Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Cheer

I have finally finished for Christmas.  I haven’t had a week or more off work since April.  I am now off work for three weeks and during that time we are going to Scotland for a few days (not exactly a holiday…) and to Iceland (the country, not the supermarket).

Battles continue with the freeholder about us taking over the management of where we live.  She and her husband totally object to this, and even more so (if it is possible to “more than totally object” – sorry grammar police, it’s Christmas and I am feeling reckless) that we have appointed a managing agent.  The freeholder and her husband currently seem to be taking a good cop/ bad cop approach with us.  Yesterday, we got an e-mail from the freeholder’s husband – who has no formal role and we don’t actually have to deal with him – basically telling us we were completely rubbish and which included a delightful assessment  saying that given we had appointed a managing agent we are either not willing to accept responsibility or are incompetent.  When I had wiped away the tears of sorrow and shame caused by his missive, I realised that he didn’t even say Happy Christmas to sign off his e-mail.  I think I might now know someone who is on the naughty list…

Anyway, if you have been receiving lots of Christmas round robin letters, you might appreciate this fictional response.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Public Service Announcement

Unless you are super organised, you might still have your Christmas shopping to start – or at least finish.  You might well be doing quite a bit of that shopping on the internet.  I thought it might be worth pointing out that you can basically be paid to do your normal shopping.  If instead of going direct to a retailer you go via Topcashback, you can often get cashback on your purchase.  (Note that if you sign up via that link I get a referral bonus.  A clean link i.e. just direct is here.)  Most major retailers are on there, but two notable ones that are not are Amazon and John Lewis.  The only way I know of to earn anything from them is via Nectar.  You earn nectar points, so if you have a nectar card it is worth going via there as it earns you extra points for just a few extra clicks.

Anyway, back to Topcashback.  You can find out more about cashback websites here.  That explains how they work, the things you should consider when using them etc.  

I use cashback websites for all sorts of things.  For example:

  • I always change my utilities provider when my current deal ends.  I normally get paid about £60 to change companies by going via Topcashback.
  • Whenever I buy train tickets (regardless of which train company I am travelling with), I book them via Southern Trains because it has no booking fees and they post the tickets first class for free.  I go to Southern trains website viaTopcashback and earn about 6% cashback on it.  We had to book G last minute tickets to go to Scotland a few weeks ago and earned about £7 cashback for booking via Topcashback and G was actually traveling on Virgin trains.
  • Booking trips on Expedia.
  • When I look for a new home or car insurance policy when they come up for renewal each year.
  • Buying books from Waterstones.
  •  When I changed broadband provider.

You get the idea…  Anyway, take a look and see if it might work for you and save you some money this Christmas season (and throughout the year!).

Thursday, November 29, 2012


If you live in England or Wales you can look up local eateries here and see how they did when they had a food safety inspection.  I was appalled by the ratings for some of the places near where I live.  Some of the places where I have eaten will not be receiving my custom any more…  A few of my local restaurants received a score of 1.  I suppose at least they didn’t get a 0.  You can also check for Scotland, but the information is a bit patchy and you seem to need to get the information via your local authority.  Wherever you live, check it out.  It is very enlightening!

I am wondering how the kitchen areas where I work would be rated.  I am sure the canteen is fine, but the place where we make a cup of tea is perhaps not so hygienic.  There is a dog at work and I found out this week that his owner cleans his food and water bowls using the sponge provided for us to wash our mugs etc with.  Today his owner was spotted washing a tennis ball that belongs to the dog.  My colleagues seem divided about whether it is unhygienic to share a sponge with a dog.  I know which side of that debate I am on…

Sunday, October 28, 2012


G is much better and went back to work for a few hours last week and is due to be back full time this week – although we’ll see how that goes.  We are eating an anti-inflammatory diet, which basically means a low GI diet, which basically means lot so fibre.  I shall say no more.

I changed jobs about a month ago and that seems to be going ok.  The thing I have found most challenging is going to and from work at peak commuter times.  I have done that for years, but from May to September this year I was working shifts, including weekends, and so missed out on traveling during peak times.  It was so nice, and I find it really hard being crammed into tube trains with hundreds of other people who are equally resentful as me of the experience.

