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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

On a call

I am on a call, a virtual place on which I spend an inordinately large amount of time.  This one is slightly different in that it is presentation and voice through a browser.  One guy could really do with taking the well-worn advice "back off the mic" because he is rather shouting and his voice is most definitely distorting like only an illegal rave DJ can normally manage.

The content of the presentation is about the coming year.  It is full of bravado* and oodles of numbers, and plenty of discussion on revenue this, GP that and underlying cost base the other.  To be honest, they wash over me a bit like whale music during a massage, and my mind starts to wander towards what it is like working at their level, where their whole business life is about the numbers, which presumably means reviews with their reportees, spreadsheets and worrying about a 0.1% variance in the wotsit.  I guess there must be pleasure in what they do, maybe the power, the money, the career aspirations, but boy oh boy, it seems like a pretty grim existence to me.  Which is probably why I am where I am, and they are where they are.  And on that note, sounds like the Maggots are back from football practice, so better go see what they have been up to today.  This usually goes something along the lines of "So, what did you do today at school?".  "Nothing," they reply.  Sounds a lot like my day.  Boom boom.

* I am myself a positive person, and as a rule I convey positivity in most of what I do, however I also tend to wither slightly inside when in the presence of too much positivity.  Do these people every roll over and think "sod it, gonna take a duvet day"?  

Monday, 30 January 2012

What a weekend

We have a pretty good weekend, which consisted of lots of things, including Maggots doing swimming and tennis respectively, me doing a lot of tiling (more of that later), and a sleep-over and David and Samantha's, which was fantastic.  We had a rather panicked call from David mid-afternoon, when I was on my siesta, to say that they had knocked the wotsit off the water tank in the airing cupboard, the wrong side of the shower pump, and had sprung a high-pressured leak.  Much issuing of loud instructions, a few red faces, and all was under control.  Scobi took his trunks just in case, but the indoor pool was closed for maintenance.

On the tiling front, I need to clarify that when I say "lots", the amount of time was "lots" even if the rate of tile application was not.  Put another way, I think I am pretty good at tiling, but to get that good result I go about about a fifth of the speed of your average pro, and you may not be up to speed on tiling pro speeds, but I can assure you that I am a one legged tortoise on sleeping pills compared to their hare.

We have chosen massive white tiles, 70cm x 23cm if you are interested, for the main parts, with small 3cm x 3cm glass mosaic tiles in shades of black and silver for the "trim".  The former obviously cover the ground in no time at all, the latter not so fast.  The former, however, are also v. tricky to put up coz you need a very flat surface, plus you need a very level amount of cement on the wall - a job for the notched spreader - and you also need to "butter" each tile before putting up, a process of applying a thin layer of cement on the back of the tile, to ensure that the whole tile touches all the cement which is attached to all the wall.  In short, so that you get 100% contact with a tile that is the size of two cricket bats.  So, while each tile does cover a lot of wall, you need to also give it a lot of attention.

The little tiles have their own problems.  While they are on backing sheets, which lull you in to thinking that at least the tiles on the 30cm x 30cm sheet will stay equidistant from their neighbour, in reality, the little bu$$ers move up, down, left, right, dip in one corner and generally behave about as well as a platoon of cats trying to march in line.

What I have done so far looks really good, and it is just a matter of keeping it going to finish it off, which should be this side of Easter.  Hopefully.

Anyhow, enough already of the tiling stories.

Have a good week, speak soon.

Friday, 27 January 2012

And . . . relax - it's Friday you know

At long last we reach Friday, and I am nearly at the end of my weekday themed blogging. Let's have a look at what Uncle Google has to say about Friday.

Well, Friday's child is loving and giving, which is nice.

