Saturday 31 October 2009

Happy Halloween

"From ghoulies to ghosties and long-leggety beasties

And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!"

Halloween is a contraction of All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints Day (November 1st). Ancient tradition maintained that on this night the spirits of the deceased would roam the earth looking for new bodies to inhabit - this is the origin of Halloween costumes and the 'trick' of trick or treating. It was believed that by dressing in outlandish costume and causing chaos the spirits would be driven away.

Whatever you do tonight watch out for things going bump! Happy Halloween.

Fighting a losing battle

This is the evil tree which does nothing but drop leaves into our garden.

Earlier this week the whole family took to the garden to clear leaves (Wednesday)

Now all the leaves are back again, with a vengence!

At least some trees barely have any leaves left to drop

There have been a lot of ladybugs around, presumably looking for access to our bedroom where they will spend the winter!

The fish are getting ready to hibernate too

As are the frog, this is Tiddler the tiniest frog (you can't tell from this photo) watching us as we cleared the leaves

Talking of losing battles, this is the foxes attempt to completely undermine the shed at the end of the garden!

Post strike dates announced... again

The ongoing dispute over modernisation continues with both sides maintaining that the blame lies with each other for failure to bring the dispute to resolution. The general public is now beyond caring whose fault it is. The spectre of millions upon millions of items of undelivered mail and the Christmas season just around the corner means that pretty much any sympathy that was ever coming the way of the CWU (Communication Workers Union) has been exhausted.

The underpinning theme of the dispute is job security in the face of modernisation. At a time when many workers in the UK are living with pay freezes, pay cuts and the prospect of redundancies there is no empathy left for this aspect of the dispute. The walk sequencing machine (which would incur these job cuts by sorting the letters for the rounds) can only be a good thing, if the state of my post at home and work is anything to go by - regularly receiving letters not only for different buildings in the same street but for buildings in different streets altogether!

The problem is that the longer the disruption from this strike action continues the more and more we are finding that actually we can live without the Royal Mail. Extremely prolonged strikes will, in the end, damage the Royal Mail's business - possibly beyond repair.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Frog Blog

This is Freddy Frog (one of our regulars) who always takes the same spot in the Frog Pond.

This is Tiddler, King Frog and Fat Friend - another group of our regulars.
Not expecting to see much more of the amphibians this year as it is getting colder and they will all soon be hibernating.

Streets of SE7

Suddenly the safety bollards along the main road have begun sprouting notices; courtesy, of course, of Greenwich Council. The object is to get people to clear up after their dogs. I'm all for it. Our house is between the main road and a park popular with dog walkers; I cannot count the occasions that I have stepped in excrement. I am doubtful as to how they are going to enforce these rules and levy any fines - the only on I don't see being regularly broken is the 'maximum four dogs per walker' rule.

Recently they were up to their usual tricks of digging up the road and causing traffic chaos, removing bus stops, etc. etc. There is now a sign nearby where the roadworks used to be warning of a slippery road surface; you can see why, dozens of leaves have adhered to the newly finished carriageway (although only on one side of the road!).

The UK Superbowl

Sunday saw another regular season NFL game in London... the third year in a row and the third year that we have been lucky enough to get tickets.

The day started off (as always) with a trip up the Jubilee Line (which luckily for us was actually running!). We arrived to a grey but thankfully dry afternoon.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the home team taking on the New England Patriots. I didn't really much want to support either team as I don't much like the Giant's local rivals the Patriots, but neither do I like the Bucs owned, as they are, by the same family as Manchester United. So, I picked the team most likely to win - the Patriots.

We got to our seats just in time for the anthems (having spent the previous half hour queueing for a cashpoint!) and found that the might of merchandising had been in action again. Each seat had a piece of card (to hold up during the anthems) and a free flag to support the home team. Of course the organisers hadn't bargained for the mean spirit of the British public... somebody had stolen my free flag!

The enthusiasm of the Star Spangled Banner was first - with either a lot of Americans in the audience or a lot of people who see the US anthem sung at sporting events because everyone cheered in just the right place. We dutifully held up our piece of card to form the flag at one end (see arrow on the screen shot which is where we were sat!). God Save the Queen is always a bit of an anti-climax after the Star Spangled Banner but the crowd joined in with enthusiasm.

So the game began. It turned out to be the mis-match that we had feared, with the Patriots winning 35-7. It wasn't just about the football though. The whole day out has an amazing atmosphere and we had the most excellent time.

Wembley filled to capacity - 84,000 fans

The Buccaneers take the field
Soldiers carry the flags for the anthems
This guy started a Mexican Wave (about half a dozen times!) but eventually the whole stadium joined in!

Flying the flag - one of the free flags given away.

Cheerleaders and the slightly scary Buccaneers mascot

A Patriots fan
They might have regretted the 'cards on seats' plan as they got turned into paper aeroplanes and flown at the field!

Oh yeah, they played some football too! (Go Patriots!)

Wembley Arch by night - goodbye for another year.

Saturday 24 October 2009

Time to kick back

The last few weeks have been pretty crazy. The awards ceremony at Job-2 has been drawing ever closer (it is next Thursday). Trying to send out invitations and collate responses when the post is broken has been a total nightmare. Like most people we have now resorted to phones and email. We're onto the final stretch though... and it is all looking good.

