Tuesday, 29 January 2008

The Axe Drops

Another long, long meeting today (this one a whole six minutes) and I am to be made redundant for the first time in my life.

It's scary, liberating, worrying, stomach-churning and bizarre - all in one.

I'm lucky in some ways - I've never been made redundant before. One of my colleagues is experiencing it for the 3rd time in 5 years. Ouch!

I'm looking forward to the 'discussion' with HR over how much holiday pay I am owed. They think I am due 2 days money. I think it's 2.8. Not much init, but that difference is worth around £100 so I'm pushing for what I think is my due.

So - Friday will be my last day, with a week's notice paid in lieu. I need a job. Fast!

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Shut Up, Baby!

Today's title comes from a classic film - Double Indemnity. Which I mention because, for the first time this week, it's actually been quite a good day.

Up early-ish to do some shopping and have a coffee and a naughty cake in the town centre. Then back to tidy the garden a little and sweep up all the leaves that accumulated out the back all winter. This chore was only spoiled by treading in a huge, extra-smelly fox turd which was buried in a mound of leaves. Nothing stinks quite as bad as fox-shit!

Never mind, it was a great day and, for once, even doing housework and gardening (which I normally avoid, like Peter Hain avoids bank statements) were pleasurable.

Then hoovering the whole house - every nook and cranny - while MLYW cleaned the bathroom.

Suitably warmed up, I got out my bike, pumped up the tyres and went for my first ride of the year. Actually, my first ride since, ulp, September! Well, there's the Thames Bridges Ride to train for again, and I need to lose some weight. So I started gently with a 6-mile run around Ash, Tongham and Badshot Lea. A lovely, bright, sunny day, but deceptively chilly when you're cycling at 20mph (soon to drop to half that speed after 1 mile when I got knackered - and was not longer going downhill).

Back home to greet the in-laws and watch the footy with F-I-L Bill, followed by a slap up meal - a gorgeous bean, chorizo and vegetable stew, with cous-cous. Luvverly!

And finally, after the coffee, we watched an old black-and-white movie. It's become a habit in recent weeks. The last couple of times have been Hitchcock nights, but tonight it was time for Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson in the superb film noir which gives us the title of this post.

And now, just a pause to type up this entry. I guess it's a bit dull - just a rundown of a suburban Saturday. But after this week, it's been stimulating, relaxing and enjoyable. Just the tonic. Cheers!

Saturday, 26 January 2008

PhotoHunt: Old-Fashioned


You want old-fashioned? Take your pick...

VE Day

This was a street-party to celebrate VE Day in 1945. I think it's probably in Tolworth, Surrey. My Dad's in the picture somewhere, but I haven't spotted him. He was only 6 at the time. We've got old-fashioned clothes, uniforms, food. I even think the concept of a street-party is pretty old-fashioned nowadays.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Looking for Work

As my employer is making fewer than 10 people redundant at this time, they have no obligation to go through a full 30-day consultation period. Which means that I could be given my notice at any time!

So, I'm on the job-hunt!

I've setup a website which sort of documents the sort of things I think I could do for money. Not sure if it's likely to have any effect, but you never know. If anyone reading this has any feedback on my jobsearch site, please email me or leave a comment here.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Short Not Sweet

Well, fuck-a-doodle-do! That was the shortest meeting that I've ever attended in my professional career. I was meeting our IT Director and the HR person to 'discuss' the 'consultation' which would map my future career with this company. My colleague who went before me was in there for 80 minutes. I walked in, was told that there were people in our US HQ who could do my job and that if I could find an alternative employment quickly, they'd be happy to pay off my notice (a whole week's money: whoop-de-doo!).

So.

Bollocks.

My plan was to stay here long enough to sort out our finances so that MLYW and I could finally look for new jobs that we really wanted. Instead, it's back to looking for another DBA job - well paid, but really not what I want to do.

Anyone out there need an Oracle DBA?

