This has been a very busy month. At the end of May I was invited to spend a week with a couple of friends of mine in Exeter, while I was taking a bit of well-earned holiday from work. So that’s where we start off here, and there’s lots to mention about the various ways we enjoyed ourselves. Then there’s the usual mix of job updates, entertainment and other bits and bobs as well. So I hope you enjoy looking through it all!
Wednesday June 1, 2005
I brought my sleeping bag and other stuff down to A’s today for my stay. S has got the sofa bed, so I’m on the floor. A’s got a beanbag, though, which helps for getting comfortable. I also didn’t bother with the train like I did on Tuesday. As I can use my monthly Gold Rider ticket on the entire Stagecoach network in Devon, I can hop on the X46 to Exeter. So that saves me a bit of money, even if the journey takes a bit longer.
A’s doing well. She hasn’t got a job at the moment, but she is doing some volunteering work. Her flat is looking good, she’s been there 4 years now. She’s been having it painted, and it also looks a bit tidier than last time. There are a few paintings by her grandfather around the house, and he’s a pretty good artist. She also has a couple of photo boards on the wall, with some really old photos of her. And she’s got a TV, video, Xbox and filing cabinet in her lounge.
She’s also got a desk in the corner with a computer her dad got for her. It’s good, with a massive hard drive (about 114Gb I think she said), though it does seem to be swarming with adware, as lots of adverts pop up for no reason, so she needs to get that sorted out. She’s got a fair amount of music stored on there too though, and she copied my Monty Python Sings CD that I’d brought along to listen to. Her taste in music isn’t entirely like mine though – her and S’s tastes are more alike. The ballad type of music prevails a lot – not entirely, but they are both into artists like Celine Dion, Lemar, Ronan Keating, etc, who I’m not a big fan of.
S, meanwhile, had just finished his second year at Bournemouth University. He’s doing fine too, and is pretty confident about his results, which he gets in about 6 weeks time. And he’s going back home to Guernsey next Friday, after this little holiday meeting up with us.
The weather wasn’t too great today, but S had asked me to bring my CD-ROMs of Trivial Pursuit: Millennium Edition and Monopoly down to use on his laptop, so we played them for a little while. We then went to the Tally Ho! pub for tea, and that was about it. So it was a fairly quiet day really.
Thursday June 2, 2005
We met one of A’s support workers today, CH, who had brought her baby daughter AL with her. We also met ST from school, so it was good to see her again, and she’s doing fine. She did have a work experience job a short time ago, but it didn’t work out. She’s also living in Exeter, but in a different part to A.
A, S, ST, CH, AL and myself all took a trip down to Living Coasts in Torquay on the X46 bus, a journey that took much longer than it should due to an accident in Kingsteignton. Still, we got there in the end. We had hoped to go to Paignton Zoo as well, as you can get a joint ticket for both attractions, but the long bus journey put that idea to bed. And we had lunch in a Wetherspoons pub in Torquay before going to Living Coasts.
Living Coasts was good, if smaller than I’d expected. There are penguins, ducks, seals and even rats. It was fun watching A trying to take photos of animals swimming in the tanks, as they are quite fast! It’s a bit easier above ground, simply because many of the animals weren’t doing much. And we didn’t get to see any of the feedings, which would have been interesting. But it was a good afternoon out.
Back in Exeter, and after we had some chips at a local takeaway, A took me and S to the Three Fat Fish, a club she knows just off the High Street. They were having an LGBT night, which happens every Thursday I think. We met her friend L there. It’s a nice place with a good atmosphere, and it’s quite easy to see what you’re doing.
The music wasn’t too bad either, with me, S and A having a good dance for much of the time. They played a fair amount of early/mid 90s stuff, and a few older things too, and Amarillo of course. And I even got chatted up! A bloke came up to me and asked if S was my partner. I said no, he’s just a mate, and a friend of ours brought us here. And when he realised we were straight, he walked off looking a bit disappointed. Poor guy, I did feel a bit sorry for him.
