can take over a year to finish even one film (a film! I know! I’m not even digital! I have only just bought an electric toothbrush as well… I am very twentieth century in a number of ways). Anyway, if you like London and you like photography going on one of those tours sounds the perfect combination - and judging by the accompanying blog, a bit more custom would be appreciated. So, if you’re tempted, then give it a go and report back!*



*I am not on commission and I don't know the person who runs the tours I think it is just a really nice idea and the woman who runs it sounds like she might need a bit of extra trade.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Words

I just finished reading The Death Of Grass by John Christopher. A most interesting read and I shall review it over at the other blog some time soon. When I finished reading the book I went back to the beginning and looked again at the first page or two and liked the opening words more than I had when I first read it. You can read the whole book here.

Going back to the beginning of the book also reminded of a quote that was on the first page and I shall leave you with that:

“It’s hard to know how these things happen. Quarrels begin, and neither person stops them, and they become silences, and nobody breaks them.”

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Plans

When I got to work yesterday I sent G an e-mail saying I thought we should go away for a long weekend (primarily to save my sanity and the lives of anyone I happen to come into contact with on the way into work). G is up for this, so we now need to decide where to go – and pretty sharpish, as we might well go away the weekend of 21 November. I have looked at going somewhere like The Cotswolds, but we quite like going to the coast, so perhaps we should do that instead. I am also aware that my geography of the UK is appalling so I might need to consult a map before making any decisions.

Having made the decision to go away, this has lifted a huge weight off my shoulders and I feel much better. Apart from last Friday, I haven’t had any time off since July and I can really feel it. Someone said to me yesterday how tired I looked and I said I wasn’t surprised by that, as that is how I feel. I will be off for a couple of weeks at Christmas, but a long weekend before that would be really good. So it is time to make some proper plans.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Cheery

When I was on the course on Saturday, the guy giving the training had two rules. First was “be on time” and the second was… “no clicky pens”. He even gave us pens that it required no clicking to try and ensure this rule was enforced. Apparently he has stopped meetings in the past to tell someone they are clicking their pen. I feel I don’t want to get on the wrong side of this man.

My team have moved to a new part of the building. The move went fairly well, despite my computer having no network connection and having to get that fixed. I think I was not in the best mood yesterday and one of my team actually asked me if I was ok because I “wasn’t my normal cheery self”. I did concede that I was perhaps not in that great a mood, primarily due to a headache (and the IT guy not being able to speak without slurring all his words together). I think I should really take some leave from work and it is beginning to take its toll that I haven’t; had any proper time off work since July. It isn’t that long until Christmas now, but I should perhaps give some thought to taking some time off to rest and relax, except G wouldn’t be able to do so at the same time, so it wouldn’t be ideal. So at the moment I will try and get some more sleep and see if that does the trick instead.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Getting on

The training on Saturday went ok. I am still sort of wondering what I have signed up to do and I think it is going to be really difficult, but nothing ventured, nothing gained I guess. I did find that some of the people seemed to have quite set views about things and I felt that a bit uncomfortable with that at times. I’m not sure if that was because I thought their views were wrong or if I just thought they would talk me down if I tried to put across my view. But it disconcerted me a bit anyway. I have various bits of homework to do, which includes having to learn something off by heart. I am not sure I will have perfected that by next week though – and I think we might get tested on it. I’d better get on with it.

The two most memorable things from the day were not actually about the training, but other things. First was lunch (surely the thing people always remember from training?) which was home made Caribbean chicken and rice and peas. It was made by the mum of someone who works there and it rather better than the sandwiches I had been expecting. The other thing was that a woman in the group invited me to go to a book group and so I am thinking about doing that.

G is back tonight. Hooray.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Off

I had the day off work today. I met up with my sister and nephew and we went to see the Changing of the Guards and then went to the National Gallery and looked at some paintings and ate jam and scones in the café there. I am no expert on art but we were trying to get my nephew to look at some of the paintings and he then had to describe what he saw and tell use whether he liked the painting or not (he generally did like them). He also has a very good sense of direction and was really good at directing us using the map we had picked up at the entrance.

G flew up to Scotland this afternoon and will be back on Monday. I am wondering quite what I will do with myself on Sunday. I lived on my own for ages and never had a problem entertaining myself, but it is strange how quickly we adapt to other circumstances. I am busy most of the day tomorrow because the training for my volunteering starts. I am sort of looking forward to that, but also wondering what I have signed up to…

I assume G made it to the airport. I walked with G to the bus stop, as I needed to get the tube about the same time. It was only on the way there that G thought to wonder which terminal the flight was from. I texted a friend who looked it up on her computer and then texted me back. G phoned the airline anyway to check. I guess I normally sort these things out for us and G just hadn’t thought about it. G also texted me and said “do I get off the bus at [a station near where we live]” to which I replied “No, [station much further away]”. This did not bode well. I am going to drive to the airport on Monday and collect G so hopefully it will be a bit less fraught then.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stay

My team has been given a stay of execution. We can now stay together until the end of December (although I guess the second half of December will be a bit of a right off anyway). After that? Who knows… Maybe we will get another stay of execution of sorts.

