Dont buy the Sun.

Dont buy the Sun.
Hillsborough Justice campaign - Remember the 96.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Revelation 6:1-17; 8:1

The day after 'the event', the quickest people to respond are a surprise. I'm happily ensconced in Nickson Villas, chatting with The Blessed Mandy, Saint of Everything (our cleaner) and making sure she is ok after last night's 'event'. Happily, Mandy has suffered no ill effects, other than a slight concern that the ghost of her dead husband had come back. This will be immense relief to Nel, as loosing our cleaner would probably send her into a cycle of depression that not even a Placebo could help her with(topical joke there, not a reference to Nel's wellbeing).

A knock on the door usually heralds Smitto, the postie......

One of my principle duties these last few weeks has been as Mail Receiver for the apartments, a duty I take very seriously. The phenomena of on-line shopping makes this a growth area (Career Option No 47 perhaps?) as an unending tide of oversize parcels require signing for. Sex toys, it appears, are a dead giveaway, due to the (unique)lack of advertising on the parcel, as Smitto points out. He makes me sign for all the items he delivers, which means I've got to take the books for Steven(author), new lifejackets for Becky and Tom(sporty rowers), and for Apartment 2, a continual parade of plain brown packages that squelch, slosh and lie densely in my hands.

On Monday, the doorbell rang, and it was Smitto with another armful of packages. "Know these people well do you?" asks Smitto, grinning broadly "Sign here". I'm
terrified that the dense parcels for Apartment 2 will start vibrating if I move them too suddenly, so I carry them carefully, like sacrifical offerings, placing them near our front door so that I won't forget them later, then I'm back to the computer, looking for bio-fuelled flights to Barcelona. After an hour or so, it's time for another cup of tea, so I head to the kitchen. I realize that it's been a whole hour since either of the cats miaowed for attention, and I'm wondering where they are, when Tosh scoots past me, making a break for freedom out of the kitchen window, rapidly followed by Calli.

The parcel lies on the floor, a corner ripped open. Later interrogation of the cats brings outright denial of guilt(and incidentally, I believe them as Tosh is scared of plastic), but there's no concealing the shiny, plasticky blackness of the contents through the clear plastic wrapping, all molded bumpiness and a coil of thin,shiny, snakelike tendrils (tassels?) that probably attracted the cat's attention in the first place.
The problem presented is not one of my disapproval of our neighbours, but their disapproval of me, as a snooper. Nosy neighbours are hated in cheek-by-jowl England, as much as privacy is valued, a fact we've had to reacquaint ourselves with, as this fear of closeness among neighbours means you can live somewhere for twenty years, without knowing anything about the people who share your sewage. let alone saying "Hello". Faced with the problem of handing Apartment 2 a parcel that has clearly been tampered with, the solution is obvious. Charlie Brown had a great philosophy - "There's no problem so complicated or difficult that you can't run a way from it", and with this in mind, I place the parcel outside our neighbour's door, resolving to resign my unpaid position as apartment Superintendent.

....When, this morning, the knock came again, I stride to the door, ready to tell Smitto where to stick his parcels, but the caller is'nt a postal worker.

"Hello, Sir. I wonder if you have a minute? We're just checking people in the neighbourhood, after last night, you suffered no damage, I hope?"

I'm amazed. This, I think, is impressive. The City Council have sprung into action already. Maybe Hull's got more going for it than we thought.

"No, we're fine. Nel - that's my wife- was woken up, but I was awake.I've got a broken arm, you see. Nel was pretty shaken up, but she's ok. I checked outside and there's no cracks or anything, so the building looks least we can say we've survived an earthquake, eh? "

"When you say you're wife was scared, does she need anyone to talk to, Sir?"

"Nah, nothing like that. It was pretty impressive though, 5.2 on the Richter Scale. Felt like the whole house had been picked up and dropped back down again. I was cleaning me teeth. Nearly swallowed me toothbrush. Did'nt hurt me arm though. Got knocked off the bike. Hit and run. What a story that is ! Big elbows and everything. Still, floods last year, earthquakes now, what next, eh? Fun though. Probably make a good blog entry."

