Saturday, 11 October 2014

Life goes on

A reminder that, before it was a battlefield, Utah Beach was just a beach....

Monday, 6 October 2014

Bonjour. Je m'appelle Lucky

Hello.  We've never met before.  My name is Lucky.  I'm Pam's car - the one she bought after her beloved Toy was written off (it's OK - I know she loves me, too). Anyway, I thought I'd let you in on a secret.....

Guess where I am?

Come on.  I'm sure you can do it.  Have another hint:

Yes.  That's right - I'm in the Channel Tunnel on my way to France!

A Bientôt 


Friday, 19 September 2014

Arnhem 19 September 1944/2014

Last night, I finally watched 'A Bridge Too Far'.  Less than three weeks ago, I stood on the John Frost Bridge over the Rhein, watching as the Band of The Southern Highlanders piped the standards of No 1 Para and some very elderly paratroopers across.   What started out as a discussion 6 months ago regarding visiting the battlefields of WW1 became a visit to Arnhem and the commemorations to remember Operation Market Garden, the Battle for Arnhem, 17-21 September, 1944.

There were hundreds of active and retired British servicemen here, mainly paratroopers but also RAF.  We were there to honour the bravery of No 1 Para who were dropped behind enemy lines and, unsupported, fought for the best part of a week to firstly secure the bridge and, later, just to survive long enough for reinforcements to arrive.  Their story is told in A Bridge To Far. That any survived to tell it amazes me.

Of course, the Battle for Arnhem isn't just the story of No 1 Para.  A Polish airborne regiment were dropped on the opposite bank of the Rhein and were thwarted in their attempts to break through.  (Sadly, the commemorative parachute drop was also thwarted by the weather.). 

Ultimately, though, the story belongs to the people of Arnhem, since after the battle, the Germans raised the city in retaliation. 

Friday, 15 August 2014

A Summer of Culture and Sport

This is my summer - a summer of culture and sport.  I’ve fulfilled one long-term ambition (seeing Rick Wakeman perform Journey to the Centre of the Earth), enjoyed the football World Cup, the Commonwealth Games, an opera (La Traviata), a rock festival in Hyde Park (watching Black Sabbath, Faith No More, Motorhead and Sound Garden), several Proms (with 7 to go plus Proms-in-the-Park), the tennis (I went to Queens for the day and watched Wimbledon on the telly), and the cricket (two series:  England vs Sri Lanka and now England vs India).

Monday of last week was my birthday.  After two weeks in which I saw Simple Minds perform at Kew-the-Music, drove from London to Scotland, went to four events at the Commonwealth Games (the opening ceremony, Rugby 7’s semi-finals, hockey and the athletics on 100m finals night), delivered the FY15 Plan (budget) to the Powers That Be in Glasgow, re-enacted the Battle of Bannockburn, attended a 60th birthday party, attended three Prom concerts (a Greek-themed one, Mozart’s Requiem and the War Horse Prom) and went to the Ballet (Swan Lake),  I took a much needed day off work on my birthday and crashed out.

It took me the best part of a week to recover from the Scotland trip plus the weekends that bookended it.  Scotland was a mixture of holiday to attend the Commonwealth Games and work, both coupled with little sleep – I trekked into the Glasgow office on 4 days including on the morning after the Opening Ceremony, when we’d got home at 2.30am and I had to be up at 6am in order to get the one-and-only direct train into Glasgow from Inverkeithing.  

 Somewhere in there, I've also managed two overnight trips to Manchester - it doesn't feel like work when you're spending the time at work with friends - plus several days working in the Tower Bridge office.   After one of those days at Tower Bridge, I even managed to extend my birthday celebrations by going for drinks/dinner with Dark.  (We were surprised at 9pm when there was a gun salute at the Tower.  I can't find out why there was a salute at that time so I've assumed it was to commemorate the start of the Siege of Lierge in WW1.)

The weather has been glorious, too – long, hot sunny days for most of the last two months.  I managed to get sunburnt at Queens and again at the Commonwealth Games (I never thought I’d ever get sunburnt in Glasgow!).  

As an August baby, I'm a child of the Sun - I was born in the week that Spring habitually returns to Melbourne.  Long, hot, sunny summer days feel like my birthright.  Bring them on Apollo.  Bring them on.

- Pam

Monday, 4 August 2014

A light in the darkness

One hundred years ago today, the Great War started.  "The lights are going out all over Europe.  We shall not see their like again," said Sir Edward Gray, the Foreign Secretary.  Tonight, like hundreds of thousands of others in Britain, our home is lit by a single candle in memory of those who lost their lives.

Everywhere you go in Britain, the councils have planted great swaithes of poppies...

 Ninety-nine years ago this week, at the Battle of Lone Pine two young men died - my mother's uncle and my father's uncle.  They died fighting the Turks, throwing their grenades back.  A third boy, a cousin, survived and was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Lest we forget.


Sunday, 6 July 2014


I never did tell you that I've identified That Man from the Television, mentioned in an earlier post.  He's John Inverdale the tennis broadcaster.  Why I'm forever stumbling across him at Heathrow, God only knows, but at least I now remember his name.

