Thursday, 31 May 2007

I never thought I'd say this...

The Brits have the longest working hours of any western so-called civilisation. And yet we also have one of the lowest productivities per head in the same peer group. Therefore our productivity per hour is rock bottom.

So why does it appear that we're so busy?

My belief, having observed a number of companies both here and abroad, is that we are busy doing nothing much productive. We work on the wrong things. We do a lot of things for show rather than profit, we are allergic to good process and we're basically a nation of jobsworths.

Not us of course. Anyone who joins in here in massively productive and positively holding up the economy single-handedly. If a group of people can do something single-handedly, but I'm not sure what the right word is for 'group-handedly'.

While we continue to mock other economies for their obsessiveness about efficiency (Germany, Japan), their cost effectiveness (India, Eastern Europe) or their laissez-faire, if we are not going to be very productive let's at least make sure that we don't work long hours attitude (France, Italy) we will never compete with them. I think we should at least pick one of these to join in with. Efficiency and cost effectiveness are hard work.

Just for once, I suggest that we align ourselves shoulder to shoulder with the French and the Italians.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

I feel sorry for Birmingham

Poor old Birmingham. It comes in for a lot of stick. Its post war architecture was first for the criticism. Then there's the accent - how many times have I heard people say that it's impossible to sound intelligent with it? And now the final blow - there are no pretty girls in Birmingham. None. Not a single one. Allegedly. According to the Miss Great Britain organizers anyway. And I guess they should know. Despite a number of fairly obvious lapses of judgement - like crowning Danielle Lloyd as Miss GB for example.

Just one question. Why, if you can't find a pretty girl in Birmingham, would you pick instead a chav-queen Colleen looky-likey from Stoke?

I mean Stoke, for goodness sake. What were they thinking?

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Pikeys, pikeys, wherever you go...

Well I must say that they have a better class of pikey in Padstow.

I'd never been before. Despite my numerous trips to Cornwall, we usually zoom past all those "up-country" trendy parts and descend into the real vile extremity. So I was intrigued to see what it was going to be like. I can't help but be somewhat disappointed. I didn't see Rick Stein, I didn't see a statue of Chalky and I DID see lots of pikey Brits. They were the type of pikeys that clearly have money. Now a few years ago this would have ruled them out of the pikey classes altogether but I fear that the mere possession of a few quid isn't sufficient these days to become excluded. The evidence is all around you in Padstow.

The dress 'sense' is similar to downtown Stevenage only with designer labels instead of Primark anonymity. The language is similar to Harlow Town Centre but with a plummy accent. The cars are trashy BWMs and Mercs instead of trashy Fiestas and Subarus. But pikeys they are still.

The crowning moment was a conversation overheard by me between a father (fortysomething, kitted in designer shorts, t-shirt, deck shoes and sunglasses, plus earring) and his early teenage daughter (white lycra leggings with some logo across the butt and a navel exposing crop top with matching logo, highlighted hair and designer shades too) about the pubic nature of eyebrow hair, all in distinctly estuary accents. I recognise these easily having one myself!

Hey, but at least Padstow has Fish n Chip cafe's that give you a plate, knife and fork instead of forcing you and your young kids to struggle with a polystyrene tray and a wooden chip fork, as we had to endure in Wells last week. And that's despite Wells allegedly being the focal point for the Chelsea-on-Sea bit of North Norfolk just as Padstow is the centre of the equivalent movement in Cornwall. I suppose it's all just further evidence for my pikeys wherever you go theory.

Maybe I protest too much. Estuary accent - check. Fat Face clothing - check. Eating in a Fish n Chip cafe - check. Oh no, it must be true. I am a pikey myself. Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrggggghhhhhh!!!

Monday, 28 May 2007

Pass the bottle...

Our attitudes to alcohol in this country leave me exasperated. So we have a new proposal for labelling the stuff so that people will be able to more accurately know when they are drinking too much. And this comes on top of the government changing their advice on drinking to pregnant women contrary to any evidence whatsoever, because they don't think people understand what "1 or 2" units once or twice a week actually means.

Are we all really that stupid as a nation? I'm not that stupid. Nor are a lot of the people I know. So are all the people I don't know (let's call them the pikeys for simplicity) that stupid.