"I know what you mean sir. There have been a lot of events recently. Have you ever thought what these events mean for you and your family. We believe you can be protected from all these disasters...."

.....Oh, great I think, they're not Council employees, they're Insurance Salesmen. Talk about vultures...

"...prophesied in the Bible as indications of the End Times. England has never had earthquakes before, and now God is punish ..."

...apparently its the REAL vultures....

"Actually, sorry, no, not interested. Goodbye.I'm an atheist. It was an earthquake. End of. Goodbye. Thanks. Sorry. Goodbye. Closing the door now. Bye. Thanks. Thank You. Bye."

I retreat, Mandy finishes her work and heads off home, and I go back to the computer. The cats gradually emerge from their hiding places after Mandy leaves. To the cats, Mandy is a God, one they are terrified of, mostly because she mercilessly wields a vacuum cleaner as her Instrument of Power. They recover quickly from her weekly manifestations though, and pretty soon I have two cats 'meeping' for attention. They're comforting evidence of the lack of the supernatural. Not only did they fail to display any of the psychic powers of legend that sees other pets saving their owners from burning buildings,(they slept right through last night's earthquake), but they make terrible witches familiars, totally failing to arch their backs and spit in the prescence of Evangelicals.

I think about the Plan we had when we came here last year. At the top of our list was to achieve a state of Zen-like boredom as a counterbalance to our previous experiences. This time we'd just live a quiet life and do things that normal people do. Floods, earthquakes, broken limbs, lawsuits, house-buying disappeared into some vacuum of tenant evictions and realtors having nervous breakdowns, weird jobs - its all gone horribly wrong. Life has conspired against us, and has reclaimed it's right to be interesting and exciting. To me, its obvious that is how it is meant to be. Time to throw our Plan away, and embrace destiny. Life, as the Celts say, is for the living. Bring it on, I'm up for it. Live well and live fast, there's no stopping the carousel, baby, so jump on. No more sitting round moping about the broken arm, I'm going to act. I think briefly and decide in the spirit of this regained impetuosity. Tomorrow, I'm off to Driffield to see the Neolithic Field Systems. Hang on to your hats.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

More Firsts

There's no such thing as simplicity. For a start, take Corporations. It is very simple to paint all Corporations as bad, as psychopathic institutions led by madmen. "FIRST", the company that owns Transpennine Express makes such simplified generalizations easy. But I have to mention that even though I believe that all national transportation systems should be nationalized, I should compliment Virgin Trains, and National Express for their excellent services to London in the last week. It even appears that FIRST are on the brink of being punished for their crimes against commuters. FIRST also run another franchise on the British Rail networks,a franchise line called Great Western. This service operates in the South West of the country, and it's regulars have been terrorized by First to an even greater degree than us Northerners are. Regular readers may remember the blogs that Great Western Commuters have started.

It appears their campaign may be close to bearing fruit:

So there may be justice after all. Also, it is simply not true to say that all entrepreneurs are egomaniacal sociopaths. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin, has demonstrated again and again that businessmen, like babies, should not necessarily all be thrown out with the bathwater.

The story is about Branson's plan to power aircraft with biofuels. Also welcome is that Branson does not claim to have all the answers, or an instant fix, but if you read the story, his company is putting it's money where it's mouth is.

Environmental activists are, needless to say, skeptical, and I have often shared their skepticism of business, especially the growing trend to claim "green-ness", which has reached new heights of stupidity with Formula One Motor Racing claiming to be Carbon Neutral and one leading bank advertising it's 'Green' Insurance Policies. Branson though, seems to have it right. Despite the perspectives of the Unibomber, Mennonites and Jared Diamond, humans are simply not going to go quietly into a new Stone Age. There is just not the enthusiasm for bad teeth, back-breaking agrarian labour and truly dreadful clothes that these people seem to encourage.

