Journal – March 2011

Welcome to another set of journal entries. This has been quite an eventful month, with Mum and I finishing off the legal stuff relating to my Dad’s passing, the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan that’s dominated the news, I’ve bought some more DVDs, and I saw Comic Relief on TV, among other things. And then at the end of the month I had a lovely long weekend break in Guernsey with a mate. So I hope you enjoy looking through it all.

Friday March 4, 2011

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last entry, as there was nothing much to mention last week. This week’s been more productive though. In particular, Mum and I made another visit to the solicitor today, so that I could officially become Mum’s attorney.

In order for this to be all legal and above board, Mum and I had to go to another solicitor, so that I could sign and take the oath there, as it has to be someone independent from the solicitor dealing with the estate. And taking the oath meant holding the Bible in my right hand and repeating a short statement, which was quite interesting to do. We’d certainly never expected that I’d have to do that, but it didn’t bother us – I think Mum quite enjoyed it, and I was certainly happy doing it. Apparently some people get really nervous about it, only to find it’s not a big deal at all. And there are occasional affirmations that have been done instead of oaths, for those of other religions who don’t want to swear on the Bible.

Anyway, now that’s all done, the solicitor can apply for the Grant of Probate. Apparently things like that are moving along quickly at the moment, so he might have it within the next week or two, which then means he can start closing the accounts down and finalising everything, so that’ll be good.

I’ve also won 3 £25 cheques on the Premium Bonds this month, and Mum got one as well, so that’s another piece of good news! And we received very kind letters from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Devon Air Ambulance, thanking us for our £15 donations in memory of Dad (which were actually donated by relatives, but they’d obviously submitted our names). So that was nice of them. I’ve also finally ordered some Amazon DVDs for the first time this year, so they should come soon. Not that I’ve finished watching the DVDs I still have, but then some of these new ones are more for Mum than me anyway.

As for work, year-end printing for council tax and business rates is now underway, with benefit notifications soon to follow. There are also ballot papers for the 4 elections coming up. So far we’ve only been able to print the one for the referendum – asking whether we want to change to the Alternative Vote system, instead of the First Past The Post system we currently use – and there’s 105,000 papers to print for that one alone! The other 3 ballot papers can’t be done until the candidates have been finalised. Plus I’ve been preparing the P60’s, and there’s a new update to the financial management system to gear up for. So there’s plenty to keep us busy.

But it shouldn’t be too bad, now that most of the big year-end preparations are out of the way. And some of my weeks will be short ones this month. Next week’s a full week, but then I’m having 2 long weekends to use up some of my holiday days. The first weekend will be spent at home – I’ll probably catch up with things like shredding, and getting rid of things to do with the funeral that we no longer need. And then the following weekend I’ll be flying over to visit my mate in Guernsey. I just need to book the flights for that.

And talking of transport costs, the taxi firm I use for work has increased my fare from £9 to £10. I’d been expecting them to put it up for a little while, as they’d been doing it for other customers, due to the VAT rise, fuel cost increases, etc. And I’ve been on £9 for a couple of years now at least. So I don’t mind paying the extra, as long as Access To Work are happy to pay the extra of course. I rang them up yesterday, and got a form to sign and send back today, which I did on our way to the solicitor, so hopefully that’ll be sorted out soon.

One place people certainly don’t want to travel to right now though is the Middle East. A number of countries have taken inspiration from Egypt to protest against their leaders, with the main one right now being the revolution in Libya. Its leader, Colonel Gaddafi, is completely delusional, which only serves to make him more dangerous. Despite all the protests going on around him, he’s adamant that everyone loves him, and that any protestors are people who have been put on hallucinogenic drugs by Al-Qaeda, and he won’t be stepping down. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of protestors have been killed or injured by pro-Gaddafi military personnel – but a significant section of the military and other sections of the government have defected to be on the side of the protestors. So it’s all very much a mess out there! That’s really the main news story at the moment, there’s little else that comes close to knocking it off the headlines. Well, except The Oscars I think, that was one of the few things!

Anyway, that’s all I can really think of for this week. Might not be so much to report next week, unless we get the Grant of Probate really quickly. We’ll soon see. It does seem hard to believe that it’s 2 months since Dad died already, but it’s good that things relating to that are moving towards a conclusion now, certainly in terms of the really important stuff. It’ll all help us to move forward.

