Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hey there blog...

Long time no see. 5 months you say? Tomorrow we would have been together six years? Really, I feel pretty bad seeing that now but I guess it's no great surprise, we could both see that things just haven't been the same now for quite some time.

It's not that there's anything wrong with blogging whatsoever, but the last 12 months have been a bit of a rollercoaster and... well I know it's a cliche, but I've changed.

To be completely honest with you, and it's the least you deserve, I found I was no longer able to offer the same commitment and had become to easily distracted with other social networking applications. They never offer quite the same as we had (even after my photo sharing client disappeared with many of our early pictures), but I suppose thats little consolation to you now.

Let's not draw a permanent line in the sand, but I think we both know deep down that it's time to move on. I just hope that some day we can look back fondly over the last six years and who knows, maybe enjoy exchanging a few more words and thoughts from time to time

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tempus fidget...

...or something like that.

It's been great to be back at work again this week and it's been made all the more enjoyable that everyone has made me so welcome, old and new colleagues alike.

Something I'd not accounted for was the in the 15 years I've been away, although there are a lot of familiar reminders of my previous time with the company, other people's lives have moved on significantly. Not that I'm decrying my career progression and experience gained in the meantime, but some lives have changed significantly in the passing of time.

Our M.D. had the morning off today to take his daughter to university and on Monday our receptionist brought her son to work with us over the summer before he starts college in September. Probably nothing out of the ordinary to you reading that, but the "daughter" in question was a mere toddler when I saw her last and the "son" was the recent reason for my colleagues maternity leave when I left.

And there I was thinking how much I'd changed since I was there last...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The meeting of media...

I'm often reminded that I don't update the blog as often any more, but there seems little point posting here when there's nothing much to say and the last three months have mainly consisted of get up, look for a job, potter about in the garden, go to bed. Of course, I'm delighted that's all about to change again from Monday!

I do regularly post on Facebook and Twitter, but then it begins to get complicated. I've always tried to retain my anonymity on here (even though most of the readers know me in the real world) but I particularly like to have a forum where I can rant about work with little fear of it getting back to anyone concerned.

So we have the blog at one extreme which is reasonably anonymous, and Facebook at the other where every comment is blurted out to all of my friends at once and Very few of the Facebook friends know about the blog and posting a link to Facebook from here would compromise my anonymity.

Somewhere in the middle sits Twitter which is probably still my favourite and with a 140 character limit is ideal for the lazy blogger, but for some reason very few of my friends use it regularly. Some of my Twitter followers know about the blog and some don't, but there's no reason why anyone here shouldn't see my tweets so I've added a tweet feed on the left - feel free to browse, or follow if you wish.

Honestly, all this fuss about anonymity, anyone would think I've got something to hide...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

More Bed Activity...

Of course not... what were you thinking?!

Even though it's only a couple of weeks since I last posted a picture of it, the raised bed in the garden continues to flourish (except for the fennel) so having just planted my third crop, I thought I'd share a new photo here and I've labelled this one so you can see what's growing where...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tis true what they say...'s not what you know, it's who you know.

After fifteen weeks of unemployment, despite considerable and persistent effort on my part, I had no success whatsoever in getting a single interview from any agencies or any of my numerous job applications.

Then last week out of the blue, I had a message via Facebook from an ex-colleague at my employer-before-last, who said they might soon have something I could be interested in and how would I feel about going back to work for them. Two informal meetings later, I'm delighted to say that this afternoon I've accepted a job with them, starting a week on Monday.

Just the role I was looking for, about the salary I was expecting (although not necessarily what I'd ideally like!), loads of scope for development and only 2.5 miles from home.

I think that's what's known in the trade as a result...

Saturday, June 05, 2010

First Harvest...

Just a flying visit to share with you the first harvest of food from the vegetable bed.

No, they aren't uniform sizes or shapes, but I can assure you that they are much tastier than the radishes I bought at the supermarket earlier this week.

More radishes due in the next day or so, spring onions too and the first of the white onions aren't far from being ready to be pulled. Phase three of the veg bed to be planted next weekend.

