Monday, 28 March 2011

Back at Mill

One week away and first day back to work. Only 53 e-mails, and most of those for 'my information only.' with no action required and the others were fine and will be sorted reasonably quickly. This is a sort of record, mostly because that's about half what I expected.

Now some people have no e-mails when they come back because they have a portable device which they take home with them with which to answer said e-mails, take on courses with them and more sadly some take on holiday with them. I NEVER took or take work home because the two worlds should not intentionally mix.

That's not me showing a lack of commitment, it's about valuing 'me time,' valuing family without who's support, life would be more difficult and valuing that I don't want the additional stress. If there isn't enough hours in the day at work, either work has got it wrong, you aren't telling work the truth about your workload or you're being bullied into doing more than you have time to cope with. I guess it's the same in the public and private sectors.

The fact is that a lot of workers do work in their own time for no pay, overtime for no pay 'because the firm 'can't afford it,' and firms/companies abuse roundly the goodwill of employees. Miles are travelled in journeys in our own cars for nothing because a claim for four miles isn't worth the effort for example. But these are all costs to us and costs that firms don't pay. So I have to ask myself what is the true cost of what employees do for their firms/companies? The argument: 'at least you have a job,' doesn't wash anymore.

You may say 'what about loyalty.' This is very important and I would walk to the end of the earth for a top boss (and we have many) and when the wheel is about to come off, I don't object to doing 100% plus a bit including extra free time, extra effort but for a one off - not as a routine, and that's where the abuse comes in.

This is where weak managers close their eyes to the goodwill abuse. This is where weak employees frightened of losing their jobs daren't say anything (and I understand the pressures - believe me.) This is where Government smugly ignore the goodwill and people issues and hope that people that are left will be so frightened they will allow themselves to be abused whilst having their wages effectively cut, or at worst losing their jobs and and for others accepting a reduced and potentially an inadequate service.

This is what Government doesn't understand in these days of austerity - losing the goodwill of employees is wholly counterproductive and simply increases the pressure all round and who will suffer? Customers and the public because their service will be reduced in quality; employers and employees who are left because they won't deliver what they know they should and want to deliver.

I didn't intent to have a rant tonight but there we are - got it out of my system. I would have loved to have gone to London and marched for the public services last weekend but did not want to become involved in any troubles. But that's another story of how 'Liberty' (sadly now a joke organisation more concerned with the rights of criminals) ignores my liberty and freedom - curtailed because of those who intentionally commit violence and Liberty does nothing to condemn those who commit those violent acts and who threaten our very democracy, freedoms and liberty. A rant for another time.

Chat soon


Friday, 25 March 2011

London Break, Day 4 (Thursday 24th)

The Great Hall of the Natural History Museum
with Darwin overseeing the activities at the top of the staircase.

My feet are killing me. That's official. They're not round my throat like the old Tommy Cooper gag, just sore and blistered.

My wife wore a new pair of jeans today and after we came back to the room from breakfast, she noticed that she still had the sticky size labels stuck to the back of one of her legs. I got the blame of course for not noticing them! How does that work then?

On our last full day in London, we decided that we wanted to se
e some of the classic national museums - just to experience the wonders contained within them and to say that we've been. The morning trip took us the the magnificent Natural History Museum in South Kensington. This is one of London's mist beautiful and ornate buildings built as you might expect, by the Victorians in the most decorative and eccentric style. There are carvings of animals everywhere you look. Darwin's marble statue of him seated is on top of the staircase in the main hall. In many ways, I'm surprised my other half stuck around for the trip round this building, her being a confirmed creationist believer.

The 'Cora Sun-Drop' diamond from Africa, 110.03 carats

which can be viewed in 'The Vault' section of the Natural History

Like most modern museums, it's well laid out with themed exhibits and was everything as wonderful as I imagined it. This is highly recommended and took us around three hours.

Bust of Albert Einstein in the V & A, about 1933

The Victoria and Albert Museum is across the road. This is
a museum of design, and if I am honest, wasn't my cup of tea (call me a heretic.) Don't get me wrong, if you want design, this is your thing and there were a couple of exceptions which I really enjoyed, one of which was the sculptures, old and new which were wonderful and spell binding in their beauty. It was lovely sitting in the John Madejski garden for a break in the sun looking at the facade of a building celebrating the 1851 Great Exhibition. If you want see something specific, then this is for you.

