Monday, December 27, 2010


Christmas was good, and I am off up to Scotland today (but back before the New Year).

Please feel free to visit Cornish Dreamer in my absence to offer some kind words.

A belated Happy Christmas and I hope you have a good New Year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Spirit

On Wednesday night, we were due to have our annual Christmas gathering with some friends. Normally it would be a big Christmas meal but due to one couple now having a baby, they decided that this wouldn’t work this year.

So, instead, another person in the group invited us over to hers so that we didn’t end up going to a pub, which would mean that both of the couple with the baby, and the baby himself, could attend. The plan was agreed.

Then on Tuesday we got an e-mail from the couple with the baby to say that the baby hadn’t been very well so mum and baby probably wouldn’t attend, but dad would. Fine. It was a shame but everything else was all sorted, including that G and I had booked somewhere to stay overnight in Central London so we could stay out late without then having to trek home, and we’d bought wine and chocolates etc (as had others).

Wednesday morning, the day of the get together, the host’s partner sends a text to say that he has suddenly come down with major flu and therefore the get together was cancelled. G and I both raised an eyebrow about the coincidental timing of this bout of flu. The couple who have the baby are rather the cement of the group and the person who now wasn’t coming is the best friend of the host. The rest of us are rather lower down the pecking order (with me not even being ranked as a friend of the host – who is the person who a couple of years ago told G various untruths about stuff that happened with A back in the mists of time. Need I say more…).

G and I were committed to staying in London anyway, as we would have to pay for the accommodation regardless. G then sent an e-mail to the others to see if they were still on for meeting up regardless. To which come confused responses were sent because the others were still under the impression the original plan was going ahead. No-one else has got a text cancelling the get together. Much confusion then ensued and various e-mails were exchanged. The hosts were copied into all of the e-mails but maintained a silence throughout.

So, we didn’t know whether the plan was really cancelled (G even began to wonder if the text was from someone else of the same name, and that the original plan was still on. But nope, it was the right person). In the end we agreed to meet at a pub instead, and invited the hosts (those not suffering from ill-health of course) to join us. We had a pleasant evening, including discussing what had happened and how what was meant to have been a very simple plan had turned into a complete mess. The hosts didn’t come along and we have heard nothing from them since.

The cynical side of me says that because a key person couldn’t go, they didn’t want the rest of us to go round to their house, and so made up an excuse to get out of the plan. If that is the case, why invite people to your home if you are only willing to have them there under certain conditions? There is also the question of why only G got the text – were we the only ones who were uninvited? Even if there was a genuine illness, to treat people who are meant to be your friends in this way, especially when they have all gone to a lot of effort, is not the right way to treat people.

But maybe I should be more charitable. It is Christmas after all.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I went for a team lunch on Tuesday. We ate so much food that I think we all just wanted to go for a nap afterwards. We went to a Spanish restaurant and the food just kept coming, and we just kept evening. I then had some training for my volunteering in the evening and I wasn’t desperately keen to go, but I decided I should. When I got there I found out that we weren’t going to do any training and instead we were going out for a meal – at a Spanish restaurant. It was a different one to earlier in the day fortunately, but I really did not need any more food. And yet, I managed to graze my way through a fair bit of tapas nonetheless. I am going to have to run a marathon to work all that food off.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


I seem to have sent a lot of complaints recently:

I complained to Tesco that when I was in one of their stores last week I saw staff reducing the price of sandwiches and salads and before they put the items back on the shelf they put them on the floor. That is so unhygienic and I just had to complain.

I complained to the National Trust that a gift membership I ordered for my sister was left on my doorstep (although one of my neighbours saw it later and took it in) and then when I opened it the packaging etc to the membership pack was all torn.

I complained to Amazon that a delivery turned up and one end of the box had totally collapsed and someone had stuck it back together with tape, and the top of the box wasn’t sealed properly so that anyone could have just put their hand in the box – although as the side was open, why bother with going in through a more traditional route??

I am hoping that this is the end of my complaints for 2010!

Monday, November 29, 2010


I have agreed with some people at work to read the Costa Award shortlist. We are only reading the “First Novel” and “Novel” shortlist, which totals eight books. We have until almost the end of January to read them and I am about half way through the second book.

I sourced all of the books for us. Both Amazon and Waterstones were remarkably unreliable for supplying the books- which I think in part was because the publishers were perhaps caught out by the nominations and so weren’t able to meet the demand at such short notice.

In the end, I managed to get the books from two different sources, and both sent the books really quickly. One was The Book Depository and the other was AbeBooks. The latter supplies quite a lot of second hand books, but they tell you what the condition is of the book.

So far, I have read “The Blasphemer”, which was pretty good, if a little unbelievable at times.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Five minutes

I have mentioned before about a BBC programme called Five Minutes With, which is an interview that lasts five minutes with a well-known person. This weekend, I was listening to an interview with Alain de Botton and he made some comments about reading and writing:

I think people become intellectual because of disturbance. My goal raising my own children is that they will never read a book or at least not be that dramatically inclined towards writing and reading ... because, I think, as I say, reading and writing is a response to anxiety often having a basis and childhood and, as I say, I hope to quench at least some of that need in my children.

I think there is some truth to what he says about intellectualism – that we can try and rationalise and to understand through expressing, or reading other people’s expression or understanding of, an issue or life in general. But a life without reading would seem a strange and alien one to me. Reading can be a great pleasure, a form of escapism, a way to challenge our own view or discover ideas that you would otherwise never have even considered. Sometimes there can be nothing more satisfying than sitting down with a good book, and not because it is intellectual or stretching, but because it is not. It is a pleasure in and of itself. What a shame it would be to miss out on the joy that can come from reading – and indeed in learning to express ourselves through the written word.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


If you have ever watched the BBC programme Heir Hunters, you might already know that Treasury Solicitors (part of government) get people’s estate if no living relative can be identified to inherit. Professional organisations, like the one on Heir Hunters, charge a commission for reuniting you with the money (although as some connections are totally unknown etc the people would have ended up with nothing if it wasn’t for the firm getting in touch). However, if you can prove a connection, you can apply direct to Treasury Solicitors to claim the inheritance. The current list is here for England and Wales (you need to click on the PDF on the left hand side). For Scotland, the list is here. I do actually think there is something very sad about those lists. They are people who had no known relative and whilst that doesn’t mean they died a lonely death, it is no the most cheery thing to think what them featuring on this list might say about their lives. Anyway, it’s worth a look at the lists to see if there might be an inheritance that has unknowingly passed you by.

Monday, November 15, 2010


I bought some new bulbs for the kitchen last week. They are energy saving bulbs that are to replace some other energy saving bulbs that took a long time to warm up. Not only do these bulbs light up instantly, but they are so much brighter than the previous ones that we are concerned that an aircraft might accidentally come into land. I went into the kitchen one evening last week and G was in there wearing sunglasses.

I got my first Christmas card on Friday.

Monday, November 08, 2010


We took Friday off work and headed to East Sussex for a couple of nights at a very posh B&B. I don’t think I have met many people who are posher than the woman who ran this place, we were a little nervous in case we didn’t quite meet her standards, but we appeared to pass muster. When we arrived we had tea and cake in the Drawing Room and sat in front of a roaring fire. It was lovely.

On Saturday we went into Lewes and then to Eastbourne, where we ate fish and chips – because clearly having a cooked breakfast and going for an evening meal at a pub was not enough food for us, so we had to top up with a big meal in the middle of the day. It was all very relaxing and it is only when I leave London, and I say this as a Londoner born and bred, that I realise that people outside of London are generally more friendly. Perhaps all Londoners need to spend lots of time outside of the Capital to remember what it is to speak to other people. But perhaps our attitude might rub off on others and we would lower the rest of the country to our standard. Anyway, it was a good break and we need to find more opportunities to go for nice weekends away.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Catching Up

The weekend was pretty busy. We finally managed to finish watching Flashforward, which finished in May this year. It was inconclusive, as everyone else presumably already knew, but we ploughed on with it anyway.

We went out for lunch with my family on Sunday and my nephew was playing twenty questions. He didn’t quite get how it worked having only heard of the game the first time that morning when he had seen it on friends. We were trying to explain to him that “is it a chair?” was a bit too specific and would make it a very long game. He didn’t seem to get that the game was meant to be limited to 20 questions. He did make us laugh a lot though when we were asking his questions and managed to narrow it down to it being some kind of train. In the end he told us the answer: The Pizza Express Train. He meant the Gatwick Express.

I also started the interview with mum and spent about an hour doing that. I have found out various things, including a strange story about mum’s adopted cousin, but I shall save that for another time.

Instead I shall leave you with a photo of a pumpkin that I carved for my nephew.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I bought a digital recorder the other day. I decided that I want to interview my mum and find out more about her life. I asked my sister what she thought of the idea before I asked mum if she would do it and she said she thought it was a bit weird, but then I asked mum and she was fine with it. I’m going to record it and then upload it on to my computer etc.