Let's look at it. We are technically allowed to drink 3-4 units per day if we are a man or 2-3 units if we are a woman. If we drink so much that we forget whether we are a man or a woman, I'd suggest that 3 units is the right target as both targets have that in common, but it doesn't really matter because you'll be well over if you've drunk enough to forget anyway.

Now, whether I'm drinking high strength beer or normal strength wine, I know that I've had too much when I reach about that amount. I don't do it too often which may have something to do with my low tolerance levels. But I know that if I go beyond one glass of anything on any day, then it's probably too much and I'm not doing myself any good. I have a drink because I enjoy it, but that is exactly what I have - a drink - singular, lonely, one drink. And surely that's easy enough for anyone to count, even the most mathematically challenged pikey. One drink - OK, more than one - probably too much. DOes anyone not get that?

So are the labels going to help? I doubt it somehow. We have a pretty unhealthy attitude to alcohol in this country and have done for generations. When I think about what makes us British/English then binge drinking comes fairly high up the list. Ever since King Alfred drowned his sorrows with ale or mead after burning the cakes (or maybe even before that) we have been a nation of drunks. A few extra numbers on our bottles won't change that.

Maybe the absurd idea that pregnant pikey women shouldn't drink anything because they are too stupid to work out how much 1 or 2 units are is really the answer. Maybe the real issue is in utero alcohol addiction which then carries on through our entire lives. And maybe, just maybe, the government are right to suggest complete abstinence.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Short termism

Yet another example today of short termism in our society. In order to promote green spaces, you'd think that we would create a new green space, plant some trees, some grass. Return a piece of brownfield land to green space to show what to do.

But no, we instead put down some turf for 2 days - yes count them, one, two - in Trafalgar Square. So it's almost literally here today and gone tomorrow. The turf will be moved to other parks but I assume to replace existent green space rather than create new ones. I don't know about turf but I assume that being laid on concrete for two days can't do it much good - let's just hope that it takes in it's new location. Only tourists go to Trafalgar Square anyway so there's likely to be little impact on the good burghers of London Town.

I propose that instead, if we really want to promote green spaces we really make a new one. Take a street, close it, send the diggers in to remove the concrete and then plant some real grass and some real trees and then leave there for ever.

My suggestions? Whitehall would be good. However, Downing Street would be smaller but more impactful. Visiting ministers should arrive on a goat instead of in a chauffeur driven gas guzzler. Or a donkey for the PM for an added impact of biblical proportions. Of course when ministers are called to Number 10 to be sacked they will have to leave on the ride-on mower so that their final exit from the street (or now renamed Downing Field) will be of some use (biodiesel driven from left over chip fat, of course).

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Confession time!

The 9 weeks is up. The end of phase 1 of the Moose's Fatfighters.

Weigh-in tonight shows that I lost 3kg in the 9 weeks, as opposed to the 12kg that was the target. I should be thinking that the result is pathetic. But you lot told me not to be too hard on myself. So let's focus first on the positives:
  • I lost 3 kg!!!
  • I'm at my lowest weight for about 5 years.
  • My fat % has dropped significantly. That means I've put on c. 3kg of muscle since I started. Meaning I've lost 6kg of fat.
  • I feel thinner and fitter than in a long while.
  • The trousers I'm wearing now are 1 size smaller than 9 weeks ago and are feeling loose.
  • I've had to add 2 holes to each of my favourite belts.
  • I'm eating less. Even when I do binge the binges are smaller.
  • I'm often not eating until I'm hungry rather than when it's a mealtime.
  • I'm eating better. More veg and fruit. Less fried stuff.

So what went wrong?

  • I didn't stick to the rules.

That's it really. There are so many of the rules I didn't stick to fully that detailed analysis is pointless.

What happens now? Phase 2 started today. Originally I had planned to give myself 4 weeks off now - not off completely but a month of keeping the weight stable rather than trying to reduce it. But the reality is that I lost the 3kg in the first 4 weeks so I've already been roughly constant for 5 weeks. So I'm going to plough on now. I've written a new target and renewed my desire to stick to my own rules. I'm going for a longer time but more weight loss. 20kg in 20 weeks this time. My spreadsheet has been drawn up, I'm ready to go, and as soon as this is posted I'm going to add up my calorie total for today.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Ding bat, wally and gold digger?

