Journal – April 2011

Here we go with another set of journal entries. Most of it’s about work this month, as we’ve been busy preparing for the elections, we’ve celebrated a colleague’s retirement (after which I had a bit of an accident on my way home), and some of us went to a big conference and awards dinner (where we got quite merry with all the free drinks!). Beyond all that, Mum and I have continued to sort out our financial affairs since Dad’s passing, we saw some of the coverage of the Royal Wedding, and I’ve mentioned a few other little bits and pieces too. So there’s quite a variety here, I hope you enjoy!

Sunday April 3, 2011

It’s Mother’s Day today, so I had some flowers arrive from M&S for Mum, which are really nice. Plus we’ve got the chocolates I bought for her in Guernsey of course.

The rest of this week has been largely about RP’s retirement at work of course. A lot of people came down to say their goodbyes on Thursday. He’d arranged for a big spread of sandwiches, crisps, cakes and drinks for the occasion, so I didn’t end up needing any of the packed lunch I’d brought with me. There were balloons and decorations up too. And there was also a banner that had been put together to wish him a happy retirement, with images representing RP’s interests, such as a train, a red jersey with the number of one of his favourite Manchester United Players, food he likes to eat, etc. He was also presented with a Hidden Hero certificate, as well as a Long Service certificate, and a card and collection box that many people had contributed to. So he thoroughly enjoyed today.

And then we had his surprise meal at the pub last night. RP’s wife was there of course, as she had been in on it from the start, and there were a fair number of us from the office, with a few of them bringing their partners along. So it was a nice little gathering of about 13 of us. For the meal I had cheesy garlic bread for starters, rump steak with chips, peas, onion rings and tomato for the main course, and a Belgian chocolate cheesecake for afters. And for drinks I had 2 Strongbow ciders and a Coke – none of which I ended up paying for, as different colleagues offered to buy each of them for me during the evening, so I did well there!

We arrived at the pub about 7pm, and it was gone 11:30pm by the time the last few of us left. Some of them continued on to another pub, but I decided to go home from there. Which was fine, walking in the dark, except for the fact that I tripped over a low wall by a bus stop that I didn’t realise was there! So I’ve got a nice big cut on my shin, and a few cuts on the lower palm of my right hand, from where I put my hand out to stop my fall. So I’ve got plasters on those places – but at least I’m still able to walk around and use my hand. No major damage done, it just took the top layer of skin off in both cases, so I’ll probably be getting through a few plasters over the next few days until it all heals up. Hey ho, it’s not often I have little accidents like that!

Yesterday morning, Mum and I went to the bank to sort out moving the money from her current savings account into one that offers better interest, having been advised that we were eligible for it. The important thing for us was that we still had access to the money whenever we needed it. So Mum and I have now got a joint savers account that we can both access on the internet and at the cash machine. That means we can transfer money between all of our accounts on the internet more easily, and I can put cheques that Mum receives directly into the savers account via a cash machine, instead of having to take Mum up to the counter every time. And we won’t need to withdraw money from that account much. Indeed, if we do need any from it, we can transfer it to my account and I’ll withdraw it. The advantage is that, if we don’t withdraw much from the saver account, we get a better rate of interest each month – about 2.3%, compared to the 0.1% Mum was getting on her old account, so it’s quite a difference! Of course, my half of the interest is taxable, as I work, but Mum’s half isn’t. So that’s all worked out well.

We also found out that Tesco will be closed for refurbishment for a week, so we’ll have to find somewhere else to get our groceries next weekend. And we’ve now ordered myself a dinner suit from M&S with a normal, smart shirt and a bow tie, for the conference later this month. So that should come within the next week. Not a bad price either – the suit only cost £54, and has lots of good reviews on the site. It’s not something I expect I’ll be wearing regularly, so I didn’t want to spend too much at once, but it’ll always be useful to have just in case.

Sunday April 17, 2011

It’s been a busy couple of weeks at work with the elections coming up. Some people have even been in on Saturdays and Sundays, over this weekend and the previous weekend, either to finish printing and enveloping the mayoral booklets and accompanying letters, or to continue printing the ballot papers. But I haven’t had to go in for any of that. My manager did ring me on my mobile last Saturday morning, as he had a bit of trouble getting the letters we’d produced at the last minute on Friday evening through to the printer, but it was sorted easily enough.

I’ve also arranged to use the holiday entitlement I’d carried forward. I’ll be in on Monday and Tuesday this week, as a colleague will be off those 2 days. Then I’ll be off on Wednesday and Thursday – which, added to Good Friday, the weekend and the following Easter Monday, will give me 6 days off work. So that was a good way of doing it.