Otherwise, there is only inane stuff broadly under the category "POETS", none of which particularly tickled me. Instead, let me share with you some random ones* that I found, all of which in some way resonate with me since they relate to various experiences I have had through the week. Based on their reading, I think it would be fair to say that some of this week's interactions have been in the neutral-to-negative spectrum.
  • "The average person thinks he isn’t." - Father Larry Lorenzoni
  • "One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important." - Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
  • "Plato was a bore." - Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) 
  • "For there is nothing either good or bad, thinking makes it so." - William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Hamlet, II.ii
  • "Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong." - Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
  • "We must have strong minds, ready to accept facts as they are." - Harry S Truman (1884-1972) 
  • "A problem well stated is a problem half solved." - Charles Franklin Kettering (1876-1958) 
  • "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."  - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944) 
  • "A little inaccuracy sometimes saves a ton of explanation." - H. H. Munro (Saki) (1870-1916) 
  • "The only possible conclusion the social sciences can draw is: some do, some don’t." - Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) 
  • "A great many people think they are thinking when they are actually rearranging their prejudices." - William James (1842-1910) 
  • "I think it would be a good idea." - Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), when asked what he thought of Western civilization 
  • "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former." - Albert Einstein (1879-1955) 
  • "A word to the wise ain’t necessary, it is the stupid ones who need all the advice." - Bill Cosby (1937-)
  • "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig." - Proverb

And finally, to put all that in to perspective:
  • "A witty saying proves nothing." - Voltaire (1694-1778)

* Random in that they came up in a search for "witty comments about Friday", so either Uncle Google has been on the sauce again, or someone is playing fast and loose with their keywords.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

To be honest, I am starting to flag with this "days of the week" theme, and a bit like when you start to strip the first bit of wallpaper off the wall, only to find the plaster coming away with the paper, I am starting to wish I had never started.

However, it is not in the nature of the Jedi to weaken, not even part-time probationary Jedi, and not even if it is Thursday.

We know of course that Thursday's child has far to go, and I did also find this from David Bowie, which to me proves the theory that he should have stopped somewhere around 1980 with Scary Monsters.

I did find this quote, obviously written by someone who on a Monday decided to take on a "days of the week" themed blogging session:

  • I wish you a tolerable Thursday. That's all any of us can hope for. April Winchell
There was also this, which is not particularly funny and not particularly interesting, but it does have Thursday in the quote:
  • Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining. Jef Raskin

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

I saw this...

Following on from the best-selling Tuesday blog, I thought I would write a few quotes about Wednesday.  Curiously, there does seem to be a couple of quotes with Wednesday in the title, but as as the nature of duality, by having Wednesday in the title seems to render them without humour.
  • “They didn't want it good, they wanted it Wednesday.” Robert A. Heinlein quotes 
  • Wednesday's child is full of woe” 
  • When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.John Wyndham 
  • You know the honeymoon is pretty much over when you start to go out with the boys on Wednesday nights, and so does she.” 
On other news, I am in the same building as my personal development manager, and that is rarer than rocking horse wotsite.  I should even manage a bit of face-to-face time with him.  Oh the thrill.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

What is there to say about Tuesday

I used to have a set of seven pairs of socks, each with a day of the week on them. Now, at the point of purchase, these seemed like genius, a guarantee that I would know which socks to wear each day, but as time went by, I realised the folly. Monday got paired with Wednesday, one of Thursday was lost forever and don't even get me started on Friday.

So it may well become with putting the day of the week in the title.

There are, after all, only so many ways to mention Tuesday. Even with the power of Uncle Google and a lateral mind, the number of ways to use the word Tuesday are surely finite. For the record, there are exactly 138 million* records returned to the query "witty comments with Tuesday in the title"

I did stumble across some quotes, some of which you may find funny, albeit that none of them include the word "Tuesday"**, many of which seem to be relevant for much of my working day so for your Tuesday delight, here they are (and "who said them" details included for Golfy, who has a very inquisitive mind):