Anyway, at work the managers at my grade have been asked to apply for a new project that the office is going to run and it will be the ‘replacement’ for my team. I can apply to run it (and may or may not get it) or if one of the other managers does it then I will backfill their post. They want a side of A4 explaining why we would want to do the job and I am just not sure that I can be bothered to fill out the application. I would be interested in doing the project, but equally would be fine with backfilling the vacated post. But I feel as though I should apply and the work would be quite interesting, but sort of venturing into the unknown… And also possibly entirely reshaping the way that we work, which might or might not be welcome. Hmm, I have a couple of weeks to get the application written, so we shall see if I can summon up the energy.

I am off work tomorrow. I can’t wait.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Books

As you might have noticed, I do also have a book blog, which is, primarily, my way of keeping note of the books I have read and some of the basic details of them. Since January last year, I have read 121 books, 61 of which were read this year, which is probably quite good going.

I was looking at some of the details of the books I have read over the last 22 months and was really surprised that 60 of the books have been written by British authors, which, in case you haven’t worked it out, represents almost dead on half the books I have read. The next nationality I have read the most of is American authors – and I have read 25 books by Americans. The latter figure is probably somewhat skewed by my discovery of Paul Auster because he is my top ranking author – I have read six of his books since I started that blog and imagine I will read several more by him. The author that comes next is John Wyndham (a Brit) and I have read five of his books – of which The Day of the Triffids was the best.

Over that time period I have actually really broadened the types of books I read, thanks in part to the book ‘1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die’. I am thinking of stopping at book 1000 in case it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have also got some great book ideas from other bloggers, such as Sarah and I continue to be amazed at some of the books out there (although I have also read some that I have found absolutely dire).

I really like books and my biggest problem seems to be finding the time to read them all.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Invitations

I seem to be suffering jetlag from the change in the clocks this weekend. I am very pathetic. I think I just am so used to going to be at about the same sort of time most nights that any break to the routine and I get sleep deprivation. I know that we actually got an extra hours sleep, but I still went to bed later than normal and somehow my body clock take a bit of time to adjust to any change. The sooner I can retire the better.

We went to my parents’ house for dinner last night. We had sausage and mash and G fell off the veggie wagon again and ate pork sausages. Mum would have cooked G something different, but the temptation was too great. I had briefed my family not to comment too much is G ate meat, as I feel that being supportive of such moves is for the greater good. My nephew and sister were there as well and my nephew just does not get that things are not quite so hyper on a week night and tried to entice me into various activities, but without success. This did include him wanting to compare belly buttons, but I declined his kind invitation. I am actually taking Friday off work to do stuff with my nephew so I will have to be on better form then (but I think I will probably still decline the belly button invitation).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Furore

Yesterday morning I was not very impressed when builders turned up to do some work for the freeholder in her empty flat. They had already been there all day on Saturday and then turned up at 9am on a Sunday morning. I phoned the freeholder at about 9.20am to ask if they were going to be there all day, as I was so unimpressed that they were that at all during a weekend. The freeholder was confused, as she was under the impression that all they had left to do was to put in the cooker – and they had also been asked not to do any work at weekends. Her husband was going to come over later in the day to see what was going on, but I went out at lunch time so have no idea if he did.

I have been interested in the discussions about Nick Griffin and his appearance on Question Time. I think it was fine that he was on the programme, but that it shouldn’t have been quite so focussed on him and he should have been able to show his true colours (do you see what I did there?) on a range of issues i.e. that his party lacked any policies beyond anything on race and immigration. Anyway, the whole furore reminded me of something I read in the book Freakonomics, which explained part of the downfall of the Ku Klux Klan*. Basically in the 1934s a man called Stetson Kennedy infiltrated the Klan and by way of radio broadcasts gave away their ‘secrets’ thus destroying its ‘mystery’ and making it a bit of a laughing stock. He supplied to secrets to Hollywood writers who then used them as part of the plots for the Superman radio programme broadcasts, which children listened to. The children then re-enacted these scenes in their playground games and it helped to undo the power of the Klan and people were embarrassed to be associated with it. I am sure that is a very simplistic summary of what really happened and there were likely to be a number of other factors as well, but there is a part of me that thinks that maybe not taking the party too seriously might actually be the what could bring about its downfall. This is not the same as not seeing the threat it could pose. But laughing at something, rather than treating it like an enemy to be defeated – which surely puffs it up and makes it feel stronger and a force to be reckoned with - is potentially a better way to bring about its demise. Just a thought…

As a minor aside on another matter – that of the Jan Moir/ Stephen Gately furore – if you want to read a really good take on the shallowness of journalists of that ilk, you should read “What a Carve Up” by Jonathan Coe. One of the characters is a really brilliant satire on that type of journalism. It is also a very good book and worth reading anyway.





