Thursday, May 31, 2007

Continued Resignation

Resigning is always an odd thing, this time has been more so than most for me. At a senior level, when you resign, your power and influence immediately starts to flow away. Often people are sent home, the view being some time away from the company means they loose internal knowledge (and are therefore safe to leave). This is true.

In my case I’ve been told to stay on and keep working. Thing is, that’s rather hard. Not only is my internal motivation a bit difficult, but all the things that I need to do my job, stop happening. Already my diary shows gaps in it, I’m not copied on every email, people don’t poke their heads around my door the way they used to. I’m not complaining, its rather nice. I can relax a bit.

The problem is my boss (yes, I still have a boss, you always do until you’re at the very top, even then you still have bosses, just of a different type) expects me to continue working just as hard doing everything perfectly. He got quite annoyed the other day when there was some detail I’d missed. More importantly said detail is something he hadn’t been informed off and had therefore got a bollocking about. The fact I hadn't been told either was irrelevant...

Tough, worst thing he can do is fire me, and that just means I get a bit more time off, then start the new job early. No bad thing in my books. Still, it makes it hard. I don’t like doing anything less than a perfect job, and I just can’t at the moment. Ah well, I just have to remind myself to put my feet up and relax.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


If you haven’t picked it up, I’m a proud man. I have deep faith in my own abilities, and know that even if the dice rolled against me, I’d cope. LL says its one of the things she loves most about me. I am also very proud of those around me. I think I have a most excellent wife, despite the odd wranglings we do fine.

One of the things I didn’t really expect about being a father was the pride in my children. Its not big full grown pride in world changing achievements (though I have no doubt they will do just that in their time), but pride in simple little things. I can still remember my heart almost bursting out of my chest when Pirate Pete took his first steps. Its such a silly little thing, but lordy I was so proud of him. That moment has been matched by each of the kids.

Just before Christmas the boys, completely unprompted, decided to buy each other presents out of their pocket money. They only get 50p a week, and used up months of savings to buy each other something. I was fit to burst I was so proud. At the weekend I caught them conspiring about what they’d buy their sister for her upcoming birthday.

My princess came in this morning, she’d dressed herself. The buttons on her jumper where misaligned, and she had on a shocking pink top with green trousers, but she was so pleased with herself. I’m the one that gets her dressed in the morning, and I felt such bitter sweet pride. So happy for her for making that step, and a little sad at my girl being not quite so young any more.

Such is the life of a parent. I wouldn’t for a moment swap the heartache, tiredness and frustrations for a life without them. Those moments of love and pride and joy are so precious I savour each one. Long may it continue

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Generally I pride myself on seeing all sides of an issue. I like to think I’m not blinded by pre-conceived notions or illusions created by my relative status and well offness. Yet I got caught out last week.

Its this row about rubbish collection. Many boroughs, including the one I live in, do alternate week collections. One week recycling is picked up, the next rubbish. In our borough the council provided two wheely bins. There is the cutely coloured green one for recycling material. We don’t even have to sort, just dump it all in. The council invested some absurd amount to build an automated sorting facility (which it now makes a tidy profit from selling on the services to other local boroughs). The second bin is black. For the few local tower blocks, there are equivalently coloured big bins, or smaller bins for the narrow streets of town houses.

For us it works brilliantly. We’ve got a big enough garden to have a large compost heap, and all the kitchen waste goes out there. The two piles get given a year to moulder down, then get spread on the veg and flower beds. Given our last child is out of nappies we generally only part fill the black bin every two weeks. Though a small bit of meat waste goes in there, its primarily food packaging that can’t recycle. Even if it did start to smell (which frankly we’ve never noticed), its well away from the house..

So, I knew in my mind that the compost thing is a relative privilege. Odd world that we live in, that having a mouldering pile of waste is an advantage. Yet most people we know, when such things are discussed, tell us we’re lucky. They’d probably not say the same if they had to join me in the bi-annual turning of the pile. My second least favourite garden chore (the first being putting up the fruit cage, which is a right pain in the ass). Yet, no one in our area complains about the rubbish collection. Generally it causes scratched heads. Ours works well, and the provision of the wheely bins has gone down with barely a murmur. Because of the bins, the mess is generally under control. There’s now a trial on to collect kitchen compost material to centrally compost. Last report was that its going well and is likely to be rolled out within a year.