The answer to the problems of disappearing species, greenhouse effects and growing population therefore, has to be technological - genetic manipulation, alternative power sources and global computer aided planning. Contemporary humans are in the unique position where we actually have the knowledge and the technology to have a influence on our own evolution, and on the Planet's future. I think Branson is right to try. I do'nt say this simply because I want to preserve Gaia. I also want to stop feeling guilty about planning a trip to Barcelona. This in itself is sufficient argument for genetically manipulating future generations. As well as the possibility that scientists could produce a male who did'nt suddenly start sprouting nose and ear hair at 42 yrs age, one of the genetic manipulations I want to see most is the elimination of Catholic guilt.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

First Emporer

The cast was removed from my arm a week ago, but Dr Bundla signed me off work for a further four weeks. What to do for these weeks of inactivity? I'm unable to do the things I enjoy most, like bike riding and climbing, and even guitar playing, a joy I had rediscovered recently, is difficult. Travel they say broadens the mind, so I'm fortunate that I had two trips planned.

I set out on the first of my journeys to visit my older brother in Cheshire amid the first signs of snow that Hull has experienced since we arrived here. The cold snap lasted about a week with daytime temperatures below zero, and is very welcome in some ways as it represents the only real change in season I have witnessed since January 2007. It is less welcome in other ways, because Toshack's pet frog has not been seen for days. Froggie had previously been easy to find, hopping around the large lawn to the rear of our apartment block, fattening up on insects, moths and worms. The appearance of Arctic temperatures might be bad news for the frog, worse possibly than his occasional encounters with Toshack, who has undergone an intensive course of aversion therapy, whenever I observed him extending his paw towards Froggie during our hourly walks of the last three weeks. Strangely, this seems to have worked, as Tosh now just looks at Froggie when he discovers him, tail twitching. Even cats, it appears, can learn not to mess with their environment, but just to observe it.

When I arrive at my brother's, he greets me pointedly:

"Global warming, my arse, its bloody freezing."

Peter, my brother is a climate change skeptic, and in the UK, is not alone, is perhaps in the majority. Needless to say, a family argument ensues, Peter's opinion is that glass recycling is a waste of time;

"Do you know how much sand there is in the Sahara? There's enough sand there to make glass forever. "

I don't want to argue about this, but cannot resist saying that recycling is about the future, and it is in his children's best interests to leave them with a planet that does'nt resemble a rubbish dump. This is a big mistake. Just as you should never critisize someone's ex-partner, you should never, as a DINKY (Dual Income No Kids, apparently) invoke children in any discussion, as you are unqualified. As with all family discussions, there's a whole unspoken, unacknowledged sub-text at work here, which is only resolved when we shift focus and gossip viciously about other family members, and their children's failings.

A few days later, and I'm off to see the First Emporer, but not before a day out at London's Family Record Centre, the main repository in the UK for geneaological research, and a Mecca for Crumblies from all walks of life. I am the youngest person in the room by a mile, or a decade, and immediately want to be naughty so that I can be comfortingly disapproved off. Nevertheless, I roll my sleeves up, and extract my flasks, pens and notepads from my bag and knuckle down amid the rows of back-packing sixty-pluses, desperate to discover a family member who was'nt illiterate pre-1920.

I do uncover a trend - a rootless element in my family of malcontents and drifters who fought their way through the Mexican- USA Wars of the late 19th Century,the Boer Wars, the Spanish Civil War and the Irish Troubles. A confused set of allegiances seem to indicate no principle behind any of my ancestor's actions, the only crumb of comfort I can derive from this motley collection of mercenaries is that none of them seem to have taken up arms in the service of a privatized rail industry.

Next day, and I'm off to Redhill to meet an old friend, who has tracked me down via Facebook. A 2.00pm meeting is arranged and i travel across London via Tube, get onto a train at the outskirts of London then travel south for half an hour until I arrive at Redhill in Surrey, technically part of the commuter belt, and technically separate from London. In fact, this journey never involves leaving the city in any meaningful way, there's just a transition from the tower blocks at the centre of London to endless identikit semi-detached houses as we pass through the suburbs. London often has a powerful effect on people - the sheer size of the place can intimidate people.

My friend does'nt show at the restaurant and repeated phone calls just reach voicemail. I've been stood up. It is after I've been waiting for an hour, and realize that she's not just late, she is in fact NOT going to show, that I feel the London effect myself. Suddenly, I'm one of 17 million ants, but without any unifying scent of pheromone that comforts ants and provides cohesion in their colonies. Its a depressing thought. Reacting to this, I resolve to stay strong and think proudly of my hometown;

"I won't let the bastards grind me down. I'm someone. I'm from somewhere. My name's Nickson and I AM HULLONIAN."

