Sunday, December 27, 2009

Special delivery!

Look what we found under the Christmas tree!

Phoebe Ella was born at 12.16 pm on Friday 18th December weighing 7lbs. She is so beautiful. We came home from hospital on Tuesday as she had some jaundice and difficulty learning to breastfeed. Looking after her is the hardest and most tiring thing we've ever done, but by far the best.

Here she is just after she was born:

And here we are yesterday - she's getting bigger already!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Moving towards maternity

I left work to start my maternity leave on Friday. I have been really looking forward to this as I've been so tired and, over the past few weeks, my focus has been moving more and more from trying to get my project finished to getting ready to have a baby. I've been very lucky in having someone gradually taking over my work, so I haven't had to worry and I know I'm leaving things in very competent hands.

I had a lovely last day - I came home feeling that I'd finished everything, feeling appreciated and with lots of nice presents. But still, it's strange to leave work knowing I won't be back for a very long time - it almost feels like forever. Since university I've always worked and usually combined working with other things - voluntary activities, studying - so I've been constantly busy for 7 years. Suddenly, all I have to do is rest and get ready to have a baby. We're nearly ready - there are a few bits and pieces to finish off and quite a lot of cleaning and tidying which we would benefit from doing. But mostly, nothing. And this baby could take another 5 weeks to appear! However, I am very tired, and struggling to sleep at the moment, so I think I'll appreciate all the rest I can get.

We had a trip to the hospital for a labour day a few weeks ago which helped me to feel more ready to give birth. And yesterday we did the first part of our National Childbirth Trust antenatal classes - we met some really nice parents-to-be and it made us think about preparing for labour and what life will be like with a baby - it was a really useful day. I'm not sure I still quite believe that a baby is going to turn up very soon though!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Her Fearful Symmetry

I did promise I would tell you what I thought of Her Fearful Symmetry. Unfortunately, since finishing it I've been asleep most of the time. Yesterday, for example, I was in bed for all but 7 hours of the day. That's pregnancy for you.

So. It wasn't The Time Traveler's Wife. And I don't love it as much as The Time Traveler's Wife. But then, how much did you like your best friend when you first met them? Or the person you're now married to? Maybe there was some sort of spark there, you found them more interesting than other people. But you probably didn't actually like them as much as you do now.

Well, that's how much I like Her Fearful Symmetry. It is a good book. I read it constantly until I'd finished. And when I'd finished it, I wanted to go back and read it again straight away. Partly, admittedly, because it was a bit confusing and I wanted to work out exactly what was going on. But also because it's one of those books I want to read as fast as possible to find out what is happening, and then want to read again because I want to pay attention properly.

It's a ghost story. But it's not a scary ghost story. It's got some identical twins in it. It doesn't have the moments of unbearable tragedy found in The Time Traveler's Wife (where you cry when you realise what's going to happen and then cry again when it does) but it has a different sort of sadness. I'm looking forward to it coming out in paperback, when I will buy it and read it again.

When not asleep, I've also read The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. It's Jesuits In Space. Seriously. You would have to be prepared to tolerate space travel and aliens in a novel to enjoy it. But it's beautiful and brutal. And has a sequel which isn't quite as good. What more could you ask for from a novel?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

One hit wonders?

'Her Fearful Symmetry' by Audrey Niffenegger is sitting on my sofa waiting to be read. I am both afraid and anticipatory. Her previous novel, 'The Time Traveler's Wife' is one of the most beautiful and devastating books I have read, with a unique approach to time travel which makes it seem almost natural. I have high hopes for her new book.

However, I've found that when I read anything by the authors of some of my favourite novels, they're just not that good. 'The Poisonwood Bible' is deeply engaging and takes you into another culture and unbelievable lives. 'The Bean Trees', also by Barbara Kingsolver, is ok, but I wouldn't go further than that. 'The Secret History' is very clever and dark and involving, but 'The Little Friend' is just unpleasant. And 'We need to talk about Kevin' - well... To finally find someone who would admit the possibility that having children might not be everything it is cracked up to be, to have a believable and likeable character say that they weren't really sure they wanted children, but had one anyway, and it turned out they didn't really like it - it posed questions, it moved me, it challenged me. Whereas Lionel Shriver's other two novels which I have read - I don't like anyone in 'Double Fault' and 'The Post-Birthday World' just really isn't good.

