Friday, 30 December 2011

IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN

I'm talking about weight loss; diet; healthy eating; whatever! I got up this morning determined to start afresh. Having lost about 16 lbs on my world trip I then put it all back on again, + some.  Don't you just hate that? 

So,,, this morning, determined to start afresh I weighed myself (don't ask), planned my menu for the day and was just about to sit down to enter it into weightlossresourses.com to keep me on the straight and narrow when the devil looked over my shoulder and said "before you start why don't you make yourself a nice cup of coffee? You deserve it".

This was my first mistake, I should have stuck my ass to the chair and finished what I was doing instead of wandering around the house in a perplexed daze trying to figure out what I was doing wandering around the house!  I remembered when I avoided my first temptation, the 3 ginger biscuits on my bedside table left over from yesterdays excesses.  These were deposited back into their rightful home in the biscuit jar.

That is when I should have made my coffee and gone back to the job in hand.  But no, I then bumped into my second temptation, the beckoning Milk Tray chocolates and After Eight Mints on my coffee table.  I didn't give into that though, I put them into a container to take over to the office for the gang.  I felt good about myself.

But... my third temptation was a step too far.  The Christmas Cake.  Should I give it to someone?  Nah!  I'll have a bit with my coffee and start all over again on 1st January.  Sorted!!

This is a photograph of some of our little "Infoteliens" at the ritual office family buffet lunch and raffle prior to closing for Christmas.  They are a right bunch of little suspects aren't they?

Monday, 26 December 2011

A TIME OF REFLECTION

Today it is two years to the day since Davy died.  I know that following any life changing event it is advisable to reflect for at least this period before making any major decisions and this morning I woke up to find my mind wrestling with the events of the last two years and wondering what to do.  Is this, I wonder, because I had subliminally been waiting for this two year period to elapse before re-evaluating things?  I don't know.

Without going into too much detail, within days of Davy's funeral a catastropic "situation" developed within the family which, to this day, is unresolved and totally beyond my comprehension. I was left feeling totally bereft, desolate and misunderstood and the more I tried to resolve things the worse they became.  I didn't cope well.  In fact I would go as far as to say that at times I handled things in an extremely immature, irresponsible and at times petulant manner. 

Now, after many approaches, it is my opinion that the rift is too great for me to heal, but somehow it must be resolved because other people are being hurt too. But what to do?  I don't know.  Other members of my family and friends have offered to act as mediators but I am of the opinion, rightly or wrongly, that it would probably exacerbated the situation. 

This morning I found myself wishing that I could ask a disassociated individual to evaluate, assess and advise on the strangeness of  all this.  But who? It would have to be someone completely impartial. I then wondered if I should simply write it all down.  This, they say, can be very cathartic.  But would it open up old wounds that I'm not ready to face yet?  Who knows.  And where to start?  And would writing about it change anything anyway? Would it even makes things worse because once my feelings were committed to paper would I be content to keep them to myself? Least said, soonest mended and all that good stuff. The jury is still out on this.

Oh Davy, where are you when I need you?  Life has been so hard without you and there is never a passing moment when I don't miss you so much.  You were so intuitive and would have known exactly what to do. Or would you?  I remember one time when you went into a difficult situation with the best of intentions only to be chewed up and spat out again.  I know that you felt the same devistation then that  I feel now.

In the meantime I pray to God that one day soon the answer will become apparent . I guess until that time comes I just do the Churchillian thing and keep buggering on! Trust in the lord, but row for the shore!!
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

MOST HUMBLE APOLOGIES

Following my ,"the worst CV in the world" blog I received a severe admonishment (HELP Benedict, is this a real word?) from the writer Benedict Le Gauche because I failed to mention where I happened across this gem. I added a PS to my blog to lead you, dear followers, through the process I took and asked Benedict if he was now content.  I also sought his advice on how to spell the word discombuberated. He emailed back:

Ann I am not content.  You got the CV from my site, not from the Metro's site, which doesn't have it but has a link to it.  Mother tells me I shouldn't indulge these frissons of propriety and yet here I am 01:25 in the morning asking you to please link it to the original because I spent a time writing it and it connects to whole lot of other stuff that I wrote and it's not really much to ask that you link to the original site from which you cut and pasted it. 

You f****** spell discombobulated like this DISCOMBOBULATED. 

Yours with a frank-uncalled-for amount of snoot.

Benedict

Calm down dear.  You have to remember that you are communicating with a frail and, quite honestly, crazy 71.33 year old widow woman.  Please forgive me.  Oh! and by the way, in response to your request, here's the link to your site, http://curriculumvitiate.wordpress.com/.  I admit that I was entirely in the wrong and hope that you aren't still discombobulated darling.

Having to print this makes me empathise with the editor of the Daily Mail when he compiles a list of apologies and retractions at the end of each day.  Is this power or what?  Oh sh*t, am I now in trouble with the Daily Mail too?!  Lock me up!!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

THE WORLDS WORST CV

This purports to be the world's worst CV.  I think it must be a joke, but I still love it, especially the bit where he says in his Extracurricular Pursuits "In order that the cheques do not stop I sometimes spend time with the family." Read into that what you will!   Note to family, even a 'phone call now and then would suffice!!! :-)

So - here is the CV.  My advice? Read it on your own because you'll howl with laughter and might even wet yourself. 
My name is BENEDICT LE GAUCHE and I was born on 02/05/83 which makes me 28 and ripe as a lemon. I’m looking for a job I’ll like. As a man of integrity I’m not about to try and give you the impression that all the jobs I’ve had previously were brilliant learning experiences tailor-made to equip me for precisely the job I’m applying for (hello you) when in reality they have been, for the greater part, boring and drudgerous and disheartening. I should state I was not bad at them. The capacity to bear such trials whilst retaining an at-most-times sunny disposition might be called something like ‘the ability to work under pressure’. Yes. I wasn’t bad. I was good in fact – I can’t think of a job I wasn’t good at. (I can: a call centre job at a company called GOVNET – ‘a communication tool that government uses to communicate with the third sector’ and home to the most disastrous horseshit I’ve had the pleasure of peddling, commercially.) So, but via some kind of weird pride or fear of being disliked I have hitherto been inspired to perform above averagely for every company I’ve ever worked for and believe that I can harness this same fear in the furthering of your company goals. Who knows? I might even like the job! Though this is statistically improbable. Some short sentences about me: I excel at customer service – really fly, you should see. I can lift more than it looks like I can lift. I like working on my own if there isn’t anyone fun to work with but can also stand the company of people I hold in contempt and am, in this sense, versatile. I can work incredibly long hours, and will work for very little money. I have ginger hair and for a lot of people this is a talking point. Sometimes I do not feel like I am completely in control of myself and I have to pinch myself very hard. I like the great outdoors. As of the 11th January 2011 I am free from all venereal disease. Thanks for taking the time out to read my application. I’ve tried my best to be honest. I really excel at customer service and do, through great force of will and habit, hide the worst of my qualities.

Work History

Cleaner/Caretaker; The Women’s Organisation, Manchester ; 11/08/2010 – Present

Duties include: Working out how dirty I can let the building get without Lisa complaining and then cleaning to this exact standard. Composing lewd/crass emails to Alison. Enjoying the reversal of gender stereotypes. Pride swallowing. Key holding.

Host: Zion Arts Centre, Manchester; 02/02/2011 – 28/07/2011

Moving chairs from one place to another place. Tables, sometimes. I sat on the front desk. I colleced printouts from the office which is 300 meters away from the desk and I brought them back. When people passed the desk and made little jokes in a kind of we’re-in-this-together spirit I laughed even if the jokes were not at all funny. This made me feel hollow. I tried to fill the hollow by eating stem ginger biscuits that I stole from the cafe. The biscuits were delicious but they did not fill the hollow. Duties included: Checking that the toilets were still there and that it was ok in them, still. Keeping a log of this information on an A4 that was taped to the back of the toilet door. Taking orders from people who are conspicuously younger than me.

Copywriter ; Tailormydesign.co.uk, the internet ; July 2010

Duties included: Writing about fabrics and tailoring like they were something I thought were exciting and meaningful. Researching the exact tone of condescension invariably used in the Q&A sections of trendy fashion websites and overcoming an astonishing sense of dread in order to copy seven shades of shit out of exactly this tone. Wondering whether I preferred prostitution of the mind or of the body. Wondering whether this made me a writer. Wondering when it would end.

