Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Food for thought

The plans seem to be coming together for my new job. I did have a slightly sobering moment when it seemed that I was going to be on some kind of fixed term contract, which would in effect have meant that when the work came to an end I would have been jobless. I looked into it and they are going to do it as a loan instead, which means that I revert to my current employer at the end. Phew… I think today I will find out who the people in my team will be (they are putting the team together for a particular project) and I know at least three of them are meant to be “really, really good”.

I saw these cards yesterday. I don’t know what it is about them, but I really like them. The images on the website don’t quite do them justice (click on them to enlarge them), as the cards themselves look much better, but they really made me smile. I really like this one and also this one. They sell them in a shop round the corner from my work and I might have to buy a few. I’m not sure if I would want to send them though or just keep them.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I seem to have the beginnings of a cold at the moment. I am slightly paranoid about sneezing in public in case people think it is swine fever and then send a lynch mob after me. As far as I am aware I have neither been to Mexico or come into contact with any Mexicans, but travelling on packed tube trains with lots of strangers could have had an undesired effect. Somehow, I suspect it is just a bit of a cold though.

I do actually think this outbreak could be very serious. As soon as I first saw it reported on the news, I said to G that I found the initial reports very concerning and that it has been predicted for a while now that we are due a flu pandemic and thought this could be it. The 1918 flu pandemic killed millions of people worldwide and I think it would be a mistake to underestimate the potential seriousness of this flu outbreak. Not that I am trying to be all doom or gloom... or paranoid...

Remember though, coughs and sneezes spread diseases.

Monday, April 27, 2009


I seemed to spend the majority of the weekend sorting out our trip to Canada. We are staying in six different places and I have not booked three of them and have made enquiries at a few places to stay at each of the others. It will be a relief to get this done. It is a major holiday which involves a 1200 mile round trip (so I must remember to hire a car as well...) and so the logistics of it have been quite difficult.

My life seems to be about holidays at the moment, as I am off to Cornwall with my sister next week. Until last year I had never been there before and now I am going twice in 10 months. This is rather an impromptu holiday for me so I need to get my act together and work out what I need to take with me. G is coming down for the first couple of days and then I am staying on for the rest of the week.

Anyway, five days of work to get through before then...

Friday, April 24, 2009


It’s been a really busy week at work and not only have I been doing my own job but also various things connected with my new one. I did get some very nice e-mails connected with the new job which did a lot to massage my ego, so that put me in a good mood. That helped in that later in the day I was waiting to cross the road and was looking to the right, the road cleared and I stepped into the road to walk across to a traffic island and collided very hard with a guy who had decided that instead of walking along on the pavement he would cut into the road right in front of me. He apologised and I didn’t say anything because it was one of those moments where you need a few moments to work out what actually happened. It rather hurt though!

While I was out for a wander on my lunch break a woman asked me for some directions so I pointed out where she needed me to go. Then about thirty seconds later another woman came up to me, who it has to be said looked a bit more dubious than the previous woman I had spoken to, but I stopped anyway and right from the beginning I could see the way the conversation was going to go and so I asked her (with a smile) if this was going to involve her asking for money and she said it was. She told me she was homeless and was just feeling so miserable in London and just needed some money to get away from the heat and get a coach to Eastbourne. I asked her how much she needed and she told me and for some reason that is still beyond me, I gave her the majority of the money she needed. She said she would pay me back and wanted to give me her mobile number and I told her it was fine and not to worry about it. I am just not the sort of person who gives money to homeless people, I also have that natural Londoner suspicion of anyone who looks slightly dodgy and normally steer clear of them. I also didn’t know if her story was genuine and if she would really spend it on the coach fare, but there was a part of me that felt inclined to believe her and thought that even if she was lying did it really matter if it lifted some of her gloom by a stranger speaking to her for a couple of minutes and giving her some money. I just told her that I hoped she had a nice time in Eastbourne, gave her a smile and a wave and walked off. Was it the right thing to do? I don’t know, but I like to think she made it to Eastbourne.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I have been out of the office at various meetings and on various courses lately. I also seem to have been really busy since I have arranged to go on a secondment. It also now looks as though I will be on leave the first week of May, which I hadn’t planned to do, but for family reasons I need to try and take off work, so I can go away with my sister. I mentioned that I would probably not be in that week to the woman who works for me and she said “But that means we’ll get to spend less time with you before you leave. I don’t think you understand how distraught we are at you going”. I was a bit taken aback, but my secretary was there nodding away as well and saying that she didn’t want me to leave. I didn’t know what to say really (apart from that I really needed to take the leave!) and we joked about it a bit, but I was rather touched that they are so upset by it and one of them has only worked for me for about 7 months.