Maybe it isn't fair to describe these authors as one-hit wonders just because I like one book so much more than the others. Maybe their other novels are actually not that bad, just not as good as the books I love. Maybe it's me - some books just struck a chord with me and I failed to connect with the others. But whatever, I'll let you know how I get on with my new book.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why we should be oviparous

1. It's hard to turn over in bed.
2. I think my pelvis has broken.
3. Everyone can see that you are pregnant. There's no privacy. Really.
4. It's a dense weight attached to your front which makes walking up slopes tiring.
5. It's not cute to have a baby kicking around inside you. It's just weird.
6. Indigestion and heartburn.
7. I don't fit in spaces I used to.

I am happy to look after an egg and carry it round for 9 months. I'll get an incubator to put it in at work. We can take turns to look after it. I think eggs are the way forward. Now we just need the science to catch up.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Education for all?

So the Confederation of British Industry think students should pay more to go to university and be lent the money at a more 'realistic' rate of interest? Ok, let's make it retrospective. Let's charge all those who benefited from free tuition and grants the money that was used to subsidise their education. Let's charge realistic interest, backdated to when they graduated. And let's compound it. And then we'll see how the CBI like it.

I was one of the first students to be charged tuition fees. I missed out on getting a grant by taking a year out. This was possibly the most expensive year out ever as I left university with debts of around £12,000. I now pay this back at a rate of 9% of everything I earn over £15,000 pa. Once interest is taken into account, I pay about £500 off my loan each year, which means effectively I am paying a graduate tax, as I will pay my loan off roughly around the same time as my mortgage.

I do feel that my generation of students have been pretty much screwed, as not only do we pay a lot for our education, we're also experiencing high house prices - unlike those people who experienced free university education and then benefited from huge growth in the equity in their property - which leaves very little money to save for pensions or anything else. I don't think this country is 'going to the dogs' or all the other things people seem to like to say - I just feel frustrated that the generation above us have benefited from free education and are now so keen to pull up the ladder.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Things I'm not sad to be missing

This is my second-worst August bank holiday for about 9 years. This is because I'm not at Greenbelt, my favourite festival in all the world. Normally I steward, and I love it. This year I am not stewarding, due to being 5 months pregnant, which means I need to go to bed at a reasonable time and get tired after walking for about 10 minutes. This is not conducive to being part of a team who spend the hours between 7pm and 3am walking round Cheltenham racecourse.

However, my worst August bank holiday was about 3 years ago, when I went to Greenbelt but didn't steward due to having a broken leg. I spent the weekend feeling miserable at missing out on the stewarding fun. I decided not to risk that this year. Instead I am staying at home, going to a wedding and watching ER. We might go and look at cots tomorrow. I feel like I've made the right choice but I do still feel sad and am missing my friends and stewarding. I'm already trying to work out how to manage to steward next year while having an 8-month-old baby.

I am fortunate to be kept up-to-date with what is going on at Greenbelt by text message and Merlin's blog. Which does remind me of some of the things I'm not missing - sweeping the campsite for intruders in the early hours of the morning being one of them!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A picture of Spoonface

This is my baby at 21 weeks, which was pretty much 2 weeks ago. That's how up-to-date I am.

Apart from the baby refusing to show its face, a crucial part of the scanning process, and then the fire alarm going off while I was walking around to try to make it change position, the scan was pretty uneventful. The baby looks healthy and the sonographer thinks it's a girl. While she won't say for sure, she didn't say it was hard to tell. So I'm guessing when it comes out it will be female.

We're calling her Spoonface for now - Matt made it up and it seems to have stuck. We're hoping to come up with something better by the time she's born but I think we're not going to tell anyone. My sister can't quite believe we're not even going to tell her what we're thinking of calling the baby.

Spoonface is getting bigger and is very kicky. There's just something wrong about being kicked by a small baby from the inside. It's reassuring that she's ok, but it just doesn't feel like it should be happening.