That night we finally get to see the Last Emporer exhibit.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Case number 3459162

I will be the first to admit that activity has been low recently in Case 3459162, my on-going campaign to transform the rail system in this part of England. Readers may think that this is because the system has undergone a miraculous transformation, brought about by the devastating impact of my campaign. Oh, how I wish this were so.

A quick re-cap on the campaign. I managed to obtain confirmation from all parties that the Hull-Leeds- Manchester service was a disgrace. By all parties, I mean the Govt:

"Diane[Johnson, my MP and member of the ruling party] travels regularly on this route, and is aware of the numerous problems..."

Transpennine (who lease the trains and own the route's franchise):

"From a reliability perspective, the route between Leeds and Hull has been problematic since we commenced operation back in 2004" [letter to me from Vernon Barker, Managing Director of Transpennine who's company recieves £22million a year in subsidy from taxes. TP made £48 million in pre-tax profit last year)

Network Rail (who own the track that the trains run on and who are responsible for engineering the signal failures that occur daily)

"Network Rail has a dedicated project called Project Kingston which is designed to concentrate specifically on this route.. the line is going to have a signal upgrade by 2010..."

In the light of these replies, a letter was drafted to all concerned. I listed a series of (what I considered logical) assumptions, as follows;

We all know there is a problem, and have done so for at least four years.

We all want to fix the problem.

We know how to fix the problem.

There is money available to fix the problem. This can be derived from the simple formula below:

TP Profit (48) - Annual subsidy(22) = 26 (million. annually)

I followed up by asking:

Am I to understand that the Government have to give Transpennine permission to buy more carriages? Does this mean that Transpennine are legally, or contractually, prohibited from purchasing additional rolling stock unless the Government permit them to do so?
Why then, in the light of the foregoing, does not the Government simply draft a bill very quickly [don't forget, our Parliament managed to organize a vote to invade Iraq, none of whose citizens travel on a route serviced by Transpennine Express, in less than 24 hours]and allow TPE to buy more carriages. As the carriages are made in Germany[Government having shut down domestic train manufacturing capability upon privatization in the interests of efficiency, and trains only cost 1 million each, we could have 12 more carriages inside a year, leaving TP with the still substantial profit of £14 million.]delivery could be within one year.

NOTE: The sentences within [] are my editorial comments, not included in the letter.

I was excited when I opened the letter, addressed personally to me, from the Minister for Transport himself, a Mr Tom Harris. Mr Harris proudly informed me that the Government had produced a White Paper. For those Canadians who may not be aware, a White Paper is a Very Important Government Report. "Delivering a Sustainable Railway" the report in question, had taken a long hard look at the Hull-Leeds line and concluded that "additional capacity should be provided on the TransPennine Route by lengthening the trains".

Mr Harris commented on this astonishing breakthrough :

"the timescale for delivering additional rolling stock is 2009 to 2014: we are currently in discussion with the company with the aim of finding a framework for discussions that will allow the subsequent negotiations to proceed as quickly as possible. While we have no firm timescales,I shall be happy to keep you informed of progress."

For his part, Mr Vernon Barker replied thus;

"We have been lobbying the Dept. Transport for additional vehicles.....although we have been mentioned in their High Level Output Specification as being a route in need of additional stock...I cannot offer definitive details at this time regarding when these may be provided."

At this point, words fail me. I had wanted to use words like "man of action" and "dynamic" when describing Tom Harris, but they no longer seem appropriate. Likewise for Mr Barker, other words seem more appropriate. When I consider that the same picture is repeated regionally across the country that invented railways, and others are involved in similar campaigns to mine, with equal ineffectiveness, I think I'm going to hang up my pen. But not before I write just one more letter.....this time to the Queen. Maybe she'll get something done - not only do I support her family financially, but in another letter I received this morning, the news is that the first stage of my application for Canadian citizenship has been processed, so I will soon have her as my Head of State in two of the three countries I owe allegiance to.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

"Look ! muskrats!"

