Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The other thing that keeps me awake at night

is this little critter...
scuttling across the roof in the early hours of the morning and proceeding to shell nuts on the Velux window immediately above my head!!!
...but it is hard to get too grumpy when he's so cute.


Friday, 24 December 2010

Doing a 'Nigella'

to ensure ample supplies since we're still snowed in for the festive period. This has involved copious amounts of time in the kitchen accompanied by the Miss Sensible (Strident Student is excused as she earning a crust on Turkey duty at Waitrose, lucky girl).
We are now adequately stocked with shortbread, mince pies, gingerbread cake and the ubiquitous pan of mulled wine is installed on the hob so we should be able to feed any waifs or strays that turn up on the doorstep...you know who you are ;o)

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Sledging!



One requirement of the 'Mum' job description is to make a complete numpty of yourself in the hope of keeping sproglets entertained during school holidays, and today was no exception...except if I'm completely honest I had an absolutely fab time too (despite being a total novice), getting a cold, wet, very bruised arse and a glowing red nose to compete with a certain reindeer :D

Sure beats working...

Monday, 20 December 2010

My good friend Mr.Insomnia is back

well to be honest he's been kicking around again for a while now but I keep vainly hoping I've seen the back of him. For all of you who manage 6 hours a night or more don't ever take it for granted...it's really no wonder sleep deprivation was used as a form of torture.

So I woke up in the early hours of the morning again with six million things running through my head like Ticker Tape against a backing track of Gorillaz 'El Manana'. The whole sequence moves so fast I can hardly grasp onto the thoughts never mind work out what I need to do with them. It kind of reminds me of the opening sequence of Monty Python when the head opens and all manner of stuff pours out and morphs into something else. Quite surreal believe me & all created completely without the aid of hallucinogenics!
I do know what the 'elephant in the corner' is that's causing this, but despite my best efforts it's not something I can fix so unfortunately it'll rumble on...

Sunday, 19 December 2010

A fix of cuddles

Due to the inclement weather it wasn't practical to traipse all the way up to Sheffield but since she was going to be bringing a tonne of books back to start her dissertation, I arranged to pick up the Strident Student in Burton which is a stone's throw away from my Bruv's place which also ensured we could spend some time with my incredibly cute nephew :o)

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Tradition dictates

that the Christmas tree is never purchased until after Strident Student and I have had our birthdays. Those events now out of the way, a trip to the Xmas tree farm was called for. Each year without fail each there is a heated debate about the relative merits of the various types of fir &/or shapes before the perfect one is finally selected. This year's specimen is beautiful but having lugged it to the car we discovered it was just that little bit too long :o/
...so we drove home in -4º with the boot half open!!

A long story involving a hacksaw later, we've now managed to get it into a stand, aligned vertically, raided the loft for various boxes of gubbins and decked the halls, plus an 8ft Nordic fir.

Finally finished the Xmas shopping, turkey's ordered, cards written, parcels posted.....now all remains is to pick up eldest, finish work...then collapse in a heap with a glass of mulled wine...or two...

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Slightly frazzled

due to brain overload! So far this week I've dealt with everything from ISO audit findings, to a bid requiring specific security clearances, reviewed contracts for Kidnap & Randsom experts, discussed the recruitment of medics for the Oil & Gas business, conducted an appraisal, & briefed the MD on the reorganisation....
and to make matters worse the tin of Quality Street which was in my office has disappeared without trace :o/
Not sure I can carry on without chocolate.....