A report book designed to alert teachers to the special needs of pupils is found on a Kentish street containing some derogatory statements about some of these pupils and their parents. "Ding bat" and "wally" seem to be the media's favourites, while one mother is allegedly "a bit rough".

My reaction to the story was to laugh in a slightly embarrassed way. Sometimes the truth, while amusing, is better not uttered in exactly the way we might think it or indeed in a way that is easily and immediately understood. I feel for people in the situation of having to compile such reports. The expectations on them are that they are professional, factual and evidential in their treatment yet they should also use clear language. While "ding bat" cannot be claimed to be particularly professional it does convey a succinct truth which is hard to beat for clarity. As a casual reader I immediately had a vivid picture in my mind of what this particular child is like and how you might need to treat them. Sometimes you face a situation where you just have to call a spade a spade.

Reading the story seemed to highlight an important difference in the priorities. The school themselves was apparently most concerned with the report book having been left on the street while the local educational authority was most concerned with the language used and the loss of the book was relegated to second place. This reminded me of the time in one of my previous corporate lives when the information that finance analysts doing the same jobs in different divisions of the company had significantly different salaries. I was in the lower paid group. There was outrage among the analysts - the lower paid ones for being lower paid and the higher paid ones for it coming out. There was also outrage among the management - not for the inequality that had evolved but rather for the release of confidential information that exposed the inequality. Their first reaction was to start a witch hunt to determine who the source of the leak was.

Another interesting priority question surrounds the motivation for the finder of this report book. I would like to think that if I found something on the street my first reaction would be to think "Who does this belong to and how can I return it to them?" But not this lady - she was straight on to the BBC instead. Maybe I don't have the right nose for an opportunity.

Friday, 18 May 2007

The state of the nation

I'm in a reflective mood for a Friday.

Buoyed by the excellent round of golf I played yesterday (second best ever - I went in to thank the pro for his help afterwards as I know it was his advice that made a huge difference) I was on a bit of a high yesterday as I got home. Big mistake. Pride comes before a fall and boy did I fall a long way. I won't go into the details except to say that my reflection on it this morning has mellowed my reaction somewhat and I understand what happened. Suffice to say that my dream/ideal job that I mentioned yesterday turned out to be a giant bubble, burst with a very loud bang within an instant of starting to discuss it.

Every now and then I do a piece of reflection that I call 'the state of the nation' - named after the President of the US's speech he does every year, except my nation is the Moose nation. A birthday is as good a time as any to do this, although New Year also lends itself quite well. Basically I do a quick review of my life, the various roles I play (eg husband, father, work etc) and how I'm doing and feeling in each of them. I plan to do that today but I have a sense of foreboding that it ain't pretty. Nothing new comes up in the review, nothing that I don't know already, so the feeling in the pit of my stomach beforehand is quite a good prediction of the more formal review result still to come. There is of course the possibility that the blue mist has descended and that the gut feeling comes more from that than from the real objective assessment of my life. I'm going to keep holding out for that small shred of hope for as long as I can.

This will be my last post before I go over the hill. I hope to see you all safe and well on the other side, as what is hopefully the second half of my life begins on Sunday...I would like to invite you all to a virtual glass-raising at 8.30pm on Sunday evening with the beverage of your choice. The one area of my life that has improved dramatically during the 40th year of my life is that I have gained a group of friends that have become very important to me...cheers to all of you!

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Life is simple

Popping in and out today...of the office, not of anything else.

My first EVER golf lesson this morning - I got 15 minutes free as part of joining the club. Surprisingly it was actually quite useful. Although the proof of the pudding is in the eating and I'm playing a round this afternoon with a potential future work/employment partner bloke. That makes it sound vaguely 'worky' rather than just play, doesn't it? So I shall see if the advice I got can be successfully put into practice.

I have been trawling the websites and contacting recruitment consultants today. I need to be 'out there' looking. Although I am enjoying this life, I think in reality it is just a holiday. I'm in the third week and getting itchy feet...that's about normal, I guess.

When you break things down they can become very simple. Take jobs and only have to get two things right for both to be brilliant. In golf it's distance and direction. With jobs it's the right role in the right location. Trawling through (other job sites are available) I've seen loads of jobs in the right location that I don't want to do, and loads of great sounding jobs in the wrong places. Only one was a great sounding job in the right place. I am waiting for a call back on that one...well there was one other that was interesting in a fantastic location but not our current one. I'd up and move there tomorrow for this job (think a long way south west but before you'd get wet...) - not just me involved though.