*I can’t quite recall how this bit of the book had anything to do with economics, but we will brush over that.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mixed

So, unexpectedly, yesterday I found out about my job and also the future of my team. The news is that I can stay on in the office for longer (until at least the end of the financial year) but my team is being disbanded. Another team will be created that I might or might not manage and might have people from my current team in it but might not. So it is all a bit uncertain, but I do have a job and I do also have a slightly miserable team, as they were very disappointed by the news that they were being split up (as was I). I will have a team to manage but at the moment it isn’t clear who that will consist of, but all should become clear over the next few weeks. So I am pleased, but a bit disappointed.

Anyway… G and I went out for dinner with my mum last night, which was very pleasant and didn’t cost very much either as we redeemed some TopTable points. The restaurant was very busy, and so there was a fairly quick turn around on the table, but the food was very nice.

When I got home I phoned the woman from my team who had been in hospital and found out she has now been released, which is good news. I told her what the decision was about the team and she wasn’t very happy about that and said she would talk to the others and think about what she will do. At least she is on the mend now, so that is good.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Advice

The course went pretty well yesterday and the feedback was all very good – and the new bosses was very complimentary, which was pleasing and hopefully it will have convinced them that they cannot possibly survive without me.

Last night I spoke to the woman in my team who is in hospital. She is still there and it seems they have now identified that she has an enlarged heart. They don’t seem to have worked out why this is the case or what can be done about it. I asked her a few questions but she said that without her usual source of information - Google- she was a bit stumped. I was actually sitting in front of my computer when we were discussing it but didn’t really think it was wise to offer to look it up for her in case I made some terrible discovery about life expectancy or some such thing.

Anyway… A couple of nights ago I realised that sometimes it is good to take advice. I got on the tube was about to sit down when someone told me that seat was wet. I put my hand on the chair and said it didn’t feel that wet, so said I would sit there anyway. But after a couple of minutes I realised that I should perhaps have heeded that person’s advice as the dampness seeped through my trousers in greater and greater quantities. By then though I felt that I had rather committed myself to sitting there and felt I had to abide by my decision – and in fact giving up the seat would have made it available for someone else, which would have just passed the problem on. So I endured it, but took my trousers off when I got home and had to wash them as they were very wet and had also picked up a somewhat unpleasant odour. Sometimes it is worth listening to the advice of strangers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Keeping on

I spent most of yesterday evening, in fact all of it apart from when I ate dinner, doing work. The course went pretty well yesterday, but I foolishly agreed to conduct an interview, which will be videoed, today and I hadn’t plotted out the interview so I had to spend last night doing it. I haven’t actually agreed a script with the other person because it is meant to be vaguely genuine looking, but this might prove to be a mistake! Both of us are nervous that we are going to be one to let the side down, but hopefully we can wing it.

I also spent a while talking to the woman in my team who was admitted to hospital on Monday. She is still in hospital, but seemed in good spirits. This was rather an improvement on what she was like on Monday because for quite a while she thought she was going to die, including when a doctor saw her at the hospital and he did various things and lots of blood started to appear. I think it has all been rather traumatic and she isn’t entirely happy that they still don’t know what is wrong with her, but they appear to have ruled out some of the more serious options.

Hopefully this is the last team drama for now. My team are lovely though and my boss commented to me yesterday about how touched she was to see how enthusiastic my team were about me. Hopefully it will be enough to convince them to keep me on...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Survival

The two people in my team who were not getting on seem to have patched up their differences. I believe they even gave each other a hug yesterday. So, that is certainly an improvement.

The new team related issue is that one of my team is currently on hospital due to breathing issues. She got taken to hospital yesterday morning and had various tests run and stayed in hospital over night. I think she might get released today. My team are nothing if not eventful. Actually when I got into work one of my team told me straight away that the partner of this colleague had phoned and my team wanted me to phone straight away to find out if something was wrong. This wasn’t because they are nosy but because our office seems to have a higher than average death rate and they therefore wanted me to make sure that something really serious hadn’t happened. So I phoned as soon as I sat down at my desk and the rest of the team breathed a collective sigh of relief that it wasn’t worse news. It’s amazing how paranoid you can get working in my office! I hope things improve today.

Anyway, I am off out early today to go and meet up with the other person I am running this course with. I hope I survive the next two days.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Course

I had quite a busy weekend, but the majority of it was spent doing work. I am running a two day course on tomorrow and Wednesday and I was running through all my material for it, rewrote small parts of it and also had to write a scenario for something I foolishly agreed to do on the Wednesday. Part of the course is about conducting really difficult interviews, so I have arranged for another manager to join us on the second day and I am going to interview him and he is going to be really obstructive and we are then going to get the group to tell us how we could have done it differently etc. If it works, it should work well, but there is also much scope for disaster... I also found out last week that my two new bosses are coming on the course. Given that they have yet to decide if I can stay on in the office, this is going to feel like a two day job interview!