Leeds University are carrying out a survey into “flashbulb memories”. They describe this as “Flashbulb memories are slightly unusual as they are memories of our personal circumstances when we first learned of an item of public news. In other words we remember who we were with, what we were doing, where we were, and usually some other distinctive detail(s), when we first learned of a particular item of public news”. If you want to contribute to their project, then you can do so here.

Oh and today is post 1000. I really do need to get a life...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


When I was coming home on the tube last night I bumped into G, which is actually a fairly rare occurrence even though we finish about the same time and take fairly similar routes home. This meant that we both got to enjoy the heating being on full blast on the train. This was not a pleasant experience.

If you were going away on holiday, would you want to be on board this flight, even after it had been repaired. A plane fails to take off three times and they then get it repaired and people get back on board and go off on their hols… I’m not sure I would have been keen. I am also slightly suspicious of people who give quotes and are described as “a 48-year-old retired customs officer”. Retired at 48 years old?? Previously a customs officer??? A connection? I shall leave you to make up your mind. Of course I could just be bitter that someone is able to retire by the time they are 48.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


On Friday I went to someone’s leaving drinks and only intended to be there about half an hour. Three hours later I finally left. It was actually quite useful to talk to a few people because I had been on a course the previous day and we got feedback afterwards and whilst it was mainly positive they seemed to pick up on a few other things as well. The course was about performance under pressure and we basically had this made up scenario and they assessed us. One of the things they said, which was general feedback rather than about me particularly was that everyone I work with seems to be very polite, but we never say thank you. I raised an eyebrow at this and said I couldn’t speak for the organisation I work for as a whole, but where I work I think people do say thank you. He disagreed. I then disagreed with him and then dropped the subject as he clearly wasn’t going to change his view. I have listened to my colleagues since and have heard them thank people several times. I think this guy just had a chip on his shoulder. Anyone, a couple of my colleagues said they felt miserable after the course, as they just found it very critical and made them feel a bit incompetent. These were people who I know are really capable and yet they went home doubting their ability. I don’t think you can truly judge people’s abilities based on a made up scenario and a couple of hours’ observation. Not impressed.

When I finally got home from the leaving do, G had made a really nice prawn and mushroom curry, which was ready to be served the moment I walked through the door. This living together thing does have its advantages.

After work yesterday I met up with someone I used to work with for a coffee. She wanted to update me on her news, which was primarily that she and her partner are emigrating to New Zealand in the next few months. This wasn’t news as such, given that I signed off part of her application a few months ago, but things now seem to be coming together for her actually to go. I guess that means I have a new holiday destination. *sigh*

Monday, April 20, 2009


I had a very good weekend. On Saturday we went with my nephew, sister and mum to see The Lion King. It was a really good production and my nephew really enjoyed it. We then all went for dinner and it turned into a very long day. G asked my nephew what the highlights of his day had been. They were as follows (I don’t think they were in order of priority):

The Lion King
Doing a big poo
Seeing the man blow bubbles
Being in a cage.

Hmm... interesting...

On the tube on the way home I heard brief snippets of a conversation. I still have not decided whether the brevity was for the best or if it would have been better to hear it all.

Girl to her friend:

“I tried stroking it to see if that helped, but it didn’t make any difference”

A couple of minutes later, the same girl then said:

“I tried licking it to see if that would get it clean but it didn’t work”

Bizarrely, G thinks they were actually talking about an iPod.

Friday, April 17, 2009


How can a short week at work seem so long? I am glad it is Friday. I am hoping to catch up on some sleep. I normally fall asleep pretty much as my head hits the pillow but since being in Madrid I have taken ages to fall asleep each night. I really need at least eight hours a night, so I am suffering.

