Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Back tomorrow

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


We went for a walk from Finsbury Park to Highgate on Saturday. The walk finished in Queens Woods in Highgate. If you ever go there, you might want to take care as you walk about (click to enlarge):

Monday, September 14, 2009


It seems that I can be bought and that I am perhaps more shallow or easily swayed than I had thought. I got a letter from John Lewis on Saturday, sent by ‘Next Day delivery’ no less. I opened the letter and it started as follows “Firstly, please accept my apologies for the delay in my response. I had allowed other matters to take priority which was wrong of me and I am truly sorry for compounding matters furthers”. I was somewhat dumbfounded by the humility of the chap. He then went on to tell me that I was correct in what I had said and had in fact been misadvised by a member of staff. They refunded me the money I should have been given and gave me £50 in John Lewis vouchers (which included my refund). John Lewis promptly rose in my estimations – and not because of the money, but because of the way this man dealt with it.

We then spent the vouchers yesterday, as we relented and decided that a mattress from John Lewis was probably the best bet and now we were going to get quite a lot of money off it, it seemed foolish not to. The new mattress is coming on Saturday. I refused to go to their shop that I have had so many problems with and I have still not heard from that shop anyway, so it is very much in my bad books. But John Lewis as a whole has gone up in my estimations.

Friday, September 11, 2009


My nephew and sister were at my parents’ house last night, so we went round to see them. I think my nephew was expecting lots of fun, and so was surprised by our lack of energy on a Thursday night. I feel as though I might have been a bit of a disappointment and also that children are a full time occupation. My mum has been looking after my nephew this week (and technically so had my dad but I think his input has been minimal and mainly consisting of letting my nephew choose the TV channel occasionally) and I think it has been quite a time consuming business.

Anyway, this weekend I don’t think we have specific plans but we might do a walk and have various things to sort out. I am trying to think of somewhere to buy a decent quality mattress for the spare room that doesn’t involve using John Lewis. They are really in my bad books now given that I wrote to them at the end of July and the only response I have had is from one of their stores (I wrote to the head office and said how unimpressed I was with two of their stores) saying that they would be in touch. I never heard from the head office or the store that I had most problems with. Their customer service is rubbish and I don’t like them any more.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Some people I work with are trying to read all of the Booker Prize shortlist nominations, As much as I like reading, I am not sure that four weeks is long enough to get through all of them, as a couple of them seem to be rather lengthy.

I have actually only read one of the authors, which is J.M. Coetzee. So the others would all be new to me, but I think I might have to read them in rather slower time. The shortlist is:

A S Byatt: The Children's Book
J M Coetzee: Summertime
Adam Foulds: The Quickening Maze
Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall
Simon Mawer: The Glass Room
Sarah Waters: The Little Stranger

So if you’re looking for a reading challenge, or perhaps just one book to read, they might be worth giving a go or other books by the same authors.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


In some ways I blame myself. I tried to make G more industrious, more able to multi-task, more willingly to use time efficiently. In reality, what I have done is create a monster. Now every time there is an ad break in a programme we have to get up and do chores – primarily clearing up the trail of destruction that G has left in the kitchen (not that I’m complaining that I have my dinner cooked for me…). I now get dragged away from my important tasks such as sitting in a stupor to instead load the dishwasher. This might be part of a cunning plan to try and convince me that we should get a cleaner, but I will not be moved on that subject. Particularly given that the main reason we would need one is out sheer laziness rather than living in palatial surroundings that we need to employ staff to maintain.

Mind you, every time there is a lottery draw, I do always firmly believe that I’m going to be a millionaire. I am always therefore disappointed when the lottery lets me down by failing to draw the correct numbers. However, when I do actually win the jackpot I might allow us to have a chauffeur.

In other matters, I read the story about the council that has renamed Spotted Dick as Spotted Richard. Apparently a local councillor described it as “political correctness” gone mad. But if you actually read the story, it seems that the name change was in response to some immature colleagues making a joke about the name of the dessert. So, not really anything to do with ‘political correctness’ and more about trying to stop the catering staff from using their knives for something other than slicing the sponge dessert. It seems a reasonable compromise to me.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


We got to eat lots of cake at work yesterday. A colleague died last year and so we had a major baking extravaganza at work to raise money for charity. Let me tell you that the cakes were so good. I have a very sweet tooth and I stood there looking at the table filled with home made cakes and it took me several minutes to decide where to even start. I then consumed some cakes and took several more minutes to come to the conclusion that I had to stop eating them. Sometimes work can be so great…

I was in a remarkably good mood yesterday (and this was the case even before the major intake of sugar). When the alarm went off I had one of those “oh not, how can the day have started already” moments. But by the time I was washed and dressed and was walking to the station, I found that I was in quite a cheerful mood. I have come to the conclusion over the last few months that my mood can be greatly influenced by how much I am enjoying whatever book I am currently reading. If I really like the book or find it engaging, however gruesome the book may be, then my mood tends to be very good, I think because the satisfaction I feel about the book seems to seep into my view of life. However, if I don’t like the book or find it boring etc then this tends to influence my mood as well. I used to have a rule that if I started a book that I had to finish it, but clearly life is too short for bad literature.