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Travel...a chore?

twice this week it's definitely felt like it...got up at the crack of dawn, completed ablutions and hauled arse down to station only to find the 6:07a.m. train cancelled....mutter...
Well I guess it gives me a few spare mins in what's already been a manic week to post to the blog and have a second cup of tea...
Although it's completely knackering doing this journey on a regular basis I have to say I still enjoy it most of the time; particularly the Tube...if that's not displaying too much masochistic tendencies ;o) I love people watching could happily sit and do it all day. What could be better than making up your own 'soap'...weighing people up and trying to work out what they do, where they're off to etc. forming impressions and story-lines that are probably highly inaccurate or improbable! For instance, does the chap who gets on in the Cotswolds wearing a Dearstalker work in Baker Street? Who is the lady knitting the beautiful jumper for? On Monday I was mesmerised by a girl with impeccable purple & green make-up (lurid but somehow it worked!)...on her way back from a glam rock party or off to liven up a boring desk job? Then again there's the fashion angle...so many ideas/looks etc.or items to covet - I desperately wanted to ask one woman where she got her gorgeous chocolate leather trench coat. Then there's the Irish lady train driver on the Victoria line who entertains with her comments about the state of the service, peoples' lack of manners and the occasional quip about the forthcoming weekend...some of the more uptight passengers trying to pretend they can't hear her but struggling to stifle a laugh...she should have her own TV show.
Is all of this 'sad' or am I very easily entertained?

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Xmas came early

and brought me a
'Burling & Mansfield' piano!
I played as a child and have quietly wanted a piano for ages but seems a bit excessive spending that amount of money particularly as I'm sooo out of practice. Anyway, one was advertised on the local Freecycle which was too good an opportunity to miss. I could hardly believe I managed to get it, but that was only the start of the hassle....

A man with a van had to be found, then persuade a couple of muscly men that they didn't mind losing an hour or two of their weekend.
Chez Frosty's steep, sweeping driveway is not the easiest to navigate but it turned out the one at the start point was not any better and access to the house was a serious issue.

'Man with van' was heard to mutter if he'd known it was this bad he wouldn't have taken the job! Fortunately he had principles plus an inbuilt 'completer:finisher' work ethic so with a fair amount of hassle & heave-ho the pianoforte is now proudly sitting in the lounge.

Needs a bit of a polish but it's in decent tune so I'm 'dead chuffed' :o)

Friday, 10 December 2010

On my soap box again

Seriously disappointed with the vote yesterday...not the result most rational people had hoped for. Blinking education system in the UK is in a mess at all levels. Secondary school's have far too many conflicting targets and prescriptive approach to the curriculum...I speak from first hand knowledge due to my work with the school governors. As a recruiter as well as a mother I was completely against the Labour government's policy to get over 60% of the population to University. No reason to do that, perfectly ok to have people with vocational courses or apprenticeships etc. It's completely devalued degrees and made the whole situation a farce. If they hadn't tried to be so inclusive the funding wouldn't be as much of an issue. And as for this arguement that half of them won't end up paying it back...laughable to think that makes it acceptable. No wonder so many of that generation think debt's ok.....

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Almost another year older

...any wiser...??
Looking back over my antics in the last twelve months, I very much doubt it ;o)

Though less than usual due to some of our number being in somewhat more exotic places, the girlies ventured forth into the freezing fog to celebrate another mid-life crisis with a curry.

Special mention has to go to Lou-la-belle for making the most scrummy carrot & orange cupcakes...

Fortunately she desisted from putting significant numbers of candles thereon or the fire brigade would have been required and much as "we like a man in uniform with a large hose", as 'Full English' once shockingly said, we'd much rather have a good natter and put the world to rights...Horlicks or hedonist...definitely the former :o)

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Minus 10

last night as I sat waiting for Miss Sensible outside the sax teacher's house freezing my bits off. (One of the aspects of motherhood they forget to tell you about...) Needless to say by 3.10am this morning I was coughing my guts up and decided against travelling to London on the crack of dawn train to contaminate the rest of the team. Having angst about that decision I finally switched off the alarm and rolled over only to have my slumbers rudely disturbed by the smoke alarm shrieking at 4.30am!!!