I'm starting to feel very excited about having a baby, and counting down the weeks until I can start maternity leave (13 1/2) - I am enjoying my new job (not so new any more!) but looking forward to not having to get up and try to be coherent five days in a row!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Rod Liddle is an idiot

It's been an interesting week for women in the news.  Harriet Harman has been left in charge while Gordon Brown is on holiday and has shared a few thoughts about the current position of women in society and politics.  This has been presented in the most sensationalist manner.  'Business and politics work better with both men and women in leadership' becomes 'Harriet Harman says men can't be left in charge'.  Tanya Gold writes an interesting piece on how the response to Harriet Harman is misogynistic.

I'm not happy with the idea of quotas for women in leadership, as Harriet Harman has suggested.  But I'm not really happy with all-male leadership either.  I feel pleased to have a senior politician who is actively raising questions about the poor state of gender equality in Britain at the moment.  Things are vastly improved and I'm grateful, but there's a long way to go.  It's nice to hear someone actually talking about it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Nursery puzzles

Life is full of questions I hadn't expected to need to answer.  For example, what do you put in a nursery?  We've moved the spare bed out of the spare room and into the attic, so that's a good start - there is now room for other furniture in there.  Matt's going to do a bit of a paint job and we're getting Little Miss and Mr Men stickers to go on the wall, so it will look like a room for a baby.

But then what?  I guess we'll get a cot from somewhere.  But I really have no idea what else to put in there.  Baby stuff shops seems to sell changing tables, but it seems a bit of a waste of space when there's a perfectly good floor for changing on.  And nursery furniture sets also seem to often come with a wardrobe, but I'm not really sure why you'd want a wardrobe for baby clothes.  It's not like it's going to have full length dresses for a long time, if at all.  

I'm tempted to leave it until the baby is actually here and we can work out what we need ("wouldn't it be useful to have somewhere to put all this [insert name of things which need storing]?" "yes, let's go and buy a [insert storage device]") but the impression I get is that you only have half an hour at any one time to do anything with a small baby.  Not long enough to work out what it is we need, never mind find it, buy it and put it together.

Planning for a baby is really quite puzzling.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Moving on

During the first three months of being pregnant I was frustrated at not being able to blog about it, about everything I was thinking about and feeling and experiencing.  You should probably all be very glad.  So I expected to write a little more than I have done now that it's public knowledge.


This baby was quite a surprise and it's been a huge adjustment.  My future looks very different to what I was expecting.  Some of it feels like quite a loss to me, although I know once the baby is actually here I will be so pleased and excited.  But I don't really want the baby looking back at my blog in 10 years time and seeing lots of negative things.  So far, the baby feels like more of an idea than a person and I know I will love the person.

I've also been SO tired.  It's hard to think of anything much to say.  I go to work, I come home, I lie on the sofa, I go to bed.  I can't really write about work (going well, a bit stressful at times) and there's really not much else going on.  So not much to inspire me to write.

And mostly I'm bored and miserable.  I'm too tired to do much and I feel ill.  This morning I was sick again - a less-than-welcome second-trimester development.  Ok, I've only been sick three times - it's not major-league suffering.  But everyone spends the whole of early pregnancy promising you amazing energy and wellbeing during your second trimester.  I'm nearly halfway through my second trimester and the blooming is yet to start.


Things are getting better.  Overall, I do feel less ill.  I've got a little bump.  We heard the baby's heartbeat.  We bought a pram (it's amazing how much difference a pram in the corner makes - apparently we really are going to have a baby).  In another few weeks we'll have the 20 week scan and maybe find out whether it's a boy or a girl.  Matt is starting work on the nursery.  It feels like we're moving on.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


A lot of people have asked whether we intend to find out whether we are having a boy or girl at the next scan.  I'm not sure whether I want to, but I've been given a lot of advice!  Some people say they found out and it helped them to bond, some people say it's a lovely surprise waiting until it's born.  A lot of people are just too impatient or want to be able to buy blue or pink clothes.

as you can imagine, I'm not a big advocate of pink for girls and blue for boys.  But one thing I've noticed is that a lot of the people who think it helps with bonding are men, and a lot of the people who think it's nice to wait are women.  Not exclusively, by a long way, but my unscientific research appears to show a trend.  I wonder whether it's because women feel the have enough bonding carrying the baby around inside them and want a nice surprise as a reward for their labour?

