Monday, 28 May 2007

We're all going on a...

Yes, that's right, Ali and I are off on our hols tomorrow. It's been a busy few weeks, hence the lack of posts, but all the stresses and strains (see previous post) are now over and we can enjoy the prospect of 10 days in Italy.

When I wrote the last post I was in the throes of clearing the decks at work prior to my last day at Virgin on Friday 25th. When I originally handed in my notice, the huge project which had taken up all of my working life since about last August, was due to finish on May 10th with the launch of our brand sparkly new website (and hence I would have seen it go live). However, as is always the case with these kind of projects, the launch date slipped to after my planned departure. So my last few weeks with the company were a bit of a mish-mash of shredding old (too old - 2002!) documents, deleting emails, doing the last few bits of project work, trying to cram in some UAT time, and writing handover notes. Oh and just to make it all more interesting, 2 new starters (one a new team member, and one my replacement for the next 6 months) on May 14th.

But by about Wednesday last week, I was finally relaxing into the idea that yes, I was in fact leaving. A couple of great long lunches with old TUI friend John, and great mate Phil, had brought it home to me that I had taken work far too seriously in the past and should have lunched out a damn sight more. Then on Friday, the day was pretty near perfect - I had already chucked away anything that was worth chucking, so in the morning all I did was read and reply to some really nice emails from the contacts whom I'd told about my impending departure. Lunch was stupendous - with Nigel, who's been such a great friend and support over the last 3 years at work. He had 2 bits of fantastic news (more of which another time) so we had a lovely celebratory/valedictory lunch at the Havelock. When we eventually got back to the office, Rudy started to play some stonking tunes at high volume and in my slightly inebriated state it was just what I needed. Before we knew it, it was time to leave and go to mine, Mark's and Dan's joint leaving do at the Dartmouth Castle. And what a leaving do - loads of old faces from Virgin-past, 3 good speeches(!) from boss Steve, and a general feeling of wellbeing - slight regret at leaving some good friends behind but overwhelming optimism about what the future might bring.

So that's my time at Virgin over. I'll probably blog more about work related stuff as my new job kicks in, but for now it's all thoughts of Italy :-)

We're going to Tuscany on a walking holiday for 7 days followed by 2 nights in Rome, and while the weather forecast isn't that good, at least the rain is accompanied by temperatures in the mid-20s celsius...

As I don't start my new job until 18th June, expect lots of Italy-related posts after we're back on 7th. Ciao!

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Tense, stressed, working too hard

Which is how the Google Mood Ring on my browser toolbar describes my mood at the moment (the black ring). While I know this is all total bollocks and it's just randomly system generated, it strangely does describe my mood at the moment, a bit like reading your horoscope in the Metro and it corresponding exactly with what's going on in your life that day.

I do find the mood description that goes with the blue ring - 'Impassioned, delighted, whiff of romance' - a bit odd though. What is the whiff of romance like? - roses, champagne, oysters (eugh, I hope not).

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Garden inventory - front garden

  • Dark purple pansies along the path up to the front door
  • Tete-a-tete (that has sadly all gone over now)
  • A few remaining bluebells and daffodils left deep underground that sprouted this spring
  • Dicentrum spectabilis 'alba' in the corner under the hedge
  • Clematis cartmanii 'early sensation' climbing up the willow screen hiding the dustbin and water butt.
  • Prunus x yedoensis 'Shidare Yoshino' (Weeping Yoshino Cherry) in the middle of the shingle
  • Hellebore 'HGC Silvermoon' in the border under the window which flopped a bit in the dry spell but seems to have recovered now - interspersed with...
  • ...Euphorbia rubra which is going great guns
  • And finally a climbing rose next to the door, not sure of the variety but it's got peachy flowers tinged with fuschia pink at the edge of the petals.

Pictures soon!

Red face

Ali and I had some 'quality' time together on Saturday, consisting of a bit of shopping in Oxford for stuff for our holiday, followed by a lovely organic lunch in the Vaults and Garden cafe in St. Mary's Church. We'd got the bus in earlier so we didn't need to drive (Ali's suggestion) and consequently felt able to partake of a few cleansing ales in the afternoon. Starting off in the Turf, I declined the offer of a pint of Old Rosie Scrumpy on the basis that I wouldn't have lasted long before falling over; so bog standard Strongbow it was. Ali went on the Dr. Hexters Healer followed by a pint of Goff's Jouster which I chose for him, which he pronounced 'alright'. I think the phrase is 'damning with faint praise'.

