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Friday, 30 January 2015

And . . . relax

On the work front, things have been going pretty well.  I may have already said, but I had a good appraisal, and have heard our leader mention that there may be bonuses this year.  A bonus is a nice little lump sum that always makes you smile, and will likely trigger a bit of holiday booking once it arrives.  To be clear, the sum is relatively modest when compared to the rest of my industry, and a rounding error on a banker's bonus, but it will be welcomed in to Scobi Towers, and probably sent out in to the world to pay a debt to some travel company or other within twenty-four hours.

Also on the work front, I have been continuing to work my mentor's network, having had another chat about my next role with someone who manages my interested area.  The headline was as expected; reorganisation still in progress, likely to be shaking out in maybe a week, at which point holes and new opportunities will start to come in to focus.  He did mention my name was "on the list" and that he had spoken to someone about me and had a good report, which is nice.  So it really is just a waiting game.  I have been waiting the best part of three years, so another week won't hurt.

And finally on the work front, my bit of give back work to create a reusable solution has completed successfully, and I am hoping that that will also just get my name in to the right circles.  In fact, many of the circles I have already been contacting, which means I am aiming at the right spot, and as long as I don't get irritating, a bit of repetition helps to get my name cemented in their minds.

On the home front, it has been a tricky week with Maggot 2 being off all week, except Wednesday when he did go back to school, only to get worse again.  Now that it is Friday, and I am working at home, things are a bit less stressful.  Maggot 1 also happens to be off on an INSET day today as well, so I have a house full of Maggots.  Maggot 1 is having a friend round, then off to KFC and the cinema, so he should not be too much trouble.

Also on the home front, we have David and Samantha and Maggots over on Saturday night.  We have not seem them since New Year's Eve, so will be good to get together with them.  Saturday is, as you probably know, the thirty-first of January, and while that is technically still in January, I plan to make it the moment when I break my Dry January fast.  I am guessing that I will be tipsy after the first sip and on the floor after the second pint, based on what others have said, so it should be an interesting evening.

I hope you have a great weekend, speak next week.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015


I had a really good appraisal on Friday afternoon.  Along with a very agreeable mark, I also had the "as one of my best, I am gonna be putting you in to the hardest accounts" chats with my manager.  Par for the course, and maybe just what I need to shake me out of my January lethargy, either by giving me the new challenge I need (even if I am not sure I want it), or by putting me in a situation that I just have to get out of*, in to my new role.

Talking of new roles, things are moving, albeit slowly.  In fact, so slowly that the untrained eye may struggle to see any movement at all. 

I had a chat with the UK Cloud leader last week, and have a call with the UK other Cloud leader this week.  I have also nearly finished the piece of give-back solutioning for a standardised solution for the Emerging Solutions team, which has gone well, with the comment from the manager that "this is an excellent piece of work", which is nice.  All this is getting my name out there, in readiness for when the twin external factors of organisational pruning, and organisational change, shake out, and the holes and new opportunities reveal themselves. 

This is when I need to be focussed and direct, something I can do as long as I take a long run-up.  I hope that the combination of what I know, and where I am putting myself about, and my mentor, who has influence in this space, that I may actually just get myself a change or role.

About time too.

* I pondered if this should be "out of which I just have to get" - may be technically correct, though not 100% sure, but it certainly does sound at best antiquated, like the infamous Churchill quote that "this is something up with which I will not put"

Friday, 23 January 2015

And . . . relax

As another week draws to a close, I have a chance to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly.

Work has been work.  Most troopers will have had the call from their manager, and some will be delighted, and some will not, though, perhaps surprisingly, those not delighted will not all be in the thumbs up camp; some were hoping for a thumbs down, and will not have got it.  Such is the nature of the modern business, and the trooper morale within, that all combinations exist; for those that want to go, some will and some won't, and likewise for those that don't want to go, some will and some won't. 

At home, we have some sickness in Maggot 2, this one with a fever, which has brought on the usual round of disturbing hallucinations, of which there were two during last night, when he was worried about the boat sinking, and wanted to cuddle very close to me*.  They last around fifteen long minutes, and involve a lot of clawing and pointing and sudden moments of fear.
The remedy for this is, as any parent knows, Calpol or Neurofen, or sometimes both alternately.  Their magical properties never cease to amaze me.

Maggot 1 is growing up alarmingly, and is entering the phase when talking to parents is just sooooooooo tedious.  I guess that is us stuck for the next five years then.

The weekend is clear, which is just what we need.  Likely there will be no football for Maggot 2, so just tennis for 1, and otherwise we can suit ourselves.  My primary goal is to have some time reading in our new chairs in the library.

