Thursday, 30 September 2010

Today's musings

... began with this lovely view out of our North-facing window:-

I then took Bella out for a walk.  This is her with her favourite big stick.  She has been playing with this for about 6 months.  I stash it under a bush when we leave and it has not disappeared, even when we have not been to the park for 3 weeks!

Then off to work to teach the first day of new Computing, Audio and Music module which went really well.  I have got the students working on making original, distinctive ringtones for their mobile phone sas a first minor assessment.  They seemed to enjoy this.  WHen they are all submitted, I will sequence them up (possibly in a random* fashion to make a ringtone symphony (which will get played in a lecture as a world premiere:-)!)

Went to a union meeting yesterday to discuss the university squeeze on posts.  Starting from the top (apart from the highest level of management of course, which-has increased in numbers) they are seeking to reduce the number of people at any given salary level.  People who do not get a job at their existing level can either :-
  • drop down a level and apply for jobs at that level (on protected salary for up to 4 years
  • take "enhanced voluntary severance" and leave the university
This is going to cascade all the way down to part-time staff. The union is calling this management approach "Down and Out"!

After the union meeting, I had a meeting with someone from personnel about my options for bidding to get a job at my existing lowly management grade. I kept saying, "Oh, we've just been discussing that at the union meeting", which may not have been the wisest thing in the circumstances.

The whole process is also very drawn out - all the university's restructuring was announced initially as being complete by April 2010, but is now being timetabled for 1st August 2011.  I won't find out if I have got one of the possible jobs i am allowed to express a preference for by the beginning of November until February next year.  This is a great way to motivate people and get them to perform at their highest level, and to build loyalty and commitment to an organisation - NOT! I look forward to seeing how much the university would pay me to go away!!!

Never mind, tomorrow is a day teaching Multimedia Systems to final year students before the weekend begins.  Just planning to go for dim sum on Sunday - one of Su & my regular haunts in Bristol.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Our garden taken last week.Guess who?

I'm writing this first thing this morning as busy day ahead. Despite the rain I still have to work. I know I said I mostly supervise the other two gardeners but I do actually get my hands dirty from time to time. Today I'm "interlining" two raised beds measuring 8 x 4 feet and ( 4 foot deep) each. What's that you might ask? Well it involves removing strawberry plants, then taking out about a foot of soil, laying down old cardboard and newspaper, replacing soil, adding some muck probably, and replacing strawberries. Not all of them as these only fruit in the summer. The plan is to track down early and late varieties so the family have fruit for 6months of the year...nice. That's only one bed! The other one will have to wait as it still has parsley, beetroot and spinach in it. The purpose of this exercise is to improve water retention which I know works so if you want to copy ........

It's now 2 p.m. Gardening didn't happen as the rain came down and I went in. Indoors that is. The reason I like working for J is she not only elevates me to middle management but also calls upon my other skills e.g. making soup, putting up pictures, taking dogs for walk, looking up cinema times on the internet etc. etc. For this I get paid.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Late posting today...

First full day of teaching back at the degree factory today, and the usual mix of technology missing (like speaker cables) or not working well (lots of login problems) and students not knowing how to read a timetable to be in the right place at the right time.

The best thing was trying to show a bit of a film in Moving Image Technology lecture in nice new refurbished lecture.  The control panel has a setting that says "Off" for the lights (a good idea when showing film content) - the only problem was that they only went off for about 5 seconds, after which they faded up again.  So, I stood by the control panel pressing the "off" setting repeatedly for a while, but not the best of conditions for students to absorb content!  I hope that our technical people will sort this out by next week's lecture, as it left me feeling like this:-

Very work-focused today, as I have had do some more this evening (my Head of Department has had to go off for a few days, which falls on me as his Deputy to cover, so the next week should be fun:-)!)

Still, it is nice to be back and catching up with colleagues I've not seen for months, and the place does feel a lot more energised with students surging back and forth, rather than the empty corridors of Summer.

Time now for a cup of tea and put the computer to bed for the night...

Monday, 27 September 2010

My family

So far I've not mentioned other members of family as needed to get the ok from them. They are all happy to be introduced to the www so here goes. First of all there's Ben - my son from first marriage but firmly bonded with M his step-father. Ben is 39 years old and has been married to Lena for just over a year now. They live in Birmingham - I know, it's a shame but someone's got to live there I suppose - but are also hatching escape plans of their own thank goodness! Ben is a teacher and Lena a researcher. They have two cats. Then there is Daniel, our nephew (son of my sister, Di). Dan is 30, single, a complete computer nerd (self-confessed) but great fun and absolutely adorable. Di is my big sister, still works full-time for a charity and lives in the same village as Dan. My brother, also older than me, lives in Oregon and writes/plays/records music, grows his own veg and, I'm pleased to see, following this blog! I also have a couple of old aunts, cousins, etc. but not really in touch any more. I'll let Marcus tell you about his "new" family....we've only known them for a few months and they are all lovely. So that's the clan....not many of us but we get along - mostly!
The pics are the happy couple and Dan...aren't they lovely!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The best laid plans...

On Friday, we saw the excellent Argentinean film "The Secret In Their Eyes" (winner of the 2010 Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Filmat our local independent cinema. The Little Theatre in Bath. While we were there, we bought tickets to see "Winter's Bone" the following evening - again a highly recommended film.

So, we set off yesterday to drive down into Bath to catch the film - and what we caught was  a traffic jam that seemed to snarl up the whole of the centre of Bath.  Deciding to cut our losses (as we were clearly not going to get there in time), we escaped the snarled-up traffic and drove through the evening sunshine up round by Bath racecourse and came home the long way round.

