Saturday, 31 December 2011

And the award for best critque of the year goes to

Michael Deacon for his review of 'Great Expectations' in the Daily Telegraph...

"I rather lost faith in this adaptation the moment it introduced us to the full-grown Pip. Having entered the pupa of adolescence as a scowling urchin, he emerged as an androgynous heart-throb with a boy-band fringe, exquisitely shaped eyebrows, and skin of aftershave-advert purity. For some reason I can't quite put my finger on, it was difficult to believe in this pouting beauty as a Victorian blacksmith's apprentice."
That said, I still very much enjoyed the series and thought Gillian Anderson played Miss Havisham to a 't'.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Beware inadvertently starting a tradition

as it will haunt you forevermore. Young Blood has announced she will be home over Chrimble and the next statement was, "you will have made shortbread, won't you...?"

So instead of collapsing in a heap following finishing work, it was a case of 'get thee to the kitchen wench'... gingerbread cake successfully completed, mulled wine vat on the stove replenished, onto the shortbreads...

In case you're wondering, I dunno why I do 'festive' pigs... just become a habit...

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Fortified with porridge

I headed to London for the last time this year to give the MD a fairly 'frank & factual' assessment of my significantly depleted teams' capacity to deliver all that is continually being asked of us including; dealing with a fairly major spike in resignations, staffing new contracts and preparing bids for prospective business. Having stressed the level of cuts we'd endured, highlighted the workload, and pointed out that something might have to 'give' before we all fell over, I half wondered if I'd find my P45 in the Secret Santa that afternoon, but it seems I will live to receive another bank giro credit by the looks of things.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Today's new experience

has been seeking a potential alternative Mental Health Evaluation supplier. Although I am qualified in the use of psychometrics, I'm no psychologist so have had to learn enough about the ten main personality disorders, and mental/emotional/behavioural facets scales, as well as narcotic, addictive, mild-altering and/or psychoactive medications so that I can conduct a vaguely credible discussion about what is needed. As I read up on this stuff it makes me start to wonder where I'd come out against the 'norm group' if I ever took the test.... Scary thought....

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Absolutely no shenanigans involved

but I have managed to catch the Middle Eastern Correspondent's dreaded lurgy. All normal remedies have been ineffective and the household became sick of hearing me coughing my guts up so an alternative approach to shutting mother up was sought.... and therein lay my downfall... Mawsons Dandelion and Burdock...I have become addicted to a herbal drink made using genuine extracts of Dandelion and Burdock roots once used in medicine for their cleansing and diuretic properties. Might not have cured the hacking cough but it's the best discovery I've made in a long time.

Friday, 9 December 2011

He may well have a bus pass but

David Coverdale's still definitely got 'it'! The Middle Eastern Correspondent (with whom I had watched Rock videos with many, many moons ago) very kindly presented me a ticket to see 'Whitesnake' on their final gig of their 'Forevermore' World tour. They were superb...a compete throw-back to the '70s & '80s. Long flowing manes of hair, sprayed on jeans, shirts open to the navel, copious silver chains and studs, accompanied by posturing, and baton twirling of the microphone stand. A total cliché but brilliant none the less. We had a fab night resulting in a loss of voice undoubtedly due to singing along somewhat too enthusiastically.

Friday, 2 December 2011

An evening in the company of

Simon, Nick, Roger and John (swoon) aka Duran Duran, playing in their home town of Brum! Superb gig. Mr. le Bon worked the crowd into a fenzy and the set list took in all the favourites; Planet Earth, View to a Kill, Come Undone, Reflex, Wild Boys, Careless Memories, Rio, Ordinary World and an amazing segway from Notorious to Relax which I know will be buzzing around my brain for the next week. Can hardly believe I first saw them almost 30 years ago to the day on their inaugural tour at the Empire in's got to be said, they've aged well both in terms of performance and looks!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Settling into the new abode

So far so good re. tummy. I have eaten some very strange things but it's holding up, or at least in ;o)

Just as I started to think I was acclimatised when I was I was pulled up short. As I was crossing the compound earlier after lunch half a dozen Iraqi Close Protection guys came charging towards me kitted out in their flack jackets, helmets and totting AK47s...

Was about to start to panic then realised they were smiling.....
it was a training drill!!!!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Reached base camp on Sunday and already feel part of the fixtures and fittings. Quite like being here if you put aside the hostile environment issues. They're a great bunch, excellent sense of humour (mostly black! :o) and there's a fab work ethos.

