Monday, 27 September 2004

Been a while since I wrote anything, but been quite busy with work. Nothing really new happening, just quite a bit to do at present. Never heard anything back about that new business I mentioned previously. That's the third this year that has gone belly up.

More grief, this time from the VAT people. The appeal to them about their fine failed. Not really surprising - there are hardly any acceptable grounds of appeal. Jacqueline thinks I should pay them, and the money is in th bank, but out of principle I'm going to let this go to court. I know I will lose in the end, but otherwise I will be seen as a soft target. It is possible for me to take the case to a second round of appeal, and I'm waiting to find out more on that. I'll make them earn their bloody money. (On top of all that, I have to fill out the regular return this week.)

Alice is well-and-truly back at school. She seems happy, but as the youngest person in her class we do worry about her lack of maturity compared to the other kids. The school wrote us to say that there was a vacancy for a parent-governor. Sounded quite interesting, but the thought of people having to vote for you is somehow distasteful.

Last weekend quite good. We went to Castle Point yesterday to stock up on some winter clothes for Alice. The least interested party in all this, of course, was Alice, although once we got home she was quick enough to put some of them on! Jacqueline was working, so it was just Alice and I. Spent some time pottering around the garden - everything will turn autumnal soon, but we're not quite there yet. I was going to do some general chopping back (chance to finally use this new trimmer), but I don't think it is time yet.

Must try to make time to seek out new business this week. Last week I didn't even try to find anything.

Thursday, 16 September 2004

After the flurry of excitement

Frustratingly quiet week. No news on the client front, so obviously nothing has come of last week's meet. Not even a phone call from the agent to say that the client weren't going to pursue things. Useless.
Very quiet with the current client. It looks like a wannabe project manager has hogged me for his project, when in reality there isn't a great deal to do on it. Consequently the client is generally running around complaining about lack of resources, and I'm very quiet. Still, I've mentioned this to the guy's bosses so can do no more. Still, being quite lightly loaded does allow me some time to hunt out new clients (and catch up with web logs!), so I can't complain too much.

Finished reading the Count of Monte Cristo, definitely recommended. On a whim I bought another Dumas, The Three Musketeers, except I bought the original French version. I tried reading it on the trian home but of course I read French far more slowly than I read English, so progress was rather painful. So have now settled into the last of my planned summer reads, Bill Clinton's autobio. Quite good, but I'm only thirty of forty pages in so far.

Back to the business front, I got a reply from the VAT people. I think I wrote about a month ago that they'd decided to give the company a punitive fine. Can't remember whether I mentioned that I sent a snotty appeal letter back to them, but I did. The letter of yesterday said that they'd rejected the appeal. So, now I'll just sit back and wait for the court order requiring me to pay. I'm not going to make things easy for them.

Jacqueline still hasn't sold her flat and is getting stressed out about it. It could do with getting a fair amount of work done on it, so the trick will be to do the bare minimum in order to make it sell. She tried with "do nothing" and that approach hasn't worked! It's quite a lot to outlay, but of course it is chicken feed when compared with what she'll finally sell the flat for.

Thursday, 9 September 2004

Five Card Stud

Fun and games with a potential client at the moment. Went to meet them - I quite liked them and I got the impression that I blew them away in the interview. It really is a pleasure to talk to people when things go that well. However, as far as I was aware, before they even saw my cv they knew what I proposed charging them, so they knew what the fees would be before they even met me.

So, this morning, an offer of work comes in, but at a substantially lower rate than I'd quoted for. Now, when I go to Tesco's I don't attempt to barter down the price of a pint of milk, so I immediately said "No".

So one of two things is happening. Ostensibly, the client is simply trying to squeeze me in the hope that I'll jump for the lower rate. Or it could be that the agency (there's always an agency!) actually put me forward at a lower rate in the first place, just to get me through the client's door at all. And then they'd hope that I'd take the lower rate for the same reason.

