Monthly Archives: May 2007

Out To Grass

Today I have decided to visit my company’s office. I am blessed because I am based at my customer’s premises and have a great deal of independence with my job. I have very little interference from others and can get on with my work in peace. However once a week I’m obliged to visit my company’s office at Birmingham Airport.

Being the dedicated person I am I try to do this on a Monday or Thursday. Monday because its the day I drive up to my customer’s from Wales and Thursday because that’s the day I drive home. That way I can have a lie-in on Monday and leave early on Thursday.

I’m here today because one of my colleagues is retiring. He is someone who can be very passionate about his job and also very short and abrupt with people. It took us a while to get to like each other. Some people say that this is because we are very similar in outlook and manner. Personally I can’t see that.

Anyway he has decided that, at 63, he has had enough of the constant changes that appear to be for no real purpose. He’s also admitted that things are moving to quickly. After 18 years with the company its therefore a good time to call it a day.

What concerns him is how he’ll cope. He knows that the first few weeks are always like a holiday but that suddenly it hits you that you no longer have a job to go to and he’s been told that life can then get harder to adapt to. His wife has already told him that his beloved idea of fishing every day is a no go.

He is being eased into things as he’s accepted an office to work part time for the next 3 months. That way he can slowly adjust to the future. He’s hoping to have a reduced role with little customer interaction and to hand on as much of his 50 years knowledge as possible.

Stereo(un)typical Ozzie

Last Thursday, as I was driving home from work, I was listening to the book reviews on Radio 5 Live. Being a book lover this was of some interest. The main guest was Thomas Keneally, one of the few good things to come out of our Antipodean colonies – other than vegemite, thrilling rugby finales, odd looking animals and Kylie and Nicole.

Most people will only remember him for Schindler’s Ark (List if you bought it after the film came out). However he is a very prolific writer and a great storyteller. To celebrate I pulled out my copy of his Abraham Lincoln biography on the weekend. The trouble is I finished it after a day.

What surprised me was how soft spoken he is. I was expecting some brute of an Ozzie with a very “chuck another ‘roo on the barbie, Sheila” accent. I never thought that the stereotypical Ozzie doesn’t really exist. Maybe Paul Hogan, Kevin “Bloody” Wilson and Steve Irwin aren’t/weren’t real examples of typical Ozzie folk.

I was lucky in being introduced to his work about 15 years ago by an old work colleague. He was as big a reader as I am and used to bring in a cardboard box of books for me every few weeks. I’d be allowed to browse through an select works that I’d never otherwise read. This is where I discovered Saul Bellow, John Updike, John Paul Satre and John Irving, among many, many others.

Glory Days

Thanks to my family for yesterday’s comments. My only response is PPPSSSSTTTTT!!!!!!

I’ve have been asked to assist in arranging a reunion for those people who were in the same year in school. This presents me with mixed emotions. Do I really want to see people I haven’t seen in 25+ years? What are we going to talk about? Kids? Jobs? The “Good Old Days” ?

You see, I’m not a great lover of nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. I’ve kept in touch with a few people but very, very few. They are the only people that I’m really interested in now. Talking about past conquests, thrills etc no longer holds a great deal of appeal anymore. I’ve changed so much in the last 5 years, let alone 25.

I always think of The Boss’ song, see above headline. Ever since first hearing it I’ve always wanted to steer clear of reunions and talking of nothing other than my school days. Don’t get me wrong I loved my years as a rebellious, sometimes unmotivated and always indulging in sport teenager. Yet I left Wales for 9 years to get away from things like that. Meeting half remembered people in pubs on Friday or Saturday night who only wanted to talk about our recently past school days soon bored me.

I’ll probably help out. There a several people that I would like to see, if only for a drink or two. However we’re spread across the country now, with one even in Holland working for Europol. It could prove to be a very hard task to get most of us back together.