Board and lodgings are perfectly ok....not quite sure what I'm eating half the time as things frequently look like they should be props or aliens in Dr. Who, but they taste ok and I had a superb cup of Arabic coffee with cardamon this morning, won't have helped the insomnia but was lovely.

Last night, I worked til just before 10pm and went back to the villa where I’m staying only to find I’d been locked out as they’d all already gone to bed and forgot to check I was in. I had visions of having to bunk in with the guards and sundry strays but I phoned one of the guys who'd fortunately not yet gone asleep so kindly let me in!

Sleep deprivation's the biggest issue here, if it's not low flying helicopters, it's the guard change, local feral cats fighting or the muezzin reciting the 5am call to prayer from the local Mosque...still, it reminds you where you are :o)

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Eagle has Landed

spent an hour at Baghdad immigration, been picked up by close protection team and travelled the infamous Route Irish to her temporary abode kitted out in very fetching body armour and an over-sized helmet which wibbled round on her head prompting the thought that it probably wouldn't be much kop in an emergency, and at best would probably result a headache and 'helmet head'. Now immersed in Gantt charts and redundancy selection criteria so pretty well the 'same old' despite the surroundings...

Friday, 18 November 2011

Off to play in the sandpit again tomorrow

This trip's been on and off more times than I can count, and with the destination changing from Baghdad to Basra, to Baghdad and Basra which couldn't be organised due to internal flight availability resulting in the suggestion of a road move between the two....which I less than politely declined as 6 hours each way across potentially IED strewn areas seemed too much like Russian Roulette to me! So then it was suggested I drive to Heathrow and travel via Oman which would be 3hrs in the car to add to a missed nights sleep, and the same palaver on the way at that point I lost it!! Upshot = Baghdad return! Sigh of relief....

Thursday, 17 November 2011

When the Victorians built the somewhat grandiose Cheltenham Town Hall little did they know that the Balls & Concerts they had planned for the venue would one day be replaced with a healthy Stand-up circuit.
Stinkysox & I went to see Ed Byrne's 'Crowd Pleaser' tour and it lived up to it's name exceptionally well. He covered a huge range of subjects from being a nerd (pointing out his name is an anagram of "be nerdy") and a rant about drunk particle physicists (of all things), before observing mankind's treatment of our fellow man, as opposed to cats. He chatted animatedly about the trials of dealing with his wife's 'pregnancy brain' and joys of parenting which included hilarious observations about projectile pooing, and why he gets frowned at when he burps yet his son gets applause....Maybe I have spent too much time in the company of scientists, engineers and other mothers but it all resonated with me & I spent most of his routine dissolved in tears of laughter.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Whilst at check-in at the airport heading back to the UK, it suddenly struck me I need to go to Iraq next week and I don't have enough blank pages in my passport. To enter what was once called Babylon, one needs a minimum of 3 empty sheets, and as I'm transiting Dubai yet again which prompts a visa stamp, that's one page gone before I even head across the Gulf in the vague direction of Baghdad. As a result I'll be heading up to Liverpool on tomorrow with a completed application form and piccies in my sticky mitt in order to get a new passport rather than risk hitting Baghdad International Airport and being denied entry!!
Much as every girl wants to be front page news, perhaps that's not the best route to fame! ;o)

Saturday, 5 November 2011

'Young Blood'

as she appears to have been nick-named by the Middle Eastern Correspondent, experienced a less than favourable trip back spending most of it in the bog chucking her guts up. As the dutiful mother I am, I spent the same amount of time standing patiently outside the convenience ensuring she didn't pass out etc. and forgoing the delights of airline food on the basis that the sight and smell would send her off to the smallest room yet again.

I am pleased to report that she made a full recovery as soon as we hit Brum and promptly demanded fish & chips. The Middle Eastern Correspondent is under the impression she needs tutoring in the dark art of drinking and has offered himself as holder of 4 Masters in said subject, as well as Rallyman as his Research Assistant.

Ironically we have spent most of this morning discussing Masters but not of that variety :o) The debate is whether she applies for a course in Human Rights & Genocide, and if spending that much extra dosh is likely to actually result in a job in a field she's interested in...

