Monday, 30 July 2007

Do Re Mi


Let's start at the very beginning......

Sebastian went to drama camp (called Get Up & Go) last week and on Friday I attended their performance of The Sound of Music.

He had been practising his three songs all week so I was one of those mums who sat in the audience and mouthed every little word. Besides, I know every word to every song in The Sound of Music by heart before he even started his rehearsing.

Watch for the YouTube video. I'm still editing it but Edelweiss has never been sweeter!

Seb had a riding lesson on Saturday midday and Abigail and I did some shopping in anticipation of our summer holiday to France and camping on Sunday.
The rain stayed away and it is finally starting to feel a bit like summer time. Just in time for autumn!

Shed of the Year

Check out the 2007 Winner!

I didn't even know there was such a thing. I wonder how much money this cost him? And why? Am I missing the point?

A Nail

For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost--
And all for the want of a two penny nail.

-Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac

Friday, 27 July 2007

Obsession

I'm obsessed with the weather. And so is the rest of the world. Everywhere I look, there are reports of strange weather. Is this a strange coincidence?

Revised Curriculum

Grrrrr! I am soooo annoyed about this whole idea that I send my children to school so that they can learn how to balance a checkbook, take out a mortgage, and cook a meal.

Thank you very much but I will teach my children those life lessons.

No, I am sending my children to school to learn about the history and geography of the world, about mathematics and the wonders of literature. I need them to learn to read and spell and write proper English. It would be good if they could come out doing that in more than just the one language but I'll settle for just the one. I want them to learn about the wonders of science and how to properly conduct scientific experiments. There is so much to learn. Stick with the basics. I'll do the rest!

Blame Game

Nothing like China to put a little perspective on our flooding dangers!

Here in the UK, the blame game beings. Actually it started a few days ago once we were no longer the lead story. Everyone who is not in government is now blaming the government. This seems strange to me for sooooo many reasons:

Government is powerful. But, believe it or not, they do not control the weather. There is absolutely nothing the government could have or should have done to stop prevent the flash flood of last week which lead to the rise in the river levels. Now an argument could be made that this is all caused by global warming and the government is not doing enough to stop global warming but again, I think this all starts with what individuals do and encourage corporates to do (although I do believe corporates will require legislation to consistently behave in an environmentally sound manner). Regardless, the government did not cause the rain. The government did not cause the floods.

Government is made up by the people for the people. Even here in the UK, although not explicit in a constitution (the UK does not have a constitution), this is a democracy and we vote for our leaders. We scream that our taxes are too high and the government doesn't spend enough money on education, health care, and the safety of their citizens (policing, fire protection). But no one says yeah, ok raise my taxes. I'll give you more money to improve the drainage pipes in my neighbourhood.

And this isn't like New Orleans where under investment in the levees for decades lead to a failure of the levees. Here in the UK an unprecedented amount has been spent in the last decade on flood defences, both coastal and in shore. I live just down river from the Jubilee river. This is a man made flood defence which splits the River Thames in 2 to alleviate the threat of flood in Maidenhead. The bad news is when you split a river you eventually have to bring it back together again and this just happens to occur just up river from us. However, in this case, unlike in 2003, the flood defence worked and Old Windsor, Datchet and Wraysbury have remained dry!

Hundreds of thousand of homes are without clean drinking water. A sanitation plant was flooded and without running water toilets are not working. Bowsers and bottled water is being distributed by the military. But there again, people are hoarding and not being sensible with their water usage. People don't know how to make do and just get by with what they've got. They expect that in the middle of a disaster area, their lives should pretty much go on as normal. One woman on the news complained she couldn't use her dishwasher. Are you kidding me?

Some homes (although not many) are without electricity. Several power substations were threatened by flooding. Thanks to the heroic efforts of firefighters, power plant workers and just about every hand available all but 1 substation was prevented from flooding. The one power station that did go out was back on line within 24 hours.

People are price gauging accommodation. People are stealing from evacuated homes. Parents are allowing their children to play with the bowsers and drain them of their precious water. People are hoarding bottled water.

Finally, people are blaming the government for not evacuating them soon enough or providing them with hotel quality accommodation. What people just don't get is at some point they have got to be responsible for themselves and their neighbours. If we help each other get through, we'll survive and thrive.

