Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Merry Christmas

Not long now - only 2 days 'till Christmas.  The decorations are up, the turkey is defrosting  - I love Christmas!!

The birds have their own wreath full of nuts and seeds ( and clementines for colour)

There are snowflakes in the conservatory

And a trendy chilli wreath on the drive

Just the cake to ice and the last of the presents to wrap all we need now is Dave to come home and we'll be complete
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Tuesday, 2 December 2008


As part of Murphy's on-going treatment for his hip dysplasia I take him swimming once a week. His muscle tone has really improved and over the weeks his stamina has improved so much that he now wears me out on our daily walks.

On a cold day like today it is lovely and warm in the water and he gets a good work out, especially now he doesn't have to wear a life jacket. He does get over enthusiastic sometimes and poor John the hydrotherapist has to make sure that he keeps his fingers tucked in when Murphy is chasing the toy. So far he hasn't managed to eat any of John's fingers - though it has been close - the poor man deserves danger money!!
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Monday, 1 December 2008

I Blame the Early Start

Couldn't understand why I was getting colder and colder this morning until that is I looked at the central heating control panel and discovered that I had switched it off rather than putting it on - on the coldest day of the year - duhhh

The poor boy

Sometimes I think that Bella just uses me

'I  dare you to break the ice on the pond' she said

Then she ran off and ate it!

and she didn't leave any for me

the poor boy but it's a lesson well learnt - you can't outwit a bitch 

Do you think she'll want seconds?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The Dark Destroyer

I hope that nobody is looking for a Christmas card this year - the dogs ate my address book
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Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Google Chrome

I have been very happily using the new Google Chrome as my default browser for about a week now.  I like the look and feel of it and especially like fact that for me, it is a trillion times faster than Firefox.  The only problem I have had so far is that I haven't been able to reply to my hotmail via Chrome.  I have been able to see my inbox but I can't reply or forward from it. As you can imagine I reported this to Google but they say that until MSN alter their settings there is nothing that Google can do about this.  This has been a pain but there has been a workaround, until today when I can't even open hotmail through Chrome.  What is going on in MSN are they afraid of the competition from Google ?

Now it may seem daft to run mail through two different accounts, but hey what can I tell you, I'm fickle.

In the News

I know that I must be sounding like a stuck record but since I decided to boycott all the daily newspapers the only news I see is on the BBC and I'm now considering giving Auntie the old heave ho - why is that?  I hear you ask - well for one the BBC seems hell bent on destroying the economy of this country.

Does that sound a little harsh when politicians seem to have buggered up the economy since time began? well maybe but let's consider the facts.  This country, along with many other around the world, is suffering a downturn in it's economy due in no small part to the American system of giving mortgages to people who can't afford them.  That might sound a little simplistic but at the end of the day the world would not be in the state it's in now if American bankers had been more responsible with their lending. That of course is not the only reason we are in this state but I'm sure that the hundreds of hours that the BBC have spent 'explaining' the credit crunch have either informed you or bored you to death and you don't need me waffling on about it here. 

But my biggest reason for looking for an alternative source of news is BBC TV's paucity of world news. Did you know for example that the Israelis are still trying to starve the  Palestinians in Gaza  into submission or that 5 Brits have been killed in Afghanistan so far this month or that a company in China that employs 200,000 people has had it's shares suspended because of suspected stock market fraud or that after only a year since it joined the EU Bulgaria has been warned that it's eurofunding will be suspended if they don't get their act together over corruption and fraud.  Do you even know the name of Australia's Prime Minister or the fact that he is proposing the creation of an Asia-Pacific block similar to the European Union?

 No well you're are not alone. I think it's about time we rebelled and told the BBC what we really want in our news bulletins - news - not gossip from reality shows or pathetically staged vox pops or even god forbid that lizards are the new Labradors (I kid you not, Breakfast news had a big article this morning on how people are buying reptiles instead dogs because of the credit crisis - ahhhhhhh!)

(by the way the Aussie PM is Kevin Rudd)

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Children in Need

I thought that it would be cute if I dressed the dogs up for Children in Need day in Pudsey neckerchiefs

They didn't!!

Bella took to her bed and sulked

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Three Generations

While I was looking through boxes of old photos I came across this picture of Mum, Lesley and I.  I'm not sure who thought that it would be a good idea to take a picture of us in front of a drain pipe or why we all seem to be having a bad hair day but I still think that it's a lovely picture and I'm only sorry that we didn't get round to taking more of the three generations pictures when we had the chance. (sorry about the quality of the scan, that's probably more my fault than the scanner's)

Feeling poorly

I have been feeling very sorry for myself the past week. I have been full of cold, streaming eyes, runny nose and a rotten cough. The writing has gone to pot, the house has looked like a bomb had hit it and all I wanted to do was sip honey and lemon and look pathetic but unfortunately the dogs had other plans and apart from a lie in on Sunday morning it  has been business as usual. 