It was the White Horse on Broad Street where things started to go a little bendy - Addlestones cider is lovely but potent - and Ali had the joint temptations of Timothy Taylor's Landlord and Deuchar's IPA. By the time we left at 5ish we had had quite enough, so got the bus back to Abingdon. I had the notion that I wanted to buy a book, and I also fancied some nice snacks from the deli on Stert Street. Having tried to get into the closed Mostly Books at 5.31pm while they were cashing up, we abandoned the attempt far too early (I think they were going to let us in eventually) and then nipped to Added Ingredients and proceeded to amiably (drunkenly giggling) bicker over which posh crisps to get. I think they were glad to take our money and get rid of us in the end. It's a good job there weren't more shops open at that time of the evening.

This episode follows the recent bank holiday weekend where we went to the Reading Beer Festival (see the photo for an example of a typical beer/pie dilemma from the day) so I think maybe we should give our livers a rest for a bit...

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Literary intentions

No, I'm not about to start writing a book, though maybe some day....

This is more about books I want to get round to reading, or feel I ought to read (or re-read in this instance). I've been hurriedly trying to re-read Richmond Lattimore's translation of the Odyssey before my next bookgroup meeting, as the book up for discussion is Margaret Atwood's excellent The Penelopiad.

As a former classicist I did read the first 12 books of Homer's Odyssey (and the last 12 of the Iliad) in the original Greek for my 2nd year exams - but these took place in early 1994, a loooong time ago. So of course I've forgotten it all by now, and in an attempt to prove to myself that the degree wasn't a total waste of time I foolishly mentioned to Mark, co-owner of the wonderful Mostly Books in Abingdon (and host of our monthly Wednesday evening bookgroup) that I was going to swot up a bit prior to the meeting. I've actually only got up to book 4 of the poem though and am off to BodyBalance tonight so feel that I might not get any more done by Wednesday night. It's proving quite interesting though, remembering all the epithets ("rosy-fingered dawn" "wine-dark sea") and the stock phrases that I always rejoiced to see in exam translation passages as they repeated themselves with such regularity: "And then they put aside their desire for eating and drinking" being a fine example...

Is it terrible to cheat and do some revision on Wikipedia?

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Cat Power

Last night Ali and I went to the Forum in Kentish Town to see Cat Power play with her band, The Dirty Delta Blues. Mid-week gigs are always a bit of a mental struggle - sorting out how Ali's going to get into town, where we'll get some pre-gig food, and of course either rushing to get the last train home or Ali negotiating late night London traffic to get out of town and back to Abingdon before finally getting to bed at an abnormally late (for a school night that is) 1am. Normally, however, the gig itself manages to transcend these feelings of mid-week unease by being bloody brilliant.

Last night's show would have been the same - Cat Power performed remarkably, her voice strong and the band perfectly pitched to complement her singing. However, she's not got what you would call a lot of loud songs,and whenever a slight hush in the track came along, all you could hear was the drone of about half the crowd talking and shouting to each other. Really loudly. At one point, Cat Power put on a fake Cockerney accent - " 'Allo Landan, nice ter see yer" and someone in the crowd shouted out "Don't take the piss". Well excuse me, but given that she was having the piss taken out of her during every song through half the crowd totally ignoring her, I thought she was quite justified. I just hope that she and the band couldn't hear the majority of the hubbub from their position on stage.

As there was no hope of really getting into the music I ended up people watching instead. As well as the usual gig suspects (older man in a suit and tie, overly affectionate newly-together couple, random punk with mohican) a girl caught my eye who I really empathised with. She was a short blonde, probably no more than about 5'2", and she was standing right at the back of one of the levels at the Forum. She was with a group of 3 friends, who were contributing to the overall noise of the crowd by having a shouty conversation and also clearly not including her in their chat, and she obviously couldn't see a thing from her position. There was the obligatory 6'10 bloke standing a little way in front of her and she was either too shy to move forward or didn't want to leave her friends so resorted to occasionally standing on tiptoes and craning her neck into awkward positions. She wandered off to the loo a couple of times during the gig and eventually left about 2/3 of the way through. I really felt for her. Her 'friends' sort of shrugged and giggled a bit when she left as if expressing a sort of bemused pity for her, but they seemed like idiots to me.

Cat Power - The Greatest
So overall not a successful gig really, we left just before the encore and headed home through the leafy poshness of Highgate and the awful despair of the A40 through Brent Cross, Neasden etc. We listened to Cat Power on CD, as a lot of the people at the gig should have done - at home.