One never knows in this business. I've known this happen a lot to other consultants (many scare stories) but I've always been quite fortunate in this respect. The beauty about working in the financial services sector is that the clients generally play it dead straight about fees - if you quote a rate and it is accepted, then that's what it is and there's no messing about. So normally the fees side of things is agreed with minimal fuss. Obviously things don't work the same way in other sectors, although in fairness it could be the agent trying to pull a fast one.

Obviously, even if things fall through, it is very encouraging to have positive feedback, and to know that you have skills that are attractive to clients. We'll wait and see.

Monday, 6 September 2004

Sunny Weekend

A good weekend. Saturday Jacqueline's sister Lorraine came over, complete with new man, and everyone met up at the park in Fordingbridge for a picnic. Weather very pleasant, and spent a lot of time wading in the river! We ended up buying far too much food, so supper Saturday and breakfast Sunday involved scoffing the remnants.

Yesterday, drove over to the Chichester area. We've talked tentatively of moving, and I thought it might be quite a good area to move to. Ideally, a village location not far from the sea. Of course, it was beautiful weather so the roads were thick with traffic headed for the beaches, however once we got off the beaten track onto some unclassified roads we soon found some nice villages. But I don't think we'll find anywhere right by the sea. Wherever we went by the sea, there were lots of houses, and to be honest I'd happily live as far away from other people as possible - we visited a "village" called East Wittering (right on the shore) and this "village" was several times bigger than Downton. That having been said, Jacqueline would be happy to be within a couple of miles of the sea, so we may find something a little inland. Had both lunch and supper out yesterday, so we treated ourselves a little.

I looked at the train times today and the travel time from that part of the world into London is roughly the same as currently. One of the things that Jacqueline would like is for me to be at home more, but I don't seriously think that's going to happen if we end up anywhere by the sea. Havant is probably best at 1h10 (and into Waterloo to boot), Brighton is the same kind of time, although into Victoria (not as good). Anything in between the two just increases from that. Plus, I'd like this to be a "strategic" move, i.e. we buy a house that should do us for twenty years or so, so it'd involve quite a hefty mortgage to do all of this.

Possibility of some new business - am meeting potential clients on Wednesday - but its not a business area I'm used to, and already they've made noises about the rate I'd require. As always, I remain cautious but open.
You never know, I may be able to offer exactly what they're looking for and it might be the start of a wonderful relationship! Well, it might!

Wednesday, 1 September 2004

Books

While I think on, some of the books I tasked myself with reading recently.

The book I read whilst on holiday was excellent - all about the white slaves taken by the Barbary corsairs off the coast of Morocco. It was called White Gold, and was ostensibly about a guy called Thomas Pellow, although realistically it just made heavy use of this chap's account to describe the whole situation. Very compelling. The Corsairs even led raiding parties to Devon, Cornwall and even the USA to gather slaves. The empire Moulay Ismail ruled sounds fascinating - I'd love to read Pellow's original account at some point.

So, I finished this just after I got back from Cornwall. Book Two was actually the same sort of theme, called Life among the Pirates - very interesting stuff. This had been sitting on the shelf for a while - I picked it up as part of a 3 for 2 offer at Waterstones - so I'd resolved to read it too whilst on holiday. Did manage to read it, last week.

Book Three was going to be Bill Clinton's Autobiography. However, whilst in Salisbury at the weekend we went into one of those cheap book shops and, as well as picking up a load of stuff for Alice (Scooby Doo colouring books, The Wind in the Willows etc.) at knock-down prices, I also picked up a lovely, leather-bound copy of The Count of Monte Cristo for just £2. I picked it up (all 850 pages) and it really is a classic. Very difficult to put down. Sorry Bill, you'll just have to wait!

Book Four for the holiday was an FT book about Investments. I work quite closely with the technical side in this area, so it's both useful and interesting to know some of the business side too. I've actually had this book six months or so, and pick it up from time to time, but it would be good to actually finish it although I was surprised at how much I already knew.

So there we have it. Being a bit of a bookworm at the moment!

Life at home has calmed down since Monday's debacle, so all is once again well with the world.