Welcome to my next set of journal entries. This has been quite an eventful month, including a colleague retiring, electoral work, our builder visiting, a friend’s relationship ending, my best mate’s wedding preparations continuing, and my TV explorations with a new streaming box. So I hope you enjoy!
Wednesday March 25, 2015
Time for another update, as things have been very busy lately. At work, we’ve got financial year-end out of the way, and we did get the bills working through our new printing system. And now we’re heavily into election stuff, my time mainly devoted to preparing the various different types of pollcards for the national Parliamentary election, the local mayoral election, and the local councillor elections. Some people will vote in all of them, others in one, two or three. Then there are postal votes to send out, with the right ballot papers and envelopes, followed by all the ballot papers for in-person voters. So I’ve pushed back the holiday I’d provisionally booked for this week (to use up my last 5 days of leave), which is fine.
The other big news at work is that TB left today. He’d been thinking about it for a while recently, so we weren’t overly surprised when the word came round. He’s been there 13 years, so only a few years longer than me, but obviously he’s had a much longer career as a whole given his age. It won’t be the same without him for sure, he’s great at keeping things organised and is a good friend. I confided in him more than anyone else in the office about what was going on with Dad before he died, as I trusted him and needed someone to talk to. Not that anyone else isn’t trustworthy, but he was the one I felt most comfortable telling personal things to.
He had been hoping to go quietly, but he’s held in very high regard by lots of colleagues and external customers, so a fair number of people from other departments came down to our department in time for the 11am presentation, along with a few former colleagues and the head of our service area.
We’d clubbed together and bought him a signed football shirt off eBay, for a player that shares his name from his favourite team. It has a certificate of authenticity, so it seems genuine as far as we all know. We’d even framed it for him too. He was surprised and thrilled with it, he hadn’t expected such a generous gift. Another colleague had got him a humorous gift as well – a zimmer frame with an L plate and a registration plate reading OLD GIT 1, which tickled all of us a lot!
So it won’t be the same without him. The staffing in our department has changed a lot over the past few years, with 4 people having left without being replaced, and another going down to a 3-day week. A lot of savings and cutbacks are being required across the organisation, and it’s not good really.
On the home front, our builder friend still hasn’t come around to do the work yet. When we emailed him recently, he said he was away until March 16th and would come round as soon as he returned. Yet he hasn’t, so we’ll have to give him another prod soon. It is frustrating – it does feel like we’re going to have to be more pestering to get things done, otherwise we’ll never go. To my mind, I’d gladly look at getting someone else in if it’s that difficult for him to find the time, but I don’t want to suggest that if we can get him to do all the little jobs that need doing.
I also got myself a new streaming box for the TV last month – a Roku 3 – as there’s often not much to watch. I was going to wait until we move to London and get a Smart TV, but as this was getting great reviews and looked very tempting, and as we don’t know when we’re going to move, I went for it. And it’s a super bit of kit for under £100. You get all the catch-up channels (BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5), along with BBC News & Sport, Netflix, Youtube, Dailymotion, Vimeo, Break, Now TV, and literally hundreds, if not thousands, of other channels. Some are pay-per-view or by subscription (such as Sky’s offerings), but a lot of the main ones are free.
The other thing that had put me off getting such a box before was the lack of internet connection downstairs (as the phone line down there is separate from the one in my study in our converted loft). Wi-fi had felt like the only option, but being 2 floors down from my router, I didn’t know how good the signal would be. But then I discovered that you can get powerline adapters. You basically get 2 plugs, and 2 ethernet cables. In one room you connect your router with one of the plugs using one ethernet cable, and plug that into the wall (not an extension, but the wall socket itself). Then, elsewhere in the house, you connect your internet-enabled device to the other plug in the same way, and plug that into the wall. It then sends the broadband signal through the power cables in your house to your device. And it works perfectly, the channels on the Roku box stream without a hitch.
