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Some things never change

I'm procrastinating in the worst possible way. I actually logged on this morning to do my annual tax self-assessment, which is due in by the 1st of May; but as you can see, other sites hold much more appeal for me than that of our equivalent of the UK's HMRC or US' IRS, de Belastingdienst.

I hadn't realised it had been a couple of weeks since I posted my last message here; I thought it had been just the other day, but I'll try to cut down on my absences from now on. LJ certainly has changed its appearance since I was last a regular poster, and I'll have to find my way around again, but I'm sure I'll get the hang of it soon enough. If only I can think of something to write about! Hang on, I know: Poldark!

Back in the 70s, there was this TV series starring Robin Ellis and the late Angharad Rees, of which I had (and still have) fond memories. Now, the BBC have remade it, updated it for a modern audience. The pace has picked up, and there are far more scenes shot outdoors than I remember the original ever showing, and I do like to tune in every Sunday night for another episode...though I think I somehow do still prefer the original. Robin Ellis has a bit part in this series as a magistrate Poldark runs into now and again, and every time he's in shot, I squeal delightedly; but judging from the news I've read online, I seem to be missing the point of this televisual offering entirely, which is: to perv on Aidan Turner. It seems every UK news site I turn to (to check on the latest re: the various parties' election campaigns) these days is devoting an inordinate amount of print to the main character's appeal to the ladies...and to his woefully inept way of scything. Even though we only saw him engaged in this activity once, and for less than a minute, the picture of it is plastered everywhere. And I'm mystified as to why this should be, when Mr. Turner has appeared on our screens for years, and been pleasing to the eye for all that time. It's not as if in Poldark, he's taken his top off for the very first time, either. I've actually seen him butt-naked in Desperate Romantics, as well as in Being Human, but I don't remember the press getting hot under the collar in those instances...

Some things never change, and whilst I've been away from LJ, I have been adding to my shoe collection, although not as much as you might suppose. What with me having been in and out of work repeatedly, the last few years have been difficult financially, and I've had to curb my spending on non-essentials. So I've bought a few pairs of trainers (for everyday wear), and a few pair of dress shoes (for interviews), but nothing really fun - and crucially, nothing expensive. I have become a bargain hunter! Traditionally, I have always marked and celebrated the getting of a new job by getting a new pair of shoes:

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and, in November 2013 when I got the news I would be working for NHR and go to California, I bought these:

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You want to see the pair that will forever -in my mind- be associated with receiving my first pay from where I am now? Alright then:

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Cheap, cheerful, comfortable...how have the mighty fallen!

It's been a while, hasn't it?

So...I started in a new job a little over a month ago. It's another of those 6 months contracts, and even though my manager has already asked me if I'd like to stay on IF a position opens up within the company, I'll probably be jobless again by September. Until then though, I'll just give it everything I have; while applying for other jobs outside of the company in my spare time.

I'm working as a training coordinator for a marketing analytics company, and the clue to my job description is in the title: I plan and coordinate the training sessions for our partners and clients in the EMEA region, so that they can become certified (super)users of our marketing and business analytics software. Once they've reached that status, they'll be able to measure and weigh the reach and effectiveness of their online presence and campaigns. Our clients are mostly publishers, media agencies and broadcasting organisations, but there's also a few charities, non-profit health organisations, and even a cruise liner company that want to find out whether their investments in online platforms are paying off. The trainings can be delivered online, through open enrolment, or in company as a live classroom session, and can last from a few hours to a few days. It's an interesting new area for me, and I've taken a few online courses myself to familiarise myself with the product -- but mainly I'm just there to look after the organisational and administrative sides of things.

David Berkeley visited The Netherlands in the last week of March, and I took some of my erstwhile colleagues at Curvature to see him in Amsterdam. I was a bit nervous about bringing them, but I needn't have been: they absolutely loved him. Note to self: you have got excellent taste in music, so by all means, share it!

2014 Booklist

Last year, I read a disappointing total of 33 books, which is about 20 less than my usual tally. This year, I'm behind on my reading as well - what's the matter with me?

1) Sarah Gristwood, Arbella: England's Lost Queen - non-fiction I'd heard the name Ar(a)bella Stuart before, but I never knew who she was or that she had briefly been in the running to succeed Elizabeth I on the English throne. She doesn't seem to have had much of a life, though.

2) Marion Davies, The Times We Had: Life with William Randolph Hearst - non-fiction I picked this up at Hearst Castle - Marion Davies, silent movie star, reminisces about her life at San Simeon (which IMO, was distinctly meh).

3) Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - pensioner Harold Fry sets out to post a letter, then decides to deliver it himself by walking from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed. An utterly moving story of love and loss.

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Good and bad in equal measure

:-D

I have a new bicycle!

Trek L400


I used to say I hated cycling, and I did...but I've changed my mind. Turns out all I needed was a better bike. I honestly think I could take this bike and ride it all the way to Spain and back, if I could spare the time; it rides like a dream!

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David Berkeley came to The Netherlands last month, on a short tour of places I had never even heard of (let alone visited) before. I managed to catch two of his shows, and he was beyond brilliant. I couldn't believe it had been a full 6 years since I last saw him - I hope it won't be as long again.

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:-(

The Dutch equivalent of HMRC have decided I owe them a couple of hundred euros. They want it paid in full, pronto.

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Manasse has a bladder infection. The vet gave him a shot today, but from tomorrow, I will have to feed him his pills...which, going on past experience, is not a task I'm looking forward to. He's literally going to rip me to shreds.

LJ, behave, will you?

Why is LJ making it so difficult to respond to any comments on my posts? Every time I try, a pop-up appears to tell me I've not chosen any options. What options? What is this?

If I then click 'OK', my response may or may not post anyway. Mostly not.

It's driving me up the wall.

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Work is a four-letter word

It had to happen sometime, of course, only I hadn't counted on it happening so soon: 8 months after starting in my new job, I've fallen seriously out of love with it. For months, my manager had been telling me what a great job I'd been doing, and how glad she was to have me on board. Then, 4 weeks ago, she came over. The first thing she told me when we met up that Monday morning, was that she was no longer my manager; that, in fact, she'd handed over the responsibility to someone called Jessica about 2 months previously. After that, for the rest of her week long stay, I hardly saw her, except when she came to hug me before getting in the taxi to take her to the airport and back to California. Thursday, a week and a half ago, around 5:30pm, she called me out of the blue, to give me my first mid-year review...and in the space of 7 minutes over the phone, proceeded to let me know that my work has been, in her estimation, unsatisfactory on every level. She took me completely by surprise, and I just couldn't believe my ears. I'd thought I was doing okay; in fact, she'd told me on numerous occasions that I was doing great, so this review, in which I scored 1.63 on a scale of 1-5, upset me greatly. So much so, that I couldn't stop the tears from falling after she'd hung up. Honestly, I was in pieces. My co-workers, from the CFO to the HR manager, were as shocked as I was when I told them what had just happened, and the latter advised me to request a) examples of my work not being up to scratch, and b) for an action plan to be put together, so that I could try to improve on those areas before my next review in December (presuming I won't be sacked before then). Which I did...but a week has gone by, and I've not heard back from her; nor have I ever heard a peep out of this Jessica, to whom I'm supposed to report.

Meanwhile, the company's gone through a rebranding exercise - we're no longer called Network Hardware Resale, but Curvature. The old name had to go as we're shifting our position from primarily being a reseller of refurbished and legacy network hardware to a solution-based IT company that also buys and sells refurbished and legacy network hardware. My job, as Services Administrator, is to work on the solution side of things, i.e. our trump card, our lifetime warranty and professional services programme.

Anyway, last week at the launch party, I got talking to a few people and was reliably informed that in Europe, we've been falling behind the projected figures for the sales of this programme over the last 2 quarters; and I think my bad review may owe more to this fact than to my actual performance, or lack of it -- if the figures don't pick up, and soon, they might decide to ditch me when my contract expires on December 1st, or perhaps even sooner. The review then, could be a first step in building the case against me, necessary under Dutch employment law.

BTW, the new name, Curvature? They spent 18 months and countless millions working with a 'leading global rebranding marketing company in LA' to come up with it; all the while stressing that our major push over the next few years will be to break into the eastern European market. You would think then, that these global rebranding experts would have tested out the name in that geographical area, wouldn't you? But it transpired they only tested it out on a panel of 400 people in the US, who apparently like that it stands for 'a measurement of change'. Too bad, then, that when it's pronounced in a Slavic accent, that meaning changes to "Whore Tours"...

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Futebol - that's how you do it!



4 Years ago in the final, we lost to Spain in the penalty shoot-out (0-1); last night in Salvador de Bahia, we annihilated the title defender. Let's hope the Dutch side will continue in this tournament the way they've begun -- though the final is a long, long way away still.