Sunday March 13, 2011

The solicitor obtained the Grant of Probate this week, which was as quick as he said it would be. So he’s now sent the forms for me to sign, regarding Dad’s bank account, shares, Premium Bonds and National Savings Certificates, as well as the invoice for the solicitor services to date, which he can take from the bank account when those details are sorted out. The money that Mum will be getting goes to the solicitor first, and is held for 6 months just in case anybody else wants to lay claim to it. Which won’t happen, but it’s all part of the procedure. So we should have everything before what would have been Dad’s 66th birthday later this year. Other than that, the Land Registry have taken the charge off the house now that the deeds have been taken out of the bank’s hands, so that’s sorted too. So it’s moving along nicely.

Other than that, work’s still quite busy with stuff for year-end, elections and other stuff. I’ve also booked the flights to Guernsey for the weekend after next, so I’m looking forward to that. And I’ve completed the Census for Mum and I. They allowed you to do it online for the first time this year, and it was very quick and easy.

On the downside, I had an email from a friend to say that, as a result of his regular scans, a couple of spots of cancer have returned in his lungs. Which is a great shame for him and his family, as he’d been clear for about 2 years. But that sort of thing can lie dormant and return out of the blue. He’s got to have 3 days of chemotherapy a week for a little while – they hope he’ll be in remission by the summer, so it sounds like they feel they’ve caught it early enough to be able to treat it this time around. I suspect it won’t be the last time though, poor guy, especially as he’s only young.

Still, at least we don’t live in Japan, where they had a huge 8.9 magnitude earthquake a couple of days ago. It shook Tokyo, swaying some of their buildings and bringing their transport system to a halt. But by far the most damage was nearer the coast, where the quake was heaviest. Not only did they have the ground shaking violently to begin with, but the quake also triggered a massive tsunami that devastated everything in its path. The pictures on the news show a wave of mud and debris, carrying houses, cars and anything else it picked up on the way. There were buildings on top of the wave still on fire as they were being carried along, across farmland and fields and towns that got in its way.

There’s also been a big explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power station – not damaging the main reactor, so the government there are saying, but still a major concern, especially as there’s now a risk of a second explosion. Apparently there hasn’t been a major radiation leak, but the government have also falsified records on accidents in those places in the past, so it’s hard to know exactly how safe it might be.

So that’s been the main story for a few days, and probably still will be for a little while. Japan gets quakes fairly regularly – being in the Pacific Ring Of Fire as they are, where plates of the Earth meet and are moving against and under each other – but this was huge even by their standards. When you measure the magnitude of earthquakes, it’s not a linear scale. Each number on the Richter Scale is 32 times the energy of the number below it, so you can see how big an 8.9 quake is. So not the most cheerful news there. And Libya’s still in the news as well, as Gaddafi’s men try to reclaim towns and fend off the rebels, but I’m not paying much attention to that.

This coming week, there shouldn’t be anything too out of the ordinary happening here. Our main task at work will be printing out benefit notifications for year-end. Then I’m having next Friday and Monday off, to have a long weekend at home to use up a couple of my days. Then the next weekend I’m off to Guernsey of course. So I’ve got a few short weeks at work to look forward to.

I also got a few new DVDs this week, including Poirot for Mum, The Two Ronnies: Series 9 for both of us, and the final Family Guy Star Wars spoof (It’s A Trap) for me. And, now I’ve caught up with Doctor Who and my other DVDs, I’m resuming my catch-up of 24 (I’m now on Season 3), so I’ll be ready to watch Season 8 for the first time eventually!

Friday March 18, 2011

So I have a nice long weekend now, as I’ve got today and Monday off work. The key year-end stuff has pretty much been done, from my angle anyway, as I finished sorting out the benefit notifications yesterday. So now they’re all being printed. And a colleague also got the cakes in for his birthday. But otherwise there isn’t much else to mention work-wise.

Things have been pretty quiet at home too. We got a cheque from Co-operative Funeral Services for £75, a refund we were due for becoming members of the Co-op. We still haven’t received our membership card, so all we could do was give them the card number the website provided us with when we signed up, but never mind. We got the discount, which is what mattered. Mum and I were going to go out and put that in along with our Premium Bond cheques, but as it’s pouring with rain we’ve decided to leave it. We’ll probably do those bits on Monday so we can get Nan a Mother’s Day card as well. Might get my hair cut done that day too. Mum’s got a hairdresser’s appointment tomorrow as well, so we’ll go shopping early then I can take her down for that.