Waiter/Barista/Kitchen Porter ; Koffee Pot, Manchester ; I did this job like five times in 2010

Duties included: Washing up until somebody told me it was time to wash the floor. Washing floors. Pretending I was cooler than I am and that I was ok with all this washing up.

Commis Chef ; Stock Restaurant, Manchester ; 28/09/2009 to 15/12/2009

Duties Included: The preparation and presentation of fine-dining dishes. Intimate acquaintance with panic. Embracing with grace and good cheer being called ‘Julie’ by most of my colleagues. Teamwork. Because I personally went in to resign instead of anonymously skulking off I was commended for my bravery and forthrightness though I really only went in to collect my ipod and my terrifyingly sharp knife.

Telephone Guy ; GOVNET, Manchester ; 15/8/2009 to 28/8/2009

Duties included: Pretending to be on the phone. Joining my irrevocably compromised colleagues in the morning chorus of ‘I’M GOING TO SELL SELL SELL (my soul)!’. Trying to work out what it was the company did and what part of that I was supposed to be doing. Hiding.

Bookseller ; Blackwell University Bookshop, Manchester ; 01/06/2006 to 10/12/2008

Where I was kept on after temping because I was more than willing to share my social time / pass notes on Belle and Sebastian with the full-time staff. My meteoric rise to ‘Fiction Buyer’ – I was for a time featured on their website as an ‘expert’ – was tempered only by my devil-may-care attitude toward punctuality and what was termed in meetings with management as my ‘attitude problem’ (FUCK OFF). Having achieved a dream I attributed après coup to my traumatic childhood at such a tender age (the dream of being able to buy ‘all of the books’) I withered on the publishing vine and hit the bottle. I eventually left, to Denmark, in pursuit of dubious love. Duties included: Daily use of the full suite of Microsoft Office programmes. For two years. So now I can’t look at a latticed window without seeing, in my mind’s eye, Excel and everything that follows.

Weekend bookseller ; Books Etc. Manchester Printworks (now a Cafe Rouge) ; 02/08/2005 to 20/12/2005

Where I ignored signs that the world of bookselling was not quite as I’d pictured it in my dreams (signs included: Simon’s cadaverous skin and desperate smell. Eve’s quiet fury at how unlike the dream of youth real-life-retail-maturity had turned out to be. And Richard’s faltering attempts to allay this same fear and same desperation by writing plays that no-one ever performed, no-one ever saw, drunk, as was I, on the promised authority of the author over his and all possible worlds.). Duties included: Cashing up. Data input.

Retail man ; NEXT, Market Street Lancaster ; 06/09/2001 to 01/02/2003

Duties included: Resisting the desire to fold my arms. Resisting the desire to yawn. Resisting the desire put either of my hands into either of my pockets. Resisting the desire to scream aloud. I learned how to separate women who’re clutching with their dear lives to the same knitwear without ruining the knitwear. Learned how to dress wounds. Learned what it means to be a man (thanks Wendy).

Education // Trainings

Customer Service Certification ; Mary Gober International ; June 2007

After a two day course in a hellhole hotel deep in suburban Leeds my self-satisfaction is up from 46% to 79% and number of written complaints I receive down from 400 to 35 (all statistics in line with their website[1])

BA (hons) Philosophy (2:1) ; Manchester Metropolitan University ; 06/06/2002 to 06/07/2006

Pointless.

A levels, English Language (C), English Literature (C) Mathematics (D) ; Preston College, Preston ; 06/06/1999 to 06/07/2001

I learned that I was not nearly as clever as I’d always assumed I was. A difficult pill to swallow.

GCSEs in all manner of subjects (4xA, 2xB, 3xC and 1xD ); Garstang High School, Garstang, Lancashire ; 1994 – 1999

So unfathomably long ago that I can remember only vague scenes and almost certainly nothing of value.

Extracurricular Pursuits

I read, I brood, I play squash, I collect Nina Simone and Fats Waller and Billie Holiday records because they are beautiful. In order that the cheques do not stop I sometimes spend time with the family. I like going to parties (If ever I sit next to you at a party it is likely that I will talk to you about the author David Foster Wallace in a way that you will find dreadfully boring and it is likely that you will start looking around in an increasingly frantic manner for your friends. I will be hurt by your obvious attempt to escape and I will most likely betray this hurt by rhythmically stroking my ironic tie). I play the piano and the guitar. Sometimes I’ll give a cigarette to a tramp. I draw pictures of my friends and give them to them as birthday presents. I like to close my eyes and pretend I am Darth Vader. I pursue love and happiness like anyone else, with about the same level of success.

Facts and Figures

•Average time I stay in a job: 357 days

•Average wage: £6.15p/h

•My weight, as of June 2011: 56KG

•Number of friends on Facebook: 289

•Age at which I was 100% sure I’d passed puberty: 21

•Average number of letters in my eight ex girlfriend’s Christian names: 5

•Number of letters in current girlfriend’s name: 9

•% of customers satisfied: 97% (up from 74% thanks to The Gober Method)

And if you would actually like to meet the man himself go to

http://www.meettherealme.co.uk/profiles/3e84763442add1960b1d9a531d24b9a5c34d516f

PS  I've just received the following email:

Dear Madam Ann,

I'm flattered that you like my cv but I was wondering if you could refrain from posting the whole thing on your site without at least referencing where you got it from.  I'm sure you meant no harm, it's just a matter of some narcissism.

Kind regards,
Benedict.

I am so sorry Benedict, you are correct I should have admitted that I googled "the worlds worst cv",came across this for all to read on metro.co.uk and finally linked to your site at .http://curriculumvitiate.wordpress.com/.

PPS - wana job?

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

UNWANTED BROWN ENVELOPES IN THE MAIL

I had a brown envelope in the mail this morning and my heart sank.  Brown envelopes = bad news.  More tax to pay? a parking fine? or even worse, another wretched speeding ticket! But no, this one was unusually good news.  Notification of my £200 winter fuel allowance.  It got me thinking.  I'm in a very fortunate position in asmuchas through sheer hard work and insanity I don't really need this money but I have no way of refusing to accept it.

Recently many high profile people have tried to send this payment back but  there is no mechanism for doing this, which is mad. Admittedly this money can, and I'm sure will, be sent off to good causes, but wouldn't it be better to have the ability of opting out in the spirit of  "ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country".  Maybe the better off could also have the option to opt out of receiving family allowance and the state pension too! 

And wouldn't it be fun if CEO's opted to reduce their massive salary and bonus payouts, or if some of our public servants declared "you know what, I'm not short of a bob or two, I consider that it's my civic duty to do this job for a modest fee", or if Trade Union leaders said "no £100,000 + exenses is too much to take out of the kitty, pay me less", etc. etc. 

Let's start a campaign.  Instead of demanding "what's in it for me" lets ask "what can I do to help?"  One of the key by products of this might be to take personal responsibility for making our leaders more accountable. And wouldn't it be good if pigs could fly? They don't call me polyanna for nothing you know!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

MY SECOND 15 MINUTES OF FAME

A few weeks ago I wrote about an article to be featured in Woman's Weekly about my around the world without flying Oz-Bus trip . Well here it is and for those of you who can't buy the magazine here is what it says. That's Davy and me in the bottom right hand corner!

It was Christmas Day and the house was filled with love, laughter and family. As Ann and Davy‘s children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren played Secret Santa downstairs, Davy slept upstairs, the sound of laughter wafting up from below.


‘The house was packed! My grand-son-in- law said it was like being in The Waltons,‘ laughs Ann. ‘Even the district nurse said she’d never seen such a large family, but it was good to have life in the house again, after so much sadness.’


The last three months had been incredibly difficult for Ann and Davy. After 27 years together, the last two spent fighting cancer, Davy was dying, and Ann was determined that he should have his final wish; to die at home. With help from Marie Cure nurses, ’ our angels‘ as Ann described them, they’d somehow pulled it off.


But now, Christmas Day 2009, it was clear that their time together was running out.


‘Davy was fading, but he could hear everything, including the children's laughter,’ says Ann. Everyone had time to sit with him and say goodbye. Our newest great-grandchild Leyton, who was only five days old, visited too, which was perfect because Davy adored his grandchildren.’


He also adored Ann. The first time they met, in a pub, Davy, who was a bricklayer, had impressed her by spouting passages from Homer’s Illiad, in between pints. ’ It was love at first sight!‘ says Ann, who was a secretary. ‘He knew how to woe a lady!


