Thursday, 30 August 2012

A Christmas Outing

Reading the lovely Z's blogs of the last couple of days reminded me of a Christmas time event when I was a youngster.  It must have been between 1962 and 1967 because I know we were living in Surrey at the time.  If you move about enough you can place events with quite a degree of accuracy.

To backtrack a little, my father used to work for EMI (after he'd finished National Service) as some kind of engineer.  This is not EMI Records, but EMI Guided Missile Systems.  I know he was in REME for his National Service and he had been doing (I think) electrical engineering at Brighton College before he was called up. 

When I was young we moved around a lot.  I was born in Surrey, moved to somewhere near Aberystwyth when I was about 3, moved to Lincolnshire when I was 5 - my birthday's in August -  (I didn't start school until after I was 5 because they only spoke Welsh where we were living before and my parents didn't think I could cope starting school in a language I didn't speak - there, see how I've said that without being derogatory at all).

Then we moved back to Surrey and actually bought a house (up until then we'd been renting - well except for when I was born when they lived in a caravan which, thinking about it, they were probably renting as well - this is the early '50s, there weren't that many houses available), but instantly moved to Saltash in Cornwall for a year.

And then we moved to Surrey *sort of permanently*.  Although there was a period when my dad was working at John o'Groats but he went up there on his own for a week or two at a time. Whilst he was away he used to get given a free Crawfords "Family Assortment" box of biscuits every week, presumably to eat in his hotel room, which he always brought home for us.  Gosh, that was luxury - a "Family Assortment"!

I've no idea what my dad actually did for a job because he'd signed the Official Secrets Act but I know it was something to do with Guided Missiles, and that it probably had something to do with analogue computers (because when he left EMI he went to work with English Electric - which later became ICL - and then he was a computer systems analyst - this is still in 1967 so probably still at least half a room's worth per computer!).

Anyhow, I have an abiding memory of going on a kids work's outing when we lived in Surrey and Dad was working in Feltham and I must have been probably about 10, 11, or 12.  We all (the kids) got on a coach and went to an ice rink (possibly at Wembley, I don't know) and saw "Peter Pan On Ice".  This was my first theatrical outing, it was magical and I was hooked.  I remember very little about it, but I knew it was much more thrilling than anything I'd ever seen before.  And then we kids all went off to some hall somewhere and there was a sort of horseshoe of tables with food on for us.  I think my sister Susie went as well, as she would have been about 8 but she might not remember it.

Anyway that was the work's kids' Christmas outing.  And I still have an abiding thought that "works" have a kids' Christmas outing, but I can't actually think of any others.  Have I made this tradition up?

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Am I psychic or something?

E-mail received this morning, as acknowledgement of an order and copy of invoice for me to print out included some FAQs including: 

This invoice is not meant for me?

Please notify us immediately if this email has gone out to an incorrect email address. You can do this by forwarding this email to Please remember to include the correct email address of the requested recipient.

Erm.... if it's not meant for me, then how am I supposed to know who it is for, and what their email address might be?

Monday, 20 August 2012

Keep plodding on

Back along I could have retired, or at least got my state pension (not the same thing), in one year's time.  Now I have to wait five years, two months and seventeen days.  Ah well.  Wouldn't want anyone to think I was getting old.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The Arrows

Today I picked the first of this year's blackberries - and lots of them too.  I shall have to get into jam making mode soon.  And I dug up a few rogue potatoes (ie the ones that were in the raspberry patch).  As any of you who have ever grown potatoes will know, they never quite go away, there will always be the odd tiny one you missed that grows next year.

I went up to the allotment today because it was sunny and there is rain forecast for tomorrow. 

It 's the weekend of the Bristol Balloon Fiesta and I'm usually up at the lottie on Sunday afternoon during the Fiesta.  And at about 4 o'clock you hear them coming.  They're a few miles away when you first hear them, but before you know it they're overhead.  It's the Red Arrows coming to put on a display at the Fiesta and they always fly directly along the length of the allotments.  It's one of those moments that make you proud to be ...  whatever. 

And then they're gone, but you can still see them in the distance, doing their loop the loops, swirling in and out, smoke trails all over the place.  The display lasts about 20 minutes and it's a good excuse to stop weeding and just stand and watch.  You can't see the bits near the ground, or when they fly off south and then come back, but you still get quite a good show.  And then they go, sometimes flying straight back over us, the way they came, and sometimes off to someplace else.

I don't think they're doing the Fiesta this year, which is just as well as there's rain forecast.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

I've been there too (part two)

So there I am, sat in a carpark at the top of a hill, having last seen two of my children over 2 hours ago and absolutely no sign of them now.

A police car, doing his tour of the hillsides looking for trouble, turned up.  Now usually I wouldn't have approached them, but I was beginning to feel like I was in a news story and I didn't like the way it was going.

He was on the radio straightaway.  He said he'd drive further on along the top of the hill, and yes, it was good that my daughter was wearing a bright pink helmet.

So off he went and there I was, alone again, worrying.  Like why I have chosen to sit in a car park at a place called "Dead Woman's Ditch", of all names?

Ten minutes later another police car turned up and I was invited to go and sit in it and give detailed descriptions of my children, what they were wearing (I hadn't particularly noticed!), what kind of bikes they had.  You really don't want to be doing this, I can tell you.

My descriptions were radioed through and we sat there waiting.  And waiting.  And nothing.

They were three hours late by the time that finally news came through that they'd found them, so we all pootled off to the pub car park at the bottom of the hill where I'd initially dropped them off.