Even the dentist was unsympathetic - have you ever tried having a crown fitted when you can't breath through your nose? - I thought that I was going to drown in my own spit!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

London City Airport

What is it about airports that turns quite normal people into frantic stress bunnies?

Take the pick up area at Manchester Airport's Terminal 3, it doesn't matter what time of the day or night it is, there will always be people driving like maniacs, cutting between lanes, pulling up on the hard shoulder of the feeder roads and stopping in the middle of the road to drop of passengers.

The other week, when I had gone through to pick up Dave, I actually saw a woman driving through the pick up area with the boot of her people carrier wide open and her husband (I guess) running after the car trying to grab his case out of the back - madness.

At London City Airport yesterday there was a queue to get through the security area and I watched as a grown woman was panicking to get her coat off, her laptop out of her bag and untie her shoes at the same time as her husband. Quite why this had to be co-ordinated I don't know but she was determined that the blue tray with his stuff in should follow her tray through the xray machine. She was getting more and more agitated as other people were putting their trays down and looked ready to stab me in the eye when I put my carry-on bag between their trays to go through the machine (OK I did it deliberately to watch her reaction)

She was muttering away in German, probably putting a curse on me and all my offspring, while her husband, for no obvious reason other than acting like a two year old, gave his tray and extra shove through the machine before stomping off through the metal detector. Then their plans for blue tray efficiency were well and truly scuppered when the alarms went off and he was taken to one side by the security staff. I thought his wife was going to explode, how dare they, her look said, this wasn't part of the plan, she had scheduled 1.5 mins to get through security and now they were going to be 5 mins behind. The fact that they still had well over an hour until their flight was to be called was irrelevant - madness - at airports all common sense seems to fly out with the planes!

Researching for the novel

Dave is really busy in work at the moment and has been working silly hours so rather than sit about in the flat moping I made the most of the time in London by doing some research for the novel and that's why at 6.30pm on Friday night I was in the 1802 bar sipping a glass of dry white wine because I kid you not the museum in Docklands doesn't serve coffee after 5pm!

I had great fun sitting there writing up my notes and 'people watching' (it's not that I'm nosy or anything) There were a couple of office parties in the bar and the one thing that struck me was why do all the young woman working in Docklands think that they have to dress in black? - black shoes, black tights, black skirts, black coats - Do they do it because they think that it makes them look slimmer? more professional? older? - well maybe they do, but unfortunately all it really does is make them look as if they have just come back from a funeral.

I overheard one conversation that made me smile (honestly I'm not nosy)

Good looking young bloke ''what do you want to drink''
Pretty ( if a little chunky) young woman ''gin and tonic?'' ( and yes she really did make a request sound like a question)
Bloke again '' any particular brand of gin?'' ( do me a favour, I know you're trying to impress her but really)
Pretty girl '' no but can I have slimline tonic please' (giggle giggle)

Sorry darling but the 20 odd calories you are saving on the slimline tonic will make bugger all difference on those hips - and yes as a woman of a certain size I can make fat jokes - she's young and pretty and has a handsome bloke after her body what does it matter what I think!!!

Lord Mayor's Show and Fireworks

I didn't get to see any firework displays this year- it's not much fun on your own and to be honest I didn't know how Bella and Murphy would cope with Bonfire Night, the cats are bad enough, they hate the load bangs and usually hide away in the one room in the house without a window - the bathroom. So being the responsible pet owner that I am I stayed in - boring but honorable.

Last weekend was the City of London's Lord Mayor's Show and as Dave was already 'darn sarf' I thought I would join him for a few days so that we could spend Saturday in London watching the show in the morning and the grand firework display over the Thames at 5 o'clock.

I have loved the Lord Mayor's Show ever since I was a 19 year old refugee from the North and would stand in Fleet Street or the Strand and watch the procession. One year we had a special treat when the bank had a family day in their Fleet Street branch so that we could watch the show in comfort. Dave invited my Mum and Dad down and they had a wonderful time. The staff had prepared a buffet lunch and had positioned seats by the windows on the first floor to give us a grandstand view.

After Dave left Fleet Street were were reduced to standing with the hoi polloi but this year we thought that we deserved a treat and booked seats in the grandstand by St Paul's Cathedral. The parade was as good as ever, the floats were colourful, the bands musical and the servicemen and woman a credit to the TA and reserve forces. But my god did it rain - it was torrential but we're British and a little thing like a monsoon isn't going to stop our parade or as a young American guy sitting behind me said 'only the Brits would sit in the rain to watch a parade and cheer every time a soldier marches past' - couldn't have put it better myself!

