Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Week boating

I have just returned from a weeks cruising along the Trent and Mersey canal. we have had rain, hail and thunder, frozen ropes and chance meetings with other bloggers. First of all, we met Lesley and Joe from NB Yarwood and another couple from NB Damper van at Great Heywood, it is nice to meet in the flesh writers of the blogs you read. Damper van is planning a blog, so I will be watching out for that one to read. Then later on in the day we cruised past Seyellas Journey at the waterpoint, Geoff once helped me and some friends up the Audlem flight in a particularly unloved hire boat, I tooted to say hello, but they were busy as no-one came out, but Meg was out and gave us a little look.

Later on the ducks made us laugh, I had some meal worms I had bought for the Robins and they made quick work of those, after we closed the hatch doors they pecked at the side of the boat until late into the night wanting more. Cheeky buggers

We spent my birthday at Alrewas and had a lovely Chinese from there, we also met the crew of another Aqua boat, Aqua life. I was so pooped, I ended up going to bed at 8pm!! We did take advantage of Coates the butchers the next day and got a beef stew on the go to cook while we cruised.

I faced my nemesis at Great Haywood, I turned the boat AND reversed into the water point without hitting a thing despite the man from Anglo Welsh watching!! Hahahahaha. I must admit, I am much more confident now, that's experience I suppose and now I am teaching my friend Susan to steer so I can have a breather sometimes. I always learn something new each trip and the Aqua staff give us a fantastic handover. They had an open day the day after we left the marina so had some of the boats they had built in the berths next to us, must say I am very impressed with their boat building. Privately owned Aida was alongside and looked very very nice

Here are some pics of the trip

Reflections at our overnight mooring just past Kings Bromley Marina

Me taking it easy at Bartons Turn Locks

Misty sunrise at Great Haywood

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


You know, work is a funny old place. In the past 4 years I have had 2 managers leave, both grade 7 and they think I can carry off their work load and still remain a lowly grade 5. I now have someone standing in, for the last 6 months he keeps telling me we must go through my HERA form.

HERA is a form we have to fill in, they say it takes 2 days, but it is more like 2 weeks. We fill it in giving examples of the work we do under different headings. Communications, team management etc. It is so complicated that our HR department, unlike other university HR departments, apply what they want. So far my stand in manager has told me: It's not about how many staff you manage, but about the type of work they do. Quite insulting I reckon for a team of excellent telephonists who know everything about every department in the university and are the first port of call for the irate callers who need to fume because another department doesn't do something correctly! HERA guide lines, kindly supplied to me by the union, do not say this at all. Their only comment on managing a team, is that anything over 2 staff is considered a team. Not a thing about the work they don't or do do!

Monthly, I provide a report, that gets presented to the executive group, I don't present it, but I do produce it. I added that to my HERA form, the stand in manager says I have 'Over egged the pudding' because I also have to present this report, BUT, that's not what the HERA guide lines tell me. They say nothing about presenting it........So it seems, the current (temporary) manager wants me to put what he wants rather than what I actually do, because, god forbid, I may get a pay upgrade and he can't have that because telecoms is an easy target to claw money back for the areas they have overspent on. So, because I have told him if it is not included I will no longer do it, he stalls and stalls actually getting around to filling in  the HERA form.

Yesterday, my Dad had a accident with a bus door. Anyone else would get a bruise, but because he has very thin skin, the bus door tore his skin back exposing all the fat and what muscle he has. Understandably, he is in some discomfort and using the arm is difficult for him, so bearing in mind I can take 4 days paid family emergency leave, I phoned my manager to ask if I could work from home for a few days. You'd thinks I'd asked for a years paid leave! I must call him today to see 'how the situation is'. My Dad is almost 89 so doesn't have super human healing powers and until I am sure he can use his arm and has a new dressing to make sure it is healing o.k, how that is going to change?

I despair, perhaps he judges me on what he does when he is 'working from home'. In my case if I don't it will pile up until I am in the office so it doesn't benefit me at all being at home! The only luxury of working from home is I get is to go make up free, which I am finding a chore on a daily basis these days.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Benefits Street

I touched on this Channel 4 program yesterday. Did you see it? Benefits Street? It made me very very angry as a working tax payer, but probably not for the reasons you think.