Friday, June 05, 2009


I was looking forward to blogging about this but realised everyone pretty much who reads my blog and will care already knows.

I am going to have a baby!  On or around 17th December.  I have a little bump to show for it.  The past couple of months have been fairly horrible - getting over the shock, feeling sick, feeling tired, getting up to wee in the night - it is a relief to finally have told people, and to feel excited with people.  And the second trimester is supposed to be a lot more fun!

I'm hoping that the baby is born early-ish as I think the closer it is to Christmas, the less chance it has of anyone ever coming to its birthday parties apart from me.

It's been really strange seeing how life changes.  We planned to buy a new car and Matt wanted something a bit sporty.  We found out we were pregnant and bought something with room in the boot for a pram.  I have to think about prams.  I have to drink lots of water and avoid eating shellfish.  We have nappies in our spare room.  I feel like I had an idea of what I wanted my life to be like, and it seemed to be working out, and now I'm heading into an unimaginable future.

I know, when we get there and the baby comes out, it will be amazing, and everything will be fine and I will (mostly) be very happy (apart from day 4, apparently, when all new mums cry).  But for now, I'm still a bit surprised.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A lovely weekend

I am going to have a lovely weekend.  Today I am going to go for a walk in the park in the sun (if Matt ever wakes up after a night shift) and do karaoke at Tiger Tiger.  Tomorrow I am going to see my sister and my nephew.  And on Monday (which I'm counting as part of the weekend - after the bank holiday last weekend I'm starting to believe all weekends are three days long!) I'm off work as my best friend is back from Indonesia and we're spending the day in Manchester: shopping, buying books, drinking coffee.

I wish you all a lovely weekend too!

Monday, May 11, 2009

New kid

I started my new job today.  And I survived!  I had a meeting to discuss what I need to do, which was useful.  I met my new team, who seem nice.  I made some lists of things to do and a list of people I need to see.  I went out for a leaving lunch with my old team.  I got my phone number transferred.  I regretted getting my old number transferred when I ended up getting numerous phone calls from and about old tenants.

So far, so good.

In other news, I had a small bump in my car on Thursday.  I was fine, it was less so.  Maybe I'm just really not destined to drive!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

New starts and summer's coming!

I finally have a start date for my new job.  I'm starting on Monday.  I was off work yesterday, working on uni stuff, and I'm in uni today.  This gives me two days to tie up all the loose ends and make my desk tidy.

I'm excited about starting my new job - I'm going to be responsible for moving tenants out of their accommodation into new accommodation.  I'm really looking forward to having a job where I plan what I'm going to do and then, for the most part, do it, rather than just dealing with whatever the day throws at me.  It's going to be challenging trying to keep people happy and facilitate the moves, but it's really good to do something new.

I'm also excited because I am hopeful that two weeks today I will have handed in all my university work and be free for the summer to do summery things, like go to the pub and actually go outside and see people.  It is the end of my hermitage.  Until next winter, when I'll crawl back into a dark cave and sleep for 6 months.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The end is in sight

I'm working on a presentation for uni which I need to hand in on Wednesday.  I'm also supposed to have a first draft of some group work done for Wednesday. I have a research project to do for the middle of May and also a careers plan to hand in towards the end of May.  It feels like so much work to do - I feel like I've been doing this for a very long time and I feel so tired.  But just now, I feel like I might be able to do it - I might just manage to hand in all my work in a passable state, on time.

That feels like achievement enough for me, just now.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Are you speculative?

Phil Spencer, of Location Location, has just seen his luxury home-finding business collapse.  He says "The correction in the housing market continues to unfold with unprecedented speed... And nobody can know how long this is all going to take to turn around and we should be highly speculative of anyone who claims to be able to do so."

I don't think he means 'speculative'.  I think he was aiming for 'suspicious' or 'wary' or something similar.  Not to worry, he's still got his Channel 4 presenting job finding homes for people with more money than sense of proportion.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

New! New! News!

