Wednesday 31 August 2011

Off to Oxfordshire

Paddington Station
Time for my bi-weekly trip to Oxfordshire for the on site pre-project design team meeting. I have a routine now; arrive station over an hour before my train leaves; buy ticket for travel after half nine from window (machines won't sell them that early); rise to the top of The Lawn for black coffee and occasional toffee waffle at Eat; go to disabled toilet facilities (don't fancy my chances in a train toilet); catch train. 

The meeting starts at half ten (I'm usually five minutes late) and sit in meeting for minimum of four hours (sometimes more). 

This is often followed by some sort of site walk around or visit. A taxi journey takes me back to Didcot where I may or may not have time to buy a (very) late lunch and then it's at train back to London. 

Here come's a problem - if I arrive back in London before half four then I can go back to the office. After half four it isn't worth it as it takes me over an hour to navigate the underground and get back. However, as I don't know until I get on the train when I'll be back in London I can't tell my lift what time to pick me up... which usually means I have to wait for them. Further part of my Paddington Station routine - back up to the top of The Lawn, this time for a half of Guinness in the Mad Bear and Bishop.

Day over - until the week after next when we do it all over again!

Tuesday 30 August 2011

The problem with this week...

  • There was a Bank Holiday so my (already short) week is even shorter
  • The computers in the office are still revolting against us
  • I'm still down on spoons after last week's activities
  • Autumn is definitely here (colder!)
  • I have to go to site tomorrow so my (even shorter week) is further curtailed (this week is out of control!)
  • It's September already - where did August go?!

Monday 29 August 2011

What I've been reading...

When I was in Scotland last week the Book Festival was on and I was given a free book. When I came to review it on Goodreads I discovered I wasn't the only person (by far) who'd been handed a free copy. As the guy who gave it to me asked me, if I liked it, to let people know - that is what I'm doing. I took advantage of the Bank Holiday and waking up early to finish a book without falling asleep amongst its pages!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like many other reviewers I was handed this book for free during the Edinburgh Book Festival last week.

I had a vague recollection of seeing a précis of the book some-place so I was eager to read it.

It is a slightly whimsical book. The descriptions of the countryside through which the children wander are vivid; although the language employed doesn't really resonate as being that of six year olds.

It is more of a fairy-tale than a story - the actual storyline has very little substance, and is given second place to the imaginary world of the children; echoed by the rushed and abrupt ending.

The book will resonate with anyone, who as a child, was lucky enough to enjoy imaginary kingdoms and freedom to know countryside like the back of their hand.

Sunday 28 August 2011

Another Birthday

Lunch by my brother
Yesterday was my Mum's birthday - but she already had plans, so today my brother and I went to her house (with my Gran and Uncle in attendance) and made lunch - my brother has missed his calling; he shouldn't be in business he should be a chef!

I did a Summer Pudding for desert; whilst edible it really wanted longer in the fridge - and wasn't photo worthy! Summer pudding is a nice easy desert - you just need a half dozen slices of white bread, about a kilogram of summer fruits (I had raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries) and some caster sugar (golden is best). 

You disolve about a hundred grams of sugar in three tablespoons of water whilst gently heating. Briefly boil and then add the fruit (except the strawberries). After about 3 mintues seive the fruit over a bowl. Soak the bits of bread in the juicers  (having cut to make a nice even fit). You can line with cling-film first to make it easier to get out or use one of those silicone bowls. Then tip in the cooked fruit, mixing in the strawberries. Chill in the fridge with a plate over the bowl. Mine had 4 hours - not enough. My Gran recommends over-night. Serve with cream.

Saturday 27 August 2011

TV world

The end of summer has pretty slim pickings when it comes to TV. Given that there are many types of TV show that I can't bear to watch hey are even slimmer for me! 

One of the things that most annoys me has to be reality TV. You may already have got the (correct) impression that I am extremely biased in my TV viewing... mostly American, largely Sci-Fi or 'cult' (I hate that word, but I use it to cover all TV series that are immensely and possibly disproportionately popular). I loathe reality TV. Of all types. 

I hate those 'docu-drama' things with 'normal' people doing boring things; and possibly worse than those are all those contestant shows full of either awful nobodies or Z-list celebrities. 

There will come a time when sociologists of the future wonder what the attraction of these shows was. Until then I shall just boycott terrestrial TV and stick with my DVD collection and cable channels!

Current favourite TV show - Burn Notice about Michael Westen, everyone's favourite burned spy.

My name is Michael Westen. I used to be a spy, until... [phonecall] "We got a burn notice on you. You're blacklisted". When you're burned, you've got nothing. No cash, no credit, no job history. You're stuck in whatever city they decide to dump you in. (Michael) "Where am I?" (Fiona - in an Irish accent) "Miami". You do whatever work comes your way. You rely on anyone who's still talking to you. A trigger-happy ex-girlfriend... (Fiona - in an Irish accent) "Shall we shoot them?"; an old friend who used to inform on you to the FBI... (Sam) "You know spies. Bunch of bitchy little girls"; family too... [phone rings, Michael doesn't answer] (Sam) "That your mom again?" ...if you're desperate, (Madeline) "Someone needs your help Michael". Bottom line is: as long as you're burned, you're not going anywhere.