‘We had both recently come out of a failed marriage with four children between us, Davy had a son and daughter in Scotland and I had two daughters living with me, times were hard but we both believed in seizing each day by the throat!‘


In 1989, Ann had an idea to start her own business; a hotel information service. ‘I thought Davy would think it was daft but he didn’t, he encouraged me to do it. He always had more faith in me than I ever had in myself,’ she says.


Ann’s business Infotel became a phenomenal success, and Davy was soon working alongside her. 'Over the years we laughed, fought and cried but most of all we thanked God that we had found each other. He used to say that we were two people who made one whole person. I think that just about summed it up.’


Upbeat to the end, Davy learnt to rollerblade just a few months before he died, and told Ann she too must continue to, ‘seize every day’ after he’d gone. ‘Davy knew I’d always wanted to travel. He told me I should see the world but I couldn’t bear to think ahead …‘.


On Boxing Day morning, while Ann and her daughter Sara sat with him, Davy passed away.


‘I don’t remember much about the next few weeks, it was surreal,’ says Ann. ‘But I remember dividing out the £2 coins Davy had been saving for the grandchildren, he’d wanted us to share them out at Christmas. I knew I had to honour the wish.’


After Davy’s funeral (attended by 350 people) Ann felt utterly lost. ‘The family were wonderful of course; my granddaughter Georgina, her husband and four children (including baby Leyton) even moved in with me. It was absolute chaos - just what I needed! But it couldn’t last forever.’


Then nine months later, remembering Davy’s wish that she should have the trip of a lifetime, Ann heard, quite by chance, about a coach trip - with a difference.


‘A friend told me about it and it sounded so exciting,’ says Ann.


Without hesitating, Ann paid a deposit, then allowed herself to panic. ‘I got terrible cold feet,‘ she admits. ‘I thought, ‘I’m far too old for this! It’s ridiculous! Part of me hoped that not enough people would sign up, and it might be cancelled.’


Anne’s worries were understandable. For the ‘coach trip’ she’d just booked wasn’t your average two week tour of the UK, or Europe. It would last three months and take her round the world starting in London, finishing in New York and visiting 16 countries in total - including Russia and China!


Nor would it be luxurious. To keep costs down, sleeping accommodation was in hostel dormitories, under canvas, or on the coach itself! As for what to take, Ann would only be allowed one rucksack, and it had to be light enough for her to carry herself.


On paper, it certainly sounded like a trip for someone a few decades younger…


‘The idea of roughing it did not appeal. But the idea of seeing all these places I’d never be able to see otherwise, definitely did. So I tried not to think too much about the other stuff.‘


She also decided to ask people to sponsor her, so she could raise money for those Marie Cure ‘angels’ who had helped Davy so much.


Were her family horrified? ‘Not at all,‘ Ann laughs. ‘They know what I’m like once I have an idea, and were probably glad to see the back of me!’ Or maybe they were simply relieved to see that Ann was feeling more like herself again.


After a surprise farewell party, thrown by her step-daughter Kimberly, Ann’s adventure began. On March 27 she boarded the a coach in London, along with 21 other passengers, feeling ‘numb with nerves.’


Fortunately the coach was spacious enough to allow each of them a double seat each, and for the first few days at least Ann relished the solitude. ‘It became my own personal space, a place to sit and think.’


Of course her thoughts were never far away from Davy. ‘He was never out of my head,’ she says simply. ‘It was as if he was travelling with me. But he would have absolutely hated the first part of the trip. I remember arriving at our second hostel in Heidelberg, Germany, dragging my rucksack up three flights of stairs to a cramped dormitory and wondering, what am I doing ? I knew exactly how Davy would have met this first ‘challenge’ - with an airline ticket straight back to Britain! Davy liked sleeping in his own bed and would never have tolerated it!’


But Ann was made of sterner stuff. Besides, although the accommodation was sometimes grim (especially the filthy, freezing hostels in the Baltic states) her fellow travellers were anything but. Very quickly, they became as close as any family.


‘I formed great friendships with Sirin, a 34 year old German woman, Johnny from London and Jono from Australia.’


Ann had take a laptop with her and kept a daily blog so that family and friends could see she was

fine. ‘I called my blog Retired and Crazy because that’s exactly how I felt!‘


Ann’s 92 day trip tested her in many ways. As well as seeing all the places she’d dreamed of - Red Square, the Great Wall of China, Terracotta Warriors, Niagara Falls - she also experienced nine night on the Siberian Express, endured ‘pit toilets’ (simply a hole in the ground) and camped in Yellowstone National Park, USA, renowned for its grizzly bears. She also discovered it was quite possible to wear the same three sets of clothes for three months…


But by far her most memorable and poignant moment was crossing Lake Baikal in Siberia, the world’s oldest and deepest lake. ‘We’d intended to drive over it, which is perfectly safe in winter when temperatures reach minus 19! But we arrived at the wrong time of year, the ice was starting to thaw, and we had no choice but to walk,’ says Ann.


‘I slipped and slid my way across, feeling afraid, but the solitude was magical. I felt so close to Davy and so at peace with the world. On the way back, the ice was even thinner and my friend Jono held my hand all the way, to stop me falling. Davy would definitely have approved of that.’


Her trip ended in New York, where Ann had an emotional reunion with step-daughter Kimberly and granddaughter Georgina who had flown over to meet her. ‘They told me I was glowing with happiness, which is just how I felt.’


‘I didn’t go on the trip to escape,’ Ann adds. ‘I went because it was something that Davy encouraged me to do. It certainly was the trip of a lifetime and I loved it, but it made me realise that I also love the life that I have here. Davy taught me how to live, and I’m not going to give up on that.’

Ann crossed 16 countries, three continents, 14 US states…without a single flight!


She travelled by coach through Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, China . From China she sailed to Alaska, (with visits to South Korea and Japan) then travelled by coach again into Canada and the USA where she visited Seattle, Yellowstone Park, Chicago, The Great Lakes, Niagra Falls and New York.


The total trip cost £6,999.


Ann is raising money for Marie Cure Cancer. To find out more go to her blog http://www.retiredandcrazy.com/




 

Monday, 28 November 2011

PUBLIC SECTOR STRIKE

I had my knuckles rapped by Lewis, the student who is the sole instigator of  The Thought Report  mentioned in my last blog.  I erroneously stated that there were19 other students involved in the project and that the date of publication would be 5th December which is the article deadline. The actual date of publication is sheduled for 13th December. Sorry for that. 

I have also asked Lewis how he intends to gather the Charity donations.  I'm assuming that he will use an organisation like Just Giving. I can't see any mention of this on  his site, but.............I am not good at following instructions so can anyone else tell me how this works? Have I missed something?

Now on to my rant!  Public sector workers!! 

Let me tell you a story of how an private sector company works.  In December 2007 two major credit card companies took their payment from our bank six days earlier than usual. They were entitled to do this, but it took us completely by surprise.   Within weeks we had a double whammy - clients were delaying payments.  We went from having six weeks operational costs in the bank to needing an overdraft.  And this was months before the "credit crunch" was being publicly talked about! We were very concerned and immediately froze recruitment and purchases while the situation was assessed.

Our first step was to reduce management salaries by 20%. That helped but it still wasn't enough and by the autumn things had got so bad that we were having to plan redundancies.  It was one of our bleakest, blackest moments but one that we knew had to be faced.  How do you tell your loyal and committed workforce that you have to lay some of them off?  People that have worked beside you for years and, on the strength of their jobs, taken on financial commitments.

It came to the dreaded day when we were to make the announcement.  As fate would have it the previous evening we won a Business of the Year award! During the night I knew that I didn't have it in my heart to take this step without one final throw of the dice.  I spoke to my fellow directors and we decided to lay the facts out, honestly acknowledge that we were facing redundancies, but offer one final solution - a temporary, across the board, 20% wage cut or reduction in hours. 

The staff were brilliant.  Client budgets had been cut, but volumes were growing and they already knew they were working harder to only to stand still. Things had to change and they had been anticipating redundancies.  When we threw this lifeline it was grabbed with both hands.  No-one wanted to be without work.

It was agreed in open forum that everyone would be interviewed in confidence and anyone suffering extreme hardship would continue as normal but the survival of the company depended on the majority voluntarily selecting one of the two alternatives.   Thankfully most were able to pitch in. 