Picture the scene.....me charging downstairs half asleep, desperately checking for fire. Phew, no sign of anything untoward...but can't stop the bleedin' alarm...ceiling heights...one of the joys of living in a Victorian house! So that necessitated venturing into the frozen depths of the garage for a ladder :o/ Meanwhile...worryingly....no one else in the house stirred... No idea what set if off and can't be arsed trying to find out...That's the limit of the excitement in my neck of the woods a.t.m...tame, but with some novelty value none the less.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Being the birthday fairy

is quite a responsibility at the best of times but this weekend she had her work well & truly cut out. Ladened with cards, pressies and cake, ably supported by her trusty assistant Miss Sensible we headed to the grim north for Strident Student's significant celebration.

The motorways were fine, but as soon as we took the junction for Chesterfield it was a different world. The council had obviously had the snowploughs out but despite their best efforts only managed to clear one lane of the dual carriageway into Sheffield and the piles of snow at the kerbside were something else. I'd packed a shovel, a thermos and a blanket just in case but was beginning to think I might be forced to consume said birthday cake or use it to bribe the rescue services if we got stuck! Not sure how far I'd have got without 4 wheel drive, as it was I still had to abandon the car near the bottom of Crookes and do the rest on foot.

The lovely lunch at a restaurant in the Dales was out of the question but we found a fab bistro within walking distance of the house, then later in the afternoon we had a tea party with the housemates which was quite possibly followed by a night of drunken debauchery once her Mum & sister left ;o)

....Still can't quite believe I have a 21 yr old!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Xmas list are so much more sophisticated these days

all three sproglets have written their Xmas lists and included hyperlinks to the appropriate items to avoid any ambiguity...Minor Mayhem has even gone as far as doing his on PowerPoint so that I have pics just in case...Is this now the norm or should I be impressed with their ingenuity & initiative!?!
So I toddled off to Solihull this afternoon to help raise the profit margins of John Lewis. Bought all the gubbins for the stockings and some other things off the lists and then succumbed to a new frock...it 'beckoned to me' from its hanger and I was powerless to resist...nowhere to go but you never quite know... ;o)
A girl can live in hope....

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Landed in 'Madchester'

That wasn't on the agenda!!! Crash at Brum so they closed the runway hence change of route. The knock on effect was a massive a backlog of diverted flights which meant we were left on the aircraft waiting to disembark for an hour and a half whilst the ground crew dealt with the influx of additional passengers plus their onward transport.

Fortunately one of the staff at the taxi company booked to collect me from Birmingham sounded the alert and a whole chain of telecoms ensued whereupon the aged parents came to the rescue, organising a taxi to transport me back to their place.

Bit disorientated when I woke up in my old childhood bed this morning...slightly surreal end to the trip but lovely to spend some time with the folks and get a bit of fussing :o) Almond croissant & fresh coffee this morning...bestest breakfast all week...mind you, that wouldn't be hard ;o)

Friday, 19 November 2010

Checked in

at Dubai and in the Emirates business lounge, availed myself of some yummy bits and connected to wireless to get some work done. Hopefully boarding in 40 mins. Yay!!!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Saved from room service

(which can be a fate worse than death) by the infamous Mr. & Mrs Rallyman who very kindly txt inviting me to dinner, collecting me from the hotel, then whisking me away to the Wafi Centre...more specifically the Mahi Mahi seafood restaurant where we partook of Raspberry Twist cocktails, dined al fresco and generally had a really lovely night.

Like many of the buildings in Dubai, the Wafi Centre is something else...completely styled on Ancient Egypt, complete with pyramid architecture, monoliths and towering statues of Ramses 2 etc. à Luxor Quite spectacular, highly civilised and a million miles (metaphorically) from the shipping container city in the earlier part of the week.


there may well be signs everywhere saying
'NO PHOTOGRAPHS PERMITTED. FAILURE TO COMPLY MAY RESULT IN THE USE OF DEADLY FORCE'
...but I'm working on the premise that no one will believe this place without evidence...so here it is...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010