The news has continued to be dominated by Japan in the aftermath of their massive earthquake. As well as clearing up the destruction, helping those who have lost homes and possession, and counting those who didn’t survive, there have also been major fears about the Fukushima nuclear power station, where the reactors have been affected by the quake. Some radiation has got out, although nobody is sure how much as the reports tend to change constantly. There is an evacuation area, but it sounds like it shouldn’t be too bad, provided they can get the station under control again and keep it that way. It will probably be decommissioned anyway now. Power has even been rationed in many parts of the country with enforced blackouts for a few hours at a time. And trying to get food, water, clothing and aid to everyone is of course very difficult. It’s a horrific experience for everyone there, and everyone who has gone over to help out, it’s impossible to imagine it.

They’re not the only people being helped this week though. It’s Comic Relief time again, to finish this entry on a happier note. Various things have been going on already as usual. David Walliams, of Little Britain fame, has done a 24-hour panel show stint, alternating between being a panelist, guest or host on special editions of various shows old and new, including Call My Bluff, Mock The Week, Blankety Blank, Have I Got News For You, Just A Minute, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, They Think It’s All Over, The Generation Game, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and so on.

Meanwhile Helen Skelton from Blue Peter did a tightrope walk between the chimneys of Battersea Power Station. Plus a group of celebrities, including blind radio presenter Peter White from In Touch, embarked on a trek across the Kaisut Desert in North Kenya.

And on Radio 1, Chris Moyles and Comedy Dave have just completed a record-breaking show, broadcasting continuously for a whopping 52 hours! They smashed the Radio 1 record set by Simon Mayo back in 1999 at first, and then carried on to smash the world record by reaching 50 hours, before carrying on for two more to set the final time. I don’t usually listen to Radio 1 or Chris Moyles, other than when I hear him in the taxi on the way to work, as the music and guests usually aren’t for me. But I tuned in occasionally for this, as it wasn’t just on the radio, but video of the entire event was broadcast live on the Red Button channel on TV, and on the internet of course. The bits I saw were pretty good fun, and I donated a couple of quid via text message as it was entertaining. The desert trek, which had included fellow DJ Scott Mills, had raised over £500,000, so they were hoping to just top that up with another £100,000 or so. But in the end they raised over £2.4 million, just for the epic radio show! So well done to them!

The telethon tonight should have its fun moments as well, with sketches from Doctor Who, Outnumbered, James Corden, Harry Hill, Armstrong & Miller, and lots of other stuff. But I’ll record it so I can skip the bits I’m not interested in. Children In Need did well again last year despite money being tight, and we’ve now seen how generous the Radio 1 listeners have been the past few days, so they ought to raise a good total overall.

Friday March 26, 2011

This morning I went down to the corner shop and got some milk so that Mum had some for the weekend, and I also got the Radio Times. Then I had a big cooked breakfast before heading into Exeter. I got there in the early afternoon, and still had some time before my flight to Guernsey, so I had a McDonald’s meal and a little wander around town before getting the bus to the airport.

Full credit to the airport staff, they were very friendly and helpful to me at all times, making sure I had someone to follow through the terminals in both Exeter and Guernsey, and making sure I got on and off the plane safely too. They offered to let me hold their arm if I wanted to, but they didn’t force it on me. The flight was comfortable as well, with a reasonable amount of leg room considering the planes aren’t all that big, so that was good. The flight went to Jersey first, then made the short hop to Guernsey from there – no sooner have you taken off than it’s almost time to land again! The flight was delayed getting in by about 15 minutes, but that’s normal for that route according to my mate. In our case, it was because they had a slight discrepancy at Jersey – 56 people on their list, but 57 in the cabin. It sounded from the chatter among the two stewardesses like someone had used the self check-in facility when they weren’t supposed to. Didn’t take long to sort out anyway.

