Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Further stories about my gran.
She was a very attractive lady and worked her way up in her company from secretary to company secretary. On the way to a function in London, from Manchester she met a man on the train and they struck up a conversation on the basis of them both being co. secretaries.
He was 30 years her senior and eventually they married. Such an age gap was always going to have difficulties and they weren't welcome in some social circles and dancing for example was out as he didnt know the modern styles....
He was a very smart man and gran referred to one Christmas where they had to eat oxtail as that was all they could afford. He had borrowed money to buy a suit and had repaid it on December 23rd. Gran was unaware of such a debt, and it was a significant sum too, so she was not happy. This was a low point.
Within months she had won the pools. Yes, a miracle. In those days - the 30's, they won 3000
pounds, which was a fortune, you could buy a big house for 500 quid, which they did.
He was a strong willed man and invested considerable sums in wool and cotton, where he knew the industry.
These subsequently crashed, though not before they had moved to North Wales where he planned to take the air and his retirement.

So, from relative poverty, to untold riches, back to modest living in the space of 5 years?

You couldnt make it up.
I should write the tv movie.


Thursday, June 30, 2005

It's a small world

Its almost 30 years ago now, but I was working for a bank in Mid-Wales and was transferred to a smaller branch, further out in the sticks. I was looking for somwhere to stay during the week and had tried a couple of places, but it wasn't working, too pricey, people not pleasant etc, and then I got a call.
I went to have a look and decided that it was ok, and moved in that week. At the weekend I was recounting the story of where I was moving to and I said Norton Street. What number? asks my gran; number one I reply. Oh, she says, I lived there just after I was born. (90 years previously). This in a town she had never mentioned, where I'd never been before.
The story got a little better.

Her father was a dam engineer and had been involved in building many of the dams in Mid Wales at the end of the 19th century, her mother had moved to mid Wales (from Scotland) with him and died in childbirth, on my gran's arrival. She was looked after in her early days by the landlady at the house he was staying in and after a while she developed the blond hair that became her trademark later in life. Blonde hair was much sought after by gypsies at the time, to mix up the gene pool and she was stolen and was missing for some time. (Can you imagine the press/media attention that would have got these days, it wasnt unusual then) .

She was recovered, its not clear how. She then went to live with her father's sister and her surname was changed from Shaw to McDonald, again, this was not unusual.

She lived to 95 years old, and died in 1993. More about her life tomorrow, you dcouldnt make it up....


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Heart attacks and how to have one.

A story about the heart attack I never had.
So, its a cold February night and I've decided that as I've not been to the football for a while, to go to an evening game, this time against Norwich City, at our place. I travel up to the game in the congenial company of jJohn (or JayKew as he is known on the message board).
he's a great guy and as with most people I've travelled with, great company. He has some strong views which may be slightly unpalatable to others, (especially reds) but o the whole, good value.
We grab a beer and off to the game I get to use one of john's season tickets up and beind the goal. I'm introduced to Danny I think, who is in his sixties and as the game commences, it becomes clear that Danny is deaf and moans a lot during the match, and also spells out g-r-e-a-t s-h-o-t in sign language among other comments that we (unimpaired of hearing) would just mutter, or exclaim.
Fact is Everton were poor that night and strugglked against a side who at that time were guaranteed to go down, they subsequently improved their results but that night we beat them with a late goal. An own goal. (This summed up our season, after watching them for years lose and draw games we should have won, last season we were winning and drawing games we should have lost, the luck turned).

Now I'd suffered with a frozen shoulder for 6 weeks, which had occurred during 5 a side footy and I'd aggravated it a couple of times. Permanent pain, but especially so when I lifetd my right arm above horizontal. Excrutiating, and constant.
So when we scored and arms were raised, and everyone stood in acclaim I immediately sat down again clutching my right arm. Danny sees this and tries amongst the chaos of the uproar to attract others attention to my plight, he thinks I'm having the heart attack all the signs are there obvious excruciating pain, me clutching my arm and unable to speak. he's moaning AAAAAAOOOOOOOOGGGGGGGGGGNNNNNNNNNNKKKKKKKKKKK.