When I was at school I once had to interview my granddad and great aunt for a history project. It was a really interesting interview and I found out loads of things that I hadn’t known before. But then, as teenagers do, I decided that I wanted the tape for something else and recorder over it.

I watch programmes like “Who Do You think You Are?” and always find them fascinating and yet I would imagine most of those people would never have sat down with various family members unless they were taking part on the programme, so I decided to be bold and ask mum if I could interview her. She wants me to ask her questions rather than her just give a monologue so I need to think of things to ask, but the more I think about it, the more things I can think of that I want to know about. So, in the next few weeks, we’ll sit down and I’ll interview mum. Should be good.

Friday, October 22, 2010


It’s been an “interesting” week:

It started with getting stuck on the tube for two and a half hours on Monday.

On Wednesday I went to a lunch time do to mark the departure of my last boss. I felt really sad by the end of his speech. I had a chat with him and he clearly has mixed feelings about going, but being made voluntarily redundant worked out well for him. So now he has a whole new more relaxed life ahead.

After that lunch I went to a management meeting and one of the other managers ended up in tears, recovered a bit and then walked out of the meeting. We had a chat afterwards and she seemed a bit better by then, but was not looking very happy yesterday either. She did also tell me off for not telling her she was looking a bit rough and said that we needed to develop a relationship where I was more direct with her about things like that. I feel this might be a challenge, as it has never struck me as terribly polite to point such things out.

Then another manager spoke to me for a bit because she is also feeling really rubbish. So we chatted for a bit and she vented her frustrations. I don’t feel work is a very happy place at the moment.

I am actually feeling as though I have a bit more head space at work at the moment, so am feeling reasonably positive. I feel I am out of kilter with most of my colleagues.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Free at last

As normal, I set off for work at 8am yesterday. I arrived at work at 12.20pm. Just in time for lunch on the course that I was meant to be running.

I had the somewhat dubious pleasure of being on one of the five jubilee line trains that had to be “detrained” i.e. we had to walk along the tunnel to get to a station. I think the train I was on must have been the last to get the passengers off because according to news reports the last passenger on the five trains got to a station platform at 11.30am, which was about five minutes after I finally made it to the platform at St John’s Wood.

The tube train came to a standstill at about 8.50am and two and a half hours later (for all of which I was standing – and on a very packed tube train) we all finally got off the train by stepping down onto the tracks and walking through the dark tunnel to the nearest station. I was actually walking pretty close behind someone, and there was a whole trail of people in front of him, but it was very dark in the tunnel, so you can’t pick them out in the photo below.

There has been some criticism in the media of how TfL dealt with the problem – and two and a half hours in far too long to have left us on a train for – but a lot of it seemed to be down to the line controller not being able to decide whether we should get off the train or not. At about 9.30am we were told that we were going to have to walk through the tunnel to St John’s Wood. This plan then got shelved as we were told the train should be able to continue. At about 10am we were told that we would have to walk along the tunnel to Baker Street. About 20 minutes after that we were told that we would be walking through the tunnel to St John’s Wood and then a while later police officer and TfL staff arrived and walked through the packed train and eventually, gone 11am, things were finally in place for us to get off the tube.

At no point did I feel unsafe and actually our driver was really nice, and kept us as up to date as he could given the changing situation. A woman did have a panic attack where I was standing but passengers helped her and gave her an asthma inhaler and a doctor, who was also stuck on the train, came and helped her. For once, it was also fine to talk to your fellow passengers and compare awful travel stories form years gone by.

When we finally got to St John’s Wood, a girl of maybe six years old ran up and down the platform shouting “free at last”. Free at last indeed.

I have to say my colleagues were lovely as well. A few people had tried to contact me on my mobile as they were really concerned about where I was, and there were three messages on my home phone when I got back last night with people trying to track me down. It was nice to feel missed.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Last week I got an email from my boss at the organisation I am seconded from and he said he is taking a redundancy package that means he needs to go this week. I was really shocked to get the e-mail and it made me feel quite sad as he is a really nice chap. He is also my contact with my parent organisation and so I don’t really know who I will contact in future. So I had better see if I can find someone else to be my contact.

I talked to one of my neighbours and we are drawing up plans to oust the freeholder. Hopefully we can do so fairly soon, as I saw the letters the freeholder wrote to two of my neighbours, which were so unprofessional and also rather threatening. We need to get rid of her. Soon.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I don’t know what I think about The Finkler Question winning The Booker Prize. I liked it a lot more than some of the other books on the shortlist, but I think it is one of those books that will really divide people. Someone else in the group who was reading the shortlist absolutely hated this book and refused to finish it. She just found it so irritating and could not bring herself to read another word of it. Personally, I find it perfectly readable, but I am not sure it is the “comic novel” that it likes to think it is. Don’t let the author, Howard Jacobson, describing himself as "the Jewish Jane Austen". Jewish he may well be, but Jane Austen he is not.

I was wearing a new shirt yesterday. I was glad that G saw my rear view (so to speak...) before I left for work because a label showing the size was still stuck to the collar and would have told any passer-by throughout my day far my information than I wanted them to know.

Monday, October 11, 2010


We bought a wii on Friday night. I feel that this might take over our lives - and make it even harder to keep up with the number of programmes that we have recorded. We have also got wii fit plus, so we will both hopefully become well toned couch potatoes though. I might also buy shares in a battery company, as I think we will go through many batteries over the coming weeks.

Tonight I am meeting up with a few people from work to discuss who we think should win the Booker prize. I am not entirely qualified to do this, given that I have not read all of the books, but it should be an interesting discussion anyway. We have had a huge variety of views on some books so far, and I suspect we might find it hard to reach a consensus. As I have not read them all yet, I don’t know which one of the shortlist I think should win, but based on those I have read so far, I liked In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut the most – which was the first one I read and it was therefore downhill from there on.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


I have been running a course at work for the past couple of days. The first day went pretty well, but the good was undone by the second day. One person on the course, who is always rather outspoken, just did not want to be on the course and made sure that everyone knew it. Others tried to ignore her, but she really brought down the mood of the course. Her feedback said something like it was “rude” to expect people with her experience to go on a course like this. It had taken many hours of work and refinement to get the course to where it is now at. It is aimed at people of differing abilities and everyone can get something out of it, however experienced they are – but only if they want to engage. We are running the course again in a couple of weeks and I am hoping that there is no-one else who is going to exhibit a similar attitude.

On a more positive note though, Nova Scotia is going up and up in my estimations. We went there last year and while we were there G bought a baseball cap. Unfortunately while we were in Sweden this year the cap got left on a bench and when we went back to get it, it had gone. So I contacted the Nova Scotia Tourist Board office where we had bought it to see if it was possible to replace it (G *really* liked it). The Tourist Board passed it on to the people who run their shop and I got an e-mail a few days ago saying that they didn’t have it in stock, but would see if it came in on another order, and even if it took quite a while they would keep my e-mail so they could let me know when they got new stock in.

Then yesterday I got an e-mail from another of their offices, this time in Halifax, Nova Scotia, saying that they thought they had what I was looking for, but they could send me a photo if that would help. It was such a nice e-mail and I was already very enthusiastic about Canada, and Nova Scotia, but now I want to go back there all the more. I know it is their job to sell things, but they have been willing to go to a lot of effort to get this to me. So, next time you are looking for a great holiday destination, go to Nova Scotia and make sure you go to the tourist office shop at Amherst (on the border with New Brunswick) and Halifax because they are very friendly and helpful people!

Monday, October 04, 2010


The little boy who lives next door continues to cry at all hours of day and night. He was crying at about 1am on Saturday morning. For about an hour. As we can hear him very clearly sobbing, it is hard to believe that his mum cannot hear this. So either she is not there or she just cannot be bothered to deal with him. It is really irritating being woken up by him, but if he is being neglected in some way then that is far worse, so I guess we’ll just have to see if we decided we need to take some action at some point…

Here are some things on the BBC website that I am currently listening to:

Five Minutes With, which is interviews with famous people that last five minutes (perhaps unsurprisingly).

Interviews from the BBC archives with various authors, including John Wyndham, Virginia Woolf and Aldous Huxley (The interview with Aldous Huxley includes him discussing that he thought the future of books might be for them to be listened to on gramophone records.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I seem to have set myself too many tasks to do at the moment, and this is not good for my head.

I have to write some new material for a course that is running next week.

I am trying to report a report for someone who works in another part of the office, but the only time I seem to have to do this at the moment is in the evening.

I need to do all my normal work, which includes catching up on various things I haven’t done because of being out of the office, and coming up with a way to summarise the last six months work.

I am still trying to read the Booker Prize shortlist before the winner is announced. I am currently on the fourth book. I think I will come close to finishing them all but not quite get there.

I am trying to watch some of the programmes on the Freeview box that are as yet unwatched. G and I have a target (who sets a target for things like this???) of getting it down to 95 programmes to watch by the weekend after next. This would be achievable if it were not for the fact that more programmes keep being recorded.