We were eventually able to restore the Status Que but still continue to have a wage, recruitment and spending freeze. In other words, we watch things very carefully. 

Around this time a health worker that I know was complaining bitterly that they were only getting a 2% wage rise.   He was banging on about the need to take action.  It was at a social gathering and I behaved myself and managed to keep my mouth shut.  It's unreal.

To change the subject ever so slightly, but not a lot, this morning they were saying that statistically, due to lack of cover, you are 10% more likely to die if you are admitted to hospital at the weekend.    The TV doctor hit the nail on the head.  He said that the problem could easily be solved if doctors were paid less and there were more of them.  Boom, boom!

In a nutshell, public sector workers in general and health workers in particular have massively swelled in numbers and enjoyed high wage rises over the past decade, outstripping private sector workers.  And now they strike? Get real! It wouldn't be so bad if efficiency had improved. Quite the reverse, some of them seem to actually think they are demi gods.   . 

This inequality has to be addressed if we are to avoid serious conflict.   My hard earned taxes are paying for their militancy and I'm fed up with it.

We were lucky, but we bought about our own "luck" by being honest.  And again, "luckily!" our staff believed us because they trusted us.  Who is to be believed and trusted now?  You certainly can't believe the politicians or the banks. This is the crux of the matter isn't it? Dear God, where do we go from here?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

AFRICA, THAT MYSTERIOUS, BEAUTIFUL, YET TROUBLED CONTINENT

One of my favourite bloggers, Reluctant Memsahib, has just dropped a bomshell.  She made a sudden decision to move from her home in the wilds of Tanzania and now she's gone.  After five years her descriptions of life in Outpost have come to an end.  She doesn't explain what prompted this or where she is going, which leads me to wonder what sort of trauma could have caused her to take this decision.

Her life has been so different to anything that I ever experienced and her descriptions so graphic.  When I was housebound with my beloved Davy a couple of years ago she lifted me out of his illness for a while and gave my mind the freedom to roam in her land of sunshine. I read her sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always interesting stories from this far off land and her words always lifted my spirits What an gift she has for words.

It was amazing to me that she could be so remote and yet share with us by simply posting a blog.  I'm sure that I'm not alone in wishing her the very best.   

So, I ask myself, why blog?  Why do we do it?  I have again found myself doubting the wisdom of sharing my thoughts with cyberspace.  What's it all about?  My rants bore me and I'm sure they must bore everyone else, so why bother?  I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that I have made many friends and received great empathy and uplifting comments in times of need.  So here I go again!!!

A while ago I was approached by a college student who, along with 19 other students,  had the bright idea of inviting 12 bloggers to submit articles for an online book with proceeds to go to charity.  We were asked to select and write about 12 major events of the past year.  I elected to write about Steve Jobs and Ophra Winfrey. The chosen charity for 2011 is the Bulembu project.

Based in a small town in Swaziland, Africa, the Bulembu project is an inspirational mission to transform an abandoned mining town in the only country in the world with a negative population rate, into a thriving town and beacon of hope in a country ravaged by HIV/AIDS.

By taking in orphans and rejuvenating an eco-friendly and close knit community, the Bulembu project hopes to bring life back to an otherwise doomed area.

Visited by a team of 19 16-year-old's in 2010, the Bulembu project has been chosen as the charity for 2011 for a variety of reasons - not only is it an innovative and necessary project with a glowing heart at the centre of it, the Bulembu projects motto - Learn, Engage, Give - reflects much of the spirit behind TTR - learning from others, engaging in a project and giving to a worthy cause.

It is anticipated that the cyber book will be available from 5th December.  Read all about this project at www.thethoughtreportofficial.blogspot.com

Monday, 14 November 2011

UP, UP AND AWAY

And for my next trip?  After christmas I plan to visit my grandson in Australia.  I will be going with my grandaughter and two great grandaughters but I may not be coming back with them.  I am hoping to be pursuaded to go on an extended road trip with my grandson and his girlfriend.  Wouldn't that be amazing?

Apologies, my friend sent me this terrible joke, but it is so, so funny and I think that we all need brightening up to counteract all the gloom.

After having their 11th child, an Irish couple decided that that was enough, as they couldn't afford a larger bed. So the husband went to his doctor and told him that he and his wife didn't want to have any more children ...


The doctor told him there was a procedure called a vasectomy that would fix the problem but it was expensive. A less costly alternative was to go home, get a large firecracker, light it, put it in a beer can, then hold the can up to his ear and count to 10.

The husband said to the doctor, "B'Jayzus, I may not be the smartest guy in the world, but I don't see how putting a firework in a beer can next to my ear is going to help me with my problem."

"Trust me, it will do the job", said the doctor.

So the man went home, lit a cracker and put it in a beer can. He held the can up to his ear and began to count:

"1, 2, 3, 4, 5," at which point he paused, and placed the beer can between his legs so he could continue counting on his other hand.

This procedure also works in Australia, Tasmania and Greece .

Monday, 7 November 2011

MY WEEK

I recently read that you shouldn't write a blog unless you have something to say.  My problem is I have too much to say!  I hear the morning news and off I go, asking questions, wondering why, solving problems.  I don't understand why everyone isn't like me.  Why am I so different?

This week I have been out to lunch (twice), dinner (once), theatre (once), received a proposal or marrriage from some random guy on facebook, received my first Chrismas present (15 bottles of wine), had two great grandaughters and then two grandsons on sleepover, progressed my proposed plan to build a house and on Thursday I'm going to the cinema. And this has been a quiet week.  No wonder I have opinions on things.

I also have a wonderful variety of friends who send me pointlessly funny news items from all over the world.  This is the latest.  I think I have heard this one before, but it still makes me howl with laughter.

Subject: Government Investigates Rancher

The Montana Department of Employment, Division of Labor Standards claimed a small rancher was not paying proper wages to his help and sent an agent out to investigate him.

GOV’T AGENT: “I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them.”

RANCHER: ”Well, there’s my hired hand who’s been with me for 3 years. I pay him $200 a week plus free room and board.

Then there’s the mentally challenged guy. He works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here.

He makes about $10 per week, pays his own room and board, and I buy him a bottle of bourbon every Saturday night so he can cope with life.

He also sleeps with my wife occasionally.”

GOV’T AGENT: “That’s the guy I want to talk to - the mentally challenged one.”

RANCHER: “That would be me.”

Friday, 4 November 2011

NANNIES SOLUTION TO THE EUROPEAN DEBT CRISIS

Four rules:

1. All existing IMF & ECB loans to EU Member states (not limited to the EuroZone!) should be ring fenced and renegotiated to reduce interest rates and extend the loan period. This would give everyone “wiggle room” and haul troubled countries out of a default situation.

It would also reward best performing countries, giving them breathing space to strengthen without having to spend precious resources propping up ailing and feckless countries. Survival of the fittest. The best performers would thrive and survive.

2. Countries with a shocking fiscal record should be told categorically that if they ever, ever want to borrow money again they would be stringently audited and a condition of loan would be to get their fiscal act together. NO ARGUMENTS.

3. Any person or business that has a genuine debt crisis would also have the opportunity, should they so wish, to renegotiate their loan in the same way. Without having to prop up rogue states the money would be available to help on this level, which is where the pain is being felt most and where recovery will ultimately come from.

4. Any person, business or country that has obtained credit fraudulently, (such as Greece fudging the figures to get into the Euro Zone), should be black listed – as in - no more credit extended EVER.

Where are you Maggie when we need you? Herein endeth the lesson.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

A SISTER'S EULOGY FOR STEVE JOBS

Mona Simpson is a novelist and a professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. She delivered this eulogy for her brother, Steve Jobs, on Oct. 16 at his memorial service at the Memorial Church of Stanford University



I grew up as an only child, with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif. I hoped he would be rich and kind and would come into our lives (and our not yet furnished apartment) and help us. Later, after I’d met my father, I tried to believe he’d changed his number and left no forwarding address because he was an idealistic revolutionary, plotting a new world for the Arab people.

Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother. By then, I lived in New York, where I was trying to write my first novel. I had a job at a small magazine in an office the size of a closet, with three other aspiring writers.

When one day a lawyer called me — me, the middle-class girl from California who hassled the boss to buy us health insurance — and said his client was rich and famous and was my long-lost brother, the young editors went wild. This was 1985 and we worked at a cutting-edge literary magazine, but I’d fallen into the plot of a Dickens novel and really, we all loved those best. The lawyer refused to tell me my brother’s name and my colleagues started a betting pool. The leading candidate: John Travolta. I secretly hoped for a literary descendant of Henry James — someone more talented than I, someone brilliant without even trying.