The Tuesday and Wednesday after that is the start of the training organised for our trade conference, which is followed by the evening dinner on the Thursday. I’ve had my dinner suit, bow tie and new shirts delivered from M&S now, which fits nicely and looks good, and was very reasonably priced. The shirts aren’t special dress shirts, which I didn’t really fancy the look of, so we got ordinary shirts like the ones I wear for work, but they’ll be fine. The purpose is to look smart, not go over the top about it. Then the Friday is the Royal Wedding. So it’s going to be a funny couple of weeks!

For a week after RP’s party, it hurt to walk and stand on the leg I’d whacked against the wall on the way home, a lot at first. But I managed to get around without anybody picking me up on it, amazingly. I had plasters on my leg for the first couple of days, but the pressure on the wound and them pulling on the hairs only made it more painful really. So once it had scabbed over naturally, I just left it as it was without anything on it, just having a couple of plasters on my hand instead, as that still needed it a little bit. And there wasn’t any other way of covering my hand of course, unlike my leg which the trousers covered fine.

So I rested my leg up while I was at home, either on a chair or a box or something, when I was sitting around. Mum and I didn’t go shopping because of it either – I just went down to the corner shop and got us some essentials from there, which I could manage fine, just about. Tesco was shut for refurbishment that weekend anyway (it does look a bit better now, I must admit), so we would have had to go to Morrisons instead. And we might still pop in one day to see what’s in there.

Anyway, for the past week my leg’s been fine. It hasn’t hurt at all, and much of the big scab that formed on my leg has now come off. It still needs to completely create new skin, which takes a while, but it’s coming along nicely now. The skin on the palm of my hand’s almost done too, I haven’t needed plasters on that for the past week either. So it’s all good now.

Other than that, there isn’t much to mention from home. I had another form to sign for the solicitor regarding possible income tax refunds. Not that we’ll get much, but it’s worth trying just to see. Mum and I have also won a few Premium Bond prizes this month, so that’s good. And our new joint savers account is up and running now. It was rather worrying when we couldn’t see it on either of our e-banking accounts after a few days, but luckily I dug around and found that accounts are no longer displayed by default on the home page. You actually have to tell them to appear, or click a setting that changes the default so that all new accounts always appear. So I’ve done the latter. It was a relief, as we were thinking we might have lost a lot of money, and were on the verge of ringing up the bank to find out what was going on. Just as well we didn’t really!

Friday April 29, 2011

So the Royal Wedding’s now been and gone. Prince William and Catherine Middleton are now man and wife, and are the Prince & Princess of Cambridge, among other titles. I didn’t watch the ceremony live, as I was enjoying a bank holiday lie-in, but I saw them arrive at Buckingham Palace on the TV afterwards, and their appearance on the balcony, before watching highlights of earlier events online. Looks like it all went very well, and the happy couple looked very smart and elegant in their outfits. Even the weather held out despite the threat of showers. So I’m glad it went well, and it shows the whole world just how good we are at coming together and putting on a unique event like this.

The other big event this week was the big printing conference we were hosting at The Imperial Hotel in Torquay, with people representing local authorities all over the country.

To begin with we had training sessions on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, after popping in to work early each day to sort out things like ballot papers that still needed to be done (and we finished it all on Thursday I’m happy to say).

The training was all about measuring what we do, making things more efficient and reducing waste. Which was interesting in places, though a little hard to follow in others when you have a sight problem. But there were opportunities for us to get involved a little bit too. Perhaps not as much as had been implied – a lot of it was listening to presentations – but it was still alright and worth going to.

We were given lunch before the training on Tuesday and after it on Wednesday, which was a buffet-type affair. So I had curry, potatoes and vegetables followed by a slice of Bakewell tart on Tuesday, and some chicken and pasta with rice followed by some meringue-type dessert on Wednesday. Nothing too exciting, but it kept us going for the day.

After lunch on Wednesday, there was also a sponsors showcase, where the sponsors had stalls you could visit to talk to them, pick up goodie bags, etc. The incentive to visit all the stalls was that each could give you a sticker for a card, and once you get all the stickers you can enter into the raffle, to win prizes like a HD camcorder, a digital camera, tickets to see an England v India cricket match (as long as you’re happy that the second ticket is for the sponsor representative, not a person of your choice), M&S vouchers, chocolates, a hamper, etc. I didn’t win anything though. I did come away with a few goodie bags, however, so now have 2 free memory sticks, various samples of paper and a wind-up torch. There was also material about each sponsor, much of which I put in the recycling, as I was never going to read it all. It’s more for people in management, who can make full use of such information.

Myself and a few of the others didn’t wait for the raffle to actually be drawn after the showcase though – we let our manager hang around for that. Instead we all went away to relax and get ready for later. A few colleagues were staying in the hotel, but I was one of the people who had to go home to get changed.