So i’ve been watching various things. I started by watching all the series of 2Point4 Children – only 3 series were ever released on DVD, partly due to poor sales, and partly due to rights issues with the later series (particularly over a Thunderbirds car in season 7, apparently). But they’re all available on Youtube – not DVD quality, just recordings someone’s taken from UKTV Gold, but still very watchable, and very funny. It was great to go through it all again after so many years. I’ve also been watching My Hero with Ardal O’Hanlon on Netflix, as I haven’t seen that for many years. It’s not a show I’d buy to keep, but it’s nice to see it again, as I don’t think I saw them all when they originally aired, and I’d forgotten much of it.
And in terms of drama, I’m currently going through all 4 series of Prison Break, an American series I’ve never watched before, and it’s really good. Just like 24, it keeps you watching from one episode to the next very easily. I’ll be trying more series like that I’m sure – it’s really opened up so much for me to watch. But then I’d rather have too much than not enough. I’ll still be getting a few DVDs & Blu-rays here and there though – The Professionals: Series 3 is out soon, for instance. And on the TV, The Big Bang Theory is back on E4 at the moment, which is good.
My friend SM’s wedding preparations are still coming along nicely as well. I accepted the wedding invite and gave them my menu choices – soup for starters, steak (medium well-done) for the main course, and ice cream for pudding. He has said I’ll probably be the one looking after the rings too. The happy couple will be staying in the 4-star Duke of Richmond Hotel on their wedding night, and they have booked a wedding car after all. And it looks like we have a date for the suit fitting in July – he’s sent me a picture, and it looks very smart. The woman who does the fitting is visually impaired as well, apparently.
They’ve got a fair number of invites back by all accounts. He has invited AB, but it’s unclear if she’ll be coming or not. It turns out she and DB have split up – not divorced as yet, but they are apart. SM’s been talking to another friend of ours, who has heard more about it than we had, and he verified it by exchanging a few texts with her. So that’s a shame, especially after just 2 years and with a new baby to look after, as it had looked like they were well made for each other. But it sounds like she’s hoping to come to SM’s wedding, albeit on her own. It’ll be nice to see her, as we haven’t actually had any contact for at least a year now, as she’s been focused on her local friends and dealing with the death of her first baby while giving birth to her second.
As for me, I’m going to book up my flight and hotel stay and get it sorted. I also have to renew my passport, as that expires during the year. On the government website, it says they’ll add any remaining time (up to 9 months) from your old passport to your new one. And it’s important to get the application in early to give them plenty of time to do it anyway. So if I sort it out now, I should have it ready for July, when I go over for the suit fitting and stag night. That will probably be over a long weekend – the suit fitting looks likely to be on a Friday, and the stag night will be Friday or Saturday. So I can go over on the Thursday evening and come back on Monday. Similarly, in September, we’ve agreed that I’ll be flying over on Thursday 17th (as there will be a rehearsal on the Friday), and coming back on Monday 21st.
So there’s a lot to think about at the moment, as I knew there would be. Elections at work, efforts to get the work on the house done at last, and my friend’s wedding in less than 6 months time. The time’s flying as usual!
Saturday March 28, 2015
It’s been a busy week, so there are a few updates since my entry on Wednesday.
At work, we’re almost ready to print the pollcards. Royal Mail’s sortation software is refusing to work properly, however, and their support team haven’t been very helpful in fixing the problem. If it’s not working by 10am on Monday, we’ll have to send the cards out standard tariff, which will cost us about £7,000 more given the numbers involved. And we won’t pay that if we can help it, given that it’s Royal Mail’s fault. We think that someone else has done the electoral sort software for them this year, as the guy we used to ring up about it has gone.
They’re also being very picky about the ‘B’ envelopes that get sent out with postal votes (in which people send back the ballot paper in an ‘A’ envelope along with a signed declaration). We’ve used the template they provided on their own website, and they keep making us tweak things by a millimetre here or there. They even said the big number 1 on the frank was 1mm too long – yet that’s their own image, which we can’t do much with. So they’re asking us to do it yet again and not change anything, essentially saying it’s our fault.
Away from work, I’ve now booked flights for the wedding in September, at a total cost of £113.89, which is very good. I’m going over on Thursday 17th September – the flight from Exeter to Guernsey leaves at 15:50 and gets in at 17:20, stopping over in Jersey briefly on the way as usual. Then I come back on Sunday 21st September, leaving Guernsey at 17:35 and getting into Exeter at 18:15.
