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Friday, December 31, 2004

2004

Thanks for reading

It's all insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it's my life

Happy New Year




Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Christmas Digest*

We arrived back in Taunton today after a Mancunian Yuletide week which was thoroughly enjoyable, relaxing and chilled. Well, apart from the last minute "folly dash" round the Trafford Centre to get presents for the out-laws. This was deliberate - I knew that I wouldn’t be able to carry everything on the plane, so decided to buy their presents up there. Luckily, it was a successful trip and I managed to get everything I wanted in a few choice shops without sustaining any physical or mental injury. Apart from having to wait ages for the bus, of course. Not being in possession of any cigarettes to speed up the its arrival (smokers will know what I’m saying here), I finally decided to send a text message to the bus (via the BF – he’s used to receiving nonsense messages from me) along the lines of "Dear bus, please come immediately so that I might board you and be transported in a homeward direction, love Witho". Sure enough, just as the backlight faded from the screen of my mobile, the bus rumbled into view.

My traditional pre-Christmas cold dragged into a second week, but kept its "pre" promise and was, thankfully, gone by Christmas day. I decided I would go for a run as soon as it had departed the "shores" of my nasal passages, but due to the "late doors" white Christmas to which we were treated (an inch came down in the evening of the 25th), the streets were treacherously slippery on Boxing Day and, even with proper walking boots on, I was unsteady whilst walking tentatively on the icy pavements and decided that running, particularly for an oaf such as myself, would have been foolish to say the least.

I won’t bore you with the details of my Christmas hoard – the highlight (apart from the Blackhorse Road t-shirt of course) was the iPod mini which Santa BF was kind enough to bestow upon my good self. The BF is very good at buying things that I want, but would never buy for myself. The last example was the digital camera he got for my birthday. He is also extremely good at *not* being able to keep a secret. I knew about the iPod *weeks* ago, but haven’t used it or mentioned it until now, for reasons even I am unsure of.

I’m not going to gush about the Pod on here – it’s been done to death around blogland and besides, I haven’t fully discovered its gushability (or otherwise) yet. However, I think I may be able to bring a different perspective to the argument, as I am not a digital music player virgin. My trusty flash memory style MP3 player (which the BF will inherit) has accompanied me on many miles of running for nearly 2 years, so I’ll be able to see how the iPod compares. I know, for example, that the Pod is not guaranteed to be jog-proof for more than 25 minutes because it has a hard disk (and thus, moving parts). Thinking about my style of running makes me wonder whether or not it is "plod proof"...

The out-laws were as entertaining as ever, BF’s mum and her sister being not unlike a Laurel and Hardy double act, with BF’s mum’s friend, F, providing the voice of reason during some of the more heated debates.

BF and I were spoilt with the wholesome, homely cooking, plus he got to see United twice at the "Theatre of Dreams" so that should shut him up for, literally, minutes. Possibly. Talking of theatres, we went to see a play at the Royal Exchange Theatre whilst we were there.

This evening, I finally broke my running "fast", having not run for over 2 weeks (what with the cold (virus) and the cold (snow)). I had intended doing a shorter distance than what has become my "usual" 4 miles, but the 3 mile group had been "promoted" into the 4 mile group – the other option was 2.5 miles but I felt that was too much of a backward step, so I stuck out the 4 miles and made it in one piece. I needed that...

Hmmm, I'll shut up now




*I probably *am* still digesting the food, so quite an appropriate term to use, I thought.



Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Seen today at Woolworth's


Wh-wh-wha? Posted by Hello


Friday, December 24, 2004


 Posted by Hello


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Planes, trains and automobiles

Now that I’ve got over the excitement of my Blackhorse Road t-shirt, it’s time to get psyched up all over again for Christmas Part Two which will be spent in Manchester with the out-laws (like in-laws, but not legally binding). I’m currently at Bristol International Airport, although I won’t be taking advantage of the “international” feature today, only its Bristol-ness and airport-ability.