I am going to see my solicitor this morning to talk about the freeholder and then need to write to her to explain why the charges she has levied are unreasonable.

I want to get more than eight hours sleep per night, which seems to be a bit elusive at the moment.

Friday, September 24, 2010


I was in Birmingham until yesterday. It isn’t a city I have ever spent much time in before, but it was nicer than expected. I was there on a course about Lean. I had mixed feelings about the course, not least because it is a bit like a cult with people unquestioningly accepting what they were told and being told how to pass the message on. Very bizarre. I managed to escape – a day earlier than everyone else too. I don’t think their brainwashing techniques worked on me.

On the train on the way home, I overheard a woman saying to her colleagues that she would really like to “know some general knowledge”. I think she has rather missed the point on that one. It’s not a specialist subject, the clue is in the word “general”. I can see she might want some more general knowledge etc, but she seemed to suggest that she currently has none. Perhaps between her ears there is just an empty space. I think she was training to be an accountant. This is why the nation’s finances are in the state they currently are.

G has gone to Scotland until Saturday, so I had to fend for myself when I got home. I had a letter from the freeholder demanding lots of money. I sent a polite, but rather direct letter back saying that I was currently seeking clarification from my solicitor on some of the matters. Although I didn’t explain this bit, primarily the hundreds of pounds she wants to charge for things that are not a collective responsibility for us to pay for. Call me picky, but I don’t like being asked to pay for things that are nothing to do with me. Fortunately, I also had a letter from my solicitor asking to see me, so I should be able to “clarify” things for the freeholder shortly.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


As things go, this is one of the stranger greetings I have overheard recently:

“Hi. It’s so unusual to see you not in spandex.”

I’m still considering whether to add that one to my repertoire.

Friday, September 17, 2010


It seems really busy at work at the moment. I was running a course for two days and that went pretty well, but now I want to rewrite various parts of it and make it much harder. I want to make sure that no-one can complain that they weren’t stretched by what was demanded of them! I also have various pieces of work from my team to deal with, my own work to do and I also need to write a major piece of work for someone else that I rather foolishly agree to do. But, I am out of the office Monday to Thursday of next week because I am on a course in Birmingham. I plan to take some of the work with me to write up there – but I also have to fit in reading the booker short list. So many things to do and so little time.

Spider season seems to have started. There was a massive spider in the bedroom a couple of nights ago. I managed to convince G to deal with it, but I think that was rather a challenge, as it was really, really big. G is away at the end of next week, so if one appears then, I might have to move out.

Two Booker books down and I am now on to the third...

Monday, September 13, 2010


It’s been a fairly busy few days. The most exciting thing that happened though was that G got me a signed copy of Tony Blair’s autobiography. I am not a massive fan of Blair, but I really wanted a signed copy because it seems to mark a point in history. I see that I could sell it on e-Bay for rather a tidy profit, but I do actually want the book. G queued up outside Waterstones, and as a result was rather late for work to get me a copy. I was very grateful though.

We went to the Thames Festival yesterday and that was pretty good. We went with my sister and nephew and my neighbour and her son. It was a lovely sunny day and we wandered through the huge crowds on the South Bank. We don’t often go right into the centre of London at the weekend any more – not least because we both work in the centre of London – but it was a pleasant day.

I am running a course at work for the next couple of days. It has been like pulling teeth to get people to attend the mandatory course. I have prepared al the material for it, but am not entirely sure how well I have prepared myself for it. I guess I’ll find out today.

I have almost finished the first Booker prize book and will then move on to the next one. I need to get going or else I am not going to have them all read before the winner is announced.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


I haven’t been sleeping that well this week. Generally, it hasn’t been for any reason in particular, but it didn’t help getting woken up at 5.30am yesterday by the sound of a car smashing into a parked car over the road, and then a car alarm going off for about 10 minutes. I would imagine that the people whose cars were badly damaged were probably more miffed and inconvenienced than me, but it was not a pleasant way to be introduced to the day ahead.

For some reason I have yet to comprehend, I have agreed to join with a few people at work to try and read the six short listed Booker Prize books in advance of the winner being announced in five weeks time. As some of them are rather lengthy books, this might be rather a challenge.

I did try and get a couple of the books from the library to supplement the ones we are buying, but it was rather unsuccessful. I tried to get a non-Booker book out of one library, but when I tried to check it out it was reserved. Then later in the day I went to another library to get one of the Booker books. I took it off the shelf and went to check it out and that too was reserved. Then I went to another library and despite the book being listed in the catalogue as available, it was nowhere to be found. A librarian helped me to look for it but we gave up after a bit of a search about. I will try again today to see if I can track down any of the books. I did manage to find one and I have given that to someone at work who was going to start reading it on the way home. So I’m already off the pace.

Friday, September 03, 2010

It's too late...

I was talking to my sister about the argument I had with dad. We discussed a few things, including my nephew’s reaction to it all. Apparently he is fine about it all, but he just cannot understand why dad hasn’t apologised. My nephew thinks that if you are sorry about something or have done something that in hindsight you didn’t mean to then you should apologise for it. He just doesn’t get why dad hasn’t said sorry.

I rather like that as a view on life. To have a view of the world where everything can be made right if you’re willing to say you’re sorry. I think apologising has a bad reputation and is often seen as a sign of weakness. People rarely want to admit when they are wrong. Perhaps some of that is because we sometimes avoid looking at our actions to even consider that we might be wrong. But I think there is something very admirable about a sincere apology.

There is one instance in my life where I wonder if things would have been different if I had accepted an apology that was offered to me. But I refused the gesture – primarily because I felt the words were too little too late and that I didn’t believe the apology would make any difference in the long term. But refusing to accept it was a turning point in that relationship though.

Over the years I have learned that it is not worth holding grudges or resentments and that most things are forgivable, even if that does not always make things reconcilable with the other person. I could still be better at apologising though, although now I think about it, perhaps it would be better not to do things that subsequently require an apology.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


I started reading a book called Blacklands. It is a story about a boy who corresponds with a serial killer to try and find out where his long-deceased uncle’s body is buried. I decided to stop reading it though. I found the subject too distasteful and life is too short to read books that you don’t want to – a philosophy I followed at school, so it is amazing that I got decent grades in both my English GCSE and A level. So it is one of those relatively rare occasions where I decided that a book was not for me.

I still have a huge pile of books to read and have moved on to other things now.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


On Sunday night, we went to see the Girl Who Played With Fire. We enjoyed it, but I think we would have been highly confused had we not read the book – and also had the advantage of having seen the previous film in the trilogy the night before. But it was nice to see shots of Stockholm and Gothenburg having been to many of the places featured in the film. The film is worth seeing by the way, but if you’re not familiar with the plot already, I think you will be a bit perplexed by who some people are and what is going on at various points.

We actually only paid 30p to go and see it because I discovered that you could used Nectar points to pay at Vue cinemas. I do like a bargain. However, I think I was less popular with the people behind me in the queue because they have to swipe your card to take the points off at £2.50 per time. I think we were keeping some people from their popcorn.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tres Bien*

Paris was great and I had a really good time there with my sister and nephew. We went up the Eiffel Tower and to Note Dame and Sacre Coeur and on a boat. We ate crepes and pain au raisin and various other things that weren’t really great for the waistline.

It is a really nice city and I much prefer it to Madrid. I went to Madrid with G last year and we weren’t massive fans. But Paris was a much more interesting city and I felt like we hardly even touched the surface of it. It’s a good job that’s the case, given that G was a bit gutted about not being able to go. So I think we will probably go there together in the next few months. We will possibly stay in a different hotel though given that the staff were a touch surly and the room was a bit 1970’s MFI.

I broke my rule about reading books based where I am at the time. I had considered reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but I was part way through a Swedish book and wanted to continue reading that. However, I have stumbled across a book that I think I need to buy, which gives suggestions of books to read from all over the world. How marvellous!

Tonight we are going out for dinner with my mum and sister. It will be the first time I’ve seen or spoken to mum since I fell out with dad, so we’ll see if she says anything about that. On Sunday I think G and I are going to see The Girl Who Played with Fire at the cinema. I think that will be only about the third time we have ever been to the cinema together. Most strange.

*I'm practically fluent

Monday, August 23, 2010


I find the current spate of bad weather somewhat depressing. Since we got back from Sweden, it has hardly ever felt as though it is still summer. G is refusing to wear a coat to work on point of principle. It is summer, even if it is wet and cold!

I am off to Paris tomorrow with my nephew and sister. G can’t come due to various work related things, which is a shame. I am hoping that the weather will be decidedly better there. We are only allowed to do “B list” things while we are there though because G wants to go at some point and we are a) not allowed to have any fun while we are there this week and b) all the “A list” things need to be saved for a future trip. So that means, no Eiffel Tower or boats on the Seine or visiting the Arc de Triomphe or Notre Dame. It’s going to be great…

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


The really excellent three part series called Dear Diary is being repeated starting this week on BBC4. It starts with the Richard E Grant episode. As it is on at 00.30, you should set your video/ DVD/ Freeview/ Sky Plus box to record it.