Su made some goat's cheese on French bread which, with some olives and a glass of wine, served as our accompaniment to a DVD from LoveFilm called "I Love You, Philip Morris", with Jim Carey and Ewan McGregor.  A film about a gay romance with a better performance from McGregor than the Star Wars prequel he was in, and Jim Carey playing Jim Carey.  So we got to the cinema after all!

Yesterday and this morning I did some of that painting that Su was moaning about the other day, but there's more to come!

We are off to Westonbirt (the national arboretum, just up the road) soon with Bella and another two little dogs from the house where Su works.  This is a regular haunt of ours, and amazing in Autumn. Blow some of my cobwebs away.

Still thinking and talking about changing our lives - need to think both what we will do with ourselves for fun and/or money and where we might do those things.  Warmer than the UK is a continuing definite criterion (unless Red Ed can make the sun shine all year round under Definitely Not New Labour:-)!),  hence our looking at Spain & Portugal and/or Italy and/or more of Greece next Summer.

It is Open Mic night down at St James Wine Vaults tonight.  I keep threatening to go and do a solo spot (the band, "Left At The Lights" are temporarily in abeyance as our electric mandolin player will be going to hospital for an operation soon) - so I'll shake off aches and pains and excuses and thoughts of work and go and croak tonight, maybe!

Today's photograph is of the view from my home office/spare room window, as it is a better light and a better time of day than before. 

Green trees, green fields and some blue sky at the moment

Friday, 24 September 2010

Until I slipped a few discs in my back last year I was earning my keep as a gardener. I've kept one customer as she's very kindly employed two other gardeners to do all the work which I now supervise!
Today's pics show our own raised beds which occupy pride of place in the front garden for all the world to see. This is their first year and I'm so pleased with results. We had our first crops from April (cut and come again lettuce leaves) followed by carrots, spring onions, beetroot, rocket, radishes and tomatoes in abundance. The toms are still producing and I've replanted with leeks and more carrots and beetroot. There's also a rather nice salad leaf growing but I can't remember the name and I've chucked the packet.
I've had to put lots of sticks in the soil to deter all the local cats that think it's a handy cat tray. Was hoping Bella would see them off but she just sits and watches??????

Thinking about change is tricky…

… when you're full of aches and pains, attend meetings that you aren't really keen on being at, do a job that has been abolished (but not just yet) and the sun isn't shining!.

So I started taking photographs of the view from my desk at home, and started thinking that they aren't good enough for the blog. Then the lovely s Su said that's what I should write about. In a comment on an earlier post, Greg asked for me to describe Su, and for Su to describe me to give him some context for our plans for change.  Su is great - full of energy and verve and always keen to find out what's round the next corner, while I'm a grumpy old fart :-)!!!

So, my photograph for today is not the view out of the window, but where we were last Thursday evening (looking at the mosque at Rethymnon Fortezza)

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Yesterday met up with old friend Patsi for lunch in Bristol. Had the best chips I've ever tasted! It was lovely to catch up and of course swap "health" stories which seems to be what everyone over 60 does! My car is now fixed - £200 - ouch!

Wednesdays is "two-for-one" cinema offer plus Marcus had a "two-for-one" Pizza Express voucher so we thought we'd make a night of you can see we know how to have a good time! I had pasta which was surprisingly good and M had a salad (he's weight-watching which I don't think he's mentioned in this blog yet - oops, was it a secret?) We then went to see "Certified Copy" but it was so boring we both fell asleep.

Today I'm going to start reading my Open University course stuff. I've created a space for myself in our bedroom which looks very efficient and inviting....just hope it works. My problem is not being able concentrate in a sitting position for long periods of time so studying has always been difficult....but the books they've sent me look interesting....lots of pretty pictures (I'm doing Art AA100 foundation course which looked the easiest).

Meanwhile have started researching the "escape plans" for next year. We're going away for 4 or 5 far we've decided on driving/getting train round Spain and Portugal but that could change! I'd like to see Alaska.

Pics today are Randall keeping an eye on things from top of shed and a view from village in Crete where you can find the oldest olive tree....

The cats are called…

… Randall (ginger Tom) and Zilla (tortoiseshell female), both with a dusting of icing sugar. They came from Bristol RSPCA in January 2009 having been found on the street, and are brother and sister.  Quite delightful, even if they shed fur a little too readily for looking smart (never my strongest point). Zilla gets on extremely well with Bella, while Randall tolerates being licked by her.

So, I'm investigating what UWE's enhanced voluntary severance package might offer me, as well as options for phased or early retirement.  Pity I got started in education pension scheme so late - all that saving the world stuff got in the way of a "straight" career path. Thinking of pensions in the face of nuclear holocaust didn't seem important :-)!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

There's another blog I look at daily - I suppose it's what inspired me to imagine it's possible to make dramatic changes without the world coming to an end! If you've ever been to Symi you'll understand why the writer and his partner decided to live their dream. It's a beautiful Greek island close to Rhodes with no airport so getting there is a bit of an effort. We've had a couple of holidays there - perfect place to unwind - but could I live there permanently? Would like to try!! We've just got back from two weeks driving round Crete......wish I was still there....or somewhere else warm. The pic was taken in southern Crete. We drove down from the mountains and stopped here for a coffee before heading off to find a beach and a swim......
But today more mundane issues to address...the car is stuck in a garage on other side of the city so at some point I have to face getting two buses to collect it. Decided to tackle domestic jobs I'd rather Marcus did i.e. painting a wall, oiling the new doors and table, painting inside the chimney breast (the one where the woodburning stove is installed) and of course there's the gardens and allotment to see to. Will make a list.
The sun has just come out, the temperature is rising and promises to be a good day.

Monday, 20 September 2010

First Step

We have to start somewhere, and this is it! We have resolved to do at least one new thing each week to get used to the idea, the feeling and the practice of change as a  first step.  This is our first blog together...