The good thing from my point of view is that most people tend not to recognise me and I’ve become very bad at remembering names and faces as well. That’s only just people I’ve been working with every day for 3.5 years. Therefore I maybe able to fool people into telling me how much they really disliked me.

Middle Age Beckons

There are many things that change in your life as you get older and marry.

You can be prevented from watching sport as often as you did, unless you have an understanding wife. You are accused of having a mid-life crisis whatever item you buy – especially a convertible. Your joints start to seize up or ache after sitting down for more than 20 minutes. Sometimes your back aches for no reason.

Then of course you suffer from that most middle aged, married and sad activity – bank holiday DIY and garden centre visiting. Can you guess what we did today then? Arrrrgggghhhhh!!!!! Thankfully we only spent a couple of pounds but have ideas for spending more.

Having said this, as I sat in the bath thinking of FW’s suggestion of how to spend part of the day, my mind did think – “Oh no! Middle aged, married couple activity.”

FW is outside, as I write, planting bulbs into tubs. She left the patio door open and I was getting a little chilly, while watching Roxanne. So I asked if she’d close it a little. FW grasped the door but it wouldn’t move. I could see the thought going through her head – “It opened ok. Why won’t it shut?”

“You should pull the door dear,” I said.

FW looked and then her eyes brightened…. She’d been pulling the fixed window section and not the door itself.

DOH!!!!!!!!

Lie-in Lost

Today got off to a really good start.

We’ve had FW’s sister staying with us for a few days. This has been good for the three of us. The only draw back for me has been the fact that she talks during my TV viewing. I mean who in their right mind talks in Corrie, Boston Legal or House? Its just not done.

Anyway their dad came to pick her up this morning. He was due to arrive at 0830; yes that’s right, 0830 on a Saturday morning. But he surprised us… he got here at 0800, just as FW was going down to make us a cuppa to wake up with.

However this did have an added benefit. It made sure that we got up earlier than we would normally. This meant that we had the necessary impetus to start tidying up the front garden. We managed to weed the 2 side troughs and all the patio edge and joins. Hopefully Monday will be fine enough for us to do the front trough and clear the back drain.

During our weeding stint we had the 3 cats wandering around looking at what we were doing. Suddenly we heard the sound of cat mewing for attention. Che and Lemur were happily exploring the patio, the sound didn’t seem to come from them, while Sherpa had disappeared. So I ignored it and got back to weeding.

A few seconds later the sound came again. The 2 cats were still their and Sherpa was still out of sight. Then the sound came again. I looked up and who’s coming down the roof…. Sherpa.

He’d evidently got up via the lean-to at the back and come over the roof. So there he was prancing around, occasionally with a worried look, and then rolling around or rubbing against the dorma. Then he looked a little puzzled as how to get down. FW had to go and let him in through bedroom window.

The rest of the day has been spent doing very little but watching the football and the end of The Quiet Man.

Good News

Well its now official. The company I work for are now in the process of morphing into a new company. The decision was finally announced yesterday in the US. However all was not as easily completed as some would have hoped.

Not only have the buyer issued court proceedings against our current CEO and certain board members, due to them trying to prevent them from seeing the accounts or acknowledging communications. Now we discover that the Chief Operations Officer is being sued by the CEO’s group for providing the buyer with information pertaining to their offer. I feel sorry for the board in someways. They would definitely have come under pressure from the CEO to provide his group with favourable support.

A deadline was set for final proposals by 16th May, then a recommendation would be made to the board. The CEO did not increase his offer but everything went quiet. We discovered that the CEO had put in a bid the following day 25 cents higher than is rival. Surely this would be a sign of favourtism that it was accepted.

Thankfully the buyer came back with a higher offer but the deadlie was extended to 23rd May to allow the CEO to respond. Luckily his backers wouldn’t go any further.

There is relief in the UK that we are going to be run by a company that wants to grow the business.

Listen

Yesterday I received an invitation to a party but had to send it back. I pointed out that I’d love to attend but I thought that the Lambeth Conference was for Anglican Bishops and not Baptists. I’m not even a full time preacher.