Unfortunately we were soaked to the skin and rather than catch our death walking about all afternoon we decided to go back to the flat to change into warm dry clothes and go out for dinner rather than hang about for the firework display.

No fireworks for me this year then - oh well there's always next year.


Overheard the other day in Costa Coffee

'The Gingerbread Latte - does it come in skinny? Yes? OK, I'll have a regular skinny decaf gingerbread latte'

I'm sorry but that's not a beverage, it's a short story!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Non Elected Officials

When it was announced that Peter Mandleson was to join the Government as a Minister, I was amazed and couldn't understand why Gordon felt that he had to bring him back from the EU. Is our Prime Minister telling us that out of all the Labour Members of Parliament there isn't one who is as capable of being the Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

Well I'm sorry but what does that say about us, the electorate? Are we voting for people who are not up to the job of running the country, or is it that the Prime Minister thinks that his own MPs are not good enough?

I then started to wonder how many other non elected officials we have working in government departments as Ministers. I had quick trawl through some (but probably not all) of the Government Department's websites and found 9 Ministers who haven't been elected, is this right, is it even honest? How can a Government be responsible to it's electorate when there are so many non-elected Ministers in that Government.

I suppose that a student of politics would tell me that I am being naive and this situation is far from unique but I can't help wondering why Gordon Brown felt that he needed to look for 3 Ministers for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform from outside of the House of Commons. I'm sure that he would argue that he just wants to have the best people in place to steer the country through it's current economic problems but what does that say about the Department's previous Ministers? Should we infer that the 'B' team led us into situation we know find ourselves?

And don't get me started on the Government's so called Special Advisers. I have always felt uneasy about New Labour's reliance on these 'temporary' civil servants who are political appointees paid by Central Government. Admittedly the Brown administration has far less Special Advisers than Blair had but even so, in the financial year 2006-07, we the British Taxpayers, shelled out £5.9 million on them - yes £5.9 million. Remember that these are people who are appointed by the government of the day to work alongside civil servants in government departments who are not answerable to the electorate (because we didn't have any say in their appointment) but are there to add a 'political' dimension to the advise that civil servants give their Minister.

And what happens to all these Special Advisers, because let's face it, if you get a job like that it will only last as long as 'your' Minister is in post, well in the case of Alistair Campbell you go off and write a book about working in Number 10 or if you fancy entering politics proper like the Miliband brothers you are in the right place to look for a safe seat to get elected from, or then again you could be given a peerage like Shriti Vadeera and then go straight into Government as a Minister without all the bother of standing in an election.

I wonder if any of this is taught in the Government's citizenship lessons in schools - at first I couldn't find out because the dcsf website didn't seem to have a link to a site where I could look this up and when I phoned their helpline a very nice woman read from a prepared script telling me what citizenship in schools covered for the 14-19 age group but said she was very sorry but there wasn't anywhere where I could look at this for myself. However not one to be stopped at the first hurdle, I had a quick trawl through the Teachers' resource packs for Citzenship on the Teachernet website and I found that the curriculum covers parliament and other forms of government so let's just hope that our young people are far more politcally savve than us oldies.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Panorama - Britian in the Red

I suppose watching, or listening, to any programme presented by Jeremy Vine is a bit like admitting to buying The Daily Mail - you don't have to be Angry of Tonbridge Wells to agree with him, but it helps. You know that he will have his own agenda, he will think that he is speaking for the 'ordinary man in the street' but dear god let me shout loud and clear, he doesn't speak for me!!!

Last Thursday's Panorama programme was supposed to answer all the questions we, the ordinary people, had about the credit crunch, banking crisis et all. What is was however was 55 minutes of Jeremy trying to whip us all up into believing that the whole of the banking industry in this country was on the point of collapse, that our savings were better off out of the banks and under the mattress and if our homes weren't already suffering from negative equity we were about to loose our jobs and have them repossessed because we couldn't afford the higher mortgages anyway.

The 'ordinary' people they had filmed earlier were worried that they might have to pay more for their mortgages, that their homes mightn't increase in value by 300% in the next six months and we were supposed to feel sorry for one poor woman was having to work an extra half day a week to help pay the bills because she was worried that her husband's job in teaching could be in trouble because the government has underwritten the banks and they might start laying off teachers. If these vox pops weren't bad enough he then interviewed experts in banking, finance etc but no matter how much they tried to be calm and sensible about the current crisis Jeremy was having non of it and set about them like a little terrier. Wasn't it all the fault of the government? shouldn't we all hate the bankers? Surely we are all heading for financial Armageddon? The message was, if you aren't worried you damn well should be.....