Yes, I can recite the whole introduction voice over from memory.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Scotland Day 2

Up early again (not as bad as yesterday) to check out of the lovely hotel and catch a train over to Edinburgh. Yet another taxi ride took me to our office which is in the part of Edinburgh amusingly called New Town - it looks very Georgian to me. 

The Fringe Festival is just finishing up, there is also a book Festival going on... and a French market where I bought my lunch.
Town and country by nat_mach
Town and country, a photo by nat_mach on Flickr.

Both training sessions went well again, even better for the fact that no computers were mis-behaving today!

All too soon another cab journey to take me to Edinburgh airport. I arrived in plenty of time - which allowed me to grab a glass of wine to calm my nerves before the flight (have I mentioned I hate flying!).

The crew on my BA flight couldn't have been kinder, seating me first so my crutches could be stowed out of the way and even bringing me a bottle of water before take off. The refreshments brought me more wine, so I had a pleasant flight down enjoying the view above the clouds. A stunning sunset above and below!

Great news when I landed and found my driver - the camera I had thought lost had been in his cab the whole time (I wish he'd sent me a text and told me).

Home from LCY, take-out for dinner and an early night. I'm shattered!

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Scotland Day 1

My flight to Glasgow left Luton airport at 7am this morning. I was out of my bed at 3am. This is why I hate travel. The flight was with EasyJet and for a budget, no frills airline, no complaints. I found Luton airport (first visit) noisy and confusing and very busy - really missed little City Airport!

There aren't many upsides to walking with crutches - but priority treatment at airports so you don't have to stand around is one of them. The staff at the airport couldn't have been kinder getting me through security and to departures, my gate and my flight.

Landed in Glasgow on time and got a taxi from the airport to the office. A full days training with two sessions (one each in morning and afternoon) were ahead. Training was great, co-operation of computers (on which I was giving training) not so great.

CitizenM - outside by nat_mach
CitizenM - outside, a photo by nat_mach on Flickr.
At the end of the day I got (another) taxi to the hotel. What an experience this hotel is. The rooms are very basic - their feature being a massive (huge) bed - enormous windows with interstitial blinds - and the lighting. You can spend hours playing with the lighting.

The hotel didn't start well when it turned out the booking through the 3rd party website didn't take payment. Had to disturb one of the partners and his credit card to sort it out.
I took a quick walk down to George Square to see where Brad Pitt is currently filming (he wasn't there) and had a great curry for dinner in the 'canteen'.

There was also the fire alarm which meant we all had to evacuate the hotel. Rewarded myself with a glass of wine (I was wearing my slippers during the evacuation!).

On to Edinburgh tomorrow!

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Weather and work

Not that it mattered to me as only had to pop out briefly today between showers... but it would appear that Summer is over.

Grey, dismal and generally damp.

I said back in April we should enjoy it as that was probably summer!

Panicked day in the office as I'm off to the Scottish offices for the rest of the week.

Monday 22 August 2011

New server

Over the weekend our IT support was busy installing the new server and UPS. We go from the endless struggle of trying to manage with a 60GB hard drive on the server (smaller than my laptop, incidentally) to having space measured in TB (that's terabytes my friend!).

The side effect of this was that none of the 3rd party software chose to work until it was re-licensed (which in some cases took hours) and Office went overnight from 2003 to 2010. OK for me as I've got 2007 at home - but horrid for everyone else!

Got very little accomplished today as the computers were revolting.

Sunday 21 August 2011

Sky garden

Sky garden - the frog pond.

When I was a kid I belonged to a troupe of Brownies. Every time a new Brownie joined the pack a little ceremony took place. The new Brownie would stand by a 'pond' which was a piece of mirror surrounded by some greenery.

The frog pond is a real version of that pool.

Saturday 20 August 2011

Busy doing nothing...

The weather today started quite promising, warm and sunny - with the Better-half complaining as he went off to the football.

It is therefore his fault that my afternoon, for which I had planned some gentle gardening in the sunshine, has been scuppered. I am now sharing the bed with one cat (bed-hog) whilst the other is asleep on his favourite spot - the blanket box.

Just going to sit and do nothing (i.e. surf the net) and listen to the rain. If I get bored with that (as I've already had enough Xbox for the day) maybe I'll get my guitar out.

Friday 19 August 2011

Kitten Day

Having had the boys just over a year it was time for them to go the vets for the annual booster jabs, worming tablets, and general health check. There was a bit of difference of opinion about actually getting into the pet carriers (Casper managed to evade me twice) but we eventually loaded them into the back seat and off we went.

Casper kept up his usual monologue all the way there - a particularly plaintive strain of 'miaow' I wish I spoke cat... I don't know if he saying "You shut me in a box", "Are we there yet?", "I know where we're going" or "I can see my brother from here".

As usual they were angelic at the vets, even the anti-social Casper who usually runs a mile when faced with a person he doesn't know (i.e. anyone other than me, the better-half or my nearly-mother-in-law).