With flights at comparable prices to trains (the outward flight cost £29 including taxes, the return £44), I thought I’d give it a go. The trouble with me and flights is that I’m a worrier.

I worry that whatever form of transport is getting me to the airport (in this case, a train and a coach) may be delayed and I’ll miss the check-in. So I compensate by arriving horrendously early and negate any time benefit of travelling by plane. My plane is at 1430. I got to the airport just before noon. Over two hours to kill. But armed with my Vaio (c’mon, you didn’t expect me to go 8 days without as much as a peek at a blog did you?), a pair of earphones and the music files on my hard drive, I imagine I can find something to occupy my mind…

I remember Christmas 1993 as one of the occasions where my fears of getting to the airport on time were realised. It was the 22nd December and I was travelling from Lyon to London. My flight was at around 8am – I was ready to leave the college “internat” (where I was lodging) at 5am and made my way to the airport bus stop outside the “Mairie du 8ème arondissement”, a short walk away. The buses were frequent, one every 15 minutes, so I’d left myself plenty of time.

What this plan hinged upon was that the airport bus would stop at (or even go past) the Mairie du 8ème, like it did when I arrived in Lyon for the first time in September of that year. Failing that, it relied on there being some indication at the bus stop that this would not be the case, so that passengers could make alternative arrangements. As it turned at (and as, no doubt, you’ve probably guessed), this was not the case.

I waited and waited in the cold and dark. Other luggage-bearers (also clearly waiting for the airport bus) waited with me. As the time wore on, in which time several buses should have been and gone, we concluded that perhaps waiting outside the Mairie du 8ème was not yielding the desired result and decided on a course of action. We would take the next 39 bus and get off at Avenue Mermoz/Boulevard Pinel where we were pretty sure the airport bus would stop. On this occasion, we were right, and were soon on a bus to the airport. But, having lost so much time waiting, we finally arrived at check-in 10 minutes before the flight would depart. In the Witho world (i.e. one where punctuality is almost sickeningly guaranteed), this was decidedly “non-standard” and my nerves were in tatters...

It turns out that “the powers that be” had decided to change the route of the airport bus, so that it bypassed the Mairie and stopped at Grange Blanche métro station instead. What these same powers had neglected to do was to actually warn people – a sign at the bus stop might have been handy, for example.

I caught my plane, but due to my late check-in, missed out on breakfast. But when breakfast consists of a teeny weeny croissant that the human eye cannot see unaided, bitter disappointment is somewhat easy to contain...


Sunday, December 19, 2004

Childhood mammaries


Posted by Hello

One t-shirt. Myriad memories.

Blackhorse Road - tube station of my youth. Those of you who know exactly where I was brought up (i.e. no-one who reads this) will know that, as the crow flies, this station was not the closest to our home. Walthamstow Central had this dubious pleasure. The problem was, the crow (where "crow" = "any useful buses") did not "fly" from anywhere near our home to Walthamstow Central.

However, all was not lost. The marvellous, magical 123 bus, departing from the very end of our road, would dispatch us outside the entrance of Blackhorse Road station, the penultimate station on the Northbound Victoria Line and the oft-used terminus of many a Witho family tube journey. The same 123 bus, I might add, which allowed my sisters and I to wile away many a Saturday afternoon, shopping at either Wood Green "Shopping City" (one of the early shopping malls - I imagine it is now a decrepit shadow of its former self) at one end of the line or Ilford at the other. Sometimes, just sometimes, Walthamstow Market just couldn't come up with the goods. Oh, it was fine if you wanted to pick up some cauliflower leaves for the guinea pigs from the vegetable stallholders (who would have only thrown them away otherwise). It was great if you could be bothered to work your way through the crowds down the mile long High Street looking for bargains. But sometimes we sisters needed the shelter of the shiny shops...

When my sister bought me the above t-shirt as a Christmas present, she *knew* that it was the right one. Walthamstow Central would have been too obvious. Blackhorse Road is more enigmatic.

