Sunday, 28 February 2010

Random mutterings afore she goes forth

Ms Sensible & Minor Mayhem have been trying to decide if the 'childminders' have sufficient culinary skills to cover a varied & acceptable selection of meals for each day of my weeks absence...the voting is in...& it's a 'maybe'...

My phone has been loaded with every conceivable number I might need...not that I've got any idea whether it's possible to use it out there and the Netbook has been installed with Skype & webcam, ditto phone comment.

Keep checking & re-checking my flight details...still in shock at being sent Business Class! Feel convinced someone is going to ring up and tell me it's all been a joke. Way different to previous employer's travel policy.

The itinerary for Kabul accounts for every minute of every day I'm there with loads of detailed information relating to precisely what I am doing, & who is looking after me. I have the distinct impression they see me as a cross between a frail damsel & Paddington Bear before he met the Browns. From the documentation it also looks like I'll have to learn a new language, there are shed loads of indecipherable acronyms & phrases like "Rotary moves"...I guess that'd be helicopter journeys to us mere mortals.

Hidden in the depths of the instructions is an unsubtle request for supplies of tea bags...Tetley's - specifically the round ones with the holes in them - apparently these are for the in-country management. I wonder if this is an initiative test to check I've read the paperwork ;o) Mrs. W informs me that these very items are on offer in Somerfield at this present moment. So a quick stock up is required before packing. Better make sure I've procured an ample sufficiency to keep everyone happy....working on the premise it's amazing what people will do for a good cuppa ;o)

Saturday, 27 February 2010

More excuses for a girlies celebration if they were ever needed ;o)

Mrs. W's birthday, the end of my tenure, & Lou-la-belle moving on with her company due to the closure of the depot at which she currently works. With the company's blessing she’d acquired a load of Boots goodies...vanity cases stuffed with loads of different eye colours & make-up brushes, jewellery boxes, handcream & body lotions, humongous packs of fake tan - sufficient to coat a few elephants or possibly even a coach-load of WAGs. So much contraband in fact, her flat was about to burst! Last night the goods were off-loaded to us from her car boot in a very surreptitious manner, & we all went away laden down with carrier bags full of goodies...I'm pretty sure to onlookers it must have looked particularly dodgy, like something out of an episode of 'Only Fools & Horses'....extremely funny though!!!

Maybe it was just the Gin, but it has to be said I did get a bit weepy & over-emotional by the end of the night.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Over & out

Had hoped to just quietly slope off to the pub for few drinks and then disappear but my boss had other ideas. He'd been conniving in the background :o/ Various people had provided pics and anecdotes of my exploits over the time I've been there which had been collated into a slide show which was projected to the assembled masses. Couldn't get over how many people had turned up - they'd opened both sides of the large conference room & there were people stuffed in standing at the back! The slides encompassed a fair amount of stuff I'd have happily had left buried, & excruciatingly embarrassing but having said that some quite amusing to be reminded of. Some very touching things said & needless to say I ended up a bit weepy. Presented with a lovely new suitcase, beautiful beaten pewter photo frame, some handmade jewellery, a large box of very yummy chocolates, & huge bouquet of flowers, as well as books & specially compiled CDs for the flight. Mrs. W also gave me a lovely pewter token with a compass on one side & the message "to find your way" on the reverse which I will carry with me on my travels. With any luck our sneaky-beaky guys have inbuilt a secret homing device in case I get sold into the white slave trade or lost in the desert! ;o)

Even after all of that, plus clearing my desk, re-signing the Official Secrets Act and handing back the phone, Blackberry, access pass etc., it still feels completely if I'm having some time off but will go back there as usual at some point. After almost 10 & a half yrs it's hard to believe I've walked away. bury the sentimental stuff....

