Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Merry Christmas...from British Rail

Went in to the client's today.

To celebrate, South West Trains decided to make the journey from Salisbury to London take three hours. "Circumstances beyond their control", they said, "overrunning engineering work". The trouble with the fragmentation driven by privatisation is that it is always someone else's fault.

Still, SWT will still get their revenue in full, which is the main thing I suppose. They may even get compensated by Network Rail for the inconvenience their passengers have suffered. The fact that I didn't get to take a lunch break, plus felt obliged to take an hour's reading for the train just to make inroads into the things on my to-do list, is surely inconsequential.

Useless Bastards.

Monday, 25 December 2006

Christmas Spirit

Ah, Christmas is done for another year.

We've just finished lunch, which was a great success and has left everybody stuffed. A traditional turkey dinner (delicious, ordered from one of the farms from the Farmers' Market, and picked up yesterday) complete with all the trimmings.

To start lunch, of course the obligatory crackers were pulled - I bought some Fortnum and Mason Liqueur crackers, and Alice was pleasantly surprised to receive, along with her joke and hat, a minature of a 12-year-old single malt! In previous years these crackers have also contained a delicious after-dinner mint each, but strangely they appear to have discontinued this practise. A shame, although the house is swimming in chocolate at the moment so I can't complain.

Alice, of course, is deleriously happy, Father Christmas having delivered Pixel Chix galore to the house. In fairness to her, she was very good since she woke up with a tummy ache in the middle of the night, after Father Christmas had been, but was content just to snuggle up to a teddy bear poking out of the top of her sack, and a hot water bottle. She then slept through uptil around 7:30am. I know that when I was her age, had I woken in the middle of the night, I would have spent the next couple of hours unwrapping presents!
It is slightly ironic that, for all the presents she received, she has got the most fun so far out of a joke present I bought for Jacqueline - a radio-controlled dalek! (Very useful for warning the cat off the baubles as it happens!) Jacqueline's other present was a Bose docking station for her iPod, which I have to admit gives out a truly superb sound (though it should for the price).

For me, I was given a couple of books, plus a Dvd of the second Pirates of the Carribean - doubtless a good yarn for this evening, some smallies and, from my mother, the obligatory socks. Bless her, she tries so hard!
Christmas being a Monday this year, we've had plenty of time to prepare. Though we nominally did the Christmas shop last weekend, there was still time to visit the shops once again this week. For me, I worked the full week last week, though obviously the client's was very quiet. Even more, I've decided to go in between Christmas and New Year - there's just so much I need to get on top of at the moment.

My car survived its service with a clean bill of health, though unfortunately I managed to scrape the loan car, so I will need to pay the insurance excess on top of the service bill. Idiot! Just as well I'm working this week!

Friday, 15 December 2006


Well, I survived my football match. Quite a good experience as a one-off, although the quality of the football left something to be desired and even the pundits the next day were saying how awful Chelsea played.
Having had a spot to eat we arrived in our seats with just minutes to spare before kick-off. The seats themselves were up in the main stand, and were sufficiently high that we were level with the rooves of the other stands. Also, we couldn't see either scoreboard. On the plus side, however we had a good, unobstructed view of the pitch (even if it did seem a long way away!)

Mourinho had obviously tried to rest some of his players, and the eleven out there (which still included many "big names") looked in the first half as though they'd never played together before. Even though Newcastle didn't do anything particularly constructive, you could still see the possibility of them scoring on the break.

The guy I went with - a Chelsea fan - had told me how bad Shaun Wright-Phillips was and having seen how good he was at Man City, I must admit I found it hard to believe - until Wednesday. Carvalho, too, seemed to be a complete donkey. Both, fortunately, were substituted at half-time. For the rest, Terry, Ballack, Lampard, Essien and co looked very ordinary. Their goalkeeper, Hilario, looked very temperamental but to be fair to him, his biggest problem seemed to be keeping warm!

At half-time Mourinho brought Drogba on and the difference was marked, with Chelsea starting to work some good moves together right from the off. He certainly introduced a touch of class into the game. Also, Ballack started to show his strength and class, and even Lampard started threading some good balls through. It was still quite frustrating, however, because they seemed to be playing everything through the middle, while they had wingers standing out on either touchline who weren't seeing anything of the ball.