Yesterday we did find time to go out for a walk in the sunshine and we also went for dinner at the local Lebanese restaurant. The food was nice, but the service was so incredibly slow. I’m not sure I would go there for a meal again, but I might go there for a coffee and some baklava.

Anyway, I shall be so glad when the next couple of days are over...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Agreement

Yesterday was another difficult day. The woman from my team that I had spoken to the previous day phoned me and told me how utterly upset she was by the whole conversation (by the content rather than upset with me). She burst into tears on the phone and so I spent ages talking to her and trying to help her get what I had said into perspective. I managed to get her from a position of wanting to just walk away and never come back to agreeing to sit down with the other person and for them to communicate directly, which I do genuinely think will solve the problem.

I then had to speak to the other person (both of them work from home on a Thursday and Friday) and I couldn’t get in touch with her until about 4pm. She had seen how upset the other one was the previous day and had been upset by that and so we then talked about that for a while. She has agreed that they should talk to each other and hopes that they can clear the air. Now I have got them to the place of being willing to speak to each other, I shall step back and leave them to deal with it.

Anyway... I like the new PostSecret video (although it is slightly clichéd at the end). So I shall leave you to reflect on that.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hard days

Yesterday was an odd day. I met with my two new bosses, which was fine except that the big boss had clearly not told them that a) I could very, very probably stay on and b) my team was very, very likely to stay together. They told me that the realised the need to make a decision very soon and would get back to me.

Anyway, my team then met with the new bosses and that went well and at one point someone in the team said what a great manager I am and they all then gave me a round of applause. I was rather touched and the new bosses asked me afterwards how much they had paid me!

It all went downhill from then on. I spoke to the woman in my team who had upset someone else in the team. She was utterly shocked by the news that she had upset someone and couldn’t understand why what she had said might have been upsetting. We talked about that for a bit. But she was also upset that the other person had come to me rather than spoken to her about – as if it was the other way around, she would have spoken to the other person. I said that not everyone deals with things in the same way and that there was nothing wrong with me being the one who was told, and that it as a manager I then needed to do something and failing to do so would have just been sloping shoulders on my part. I did explain that I wasn’t accusing her of anything and that I was talking to her raise the concerns and to listen to what she had to say. But I did say that perhaps I should have encouraged the other woman to consider talking to her directly, even if she then declined to do so.

It didn’t really go very well and I just felt that I should have dealt with it differently, even though I’m not really sure what else I should have done. She was very upset by the whole thing and after we had finished speaking she then spoke to someone else in the team to say how upset she was (by the situation rather than with me). That person then spoke to me at the end of the day and said that they were going to speak on the phone last night, at which point she would say that she thought the (original) person who was upset actually deserved an apology and intended to say so on the phone in as tactful a way as possible. But it’s a mess and I am now concerned that the team might start to unravel and all the good things we have achieved will get lost or at least seriously overshadowed by this. *sigh*

Then while I was eating dinner, my mum phoned to say that my sister was having a crisis and she was going to drive over and see her, but could I phone and talk to my sister while she was on the way there. So I spent a while talking to my sister, who was not doing very well at all, and trying to help her piece together some even very vague thoughts about the way forward.

It was a hard day yesterday.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lines

My team are meeting with the new bosses today and we get the chance to ay what we want to happen in the future. Whether they will agree is another matter, but at least the team have the chance to have their say.

One of my team spoke to me yesterday and said that she is feeling rather “got at” by someone else in the team and I can kind of see what she means. I think they are both quite strong characters, but in different ways, and this sometimes means that one of them is a bit harsh at times. I said that I’d talk to the other person about it to see what is going on. The one who spoke to me said that she is thinking of changing the days she comes into the office because she is finding it all a bit much. I said that wasn’t very fair and that I’ll see what I can do.

I suppose my fear about it is that I will talk to K about it and put her back up and she will then say that she doesn’t want to continue to be in the team when the six months comes to an end. I don’t want that to happen and so I feel as though I have a fine line to tread in terms of challenging questionable behaviour without appearing to be too draconian. Sometimes I don’t like being a manager.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Quality

My team went out for lunch yesterday. We went to a rather nice restaurant very close to work. Work was paying for it, as a reward for our hard work, so we decided to go somewhere posh that was doing a good deal. So we went to a restaurant that was part of the London Restaurant Festival, which finishes today actually. We ate some great food and had a very pleasant time. We are thinking of going back there for breakfast some time soon, as you can get a really good deal on it through TopTable. Fortunately, all of my team are keen on eating so they like to consume as much as possible. In fact yesterday I took a box of Quality Street to the team meeting and they had eaten every one of them by the end of the meeting (and I didn’t eat any of them!).

I seem to be having a slow reading month. I started one book and then decided I didn’t like. So I started another one and am not far off finishing that. But my reading seems to be lacking inspiration at the moment. I need to rectify this by finding a book that gets my reading juices flowing*.

In other news, this article gives a whole new meaning to pets being therapy.