I have some exciting news!  I have a new job!  I'm going to be a project officer!  

It's an internal move and is a sideways move rather than a promotion, but I get to sit on the third floor rather than the first floor and have some new experiences.

I'll be liaising with tenants in relation to new-build projects, which should be interesting, and also looking at some our projects and seeing what we can do better.  I'm excited about learning some new skills and using some of my planning skills, rather than just being responsive to tenant enquiries.  It will be good to use some of the project management skills I've learnt in a new context.

I will be sad to leave my team, as we have a lot of fun, but I feel very excited - I feel like my career is moving on...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


I had a gym induction today, as I think I need to do something to train for the 10k!  And I managed to cycle for 3 minutes, then run 1.9k at an average of 6k/h, and then another 1k of cycling!  I'm pleasantly surprised at how far I can run - this feels almost achievable...  And I feel really well for having done it.

If you would like to sponsor me to run the Manchester 10k you can do so here: I'm running to raise money for Christian Aid.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Right to move?

The Conservatives have launched a new policy, arguing that social tenants should be given the right to move.  On the surface, this doesn't seem like a bad idea - if you want to move, ask your landlord to sell your house and buy you another one elsewhere.  But it isn't workable.  How is a landlord in Cheshire expected to reasonably manage a property in Essex?  What if you demand that your landlord sells your home, but no-one wants to buy it?  What about the people in Cheshire waiting for a social home who have just lost one more property from the potential housing stock?

Not just that - it isn't even necessary.  Social tenants already have the ability to move to another part of the country through the right to assign their tenancy - they can swap their tenancy with someone else, as long as they can find someone to swap with.  Landlords are able to refuse on very limited statutory grounds, and can also put conditions on the exchange, such as a clear rent account.  It's not a perfect system but it seems a bit more workable than the Conservative proposals

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Run run run!

In just 6 weeks I will be doing the Manchester 10k!  I'm not really a natural runner - I did the 1500m at school once and everyone else had finished before I'd done the first 1 3/4 laps.  However, I like a challenge and I'm hoping it will help me to be fitter.

I'm raising money for Christian Aid, who do some excellent relief and development work in developing countries, and a lot of campaigning on a range of issues.  Christian Aid have also been very supportive of SPEAK, who I love.

I would be very grateful if you would sponsor me here, as it will give me an extra bit of motivation.  Judging by the 'battery-acid-in-my-lungs' feeling after training this afternoon, I'll need all the motivation I can get!

Thursday, April 02, 2009


I've just bought and started reading 'The Armchair Economist' by Steven E Landsburg.  It seems quite interesting - it's looking at the concept of rationality in economics - one of the criticisms of economics is that it treats people as rational when they aren't.  So I'm interested to see how his defence works out.  It was also book of the week in WHSmith.  Or something.

I was curious, however, when it referred in the future tense to voting in the 1996 elections.  I had assumed it was a new book.  But no.  first published in the US in 1995, and then over here in 2009.  I think that's quite weird - a 14 year gap between US and UK publications.

Now I'm off to do some reading for my research project!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Young, white and unhappy

A friend of mine works in a pub and recently posed a question that he says he hears from a lot of his customers.  Young white men are feeling discriminated against - the last group of people it is ok to discriminate against.

I'm tempted to list a range of statistics to counter this, but I'm not sure angry numbers work as an argument against this.  I think what they are probably feeling is a reduction in privileges as preferential treatment can no longer be assumed and a sense of entitlement is being eroded.  So relatively, individually, they are worse off than they might have expected (although society is better-off), but, generally, probably still better off than a lot of groups.

What do you think?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Good things

Feeling like a lot more is right with the world than has been recently.  That's in my own life, of course, rather than, for example, Northern Ireland...

It feels like spring is coming, and it's much lighter outside.  For a SAD sufferer, that's a big deal - saves me half an hour every morning sitting in front of a lightbox.

Jake, my favourite baby, said his first word yesterday.  Predictably, it was "mummy" rather than "I love my Aunty Sarah very much," but I was there and I heard it.  I love seeing Jake - he's just very cute and very uncomplicated.