Possibilities

I've just seen a job advertised which looks like it might be OK.

Trouble is, it's in Windsor, which is even more of a pain to get to than Staines.

The ad says it's for an "internationally known manufacturer of luxury sports cars". Does anyone know which company that might be?

The salary is better than my current job, so I guess I should apply - though at present I am incredibly ticked off with my drive to work - and apparently it's got "excellent benefits". Though if one of the benefits is use of a luxury sports car we'll have to move house 'cos I couldn't park it in Aldershot!

Monday, 21 January 2008

A Letter

I've just been called in to the boardroom and told that my job may be at risk because of the reorganisation and handed a letter inviting me to a meeting tomorrow to discuss what happens next.

So far no-one here has got away without one, as far as I can tell. I can't believe that there'll be much work done here for the next week or two...

Thus endeth the live blogging experiment for the afternoon.

All Change?

Here's a wee experiment in LiveBlogging this afternoon:

We've just been told that our department at work is about to undergo a major restructuring. It's no huge surprise - we've not exactly been busy for a while - so now 15 of us (managers and staff) are sitting waiting to be called into the boardroom, to see whether we are to be 'consulted' about redundancy...

Singing! Dancing! Arseing About!

The title of this blog is a pretty good description of the rehearsal process for our Farrago. Last night we ran through the show on the stage. It's looking in pretty good shape, which is good as we've got only 3 weeks until we unleash it onto a suspicious (but pleasantly drunk) public.

A new prospective member came along to meet the merry gang and stayed for a good couple of hours. She was heard laughing at all the jokes, and in all the right places too, so that's a good sign. All we need to do now is learn the lines and remember our cues, and get the pacing right. And learn the "dances". And learn the songs. And get a piano player. So, nearly there then!

Talking of which: we "choreographed" our first big chorus "dance" number too. The quotation marks are totally necessary as it's not so much a dance, as a bunch of fools staggering about, more or less in time to the music (well, lyrics actually, as we don't have a piano-player yet) getting down on our knees and doing 'jazz hands' every chorus. Bob Fosse it ain't. But then our audience expects nothing more than friendly, enthusiatic, shambolic, yet funny. we save the professionalism for our other shows. The Farrago is our chance to be silly and for it not to matter.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

PhotoHunt: Important


Shanghai Fuxing Park Rules

Now, these are very important: the rules you must follow in Fuxing Park, Shanghai. If I hadn't read these I would have spent my time teasing shrimp from atop an artificial hill.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

New Labour v. The Psychic Tory Assassin

I note that my dear old friend, school-chum and sometime conker adversary, Richard McKenzie, is taking another step up the political ladder. Currently a Labour councillor on Reading city council, he has now been selected as the Labour candidate for Henley-Upon-Thames, currently the seat of the mad-haired Boris Johnson.

Henley is a staunch Tory constituency, so I have more chance of being elected President of Burkina Faso, with Winona Ryder as my first lady, than Richard has of winning the election - whenever it happens.

That said, Boris does have distractions. He's currently running for Mayor of London. I'm not sure how a person can be the MP for one town and Mayor of somewhere completely different. I would have thought that's a HUGE amount to take on with various conflicts of interest, and one of those jobs will get neglected. So, if he does get to be Mayor, maybe Rich will get to be MP for Henley after all?

There's another secret which Boris isn't telling anyone about, though there are hints in his blog. If you read his entry from Jan 10th this year, you will see that he casually mentions Edmund Hillary. The next day, Hillary died! Obviously Boris is some sort of psychic assassin, using his blog to focus negative energy against the enemies of the Tory party. I can only imagine that Hillary, as a Kiwi, got in the way of Tory claims that Britain conquered Everest, so he had to be disposed of.

Once we can gather more evidence and get Boris incarcerated for his felonious psycho-kinetic escapades the way will be clear for the Labour party to overrun Henley. Hoorah!

NB: I am not related to Cllr McKenzie, nor am I associated with his campaign, nor with the Labour Party. All allegations above are satirical, unless proven otherwise...