We got home quite late, and with A being a bit tipsy decided to have a quick go on Trivial Pursuit, before eventually crashing into bed at about 4am! None of us were drunk though. We didn’t have lots of drinks, partly because we’re sensible enough, and partly because S and A’s finances aren’t as healthy as mine right now.
Friday June 3, 2005
Today we met LM, AM and LL at The Imperial, a Wetherspoons pub in Exeter, while we had lunch there. It was LM’s 23rd birthday, so she was meeting various people before celebrating in the evening. They’re all doing fine. LM’s lost all her sight now, but is still happy. I don’t think she’s got a job at the moment, but she’s married to AM, a former pupil like her, but he’s now working at the West of England (glutton for punishment!). LL is working in a pub in Taunton. Suits him really, and his sense of humour and behaviour haven’t changed, he’s still as mad as ever! Another of A’s support workers also came along for a little while, so it was good to meet him.
While we were there me, A and S tried a Blue Lagoon cocktail, after LL suggested we try something different to the drinks we usually have. It was quite nice too, and came in a pitcher (a big jug) so we could pour it out for each other and share it. Rather too much ice in it though, and not quite enough drink. And talking of food, we also saw a guy in the pub who used to work in the school’s kitchens.
In the evening, A took me and S to The Vaults, a bar which again caters for gay people like herself, and we met a friend of hers who was a female-to-male transexual. It wasn’t as good as the Three Fat Fish though. The music wasn’t as good, and the atmosphere wasn’t as exciting. But the people were nice.
Saturday June 4, 2005
Today we met A’s mum and her partner in town for lunch at an Italian restaurant, where I had a nice plate of spaghetti bolognese. We then had a pretty lazy afternoon, after A’s mum and stepdad had seen her flat, before A cooked us some dinner with chicken and lamb portions in the evening.
We then went down to the shop to get some sweets, to keep us going while we watched Lord Of The Rings: Return of the King on DVD. It was the theatrical version, not the extended edition, so it was interesting for me to see how different it was. They don’t kill Saruman off in the short version, and one or two other bits are slightly different. Other than that, it’s mainly character parts that are cut out. Still good though.
Sunday June 5, 2005
Today we went to a local leisure centre to catch the end of an It’s A Knockout style contest, where we saw the last couple of games. The first was Sumo Wrestling, with people wearing big sumo outfits. The build-up music was Eye Of The Tiger, and the fight music was Kung Fu Fighting! It was a good laugh to watch. And then the final was a Sumo Relay, so people had to change into big suits and take the baton before running up and down the hall.
They then held a raffle, which the three of us entered. And I won – twice! The first prize I got was a teddy, which I gave to A. The second was a breakfast tea set, including a couple of different types of teabags including Earl Gray, jars of jam and marmalade, and a packet of biscuits. We thought we might have it for breakfast one day during the week. That was until I was reading the packaging later, just to see what was in it. Clearly someone had donated it after having it lying around for a while as, according to the packaging, it was best before April 2004! Yes, 2004, not 2005. So we’re not going to bother after all.
Anyway, the event closed with everyone in the hall doing the Hokey Cokey, including us and the rest of the audience, so that was fun too. We then walked back to A’s house after that.
That evening, A wanted to watch some of the women’s Euro 2005 football on the telly. I don’t think it’s really got much attention before on the TV, so it’s good to see it get more coverage, even if I’m not really that interested myself.
So while she watched that, me and S went over to the West of England School & College (our old school) for a few hours, as people were now starting to come back from half term. We went around with CP, one of our old friends, for most of the night. He’s younger than us and is now a student in the college part. We got in a Pizza Hut delivery for the 3 of us, as we hadn’t eaten yet. We also met two of the other students in his boarding house, and we had a good laugh about Monty Python, Blackadder and Spike Milligan. CP’s doing a BTEC Diploma in Music Technology, which involves working in Plymouth on Monday and Tuesday, and then in Exeter the rest of the week. So that sounds interesting.
