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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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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!

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