Been on a tour of the entire site. Huge!!! There's a fuel depot, all kinds of construction equipment, garages, stacks of disused containers, and heaven knows what...Can't believe how many people are actually out here and there’s way more facilities than I’d expected including a number of restaurants, cafes, shops etc. including Burger King & Subway (of sorts), not to mention 'the Oasis" which has at it's centre-point an electronic rodeo bull...obvious evening entertainment for our American cousins. Dunno what I expected, but it wasn't this!!
Now met most of the management team and a number of the ExPat team leaders etc. so have a good overview of the set up and operations out here, as well as the associated issues. It's not too bad providing you don't think about things too much. I was shown the full report and pics from last weeks fatality earlier. Looked but not too carefully as I'd like to get some zzzz tonight. One of our teams had been out on a mission in the area in which the incident took place so naturally everyone was on tenterhooks about whether things would run smoothly. We were all glued to the vehicle tracking system and as a result we all carried on working until we knew they were back on base by which time the 'cookhouse' was closed. By that point we were all ravenous so went to the American side of the base for pizza. Bizarre place with US troops coming in in their uniform complete with M4s slung nonchalantly across their shoulders...as you do....!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

So far, so good this end,

albeit knackered due to another night with minimal sleep. You'd have thought that the drone of the generator outside my room or the constant circling of helicopters might have lulled me into slumber but no such luck. I think that HEAT training might be playing on my mind subconsciously.

Been to get my site pass done this morning. Had to go into the American bit of the compound and have biometric data captured - retinal and hand scans...so that's me on some CIA database or other for posterity. Really stringent on security, check your retina at each entry point like something out of a 007/ Mission Impossible! No sign of Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan or Tom Cruise though... :o(

Comms are a big issue...phone signal's rubbish and at least twice a day the generators go down and everything grinds to a halt but not doing too badly getting through the stuff I need to cover whilst out here but then again I was working til 11pm last night. That's the typical work ethic when the guys are out here...nothing much else to do other than that and exercise and I'm certainly no gym bunny ;o)

Monday, 15 November 2010

1st leg completed


...ah the joys of an airport hotel...might be 5* but I may as well have been sleeping on the runway. Managed 2hrs kip before the Director I was meeting rang me to arrange our rendezvous :o/

The Iraqi airways flight eventually took off from T2 an hour and a half late. Getting used to this type of erratic approach to timetables now and just buried my head in a book and stood back from the mêlée that ensued when the gate opened...you'd think that there weren't enough seats on the aircraft or they desperately needed to flee the country. I guess queueing really is a British institution...

Fortunately I'd also been warned to expect a bun fight at immigration when I landed at Basra that's exactly what it was. I think the basic premise is if you're not Iraqi, you automatically go to the back of the queue. Eventually got my health stamp and then had to go to another booth for a visa. The guy behind the desk gave me a big smile and put my passport separate from the others to be processed. Wasn't sure how that boded but it turned out to be a good omen as once he'd collected the others in he pushed mine out first so I was actually waiting in the arrivals lounge when my colleagues turned up which is apparently un-heard of.

So first impressions of the Combined Operating Base is a huge site with approx. 9km perimeter. There's nothing but sand and a mass of shipping containers used for everything from accommodation to shops, cafes and gyms. Very military looking...to be expected I suppose....concrete blast walls, razor wire and armed guards as well as a Phalanx (fast-reaction, rapid-fire 20-millimetre gun system that provides defence against missiles, destroys them mid-air which I'm hoping I won't hear going off!). It's all set out on a grid basis so with no discernible differences it's a bit of a rabbit warren which didn't help when I tried to find my way back to the office in the dark tonight.


Bizarrely in the middle of the camp shielded by a bunker there's a coffee shop with rows and rows of amazing looking patisserie. On the basis of such promising coffee breaks I thought I might manage a few days here ok but I'm reliably informed they're nowhere near as nice as they look..."gutted" as Minor Mayhem would say.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Seconds out, round 2

off to sunny Basra...

Packed the M&S 'Percy Pigs' sweeties (as requested by my colleague...obviously one of life's essentials), along with a weeks worth of gear, a laptop etc. So with that and the hostile environment training I'm ready for whatever gets thrown at me...hopefully....