One final piece of trivia.  One of my podcasts is Freakanomics, "the hidden side of everything", or more precisely, how data can answer the most unusual of questions.  This week's topic was around why people say "That is a very good question".  At one point, the host was discussing what we had learnt with his co-host, and he asked whether the co-host ever had one of those moments where someone has just said something that you know for sure needs a response, but you just did not hear what they said, and do not want to cause a scene by asking again.  The solution to this dilemma is to to say back, and I am writing this phonetically since it is a word that does not seem to exist:

Bizarre as it sounds, apparently most people, when hearing those sounds, will hear the answer they want to hear.  I hope to test this over the next few days, and will let you know what I find.

I hope you have a great weekend, and speak next week.

* A sure sign of illness is when he prefers me to his mother

Monday, 19 January 2015


It seems I have been a bit remiss, and have not blogged for a while.

This is because of, um, well, it is probably coz I have been quite busy, and so forgot, but in today's world, that sounds pretty lame.

Had a busy weekend.  It was an old college friend's 50th party in London Saturday lunchtime, and due to lack of baby-sitters, I went alone.  It was a fine event in a lovely venue, and the only fly in the ointment was the travel.

On the way there, my travel was fine until I arrived at King's Cross tube station, at which point I read the details of the weekend work to determine that, as it happened, that was as far as the tube could take me towards my destination station, the Barbican.  In the round, probably could not have got much nearer anyway, but this was a school-boy error, and one corrected by me deciding to walk the last couple of miles.  In the pleasant but cool day, it was a nice stroll through some uninspiring bits of North London.

Once there, it was clear that my travel disruption had been but naught compared to others, who were an hour or more delayed.  This meant the event started about an hour and a half later than billed, a fact that became relevant to later travel plans.

The meal went on forever, made none the better by me having a dry January.  Being in the presence of a roomful of people taking advantage of the free drink (thanks Taff for that) is always interesting if you are sober.

We had the slow three courses, followed by dessert wine, and coffee, and speeches, and the opening of presents, at which point it seemed okay for me to make my excuses and leave, only to be rung by LO as I was leaving, to ask where the hell was I? 

I knew I was running late, about 5.15pm at this time, so decided to cab it to Victoria, to catch the 5.46pm down South.  I arrived at a sprint to find this cancelled, and a lot, and I mean a lot, of people milling around thinking the same as me.  Would I get home tonight?

Anyway, I decided to risk the Gatwick Express, to get me at least that far, at which point, I figured, there are bound to be more trains doing the south trip.

And so it passed.  We took 50% longer that we should have to do the trip, but we arrived, and found a train, only it was not the train, and then it was.  We got nearly to Three Bridges when we stopped for half an hour.  We then limped in to the station, on platform 3, only to be told that our train would not continue south, but would instead go back north, and so we needed to change to the train on platform 1.

Meanwhile, those on the train on platform 1 were told that their train was no longer travelling north, but south, and they needed to alight and make their way to platform 3.

And so it was that five-hundred or maybe a thousand people were making their way between platform 1 and 3, down the ramp, along the tunnel and up the other ramp.  Mayhem.

We needn't have worried though.  Our train, and that on platform 3, were going nowhere fast.  And so we sat for a further 30 minutes, waiting for things to shake down.

Finally, our train left the station, and told us that, first good news of the journey, the front half of our train would take us all the way home, separating from the back half at Barnham.
A quick discussion was had between myself and the two women sitting opposite me, as to the best time to move forward to the front half, us being in the back half.  We agreed that sooner rather than later, to avoid any other last-minute hitches.  And so we did, separately (I did not want them to think I was following them, strange, but rather handsome, stranger on the train and all that), to complete the last leg of our journey.

As we arrived in Barnham, having convinced ourselves that nothing else could go wrong, we were notified by the driver - who in fairness was full of apology - that the train was actually terminating at Barnham, and we should alight.

So, for the final part of our journey, I shared a cab with the two women with which I had had the discussion earlier, and due to a lack of change, one of the ladies paid it all, so my journey was free from cost.

That is how it was that I arrived at the dinner party LO and the Maggots were already at around an hour and a half later than I should have.  Four hour journeys do that to your time-keeping.  And don't forget, I could not even seek solace in a beer, being dry and all.  Fortunately, the food was first class and the rest of the evening went off without a hitch.

Friday, 9 January 2015

And . . . relax

Having ended 2014 a little but jaded with Starfleet, I am determined to start 2015 with more vigour.  A week off and plenty of mince pies (and actually, first time for a while, rather a lot of port too) has managed to work its magic, and I do feel ready to do battle with the beast.

