It’s been a long time coming…

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This week has been a good one, and I say ABOUT BLOODY TIME!

Firstly, you will know what a journey I have had since being made redundant last year and how my confidence had taken a real beating.  That has been the hardest hurdle to get over and there were times when I thought that I would never feel good about myself again from a work perspective and that I would never have anything of worth to give to another company.  I have done so much work to reverse that attitude and thought process and it has paid off to a greater degree.

So, it doesn’t matter that I have only worked at two companies since leaving, because those places valued me.  They have really appreciated my hard work and what I contributed, and the first place wanted me to apply for the permanent post when it was being advertised, but that job was not for me.  I know that they really miss me, well, if I say so myself, I brought a lot of fun and laughter to that place, even if my language was a touch colourful at times/quite a bit/well, most of the time/on an hourly basis and that the volume could be as loud as a heavy metal concert!

I have been temping where I am now for nearly three months and again, was approached by my managers and asked to apply for one of the permanent positions within my department.  They needn’t have asked as I had already made the decision to do so.  Interviews always give me the heeby jeebies but I was not overly nervous this time and thought I did well, but I never am that optimistic and think that I will I get the job; I am not that cured!

Anyway, I must have done something good as they offered me one of the jobs and I was so relieved, you have no idea.  In fact when they told me I nearly burst into tears (wuss…).  Nothing has been finalised, obviously, as I only found out yesterday but it is going to be a challenge and I look forward to that and I’m already rolling up my invisible sleeves at the prospect.

So, once again, to the old place thanks for all the good experience that I gained that helped develop an excellent CV, but see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya!

And as L.P. Hartley said in his 1953 novel The Go-Between: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there”.

 

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Couriers: the inconvenient, convenient way to deliver your goods.

I wonder if this cartoon courier is delivering at a convenient time…?

Courier services are advertised as being the easiest way to get your goods.  Practically every website I visit screams that they use a courier service and that it is the best way to get your stuff, as they will deliver at a time to suit you!!

Really?  How do you know that it will be at a time to suit me?  It never is because you can’t be bothered to find out!

Well, this is where the supermarkets have you courier companies beaten hands down when it comes to delivery options.

Every time.

When you book a food delivery, you also book your time slot and that way you can make sure you are home to receive your grub ‘n’ stuff.

When a company uses a courier service, you order your items in the usual way and you get an email confirming this.  Then, if you are lucky, you will get another email or text saying that (whoop, whoop!), your goods have been despatched and are winging their merry little way to your merry little home as we speak!

Yes, but when?

When will I get them?  I work so will you deliver after 5pm when I am home, or will I open the door and be ecstatic to find a crumpled sorry you missed me, card on my doormat?  And that is if I am lucky to get a card as some couriers can’t even be arsed to do that!

It is at this point that I get a little ranty and after I have gnashed my teeth and banged my head against a brick wall, I think that these couriers are really missing a trick, because despite being told that I can track my parcel (which is pretty useless as that will only tell me that my parcel is sitting on the passenger seat enjoying the ride and that the driver has made sure it is wearing its seatbelt for the journey down that dusty road), but that is all!  Great!  By the way, I do know that it is not strapped in next to the driver, it has been hurled into the back of the car/van along with all the other poor battered, whimpering boxes…

So, my question is this: when I get confirmation that my parcel is ready to be delivered, why can’t I log a delivery date and time like I do if I order food from a supermarket?  Why is that concept so hard for these numbskulls to get their head around, pull their finger out and put that option in place?

Now I know that I am a bear with a little brain, but I can’t see the difficulty with that, so, courier peeps, get on with it and sort it out!

A modern Pilgrim’s tale

The Old Kent Road.

Grubby, run down and ignored.