It is a series “which asks what we get from reading, and writing, diaries”. It is a marvellous programme and it is a shame it is on so late at night. So record it!

Monday, August 16, 2010


I had rather a bust up with my dad on Friday night. I had gone over for dinner (G was away) because my nephew was there. My dad and I slightly rubbed each other up the wrong way not along after I got there because he started to give a lecture on how I needed to make it clear to mum if I needed a lift home, so that she didn’t drink too much. Seeing as mum never drinks too much and she also knew that I had come straight from work so would need a lift home made me think this was all a bit unnecessary and I (a bit stroppily) said so. My day then walked off and then came back a few minutes later and, rather angrily, said not to lay him a place for dinner because he would not be joining us. We told him not to be so daft and to have dinner at the table. He then made a few digs at my nephew (who is five years old) and I told dad to leave him alone.

Then my nephew and I went and played ludo and snakes and ladders and about an hour later we all sat down for dinner. Dad kept getting angry during dinner and made a few more digs at my nephew, and both mum and I told him to stop. Dad then got really angry and shouted at us and told us not to tell him to stop it. My nephew said to dad not to get annoyed and, as dad kept saying things with his mouthful, my nephew said to him to stop talking with food in his mouth.

Then dad got really angry with me and kept making mean comments to my nephew, and then dad started to swear at me – and these were definitely not the sorts of words you would want a five year old to hear. I was just so angry with dad about the things he was saying to my nephew and him then swearing that I stood up and walked round to where he was and really shouted at him to tell him to stop. I have to say I was reminded quite how scary my dad is and I did rather think I had bitten off more than I could chew by going over to him. The shouting match didn’t last very long, maybe 20 or 30 seconds, and it came to a very abrupt halt on my part because I turned and saw that my nephew was really shocked by what was happening. I went over to my nephew (who had gone over to my mum) and apologised to him for shouting and I said that I shouldn’t have done it. We talked about it and he was fine with me. But he was talking to me a little while later, after dad had left the room, and told me that he was scared of granddad and didn’t understand why he kept being mean to him. Then he said that he thought it was his fault that granddad was so angry i.e. because of what he had said to dad. I explained that it wasn’t his fault – he is five whereas dad is 69 and therefore dad is the one who needed to behave better. My nephew said it all just made him feel very sad.

I managed to cheer him up and we wrote G a letter and ate ice cream etc, but mum tried to get him to say goodnight to dad, but he refused and said he didn’t want to talk to granddad. I had thought it was a risky strategy on mum’s part as there was high chance dad would have just ignored him. In fact, later when my nephew had gone to bed, dad turned out the light that was left on for my nephew because he doesn’t like sleeping in the dark. Very, very mean.

I also heard dad (rather loudly) telling mum that he didn’t know why I came round and that she should go round to mine if she wants to see me. It’s like turning the clock back a decade to when he and I were on such bad terms and we didn’t speak for a couple of years because he thought I was such a waste of space.

Anyway, I explained to my sister what had happened and that I shouldn’t have shouted in front of my nephew but that I was just so angry at the way dad was speaking to my nephew and that he was swearing etc. My sister was fine with me about it and was concerned that some of the things dad did were very reminiscent of how he treated us when we were children i.e. threatening to take things away from us – be that physical things or emotional things, and that there was no way she was going to let dad treat him in the same way.

I spoke to my sister again yesterday and asked what had happened when she went to collect my nephew. Dad had told her that he and I had an argument and that it was over what he said about getting a lift home and that I had reacted badly to it. He didn’t say anything about having a go at my nephew or swearing – and he didn’t point out that there was about an hour and a half between the conversation about getting a lift home and the argument.

My sister knows that he wasn’t telling the truth (not least because my nephew had also told her a bit of what had happened!) and we discussed why he might have done that. The most obvious explanation, of course, is that he wanted to cover up what he had done, but actually another possibility, that is equally credible, is that he really believes that is what happened.

On a number of occasions dad has come up with stories and we have suggested to him that we were dubious about whether that is actually what happened. Several times mum has said that she has never heard the story before and dad then looks confused and then no-one, including him, is sure whether what he has said is actually true. He rewrites history to make it show whatever suits him – you’d have to see him in action to quite understand what I mean. So possibly after a night’s sleep he had a different view on the previous night’s events. Thus meaning that the argument was down to me and that he had said nothing inappropriate to my nephew etc. You can’t reason with someone like that.

I also wonder what will happen next time I see him. He can hold a grudge for a very long time and be very malicious. I do feel like this is a massive step backwards, and I also feel sorry for mum, as she will have to pick up some of the pieces of it. But it also reminds me why we have had a very acrimonious relationship for so long – he is a bad tempered man, not very trustworthy and will say what he needs to try and get out of a tricky situation. Ultimately he is only interested in himself.

I know he is getting old though, and he has already had two strokes, so I need to decide what to do next. That’s not going to be an easy decision.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


We had a barbecue at the weekend. Despite the best efforts of the weather to dampen it for us, we all seemed to have a good time. My carpet looked less than pleased, what with all the mud trampled on to it, but I managed to get that cleaned up. The only problem now is that we have far more alcohol than we had when we started the day and nowhere to store it all. We might have to start giving it away to people at any possible opportunity.

Over the weekend, I also managed to find a way to change my broadband provider that means that we won’t have to pay anything for it for the next year. I do like to be able to track down a good deal…

Someone at work has leant me a book by Tove Jansson called Travelling Light. I will try and read that soon (although I have a large number of books already waiting to be read). However, if you already like her as an author or want to find out what she is like, tonight is your perfect opportunity. At 9pm tonight on BBC Radio 3, The Hothouse, a short story from her book Travelling Light is being broadcast. There is also a programme on at 7.45pm about Scandinavia called The Summer House and that will also have excerpts from some of her books (I think primarily The Summer Book). Have a listen if you get the chance. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


I am still in a Swedish phase in my reading. I am actually reading a book by a Finnish author at the moment, but she wrote in Swedish, although I am reading it in English.

Anyway, the book is The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, and it is a really good book. A very readable and light read, and yet has a distinctly dark undertone.

I shall give you an excerpt from chapter 14.

Anna stood by the telephone for a long time and stared at the snowdrift through the window without seeing it. A great sadness gripped her. It can be sad having a friend you’ve admired too much and seen too rarely and told too many things that you should have kept to yourself. It was only to Sylvia that Anna had talked about her work – without reservation, boasts and cruel disappointments all jumbled together, everything. And now all of it was there with Sylvia, unloaded on her over the years in a dense clot of rash confidences.

I shouldn’t have called, Anna thought. But she’s the only one who knows me.

Monday, August 02, 2010


I had a good birthday. We went to my parents’ on Saturday night and had a very nice meal. I also told my nephew a rude (by five year old standards) joke about a bear and a rabbit. I had made him promise to laugh, even if he didn’t find it funny, because it was my birthday. I think he was genuinely amused though. He then told us a somewhat bizarre joke he had just made up about a chicken that crossed the road…

I got some nice presents, but the best one was from my sister, which was afternoon tea at a posh hotel in London that I have wanted to go to for ages. Now I just have to decide who to take with me.

There were other highlights, such as fitting a new flush to the toilet. We served that joy until Sunday. The holiday really is over.

Friday, July 30, 2010


It’s been a shock to the system going back to work. So has the downturn in the weather. I am still reading Swedish books in a bid to cling on to my summer hols feeling. Anyway, it is my birthday tomorrow and so I will be celebrating and coming to terms with officially reaching my mid-thirties. Whilst life has had its ups and downs, I can say that being in my thirties has been better than the years that preceded it. Although I guess if I looked back and thought my twenties, or teen years had been better, the prospect for the future would be rather depressing!

So I shall be celebrating by eating my mother’s homemade goulash and dumplings (mum can never quite understand why I would want to eat that in July…) and last night I went out for a very nice meal with G and a friend from work. I think there might be a few other things planned as well, including some presents. Anyway, happy birthday to me (tomorrow)!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Note to self

You can tell your holiday is over when you spend the evening cleaning the fridge.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Sweden was great. We loved Stockholm and went on a boat a few times and saw the sights and went on The Millennium Tour.

Then we went to Gothenburg, which we weren’t so keen on (as a city), as it was very busy and seemed to primarily be about shopping. But then we went out to the archipelago and we really liked being out on the islands and that rather changed our experience.

We then moved on to Karlstad, Orebro and Uppsala and all of those were nice cities (and very small cities by British standards). We did all our travelling by train and that was pretty straightforward, although not very well air conditioned.

It was a really good holiday though and we now want to see more of Scandinavia. I am already coming up with ideas for another holiday!

I haven’t uploaded our photos yet, but might put some on my blog soon.