Yet again the BBC have frightened far more 'ordinary' people than they have reassured. I'm all for keeping people informed about the current financial situation, but until the media in this country starts reporting the facts and not their usual hysterical scaremongering the 'ordinary man in the street' will continue to have no faith in either this country's financial institutions or it's Government's handling of what is a global problem and without some kind of faith we will surely be stuck in a recession for far longer than we need to be. Then I suppose the BBC will justify all the rubbish they are spouting by saying 'I told you so' - God help us and save us from irresponsible journalists!!!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

City Workers

If you wander around Canary Wharf during the day you would be forgiven for thinking that all the young city workers were a bunch of totally focused, unsmiling serious types, busy rushing from meeting to meeting with their mobile phones super-glued to their ears while sending very important messages on their Blackberries. But I'm delighted to tell you that after 5pm on a Thursday night they change, they metamorphose into human being. As the bars fill up and the alcohol consumption rises they start to loosen up and the noise level rises.

The young and not so young singles start flirting and the old buggers (in 21st Century City Talk that means 35 year olds) try to look cool by removing their ties and opening the top button of their Turnbull and Asher shirts. This is radical stuff! In fact this is the city culture I remember from the 70's - rush out of work - get to the pub - and unwind (or pissed)

But wait a minute something isn't quite right, yes they all have a drink in their hands, yes they are all VERY loud and yes some of them are flirting but take a step back and really look and you will see that they have been nursing that same drink for the past hour, the loud chatter is all work related and the old buggers are surreptitiously glancing at their watches wondering if they can still make the 6.30 from Charing Cross.

Bugger, it's 6 o'clock on a warm October evening in one of the world's great financial districts and I'm surrounded by a bunch of boring Bankers ..........(what is the collective noun for Bankers? - suggestions on a postcard please)

A change is a good as a rest

My usual routine of an evening is to feed the cats (Jess will have been pestering me for about an hour and Sassy has taken to walking across the keyboard for daring to ignore her sister!) then it's feed the dogs making sure that Murphy doesn't hoover up Bella's food if she wanders off looking for a drink. After their dinner it's time to walk the dogs; prepare my dinner; phone Dave; cook; eat; wash-up; decamp to the living room; try to stop the dogs from playing bitey/facey game; look for something to watch on the TV; give-up; make a cuppa; settle the dogs and go to bed with a good book.

Last Thursday however I was sitting outside the Slug and Lettuce at Canary Wharf sipping a large and rather expensive glass of chilled white wine waiting for Dave to finish work. I knew that he would be tired after work and would probably just want to get back to the flat but what he didn't know was he was taking me out for dinner, but as they say, 'a change is a good as a rest'

Read the first paragraph and weep!!

How many A levels do you need to write garbage like this!!
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Thursday, 2 October 2008

Lesley's Birthday

Hands Up - there's no excuse, except possibly old age and a desire to make people eat far too much but I forgot to take any photos of Lesley's birthday party. I had the camera ready but it wasn't until I was clearing up the next day that I realised that I'd left it upstairs in the office.

It's a shame because everyone had such a good time and there would have been some lovely pictures. Luckily the weather was kind to us and it was warm enough for the party to spill out into the garden. The little ones, who aren't little any more, I must think up a new collective noun for them, were so good and they had great fun teasing James, or Tree as they have nicknamed him. His firing up of the chiminea was a great success but I'm not sure how pleased their Mums will be if they ever repeat half of the shaggy dog stories he came out with. In fact they had a full evenings entertainment what with Wii competitions, Laurence's Magic Tricks and Lilly's stories so their parents (the older kids) had a chance to catch up with cousins they haven't seen for a long time.

It wasn't just family though we also had friends and neighbours there as well, in fact an old fashioned Carter party, just what Lesley had wanted and I think that everyone enjoyed themselves and hopefully made some new friends along the way.

Teachers Training Day

They really don't do themselves any favours do they?

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Spending the weekend in London

It was a lovely weekend and we decided to make the most of the fine weather and take the Clipper Boat up the Thames from Canary Wharf. We had originally planned to travel up to town on the Dock Lands Light Railway (DLR) but engineering works meant that great chunks of the system were closed last weekend and we didn't fancy fighting our way onto one of the replacement buses and sitting (or probably standing) for hours in a traffic jam.

