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.

Monday, April 26, 2010


On Saturday morning I woke up early because I had a really sore throat. A few minutes later, I realised that actually I didn’t have a sore throat and instead it had, presumably, just been a very vivid dream. Very odd.

Yesterday, we put some major thought into our summer holiday. We plotted out a route that involves flying to Munich and then travelling by train through Austria, Switzerland and France and then home on the Eurostar. However, having costed it all out, it seems like a pretty expensive trip and would cost about the same amount as when we went to Canada last year (we only paid £100 for our flights to Canada though, so it isn’t entirely a fair comparison, but even so…). It’s the accommodation in Switzerland that is so expensive. I am now trying to think of a plan B, which will either mean finding a cheaper way to do this or thinking of a new destination. Much to ponder.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Last night was the leaving do for the big boss. It is his last day today and it will be the end of an era. I have worked for him twice in the last nine years (as I have returned to work somewhere I worked several years ago) and he certainly set the tone of the organisation and made it a decent place to work. We will wait to see what the future holds for us next.

Yesterday morning on the tube on the way into work, I quite clearly saw a police officer reading a classified document. I did have the urge to lean across to him and suggest that a tube train was not the right place to be reading such things, but then decided that a police officer has more power than me and that maybe it wouldn’t be the best decision.

I wrote to Nick Clegg this week. He really miffed me with something that he said during the leadership debate last week. As it still bothered me this week, I decided that I should write. Do I think it will make a difference? Not really. But at least I gave it a go.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Lately, a number of things have made me think about writing letters. I mentioned this last week actually. I have decided that this is something I should take action on, whether it be writing someone a letter or a card with a message in it.

It might help to make sure that when the postman turns up each day he is bringing more than bills. I have also decided that at least some of the letters need to be handwritten (in legible handwriting!) and that I need to look for opportunities to write to people. I know someone who is off long term sick and so I could write to her, as well as phone. There is also someone who I meant to write to a long time ago just to give them a brief bit of encouragement/ positive feedback on something, and doing it now will still be a relevant. I feel this might take a while to become a more normal thing to do, but taking the time to write to someone and to put the card or letter in the post to them strikes me as something that is important not to lose as a form of communication in the instant world in which we live.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


One of the good things about the Icelandic volcano is that it has pushed the ever tedious election coverage further down the news rankings. It has meant that we have at least had some other things to think about than parties peddling policies and taking swipes at their opposition.

I have, however, raised an eyebrow on more than one occasion at what people have done or, more accurately, spent to get back to the UK. I have heard a number of tales of people who have spent about 2000 Euros on taxis etc to get back. Admittedly, some people probably have strong reasons to get back – if they are self employed or have serious commitments that they can’t break. I also know that some hotels have, somewhat cynically, hiked their prices. But it would take an awful lot of reasons to get me to spend ever mounting amounts to get home.

When we went to Jersey, there was the prospect that BA might strike, so before we went we talked about what we would do if we had problems getting back. We concluded that we would wait it out. We’d see if we could stay on at the B&B and wait until we could go home. We were not willing to get a ferry across the Channel and then a train or coach back to London.

Admittedly what has happened with the volcano was rather unexpected for the travelling public, but if it were me, I would stay where I was unless I had no alternative. Epic journeys at great expense just don’t do it for me, unless it is part of the holiday of a lifetime. I suspect there are some people who have made it home with a great story to tell of their intrepid adventures, but wondering why they shelled out all that money.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


So it’s back to work today. It was really nice not to be in work yesterday, despite G using a lot of the time to write a job application.

The freeholder is being a pain again. Having out up with well over a year’s worth of building works, we thought being disturbed by them was now over. However, the next thing they are tackling is the garden next door, which is currently just mud. They have laid grass seed and it needs to be regularly watered in order to stand any chance of growing. The freeholder told my new neighbour to use our tap – for which we pay for the water supply. My neighbour did have the manners to come and ask and I did say how unimpressed I was with her landlord (who is my freeholder), but said it was ok. Then on Sunday the freeholder came round and asked to use it and ran a hose pipe for ages.

