Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Happy Camper

I'm really not sure where September went, let along the start of October, but here it is anyway.

I am, to be simple, a very happy camper. Finally sorted out a new job, and its a good one. I mean a really good one. On the board of a globally recognised brand in a completely different industry. I keep having people tell me this was meant to be, not getting all those other jobs so I'd get this one.

I don't know about that, but I do know that if I lined up all the jobs I've interviewed for, this would easily be at the top of the list. It is both daunting and exciting in equal measure. An enormous amount to do, even more to learn, but it feels well within my capabilities.

I don't start until November 1st, I still have to finish out the contract I'm currently working on. I have spent a few days there already, meeting my new team, spending a strategy day with the board. All good stuff.

I'm treating myself with a new car. Which is a very middle aged male stereotype, but I can live with it for the moment. LL is indulging me, on top of other things (some rather fantastic benefits), this pays rather nicely. Frankly its just a relief to both of us to have things sorted again. We were doing all right with me contracting, but this is just that bit more secure.

In other fronts the family is doing well. Son number 1 is prepping for his common entrance exams, and I am a bit angst ridden about the amount of testing UK youth have to go through. This is multiplied by Son Number 2 having to do his 11+. I hate having to crack the whip to get them to study, but needs must. They are frankly both very happy otherwise, so its not all bad. Princess thankfully has no life changing exams this year, so just happily skips along through life. She's made the first team in Netball this year, so is very pleased with herself. So, all in all, life is not bad at all.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Bittersweet

I'm not quite sure where August went. First it was here, then it was gone... So, a few catch up posts. We start with my holiday in Vancouver. It had a two fold purpose, get the family somewhere fun, and visit my mother.

The first purpose was a huge success. We had a great time. Mountains where climbed, huge trees were found, whales were watched in abundance, fish were not caught unfortunately, but fun was had trying, waterslides were slid, and we all learned to surf. We'll, I already knew mentally, though my body had quite forgotten. The kids and LL did brilliantly. My daughter was the best of us all, just popping up and surfing back and forth as if she was born to stand on a board. Finally got the kids hooked on sushi. Hard not to like it when it is that fresh and well prepared. It was also blueberry and cherry season, so we rather gorged on cheap and marvelous fruit. From that standpoint we had a marvelous time.

The visit with my mother though, was good, but just a bit sad. For those that have read for a long (long) while I started blogging when my father died. It was a follow on from a car accident that left my mother with ever so little brain damage. Odd things were changed, a sporadic loss of short term memory, a lessening of cognitive functions, her balance went a bit wobbly. All in all enough that she could mostly live on her own, but needed help.

Thankfully her sunny personality (mostly) remained the same, but it has meant we had a lodger living with her who got paid a bit to keep an eye out, and we've had a service in every day to take care of the house. But... she's been slowly deteriorating. What hurts is that my mother is not entirely my mother any more, there are parts of her that are lost, and, sadly, more are getting lost each year. So it was a bittersweet visit. So lovely to see her, but also sad.

The big decision was had with my sister. She's the one who lives in Vancouver and does so much in terms of taking care of our mum. She wanted a spare set of eyes, and a clearer head to talk to about this. With another sister who lives in the US, we cogitated and talked, and decided it was time that mum needed a different lifestyle that assisted living was a good answer, and one closer to where my sister lives.

Its a big step, mum values her independence, but then, part of the damage is she doesn't realise that she's damaged. Hard, hard, hard. We all worried at the decision, and also how she would take it. Clearly she had to be involved in the decision, it couldn't be a fait accompli.

Thankfully, though I left Vancouver in trepidation, as we were still talking it through, it has all worked out fine. Mum not only agreed with the decision, she was enthusiastic about it. Turns out, when she saw the option, it was closer to old friends, and would give her more freedom than she had today to do things, like the Opera, that she loves. So all's well that ends well.

But... it is still bittersweet...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Report Cards and Holidays

They do often go together.

So it was the boys last day at school yesterday. Mucking about then speach day, then a curry with the family. Nice.

No surprise awards for the boys, which is a shame for them, but I'm not really bothered. They've both had a great year. Lots of successes, plus they seem to be really enjoying their childhood. Which is a goodness.

What was pleasing was their report cards. They go to a highly accademic school. Before you all roll your eyes and say "poor boys" I like it as much for the atmosphere as the results. When I'm there the odd time during the day it is not uncommon to hear laughter roll out of the classrooms, and the boys run about and be boys during break. There's been no hint of bullying, and quite unusually you do see boys from different year groups playing with each other. Even older boys helping younger boys with whatever. Really nice to see.

However, it is both selective and accademic. It took me a while to get used to the report cards. If a boy meets the standards expected for the school (and these are high) they get a 'C'. Which means, a solid 'C' grade means they're doing pretty darn good. 'B's are more rare and means they're up at the top end of the class. 'A's almost never happen. If one boy in a year in one subject gets an 'A' he's essentially rewritten Einstein's theory of relativity before reaching puberty.