We set off quite early planning to go up to Green Park but when we arrived at Tower Bridge we thought, what the hell it's been years since we've been here, let's hop off and grab a coffee by the river and sit in the sunshine people watching - god how I love people watching. I can spend hours just sitting and watching the tourists and making up little stories about them, I kid you not, they all have a story. For example; see that pretty young girl over at the postcards, well she came away with her boyfriend but they had a terrible row because he got very drunk last night. The poor girl is heartbroken, she was expecting a romantic lunch with the man of her dreams but instead she's on her own and her boyfriend has spent all morning in bed with the world's worst hangover - and see that 25 year old teetering along the cobbles in her Jimmy Choos, the one with the blond hair extensions and the expensive St Tropez tan, is she really with that middle aged bald bloke for his sparkling wit and personality?

But rather than drive Dave nuts with my rabbiting, we finished our coffee and set off over Tower Bridge to look at the Mayor's River Festival on the south bank. Not that we knew it was the River Festival, all we could see was a load of marquees set up outside the Council Offices and it looked like there was something going on!

It was good fun in a hippy dippy kind of way - lots of people out to save the planet and sell you trinkets from Peru and food stalls selling Argentinian Beef and Jamaican curry but the best fun was the army of Greenpeace activists who with incredible politeness were trying their best to get new recruits. Even our protestations of penury didn't deter one young bloke who offered us such a fabulous deal on the subscription we would have been mad to turn him down - mad and proud of it, that's us - the next time I'm asked what's the one thing that you are particularity proud of I shall say I didn't give in to Greenpeace - even though they had pulled out all the stops to put their cutest people on the streets.

Train, planes and automobiles

Dave's regular commute to Canary Wharf comes at the end of a long week of back to back meetings and random trips up to the Midlands, so I have promised him that at least once each month I will join him down south to save him the travelling.

It will come as no surprise to those of you who have travelled with me down to London on the West Coast Penaluna that I hate that tilting train with a passion. It is against all the laws of nature to expect a human being to sit meekly while travelling at 100mph in a carriage that is listing at a 45 degree angle. OK so I might be exaggerating about the angle but you get my drift. I have lost count of the number of times I have stood on the concourse at Euston Station, green at the gills and fighting to keep my hastily eaten breakfast in my stomach rather than decorating the pavement with it like a poor man's Jason Pollock. So what is a girl to do? why fly that's what - VLM fly Manchester to London City in 50 minutes and it's cheaper than I can get a standard rail fare on Virgin Trains (though off peak it's far cheaper to let the train take the strain). You travel in style and comfort, they give you sweeties when you take off, sandwich and drinks while you are cruising and beautiful Belgian chocolates just before you are due to land AND if like me you have a whole raft of VLM executives on your return flight you have the added bonus of a smooth flight, text book take-off and landing and arrive in Manchester 15 minutes early!!

(word of warning - if you want to know more about Penalunas make sure that you Google the phrase Penaluna Trains and not just the word Penaluna otherwise you will be directed to a very mucky website!!!)

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Hot off the press

Our athletes are now SECOND in the medals table at the Bejiing Paralympics with 14 Gold 11 Silver and 7 Bronze medals so far.

Thinking of emigrating - read on...

On GMTV this morning there was an item about about the huge numbers of people in Britain that would like to emigrate. Apparently it is all the fault of the credit crunch , immigration and the weather.

OK so let's let's look at this a bit closer.

Do those people who want to up sticks and move half way around the world realise that the current economic climate is a global problem or do they think that it is only in the UK that we are looking at falling house prices and dearer food and fuel bills. Do they really think that just because they can buy a house cheaper in Adelaide that they won't have any more financial problems and that the world price of wheat won't affect them? Are they so naive to think that OPEC oil prices won't hit their cost of living just because they won't have to use their central heating for 6 months a year? Well presumably they will still want to drive a car, they will still need to have their air-conditioning unit blasting away and presumably they will still need to eat food in a country, that in some areas, is in the thrall of a 10 year drought.

When those people emigrate to Spain, who do they think the immigrants are in their new country? Is it the Africans or the Eastern European that are the new immigrants on the Costas? Don't they stop and think for one minute that it might be them who are now the immigrants. Some of these people who are complaining about immigration in this country are planning to go to a country where they don't speak the language, have no intention of assimilating with the indigenous population and know little of the culture and customs of their host country. If this was reversed and it was the Spanish working classes that were coming to the UK, these same people would be moaning about Tesco having whole aisles dedicated to the 'incomers' and bang on about the strain on local schools having so many children joining them who couldn't speak our language.