The Wellcome Hall in the Science Museum

Finally this afternoon, we wandered extensively through the Sci
ence Museum, opposite the V & A. Don't forget, all these museums are free entry and apart from cafes and shops inside are virtually cost free. The Science Museum is slightly different in that there are some films in 3D and simulators which do cost extra. This is a fun museum, informative and wide ranging in its variety of subjects. There's science of life, flight, space flight, shipping, science in the home, transport (including Stephenson's Rocket), industrial machinery and lots of hands on exhibits too for kids and big kids (like us). This was one of the best and lots of fun.

Although we travel back tomorrow by coach, thereby giving us in effect three full days in the capital, this was a good value for money holiday. The extras were the show and the London Eye and River Cruise and for three days on the tube, a prepaid Oyster card took just £12 off us for tube fares - that's travel throughout zones 1 & 2.

Getting round is easy and hassle free and if you're lucky to get some good weather, walking round and seeing the sights at leisure is highly recommended.
I hope you enjoyed the story of the trip and if you can use any of the information to help any planning for a trip to the capital, it's worth while.

Chat soon


London Break, Day 3 (Wednesday 23rd)

The Royal Gold Cup, about 1370 - France.

Wednesday is a leisure day in the smoke - except there's no sign of smoke as the day began with bright sunshine and clear skies. So warm in fact that her indoors went out for the day with no coat - very unusual.

The tube took us along two line, Jubilee and Piccadilly to Russell Square and onward by foot through the very picturesque Square to the British Museum. In may ways 'British' is a strange name for it really because the museum gives a hug
e amount of its space to everything except British. There's lots of Africa, Europe, Egypt, Greece, Roman, Asian, Middle East but not a lot of 'British.' If you want British, visit other museums and some of the local museums in the UK tell us much more about our heritage that the British Museum which is a real shame.

Why is it a shame? Because the vast majority of visitors by a long way wer
e not British at all and I wonder what they expected to see - certainly not a lot of this country's dim and distant past. Perhaps a change of name might be appropriate. Nevertheless, I can't take away from the place that the exhibitions are immense in quantity and quality and we were there about three and a half hours, and could have spent more.

Spot the philosophers.

The highlights were the Egyptian funerary things and some of the jewelry both from home and abroad. The Greek things, statues, buildings etc were fabulous and if you are rich, you could buy a statue of 'David
' for £10,000 from the shop along with other equally as expensive replicas.

A 'problem' on the tube, which was not explained to us just delayed our journey back to the hotel, but we made it back in time for an early tea and then onward to the Lyceum Theatre to see The Lion King. We were picked up at the hotel by 'Barry' who collected is at the end of the show in a large black BMW. We felt like royalty.

The Lion King was an extraordinary experience of colo
ur, song, wit, strong characters telling a strong story with singing of the most exquisite beauty. The theme was strongly African as you would imagine, with different lyrics and music from the film, but it still retains the Tim Rice and Elton John magic enhanced by the wonderful African harmonies. This is thoroughly recommended and will be enjoyed by all ages.

By the way - the theatre itself inside is spectacular in its old fashioned design with carvings all over the place, on boxes, on the ceilings, the walls - stunning. Unfortunately, it was too dark to capture it on my camera.

A long, tiring, but entirely satisfying day.

Chat soon


London Break, Day 2 (Tuesday 22nd)

A misty warm day greeted us today in London and breakfast was a full English, something I have rarely, which probably made it more enjoyable.

We walked from the hotel to the Canary Wharf Underground across the river on a footbridge and was stunned to see two grebes swimming side by side and diving for food. The underground journey to Waterloo on the Jubilee line was my wife's first experience on the tube and she was okay with it. Fortunately it was neither jammed packed not too hot, both of which I've experienced in the past and can be a real pain.

