Monday 3 December 2018

Have an Adventure - part 1, Visiting Hobbits

Last week, before we came to New Zealand, we went to see Simon Reeve, talking about his life, his adventures and his latest book   Simon is lovely bloke, very friendly and kind, exactly the guy you see in his BBC documentaries.  The big takeaway I have from Simon’s talk is set out to have adventures.  Don’t just drift through life, letting it pass you by.  Go to the unusual places; take the risk that you might be uncomfortable; see things that your friends haven’t. 

In some respects, that’s how I’m trying to live this holiday, having adventures.  Sunday, we braved the heights and went up the Skytower in the centre of Auckland.  The view is amazing.

As are the windows in the floor of the viewing tower and in the floor of the lifts.  Although the glass is very strong and thick, you can’t help but try to not walk on it.

Monday, we went a beachside cafe at Takapuna, to have lunch with our friends.   We weren’t the only ones enjoying the food.

Everywhere we go, the sparrows are fearless.  They even entered the cottage in Rotorua.

Tuesday, we went on a winery tour on Waiheke Island, taking the ferry across Auckland Harbour from the iconic Ferry Building.  The nicest of the wines were at Casito Miro, where the photo below was taken.  We bought a bottle of their fortified “Madame Rouge”.   (Alas, the bottle is now empty...)

Wednesday, we drove to Rotorua via Matamata and a place straight out of fantasy.

Yes.  We visited Hobbiton.  First constructed for Lord of the Rings, the 12 acre site sits in the middle of a working sheep and cattle farm.  The original film set was temporary and the farmer was surprised when people started knocking on his door asking to visit the Hobbit holes, soon after the film’s release.   At that point, they only had 4 Hobbit holes remaining out of 30+.  When Peter Jackson went back to film The Hobbit, this time they made the holes permanent.

Hobbiton is well worth the cost of the tour.  We spent hours there, had lunch, did the tour, had a drink in the Green Dragon Inn and took a gazillion photos.  It is a fairytale oasis and it is virtually impossible to chose one photo to sum it all up.

- Pam. (Rotorua will have to wait for another post.)

Sunday 25 November 2018

On my travels

Greetings from Auckland, New Zealand.  We arrived on Thursday, to attend a friend’s wedding.   

The wedding was lovely.  The bride is very charming and they look very happy together.  I hope to get to know her a little before we leave NZ.  The venue was right beside Auckland’s Harbour Bridge.  

Somewhere today, I saw a quote “Auckland: Sydney for Beginners”.  That’s a put-down and it’s just not true.  Auckland is city, proud to stand on her own two feet and not live in anyone-else’s shadow.  The harbour is spectacular and dominated by a small volcanic island in the middle.  It’s called Rangitoto Island and known as “the big baby”.

This is the worst trip so far that I’ve had for jet lag.  We flew London to Singapore, Singapore to Sydney, then Sydney to Auckland.  I was fine in Sydney, but we were delayed for 3 hours  and that meant not arriving in Auckland until nearly 4pm, which seems to have thrown me entirely off kilter.  I’m still waking up in the mornings feeling like a zombie.  Today is the first day that I’ve felt hungry for breakfast, but now I could nap again.  (It’s 9.30am, for goodness sake!)

We’re off shortly to meet up with the bride and groom in an hour.  Tomorrow, we’re doing a winery tour and Wednesday, we’ll be off to Hobbiton, Rotorua and further adventures.

- Pam

Friday 28 September 2018

Starting over

Hello.  Yes, it’s been a long time.  I’ve had very little internet time since I started that job in March.  They didn’t allow access to personal emails - not even at lunchtime - so I used my “internet time” at home for any email that needed a response.  I could go online and shop until I was broke but I couldn’t access my emails..  Not any more.  I finished there on Friday.   I’d completed the role I’d been taken on to do and was beginning to have to ask around for work (which, as you know, I hate).  I resigned on my terms, not theirs.  I’m going back to the Swedes, to rejoin the project that I left in March.

What happened?  Mid-August, we had a fridge disaster - it died -  so I had to work from home while waiting for the replacement to be delivered.  Part way through the day,  I got a text message from my old project manager:  would you consider coming back?  His timing was perfect.  I was sitting there thinking “I’ve got nothing to do when I finish this....”.  My response was “Possibly” and it snowballed from there.  There were a couple of contributing factors - I watched one of my colleagues cringe in fear when dealing with one of the bosses and I do not want to work in a place where that happens - and, at several points due to the lack of work, I half expected to be told that I didn’t have a job after my current holiday (Normandy this week) or the one we’ve got booked in November (New Zealand for a wedding).   This has nothing to do with my immediate line manager.  Resigning to him felt like kicking a puppy.  He’s a nice guy and I like him a lot.

The final straw, however, was SAP.  Frankly, I don’t like it.  As finance systems go, it’s probably cheaper to implement than Oracle, but it’s far less flexible and far less user friendly.  It might be ok for factories producing widgets, but it’s quite clumsy for companies selling their labour in time based projects and using percentage complete as their basis for recognising revenue.  It’s also bloody annoying.  There are multiple system standard “reports” (layouts really) that are common to all SAP users everywhere, but not one that lists the vendors names and numbers beside their purchase invoices.  Believe me, I tried everything.  The best I could do was obtain the vendor number in SAP, download to Excel and do a v-lookup to a list of vendors.  This is basic information and you can’t extract it from the system in an easy to analyse format.  