*I’m not really sure what “reading juices” actually are, but I shall leave that to your imagination.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Success

This weekend was a mixture of the mundane and the creative. The most creative thing I did this weekend was to make some raspberry ripple ice cream. I really like raspberry ripple ice cream and this was a sort of cheesecakey version of it. I think it worked fairly well, but wasn’t 100% convinced. I also couldn’t quite work out how you put the swirls in without making the whole thing turn a pink colour, but managed to work out a method that was fairly successful.

My sister and nephew came over for lunch yesterday (hence me making the ice cream). G made some sweetcorn pancakes to start and then we had sausage and mash. My nephew was particularly enthusiastic about the pancakes, which he described as “the best thing ever”. After lunch we went to the park and fed the ducks and looked at some budgies that were in an aviary there – expect there were two dead budgies on the floor of the cage, so we decided it was probably best to move on fairly quickly.

Today, my two new bosses start. I already know them, as I worked for them both a few years ago. I am hoping that they will confirm that I can stay on and we can get it signed off asap. As we have already exceeded our target, I am hopeful that they will not take much convincing of the benefits of keeping me on. We shall see...

Friday, October 09, 2009

Sorted

I am pleased to report that I managed to get through a day of work yesterday without anybody dying (that I know of).

I have also pretty much finished writing the first day of the course that I am running and have prepared all of the materials to go with it. Just the second day to sort now…

At work I sit on my own. I am only a few feet from my team, but when we selected the desks I left it to them to sit together and then took what was left, which I knew would mean sitting on my own. Anyway, another team is coming over to join us and one of them phoned me today to ask if she could sit next to me. It was like being back at school, but in a nice way, given that I hated school. I think some of it is that she doesn’t want to sit near her own manager, but I shall take the compliment and look forward to being less lonely.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Sombre

It has certainly been an interesting week. I spoke to the person from my team who had made the mistake. She told me she had hardly slept because it had been on her mind so much. I said to her that she’d already spoken to the big boss and as far as he was concerned, the matter was now closed and not to beat herself up about it. We chatted for a while and I think she felt better by the end of the conversation.

My team also reached, and exceeded, its target yesterday. We have now achieved what we had until the end of November to do. However, we still have absolutely loads of work to do, so I have told them they can’t put their pens down. It’s good timing though, as we are going out for lunch next week and also the new bosses start, so to be able to tell them that we have completed our really stretching target already. So that’s good.

Other things are not so good though. Yesterday we heard that a colleague died at the weekend. We hadn’t worked with her for a while, but we were all rather shocked by this, and there were several people from the office who were still in regular contact with her. She was a really nice person and we used to be in the same team when I worked in the office previously. So that was bad enough news in itself, but actually someone else from the office (who had also left a while ago) died on Monday. So four people from the office have died in about three years. We don’t do anything dangerous or that risks our lives. It isn’t even a big office. None of the people were even old. But we seem to have the most phenomenally high death rate.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Errors

Yesterday, I spent an incredibly tedious day in a meeting. I did chat to my new boss who starts on Monday though. I did already know her, but it was nice to catch up with her and be reminded what she was like. I then went back to my desk for about an hour to then be contacted by the big boss to say that someone in my team had made rather a big mistake while she was out on a visit. He had found this out from the place she had visited, but she phoned him later and explained herself what had happened.

I think she was absolutely mortified by it all and for her to have phoned the big boss showed that she knew she had messed up. He’s a nice bloke though and will have been pretty decent about it. She’s not in the office again until tomorrow so I will have a chat with her then. But as the big boss has already talked to her about it, it will be primarily to see if she is ok and so she knows I am aware what happened. I judge things on overall performance and she won’t face any further consequences of it – and I don’t think there is anything I could say that would make her feel any worse than she probably already does.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Brief

Yesterday was interesting… there was some news that wasn’t so great, but I can’t even begin to explain about that, so the least said the better. However, in good news, I got offered a place as a volunteer. The scary man left a voicemail so I sent him an e-mail last night to make sure that I didn’t get into trouble for not being enthusiastic enough. The training starts at the end of the month, so I need to get some practice in now so that I don’t cry if the man tells me off.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Worthy

On Thursday last week I walked past a van that was making a delivery to a house near where I live. I happened to glance at its tyres and saw that one of them was totally bald – it had no tread on in it whatsoever and was basically an entirely smooth tyre. I would have spoken to the driver, but he was about to drive off. The tyre looked completely dangerous so I thought about what to do as I sat on the tube going to work. By the time I got to work I had decided that they best thing to do was to contact my local neighbourhood policing team (I don’t know if you get these all over the UK, but in London there are a small group of officers dedicated to each area of a borough). So I sent them an email giving them as much of the registration as I could remember and an internet link to the company and explained my concerns.