We got off at Waterloo and walked to the EDF Energy London Eye to get our tickets for the Eye and a River trip later in the day. Another pleasant walk took us to the Imperial War Museum. This was an extraordinary experience and one which I would recommend to all ages. There is plenty to do and experience from the Great War through to the Second World War and beyond. There are hundreds of exhibits from a rocket to a tank to a Supermarine Spitfire hung from the ceiling.

However, the most emotional experience in the museum for me was going around thee Lord Ashcroft Gallery which is an exhibition of Victoria Cross and George Cross recipients. Stories of heroism of ordinary and brave men and women who sacrificed their lives and their personal safety for others. There are hundreds of Victoria Cross medals to see - take a hanky - this is extraordinary stuff.

Formally an asylum for the insane (from where 'bedlam' came from in the context of an institution for the insane), this is a wonderful building, guarded by two huge 15" naval guns standing imperiously as a snapshot of naval history.

Allow three hours to go round this museum or four if you want to dawdle. There is a WWl Trench experience which you can experience and a Holocaust exhibition which is for over 14s only and is not for the feint-hearted - allow an hour for this alone.

Another nice walk in warm balmy spring weather took us back to the EDF London Eye. I had been on the eye before, late evening on the 5th November 2005 when fireworks starred across the London skyline. Today was a lovely sunny day with crepuscular rays of sun over Westminster highlighting the Palace of Westminster and the iconic Clock Tower (most people call it Big Ben).

The Tattershall Castle which used to ply its trade across the Humber in the years before the Humber Bridge now graces the London Thames northern embankment.

A River trip, bought more cheaply as a deal with the Eye ticket, took us along the River Thames and an excellent guided tour with a live commentary from a very humorous and knowledgeable young man. This took three quarters of an hour and again, highly recommended; you'll see views not normally experienced from roads or footpaths. There were several bridges including Tower Bridge, Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London, St Paul's, the Golden Hind (replica), Cleopatra's Needle and the spectacular MOD building and many more.

Back in the hotel after a great day and had a much needed bath.

Chat soon


London Break, Day 1 (Monday 21st)

Our day started with an early morning and catching our coach to London from our local village square. We sat waiting in bright glorious sunshine. Stopping off in Leeds and Wakefield, the journey was completed when we were dropped off in Oxford Street for a couple of hours wander round before our hotel would accept us at 5 pm. Whilst this bit was unexpected, we were in a lovely area of the city next to Hyde Park and Marble Arch.

riginally built as an entrance to Buckingham Palace, there was no room for Marble Arch when it was finished so it ended up as a wonderful gateway to Hyde Park and Speakers Corner (which is just grass.) There is a lovely memorial there to animals who are used in times of war. Hyde Park itself is a vast expanse of lovely grass and meadow with glorious trees in the middle of London surrounded by busy roads. A group of children rode horses there, perfectly safe in this traffic free park (apart from a police car patrolling in the distance.)

We've seen it
all now, Oxford Street has a Primark. We now own a bag with "Primark of Oxford Street." We've made it now with the best. Our first hint of humour was when we descended on MacDonalds of Oxford Street for cups of tea (all prices identical to home.) I was stood in the queue behind two young Scotsmen who had broad, like REALLY broad accents and I had to listen hard to understand them. Imagine the difficulty that the server had behind the till who clearly had an even stronger French accent. It took a while for the order to be understood, but it provided some entertainment at least.

After we got picked up again, we wound our way to the ho
tel in Canary Wharf and passed a number of classic historical landmarks: The Duke of Wellington's address stands magnificent with the most unique postal address in the UK: 'London 1.' We travelled along Piccadilly and onward round Trafalgar Square onto the Victoria Embankment and we passed Cleopatra's Needle (it would be a bugger sowing with that)and eventually onto Upper Thames Street then Lower Thames Street alongside the River Thames which was on high tide and onto the Wharf. Some of the iconic landmarks we saw included Lords Cricket Ground (looks smaller in real life than on the TV,) the Ritz hotel, lots of embassies, O2 arena and hundreds of beautiful buildings of all ages.

An extraordinary statue of a horses head grazing next to Marble Arch.

Interestingly, my grandfather was born in Islington in the capital and as we passed a pub today called 'Wine and Wallop,' I was reminded of him because one of his favourite words was 'wallop,' which is either an alcoholic drink like beer or to hit someone. It's a sign - hello Grandad.

