Sunday, 31 October 2004

Fireworks!

Still on the subject of music, we were in the car yesterday when "Light my fire" came onto the radio. It was a cover version, sung by a woman (well, I did say I was ignorant of pop music).

Anyway, Alice was obviously listening intently to the words of the song, and then attempted to dissect its meaning. Needless to say, Alice's interpretation involved, not least, a baby and a fire. And of course, as we all know, it is very dangerous for babies to light fires, so the woman was naughty for asking. Hilarious.

Actually, I'm lying in bed writing this (the clocks went back last night and it feels like time to get up, even though its only time to turn over and go back to sleep), and Alice has just woken up. She's in her bed having a deep, meaningful conversation (one assumes) with one of her dolls.

Yesterday quite good. Full of cold at the moment, but went over to put the finishing touches to Jacqueline's flat. Each time we go there now, we think "Right, this is the last time". And it never is. Yesterday, we went to B&Q to get some odds and sods to fix a couple of tiles back onto the backroom wall, and to put a watertight seal around the side of the bath. (The bathroom has caused no end of problems over the years with water seeping through to the downstairs flat.) This was easy enough, but we also needed to get a runner for a sliding door. (The door into the lounge is a sliding door.) 50p tops. And could we? Instead, we had to buy a complete replacement mechanism, at a cost of £15. Then, as I was putting this on (typical self-assembly story) one of the bolts to attach the door to the runner was the wrong size. In the pack there was one M6 bolt (the correct size) and one M8 bolt (too big). So we couldn't even finish that job. Plus, Jacqueline took some pictures over to the flat, and although she brought a hammer and picture hooks, she'd left behind the tape measure.. So there's still a couple of things to do, shall we say. Still, its sufficiently little that Jacqueline should be able to sort it.

Yesterday evening, Fordingbridge Rotary Club put on an excellent firework display at Godshill. Really good, about twenty minutes worth, plus an enormous bonfire. And there were a couple of fairground rides there, so Alice was very excited. They actually let her in for free, but we more than made up for it with the other money. So we had one happy child on our hands - as I think I've written previously she does love fireworks. We also have two further displays over the next week. Friday, we have a "home" display, Jacqueline having bumped into someone she knew when Alice was a toddler a couple of weeks ago, and we got an invite to their Bonfire Night barbeque. Must buy some fireworks for that one. Then, next Saturday, the Downton Scouts have their annual Firework display, which is normally pretty good.

Must go now, I appear to have become a cat magnet.

Friday, 29 October 2004

Cost of War

Must also mention a web site I found. www.costofwar.com. If anything puts Iraq into perspective, its this!


Cost of the War in Iraq
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To see more details, click here.

There can be only one

Nothing much on tv tonight so put a DVD on - Highlander. Hard to believe the film is 20 years old. Some excellent musinc in it from Queen, too.

Tired by the time it ended so have come to bed in order to chill, and to update the blog.

In a kind of sentmental mood - a year or so ago I ripped our CD collection into MP3s - a real fag at the time since we must have a couple of hundred albums all told. I seem to remember it took something like a month of doing a few at a time to get everything onto the computer. By the time I'd finished I'd copied 20GB of music. Anyway....

The upshot of all of this is that I can blog and listen to music at the same time. In a kind of reflective mood tonight. Following of from Highlander, I put on Queen's (or rather Freddie Mercury's) Those were the days of our Lives. Then Buddy Holls (True Love Ways) and John Lennon (Love). Excellent songs. A little sombre, though, so I've just livened things up with some Housemartins and Pulp. Is it just me, or were the Housemartins absolutely brilliant? A complete breath of fresh air!