This pile of crap, which was meant to be a  'factual' T.V program, angered me because I was supposed to think that it represented a typical person on benefits. The people involved were told it was about community spirit. It was one sided and biased, made by idiots who wants us to believe the hype that all people on benefits are just like them. Let me tell you, they are not. Here are some figures widely available to all who care to Google them.

£1.6bn of the benefits budget is lost to fraud, while £16bn lies unclaimed by people who are entitled to claim it. 0.7% is lost to fraud of the TOTAL benefits bill

1.35 million people claim unemployment benefit, only 190 of those people have 10 kids or more.

Wealthy tax dodgers cost the exchequer £25bn a year

About 40% of the benefits bill is paid to OAP's who have paid into the system all their working lives.

Most benefits are paid to working low income families because the bosses are allowed to pay rock bottom wages

If we used the money saved by the bedroom tax, it would take a 1000 years (Yes a 1000 years) to pay back what the government lost selling off the Post Office cheaply to their chums.

Benefits Street caused outrage to people who really should know better. I sat and listened to LBC yesterday as all these 'outraged taxpayers' condemmed people on benefits, so think on this

In the 1930's Hitler convinced the German people that all their financial ails were the fault of the Jews and we all know how that turned out don't we? Remember, the media need to keep to a sensational agenda so their ratings go up or those poor priviliged producers/editors may just find themselves in the very place they try to trash.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Time and money wasting

Some time ago, I blogged about my daughter, Christine, and the fact that she has developed a long term chronic illness. For over a year now she has been immobile and as time has progressed has been told that she will likely remain this way for the next 2-5 years as it has been brought on by a virus. She is waiting for a clinical appointment at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. In that time she has been referred, by them, to Newham adult social services to get assessed at home and in the meantime agonised and then decided to apply for Personal Independence Payment which is the new benefit replacing Disability Living Allowance. She applied in July 2013.

13 weeks passed before she was given an appointment to go to Earlsfield, which is just past Wandsworth. She is unable to use public transport, can't travel long distances in a car, and as she lives in East London, travelling from one side of London to the other, during a week day is a long journey. A few days before that appointment, they cancelled and offered her another 2 days later at the same place, to be there for 9am , there was no way she would possibly be able to go to that appointment, it would mean getting up at 5am (it takes her a long time to get ready, all part of her condition) to leave at 7am to drive through rush hour traffic across central London. They would pay taxi fares, so they gave her another appointment at Clerkenwell for the 28 of November.

On the 28th of November, she took at taxi to Clerkenwell at the cost to herself of £34 (It takes 14 working days to reimburse taxi fares) all the time she has little money as her husband has been put on half pay by his very understanding employer. She arrived in time, to be asked why she was there as the assessment had been cancelled. Understandably she was upset, fatigued and angry. When her husband called, they said they had called the evening before on their home number, he informed them the land line phone wasn't working and gave them his mobile number and checked that they had hers which they did, so why they didn't call that too is incomprehensible. They promised her an urgent appointment. That appointment was made for today back at Earlsfield.

Today, Christine and her husband, took a taxi (£64) to the other side of London to be told ,when she got there, that ATOS had cancelled the appointment again! She phoned me on the verge of tears so I phoned ATOS for her.

I actually spoke to very nice lady, who told me they had called her the evening before to cancel the appointment, I asked what number they had used, she said she didn't make the call, but the first number was...then quoted her land line number. I pointed out that they had been informed before not to use the number and checked they had both her and her husbands mobile, they only had hers, so the previous phone call had fallen on deaf ears! She admitted to me that there were notes on her file to say this was the 4th appointment that had been cancelled and suggested  they cancel someone else. She also told me that the previous payment for the taxi fare hadn't been processed until the 17th of December and that after that it would take 14 working days to reach her account, so we can assume that the £64 she paid out today will take over a month to be reimbursed. Do the sums, that is £98 wasted by ATOS through their incompetency. More than a 'shirker' gets for a weeks unemployment benefit. There are assessment centres just 1 and 3 miles away, but they deem she needs to see a physiotherapist. If her own GP cannot fathom the effects of her illness how the hell willl a physiotherapist?