  • A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become well known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized. ~Fred Allen
  • A compromise is an agreement whereby both parties get what neither of them wanted. ~Author Unknown
  • A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. ~Attributed to Arthur McBride Bloch
  • A gentleman is a man who can play the accordion but doesn't. ~Author Unknown
  • All my life, I always wanted to be somebody. Now I see that I should have been more specific. ~Jane Wagner, The Search For Intelligent Life In The Universe, performed by Lily Tomlin 
  • The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us. ~Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes 
  • Today is the last day of some of your life. ~Author Unknown
  • Without geography, you're nowhere. ~Author Unknown 
  • The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. ~Author Unknown 
  • A scout troop consists of twelve little kids dressed like schmucks following a big schmuck dressed like a kid. ~Jack Benny 
  • All my life I've wanted, just once, to say something clever without losing my train of thought. ~Robert Brault 
  • Protect me from knowing what I don't need to know. Protect me from even knowing that there are things to know that I don't know. Protect me from knowing that I decided not to know about the things that I decided not to know about. Amen. ~Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless 

* I am guessing the search bot got bored after that and gave up
** Are you with me in thinking that the search bot may just be making it up?

Monday, 23 January 2012

Some people like Mondays

Another weeks starts, another chance to shine.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

There is something strange going on here . . .

. . . it is Saturday and I am blogging.

To be honest, there cannot be much more for me to say after the two, yes count them, two blogs yesterday.  I should probably be doing some Root Cause Analysis.  For those not familiar with this particular technique, simply consider the similarity of the phrase to "root canal surgery" and you should at least get close to the buttock-clenching aspect of it.

The only other news of note, and when I say "of note" that may be open to debate, is that after work yesterday we made a painless purchase and some serious decision-making.

The painless purchase was a tumble dryer.  Ours has packed up, and you may recall another "of note" moment a month ago when our dishwasher did likewise.  That model was an AEG, a pretty good make I hear you cry, yet it still went wrong, and in a break from tradition*, we have decided to buy at the bottom end of the market, a Beko if you are interested.

So, having done some research in Which? I had a list of the best.  This list starts, as usual, with all the German makes, in the £600-1000 range.  I was looking more in the £0-200 range, and found that way down the list, but at least on the list and seen as pretty good for the money.
I had then been online to see what the Internet had to offer, and as usual it had lots, however the best cheap models in Which? were not available at any retailers, and the next ones down were available at certain retailers which we trust, but not at the right price, or with 5 days delivery. i.e. I was unable to find the combination of:

  • a model on the Which? list
  • in my price range
  • from a retailer I trusted
  • with a delivery time soon enough.  
To be honest, the whole thing was driving me bonkers.

We therefore nipped out at the end of the day yesterday to a local independent shop.  This is well-known to us only because E often buys his stuff from there, his policy being to "try and spend his money with the little guy".  We walked in, found a dryer that ticked all the boxes and, get this, could be delivered an hour later.  Sold to the man in the hat.  Now that is what I can service.  Not quite the cheapest we could have got it, but not far off, and to be honest him being a "little man" and able to deliver that evening, we did not even have the heart to haggle.  Result.

The "serious decision making" was about the tiles for our downstairs shower room.  This has so far been a victim of the lack of budget, and neither of us were looking forward to the mental contortions that would be needed to choose "not too expensive but not cheap that looks good and is in-keeping with the overall scheme and a bit funky".

We strolled in the the local tile shop where we bought our floor slates, an establishment that we had previously discounted as "a bit cheap" but one we now know is full of good quality at a reasonable price** and have found what we need.  An "accent tile" that is glassy and silver - which satisfies "funky" and "in keeping" - and a large white tile, good value but not too cheap and large so minimising grout lines - which satisfies practical and on budget.  The guy who helped us was the guy who had delivered the slates previously, a long back-breaking job for both of us, and he made mention of a discount, which is good.  When I suggested I might be back tomorrow he said "don't come in tomorrow, Wendy is on and she is as tight as ar##holes".  I shall be returning Monday to make the order.