My abiding memory of the station was alighting from the 123 and entering the station via the Forest Road entrance, which required a walk up some stairs and along a corridor to the booking hall. As a child, I would look up at that staircase and think "Wow, that's a long way up!" I later discovered that it had no more than about 5 steps. There was a time when I was small, y'know!

It's not only the station itself, but the font, the shape, the symbol of London Transport which reminds me of home and my happy childhood. When I spent time abroad in my twenties, I always knew I was home when I started to see the car number plates with the oversized lettering (when compared with the French digits) and the bus stops with that symbol on them. In fact, I made sure when I went to France that I took my London tube map poster with me and put it up on the wall. The familiar shapes and colours meant I had my connection with home.

Thanks sis'! Good choice, you know me so well...


Friday, December 17, 2004

I'm dreaming of a "Witho" Christmas


It's my last afternoon of work before the Christmas holidays. Due to the terrible feelings of jealously I suffer as a result of living with a teacher, I have elected to take as many days of holiday as he has. Well, almost - his last day was Wednesday.

The good thing about temping is: if I don't work, I don't get paid, so I can take time off and no-one can really bat an eyelid.

However, the bad thing about temping is: if I don't work, I don't get paid.

The good thing about temping after a period of unemployment, when you used to get private medical insurance as part of your package and your tax code was set up based upon that fact is that, when the Inland Revenue finally get their arses in gear, you get a nice tax rebate in your pay just before Christmas!

The bad thing about temping after a period of unemployment [... blah blah blah...] is, erm... oh something or other...

So, tonight, my mission (should I choose to accept it) will be to wrap all of the presents for the Withos because this weekend is *drum roll* "The Witho Christmas"!

Before you all come running up to me brandishing calendars and screeching "Wait, Witho, you're a week early" - it's okay, I know. We Withos will be spending "real" Christmas with our "in-laws", so the gathering of the Withos (a.k.a. "Hulkers Unite") will take place exactly one week early.

BF, however, will not be attending this prestigious affair. Firstly, tomorrow is his mum's birthday. Secondly, he has managed to secure tickets for Old Trafford for tomorrow evening's match. Thirdly, he will be indulging in a gathering of school chums for their annual Manchester-based ceremony of schoolboyishness. So, as I speak, he is aloft in one of these new fangled aeroplanes (have you noticed how "airplane" is becoming more and more common nowadays in UK English?), winging his way up the Western flange of this isle of ours to his homeland. I shall be making the same journey myself, some 4 days hence.



Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Interview issues

In early 1998, I went for my second interview with [insert company name] for their IT department's Graduate Development Programme. I had already passed the assessment day where we did a series of aptitute tests and team games.

I didn't know Southampton very well, and found myself in the car park of a retail development, just to the rear of [insert company name]'s imposing building. It was a drizzly day and I hadn't brought an umbrella or raincoat. I was wearing a pinstripe trouser suit. (I think someone we know might even have that jacket now... )

As I opened my car door to commence the walk up the steps at the side of the building to the front, the heavens opened. It absolutely hammered down. In the time it took me to make that short walk, I was soaked to the skin to the extent that my clothes felt uncomfortably heavy. Luckily, being stiflingly reliable (as I was then), I had arrived with plenty of time to spare, so I entered the building and asked at reception if I could use the toilets. There was a warm air hand-dryer, of which I availed myself to dry my sopping hair. But there wasn't a great deal I could do about my clothes. I just had to sit there in the interview and hope that they didn't notice, whilst I shivered away in my soaking garments. A wet patch on the chair might have given the wrong impression...

I never found out if they did notice, but it didn't seem to matter. I got the job.

I've had a number of interviews recently where I've turned up bone dry and have been consistently rejected.

So, I'm thinking that turning up to an interview with an "issue", might be the way forward - for me, at least.