Unfortunately, as it stands now these radishes have cost me about a tenner a piece so I'm banking on some more salad and veg crops soon to see an improved return on investment. Watch this space...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Gardeners Questionable Time...

While tending the grounds of Seany Towers this morning, I realised that it's probably time I posted some more pics of how a few things have been growing in the last month or so.

Starting with the veg bed, there are definite signs of life. From the bottom upwards, there are white onions, carrots, red onions, cabbage, spinach, radish and lettuce. The only no shows so far are the fennel seeds at the far end, but they were only planted a week or so ago as an afterthought.

First seeds were planted down the left hand side and three weeks later, the second set were planted down the centre. In a couple of weeks time I'll plant the final set down the right hand side, so if everything grows to plan, I'll have a more even supply rather than a sudden veg and salad mountain.

The two apple trees finally bloomed (although not shown on these pics), hopefully a sign of some fruit to be expected from them later this year and the oak has finally sprouted leaves so I'm happy that it's survived the move from Mum & Dad's now.

The little blue spruce has suddenly burst into life and adopted a new pale green identity. Although I'm pleased to see it's unexpectedly grown so soon, I'm also curious to see when (or perhaps whether) it will turn back blue again.

In the greenhouse, all of the seeds have been a qualified disaster, the only ones to have really come to anything are the spring onions, of which there are now two pots of them growing

The garlic is coming on rather well too with 5 plants growing nicely and a 6th shoot just appearing above the soil line

I'm at a loss to understand why the seeds in the greenhouse have failed in such quantities, so I've cheated and bought a few plants for the growbags. On the left from top to bottom are green peppers, red peppers and chilli peppers. These have already proved popular with the local slugs, having almost completely finished off the chilli pepper plant. After an unsuccessful eco-friendly approach using egg shell, I've finally resorted to slug pellets to keep the greedy little blighters off, but the other two have grown considerably.

The next round of "cheats" was buying tomato plants, from top to bottom being pixie tomatoes, beef tomatoes and ailsa craigs. The pixie tomato is a strange little plant having refused to grow in any direction but has plenty of flowers on it, so we'll see how effective it is at bearing fruit.

The final seed cheat occurred after I spotted B&Q selling little herb plants, six for a fiver (cheaper than I'd previously paid for the seeds!) So combined with some cuttings from Mum & Dads and a couple I'd bought earlier, the herb "garden" now consists of ten planters containing chives, lemon balm, lemon thyme, Moroccan mint, oregano, parsley (flat & curly), rosemary, tarragon and thyme.

Quite honestly, I'm not entirely sure when I turned into the bloke who could identify plants and the various birds that frequent the garden and secretly hope I'm still not the one who'd openly admit to enjoying it.

I really must get myself a job sorted out soon. In fact, there may finally be some news to share soon, but more about that next time...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dream on...

Although I've always been fascinated by my vivid dreams and the occasional mystery behind them that I can't correlate to activity in the previous day, I also readily acknowledge that there are few truly interesting conversations that begin "I had the strangest dream last night..." Perhaps the fact that I'm writing this at such a ridiculous hour reinforces that this one was a bit unusual.

So, quick dream recap: I've just returned a board game to a criminal looking family down the road then hurried back home, locked the door and turned the lights off. As I stand there behind the locked door, I'm suddenly feeling really uncomfortable and nervous about being in my own home. Then I woke up.

Amateur interpretation time:
Board game? WTF, no idea what that's about
Criminal family? No idea, I'm very lucky to live in a cul-de-sac full of friendly respectable neighbours
Uncomfortable in my own home? I've lived on my own for most of my adult life and it's no secret that I absolutely love it. I have certainly never felt nervous about it, although like any other sane person in this day and age, I tend to keep the doors locked and the alarm is set whenever I'm not here.

So none the wiser as to what my subconscious is trying to tell me, I'm awake, a little confused perhaps, but otherwise, no big deal. Still wide awake a few minutes later, I decided to put the radio on to help me drift back off to sleep again when I'm suddenly aware of some unusual noise outside the bungalow. Then the sound of something like paper or card falling down, shortly followed by the security light coming on in the front garden.