My skiing companion had stopped ahead of me, and was pointing to the side of the trail. I crouched down, scanning the area of snow that Grasshopper was pointing at. Sure enough, regularly spaced beside the the lines left by our skis, was a track of indentations, each the size of a small saucer. The tracks ran behind us along the trail all the way. Something had definitely passed this way, and was headed in the same direction that we were.

I knew nothing about muskrats, but I knew enough about the Canadian wilderness to be aware that some Canadian creatures were best avoided. There was considerable evidence of muskrat activity in this particular locale, and I was slightly apprehensive. The tracks did'nt look like the animal was particularly big, but even small carniverous creatures hunting in packs could be dangerous, like pirahna fish for example. Besides, it was winter, food was scarce and these critters were likely to be hungry.

I listened carefully as Grasshopper alleviated some of my concerns, explaining that muskrats were small furry creatures who only used human-cleared cross-country ski trails as pathways because it was easier for them to get around. Satisfied there was minimal danger, we carried on down the trail, spotting signs of musk-rat activity on both sides of the trail, as we proceeded. We completed a beautiful, cold, quiet circuit of woodland, deep in the Nova Scotia forest, and returned to our starting point to wait for our companions, Not-Quite-Dr Nel and Bert, anxious to know if they'd been as eagle-eyed as we had been.

Our Canadian adventure had introduced me to the notion that wildlife was'nt just a television phenomenon, and I particularly liked hiking with Bert and Grasshopper due to Bert's uncanny ability to spot wildlife. Usually, we'd be walking down a trail when Bert would, in one smooth movement, reach into a mess of leaves in the undergrowth, and pick out a tiny frog, a frog I would imagine, who until that moment, had assumed that he was perfectly camouflaged. Of course, the little froggy was perfectly correct, and to mere mortal eyes, he was invisible, but to Bert, frogs, toads, snakes, squirrels, chipmonks and woodpeckers (one of the hardest things in the woods to spot), may as well have been fluorescent.

I suppose it did'nt help that the rest of us were usually engaged in other activities while we hiked, Not-Quite-Dr Nel happily gossiping incessantly, myself practicing my silent-walking Indian woodcraft that I'd read about thirty years before in an old copy of Boy's Own ('heels down first, then roll the foot'), and Grasshopper occupied with checking that we were'nt breaking any rules of any description at all anywhere, but recently, I'd come to believe that some of Bert's woodcraft was beginning to rub off, because my own ability to spot wildlife was definitely improving. I was probably foremost among our friends in eagle-spotting, readily identifying species new to Nova Scotia, and in places that cynics believed eagles were unlikely to reside, like WalMart car-parks,our back garden and in the middle of seagull colonies.

As Bert and Not-Quite-Dr Nel approached, I was pretty eager share my latest discovery with them.

"Hey Guys, did you see the muskrat track?"

Bert looked puzzled.

"Yeah, muskrat tracks. At the side of the trail"

Bert still looked puzzled.

Grasshopper walked over to some muskrat track, easy to see if you knew what you were looking for, and poked her ski-pole into some undisturbed snow next to it. The indentation the pole left was about the size of a small saucer.

"See?" she said, "Muskrat tracks."

Monday, 11 February 2008

Try this at home

I've been using google Sketch-up to plan renovations to our potential house. Not sure if this will work for all, but try the link, it should link you to a three d model of the house we're planning to buy. To obtain a complete 3-d walkthrough, I think you might have to download google sketch-up, but it's a really fun programme anyway.

The Boot is on the Other Foot

It has been almost exactly a week since a party of the third part drove into a party of the second part. Constable Wainwright of Pearson Park (Temporary)Police Station has news, and informs me of such after consulting his notes "Unfortunately. Mr Nickson, I was unable to ascertain the working, or non-working status of the aforementioned CCTV cameras in the immediate proximity of the vicinity of the alleged vehicular incident at the junction of Springbank Drive and Ellesmore Street, opposite the Hole in the Wall public house, at the time of the alleged vehiculatory incident. You were proceeding in a southerly direction were'nt you?"

"er, yes...."