The route for people from south east London and south east England to get into central London but one that has history and is important in its own way because of that.  Now, I am in no way a pilgrim in the religious sense, but I liked that link in the road’s history and my own as it was the road Dad would use when driving into London when I was a child and I always wanted to live in the Ole Smoke, so you could say that I was a pilgrim of sorts and I just liked the title.  So I wanted to place another tale of observation here from my daily bus commute to the Elephant and Castle where I work and those characters I see have a story to tell, or I might add an indulgent little twist to their lives…

The toothless, scarfed old ladies, leaning on their industrial shopping trolleys waiting for the shop to open.  Their coats are missing vital buttons and the trolleys are held together with string and the crossed fingers of hope.  They don’t talk to each other and would sooner poke you in the eye with a sharp stick than let you push in front of them.

A new café opening, optimistic that people will come in and become regulars, but at the moment, there is only one gent wearing smeary glasses who is sitting outside nursing a coffee as his wobbly fingers roll a cigarette.  He has combed the few strands of hair he possess neatly down one side and the production of hair pomade is safe in his hands.

The rows of Victorian cottages, some that are three-storey high.  They have seen the years go by and have themselves changed little but are now being dwarfed by so called, luxury flats with thin walls and little storage.  I know which I prefer.  Some of those cottages however, have suffered such subsidence that at first glance you wonder how they are still standing with their door frames at such extreme angles!

People legging it across the car park to get the bus, trying to hold onto everything as they frantically wave at the driver hoping that he is in a good mood and feels sympathetic towards them.  And the curses when the driver isn’t.

Then passing Asylum Road, which has a fascinating set of buildings you can see from the Old Kent Road.  I have often wondered about them and they have a story which I have never known about in all my years of living in London.

The middle aged lady wearing a grubby jumper and skirt who marches up and down her patch of the road.  I would not be so fascinated by her were it not for the chain and padlock that is tight around her waist.  Perhaps she is looking for an errant bicycle that needs chaining up.  Oh, but I would love to know the history behind that accessory!

The Drovers Arms, an old haunt of mine from the 1980’s when it was still called that.  The faded and chipped tiled mural around the top of the building depicting drovers from a bygone age and I will forever call it that.  Practically every Friday, I would go there with a friend from work and dance to the hits of the day and lust after the blokes with their mullet New Romantic quiffs and shiny silver grey trousers and life was good and we were carefree and we didn’t give a toss that we walked down the Old Kent Road at two in the morning, swaying and giggling our heads off and holding our shoes because our feet hurt.

Passing the car park where small groups of men wait patiently.  They mill about chatting and sharing fags.  They seek a days work and hope that the breakfast they had from the Golden Arches emporium next door will sustain them.

The bus stop by the little park where the street cleaner sits on a bench.  He is taking a break to roll and smoke a cigarette and contemplate life through whatever he hears in his ear phones before getting up to carry on clearing up after us.  And behind him, a dog owner lets his dog run about and get some exercise before doing what dogs do and what the majority of their humans ignore and fail to do afterwards and this human falls into that category, sad to say.  Meanwhile, under a large tree, a rotund tabby and white cat sits with its front paws curled underneath its body and watches the dog, wary of it getting to close and annoyed with it being there and possibly preventing it from catching a bird unawares or a mouse.

Then there’s the man in the pub doorway.  He stands there everyday with his two dogs in their studded harnesses.  He is sometimes alone and sometimes with another man and they chat and put the world to rights and gesticulate wildly in the process, such is their intent to get their point of view across.  The dogs look in better condition than their owner and I suspect he is much younger than he appears, but he is there everyday and not giving up.

And the ever present artery of buses, crawling along and suffering the curses of the cyclists as they duck and dive between them and the other traffic.  The cyclists wearing varying degrees of tightness and padded bottoms in their attire.

East Street: The Egg Incident.

And the ever present Shard…

For sale, to let, under offer, sold, let by, subject to contract.  All that in addition to what is happening to the enormous graffiti covered Heygate Estate on New Kent Road, waiting to be demolished as part of the regeneration scheme.

Onto that building that some say is the biggest bar code in the world, yet somehow reminds me of a lipstick container!  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Strata.

Oh, last but not least, on this occasion as I get ready to get off the bus I spy a fellow passenger calmly plucking her eyebrows as the driver plays pothole roulette…

Suburban secrets; one never knows…

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Still unemployed, but don’t worry, this post isn’t about my job hunting larks.