Surely there's no-one posting leaflets or charity begging-bags at this time of the morning? I flew out of bed and went over to the window, but no sign of activity outside. Inside however, some well-meaning plod had posted a hand-shaped card through my window, warning of the dangers of leaving windows open for opportunist thieves.

Now I figure if the sound of a falling piece of card and the sudden illumination of the outside security light is enough to wake me from my slumbers, there's little chance that any scrote is likely to get anything significant through a small window opening before I get to them.

The police are not to know that though I suppose and I guess their intentions are good, but what's really intriguing me is the connection between my dreaming about feeling insecure at home, then someone actively promoting the idea in the middle of the night through a partially open window. Furthermore, it's now gone three in the morning, I'm completely wide awake and not exactly happy about it.

Still on the bright side, at least I don't have to be up for work in the morning...

Friday, May 07, 2010

Quiet Now, Settle Down...

Finally I've made some progress this week on the Adult Education teacher training I've been chasing so many people for. Despite another meeting with yet another training organisation since my last post on the topic, everything was indicating that my funding for the course was looking very unlikely.

By chance, my continued frustrations came up in conversation with my ECDL IT tutor (who works for North East Lincs Council) when he asked if I had approached them. I explained that I hadn't as I was being led by the "powers that be" to make sure I took advantage of any free funding available.

After a quick word with the secretary there, it appears that they do offer the course locally and the fee was about £120 - quite frankly, I was considering paying it just to get things moving. Then she suddenly added that as I am unemployed and claiming benefit, I would only have to pay the £20 registration admin fee!

To cut a long story short, it was only a couple of emails and a phone call later that afternoon before I had enrolled on the course, met my tutor, caught up on the two lessons I'd missed and paid my registration fee which was actually only £10! OK, I also have two assignments to complete before my first lesson next week, but that seemed a small price to pay (first one completed this afternoon).

Consider me one happy bunny.

Another observation though, the centre where the course is held is on the premises of a closed primary school. As was the other centre where I studied for my IT course. It occurs to me that if perhaps they had kept some of the primary schools open and as a result kept class sizes smaller and more effective, surely there would not be the same need to invest in converting them all into adult education centres now?

Not that I should really criticise the council who's employees have been so helpful in my most recent quest. Even more so if this training goes to plan as I happen to know for a fact they are in short supply of Adult Education tutors...

Monday, May 03, 2010

It's only a number...

I've always maintained that age is only important to you until you leave school - once I'd left and gone to college and started work, I found myself on equal footing with people of a variety of ages.

A few of my managers have been younger than me, but as long as they knew their job, their age seemed irrelevant.

I remember being a little shocked when Matt Smith was named as the new Doctor Who, not being sure how I felt about being older than a timelord, but I then discovered that I'm older than his predecessor too so it wasn't really anything new to worry about.

Apparently I'm older than the current James Bond too, although with the new film now being put on hold, there is talk that the role will be re-cast - but I doubt it will be to someone older.

This afternoon I discovered that I'm older than two of the individuals campaigning to become Prime Minister later on this week and it was the political theme that got me thinking about my age.

With three days to go before the election, our local Labour candidate has finally decided to distribute some literature to introduce himself and between the predictable waffle about being local, deeply caring and empathetic to the concerns of our village, he mentions that he is currently reading politics at university. That would also explain why the picture looks like his school photo.

Even if I thought Labour stood the slightest chance locally (or possibly elsewhere), there is no way I could entrust any responsibility to someone with such limited experience of life and "grown up" issues like trying to buy a house, or working for a living.

Still, I'm sure his Mum is very proud of him and given his age, there's a very good chance that I went to school with her...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Time for bed...

More lovely weather, so more fun in the garden to be had. The soil in my garden is particularly poor (probably more accurately described as clay with an inch or two of topsoil) so the only chance I had of growing anything edible in there was by building a raised bed.