I recall the stories of the British during the second world war. They had victory gardens and grew their own vegetables. They made do with their meager rations. They sat in black out. Neighbours helped neighbours.

I don't think the UK could survive another time like that. What has happened to that stiff upper lip? It is quivering. And it is not attractive.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Out of Danger

The river surge has hit Reading this morning at about 4 am and there was no flooding of property. Whilst the river remains high, it appears that the worse has passed and we are no longer in imminent danger. We are expecting the Environment Agency to lift the Flood Warning later this afternoon for our area.

Rain is forecast for the next couple of days but it shouldn't be in sufficient quantities to affect the river level.

I've rarely felt so powerless to stop anything from happening. Once I had taken all the recommended actions all we could do was sit back and wait. In a way that feeling was liberating. Being the supreme control freak that I am, I was acutely aware that there was little more I could do. If the water decided to visit, it was visiting!

But it didn't/hasn't. And now I can stop talking about the dang weather. And bring on sunnier climates.

An amusing side affect of all this wet weather is the British desire to escape this soggy island and head for balmier shores. Normally, you can pick up last minute travel deals at any travel website or high street shop. Yesterday it was reported that the last minute deals are sold out.

Just last summer, the media was reporting that last minute deals were on the decline and that families were simply no longer interested in cheap package holiday deals. What a difference 1 year makes.

Families obviously fed up with the grey skies and too fed up to do the organising of flights, car hire, and accommodation themselves have snapped up all the cheapest deals without really applying much more criteria than is it sunny? Yes? OK, I'll take it.

Sounds sensible to me!

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Flood Warning Fatigue

We are still on high alert for flooding. Bu we are no longer the top news story. This is extremely frustrating. We have been getting constant updates from the news about the progress of the river water but now it seems the world has continued spinning on its axis and the time moves on.

But so do the river waters. We are being told that the surge is continuing and should reach us in the next 12-24 hours. There is still a flood warning in place and the waters around our home continue to rise. The water they are pumping out of areas upriver are being pumped back into the river and are headed for us. I will continue to keep you updated.

But for now I'm going to a leaving doo for one of my colleagues who has decided to follow his heart (and girlfriend) to the warm, balmy (and dry) lands of Spain. Sounds like a sensible plan to me!

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Flex Working

As the river near my home rises and the news reports warn of an impending surge due to arrive in the next 24-48 hours, I am testing the limits of flexible working.

My employer supports flexible working. Which is good for me. I start work early in the morning. I leave the office by 3 pm so I can do the school run. I have all the kit I need to work from home. So if the children are sick I can tuck them safely into bed and get busy. I can start work at an ungodly hour in the morning before the children are up and get the last of the email ticked off as read after they've gone to bed. And I get to spend those crucial after school hours with them to hear about their day, help with homework, get a home cooked nutritious meal on the table (most days), and participate in the bath/bed routine (well, actually my husband does that last bit but I'm on call if assistance is required).

In the past I've been able to manage 1 day/week from home but over the last couple months my schedule has prevented me from doing this. I've felt that if I had meetings in the office I would prefer to go into the office, especially since I work only 8 miles from where I live. Lately it has been the rare occasion that I have had no meetings so I've just gone into the office.

Upon my arrival at the office on Monday morning I received a phone call from the Environment Agency alerting me to the risk of flooding to my home. After ensuring that I had business continuity in place for the people who work for me, I went to my next meeting.

This was my performance appraisal scheduled with my boss. He could tell my mind wasn't in the game. He's typically not all that intuitive but it was hard to miss the signs of my hyperventilation. We agreed to reschedule so I could get home and make everything safe. I was most concerned about my "eat everything in sight" dog who was locked up in his cage in the kitchen.

I secured my property, checked out the river level, formed an evacuation plan with my child minder, caught up with the news and then set about setting up my home office.

And I've been working from there ever since. Clearly, some meetings can only be held face-to-face. I've rescheduled those for next week. But the majority of my meetings I've just dialed into. Surprisingly they have been effective and other than sporadically reminding my colleagues to speak up, we are working flexibly.

I've got one of the most geographical dispersed teams in the company. My team members work in Devon, Bournemouth, Manchester & Scotland. My boss wasn't so keen on this. He thought people that far away worked less effectively or maybe just worked less. I didn't get this and persisted in my conviction that my team were a bunch of rock stars that could set an example for the rest of the organisation.