However, being unemployed does have a fun side to it, because I get to look out of the lounge window when I am trawling the job sites, and let my imagination loose as I watch what goes on outside.

So join me as I lift the lid off what my neighbours get up to.  Disclaimer: this post is embellished with the richness of my imagination and is a work of fiction, because let’s face it, the reality is too painful.

First there is the house opposite, split into two flats.  The ground floor occupant prefers to live his life in the half-light of covert despair, wandering about bumping into the furniture, his body covered in the bruises of stupidity as he fears his secret stash of ill-gotten gains will be discovered.  He ventured into his garden recently and chopped down the branches of a tree, but I knew what he was up to and the tree is likened to the X on a treasure map; it marks the spot.  I shall say no more…

Above him, one half of a couple wages war on the local cat population that dare to vacate their bowels on his manicured front garden.  He prunes and snips and sprinkles cat repelling particles on the plants and shrubs that do nothing to repel them!  And he thinks that by suddenly ripping open the curtains of his bedroom and standing there topless shouting and gesticulating at said felines will do the trick.  Well, the furry four-legged fiends just look at the hairless creature and think “Man, that is one Hollywood wax that’s gone to far” and continue to lick their orifices .  Man’s new trick is to place a clothes horse in the window and display his collection of pants and socks in various colour coded positions, at different times of the day but always at a jaunty angle.  Silly man, that won’t stop the cats but it is a signal to a neighbour, an unwanted signal, but a signal just the same…

I watched a woman return from shopping yesterday and there was a covert entry into a building if ever I saw one!  No matter though, because as much as she tried to hide it, I spied the rather large baguette peeking out from under her arm and from that moment I knew.  I knew that she had not been watching or taking notice of a certain Liverpudlian baker that has just finished a TV series, as the baguette was (whispers and looks around to check that no one is listening) shop bought.  There, I’ve said it.  It’s out there in the public domain now missus and the Famous One knows it as well as he had a helicopter watching your every movement.  Take the shame lady, take the shame…

Now, here is an interesting fellow: bright jumper, two dogs.  Never have two dogs been walked so often during the day. He is the Pied Piper of the dog walkers as once his jumper is out there, they all come, pulling their dogs behind them, falling over themselves to be the first to reach him on the march around the park.  Sadly, the slowest are never seen again.  I hear the plaintive call of his flute as he gathers them to him from near and far.  I’m not going to speculate on where he keeps the flute though…

And how has this happened that the family of four opposite has suddenly morphed into a young couple?  Where did they go and why?  Were they eaten up by the huge clump of pampas grass that grows in front of the window?  Is it a gateway into another dimension?  Am I doomed to never see the kids grow up but forever wonder why their parents don’t age?  Will I never get to know what kind of cake the boy has for his birthday?  Did the young couple eat them for their anti aging properties?  Will I ever stop asking bloody questions about them…?

My downstairs neighbour is a lifelong member of a secret Order.  That most secret of Orders which was formed in 1856 in a cave somewhere on the Isle of Man, when the moon was full and there was no R in the month.  An Order so secret that there is no secret handshake or facial tic to use so that you can recognise other members.  An Order so secret that you will be forever led to believe that you are its only member and are doomed to wonder for eternity if you will ever get invited to the AGM knees up.  He belongs to the secret Order of Thou Shalt Never Open Thy Curtains.  Ever.  He is a proud servant to this Order and has never wavered from that rule once, for to do so would be to risk expulsion because one never knows when one is being watched and one can never, ever risk the shame of disobedience of said rule.  For that is the only rule to be obeyed and the reason for your existence.  His other quirk is that when he upgrades his cars, the new car always has flat tyres…

So, never underestimate what goes on around you, because there are secrets behind every door, in every street, in every town, in every… Sod it, you get the drift.

*breaks out into maniacal laughter, fade to stop*

A morning bus ride.

For the past four months, I have travelled to work by bus. One to Old Street, then a connection to King’s Cross. The first part takes me over London Bridge and into the Square Mile and I lazily gaze out of the window, watching everything and everyone as the bus moves on.