Friday, 12 November 2010

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

Set off bright and early this morning to a somewhat damp and windy dis-used airfield for my postponed Hostile Environment Awareness training.

Has to be said I'm both knackered and emotionally drained after the course. I've learnt loads about the cultures of Iraq & Afghanistan, the religious aspects and how the various elements play into the situation. We then went on to look at various types of bombs, IEDs, RPGs, mortars and missiles.
I've been shown an assortment of Person Protection Equipment as well has their component materials, then had a demonstration of how successful they are in preventing piercing by various projectiles. Was drilled in 'actions on' operating procedures as well as being taught how to 'cross deck' between vehicles should the need arise e.g. the vehicles come under fire, have a blow-out or become incapacitated etc. Mrs. Terribly Squeamish also got to study first aid (including some pretty gruesome pics of war injuries - definitely not for the feint-hearted) and subsequently now know when and how to apply tourniquets to save limbs. Rounded up the day being taken hostage, blindfolded and instructed how best to behave in order to survive!!!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Outing to Oxford

for a HR conference today...Last time I was at that hotel was to run a training course for my last company many many moons ago. We did a business simulation game were we got two teams to set up a newspaper.  One lot decided to be a tabloid and persuaded the training manager and I (the only girls) to strip down to towels and pose in front of the sauna door so they could take some pics...Reader I was young and naive.

As is pretty standard it was one of those events where you get 'talked at' and are supposed to 'network'.  We had an employment law update...always useful. There was an interesting presentation about organisational design which is something I'm into so enjoyed, but am highly unlikely to use any of the theory/methods for the foreseeable with where the business is at right now. There was also a presentation around a bid to provide outsourced services to those on the range of unemployment benefits. Timely stuff with the 'White Paper" out today. Fascinating stats on the number of people out of work and the demographic breakdown, benefit spend and success rate of getting them back into work over the various previous government schemes...that sort of stuff appeals to the sociologist in me ;o)   It'll be interesting to see what how this current governments scheme pans out and whether we actually learn from history.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Oh to be young and idealistic...

Little did I know when I first coined the pseudonym 'Strident Student' for the birth of the blog some eighteen months ago, how true this would turn out to be.  The eldest has taken it upon herself to become involved in a wide variety of causes and developed strong political views to accompany her already decidedly ethical/idealist approach. 

In between studying (allegedly), she's involved with Chocolate Box (a voluntary scheme to provide support and education to prostitutes), helps with a teaching scheme for disadvantaged children, sits on the student union council and more recently has been found stating her views on the cuts to Further Education on News24....does beg the question whether she'll manage to get a degree next year, but she is making the world a better place in her own small way :o)

No surprise then that she is today stewarding coach C of Steel City students who have gone on their merry way to challenge Nick whom she fervently supported through the elections....

Now mother dearest having seen the news, the protest seemingly infiltrated by anarchists and high levels of violence in and around Westminster then been unable to reach eldest by phone sits and frets....

They might leave home but they're never off your radar....

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Feeling a little jaded today after doing a 'Come Dine with Me' episode last night which included flambéd fireplace in the midst of the meal.....kinda dinner with a bit of extra 'spark'...
Organised pre-dinner drinks and nibbles in the lounge, lit the fire and some candles to create a but of ambiance etc. So far so good...
We all moved into the dining room to eat, with the sproglets deciding they'd prefer to eat separately. Good job....we'd just got to the main course when Miss Sensible came running in to say that two of the candles have burnt down and set alight something on the fireplace, fortunately Minor Mayhem doused the flames and all that was left was the smoldering mess and the distinct odour of burn. Played it down and got through the rest of the night with nothing more eventful than Monty sitting on everyone's knee due to further fireworks. Can't be said the night lacked entertainment value!
Surveying the damage this morning, the wall behind the mantelpiece is scorched and covered in wax. Spent ages trying to scrape the stuff off then remove more of the residue by putting some brown paper over it and running and iron across....needless to say the lounge now needs redecorating...deep joy....