A couple of the other flat owners and I are now in charge of the management and maintenance of where we live.  We want to appoint a management company to run the place for us.  However, the freeholder objects to this (she owns two of the flats, which she rents out, and doesn’t want to pay the costs of a managing agent).  We seem to be in some kind of stand off because she has failed to hand over the service charge money, which is in line with previous tactics of hers to basically fail to carry out repairs etc in order to force us to be compliant with whatever she wanted us to do.  We will have to see who “wins” in this scenario, although I suspect none of us will given that it will make it very difficult for us to work together in future if we can’t trust the freeholder to even abide by the law – which requires her to hand over the money.  Ho hum.

Friday, October 05, 2012


G had an infection last week that looked a bit like a red somewhat angry patch of skin (nowhere intimate I might add!).  Antibiotics were prescribed (twelve per day) and painkillers were taken.  Improvements were not apparent.

On Wednesday, my mum took G to A&E to get it looked at.  A few hours later, G was being operated on under general anaesthetic and, somewhat suprisingly, was discharged that evening.

G then had to go to the GP to get the dressings changed.  The first time was today.  This was the first time it became totally apparent what had been done.  A somewhat deep wound had been packed with material to prevent the wound from healing wrongly.  G thought it was likely a magicians trick was being performed pulling all this "stuffing" out.  An excruciatingly painful magicians trick, which caused tears to cascade down G's face.

The wound was then cleaned and repacked.  G will have to go through the same process again every couple of days.  The next appointment is on Monday, but if the dressing doesn't last, we'll have to go to A&E.

It has to be said that G is milking it and is using me as a personal slave. I've even had to cook dinner.  I feel very hard done by.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Some new tenants moved in upstairs last week.  They are there for a month.

On Saturday morning I was sitting in the living room watching TV and G came in and said that there was water dripping through the bathroom ceiling.  I went and knocked on the neighbours' door and introduced myself and then explained that there was water comign through.  The woman responded "tell the landlord".  I explained that it was due to water goign over the side of the bath (this also happened with the previous tenant) and she just repeated that I needed to tell the landlord.  I said I would but that it needed to be dealt with now because water was coming through right now.  She then asked if I was saying she could never have a shower again.  I was a bit astounded by all this and explained that wasn't what I was saying, but that I needed the water to be dealt with.  I have no idea how we concluded the conversation, but the water did stop a while later, and I texted her landlord.

One of my other neighbours knocked on the door tonight and said, amongst other things, that the new neighbour was drying her washing by hanging it on coat hangers out the front windows.  My neighbour was not impressed.  I needed to text their landlord about something else and so politely tagged on to the end that it wasn't very nice to have someone's washing hanging out the windows and could she ask her tenants not to do it again.

This is going to be a long month.

Friday, September 14, 2012


I like the City Dasboard that has been compiled by UCL.  The London version of it is probably the most interesting.  Perhaps I am biased because that is where I live, but it also has the most data in it.  You can change the city in the top right hand corner.  Other cities include Edinburgh, Manchester, Cardiff and Brighton.

Monday, September 03, 2012


I am loving the Paralympics.  Despite my previous comments about Channel 4's coverage, it has actually improved a lot and is now much more enjoyable.  We went to the Paralympics on Friday and the atmosphere in the Olympic Park was as great as during the Olympics.  We were there for about nine hours and so enjoyed the day.  My nephew didn't want to leave because he was enjoying the wheelchair basketball so much.  We are back there tomorrow night though to watch the athletics.  I am really looking forward to it.

If you are watching the swimming later, please support Susie Rodgers.  I have met her and she is really lovely - and could be on for Gold later.  Come on Susie!

Thursday, August 30, 2012


So the Paralympics have begun.  I have to say that so far I am not very impressed with the Channel 4 coverage.  They spend so much time talking in the studio that they aren't showing half the swimming races.  A Brit broke the world record.  The studio team told us he had and then afew minutes later they showed the race.  I feel they'd already rather given away the ending...

They have also shown some cycling and there was something wrong with the sound balance.  When the commentator was talking during the race it made the roar of the crowd "pulse", which actually made my ear hurt!

And that programme that was in pre-9.30am was embarassingly toe-curling.  That bloke who was one of the presenters was awful (I think he might normally present T4).

I would like to comment more on the sport, but they aren't showing very much of it.  Come on Channel 4.  You can do better than this.  Show us more of the sport (and sort out your sound in the cycling)!

On a more amusing note, you might well have heard the tale of the Spanish lady who recently carried out a rather unfortunate restoration of a painting of Jesus.  Well, now you can do your own.  You know you want to...