Yesterday on the way home the train I was on was majorly delayed due to a passenger on a train a couple of stations ahead activating the alarm. The journey that normally takes about 15 minutes took about 40 minutes and for the majority of that time the driver gave us a blow by blow account of the latest information, which was normally that nothing had changed and so he was just repeating the same long-winded load of information he had already given. He did this about every thirty seconds. I wanted to kill him by the time I got off the train. It was like he was downloading his every thought to us and we were there as unwitting therapists. Even after we started to continue our journey he lectured passengers who got on at the next stop about not standing beyond the yellow line on the platform, as someone had been guilty of this at that station, and then did this again at the next station. He just kept talking and talking. And talking. I guess it must get lonely in the driver’s cab.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


My sister told me yesterday that my nephew had fallen over as he was running up some steps at nursery and had cut his nose and had lots of nosebleeds etc. My brother in law went to pick him up and got him checked by a nurse etc and he is ok. My sister sent me a photo and he’s got a massive cut under his nose and looked a bit swollen. I’d post the very painful looking photo, but I don’t really want to put a photo of a child on here. Trust me it looked really painful. I phoned my nephew last night to ask how he was and he didn’t seem to be too badly damaged. At the end of the call he said “Thank you for phoning to speak to me” which made me laugh, as I was very amused by how polite he was.

Last night I watched Embarrassing Bodies, which is where people seek out medical help for medical conditions that they have been putting off getting dealt with because they didn’t want it show it to anyone. So they do on national television to get it sorted instead. I still find that slightly confusing.

On Tuesday night I came home from work and said to G that I had a weird sort of headache and that I thought it meant a thunderstorm was coming. G looked at me oddly and I explained that I sometimes get these weird sort of pressure headaches when a storm is coming. I don’t think this is particularly uncommon (I hope…). Anyway we were watching the weather later on and the forecaster said that overnight we would have heavy rain and thunder and I looked at G and said “There you go. I told you”. G just looked at me even more oddly.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


So I was brave and spoke to my boss and he has agreed to the secondment. I think this was in part because he had just returned from leave and was feeling a bit down about being back and so, in a moment of weakness, granted me my freedom. I haven’t 100% agreed a leaving date but have said when I want to go and now need to plug away at getting him to agree. I have also been trying to come up with options for ways to fill my post and even if that doesn’t result in anything, at least it might make my boss feel I am not leaving him in the lurch.

My overfriendly colleague, R, came round with a box of chocolates yesterday morning and offered me and the woman I sit next to one. My colleague declined and R said “yes I can see that you’re probably worried you’re a bit overweight after Easter”. I told him that he had overstepped the line again and suggested that he go away. He did. The chocolate I had was nice though.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


A nice long weekend over. G is actually off work another two days, so I am even more bitter.

Easter eggs were eaten (I feel they may not last as long this year as in previous years), nice walks were had in the sunshine and countryside. Good books were read. Nice food was eaten. Family was seen and no-one ended up dead Although I am still waiting for an Easter egg from my parents). A successful weekend (last point excepted).

I started to read Kim by Rudyard Kipling, but am not really finding that very readable. I think I might listen to it as a talking book and see if I can get through it that way instead. I am now reading “The Reader”, which I previously read maybe 10 years ago, but am doing so again because G just read it and liked it; it has some thoughts on reading out loud to someone, which as I am doing that at the moment I would like to read what it says; and we will get round to seeing the film at some point and so want to read it again before that. I am now on book 25 this year. It is so nice to be enthusiastic about reading again. Long may it continue.

Now to pluck up the courage to have a difficult conversation with my boss...

Thursday, April 09, 2009


I am on leave now until Tuesday. Hooray! The burglar alarm was serviced this morning and the man turned up about an hour early. I answered the door in my nightclothes and G was still in bed, so we had to get our act together pretty quickly!

Yesterday I got an e-mail offering me a secondment. I was somewhat surprised to get the e-mail, as I hadn’t approached them about it. I am interested, but need to chat to my boss about it next week (potentially having to do a big persuasion job on him as well) and work out all the questions I need to go back with to find out more details of the secondment. But I am really pleased about it.

Anyway, here are a few photos of Madrid. I actually didn’t take many photos so this is the best of them...

The Royal Palace

And again...

A nice park

Plaza Mayor

A slightly bizarre statue of Pope John Paul II who looked like he was about to take to flight.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


I was thinking about Paul Auster’s books that I have read and wondering why I like them so much. His books seem to pick up on a number of themes - such things as elusive fathers, identity, storytelling, stories within stories, fairytales, alienation, loneliness, coincidence, failure. Many human themes.