A family member is quite unwell at the moment.  It's been a worrying week but I'm getting used to the worry - which feels quite positive.

I've been driving to visit aforementioned family member.  I feel very glad to have the freedom my car brings.

My first essay is nearing completion.  I'm developing a sense that maybe it's ok for my work to be ok, rather than outstanding all the time.

I've been working on some other issues as well: what I think about God, what I think about having babies, what I think about my career.  I'm feeling very positive.  I'm approaching 30 and I have an idea about what I want out of life.

I have a very nice husband.

I'm training to run the Manchester 10k, I'm going to do it very badly, and that is going to be ok.

My best friend is coming home for the summer very soon.

As I said, all is well with the world.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Time for a change

I'm still thinking about gender and work-life balance and participation in paid and domestic work.  I've just read the most depressing article - it looks at earnings and participation rates for men and women in dual-career households and finds that there is little difference between men and women - until they have children - then women's participation and earnings are significantly reduced for the rest of their lives (Hardill and Watson, 2004).  It appears to be very difficult to have two careers and children - and when something has to give, it is usually the woman's career, with a knock-on effect on her future pension and personal ambitions.

I accept that there is an element of choice within this - but people make choices within a social context of expectations, legislation and practicalities.  While access to paternity leave is so poor and so badly-paid, and while men feel their careers are at risk from taking a career break to care, it is unlikely that this situation will change.  

But I'm not sure why women are expected to suffer financially and have their careers damaged.  Within all the literature and discussions around the issue there seems to be a feeling that the children 'belong' to their mother and are her responsibility.  For example, one reason for the move from 'family friendly' policies to 'work-life balance' policies is that employers feared that they were seen to only benefit women.  Freeing up one partner to work part-time and carry out child care and domestic labour benefits both partners by allowing the other to work full-time.  Dinner does not cook itself and dirty clothes do not wash themselves and food does not buy itself and put itself into the fridge and cupboards.  But because this work is unpaid, is is not even considered within the economic framework we live in.

I think what I'm trying to say is that a change is needed - I'm just not sure what.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


My last term of taught lectures at uni has started.  It looks busy but interesting - work-life balance, a work-based project, a presentation on professionalism, a career plan and some group work - at the end of all this I will become a Corporate Member of the Chartered Institute of Housing and be able to put letters after my name.

I'm hoping to go on to do my dissertation and become a Master of the Universe... sorry, a Master of Science.  I'm not sure how scientific 'housing practice' is really - it's more a social than a pure science.

Currently I'm really interested in how employers allow people to balance work and life, and more importantly, why, and what effect this has on people.  And, looking at it from a gender perspective, what effect does it have on the ability for men and women to achieve equality?  Mostly women take up flexible working options - that's because mostly, caring work falls to women.  Does this marginalise women by presenting them as collectively less committed to work?  Are work-life balance policies going to change much while men tend to earn more than women, making it economically more viable in dual-income heterosexual couples for women to reduce their hours?  Why is it assumed that women will drop everything to pick up a sick child?  Is it becoming more acceptable for men to take paternity leave or reduce their hours?  To what extent is it possible to have equality when it is women who do the pregnancy and labour thing?  What does 'equality' look like anyway?

I love looking at things from a gender perspective...

Sunday, February 08, 2009


I spent yesterday being literary at Tatton Hall - the highlight of the day was a poetry reading by Wendy Cope, but there was also an interesting discussion about 'Get into Reading', a way of using reading groups with different groups such as people with dementia, mental health problems, learning disabilities, by reading books aloud on a weekly basis and then discussing them - I wondered whether this would work on my estate as a way of bringing different people together, but think I'll probably never find time to implement it...  Char March also read a story she had written about her relationship with her mother - as I was at the even with my mother, it was interesting to think about how our relationship has changed and how it might change in the future.

So here's my favourite poem Wendy read:


She was Eliza for a few weeks
When she was a baby - 
Eliza Lily.  Soon it changed to Lil.

Later she was Miss Stewart in the baker's shop
And then 'my love', 'my darling', Mother.