"....and you were not skateboarding, roller blading, riding a unicycle, jogging, engaged in a parade or demonstration or drunk at the time of the alleged, aforementioned vehicular collision ?"

", no..."


", what?..."

It appears that apart from swallowing the "How to Speak like a Proper Policeman" instruction manual, Constable Wainwright has done some sterling detective work and telephoned Hull City Council. Britain's street are littered with Closed Circuit Television Cameras, operated by local councils but referred to by the police when investigating crime. In fact, the towns of the UK are the most observed in the world, beating even Eastern dictatorships in square area of the coverage, as a percentage of the country. It's another of Tony Blair's massive achievements, costing only as much as it would have cost to have built five or six new, well thought out housing projects, and having absolutely no effect on Britain's place in the European League Tables for crime. And yes, in a statistic obsessed Europe, such League tables do exist. Curiously, compiling the League tables costs about as much every year as it would to send a hundred or so kids from the housing projects (from each European country), to University, possibly including Advanced Driving in each kid's curriculum.

Back with Constable Wainwright, and the bad news is that the cameras which cover the junction in question, either does not have working CCTV cameras, or does not have CCTV cameras at all. I am vastly relieved, as the thought of another lawsuit was about as welcome as the prospect of going back to work has now become. In the past week, whilst at home, working on management stuff, I am beginning to enjoy myself.

I stroll back across Pearson Park, taking in the beautiful sunlight and the welcome beginnings of green everywhere. At the road bounding Pearson Park that separates Park from The Avenue that we live in, I'm in luck because a crocodile of pre-schoolers is just about to cross the road, doubtless heading back to day-care for their mid-morning nap. Having the same plan myself, I shoulder myself into their midst and cross safely, shepherded by teachers holding up hi-visibility batons.

Home safely at our apartment, the cats are let out for their 11.27am walk. They are also enjoying my time off work, and Calli gambles in the grass,trying to catch moths, a responsibility she takes very seriously. I spot Brian, Physical Services Manager to our apartment buildings. He's up a ladder, performing maintenance on the CCTV cameras and floodlights that illuminate our car park.

"Hi, Brian. How's it going mate?" I stand near the ladder, hastily unzipping my jacket so that Brian cannot avoid seeing my arm-cast.

"Hi Martin. How's it going? Bloody Hell, what happened to you?"

"Bike accident, mate. Broke me arm."

"What, you fell off, did you? My nephew did that when we took the stabilizers off his bike."

Twenty-five minutes later, Brian is fully informed of my riding history, defensive driving habits, theories on improving road safety, as well as an animated re-enactment of the vehicular collision. We're just about to start discussing my prognosis, when Brian glances again at his cellphone.

"Well, good luck, Martin. As I said, I really must get on, Martin. I'm meeting Mandy for lunch. Thought she would have called. I better give her a ring. " Brian is busy packing his ladder away.

Realizing that keeping Brian up to date has kept me longer than anticipated, I decide to head for the local newsagent. The local newsagent represents a dying species of store. Not part of a chain, it's tucked away among ordinary houses, and sells every variety of cigarette possible, a selection of soft porn and a limited choice of stale no-name cookies, as well as a bewildering variety of unwrapped tooth rotting penny sweets, including Cola Cubes, jelly snakes, and liquorice, all stored in big plastic jars on a shelf next to the cigarettes. Young and old alike are frequent customers.

The newsagent is talking to a regular, Mrs Chippendale, so I wait in line, while the newsagent gives Mrs Chippendale's mangy old Collie a good belly rub. "Same as usual, Mrs C? " asks Vicky, the newsagent, reaching for a jar on the shelf and pulling out a handful of Castor- sugar coated toffees, "Quarter[note - Vicky means quarter of a pound] of bon-bons? I never know how many kilogrammes, or whatever, it is. Don't see why we had to change". Vicky is referring to decimalization, a weights and measures change that occurred sometime in the Seventies, probably before she was born. Vicky stuffs the dog-hair encrusted sweets into a paper bag, while Mrs C, who was probably about my current age when this revolution occurred, assents that the change to kilo's and grammes was the worst thing that ever happened to England.