Now, that journey has ended, for the time being at least, as my temp job ended yesterday. My thoughts about the people and places I have seen, will stay preserved here.

Starting from London Bridge, passing the Shard; that glassy tower that has engulfed the station and surrounding area. The silver dragon marks the entrance to the Square Mile, proudly displaying the City of London’s Coat of Arms.

The view on either side of the bridge. To the left you can see St Paul’s to the right, Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast. Beautiful and I always try to turn my head both ways to see as much as I can. And if the sun is out, then see the glints of those morning rays bouncing off the buildings and the Thames.

The Fishmongers’ Company: that grand building on the river front with many, what look like to be, coats of arms or other such charters, hanging on the wall and glimpsed through the windows.

Monument: tall. Marking a time when London was nearly completely destroyed by fire.

Round the corner continuing on King William St, past the Japanese asset management company, watching someone half heartedly dust the railings and the steps. Flicking the litter off the property with a long-handled feather duster. He looks bored and perhaps thinks this job is beneath him.

The boys in blue anoraks, who give out the City AM free paper. Jumping on buses to put a pile down for the passengers and giving a cheery cry of thanks to the driver. Standing with their arms out as the people automatically reach to grab a copy. No words are exchanged between them and the public.

The lady with the black Labrador. They are who I looked out for everyday, and I would see them from about King William St to Old St and beyond, but my second bus always parted company with her by then… She, in her daily attire of a short skirt, tights, boots, a short jacket and a floppy hat, drinking a tall coffee from a company that has no concept of how good coffee should taste! Her trusty four-legged companion trotting by her side, looking up at her every now and then until an interesting smell catches his attention. His coat glossy and black as jet and seeing him/her made me smile.

The key cutting/shoe repair shop always open that early with him at the back starting on the work load and she at the front dealing with the city gents offloading their mound of white shirts for dry cleaning. Expecting them to be clean and pressed by the time they are collected.

The large M & S at Moorgate, open well before eight in the morning, and people are browsing the clothes and going downstairs to the food section.

Sleepy night security guards who wait for the morning receptionists, yawning and waving hello to the early morning arrivals, who struggle to get their security pass out with everything else they are holding.

At Finsbury Square, the large cranes of the construction site, lying idle and still, as the masses walk by on the pavement beneath them. These people clutching their coffees and bags of pastries and checking their mobile phones. Must read this email, must read this text message, must read this email, must read this text message…

Then onto Old Street where I would change buses. Passing the Honourable Artillery Company, and while waiting, sometimes peeking through the locked gate to Bunhill Fields. Fascinated by the old, moss-covered graves and every time making a mental note to come here one day and walk around this ancient area.

And on the second bus, approaching the large roundabout at Old Street and wondering about the Chinese café on the corner, missing two of its Louvre window panes. It never looks like it is open for business but the two gold maneki-neko or welcoming lucky cats, are always waving their paws to beckon you in.

Continuing on the City Road towards Angel. Watching the hoards of young school girls so inadequately dressed for winter. Experimenting with make-up and seeing how short they can make their skirts. Odd hair styles and busy texting on their mobiles. Rushing to become women and wave goodbye to their childhood. Ah, puberty! You are a strange creature.

The rows of elegant houses that line the City Road up to the Angel. They look Georgian to me. Many of them now offices of course, but how lovely it would be to have a whole five-storey building to yourself! Just me then…

Down Pentonville Rd and to my stop and a short walk to the café I went to every morning for a white Americano coffee. And a Full Monty breakfast – but that was only on a Friday.

Is it THAT time of year, already?

Well ladies and gents, here we are again.  The last day of the year and one that has been a bit of an adventure for me, as you well know, and as I look back at 2012, there are quite a few things to reflect upon.

I knew that it would be interesting back in January, even then events at my old work place were smacking me in the head loud and clear and telling me that there would be changes afoot for me.  And what changes they were!