When I met Steve, he was a guy my age in jeans, Arab- or Jewish-looking and handsomer than Omar Sharif. We took a long walk — something, it happened, that we both liked to do. I don’t remember much of what we said that first day, only that he felt like someone I’d pick to be a friend. He explained that he worked in computers. I didn’t know much about computers. I still worked on a manual Olivetti typewriter. I told Steve I’d recently considered my first purchase of a computer: something called the Cromemco. Steve told me it was a good thing I’d waited. He said he was making something that was going to be insanely beautiful.

I want to tell you a few things I learned from Steve, during three distinct periods, over the 27 years I knew him. They’re not periods of years, but of states of being. His full life. His illness. His dying.

Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Everyday. That’s incredibly simple, but true. He was the opposite of absent-minded. He was never embarrassed about working hard, even if the results were failures. If someone as smart as Steve wasn’t ashamed to admit trying, maybe I didn’t have to be.

When he got kicked out of Apple, things were painful. He told me about a dinner at which 500 Silicon Valley leaders met the then-sitting president. Steve hadn’t been invited. He was hurt but he still went to work at Next. Every single day.

Novelty was not Steve’s highest value. Beauty was. For an innovator, Steve was remarkably loyal. If he loved a shirt, he’d order 10 or 100 of them. In the Palo Alto house, there are probably enough black cotton turtlenecks for everyone in this church.


He didn’t favour trends or gimmicks. He liked people his own age. His philosophy of aesthetics reminds me of a quote that went something like this: “Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.” Steve always aspired to make beautiful later.

He was willing to be misunderstood. Uninvited to the ball, he drove the third or fourth iteration of his same black sports car to Next, where he and his team were quietly inventing the platform on which Tim Berners-Lee would write the program for the World Wide Web.

Steve was like a girl in the amount of time he spent talking about love. Love was his supreme virtue, his god of gods. He tracked and worried about the romantic lives of the people working with him. Whenever he saw a man he thought a woman might find dashing, he called out, “Hey are you single? Do you wanna come to dinner with my sister?” I remember when he phoned the day he met Laurene. “There’s this beautiful woman and she’s really smart and she has this dog and I’m going to marry her.”

When Reed was born, he began gushing and never stopped. He was a physical dad, with each of his children. He fretted over Lisa’s boyfriends and Erin’s travel and skirt lengths and Eve’s safety around the horses she adored. None of us who attended Reed’s graduation party will ever forget the scene of Reed and Steve slow dancing.


His abiding love for Laurene sustained him. He believed that love happened all the time, everywhere. In that most important way, Steve was never ironic, never cynical, never pessimistic. I try to learn from that, still.

Steve had been successful at a young age, and he felt that had isolated him. Most of the choices he made from the time I knew him were designed to dissolve the walls around him. A middle-class boy from Los Altos, he fell in love with a middle-class girl from New Jersey. It was important to both of them to raise Lisa, Reed, Erin and Eve as grounded, normal children. Their house didn’t intimidate with art or polish; in fact, for many of the first years I knew Steve and Lo together, dinner was served on the grass, and sometimes consisted of just one vegetable. Lots of that one vegetable. But one. Broccoli. In season. Simply prepared. With just the right, recently snipped, herb.

Even as a young millionaire, Steve always picked me up at the airport. He’d be standing there in his jeans. When a family member called him at work, his secretary Linetta answered, “Your dad’s in a meeting. Would you like me to interrupt him?”


When Reed insisted on dressing up as a witch every Halloween, Steve, Laurene, Erin and Eve all went wiccan.

They once embarked on a kitchen remodel; it took years. They cooked on a hotplate in the garage. The Pixar building, under construction during the same period, finished in half the time. And that was it for the Palo Alto house. The bathrooms stayed old. But — and this was a crucial distinction — it had been a great house to start with; Steve saw to that.


This is not to say that he didn’t enjoy his success: he enjoyed his success a lot, just minus a few zeros. He told me how much he loved going to the Palo Alto bike store and gleefully realizing he could afford to buy the best bike there. And he did.

Steve was humble. Steve liked to keep learning. Once, he told me if he’d grown up differently, he might have become a mathematician. He spoke reverently about colleges and loved walking around the Stanford campus. In the last year of his life, he studied a book of paintings by Mark Rothko, an artist he hadn’t known about before, thinking of what could inspire people on the walls of a future Apple campus.

Steve cultivated whimsy. What other C.E.O. knows the history of English and Chinese tea roses and has a favorite David Austin rose?

He had surprises tucked in all his pockets. I’ll venture that Laurene will discover treats — songs he loved, a poem he cut out and put in a drawer — even after 20 years of an exceptionally close marriage. I spoke to him every other day or so, but when I opened The New York Times and saw a feature on the company’s patents, I was still surprised and delighted to see a sketch for a perfect staircase.

With his four children, with his wife, with all of us, Steve had a lot of fun. He treasured happiness.

Then, Steve became ill and we watched his life compress into a smaller circle. Once, he’d loved walking through Paris. He’d discovered a small handmade soba shop in Kyoto. He downhill skied gracefully. He cross-country skied clumsily. No more.


Eventually, even ordinary pleasures, like a good peach, no longer appealed to him.


Yet, what amazed me, and what I learned from his illness, was how much was still left after so much had been taken away.

I remember my brother learning to walk again, with a chair. After his liver transplant, once a day he would get up on legs that seemed too thin to bear him, arms pitched to the chair back. He’d push that chair down the Memphis hospital corridor towards the nursing station and then he’d sit down on the chair, rest, turn around and walk back again. He counted his steps and, each day, pressed a little farther.

Laurene got down on her knees and looked into his eyes. “You can do this, Steve,” she said. His eyes widened. His lips pressed into each other. He tried. He always, always tried, and always with love at the core of that effort. He was an intensely emotional man.

I realized during that terrifying time that Steve was not enduring the pain for himself. He set destinations: his son Reed’s graduation from high school, his daughter Erin’s trip to Kyoto, the launching of a boat he was building on which he planned to take his family around the world and where he hoped he and Laurene would someday retire.

Even ill, his taste, his discrimination and his judgment held. He went through 67 nurses before finding kindred spirits and then he completely trusted the three who stayed with him to the end. Tracy. Arturo. Elham.

One time when Steve had contracted a tenacious pneumonia his doctor forbad everything — even ice. We were in a standard I.C.U. unit. Steve, who generally disliked cutting in line or dropping his own name, confessed that this once, he’d like to be treated a little specially. I told him: Steve, this is special treatment. He leaned over to me, and said: “I want it to be a little more special.”

Intubated, when he couldn’t talk, he asked for a notepad. He sketched devices to hold an iPad in a hospital bed. He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment. He re-drew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit. And every time his wife walked into the room, I watched his smile remake itself on his face. For the really big, big things, you have to trust me, he wrote on his sketchpad. He looked up. You have to.


By that, he meant that we should disobey the doctors and give him a piece of ice.

None of us knows for certain how long we’ll be here. On Steve’s better days, even in the last year, he embarked upon projects and elicited promises from his friends at Apple to finish them. Some boat builders in the Netherlands have a gorgeous stainless steel hull ready to be covered with the finishing wood. His three daughters remain unmarried, his two youngest still girls, and he’d wanted to walk them down the aisle as he’d walked me the day of my wedding.

We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.


I suppose it’s not quite accurate to call the death of someone who lived with cancer for years unexpected, but Steve’s death was unexpected for us.

What I learned from my brother’s death was that character is essential: What he was, was how he died. Tuesday morning, he called me to ask me to hurry up to Palo Alto. His tone was affectionate, dear, loving, but like someone whose luggage was already strapped onto the vehicle, who was already on the beginning of his journey, even as he was sorry, truly deeply sorry, to be leaving us.

He started his farewell and I stopped him. I said, “Wait. I’m coming. I’m in a taxi to the airport. I’ll be there.” “I’m telling you now because I’m afraid you won’t make it on time, honey.”

When I arrived, he and his Laurene were joking together like partners who’d lived and worked together every day of their lives. He looked into his children’s eyes as if he couldn’t unlock his gaze. Until about 2 in the afternoon, his wife could rouse him, to talk to his friends from Apple. Then, after awhile, it was clear that he would no longer wake to us.