So, my preconception. That everyone on an every second week pickup had the same efficient service. I’m lucky in that I live in a very well run borough (despite central government raking off twice the business rates and taxes in the borough that it returns). Despite being Conservative run (OK, or perhaps because of it), it looks to provide the best service.

What caught me out was a report on the situation. It showed a narrow street in Oxford piled high with black bags of rubbish. Of course if you live in a town house with no garden, you put the rubbish out on the street. What choice do you have? Any if you can’t compost, and all your kitchen waste goes in, likely its going to smell and breed bugs. If you don't have a bin, you just put the bags on the street. What a nonsense! You probably need it picked up twice a week, not once every two weeks. If I was in the same situation I’d probably be running for the council myself to get the idiots in control turfed out.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Food glorious food!

Clarissa threw down the gauntlet, so I’ll pick this meme up. I am what is colloquially known as a foodie. I love food in all its guises, and am lucky enough to be able to munch my way through the restaurants of the world. It’s a funny thing perception, when I was young English food (even in Canada which considers itself strongly British) was a byword for horrid. I grew up in Vancouver, which (yes I am biased, but its still true) is a haven for good food. I would rank Vancouver as one of the top ten cities in the world to eat, hands down.

Yet London now ranks up there as well. I would put the pubs and restaurants of the Smoke against anywhere. Service is an understood culture, not in the happy smiley US way, but in having a high standard of what is good. The chefs are highly trained and inventive, plus the influx of foreign cuisines has only enriched the pot. For example, Chicken Tikka Massala is the most eaten dish in Britain (although it is arguably a uniquely British dish not from any native Indian region).

Any way, I am lucky enough to be able to have tried the best. I’ve had many good meals, many great meals, but my personal list is the ones I’ve gone back to. For me to go to a restaurant twice or more it has to have that perfect combination, excellent service, a unique environment, exquisite food and a good wine list. In no particular order these are my favourites in and around London.

The River Café – The place tied for my having been back most to. It’s a haven of good modern design, clean and uncluttered. The staff are superb yet unstuffy. They’ll quite happily chat and are good at giving recommendations. I have also never had a bad dish here. The kitchen over the years has maintained a quality that’s hard to surpase. Its modern Italian with an English twist. If I want to impress people who really know their food, I take them here.

The Chop House – This city institution has been going for over a hundred years. The waitresses look like they probably opened the place. They’re cheerful and give as good as they get to the city boys who frequent the place. A pint of the house bitter, a starter of potted shrimp, steak or chops and chips and treacle pudding, it just doesn’t get better than this. When I had a job at an old institution in the centre of the city this is the place I loved to go to for lunch. Go hunting (its hard to find), stake a claim on a table and enjoy.

The Neal Street Restaurant – Carluccio’s place tucked away in an unpresuming dining room. I love my mushrooms, and his wild mushrooms grilled in butter and garlic are heaven on a plate. Its Italian food at its best, and given its right by Covent Garden is a perfect place if you’re out to the Opera or a show. Please note however, in searching for a link, the restaurant is sadly closing in a couple months! Carluccio's lease ran out and they want to redevelop. This is a real loss to London.

Le Gavroche – Another London institution, if you want high French cuisine, this is the place. The décor is over the top boudoir, camp, but in a good way. The service is perfection, though I occasionally have suspected the French accents might not be entirely true. The sommelier is particularly good. Talk him through your menu, don’t be shy to discuss a budget and he’ll talk you through the options. I’ve found, and bought some excellent wines after visiting here. As for the food, like I said, its high French, and excellent.

Yoshino - I know Clarissa mentioned it first, but I bet I went there first! There are a lot of sushi places in London now, there are not a lot of good sushi places. This is easily the best. No robotic gimmicks, just the freshest of fish.

Menu at the Connaught – I am still mystified why this place doesn’t have 2 or 3 stars, or a better reputation. I can only guess there is a lingering discrimination against it having both a female Maitre’d and a female chef. As well as the River Café, this is the place I’ve been to most often. I’ve had some truly memorable meals here. Right now I can taste the rosemary jus that came with a roasted, smoked pork belly. One of the purest tastes I’ve had on my tongue. Note, in getting the link its just closing for refurbishment, try it out from the summer onwards.