FW and I were having a discussion the other day about callings and their validity. I’m something of a Thomas on this issue. I believe that God does call and offer opportunities to us. What I don’t believe in is the frequency that some people seem to get them. The slightest encouragement to do what they have been thinking about is seen as a sign.

They’re thinking of changing jobs and see one that they like the look of. They apply and get called for an interview. Their thought can be that “if I get this then its what God wants me to do”. Somtimes jobs are offered because you are the best candidate for that position and not necessarily as a divine gift.

The problem we all have is trying to understand what God wants from us. We may really, really want to do something and go all out to do it but fail. How can we be sure that we failed because we weren’t organised or prepared correctly, rather than failing through divine will.

I’ve always envied the prophets in the Old Testament. They were given signs and spoken to directly by God. They had no doubt that what they were doing was divine will. Reading the letters of Paul, Peter, James and John also provides the proof that God works that way. The trouble we have is that the airwaves are cluttered. There are so many things going on in our lives that we can miss the one real message among the clutter.

When I was an Air Cadet I loved visiting the air traffic control towers on airfields. You could see the controllers talking to the aircraft that appeared on their radar screens, each identified by a code on the screen. Each one was easily identified. Listening to the conversations between the tower and the aircraft you could easily get confused by the terms and language used.

That is how it can be for Christians as well. We need to practise talking to God and using language that we understand. Likewise we also have to train ourselves to listen to what is being said. An air traffic controller and pilot know what is being said because they use the terminology day after day and, more importantly, pay attention to what is being said by the other party.

I know from experience that we often mishear what others say to us and interpret it in the way that we want to hear it.

Comfort My People

I was planning to post about religion today but last night and this morning changed that.

I sat down to watch People Power: The Battle For Trafalgar Square last night. I enjoy programmes that make you think about the people around you and had unfortunately missed last week’s episode.

This week’s followed our imtrepid reporter as he began investigating the treatment provided for former members of our armed forces who’d be injured in the service of our country. It made painful watching. It made me glad that I’d never actually joined the RAF, as I’d planned, seeing how former servicemen have been neglected.

Injured service people used to be treated in military hospitals where staff were experienced in dealing with the wounds that they sustained. In addition they were among fellow personnel with similar backgrounds who understood what they were going through. Unfortunately those hospitals are now closed. The final one closed this year, despite having £35-40 million spent on it in the last 10 years. The reason? Insufficient patients….. Could this be why Bliar supported Bush in Iraq?

Now the only hospital that deals specifically with service personnel is Selly Oak and that is only a unit within the hospital. One of the subjects told the story of his arrival in the UK from Iraq. He was rushed from the airstrip to Selly Oak and left in Accident and Emergency. It was the early hours of Sunday morning and it was busy with its usual drunks.

As he was pushed in to see the Registrar he was told to remove his uniform in order not to cause offense to members of the public attending the hospital. After he was examined he was told that nothing could be done but to report to his GP on Monday morning, he had a fused spin. He was given a walking stick and discharged. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t know where he was and had no family in the area, as he comes from Scotland.

We also met Denzil who is a member of The Patriots bikers club near us. They are a club who’s members are all ex-service personnel. He lost a leg in the Falklands. He has a raw nerve exposed on his stump that causes extensive pain and needs an operation. However he’s waiting to see a specialist – he has been for 7 months.

Upon discharge on medical grounds injured personnel are provided with a certificate that entitles them to priority service on the National Health service. After all it was sustained in service of their country. Is 7 months “priority”?

No matter where you stand on the Iraq war, or even the armed forces in general, do you really think that our people should be treated in this manner? They are paid less than most of us for what they do. When they manned the Green Goddesses in the fire strike in ’03 they were covering the firemen who were trying to get their wages increased from £21000 to £30000 for a 4 day week. A private earns £12000 and a corporal £15000 a year. Is this right?