SM and his Mum met me at the airport. She had driven up from work, and he had got the bus in. His Mum drove us both back to their house – which has changed a lot since 10 years ago (I last stayed with them in 2001, we worked out, which is way too long!). Their kitchen’s now been knocked through into what was SM’s old bedroom downstairs, allowing for a dining area where the main part of the kitchen used to be in the past. And there are now doors leading from the dining area onto some decking outside that SM’s Dad put together. An archway from the dining area also leads into the lounge, which is nice and spacious, well decorated and with comfy sofas. Walking back through the kitchen brings you to a door into a small hallway and the stairs. Turn right at the top and you’re in Mum and Dad’s bedroom, with their en suite bathroom. Turn left, however, and you’re in SM’s little flat area, with a bedroom, bathroom, and combined kitchen and living area, all of which is pretty nice and comfortable. SM even painted the bathroom pretty much by himself, in blue.

SM’s Mum got some stuff from the Chinese takeaway for the four of us (SM, his parents and myself), so we sat and had that together at the dining table.  After that, SM & I went upstairs to his flat and had a couple of games on the original version of Worms on his Playstation 2, which he still has, and which I haven’t played for absolutely ages, so that was good fun.

We then thought we might try going down to a nearby pub for a couple of games of pool. As we were leaving the house, SM showed me inside their big shed building, where their table tennis table used to be. They still have a table for that, but it’s not the old one – they’ve now got a fold-away one, so I didn’t see that on this occasion. I saw their gym equipment though, as that’s where they keep and use it, consisting of a rowing machine and an exercise bike. Nice bits of kit too.

When we got to the pub, we discovered that they’re undergoing refurbishment, due to the main door being shut off, and access only through the side door. The pool table had been moved into the bar area that was still open, but it was in a dark corner, which was no good for us. So we just chatted and had a couple of bottles of the local Rocquette cider, which was nice.

After we got back home we watched the first Under Siege film, starring Steven Seagal, which I don’t think I’ve seen before. SM had some cans of Strongbow cider in the fridge, so we had that to drink, and I had a pack of Fruit Pastilles that I bought in case I wanted any sweets for the flight but never ended up eating, so we nibbled on those while we watched the film.

Saturday March 27, 2011

SM & I didn’t bother with breakfast today as we didn’t get up until after 11am. So instead he made cheese and ham toasted sandwiches for our lunch, and they were nice. SM’s Mum & Dad then drove the two of us into town to see if we could go ten-pin bowling – but they had the ‘glow bowling’ on, where the skittles are given a glow in the dark effect, which would have been too dark for us to play in. So we gave up on that idea and went down to the harbour instead. His parents dropped us off and we had a walk around, including up to one of the lighthouses and back. We then went into town and had a look around HMV, before having a lovely ice cream at a place SM knows. We caught the bus home after that.

That evening, we had another couple of games on Worms, before it was time for us to go out again. This time, SM’s Mum & Dad drove the two of us to a restaurant in town called Village East. They weren’t joining us for the meal, so they drove off – instead, we met SP and his wife JP, plus a couple of other friends that I didn’t know but who seemed pretty nice too. So we had a nice long meal. I had chicken and sweetcorn soup for starters, steak with onion rings and fries for the main course, and a chocolate brownie dessert, all of which made up a set menu deal for £18.50, which wasn’t bad. It all tasted pretty good.

SP and I were glad to meet again after what felt like quite a while.  He has come over to Exeter with SM once or twice in the past, but not for a very long time. His main job is still as a driving instructor, but he does guitar tuition on the side too.  He and JP even got to meet rock guitarist Joe Satriani in the last year or two, which was an exciting experience for them. As was their holiday to Hawaii, lucky devils. And of course they now have their lovely baby girl to look after. So it was a good night out, and the 6 of us had a good laugh together as we all chatted and ate.

SP & JP drove SM & I back home after that. The two of us didn’t do much else after that, considering how late it was, but we did watch the first in the new 4th series of Russell Howard’s Good News on BBC Three, as that happened to be on, so that was good.

Sunday March 28, 2011

Again there was no need for breakfast today, so we had bacon sandwiches for lunch, downstairs with his parents, before heading back upstairs. We then had some time to kill, so SM baked a sponge cake, while I took the controls for us to play Monopoly on his laptop, another game I haven’t played with him in years. He won of course.

It was then time for us to head out to see SM’s Gran. While his parents were going to drive down there later, we decided to go the long way by walking around the coastal path. It took about 1 hour 45 minutes, but wasn’t difficult. The weather was nice and it was lovely to look at the scenery as we went along, and of course we were able to chat along the way. So it was a very pleasant walk.