So, thanks to a kindly local scaffolding supplier who let me have a couple of old scaffold boards for a fiver, a few bits of wood I had kicking around in the garage, some compost and a bit of time (which I have no shortage of right now) I managed to convert a little corner of the garden from this

To this

Next decision is what to grow in there. Carrots and onions are quite easy, but are also ridiculously cheap all year round so I'd rather plant something that will return real value for the effort put in. I like the idea of a salad garden right outside the kitchen door, but there is only this little 8x3' area to work with so I'm going to have to limit my choices somehow.

I'll update as the plot thickens (yeah, he's still got it!)...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Not so hairy biker...

It comes as quite a surprise just how much exercise I obviously got chasing up and downstairs at the office or around the factory, or more accurately, how unfit I seem to have become now that exercise has been removed from my daily routine.

It's not that often I have the excuse to go very far of late and when I do, it tends to be in the car, but last week with no more incentive than a bright morning, I decided to hop on the bike that I bought with oh so good intentions last year (and to be honest, hasn't been very far since). A little wary of exactly how unfit I was, I found myself back home again after only four miles or so and frankly, a little ashamed of how wobbly my legs were and how out of breath I was.

This morning, greeted with a similar excuse of fine weather, I headed off in another direction towards the coast and returned home having covered about 8 or 9 miles, still with equally wobbly legs but admittedly not so short of breath. Big difference today was the rediscovery of how pleasant it is to take a leisurely ride out on a sunny day, enjoying the country lanes and exchanging pleasantries with several other cyclists I passed along the way. So much so, I'm quite happy to get out there again a bit more often.

Like most of my mates, in my teens I would think nothing of cycling those sort of distances and much more, several times a week, probably on the grounds that it was the easiest and most effective form of transport I had. Of course that was a lot of years (and several stone) ago, but having just realised that it was a year as of yesterday that I bought this bike, I really ought to start getting a bit more use out of it and with a bit of luck, will get a bit fitter in the process.

No ambitious claims or predictions this time though - Lance Armstrong I certainly ain't...

Monday, April 19, 2010

A tour of the grounds...

You've got to love the British weather; I managed to get sunburnt arms only yesterday whilst sat reading in the garden, yet today we're back to grey skies, persistent rain, jumpers and the central heating back on.

I've not usually been one for posting heaps of piccies on here but inspired by Delcatto's recent post of potting activity, I thought I would share some photos of what's been going on in the garden over the last few months. You may notice a theme of gardening on the cheap...

Firstly let me show you the trees, starting with a hazel tree actually grown from a nut and currently standing a couple of feet tall

Next along is a blue spruce, actually bought from a garden centre, but on the cheap as I chose to make a project of it rather than spend 40-odd quid for a more fully grown one

Then in the corner is the first apple tree, a Cox's Orange Pippin. This one actually had one apple on it when I bought it so I know it worked at the time.

Currently the tallest in the garden (although looking a bit weary at the moment) is an oak tree. Affectionately known to the family as the Zoe Oak as it was grown from an acorn planted by my Dad around the time my niece was born 10 years ago. Transplanted from Mum & Dad's garden late last year, I'll feel happier when it reassures me that it has survived the journey.

The second apple tree is a Spartan, predominantly picked because it fruits later in the season than the Cox's. Once they are both settled, between here and Mum and Dad's garden we hope to enjoy a few consecutive months of free apples.

The last tree in the garden is a Calfornian Giant Redwood. OK, not quite so giant yet (approx 2 feet tall) but this was grown from a seed planted by Dad around the time my nephew was born nearly six years ago. I share similar concerns here as I do with the oak, that this may not have endured the transplant & journey too well, but time will tell I guess

My last "trees" are from my attempt to emulate Dad's success of growing trees from seed and resulted from my planting the contents of some dried and emptied pine cones. Currently reaching the dizzy heights of approx 4cm tall, there are two survivors from a considerably larger number of seeds.

Along the long border of the garden, are a dozen or so boxwood shrubs, all grown from cuttings taken from the front garden and therefore, falling nicely into my preferred price range

Meanwhile... back in the greenhouse...