La Manoir au Quat'saisons – Yes, technically not in London, but near enough. LL and I have been here three times. You must go with a loved one, and stay overnight. It will cripple the bank balance, but is worth every pence. Show up mid afternoon, and you’ll be led to your room (each one is uniquely designed by a different designer). Tea and cakes will be promptly brought. Relax and (ehem) enjoy yourselves. When washed up and ready take a short stroll to the bar. Here you will be sat down with a drink, a small plate of exquisite canapés and the menu. Don’t rush, take your time (if you feel up to it, do the tasting menu, 7-9 courses chosen by the chef). Your order will be taken, don’t feel limited by three courses, if you like two starters, choose two starters. The sommelier will stop by at some point to chat about the wines. Again, they are very helpful, and do be clear about budget. So, when all that’s done, you’ll be lead to the dinning room to while away the evening eating wonderful food. Here my memory can taste a vegetable mouse stuffed into a courgette flower. Nearly all the vegetables used in the restaurant are grown in the garden. When you are finally done, and do tempt yourself with a final cheese course, you can waddle back to the bar to have a hot drink and petite fours. Help each other back to your room and enjoy the night. Next morning have a walk in the garden then settle in to what is very likely one of the best cooked breakfasts you’ll have. It will be a weekend to remember for the rest of your lives.

The Vineyard – I’m breaking my rules here a bit in the LL and I have only been here once. We will go again. It’s another country hotel with a fab kitchen attached. It also claims to have the best wine cellar (in the attic no less) in England. The chef is just coming into his stride now. We had one of the best meals we ever have, and that’s an achievement. Goose liver with smoked banana puree, Warmed Salmon filet with lentils, Cucumber Ice Cream. I can still taste them all, and those were three course in 10. The hotel is nice, not as unique as La Manoir, but still very nice. The restaurant is why you go.

And now the price to pay for the meme. I don't tag, but if you want to do it, copy this list and add it to the bottom of your post!

Nicole (Sydney, Australia)
velverse (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
LB (San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
Selba (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Olivia (London, England)
ML (Utah, United States)
Lotus (Toronto, Canada)
tanabata (Saitama, Japan)
Andi (Dallas [ish], Texas, United States)
Lulu (Chicago, Illinois, United States)
Chris (Boyne City, Michigan, United States)
AB (Cave Creek, Arizona, United States)
Johnny Yen (Chicago, Illinois, United States)
Bubs (Mt Prospect, Illinois, United States)
Mob (Midland, Texas United States)
Yas (Ahwatukee, Arizona USA)
Alicia(Idaho Falls, Idaho, USA)
Tug (Hell, Colorado, USA)
Mark Base (Helsingborg, Sweden)
Clarissa (London, UK)
TheBoy (London, UK)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


So we just had our Residents Association Annual General Meeting. This grand sounding event is one I both look forward to and dread with equal measure. Our little drive gets together once a year to confirm our fees and discuss weighty matters. The bit I dread. Then the wine gets broken open and we get down to a serious gossip session. The bit I love.

It’s a necessary thing. Our few houses own in common a drive, a footpath and a little strip of woods. We get together a couple times a year to do the necessary maintenance, but put aside our fees to purchase insurance (it’s a private drive, if any idiot gets hurt, we’re liable) and to cover the fateful day when we have to re-tarmac it.

I was chairman for a good number of years, then handed it off to another neighbour. He seems to quite enjoy the job (he’s a property developer descended from a long line of county property developers (need I say more?)). An agenda is produced, a weighty financial report distributed and for afters he’ll produce a five to ten page set of minutes.

Our agenda consisted of 10 minutes going over the financials, 15 minutes of discussing if the time has finally come to redo the drive (it hasn’t, but we’re going to get quotes for next years meeting), 34 minutes (yes I timed it, you have to find your pleasure in these things) discussing a particular tree in our bit of woods (you see its overhanging a local public footpath, and is therefore “a danger to the public” (and our responsibility if it fell on anyone’s head)), and an astonishing 38 minutes discussing walkers illegally skirting the corn field behind a number of the properties.

This gets discussed pretty well every year. Walkers. They are a bane to civilised county life you see. They walk, and occasionally talk. They are a disturbance to the secluded privacy our drive is supposed to be. What they do is actually illegal, but not to us. The farmer who runs the field doesn’t particularly care. So long as they keep to the verge his crop is just fine. The estate who owns the land does care, and actually has erected barbed wire fencing. People just climb over it, its been cut twice.

However, after all that discussion, some quite heated, it was determined there really wasn’t much we can do. The meeting therefore concluded and the wine was broken into. Hurrah.

