Monday, May 14, 2012

Water Chariots

When it was announced, that a contract had been awarded to Water Chariots to ferry passengers from Tottenham Hale (4 miles) and Lime House Basin (2.5 miles) to the Olympic Park I was quite excited.

There used to be a trip boat based at Bromley by Bow which I had travelled on and really enjoyed, but due to regulations with regards to disabled passengers it was sold and now operates from the river Lee.

I have walked along the canal and have seen all the water chariot stops being erected and thought how lovely it would be to finally take my grandchildren on a boat that cruised and went through locks. Something Kai and Sian have missed out on. So the big announcement came on the news tonight, from today Water Chariots are operating and the price? £95 return for adults and £50 return for under 18's. Good job I was sitting down. Everyone is up in arms, THAT is a total rip off and they have been urged to rethink their prices but so far have refused, although they have said they will look at them again after the Olympics. Those journey's are roughtly £3 by DLR or £7 by train.

I know that diesel is expensive, but really?  Sadly, as much as I like boats, that is a price I am not prepared to pay. It is greedy. For a family of 4 that would be the hugely expensive sum of £290. 3 trips would buy a family of 4 a week on a narrow boat in low season. It would serve them right if all their trips remain empty. Take my advice, walk along the canal, it is just as nice and far cheaper. They are starting a blog soon and I for one, will be leaving a comment.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Weird Dream

I have just been reading a post at Ayak's Turkish delight and it reminded me of a weird dream I once had.

I was taking Prozak at the time and it had a tendency to give me vivid colourful dreams. In this particular dream, I was the proud owner of a narrow boat and I was encouraging my Dad to come on a trip with me. The only way onto this boat was to jump down the plug hole (?) which I did and so started this wonderful journey a lot like one of those twisty slides you find at an aqua park. At one point I was splashed in the face by some bleach smelling water so I called back to my Dad 'Don't worry Dad, I bleached the sink earlier'. I had my arms out as I swished this way and that down the drain pipe to the boat all the time calling out a very excited 'Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee' I woke at the point I popped out of the bottom so have no idea if I landed on a boat or not. It actually put me in a happy mood for the day and even now brings a smile to my face as I remember it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bloody Virus

I have a virus. It started with aches and a tickly cough and then progressed to blocked sinuses and the most horrendous headache, I took some annual leave as I didn't want to go sick and began to feel a little better, then Tuesday exhaustion set in along with a terrible sore throat and aching joints. I have had flu twice in my life, and this feels like flu, but I do get a flu jab as I care for my Dad. I have had to bite the bullet and go sick. I had some sick leave a few weeks ago due to some minor surgery and I feel guilty. With what is going on at work, I shouldn't. There will be no medals for being a hero when they come to outsource me, but I feel guilty because I like my work colleagues and mostly my work falls to them when I am not there. But if I pass this on, it's not fair either.

I also get bored at home, it's fine if I have the energy to do the washing, cooking and cleaning, but I hung some washing out earlier and then went to sleep for half an hour!! I feel like an old crock.

There is my Dad. I love him to bits, but he has got to the stage where he repeats all the same old stories and I feel very ungracious if I finish them for him so I smile and nod in all the right places. There go I in 20 years time and I hope my daughter doesn't get as impatient with me as I sometimes do with my Dad. One day when he is not here I will long to hear his old war evacuation and RAF stories.

To add to my sorry state, the doorbell rang earlier and there standing on the doorstep with a large box was a rather handsome young postman. He recoiled when I opened the door and I took the parcel squeaked 'thank you' and came in. Then I passsed a mirror and there I am pasty faced with all my hair standing on end. (so much for easy style short hair) so that explains the recoil, I don't suppose he often meets the wild woman of Borneo on his rounds.......

So what to do with myself? Daytime T.V? Erm I think I would rather pull my own teeth out (but perhaps not as I have quite a few missing already) I think I will get a book out, I have a new Mo Hayder that I have just started. Yes that should do nicely until I drop off again.............................................

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Olympic landlords

On the local news this evening, they ran a report saying that landlords in this area are giving tenants 2 weeks notice so that they can prepare to rent out their properties during the Olympics for as much as £5000 a week!! Why doesn't that surprise me? What does surprise me is that they are allowed to get away with it.

I am, what is termed as, a reluctant landlord, I would rather sell my property but can't, but I can't afford to keep it empty either.  I HAVE to give 2 months notice if I want my tenant to leave, but the said landlords are giving 2 weeks notice and the tenants are going. Why don't they just stay put? Newham council  license ALL landlords in the borough, this is so they can keep a check on standards. Rents here are very expensive, about £350 per week for a 3 bed property. Surely if a tenant is given such little notice they can complain to the council and they then must be able to look at the landlords license and take it away. They have a team of officers who visit privately rented properties and they have taken quite a few to court because of poor standards. Surely not sticking to the terms of the lease is a poor standard?