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Mutley

deserves a mention. The much loved hound has not been very well. For some time he has been suffering from fits. Although worrying, these were initially sporadic, and the vet advised leaving things unless such time as they became more frequent. Over the course of this last six months they've ramped up and we've naturally become quiet anxious. A formal assessment was required which meant a trip to the vets.

Monty adores going in the car...it means he's off to visit someone...great fun...unless it's the V.E.T. Cue cartoon like behaviour. He has to be dragged/carried from the boot, then cowers beneath the chairs in the waiting room howling like a thing possessed, whist the other animals behave impeccably, casting him askance looks. The upshot of this traumatic experience is the vet believes he's suffering from a form of epilepsy...common in Border Collies apparently (not that he's pure-bred..his dad was a pedigree farm dog, but it has to be said his mum was just a naughty girl ;o) We were told that each time he fits, a small part of his brain is damaged which in the long term could cause a permanent seizure/death, so it's been decided he needs to be put on permanent medication which they hope will stabilise things. I was quite relieved he'd started the medication yesterday as the fireworks being let off last night left him trembling like a jelly and I'm pretty sure without the tablets he'd have been in a real state. Needless to say the coming days and Bonfire Night will mean he gets plenty of TLC to try to combat the stress.

Scary or what!?!

Miss Sensible was invited to a Halloween party so it seemed an ideal opportunity to crash out on the sofa and watch a scary movie with Minor Mayhem. I rooted through the dvd collection and pulled out 'An American Werewolf in London'...an apt choice for the time of year.

Yep the dvd cover clearly states '18', but I'm thinking, that film was made almost 30 years ago and things were much tamer then, plus it wasn't particularly scary from what I can recall.... I'd clearly forgotten the opening scene with a reasonably graphic discussion about some woman Jack's 'after', not to mention the bit later where David's hiding in a 'cinema' in Soho complete with plenty of coverage of the movie content!!! What to do!?! Switch it off stating it's unsuitable viewing or accept he probably hears just as bad on the playground....Opted for the latter but inwardly squirmed with embarrassment...That'll teach me to go against the censors! Just hope he doesn't go into school tomorrow and brag about watching 'unsuitable material' or my reputation as "sooo unfair" (aka strict) is shot...that'll be the last time the Governors ask for my assistance.....

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Maybe I can start to stop worrying about the sproglets

Minor Mayhem managed his first trip to the City sans adult perfectly well yesterday. Caught the train with his mates, went to the cinema, bought himself lunch, procured a new computer game, travelled home and helped prepare dinner.

Meanwhile Strident Student (recent commentator on News 24 re. 'the cuts' & re-elected Student Union rep....doing the proud Mum bit) looked after her sister and I very well during our visit to the Steel City. She'd made soup and baked sun-dried tomato rolls for our lunch, as well as preparing a gorgeous fish stew for dinner, proving that she can look after herself more than adequately. We had a really nice girlie day pottering round the City and showing Miss Sensible the Uni etc. before stopping off to purchase some scrumptious cupcakes from Fancie :o)

Delighted they can all manage so well without me...although perhaps that puts me at risk of redundancy...!?!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Quick change artist

when I got in last night...sorted the sprogs, changed, tarted myself up and was out in forty minutes! Why so hasty? Wanted to get to the leaving 'do' for yet another batch of leavers from my last employers. The place was packed with people who'd left yonks ago as well as those going through the current exit process. The gang of five whose party it was had all been with the company from leaving education; a minimum 20 odd years ago. The inimitable Mr. P, a consummate after dinner speaker did a fab speech stuffed with anecdotes of their past, previous misdemeanours and the respective strengths the company was losing. A huge wrench for them to move on, but much as they were sad about the end of an era, I think all are starting to realise the place is not what it was and there is life outside the security cordon. 'Twas good to catch up with people who'd already moved on, find out what they've been up to and see that all seem much happier with their new lives. One slightly surreal realisation was that of the two bands playing I'd actually recruited some the band members as new grads many moons ago :o)