I love my neighbours, I really do. They are as fine a collection of little England as can be found. As well as said property developer (he really is a third generation property developer too), we have a graphic artist (retired), a former mechanical engineer and his lovely wife (retired), the widow of a city lawyer (who at the age of 82 still plays tennis twice every week), a garage mechanic and his secretary wife (they inherited the house), a man who made his millions running a pop academy (I kid you not, he’s a mate and a hell of a laugh) and his trophy wife (she’s in her late forties, looks like her early thirties and LL suspects the help of a surgeon, she’s still great fun to be around), a chartered surveyer and his holistic healing wife (our best friends), and a chairman of one of the big banks with his evangelist wife (she’s a great laugh, LL loves her, just don’t get her talking about the local church which she’s convinced is cursed and used for satanic masses (I kid you not, she’s run prayer groups to cleanse it and all)).

As a neighbourhood we get together far too seldom. There are a couple we see regularly, but most we only really talk to in passing, or at this event. We’ve run a few get togethers at our house, but no one else reciprocates, so we kind of gave up. So the drinks after the meeting are our primary chance to socialise and gossip. It was good fun.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


And now a little British politics to confuse those who don’t live here, and likely raise the blood pressure of those who do.

David Cameron, the current leader of the conservative party (for those unfamiliar with the parliamentary system, the leader of the party is chosen from elected MPs (similar to congressmen), the party with the most seats in parliament forms the government, and that leader becomes prime minister), has caused a bit of a ruckus. He has denounced the Grammar school system, and declared no conservative government would ever support re-introducing them. His party is in an uproar, as many hanker after the old grammar schools.

Now, and introduction to class warfare British style. Up until the 70’s there was a two tier state school system at the senior (high school) level. There were Grammar schools which where academically selective, and the second tier which was a more prosaic often technical system. Grammar schools where entered by scoring well on a series of tests at the age of 11. Once in, children stayed in, and where given an excellent academic education. There was meant to be no discrimination other than on achievement in the tests.

Society was rather torn on Grammar schools, as middle class children tended to form a higher proportion of the intake. Though it was not meant to discriminate on background, it looked like it did. The fact that many children from working class backgrounds used the Grammar system as a real leg up in life, kind of didn’t matter.

In the seventies, a Labour Government (the Labour party traditionally has been very left wing, often radically so (the current Labour government under Tony Blair is actually quite middle ground, often even conservative in its policies (but that’s a whole other story))) abolished the Grammar system. It levelled the school system and did not allow academic selection to continue. If you lived in a certain area, your children went to the local school.

The problem is, rather than bringing the whole system up to the level of the Grammar school in terms of educational quality, it being a human system, achievement rather dropped to the least common denominator. It has remained a divisive issue ever since. Selection on results has become a political “rude word”. It can’t be spoken, because its deemed that selection would benefit the middle classes rather than society as a whole.

A nonsense of course, but all part of the still evident class system in Britain. There are any number of studies which show that the children of bright parents (by bright I’m using a narrow measure of intelligence around an ability for logic, learning, and problem solving) tend to be bright. Again, lots of studies showing the professional people tend to be more intelligent.

That doesn’t mean less intelligent parents can’t produce geniuses and bright parents can’t produce morons. Genetics isn’t like that, there is an element of dice rolling. Still, the law of averages applies. Professional Middle Class parents will tend to produce bright children.

So, what the abolishment of Grammar schools has done has actually widened the divide. Precocious young things from poor backgrounds now don’t have a means into a good education. It depends on how good the local school is. The middle classes have put a finger up to Government and put their children into private schools. These are doubly selective, first on parental income, then on academic results. I have to admit a bias here, all three of my kids are in two schools which rank in the top twenty of the country (by national test results). They’ve had to pass various tests to get in, and I will pay through the nose to keep them there (they also have to continue to pass tests to stay there too).