If I was to base my decisions on whether to read his books on the descriptions on the back of the books I don’t think I would be tempted to read any of them though. The descriptions always seem to make the books sounds very elitist and inaccessible, but they are actually very readable and engaging.

The description on the back of Moon Palace says:

"I was the summer that man first walked on the moon. I was very young back then, but I did not believe there would ever be a future."

Spanning three generations, Moon Palace is the story of Marco Stanley Fogg and his quest for identity in the modern world. Moving from the concrete canyons of Manhattan to the cruelly beautiful landscape of the American West, it is a meditation on and re-examination of America, art and the self, by one of America's foremost authors.”

The description on the back of The Music of Chance says:
'By the time Nashe understood what was happening to him, he was past the point of wanting it to end...'

Paul Auster fuses Samuel Beckett and The Brothers Grimm in this brilliant and unsettling parable.

Following the death of his father, Jim Nashe takes to the open road. But there he picks up Pozzi, a hitchhiking gambler, and soon after is drawn into a dangerous game of high-stakes poker with two eccentric and reclusive millionaires...”

Are those the types of book I like to read? Nope. But the books are really good.

In Moon Palace, which I read while I was on holiday last week, I was struck by a passage in it. A passage that to me seems to be infused with hope and wonder and uplifts me just by reading it and so I share it with you.

"That was how I finally came to be rescued: because the two of them went out and looked for me. I was not aware of it at the time, of course, but knowing what I know now, it is impossible for me to look back on those days without feeling a surge of nostalgia for my friends. In some sense, it alters the reality of what I experienced. I had jumped off the edge of a cliff, and then, just as I was about to hit bottom, an extraordinary event took place: I learned that there were people who loved me. To be loved like that makes all the difference. It does not lessen the terror of the fall, but it gives a new perspective on what that terror means. I had jumped off the edge, and then, at the very last moment, something reached out and caught me in midair. That something is what I define as love. It is the one thing that can stop a man from falling, the one thing powerful enough to negate the laws of gravity."

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Right, so I still haven’t uploaded my pictures from Madrid. I will... soon...

Anyway I went to the library and I confessed to the guidebook having been stolen and the man looked at me over his glasses in a stern sort of way... and then marked the book as lost, deleted it from my record and I didn’t have to pay anything because they don’t charge people for stolen items. I did look somewhat surprised at not having to pay and there is a bit of me that thinks I should have paid them, but I just gave them a very enthusiastic thank you and wandered off.

In other news, I went to the supermarket last night. I went to Sainsbury’s and there Easter Egg selection is rubbish. They didn’t even sell Dairy Milk eggs. So I did my main shopping there and then went to Tesco, which I drive past to get to Sainsbury’s anyway and bought the eggs there instead. They had better deals on Easter Eggs at Tesco anyway, but the best of the deals is that you can buy two Cadbury’s Creme Eggs for 50p (or one for 44p). You know you want to...

Monday, April 06, 2009


Right, so I’m back from a very good time in Madrid. It’s a much smaller city than I had expected and was easy to get around. The weather was a bit mixed at the beginning of the week, but by the end of the week it was lovely. I’ll post some photos at some point but haven’t got round to loading them on to my computer yet.

The slight black marks on the holiday were that on the flight on the way out, a small child in the row in front was very sick, which included vomiting on my rucksack. Lovely! G’s bag was also stolen, which fortunately had no money or valuables in it, but did have our guide book and phrase book etc in it, so we bought a new phrase book and then just winged it for what we would do for the rest of the week. The guide book was from the library so I shall have to go and throw myself on their mercy and hope that they don’t cancel my membership (I suspect for a sum of money they can be bought off…).

Madrid is a nice city and we had a somewhat lazy week mooching about, eating food, reading books and seeing the sights. The last few days we were there, we sat in the park each day and I would read to G from the book I was reading – Moon Palace by Paul Auster – which was so pleasant. I would read for maybe 30 minutes to an hour while we sat there in the sunshine and we would chat about the book as we walked around Madrid. I have said it before, but Paul Auster is such a fantastic author (I might say some more about him in the next few days) and G is also now a convert. Hooray! I also found a few Spanish books that I would like to read (in English) and will add them on to my phenomenally long list of books to read.

Anyway, a good place to visit (despite a few problems). Photos will follow at some point. It’s back to work now and G is away for the next couple of nights at a conference. Only three days of work and then I am on leave again. Hooray.