I feel angry and powerless, the image the government would like you to believe is that all benefit claimants are like  the pile of shit Channel 4 broadcast called Benefits street. Don't even get me started on that. I emailed customer services at ATOS today and told them they weren't fit for purpose and have made a complaint to my MP for all the good it will do!

Is it a ploy to wear people down so they give up? 'Save' the working tax payer some money. Let's face it, by awarding a contract to such a negligent company costs us thousands already.

Today, I really thought, at last, she would get assessed and then hopefully life will be a little better for her, but all that has happened is their apathetic attitude has left me speechless.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Fine Friday

Yesterday I went for a visit to see Les and Jaq. I left nice and early in some quite windy and wet weather. As I neared my turn off on the M25, up ahead I could see what looked like smoke. It was very dark and hazy as I drove into a hail storm. To say the driving conditions were horrendous would about sum it up, in an instant, visibility went from a good view up the motorway to about 3 feet as well as turning from day to night, just like that. I slowed to a safe speed (50) the lorry behind loomed into my rear view mirror, cars whizzed past continuing to do 70+. Why do drivers do this? Eventually the lorry overtook and I took my turn off for the A41. While waiting at the roundabout lights, a police car came tearing down the turn off, blue lights flashing, then a police car queuing at the lights pulled out, blue lights flashing, as the lights turned green, 3 fire engines came speeding from my right, I stopped to allow them to pass, then I turned onto the A41.

It was like driving on a melting ice rink, water had pooled in large areas, making the cars brake to avoid aquaplaning. it really wasn't nice driving weather. About 5 minutes in, the traffic came to a halt. Now I knew where all those emergency vehicles were going and really I should have known shouldn't I?. Way up ahead there had been an accident. There was no traffic coming along the opposite carriage way and that is where I stayed for the next hour and a half. I text Les and Jaq to let them know what had happened but I had no idea how long it was going to take. 2 ambulances pushed their way in between the stationary cars and lorries. All we could do was wait and wait and wait. I listened to the traffic news, who was telling us that the heli amblance was in attendance. Someone was probably fighting for their life so I had no cause to complain.

After 45 minutes, I started to need the toilet, oh doesn't that always happen? the banks of the A41 were steep, I started to go through a mental list of possibilities. Did I have any type of container in the car? Nope only bottles, no good for us ladies. I really must get on Dragons Den to invent a pop up tent that us ladies can station over a convenient drain! Luckily I got moving before it go too bad. I was 10 minutes from Les and Jaq's mooring, how frustrating.

It was lovely to see them, Les has been ill and is currently recovering from an operation to remove a tumour, and I am please to say, recovering well now. Jaq cooked the most perfect Minestrone soup, the recipe of which you can find on their blog on the link above. Then dessert, which was fab too. Jaq originates from Alaska and has spent most of her life in the U.S before meeting Les and sweeping him off of his feet. Les and I both agree, she is weird because she says apple pie and custard is two desserts, in the states, custard is a dessert, well I am sorry, they are just plain wrong, custard is a topping to be used at every opportunity. It was fantastic to spend some time with them, even though I made them wait for their lunch! I highly recommend the soup and the Italian bread pudding, they were both delicious, along with her Ginger cake and the cream cakes I took along. It was a very cakeful, happy visit, and I am so glad they let me visit them on the boat, even though Les tells me I am not a real boater! (Yet, Les, Yet) For me, it was a relaxing start to the new year and I am glad to say, no fatalities in the traffic accident.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas and a revelation

Christmas went quite well this year, I had six of us for dinner, which is an accomplishment if you read the previous blog. It certainly makes me feel confident about cooking Christmas dinner on a boat, when I get it, that is. instead of piling our plates with food, I set it all out on the table and let people help themselves. result? 6 people around the table with nice full stomachs, but not bursting to the point that they couldn't find room for dessert! Dessert was a spectacular cheat I bought from M & S. The largest dish of profiteroles 6 can gorge eat on a layer of chocolate mousse. Plus a gluten free meringue and Christmas pud for Dad (He is the only one who eats it and is still cutting chunks off as I type!)