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

...And It's Your Turn In The Barrel!

Tonight we start rehearsing for the annual-ish Ottershaw Players Farrago.


Well, actually rehearsals started on Sunday, but I had a splitting headache which was making me feel sick and I needed to lie down with a cool flannel on my forehead. Like a Victorian lady.


So tonight I join in with the larking about, rude jokes, silly and risqué songs and wildly improbable storyline.

If you are a regular, or semi-regular, reader of this blog, I'll assume that you have a fairly robust sense of humour, in which case you might want to book tickets for the show. Details over at the OP website. There's not much else I can tell you without spoiling the show, but I'm sure there'll be plenty of photos afterwards.

If you've stumbled across this by accident, you may well not want to come along, and you definitely won't want to book a night out for the local ladies' knitting circle. They really wouldn't like it!

Friday, 11 January 2008

Speed Cameras

Well, I definitely can't be turning into a Daily Mail reader because I have no problem with speed cameras either!

Wherever you drive, you should know the speed limit. It's clearly posted everywhere, and on roads where it's not posted it's easy to remember the rules. If you drive above the speed limit and happen to get caught by a camera, then you've been caught, fair and square.

Cameras are actually set to trigger at a level of +10%+2mph anyway, to allow for inaccurate speedometers, so if you're caught by a speed camera in a 50mph zone, you were probably going at over 57mph (regardless of what your speedo says!).

Some people argue that councils use them as a way of gathering revenue. I'm not sure I believe that - after all, if everyone drove at, or under, the limit, the cameras wouldn't gather any revenue at all, so councils can't rely on the money coming in from speed cameras. And anyway, even if they did, so what? If you don't want to pour money into the coffers of the local council, then don't break the speed limit - it's not a difficult equation.

Having said all that, I don't believe that successive governments' attitude to speed limits is necessarily right. The speed limit on motorways could probably be safely increased to 80 or 90mph - maybe with a statutory decrease in "bad weather". Then again, I also think we need more enforced 20mph zones in built-up areas (i.e. on housing estates, etc). But, we do currently have these speed limits and everyone knows what they are, so there's not excuse for getting caught.

More than anything else, we need better driver training and for people to take more care and attention on the roads. I regularly drive a route which has a 60mph limit along country lanes, dropping to 40mph, then 30mph, as it passes through a village. Most times I get stuck behind someone driving at 45-50mph along the fast bit, then barely dropping their speed to do 40-45mph through the village. This sort of thing can only be down to not paying any attention to the speed limit signs and a complete disregard for safety.

Right - that's enough serious stuff from me for now. No more rants!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Another Clucker

Tonight we finished watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's documentary about the differences between free-range and 'standard' chickens.

I must say, before now I probably didn't care too much about the way chickens are reared - the cheapest was OK for me - even though I know that free-range is tastier, juicier and probably goes further.

Anyway, having seen the programmes I think I need to make a commitment to only having free-range birds from now on, whenever possible. I never really think about this sort of thing, and I certainly tend to let my head rule my heart most of the time, which only goes to show.

Here's a clip of Hugh talking about the campaign:



As a balance - and because this blog's been humour-free for a few days - here's another appeal from Hugh's comedy partner, Stephen Fry:

Immigrants

Yesterday I worried that I was turning into a reactionary Daily Mail reader. So my sister asked for my views on immigrants and speed cameras. Presumably to test how right-wing I have become. Or maybe I've stood for election without realising it, during an alcoholic black-out, and this is just one more test for me. So, for the next two days, you will be subjected to my views on these subjects. Sorry, go and blame Jo.

Immigrants

I don't have a problem with them. Talk of dole-scrounging, tax-dodging petty-thieves who don't pay car tax or have MOTs is all well and good, but I'm pretty sure there's a substantial population of white, English people in this country who also fit that particular bill very well indeed.