The hotel is okay, very pleasant, surrounded by water and the evening meal was carvery style and a cheap large glass of hous
e red wine which was just £5, which is less expensive that Crewe Hall last week - £6.30. The waitress didn't understand the request for blackcurrant and water - "I'm Czech. Not understand." A jug of water was cheaper - £0.

The Internet connection is hopeless 'High Speed Internet Wireless Access Available,' allegedly, so I will have to bank these blogs up for each day.

Chat soon


Saturday, 19 March 2011

Hello Flower...

I hope everyone is well this Saturday which got off to a brilliant start with some big yellow thing in the sky - erm... the Sun! At last.

As is the custom here, welcome to new follower 'Morningaj.'

Apart fr
om a bit of shopping to prepare for our week away in London for a break and to get the kids enough food in to feed an army, the day has been spent in the garden. I've also bought a pack of 'post-its' in bright fluorescent yellow to fix reminders throughout the house for the children: 'dishwasher,' 'hoover,' 'rubbish bin,' 'cat food,' 'this way to the washing machine,' etc.

The lawn has had it's first cut this morning and I've cheated a little really, I've cut it too short which I guess
you should never really do especially at this time of the year, but it picked up all the rogue leaves, twigs, bits of other detritus to save me raking it all up. Still it looks okay for now. The compost bin produced three barrows of lovely rich stuff which is now in the borders and in the top of the pots.

The top of the fountain was damaged by the frost and snow this year and when my eldest lad and I came to clean it out ready for the spring, it was cracked and badly damaged. We put it back together and it's working okay, but the pond at the bottom is leaking so it ha
s no fish in it at the moment. I can't decide whether or not to fill it with soil or repair it and put the fish back in. The problem is finding something to line the inside of the concrete section fountain pond with (liner is difficult) and was thinking along the lines of fibre glass. I can feel research coming on. These days you just 'Google' every conceivable problem.

The miniature daffs are in flower and the flowering blackcurrant is out. Some of the heather I planted last
year has survived the snow and is in flower and the dicentra, 'bleeding heart' is about two feet high - the heart shaped flowers won't be far away now. The thing that seals springs arrival for me is the honey bees and midges that are out in force. The fish in the ponds are now eagerly feeding with wheatgerm even though the water is still cool.

A cuppa, while sat on the garden seat listening to a blue tit singing away in the tree just a few feet away was just dreamy in the warmish fresh air.
The long tailed tits are just starting to appear along with the goldcrests, a sure sign of the birds returning for the spring entertainment. They are so funny to watch. The robins are around in pairs too.

The week has been a good one for a number of reasons, lots achieved at work and the first night of the healing group that I was invited to as a healer went off really well on Thursday night. I met a couple of retired ex work colleagues on Friday tea-time for a drink (non-alcoholic in my case, sadly) and a catch up for an hour at a local and a Tarot card reading I did on Friday night went really well with a positive and confirmed spirit link for the sitter and that rounded off the week.

So, I can hear my other half hoovering, getting the house ready for us going away so I best get the kettle on to make her a cuppa to keep her strength up so she can carry on with the domestic chores (so I can listen to the football on the Internet radio).

I'll keep you posted with what we get up to in the capital next week because I think the hotel has free wi-fi connections.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Chat soon


Wednesday, 16 March 2011

In Another Time

Music Room

Well this long, long day finishes with this blog before I wend my weary way to bed. I now have yet another certificate (my wife has always said I was certifiable - not sure if that's what she meant) after a successful course on the Freedom of Information Act. This will be a genuine help in the job I'm doing and will help things move quicker and smoother - less bureaucracy less people involved therefore better value for money for the taxpayer. The whole thing is about giving access to people in the community to information held by public authorities.

Upper Gallery Corridor

Now then I promised a little more on the wonderful place we stayed at in Crewe, Crewe Hall Hotel. I thought I'd mostly share some more photographs just to try to explain how Gothic and dark the place was yet beautiful and ornate at the same time.