Friday, July 09, 2010


I am so pleased that we are about to go away on holiday. I cannot describe how tired I feel. Due to the combination of not getting enough sleep due to the hot nights and working in an office that is like a mini furnace, I just wanted to curl up under my desk and go to sleep yesterday afternoon.

Anyway, we are off to Sweden on Sunday for two weeks. We are going to Stockholm and Gothenburg and a few places in between. I have my Swedish books to read (they’re not written in Swedish, you understand) and at some point I might get round to packing some stuff for the trip. I am looking forward to two weeks of relaxing and escaping the high temperatures here.

Have a good couple of weeks.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

In the balance

I got an e-mail from a friend a couple of days ago. We e-mail each other very regularly. In fact, until a few years ago, I would have called her my best friend. Things have changed though and we have drifted a bit. But we are still in regular contact, in fact we e-mail each other pretty much every day.

Anyway, this e-mail, in passing, said that her baby is being dedicated on Sunday (the Free Church equivalent of a christening - without the water etc). Only I haven’t been invited. We are actually going on holiday on Sunday, so couldn’t go anyway, but I was surprised not to even be invited. I mentioned it to a friend at work who said that if a good friend had done that to her, she would end the friendship and that I was far more forgiving than her, but it seems a bit extreme to throw away many years of friendship over something like this. But even if I couldn’t go to something, I would still expect to be asked. I haven’t said anything to her about it, but I was not very happy to find about the dedication (and therefore my lack of invite) like this.

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

CS Lewis

I wonder at what point it is lost?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


There hasn’t seemed to be much point in posting here of late. Sometimes I wonder why I blog, I don’t get many comments and I don’t really get much sense that my presence here was missed. I am not feeling sorry for myself, I think I am just being realistic. But there you go.

Anyway, I might post a few things this week and then I am off on holiday for a couple of weeks, so won’t be about.

I have had a busy week or so. G’s sister and niece were down from Scotland until the middle of last week. Babies just seem to eat up time and the weekend and evenings flew by. I went to see Tony Bennett with my mum and sister last Thursday and that was good. I had been forewarned that he doesn’t do encores, and despite people cheering and him coming back a couple of times and waving, the prediction was true. This is probably a sacrilegious thing to say but he danced a couple of times and I thought that you had to be Tony Bennett to get away with it – if your dad danced like that you’d cringe. But if you’re Tony Bennett somehow it is much cooler.

Work has also been interesting. We had a massive power failure last week and so I had to work from home for a few days. I hate working from home and so was glad when I got to go back to work. But we still have no air conditioning and so on Monday it was really hot at work. Then some air conditioning units were delivered that are primarily humidifiers really and now it smells and feels like we are working at the local swimming baths, except we don’t have a poll to dip in to cool off.

One of my bosses left a couple of weeks ago and I got a really lovely card from her yesterday, which was I was touched by. I brought it home in case it shrivelled up in the damp atmosphere at work. I feel that I might go into work one day this week and find that everything has mould growing on it. I dread to think what my work will be like by the time I get back from my holiday.

Monday, June 28, 2010


It felt like a very busy weekend, primarily because having a six month old around seems to fill the day up very easily. I don’t know how people who have young children have time to do anything other than look after them.

It is amazing how good having people arriving with very late notice is at focussing your mind and energy though. This meant that we had to get the place tidied so that it looked presentable. Everywhere except the main bedroom got sorted out in about an hour – but this involved turning the main bedroom into an absolute bomb site. So keeping the door closed on that bedroom, and only going in there under cover of darkness, have proved to be the solutions to that issue.

I watched the England match yesterday, even though I had not planned to do so, and it reminded of all of the very painful reasons that mean that I don’t normally bother.

Friday, June 25, 2010


G’s sister and niece are coming down to stay for a few days (or longer, it’s all a bit vague at the moment). There seems to be “trouble at mill” (you have to say that with a northern accent, even though they are Scottish). They are driving down today from Glasgow, which will be a long old drive and then we’ll see how long they are staying for.

Their visit was unexpected but it will be nice to see them. It was G’s niece’s christening that we missed due to the ash cloud, so it will only be the second time we have ever met her.

Anyway, have a good weekend.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


The cat has returned! She strolled back in in the early hours of yesterday morning and was totally unfussed about her time in the wilderness. That's cats for you.

So, England play today. I have no interest in watching the match, but am looking forward to the tube being really quiet when I head home.

Tomorrow, I am off somewhere really early so there will be no post. Have a good couple of days.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


My parents are back from their holiday, the cat has not returned. Perhaps it will turn out that the cat has just been in a strop since my parents went away and that she will return as though nothing has happened.

I’m pretty miffed that Portugal beat North Korea 7-0. I think this make it less likely that Honduras is going to end up with the worst goal difference. Life is very cruel. Although the North Koreans might argue that it has been more cruel to them than to me in this World Cup, particularly given its human rights record and so on. It would have been nice to win a tenner though.

Monday, June 21, 2010


It was a mixed weekend. G was ill and so that limited our plans. I went out on Saturday morning to see if I could help to track down my parents’ missing cat. No progress on that one, but my parents are home from their hols today, so perhaps she will turn up then. I also went to a friend’s on Saturday night (G was too ill to go) and we ate lots of nice things and I was given leftovers to bring home for G.

After I was at my parents’ on Saturday, I decided to walk to their local high street to try and pick up a few bits. I went into their local Oxfam to have a quick glance at the books and there was this chap who was in there who was just acting a bit oddly. I couldn’t quite identify what it was that he was doing, but it seemed to involve rustling carrier bags. He saw that I had twigged whatever he was doing was unusual and he walked closer to the door, then he turned and looked at me and I looked at him. Again I wasn’t quite sure what it was that was odd, but I knew it was something. Then he took a swift exit out of the door – and, to the best of my knowledge, walked out with a couple of books he hadn’t paid for. I think it was in the back of my mind that it looked like he was trying to do something like that, but I wasn’t quite sure. When he went out the door, I still wasn’t 100% certain, but didn’t really feel that I could accuse a stranger – and if I had, who knows what he might have done. So I said nothing, which I wasn’t terribly impressed by, but the woman in the shop, who was well over retirement age didn’t really look the sort to be able to do much either.

I do sort of feel as though I should have done something because that chap probably got away with stealing from a charity shop (not that it is any better to steal from anywhere else). If he did, he will now possibly think he can get away with it again. But there’s not a lot I can do now.

Friday, June 18, 2010


My parents are away on holiday at the moment. My mum phoned me last night to say that their cleaner, who has been feeding their cat, phoned to say that the cat has been missing for several days. I wasn’t entirely sure that this was a great thing to phone my parents about while they were on holiday (as there is nothing they can do), but the woman is over 80, so perhaps I should be a bit more charitable.

Anyway, I phoned their cleaner to talk to her about it and to reassure her a bit, and it does seem that she is very worried, has been losing sleep over it and spends a lot of her days there in the hope that the cat will reappear. She even put a note through the door of several neighbours in case they had seen the cat.

The thing is that there is a cat flap, so the cat can go in and out as she pleases and the cat doesn’t really like it when people are about so hides. I suspect that she will reappear when my parents are back. I’m going over there tomorrow morning anyway to meet up with their cleaner to try and stop her worrying so much and in the vague hope that the cat will probably appear from somewhere.

I am glad I don’t have pets.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


A new manager who started a few weeks ago is growing on me. She is a bit like a whirlwind at times, but with a bit of work, she does listen. I think. We had a long chat a couple of days ago and I managed to persuade her that now was not the time to put some of her team on performance plans i.e. for underperforming. They have all been set a hard task until the end of July and so I managed to make the case that this was the way for them to up their game, and if they don’t so it, there’s still the opportunity to take further action in August. I am more into carrot than stick (although there are times when a “stick” is the only way), so I am now hoping that her team manage to up their game over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


G and I both did some volunteering last night (separately). It was reasonably successful, except that with mine, one person failed to turn up and the other arrived very late. I could have just done with an early night as well. I have to go back next week to see the person who failed to show up last night. I feel I will be tasked with tearing a strip off them.

I am reading a good book at the moment by William Trevor – The Story of Lucy Gault. A somewhat sad tale, but very readable and a speedy read at that.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Things have been somewhat quiet of late concerning G’s wayward niece. G phoned her yesterday though and it turns out she has got engaged. At 16. Interesting. In some ways it is a relief though. She has got his name tattooed on the back of her neck (which was done only a few weeks after they got together). So it would have meant a life of only being able to go out with blokes with that particular name. Every cloud and all that...

Monday, June 14, 2010


Time seems to be flying by. Another weekend passed and another week ahead. We did various things over the weekend, including me baking some cake to try and eat something sweet that doesn’t have any sugar in it. We will see if it worked, particularly as I changed one of the ingredients and didn’t have a couple of the others!