The goal when it came was a scrappy affair. It looked like Shevchenko (who only played the last half-hour but who is obviously having trouble finding his feet) took a shot, but got absolutely no power on it. Fortunately for Chelsea, Drogba was able to latch onto the shot and just rifled it past the keeper at his near post. I felt the relief all around me.

As it happened I left ten minutes before the end, in order to catch my train. Unfortunately, allowing myself 50 minutes to get from Chelsea to Waterloo was hopelessly optimistic, and I ended up missing the train by around fifteen minutes and having to wait almost an hour for the next train, the last of the night, which didn't depart until 11:30pm.

It was amazing to see Waterloo at a time of day that I never normally see it. To my surprise it seemed every bit as busy as when I use it at 6 o'clock. There were people, obviously having had nights out, dressed in all kinds of garb. There was even a chap dressed as Horatio Hornblower running for his train!

Still, we arrived back in Salisbury for just after 1am and I was in bed for 1:30am. All-in-all, a long night. And it didn't help that the alarm went off at 5:45am, as normal, the next day.

Suffice to say, yesterday was a struggle!

Last night when we got home we had an interesting task, that was to manouver our suite out of the house. A fair bit of thinking required because whilst the suite would quite happily jam if we just applied brute force, by thinking about the problem we were able to position the sofas correctly and just to slide them through the doors. Hopefully the chaps bringing the new suite today will find it just as easy!

Obviously, with changing suites, there is currently a fair amount of upheaval in the lounge. A victim of this appears to have been my laptop, which started exhibiting the same problems I first spotted during this year's holiday. After the holiday, the laptop's problems just seemed to go away, although in truth I think they were just disguised by the fact that at home, the laptop just generally sits on the sofa armrest and doesn't move around a lot.

Upshot is I'm going to need to get the thing repaired. Fortunately there is a place in central London which can probably do the job (and relatively cheaply probably), but it is touch and go how long this will all take, what with Christmas coming up shortly.

Fun, fun, fun.

Monday, 11 December 2006

Stormy Times

Its been a while since I wrote a blog in detail, and this I'm afraid is for one reason only - motivitis!

We've just spent a lethargic weekend watching not a great deal on the tv, and watching the rain fall on the garden. Alice could not get hold of her friend Jack, so even she was moping around the house. It is still stormy now, and this is the forecast for the rest of the week. Still, I suppose we are spared from the cold - for the moment at least.

First things first, I have paid off the Inland Revenue. In truth, it probably turned out no different to it would have done had I filed the return at the last possible moment, it is just the hassle of having to discuss it with them. So, for a month or two at least, I'm working for myself and not for Gordon. That having been said, the car is having its service next week so I probably shouldn't speak too soon.

Of course we are gearing up for christmas. Over the last week or so I've bought most of the presents I intend buying. Basically everyone has ended up furnishing me with their requirements in advance, all I've really done is to be the errand boy. Of course there will be a couple of surprises - I can't wait to see Jacqueline's face when she opens her radio-controlled dalek, for example!

One of the things we did do at the weekend was to sort out the tree - as usual obtained from the garden centre at Wilton. It seems incredibly early, but in reality there was only this weekend and next. Anyways, said tree is now standing on the driveway in a bucket of water! I got the decorations out of the loft yesterday, so they can bring it in and decorate it at their leisure.

Anyway, now that christmas is pretty much sorted, I can go back to being miserable!

What else? I'm going to a football match this week, for the first time in eleven years. Going to see Chelsea play Newcastle with a chap from the clients. The tickets cost £65 apiece! That's twice as much as I used to pay for my Season Ticket (that was 21 games!!) at Everton.

On the subject of the clients, again I can feel myself getting into a rut. For the first time since we renewed the contract I updated my cv. I registered with Monster for the first time and was literally peppered with calls from agents during the course of the week. Unfortunately the same old story - from all the phone calls there wasn't a single role I thought suitable. Still, here's hoping - January generally brings a flurry of activity so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, 8 December 2006

San Quentin

I am just watching a documentary on National Geographic about San Quentin prison.

Does anybody else find it ironic that a prison has lots of "Exit" signs everywhere?