Like many great Halls and buildings of this type, at some stage they succumb to a fire and that's what happened in 1866 in Crewe Hall, hence why it was extensively rebuilt. I found out that in fact the last Lord Crewe died a bachelor in 1894, the title went to a nephew who died without sons and the title ceased to exist in 1945.

The arms of the Crewe family is a White Lion Rampant (stood on its hind legs) and they are to be seen all over the place, both inside the building and outside standing proud guard. One famous visitor was Sheridan, the playwright who dedicated his play 'School for Scandal' written around 1777 to Frances Crewe, wife of the 1st Lord Crewe who was celebrated for her beauty.

A Parlour

King George V and Queen Mary were visitors in 1913 and before its demise as a family home, it is said to have had 100 servants for the 190 rooms and 20 gardeners producing all the house needed in a three and a half acre walled garden. There was a farm that serviced the hall and it held another 50 farms and 200 cottages in the locality.

The Reception Hall

A statue in the garden spookily and rather amusingly peers round a bush at anyone approaching as if about to jump out and shout 'BOO!'

 Peek - a boo!

A Gryffin and a Lion guard the main gates to the long drive... and see us off, hopefully to visit once more in the future.

 How the other half lived eh?

Chat soon


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Gothic Heaven

I generally like courses. There are of course, courses and courses. Some leave you wanting to leave and some leave you wanting more or at the very least, they leave you satisfied, like a favourite ice cream or beautifully cooked roast beef and Yorkshire pudding; If you're a vegetarian you'll have to use your imagination - sorry.

You would imagine Freedom of Information fairly dry and boring but it is actually quite interesting and really very informative and most importantly well delivered and not without a sense of humour. So the first day went well.

The jewel in the crown of this two days is not the course at all but the accommodation: Crewe Hall Hotel in sunny Crewe (the hint being in the name). Except it isn't sunny, it's grey, damp and chill. But in this case it's perfect because the hotel is so dark and gothic it's untrue and the greyness that shrouds the area lends perfectly to an extraordinary atmosphere.

I don't think I've ever seen anything much like this Hall. Originally Jacobean in places, it was built for the Crewe family between 1615 and 1635, but massively rebuilt and designed by Victorian architects (more specific history can be found elsewhere if you want it,) for Hungerford, the 3rd Lord Crewe, this place is the stuff of horror films. The Victorians we know were very clever at design, copying, reproducing, mixing and reinventing styles - some more elaborate than others. This is what they've done here.

Dark woods, oaken panelling, ornate plasterwork, carvings, gargoyles, angelic children, misericords, faces, ceilings to die for, gothic heavy furniture, multi levels - getting lost in the maze of corridors staircases is easy. There are nooks and crannies, heraldry, family crests, leaded windows, tidy symmetrical gardens and the obligatory long drive to the house.

The house has its own consecrated chapel which is so ornate, it's something you would expect to see in a high Catholic church and today, the tiny place of worship is still used for weddings.

From a spiritualist point of view, so far it doesn't seem that active with spirit, but it's very busy with guests and lots of human activity, but last night when I arrived quite late in the evening, it was dark, atmospheric and quite exciting to explore.

I should explain that there are also very modern wings to the place, hidden away andexceptional facilities in this four star hotel and the bedroom I am occupying is brilliant. I can feel the pictures I have taken will go towards accompanying a ghost story perhaps which I haven't written on the blog for over a year.

The Crewe family left in 1922 and like many grand halls of its time, it became an army camp for the British and Americans in WWll and then as a prison camp for German Officers.

Time for a bath and then down for a meal - blimey all this descriptive work has made me hungry.

Chat soon


Saturday, 12 March 2011

Christmas Rose

A bit of a horticultural day today; it's slightly less cold and the wind seems to have abated for now so a bit of a superficial tidy up of all the new twigs and branches that have landed on the grass.

The hellibore (above) is just flowering and I have some pale lime coloured hellibores with smaller pendulous flowers which are just peeping out and adding a bright splash of almost white/green in a still relatively dull coloured garden. The roses I have in two pots are into leaf with new shoots a couple of inches long already.

We bought a couple of house plants today to replace one which is long past its best which we haven't got rid of but now graces the greenhouse. The rest have been repotted, trimmed and tidied and there is a general feeling of a refreshing time in the immediate future.

