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I had just typed up a nice long post, and was putting the final touches to it, when LJ ate it! Unfortunately, Restore from Draft only put back my mood, which I ought to now change to 'irked in the extreme', as the good ship 'Cheerful' has definitely sailed. Bad LJ!

In a nutshell, then: my contract with my current employers got extended till the end of the year, which in real terms means my future is still somewhat uncertain. Which puts me in a quandary: I like my job, and would like to progress in it, but maybe I should keep my options open and stop saying a polite no to all the agencies and headhunters that have suddenly been able to find their way to my LinkedIn profile with all these wonderful opportunities they want to discuss with me. Strike the iron while it's hot, so to speak, as I'm sure they'll all disappear into the woodwork again the minute Yuletide comes around and -God forbid- the company decides to let me go.


KIng's Day


I've decided that from now on, I'll forego the 'pleasure' of spending King's Day in Amsterdam; I'm simply getting too old and too cranky to see the appeal in a day spent jostling and being jostled by the crowds, tripping over full and empty beer cans, tons of litter, drunken students and after queueing for half an hour in McD's, discovering that a trip to the ladies' will suddenly set you back a staggering €2. Home of the Whopper, indeed.

I've yet to make any definite plans, but I am tentatively looking into holiday destinations. I really, really want to go to Iceland, Greenland, or possibly both; but the problem is that I can't find anyone willing to come with, and I've got a sneaking suspicion that for Greenland certainly, a travelling companion is a must have (preferably one that knows their way around a snow scooter and\or a dog sled). As things stand, it looks like I might have to satisfy myself with a city trip to Istanbul later on in the year. One of my friends has never been, and it's been 25 years since my last visit, so...

Things are looking up

I'm not sure whether it's something in the air or the water, but over the last few weeks there's been a spate of good news: several of the people I've met during my period of joblessness, who were similarly numbered among the long-term unemployed, have found work. Consequently, there have been quite a few parties in my recent past.

Meanwhile, I'm reminded that my own contract is coming up for renewal as per June 1st, a mere 6 weeks away...and as of yet, I have had no unequivocal statement that my current employers want me to stay on; but equally, I have had no indication that they want me to leave, either. They seem happy with the work I've done so far, and they always knew that 6 months wouldn't be enough to achieve all my goals and targets, so I'm not too worried it won't get extended by at least another 6 months. Then again, you never can tell these days...

I made my singing debut as a soloist during the Easter Vigil, when a crowd of approx. 1,500 people attended Mass -- the church was filled to the rafters, and I wasn't even nervous! Well, maybe just a little bit, when I first stepped out from the rest of the choir (as a tenor, normally my place is safely tucked away in the back row), but I was fine from the moment I hit my first note, and deeply grateful, if a little surprised, for the applause that followed. To be honest, I can't wait to do it again.

Another first for me this Easter was a visit to the Keukenhof, the world's largest flower garden. Located less than 40 kms from where I live, it may seem strange that I'd never been there, but it was just one of those things I'd never got around to before. The colours and variety of tulips was just astounding

a few picturesCollapse )

though, having been a lifelong fan, I derived most pleasure from the fact I hadn't left it too late to view the narcissi:

keukenhof-09
Happy birthday to jonesiexxx!

It may be a grey and drizzly day today, but this will not detract from my good mood, for which I have 2 very distinct reasons. The first of which is this: passing by a field on my way to the shops earlier, my heart leapt when I saw the storks had returned from wherever it is they spend the winter, and were busy foraging for frogs.

Please excuse the quality of these pictures; I didn't want to disturb them by venturing too closeCollapse )

The second reason is that I will be a soloist in this year's Easter Vigil Mass.

Last autumn, I joined the church choir, after various members as well as the two conductors of it had been pestering me for months. They believed that a lector who reads with such a 'melodious' voice (their word, not mine) would automatically be able to sing as well. Initially, I was very sceptical; but in the end, I let myself be persuaded to audition, thinking that if they heard me sing, they'd realise their mistake and that would be the end of it.

In primary school, our headmaster was also our music teacher. I was 6 when I sang for him. He sent me to the speech therapist, convinced there was something wrong with me. The speech therapist sent me straight back to school with a message for the headmaster that there was nothing she could or even needed to do, as I did not have an impediment - I just had a low voice. Mr. Lina then told me that my voice was all wrong for singing, and wouldn't allow me to open my mouth in any of the school's plays, musicals or recitals. Instead, he gave me the stupid woodblock to play.