It's time to go public with the plan for the potential combined OAMC/40th birthday drink. I say potential because it looks like not many will be able to make it. So here's the plan:
Gatwick (don't know exactly where yet - any suggestions gratefully accepted), Wednesday 23rd May, 7pm...e-mail me if you can come.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Manic Monday?

After a big weekend of sport, I feel I must congratulate those who got the results they wanted (especially Lyndyloo and, well, me!) and commiserate with those that didn't (sorry Gaby and any Sheffield Utd lurkers!) Who would have guessed that West Ham would finish above Fulham? At the moment anyway...

This weekend went very fast indeed - maybe the long one last weekend set the expectations just a little too high. I played golf with an ex-colleague on Saturday morning, went to a church get-together with the mooselets in the afternoon. On Sunday afternoon we went to a very very wet craft fair where we met up with the Moose muvva.

And I'm in the office pre-9am...the first time that's happened in a couple of weeks. I am going to do a determined couple of hours writing. Finishing chapter 6 is the goal for today. And if I can get 1,000 words of Chapter 7 done too I will be even happier.

You can forget how much you like a radio presenter - there is something I really like about Johnnie Walker.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

How life has changed...

So it seems that in the political life of this little island, today, May 10th was an historic day.

I remember a certain day, in 1990 or 1991 I believe it was, that the last PM to serve more than ten years was expelled by her party. I was working in an office in London and the news was broken to my three roomies and me by one of the more senior members of the office running up the stairs and coming into our room dancing and chanting "The bitch has gone, the bitch has gone!" Most of this was for the sole benefit of one of our number who was a member of the Conservative Party and one of the staunchest Thatcherites I have ever encountered.

Today I heard Blair's speech sitting in the car park of Aldi, shortly before observing a presumed alcoholic buying a bottle of wine with pennies.

A lot has changed in the last ten years and even more since 1990/91. The main thing being that I don't think the UK had been introduced to Aldi then, so the poor alcoholics had to buy their booze with pennies from other places instead. Probably Tesco or Kwik Save.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Not going to do it tonight...

Am revisiting the evening posting routine to avoid the creeping renewal of the old habit of sleeping on the sofa til all hours.

I had a very strange experience this evening. I did my weigh in and registered a 2kg loss since last week! And I didn't even think I'd been that good. Must be all the golf - am trying to plan tomorrow so that I can do lots of mooselet duties, keep away from the house til 2pm (including height of pikeyness visit to Lidl), and then sneak off for a round.

Very pleasurable Kaffee und Kuchen this afternoon. Thanks everyone for coming.

The world is all right now

I have spent this morning putting it that way.

I was on the golf course stuck behind the 'seniors' - all of them in 4's, playing slowly as if they own the place, and me on my own going nowhere slowly. After the 5th I got fed up and cut to the 13th tee where there was a guy on his own. I asked if I could join him. We got on famously. I don't know whether it's a good or bad thing to have so much in common with someone in their 70's (guessing there - he retired in 1995...) but we had a good old chat about life the universe and everything, and had to go and have a coffee in the clubhouse afterwards to carry it on!

Oh, and I birdied the 14th!

So now I'm at the office having just stuffed my face with apple, tangerine, blueberries, raisins, seeds and yogurt (all I've eaten all day).

Shelves went up yesterday evening - looking good. Mooselet 2 struggled a bit at swimming, I think due to his cold, but he did do one terrific width unaided and remembering to breathe! In and out. At the right times.

Glad everyone is feeling better today. Well it is Wednesday after all. I would therefore like to invite everyone to a virtual Kaffee und Kuchen party. It will be at the Lorelei overlooking the Rhine at 3pm. Bring your favourite slice of cake with you and an extra slice for me!

Monday, 7 May 2007

Let them eat cake!

So a long weekend nears an end. Strange that a Bank Holiday still seems to be so different even when you don't have a job.
Busyness continues...Swedish furniture store visit in MK on Saturday (why can't we get out of there without spending over £300?), TruckFest on Sunday afternoon (didn't see Sally B!) and putting together the new shelves today (nice!) plus a quick trip out for coffee and cake.