We also met a few other people, all of whom were very pleased to see us, including our old headmaster, who’s leaving soon. And another member of staff told me that the school did get the letter I sent a while back telling them how I was getting on.
And another member of staff still has the same sense of humour and still knows lots of jokes. The best one he told this time was:
A lady who keeps ducks is very upset when one of them appears to have died. She loves her ducks very much, so she takes it to the vet. He’s pretty sure that it is dead, but she pleads with him to see what he can do.
The vet brings in a big black Labrador, and takes it to the duck. The dog has a good look at the duck, sniffing it and licking it, but walks away without doing anything. “No, it’s definitely dead” says the vet. “Isn’t there anything else you can try?” she pleads.
“There is one more thing” the vet replies, and brings in a Persian cat.
Like the dog, the cat has a good look at the duck, but then walks off. “There really is nothing more I can do” says the vet.
“Ok,” says the lady, sadly. “How much do I owe you?”
“£536” says the vet.
“What?! The duck’s dead, you haven’t done anything! I was expecting no more than £50 just for your time.” replies the shocked lady.
“Ah,” says the vet. “But remember, your pet has just had a Lab test and a Cat scan…”
Not a bad joke by his standards. Pretty clever really.
There are also a few other changes of note at the school:
- No trees in the main playground. Me and S were quite shocked to see them gone. Apparently they were getting dangerous, so health and safety rules are kicking in somewhere. The slope off the playground going up to the boarding houses now has a low wall beside it too, presumably for the same reason.
- The college has a new classroom block, down a path outside one of the boarding houses.
- Most entrance doors are automatic doors now.
- Their in-house radio station, which I had heard about before, is still going, run by the Design & Technology teacher.
- Most shockingly, more so than the disappearing trees, is the disappearance of alcohol at the college bar. Somebody had been stealing it and selling it cut-price, so they had no choice. Shame that they had to spoil the fun.
Monday June 6, 2005
We all met up with another of A’s friends today and went ten pin bowling in the afternoon, where her friend did very well, getting a turkey (3 strikes in a row) at one point!
Then in the evening evening me, S and A went back to the school again, now that most people are back from half term. We met various members of staff who were all pleased to hear about our progress, including one who is leaving soon for a new job in the Isles Of Scilly.
We went back to A’s flat after that, where she cooked up spaghetti bolognese for us, which was nice. We had hoped to go and see the new Star Wars film at the cinema, but didn’t have time in the end. So we watched Shrek 2 on DVD instead. It’s a funny film, although I’m not desperate to buy it for myself. The Far Far Away Idol bit at the end is a good addition though, where you get to pick your winner from quite a lot of acts.
Tuesday June 7, 2005
S and A had appointments at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital during the afternoon, and it looked like I would be going home today, but plans were changed after we didn’t get to see Star Wars yesterday. So, after lunch, they went off and I stayed in town. They weren’t away for that long really, only a couple of hours. I got a Father’s Day card, and a couple of cards for my Uncle’s birthday. I also got Mum some cordless headphones, the same model as Dad’s, from Argos. She asked me to get them to she didn’t miss her radio shows while going around the house or into the garden. Talking to Mum today also made my credit run out, so I topped up my mobile with £50, getting another £5 free from Orange. How nice of them.
After getting back together with S and A, we all met up with CH (the support worker we met on Thursday). She didn’t have her baby this time though. We all then went to see Star Wars III: Revenge Of The Sith. It’s a good film, better than episodes I and II. There are plenty of good lightsaber fights, including one for Yoda, and good special effects. Seeing Anakin turn into Darth Vader is good too. When they put the mask on for the first time, the whole film goes silent, with no music or sound. And in that moment of silence, all you hear is that distinctive Darth Vader breathing for the first time. So overall it does a great job of bringing the saga full circle, tying up all the loose ends.