And so we have. My business continuity plan was extremely robust strictly because we didn't all live near the flood zones. Those of us who live nearby were supported by those who didn't. Which is exactly what we needed!

I'll be watching the river rise over the next couple of days.....and working to the best of my abilities! From Home!

Published

My book review for Time.com has just been published.

I had a momentary crisis of confidence after I had completed writing the review and thought it sounded a bit too mumsy. So I procrastinated submitting it. Then I asked a friend of mine to edit it. But she went on holiday and forgot about it.

I finally worked up the confidence (after a few drinks) and just hit the send button. I figured I am mumsy. And this is a mumsy book.

With disappointment, I discovered the very next day that Lisa and her Work in Progress blog had just published someone else's review and I knew I would have to wait for mine to appear. I mean, Lisa would appear impossibly lazy to outsource her blogging to her readers 2 days in a row. And Lisa isn't lazy.

Alas, the day has finally arrived. And my blog has nothing witty or funny to show for it. Just the impending flooding of my home. This is a national disaster and a very real threat to my home but not exactly mesmerising reading for the blogosphere.

I need to get busy and write something worth reading!

Night on Notice





We are not flooded this morning. Marc went and checked out the river in the other direction last night before going to bed and it is a bit higher. Sorry the photos are dark. He took them just after 9 pm.
I didn't sleep well last night and kept waking up every couple of hours to look out the window. Luckily it remained dry. The are loads of different reports and I'm confused about what to expect. I understand that a further surge is expected later this morning in Oxfordshire, Reading should peak tomorrow morning and that here in Old Windsor (search on Old Windsor when you get the google map) we will get a surge on Thursday.

Today the sun is shining but more rain is forecast for Wednesday and Thursday. I suppose we keep everything on higher ground and don't travel too far from home. Luckily I just work down the road and Marc will be working from home to monitor the situation.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Flood Pictures

I left work this morning when I realised that my home had been identified as being in the flood warning catchment. I had done very little to agree a plan with the childminder and Sebastian was at his Get Up & Go camp. The house was not secure and the dog was in his cage in the kitchen. When I got home I quickly went into action and made a plan with the child minder. I confirmed evacuation procedures with the camp and moved our valuables to higher ground. We got our important papers and insurance documents moved to higher ground as well.


These photos are of the River Thames just by our house. As you can see the flood defenses are wide open and in fact are almost over run by the increasing water levels. We are being warned that the worse is yet to come in the next 24 hours. But we have a plan. All the important stuff is on high ground. We will move one of our cars to higher ground tonight. We have bottled water and provisions for a couple days if required. In case of evacuation we will go to the hall in Englefield Green, I believe but are waiting for confirmation from the police. Sand bags have not been distributed yet so Marc is trying to determine if we can purchase some or make our own.


These are photos from Windsor at Eton Bridge which is upstream from us. There are two locks between here and us but they are wide open currently. Doesn't look good.

We are under a flood warning. According to the experts, the plan is to wait until low tide (the Thames River is a tidal river) and then open up all the barriers to let as much water out as possible. This should relieve some of the pressure up river which is already under water. Low tide is at approximately 1 am this morning. It is currently raining and has been for the last hour although not nearly as heavily as it did on Friday when all this trouble started. If I can I will keep you updated. I doubt I will be sleeping very soundly tonight.

Flood Warning

There is a flood warning for Old Windsor so I am busy moving irreplaceable items off the ground to the 1st floor. If you don't hear from me......it's because the computer is on the ground floor!

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Clearing Out

Yesterday my blogging went into overdrive. I have a draft list of posts just waiting to be published and I wait until the perfect moment. Sometimes that moment never comes and I eventually delete the post. But other times there are just too many things to say all at once.

I decided to have a bit of a clear out and publish like a maniac. I hope I didn't tire/bore you with way too much information, useless and otherwise.

Do remember: this is a blog of the mundane and extraordinary. Some complain more mundane than extraordinary but that's my life and I'm sticking with it!