The estate agents reckon, if they all the landlords evict their tenants to cash in on the Olympics, then at the end of them, there will be a glut of properties which will bring the rents down. If that happens, then I reckon it serves the greedy gits right.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

The woes of work

I have worked in the higher education sector for 16 and a half years now. The sad thing is, that for a teaching establishment, we have not kept up with technology. I work in telecommunications, but telecommunications is changing rapidly. We now have unified communications, where basically all calls terminate to an I.P address, SKYPE, cloud, all this terminology is above my head and I don't like it.

Recently, our relatively new VC has decided that he is going to tout our services and share them, he has put a tender out and has now invited 5 companies to review our processes and then possibly sell our services. The VC says, to do this, the university will create a new company, we will all have our contracts transferred to that company and as and when an organisation likes the way we do things, they will then 'buy' into our services. We are all up for grabs with the exception of the core VC's office (no surprises there then!). Under current TUPE laws, apart from our pensions (which for us is currently very good, but this is mainly due to the fact it is part of our pay deal) for the first 2 years, our terms and conditions remain the same. The government are encouraging universities and local authorities to share services by offering some incentives, namely, no VAT on services shared and also they are to be 'not for profit'.

Why then, have companies like CAPITA, Xchanging, BT Global and 2 others (One of which we are all pretty certain will be awared the contract as they conducted a process review some months ago and apart from the morality of it, it is totally contrary to procurement legislation, but that's another story) been allowed to put in a bid? All these are' for profit' organisations so where does the 'not for profit' apply?

I have been through more reviews than I have had hot dinners. I have seen people come in and conduct reviews and then suddenly they have gone. All of this is done in the name of saving money but every time another highly paid 'consultant' comes in with their psychobabble ideas, it costs us lots of money and nothing changes.

I accept we need to save money, we owe HEFC a lot due to the jiggery pokery of the previous head honcho. We have always accepted this, but while departments have been cut to the bone and courses cut, the executive group have expanded their number with highly paid staff. For instance
We used to have 1 company secretary that did it all,  now we have 1 company secretary and 2 deputies because the comapny secretary can't do everything the previous one did.
We have an executive officer, god knows what he does as we never had one before, but apprently he is as important as the Vice Chancellor, who also has a deputy Vice Chancellor and deputy Chief Executive. He has also replaced his office manager with an executive assistant who doesn't manage anyone and is on a higher grade of pay (and who worked with him at a previous university. Surprise, surprise)
We also have a director of 'Institutional effectiveness' who is going to recruit for a deputy director, no idea what she does because we didn't have one of those either.

We need to save money and quite honestly, if we got rid of all the exec's we didn't have before, you could save a million right there. Because even though we are skint, they still got paid their 10% bonuses on top of their eye wateringly large salaries, while admin staff have had their jobs regraded under HERA and a lot have been down graded.

I have been through a lot in that place but I have never felt despair. And I feel it every day, it comes off of people in waves and it's very unsettling and disturbing. I have a job, I suppose I should be grateful and in a lot of respects, I am. My colleagues are fantastic people, they are worth a million of the VC.

I have been sending out my C.V, but at 50+ I don't hold out much hope......................................

Todays slimming world Recipe

Chorizo Chicken and Pasta (9 syns) for 4 people (Or 2 greedy ones)

2 Chicken Breasts (Skin removed and Diced)
100g Chopped Chorizo
30g Pasta Tubes or twists
1 Tin of chopped Tomato's
Carton of Passata
1 large Onion
Garlic (Fresh or Granules)
2 Knorr stock pots (1 Extra beef and 1 Chicken)
2 Teaspoons of Smoked Paprika
Black pepper to taste
No salt as the stock cubes are salty enough

1.Fry chopped Chorizo in a dry large pan and then add onions and (if using fresh) garlic
2.Keep stirring and when onions are cooked add chicken and stir until brown and partly cooked
3. Add chopped tinned tomato's, passata, paprika, garlic (if using granules)and stock pots
4. Stir all together and simmer for about 25 minutes
5. Cook pasta as per packet instructions
6. Once Pasta is cooked add to chicken mixture stir together and serve with a nice side salad or if you are not eating healthily some garlic bread.

I always make loads so I can take some into work. It chills well, but I have never tried freezing it.

Friday, May 04, 2012

London Prepares

Tonight, I took my Dad to the Olympic park as part of the London Prepares events. Many years ago, he played and refereed water polo, of which the rules can be found here.

The event tonight was the ladies tournament between Great Briatin,  The USA, Hungary and Australia. before the start of the game my Dad became a bit emotional, I asked him what was wrong and he answered one word 'Memories'

We got there early to go through the 'airport style security' and it is airport style, coats off, pockets emptied and everything through an x-ray machine, while we go through a metal detector. A joke from my Dad as he put his walking stick in the tray to the security officer 'Thats my gun really' very nearly got him pulled aside. It wasn't funny and I indicated to the guard that he was joking, but just for a second there I really thought he was going to call the police over. My dad and his humour could well have scuppered our evening. The security officer could see he is old so thankfully took it as a joke but not before a stern look and a bit of a telling off. Naughty Daddy!!