The day ended with me and S taking A to the local Beefeater restaurant to say thanks for putting up with us all week. Me and S had the steak feast, and A had duck. We even got through the Ultimate Chocolate Challenge after that, sharing it between us!
Wednesday June 8, 2005
Today we went into town, but A had to go off to do something at the college. Before saying our goodbyes, however, we bumped into a lady who used to work that the school, and she’s doing fine. Then, once A had left us, me and S went off for lunch with CP at Burger King. CP then had to go back to the college as well, so me and S had a drink together before going to get our respective buses home. It’s been a lovely week, a nice break from work, and it’s been great to see plenty of old friends again.
Back at home, the boiler’s been fixed and Dad’s got a new shredder. And I haven’t missed much in the news. The Live 8 concert lineup was announced last week, and the Crazy Frog is at number 1 for a second week, while Amarillo is still hanging on at number 11. And I’ve got the CDs I recently ordered from Amazon, so that’ll give me plenty to listen to. There was also a free Oasis CD in the Daily Mirror, which isn’t too bad. I’m not a huge fan, but I can’t complain if it’s free. I also need to watch the 7-hours worth of TV I recorded over the last week, so I won’t be bored before I go back to work!
Sunday June 12, 2005
Well, it’s nearly time to go back to work. These two weeks have certainly gone quick, but it was great to go to Exeter for a while and meet lots of old friends. I received the Doctor Who Dalek poster I’d ordered from the Radio Times the day after I got home, so that’s on my bedroom wall now. It looks great, and is double-sided as well. We also got all of our new passports this week, which didn’t take long at all.
The Queen’s Birthday Honours List is out this week, and I’m delighted to see some big names in there, including:
- David Jason – Del Boy becomes a Sir, as David is knighted. He said: “It’s a lovely jubbly honour but I can’t really understand why I’m being knighted at all for doing a job I’ve always loved … I don’t know where I’ll buy my morning suit for the palace, but it won’t be Peckham!”
- Brian May – He gets a CBE. Congratulations Brian!
- Jimmy Page – Receives an OBE. Two great guitarists in one list.
- Jonathan Ross – He also receives an OBE.
- Terry Wogan – Honorary Knighthood. His award was announced at the same time, but he’s not actually in the list because he’s Irish, and the honours only go to British and Commonwealth citizens.
- Sarah Kennedy – The former Radio 2 presenter gets an MBE.
- Dame Judi Dench – She is made a Companion of Honour.
- Frank Gardner – The reporter that was badly wounded in Iraq gets an OBE.
- Sir David Attenborough – The TV naturalist gets the Order of Merit.
- John Mayall – Father of British Blues. He gets an OBE.
- Les Ferdinand – The former England striker gets an MBE.
- Pippa Funnell – One of the greatest horsewomen gets an MBE.
- John Tomlinson – The opera singer is knighted.
- MI5 boss Elizabeth Manningham-Buller becomes Dame Commander of the Order of the Bath, only the second woman to do so.
Downing Street also said that more than 500 of the honours (about 60%) were given to people involved in some way in voluntary service, the highest number achieved so far.
Monday June 13, 2005
I didn’t miss too much at work while I was away. Well, not on the finance system front anyway.
However, it now appears that the company I sent an application to, for their accounts technician job, called my department saying that my CV didn’t come through their website properly for some reason. My colleague told them that I was on leave, but nobody tried calling my home number, or emailing or writing to me. So I phoned up to find out what was happening, but the guy I asked for, called Paul, was in a meeting. He didn’t ring back, so perhaps I’ll ring tomorrow.