Our church's choir masters/mistress teach at the Royal Conservatory. When nervously I sang for them, 45 years after Mr. Lina had told me I didn't have the apparatus for singing, they heard something they liked: a woman who could sing the tenor part. And it just so happened that our choir was low on tenors...really low. In actual fact, there was only one. Sopranos, apparently, are a dime a dozen, and the same goes for the basses. Altos are in shorter supply, but we still have 6 or 7. But tenors are really sought after, and not just in our choir, I'm told.

Anyway, to cut a long story short: even though I still can't read a note of music, I'm getting so much enjoyment out of singing, that the prospect of getting up in front of 1,200 people and leading the choir as a soloist on this one festive occasion doesn't faze me at all. In fact, I'm very much looking forward to it.

As promised:

This morning, I woke up with severe muscle pain from helping my mum put together her bookcases and chest of drawers, and unpacking the last 20 or so boxes of books, papers and household items to be put in them. That is to say, mum provided the commentary while I did all the work. I don't mind, but it never ceases to amaze me that the mother I knew growing up, who was very capable of sorting out her own stuff and other's, in old age professes to be totally help- and clueless about the tiniest things. Case in point: picking up the phone and enquiring whether the nearest GP's surgery to her present abode was taking on new patients. They're just down the road; she could have dropped in anytime. Yet she waited a whole week for me to come and sort it in less than 5 minutes.

Yes, Mum has moved into her new flat, and on the whole appears quite happy to be there. She's been there about 4 weeks now and is starting to make friends with some of her new neighbours, which I'm very pleased about; there's nothing worse than moving somewhere and not having anyone to talk to. Now all that remains is for the curtains I ordered to arrive and be hung, and the 48 boxes to be returned to the moving company (I do hope she will phone for their collection on Monday), and she can get on with the business of really settling in.

Meanwhile, I feel like I'm settling into my new job, which after 4 months may be about time, too. Even with the training I got in the US earlier this year, I'm still learning, as my responsibilities include service delivery logistics (which can be split into procurement, distribution, reverse and forward and to some extent, even global and green logistics) on the one hand, and contract and order management on the other; and sometimes -most times, actually- the lines are blurred. I've only got 2 more months to shine on my present contract, so I'm hoping things will slot into place with me making no more costly mistakes sooner rather than later. On the plus side, I'm getting on really well with my co-workers in Finance, SCM and Operations, and I'm building bridges with Sales as well, which makes coming to work each day an absolute joy.

For those who may be interestedCollapse )

The other day, while at work, I was approached by a headhunter who was hoping to introduce me to one of his clients for what turned out to be an interesting position, also with an American company in The Netherlands, in customer service workforce management. Considering my future at NHR is at this point by no means secure (although I'm hoping that the fact they've invested so much time, effort and money in my training so far will persuade TPTB to extend my contract beyond June, if my engaging personality and sunny disposition won't do it for me), perhaps I should have
explored this possibility. But my loyalty wouldn't let me. Isn't that strange? And possibly, to my disadvantage.

Anyway, I put him in contact with one of my former hp colleagues, who I knew to be in the Work2Work program (meaning she's being made redundant). Now she's going for an interview there on Monday. I wish her well, but I can't help but feel a little bit miffed at the same time: why couldn't any of my 400+ connections on LinkedIn have done the same for me when I was looking for work? Because I tell you, those 2 years in the wilderness have really sapped my confidence, although it is starting to come back now.

Fair warning

I'm coming back to LJ. The decision has been made in the last 5 minutes. I'm too tired and sleepy to type up a long and possibly rambling post just now, but I give you fair warning: as of tomorrow, I will be resurrecting this journal.

Meanwhile, just know this: you have all been missed.

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::points to icon::

...and I think I've got reason to be: I found my mum a new place to live, and she's agreed to move there! In fact, she's looking forward to moving in as per March 1st, or earlier even if we can arrange it. I went to look at the place with her yesterday, and even though it looked bigger in the photographs I'd seen online, Mum seems very happy with it (in particular, its proximity to the shops which are just a 5-minute walk away in her estimation) and is already planning where her dining room table should go.

It's a 1st floor (or 2nd floor for the Americans among you) 3-roomed flat with a balcony big enough to house her garden bench and a collection of flowers in pots, a large modern bathroom and a tiny kitchenette, in sheltered accommodation i.e. there's a restaurant on the ground floor -hence the kitchenette-, a nursing station, and most importantly, there's round-the-clock surveillance so the chance of her getting burgled again is virtually non-existent. The only negative is that it's right on the other side of The Hague to where I live, and on public transport it could take me up to 50 minutes to get there...and it would take my sister about the same time. Still, the main thing is that Mum feels good about the move, and now all that needs to be done is call the movers, pack up her things, and go!

Eureka!