It's my turn, and it's been twenty four hours since the newsagents recieved a bulletin. I unzip my coat. Vicky asks how I'm doing, tutting sympathetically.

"OK," I reply, "but the hip was uncomfortable last couple nights. Still, I'm keeping busy."

"Well, you've got to keep yourself occupied, they say. Course, it takes a bit longer when you're older. When's the cast off? Mrs C was just saying they're good down there, at t'Fracture Clinic. "

"I don't know yet, I've got an appointment at t'infirmary, next week. We'll know more then."

I stop suddenly. Did I just say what I thought I'd said? 'T'infirmary' ? Did Vicky just say 'It takes a bit longer when you're older'? Did I just reply to Vicky in respect of my injury as if it was comparable to an old person's complaint? I check my pockets to make sure I have'nt bought any Bon-Bons.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Chinese New Year , again.

Chinese New Year 2008

One advantage of not working in Leeds is that I can go out in the evening. We went to a Thai restaurant with a typical cross-section of academics: English, Irish, Chinese, American, Scouse Canadian, Italian, Indian and Scottish in a Thai restaurant in downtown Hull.

Next evening we go out for drinks after work at the University student's Union.

The weekend is very quiet, which is a good thing, as we've now been out socializing more since January than we did in the whole of last year, and we're both knackered. Most of my weekend is taken up with pre-planning for the house we may be buying within the next couple of weeks.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Chinese New Year

As I watch a small caterpillar saunter across the roadway while I dither, trying to decide whether the cars stopped three blocks away have psychos at the wheel, I realize I'm probably being too cautious. I now understand how my great friend Grasshopper might have jumped at the sight (or sound) of operator controlled grass care equipment some years ago, after her disastrous encounter. Of course, it sounds funnier saying she was run over by a lawnmower, or that I am accident prone (which I definitely am) but today ex post facto in respect of my own hit-and-run, my reality is that humans and machines co-exist in an uncomfortable balance and as far as I am concerned, neither human, nor machine are to be trusted in eachother's company.

I stand four feet away from the edge of the kerb deciding whether it is safe to cross. A final check of the terrain, and climatological conditions and the race is on. I scurry across the driveway at the entrance to our building's car-park and continue today's mission; Operation Silver Lining.

Operation Silver Lining is based on the premise that my broken limb represents a real opportunity to once again move towards the heady realms of management. Human motivations can be complex, but in my case the rationale is quite simple. Managers get paid more money. Or, more accurately, Job Descriptions that include the word 'Manager' in the title attract greater remuneration.

In Nova Scotia, the company owner of Atlantex, who sporadically half-read 'works' with titles like "How to Get the Best Out of People" and "Recession? It's spelt O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y" gave everyone in our workforce an impressive sounding title after he had scanned a few pages of one of these books. "Good for morale" he told me. Shortly after Stevie Michaud, the caretaker, whose granted title was "Physical Services Manager" came to me asking for a pay rise. "I've got more responsibility now I'm a Manager," reasoned Steve "I've got to make sure all the cleaning supplies are stocked up, and that coyotes do'nt get into the garbage". "You had to do that before," I pointed out to Steve, whom I was responsible for 'managing'. "Yeah, but now I've got to manage it all see. Gordon[Atlantex's owner] said so." I really liked Steve, so I gave him a pay rise, but it was'nt long before Tony Monk came knocking on my office door, wanting Managerial status. There is an awful lot of Ploppyshank in most companies, and I suppose, retrospectively, I should have made Tony manage that, but he was due for one of his regular firings, so I just gave him a day's extra vacation instead.

Operation Silver Lining is simple. I have volunteered, while incapacitated, to undertake some of those vital managerial tasks that none of the nine managers who manage myself, Andy and Icksy, seem to have the time to do. This includes establishing Health and Safety policies, ordering equipment and materials, estimating jobs and planning projects. My suggestion is accepted, and today is my first day of working from home, managing. I wonder while I write this, with the files ready to be worked on, what all the other managers actually do all day while they are supposed to be managing.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

It's getting lighter

As new photographs added to Workdays show, I'm now beginning to see light at both ends of the tunnel, time-wise, that is, because as it gets light earlier , I no longer travel to Leeds in total darkness.