My itinerent life is continuing next week with a course on the Freedom of Information Act which means two nights away in Cheshire, somewhere I visited many years ago and about which I can remember nothing of interest. Our hotel is in Crewe, a place I've never been I think and of course about which there are many music hall jokes to be told and songs to be sung. I'm sure it's nice, the hotel looks fabulous.

Oh! Mister Porter, what shall I do?
I want to go to Birmingham
And they're taking me on to Crewe.
Send me back to London
As quickly as you can
Oh! Mister Porter, what a silly girl I am.

This is a chorus of Oh! Mr Porter, a song written by Thomas Le Brunn, and composed by George Le Brunn from as far back at 1893. It's the story of Mary Ann who visits her Aunt in London and who got on the wrong train to get back to her home in Birmingham. Crewe is famed I guess for being a town with a major rail interchange hence why, as the main form of national transport in late Victorian times it would attract a lot of interest.

My thoughts this weekend will be with the people of Japan and other places in the Pacific who have suffered and will continue to suffer from the devasting effects of the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami. The pictures from the television have been both dramatic and almost surreal.

The power of the water captured by helicopter film is extraordinary and it takes some comprehension when you see whole houses being carried away on the tides of destruction and ships weighing many thousands of tonnes on shore; burning wreckage moving along with the detritus caught in the incoming tide miles in-land. I'm almost in tears writing this.

I'm just about to start reading this afternoon a new book which I am reading as part of a new 'book club' created and founded by fellow blogger Diane.

The Crow Road by Iain Banks, a Scottish writer of whom I know nothing has some rave reviews of the book which was adapted for television in late 1996.

Hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Chat soon


Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Madness of King Cameron

The dunnocks are displaying, the crows are pairing up, the first daffodils I've seen this year are out on the grass verge on the dual carriageway down the road and... it's snowing just a little further up north.

When will it end - give me some HEAT?

I've been working silly hours hence my tardiness with blog writing plus being out every night this week, I've managed to catch 20 minutes between arriving home tonight and eating tea before going out again. Although all these sojourns are for pleasure, (they are spiritual working activities) they are not onerous and there is plenty of opportunity to relax with friends.

Last night I met with three ladies who have invited me to join a healing group, as a healer, which will meet once a fortnight. Last night was a 'get to know each other' night and we planned how we will do the healing, we chatted about life and philosophy and did a practice healing session on each other which, I have to say was wonderful; so I'm really looking forward to this slightly new and interesting direction in my life. They have been planning this for sometime and they thought they needed a blokes balance to the group so they asked me and I said 'yes' like a shot.

I'll use my Reiki experience of 'hands on' healing coupled with their plan to ask for Angelic assistance to heal. This is powerful stuff.

You know the really sad thing about this? This is an achievement that I haven't discussed or told my wife about because she is a religious person and she doesn't agree with this sort of thing. In fact whilst she tolerates my activities, she does not agree with them at all in any way. We don't talk about it and I have no-one to share my spiritual life with other than friends who have a like mind.

Work is daft at the moment. Working in the public sector is enjoyable, frustrating, hard, rewarding and a whole lot of other contradictory adjectives you can think of. And now, not only do I have to put up with a two year pay freeze while inflation continues to rise, but I'm paying more for my pension and getting less back and probably working longer. My wife is in the same boat. I have been determined not to talk much about this because it is boring for most of you and frustrating for me, so I apologise.

I will finish by simply asking a rhetorical question why I am being punished as an individual who has done nothing wrong, paying a huge percentage of my wages for a pension, who has contributed to bailing out banks, who has worked damned hard all my working life. All this while banks are making billions in profits, giving us no interest on our savings, individual bankers are taking home millions of pounds in wages and bonuses and laughing at the public and the toothless cowardly government who are just preying on the vulnerable to solve everyone's problem in the most inequitable way possible.

What a strange world we live in, and makes me feel like dropping out and just not participating in this rat race any more. Rant over - forgive me dear blogger.

A little girl asked her father, 'do all fairy tales begin with "Once upon a time"'?
The father replied, 'No, some begin with - If I am elected.'