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Got up before I went to bed

in order to get down to London for the last Manpower Planning session. That probably sounds very committed of me but to be honest it was all due to the fact that one of the panelists is the HR Director for the House of Lords and had not only offered to host the meeting, but also laid on a private tour for the group. So having caught the 6am train in order to get there I was not best pleased when a signaling fault was announced introducing inevitable delays. Needless to say I had a bit of a frantic dash across the City but managed to get to Westminster Palace, gently 'glowing' as we ladies do when we exert ourselves, just as they were about to set off. We had a fab tour of the House of Commons & House of Lords with our guide pointing out all the points of interest and explaining some of the history behind the traditions on which the establishment works. It was absolutely fascinating. I love architecture so thoroughly enjoyed simply looking round the Palace which is so full of detail in every area from the windows, stone mullion work, carvings, to the tapestries, to the tiles and even the door hinges - absolutely magnificent! And to top it all we had the Workforce Planning session in one of the chambers complete with the gold portcullis insignia on each of the red leather chairs...don't think I'll ever have a meeting anywhere near a grandiose again. Experience of a lifetime.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Running round

like an idiot at the moment. Didn't stop today & was shredding documents whilst eating a sandwich at lunch time....can't believe how much stuff I've accumulated :o/

Bit of respite tomorrow - I'm in London at the House of Lords don't you know ;o) - last workshop on manpower planning. Early start though, got to catch the 6am train :o(

Back in the office Thurs with a couple of final meetings and then obviously clearing up Friday... weird thought believe me...

I really can't believe I'm going....

The itinerary for the trip next week has brought everything into focus!...woke up in a cold sweat about what to wear for the Embassy last night...that should be the least of my worries but I need to be smart and covered up...and none of my trouser suits fit any more...crisis!

PS.> In case you're wondering, I have to worry about the trivial stuff so I can block out the major issues...

I have the bestest friends

Who couldn't fail to be amused &
delighted with a message like this?

"My darling one....
been reading your blog and am super proud of you.
You are so brainy and smart and brave... I think I would have a major wobbly at the thought of anyone being an insurgent, let alone if I thought I had just met one!!! If I can help or anything... let me know. I want to come and see you off at the airport!!!
Amanda xxx
PS I've got a good friend working at the Embassy in Kabul...she says she will stand you an orangeade!!!!
PPS Can't ring as teenagers on the phone......"

friends are like human comfort blankets
Amanda you're a complete star!!! xxxxx

Monday, 22 February 2010

Girlies, I wrote the 'Sick Bucket' post as a thank you to you all, rather than just 'cos I'm off on my travels. I know I've had my head up my bottom for some all of a sudden you’re a gynaecologist? (written with a Jewish accent!) and I just wanted to say how much it's means having all of you there.

The new job's both exciting and daunting in equal measures but I’m looking forward to it. Needed a bit of adventure before I become too old and stale to do it but I'm still the same me & won't be losing touch with any of you...unless I cause a Diplomatic incident... in which case please can someone arrange for Colin Firth to be flown out to rescue me à la Brigit Jones ;o)

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Why does it always seem more tricky when a woman changes job? I can't help feeling that my career is important and maybe its time for the others to give a bit. And it DOES look exciting! And I DO need a change! And I MUST stop using capitals! AND exclamation marks...

Friday, 19 February 2010

Myriad of diverse conversations

what with current employers now trying to negotiate to keep me, whilst I simultaneously contact all and sundry to finding out more about recruiting in Afghanistan.

The girlies network has come up Trumps - yet again! 'Green Fingers' has put me in touch with a security consultant who's has given me loads of useful info....."When dealing with Afghans, always remember that Afghans can be rented but never bought. Afghans are incredible people. They will see suspicious things in a crowd or on the street that you or I would think were normal everyday occurrences. Be aware tribe is everything in Afghan and they will fight amongst themselves (just fisty cuffs – rarely shootings!) over tribal pride. You'll get a depth of understanding from working with them like no other and know exactly what makes them tick, as well as understanding the religious and cultural sensitivities that frankly can plague a project in Afghan or Iraq if not handled properly. It takes far more than ‘strong management’ to get the best out of a group of Afghan guards. As for vetting their background this is going to be difficult – the average Afghan doesn’t know his own age/ date of birth. If you have access to a local elder or senior member of the security forces then he will help massively as he will be able to ask questions of a candidate about where they are from, what they have been doing for the past 10 years, have they done any fighting, if so, who with (they will often fight for their own tribes, but also to the highest bidder, it is quite normal – I had guys in my Afghan National Army team who were ex-Taliban – couldn’t care less about the Taliban cause, they fought with them because they paid they best). Corruption, bribery, greed and family/ tribal ties will complicate recruiting too but it is all part the fun of working in these places!" So it's a bit more than some guys protecting someone around the city or blokes in dark glasses talking into little microphones in their sleeves not to mention slightly different to recruiting Laser Scientists or Aeronautical Engineers then...gulp...