Friday, 4 November 2011

Double Acts in Dubai

As a result of clocking up a whole heap of air miles I eventually had sufficient to actually utilise some of them to book a couple of flights for myself and the Strident Student (who is no longer a student but in search of a new moniker).
We stayed at the Sofitel in Jumeirah and had a lovely couple of days mostly just lounging by the pool but with a brief bit of sight-seeing, culminating with dinner with another Double Act; The Middle Eastern Correspondent and his partner in crime, Rallyman. The plan had been to do so much more but Young Blood was seeking Arabic Culture which Rallyman believes is an oxymoron; informing us that anything of interest was demolished 30 years ago and the Emirate is now "Las Vegas without the fun".

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

History repeating itself...

The return of Miss Sensible from Poland last night meant a late night whilst she told me about the trip in great detail.

She loved Krakow (into architecture like her Mum), but was predominantly keen to discuss what she'd learnt from the guide at Auschwitz-Birkenau, recounting all kinds of facts which I'd been previously unaware of and making me realise more than ever what a terrible place it had been, the horrors of war and the danger of tolerating Dictators.

Seems ironic that the trips of the last few days have been centred around various conflicts when the news is still full of the demise of Gaddafi. Makes you realise how little we learn from history.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Ferry 'cross the Mersey

I spent many a Sunday morning of my childhood in the care of my Granddad pootling over to Seacombe and Woodside after one of his burnt offerings, aka a 'cooked breakfast', to keep me and my cousins from under my Gannie's feet.

It was great to see how much the Pier Head and surrounding areas have been 'tarted up'. Although I pop back regularly, the last time I spent much time in Liverpool was in 2008 when it was City of Culture, and I dragged the kids around the Maritime and Slavery Museum in an attempt to broaden their education. Needless to say it left such a lasting impression, Minor Mayhem can't remember a thing.
The Ferry has gone upmarket, with a running commentary about Liverpool's waterfront and many of the key landmarks on the Wirral, and of course serenading the passengers with Gerry & the Pacemakers at key points.

Apart from quenching my bout of nostalgia, we'd taken the trip to visit an attraction telling the story of World War II German submarine U-534. It's a superb set-up which enables you to not only grasp the scale of the vessel, but to see into the cross-sectioned submarine and view many of the items which were recovered from the wreck including food, records, medical equipment, 2 Enigma machines and the highly advanced T11 Torpedoes which were state of the art for their time as they had acoustic homing systems which were developed as a countermeasure to the British decoy system. The weapons were so sophisticated they were thought to be the reason for captain's refusal to surrender and the vessel subsequently being bombed.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Soujourn to Salford Quays

It's half term and the middle one is off on a school trip which left Minor Mayhem kicking his heels and in need of distraction from the X-box. Seemed an ideal point to drag him up to the grim North to learn more of his parental origins. First stop was Salford Quays which looks very different from the run down area I used to drive through on my way to work and college. After the Manchester docks were closed there was a massive amount of investment pumped into the place resulting in one of the largest urban regeneration projects in the UK.

We visited the Lowry Centre to see some of the man himself's pieces, and to peruse the works of Valette that are on exhibition at the moment. I love many of the Impressionists work and his particular brand captured the atmospheric mood of the streets, shrouded in fog & polution and yet somehow invoked a sense of romanticism. Very different from the works of Lowry for whom he was said to have been a great influence.
The trade off for hours in an art gallery with a 13yr old 'Kevin' was to spend the afternoon at the Imperial War Museum of the North, viewing everything imaginable from various conflicts from the First World War onwards, and subsequently suffer the entire journey back discussing the rules of engagement, origins of the Irish Troubles, and ethics of using certain types of weapons!!!! Talk about testing...I readily admit I'm pretty flaky on the Cold War & Vietnam, but do know a bit about Ireland as I'm of Irish descent and spent time in Belfast during the 80s. However...
Q: is Semtex the same as C4? ....required 'phone a friend'
A: Both putty (plastic) explosives but properties are different. Both 'very' effective if you want to demolish something....or so I am reliably told!!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Half a dozen applications later

Miss Sensible finally secured a job. This may seem fairly inconsequential, however having seen the on-line application process for Waitrose, and been de-briefed on the interview and assessment event, I am both horrified and impressed with the selection process for a 15 hour contract. It certainly proved that the company take their hiring seriously, and many other companies could learn a thing or two about the rigor involved and the level of professionalism. This didn't just extend to the recruitment process, as yesterday she spent 8 hours being indoctrinated in the Partnership values, trained on Health & Safety, and presented with copious amounts of material about the organisation with which to further her familiarisation, as well as receiving her pristine uniform ready for taking on the real job this coming week. All this to earn a bit of dosh to save towards a car, and hopefully have the option of a student transfer when she makes the move to Uni!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Bad outbreak of pork-pie hats,