* As a rule, we live the adage "buy right, buy once" and look to buy the best quality that we can afford.  indeed, in support of this strategy we have a subscription to Which? and I always use that as a guide for any major purchase.
** unlike our previous favourite joint where the price was never the price.  On one hand this means there is always a deal to be done, but on the other hand it also means that they seem to just make up the price and you always feel like that, whatever the discount, they are ripping you off a bit.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Something for the Weekend

Couple of funny quotes I have just read that seem perfect for a Friday, the first as a warning, the second as a promise of up-coming pleasures.

  • The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat.
  • Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.

And . . . relax

Now that the year has started in earnest, and I am pretty much up to fifth gear now with work, it is OK to relax again.  Not too much of course, that way lies disaster, but with two youngish Maggots and a young wife, let's just say the opportunities are not that forthcoming.

This weekend, we have an evening out at A&E's which will, as always, be a fun gastronomic evening full of lively banter right up to the point I gently nod off.  This is not to say that the others are not capable of lively banter, quite the opposite in fact, especially after the third bottle, however it is true to say that any such banter by and large passes me by.

We are also playing host to the outlaws for Sunday lunch, where I may be forced to share a glass of red with father-in-law, it being rude to refuse and all that, so from late Sunday afternoon, it is entirely possible that, once again, the lively banter will cease, for me at least.

Otherwise, it is a normal weekend with tennis and swimming for the Maggots, some home stuff for the adults, some food, some relaxation and some other stuff that is quite hard to classify.

I hope that yours is normal or abnormal, or whatever is the norm in your house.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

What the Romans did not invent

Now, it is well known to any Monty Python fan that the Romans invented everything, but sitting, as I am, listening to a training session using the medium of conference call, I am prepared to bet my bottom dollar that the Romans took one look at conference calls and thought "let's leave that for the Scots".  I am trying to find an analogy that gets even close to the buttock-clenching pointlessness of such an experience, but am struggling.  The idea of emptying the ocean with a teacup would kind of work were it not for the fact that, whilst slow, you would actually make some semblance of progress.  Perhaps the sound of one hand clapping would work, except you might just miss and strike you right hand with your left.

So, bereft of suitable analogies, I will instead try to explain IN PLAIN ENGLISH what the speaker on the call singularly failed to do.  Now, I should explain, English was not his first language, that would be either German or Dutch, but that was not the problem; his English was flawless and considerably better than both my German and my Dutch, in fact probably better than my English.  If I am honest, you do need to concentrate slightly harder when the speaker has English as a second language, but in a way, just like watching films with subtitles, the very act of concentrating a bit harder does enable you to get more out of the content.  However, the things he was telling me, things I sensed I should really understand, were not going in.  A quick instant chat with a colleague confirmed that at a minimum, the people on the call that did not understand what the devil was going on numbered at least two.

So, tell me, I hear you cry, before I lose the will to live, what was this conference call like?  Well, you know how people who know a subject very well sometimes forget the little things the rest of us do not yet know, so their descriptions start half way up, whereas, to grasp the meaning they need to start at the bottom and explain the easy stuff first.

It was a bit like that.

You know when you sit next to someone on the train, and some incident throws you together and he starts talking to you, but the stuff he is talking about is of no interest to you, Warcraft, Morris Dancing, constipation in wildfowl, something like that, and you realise that there are many many things, most of which will cause you great discomfort, that you would rather be doing than continue listening to him.

It was a bit like that.

You know when you are in a room and someone makes a joke and everyone laughs except you because you do not get it, and really most of the others don't get it either but they are assuming everyone else does so are laughing just in case.

It was a bit like that.

The call has ended now, and I can confidently and categorically confirm two things:

  • that is one and a half hours of my life that I will never get back
  • I do not have even one atom's worth of additional knowledge now it is over.  Indeed, in the US there is a microscope so powerful that it can see an individual atom, and yet that is still not powerful enough to see the learning I have just received*
I hope that your day is going better than mine.  I SAID, I HOPE YOUR DAY IS GOING BETTER THAN MINE.