I also got the details of where I am staying (pic above). Anjuman Base which is secure accommodation protected by blast walls, comprehensive CCTV and electronic security access control systems in addition to its own guard force. Apparently there are 300 en-suite rooms, each with TV plus 2 underground bunkers in case of serious security incident - comforting or what!?!

In the midst of all that I've been doing more mundane stuff like making copious cups of tea for the decorators & Panda, whilst discussing paint colours, life in general and most importantly Mrs. W's birthday & my leaving do next Friday. Excited now!!!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Back to hot chocolate & marshmallows

after being completely gridlocked in traffic for ages on the way back from Cheltenham (snow chaos, what else!?) only to discover a couple of fab surprises :o)

A friend very kindly sent me a huge Hotel Chocolat Ostrich Easter Egg for helping his son with a couple of graduate job applications. It is so beautiful I don't think I could bear to unwrap it never mind eat it.

On top of that there was also a paper carrier bag from the famous Humming Bird Bakery in London containing a lovely bottle of Rosé wine and a box with two scrummy looking cup cakes which a lady had very kindly brought round as a thank you for passing on my old cooker via Freecycle. Really touched and very happy :o)

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


Talk about people realising you there's a chance you might actually know what you're talking about at the 11th hour... had 2hrs 45 mins with a guy discussing my project (hence no lunch), at the end of which he said "this is really useful stuff"!?!

People kept coming into the office and asking if it were true I was off, then following it up with "I'm not surprised", "can't believe you've lasted this long" etc. Someone commenting on my tenacity to stick with the project described me as being 'the Terrier of Resource Planning' that really supposed to be some form of compliment??

Late afternoon I ran round acting as a human pin cushion (Hep A, Hep B, Typhoid, Tetanus, Polio and Diphtheria), then getting passport photos and sending my passport off for the necessary Visas! Felt like an initiative test against the clock.

Feel rough now...sore arms and pretty queasy :o(

Tuesday, 16 February 2010


Chained to the stove for a couple of hours tonight preparing batter then making pancakes whilst debate raged as to whether sugar & lemon is better than maple syrup...two opposing factions in my kitchen ;o) I'm in favour of the former but did both to pacify the troops. Managed to successfully toss ten with only one minor mishap which the mutt gratefully snaffled up!

Miss Sensible's foray into the world of employment

This very morn she attended an interview for a work experience placement with an Archeologist at the local Cathedral. When she was dragged off up into the tower by a skinny, dungareed, beardy bloke I had a feeling it might well be a non-starter. She was floored by some of the questions she was posed about archeological finds and methods (bearing in mind she is 14) and although he was pleasant enough she found it hard to relate to him as he was somewhat geeky with, by her account, not much more interpersonal skills then a gnat. Apparently she would spend most of the week watching him work or at best doing scale drawings of the bricks and floor :o/ Certainly not in the vein of Indiana Jones! So it looks like she'll be spending a week in the electronics lab at my current employers which will at least be interesting and will have the added benefit of my friends to look after her...well CRB checks and HSE permitting...