I have completed my case for Consulting, which includes plenty of "lateral thinking", which is a modest but important notch on my career bedpost.

I have also had another Mentor session.  My mentor commented that I am now much clearer as to what I want, which is nice, and she has made an introduction on my behalf to someone who is in the right place to advise me, and indeed to know what roles are out there.  As it happens, he knows well the other person with whom I have a call next Tuesday, and so I have combined them both in to the single call. 

The only issue is a couple of major activities* within Starfleet which has, metaphorically, thrown everything up in the air, and until they land, and are appropriately rearranged, it is not that easy to identify which bits are seats and which bits are alligator pits.  All this means is that any career chats will be a bit theoretical.  This does not worry me too much, since what I am doing is getting my name out there, tick, and also getting some sense of at least where to look and what to look for as the changes become reality, tick.

On the home front, the chairs are all stripped back and oiled, and now have new webbing installed.  The cushions arrived on Thursday, but because of an error on my part - I thought I had ordered seat and back, but I had only ordered the seats - I had to place another order yesterday morning for the backs, which arrived promptly today.  I also ordered zips, strong cotton and a new fabric pen**, so I am ready to go, once the material arrives.

This morning I placed the order for the material and sadly it will likely take three to five days to arrive, so I am stuffed until it turns up.  Oh well, where did I put the port.

Actually, that last line is an untruth, because I am trying to do a "dry January" this month.  It will be a challenge, party Saturday night and next week friend's fiftieth lunch party in London, but I plan to be strong, and to see what they look like from a sober perspective***.

Have a great weekend, and speak next week.

* hard to say what without breaching confidentiality rules
** they create a mark that disappears after a day or so.  Seat cushions need to be close-fitting, so accurate marking and cutting is essential, and my chalk triangles will just not suffice for this particular job.
*** absolutely terrifying I expect

Monday, 5 January 2015

Back to work

We are all back to work or school today, except Maggot 2 who has 2 days of Inset.

This means getting up early, or compared to the times we have been getting up over the last two weeks, really really bloody early.  This has been a challenge for all.

I am at work, taking a break I guess, since I am writing this, trying to clear all the bits that I need to clear, planning the rest of the week's activities, and generally just pretending that I am used to this kind of regime.  To be honest, it is well-trodden territory, this having-to-get-used-to-working-again feeling, and I am sure in a week we will be back in the groove, busy, hassled and generally dealing with our busy lives like we are pros.

We had a crazy moment on Thursday.  We have been coveting a specific make of chair for our library*, the make being an Ercol Windsor low-backed chair, model 203.  We found a pair on eBay at a reasonable price, but in Bath, that were collection only.  We discussed that this really was a long way to travel to pickup a pair of chairs, and bid anyway.  Subsequently, we had E's trailer hitched on the car and were making our way down the motorway at 7am Saturday morning, to return home at 1pm.  The weather was foul, and there was a major hold-up on the return journey which required us to take one of our legendary detours - legendary because, as a rule, we spend double the time trying to go round an obstacle as we would have spent queuing to pass it.  In this case, it probably was quicker, but it added a good half an hour to what was already a five hour round trip.

Anyway, we are now the proud owners of a pair of chairs that need a lot of TLC.  In fact, they are now my winter project.  They need sanding back to clear wood, oiling, re-webbing, new seat cushions with new cushion covers which I plan to make.  In short, apart from the beech frame, everything needs replacing.  This may sound like madness, but it does make economic sense.  Even with all that work, and parts, we will end up with chairs that, new, would cost nearly four times what we will have paid to get them done, and even second hand with, to be honest, not as good upholstery as ours will have, they will be worth nearly double what we have paid. 

In short, we will have a design classic with a modern twist that will be just what we are after.

In the process, I have of course leaned heavily on Uncle Google for advice and suppliers for all sorts of items.  I now know, for example, that the right webbing is made by Pirelli, is rubber based, and is a lot more expensive than the cheapest on the market, but nevertheless represents the right thing to be using.  I also know the right way to create the loops that will ultimately be part of the webbing (rivets, since you ask) and also the right kind of seat cushions to buy. 

At this point, I have to say that I really love the internet.  Whatever new subject you want to understand better, you just Google it to be presented with a thousand sites on just that topic.  Literally anything I have thought of, and there are thousands, if not millions, of sites with info on that subject.  Staggering, and well done for Uncle Google for keeping abreast of it all.

I may just print a picture once I have something to show.

* just in case you think we are getting delusions of grandeur, you are right.  This was previously the table-football and snooker room, the other half of our front room, but with the games tables stored in the shed for the Christmas tree to be installed, and the tree now gone, we need to revert the room to our newly chosen function.