That reminds me. One of these days I will compile a CD with my favourite all-time songs. I can probably list many of them here, they're in the order I remember them rather than my No. 1, 2, 3 etc.
  • Louis Armstrong - Moon River (although this probably is No 1)
  • Bob Marley - Give Thanks
  • Aswad - African Children Part 2
  • Cyndi Lauper - True Colors
  • Buddy Holly - True Love Ways
  • Freddie Mercury - Those Were The Days of Our Lives, maybe Who Wants To Live Forever too
  • Beach Boys - Warmth of the Sun
  • Charles Trenet - La Mer (...maybe)
  • The Beatles - The Fool on the Hill (...maybe)
  • Abba - Happy New Year (...maybe)
  • Marvin Gaye - Abraham, Martin and John
There we are. Not an exhaustive list, but easily enough for an album!

Probably no coincidence that most of these songs come from artists I'd describe as my favourites also. Certainly Satch, and the big reggae influence from my college years. Ironically I rever really liked Queen as a contemporary band, it's only really since Freddie Mercury was ailing that I realised what an enormous talent he was. Cyndi Lauper too - excellent talent. I must say The Beatles and Abba are one of the bands I like more than most, but they tend to be more of a really high standard across the board rather than having one or two blistering hits. I'd also include the Housemartins / Beautiful South in that category.

Marvin Gaye was another example of a tragedy, along with the likes of Buddy Holly and John Lennon, plus of course Freddie Mercury. It's a reminder of how human we all are.

Of course, from all of this you'll have gathered that I don't have much of an idea about popular music. Sorry, but I like what I like and am not really sufficiently interested in the subject to keep up with new bands and so on. I did buy a Kylie album a couple of christmasses ago, though. The music was for Alice, the cover photos for me! Jacqueline's much more interested in bands'n'stuff than I am.

Whoever thought I'd be documenting my musical tastes at 11 o'clock on a Friday night. And I haven't even talked about the classical music I like.

Thursday, 28 October 2004

Nothing better to do

Am sitting on the train having just completed a letter and with a few minutes to spare, so thought I'd update the blog. The days are getting shorter, and the weather in general is becoming stormier. Typical autumn weather, the time of year when hibernation seems to be a good option.Alice has been on half-term all week, and spent the whole day at an after-school club yesterday. She seems to really like it there, and I think it is good that she's amongst older kids - heaven knows, they might have some influence on her!

Came across another interesting blog site yesterday, which I found from The Register. This woman is a trolly dolly who keeps a blog, and on that blog she published pictures of herself posing in her uniform. The airline she works for found out, and.... she's now been suspended and is very famous! Must have a read at some point. Also found out that the George W Bush website has been reconfigured to only accept web requests from within the USA. I suppose they've been subject to Denial of Service attacks - as a chap from my client's said, he'd do that if he had nothing better to do. Fair enough I suppose. Very representative, though, of the type of insular attitude the guy has. The US has lost so much credibility with the rest of the world over the last four years. Let's hope they can tear the site down soon in any case after he loses the election.

Tuesday, 26 October 2004

Contracts mostly

Well, a couple of things lately. Spoke at length to a potential client last week. In the end it was a mutual "no", but there was certain aspects of the opportunity that seemed attractive. In the end, however, what they were really looking for was an employee rather than a consultant, and one has to be so careful of the tax situation nowadays. The Inland Revenue recently won what I think will be a landmark case where the court effectively set aside the contracts and accepted, hook, line and sinker, the client's view of the relationship as the "reality". And that decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal. So when it comes to IR35 I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that the contract I sign is largely irrelevant, the only relevant point is the buy-in of the client to a relationship that is outside of the rules. It is difficult, since the clients last week were very obviously uncomfortable with even fielding those questions. But it did enable me to make my decision on them before I'd even left their office. A shame, simce of course it would have been more lucrative than the present arrangement.