When I went outside later there was lots of mud outside my back door and they had also made it really wet, so it was impossible to step outside my back door without getting mud on my shoes or traipsing through the water. They had also left part of the hose-fitting on the tap, presumably so that it was easy to attach a hosepipe to it whenever they (or my neighbours) want to do so. The tap is right outside my back door and kitchen window, both of which have clear glass in them, so it means that, once again, we are having our privacy invaded by the freeholder (and now my neighbours, who I don’t even know) and are dealing with their mess.

At the moment I am dealing with it in a very passive aggressive way – by standing in the back garden and complaining to G about the mess that was left and detaching the bit of the hose that was left on my tap and putting on their windowsill for them. I really just want to be able to live undisturbed, without feeling that I might walk into my kitchen and find my neighbour standing outside my back door, or stepping over their hosepipe to get into my garden or dealing with the mess they leave behind. Grrrr…

I know I should perhaps just go and talk to my neighbour, but that would be too sensible and reasonable, so instead I shall carry on dealing with it in a passive aggressive way in the hope that they will somehow pick up from this that all is not well and go away. Somehow, I doubt this cunning plan will work.

Monday, April 19, 2010


So, we didn’t get to go to Scotland. I was not desperately upset by this, but clearly it was inconvenient. We were going there for a christening (G’s niece), so we missed that, but might go in June instead. So we had a free weekend and we went for a really nice walk in the sunshine, bought a new vacuum cleaner and went to my parents’ for Sunday lunch. Neither of us are going to work today because we had already booked the day off, as we were due to fly back today, and so figured we might as well take the day off anyway.

I was wondering how much food we get by air? Are we going to start seeing panic buying at some point if this flight ban continues for a bit longer? Should we be stocking up on tins and learning to become more self-sufficient? I suspect we are a long way off from being a nation that starts to run out of staple goods, but perhaps I will buy extra supplies of tea bags just in case. It really would be a crisis to run out of tea.

Anyway, I hopefully have a leisurely day ahead. I might spend some of it reading – I have so many books that I want to read at the moment – or doing other such things. I could get used to a life of leisure.

Friday, April 16, 2010


So… tonight the plan was to fly to Glasgow. I hadn’t quite factored in volcanoes as a potential way to scupper this plan. It’s that Iceland again. First they don’t refund us our money when their bank collapsed and now they send plumes of volcanic ash in our direction. This beginning to miff me. I think I might not buy any of their frozen food just to get back at them.

I am reading The Wind Up Bird Chronicle at the moment, which I am really enjoying. I have found it really engaging and think it is a great book so far. Except in one part. One part that involved a very graphic description of a man being skinned alive. Oh my goodness. Skinned alive. I have to say that I skimmed read that part and skipped parts of it entirely. It was very descriptive, shall we say. It’s a good book though.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


It has been a busy week so far. I have felt a bit like I had jet lag, which isn’t really possible given that Jersey is only a 35 minute flight away and is on the same time zone. I think perhaps I am just lazy then. I did, however, go back to a mountain of work and have done volunteering a couple of nights this week (which included being told off for having a clicky pen, but also getting some praise for my tough line that I took with someone I had to deal with. I got praise from scary man!).

I have noticed that the number of books I have read this year has seriously declined compared to the past two years. If I carry on at this rate, I will read half the number I did last year – only ending up somewhere in the mid-thirties. I have read one very long book this year (The Count of Monte Cristo), but feel that I need to up my pace because there are so many books that I want to read and so little time…

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I was away last week when the election was announced, although I did see some coverage of it on the rare occasions we were allowed to sit down while we were away. However, even the little bit that I saw bored me. The coverage I have seen since has bored me all the more. I just find all the bickering and politicians trying to outdo each other absolutely pathetic.