SM’s Mum & Dad had already arrived by the time we got there of course. SM and I sat and had a Diet Coke each and said hello to his Gran, who evidently remembered me from before and was pleased to see me. There was also another family with their children there, who were SM’s nieces and nephews I think. They were quite lively children too, particularly interested in clinging on to SM’s Dad in a playful manner, which he was happy to let them do.

SM’s parents drove us back home after that, where SP & JP arrived shortly after with their baby. She’s cute as all babies tend to be, and she was pretty well behaved too. Us four adults shared some of SM’s sponge cake between us, and it was lovely. It was light and fluffy as sponge cakes should be, and SM felt that it was one of his better efforts. It had a bit of jam in the middle, and a few bits of fruit inside it too, which gave it a nice bit of flavour. SP & JP couldn’t stay too long of course because of their baby, so they left after about an hour. It was good to see them.

Knowing we were going to watch a film later, as there was nothing on TV, SM & I headed down to the local shop a little while later to get a few nibbles – wine gums for both of us, chocolate raisins for him, and Maltesers for me. Before the film, SM cooked us a pizza for tea, and we watched the first disc of Family Guy: Season 9, which was pretty funny. Then we put on Under Siege 2 – a film I had seen before on the TV, as I remembered it fairly well, but I still hadn’t watched it for a long time. So that was good.

Monday March 29, 2011

This morning SM & I did have breakfast, as we needed to be up a little bit earlier than we had been over the weekend, although not too much. So we each had cereal, Weetabix in my case. Then I picked up my holdall and we headed out on the bus. We went to the bowling alley first, which was properly lit this time, so we had a couple of games there. We were the only people bowling for a little while, as that’s how quiet it was, although another group were playing by the time we left. SM and I won one game each, so that was nice and equal.

We then caught the bus into town and went to Molloy’s Patisserie, which does lovely baguettes. We had a roast beef baguette each, followed by a dessert – carrot cake for SM, and a chocolate croissant for me. It was all tasty and filling.

We still had some time before we needed to be at the airport after that, and we didn’t quite know how to fill it. We popped into Boots for SM to get some tablets, and had a look around a couple of shops to see if they had any souvenirs, but that was all the shopping we did. We had a lovely hot chocolate upstairs in a café in one of the shops though, so that was good.

But eventually we made our way down to the airport, on a bus that was evidently doing part of the school run, so it was just as well we got a seat early on before it picked up the kids en route. It didn’t take too long to get to the airport though.

Once we were there, it turned out the flight was delayed by about 40 minutes, so we checked in my holdall and went to use the toilet, so we had the essential jobs out of the way. Then we went to the shop – where I bought a box of chocolates for Mum for Mother’s Day, and a fridge magnet – before going to the café upstairs to have a drink while we waited.

When it was time for the flight, they called for me over the tannoy as we’d arranged so I could get my assistance, at which point SM & I said goodbye so that he could get on his way as well. The flight was direct to Exeter this time, with no stopping at Jersey in between, so it took just over half an hour. I was then able to get a taxi from the airport to Exeter St Davids station, and only had to wait about 15 minutes for a train, so that was good timing. I got home by 8:45pm, which was a good time.

SM had given me a piece of sponge cake to take home, as he’d made plenty, so Mum and I shared that once I’d unpacked. I also looked through the post, and made sure all the clocks were changed, as they went forward an hour this weekend. Dad’s old watch that I now wear is like Mum’s, in that it changes itself using the radio signals. I also went online to let SM know I was back and to send my thanks to his parents again.

So that was it, a very nice mini-holiday. Hopefully it won’t be 10 years before my next visit! Today I was back at work of course – fairly busy, but nothing too bad. One of my colleagues is leaving this week though, so that’s the biggest news. Thursday’s his last day, so he’s getting in some food for everyone then – not just for our department, but other people he knows in the building can come down too. A big personalised card, ordered from Moonpig and with a train on the front, has gone around our office and the rest of the building, with a collection box for money too. A big banner’s also been designed and printed, and that looks like a fun tribute to him. Plus he’ll be getting a long service certificate of course. And then there’s the surprise meal for him on Saturday night to look forward to. So he should get a decent goodbye from all of us at least, and he’s certainly earned it, being the hard worker and good friend that he is.

That’s all the main news really. Back to normal once again now, at least until mid-April when we have Easter, the awards dinner I’m going to with my colleagues, and the Royal Wedding, all in quick succession. And we’re keeping busy at work with elections before and after then. So there’s plenty going on!

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

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