* Apologies to Frasier for that particular plagiarism

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Half way through

I find myself at Wednesday, and that represents a high point rather than a dip, although that then suggests Friday is lower than Wednesday which is also not right, so maybe it is really an upward slope to Wednesday, then flat until Friday at 4pm, then a steep rise which statisticians call the yippee! peak.

I am on a conference call that is a daily routine call.  It is very necessary for our process, however the very fact that it is repeating and a call that is like the torch at the end of the tunnel, bringing us more work, means that it should be deemed as devil's doings.  This is how I have always viewed it prior to New Year, however as part of my "things I may try to do this year*" I have decided to take a different view of the calls, and rather than see it is a tedious chore, see it as a chance to spend some time with good people, to have some fun and to take the opportunity to make some connections in this remote organisation within which I work.  So far, this is going pretty well.

The only other thing of note for today is that I have my annual appraisal.  This is a big event for any person working in Starfleet, although in reality all the hard work was done last year, both in terms of the things I did and my reporting of them, and also my manager's assessment of the results.  This is therefore a small piece of Pantomime where we discuss how I think my year went, followed by a proclamation of how that contribution was ranked, followed by the slightly more useful discussion as to what the year holds and what things I should be looking to take on, learn or get experience of to maintain the upward development of my career, and indeed my career outlook.  i.e. keep ahead of the pack so that you are not the one the lion catches, if you get my meaning.

Otherwise, this will be a day that will be important as it is passing, but soon forgotten in the annuls of history.

I hope your annuls are going well.

* i.e. most definitely not resolutions

Tuesday, 17 January 2012


As is the wont of both language and humans, this word has gained additional meanings as time has passed.  There is the Sixties meaning, when young guns and their V12 cruisers strutted their stuff up and down the local boulevard.  There is the Nineties/Noughties and beyond meaning which is most familiar to Golfy and Bad Man, the full meaning of which we must withhold for the sake of decency.  Finally, there is the meaning for "people of a certain age", whose vacation of choice is fully inclusive on a floating hotel visiting various locations in the Mediterranean, or maybe further afield if the Saga brochure is selling them this year.  This is, of course, and out of date stereotype, since there are cruises specifically aimed at families; indeed good friends have been on one and enjoyed it very much.

I have to be honest, and indeed have said the same to our friends, that I am still not convinced as to whether a cruise is for me.  Having seen the recent news on the Concordia cruise ship, I cannot believe that cruise company stocks are the clever investment right now, and a cruise is now even further down my list of things that I hope to do.  The most recent pictures I have seen are of a scuba diver in a half-submerged corridor, presumably looking for the missing people, although sadly at this time that may well be missing bodies.  The whole thing is desperately sad for all those that have lost their holidays, or worse their loved ones, for the employees who may well be ex-employees, and the environmental issue that the metal mountain of a ship has presented to the local authorities.  How do you remove that much metal?

I would like to end on a lighter note, but checking the news, there is no lighter note, except the rescue of a horse who fell off a cliff which may just about count.

Other than that, the sun is sort of shining and I only have five conference calls today.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Black Monday

Today is, apparently, Black Monday; the worst day of the year, caused by a combination of bad/cold weather, post-Christmas poverty and over-weightedness, and not a lot to look forward to but cold and wet weather, likely snow and all its associated disruptions, and the odd cold or flu bout as the icing on the cake.

Looking out the window, it is quite cold - tick - and we are overdrawn - tick - and my trousers did feel a bit tight this morning - tick - but overall this Monday feels not so very different from any other Monday.  A small part of me is still wishing it was Sunday night, fair doos, but overall it is not so bad.

I guess it is the Emperor's Clothes Syndrome, where the very act of wishing it makes it so.  As the old saying goes "If you think you can, or you think you can't, you are right".  So I plan to make black the new white and look forward to a fantastic Monday full of joy and fun.  And yes, I have just had my Scobi-latte.