Chat soon


Sunday, 6 March 2011

Garden Tidy Time

I had the first wander in the garden this year to do some real work and we've seen a bit of sun today which gives a sort of mini spring feeling. I know I did a bit of clearing up of leaves when the snow went, but this is the first time I've been able to stand on the grass because it's been so wet.

I cut down a broken branch from one of my favourite bushes which had snapped under the weight of the snow and I was going to cut down the clematis Montana (the prolific early flowering variety) because I thought it was dead. The shoots were dark brown and brittle but on closer inspection, hey, there were leaf buds sprouting so apart from a trim, the Montana is still there to give us some early spring flowering cover.

Sadly, for the first time, none of the cacti in the greenhouse survived the winter. This is very unusual because they are not difficult to keep in cold climes providing the conditions are right (dry for example), but they were all stone dead, wilted and rotted. However the bay bush and my pots of lavender plants did survive in the greenhouse and I'll be putting them out in the next couple of weeks in their pots once this latest batch of frost goes.

There were loads of twigs from the trees on the grass and they're all in the council bin ready for disposal and my next job probably next weekend will be to empty the bottom of the compost bin and put it into the borders. There is a train of thought that compost from bins should go in the ground earlier to allow the frosts to break it down, but the bad weather has prevented that this year (good excuse.)

All the annual flowers are peeping through and the last of the snowdrops still shine white set against the dark soil. The begonia is the first flower other than snowdrops to show itself, just one lonely spike, but there will be others coming out soon.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit;
Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

Chat soon


Saturday, 5 March 2011

I'm Sorry, Please Say That Again...

As life returns to normal in drizzly old East Yorkshire this morning, the shopping routine returns and during a trip round my local supermarket Sainsburys (other supermarkets are available, ) my other half witters and whinges about them changing the products round and not having the variety they had before. One of the reasons for this may be that they are building a huge pharmacy in the middle of the shop which is taking up what was two aisles.

Frankly, the choice and variety of stuff is mind blowing. When I was a kid, you had two choices of cheese from 'Cussons', the corner shop in the village: A Cheddar (red, a bit like Red Leicester) or Cheshire (white and crumbly). If we were really posh, you could get an Edam which was like eating tasty soap with the red coating which I always enjoyed more then the cheese bit. I didn't have the time today, but I'll have a hunt round the shop next time I go and see how many stand alone cheese products they sell.

My wife is accusing me of being deaf and the fact that I should do something about it. I accept that perhaps I don't hear things sometimes quite clearly enough but today for example, her indoors is talking to me in a busy supermarket this morning whilst walking away from me facing in the opposite direction and she wonders why I can't hear her.

My mother got the doctor in when I was little thinking I was deaf. The doctor, thank goodness, advised against any action because in those days (50 years ago) ear surgery was crude and damaging in other ways. He said I'd grow out of it and he was right.
The fact is that I switch off and don't listen. I am sure this is the main reason and of course being a man and being unable to multi task - if I listen to the radio or TV, then that's where I concentrate, not on chatter. Deafness however does run in the family, like wooden legs, and my wife's mother has been stone deaf for decades so I guess I can understand her concern and frustration.

My WW1 hero Grandad, for example had one of those hearing aids the size of a packet of fags that used to whistle loudly when it wasn't tuned right that he kept in his waistcoat pocket. As everyone worked in the days he was alive - he still lived with us (he was elderly, deaf, blind, suffered mild dementia at the end and had one leg), sadly the only thing he ever needed the aid for was to listen to the budgie chirp away during the day and to listen to The Archers at 7 o'clock on the wireless - he was not a great conversationalist, God rest his soul.

What great news today that to celebrate the inaugural World Book Night, the organisers, according to the
BBC News, will be distributing one million free books to venues including homeless centres, pubs and hospitals in a bid to boost reading. This is indeed marvellous news and I wish them well. Anything that will encourage our youngsters and adults alike to read and gain pleasure from holding and reading a book has got to be good.

I have tried to read a book on the Internet, but I just can't get into it - I'm not sure why, perhaps I can't relax like I can by slobbing about on the settee like I usually do when I'm reading.