Widowed at thirty, she went back yo work
As Mrs Hand.  Her daughter grew up,
Married and gave birth.

Now she was Nanna.  'Everybody
Calls me Nanna,' she would say to visitors.
And so they did - friends, tradesmen, the doctor.

In the geriatric ward
They used the patients' Christian names.
'Lil,' we said, 'or Nanna,'
But it wasn't in her file
And for those last bewildered weeks
She was Eliza once again.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The joy of shopping

I went to Asda.

On my own.

In my car.

The DVLA has still not managed to send my licence back to me but I'm allowed to drive under section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

So I went to the supermarket.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What have the Babylonians ever done for us?

Listening to More or Less on Radio 4, I learnt about the Babylonian's contribution to our maths.  Apart from our systems for time and angles (they worked in base 60), they also had a big impact on our calendar.

Babylonians were big on phases of the moon and worked in 28 day months, broken down into 7 day weeks.  They believed that the 7th day of each week was dangerous so it was best to stay at home.  It is believed that this had a big impact on the Israelites while they were with the Babylonians, so this 7 day cycle got written into the Genesis creation story.

So, what have the Babylonians ever done for us?  Sundays off!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Not adding up

The government are planning to subsidise internships for new graduates struggling to find work due to the credit crunch.  Graduates will be given work experience by large companies in order to gain skills and experience, and in return will receive a 'pay deal' slightly above the current grant rate of £2835 to ensure they don't suffer a cut in income.  This sounds like an interesting plan but not thought through.

Students live on a combination of grants and loans, but many also work - both part time jobs and working for four months or so in the summer.  Without that extra income, they would struggle to survive.

And that's living as a student.  As students, my friends and I revelled in our cheap lifestyle - one of our favourite nights out was 'Free to Dance' at the student union.  It was free.  We danced.  And we drank tap water from behind the bar.  Being poor is part of student culture.  Working requires some money - for clothes for work, and transport to and from work.  It's not cheap.

And then, why would you anyway?  I know jobs are scarce, but if I had a choice between work experience at under £3000 and a normal job at around £12000, I know what I would choose.  In some ways I regret not experiencing a graduate job, but I've started in an entry-level job, using some of the skills I got while I was a student, and am working my way up through my career - and getting more than £3000 a year.

I just don't see this taking off. 

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ethics and economics

We've had most of our rewiring done.  We need all the holes filling in with plaster.  We've had a few plasters round to look at it.  We've had a resounding lack of quotes.  We've still got some more recommendations to try.  But it's a bit depressing - all I want is someone to come and make my house whole again.

We've also had a  few recommendations of people who will come and do the job for us, if we give them some money.  No receipt, no VAT.  I believe in getting a proper job done, I believe in getting a receipt for the work I've paid for, I believe in paying VAT (particularly now there's 2.5 % less of it to pay!) and I also think that if I pay tax on what I earn, probably everyone else should too.

But I can understand why maybe not many plasterers do, if that is the case.  If  you have to charge an extra 15% for VAT and whatever you're going to lose in various income and other taxes, you're not going to be very competitive.  Which means you're less likely to survive.

I don't want to employ a plasterer cash-in-hand - I don't agree with it.  But if the alternative is living in a house with big gaps in the plaster, or doing the work myself, I'm not sure what I'll end up doing.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Hallelujah. Again.

Driving home yesterday afternoon, we listened to the top 40 on Radio 1.  As 'Hallelujah' is still no. 1, I listened to it all the way through for the first time.  I have three specific complaints about it:
  1. It's overdone.  The music and the lyrics have enough emotion.  You don't need to emphasise every word.  And - I don't really know enough technical music language to describe this really - the amount of build up around "a cold and broken hallelujah" really makes me think she just doesn't get it.
  2. What is the deal with a backing choir?  This is a song about being on your own, not about having a full gospel choir to keep you company at all times.
  3. She missed a verse.  Yes, just missed out a whole verse.
I would rather this cover had got to no. 1.  At least it does something different with it which isn't just 'making it worse'.  And it's funny.

It's January 5th and I have to go back to work.  I'm not sure whether 'll get used to this.