Monday, 24 April 2006

Dawn Chorus

Good weekend. Saturday, woke early thanks to the dawn chorus, in time to head across to Brighton for lunch. Jacqueline had won something on eBay that we needed to pick up. Once we'd picked it up, we headed into the centre of Brighton to look at the shops 'n' stuff.

Passed an H&M, which I find is always useful for kid's clothes, and 15 minutes and £110 later, Alice now has her summer wardrobe. Almost the first shop out of the car park was a toy shop, in which Alice insisted in spending almost every penny of her pocket money on a Barbie doll. Money really does burn a hole in her pocket.

On through the Lanes, which are always very pleasant to walk through, but whose shops I don't find particularly interesting.

We'd promised to Alice that she could spend some time on the beach, and to be honest she was a complete pain walking around the shops - even shops that she liked - because she was constantly whining about how she wanted to go to the beach now. Plus, of course, you end up giving in eventually so not only did we have to suffer whining while we were mooching, but we didn't get to mooch very far either. She can be really horrible sometimes and is selfish all the time. Once we got to the beach, Alice changed into her swimsuit and had a splash, and with the weather being beautiful and sunny I had a lie down for half an hour. With just a little stop for an ice cream and a coffee in one of the beachside cafes, it was time to head home.

Quite hungry, having had a light lunch, we stopped in Portsmouth for a real treat - a visit to KFC. Yummy! Got one of those buckets which was way too big, we took it home and Jacqueline finished it for her breakfast!

So all in all Saturday was quite a good day despite Alice's attempts to spoil things. Plus, it was the first really summery day we've had this year - very sunny, and warm in the sun. Of course the wind cooled things down somewhat but we are still only in April.

Sunday was the mundane day. Did the weekly shop and pottered about the house. Did some tidying, some scanning/shredding. Watched the FA Cup semi-final. Alice spent much of the day playing out with some friends of hers, but to be honest they are all best friends one minuter and worst enemies the next. She does seem to have trouble endearing herself to people. Plus, we had a good shout at her last night because she came out with something really quite offensive to Jacqueline. I can't even remember what it was now, but Alice was way out of line. She does seem to think she can get away with saying whatever she likes and then saying "But I don't mean it" afterwards. On one occasion, she really upset me because she said that I'd killed Barney (who was our cat who died last year). Now, Barney and I were bestest buddies so I found that remark very offensive.

I live in hope that Alice will learn how to mix socially with people, but I see precious little evidence of it and I know that the longer it takes her the harder it will be for her.

Reading back over this entry, it seems to be a real have-a-go-at-Alice entry, but that's how I feel at the moment.

On the plus side I have consigned to the shredder statements from two credit cards, phone bills and gas bills (all of which going back years) over the weekend. The scanner continues to behave well, my only gripe being that the 50-page sheetfeeder does not mean that 50 pages may be scanned at once. Anything more than five or six pages at once and the paper starts to jam. But hey, I can live with that. I'm now freeing up space inside my filing cabinet itself.

One other thing worth mentioning - my last-but-one invoice got paid a week late, and my latest invoice was late also. I whined to the agency about this and they came back, apologised profusely and sent a payment by CHAPS the same day. A nice, reassuring touch.

My clients upgraded their database at the weekend, so most of this morning has been spent fielding issues from end-users about why things that worked on Friday do not work today. It is impossible to generate enthusiasm for this type of work, which really a telephonist could do far more pleasantly than I can, and reinforces the need to find new consultancy work.

Tuesday, 18 April 2006

Easter Weekend

Quite an action-packed weekend, by our standards.

Friday (Good Friday) we headed over to see Lorraine first-thing. Beautiful day, spring has certainly sprung, and we arrived in Dorchester shortly after 10am. Was quite funny to see Solomon, now out of hospital, crawling around the place at top speed. He will stand up but isn't walking again just yet. But hardly immobile! He gets his mum to take him up and down the stairs, although was quite capable of sliding down the stairs on his bum when mum couldn't get there quick enough. Lucy of course was there too, she and Alice love to play together, although Solomon got all the attention. As an added bonus, Jac's mum was staying there so Alice got to say 'Happy Easter' to Grandma.