Its not right, it re-enforces the class divides rather than reducing them. I really don’t know what Cameron thinks he’s going to achieve. Its also rather hypocritical as he went to Eton (one of the old private schools), and is sending his own children to the same. Yet clearly he thinks this is a point that will make the conservatives electable. Heaven knows why. I just don’t get why selection is a dirty word/

In Canada, which does have a single tier school system, you do have specialist schools which kids get into by results. These might be separate to the main schools, or a part of, but they’re there. No one thinks twice about it. Of course you give bright kids a different education, just like you give musically talented ones specialist teaching, or sporty ones or or or. Its one of those things about Britain, a place I mostly love, that I just don’t get.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Niceness and Weekends

A very nice weekend that. Nothing spectacular, time with the kids, puttering about in the garden, friends over for lunch, just… nice. It certainly doesn’t hurt that I’m starting to seriously distress. Nothing like resigning to not care about work so much. That too will queue up again in the new job, I’m sure. For now though some months of gradual slow down.

That has its downsides too. I won’t be quite so in the thick of things, my opinion will be sought out less, I’ll be asked to fewer meetings. That would be ego damaging normally, but for now, it will just be.

Back to the weekend. Pirate Pete was in a school swimming gala last week. He only did OK, and didn’t really want to talk about it. I didn’t push it much, turned it around to talk about how he swam (he has this tendency to lift his head to check out how he’s doing, not a good thing). In his swimming class he attacked the lessons with a bit more vigour than usual. Because swimming was one of my sports I find myself wanting him to do well, to be turned on by it. Must be careful about that, he has to choose his own sports.

The afternoon was pretty chilled. There where the usual odd jobs (a bit of guttering to be fixed), holes to dig (LL went shopping last week (where many women are turned on by a fine pair of Jimmi Choos, my LL’s head turns for a fine specimen of peonie (she’s dangerous to let into a garden centre unsupervised))), footballs to kick. Dinner was simple, some grilled Mackerel and a fresh loaf of bread.

Sunday we had some old friends over for lunch. LL’s known them since her early twenties. They only live a stone’s throw away, and are amongst our closest friends. Doesn’t hurt that the kids get along really well. He’s an odd sort, very conservative, but a strict vegetarian. He’s also a fussy vegetarian, doesn’t like tomatoes and has made it very clear that lentils really aren’t appreciated (says that its always pulled out when he goes to visit).

I have taken him on as a personal challenge, and put the boat out to find food he’ll like. Ninety percent of the time I’m successful, and mostly hit the target this time. Steamed carrots, new potatoes in butter with lots of chives, Spanticopica (a Greek pastry filled with spinach and feta (really easy to make if you can find pre-made filo pastry (which is very time consuming to make by hand, easy, but time consuming (I buy it))), Rhubarb crumble with ice cream. For the rest of us I did some marinated tuna steaks grilled quickly on the BBQ. All that went down really well. What I thought was the bees knees though, only went down so so. Fresh Asparagus and Hollandaise sauce. The later has this reputation of being a nightmare to prepare, but once you’ve got it down, it’s a snip to make, only takes about 15 minutes start to finish. I love asparagus and hollandaise, it ranks up there in my top 50 favourite dishes.

He ate the asparagus but left the hollandaise in a puddle on the side of his plate. There is no pleasing some people!

I think he does it to keep me pushing the boat out for the next time they visit…

Friday, May 18, 2007

Politics of Resignation

Yesterday my boss finally went public and announced my resignation. This was a bit of an unusual thing to do, resignations normally go fairly unmarked. New appointments are made without reference to the person leaving. Yet this has been, and will continue to be an unusual ride. We bashed back and forth a number of versions of a communication to get it right.

You see, sometimes resignations mean nothing, sometimes they mean a whole lot. In my case, it’s a bit of a tough one for him. No one will want me to go. Indeed, since the announcement went out I’ve had three people come by and personally ask if I would stay. For my boss, he went to great pains to make sure it was clear I was the one resigning, that he had absolutely nothing to do with it. Also, that he had it firmly in control and everything was fine, really.

Curiously he wants me to stay around as long as possible. Sometimes that’s the right thing to do, sometimes not. I think he’s making a mistake, better to get me out so that he really can be in charge, but I’m sure his thinking is keep me there so he’s got a convenient scapegoat if anything goes wrong. It won’t work that way, of course, but I’m guessing that’s his thinking.

So now its public. The inevitable changes will happen. Authority will drift from my fingers, my managers will start the dance to see who replaces me, or to take what advancement they can in my leaving. I’m not saying that to denigrate them in any way, its just human nature. In leaving I create a vacuum, and human society can not bear a vacuum in its social hierarchies.

My email inbox will begin a decline from 2-300 a day to not very much (something I’m really REALLY looking forward to). My calendar, normally packed out from 9am to 6pm, will start to have gaps, and eventually be empty. People who would normally stop by my office or grab me in the hallway will stop doing that.