Bit of a crazy day yesterday (Saturday):
  1. Bailey had an appointment at the vets to check his stitches. I was going to show you photos but y'all seem to have a bit of a queasy tummy so I won't. He's got a bit of an infection and a slight temperature. The minute we take the halo off of him he licks so he has to keep it on. He's not supposed to run or swim so giving him enough exercise to get rid of all that puppy labrador energy is proving next to impossible. We've had a couple mad moments where he just went hyper and we had some blood. Have made a note to myself to call vet on Monday morning and see if we can't tranquilize the dog.

  2. Seb started his riding lessons at a new stable and had his first lesson on a new pony, Rosemary. He seemed to do well and as always he really enjoyed it!

  3. Seb & I did some shopping for some birthday presents for friends and stopped for lunch. We ran into some friends (Laura -Good to see you!) and had lunch at Costa with the Cook family. Jamie was anxious to show Seb his new Nintendo. It was hard to get him to concentrate on eating and not playing.

  4. Abigail had a birthday party to go to so I took her. I discovered she has a new friend (Agatha) and according to her a boyfriend (Mitchell). She danced the afternoon away with the 2 of them and rarely left Mitchell's side. It made me laugh when he picked Abigail up and was carrying her around. She just wrapped her arms around his neck and laid her head on his shoulder. I was ever so slightly a bit alarmed but tried not to react. It was actually quite sweet when she fell and he rushed over to her and kissed her knee. She seems to wrap everyone around her little finger! She also won the limbo contesst at the party. Where did this little girl learn to limbo? Man, she was fab! And she didn't cheat. She actually went backwards like you're supposed to.

  5. Seb had a birthday party immediately following Abigail's party so Marc took him to that one. (Happy Birthday Sam & Oliver!)

  6. Gill (former neighbour) dropped by to pick up her post and share the good news that she has been able to buy a new flat since the last one fell through. She is very excited and we are excited for her!

  7. Scottish Mike (Marc's best man) dropped by for dinner. We put the children to bed and ordered curry takeaway. We had some seriously hot food in the hops that it will burn out this cold that is still lingering in my sinuses. He stayed until about 11.

  8. Abigail woke up about midnight crying and we went downstairs to discover she had vomited all over herself and her bed. We gave her a bath and changed the bedding. A few minutes after put her back to bed she came upstairs and crawled into bed with us. she started complaining that her tummy hurt and within seconds she had vomited in our room. Luckily it just hit the hardwood floors and we cleaned it and her up again. this time we got a bucket and kept it and her with us. She had one more episode of vomiting before she finally fell back asleep and we were able to put her back into bed.

  9. I woke up this morning at about 5 am and felt knackered. I read for an hour and fell back asleep. My husband gave me a bit of a lie in. I tumbled out of bed about 10 am and am still working on my first cup of coffee.
Today we've got a whole lot of nothing planned. Marc is finishing the varnishing of our garage doors. We've got a mountain of laundry after last night's vomit escapades.

England is having a record month of rainfall. We've had serious flooding all around us but luckily we have escaped (knock on wood) any damage to our home. The weather forecast is for more rain but right now the sun is shining and the sky is blue. Grey clouds ar looming to the southwest.

Social Networking

My name is LaDawn and I am a Facebook addict. And I'm not the only one!

My husband just doesn't get it. He can't see any inherent value in Facebook or any type of social networking tool. But remember this is a man who didn't remember to send his mother birthday cards. Ever. Until he married me.

I was frustrated when I joined Facebook only to realise that I had no friends. I remained friendless for a day and then realised I needed to take things into my own hands. I inivited all my friends and family. Some of them have joined. Some of them have embraced the services and made an effort on their profiles. Some have not. I suspect they don't get it either. Or they simply haven't made the time. Which is what it takes. Setting it up requires a bit of an effort.

But once it's there it just goes. Viral.

But I still here the question, "What's the point?" Well, it's about keeping in touch and supporting each other. Living is all about people. And your connection with them. I can't tell you how difficult it is to live 5,000 miles away from your family. And when you change jobs it is virtually impossible to keep in touch with former colleagues who you used to spend everyday work day with all day.

I have a former boss of mine, Kirk, who was fantastic to work with. He relocated from the UK to Australia back in December. I swore I would keep in touch with him. And even though I've got a blog and he's got a blog we still struggle to keep in touch with what is going on. I have so many colleagues that I worked with day and night for 12 years when I first graduated from university. We were ambitious and driven. We never took vacation. We worked hard together and played hard together. they were like a surrogate family. Do you know how many of them I am still in touch with? ONE! Tragic!