I'm a wreck

You know you've been away from LJ too long when you start to regret that there isn't a 'Like'-button on the entries in your Friends...Feed, is it now? Seems that together with the new lay-out, the terminology has changed, though I may be mistaken in that. Like I said, been away too long. Can't find half the functionalities, and what's this weird "You haven't selected an action to perform"-message that pops up every time I hit 'Post' trying to tell me? I click OK and it posts anyway...

Much as I enjoy being in work again, and doing the work that I do, I do hate that a couple of months in, my elbow's started to play up again. I've been having recurring tennis arm/RSI problems in my right arm for a number of years now, but after an intensive echotherapy treatment in 2010, had thought myself free of pain forever. Or, if not forever, free of pain as long as my working conditions could be maintained at an optimum. Unfortunately, whatever else my employer may be, ergonomically conscious, they're not. Our desks are not adjustable in height, and so predictably, my old injury's come back. No one else in the company seems to have a problem with it though, and with the spectre of long-term unemployment behind and the prospect of a revision of my contracted status ahead of me in a mere 5 months, I'm more than a little reluctant to bring it up. Luckily, I still have the TENS machine curiouswombat sent me years ago, and the dumbbell exercises my physiotherapist prescribed me last time I had this problem; and between them, I hope to be able to stop it getting worse.

The more observant will have noticed that I'm writing this during the day, when it's not a public or bank holiday, and I'm not writing this during a lull at work. I woke up around 4am with the mother of all headaches, which despite me taking an Ibuprofen had developed into the grandmother by 6 and the great-grandmother by 7, so I called in sick. I've taken another painkiller since then, but I'm still feeling distinctly unwell, and I wonder what I may have done to cause this. I had half a glass of wine last night, and though I rarely touch alcohol, I've never had this kind of a reaction to it before, so I'm not sure if that's it. Whatever - I just hope I'll feel better before the day is out.

Also, because the World Cup is about to start, and this is no way to get into the spirit of it.

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Jun. 11th, 2014

David Berkeley is coming to London on Jun 25th, so I'll have to see about getting a flight tomorrow. He's also doing a gig in Amsterdam on Jun 19th, and I'll try my best to be there -- but my manager is flying in from the States next week and there may be a work's dinner in her honour that night. I'll worry about that later, though -- first, let's see if I can get a few days off first.

In other news, I bought a new bike this last weekend. I think this is actually the first time I've bought a bicycle; all my previous ones have been hand-me-downs, with the last one having lasted me for nigh on 30 years. The other day though, one of the cogs that keep the chain moving snapped right off -- metal fatigue, I shouldn't wonder. Anyway, as my primary use for it will be to get me to the station, which even if it's just 5 minutes from my home constitutes as part of my commute, HMRC will allow me a 42% tax benefit on the purchase of it. I thought I'd be mad to forego this opportunity, but alas! it comes with so much paperwork it's unreal. The way it works is that my employer will pay for the bike, and then I will pay my employer back in instalments out of my gross monthly salary, or by handing back some of my holidays. But I won't actually take possession of the bike until the moneys are in the bicycle shopkeeper's account, and this may take a couple of weeks.

Up until a week ago, whenever anyone wanted to discuss Game of Thrones with me, I hadn't a clue what they were on about. They kept telling me how good it was, but I was of the opinion that I didn't need another fandom. How wrong can a person be! I spent all of Pentecost watching Season 1, 2, and 3 back to back, and now I'm hooked. A colleague of mine is downloading Season 4 for me as we speak ;-)

Apologies

I have to say, my recent return to LJ hasn't been going exactly to plan. I had meant to be here a lot more, but I've found, to my shock and surprise, that most evenings I just don't have the energy to crank up the old laptop anymore. I tell myself it's because I'm rarely home before 7:30PM, and by the time I've had my dinner and done the dishes, it's almost time for bed. But that can't be it, as I don't recall I had this problem when I worked at hp and had a similarly bad commute...Perhaps it's just a question of getting older, or of -temporarily, I hope- being short on anecdotes.

Today's Ascension Day, which is a public holiday in The Netherlands...and it's been raining non-stop, leading me to skulk indoors for most of the day, with the exception of singing in church. I hope there'll be sunshine for Pentecost, as that will be our last public holiday before Christmas, and I'd really like a chance to do something nice and outdoors-y for my day off then.

For the last year of so, I've heard people praising the HBO-series Game of Thrones to the skies, and the other day, without meaning to, I came home with the first 3 seasons' box set under my arm. So the weather being what it was, I sat down and watched the first 4 episodes. I'm not sure yet, but I think I like it.

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