So I came back from my sojourn in California early on Sunday morning; having left the United States (or at least the terra firma of it) early the previous afternoon. And went straight back to work the following morning, which in hindsight was not my brightest ever idea. Severely jetlagged, I had to call in sick this morning, and have spent the day mainly catching up on some much-needed sleep.

Sleep has been a problem for me throughout this trip; I think I managed about 25 minutes a night on average throughout the whole of the first week, and about 2-3 hours during the second - and by the time I came back, I still hadn't managed to sleep through the night. So I'm not surprised that this morning, I just couldn't find the energy to get up. I only hope that from today, things will get better, and I'll be sleeping like a baby again before too long.

Anyway, you all know work was the reason for my visit to Sta. Barbara, but it wasn't all that and no play. I did have some leisure time (more than expected, too, thanks to Martin Luther King Day) and took full advantage of those hours to indulge in touristy things: on my first weekend, I went to Sta. Monica's Third Street Promenade -but saw no buskers I recognised-, then spent the rest of the day on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of Sta. Monica, Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Hollywood -- cheesy in the extreme, but enjoyable nonetheless; and an excellent way to get around and catch your bearings in a city you've never been before. I stopped off and had lunch at the Farmer's Market, and had my first and probably last ever, taste of gator at the Gumbo House there. I found it a rather tough kind of meat, which surprisingly didn't taste of chicken at all (it has more of a fishy flavour, I'd say).

My second weekend, I went up to Hearst Castle -- the place itself didn't appeal to me at all, but the drive up there I enjoyed immensely, even if the landscape all around me seemed blighted by the current drought (although people have assured me it's brown and dusty all year round). I also visited Sta. Barbara Zoo, and took full advantage of my unexpected day off on Jan 20th to go on a whale watching trip off the coast of Ventura...and I saw whales! Seven of them! I also saw lots of sea lions, seals and tumbler dolphins on that trip, but seeing the grey whales was an experience I'll never forget.

Here are some of the many pictures I tookCollapse )

More to follow.

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California, here I come!

Right - I think I've got everything packed for a 3-week stay in the States!

The last month has gone by in a bit of a blur; I've enjoyed going in to work and I'm excited to think I'll be working out of the Sta. Barbara office for the next, but at the same time, I'm feeling massively guilty about leaving the cats on their own for all that time. My neighbours will be coming in twice daily to care for them (they've recently suffered the loss of their own cat and jumped at the chance to look after mine), so I ought to have no worries there, but still, I know I'll miss them and I'm sure they'll miss me, too. And I worry about what the flat will look like when I get back...

I'm not sure íf I'll get a chance to update this journal with my impressions of California, a destination I've not been to before and that I'm quite keen to explore - the hotel offers free Wi-Fi, but I won't be taking my laptop as I like to travel light, and I never like to use my smartphone for anything other than calling, texting and taking pictures. Which reminds me, first item of business will be to get an American SIM-card, as I don't want to come home to a massive roaming bill. After 2 years of unemployment benefit, and only one month's salary, I'm still on a budget after all.

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2013 Books List

01) Allan Gurganus, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All - I went with the blurb; it sounded like it might be interesting...but my word! I've never read anything more tedious in all my life! I struggled with it for a month, never got more than 150 pages into this 875-page novel, then threw it away in disgust. I bought it secondhand, and regret spending those 50 eurocents on it -- that's how much I hate this book.

02) Christian Cameron, Alexander God of War - much more to my liking: Alexander's career and campaigns, as Ptolemy (I Soter) might have told them. Riveting stuff, if you like novels based on military history of the ancient world -- which I do.

03) W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil - first published in 1925, it is a bit dated. About an empty-headed young woman, who marries for convenience, has an affair and when her husband finds out, is obliged to follow him into a cholera infested area of China. Although not one of his best books, it is a quick and easy read.

more books...Collapse )

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The 40th International Food Fair of The Hague, and the 2nd with me as Food Booths & Volunteers Coordinator, was held last Saturday. Despite us being in the middle of a triple dip recession, we managed to raise nearly €44,000 (€43,957 to be exact), to donate to good causes around the world.

foodfair 2013

For the last few weeks, I've been busy helping my mum find somewhere else to live, and hopefully we'll hear from one place that looks promising soon. Back in April, I wrote that she'd been burgled...well, she was burgled again in the last week of October, and this time, whoever came into her flat felt it necessary to trash the place before they left. Mum stuck to her mantra of "this is my home and I'm not moving" for 2 days, before agreeing to let us look at other options more suited to her age and impaired mobility (she acquired a Zimmer frame earlier this year). Fingers crossed, we'll get to arrange her move before I fly out to California.

Which, incidentally, will be in January.

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