Half term

this week so endeavouring to keep the kids occupied and out of the way of the decorator. Took them off to 'Explore @ Bristol' yesterday. It's a 'hands on'/interactive science and technoloy exhibition with loads of things to try as well as a Planetarium. They were running a special programme around animation as that's where Ardman are based. We all thoroughly enjoyed it, Minor Mayhem of course was into all the engineering stuff whilst I just had a play with loads of things. Miss Sensible noted scathingly she thought I had more fun than most of the kids...oops street cred gone!

Fab lunch at 'Las Iguanas' a Mexican place which we always gravitate back to each time we visit - Quesadilla & Burritos *yum*

A matter of loaf & death

Simply love Wallace & Gromit
still a child at heart

Monday, 15 February 2010

The new dimension to 'wardrobe crisis'

Went shopping with Mrs. W at the weekend but found it very hard to concentrate on buying what was on my kit list. Kept choosing unsuitable cuts & colours or things with impractical embellishment… had to be kept on a very tight rein! Terribly dull & practical which as you know, I don't do most of the time :o( She did however allow me to purchase a very nice frock from Monsoon...bright turquoise maybe not to be worn whilst in the field unless I wish to provide target practice.

When retelling the tale to my friend who works in advertising she responded "I so get the wardrobe crisis. Although I note in Grazia a spread on the 'military look'. Camouflage knickers and khaki Laboutons, perhaps not entirely practical but hey ho go for it." - Highly tempted but worried it might damage my credibility with those Forces types ;o)

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Chinese New Year, Boys Birthday & Valentines Day

so celebration required....Minor Mayhem requested a take-away Chinese banquet followed by Snickers cake to commemorate his birthday. The local Chinese were geared up for their New Year so very kindly threw in some fab Dim sum and delish Toffee Apples....completely stuffed now. Waiting for it to all settle before I can face a much needed drag with the mutt.

Sick buckets at the ready...

anyone who knows me, knows as a true Northerner I really don't do 'mushy' stuff but for today it really struck me how much I needed to thank a few people without whom I would have been a wibbly jelly by now, so at the risk sounding like a bad Oscar acceptance speech...
  • Major thanks to 'the girlies' without whom I would surely have fallen apart since last October. Your support and humour is without compromise. How would I cope without you all?
  • The Work Based Counsellor is owed huge debt for putting up with my moaning messages & random tearful phone calls - I will always be grateful for you being there and providing the voice of common sense & numerous Mochas.
  • Smelen & Auntie Ashton for sticking with me & my varied antics for the last 20+ years and always being there whenever/however needed. How've you managed it?
  • Mrs Ferret (sorry Seonaid I couldn't think of a suitable pseudonym) & Green Fingers for the down to earth advice you can both always be relied on to provide.
  • de Velde who not formally part of the cast list, has inadvertently demonstrated that children love their parents despite their quirks, faults & failings which gave me hope that my kids would not think their mum had completely lost the plot.
& last but by no means least, Sue, who although no longer with us showed bravery, fortitude & was an inspiration as well a catalyst - feel sure you are looking down on us and smiling :o)

So in the vein of true you all Darlings !!!!! xxxxx

Male in my bed

at some unearthly time this morning. Minor Mayhem was somewhat over excited about his birthday and felt it might expedite things if he woke me up. Tried my best to persuade him to at least lie still and have a snooze but to no avail. Bang went my 8.30am we'd completed the unwrapping frenzy and he happily built Lego while I yawned my chops off.

So my Valentine's baby is 12 today! Happy Birthday smallest Sproglet!!!

Hmm...this means it's only twelve months before the onset of true teenager tendencies...

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Mundane Malvern

was a bit more interesting than usual last night. Lou-la-belle, Panda, Full English & I went to see the Rocky Horror Show. There were so many people dressed up it was almost anyone in normal gear looked out of place. We had such a good laugh. I'd almost forgotten how great the show was, no small part down to the audience participation which was amazing if a little on the risqué side, plus Dave Badella was one of the best Frank N Furters I've seen. First saw it the day of my final 'A' level in 1983, then fairly regularly through the 80s when I did my stint on the theatre bar of the Royal Court in Liverpool. Rooted out this link to the original film for those of you who have never partaken....