The next morning the police emailed me back and said they’d spoken to the company the previous day and spent ages talking to them about the importance of the roadworthiness of vehicles etc. It was such a helpful response from the police and I was so impressed with the way they dealt with my concerns. I wasn’t really sure whether it was worth contacting them but was glad that I had because they took what I said really seriously. I wouldn’t do it over minor things, but I was so concerned about the state of that van (and it was a big and reputable company as well) and thought it would have been remiss to do nothing.

In other news, on Friday the big boss told me that he intends to extend my secondment, which is really good news. Not only that, but he thinks my tea, should stay together (assuming none of them want to go back to their previous teams because they only signed up for six months). I still want to get it all in writing and I have two new bosses starting in a week’s time and they will have to agree it. But it is all looking very hopeful and I now just need to get them to sign in blood.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Persuasive

None of my team were in yesterday (and actually none of them are in today either), but I was talking to one of them on the phone. She was telling me how unimpressed she is with the manager who I mentioned in yesterday’s post and that she doesn’t rate her at all. There’s no point explaining here why she thinks that, but what the person from my team also said was how much my team want me to stay on and that they want to keep on working for me after the project has finished and she was going to make sure that they said this when my new bosses start in just over a week’s time. It’s nice to get a vote of confidence from them and I hope they are quite persuasive with my new bosses.

Yesterday I had the interview for the volunteering I want to do. I was interviewed by two people, one of whom was the scary man who I met a few weeks ago. I think I managed to escape relatively unscathed (as in didn’t get told off!) and the interview seemed to go quite well. I’ll find out next week if they want me. If I get it, it’s going to be pretty tough work, but I think I will learn lots – not least, how to deal with scary people.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Pressure

Another team is meant to be joining us from the main office. That team’s manager is the person in the office I seem to have a bit of a mixed relationship with. I think she gets stressed quite easily and, certainly when I started, she was quite off with me several times, which I think was because she wasn’t coping very well with all the things she had to do.

She came over yesterday to see the desks, which was interesting. Her team had already been over the previous day and they were in the process of choosing their desks, but she said to me “I told them they needed to stop because I needed to go over and see the desks so I could pick mine and they would then all fit in around me”. I just looked at her and said “ok”, but I wasn’t very impressed by that. There are times when managers have to be in the lead, but I really don’t think this was one of them. When my team had to pick their desks, I told them to decide amongst themselves and I would then take what was left. I knew this would mean I ended up sitting on my own, but it really isn’t an issue and it was more important that the rest of the team got to sit together.

She then told me she had to rush off because she had so much work to do. She is going to be on leave as of the end of this week, so I just said that if I didn’t see her before she went that I hoped she had a good holiday. Apparently earlier in the day she had also said that unless the office took on more staff to form another team that she couldn’t see there would be any point in me staying on at the end of my secondment, which I didn’t think was a very helpful thing to say and I don’t suppose she would have appreciated it if I was broadcasting my opinions on whether I thought she should continue to be employed by the office. She’s a nice person, I think she just doesn’t cope well with change or pressure.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Back tomorrow

A late night and no brain power this morning...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Progress

My team is so near to reaching its target that we should hopefully have done so by the end of next week. Then we have seven more weeks to go until the end of the project (and potentially my secondment. Gulp…). I am waiting for a decision to be made on my secondment but the big boss doesn’t want to decide because there is going two new people are starting very soon who will be between me and him and he doesn’t want to cut across their decisions. I can understand that, but it leaves me in a slightly precarious decision in the interim – and I will have to find anew job very quickly if they decide I can’t stay on.

I have made progress on preparing for the course I am meant to be teaching on. I hate role plays but there is something I want to demonstrate and the only way I can think of doing it is via one. I have convinced another manager to help me with this and we are basically going to rely on people on the course to give us directions. This could be interesting… I have also got someone else to agree to come along to talk us through apiece of his work and we are then going to use that as the main focus of the second day of the course. Today I am meeting up with the other person who is going to be running the course, so I am hoping that she will think all the things I have sorted out are ok (we discussed them in advance, but at the time it was all a bit hit and miss as to whether I would be able to sort all these things out). I think it is all starting to come together now and I just need to finish writing what I need to cover and then hope that I can explain it all on the day. There’s nothing like a bit of pressure.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Banned

It seems that this week is Banned Books week, which is an initiative to celebrate the freedom to read and the efforts of some to ban certain books. In the UK we are probably in a fairly ‘safe’ position when it comes to books banned by the state. The only ones I can think of are ones that the Government stopped being published because they were a threat to ‘National Security’ – so, books like SpyCatcher and Andy Hayman’s books that was due to be published this year on the London Bombings. I have mixed feelings about such bans. I am definitely no pro-banning books, but I am also not pro people who are trying to make a bit of money by selling their story and revealing things that they shouldn’t - be that state ‘secrets’ or details of a relationship.

But actually Banned Books week is about something more subtle than that. It is more about banning books from the educations system because they promote ‘unwholesome vales’ – which might be issues about race or sexuality or the language contained in it. Of those, actually the one I would have the least issue with not allowing to be used in schools would be ones with offensive language. But generally banning something is not a good thing (for a whole variety of reasons) and it can often have the opposite effect anyway buy drawing more attention to the issue or giving the banned issue or person something of a cult status (for good or ill).