What surprised me the most about the whole redundancy thing was how it made me feel and how much it effected me as a person.  I did not appreciate how low my confidence and self-esteem were and how I thought that even though I was happy with their decision, I was full of doubt about whether I would get another job, or that I had any talents of any description that are marketable and would make another company want to hire me.

That is where my outplacement consultant Sue, was an absolute godsend.  When I first met her I could not think of one positive thing to say about myself; I felt useless and really quite beaten and thought I was a waste of space.  I was scared of getting back out in the job market again after so long and was sure that no-one would hire me.  The only thing I did know is that I didn’t want a permanent job, I wanted and still want to do short-term contract/temp jobs and see how other places function.  I want to meet new people and go from place to place for a while until I make my decision about my future.

Sue gently steered me through my stupid maze of self-loathing and was the best thing that my old organisation did for me, well that and the redundancy money, of course!  With a revamped CV, a ton of hints and tips and always there at the end of the telephone or email, I was ready to face the world of the job seeker again and even though I was nervous when I went for my first interview, I had done my homework, was prepared and would have got the job, if there had been one to get in the first place!

I did get another job very soon afterwards and I am there until mid January.  The agency is pleased with the feedback they have been given and I know that my colleagues will be sad to see me go and wanted me to apply for the permanent position.  That is really good to hear and you cannot imagine how that has made me feel.  Finally knowing that I am good at my job and that people want me has been a real boost to my confidence.  Yes, I realise that it is my first job, but it is the start I needed and a good foundation for the future.

Usually I feel a little bit sad on this day and wish the outgoing year had been a better one, and yes, part of me was sad to have ended my career at an organisation that I once was so proud to work for.  However, not this time.  Today I am glad to see the back of 2012 and all that I went through, glad to see the back of that place where I had been unhappy for so long and curious and excited about my tomorrows and beyond.

It only remains for me to say that I wish you all a wonderful New Year, and I really hope that 2013 is a bright, brilliant and beautiful year for you all.

Bint.

The four seasons. No, this has nothing to do with Frankie Valli or Vivaldi, although the latter wrote music about it…

Those who know me well, know that I am not a lover of this time of year.  I don’t like the clocks going back, the short days and saying goodbye to summer always depresses me.  However, I do appreciate the physical beauty of the seasons and the memories associated with them, even autumn and winter, and the approaching bleakness does appeal to me.  Possibly, because I have a rather bleak outlook on life a lot of the time and am not always an optimist about things.

Anyway, as it is a rainy, late autumnal day and because I cannot be bothered to get the vacuum cleaner out, I thought I would do a piece on the seasons.  Also, I have not blogged for a while now and I need to remind you all that I am still here!

So, let me start with autumn, as this is the season we are still in.

On a bench in Blackheath

The trees are absolutely beautiful at this time of year; gold, yellow, bronze, red, copper and if the sun is out, walking through a carpet of freshly fallen, crunchy leaves is a joy and takes me right back to my childhood, when it was mandatory to do this.  It was the also the law of the playground that you threw bunches of leaves at your friends, and tried to outdo them by finding the biggest and the best and the most number of conkers.  I used to love finding one still in its spiny shell, and enjoyed prising it open to see how big the shiny brown nugget inside would be.  I played conkers but I was crap at it and always had bruised knuckles!  We also went blackberry picking in the hedgerows and ate as many as we picked, our lips and fingers stained with the juice.

Autumn also had Bonfire Night with grubby little boys pushing their makeshift Guy Fawkes around in a wheelbarrow shouting ‘Penny for the Guy…!’.  And there were the  garden fireworks.  Mum made something yummy to eat then we went out to watch Dad try to light the fireworks, not always with success and he would have to go back to the reluctant collection of colour, gunpowder and twisted paper to try again. (Remind me to tell you the story about the Christmas pudding and my sister when she was about 18 months old…).

Of course, this was in the 1970’s and Health & Safety was not so strong as it is these days, where you are told not to go back to a firework once lit, for obvious reasons.  Then, we just did it, and luckily, we never had any accidents.

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” –         Albert Camus. 

Winter.

Bleak, very bleak.  especially when the sun doesn’t shine and the sky sits upon our heads, because it is so heavy with rain or the possibility of snow.