Only other news is poor old Maggot 2 had another bout of sickness.  He was very matter-of-fact about it, the first we know of it was the sound of heaving in the upstairs toilet, and the announcement "My tummy was feeling a bit funny, so I thought I was going to do that".  Needless to say it was muggins who had to clear the lumps out the sink, but then we all have our roles in life.

Have a good week and speak again soon.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Something new

The something new in question is me blogging on a Saturday.  As I am sure you know, I tend to blog three to four times a week, occasionally more, and sometimes less, but there or there abouts.  There is no real reason for this; empirical evidence points to a combination of me not having that much to say and a bit of busyness and wotnot*.

Anyhow, I am on the laptop researching shower panels* and, in the best tradition of "male doing task at weekend", this soon nested in to me sending a quick email, and whilst doing that having an enforced reboot inflicted on me, followed by a quick tidy up of my desktop.  Whilst rebooting I went to make a cuppa, needed a pee, then found the toilet rolls needed putting away and while doing that I stumbled on the Araldite I had been looking for earlier in the week.  Anyhow, I finally got to an open browser*** and couldn't resist checking out Golfy and Bad Man and Gorse Fox to see what they have been up to**** and then, drawn like a moth to a flame, like a bee to a honey pot***** or flies to ... well you get the drift ... I ended up on my own blog.  Why not write a page today, I thought.  And here I am.  Having spent around 260 words to tell you why I am blogging, I have pretty much run out of things to say.

Only thing of note was that poor old Maggot 2 had a bout of vomiting last night.  It started with a bit of tummy ache and a lack of appetite for tea, ending in him limping up to LO, who was having a bath, to say he was not well and then be sick on the floor.  We camped him out on the sofa with duvet and bowl, and he was sick three more times, so we put him up on the camp bed in our room where he had one small bout, only to sleep like a baby.  This morning he seems back to full strength, and has had so far two glasses of apple juice with no negative reaction, so next step is some breakfast and, hopefully, back to the little Maggot we know and love.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

* Now that's what I call heavy-weight scientific analysis
** a potential alternative to tiles, and alternative I wish to research and understand having just spent way too long cleaning grout at the end of the process of decorating and generally tidying up our existing bathroom
*** Chrome, if you are interested, and very happy with it I am
**** Not a lot by all accounts, ha ha
***** Everyone knows that bees visit flowers to make honey and, as a rule, do not much car for the end product.  That role is reserved for wasps, an insect which I am sure that even Mother Nature sometimes wonders "Now why did I make those?"

Friday, 13 January 2012

And . . . relax

Considering that this is the first full week at work after a four day week last week and 11 days off for Christmas the week before, Friday really has come round pretty quickly this week.  That is not to say that it was not a blur, because it most definitely was.

Only notable part for me was the funeral for Mrs Yaxley, who was a Teaching Assistant for the Reception class at the Maggots' school.  She was a fantastic person and wonderful with all the children, including both Maggots, for whom Mrs Yaxley was a caring and important person in their first year at school.  She died on 20th December and Thursday was the day of the funeral, and in the morning, the funeral procession made a detour via the school, where the Year 4, 5 and 6 children stood solemnly by the road as the entourage passed slowly by, led by a funeral directly walking ahead of the hearse.  It was for me a touching moment and it was good to be able to give my last respects.  I hope she is at peace.

This weekend we are not doing much, which is just what the doctor ordered, what with all the Maggot clubs and LO's course work and two lots of Governor's Meetings and work and decorating the bathroom*.  We are expecting a visit from David and Samantha for Sunday lunch, which is also just what the doctor ordered, and we have all promised to be strong and not drink alcohol.... hopefully.

I hope you have just the weekend for which you were looking (dang if that just don't sound wrong).

* keep it calm, take a breath

Thursday, 12 January 2012


Now, if it takes two men one day to dig a hole...