I seem to have an ever-growing list of books to read. I keep seeing things on the TV or hearing about various things and wanting to learn more about them. The latest thing I want to know more about is Operation Mincemeat, which was a British plan in World War 2 to mislead Hitler about our invasion plans. Very interesting. But so are many things that I keep learning about.

On Saturday, we also watched the film The Lives of Others, which was a really good film. It one the best Foreign Film Oscar a few years ago and I can see why. So if you are ok with subtitled and very un-Hollywood films then it’s well worth watching.

Friday, June 11, 2010


So, the World Cup starts today apparently. It’s not really something that interests me. In previous major tournaments, I have seen the times when England plays as a really great opportunity to go out and do things because everywhere is so quiet. That is probably terribly unpatriotic. I will be (sort of) supporting Honduras - in the sense that I hope they lose every badly because then I will win some money in the sweepstake at work. I might find a new interest in football for a few moments if I win a few quid.

This weekend is a blank canvas at the moment. I have a very bad habit of sometimes waking up rather earlier at the weekend than I do during the week. I usually use that extra time to either catch up on the mountain of programmes that are waiting to be watched or possibly read a book. The books are piling up and there seems to be so little time to read them. So, hopefully this will be a fairly lazy weekend with a lot of “catching up” going on.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I am going back to my old office today (as in where I used to work before I went on a secondment) to help them out with something for most of the afternoon. I have to say that, whilst the people I used to work with were really nice, I don’t miss the work itself. It will be good to see them again though.

Work has been really busy this week. My team have had to take work from another team to help them out, so I have taken on some of the work myself because I thought there was too much to split it amongst the people in my team. I currently seem to have a complete lack of time to deal with this work myself though. This is not ideal. I will be glad when the weekend gets here.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Yesterday when I went into work I took the lift to the floor where I work. As the lift ascended I momentarily thought it sounded a bit odd, but then it arrived at my floor and I stepped out of the lift and thought nothing more of it. About two hours later, someone I work with got stuck in the lift. As it turned out, others had thought the lift sounded a bit odd as well and had thought nothing more of it. I guess at least we were all equally deficient. I actually still have no idea quite what it was that I thought was odd. But perhaps I should pay more attention to my instincts in future.

I found the latest government announcement of asking the public to decide where the cuts should fall to be somewhat concerning. I thought we had elected a government (or not quite elected a government…) to make the decisions, but, in another example of sloping shoulders, the decision making is up to us, the public. So that in years to come the finger can be pointed at us as being responsible for the ensuing problems.

I was concerned to see mention of “star chambers” though. The reading of my history books has already paid dividends as I read about those recently. It is not encouraging though. Star Chambers lasted until the end of Charles I reign i.e. when he was beheaded. Various monarchs used them, and Charles I did it in the most extreme form. Star Chambers were undemocratic ways of hand picked individuals to make secret decisions where those issues could not perhaps withstand public scrutiny. In other words, they were highly dubious decisions which did not stand up to the rule of law. Charles I used this system the most. He refused to let Parliament sit during his reign and used a star chamber to make the decisions instead. I can’t imagine why he ended up having his head cut off. Still, if that is what brought the star chamber system to an end, maybe there is hope – perhaps the beast that is out current government will face the same fate.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


On Saturday morning, I watched a very small portion of a programme that had Sophie Dahl on it. She was creating a very indulgent meal just for herself. She went and selected her favourites of all sorts of products, down to picking a cheese that she absolutely loved to finish off the meal.

Whilst I am sure what she made was delicious, I couldn’t really get my head around the concept of truly enjoying a meal, however delicious it was, that I consumed on my own. Part of the enjoyment of a really great meal, for me, is to be able to share it with someone else. To me, it would be like going on holiday and seeing the most amazing sights and having no-one to turn to and say “wow look at that” and share the experience and the exhilaration.

Perhaps that is a reflection on my character. Perhaps it shows that I, generally, would rather have someone to share things with, and that, whilst I am fine with my own company, ultimately I would rather have someone else about to truly enjoy an experience. So, maybe I slightly envy Sophie Dahl’s ability to truly savour something in that way – be that food or some other experience – but for me, however great the food or the sight, having someone to share the experience with is a whole part of the enjoyment. So maybe that is a useful thing that I learned from Ms Dahl.

Monday, June 07, 2010


At the moment I am reading a number of different books. As it turns out, but perhaps not unsurprisingly, this is a very ineffective way to get your reading done, but that hasn’t stopped me. One is a fiction book – The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins - and the other two are both non-fiction – one on civil liberties and another on politics since 1918.

For some reason, I seem to have a need at the moment to understand how we have got to where we are as a nation, primarily on a political front. I am not someone who is very political really, but I see how much politics impacts our lives. One of the things I have noticed over the last few years is that we lack real characters in politics these days – and I think that character is generally represented by someone having a strong ideology. They are known for having a strong view that impacts the way that they operate. But actually over the last few years, the main motivator for politicians seems to have been staying popular – primarily with the media and secondly with the public. It makes for very tedious and directionless politics in my view.

There is also an old adage about history repeating itself and so I wonder if, in uncertain times, it is possible to have some idea of what the future might hold.

On a more minor note, one of the things I have learned though is that until about the middle of the last century some people had more than one vote. It seems that it was a way of giving the working class the vote, but allowing their “betters” to have more of a say. If you were a graduate, right up until the 1940s you could vote twice in an election. How very democratic.

Friday, June 04, 2010


Today I am going back to where I used to work to help them out with something and then next week giving a talk. My “personal development plan” for the year, as identified by my boss, is to spend time keeping in touch with where I used to work. To which I said “so basically you’re telling me I have to go and drink coffee with people”. Of course, I think it is also a bit of a double edged sword because the underlying message is that at some point I might need to go back there if the money runs out. So probably I shouldn’t be spending too much cash (my own, I might add. It isn’t that generous a development plan) on coffee in case I need it for other purposes at some point.

Thursday, June 03, 2010


It was only about 5pm yesterday that I saw there had been that shooting in Cumbria. What a terrible thing to have happened to so many people who were just going about their ordinary lives. G and I went out for a walk for half an hour last night and, despite walking along quite back streets, saw three different policemen either on bikes or in cars. I wondered if they were out to show a visible presence and reassure people (not that it happened anywhere near London).

It was hard to get back into work mode yesterday. I pottered my way through the day and got everything done, but really I was still in holiday mode. We’d also had some office moves over the weekend, so it was a bit chaotic at times, but during the course of the day, various things got sorted out. One of the other teams had their monthly meeting and when one of them came back from the meeting early I briefly explained why things had been moved about a bit. He absolutely bit my head off, and it was only when the others came back that I found out he had walked out of the team meeting. As much as my team might get miffed about things at times, I have never had that happen. I feel there is a bit of tension in the office at the moment and today I need to have a word with someone from my team who sent me a very stroppy e-mail last week. The joys of management.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


We had a really good time away in Poole with my sister and nephew. We went to the seaside, Monkey World, Brownsea Island, ate fish and chips and much more. Unfortunately there were no waves for my nephew to run away from. Possibly not helped by the reef that was recently installed.

Monkey World was great. We saw lots of moneys (unsurprisingly), and it was hard to choose between the orang-utans, chimps and gibbons for cuteness. I am not sure if the orang-utans won or totally lost it when one of them drank the urine of another and then spent the next several minutes licking up all the urine it had missed. Very, very amusing. But not generally recommended as a cleaning technique.

Here is the offending orang-utan for your perusal:

Friday, May 28, 2010


In a bid to not eat sugar, but still being able to eat sweet stuff, I baked a cake last night. I am going to have some today. I hope it is ok. It has strawberries in it. What could possibly go wrong?

We are off to Poole this weekend with my sister and nephew. My nephew seems to hope that the main feature of the weekend will be running away from waves. It’s the simple things… We might try and do some other things as well, like go to Monkey World.

We’re not back until Tuesday, so I’ll be back here Wednesday. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I came very close to losing my temper with a colleague yesterday. She only started three weeks ago, but let me tell you what I know about her so far. There is one way to do things, and it’s her way – and she is always right. We were in a managers’ meeting yesterday and it is fair to say that we had a very robust discussion.

After the meeting, I found out that the reason someone who is a good friend of mine has been off sick is due to stress – and this new manager is her boss. It’s not a good start. She is due to be back in the office today and so I am going to have a chat with her and see if I can do anything to help to reduce her stress levels.

The new manager and I will be sitting opposite each other as of next week. I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


We are still continuing with our sugar purge, but given that we went out for dinner on Friday night (no dessert), went to some friends for dinner on Monday night (including dessert) and out for dinner last night (no dessert), we are maybe not setting ourselves the easiest task. I have been pretty good at not falling off the wagon, although I did have two white chocolate ferrero rocher last night. *sigh*

It has been so hot at work recently. We have air conditioning that switches off it the temperature outside gets too high. I am not sure who designed the system we have, but I am thinking that maybe they hadn’t finished their qualifications before they were let loose on the real world.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Late nights and early mornings do not a working brain make. I was doing nice things I might add.