His breathing changed. It became severe, deliberate, purposeful. I could feel him counting his steps again, pushing farther than before. This is what I learned: he was working at this, too. Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it. He told me, when he was saying goodbye and telling me he was sorry, so sorry we wouldn’t be able to be old together as we’d always planned, that he was going to a better place.

Dr. Fischer gave him a 50/50 chance of making it through the night. He made it through the night, Laurene next to him on the bed sometimes jerked up when there was a longer pause between his breaths. She and I looked at each other, then he would heave a deep breath and begin again.


This had to be done. Even now, he had a stern, still handsome profile, the profile of an absolutist, a romantic. His breath indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude. He seemed to be climbing.

But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve’s capacity for wonderment, the artist’s belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later.


Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times.


Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.


Steve’s final words were: OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.

Had I the talent I could have written similar words about my own husband who died two years ago this Christmas-- except Davy didn't wear black polo necks he wore white tee shirts!  They marched to a different drummer and their drives, loves and eventual death were uncannily mirrored. 

He was mentor to so many but to me he was also my love and my life. I miss him every second of every day, and have never ceased thanking God for the day that we first met. He taught me and so many others how to live.

Monday, 31 October 2011

THE WORLD DOESN'T GET ANY SANER

My friend Jean and I are fans of the outrageously outspoken Alpesh Patel who pops up now and again on the BBC World Report to comment on the daily newspaper headlines.  Here's one of his past appearances.  Brilliant and soooooo un-PC. He is on my fantasy list alongside Brian Adams, Professor Brian Cox, Al Pachino, etc.  All, I suspect, bad boys.  Why am I so deeply attracted to bad boys? No please don't answer that one!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V22gp_ChdAg&feature=player_detailpage

No doubt this morning's "performance" will be on U-Tube soon.  Look out for it it, he makes classic statements - like predicting that the CEO of Quantas pressed the nuclear button when he grounded all Quantas 'planes worldwide and will be lucky if he is working as a manager at a MacDonald's outlet next year.  

Another news item that caught my eye is that as from today the new boss of the European Bank is to be the ex-Governor of the Bank of Italy, Mario Draghi, also known as Super Mario!  Now correct me if I'm wrong.  Isn't Italy in deep financial doodah right now?  I ask myself, is this man the right person for the job?

Bear in mind that last week he was sacked by Silvio Berlusconi and this week he is appointed head of the European Bank!  That was a quick turnaround.   Am I missing something here? Is this the real world?

And another weird one.  A left wing lobby group is proposing a "plan B" recovery.  Is this the same group of losers that proposed Gordon sell our gold and raid our pensions?  If it is don't listen to them David, their a bunch of nutters.

But on the upside, I had a great few days in Scotland where my sister-in-law went on her annual pilgimage to the Brig-o-Doon to throw money into the waters for the fairies.  Thank God there's still normal life out there somewhere.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

SO YESTERDAY WAS NOT THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT - DRAT!

The Californian evangelical preacher got it wrong again because I'm still here.  That leads me to three conclusions - either the preacher got the date wrong (again), the bible is wrong and there will be no day of judgement or the preacher was right, the bible was right and I'm not righteous! 

I'm putting my money on the preacher being wrong and, as my satnav would say, he should re-calculate, re-calculate, re-calculate.

I'm now driving my sister-in-law up to Scotland to visit my other sister/brother-in-law. As Lt. Gen. Douglas MacArthur once said "I shall return". In the meantime, something to ponder on.

Thoughts of a Retiree's Wandering Mind:

I planted some bird seed. A bird came up. Now I don't know what to feed it .


I had amnesia once---or twice.


I went to San Francisco. I found someone's heart. Now what?


Protons have mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic.


All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy.


If the world were a logical place, men would be the ones who ride horses sidesaddle.


What is a "free" gift? Aren't all gifts free?


They told me I was gullible and I believed them.


Teach a child to be polite and courteous in the home and, when he grows up, he'll never be able to merge his car onto the motorway.


Experience is the thing you have left when everything else is gone.


One nice thing about egotists: they don't talk about other people.


My weight is perfect for my height--which varies.


I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.


How can there be self-help "groups"?


If swimming is so good for your figure, how do you explain whales?


Show me a man with both feet firmly on the ground, and I'll show you a man who can't get his pants off.


Is it me --or do Buffalo wings taste like chicken?


I sent this to someone but don't remember who. So if you get it twice - - consider yourself doubly blessed !!

Friday, 21 October 2011

JUDGEMENT DAY

An evangelical preacher in California predicted that the day of judgement was upon us last May!  Now he says that his calculations were a bit off.  Huh! you don't say! So after a quick re-think he predicts that today is the day the righteous will be taken up into heaven.  Sorry to have to leave you all so soon. My insatiable curiosity has me to wondering who will be going with me.   I have a list of possible "no-shows".  I guess I will soon know if I'm right or not!

This is my Swiss boy. We took him bowling last weekend.  I hope he liked it but to tell you the truth I'm not sure if he did or not.  He went home yesterday.   I thing I might have heard him give a little cheer as he walked into the departure lounge!

The other usual suspects accompanied us. 

My friend sent me this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXV-yaFmQNk&feature=player_embedded . Isn't it cute?

Saturday, 15 October 2011

I KNOW I'VE SAID IT BEFORE - BUT WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?

Two senior politicians, one the ex-Secretary of Defence and the other a Cabinet Office Minister, both leading "big brains" in the Government, have been caught out doing daft things this week. 

The first, Dr Liam Fox, allowed his friend Adam Werritty access to secure areas at the Ministry of Defence without clearance and invited him on many sensitive missions abroad.  Dr Fox has now resigned but this one is still running with, no doubt, more horrors to be unveiled in the coming days.

The second is even more unbelievable.  Oliver Letwin a senior policy adviser to the Government was seen throwing documents and letters into public litter bins in St James's Park.  What on earth possessed him.  And apparently he has been doing this for some time. There are claims that some of the documents were sensitive.  He says not.  He simply walks in the park at the back of Downing Street whilst dictating replies to letters which he then throws in the bin.  Doesn't he have a filing system like us mere mortals? Crazy or what?

Neither act appears (yet!) to be illegal but the point is it's not what they have done that is so wrong, but the fact that they actually thought they could do it and get away with it that stuns me.  These supposedly  intelligent humans beings are currently entrusted with running our Country for goodness sake. They know that they are under intense public scrutiny so why do it?  You can only assume that they are arrogant enough to feel "untouchable".  It makes you want to scream doesn't it?

Now back to my 'umble existence.  I have a young Swiss boy staying with me at the moment.  When I say this I am told that I should say he is an exchange student, and that saying that I have a young Swiss boy staying sounds wrong on every level!  I'm actually flattered that anyone should think there could be any form of impropriety between a 71 year old bat and a 15 year old boy.  The story is that a friend asked me give him shelter and food for 10 days so that he can mix with English folk to improve his language skills.

Unfortunately, he is painfully shy and although I have been trying to get him involved in the "outside world" I live in a very rural location and don't know many teenagers.  Consequently he isn't getting to meet anyone of interest and most of the coloqual English he's learning is of the anglo-saxon kind. This is going to be the longest 10 days of his life poor soul.

I may take him to the cinema again today (we went to see Johnny English on Thursday), tomorrow we go bowling, on Monday we take him to London and on Tuesday he is going to a Peterborough United football match.   Really living the high life!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Obituary to Common Sense

This was sent to me this morning by a friend.  It purports to be an Obituary printed in the London Times.  I have know way of knowing if this is true or not, but I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment.

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red
tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
- Why the early bird gets the worm;
- Life isn't always fair;
- and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers;

I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I'm A Victim

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

AM I NOW "OFFICIALLY" A GRUMPY OLD WOMAN ?

Yesterday I went to London to meet up with my good friend Monica who had been my neighbour for 10 years in Switzerland and to pick up a Swiss boy (but that's another story). 

Before I start I should say that I love train travel.  I love the fact that I don't have to "check in" two hours ahead of departure and I love the soothing rythum of the train.  So with my advance ticket booking confirmation in hand I attemped to retrieve my "real" tickets from the ticket machine. 