Job-1 has also been busy. Not because the construction industry has picked up loads (it is barley perceptible); several jobs are about to start (after months of waiting) and one is about to finish. Boss-two, who has now become Boss-one (as former Boss-one is now based overseas) has been out at meetings and so forth, so I've been overseeing things in the office. Somehow I never seem to get anything finished anymore. Add to this the super-submission that went out this week and you can see why my feet have hardly touched the ground!

The good news is I've now got two weeks off. A lot of excitement is scheduled for these two weeks... the awards lunch is next week (which I'm really looking forward to, the fruition of Job-2 and all the hard work)... the NFL game at Wembley is on Sunday (at last!) and the Jubilee Line is managing not to have engineering works (!)... the Lord Mayor's Show is in three weeks (my Mum is in the parade!) and the lunch that follows that... and we have a 'project completion' lunch at the end of my holiday (I'm making an exception and attending); this is the first one I've ever had, as I think it is the first time that all parties have still been on speaking terms by completion! Of course, the reason for taking my holiday in wet and windy October/November... the World Series starts later this week. Hopefully the Yankees will be there... and even better if they could manage to win - it has been a long wait for number 27!

Today isn't the quiet day I was hoping for, I'm off out soon to get my flu jab - this is just the seasonal flu, presumably the swine flu comes later. Whilst I'm out I'm going to the library (amongst other things there is a fine to pay) - just the day for it, raining outside - oh well.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Snail mail saga continues

Today the Royal Mail workers begin their two day national strike. Here in London the 'wild-cat' strikes have been going on for so many months now that it is doubtful we'll even notice the difference. Whereas once you put your letter in the post box secure in the knowledge that it would arrive the next day (providing you used a first class stamp) nowadays you put your letter in the post box and hope that at some point in the future it will arrive where it is going. I'm still waiting for a cheque posted a week ago last Tuesday.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Blog Action Day - Climate Change

"Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs." Brundtland-1987

This definition of sustainability from the 1983 United Nations Commission's report 'Our Common Future' is my favourite "sound-bite" for understanding Climate Change.  The planet around us is affected by our actions - great and small; everything we do has an impact on the resources that are available to us and to our children.

"An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system... There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities." Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change- 2001

The common factor of the quotes mentioned so far in this article is that they are a) global and b) historical.  It has been many (many) years since the global community became aware of mankind's impact on the environment and the planet; but it has taken all of that time to make Climate Change a mainstream issue - and you will still find people who do not agree that there is an issue. I'm not sure what the benefit in arguing that there is no problem with the environment and no issue of climate change is... perhaps it is the human nature of not wishing to face catastrophe? The fact is that for every reasoned argument for you will find a reasoned (and often an unreasoned) argument against. If anyone is any doubt they should read the excellent paper from the Royal Society.

When I was growing up 'being green' was fringe politics. It was the domain of hippies and sandal wearers and the like (or so it seemed). Now we are all expected to do our bit. This is the important part. Often people will excuse lack of action on the basis that "I'm just one person" and "What difference will it make". If we all act as 'just one person' we will make a big difference.

Every drop of water that we save, every light that we turn off, every plastic bag that we don't use, every car journey we don't take and walk instead - if everyone of us takes these little actions they add up to something big. If everyone of us takes these little actions it shows that we are serious. It encourages business and government to contribute too.

What we need to encourage is real action. We need to encourage people to change the way they think as well as act. From me and you right up to global government. Less lip service, less carbon emissions trading and the like - more action. That is what today is all about - encouraging action.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Some awards

Is there anything as cool as getting an award?! It is always nice to know that there are people out there reading, and enjoying what you do. Thanks to Amelia for these, and her kind words. Amelia herself is a pretty amazing lady and shares her stories of living with MS with total honesty.

Rainy Days

Pretty much all it seems to have done in London this week is rain.

And when you're not getting wet from above, it comes from below!

Saturday 3 October 2009

London's paper landscape is changing again

Darryl over at 853 alerted me to another news story that had passed me by. The Evening Standard is transforming itself from an over-priced 'quality' evening paper into a free-sheet. The landscape of London's newspapers has been changing ever since the demise of the London Paper last month.

I didn't mourn the loss of the London Paper, it was the free-sheets equivalent of the Sun. Full of gossip and using a difficult to read print face. The London Lite is my preferred read of the day. Just the right length to get from the office home - and printed with ink that doesn't come off on your fingers (such a winner).

There was speculation at the time of the demise of the London Paper what this would ultimately mean for the free newspapers in London. Not quite yet it would seem. There are many criterion for a good free paper... the most important being availability. There were always a lot more copies of the London Paper than the Lite littering the tube not necessarily because more people read it but because their distributors stayed out later. Less copy sharing needed to take place. About half of the time when I read an evening paper I'm picking up a copy left behind by somebody else as the distributors have packed up and gone home.

So how will it work for the Standard? Will the current sellers keep their jobs and head out the paper without taking payment? It would be nice to think that they will keep their jobs and replace the cries of "Laaaate Stannar" (it took me years to work out it was 'Late Standard') with "Freeee Stannar".

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