So on Wednesday evening I got to the Imperial Hotel just before 6:30pm, in my dinner suit and bow tie. I didn’t wear a dress shirt, just a normal one, as I didn’t know a dress shirt was necessary. I think that’s the sort of shirt many of the others were wearing, but it didn’t matter. People seemed happy enough with how I looked, and I was comfortable. None of the dress shirts I’d looked at online had caught my eye much anyway. But if I ever go to something like this again, I’ll have to make sure I get one I guess. It took a bit of fiddling to get the bow tie on, despite having managed it quite easily when we first had the suit delivered. When trying to get ready and not forget anything for a big night like that, you don’t perhaps concentrate as much as you should. I did want to look alright, after all. 

My manager was the first person to see me, and we found another colleague at the bar, so my manager got the drinks in. I had a pint of cider, naturally. We stood around and chatted for a bit, then went into the next room for the champagne reception, where we had a glass or two each. There we found some of our other colleagues, a couple of whom had brought their partners with them. Then we had to walk through a few corridors to the Torbay Suite, a big hall next to an outdoor swimming pool. I was sat on table 11 near the back with a few of my colleagues, and a few other people that I didn’t know.

There were a few speeches to welcome everyone to the dinner, and a video was shown of a few activities that had been done before – which I couldn’t see from my position, but I gather part of it involved a colleague dressed as a woman and dancing, so it’s probably just as well I couldn’t see it! Grace was then said before we started dinner. There wasn’t a big variety to the menu – 2 choices each for starters and mains, and just 1 dessert. The starter I had was a chicken and liver parfait, which I wasn’t overly struck on but ate anyway. The main course was chicken breast and vegetables, which was nice. And then a lemon custard tart with raspberry sorbet followed for pudding, which was also alright. Then there was a another raffle that we could all enter, for £5 per ticket this time, instead of collecting stickers. The money raised, about £750 in the end, went to a couple of charities. I didn’t win in that raffle either.

But we did win a few of the awards that were handed out after dinner. We got the awards for best finishing and best litho printing, and also the runner-up prize for variable data printing. The heavy glass trophies are pretty nice as well, one of the photos I saw of us holding them looks pretty good. Our manager’s going to try and get a report in our internal magazine at work, and in the local Herald Express newspaper, so that will be a bit of good publicity for us.

As for drinks, they were all free that night, at least for me. As I said earlier, my manager bought me a pint of cider shortly after I arrived, then we had a glass of champagne at the reception. There was water and wine on the dinner tables, so I had glasses of each. A colleague and I shared some of the red wine between us, which not many other people seemed to want, so we were happy with that. There were also 3 free drinks vouchers per person, so I ended up having 3 pints of lager as well!

So we all had a fair amount to drink – not enough to lose control or get properly drunk, as obviously we had the meal and water to help soak it up a bit, but enough to enjoy ourselves. And we had a good chat amongst ourselves and with other people that were there.

Myself and 4 others from our group were the very last ones to leave the dining room that night – at about quarter to two in the morning, such is how the time flew by! Obviously, being the hosts, and with drinks still on the table while we were having a good time, we weren’t going to leave early! Two of them were staying at the hotel anyway, so they didn’t need to go far.

I tried to ring my taxi firm to take the remaining 3 of us home, but couldn’t get through to them. So my manager gave me a number for a local firm he knew, and they did answer and sent a car round. So all of us – including the other two who had to go their room – got in the lift. But we ended up taking a tour of pretty much all the floors, as it was hard for us to work out which one we wanted, given that some had letters like P, M, R and T, as well as the usual numbers. And let’s face it, we weren’t exactly sober enough to think about it logically. Whether any guests nearby heard us laughing about it I don’t know, but we were certainly enjoying ourselves!

Anyway, we did get down to our taxi and, after dropping my 2 colleagues off on the way, I got home about 2:30am, and obviously went to bed straight away! Mum had been resting in bed, but had been awake listening to her audiobook while waiting for me to get in. She wasn’t angry for me getting in late, she was very pleased that I’d had a good time and hadn’t got really drunk. I was even able to get up for work later that morning – perhaps a little bit tired, but not as much as I thought I might be.

So it was a good few days, and I enjoyed the evening event, as it was a good chance to do something different with the people I work with, as well as saying hello to a few people I’d never met before. I doubt we’ll all be going to the conference in Swansea next year – but then I don’t know what I’ll be doing this time next year anyway, given our plans to move to London. So anything’s possible!

As for work in general other than that, elections have continued to be the main focus. As I mentioned earlier, we finished the ballot papers on Thursday, so I think they’re pretty much done, unless there are any small things to do on Tuesday (not only did we have a holiday for the Royal Wedding today, but it’s the May Day Bank Holiday on Monday too).

And finally at home, I had a nice 6 days off for Easter, after taking the Wednesday and Thursday off prior to it, so that worked out well. Mum’s nearly finished disposing of all Dad’s clothes in the recycling – another few weeks and most of it will have gone. Then we’ll work on sorting out the loft, which will take a little while I expect. But we’re still making good progress.

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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