I will vote though because I think it is really important for people to do so, and it is difficult to complain about the system if you are not willing to be part of it yourself. But I can imagine that there could be a low turn out due in no small part to the real turn off that this election campaign seems to be. I will have to vote tactically though because my MP is in such a safe seat that there really isn’t much chance of him losing it, but I exercise my vote to put a cross in the box for the party I think might oust him, in the hope that others might turn out and do the same. It’s a slim hope, but a hope nonetheless.

However, regardless of my tactics, a website that might help you to decide who to vote for (and please do vote if you are in the UK…) is one called Vote for Policies. Interestingly, the Greens are in the lead in terms of who people “should” vote for based on their answers, but a colleague pointed out to me that their policies are rather more aspirational and not weighed down by things like facts and figures. (They might well be more grounded in reality, but not in the way they are summarised on the site.) So if you are bored by the campaign but can come to terms with the fact that we are going to have a government of some sort following election day, then it might be worth your time finding someone to vote for*.

*Unless you are going to vote Tory, in which case, please ignore all of the above.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

South of the border

It was really hard getting through a day’s work yesterday. I am not used to spending so much time sitting – although G might have appreciated the opportunity. I have also got out of the habit of getting up early. I need to win the lottery tomorrow night (there’s a £17 million jackpot…) and start my life of leisure immediately.

I might get round to uploading my Jersey photos on to my computer some time soon and then will possibly post some here. However, what those photos won’t show is that there are a lot of Scottish people in Jersey. I am not sure if it is as far as they are allowed to travel and therefore they congregate there or there is some other pull factor but everywhere we went there seemed to be a lot of Scottish people (and G was, of course, boosting the numbers). I bought some petrol in Jersey one day and the chap behind the counter was Scottish and I made some comment about how he wasn’t a local and then said that G was from Glasgow. The chap was decidedly shifty and I reckon he was on the run from something judging by the rather evasive answers he gave me. So maybe Jersey is a place that harbours lots of Scottish criminals. Where is Bergerac when you need him?

I have also been disappointed to learn that the weather was fairly good in London while I was away in sunny Jersey. I was hoping that whilst we basked in sunshine, London was suffering a deluge of rain. I did go away with this image in my mind that we were going to be in glorious sunshine though and it seems that I was right. It is a shame that I can’t use my intuition for something useful like picking tomorrow night’s winning lottery numbers.

Monday, April 12, 2010

More sitting needed

We’re back from Jersey and we had a great time. The weather was fantastic and there was lots to do – G would say we did too much and should have done more “sitting”... We did a lot, an awful lot. We saw castles, went to museums, played mini golf, went bowling, went to the cinema, went to the zoo, did an eight mile walk, ate lots of food, drove over 200 miles on what is an island that measures about nine miles by five miles, and even more than that. Can you understand why G might have wanted to do more sitting? Many years ago, I used to go away on holiday with a friend and I would do all of the travel logistics – book flights, car hire, hotels, work out how to get from A to B etc and she would work out what we would do while we were away. It seems that I am a bit of a demon if the activities are left to me to arrange. We did enjoy it though, in a very worn out sort of way. I would recommend Jersey and I think we might go back some time. We did still find time to send postcards. I am an old fashioned sort who still thinks it is nice to send postcards while on holiday.

The Channel Islands were under German Occupation during World War II and we learned quite a lot about that while we were there and it has made me interested to learn more. It is quite a sad history and some Channel Islanders were sent to Concentration Camps, which I was rather shocked to learn. I was also reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society while I was away, which is actually set just after World War II and says quite a lot about the occupation. It meant more to me having learned about some of it while I was in Jersey and was a reasonable enough read – even though Guernsey and Jersey are not the best of friends, so it was probably sacrilege to be reading the book whilst in Jersey. I must update my book blog, as I am now three books behind on that.

The book did (again) make me think about the lost art of letter writing though (It is primarily made up of a series of letters). I used to be a prolific letter writer, but over the years I have given up writing letters, but sending e-mails and texts is not the same and it is a shame to be losing this form of communication. I shall ponder this further.