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Good and bad in equal measure


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!


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.


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


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.


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"...


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.


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 ;-)


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.


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:

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.


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