The electrical issues outside our house seem to have been resolved and due process has now deemed it time to fill the hole in.  The "filling in soil and rubble" team did their work yesterday, having deposited a good portion of it on our wall (and in fairness then cleaned it all off at the end).  The "putting the tarmac on top" team arrived this morning and have just departed, having completed their work.  We now have our pavement back.

Nothing much else to say, except that I did see the following quote, which tickled me:

What happens if a big asteroid hits Earth? Judging from realistic simulations involving a sledge hammer and a common laboratory frog, we can assume it will be pretty bad.  Dave Barry 

Monday, 9 January 2012

It's a new day, a new dawn....

I have that Virgin ad in my brain, but I think I should apologise anyway, even though I am not quite sure to what I am apologising*.

We have a fantastic weekend.  It was E's 50th birthday, and A had put on a fantastic evening of entertainment.  It was hosted at their next door neighbour's house, who are also their best friends, an house that has recently undergone a fairly radical remodelling and the resultant open plan kitchen, dining and sitting area is a fantastic space for a party of twenty people.  The first part of the evening was spent with a magician going round doing close up magic, which was really quite something.  Even though there were bits of bits that I sort of nearly thought I knew how it was done, overall he was truly amazing, and I have the folded card with my signature on it as a souvenir.
The second part of the evening was the eating, accompanied by some wine tasting.  We tested 3 whites and 3 reds, plus a dessert wine, and the compère for this section was bonkers and great fun.  All the wine was organic, sourced from small vineyards from France to Argentina, via South Africa and Italy.  Now, here's a fact that I can confirm, and that I did not know previously.  Organic wine does not give you a hangover.  I drank enough to feel rough all day, however the only ill-effects was a bit of tiredness, which is almost normal for me, and a very faint head feeling - not a headache as such, more a sense that a headache had passed through and found things not to its liking.
Anyhow, while the price tag is slightly higher, I think that may be a price worth paying, and we may be sampling a few more organic wines in the future.

Sunday was passing as Sundays do, until mid afternoon when two Southern Electric vans turned up outside our house, and then three men and a mini digger proceeded to dig up the pavement outside our house.  Next door had electricity feed problems, and as part of the digging, we were without electricity for several hours.  The Maggots were beside themselves, putting out candles and collecting wood for the fire, and we spent a very pleasant, warm but slightly dark few hours playing Monopoly.  Suddenly you realise all the things that do run on electricity, including the heating and hot water boiler, and perhaps appreciate them all the more when they are finally returned to one.

Have a great week, and speak soon.

* This is, as any married man will tell you, one of the 397 key rules to a happy marriage.

Friday, 6 January 2012

And . . . (don't) relax

While I find myself conveniently at Friday, for this week, and maybe this week only, the last think I need to do is relax.  I had eleven days of that over Christmas, and look where that got me.  This week has been as hard a week as I can remember*, and getting up to speed with real life has been hard.  It may even be true to say that while the rest of the world is cruising in fifth, I am only just moving up in to third gear and to be honest looking for the next service station so I can pull over for a quick power nap, in fact it may even be just a normal nap, which as any budding Sunday afternoon nap expert will tell you revolves around contorting the body in to an infeasible position and placing one's mouth in the open position, at a slight angle to ensure that the dribble comes out only one side of the mouth**.

So, this Friday finds me looking forward to a couple of days off.  We have a big surprise party on Saturday***, and I do plan to re-decorate the main bathroom, so it will be busy but relaxed, with a bit of over-indulgence in the middle.

One final note.  I saw this on the BBC News website, and it did amuse me.  I assume they polled the men as they left the pub since it looked like the sort of non-article that make all the better reading for being so.  I was amused by the comment in

the article:

  • The study compiled from the results of the survey found that 80% of men who responded engaged regularly in conversation about one another's bodies.
Now titter ye not and all that, but I have to admit this did raise an eyebrow.

I hope your weekend finds the correct balance of ingredients to bake a perfect two-day break.