Unbelievably, the keyboard was both sensitive and insensitive at the same time.  Sensitive as in when I  keyed in my booking reference number it picked up the letter underneath, the letter adjacent and sometimes both.  However the "back" button didn't work which meant that I couldn't backtrack,  Each time I had to start from scratch again, and again, and again! "OK" I instruct myself, "calm down and move to another machine."  Same thing. 

Next calming step is to go into the ticket hall and negotiate with a "human being" to, out the kindness of their heart, help me with the process.  There was a queue and only two desks open.  At one desk a lengthy transaction was taking place and at the other the clerk was wrestling with a piece of electonics which appeared not to be working.  I then spot another bank of ticket machines and decided to give it one more go.  Hey Presto!  It worked. 

The departure board indicated that trains to London were running late and as I had a tight schedule I wondered if I could get on the next late train instead of the one I had booked onto which was going to be even later (if you get my drift).  I thought the best plan was to ask.  Ah!! The "information" desk was unmanned, there were no platform staff anywhere to be seen and by now the ticket hall was even busier with the clerk still punching buttons on the electronic device which patently was never, ever going to work again. 

Then they announced that the 1st late train was due to arrive.  A despatcher magically appeared from his cubby hole, clipboard in hand.  Leaping on him I asked if I could use my ticket on this train.  "No, sorry love, this ticket is "time specific".  If you get on this train you will be charged full single price again".  So I had to let that train go and I had to let the next one go too. And for the priviledge of all this I had paid the princely sum of £55.80 - discounted, I should add, because I had booked early.

After our brief meeting, my dear friend Monica (who, I'm sure won't mind me saying, is older than me and that's quite old) was to travel on to Lancaster.  When we went to buy her ticket  she got £20 out of her purse, I said "that won't be enough" and, sure enough, she had to pay £79 for a one way ticket.  Outragous.  I asked the clerk if she could book a seat "no, you can only do that 3 hours ahead of time". 

Why do we make such a big, and I should add expensive, deal of simple things?  This bloody country, sometimes I hate it.






 

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Ten Thoughts to Ponder

 10 Life is sexually transmitted.

 9  Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

 8  Men have two emotions : Hungry and Horny. If you see him without an erection, make  him a sandwich

 7  Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks, months, maybe years.

 6  Some people are like a Slinky-not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

 5   Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in the hospitals, dying of nothing.

 4  All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.

 3  Why does a slight tax increase cost you $800.00, and a substantial tax cut saves you $30.00?

 2  In the 60's, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal. (Amen to that one!)

...........and the number 1 thought    -     Life is like a jar of Jalapeno peppers - what you do today, might burn your ass tomorrow.

- - - and as someone recently said to me:  " Don 't worry about old age--it doesn't last that long."

And on to more serious stuff.  Next Tuesday, 11th October, I am being interviewed for a 2 page spread with pictures in a woman magazine.  My 15 minutes of fame (again!!).  Wish me luck that I don't make an ass of myself.

Friday, 30 September 2011

NOT OF THIS WORLD

I like this.  It's from the London City website Squaremile.com and amid the continuing tumult of the world money markets is very pertinent.

Einstein dies and goes to heaven ony to be informed that his room isn't ready.
 
St. Peter tells him "I hope you won't mind waiting in a dormitory, even though you'll have to share the room with others." 

Einstein assures him there's no problem and St. Peter leads him in, saying "Here is your first room-mate.  He has an IQ of 180" "That's wonderful" says Einstein "We can discuss particle physics."

St Peter then says: "And here's your second room-mate, his IQ is 150!" "Great," replies Einstein "We can talk about cosmology."

Just then another man reaches out to grab Einstein's hand and shakes it. "I'm your final room-mate," he explains, "and I'm sorry but my IQ is only 80." Einstein smiles back and replies: "So, where do you think the markets are headed?"

Back to more "worldly" things.  The "Idiot Abroad" programme on Sky1 at 9.00 pm this evening is about the Trans-Siberian Express.  I shall be watching with interest................ !! 

SOME OF MY FELLOW TRAVELLERS IN THE
"RESTAURANT CAR" ON THE TRANS-SIBERIAN EXPRESS


MY "ROOM MATES" IN THE TINY 4-BERTH CABIN
THAT WAS OUR HOME FOR 4 DAYS (& NIGHTS!!!)

WAITING TO BOARD



PRE-BOARDING EXCITEMENT!


And while on the subject of "my trip", this morning I had an email from a journalist who is interesting in writing an article about the journey. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

WHERE DOES TIME GO?

As I said, where does time go?  My dear friend Sue moved to Spain with her beloved husband Paul 11 years ago, much about the same time that Davy and I bought our lovely Alpine retreat.  Consequently whenever Davy and I went away it was either to Switzerland or up to Scotland to see his family.  I always promised to visit Sue and Paul but shamefully never did. 

It was through Sue that I met Davy.  I like to tell folks that he lived with her, which is absolutely truebut I sometimes omit to add that in his days as a jobbing bricklayer he lodged with her for a while!   
However............this year I promised that I would go when the weather cooled down.  Believe it or not  they had temperatures peaking at 60C this summer.  Admittedly that was in direct sunlight but that's way, way too hot for me. When I tell friends this they look at me in disbelief.  Surely not.  But Sue & Paul showed me their digital thermometer display and lo and behold there it was, highest temperature 60C. 
So earlier this month I trotted off to see them, carefully avoiding easyJet!  

It's a pretty idyllic place in the mountains above the Costa Del Sol.  I had 6 days of perfect bliss with them, enjoying the scenery, solitude and freindship.  I loved it so much that I am thinking of buying a bolthole down by the beach for us all to escape to from time to time.   

SUE AND I ENJOYING OUR MORNING "EYE OPENER"
But that's for the future and I desperately try to live in the "now".  Not, I would add, always very successfully! The "now" plan is to look into the possibilty of building a house on my plot of land following the demolition of the "black bungalow".   I have planning permission to build a four bedroom house but I had been thinking of taking the easy route which is to sell the plot and let someone else build the house. 

But you know, sometimes I get a tad bored and it would seem that I like to live on the edge a little!  Davy was a builder and I'm hoping that I picked up the building trade by osmosise. I also have really good friends in the trade who are willing to "baby sit" me. I think it could be fun.  Am I deluded in thinking that I can manage a project like this?  I couldn't start on the project for a few months anyway so I have a little "thinking time" but hey, I should be able to eat this elephant a bit at a time!

My other big news is that my beloved grandson Vinnie has now moved to Sydney with his fabulous girlfriend Hilary.  He is working as a chef in a swanky restaurant on Balmoral Beach called The Public Dining Room.   And... I hope to visit him in February together with my grandaughter Georgina and two of my Great Grandchildren, Elise and Orianne. 

I also hope to be able to pay a visit to my good friends Jack and Betsy in Desert Hot Springs this winter too, so it's all happening here.
THE POOL THAT PAUL BUILT

PAUL, FONDLY GAZING INTO MY EYES! NOT!!



Tuesday, 6 September 2011

AH! EASYJET AGAIN


Here is my latest correspondence to Carolyn McCall, easyJet's CEO. 

Re: EasyJet Query [Incident: 110726-001018] – Booking Reference EHPNQXZ

On 13th August I wrote regarding the above incident and you referred my correspondence on to Graeme MacLeod your Head of Customer Operations. I would imagine that he subsequently reported back to you that the incident was now closed to his satisfaction. Unfortunately, it was not closed to my satisfaction.

My blog had 2386 page views last month, 52 people work in my office, I have a large extended family and many friends all of whom are astounded at the lack of understand that easyJet has exhibited.

I simply wrote to alert you of problems and was advised to refer my “complaint” to Luton Airport when in fact you should have thanked me for pointing out that your fare paying passengers cannot physically clear security and walk to the gate in the 10 minutes slot between check in and gate closures.

You should either raise the “complaint” with the airport yourself to ensure that this can be achieved or change your criteria. What you should NOT have done was deny boarding to 18 fare paying passengers plus 2 infants, blame them for being late (although I refute that we were late) and then treat them with cold, callous, contempt which is what Amanda Nunan did.

I am a serial traveler. Immediately prior to my visit to Switzerland (the subject of our correspondence) I had returned from a four month overland and sea trip around the world through Europe, Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, China, across the Pacific to Alaska, Canada, USA, finally returning to England across the Atlantic and never had a problem with service .

This week I am travelling from East Midlands to Malaga with bmibaby who, incidentally, ask passengers to be at the gate 30 minutes before departure and add that the gate closes 15 minutes before departure.