After Lorraine's we headed out for lunch. There's a pub called the World's End, on the Ringwood - Dorchester road, which Jacqueline went to years ago and which she said was excellent. Must still be excellent because when we got there we were told we'd have a forty minute wait for a table. Rather than wait, we headed off vowing to eat at the first decent-looking pub we found, which turned out to be just outside Wareham. Filled a hole...

Onward then to Swanage and Corfe Castle, where we stopped to have a wander through the ruins, Alice doing roly-polys down the steep embankment. Thereon to tea, at the NT's Tea Rooms in the village. Awful service. Long wait, dirty tables, wrong orders being brought out (consistently). It begs the question as to just how difficult it can be to put a couple of scones on a plate.

But all-in-all, quite a "good" Friday. Saturday was a little quieter, we had a lazy morning and headed to nearby Breamore House at lunchtime, to take part in the Easter Egg hunt there. Good fun, Alice saw several of her school friends, though we didn't win anything. Thereon to the supermarket, to do the necessary...
Sunday, we headed over to Longleat, an idea obviously shared by thousands of others! But in all fairness despite the many people there it didn't really affect our day (apart from having to queue to use the gents' loo!) We went to the pet area and saw the parrot show, then found our way through the maze - Alice and I at odds about the right way to go. The sign at the front said that the maze normally took between 30-60 minutes, so it wasn't trivial by any means. Of course I was pretty chuffed when we cracked it in about 20 minutes, although perhaps on reflection everyone does in in that sort of time, and everyone gets that "feelgood" factor. Following a delicious picnic lunch, onward into an enormous outdoor adventure playground - Jac and I found a seat and let Alice roam for half an hour or so, then on to the main event, the safari park.

Excellent journey through the park, the monkeys were particularly amusing. Some poor chap had the trim on his car well-and-truly mangled. As it was, we had a monkey trying its best to bite off one of our windscreen washers, until a deft touch on the accellerator made the little bleeder think twice! The only disappointing thing was that the traffic by now was quite heavy, so much so that we were diverted past many of the lions just to avoid the queues. Still, a good day had by all - we bought a mega-ticket which allows access to the every attraction, so we can go back in a few weeks and do some of the things we missed today.

Monday was my designated "quiet day", plus I was on call for the client. I was going to take Alice to the Easter Egg Hunt in nearby Downton, but she spoke to me so disrespectfully first thing that I thought "Why should I?" So I made her totally aware of what she'd missed and why she'd missed it, and she then spent the next half hour crying. Hopefully a lesson will be learned from this, and it felt quite satisfying from my perspective to know that she hadn't walked all over me.

In any case, however, she still got a treat of sorts, since we decided to go out to a pub for lunch. We chose the Bat and Ball, in Breamore. Very impressive, will definitely revisit. Back home to do some tidying up - first time out in the garden since the autumn, so needed to cut the grass also. All in all very productive, both the house and the garden appear much tidier. Simon dropped by yesterday evening, but to be honest I had to kick him out when I got to the point when I could no longer keep my eves open. I needed my beauty sleep ready for "back to work" mode this morning.

Thursday, 13 April 2006

Progress

Woo-hoo! About 90 minutes and 128 documents later, the pile of paper is gone! Why didn't I do this a year ago?

Now to shred it and to tag the PDF files...

Thanks, Fujitsu!

Easter Break

Easter has officially started. Took the day away from the client's since there's some paperwork I need to catch up on. All of which meant a nice lie in this morning. Only thing is that Jacqueline is still working so the alarm still went off at 7 o'clock.

My idea of a paperless office has come a step closer to reality. Whilst I was completely up-to-date last October, I hadn't scanned anything in since then so there's a fair old pile of paper. The trouble is, although it is a great idea, the scanning process is not quite as straightforward as it could be. I have one of all-in-ones, and although it has a sheet feeder for the scanner, I generally ended up having to scan one side at a time, so it was quite slow. (I have found that with all-in-ones, they may do many things, but they don't do any one thing particularly well.)