Turns out they'd taken a wrong fork at the bottom of the hill  and had set off at about 40ยบ NE on a different path.  And then every time they'd crested a hill and not found the car park daughter had said "oh, it'll be just over that ridge ahead of us" and so they'd got further and further away from where they should have been.  Eventually they'd given up and decided to retrace their steps back to where they started and that's when they were spotted.

The pub car park was full of police cars - must have been a very quiet Saturday afternoon in west Somerset otherwise.  We all set off back towards Bridgwater in convoy.  Even though I have passed my Advanced Driving Test (over 30 years ago) it's still quite nervewracking driving along with police cars both in front and behind you.

Post script:  I'd just like to add that this was not the first time that my daughter had completely disappeared.   But I shall tell you about that another time.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

How to get rid of the rain

It's actually very easy.

Today it rained quite a bit, and when it did rain it was quite spectacular.  About half past three I went down the road and saw Vince (not his real name, that's Vincenzo) who runs a barber's shop at the bottom of our road.  Due to the quiet nature of trade he was washing his car.  And then he left it, covered in suds, so that the next bout of rain would wash it all off for him.

And what do you think happened?

Not even the really rather majestic thundercracks we had just after six produced even the smallest drop of rain.  Even though it got so dark that all the streetlights went on.  Nope, it stayed resolutely dry until at least 9pm.  By which time Vince had gone home, because he doesn't actually live here.

Just as an extra - Vince has a flag flying outside his shop.  Not the usual Union Jack but one like this:

Can you guess where it's from?  It's very similar to this one:

which you might recognise.  And yes, his extended family still live there.  Have to be a bit careful what you say to him.  You don't want to upset him.

I've been there too

When I saw this it brought back some none too pleasant memories:

It was three years ago. 

Daughter (aged just 16) and younger son (aged 11) were going to go on a mountain bike trail.  Daughter was just getting into biking and had printed out a little bit of an OS map from Mountain Biker magazine for a trail they could follow.

So I dropped them off at the car park at the bottom of the hill and arranged to meet them at the car park at the top.  It should take them about an hour to do the trail.  I last saw them at about 3.30pm.

I sat in the car park at the top sewing name tags into younger son's new school uniform (it's the kind of thing that mums do).

An hour went and past.  And another.

I was sat in a car park at a place called Dead Woman's Ditch.  It's in the middle of the Quantocks and there's precious little mobile phone signal anywhere there.

Even at the best of times it's difficult to get teenagers to actually answer their phones, but every time all I got was "Welcome to O***** answerphone..."

So what do you do?

I was reluctant to drive off anywhere to look for them because a) it was woodland between where I'd left them and where they were supposed to go to  and b) if they turned up and I wasn't there then where would they go then?

Two chaps on mountain bikes in their 40s turned up so I approached them.  Oh yes, they knew that trail, they'd go and have a look for them.  Only bit of good news is that daughter was wearing a bright pink helmet so they'd be easily recognisable and also noticeable at a distance.  Half an hour later they came back and said, no they'd been down that trail to the bottom and come up a different way and there was no sign of them.

By now it was about 6pm and although it was nowhere near dusk yet (being August) I was very aware that the clock was ticking.

I'm sorry, I have to go and do other things now.  To be continued (that is, if you're interested).

Friday, 3 August 2012

Resistance is futile (or not)

So there I was yesterday, sat in the carpark of a male menopause shop when I got a phone call.  From Samson, who said he was calling from 33C Accounts and could he speak to someone from the accounts department.  As we are a partnership of two and I do all the accounts stuff I said yes, he could talk to me.

Samson: "I'm just calling to tell you that we are planning to sign you up to our new accounts system run by OBX.  And we're calling suppliers so that they don't get cold calls from OBX."

Me:  "And do I have to do this?  What benefit do I get from that?"

Samson:  "Well it's more efficient so your invoices will get paid faster, and you can track where they are in the system."

Me:  "Well I'm already on immediate payment terms so I don't think you'll get it any faster than that.  And so far I have no problems with any payments."

Samson:  "Well it will all be far more efficient.  And we're trying to ensure that all our purchasing is dealt with electronically."

Me:  "But I produce all my invoices as pdfs and e-mail them to you, how much more electronic do you need?"

Samson:  "Well we need to get as much as we can through the system electronically."

Me:  (thinking back to when they tried to do this five or six years ago)  "And how much will this cost me?"

Samson:  "Well as a rough estimate, say you have approximately x number of invoices per year, it will probably cost £750,  And let me say that any new suppliers would have to go through OBX, there would be no option."

Me:  "£750  !!!!!!!!!!!!  That's a small fortune.  There's no way I'd be paying that.  And this is just to make the 33C more efficient??  If I was forced to do so then my invoices would be adjusted to cover it."

Samson:  "Well of course some suppliers have found that they're going to have to use OBX across maybe 3 or 4 different clients so when you divide the £750 across 3 or 4 clients then it's not that much."

Me:  "Well none of my other customers would even touch OBX so that ain't gonna happen here."

Samson:  "Well since you're an existing supplier, and you clearly don't want to have to deal with OBX (too f**king right, mate) then I can offer you an alternative.  For a limited period (ie the link will die within 5 days) you can sign up to our supplier self service system but you might have to do a bit more typing.  But as, judging by the past year, you only send us about 9 invoices per month then that probably wouldn't be too arduous for you, then perhaps you'd like to consider sending invoices  via this method."

So then he sent me links for signing up to the self service supplier portal - which as I was in the middle of Somerset I completely ignored.  Which I think was about right.