Speaking of the present arrangement, I thought it was crunch time for a while today. The contract runs out on Friday and whilst we have verbally agreed terms noting has yet been signed. However, as I've previously mentioned one of my goals here was to drop the agent out of the arrangement, and I believe that a new law allows me to do this. However the agency in question are still calling for blood, and I thought for a while that the client were effectively going to come down on the side of the agent by saying that I had to settle with the agent or they would withdraw the offer. And, of course, the only way of settling in such a short period of time would be to pay them some compensation. Fortunately, things did not come to that, and the client is going out of their way it appears to remain neutral. But it did cross my mind just to walk come Friday to avoid the hassle - there are certainly many contracts out there at the moment, and there's lots of equity in the house, although again the tax situation may well become an issue.

Am rapidly coming to the conclusion that I want to get out of this business altogether, and am spending a lot of time thinking about political things. What I believe in etc. The key thing at the moment is that my thoughts are somewhat unstructured, and I'm actually concluding that it would be a valuable exercise to run, in effect, a design project to bottom out the "first principles" involved. I think I'm going to try to find some reading material also. I've never considered myself a socialist per-se, but it might be interesting to see if the perspective strikes any chords. Plus, it might be good to find out about e.g. MacMillan, in other words Conservatism, but very wet Conservatism.

Heard today that John Peel had died. Nobody can believe it.

Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Inactivity

Once again its been a few days since the last entry, but hey...

Nothing yet sorted on the contract front, although I am going to meet some potential clients tomorrow. Been set up by an agent - wonder how it'll get screwed up this time? Seriously, nt sure even if the role is for me, but its only a few minutes away from the current client so it can't hurt. Ironically a couple of decent-sounding architecture contracts have come onto Jobserve today, but they're probably a week too late for the timing to work.

Had an interesting time at the clients today. Met their CEO for the first time - a very switched-on guy. He was talking about the future business direction of their company (not quite sure why the wanted a consultant there, but there you go), and it was fascinating stuff.

Missed Tony Benn's book signing at Hatchards, which was sometime last week. Was going to buy a copy today, but didn't get out of the office for lunch. Maybe tomorrow... Not even sure what the exact subject matter is, but its bound to be interesting. On the subject of "interesting", I had nothing to read this morning so bought a copy of The Times at the station. It was actually a pretty good read. I'm not normally one for newspapers but might try this again.

Friday, 15 October 2004

Eventful Week

Things are a-happening on the business front. Ruptions the other day when I announced to the current agency that I was going to use the new regulations to drop them, and was in the future thinking of pitching directly to the client. They argued this, of course, (their MD came across as very angry!) but I'm nice and solid from the legal side and judging by what was said it doesn't look like they're overly familiar with the law. I believe they even tried to get the client to come down on their side (i.e. "the only way we'll allow you to have a contract to us is if its through your agency"), but the only reason I embarked on this course was because the client had already said they were entirely neutral over it, so I can't imagine that's a viable option. The only thing to be on the lookout for is late payment from now on - if these people are sufficiently hacked off they may start playing silly-buggers with invoices, so I'll need to be prepared for that. But at least I have a good solicitor who's now familiar with the case, and any action I took would be on the very solid ground of the existing contract. Fun. Fun. Fun. But they I could never have expected them just to back down, since I probably make them over £10k per year all told.

Still looking for a phone - the one I wanted wasn't in stock anywhere. I wonder why? Withdrawn following problems? You never know, the reviews I read weren't particularly good. Difficult, though, to find an alternative, although there might be a Panasonic phone that fits the requirements.

On the subject, wouldn't be averse to upgrading the mobile phones soon either. Both Jacqueline and myself are using Ericssons, which seem to discharge at a fair rate of knots. Even despite a new battery in each. They do seem a bit flimsy too - I'm forever having to "reboot" mine. I think we might try Nokia next time - there's a new phone out in the new year which looks good. I used to use Motorola but they were particularly bad just as soon as you want to connect them to anything. I had a USB cable to connect my Motorola phone to my laptop, and when it stopped working the only advice they could offer was to reinstall Windows. As if... At least Ericssons have a good choice of connectivity - cable, ir and bluetooth.