* although, it should be said that the limit of memory may well be limited, a combination of age and mince pie poisoning.
** We all know that you can tell when an idiot is on level ground, because the dribbles comes out evenly each side of their mouth.
***  One may question the logic of broadcasting a surprise on the internet, however one may also want to check how many people read this Blog, since that mitigates the majority of the risk.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

I Saw a Good Film During the Break

I had a rare visit to the local cinema, without children and instead in the company of David and Samantha.  This was following by a fantastic Thai meal afterwards, during which we spent plenty of time de-briefing on the film.

The film in question was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the English-speaking version with Daniel Craig.  I have to say, and hopefully it is not just that I don't get out much, that I found the film fantastic.  It was long, around two and a half hours, but the time just flew, and the intensity of the film made for a heavy but highly enjoyable experience.  There was the wince-inducing scene, which did indeed induce a wince from me and the whole audience, but also a "go girl" shout from the elderly gentleman in the front row, his sexual equality credentials belying his age and condition.

I have read all 3 books, and seen the Danish version of the film.  As far as the book-to-film issue is concerned, the two and a half hours did mean that more of the story could be included, but having said that there were small changes to the plot and big bits of plot missed out, but on the whole it conveyed very well the essence of the book and managed to cover most bases.  I also much preferred it to the Danish version, which was not hard as I did not like the Danish version much at all, which was a surprise since I am usually drawn to the dark and pared down approach the Scandinavians have to film making, but in this instance they let me down.

Overall, I would not hesitate in recommending it for anyone who likes a good film.

I also received The Killing, the original Danish version, as a box-set for Christmas.  Having watched the US version of The Killing, which we loved, and then the Danish version of The Killing II, which we loved possibly even more, we were ready to complete our education by watching The Killing.  We are on Episode 3 and are already hooked.  There is the inevitable comparison to the US version, from which it does differ in little ways*, but so far we are enjoying it immensely.  For us, the act of having to read subtitles means that we need to concentrate one hundred percent since even blinking for more than a second can miss important bits of plot.  This means that you really do get in to the plot and the action, totally absorbed by a totally absorbing story line.  Again, if you are liking what you are hearing, I strongly recommend these also.  Can't wait for the US remake of The Killing II.

I am up North today, at a Starfleet office near Heathrow, so am planning to soon make the long journey back down to the land of the sane that is the South coast, hoping I can do so before I catch any of the dodgy little illnesses from which they seem to suffer up this way.

Until next time.

* Or, to be precise, there are little ways the US remake differs from the Danish original, but I did not want to split hairs in the main body, but down here in the footnotes, anything and everything goes

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Happy New Year

I am expecting to be saying this a lot over the next few days, as I slow make contact with all my regular colleagues.  It is always nice to catch up with friends and colleagues but that is a very small positive set against a fairly heavy negative that is returning to work, having to wake up and get up earlier, making school lunches and all the other stuff that the real world needs us to do.

We had a fantastic break.  It included all the usual stuff, and in addition it included a large amount of doing nothing.  As a family, we have an incredible capacity for doing nothing, and we put that talent to very good use.  We caught up on a number of films that were either recorded on the Humax (beautiful piece of equipment, if you are interested) or received as presents.  The Maggots spent plenty of time mastering a Super Mario Brothers on the Wii, and the three of us also got stuck in to FIFA 2012, which has some good improvements over the 2009 version we had previously.

I also managed to eat my body weight in food every day, and therefore start the new year on the annual diet, which starts on January 1st and runs until December 31st, with several stops and starts through the year.  This year I really do intend to do something about it, because I am getting older etc. etc. etc.

I made only one resolution, which was:
  • To not make any this year and see how it goes
I am quite pleased with that one, and really feel motivated and positive that I will be able to maintain it through the year.

Otherwise, I am now caught up in that painful but necessary activity of getting used to normal working life again, so can expect a few shin splints and hissy fits along the way.

I hope your New Year has started as positively as mine.