Anyway, now to the relevlation, I got lots of Amazon vouchers from my family and money from my Dad for Christmas, so I bought myself a Kindle Paperwhite. I have resisted for a long time, I love my books, my favorite place to be is a bookshop or a library, browsing through and looking at covers. Lately though, I have noticed that my thumbs and wrists start to really hurt when I hold a book, the type is getting smaller despite glasses and they are starting to clutter up the already cluttered house. You know what? I love it, I can lay it down so I don't make my thumbs sore and just turn the page by running my finger across the page. I can read 3 books at a time without losing my page, words I am not sure of their meaning (there aren't many) I can hi-light and a dictionary pops up and tells me what they mean. Some books come with X-Ray, so if I have forgotten a character, I can hi-light the name and get a recap, I can increase the font size, I can read it in the dark and it will slip beautifully into my bag for my journeys to work. I have loaded 8 books already and actually spent the whole day reading it yesterday. I should have bought one a long time ago. I am not really a gadget person, but I adore this gadget most definitely.

Anyway people/person that's my last post for 2013. I am going to  try to be a better blogger next year. Happy New Year

Sunday, December 15, 2013

In a void and don't know who to turn to

Words spoken at Nelson Mandelas funeral by his dear friend and fellow prisoner Ahmed Kathrada. Those words just about sum up how I have been feeling of late

I am feeling the loss of Sharon greatly, to the point of verging on depression. I visited her Mum in September and didn't realise how stressed going to Crewe would make me feel. I have yet to go to my house, which is within spitting distance of where she used to live. The thought of going there has been churning my stomach, but at some point I have to go. I think I have decided to sell. I say I think, because one minute it seems the best idea so that I can make a very healthy start to my boat fund, then a new tenant signs up and I think I will leave it for a bit longer. It would certainly make sense to sell because while I am living cheaply with my Dad I can add to my fund as if I were still paying my mortgage and get that boat a bit quicker than anticipated. On the other hand, they don't sell as quickly up there and while I have a tenant covering costs I may as well take advantage of it and see if the housing market is stable.

There have  been some major problems with my Dads house this year too. For a long time there has been what we thought was blown plaster on one of the internal walls, but then I noticed a crack going right through the bathroom wall upstairs and then a massive crack in the corner of the back room. it took ages to try and persuade my Dad to call in a surveyor, but after checking his buildings insurance policy and then showing some photos to a building engineer from work I took the decision away from him and called the insurance company. They sent in a surveyor and what we thought was blown plaster was actually a massive crack. The back of the house is pulling away from the front due to subsidence. They have drilled bore holes and put cameras down the drains and it seems that for a very long time the drain has been cracked and leaking moisture into the ground making the corner of the house twist. They have fixed the drain with a liner and work to do the subsidence repairs will start in January. I have told my Dad he also needs to modernise. I cook in a kitchen roughly the size of a narrow boat galley, which is fine if you live on a narrow boat. It is a nasty grotty old kitchen and there is plenty of scope to come backwards into the back living room and make it bigger, cleaner and modern. I have put my foot down, he doesn't do the cooking, I do! The thought of all that mess and building work is very stressful, with the added problem of where will my Dad go during it. He could go to my sister in Devon, but he doesn't want to and I don't think she wants him to either.

Next week I have to take my daughter to see her Dad. She hasn't had any contact with him since she was 19 and she will be 34 next week. Before that, the contact with her Dad was sporadic and then non existent after the age of 9. I have always tried to be dignified about her Dad. What he did to me isn't anything to do with her and I have always tried to balance my Mums view that he is a bastard. He was, to me, not to Chris. In the past he has had some major drug issues, I am sure he thinks she doesn't know and it sounds as if he is not proud of his life, but he remarried and had 4 sons and Christine wants to get to know them and her father now she is in the right frame of mind to do so. She has a chronic illness which is going to be long term, she is unable to travel on a train so it is me who will have to deliver her to his house. After the last time I saw him, I saw a pitiful human being and made a conscious decision to forgive, but I am worried. She has expectations, her brothers have expectations and I don't want anyone to get hurt. I will just have to stand back and let her make her own choices.

In all I can't say 2013 has been a good year. I have lost a dear friend, then a lovely colleague from work. I can only hope that 2014 is much better. Now I have it all written down I have decided it is time to move forward. Merry Christmas everyone and a happy New Year.