I also got a call at work from a lady called Genevieve, who had been referred to me by a guy my dad knows called Chris, saying that there was a position in Kingsteignton that might interest me. So I took the details and rang the lady at the company in question. The job they’re advertising is a clerical assistant, although in simple terms it’s really a receptionist’s job. The pay isn’t any more than what I’m getting now (the top end of the bracket is only a few quid above what I get now), and it’s further to travel, plus it’s not really what I did my degree for. They work with the financial side of things sometimes, but it’s more a job that people with GCSEs and A-Levels apply for. So it’s not best suited to me, and I don’t want to undersell myself really. But at least they were interested in me.
As for home, we’ve had new windows done in the bathroom, toilet and back bedroom upstairs, so they look good. We’ll be getting a porch on the front of the house on Wednesday, as it wasn’t ready to do today.
Tuesday June 14, 2005
Paul rang me this morning, mainly to ask what I was ringing about yesterday. I explained that someone had tried to get in contact, and he went away to find out why. He rang back late in the afternoon, and explained that I had sent my CV through a different website to the one they prefer, where the form is more detailed and specific. It wasn’t my fault, as I didn’t know about the other site. Anyway, they haven’t finished looking through all the applications yet, as they’ve had a lot of interest in the job, and they are going to keep mine in the pile. If I don’t hear anything within about 10 days, I can assume I haven’t been successful.
However, they noticed that I had a disability, and also that I had skills which could well be of use within the organisation, or indeed elsewhere. So with that in mind, they’ve given my details to Chris – the friend of my Dad’s who I mentioned yesterday, and one of my colleagues knows him too. So either Chris will be getting in touch with me or vice-versa.
So things are looking very promising, although I know not to get my hopes up too much. Even if I don’t get the accounting technician’s job, I’m glad that they sound interested. By speaking to various people today and yesterday, I’ve got myself and my skills noticed, so I’ve already achieved something just by getting in touch. So I’ve got my fingers crossed that something will come out of it all eventually.
Friday June 17, 2005
No news on the job front since Tuesday. We all signed a card and put in some money for a collection for a colleague who’s leaving. I’ll miss him when he goes. He’s interesting to listen to, whether he’s talking about his experiences or just giving his opinions. He’s got a good sense of humour too. He pointed me to another company that helps to employ disabled people, called Remploy. I’d never heard of them before, but their website looks interesting. Other than that, it’s been a quiet week at work, not much going on.
As for home, the new porch went up on Wednesday, so that looks good. Nothing fancy, but it makes it much easier when you’re trying to unlock the door in the pouring rain! It’s also Father’s Day this coming Sunday. I’ve ordered an old comedy film called Genevieve off Amazon for Dad as a present. I doubt it’ll come in time for Sunday, but it should be on its way soon.
I’ve also ordered a CD called Everybody’s Rockin’ Tonight! It’s a 2-CD set of old American 50s rock with artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, and there are 60 songs in total. And it’s only £7.99. The reason is a show on BBC Radio 2. Now that Suzi Quatro’s latest series of Rockin’ With Suzi Q has finished on Thursdays, Mark Lamarr is now doing a show called Shake, Rattle and Roll. He’s been doing the show for years, but we’ve only just discovered it. My parents heard the first show while I was away on holiday earlier this month, and that’s where they heard 4 tracks from that CD compilation.
Anyway, we’re now listening to that show on Thursday nights at 9pm, as it’s pretty good and upbeat. Mark Lamarr is better known among many for hosting Never Mind The Buzzcocks and being a team captain on Shooting Stars. But he knows his music, particularly rock and roll/rockabilly stuff that he plays on his show. He’s got thousands of records in his collection, and it makes for an interesting show. So that CD set should be good to listen to.
Talking of music, Live 8 is now going to be 8 concerts, very appropriately. Additions include a gig featuring African musicians in the Eden Project, Cornwall, and a concert in Tokyo.
And this weekend I’m really looking forward to the final episode of Doctor Who, as it’s going to be a cracker with loads of Daleks involved. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series, and it’ll be interesting to see what David Tennant’s like as the new Doctor. We’ll first see him in the Christmas special this year, then he’ll do a 13-episode series next year. What’s more, the BBC has already ordered another Christmas special for next year, and a third series for the year after! So we’ve got another 28 episodes guaranteed. Let’s hope it continues to be as good.