You know what? I’m looking forward to it. The next job will busy me up soon enough. For now, its time to slow down a little, leave the office a bit earlier, maybe even see the kids before they go to sleep. Perhaps I’ll even get to stop and have a proper lunch once in a while.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

All change please, all change

My blog is known to my employer, though I don’t think its regularly read. A bit too domestic to be interesting. Plus, its only known to a few key colleagues I discussed it with to make sure I wasn’t going to be treading on any toes. Its meant I’ve had to be a bit more circumspect than I would have liked, as I was under a firm agreement to keep it as anonymous as pos.

So, that’s meant I haven’t blogged about some things I would have really enjoyed blogging about. Today that changes, at least a bit. You see, I’m about to go in and resign. For the past three months I’ve gone through a grinder about a new job. A rather nice new job, one I’m really excited about. It’s a step up to a global board position, something I’ve been working towards for a while. I’ve literally met everyone and their dog at the new place, and the negotiations at this level take a bit of time. Still, its done, I have the requisite pieces of paper in my hand, and off I go in to talk to the boss.

Its going to cause a bit of chaos. I’ve been in deep talks here about what the next role is, plus have a number of key projects under my wing. Plus, there was about to be a major reshuffle, part of why I’m getting a changed role. How long they keep me is going to be an “interesting” negotiation. It going to be a tough conversation with my managers as well. I’ve been spending a lot of time with them lately sorting out roles and goals. I’ve been doing that trying to prep things for my not being here, they’ll not necessarily see it that way.

Part of me is very reluctant to leave. My last big project is one that I am easily most proud of in my career. It was a tough old slog, but delivered something very shiny and new. Perhaps not earth shattering, or culture changing, but well received and a joy to behold (well, for me anyway). Still, My job here was changing, not by my choice, so I’m not that uncomfortable to be leaving.

I’m particularly not looking forward to the next few days. There’s going to be some bruised feelings, tough negotiations, and the minute it becomes public, I become lame. If I’m honest I quite like status and power. Its not the primary driver for me personally, that’s much more complex, but it’s a pleasant by-product. The minute I resign, all that changes, well, for the moment. Though it does mean my inbox will start to decrease to more manageable levels (which is a good thing).

So, off I go, and will keep you more openly posted now on the goings on. It will be an interesting case study in and of itself.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Millennium Lemonflan

Pirate Pete is officially eight years old. We had a party of his choosing yesterday. I went in with the boys, and they had a ball of a time. It’s a pretty well behaved bunch, no, make that very well behaved. So, despite young adrenalin rushing madly, and the prospect of running about shooting each other, they had fun. It was well organised, and there were teenage proctors earning their first dosh to supervise.

I had fun too. Not often you get a completely guilt free to run about madly shooting your frustrations away. Perhaps just a little tiny window into the minds of those at Virginia and Columbine. Mind you, in this scenario, the sprogs are armed too. I got shot as good as I shot, some of them where down right sneaky about it too.

For afters, we had originally planned to have a picnic out on the fields, and let them kick some balls around a bit. The weather did not quite permit that, so it was a quick replan to have lunch at the local hamburger joint of choice. Not that the kids minded in the least, a burger and chips is a perfectly fine birthday treat when you’re eight (and you’re an upper middle class sprog who’s parents generally don’t do that sort of thing, so it really is a treat (as an aside I did a quick tally up of the combined parental income of the kids munching down, and we’re into pretty obscene figures)).

To finish off the fast food fest though, out came the cake. Now LL generally isn’t in to cooking, she enjoys it, but its more of a chore than a pleasure for her. The one thing she insists on though, is doing proper birthday cakes. She claims it was she was deprived as a girl, her birthday was often missed being mid summer and all. So, she just doesn’t do cakes, she does creations. Done to order, we’ve had multiple dinosaurs, a pirate ship, a racing motorcycle, a rocket ship, you name it she’ll give it a go. Given the current Star Wars craze in our household, this year was perhaps inevitable, the Millennium Falcon. Done up in lemon sponge (she does a super historic lemon sponge, my LL), stuffed with whipped cream and strawberry jam, iced in grey with appropriate sweety weapons of mass destruction; it was a work of art. It was rather good to eat too. One whippit thin boy had three portions; he probably lives on organic lentils and wild salmon at home.