Monday, August 13, 2012


Before the Olympics started, whilst I was fairly positive about it, I was not that enthusiastic about it – two weeks of sport was not my ideal. Two weeks on, my view is rather changed. I really loved the Olympics.

I went to three events in the Olympic Park – Team GB women’s team playing hockey, a handball semi-final and the final night of athletics in the Olympic Stadium –so Mo Farrah winning the 5000 metres, the women’s 4 x 400 metres (poor Team GB, a bad first leg and the others with too much left to do) and the men’s 4x100 metres with the likes of Usain Bolt, amongst other things. A great night. The atmosphere in the Olympic Park was brilliant. Everyone was so friendly and it was great to be part of it.

I also got to go to the Team GB VIP lounge and met a few athletes, but had to leave to go and see the handball so missed out on meeting the team GB rowing team - and as Katherine Grainger winning Gold was the best moment of the Games for me, that would have been great. It was a privilege to be there nonetheless. A great Olympics. Roll on the Olympic Victory Parade on 10 September.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


It was my birthday yesterday (Tuesday). I have been working lots recently and it, coincidentally, was my first day off after seven days of working. Worse shifts are to come. It's fine though. Honest. Anyway, you might have noticed that the Olympics are in Town. I thought I would share some Olympic enthusiasm.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Back Again

It’s been a while. Not for any particular reason. Life has just been getting in the way. I am working strange (although not necessarily unpleasant hours). For instance, I am working this weekend, but don’t start until post-lunch, and I had today off and will have Monday off too. I’ve also been looking into training to be a solicitor. Very tempting, but would involve a lot of money and time. I wouldn’t start it this year anyway, so there is time to consider my options. I had a job interview on Wednesday. Whilst I thought some parts of it went well, I thought I was lacking direction in other parts. I would be surprised if I get it, but we shall see. There have been some amusing and interesting things going on, but I am not feeling inspired right now. I shall endeavour to bring some delight to the world of blogging in due course.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Steve Jobs

Friday, May 25, 2012

Time is free, but it's priceless

I am working really odd hours for the next few months and as part of that it means that I will be working a lot of weekends, but with days off during the week.  My concern is that when I am off during the week I will just waste away the day at home and will have done nothing expect watch day time television.  So I have arranged lots of things to do (although I have realised that I need to be careful that I don’t wear myself out by doing too much.  Some days I start work at 7am…).

I was off work today but didn’t get to sleep in.  The freeholder texted gone 9pm yesterday to say that some trial holes would be made today to check on the subsidence.  What she failed to mention in the text was that they would arrive at 7.15am and wake me up by parking outside my bedroom window and then start drilling at 8.30am – having got another neighbour out of bed to move his car.  I sent the freeholder a somewhat terse text to tell her that she needed to provide much more notice and much more detail in future, and that as I have to get up at 5.30am tomorrow (yes!  On a Saturday!  And a Sunday!), I am sure I would feel my lack of sleep from today.  I told her in January, and then reminded her in April, that I would be working unusual hours and specifically asked for a schedule of works so that I could plan accordingly.  Oh, how pleased I am that today or tomorrow she will be served with a notice telling her we are taking over the management of the property.  Perfect timing.

Anyway, back to doing things with my days off…  Today I met up with a school friend.  We first met at the tender age of 11 years old on the very first day of high school.  Today I met her off her train at King’s Cross, and while I was waiting for her train to arrive bumped into someone I used to work with.  I am having lunch with her in a couple of weeks so tried not to summarise too much of my life in the five minutes we spent chatting in case we had nothing to talk about over lunch.  Somehow I think we’ll think of something to talk about though…

Yesterday I did some volunteering with The Conservation Volunteers.  I’ve never done anything like that before, but it was really good.  Being a newbie made no difference to what they were willing to let me do.  I ended up wading for a couple of hours in a lake clearing blanket weed.  They provided the waders and explained what to do if I fell over in the water, in order to make sure that I didn’t drown – helpful!  Anyway, if you are at a loose end, I’d really recommend giving them a go.  I know someone else who volunteers with them and thinks they are great.  They are all over the country, so you don’t have to be London based.

Next week, I am out for dinner a couple of times with friends, I am going to find out more about training to be a solicitor (a possible career change, although I am now wondering about doing something similar that doesn’t involve four years of part time study etc etc), going to a house auction (purely to see what it is like, if I end up buying somewhere, something has gone seriously wrong!), and other such things.