Rather than dig out a herb garden I opted to buy ten planters, loads of seeds and a couple of plants. To date, only the plants have shown any signs of growth, but it's still early days yet.

In fact, the greenhouse crops have yet to really show any signs of success. Having planted two lots of tomatoes, peppers and spring onion seeds, it is only the latter that have started doing anything and will shortly need moving to more substantial pots

There are a couple of other pots in the greenhouse which I've planted out of curiosity. Firstly a ginger root this weekend (obviously nothing to show you yet) but one of the garlic cloves has certainly sprung to life

My hopes are pinned on all of these to start producing some shoots soon.

Finally, is the Kiwi Fruit plant I bought for a couple of quid last year, largely out of curiosity to see whether they could be grown in the UK. The picture here would seem to suggest not...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Waiting Game...

Well we're into week seven of the unemployment game and I can't pretend I'm getting on with it too well. I should be grateful for that mindset I guess, as there seems to be no shortage of individuals quite happy with their lot as I wade amongst them during the bi-weekly humiliation ritual of signing on. I think on reflection so far it's all of the waiting that I'm finding so frustrating.

My job search criteria is now extended to anything within a 20 mile radius with at least 2/3 of my previous salary but vacancies are still few and far between. When you do apply, nobody ever replies unless it's an invitation for interview, so you wait around wondering until an appropriate amount of time has passed before following it up.

I'm registered with about 20 different employment agencies but with only one exception so far, they seem more interested in having lots of names on their books than placing anyone in suitable roles. There's only so often you can update your CV as an excuse to contact them and give them a shove (I'm currently chasing them all every 2 weeks), so in the meantime you find yourself waiting.

In an attempt to make myself more employable, I've tried to enrol on some training courses. The ECDL IT course was relatively easy to get on and I completed the 18 week course in 2 weeks, but I'm waiting for the Easter holidays to finish so I can take the final exams.

The PTLLS (Adult Education Teaching) course is proving more troublesome. I have filled out the same registration form umpteen times now and had the same accompanying "How to look for work" workshops in the process, but each organisation just keeps referring me onto another one. I don't understand what all of the delay is - there are millions of pounds set aside for training "victims" of redundancy, but the red tape I've encountered on this exercise makes it crystal clear that it's almost impossible actually getting your hands on any of it. I have another meeting with another training organisation on the same topic next week.

To my absolute amazement (and to an extent, shame) I seem to find myself spending any spare time either in the garden or the greenhouse. Quite frankly, not the best choice of hobbies for someone who has a problem with too much waiting around. There seems to be some signs of new life in the garden now, but I'll save the details of those for another post.

But on current performance, who knows how long I'll keep you all waiting before you get to read that...

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Snow joke...

Happy New Year! I've always said you can't beat a deluge of snow and a healthy coating of black ice to add a touch of excitement to the daily commute.

For some reason I feel obliged to share this morning's incident; could possibly be described as a blonde moment, would that I had sufficient hair to dye blonde in the first place.

So yesterday morning the car was covered in a couple of inches of snow and without stopping to think, I unlocked the car from the remote key then opened the door to watch a handful of snow fall inside the car right onto the drivers seat. Cue a few harsh words muttered beneath my breath whilst wondering why they design car doors which allow that to happen.

This morning in full view of my snow-scraping neighbours, the car was in similar condition but I'd remembered what had happened yesterday and brushed off all of the excess snow from the door before opening it. Car seat perfectly clear this time, cue smug, self satisfied smile to the neighbours. Unsatisfied with my little victory, whilst stood there I then decided to take the de-icer and scraper from the door compartment, reach inside the car and turn the key in the ignition so the car could be warming up while I cleared the remainder.

Unfortunately the windscreen wipers, still on from when I had parked up the night before, decided at this point to remove the deep covering of snow from the windcreen and yes... you guessed it, deposit the entire lot all over my seat, footwell and pretty much any other little opening it could settle into on the way down.

Bloody weather...