- Pam

Thank you Hector

In case you've never seen him before, here is Hector the Tax Inspector, the image of HM Revenue and Customs.

Although I think Hector has never uttered it, he is permanently associated in my mind with a catch-phrase from earlier tax-self-assessment ads, "Tax doesn't have to be taxing"...

So... Why am I introducing you to Hector?  This afternoon, I broke the procrastinator's habit of a lifetime and completed and submitted electronically my 2013/2014* tax return**, over six months before the due date (31 January 2015).  Thanks to several midnight dramas while I was in Australia at Christmas, Hector tellls me I'm due a refund, having paid too much tax in advance via my tax code***. 

What happened at Christmas?  You may remember that I rent out my flat (we didn't sell it when we bought this house 11 years ago).  Well, I don't think I ever told you about being 13,000 miles away and having to replace the boiler when it broke just before Christmas.  Nor do I think I told you about being woken up at 3am Australian time on Christmas Day (!) by a phone call from the tenant downstairs, when water was cascading through her bathroom ceiling four days after the new boiler was installed and frantically trying to get hold of the rental agents on Christmas Eve UK time.  (Thank God I had their mobile numbers.)

Anyway, I knew that the costs would have a knock on effect on this year's tax and had been eagerly collecting the relevant paperwork****.  For once, I wanted to get my tax returned filed as soon as possible.  This afternoon, with DH out of the house and the Wimbledon final on the telly, I sat down to do the necessary.... And got a pleasant surprise.  Just between you and I, it never occured to me that I might be due a refund for the last tax year - shocking, I know for an ex-tax professional - but because I pay estimated-in-advance-tax on my rental income via my tax code, I was hoping it would increase for this year and, with it, my monthly take-home pay*****.

The question now is what to do with the refund.  While, it's not an earth-shattering amount - several hundred Pounds not several thousand - I don't want to fritter it away.  Since I spent a large proportion of my "F-You Boss" money on rebuilding the kitchen, I think I'll put the refund into my cash ISA to boost that up.

- Pam

* The British tax year runs April to March.

** Not everyone in the UK has to file a tax return.  If you're a basic rate tax payer and only have employment income, chances are you will never have to file one. You'll pay all your tax via the PAYE system (pay-as-you-earn).

*** Every UK employee has a tax code, which tells their employer how much of their salary should be tax free.  For most people, it is their tax-free personal allowance (currently £10,000 per annum), but if you fill out a tax return, you can elect to pay any tax owed via your tax code.  Additionally, since our tax system requires payments-on-account if you've got rental income or self-employment income above a certain level, if  you're also an employee then you can opt to pay that via your tax code, which is what I do.

**** My P60 arrived promptly in April, but my P11D (benefits in kind statement) seemed to take forever and only arrived on Wednesday.  (The deadline for issuing them to employees was today.)    A P60 is the equivalent of an Australian "Group Certificate" or an American W2.

***** I am still expecting that to happen, but only by £10-£20/month because the 2014/2015 tax year estimate will be based on this latest tax return.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Someone at Virgin Trains has a sense of humour

When the toilet door closed behind me on the Manchester train this morning, a voice announced  the following:-

(I just had to photograph it.)

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Thinking in Bullet Points

This morning, I came to the conclusion that I think in bullet points.  If you receive an email from me, chances are it'll started off with a small paragraph along the lines of "Please find enclosed the ..blah..blah... Please note the following:-...." followed by numbered bullet points.  There might be a table or two thrown in there for illustrative/explanatory purposes, but the majority of the email will be in bullet points.

Even when I'm trying to identify a problem or work out a solution, I'll end up with a list of bullet points.  Often, I'll start writing down whatever-the-problem-is in a blank email, work my way through the issues, and suddenly there'll be half a dozen bullet points on the screen, possibly being arranged and rearranged until they make sense.

Frequently, my bullet points have their own bullet points....

It's got to the point that, this morning, I was driving into work, making a mental list about things that needed to get done today and realised that the list in my head (which I was mentally projecting onto the windscreen) consisted of a load of bullet points, with sub-bullet points and the odd arrow thrown in for good measure.  And this was all going on in my head!

I need to get out more!

- Pam

Sunday, 25 May 2014

I am not superwoman

Please, can people remind me that I am not Superwoman.  I'm just an ordinary, forty-mumble woman who works long hours, hates housework, loves cooking, gets far too little sleep, knits whenever she can and gardens far to infrequently to call herself a gardener...

Seriously, I'm having problems remembering that I have limitations.  You'd think, given this is me I'm talking about, that I'd know that I have limited time, limited energy and numerous calls on my time.  But no.  It seems I have a severe blind spot.  Today, I took myself to the garden centre to buy veg plants* to grow in our two metre-square raised beds.  Within 10 minutes had to talk myself out of several purchases, because a) I have no where to put them, and b) in order to make somewhere to put them, I'll need to put in in several days work of work in that wilderness I call a garden.  Not a chance right now, Pamela, not a chance!

But... But.... BUT!!!