Busy weekend planned. Got to get my haircut tomorrow, then over to Jacqueline's flat to finish laying the lino in her bathroom. Sunday we've got a trip to Ikea planned, again to kit out her flat. That'll be a long day, since our nearest Ikea is Bristol, and last time we went there it took a good couple of hours to get there. Still, what can you do?

Monday, 11 October 2004

Our Day Out

I know, I know. It's been ages. I went through a phase where I was blogging quite frequently, but this definitely seem to have tailed off.

Well, work has livened up. My contract with the current clients is coming to an end at the end of the month, and they have asked to renew. Despite the fact that the work I do for them doesn't exactly turn me on, right now they're the only show in town so it won't hurt to renew with them. I'm going to try to get rid of the middleman, though, so have had to pay for a solicitor to look into this. When I speak to a guy who can charge £230 per hour, I know I made the wrong career choice. I was all set to study Law too, at Bristol Poly (as it was then). What a damn fool idea it was to end up in Cardiff studying Physics. Still, I do know a guy who was a solicitor and ended up jacking it all in out of boredom. I suppose you end up working for some provincial law firm, doing conveyancing or something equally mind-numbing, and it must get to you eventually. Criminal Law must be a turn-on, and personally I find contracts quite fascinating. After all, at £230 an hour it pays to make use of these guys as infrequently as possible!

Have taken steps to move the company up a couple of notches. I've taken a vitrual address in the City. Basically they sit there and forward your mail, and forward your phone calls. Doesn't mean anything much but it does allow me to separate out "home" and "office" that little bit more. This can be quite difficult, given that n common with many self-employed people my home doubles up as my office. Plus, if ever I do need to hold meetings in the City, I can rent office space from these people at quite a reasonable rate.

More business, this time from the VAT people. Have finally paid them their fine, the only pleasure is that I have wound a couple of them up along the way - I paid at the final hurdle before the summons. I was actually in two minds whether to make the cheque out to "H M Thieving Bastards" or something. It really gets my goat. And the problem with it all is that what they have done is perfectly legal. Whilst I'd love to think in terms of "revenge", its just not possible for this to happen without, basically, going on the fiddle. So you just have to bite your lip and keep looking forward.

Had a very enjoyable day today. Jacqueline had a study day at the hospital (something about strokes) and Alice had the day off while her teachers had a training day (funny, don't remember them from when I was a kid). So I volunteered to take the day off to look after her, and Alice and I went to Paultons. Very good. We were lucky with the weather (a bit fresh but bright enough) and there was hardly anyone in the place. We must have gone n every ride at least twice, there were no queues whatsoever. I must admit, though, as Alice gradually loses her fear of these rides, I'm getting less and less keen on them. Old age???

Also been spending time at Jacqueline's flat. Unfortunately she hasn't sold the thing, it just looks too shoddy on the outside. So, she's doing it up and is going to rent it out for a while longer. She's having new windows put in professionally, but the onus is basically on us to tart up the interior. So she's been painting and I've spent a day ripping up a tatty bathroom old carpet to replace it with some lino. Quite a daunting job but quite straightforward once I'd got into it. I've prepared the floor but unfortunately ran out of time, so actually cutting the lino to size will be a job for next weekend. Plus she's talking of an Ikea trip to kit the place out, although quite why she needs to do this is beyond me.

Friday the phones decided to pack up at home. Not quite true - they will work as long as the handsets are within a yard or so of the base unit. Great, for a cordless phone system. Still, it was probably three or four years old so I suppose all good things come to an end. Only problem is, not quite sure what to replace it with. There are a couple of high-end phones on the market but all appear to have flaws. I think I'll end up just going to John Lewis and buying the latest version of the phone that's just packed up (the phone I had was a 1st-generation Philips Zenia, they're now up to the Zenia 300, but its got a couple of quite poor reviews on Amazon) and making sure I keep the receipt!

Ah well, its been a long day and I'm well and truly knackered. The last thing I feel like dong is working in the morning! Night, Night.