John sits down, turns to me and winks. 'Are you OK?', suddenly realising all is not OK.
Yes, its my arm, blah blah blah.
John explains to Danny and we sit out the rest of the game in compaionable silence with Danny spelling out y-o-u w-a-n-t t-o g-e-t t-h-a-t l-o-o-k-e-d a-t y-o-u s-o-f-t b-a-s-t-a-r-d as Everton stumbled to an ill deserved victory and I count my blessings that it wasn't a real coronary and that if it had been, at least someone would have watched me die.



Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Living In Camberwick Green...

I tell people that living in the town I do is like living in Camberwick Green. For those of you not UK based, or below the age of 35, Camberwick Green was a children's puppet show, based on villagey characters, where motion was created by moving the puppets one move at a time, not dissimilar to cartoons, but in 3D.
Some of the characters were named in a cutesy fashion, Windy Miller, who milled flour in his mill, Chippy Minton, the carpenter (Chippy is English slang for a carpenter) and Mrs Honeybun, the village nosey busy-body who only ever walked her 3 small dogs and generally got to know everyone's business.
Well I live in that town. Plenty of characters, caricatures and people and a trip to the paper shop is bound to be punctuated by chats with locals, other shopkeepers and tourists. I love it. My wife doesnt enjoy the constant pressure that living in the middle of so many people brings, and the contradiction of living in a big county with wide open spaces, and yet close to so many people is one that she cant enjoy. I can. But when we finally move to a bigger house, hopefully with a bigger garden, in the same town, we'll be afforded a bit more privacy and space in which to do our own thing without bumping elbows with neighbours or visitors just looking down our cute alley and wondering 'if there was somewhere down there for a cup of tea....'

Recently we've applied for planning permission to build some small houses on land at the back of our house. This has created something of a stir and given my previous comments about privacy, produced yet more controversy, especially as we're closing our business that occupied the land. Not really in the spirit is it? And now the chats on the way to the paper shop sometime get prefaced with 'you're not closing are you?' and 'are you really putting houses on it?'
Yes and yes.
Why? Why not? We're not making money in the business and as far as I recall no-one else bid for the house and business when we bought it, so please go and poke yourself - is what the bubble above my head says - whereas what I actually say is 'as we are suffering due to the planning conditions laid down by John Prescott which allow a large superstore to be built on the outskirts of town which has stripped us of around 25% of our business, it was just as well that we applied for planning using some of JP's other conditions' (so that we can pay off our mortgage........, says smaller head bubble).

And I also want to know what plague affected our town 4 years ago which stripped us of 75% of the menfolk over 65 - many of our old customers tell me 'my husband used to do this, but he died 4 years ago'. That never happened in Camberwick Green and I think I'm right in saying that the vexed question of planning applications was never covered either.

No wonder it was regarded as a vision of England in the halcyon days.

Other people's children. We love our own, but other people's are just awful aren't they? They are spoilt, unpleasant, badly behaved and generally not good, while our own are funny (not mischievious) clever (talented in other areas apart from reading..) and know their own mind (do what we want - but only when it suits them).
I'm staying with our ex-neighbours who are ace. Lovely people, unpretentious and funny and not demanding of time/effort and who put me up willingly this week when my usual bed for the week (while I'm working away) couldnt help. But their boys.... oh my God. Eldest one used to really rile me, wouldn't do as he was told, was downright unpleasant and used to annoy Joe (our boy) contantly with interruptions and hassle. But the young one makes him look like a junior saint, - the young one is more conniving in the way that little brothers are, and deliberately provocative. They love attention and they get loads -but not enough discipline... still I'm sure they have a problem with Joe too, so it may be just my viewpoint that's wrong.
I doubt it though. Because as we all know, when it comes to children, we are always right and its the other people who are wrong. Just as long as we all know....