Anyway, the "step closer to reality" has come with the purchase of a dedicated document scanner. Wasn't cheap, cost almost as much as the all-in-one did (and even that was the bottom-of-the-range model) but it is really good. Getting the documents from paper to PDF is a one-button operation, and the scanner has a good sheet feeder system, and scans both sides at once, so all-in-all it is quite impressive. Of course, once it is in PDF format I still need to add metadata to the documents so as to allow me to search for them later, but at least I can do that part whenever. So, one of the tasks for today is to start driving through the mountain of paper that has gathered since October. Fortunately I bought a decent shredder last year, so I can rapidly get rid of the paper once its scanned. I suppose my best-case scenario would be to backtrack through the filing cabinet and retrospectively scan and shred, although whether I'll ever get around to that I'm not sure.
Last weekend was a quiet one, since the agency decided to pay a week late so there were no funds in the account. This is the first time they have let me down since I've had to go through them, hopefully it is the last. It puts you in a difficult position since the only action you can take is to stay away from the client, which ultimately is self-harming because you don't get fees for the time you stay away. Of course the flip side to this could well be that you haven't been paid because the agency is going bust, in which case it is best to stay away from the client in order to minimise the amount you'd ultimately be owed. Unlikely as it may seem, this scenario has happened a couple of times, though fortunately never to anybody I've been involved with.
The perils of being a small service business - it really is laughable when the Inland Revenue claim that people operating as a business take no more financial risk than do employees.

Better get a move on, since although I am away from the clients there are still a half dozen things I want to get done today. Some nice plans for the Easter weekend, will update later.

Monday, 3 April 2006

Springtime!

Mixed weekend. Saturday we headed over to Dorchester to visit Solomon. I've been very lax lately with this blog but one of the things that did happen was that poor old Solomon managed to break his leg. Poor thing, he is only three years old. So, he's been in traction for the last four weeks. We visited him a few weeks ago, when obviously everything was still rather painful for him, but when we visited Saturday he seemed a lot better and more agile. Apparently he may even be out of hospital this week, and straight home - not even a cast.
Quite good since he has obviously taken a shine to me, and Lorraine said he was really excited when he found out I'd be visiting. The first thing he did when we got there was to try to take my picture - with a trick camera that squirted water. Exactly what I'd have done as a kid! I had to go over to Lorraine's house and help her with something on her computer, and on the way back got delicious chocolate ice creams all round - and the resultant mess on Solomon's clean white bedding had to be seen to be believed! Alice too enjoyed herself. As Solomon is on a childrens' ward there is a heavy emphasis on playing and toys, so she had the run of the place for something like five hours. Very strange to see our six-year-old attempting to dress up in costumes meant for toddlers!

Sunday was not so good. I've been thinking about getting a new "practical" suit. Something that is machine washable, so I'm not reliant on the dry cleaners when I need to get the thing cleaned. Acting on a tip-off, we headed over to Marks and Spencers on Sunday. We first did the weekly shop at Sainsbury's, but then as we were going to M&S Jacqueline said that it would be good to see if we could find some trousers for Alice. Unfortunately Alice decided to be uncooperative, so much so that I left them in the childrens' clothing department to have a look at the washable suits, which was after all the reason for going in the first place.
Having looked at the suits (which are also safe for tumble dryers - a great idea but unfortunately not a great range), I headed back to find the family, but they were not to be seen. Thinking that Jacqueline must have get fed up waiting for me, I headed back to the car.

The car was empty, but I didn't see the point of going back and continuing to look for them - they could have been anywhere - I decided I might as well sit and wait in the car. So, twenty minutes later, they finally arrived back at the car and the argument ensued...

Everything, of course, was my fault - the definition of being married I suppose, and it really soured what had been a good weekend up until then. In particular I was upset at Alice's stroppy attitude which meant that it was really necessary for us all to split up in the first place. She really shows her dark side at times.

It amazes me - she went to a party last week and when Jacqueline went to pick Alice up, the girl's mother told Jacqueline that she was angelic! Little does she know....

Oh, lastly, that Kenny Everett dvd I was watching the other night turned out disappointing in the end, since many of his best characters weren't on it. Fine if Hot Gossip's your thing, but I'd have thought a 2-hour DVD would have had a better selection of his characters. Roll on Dads' Army!