This time around both boys got about half 'C's and half 'B's. Most importantly the 'B's were clustered around English, Maths and Science. Not only though, much to my surprise and I am sure the delight of the spirit of my father (who was a vicar), they both got 'B's in religious education. I am quite chuffed and very pleased for them both. So please forgive a bit of parental bragging. Is it possible to be more proud of the achievements of your offspring than yourself? I think so.

Report cards in hand, it is now time to depart on holiday. Two weeks in Vancouver visiting my family and taking off to learn surfing and do a bit of whale watching. Should be fun. Normal service will resume in August.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Oh so tired...

Its summer, the sun is shining, the kids are finishing off a happy year at school, I am employed (albeit on contract) and my wife is equally so.

Yet... I am absolutely knackered, totally shattered. Just... tired. Partially I think its just middle aged disease. Career, kids, relationship. It feels like there's just no time for anything other than working my ass off. I can't remember the last time I was able to put my feet up and read the Sunday papers, or just sit with LL and watch a movie. We haven't had a night out together in months. Well, that's not strictly true, there's been a few parties and dinners with friends, but those types of social occasions, which I can enjoy, also tire me out. The treadmill just keeps turning.

I know LL feels exactly the same. The burden of keeping up a house, garden and busy active kids is relentless. I think it is fair to say we're both border line depressed and exhausted.

Roll on the weekend and a two week holiday in Canada. Unfortunately it is also a holiday to see my aging mother. Which is necessary, and she's lovely, but it may not be totally relaxing. A few late morning lie ins are in order though. Nothing like visiting a parent to regress to child like behavior. At least I've organised some time the second week to head off and kick back at a beach. We're all going to learn surfing. Should be fun I think (I hope (I dream...))...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On the making of Jam

I, and my family of course, are very fond of our toast, and therefore jam. Breakfast, pudding after tea, snacks any time of the day, it's a quick and more healthy than some option. We like our brown bread for toast, though an occasional foray into a quality white bread will do. On top, lashings of butter, and marmalade, jam, jelly or sometimes Marmite (not my favourite, but hey).

As such, over the years, I've moved into two different areas of cooking. On the one hand, I make bread. I quite like making bread. Its a very satisfying exercise. Once in a blue moon I get my hands dirty and hand kneed and bash the hell out of the door. Mostly I rely on a very good bread making machine, and partake of my usual pastime of playing with recipies. I have, by the way, perfected a very fine oatmeal and brown flour loaf. I've got it light, fluffy, with a lovely nutty flavour and little of the gritty nastiness many brown breads have. But that's not what I wanted to talk about.

I've also ventured into making jam. There really are very few really good commercial jams and marmalades. The food industry as a whole, relies extremely heavily on adding pectin, and the results are thick and chewy. I like it soft and gooey. Commercial ones also often lack much flavour other than the sugar. So, I rolled up my sleves and started making marmalade first, then jam. I've had a few failures,one match of marmalade, with repeated attempts, just didn't set. Mostly though, its great. There is nothing quite like a really good marmalade or blackcurrent jam.

But... Unlike baking, this is not a task I enjoy. It is laborious (topping and tailing blackcurrents is a pain, though I now don't bother and the little flower bits seems to just disolve, which is a bonus), hot, often boring as you're waiting about for something to happen. It can be painful, I have had more than a few burns over the years. And, well, its just not very much fun. But I persevere, sometimes the result is worth the pain and agony. Sometimes...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Busy Bee

For a few months I have been doing a contract for a reputable firm in the media space. A bit old, a bit stade, and frankly, not all that good at technology. Initially I was brought in to sort out the website launch from one of its most venerable titles. Blimey it had gone wrong, costs out of control, timelines no longer timely, staff stressed. It looked a disaster, but frankly was easy peasy to sort out. All it needed was a bit of calm, I'm good at calm, a bit of common sense and a very sparing use of the words "No" and "Yes" in the right context.

Its funny how many people get no and yes confused, hey ho.

Any way, it was a fairly easy three months. Got the website launched, re-organised the team, and left them a roadmap for the next six months that was eminantely deliverable so long as they stayed calm and said no and yes at the right times.

As a reward I was given another problem child. This one overfed, quite grumpy and liable to tantrums. My liesurely life as a consultant has vanished. I'm still a consultant, but this time I'm more than a bit busy. Not in a bad way, but... All it will take is a bit of calm, a bit of common sense and a very sparing use of the words "No" and "Yes" in the right context. Just more of it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bah

In short, I didn't get the job.

I received lots of lovely feedback that it had been very close, that I'd come across strongly, was an excellent candidate, blah, blah, but that they chose someone else. Intellectually I understand that when it comes to the crunch, a recruitment decision is as much about how you emotionally connected as it is about your background and talents.

But... that's just it. It means they 'liked' someone else better, and no matter how you cut it, that hurts.

I am not crushed, I'm more disappointed. So its stand up, take another step, then another, and carry on. I have some other job opportunities on the horizon, but none excite me like this one did. Needs must though, employed I must be, and neither of them are bad jobs. Far from it.

I'm sure I'll feel better tomorrow, but today? Bah...