My least favourite season; an oppressive density of quiet because the countryside has gone to sleep.  The repose of the land punctuated by the cawing of crows on the still air or a cow mooing in the distance.  And when it snows, the silence is deafening, and everything takes on another dimension as there is nothing to see but a white counterpane, with the black/brown stalks of the naked trees sticking out of it.  Of course, I am describing scenes from my childhood in the countryside, where winter was beautiful to look at, where we built snowmen and pelted each other with snowballs.  And there was a roaring fire in the lounge and hot, comforting things to eat.  Oh, and there was the fun of bunking off school if it snowed, because I lived so far away and the bus could never get up the hill into the village and beyond to Tunbridge Wells and my school!

I am an old, farty cynic now and snow in London is a right royal pain to negotiate and I don’t enjoy the cold, and the wet.  Yet, I do love the bleakness of winter; the anticipation of what is to become and after the 21st of December, the days start getting slowly longer, which always pleases me!

I have deliberately left out Christmas as it does not give me much joy now, but the Christmas’ of my childhood were wonderful and are worthy of a blog post of their own.

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape – the loneliness of it – the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it – the whole story doesn’t show.” –  Andrew Wyeth

Spring.

My favourite.  The bringer of optimism and promise of new life.  The explosion of colour in nature that never fails to put a smile on my face.  When I see snowdrops growing, even though it is still winter, the tiniest of sparks is lit inside me and I know that I will only have to wait a few weeks until the riot of yellow and green of the daffodils will be screaming for my attention again.  The horse chestnuts will start to slowly unfurl their leaves until each branch is groaning with the weight of new leaves and flowers.

Yes, yes, I know I am coming across all Wordsworth now, but just close your eyes and see all that vibrancy that smacks you in the face at this time, even if you live in a city.  I think of the gardens of my childhood and the London parks now, and the colours inspire, uplift and make me happy.  It is new life in what ever shape or form and sort of balances me again.  It also helps that the clocks go forward now.  That helps me.  A lot.

The weather is temperamental at this time.  Oh, who the hell am I kidding?!  The weather gives us a two-fingered salute at anytime of the year, but you know what I mean.  My optimistic side taps into the thought of warmer weather, but let us not forget that we have also had snow in April before!

Then we have Easter.  Chocolate eggs, cards with fluffy bunnies and lambs on them and Hot Cross Buns.  Loads of them.  Whole packets at a time.  Toasted and slathered in butter.  Three times a day.  Nothing else.  And bugger your ‘5 a day’ nonsense.

“The force of Spring – mysterious, fecund, powerful beyond measure.” –    Michael Garofalo, Cuttings

Summer

OK, I know that our summers have been *cough* very, shite of late but let’s pretend that they’re good.

Because when they are, they bloody are!  Long, long days of warmth in the sun, picnics in parks and glasses of Pimms etc.  I love being able to sit outside a cafe or in a pub garden until dusk, being able to eat al fresco and just enjoy life.  Being invited to BBQ’s at a friend’s house and watching the men (because it is always the men!) hold a bottle of beer in one hand and the tongs in the other, valiantly poke, prod and turn the sausages and burgers over until they are burnt on the outside and raw in the middle.

As a child, looking forward to the summer holidays and going to the seaside.  Tumbling and rolling in sand dunes and puddling about in rock pools.  Sand castles and 99 ice creams.

The season is in full bloom, the grass lush and fat and green.  We would try to find the fattest blades to press between our thumbs to make that weird sound when blowing through them.  Making daisy chains and tickling our chins with the buttercups to see who loved butter.  Strawberries and cherries and the abundance of fruit and vegetables that are ripe at this time.  Carefree and innocent was my childhood then.

Now, if I can get away with not having to wear a coat during the day, then I am happy!  There is the anticipation of your holiday; two weeks of freedom away from responsibility and routine with the annual race to see who will get the best tan.  And when you return, you hope the weather will be good so you can show off how brown you are…

“A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.” – James Dent

So, that was my not so brief look at the seasons.  You know my favourites, what are yours?