Sweet Transvestite

After the show we went for an extremely good curry then everyone piled back to mine for a few more bevvies...superb night :o)

Friday, 12 February 2010

Letter of resignation submitted!!!

It'd got to the point of no return really. Angst about it and kind of feel guilty for walking away from something unfinished which I passionately believe in - not my normal style.

Ironically I’ve just had HR Director of my new company on the phone panicking about a start date. I plan to join them on 3rd March and will fly out to Dubai that night and then on to Afghanistan. I'll be staying in Kabul where I gather it's currently snowing. She reeled off all the stuff I’ll need, long sleeved tops that'll completely cover me up (which I don't have), cargo pants (have some, don't fit any more), walking boots and waterproofs (tick!)...glam eh? Adds a whole new dimension to 'wardrobe crisis'. Also need various jabs and malaria tablets. Deep joy.

We discussed priorities for the new job - I'll need to sort out someone to do polygraph testing in Afghanistan so we can check potential recruits are not insurgents, plus, I need to recruit a doctor able to assess whether someone's suffering from post traumatic stress or combat fatigue...!!!

Stage II of plan is a trip to Fiji in June. Apparently I need to meet the Tribal Leader weird is that? Whole new world out there! Considering my current company is sort of global, I've actually been operating in quite a narrow environment.
Surreally I feel quite excited. Best not to think about the negatives I reckon...look on it as an adventure, but talk about starting at the deep end!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Not the best of days

  1. Turned down for Voluntary Redundancy this morning.
  2. Shortly followed by making a faux pas over a friend which left me feeling both foolish & fraught.
  3. Topped by having to see the MD to explain why I’m not happy and want to leave.
To be fair, she listened and made all the right noises about sorting things out, but there’d be no extra dosh and to be honest I’ve tried everything I could to progress things with no senior management support. There's only so many times you can bang your head against a brick wall and I've been doing it regularly for the last eighteen months.
Time to walk into the Sunset

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

My new pride & joy

New cooker's finally been installed tonight :o) How sad that I find that exciting….but it's all new and shiny and hopefully work properly which will be a nice change. Can't believe I've managed for so long with a malfunctioning oven, learned to work round it I guess.

Spent half of last night clearing the hall, stairs & landing. Took down all the pictures, moved the table, emptied and shifted the bookcase. Didn't realise how much stuff is actually on & in that bookcase - we obviously all read far too much! Decorator started this morning & removed loads of knackered plaster in the hall stairs and landing, so all in all the house looks like a bombsite. As the saying goes, it'll get worse before it gets better.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Been a slightly tiring Tuesday. Insomnia back with a vengeance *sigh*. Last couple of nights I've been awake around 3am & unable to drop back off. Too much on my mind I guess. Multiple high strength caffeine intakes throughout the day didn't work. Felt likely to slump over the desk & snooze at any given moment. May need to seriously consider partaking of the magic sleeping draught tonight.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Fraught start to the day

Minor Mayhem ‘helped’ in the kitchen deciding to do the lunches for Miss Sensible and himself....tuna melt wraps. Great idea in essence but a bad move…he got distracted by something on TV and left the lovingly prepared culinary delights under the grill setting off the smoke shower was somewhat curtailed & the neighbours may well have got a bit of an eyeful as I sped downstairs clad only in a towel!!! Think it's safest if I do the lunch-boxes myself in the future.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Amaretto Sours in the Steel City

Strident Student summoned me to spend a weekend in Sheffield to celebrate the end of her exams and the start of a new career for moi. It turned out to be somewhat knackering but a great break from real life. Spent Saturday afternoon with her housemates and then in the evening went out for a lovely Italian (meal not waiter!) before heading on to a cocktail bar. Obviously to integrate into the new environment properly it's necessary to sample to local fare, so we tried a few new concoctions and have discovered a fresh favourite – Amaretto Sours.