Sunday June 19, 2005
It looks like someone hasn’t told Payroll about the extension to my work contract, as I’ve discovered that I haven’t been paid for this past month, and they’ve sent me a P45, which is for employees leaving work! So that’s frustrating. I’ll have to see my manager about that on Monday.
Doctor Who finished last night, and what a cracking end to a superb series, it was spectacular .And it also gave us a sneak peak at David Tennant as the Doctor. Christopher Eccleston is going to be very hard for him to follow, he was so good as the Doctor. Where have those 13 weeks gone? The box set is out in November, so I’ll be getting that. There were also a couple of interesting documentaries about Live Aid last night as well. And the Genevieve film I ordered as my gift for Father’s Day came yesterday, which is good.
Sunday June 26, 2005
My wages problem has been sorted out. Apparently Human Resources got the letter about my extension, but it didn’t trigger events in Payroll for some reason, so they ended my contract. But I’ve been reinstated for the period of my extension (until July 31st), and they’ve paid me for last month with this month’s wage packet. That means I’ve also made my first student loan payment as well. The limit over which you have to pay is £15,000 a year, but I reckon they work it out per month (£1,250). So as I’ve been paid 2 months’ salary in just 1 month, it’s resulted in an automatic loan payment of £106. Whether it continues next month automatically or stops remains to be seen.
There’s another guy who has got some work experience with us now too. He’s about 25, but in his first year of university, studying networking and computing. So he’s been here for a week now hanging around with a couple of my colleagues. It’ll be interesting to see if it leads to a paid summer job for him – if I’m still there to see the result, of course.
The advert for Pre-Press Supervisor – the new position they’ve created in the Printing department that would replace my temporary role – goes out soon apparently, so I’ll be able to see the job description then. I’d need a lot more training than someone with more experience, but my immediate supervisor is confident I could pick things up pretty easily if I got the job. I’ll probably make an application and see what happens, but I won’t be disappointed if I don’t get it. It’ll be good experience for me just to apply, and even more experience if I get my first proper job interview, so it’s win-win for me whatever happens really.
The weather’s been really hot since last weekend, until Friday. At about 4:30am I was woken up by a thunderstorm and heavy rain. And that lasted, with the odd pause here and there, for pretty much the whole morning. That meant I got soaked on my way to the bus station! That weather has also turned Glastonbury into a mud bath, unsurprisingly, for people attending the festival there.
And talking of music, Glastonbury links nicely into Live 8. Bob Geldof appeared at Glastonbury – not to perform, but to rally the crowd for the Make Poverty History campaign. He got everyone to link hands and shout that slogan. The Live 8 concerts take place next weekend, and I’m looking forward to seeing them. It’s not about raising money this time, but trying to get the government to realise public feeling for those in extreme hardship in Africa and elsewhere. It’s been timed to coincide with the G8 Summit, where such issues will be discussed. It’s a good idea, but how well it’ll work I don’t know. Should be interesting though. Paul McCartney‘s going to kick off proceedings with the Sgt Pepper song that starts “It was 20 years ago today…”, which is very appropriate as it’s that long since Live Aid.
As for Wimbledon, Tim Henman lost to somebody seeded much lower than him in only the second round. He’s about 30 now, so I don’t think he’s got much longer left in the game, and he certainly won’t be winning Wimbledon before he goes. Shame. Our other British hope, Andy Murray, is only 18, and he went out in his third round match, so one better than Tim. It was a full 5-set match as well. Although he’s good, the feeling among most people is that he’s not fit enough for the men’s game yet. He needs to train more and get fitter to have a really good chance. But the public’s behind him after his performance on Centre Court on Saturday.
And that’s it for this week. I miss Doctor Who though – there’s a big gap in my Saturdays now!