Yes, immigrants do nasty jobs for less money than many people are prepared too in this country. So what? I'm prepared to bet (with Monopoly money, or matchsticks) that the people who harp on about this aren't exactly put-out by it. I can't see Richard Littlejohn or Melanie Phillips packing up their cushy jobs (getting paid several times more than you or I just for spouting off a few hundred words of ill-informed comment each day) so that they can put in 14 hours a day washing cars, picking turnips or gutting chickens.

Our country was built upon immigration. For the first 1400 years of its recorded history it was impossible to settle down for more than 10 minutes before someone new invaded and took over. Each time "we" assimilated and carried on. After that, for another 550 years, or so, "we" started invading other countries and making their citizens "British" which, of course, gave many of them the right to come over here and try their hand at living in a much colder and depressing country than the one they had left behind.

All this is the reason why, in general, Britons are some of the most tolerant and welcoming people and why we have such a diverse, vibrant culture. I'd much rather sit down for dinner with the friendly, quiet Nepalese people who live on our left, rather than the noisy, English people on the right, with their TWO gas-guzzling 4x4 monstrosities [TWO! In ALDERSHOT! For God's sake, it's not Iceland, or Siberia!] which they invariable park so badly that they take up the space meant for 3 other cars. Grrrrr!

Which brings us on to Speed Cameras which is the topic of tomorrow's rant...

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Why Is This News?

Apparently a private school in Brighton is teaching pupils basic etiquette and table manners.

Which is fine. But I don't understand why it is news!

I'm pretty sure that by the time I was, oh, 5 years old I knew that the knife went on the right, the fork on the left and the spoon at the top, because we ate meals at home and we used cutlery to eat it. We didn't have servants, or tablecloths (not every day), nor grand 8-course dinners, but you don't need that to learn how to lay a table, do you?

OK, nowadays lots of people eat convenience foods and TV dinners and take-aways, but surely not so many that even in a posh school for spoiled brats whose parents are rolling in it need teaching about cutlery?

When I was at school, admittedly over 25 years ago now, Home Economics was a mandatory subject at age 12 or 13, or so. In that class we learned how to make simple cooked meals, how to wash-up, how to iron shirts, etc, etc. Just in case our families were total slobs who didn't care about bringing up their kids properly. My school was a very run-of-the-mill, suburban comprehensive, not a stuck-up school for the kids of stockbrokers and bankers, yet it appears to have provided me, free and gratis, with an education to rival that of a modern, fee-paying educational giant.

Either the parents of kids at Brighton College are being ripped-off, or the rest of the country's schools really are bloody awful if they don't bother teaching such basic skills.

God. I've just read this back and it looks like it belongs in the Daily Mail...

Friday, 4 January 2008

PhotoHunt: Delicious


Christmas 2007

Hmmm... A delicious apple tart that my sister made for us to eat at Christmas.

[Edit: Now calm down people - the pie is all eaten! Christmas was nearly 2 weeks ago now!]

Four Thoughts

1. Only a 3-day week this week, which means it doesn't really feel like Friday, but it's still the weekend tomorrow. Hooray!

2. I keep bumping into people who I wouldn't have thought would read this blog and have never commented, but tell me that they do read it from time-to-time. At the moment I write this with a fairly specific audience of about half-a-dozen people in mind (hello Mum, Jo, Dave, Mary, Chuckie and Dave). So please, if you are an occasional reader who never comments, do leave me a comment to this post. Just click the link below which says "pertinent musings". You don't need to have/create an account, just click the "Anonymous" button. But please do tell me who you are, how you found the blog and how often you read it. Thanks!

3. Just before Christmas we had a team lunch and "prize-giving" in the office. The award categories were all totally bogus (e.g. I won DBA of the Year, which is nice, but I'm the only DBA in the company!), but I won a couple of nice certificates and some chocolates for the Christmas tree. What's the best award or prize you have ever won?