But I think the most ridiculous reason of all for wanting to go is that old chestnut about our great British weather. Yes this summer has been a wash out and not just in the 'North', this year even Southerners have had a grey and wet summer. And that's the rub, it became very fashionable this year 'because of the economic climate' and 'reducing our carbon footprint' for the chattering classes to holiday in the UK, those London based journalists, who are more used to jetting off to Tuscany with little Tarquin and Annabel for their Summer holidays, have been huddling under a brolly in Cornwall and Devon this August. So what have all the red tops and the television news items been banging on about for the past six weeks? why our dreadful weather of course. Now any of us who regularly holiday in the UK could have told them you don't take a holiday here for the weather, we know that we can't guarantee long hot days sitting by the pool, we holiday in the UK for our fabulous scenery, our cultural and regional diversity and most of all the hospitality of this great country - ask any Japanese tourist!

It never ceases to amaze me that somebody who works a seven day rolling shift in a factory in the UK looks to emigrate to Australia to do the same job and working the same hours for less money, is making the move because the weather in Australia is better. Don't they realise that they are going to be stuck indoors all day, doesn't it occur to them that their partner will probably also being working full time, their children are going to be in school all day, they are going to get home from work moaning that their legs ache or the boss is a pain or the traffic is awful. Life down under is only going to be different for them if they work hard at it. Nobody is going to give them a boat so that the family can go sailing every weekend, nobody is going to give them lots of money so that they can have prawn barbies every night, and nobody is going to magic away any family tensions that they might have had in the UK.

Don't get me wrong, I am not against people wanting to emigrate, in fact if our circumstances had been different we might have been tempted to try for new life down under but what I do take offence at is the people who spend all day moaning about living in the UK and then do nothing about it. If your family needs more 'quality time' get organised and make time because if you can't manage it here how the hell do you think that moving thousands of miles away is going to make any difference. If you want to emigrate do it for the right reason and not just because we are in the middle of a global economic crisis and it's raining!!

Age brings more to the table than dribble

Over the past ten years or so it has become 'fashionable' for large companies to offer their older staff early retirement. The immediate benefits are obvious, older staff are more expensive than younger less experienced workers, younger staff are more motivated, work longer hours, have less family commitments and bring new innovative ideas to the work place and the older staff have the chance to enjoy their retirement knowing that they will still be entitled to a full pension - so win win then?

No no and thrice no

What many companies are now beginning to realise is that an older person bring more to the table than just age - they can bring common sense and a wealth of experience. Imagine the scenario, young chap/chapess straight out of business school working for a major UK Bank looks to the USA and sees that a lot of US Banks are making mega bucks by buying into the sub-prime markets. So quick as a flash they call a meeting of the great and the good and present a proposal that the bank should grab a slice of the action. Let's face how can it possibly fail, there is nothing safer than bricks and mortar now is there?

These young bloods rub their hands with glee, a lot of people in the US have made a bundle by taking a punt on this market so why shouldn't they? As a thirty year old they can't remember living in a recession, they have no experience of negative equity or high unemployment. Sure house prices in the UK are high but with mortgages of 125% based on 5 times your salary, they had no trouble buying their over priced apartment in Docklands and their annual mega bonuses pays for the flashy cars and Caribbean holidays.

But let's step back for a moment, what exactly is a sub-prime mortgage? It's a special mortgage for those people who would have been turned down by the more traditional lenders - and why? because they can't afford one that's why. But as the lenders had taken a charge on the properties they couldn't loose could they? If the mortgage holder defaulted on the loan the lender could just sell the property and get their money back. OK so the home owner would be on the streets but hey this is America and the free market rules.

So what went wrong?

In any market there are peaks and troughs and the housing market is no different. It's the old story of supply and demand. Small town America is not immune to global economics and when the largest employer in town closes the wood yard or factory because they have been priced out of the market by their foreign competitors then their employees won't be able to pay their mortgages. And who wants then to buy the house that has been repossessed? Nobody in that town for sure because everybody is now in the same boat. No job and no means to pay for a mortgage that was wholly reliant on them being in full time employment because they couldn't get the extra insurance payments that might have covered them against redundancy.

The knock on effect is that the sub-prime market then went into free fall. The major players wanted out. The value of the market was severely depressed and instead of big profits the banks were looking at huge losses. And all because the was no one saying hold on here, what if the world goes into a recession - what if there is a collapse of the housing market - what is the worst case scenario of putting so much money into a new market that doesn't have a track record of weathering even a minor financial storm. In other words there was no old bugger sitting at the board table saying let's evaluate the risk to the business in the light of 100 years of data around boom and bust in the housing markets.

I'm not saying that the current financial situation is all the fault of a lack of experience in our banks but as an ex foreign exchange dealer I can say that all the dealers I knew, whether they dealt on the money markets, commodity markets or the Stock Exchange, all had one thing in common - they were gamblers - pure and simple. Most of the time, especially in Bull Markets, they could make massive profits for their companies and huge bonuses for themselves. But, and here's the rub, in a Bear market they took a hit and depending on how experienced they were and who was monitoring their dealing book, they either weathered the storm or in the worst cases, went under.

