Friday, 23 February 2007

Ageing

Alice woke early this morning, and as I steppped out of my shower, there she was sittingg on the bathroom floor.

Her advice? "Don't have a haircut too soon, Daddy, since you can still see your head through your hair at the front."

Bless...

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Travel Trouble

I expected trouble.

The guy currently being served had been at the counter ten minutes already. Another chap - who was only queuing for a measly car park ticket - had given up in despair.

Despite my tiredness at the end of a long day, I knew I had to be switched on, be very explicit and to leave no room for error. Finally, my turn.

Handling over my existing ticket, I asked "Can I renew this for another week, please?", quickly adding "can you make sure its a first?" to ensure the guy didn't fall into the common trap.

All was well, it looked like the guy pushed all the right buttons. Until, that is, the ticket actually popped out and I saw that my requested seven-day ticket had been issued only for six days.

When I questioned him, the chap said he'd issued it for the same day. What use would a season ticket up to London be to me at eight o'clock at night? Especially as I already had a ticket, my existing season ticket, that would enable me to make that journey should I have been wild enough to do so?

Okay, I'm dealing with an idiot here. But it was when the guy started arguing with me, telling me not to worry and that the ticket would last the full seven days (the largest piece of text on the ticket was the expiry date, in six days' time) that the station manager came to sort things out...

The chap who had started trying to serve me was left muttering feebly, "I only started this job two days ago".

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not sure I'd be too keen on working one of those ticket machines. The combinations of options must be enormous and there is a huge potential to cock things up.

But don't you just hate it when people start arguing with you and you know you're in the right?

And wouldn't you have thought that British Rail would have the sense to actually train people before to do something properly before they let them loose upon unsuspecting passengers?

Dare I ask how much training the driver has had?

Monday, 19 February 2007

Bundle of Laughs

Busy time of things currently.

Was laid up last weekend - spent Monday in bad but, as any consultant will testify, being ill doesn't pay the mortgage. Consequently went into London for the rest of the week, although running on reserves. To cap it all, both Thursday and Friday turned out to be confrontational days.

As a consultant I normally try hard to avoid confrontation - and this generally means biting my tongue a lot when I see daft things going on. But on this occasion I was asked for an opinion and gave it - frankly. This then had the effect of getting someone's back up, and the rest is history...

Suffice to say I spent a lot of time over the weekend deciding whether just to give notice on the clients. Pride versus the mortgage... But in the cold light of day it is always preferable to wear a parachute before jumping out of a plane, so I just need to start keeping an eye out for new opportunities once again I think - and of course to remember to keep my mouth shut in order to make life easier.

Aside from this, my mother is staying with us currently. Not as stressful as it could have been - indeed Jacqueline and I even got to go out for a meal Saturday on the strength of it. However she is here for the rest of the week so time will tell.

Just when we though Alice was in danger of becoming a normal child, we were told Saturday that she had made a nasty phone call to one of our friends, complaining about her boy's behaviour. Needless to say both Mum and son heard the message and were upset, especially when I recognised the incident Alice was talking about, and it was she who was being the troublemaker. I can't help thinking we are raising a rotten apple and have no idea what I can do about it.

For the moment she has been banned from tv for the week - half term - but I can foresee that all that will happen is she ends up locking the sky account out by repeatedly incorrectly entering the pin number.

Isn't life wonderful?

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Lucky Me

Had a weird sense of déjà vu this morning.

I headed out into the village, early, to pick up a loaf of bread. After having bought a bloomer from the bakery, I headed over to our small supermarket to get Alice a frais she'd requested - with the river lying between the two.

As I crossed the bridge I could see, to my right, the river bubbling along. Ahead of me, beyond the village, lay the hills (such as we have hills, down in Wiltshire) which overlook the village. For all the weather has been very grey and wet lately, everything here is still very lush and green - the field next door, for example, has obviously got something growing in it already.

Anyway, I was reminded of childhood holidays. We used to go to a place caller Llanrwst, in north Wales on the edge of Snowdonia. We would go there every year - my parents went there for their honeymoon and I guess got into the habit. I would go to the park there, and on one side would be flowing the River Conwy (often quite pungent due to the reeds that were growing above the low water level) and on the other, just a mile or so away, was the mountain. A "real" mountain (at least to a small kid from Liverpool), luscious because of the fir forest growing on its slopes. When I think back to childhood, it is these memories which are the most peaceful.

And as I looked up this morning I realised just how lucky I am.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

O2...

...called me up yesterday, told me that they would need a deposit of £100 before they could proceed with my application. I'm glad I listened to my little voice and cancelled the order...

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Busy Times

Ages since I wrote, unusually this is largely because I've been quite busy.