My wife bought some hyacinths the other week which I potted up into containers for the living room and they are out right now - the fragrance as we come into the room in a morning is absolutely fabulous and even during the day, the heady scent wafts through the whole ground floor. You know I like to put fresh pictures on the blog which have been missing because I've been away, so today a simple picture of the hyacinth flower breaks the drought.

I hope you have a great weekend.

Chat soon


Thursday, 3 March 2011

Home Sweet Home

Leadership course finished, got my certificate (or as my grandmother used to say 'sis-tificate') for three hard weeks in total and back home unpacking.

What a successful and brilliant if not exhausting four days in this last module. I'll not miss the work, but I'll miss the people.

I saw an accident on the motorway on the way home this afternoon which was a bit shocking. In the four lanes on the M1 passing Nottingham going north, a foreign lorry (left hand drive) pulled into his right hand lane and sideswiped a car. Bits fell off the car but they both ended up on the hard shoulder pretty quickly, so apart from being scared solid, I hope they've been spared any physical injury.

Hope you've had a good week so far - Friday tomorrow and then the weekend - wahaaaaaaay!

Chat soon


Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Team Work

The sun nearly came out today in Coventry, and when we got locked into our syndicate rooms, it briefly shone, for what seems like the first time in yonks (ages.)

Our course has now moved into heavy testing mode with dynamic heavy scenarios being thrown at us, a team of four acting as a management team. Although I can't discuss the content, most of it would make your hair curl. We have to use all the tools and business models in the arsenal to manage difficult multiple concurrent situations (loads of problems happening at once.) The important thing is that I am so lucky in working with three other people who are great personalities and consummate professionals allowing us, as a team to produce considered and rational decisions.

We all take our turn as team leaders and decision makers with others acting as loggists writing things down and acting as tactical advisers. Life sometimes can be really interesting and so far I haven't let myself or my team down. Small mistakes yes, but made in good faith and with no real consequences. These are learning points in a safe environment with no damage to anyone.

I was going to see True Grit at the cinema tonight, but I thought I'd read some reviews and frankly I was a bit surprised and disappointed in them. So much so, I'm not going to bother. I was told the film was not a remake of the original classic starring John Wayne as Marshal Rooster Cogburn. In fact it was based on the book and consequently the reviewers indicate that if you loved the original, you shouldn't see this one because of the differences and alternative interpretations of the incidents within the story.

There is much more blood and gore apparently and what someone described as a 'dark and sullen ending'. I'm in the mood to be entertained and uplifted so I won't go and have my love of the original changed. The only other films are animations with PG categories and I don't want to be sat with kids tonight.

Rest, and packing my bags ready to depart tomorrow night for home is in order I think. Enjoy the rest of your week

Chat soon


Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Marching on...

White rabbit, white rabbit, white rabbit.

I don't normally sleep very well when I'm away in strange beds, but for some reason, I've been sleeping exceptionally soundly. Having said that it is so bitterly cold, grey, damp and miserable, snuggling in makes sleeping easy. No luxury of a hot water bottle in the second floor room, but the central heating takes the worse of the cold off.

Today started with an reflection lesson on yesterday's course content, what did you find most interesting, what was most useful and what will we take back to the work place and why. We then spent the morning on Risk Management. Although this is my area of business, I always learn something new and I was able to contribute something to the course and help colleagues who don't normally deal with risk consciously (they deal with risk as part of their thinking every day, but not in s structured or writing it down.)

This afternoon we did some research on the major events over the last ten years that has affected and changed our society or our attitudes and then contextualised this to our business today to know how we got to where we have.

We had a briefing on our 'hydra' exercise which will take place over the next two days working in a tight team of four, making decisions and justifying them on fast moving dynamic situations which will last for a whole two days. I think lots of coffee, which I haven't been drinking too much of will be taken in copious quantities or the next 48 hours.

I will hopefully visit the cinema tomorrow to see the film True Grit, but I'll see how tired I am. Tonight is a lazy night in my room and I will be researching Archangels and Ascended Masters and Angels with a view to helping out in a healing group using my Reiki qualifications. This is an exciting new departure in my spiritual life and Angels come into it because my colleague healers will be asking assistance from certain Angels who can facilitate and strengthen healing.

I hope you are having a good week so far?

Chat soon