I'll be back tomorrow.

Monday, May 24, 2010


On Saturday, I opened the back door of the car to get a bag out and there was a photo of a small baby on the floor of the car. I had no idea who the baby was or where the photo had come from. I showed the photo to G, who also had no idea. I mentioned it to my sister and told her some of the details of the photo, including the baby’s bedding and she said it is my nephew – although it isn’t very recognisable as him if it is. However, that doesn’t explain how the photo of him as a baby appeared in my car, particularly given that he is five years old now. Very odd.

We went with my mum and sister to see Ruby Wax on stage last night. It was quite good, but also a bit hit and miss in places. I didn’t feel worthy to be there though, given that in the audience close to where I was sitting, I saw Celia Imrie (who I think is marvellous, in case I haven’t made this clear before), John Sessions, Ronni Ancona and Richard E Grant. We were all in the dress circle, so the mind boggles at who was in the stalls.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Do you know what today is? Well, yes it is 21 May 2010, but it is also National Letter Writing Day. According to World Vision, one in five children in the UK has never received a letter. How terrible is that? So today, is a day to put that right!

As I have mentioned here previously, I am wanting to get back into letter writing and have made a bit of a start on that. There is so much that can be conveyed by taking the time to hand write a letter, so if you can think of someone to write to today, be that a child or an adult, then give it a go. I think I might write to my nephew.

Or don't you like to write letters. I do because it's such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you've done something.

Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I am currently on a regime to try and avoid eating sugar. I have a
very sweet tooth and so it is not an ideal plan for me, but I am hoping
that it will reap rewards – not least avoiding a bit of a rush of sugar
followed by more of a plummet. But, I have to make sure that I am not
denying myself things – so it isn’t about going hungry, it is about
instead of having something sweet, finding something savoury to have

It isn’t just sugar in things like chocolate bars, it has also meant
(for a while at least) re-evaluating my breakfast. I have marmite on
my toast, so that is ok, but I have had to search about for a cereal
that doesn’t have much of a sugar content – and that primarily boils it
down to All Bran.

Have you looked at the back of a box of All Bran? It is primarily
filled with ways to disguise that you are eating it. It suggests you
put a couple of handfuls into the cereal you normally have or that you
put it in a lasagne, chilli con carne or bran muffins. It is hardly a
way to encourage purchasers to feel that All Bran is something to be
enjoyed in its own right. I am not quite sure how much they paid their
marketing people to come up with that strategy.

It was, therefore, with some trepidation that I opened the box of All
Bran. But I need not have feared, it is nowhere near as bad as their
marketing strategy might suggest. Perhaps that is the way they work
though, make people feat the worst and then it can only get better.

I shall soldier on with my (relatively) sugarless life, but am going to
have to find something to guy with a nice cup of tea in the evening
sometimes. Needs must.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


A while ago there was a programme on BBC 4 called Dear Diary. Richard E Grant presented one of the programmes and he was looking at the power of the diary. Unfortunately, the programme isn’t on the BBB iPlayer or YouTube, but if it ever gets repeated, it is worth a watch.

Anyway, he made some really interesting observations on diary keeping. I don’t see my blog as a diary, but I thought some of what he said had echoes and similarities to writing a blog. So I shall with you a couple of things that he said. Make of them what you will.

All diaries are about dealing with loneliness. No matter who or how much you are in love with somebody or how many friends you have there is part of you that is always alone and I think keeping a diary is companionable in that way.

If no-one else has understood you, you are trying to understand yourself in writing it down.

Then at the conclusion of the programme he said this:

I’ve realised now at the end of my journey that I need to be very careful with what I have written in private. I’ve had to be honest in my diary. But however true and authentic it may be, it has power over the innocent bystanders in my life, and I risk betraying myself and them in the words that I leave behind. I’ve realised that my diaries are potentially powerful, possibly hurtful, in that they are open to interpretation. I can feel my hand hovering over the delete button as I speak.

A diary is your control of what you want to say about things. How other people read it, interpret it or use it then you have no control any more, unless it is completely secret and you press the delete button or you burn the lot.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Two years ago, G and I went on holiday to Cornwall. While we were there, we listened to The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. A Canadian book. Last year went to Canada on holiday.

Last year, while we were in Canada, we listened to another talking book. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. A Swedish book. This year we are going to Sweden on holiday.

Make of that what you will. I will make sure I am careful about any talking books I choose though and perhaps will avoid any set in a prison or hell.

Monday, May 17, 2010


It was a busy weekend. We sorted out our holiday to Sweden. The itinerary is finalised, train tickets are all booked, after finally having to resort to calling the Swedish rail company and booking the tickets over the phone, and hotels are booked. I am just hoping the train tickets are right because the only way to get confirmation of the details is when I get the tickets out of a machine in Sweden in July…

We went to Southampton on Saturday to see a friend and meet her new baby, which was very pleasant. I then had to meet up with the freeholder on Sunday, who wants lots of money to do various bits of maintenance. I rather picked up that one of my neighbours has lied to them, by telling them she doesn’t have a job, to explain why she hasn’t been paying any maintenance charges. I just stayed silent on the matter, as I know full well that she is working. None of my neighbours turned up to the meeting, so I went for a coffee with the freeholder and her husband, which was a weird concept, as I have very mixed feelings about her, but it was pleasant enough.

As part of my wanting to write more letters, I wrote to a local councillor who lost his seat at the recent elections. He had been our independent councillor for years, but, somewhat surprisingly, lost his seat. He had been really helpful over the years and so I had written to him to say that I was sorry he wasn’t going to be our councillor any more. He dropped round yesterday afternoon to say thanks for the letter and we chatted for a few minutes. I felt rather sad after the conversation because he is a good chap and it is a real shame he won’t be our councillor any more. I was glad that I wrote to him though, and I got some rather speedy feedback on how much he appreciated getting the letter. So, I should take that as impetus to find other suitable moments to drop someone a few lines.

Friday, May 14, 2010


We’ve come up with a tentative plan for our holiday in Sweden. We wee going to try and travel up towards the Arctic Circle, but every idea seemed to involve having to route back through Stockholm. I am sure Stockholm will be nice, but I don’t think we want to see it several times on the same trip. So we are going to stick to the south and go to Gothenberg and some places in between. We plan to travel by train and I have discovered that booking directly with the Swedish Railway is considerably cheaper than doing it via Rail Europe. It is more responsibility though… Anyway, hopefully it will all be booked by the end of the weekend.

We are off to Southampton tomorrow. A friend had a baby in January and we are, at last, going to visit to meet him. We are only going down for the day, so we’ll get up early to make the most of it. I might have to see the freeholder on Sunday, which is not ideal. She and her husband want to charge us all more money, so we are meant to be discussing it. However, one of my neighbours won’t be about, so I think I will decline to discuss it in any detail. I also intend to prevent them from coming into my home. I really don’t want the freeholder coming in to where I live and so I shall have to learn to say no without sounding overly rude. It could be a challenge knowing what my freeholder is like.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


When I was about to leave work yesterday, there was one member of my team left in the office. I had shut down my computer and was about to put my coat on when I overheard her talking to her husband on the phone, and she was clearly very upset. When she finished her phone call I asked her if she wanted to have a chat and so we spent a while talking about what was going on and cam up with a short-term plan (which included her going home, as it was quite late already and she clearly wasn’t in any state to do more work anyway). My team just seems to go from one problem to another, and I am not unsympathetic, but I do find the scale of things that happen quite hard to keep up with!

It’s been rather cold the last couple of days. In fact, ever since the Tories gained power. I was wondering if this was the first sign of hell freezing over.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I was saddened to see Gordon Brown resign as Prime Minister. I was even more saddened to see David Cameron become the next Prime Minister. I think we will see interesting times ahead, not least because it will take time to see if the Tories can truly get another party to co-operate with them.

Things have moved on in terms of holidays. I sent G an e-mail yesterday (because we aren’t allowed to actually speak to each other obviously) and said that I thought a lot of the reason why I was having trouble coming up with holiday plans was because what I really wanted to do was go to Scandinavia. G rather agreed and so last night we booked flights to Stockholm. We have no idea of what we will do in Sweden, where we will stay etc etc etc. But we do have flights. I guess we’d better get on with coming up with more of a plan.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I was quite late into work yesterday morning. I got on the tube that was hit with various delays and then changed (earlier than normal) to another tube line. Four times, I repeat FOUR TIMES within five stops we had to wait several minutes before we could set off again because someone had set off the passenger alarm on the train in front. Each time, it was because someone had passed out on the train. At one point the train driver even said to us “unbelievably, someone else has passed out on another train in front of us, so we’re going to have to wait here until we get a green signal”. I am guessing it was not a good start to the week for a number of people, particularly those who passed out, but I just decided to get on with reading my book in the hope that at some point I would get to work.