A great book on the consequences of banning of books is Fahrenheit 451 (which I read last year), maybe this week would be a good time to give it a go if you have never read it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Moments

I saw something on TV last night which was talking about life changing events. I think there is going to be something on TV later this year or next year, which will be made up of stories from members of the public explaining about events that have changed their lives. It didn’t have to be anything amazing or profound and it could actually have been something that lasted a long time rather than being a one off event, but it was something that changed their life as a result.

So G and I were talking about this while we ate dinner and I had no problem with identifying a significant event in my life. In 2000 I went to New Zealand to see a friend and while I was there, her housemate wanted to do a skydive, so we went along to watch. They asked if anyone else wanted to do it and my friend said she would and I thought about it and just couldn’t really think of a reason to say “no”, so I said I would as well. The skydive was really amazing and this incredibly exhilarating experience that left me on a high for quite some time. I am generally a fairly risk averse person and not one who tends to make many spur of the moment decisions, but that experience was just amazing.

When I got back to the UK, I went back to work and a short time afterwards came to the conclusion that I didn’t really like my job and actually wanted to do something totally different. That was quite a scary prospect, but I thought back to doing that skydive and how scary the prospect was and how risky that felt - and yet the end result was so amazing.

I changed careers as a result of that and generally I would say that was a good move. But actually it also led to a number of other changes - the people I met, the things that I have learned, the ability to buy somewhere to live. Ultimately perhaps I would have changed jobs anyway and maybe have ended up doing something sort of similar, but I don’t think I would be doing what I am now if it hadn’t been for making that decision to change careers at the particular time I did and I only did it then because of that skydive.

I don’t believe in fate and my life would just have gone down a different course, whether for better or worse if it hadn’t been for that skydive. But ultimately I am here now right where I am at because of it. I am not sure I can think of another moment that I can see as being quite so significant in terms of setting off a sequence of events and to me it is a really defining moment.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Voices

Yesterday evening, for some unknown reason, I was thinking about how who the narrator is in a book can really change what you learn of the story (more on that another time). Anyway, this suddenly made me wonder what the voice was that I hear in my head when I read. This then made me wonder if the voice G hears has a Scottish accent. At this point G got home from work, so I took the opportunity to ask. But G doesn’t seem to hear a “voice” when reading, which I find perplexing (although this does also make me wonder if I am “hearing voices”, which probably wouldn’t be a good thing – unless they gave me the winning lottery numbers).

Then I was trying to work out if the ‘voice’ I hear when I read is my own, but actually I’m not sure it is because I don’t think it is enough of a sound to actually be a clear voice in that sense. However, when I recently read “The Girl Who Played with Fire”, I heard a lot of that as though a bloke with a Swedish accent was reading it, although that was because I listened to the previous book in that series as a talking book and it was read by a bloke with a Swedish accent and I was ‘hearing’ his voice.

The more I try and concentrate on what the voice sounds like, the more weird it becomes to think about it and it actually gives me a strange physical feeling in my head. I still can’t quite work out what it is that I hear beyond there being words.

We tested this last night (we really need to watch more television) and G seems not to hear the words really but sees the words on the page and almost just kind of “absorbs” them. Although, with real concentration, does seem to be able to hear a voice, but that isn’t the norm.

I need to stop thinking about this because the more I think about it, the more perplexing it becomes.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stressed

I went and got some Tamiflu for G yesterday. I don’t think G has swine flu, but once you’ve got your prescription number I think you really need to go and get it or else you might lose your allocation later on (I don’t actually know that, but didn’t want to take the risk). I do think the diagnosis system of the internet is a bit weird. I can understand that they want to keep swine flu contained, but there must be so many people who are wrongly diagnosed.

Towards the end of October I am meant to be helping to run a course. This will basically consist of teaching people how to do various parts of the work of the office. I feel a bit stressed about this because I can do the job just fine, but in some ways I do some of it by instinct and other parts I am not entirely sure I can describe what you have to do. So I have a month to work out how to explain various techniques in a way that is coherent and useful to other people – and there is a lot of ground to cover and people to speak to because I need examples etc. I think this is quite a tall order to be able to do this and I am also not an expert. I often just bumble my way through, but generally come up with quite decent results. I don’t think that is the sort of thing I should be saying on the course though. There is much work to do for this and not enough time to do this during the working day so I spent some time last night going through the outline someone has given me of the sorts of things I need to cover and am now trying to work out how to fill the massive time slots that have been allotted to me. As is the case when I do public speaking, you should always be fully prepared and there is no substitute for that. I have so much I need to do before the course...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Practical

G wasn’t very well yesterday. We had wondered if it was swine flu, but I’m not convinced it is. Anyway, G asked me to buy a thermometer, so I had a look for one in Sainsbury’s on my lunch break (they don’t sell them incidentally, or not in the one I went to anyway). I was scanning the shelves to see if I could spot one and I noticed that the top shelves of one set of shelving had lots of remedies for children’s ailments. On the shelves directly below these remedies were all the contraceptives. I wondered if this was a subliminal form of contraception warning of the dangers of sex – years of dealing with children’s coughs and colds. Perhaps even sponsored by the Catholic Church as a form of aversion therapy?