But what do you do when you want to tell someone their kids are unbearable? I told my brother and he didnt speak to me for 4 years, culminating in his departure from wife and aforementioned awful kids and moving in with his erstwhile work colleague, and having proclaimed to my mum that he was fed up with family life, he now has two families and I'm not sure whether either of them is fun. None of my business though. Oh no.
Whether my obviously considered and well judged comments led to his family splitting up, I couldnt say, but it may not have helped, and that was a lesson I've learned the hard way. the other brothers are OK with me, but it's never been the same since and there were obviously some wounds there which I opened up, and which even now, may not have healed; so moral is, keep your big mouth shut Patchy.

And for today, I will.

Monday, June 20, 2005

And another one bites the dust....

Literally, as the dust settles I get news of other people leaving the company and frankly its a little unsettling, as most all of them produce the automatic response 'no loss'.. So, when my departure becomes known to others, maybe it'll engender the same reaction... ho hum. Don't care, or maybe I do. Havn't decided yet.

A few weeks left then, only a few more of the worldwide inspections from one of our very senior people, who plainly doesnt understand the business, so much so that he's concentrating on the small deals, and though he has the ability to change things, doesnt seem too inclined to do so.
Honestly, its one of those things that in years to come will appear in text books about how to run things under vthe chapter 'you'll never believe they used to do this' along with our re-organisation which was so confusing, required a 5 page document to explain what it meant and how things would work from now on, you couldnt make it up.

So we are faced with ever larger quotas, with fewer people and the senior guys are surprised that the sales guys focus on the bigger deals. Duh and indeed double duh. why is it so surprising? And especially so, given that the strategy 3/4 years ago was to give the smaller deals to partners and our chums in the web fulfilment area...?

I read that New Labour boys have come up with a wizard idea to reduce house prices and move second home owners back to where they belong - in the city. Out here in the sticks - a small market town - the local economy is very much driven by people who've downsized out of the prosperous South-east and are now providing money and jobs via their newly found wealth.
Wealth that New Labour would like to tax, 'thank you very much, and no we didnt tell you about it in the election manifesto, as that would have meant that many of the 36% of people who did vote for us, wouldnt have'. How they have the bare faced cheek to do so is baffling, and yet like our senior management, they dont see what's going to happen. The prosperous middle class will leave, so we'll be left with the imported under class, the guys the governement cant keep out, who'll take all the lower paid jobs, and the people who inherit their parent's houses will go to France/Spain whatever - its the 21st century potato famine - but they'll take their money with them , so Brown can't tax it, brilliant.
So we'll be left with less money to pay for what the Labour party DID promise, which was education, education, education and anyone can see just how effective that's been.

So, what's it like working and living with leaders who have no foresight, no ablility to see what's coming and how their actions will affect others? Crap.

JrJ, TB and GB take a bow.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Friday 18 June

Not long to go now, after a couple of decades with Big Blue, its a good time to go, they dont want me with my now limited skillset, and I'm not unhappy to leave. Thankfully I've been able to get a half decent (though it is only half-decent) payout which will pay for a good holiday for the family and take us all through the summer months before I start work somewhere else and have fun at work, for a change.

After a year out (on sabbatical) it became clear that what had become a giant bureaucratic engine over the years, had tightened itself and become even more tangled and unable to manouevre easily - this despite senior country and worldwide statements to 'reduce the complexity' and 'get closer to the customer'. All very sad and yet predictable, we now have our american cousins sorting out europe and yet, they are still unable to get the concept that europe is a collection of countries and have a variety of legal systems, languages and timezones. (They have timezones in US why cant they get the idea that we do too?)
All so very predicatble, we are now wrapped nicely into a weekly cycle where our numbers are reported up through several layers of management and into one big, though not big enough number. We are reviewed by a variety of management, from different points on the compass and in the hierarchy, and very few leave us with anything of value, like how to improve the numbers. What used to be a forum for sensible discussion and ideas is now 'UNACCEPTABLE!' shouting -raised voices are very much more regularly heard than when I started.

So, no regrets about leaving then. I'll share some thoughts about how some VERY senior people call us up and demonstrate not only can they not add value, they dont actually understand the business we are in, and how we have so-called strategic ideas which contradict each other.
Much like Bilko.

More from the Patch on Monday