Yesterday's "issue" was (forgive me for the frank portrayal, but there aren't many ways of putting this) a headful of snot. Yes, my annual pre-Christmas cold arrived on Monday, heralded by my waking up with a sore throat and struggling through the day with an increasing amount of liquid exuding from my nostrils. By Tuesday, the liquid was... well, less liquid and seemed to be filling my whole head and clouding my already addled brain. Addled, that is, by the fact that:
  1. I had to go and pick up a hire car after not having driven for over 3 months
  2. I had to go to an interview at 4.30pm, leaving plenty of time during both the morning and afternoon to work myself up into a veritable fricassée of nerves with a healthy drizzle of worry on top

So, not the ideal circumstances for an interview. However, it was the best interview I've had in a long time. Rather than a box-ticking affair (Does candidate mention the following buzzwords: "proactive", "comfort zone", "window of opportunity"? Has candidate used Shite-cro-soft Access regardless of the fact that they've been developing databases for nearly 6 years?), it was a conversation. She asked me how I'd got where I was today and I just told her my story. Okay, I left out the bit about "I want to do something worthwhile, in the not-for-profit sector"... but hey... I didn't struggle with any questions, my mind didn't go blank, I just talked naturally. Ultimately, I think I did myself justice. I was given the impression (though not officially) that I'd been successful in getting through to the next stage. And there's the sticking point. Yesterday's interview was with a recruitment consultant employed by the company to carry out the shortlisting. So if I'm successful, I'll have another interview to look forward to... and I'll have to hope that another "issue" comes my way!




Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Have hire car. Will travel to interview this afternoon. Posted by Hello


Monday, December 13, 2004

Yes, sir!

Text message received from BF on Friday:

"Could you come and see me at the end of period 7 so that we can talk about the work you missed this morning?"

Erm, yes sir, sorry sir, the dog ate it!


Friday, December 10, 2004

Unemployable

4 interviews, 4 rejections. Summary:
  1. Environmental Assistant in Waste Management - no specific reason given, but my face when they told me the salary may have tipped the balance...
  2. Office Manager for Educational Organisation - not enough experience of organising conferences.
  3. Senior Executive Support Officer in a Local Government organisation - lack of experience of line management (i.e. appraising staff etc.)
In the case of the latest one, working as an Information Officer for a Mental Health Organisation, I didn't have enough experience of Microsoft Access which, in itself, is true. The fact that I've developed relational databases involving in excess of 5000 "tables" (as some people like to call them) is, apparently, neither here nor there. Neither is the fact that I've been using most other Microsoft Office applications for over 10 years. In my favour, I have "a lot to offer the statutory sector".

I didn't mention to her that, next week, I'm off to my "sellout" interview for the IT Business Analyst position at a paper company. Yes, a paper company, like out of "The Office". I'm hoping to model myself on Simon, the IT guy who made a brief appearance, but I don't have the requisite knowledge of Bruce Lee films yet.

Seriously though, folks, this is the first job I've applied for that I've really been quite excited about, as sad as that may seem. I feel that I could go to this interview and talk freely and enthusiastically about it, which will make a change.

Due to the lamentable state of public transport down here (train station several miles away from the town it purports to serve, and seemingly no regular bus link), I've had to hire a car to get to the interview. If I get the job, I would have to buy a car. Fact. See, I'm getting into the Brent vibe already!

I want this job.


Thursday, December 09, 2004

Isn't it always the way?

Just because I see an example of bad spelling on a huge, professionally produced poster in the shop window at New Look, my camera phone decides to conk out.

Well, this is unlikely have the same impact, but for what it's worth, it said, in large lettering:

"TWINKLE TWINKLE
YOUR THE STAR"


I'm now trying to find an email address for their advertising department - or, in fact, any department. Their website is about the only one I've seen which doesn't contain an email link for general feedback purposes...



Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The trappings of youth...

Sometimes I wonder whether I should act my age. The other day, I saw a girl in school uniform (probably around 15 years old) wearing pink flame trainers exactly like mine (as depicted in Kev's pic on the left there). And then there are the clip-on hair streaks (target market - the under 10s) and "Cat bag" (or similar childish "can't fit anything in it but it's kinda cute" style handbag)...