It’s an interesting development that Gordon Brown is going to step down as the Labour Party leader. I won't go into my thoughts on this matter, although I do have quite a few! Instead, here’s a photo I took yesterday when I went and had a nose and had a look at all the various media broadcasters reporting from outside Parliament. (It’s John Sopel and Laura Kuenssberg in case you can’t see it very well!)

Monday, May 10, 2010


We had a busy weekend. On Friday night, we went to a quiz at my nephew’s school. We came second by one point. We was robbed.

Then, on Saturday, we went on the Orient Express to Deal. That was really good and felt very decadent. We left at Victoria at 10.45am and by 11am we were being the first course of our lunch, having already been served champagne. It was a long lunch that lasted until about 1pm. Then we arrived in Deal and had a wander around for a couple of hours by the seaside before boarding the train back to Victoria with afternoon tea to help us to pass the time. It was a really nice day out and we are now going to have to think of other such things to keep us in the style to which we have become accustomed.

I find the election result fascinating – but the post-election coverage less so, particularly given that there is nothing, as such, to report at the moment, which doesn’t stop the 24 hour news rolling on. Given the state of politics these days, anything that might make politicians co-operate more surely has to be a good thing, but we’ll see if we can have any proper form of government, and what that government will look like, in due course.

Friday, May 07, 2010


So we voted and ate Chinese food to celebrate our anniversary. We know how to live. We even have leftovers from the Chinese for lunch today. A celebration and yet also practical. What does that tell you about our relationship?

A new manager started this week. She is the same level as me and seems nice enough – which is a good thing as we will be sitting opposite each other in about a month’s time. However, she phoned me yesterday. From her desk which is about 20 feet away. I felt I had to talk to her in a quiet tone because we would probably have been able to hear each other without the use of a phone if I hadn’t. I don’t think it’s normal to phone someone that you could either walk over to in about 10 seconds or just raise your voice and (anti-socially admittedly) speak to each other. I feel I am going to have to break her of this habit or else I will have to build a huge wall between our desks so that we can at least pretend we need to use a phone to speak. I will be keeping an eye on her for other strange quirks.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


So it’s Election Day. Remember to go out and vote! I normally vote on the way into work, but G didn’t want to have to get up extra early to vote, so we’ll go together after work tonight. I am not hopeful that tomorrow’s result will be a good one. I have spoken to so many people who fear we will end up with a Tory government and I haven’t spoken to anyone who thinks it would be a good thing. But I don’t think the people I know are representative of the population as a whole.

Not only is today election today, but G and I have also been together for three years. G did ask if, in light of it being Election Day, if it might be an opportunity for a change of leadership in our relationship. However, I explained that our relationship is not a democracy and there will be no such changes and any votes cast for such a move will be declared null and void. Coups will also be severely punished.

Mind you, it is actually quite an achievement that we made it to three years given that yesterday G sent me this article. Everything has now become clear.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


We are now thinking about further destinations for a holiday and have been wondering about Belgium? Does anyone ever really think of Belgium as a holiday destination? Is this a weird place to be considering? We will probably have ruled it out by the end of today and come up with somewhere totally different as a holiday idea by then.

I felt really out of sorts yesterday. I think the only word that I can think to describe how I felt was “bored”. I don’t know why really. I just didn’t feel inspired. Someone new is starting today so I will have to pretend to feel inspired even if I am not actually feeling like that. It’s odd because I don’t normally feel bored at work. Perhaps I need to find some new inspiration to liven things up a bit there.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


We had a good weekend. We went to Stratford overnight (and stayed in a ropey, but incredibly cheap Travelodge) and that was pleasant, but we didn’t get to see a play because the RSC don’t have any performances on a Sunday night. I have to say that I am not someone who really “gets” Shakespeare and so don’t particularly feel as though I am missed out. Although, they are performing Anthony and Cleopatra at the moment and I studied that at A-level and did like it. Most Shakespeare passes me by though and I don’t normally have a clue what’s going on. Is that a terrible thing to confess?!

We still haven’t got a clue what we are going to do for our summer hols. We seem to be going round and round in circles about what we are going to do and have looked at a few options, but then when we have added up the cost, it seems to be crazy amounts to spend. At this rate, I think we will just decide it is less hassle to stay at home.

Friday, April 30, 2010


Last July, I wrote to John Lewis because I was really unhappy with their customer service. I chased the complete lack of replies and did this most recently a week ago (which was my second letter to the Managing Director asking why I hadn’t had a response). I got a phone call earlier this week from one of their stores that I had expressed particular concerns about saying that this was the first time they had seen my letter. Apparently it was “nobody's fault” and was due to a “glitch”. Well, I am glad that they are breathing a huge sigh of relief that John Lewis is satisfied that no-one there was to blame for me waiting over nine months for a reply to my letter. I await their full response. I think it will make interesting reading.

Here’s a question for you. Can you complete the following sentence correctly? According to David Cameron “The most natural human instinct of all” is:

a) to reproduce
b) to show kindness
c) breathing
d) to pass on your house to your children when you die without paying inheritance tax
e) survival

In case you were not aware of your most natural human instinct – the answer is d apparently. Seriously, that man could be our Prime Minister next week. Let that totally shallow answer tell you what we could end up with for the next four years if you vote Tory. Use your vote wisely and at least vote for a party that isn’t just out for number one.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Sometimes I don’t like being a manager. Yesterday, we had a big meeting with all the teams to make sure that they knew what the targets are for the year and to give them the opportunity to ask questions and make comments. I have two bosses and one of them was off sick (she genuinely was sick, it wasn’t to avoid the meeting!), so I felt the need to make sure that my other boss was not left to take all the wrath. The meeting got a fairly negative response, although those who were fine with it didn’t really say a lot.

As we walked out of the meeting, I asked one of them how she felt about it all and she sort of jokingly turned to me and said “creep”. I was a bit speechless at this. First of all, this person is quite a good friend of mine. Second of all, I wasn’t being a creep by backing up my boss, we as managers had helped to shape the objectives and agreed them, and so to leave my boss to take the flack wouldn’t even have crossed my mind. When we got back to our office, she made some other comment and I just said something like “I’m not even going to bother to respond to that” and walked back to my desk.

She e-mailed me later to say she felt bad about how she had spoken to me and she had taken her stress out on me. I said that it was ok, but that I didn’t quite get why she was having a go at me, and that it hadn’t been ideal to do it when she did because I couldn’t really ask what was going on in front of other people. I also said we’d talk about her feeling stressed at some other point, as that seems, ultimately, to be what was underlying it.

I am not one to hold a grudge and I have had rather more acrimonious discussions with people at work before, but I can’t say that it isn’t rather disappointing to have a friend speak to me like that. But I guess that is what happens when you’re friends with people at work.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


So I think we have changed the holiday plans. We might now go to Germany and possibly Austria. This means getting out a whole new piece of blank sheet of paper to put together another potential trip. I am definitely going to need a holiday after all of this planning.

I was bemused by a story on the BBC about a woman whose mobile phone number accidentally appeared on EastEnders. The article says:

Mrs Edwards says she received 2,800 messages after the episode was aired in September, some of them abusive.

I really wouldn’t be paying enough attention to notice the number and then be able to text someone an (abusive or otherwise) message. Some people really do have much time on their hands…

The article does then add:

...the large volume of messages received by Mrs Edwards could in part be explained by The Sun subsequently reporting the story and carrying a picture of Ricky's phone which showed the number.

That was helpful then.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I am not someone who normally expresses particularly strong political views, except perhaps occasionally to those who know me well, and I think I won’t get into an argument about it. However, there is a Tory that just sums up what that party is about and why it is dangerous to vote for them. Ultimately they are self-centred, out of touch and only interested in the middle-classes (or “above”).

They have announced a much hyped policy that if at the age of 65 you have £8000 in savings that can be used to negate the risk of having to sell your home to pay for going into a care home. On the surface that sounds like a reasonably good plan. Who wants to lose their home, particularly if they have invested of their mine and themselves in it? However, the reason the Tories advocate this plan is to reward those who have “done the right thing” i.e. saved up their money.

That is such a dangerous argument. It is putting a morality on people’s ability to save. This is the same Tory party who in the next breath have criticised the Labour government for their being two and a half million old people in poverty. I don’t think that statistic is actually true (having checked some of the data), but let’s carry through that Tory argument. Presumably, they would then have to say “Those two and half million people who are in poverty, do not have £8000 and this is because they have den the wrong thing”.

I am all for people taking responsibility for their own lives, but that people don’t have £8000 in savings does not equate to having done the wrong thing with money. What about people on the minimum wage? What about people who have had ill-health that has affected their ability to earn money? What about people who have never been in debt in their life, but have not had the capacity to save because they needed the money to keep a roof over their head and to feed themselves?

It is a policy aimed at the middle-class voter and is totally out of touch with the reality of many people’s lives. Nobody should unnecessarily lose their home, but turning it into a virtue for the better off to be able to pay a sum because they have “lived right” surely tells you all you need to know about how fair a country we will have if the Tories win the election. A scary, scary prospect.