That took all of half an hour, and we still had a half hour to fill. Thankfully, the other household craze is a card game which shall remain nameless. Though I can’t quite bring myself to live up to the Jones and give out party bags, I do condescend to a lucky dip bag, this year filled with variations of said card game. Thankfully all the boys where into it, so once the prezzies got distributed games where played with some intensity and everyone was happy. All in all a fine birthday, and we had a very happy and contented Pirate Pete afterwards.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


There was a report yesterday that linked food additives to childhood attention disorders, hyperactivity and aggression.

No shit.

Any parent with an ounce of sense knows that certain foods, even in small quantities will send their kids off on one. Happened to us at the weekend. Pirate Pete went to a party, came home with a bag of sweets, and we reluctantly let him share them with his siblings. Mistake, big big mistake. The rest of the afternoon they were close to uncontrollable, rushing about, shouting, not paying attention, playing aggressive games, there was a lot of tears.

You might say, well that’s what kids do. To a certain extent, that’s true. Yet I know my kids, the vast majority of the time they play brilliantly together, usually (ok, some of the time) do what they’re asked, and are happy. They literally have one sweet each, a sweet with lots of pretty colours and no flavours that grew out of the ground, and they’re transformed.

Why don’t people get this? You can prove it to yourself easily enough, just feed them good stuff for a few days, no prepared foods, no sweets, and see the difference. Its to your own benefit. Kids do not have a human right to sweets and artificial foods. It is not really good for them, it does not even make them happy. Why is this hard to understand?

Yet go out on the street, actually look around, and count the number of overweight kids to lean ones. I’ve done this a bit recently and my unscientific method has pretty consistently shown just less than half the kids I see being overweight. The thing is, its pretty easy to keep kids lean. They quite naturally, of their own accord, run around. Given half a chance, they run around a lot of the time. This isn’t hard.

You don’t even really have to restrict the quantities they eat, you just have to restrict WHAT they eat. I’ll let a little parental pride slip today. Ours are good eaters, the kitchen needs restocked twice a week. They have pretty unrestricted access to fruit, and happily munch their days through it. Breakfast is as much whole wheat cereals with dried, fresh or stewed fruits (we usually have a bowl of stewed apple or rhubarb or some such in the fridge, it gets frozen in season and brought out through the year). I make my own bread for toast, and they can have that with marmite, marmalade made down in the shop or honey. They aren’t forced to clear their plates at meals, but they have to try everything to get pudding. However, they’re allowed to not like some things (Pirate Pete doesn’t like peppers or mushrooms, Ali Baba doesn’t like pate and isn’t fond or courgette).

Believe me, they eat a lot. Take Monday night. I got some nice Hereford Rib Eye steaks from the butcher (locally sourced, the farmer’s just down the road), corn on the cob, Swiss Chard from the garden and a big pot of mushrooms stewed with a touch of wine. Pirate Pete ate a whole steak (adult sized), a whole cob of corn, a pile of Chard, and even braved one mushroom to confirm he still didn’t like them. For pud he had three helpings of Rhubarb Crumble with Ice Cream. It would have stuffed an adult, but he just burped contentedly and asked for a glass of milk.

Thing is, he’s as thin as a whippet, and really is a marvellous boy. The ears turn off occasionally, and he needs nagged to practice his sax, but I wouldn’t change him. He’s active, he’s happy, he eats loads, and he’s healthy. It isn’t hard. What we do do, is deprive the poor boy of sweets, and they only get an hour a day absolute maximum on the TV or computer (often less). We know, and check occasionally, that more of any of those things effect his mood and stop him running about as much. Its only a little discipline.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Waskally Wabbits

A banal divergence today. We have a relatively pest free garden, and work very hard to keep it that way. Moles are dispatched with immediate prejudice, deer are kept out by an eight foot wire fence hidden in the hedges, rats trapped and tipped into the bin the few times they make an appearance.

A few pests we welcome, a family of badgers for a while made regular night time visits to the compost heap. They were welcome and did no harm, indeed I think they helped churn up the compost admirably. However, they stopped coming, so the fence was mended. We have regular visits of foxes who are clever enough to get past the various pest security. They’re tolerated to as they help keep the rats and mice in check, and offer their own helping hand (or snout) with the compost (anything that helps me avoid the bi-annual turning of the compost is a good thing).