4. I noticed a few weeks ago that my header image doesn't stretch across the whole header. It doesn't seem to matter what size image I upload to Blogger; it just gets shrunk in the process. If you're looking at the site in a resolution larger than about 800x600 (and doesn't everyone nowadays?) the header looks awful. Anyone know how to fix it?

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

So THAT Was 2007...!

As is traditional here in the Blogiverse, I'm going to do a round-up of my blogging year. I probably should have done it on New Year's Eve, then set about my resolutions yesterday. But I don't have any resolutions (not that I'm going to write down and have you hold me to, anyway) so you'll have to put up with this.

January

Magnus Mannusson died. I moaned about the fact that I didn't blog enough (it would take me until mid-July before I started doing something about that) and moaned about my old job, on the day that I left. I praised my new job (though it is yet to work out as well as I'd hoped) and started a new blog for my production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. An optimistic month.

February

Only 2 posts this month. One bemoaning the lack of posts, descending into a surreal rant, and one to beg for money for the Thames Bridges bike ride. I wonder if that's happening again this year? February was when we had to abandon Merry Wives and switch to the back-pocket reserve of Whose Life Is It Anyway?

March

We moved house! To a place that we own ourselves! Well, to be fair we probably own about 2% of it. The rest belongs to the mortgage company. But it's ours in theory. At the same time I switched broadband providers (PlusNet - very good indeed - mention me if you switch!) so was offline for most of the month. Oh, and I told you my top-ten films. How did I have time to come up with those?

April

A rant about dentists (okay, my childhood dentist) and the NRA and a couple of play reviews. That's it!

May

A lack of cycling; kids called 'Bubba' with guns; a major PC crash; some actual cycling; and, hallelujah,
Diamond Geezer linkage.

June

The play happened; we went to Dorset; MLYW changed her job; we started decorating and another play review.

July

The month when I finally started trying to blog daily. Rather than go out and generate my own content, it does seem to mostly be commentary on news stories, but I remember the summer and autumn fondly as I managed to get in a real blogging swing. So what happened? George Melly died; chuggers annoyed me; we went to see Genesis; an "8 facts" meme; "unveiling" footballers; more (actually, less) cycling; car problems; my nephew the sitcom star; Raylord; killer kitties.

August

LOADS to report this month: how to spend those lottery millions; anniversaries; NODA summer school (re-reading that entry gives me goose-bumps); a massage from David Bowie; discovering PhotoHunt; Soul singer painting; number one hits on my birthdays; an audition (or was it?); my Amazon wishlist; Guinness; Dublin; Olé; Diana hysteria.

September

Still blogging almost daily: Goodwood revival; problems blogging from work; Lord Arthur appears; Likes and dislikes; the first Classic Album (I really have to get back onto those...); a very long bike ride; books; kitchen accidents (recently revisited); plugging the Woking Drama Festival; fountain of youth; advertising Coca-Cola; Thai airlines; posters; Harry Nilsson; weight-loss plans (yet to materialise); shed-building.

October

Fruit pastille flavour-distribution unfairness; LOTS of play reviews; Facebook; fatties; Petworth station; anagrams; Strictly Come Dancing; Halloween.

November

Nov and Dec were a little sparse given the previous 3 or 4 months entries, but with 10 and 12 blogs, they are quite prolific compared to the state of play at the start of the year:
Heston; old Triumphs; Treasure Island; robo Skype; Parade; bike sex; OP re-jigging; a fantastic Journey's End.

December

Seaton Canoe man; Radiohead loveliness; getting older; Farrago writing; Christmas apprehension; not sleeping.

And that's it for the year. Recently it's felt like a struggle. MLYW's new job structure, more unpaid sick days than I would normally take, and some big unexpected expenses mean that the past few months have been a bit tight, money-wise. So this year we need to tighten our belts. Which also means I have to make an effort to lose a few of those inches around my waist.

2008 is an even-numbered year, and I always think that they are better than odd-numbered years. Here's hoping that we all get what we want this year.