The whole afternoon tea/coffee and cake experience is so disappointing in England. We used to relish the Kaffee und Kuchen trips in Germany - proper coffee you could stand your spoon up in and cakes, oh the cakes. Fruity, creamy, whatever you wanted - always good whatever you chose even if it was the Rhabarber-streusel-kuchen (an extremely unusual choice for me as I'm no fan of Rhubarb after an unfortunate incident involving school dinners when I was 6).
This afternoon we were presented with a couple of lumps of dry stuff that tasted vaguely of the advertised flavours (namely raspberry/coconut for Mrs Moose and chocolate for me) but with little else to distinguish them from a piece of particularly crumbly chalk. I think the mooselets choice of a toasted teacake was the best one as at least they had jam with it to make it taste of something and be somewhat moist.

Have just polished off the remains of a bottle of Pinot Grigio Blush. The new wineracks we got on Saturday have reminded us what wine we have had sitting on top of the fridge for ages.

Tuesday holds swimming lesson duties for Mooselet 2 and probably a return visit to MK and the Swedish furniture store for more shelves in the same style. I refuse to use the words 'I told you so' even though we bought the amount of shelves that Mrs Moose recommended and now need to return to buy the remainder of what I suggested in the first place. Also, I'll try not to spend over £300 again! And I hope I'll get another 1,000 words written once I get to the office.

Friday, 4 May 2007


My first glass of red is down but I think I'll have to have another to toast Hazel's success! Well done!

Well, today has seen my hedge trimmed, my grass cut, a new washing machine delivered (and already used 3 times), mooselets delivered to and collected from school, a 1 hour gym session (plus a quick steam) and a visit to Pizza Hut to avoid having to cook. Mooselet number 1 asked why McDonalds was so popular. 'Because fat and sugar and salt are addictive'. Wish I hadn't bothered as it then took me half an hour to try and explain! Then we moved on to nicotine!

And on top of all that, I fell asleep at about 8.45pm last night on the sofa and woke at 2am, thus missing House completely. Disaster. Was Cameron looking hot?

Usual Friday night :-( Let's hope the weekend gets better.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Busy busy busy

Feeling tired this morning but then I did go for it rather in the new gym this morning. It's strange getting used to such a small gym - my other one is a large chain where you hardly ever have to train next to someone else, ideal for an anti-social moose with an i-pod. In this one you are nearly always next to someone. I had to laugh in the sauna though - it's one with coals but they've obviously removed the bucket of water and the ladle due to too many fights between sauna-indulgers like CLP!

After the gym, I descended to the depths of pikeyness for breakfast - I went to the M supermarket cafe. It is the only place on the way to the office. Not sure I'll be doing that again in a hurry.

Weigh-in last night: I've lost 0.6kg of the 1kg I'd put on.

The Writers group talk last night was good. A real life crime writer (6 books published) talking about research for novels. A great source of ideas, encouragement and confidence that I'm not doing everything wrong. Was also sitting next to a really interesting guy and chatted with him a lot beforehand and during the break. The writer talked about writing about 500 words per day. I'm off to do today's quota...

I have to visit the school that mooselet 2 won't be attending in September. Pointless apart from the fact that we have to say we've been.

Then I'm playing my first round of golf of the year this evening. All in all a busy day.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

How did I ever have time to work?

I'm feeling a little left out. Photos of cleavage flying around Edinburgh, the earth moving in Kent and Windsor...

But the house is as clean and tidy as it's been for ages, as is the front garden. The neighbours will start to think we are tarting the place up ready to sell. My lecherous next door neighbour doesn't believe I don't have a job lined up and I shamed him into cutting his front lawn yesterday. I have this unusual thing at the moment that I keep doing jobs. Most unlike me. Mrs Moose went off to colect the mooselets who had each been at different friends for after school playtime and tea. In the hour or two she was gone I teak-oiled our garden bench, swept the drive and the path, and did the ironing.
This morning I've been on swimming lesson duty for mooselet #2 and then a DIY trip. Have just arrived at the office for a rest.

I visited the golf club yesterday and I think I will join. It has a fitness club too and is half way to here so it's just too convenient to pass up. Well, I'm convinced. I am planning to go later this afternoon and part with my cash.