I start back at the Swedes on Monday.  I will be a contractor again, but that’s OK.  I can deal with the administrivia now.   I’m rejoining The Project and will be spending at least half my week sitting in a portacabin in a highways depot.  My plan for Monday is to arrive laden with chocolate chip cookies, knock on the portacabin door and go “Hi Dad.  I’m home!”.  :o)

- Pam

Thursday 28 June 2018

On the Road Again

Another evening; another hotel.  

I’m sure I’ve started a blog post with that line before.  I’m travelling for work, visiting the SAP project team in their home office and staying in a nearby hotel.  It’s cut-over weekend and I’m down here until all the data is loaded.

Tonight’s hotel is yet another example of why I prefer either owner-run hotels with lots of character or the big, commercial chains like Premier Inn, where at least you always know what you’re going to get.  You may remember a weird hotel I stayed at in Manchester in March 2016:  so modern and trendy that there was no wall between the bathroom and the bedroom.  

Ring any bells?  To be honest, I can’t remember if I posted my grumble about that hotel here or on Facebook.  At least it had space, even if you could watch the tv from the shower. 

This hotel is worse.  When I stay in a hotel, I usually play a game with myself:  how would I furnish/decorate my room if it was converted into a studio flat.  The modular chain hotels are usually best for that game since their rooms are usually quite well thought out. If you ever want to convert a Holiday Inn into studio flats, I’m you’re woman.  I’d keep the bathroom where it is, put wardrobes along the wall by the door and, on the wall that backs onto the bathroom/faces the main roo. I’d build a small U-shaped kitchen less than 2 metres deep.  Throw in a sofa that converts to a bed, a small table with chairs  and plenty of shelves and, bingo, you have a space you can live in.

Not in tonight’s hotel.  It is another over-decorated, modern room, small and rather oppressive.  They have squeezed as much into it as possible,  There is nowhere to put my open suitcase if I don’t want to use the bed.  In the worst possible sense,  someone let an interior decorator loose.

At least, this time, there’s a divider between the bedroom and the bathroom, even if it does dominate the room.

I’ve just had  room service*, which I ordered over an hour ago.  It took 5 minutes to figure out how to place my order on the smart-phone-gadget the room has instead of a phone.  Call room service?  Only if you know which symbol to hit.  Naturally, the tray did not fit onto the one-and-only table top.

This was the best I could do.  That white thing at the back is a Dyson fan.  Why do you need a fan in an air conditioned room???  (The other side is a Tassimo coffee machine.)

Please God, I don’t get nightmares from the stripes!

- Pam

* Yes, I ordered room service.  England were playing** in the World Cup and, of course, I wanted to watch.  Also, the bar/restaurant downstairs were heaving.  Was it worth it?  No.  I’d have had a better meal in the Subway down the street.  Only the G&T was worth the wait.

** They lost to Belgium.  

Monday 7 May 2018


To bring you up-to-date with my life would be nigh-on impossible.  However, there are a few things I can share, so here goes.

I started a new job in March.  I’d been with the last company for 18 months and there was no hope of a permanent role emerging.  To be honest, much as I like certain people - and most people are lovely - I long ago reached the conclusion that I did not want to work there. For most of the last 18 months, I didn’t have a role - I never knew what I’d be working on from one day to the next.   I joined a project but kept getting hauled back into the forecast process.  Last summer, I started job hunting.  I had a few interviews, but nothing came of them.   It was only in the autumn that I was allowed to settle into the project and, in November, I decided that I’d stick things out until the project was finished. I stopped job hunting.  Naturally, that’s when things started happening.  My new employer found me via LinkedIn - they approached me.  It’s a 12 month, fixed term contract and I’m staff for the duration, not a contractor.

(I promise to write chapter and verse on what I’ve learned as a contractor over the last 18 months, but not tonight.  I started writing this post 2 months ago, so time to get it published.)

The new job is helping a business unit with their SAP implementation.  I’m not part of “the project”; I belong to the business’ finance team.  I’ve done the odd bit of “Finance” - balance sheet recs and the like - but my main focus has been on collating data for the Full Dress Rehearsal and Go-Live.  On Wednesday, I’m off for two days of UAT training, followed by another two next week.  It’s not end-user training, just enough familiarisation with the system to get through the User Acceptance Testing scripts but, as far as I’m concerned it’s wonderful.  I’m getting trained!  And I will be participating in UAT testing, which will help me familiarise myself with the system further.   

The Project team are aware of my precarious position as not-quite-staff and have promised me that I’ll do the full suite of end-user training.   That’s very kind of them.  While I was a JD Edwards One World trainer for 4 years and an Oracle end user for 10 years,  I’ve never touched SAP.  The chance to get another string to my bow, cannot be sneezed at.

- Pam

Sunday 11 February 2018

Starting again

Hello.  Is there anyone out there?  I haven’t blogged in ages, so I can’t blame you if you were wondering whether I’d fallen off the face of the earth.  It’s not that I don’t want to blog - I do!  I still write posts in my head - they just don’t make it to the screen.  There’s being a contractor to moan about.  There’s the saga of job hunting to tell you about. Plus the MSc, I want to pursue.  Also, there are new recipes to share.  I have some yarn-related items to show off AND I have a couple of adventures to share...  

I don’t even read blogs very often anymore.   Last week was the first time I read the Yarn Harlot in years.  (Did you know Stephanie’s a grandmother?!!!). 

I got out of the habit.  I lost my voice.  I used to write blogs on Friday afternoons, in my old job when we finished work at Friday lunchtime.  Or I’d write them in my lunch break - but I’ve never had the privacy to do that in my current place of employment.   Anyway, no more excuses.  I’m going to try to get back into the habit.  I need a sounding board and you’re it.  Thank you for being there for me.

- Pip. (How are you?  What has been happening in your life?)