I did buy a thermometer but from a pharmacy. You don’t seem to be able to get mercury type ones any more. You now only seem to be able to get ones with a digital display. I think the woman in the pharmacy must have realised it had been a long time since I’d bought a thermometer given that I did ask if the had the other sort. I just thought one without a battery was a bit more long lasting. Ever practical…

G doesn’t have a temperature as it turns out, having checked about 15 times. The only time G’s temperature went up was directly after having drunk a mouthful of tea. Funny that.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Disagreements

I found my outgoing power company on Friday. They said they wanted to check that it was me who had requested to switch companies. I confirmed it was. The chap then asked why I was changing companies. I explained that they wrote to me and from their letter it was clear that they were putting me on to an expensive deal so I looked about for a new one. Then the conversation went as follows:

Me: The cost of the electricity will be half the cost of staying with you.
Eon: It might be cheaper but there is no way it is half the cost.
Me: Er, actually it is. I have checked all the figures.
Eon: There is no way it is half the cost. You must have got the figures from some bogus website, as there is no way it could be that much less.
Me: Well it is. I think we are just going to have to agree to disagree. Ok thanks very much. Bye. *Puts the phone down*

I didn’t get annoyed with the bloke. I just couldn’t quite believe that he was basically telling me I had been duped. I actually used the figures Eon gave me themselves and then the figures sent to me by my new supplier. I compared the unit costs, I checked that the charges moved from primary units to secondary units after the same number of watts etc etc etc. I checked it all. It was half the price. Eon customer service had always been very nice in the past, but clearly not when you’re leaving - at which point they tell you that you’re thick.

In other news, you might be aware that I think Celia Imrie is the bees knees. She is in a play in London in November and so I have booked tickets to go and see it. Hooray!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shocked

I know I keep it well hidden, but I do like to make sure that I get a good deal on things and like to do my research to check I do things in the best way. Well, it’s been just over two years since I had my eyes tested and work will pay for me to get my eyes tested every two years. At the moment I am on a secondment to another organisation, so I contacted their HR to find out if I should claim through them or my “home” organisation. As it turned out the system at the seconded place is nowhere near as good as where I normally work, and so I would probably get nothing expect the cost of the eye test. My normal place of work would pay for the glasses as well.

So I contacted the HR department of where I used to work (and am due to return to in December) and they initially said I couldn’t claim through them. I explained my situation, that I had retained all of my terms and conditions, as though I was still working for them etc, so they asked me to send them an e-mail and they’d look into it more.

They were very helpful and kept me updated on how things were progressing and when I was likely to get an answer. Yesterday they replied. It was a nice e-mail and this is a slight paraphrase, but in essence in said:

“You left the organisation on 31 May 2009. You no longer work for us. We have shut down all of your records. You need to claim through them”

My jaw nearly hit the floor. What they, without realising it, were telling me was that on 1 December they are not expecting me back and so basically unless my secondment is extended I have no job. It was like being given a totally unexpected redundancy notice. I was utterly stunned and have gone back to them to ask them to sort this out, as I still plan to have a job of some description on 1 December.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sharp

Last night I went to an open evening about some volunteering I am thinking of doing. I should have guessed the man who was running it was going to be a bit fierce when his letter said that it would start at “6.15pm sharp”. He very clearly and strongly laid out what the level of commitment was and basically made it sound like there was heavy competition to be able to do it and only the toughest would survive. One person pointed out that the postal strike might delay getting applications in to which the chap replied “That’s not my problem. If you really want to do this, you’ll find a solution to that.” For some strange reason, I am still interested in doing the volunteering, perhaps it is because if I ever got this chaps vote of approval at something I did it would feel like I had conquered Everest!

Just to show that I do have a soul (somewhere deep down), this story gave me a nice warm feeling. I think if I was them I might have given up a few years ago, but the youth of today obviously have more perseverance than me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Complete

It turns out that I am not as pro education as I had thought. My nephew started school on Monday and I feel traumatised by this. Surely he can’t be old enough to be going to school in his little uniform? I phoned my sister to protest, but apparently it is frowned upon to keep children out of school. Of course, as my father has decreed that it would be “such a waste” if my nephew didn’t go to university, I guess he might need a few qualifications to ensure that he doesn’t disappoint. My nephew did describe my father as “grumpy” the other day and so he clearly is a bright lad.

In other news, yesterday I bought a Cadbury Double Decker Duo. Double Deckers are the best chocolate bar in the whole wide world and now you can get a Double Double Decker. My life is complete.