Sunday, January 31, 2010

Life in The Office

Ricky Gervais as David Brent - The Office (UK)

I have been so busy and this is a trend that is likely to continue for the next 3-4 weeks. Oh, work has been busy and the chores at home never seem to end but that is not it. I recently passed the first stage of a lengthy and competitive promotion process. Stage one down, two more to go! The next stage is in 3-4 weeks or so (depending on the slot I am given) and takes the form of two written exercises based on work type scenarios. The final stage is in September and is an assessment centre with written exercises and role play situations.

The whole process is very competitive with around 800 candidates all after around 170 promotion 'tickets'. These are a bit like Willy Wonka's golden tickets as they permit those that have them to apply for posts at the next level. So I suppose there is a further stage after the whole assessment process as you have to apply for posts and pass interview to get a post!

I am being very realistic about the whole thing. Very few people pass first time but on the whole I feel I am in a win-win situation. If I an unsuccessful at either of the next two stages then I am given feedback to help me address areas I am less strong in and I can always try again next time round. There are very few opportunities for such detailed feedback so I feel I even win if I lose in a way. It's not often that happens!

Anyway, for now I am chuffed that I passed the first stage as quite a few people didn't. I had a small celebration at home with a bottle of Champagne (it is so important to celebrate the successes along the way). Wish me luck for stage two and please understand if my blogging is erratic. It's all a bit like preparing for exams!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Snow Business

Frozen Britain taken by Nasa's Terra satellite on 7 January 2010

Snow is not a usual feature of Britain's winters. Sure, it can be found in the Highlands of Scotland and on the peaks in Wales and Northern England, and we have the occasional flurry which may hang around for a day or two, but nothing like this. This is snow that means business. It's several inches thick and it's here to stay at least for the time being. The big kid in me loves the snow even if it made it a little more inconvenient to go to work at first. What I can't stand is the perpetual whining from the majority of my fellow countrymen. I continually hear the chorus of 'Someone should do something about this'. Indeed, the Government should legislate against winter and ban the snow, except in areas where it is pretty and can be used to make snowmen, no?

Tintern in the snow

The shelves in many supermarkets have been stripped bare from panic buyers. There is no salt or kitty litter to be had as people are using to grit their paths, something they say, the council should be responsible for. The call for more cat litter and salt is putting additional demands on an already strained supply chain trying to cope with the panic buying of food. Hello?! Your home is your own responsibility and if we all go out there are cleared our drives and the path in front of our homes then these would be clear! This is all symptomatic of how the welfare state has enfeebled the country. Meanwhile, the same people whining about not being able to go to work are outside playing in the snow and building snowmen rather than going to work. If you travel a few miles to a hill to slide down it on a tea tray then you sure as hell can get to work. Not exactly the blitz spirit that our grandparents would recognise.

Tintern Abbey

Having been in work all week, I took the weekend as an opportunity to go out and see the snow and get some fresh (and freezing) air. I ventured over to Tintern to photograph the Abbey in the snow. The clouds were threatening more snow, but the sun kept breaking through to reveal a blue sky and make the snow glisten.

After a while my hands were so cold that I needed to get warm. We decided to retire to a local hostelry to thaw out and for sustenance. The Anchor, was beautifully warm and cosy inside. I had the most delicious burger I have ever tasted and soon felt the feeling come back to my numb fingers and cold cheeks.

Tintern is among the earliest of Cistercian settlements in Wales and was founded in 1131 by monks sent directly from Normandy at the behest of Walter fitz Richard de Clare, the Earl of Chepstow, on the banks of the river Wye. Tintern, as with all monastic institutions, was suppressed by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, between 1536/9. The nearby Anchor Inn was probably the abbey's watergate and a 13th century arch links it with the slipway.

The Abbey is situated on the River Wye in Monmouthshire and the ruins have inspired the Wordsworth poem "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" and Tennysons's poem "Tears, Idle Tears" and more than one painting by Turner. It also featured in Prince of Thieves and in the video for Iron Maiden's "Can I Play With Madness".

Once we had warmed up,we ventured out again and walked along the river before heading back along the main road towards the Abbey again and the warmth of the car. It was cold, but beautiful and although we saw a few other stalwart souls, the place was quiet and still in the blanket of snow.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Boys

Max and Sam are now nine months old and as you can see from the photos, they have grown somewhat. When they are fully grown (they grow up to two years in age) they will be between 12-20lbs in weight so they still have some growing to do.


The older they get, the more their personalities develop. Sammy is still the more reserved of the two, suspicious of visitors, sometimes moody and often tells me off when I stop him doing something or make him do something he doesn't want to. He is however, very sweet, loves his chin being tickled and the one more likely to keep a close eye on me. He loves being picked up for cuddles and nestles his head into my shoulder. When he plays with Max, he is the rougher of the too and when he plays with me he loves to jump in the air and catch things.


Max is the bigger of the pair and a lovable rogue. He has a cheeky streak a mile wide and is a wide open book. He has the loudest purr and bestows it on me liberally. He loves having his tummy rubbed and likes to chase things across the ground. He will do anything for a treat and will shake paws, beg and sit on command (as will Sam) and also likes to give me 'kisses' which basically means I get a wet nose.

My boys are growing up, but they are growing into beautiful cats don't you think?