Both given a clean bill of health. Maintained their previous weights, didn't even squeak at the jabs (probably helped that they were bribed by treats) and Casper even ate his worming tablet without fuss!

Got home and after lunch they are now sleeping peacefully. I think the mornings adventures (and their booster jabs) have worn them out!

Thursday 18 August 2011

Thursday at last...

Power plug by nat_mach
Power plug, a photo by nat_mach on Flickr.
It's been one of those weeks (work wise) and it is going to be another one next week... I'd rather like to just plug in and re-charge!

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Off from Paddington again...

It's an every other Wednesday which means a trip to Oxfordshire.

Paddington Station early doors... coffee and toffee waffle at Eat in the top of The Lawn. Intercity (are they still called that?) with laptop out to Didcot.

Happily short meeting. Sadly back to the office for unexpected costings required next day. Late finish... but done.

Day ended with a glass of well deserved wine.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Why I hate computers (part 984)

It is only Tuesday and already two for two when switching on my computer upon arriving at work I get a BSOD. Fabulous.

Things are afoot in our computer system and the server is being upgraded over next weekend so I am giving the machine the benefit of the doubt... before I unplug it and throw it out the window!

Monday 15 August 2011

Crazy work stuff

Just Tea (4) by nat_mach
Just Tea (4), a photo by nat_mach on Flickr.
The problem with working a four day week is that you still have to fit in five days worth of work (and the rest).

Today was spent madly tidying up the end of last week for formal issue... working in the depths of a chaotic desk covered in stacks of paper and piles of drawings.

Only one thing for it. Drink lots of tea!

Sunday 14 August 2011

Just another Sunday

Stuck to the sofa today after the exertions of the last couple of days. The only problem with this is that there is nothing to watch on TV! Reduced to sitting in the company of a football match in which I have no interest. It is a lovely day outside, and I probably should go in the garden and do something - but I don't have the energy - as suspected the weekend has used up all my spoons. Probably will end up playing Xbox or something equally worthwhile!!

I did do a bit of gardening on Friday when I cut down the beanstalk which had mysteriously appeared near the fuchsias. I did a bit of weeding a dead leaf collecting too. This proved very popular with our local robin who likes to check garden arisings for bugs and other food. Never let it be said that our garden birds are lazy!

Good news on the football front as Charlton won again yesterday to maintain their 100% start to the season and stay top of the league. Let's hope they can make it last and get promotion this year.

Saturday 13 August 2011


Ribbon by nat_mach
Ribbon, a photo by nat_mach on Flickr.
Happily the grey start gave way to a sunny day for my youngest God-daughter's christening. Christenings are lovely days - the child welcomed to the church and friends and family gathered to celebrate. As usual the children seemed to be having huge fun running around playing games.

Friday 12 August 2011

Family photos

Typical unknown ancestor
Regular readers will know that I'm quite interested in my family history and have an ongoing quest to complete my family tree. Today I travelled down to my Mum (in advance of youngest god-daughter's christening tomorrow) and found that she had come back from a recent visit from my Gran with a couple of carrier-bags of photos. These ranged from quite recent (within my lifetime) to stern looking Victorians and Edwardians. Some of them we can work out who the people in the photos are, some will remain a mystery. Occasionally there is a note on the back - usually in illegible Victorian handwriting!
The great thing about digital photography - you can tag your subjects!

Thursday 11 August 2011

That was the week gone

Looming deadlines, multiple projects ... imminent IT upgrade... this week just flew by again. London happily seems to be more or less back to normal in terms of civil disobedience - although Horseferry Road (near the magistrates court) was chock full of police vans presumably processing those who had been arrested and charged.

Wednesday 10 August 2011


My journey home last night showed that London wasn't taking any chances with a repeat of Monday nights disorder. Even genteel Greenwich was boarded up. Happily the night passed largely without incident.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Mindless violence and looting

My journey to work to me past some of the 'hot-spots' in South London last night. We didn't go to Woolwich or New Charlton but apparently stores were broken into and vandalised there too. Twitter has been awash with eye-witness reports and the BBC Breakfast and newspapers can talk of little else. Twelve months before aspiring to hold a glittering Olympics, London is in the eye of the world for all the wrong reasons.

Old Kent Road

Monday 8 August 2011

Back to work

Holidays are great. Then you have to go back to work. Nearly a hundred emails in the inbox and that is just for starters.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Garden after the rain

For a while it rained so hard it was coming down like stair-rods. Then it eased, and finally stopped. The plants, at least, appreciated the downpour.

Not as big as last year's - Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
Any day now he'll join the two that have flowered.
They might be smaller - but this year there will be 6!
Gazania - native to Southern Africa
So it doesn't mind a drought
And comes in many colours
Chocolate Cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) - from Mexico, smells of chocolate!
Phyllis - my favourite fuchsia (native, originally to Hispaniola)
Still raining a bit.
Geranium, taking over the table!
Dianthus - actually native to Europe!!!
Verbena - for the bees. Originally from the New World
Lavender - thought to have originated in Asia, great at bedtime!
Still looking changeable.
The weather station has it right!