2-Tone braces, Fred Perry shirts, Doc Martens et al, at a Specials gig in Wolverhampton last night. The audience were whipped up into a frenzy by a montage of images of key events from the 1970s to date, including politicians of the day which prompted wild cheers and booing. The Specials were superb and ran through what seemed to be most of their back catalogue such as Gangsters, Rat Race, Message to You Rudy, Ghost Town etc. proving you can’t beat a bit of Ska. Further entertainment value was gained from watching a load of middle-aged blokes 'dance' and shout out for the "rude boys" including a chap who was the spitting image of Buster Bloodvessel (Bad Manners - "Lip Up Fatty") plus about 100 other blokes who looked very similar bouncing their beer guts in very close proximity to me in the mosh pit - not the prettiest sight!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Joining the ranks of "Smuggly Marrieds"

as Bridget Jones would describe the act, were the career bachelor 'Corkie', and his good lady Emma. They had a beautiful intimate Wedding ceremony held in the Chancel at Tewkesbury Abbey. It was made even more special in my mind by having the Cantate Choir, with whom Emma sings, perform 'Ave Maria' during the signing of the register and then hearing the organ boom out the 'Toccata' by Widor as they left the Abbey...I love the emotion of that piece and to hear it in played so beautifully in that environment, was sublime. There was Champagne and photographs in the sunshine against the backdrop of the stunning grounds of Dumbleton Hall, followed by a sumptuous wedding breakfast and evening reception. The weather couldn't have been better and it was lovely to be surrounded by friends and have been part of such a genuinely joyous event.

ps. spot the confirmed romantic ;o)

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Where the heck's Djibouti?

came the cry....

Out with the maps yet again....

There's been some interest in maritime security which has necessitated reading up about ship security officer training and locating all kinds of places I'd never heard of which have now turned out to be close to Somalia and the pesky pirates. I think this is one potential site visit I might give a miss.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Therapy of the retail variety

especially every time for me!

Highly impractical colour and inappropriate for this season but I needed something to make this week feel slightly brighter and it's only the weathermen say we're in for a late Indian summer....

Monday, 19 September 2011

Bereavement notification

was about the last thing I ever thought I would be adding to my training portfolio, but given the nature of the business there's a reasonable possibility I might be given the task of dealing with the outcome of an incident and therefore best be prepared.
A couple of colleagues and I attended a very thought provoking session presented by an ex- Policeman who has been involved in dealing with incidents as diverse as the Marchioness tragedy, Paddington rail crash, London bombings, and Asian Tsunami. He was an excellent trainer and covered everything from the practical issues, the role of the Coroner, repatriation, as well as debating some of the cultural and religious considerations.

I hope to God I never need to put any of what I have learnt into action, but after a days education feel far more aware and prepared for whatever might come my way.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Gnashing of teeth...

I'm having one of those days where I feel like I'm trying to put a jig-saw puzzle together but don't have all the bits or the lid to refer to.

I love this job but I can't be doing with office politics or dysfunctional's way too trying at times...

As a blunt northerner maybe I'm just not cut out for working in a large multi-national..?

Friday, 9 September 2011


In the afternoon we ventured to Patan which is on the southern side of the Bagmati River, and one of 3 royal cities in the valley. Patan is an amazing place filled with wood and stone carvings, statues, ornate architecture, including dozens of Buddhist and Hindu temples, and over a thousand monuments. Kings were crowned in one of the temples in ancient times and standing in such an unspoilt area you can almost imagine the scene.

It was fantastic to be able to visit such a fabulous place and be given a tutorial on the history and politics of the country from local inhabitants but sobering to hear that the beautiful carved water pipes in the photograph are the source of water for the vast majority of the local population and can carry Cholera as there is none of the infrastructure or sanitation we take for granted.
I was lucky enough to have some time to do some sight-seeing so my hosts took me to Swayambhunath Stupa the most ancient of the holy shrines in Kathmandu valley. Although considered a Buddhist temple, the place is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus. There are 365 steps up to the main platform of the temple hence this magnificent view!
Swayambhunath Stupa is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are monkeys living in parts of the temple - they are considered are holy because Manjushree, the bodhisattva of wisdom and learning was raising the hill which the Temple stands on. He was supposed to leave his hair short but he allowed it to grow long and caught head lice. It is said that the head lice had transformed into these monkeys.
Although teaming with visitors there is a serene and peaceful atmosphere which is difficult to describe. Maybe it's just the fact that the area is a mass of small shrines with statues of deities, prayer wheels and Buddhist monks but you can feel the sense of belief around you.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Last night my hosts very kindly took me to an authentic Nepalese restaurant for a special banquet. The restaurant is called "Bhojan Griha", which I am told means Nepali Kitchen. The place is superb; a very colonial looking building over 150 years old which once belonged to the priests of the King of Nepal. The seating is traditional i.e. cushions on the floor which had I known I might have opted for trousers instead of a frock (and spending most of the evening hoping no one could see my knickers!).