Went across to France last weekend. Sailed Friday night to arrive in Le Havre early next morning, and in Rouen in time for breakfast. (In full French tradition we breakfasted at MacDonalds!) Spent the day mooching and shopping in Rouen - a lovely old city, at least in the centre. Not bad weather either.

Its always nice to get over to France and we found lots of shops to mooch around - French cities bear far less of a corporate branding than in England, although ironically many of the places we ended up in were places like Printemps, Galeries Lafayette etc. - the corporate side of French shopping. Got some lovely coffee cups from a Guy Degrenne boutique, to complement some mugs Jacqueline bought in the summer. Guy Degrenne stuff is lovely, but completely unobtainable in the UK. As it happened, when she unwrapped them at home, Jacqueline found that one of the cups was damaged. Only thing was, she couldn't find any trace of porcelain in the wrapping, so it looks like the cup had been damaged *before* it was packed up. Serves me right I suppose for not paying enought attention in the shop...

We'd booked into the Hotel Mercure - well situated literally two minutes from the cathedral - and by mid-afternoon we checked in just so I could have a rest for an hour. I had a rest, Alice played in the bathroom and Jacqueline went back out shopping for a couple of hours on her own. Nice room, very reasonable.

Being in the centre, we'd just left the car in a car park all day, but by early evening we headed out once again for the obligatory supermarket shop, to an enormous shopping centre at St Sever. Must remember to go somewhere different next time, since the supermarket was an E Leclerc, not one of our favourites. And it is such a pity that Frnech supermarkets aren't open on a Sunday - as it was we had to keep the groceries in the car overnight Saturday. Not bad on the most part, although the Port Salut smelled a little the worse for wear the next day!

Back to the hotel for a short rest once more, then out for supper - this time a traditional French crêperie. (In fact, we'd gone "local" for lunch too - moules frites for me. MacDonalds really is not typical cuisine for us!).

Sunday morning we took a lovely leisurely petit dejourner, then quit the hotel around 11am, taking the scenic route up to Honfleur in time for a spot of lunch. A couple of hours in Honfleur, which unsurprisingly is a lot quieter at this time of year than in the summer. Very lovely nevertheless - Jacqueline and I ended up in Honfleur on our first trip together to France all those years ago...

Back on the ferry for the five o'clock sailing back to Portsmouth. It was our first time using LD Lines, and I would probably rate them about as good as P&O used to be. But they're both behind Brittany Ferries. The strangest thing was the crew/staff. With very few exceptions the staff were all-male, their "uniform" was black polo shirts and black trousers, so all in all they looked to be a very swarthy crew!

What else? Well, not surprisingly without a restful weekend last weekend, this week has felt quite tough. Life at the client's is having its ups and downs at the moment, the main downs being the amount of work I have on my plate. I have always generally felt able to arrive at the client's at 9am and to work right through until 5:30pm, but over the last few weeks I've been glad to get away for an hour at lunchtime.

Oh, one of the things I did get sorted last week was a new phone, both for Jacqueline and myself.

A couple of weeks ago I made all the necessary arrangements to terminate with Voda and move across to O2. I did have reservations with going to O2 because around six or seven years ago I actually moved in the other direction because O2 (Cellnet as it was in those days) messed me around. Anyway, when I placed the order they said the kit would be with me within two weeks. Two weeks was up at the start of the week, and still no kit. I called them up and found that the kit had still not been dispatched, so I cancelled the order there and then. Given the reservations I had in any case, this was basically just a sign!

So, I called Vodafone up and negotiated a handset upgrade for Jacqueline. For me, they said that if I didn't want a new handset they would place a £100 credit on the account (obviously this being conditional on taking out a contract for a year). So, I took the credit and was straight onto eBay to find a new handset, an XDA Exec. (I had got Voda to quote me on this and they came up with a price of over £400, hence my resorting to eBay.) Long and short of it is that all phones arrived Friday, so we have spent the weekend getting used to them.

I have to say I am not sure how well I will get on with the XDA. As with all phones, there is a certain amount of disappointment when you realise that this wonderful new piece of kit does not have the one feature you thought was really cool on the old phone. It happened with my Nokia 9500, when I found out it didn't have a vibrate function.

So far, the biggest flaw with the XDA is the fact that it cannot send or receive faxes. Now, in two years owning the 9500, I think I received just the one fax. But nevertheless, is this not just basic functionality? Especially for something which in reality is a full-on PDA? Anyway, I shall without judgement for now - the connectivity aspect worked straight out of the box, it was not very difficult to get the thing to connect to the wireless lan, and it was a breeze to set up email, so hopefully it will be a net plus. If not, I'll be back on eBay to pick up another Nokia. (Seriously, if there had been a 3G Communicator on the market, that would have got my vote easily.)

Watch this space...