Monday, September 07, 2009


We had a weekend that seemed to consist of walking around the local reas lot in the sunshine and doing lots of chores. Finally, after eight months of nagging G has started to unpack some boxes that have been awaiting sorting out. There is a way to go, but progress is being made.

We ate a Wispa Gold on Saturday. These have now been re-launched and it has to be said that it was very good. A nice mixture of light chocolate and caramel. It’s a bit like eating a Twix without the biscuity bit. Tasty.

I am reading The Girl Who Played with Fire at the moment, which is the follow on to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I am really enjoying it. They are both rather lengthy books, but they are worth ploughing through if you want a decent plot in a crime type novel with a fresh twist on your main characters.

Friday, September 04, 2009


I went for a walk at lunch time yesterday. Within the space of a few minutes I saw some firemen sawing some branches off a tree (and then leaving the massive branches on the pavement for everyone to walk around). It wasn’t entirely clear why they did this, but they seemed to enjoy themselves. Then I saw two yoofs negotiating with a goose that was very keen to wander into the road instead of getting back into the river. They were having a discussion about whether they should drop the goose back into the water, at which point the goose hopped off the wall and wandered into the road again. They then tried to herd it back to the side of the road. I left them to deal with their quandary. Geese can be vicious creatures.

Just to, once again, demonstrate that I am total geek… I e-mailed the London Transport Museum last night to point out an error in one of their displays. They had managed to miss a station off and so I sent them a polite e-mail pointing out their error…

Thursday, September 03, 2009


I feel as though I am coming down with something. This is unacceptable to me for two reasons:

1. Work is very busy and I don’t have time to be off sick because I want to get on with the work.

2. I have a perfect sickness record for over 8 years and don’t want to break that unless I am truly and utterly ill.

So I have to stay well.

I am trying to find a photo of a house I saw on the internet over the weekend, which was just such an awful photo that how it could possibly enhance the sale of a house is beyond me. But I can’t find it. I will keep looking. For now though, you will just have to trust me that it was terrible. It even involved a huge teddy bear. *shakes head in despair*

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


I can’t believe it is September already. We went for a walk yesterday evening and it was dark by the time we got home, even a couple of weeks ago we would have easily got back in daylight.

I got a letter from my gas and electricity provider last week telling me they plan to move me to a new capped rate – that is more expensive than the deal I am currently on and well above their standard rate. They assured me this is still excellent value though. I am now moving to a new power supplier that is a far better deal and the electricity is about half the cost. It has to be said that my old power supplier was very honest about its charges, but all the information supplied made me just wonder why I would want to stay with them if they charge so much. Perhaps it encourages most people to stay, as it saves them the hassle of moving, but I reckon my power bills should come down by about a third.

I need to make sure I don’t waste money because I am now on a mission to try and buy a house in the next couple of years. The more I save, the quicker this might happen...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


We had such a good weekend. We both left work a bit early and met at the hotel, The Langham at the top of Regent’s Street. We settled into our room and then walked to Leicester Square and went out for dinner. We actually went to the Chinese restaurant we ate at the first night we went out (aw, how sweet…). Then we slowly made out way back to the hotel.

On Saturday we got up quite late and had a very nice breakfast in the hotel and then headed to Borough Market. Neither of us had ever been there before and that was good (if you like food, which we do) but was very busy. Then we went to Covent Garden and the London Transport Museum, which we both really enjoyed. We did have some minor excitement while we were there in that a man passed out right in front of me. A first aider came along after a couple of minutes and dealt with him though, so that was fine and he seemed ok. The museum was really interesting and I am glad that we finally got to go there.

In the evening, my mum and sister came to the hotel and we had dinner in the restaurant (that link has music by the way). We had cocktails before dinner and then champagne with the meal (it was a very decadent weekend! Not that I drank the champagne…) and the meal was delicious. I don’t think we would have felt we had made the most of staying at that hotel had we not eaten in the restaurant, and it was also really nice to have nowhere to travel after the meal was over.

Whilst the stay at the hotel was free, we did manage to spend an awful lot of money – and now want to spend more decadent weekends in London, but will have to find some good deals to be able to afford it. It was a great weekend and we both really enjoyed it and we have already started to look about to see if we can do something similar next year some time.