It was to be yet another occasion when I had no idea what I was eating apart from Wild Boar which was highlighted as a local delicacy, but everything was absolutely delicious. I was also introduced to Raksi which is a traditional very strong Nepali rice wine which I was told was the perfect antidote to the streaming cold I'd managed to develop.

But the main reason to take me to Bhojan Griha was to see the famous Nepali cultural dance & costumes, representing various regions of the country, hear the traditional musicians and learn about the folklore on which they were based.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Yeti Yeukies

are quite commonly to be expected by intrepid explorers who venture into Yetiland and swift access to toilet facilities of any type whatsoever is often a prerequisite, but frequently unobtainable necessity.

Not what you need when you've still got a couple of days to go and various meetings to get through!

Gritting teeth and tightening one's rear....

Meeting with tea and no biscuits

When you’re travelling such a distance you have to make sure your time is productive so in order to help out the Travel Manager who is currently undertaking a survey of all of our travel suppliers, I agreed to visit the travel agency we use in Kathmandu and gather some information.

Not being an expert in this flights, carriers, etc. I was decidedly apprehensive but I needn’t have worried. The Directors of the company were warm and welcoming and all of the company employees stood and greeted me with a "Namaste". I felt really humbled. In fact the most difficult part of the meeting was when I was brought a cup of tea. Throughout the trip I have had the usual Masala chai which I actually enjoy so I was surprised to be passed a milky tea…even more so when it turned out to be made with coconut milk....really thick and sweet...not at all what I'd been expecting, but I did the dutiful bit and drank it...not something I want to repeat!!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Greetings from Hotel Himalaya

Made it after a debacle involving 48hrs without sleep and lost/ absent colleagues. One pulled out at the last minute before boarding in the UK due to an ear infection. (As he's the custodian of the contract, that’s left me in the interesting position of having to negotiate with the Nepalese supplier who wants a 70% increase, and undoubtedly doesn’t hold much truck with women in business.)

My other colleague from Afghanistan was nowhere to be found at Terminal 2 Dubai which left me in a slight tizz but fortunately it turned out he was in the wrong bit of the airport, so materialised on the aircraft albeit the last to board...At least that meant I could breathe a small sigh of relief.

Kathmandu airport was as chaotic as last time but good entertainment value, as was the drive to the hotel - this place comes second only to Kabul in terms of traffic and a lack of road sense/rules!

On the off-chance, dear reader, you are wondering why I am in Nepal when the Army is laying off so many Gurkhas…unfortunately UK Gurkhas expect UK wages, unlike their Nepalese and Indian counterparts.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Moving the goal posts

Following further conversations with the headhunter & recruiting Director I'm feeling less inclined towards option 3 (see 'There must be easier ways to earn a living' below). The role has changed since I first started talking to them and they've now mentioned the rationale for the trip to Kuwait and Abu Dhabi is to meet their key stakeholders but also to assist with adding more granularity to the role.... I'm somewhat unimpressed as in my book that looks like they don't know what they want, and I'm doing a bit of free consultancy to help them define it. So I take two days of precious leave AND lose a weekend to attend 2 days of full-on meetings where I get put through the wringer...
Starting to feel they're taking the proverbial...

Friday, 26 August 2011

New Pony

same old scene...

This years Nag is 'Bugsy'.
The pair coming a respectable 2nd overall and winning 'best turned out'.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Clever clogs

D-day found me banished to the car waiting on tenterhooks until Miss Sensible spared my misery and informed me she'd achieved 5 A* and 6 A' add to the 2 A*s and 1 A she got last year! So she's out-performed us all to date! In the words of her sister's congratulations card:

"Can you stop being so brilliant please, you're showing the rest of us up"

No pressure on Minor Meyhem then ;o)