By the way, isn’t today the day that the Office of Fair Trading instructed you and other airlines to reduce your exorbitant credit and debit card charges? Are you going to do this? I suspect not. Bear in mind that feelings of invincibility have long been the enemy of many businesses that then go on to fail, News Corporation for example. Are you feeling invincible?

Regards, Ann Cordner


Monday, 29 August 2011

THE END OF AN ERA


Now you see it, now you don't! 

This building sat next to our house.  The "black bungalow", as it was always known,was quite "up together" in it's day, having originally been constructed as WWI Officers Quarters.  After the war it was transported to this site where it happily housed two families for 60 + years.  Davy and I bought it several years ago with the intention of pulling it down and re-building.  The best laid plans huh?! 

Last year I did finally obtained planning permission to build a 4 bedroom house on the plot, but, quite frankly, I can't be bothered with the hassle of doing that so I decided to sell it. Over the years it had slowly become derelict and a target for vandals, hence the decision to have it demolished.  Another tick on my "done" list.  

The funny thing is that it had become a bit of a local landmark and a friend visiting me at the weekend nearly drove on because this was the subliminal trigger for braking and turning!  Mad how be become programmed isn't it?

Actually, I have let things slide a bit of late and now I'm on a bit of a mission to get to grips with life again.  This morning I attempted, yet again, to clear out the garage  and was quite pleased with progress because I finally made a dent in it!  But tell me, where does all the rubbish come from? I have so much that it prompted me to get a bunch of stuff together for a car boot sale. 

But where do I start?  Maybe with the 2 "surplus to requirements" hair driers, 2 pairs of curling tongues and 4 pairs of hair straighteners that I seem to have acquired over the years.  Puzzling that, considering I don't, and never, ever, ever have, used curling tongues or straighteners!  What's that all about?  And I can't even blame anyone else because I actually remember buying each damn pair myself! 

Add to that the 20+ vases and multitudes of pillow cases, table clothes etc, etc, and you see I have developed quite a problem over the years.

But, hell, it's lunch time now and I may have another bash at getting my life sorted out after I've had my power nap.  But I still have 9 unopened DVD's to view, so I may leave it for another day.

Monday, 22 August 2011

I HAVE A LIFE OUTSIDE OF EASYJET! YEY!!

I got over excited yesterday when I googled easyjet and found that two of my blogs came up on the 1st page. I thought that all the hours wasted complaining to a sponge had not been in vane. I then found out that the reason I rank on the easyJet 1st page on my own computer is because I write bloody the blogs. Doohhhh!

The easyJet Customer Service "team" have been quiet for a few days. Have I stunned them into a respectful silence or are they totally bored with me? What will I do without them? They have been my reason for living. I know, I'll transfer my intellectual argument to Luton Airport, although I suspect they might already have the propaganda machine primed and waiting for my first email.

Putting easyJet to one side for a while, I had a brilliant weekend in London. I met up with my friend Sandy, granson Morgan and his partner Gwen for lunch at Kettners in Soho. A place I can highly recommend. In the evening Sandy and I went to the theatre to see The Million Dollar Quartet.  Fab-u-lous.

Friday, 19 August 2011

EASYJET - I NEED M Y LIFE BACK AGAIN!

EMAIL FROM GRAEME MacLEOD Head of Customer Operations

18th August 2011

Dear Mrs Cordner,

Thank you for your email. As you have raised a number of points I will answer them in the order in which you have raised them.

1) I am unable to tell how many passengers use the fast track facility in the airport, so it is impossible to confirm whether or not the 22 passengers that checked in after you decided to use this facility. The fast track facility is advertised throughout the airport and the escalators going up to the security area.

2) I stated that you were checked in between 06:22 and 06:24, this is the length of time the transaction took on the system, with the first passenger (A.Clist) being checked in first at 06:22 and the last passenger (O.Parkin) at 06:24.

3) Gate closure time. This reservation was made on 30th March 2011 at 12:33 by a Mrs G Holyoak. At that time Mrs Holyoak accepted our terms and conditions of carriage as published on the website which includes the text I have previously quoted to you. It is these terms and conditions that both parties were operating under for the flight you missed. The confirmation page you are referring to was issued to you at the airport after you had missed your flight. I accept that there is a difference in timings on this and will amend the airport one accordingly.

4) Reimbursement - I apologise for mis-understanding this point.

5) The security area has recently been refurbished and new equipment installed to speed up and enhance the facility. I confirmed that the airport do not have a policy of selecting customers with pushchairs to put them through specific screening lanes, which was your concern previously raised on your email of 26th July. With regards to the whether the customers who had an infant who checked in after you made use of the fast track facility, I am unable to identify this as per my point 1 above.

6) I am sorry but it would be inappropriate for me to discuss with you another customer that may or may not be in contact with us.

7) I can confirm that there were 18 fare paying passengers, this excludes infants, who were unable to make the flight that morning.

I wish to assure you that you have not been given "white wash" I have personally spent many hours going through records and discussing your case with the airport team to establish the facts. It is clear in, our opinion, that you missed your flight because you were not at the gate on time and the gate was closed to protect the other 135 passengers onboard the aircraft. I can also confirm that your feedback in relation to the agent assisting you has been taken onboard and addressed with the individual directly.

I am genuinely sorry that you and your party missed your flight and that you had a difficult and long journey to your destination, however it is our belief that we acted in an appropriate manner in order that the passengers that made it to the flight on time were not inconvenienced.

Yours Sincerely

Graeme MacLeod
Head of Customer Operations

MY REPLY

Daer Mr MacLeod,

You have just lost several passengers and I guess many others that are reading this account in my blog.

Putting the “rules” to one side and I know that I’m repeating myself here, if we, along with the 18 other fare paying passengers + 2 infants, had been allowed to board that plane it would have taken less time than off loading our luggage and, I believe, the plane would not have been delayed. In this situation common sense should have prevailed.

While we stood there we could hear snippets of the lengthy, quietly spoken, telephone conversation between the gate agent and the dispatcher. Decisions were being made to dispatch the bus and leave us stranded. That was spiteful and this is why I wanted someone to listen to the call recording.

You said “your feedback in relation to the agent assisting you has been taken onboard and addressed with the individual directly”. I take it that you are referring to Amanda Nunan. I have already said she was cold, officious and completely unmoved at the sight of crying children. Let me give you an example of how unhelpful she was. When she took us to Gate 9 the lift wasn’t working. We had a double pushchair which is difficult to maneuver down stairs and I complained, hoping that she would offer assistance. She said she would call the engineer if we wanted but had no idea how long this would take and headed off down the stairs herself. In the meantime my grandson spotted another lift across the room that also led down to Gate 9 which she hadn’t told us about. In my opinion she is a militant “jobsworth” and a liability to any employer.

Now let me tell you something about that visit to Switzerland. My husband and I owned an apartment high in the Alps. Every summer the children would visit us but when my husband became ill we decided to sell it. Unfortunately he died two Christmases ago. This summer our grandchildren and great-grandchildren expressed a desire to revisit the place one more time because they had spent so many happy summers with him there. One party travelled by car and we elected to travel by easyJet. Big mistake! The children were absolutely traumatized by this experience and on top of that they had to wait over 9 hours at that horrendous airport to catch a plane to the wrong part of Switzerland, finally arriving at our destination exhausted after travelling from 4 in the morning to 10 that night.

I have travelled by easyJet many times and have always been extremely pleased. And I must say that even on that wretched morning, apart from the attitude of Amanda Nunan, the easyJet employees were all extremely courteous and kind. In fact staff at the Sales Desk were particularly sympathetic and helpful when you bear in mind that they were absolutely swamped, having to deal with the passengers both from our plane and the 9 denied boarding from the Dortmund flight.

To add insult to injury when I tried to point out some of the problems to your Customer Services the “blame” culture kicked in. Immediately, it was our fault. So pat yourselves on the back Customer Services, you passed the buck beautifully but in the long term lost passengers.

I did try to point out that perhaps your procedures and time scales needed looking at. For example how can you have a 40 minute cut off at check in and a 30 minute cut off at the gate when it takes more than 10 minutes to walk directly from check-in to gate never mind go through security too!

I would have felt so much better if someone had put their “intelligent” hat on and thought this through. In fact, if that had happened the bus would never have been dispatched without us in the first place thereby saving all the money wasted in your people, you and me writing 18 pages of blah, blah, blah.

Regards,

Ann Cordner