Following the alcoholic intake I just wanted to crash but had to share a bed with the eldest who not only grinds her teeth, but also hogs the quilt…there’s a lot to be said for sleeping on your own! Interesting experience using the bathroom too….less said about that the better, suffice to say that it wasn’t helped by the fact the girls use the bath to dye their hair so there are assorted stains around the place...can't be sure what's hair colour and what's dirt! Needless to say I wished I had the power to levitate whilst using the shower.

Sunday morning was spent wandering around the City. There are some great one-off eclectic shops with loads of ‘interesting’ bits…just the type of thing I love. Had a natter over a coffee and cake before I eventually had to head back home. Great weekend and lovely to have some 'quality time with her and chance to talk to her about life, the Universe & everything.

PS> the elegant looking beverage is a Bombay Berry

Friday, 5 February 2010

Two muscly blokes

with dreadlocks & assorted piercings have been ripping up the floor. Pourquoi? There's a 2ft void underneath the lounge floor ventilated by airbricks in the wall. When the weather's really cold or windy there's a fair draught comes up through the gaps between the beautifully stripped floorboards. Not good with being cold so I did some research & found you can insulate using a special method. Managed to locate & purchase the stuff but know I'd be out of my depth installing it hence dragging in a couple of chippies to do the necessary.

So what's with the snap...nope, not a forensic examination of my cooking, Paul's using one of the 'Silent Witness' suits and a miners helmet (including lamp!) whilst crawling in the floor void. Just hope he doesn't discover any dead bodies while he's down there!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Cinnamon sprinkled Mocha and an almond croissant

in the cafe at work eased a couple of hours discussing the need to change a whole heap of things. It could have been the caffeine intake or sugar rush but I seem to have volunteered to write a paper making recommendations.

Starting to try to work out what else I might need to do before I go. I'm a bit of a 'completer-finisher' so don't want to leave with stuff half done...hate the idea of anyone bad-mouthing me when I've gone.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Ashes to Ashes

mind-set know, living in a different dimension/paradigm so feeling slightly hard-nosed & with nothing to lose so went into work in my highest f*ck me boots and leather jacket ‘cos I felt like it...but had forgotten it was the accounting period review which meant that the MD, FD and merry bunch of management were in the conference room next door. Got a few raised eyebrows. Haven't had the answer about my VR application but I think I might be starting to get de-mob happy.

First couple of days after saying I want to leave has felt like a bit of a roller-coaster. Hard to walk away from something you believe in and have given so much effort. I've gone back to not being able to sleep again so completely knackered. Took the magic sleeping draught again last night... made me conk out completely and I struggled to come round this morning but fortunately it's been a relatively easy day.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Four hours with a mad Materials Scientist

discussing skills, competencies and resource profiling. At the risk of sounding 'sad' and damaging my credibility completely I have to say I genuinely enjoyed my meeting with the Technical Director. He's a 'right character', brain the size of the planet and a great dry sense of humour. I learnt all kinds of stuff about that side of the business (weapons & energetics), loads about the MoD and Manchester Uni where he's a visiting Professor as well as plenty of gossip about some of our senior management. It was a real eye-opener and a reminder of what I'm going to miss.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Giant step for Frostykind

I've put my hand up for Voluntary Redundancy! Strictly speaking I'm not eligable as I'm outside the areas they want to cut, but they're looking to reduce management by 50% & are only offering quarter the usual amount so it's worth a punt as they'll want to get the headcount down.

Dunno how I expected to feel really, but it's almost like ending a relationship...know you've tried all you can & it's finally time to walk away, but doesn't stop you hoping the other party will wake up and realise what they've got. Work-based counsellor said "
It is their loss - who else is going to do what you have been doing? They'll leave it then they'll pay a team of Consultants shed-loads of dosh to come in and tell us how we could do resource planning better and will come up with the same ideas as you!"

Ironically this morning the Technical Director of another Sector of the business asked for a meeting tomorrow as he wants to adopt the approach I've suggested then I had a further call from someone elsewhere in the organisation asking for more information about what information the systems could provide.
Ah well, as the saying goes, sometimes you don't know what you've got until it's gone...