Recent trip to TK Maxx yielded the following:


 Posted by Hello

I wore this little ensemble (including "Cat Bag"'s replacement: "Afro Bag") last night when we went out for a Chinese to celebrate BF's birthday. He said I looked like a Wookie. Mind you, maybe he too was trying to be "down wiv' da kids", as he asked me to do his hair in a "fin" for the evening. Bless.

I went through a long period of time where I didn't wear any fashionable clothes, preferring instead to shroud myself in black, shapeless garments to hide what lurked beneath. It took me a long time (and a fair bit of pounding the streets) to have the confidence to wear any clothes which revealed my shape to the world and I still find myself avoiding my reflection in the mirror from time to time.

So, in terms of "trendy" clothing, I've got a fair bit of catching up to do. Currently, I appear to be coming to the end of my teenage years. At this rate, I should be in my mid-twenties by the end of next year, and back to my thirties in a couple more years. Then I can start wearing a twinset and pearls. Possibly.

Textual Intercourse

Just having one of those "laugh out loud at desk and keep sniggering at unlikely moments" moments. I got a text from BF where he was amused by the fact that predictive text's first suggestion for "honey" was "goofy", and he proceeded to refer to me as "goofy" throughout the message.

Other texty bits

"lips" and "kiss" are achieved via the same keystrokes.
I always get annoyed by "of" and "me", "go" and "in", "good" and "home" because it always picks the one I *don't* want (I believe this is down to legislation drawn up by Messrs Sod and Co.)


Monday, December 06, 2004

Moonchild





You Are From the Moon



You can vibe with the steady rhythms of the Moon.
You're in touch with your emotions and intuition.
You possess a great, unmatched imagination - and an infinite memory.
Ultra-sensitive, you feel at home anywhere (or with anyone).
A total healer, you light the way in the dark for many.



What Planet Are You From?



Saturday, December 04, 2004

Hmmmmm....


Posted by Hello

...I think it's probably time to do the recycling.


Friday, December 03, 2004

The petty concerns of the office worker

I leave them to it for one day, come in and find that both of my pink pens have disappeared. A quick scoot into boss's office recovers the "Vesicare" one (I have matching post-it notes too) but the "Pepto Bismol" one was still AWOL. It turns out that colleague K had been taking messages on my phone and had "accidentally" picked it up and taken it back to her own desk. They should know better than to mess with Witho's stationery products!

"So, why were you out of the office yesterday, Witho?" the mythical interested person cries.

I was at the interview for the "Senior Executive Support Officer" position previously alluded to here and spent the afternoon finalising my purchases for his lordship's (don't bother visiting, he hasn't posted for weeks... ;)) birthday on Monday.

"So, how did the interview go, Witho?" the mythical one asks, eagerly.

Put it this way, I find it unlikely that I will ever get a job which requires me to go through a formal interview. If it's just a chat where they want to find out what kind of personality I have and whether I will fit in, fine. But I am incapable of being myself and conveying my skills and experience in a formal, panel interview situation. I find the whole thing so utterly artificial. When the first question is: "How will you add value to this post?", I can feel my eyes glazing over and my mind going blank. Why do we have to talk such bollocks about these kind of jobs when many of them require no more than common sense? Get over yourselves - it's not bloody rocket science!

*deep breath*

Okay, so I don't think I did very well on that one. I think I need coaching in interview technique so that I can learn the "right" answers to their "management-speak" questions. God only knows how I managed to get the job at [insert company name] or any of the previous ones. The frustrating thing is, I know I can do their tinpot job...

Other things I'm no good at

Running club. For the last two weeks, I've been running in "top set" and for the last two weeks, I've been "bringing up the rear". And my friend S wasn't there this week to share my woe...

Ooooh, I nearly forgot to mention

I saw some novelty cufflinks in a shop yesterday. One of them had the following emblazoned on it:

"Old lawyers never die"

whilst the other one punchily proclaims:

"They just loose their appeal"

*incredulous*

Okay, I know the word "lose" sounds like it should have a double o, but it doesn't. That's the English language for you. It never claimed to be logical. Learn it, accept it. Or get someone to proofread it!




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