The sub-prime market was massive with billions of dollars being traded - big profits then for the lucky ones but equally big losses for the unwary,unlucky or let's face it inexperienced.

So what's the answer? In the short term I don't think that there is an easy answer. Until employers realise that age brings more to the table than just a cantankerous old git who stands in the way of progress and starts to value the experience that they have, we are stuffed.

That is unless they bite the bullet and start re-employing some of the senior managers again.
Let's be innovative here, let's say to the 52 year old give us two days a week, we will respect your work life balance and won't expect you to be at your desk for 60 hours a week, but we need your experience and your steadying hand on the tiller again. Or is that too radical for a forward thinking company in the 21st Century?

Monday, 8 September 2008

Southport Airshow

Every year on Dave's birthday I have the same problem, what do you buy for the man who has everything - last year it was dinner in Biarritz watching the sunset and for his 50th I rented a log cabin in Northern France for the weekend. Things are bit a bit more awkward this year with him working in London all week there just wasn't enough time to arrange a big trip so after racking my brains for weeks I came up with a VIP trip to the Southport Airshow.

After the dreadful weather conditions last week I was terrified that they would have to cancel but luckily for us Southport seemed to be sitting in a window of mostly dry if not a little windy weather on Saturday and most of the demonstrations were able to take place. In typical British style we dressed in our warmest waterproof clothes and had a brilliant time but the highlight of the day for me was the Red Arrows aerobatical display - it was outstanding!

Friday, 5 September 2008

La Princess

La Princess has arrived in Liverpool. I'm really excited and hoping that we will be able to get into town this weekend to see the giant spider before see scurries away but in the mean time here a link to some fab photos of her on flicker

Mid you, we have a busy weekend ahead. It's Dave's birthday tomorrow and I have a special treat lined up for him. I don't want to spoil his surprise so all I'm saying is, he'll probably have a crick in his neck by Saturday night! Then on Sunday Janis and Graham are coming to visit. It's Janis' birthday on Sunday so I'm going to cook a special birthday dinner for them both then - cakes, pop and loads of jelly (Jamie Oliver eat you heart out!)

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Derbyshire in the fog

We took the dogs away in the van this weekend. It was only a quick overnight trip to the Manifold Valley in The Peak District staying on a working farm in the village of Butterton. The Manifold Valley is not as well known as the rest of the Peak District but what a gem. The scenery and walks are fabulous.

We had planned to have lots of trips away this summer but unfortunately it was not meant to be so we thought that we would try and make the best of what little good weather we have left this year to try and get away while we can.

Needless to say the dogs had a wonderful time swimming in the stream, well Murphy did, Bella totally wimped out at the sight of running water preferring to stand on the river bank and shout encouragement! and even though Murphy can't walk far we had a great time strolling along the valley following the track of the old railway.

The weather was kind to us for most of the weekend and for this summer that's some going!!

World Names Profiler

If you are researching your family tree or just want a bit of fun why not look at the World Names Profiler website. Just type in your surname and hit Enter to see how far your name-sakes are spread around the world - great fun

Wednesday, 27 August 2008


I love the Superlambbanana and its little babies that have been wandering the streets of Liverpool for the 08 celebrations. Unfortunately I didn't get to see them all but if anybody is wondering what they can buy me for Christmas ...they are now being sold off for charity at a snip at £3000.....

Matthew Street Festival

The bank holiday weekend saw the return of the Matthew Street Festival to Liverpool so what better excuse to photograph the city. We went in early on the first day of the festival and stayed for about 6 hours! We had a great time wandering around all of the six outdoor stages listening to some good music and enjoying the party atmosphere. In fact we enjoyed it so much we went back on the second day and took in the extra stage at the Albert Dock.

A Heady Mix of Old and New

Dig those crazy colours!!

I think the that the jury is out on this one, Clever certainly, eye catching definitely, complementary to it's surroundings.. I don't think so

I think that in this street alone over 200 years of architectural style is represented and love it or hate it you can't say that it's boring.

I think that one of the signs of a confident city is in it's architecture and the bravery of the town planners to move away from the safe option and to allow innovative and challenging design.

Sure it can be controversial but I'd rather controversy than stagnation.

The new face of Liverpool

Researching for my first novel means that amongst other things I need to have a picture in my mind of how Liverpool City Centre would have looked in the post war years. So with my camera slung around my neck off we set for a photographic journey around the city. However I couldn't resist taking some shots of the 'new' buildings as well.