No.  Walk away from the Eglu... You haven't got time to keep chickens.  But it's cute!  No.  But we could save loads of money on eggs... And feed the chickens on sunflower seed-heads so they don't cost a lot of money.... NO!!! 

In my head, I obviously think I'm Barbara Good from The Good Life

- Pam

PS:  The only way to resolve the Podcast app problem was to delete the app and reinstall it.

*  Since I obviously didn't have time or the inclination to start any seeds from scratch this year, the only way those beds were going to get plants into them was to buy partially grown ones.  I bought tomatoes, peppers, a cougette (zucchini), onions and bok-choi.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Apple have broken my favourite App

That's right.  Following an update installed on Monday, the Podcast App refuses to load on my phone. [ pout ]

A quick scan of the reviews on iTunes tells me that I'm not the only one.

I feel deprived, damn you!!!  Fix it Apple!


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Another Airport; Another Trip

Heathrow.  6.30am.

I'm heading "up north" for my seventh Forecast Review.  No travelling companion this time - my business Head of Operations is flying from a different airport and Tall hasn't been invited to play.  (Dark has never been on the invite list.). While there are friendly faces in the office up there, my favourite Cheeky Chap had his job terminated a week ago.    For this three day trip, I am berift of playmates.

Bored, I am left pondering the inexplicable:-

1). Why had the flight time moved again? I'm catching exactly the same flight as on all other trips, but the departure time has changed for the third time.

2). When did businessmen stop wearing ties as standard?  I can see one man in a tie on this plane.

3). Why is that man on the same flight as me, again?  Must be the third time I've travelled with him.  I'm 99% certain he is a journalist (or some political talking head), which is why I recognise him.  Can't remember his name - think he's from ITN, which we rarely watch.

4). And, finally, the most inexplicable:  why do I always get one tiny drop of make-up on my tee shirt whenever I wear a white one?  Also, why do I never notice until it is far too late, even when I've checked immediately after making up?

- Pam

PS:  half way into my flight and I have another question:  why do BA's insist on teasing me by showing destinations in Africa and Europe as part of the cycle on the inflight map?  I'm only flying 300 miles north. [ pout ]

Friday, 9 May 2014

Dear snail

Whatever made you think climbing up the picture window in our kitchen was a good idea?

I admire your bravery....

- Pam 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Force is Strong in This One

Up early to watch Match of the Day.  Got to love the BBC's announcer, who said "Good morning.  May the Fourth be with you!"

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Is this thing on?

[ cough ]

Hello?  Is there anyone out there?

OMG!  There is!  [ Jumps up and down ]

Hello, how are you?  What's been happening in your life?  How is work for you?  And the family????

Errr.... The Blog?  Well...err... I didn't mean to go silent...Um....I lost my mojo.  It's not that I didn't want to blog - I just couldn't put one word in front of the other and...well.... time just got away with me.  (What do you mean it's April?  Surely, we're still in February?)

Sooo.... What has been happening?  When I look back over the last few months, all I seem to do is work, eat, sleep, go to the odd football match and occasionally knit.

The kitchen is finished.  And I love it.  And I need to take some photos to show you.  It is a joy to cook in.  Seriously, even washing up is a pleasure.  Did I tell you that it's got underfloor heating?  Sheer bliss to walk on at 6am.  As part of the work on the kitchen, we've installed an outside light on a movement sensor.  I walked into the kitchen one morning in February and saw a local black cat get the shock of his life.  He was walking across the patio and must have seen movement in the kitchen, so walked towards the picture window and triggered the movement sensor.  Poor cat look stunned when the light came on.  (Very funny though.)

What else? I'm still singing every Monday. My choir had a very successful performance of Bach's B-Minor Mass at the Cadogan Hall back in March.  It was so intense that I didn't register we'd finished when we sang the last movement and was expecting more music.  Our next concert is on 14th June, a mixture of Tippett and Benjamin Brittain.

As to everything else... I've played a couple of rounds of golf with my good friend, AJ - we're managing to get in a round a month.  That's probably the most frequently I've played in years.   I do think I need at least a couple of lessons - my swing is dreadful and my grip is all over the place but I don't mind playing embarrassingly bad in front of AJ - we don't keep score and really just use the golf game as an excuse for a chat.  (It's lunch, followed by a walk with golf clubs, followed by coffee...)

On the work front, well.... I joke that it is "all about the social life, really..." but it isn't.  I'm averaging 50 hour weeks.  During February and the first half of March, there were a few that were 55 hours.  My pregnant colleague's maternity cover lasted a week before he jumped ship and I had to throw my toys out of the pram before the situation was sorted.  I was still not allowed to hire anyone, but there is now someone responsible for her work in Glasgow, who I actually trust to do the job.

On the work social-life front, I did get to play in Glasgow with Tall when I was last up there for the quarterly forecast review.  Surprisingly, he got an invite to the meeting, too. (It was just like old times.)  We travelled up together, went out for drinks and a meal afterwards and talked until 2am.  A couple of weeks later, we teamed up with Dark and had another late night drinking chatting session, followed by meetings the next day.  We are a great team; we work really well together and we're friends.  If only the three of us could come up with a viable business idea....

- Pam