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


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...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Examining exams

So, number one son just finished his end of year exams. He is quite put out that his latin exam was below par. Not a failure by any means, but below the class average. I can't say I'm really that bothered. He got fabulous results in both maths and science, so I am finding it hard to get exercised about Latin.

LL is bothered though, feels we let him down by not adequately testing his revisions. Though I do understand her viewpoint, I do, I don't agree. He's getting of an age where he must be willing to study himself... or not. He then bears the results of his efforts.

To be fair, his result was a bit bellow where he needs it for his common entrance exams next year. The perversity of the independent sector is that at 13, boys and girls sit a set of exams that the state sector doesn't sit until GCSE's a couple years later. Then requires a base line result that is well above the national average. Such is the life of some teenagers. So, it will mean a bit more hard work, and I will have to sit down with him to see if he does understand this. That its hard work required, not him "being rubbish at Latin" and therefor never able to do it.

But I'm still not that bothered. Yes, a latin scholar would be fun to have in the family, but he got the second highest science score in the school, and to me that is much much more important and worth celebrating. Being rubbish at latin is no bad thing.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Physical Sunshine

Our garden is a bit of a birds paradise. We have owls, swallows, woodpeckers (two different species), pigeons, doves, blackbirds, crows, a cock pheasant who acts as if he owns the place, finches and tits of every type and description and quite a few transients I occasionally fail to recognise. Generally, this is a good thing.

Except... for growing berries. We have a running war going on with the pigeons and blackbirds over the various berries we grow (of which we grow many). I've tried different types of netting, scarecrows, CDs hung and draped about, acoustic scarers, you name it. I have even occasionally dropped to new lows and got the rifle out. At best we split the balance 50:50.

Usually I just grind my teeth and bare it, but this year is worse. My god, the strawberries... With all this sunshine they are just sunshine in your mouth. Small orgasmlets of pleasure shivering through your body as they literally melt in your mouth. Pure soft flavour, rounded and sweet. I begrudge every single one a bird gets that I or my family don't.

I may have to resort to bird traps...

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Hopefullness denied

So, over the past six months I've interviewed for a number of jobs. Previously in my life, pretty well any job I interviewed for, I got an offer, some of which I turned down. A couple of exceptions, but... I wash up nice, and people tend to like me. Recently though, my shine appears to have dimmed. There was one job I really wasn't keen on, and it must have come through in my style, as I got feedback that I appeared distant and cool. Three others though, I walked out of the interview thinking it had gone really well, that I'd connected with the other person, and the conversation had been good.

On one I was told I hadn't asked many questions, so clearly wasn't interested. On another that I was too nice, and the organisation was a bit hardnosed so I likely wouldn't be a good fit. On the third I had feedback that I was great, intelligent, interesting, but missing that bit of experience they were really looking for. WTF? Its been a real blow to my self esteem.

Logically I tell myself that I hadn't prepared enough, or been engaging enough, and (to be honest with myself) I really hadn't asked many questions in the first. Still, to be rejected time and time again is not a pleasant experience. It has made me very sympathetic to all those new university grads who interview and interview and interview and just can't get a job. It hurts.

So... today I had the final round with the chairman for a job I really... really want. Great company, really interesting people, good remit to make some waves. I think it went well, but then I often has. He ended it saying that he had a good feeling about our meeting and about me, but he had other people to interview and would be in touch.

I am sitting here trying not to get too hopeful, that the market is tough, and competition for senior jobs tougher. I'll be up against extremely well qualified and articulate individuals. I am trying very hard not to be hopeful, to take it on the chin as another life learning if the news goes against me. That I will just walk on and not be crushed by another rejection.

Which I will of course, as that is what you have to do.

But... if you think well of me, say a prayer, blow a kiss, think positive thoughts, anything you can think of... Cause I ... really ... want this job, and those others, I kind of didn't.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Oh to be young again...

So, a couple weeks ago I had some visitors from Canada. The son of a close old friend and two of his mate. All 19, and all wide eyed about seeing a bit of the world. What I absolutely loved, and was completely horrified by, was the fact they had no plans. None. Not a clue what they wanted to do or see.

I'd exchanged a few emails in advance, and though they'd spend a night or two with us before heading off elsewhere. I knew the day they were flying in, but not even the airport. That day arrived... nothing. No call, no emails... I contacted the boy's dad, who said that they had indeed got on the flight, and he was pretty sure they were flying into Manchester (cheap flights from Vancouver, see).

Next day I finally get an email. "We're here, decided to head up to Edinbourgh. Still OK if we visit?" I replied that it would, and inquired of their plans. Got back a couple vague responses, scratched my forehead, and let it be. A few days later I finally get a phone call. "We're coming down to London today, though we might stop in York. Still OK if we stay?" I told them to call when they were close, and we'd meet at Waterloo station, under the clock.

We finally met the following day...

I found three gangly young men, two with overly large packs, one a bit more sensible. We got them home, and on the way I found out that they were hoping if they could stay a week. It made me laugh, but it was fine.

In the end, a week is what they did indeed stay. We did a bit of ferrying them about, but other than lots of advice on what to see, mostly left them to their own devices. I think they quite liked our place. We're properly 'int country' and they were all outdoorsy types. They did a lot of long hike to see what they could see, as well as trips to London, Bath, Oxford and anything else they could get to with mares shank and trains. Our kids were well played with, and my kids still miss them. One was a professional musician (in training) and I don't think our piano was ever so well played.

So, all in all it was a great visit. But I still couldn't help but feel more than a little nostagia for that part of life when you could just show up at the house of a friend, see what you could see with absolutely no plans, then eventually move on. That is how youth should be...

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

A Curious Argument

LL and I have had a rather sad and bizarre argument. This is the result of us both having unintentional time off work (read, being bloomin sacked, not of our choice).

When LL was made "redundant" (lord I hate that word, in Canada we called it being "laid off", which is only slightly better), we were in the midst of building our extention. So, when she found herself at home, it was with a house full of builders. As we were doing work in the existing part of the house, as well as the new extention, there was, litereally, no escape. This had all finished by the time I was let go, so I had much of the day rattling around in a very nicely new and larger, but completely empty house.

Though we're probably both somewhat right, we each contend the other had the easier time. Me, by the fact that she had no choice but to get up and interact with other human beings, her, that I had the time and space to sort myself out.

As much as I would generally call myself a bit of a loner, I found it very hard to be alone so much. I am naturally shy, and avoid large noisy gatherings of people like the plague. Yet, I also understand myself enough to know that I need to be around other people. Even if I sit there quietly lost in my own mind, I like having others about. I'm naturally affectionate, the monkey in me, and need physical contact like I need air. So being totally alone, especially when fighting depression, was... not nice. The destructive thoughts would spiral, going from bad to worse.

For LL, she fekt she had NO time to herself. No space to properly think things though. No 'me' time. Yes, it forced her to get up and interact, but all she wanted to do was the opposite.

Like I said, I think there's truth in both positions. I think it was good she didn't have too much time alone, I think it could have been very self destructive. Yet, I entirely get the fact it meant she had no space to heal, and it meant dragging out the pain. I'm not entirely sure LL got my side of the argument. A lot of her anger that led to my sharp kick to the ass was down to her feeling I was being self indulgent and lazy, leaving all the work to her.

Quite painfully, there is a grain of truth in that, but it also denegrates the very real pain I was going through, so its been difficult lately. We're getting there, as we always do, It helps, a lot, that we're both gainfully employed again, and that the kids are blissfully happy in their own lives.