Liverpool 1 is part of the Duke of Westminster's multi million pound investment in the city and when it opens completely in the Autumn I think that it will be awesome. In fact even though it is only half open it is turning heads.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Trip to the Vet

Murphy has his check up with the Vet this morning.

The poor thing is so pathetically grateful for any outing that a trip to the Vet is a big deal. He gets so excited seeing the other animals in the waiting room and is as good as gold when we go in to see the Vet.

The Vet confirmed what we already knew that his back legs are getting worse. He's going to start hydrotherapy soon, not that we think that it will improve his condition much, more a special treat for him. I think he'll love the pool, let's face it he's spending half the day in our pond at the moment (I don't have the heart to tell him off)

The prognosis is not good for him but while he's coping we're determined to give him the best life we can for as long as we can.

There was a programme on the BBC the other night about Kennel Club registered dogs that are suffering with genetic conditions that have been caused by stupid breeding practices. Some of the breeds are so bad now the poor dogs are in a terrible state. I can't tell you how angry I am with the whole situation. Maybe we were naive but after already having one Labrador who lived a long and happy life with us we thought that going to a reputable breeder and buying a Kennel Club registered puppy was the best thing to do. Well weren't we living in cloud cuckoo land.

Those stupid people who run the Kennel Club and the frankly mad people who show their Frankenstein dogs should be shot. How can they possibly say that it is right for a dog that is bred so that it will have problems breathing can then be judged best in show. They are wicked people who if they were living on a council estate and breeding dogs that were so deformed that their brains were too big for their skulls they would be prosecuted by the RSPCA for cruelty. I suppose that being middle class and having the certificate from the Kennel Club makes these breeders immune to prosecution. Well it shouldn't, it just shouldn't!!

(Because of his condition I haven't taken any photos of the pups for a long time but what the hell, Murphy can't help having gammy legs - so expect lots of pictures very soon!)

Monday, 18 August 2008

People Watching in Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf Security or the Thought Police as I like to think of them, might want to reconsider their choice of canine partners. To be really scary you need a dog only one gene removed from a wolf, an Alsation for example. To me a black Labrador just sends out the wrong message - not so much fear me, I will rip your arm off if you come too close, as come up and tickle my belly 'cose I'm a big softy.

See the guy in the red fleece and baseball cap? His job is to empty the bins. All day he wanders around looking in the rubbish bins and soon as anybody drops something into one of them he wips it out and takes it to a big dumpster that is cunningly hidden away from the main square. I was sitting watching him and wondering how much job satisfaction can he possibly get but then I a saw that he was smiling and singing away to himself unlike the guy in the next picture -

Just how pissed off does he look? So what's his story? My guess is that he has the boss from hell. You know the type, the youngest boss in the company, slim, good looking, three years out of University and knows everything. This poor sap has probably been nagged all morning by the boy genius, work harder, think stratigically, be at your desk ready to work by 8 o'clock and don't expect to leave before I do ------or maybe he's just had a row with his personal trainer.

Lunch time in Canary Wharf

What does the dynamic young City worker do in their lunch break when the sun is shining on Canary Wharf? The really lucky ones will have arranged a business lunch and then they can sit at on a proper seat at a proper table and enjoy lunch at a posh eatery like Smollensky's or Carluccios, on expenses naturally.

And providing there isn't a gale blowing through the docks the rest will look for somewhere to sit and eat their posh butties. Any where will do, you can find them sitting on walls and benches or even bum numbing stone seats.
Otherwise they stand around talking on their mobiles and have a crafty drag on their third cigarette of the day.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Around and about in Canary Wharf

In the last posting I had trouble thinking of comments for the pictures, this one however holds no such problems.....spot the two security staff in their high speed vehicle... I kid you not they really do travel around in golf buggies and they are everywhere.Dave and I christened them the thought police, no special reason just that the whole place reminded me of George Orwell's vision of the future in 1984

I loved this, there amongst all the glass and steel was an old VW camper van. If you look closely you might just spot a house boat in the dock, the driver was unloading the van onto the boat. I was worried that the Thought Police (TP) were about to come wizzing around the corner and fine him for having an old thing in the middle of all this new stuff, there must be a bylaw prohibiting so much colour in one place!
Amongst all the glass there are some green areas and very welcome they are too. Now I am all for public art and love to see sculptures and monuments in even the most incongruous places but can anybody tell me just what this is supposed to be?

This lovely old building houses amongst other things a museum which tells the story of the Thames and the docks in particular. I spent a very happy couple of hours wondering round it and learning that this is one of the very few dock buildings that the Luftwaffe managed to miss in the Blitz.

And just to prove that not everybody in Canary Wharf wears a suit here are some workmen from one of the hundreds of building sites, mind you I think the TPs are onto them, probably for wearing the wrong boots or something.