The one pest that causes the most grief are rabbits. We’re overrun with them our way. A number of neighbours don’t even put up a fight, and there are warrens all over the place. Cute they may be, but they can cause absolute havoc in a well stocked garden like ours. I like our garden, no… I love our garden. It is a place of great peace, relaxation and fun for me. Something I never expected as a youth, to be so loving and protective of a plant filled space.

So, our land has special wire netting dug in two feet into the ground. All our gates have a hard surface beneath them to also deter burrowing. All this is regularly patrolled and repaired. It should be impossible for them to get in.

Yet they do.

Every couple of years we’ve had intruders. We always try benign traps, but they never work, so usually a man, his gun and his dog are called in. Very efficient is Mick. This spring yet another pair managed to sneak their way in. So far they’ve done remarkably little damage, but they upped the anti when they nibbled my broad beans. Mick has been called, but can’t come for another week. So, we tried moving the traps, changing the tempting feed inside.

Yesterday, success! I got a call from Super Nanny to proudly say one had been trapped and she’d shipped it into the woods beyond the fence. When I got home I got the whole story, as well as a ruined trap from a slightly shame faced nanny. She’d never dealt with the trap before, so finding a way to open it when there is a hissing bouncing bunny inside the cage meant she had to break it.

I don’t mind in the least. One less rabbit, and the cage is repairable. It is now redeployed with another carrot. Fingers are crossed.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Relationships are odd things. Its often the little aggravations that spill over into open angst. I got a very mild hip check last night, one done with a smile and a laugh, but its kept spinning in my own mind.

“Darling, what do I have to do to get you to put the toilet cover down, you never do it.”

Funny, its clearly got to her, but the thing is, I almost always put it down. For some reason, that night, I’d got distracted and left the cover up. Mind you, we’re talking the cover, not the seat. I grew up in a house of women, with three older sisters. It wasn’t worth my life to ever, ever leave the toilet seat up. Dribbling on the side or the floor? It would have meant immediate execution. In matters toilet I was very well house trained. I even make sure to scrub those annoying streaks if any occur.

Still, I have noticed my wife likes the toilet cover also put down. So I do try, and put it down 9 times for the one I get absent minded and leave it up. I’m left wondering if I should turn this around, talk about the use of praise vs. castigation. Answer her question with a comment on how a small thank you for the nine times I change as she would like would be 90 times more effective than rebuke for the one time I did not.

The thing is, how do I do that and practice what I’d be preaching? How do I get a point across so that it is not a criticism that is the exact opposite of what I’m trying to say? A conundrum indeed, all on something small, but that is indeed something large.

Relationships are odd things.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Jilted Brides

I haven’t done a business case in a while. My employers do know about my blog and at the beginning I had to agree to ensure nothing identifiable was used. A lot of what I’m doing at the moment would point straight to me, so I’ve had to keep mum. Still, one interesting development on something I’ve talked about before, so a divergence today.

I’ve spoken before about the sale of a certain subsidiary. The story has been long and convoluted since then. The sale has been managed in an interesting fashion by the chappy in charge, and one of the other key stakeholders in the company (my peter principle proof) has regretfully departed the company (ehaaa!). All of these contributed to a sorry state of affairs.

The supposed buyer of the subsidiary strung us along for months, first asking for this detail, then that change, then this extra little bit of money. Our CFO, desperate for the sale, kept agreeing. Then, a little while ago, just at the point the stock markets went all jumpy, the buyer pulled out. A little detail of having to raise money by issuing stock got in the way. Their stock price had a little fall and they couldn’t raise the money.

These things happen, and if we’d managed the more effeciently, it would have been closed back in the autumn. Instead it stretched on and on and the buyer was left a way out.

This wasn’t necessarily bad news. In buying the business, they would have been buying a certain rather rich contract with ourselves. If their future was so uncertain as to provide as rocky a stock price as they had, all was probably not well.

The thing is, now what do we do? Corporate sales are rather like medieval weddings. Jilted brides are somehow “tainted”, however unfairly. A suspicion lingers that if one bridegroom ran away, there must be something wrong with the bride. We were selling the company because we felt it wasn’t a strategic fit with our core business, and that we as a senior team didn’t have the right skills to manage it correctly (not far off, having me as the sole skill set in the company with the right knowledge leaves a single point of failure, and leaves the other execs in uncertain waters when making decisions).

So, options are limited:
What would you do? Remember, in all this there is the staff to keep in mind, not just the business risk to the parent.