And I’ve also booked my hotel stay via Expedia. I’ve never used them before, but I can get 8% cashback via our employee rewards site, and Nectar points as well (which I earned 200 of for this purchase). I’m staying at Le Fregate Hotel. it’s a 4-star hotel, and my single room costs £100 a night, so it’s £400 for 4 nights (which I pay when I arrive). And I think that’s pretty good value.
There are cheaper hotels around, but I chose this one because it’s just a few minutes walk from the Les Cotils venue we’re having the wedding reception in, and as such it’s not far from SM’s house and the church either. It’s also got good reviews and is something I can afford, so I fancied treating myself to it. I rarely go on holiday, and as the best man it’ll be nice to stay somewhere decent. So I just need to renew my passport now – it’ll be fine as it is for July, but needs sorting out for September, so I may as well do it soon and get it out of the way.
Back home though, and our builder came round this morning, at last! He emailed us last night to say he’d be coming round, and turned up just before 10am. There were various bits and pieces for him to look at:
- The flap on the front of our letterbox needs reattaching, which he’ll probably have to get some metal brackets for.
- In the lounge, one of the light bulbs needs replacing, and we’re going to have a couple of LED lights put in instead. In the past they used to be really expensive, but they’ve come down a lot now. They’re much more energy efficient and last thousands of hours, yet you still get good lighting out of them.
- One of the metal sections of the electric fire in that room had come off too, so he put that back on while he was there.
- The toilet door downstairs hasn’t been shutting properly. The door needs a new latch, as this one’s jammed, so he’s going to get a new one.
- The cupboard door under the sink in the kitchen was hanging open, and it looks like the side of the cupboard is falling apart, so it can’t just be put back on. The easiest solution is to have a new cupboard put in completely, making the front look like the rest of the units. Mum reminded me today that, when she and Dad moved in before I was born, the occupational therapist from Social Services said the existing kitchen wasn’t suitable for them, and got funding to have a proper new kitchen and cooker put in. And those same kitchen units have lasted all this time.
- In my small bedroom, the lightbulb had gone, so he’s put a new one in.
- Also in my small bedroom, the paper had been coming away from the wall behind my bed due to dampness. Mum was worried the dampness was coming from outside, which would mean a lot of work. But it’s really just because the bed was up against the wall, preventing air from getting in there and allowing moisture to build up. So we’re going to keep the bed pulled away from the wall, which will give air a chance to circulate and dry it out. He’ll then redecorate the room – not just that part of the wall, but all the walls in the bedroom, and the wall that goes all the way up the stairs to the loft, so it all looks consistent.
- As a consequence of that, I’m now moving to the bigger back bedroom to sleep. It used to be a room for storing things in when Dad was alive, but since he went and we had a clear out, we haven’t used it much. There’s already a bed in there anyway, plus there are also bedside lights, and the plugs are higher up the wall so they’re easier to get to. I’ve moved all my CDs in there, along with my bedside table and chair. So that means the bed in the other room can be left pulled away from the wall a bit.
- Our builder’s going to look at the roof again too, when he comes around again soon to finish sorting out the other little bits and pieces. He was hoping to avoid having to remove the asbestos slates, as they’re tricky to get rid of, but he’s going to have to do it to see where the problem is. It would be nice to finally get it sorted out once and for all, which we’ve told him.
He’s aiming to come around again in the next couple of weeks, once he’s got the bits and pieces he needs. He’s going off to Spain for 4 weeks from the end of May, as there’s a lady he’s seeing over there, so we really want to get it done before then if possible. Then we can put our house on the market and move, and we’ll try and get him to do some work for us in London too, which he says he’s happy to do. We just have to cross our fingers that he will come back again soon and complete everything – just getting the roof done will be a relief, but if we can get everything done and dusted, it’ll be wonderful. We’ll have to wait and see though, I don’t want to tempt fate by getting too hopeful, given how long it’s taken. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed for the time being!