Then I started reading Tim Collins’ Rules of Engagement. He was the CO of the 1st Battlion Royal Irish who gave the great rallying speech to his troops before they entered Iraq. It must be good because I started at 0630 this morning and had read 120 pages by the time I left for work at 0930.

What he had to say about the state of readiness of our troops leaves a lot to be desired. They didn’t even have desert camoflague uniforms to fit the troops prior to deployment in Iraq. Our troops are lucky to get 1 set of night vision goggles for 4 men. The US army has individual goggles for all. Our body armour was supplied without the coverings necessary to use them.

Politicians are ready to sacrifice our people to further their ideals. They are ready to put people into situations in which they should not be but are not there to standby them afterwards. Not just those injured but people suffering from PTSD.

All US troops are examined for PTSD as a matter of course. If they have it then they are counselled at the taxpayers expense. This is something that the US people are happy to provide for their troops. They have dedicated provision set aside for the treatment of all veterans, places where they are treated with other service personnel who are their to offer support and comfort.

What stops us from doing the same thing? What stops us from providing basic kit to all prersonnel? Where are our tax monies going?

Political Insight

Following the Welsh Assembly elections while we were we have found that our main political party is in some disarray.

Our main government and council elections are decided on a “first past the post” basis. Therefore only one party represents each local area. This has been the favoured voting method for over 100 years. However for the Assembly and Scottish Parliament we have the proportional respresentation system, as do other countries. Therefore you vote for the person you like most in your area and then rank the parties in order of your personal preferance.

The latter system is most loved by those parties that wouldn’t otherwise be able to get many seats in the Assembly. This applies to both the Conservative and Lib-Dem parties. However it also means that if you do badly in the main voting you still have the secondary votes to fall back on and gain seats that way.

What is causing problems now is that the Labour Party are the biggest party but not an overall majority. They are upset because the Lib-Dems pulled out of coalition talks last week and decided to talk to the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru (Welsh Nationalists) instead. Labour are somewhat niffed about this state of affairs.

The Labour leader appeared on the Politics Show yesterday complaining that the Lib-Dems were not playing fairly but not talking to him. He is annoyed that the other 3 parties are discussing the proposition of a “Rainbow Coalition” that would allow them to form a majority government. He points out that his party won the largest share of the vote, around 40%. Yet he’s now saying that a second vote maybe needed to let the public decide whether or not Labour should be allowed to govern. Alternatively he thinks that Lib-Dem members should be able to force their representatives into a pact with Labour.

This is wonderful. After the last election he was moaning that people who were standing for constituencies were getting in on the regional lists if they didn’t succeed on the main vote. While this favoured the other parties he was annoyed by it, now he’s quiet about it.

Throughout the interview he sounded like a schoolboy who’d had his toys taken away from him because they actually belonged to someone else. Whatever he argued just made him sound worse and worse.

Personally I’d like to see the back of Labour and let the other parties try. If nothing else it would allow us to see if we can be governed more effectively by a broad coalition then one dominant party.

Poor Excuses

I must say that we received some very poor excuses for no shows yesterday, see comments below. If someone could make it from Hull then Romania and Sydney are very poor excuses indeed 😉

Unfortuantely the picnic element was a washout. It was raining on and off most of the morning so we decided to meet at the house instead. We laid the food out and then it cleared up and the sun came out. It proved to be something of a burden to get people away from the TV when it was time for the football. I got round this by using my secret weapon – the surround sound system! That made them move.

The match itself was spoilt by people laughing and joking loudly from the back room. How thoughtless can you get? It didn’t really spoil anything as the match was very, very poor. Never have I wanted Man Utd oir Chelsea to score so much in my life.

We then settled down to Chinese and Indian takeaways and Dr Who. Its very odd that people insisted on staying to watch DR Who at our house, just for the surrround sound experience.

I must say that it was a very enjoyable day. I’m just sorry that the weather was not as good as it could have been at the start. I haven’t enjoyed having my house invaded by so many people for a long time. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that we’re hoping to do it again in July.