The park isn't quite finished but we walked around and I got the opportunity to see Orbit

Below are some photo's

Once the park is open, apparently you will be able to go to the top in a lift to a viewing platform and then come down the stairs that wind around the structure, I think it would be far more exciting if we could come down on a coconut mat, as I affectionately call it the Stratford Helter Skelter. As you can see, it is huge and it dominates the skyline and personally I think it would make a great roller coaster ride, but this is modern art........

The Aquatic Centre. I love the shape of this

Dad in front of the water polo arena which will be removed after the Olympics

The new planting. On the left you can see part of the Bow back rivers which surround the site and have really benefitted from a massive clean up. These are going to be a wonderful display of Alliums in a few weeks

Inside the water polo arena this one is for Jaq in case she is home sick. The US ladies Team

GBR Ladies Team

Amazing seeing as most of this land was badly contaminated and will be a legacy left after the Olympics

                                                                 The stadium

I am glad I have been into the park as I wasn't able to get tickets for the actual Olympics and although I am not looking forward to the disruption, I am looking forward to being able to stroll down there once they are finished with a nice picnic with the kids and maybe take a water taxi along the canal.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Tarted Up

As you know, in less than a 100 days I will have the Olympics on my doorstep. As part of this, Stratford has gone through a big period of regeneration. I know I moan, but we do have this.

I am not a designer type of girl, I am the wrong size for a start, but it is a pretty amazing place and is fantastic for going out to in the evening with friends. there is a huge choice of places to eat and then onto the cinema or casino later.

 One of the other features almost completed is The Shoal. They have cut down perfectly good trees for this sculpture and the photo below (taken yesterday) is just a part of it. Personally, I think it is hideous, but then there is no accounting for taste is there?

Tomorrow I am going to the Olympic park for a water polo pre event. As a Newham resident I get a 2 day priority for tickets. We have to be there an hour and a half before the event to go through 'airport style security' but hopefully we will be allowed to take a look around the park and take photo's. If so I will post some over the weekend.

The Shoal

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

All Inclusive

I have never been tempted by an all inclusive holiday. When Christine was small I may have tried one as they do certainly have their uses, but they just weren't available then. My only experience of all inclusive was of two holidays Christine and I took when Kai was a toddler to Corfu. We actually stayed in room only accommodation, but the hotel was slap bang in between 3 all inclusive resorts.

Of an evening, we used to go out to find somewhere to eat for dinner and there wouldn't be a soul about, as a consequence, there were very few restaurants and bars suitable to take Kai to and speaking to the locals, many bars had closed because there were no customers walking about of an evening, they were all tucked up in their all inclusives.

When I took my first holiday to St Lucia I was asked if I was going all inclusive. When I said no I was looked at as if I had grown another head. I was warned of dire consequences of walking around St Lucia  at night. 2 women alone, oh the horror. I was bound to be mugged or kidnapped or in the worst case scenario, killed. I was so horrified I was dreading the holiday.

I had a fantastic time once I'd relaxed. The people of St Lucia were wonderful. One evening we went to a street party in Groselet. It was rammed packed with people, mostly St Lucians. There were stalls selling Caribbean food and the famous rum punch. The music was loud and  people were dancing, St Lucians were genuinely happy that we were enjoying ourselves. Of course we got some hassle from the men but a polite rebuff and they were cool. I remember later on sitting on a step having a rest when I saw a boy of about 8 with his younger brother and sister trying to get a drink from some of the stalls. Every stall owner was telling him no so I called him over and asked if he wanted a drink and he answered very politely that he did, I gave him 20 EC dollars and told him to get a drink for himself and his brother and sister. 20 EC dollars wasn't a lot, it was about £5 but it was quite a bit for 3 drinks but I expected  not to see any change. 5 minutes later, the boy returned with his brother and sister and held out the change to me, it actually makes me well up when I think of it, I thought it was such a polite thing to do, that I told him to keep it. To see his little face light up was wonderful and he and his brother and sister skipped off, they were about 6 and 4 and as the little girl skipped away she turned back to me with the most wonderful smile and mouthed one word, Thank you. All inclusive takes that away from an area.

I returned to St Lucia when my daughter got married. My son in laws parents retired back there, they arranged a party for the Saturday in their villiage of Canaries which is surrounded by all inclusive hotels, the only tourists they saw were the ones going through on their organised tours. All the villiage were invited (but not all came) and at the beginning of the party, they sat at one end of the garden and we sat the other until I just went along and shook everyones hand and introduced myself with my niece, nephew, sister and brother in law behind me doing the same. That was a fantastic party I can tell you, and on a boat trip later in the week they remembered us and kept the vendors selling dodgy goods away from us.

No, I understand a need for all inclusive, but it's not for me.