I do keep my networks separate. I use LinkedIn for my professional network. This includes people I've worked for, with and/or know in a professional setting only. I use Facebook for the other side of my life (woman, wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter)

Join me in my networks! It's a bit of an experiment but it can't hurt! And let's keep in touch!

Parenting Skills

Why do we not value parenting skills? Brazen Careerist, a blog by Penelope Trunk, is a blog I try to read every day. Some of it is aimed at the 18-25 demographic and wholly irrelevant to me but I read it anyway. I do hire people in that demographic so I like to get her perspective on things.

She is struggling with her marriage. And blogged about it. See I'm not the only blogger that blogs about everything.

She just wrote a post about Stay-At-Home Dads and how they struggle, particularly with keeping their business connections and skill up to date. But what I don't get is why we don't value the skills of parents?

When you become a parent, there is no training and the on-the-job training is sort of the deep end kind of training. You can read all the books in the world but who's got the time when you are in the middle of the battle. That's like becoming a firefighter and the first day of training you are sent to a fire. Then in the middle of fighting the blaze, hand the firefighter a book and say read about how to put out this fire.

Parents have loads of skills that are of value in the workplace. Penelope isn't good with details but her husband is. That's why he packs a better lunch box. But surely that carries over into the workplace. He is probably a very conscientious detail oriented worker. She perhaps is not. I know that is true in my family.

I always put notes in my son's packed lunch. My husband considers it a waste of time (especially when I did it before he could read). My husband is not a people person and has a very low empathy quotient. That's why he works for himself. Alone. And doesn't manage any people. I do. Lots. And I'm good at it. Although I don't put notes in their lunch box.

My sister asked me the other day why do people always say fat and dumb together? Just because you put on a couple extra pounds (or more) doesn't mean I've had a frontal lobotomy. Similarly, just because I became a mother, I didn't suddenly become unskilled. I didn't forget everything I've learned or been taught. And more often than not, my professional skills help me be a better parent and my parenting skills help me be a better professional.

Ambassadors

During my career I've witnessed a few thousand presentations I reckon. Some have been great. Others have been dire. But one was so bad it deserves special mention.

The man was the last presenter of the conference. This should have been the creme de la creme. It was late in the day on the last day of the conference. Keeping the attention of an audience at this time is difficult enough. And usually a sensible event organiser ensures this slot is allocated to a hot topic with a white hot presenter! Not this time. The topic seemed compelling enough. But the presenter just wasn't up to it. Not only did he not seem up to the task, he didn't seem to care.

He started his presentation by pointing out that the organisation he works for has recently (like in the last week) undergone some fundamental changes and a new operating model. He told us that this meant that everything in his presentation was completely irrelevant but he was going to go ahead and present it. Hmmmm, I thought, this is a bit odd. He's just told me he is going to waste my time. Should I leave?

The speaker continued to take jabs at his organisation throughout his entire time slot. He was clearly an unhappy bunny. And he was going to let all of us know about it.

At one point, he picked up his glass of water to take a drink, put it back down and proceeded to stare off into space. After a few moments he recovered and admitted out loud that he had completely checked out and seem surprised to find himself standing in front of all of us. "Ah, yes, I was miles away. Where was I was?" he mused.

I watched this continue for about 20 minutes. The audience was looking around at each other in disbelief. One of my colleagues across my table kept looking at me and bursting into silent laughter.

Alas, I could take it no more. I packed up my bag and left. And I took with me a very bad taste in my mouth for his organisation.

Besides making an idiot of himself, he also made a mockery of the organisation he works for. Now, I'm not sure who in his organisation even knew he was speaking. If they did, I doubt they gave it a second thought. But I can guarantee I won't ever consider a job with them. EVER!

I think a lot of managers forget that when people speak at conferences they are ambassadors of that company. They represent our brand and the values those brands stand for. These are advertising moments. Advertising for our products/services and advertising for recruitment. I have subsequently seen numerous vacancies posted for the company and I just laugh.

And he won't be getting an invite to join my professional network!

A Twitch

When my father drives he twitches. Not just during his driving actually.

He plays with the wedding band on his finger like he's constantly checking that it is there. Twisting the fingers on either side of his ring finger he pushes the ring back into place (not that it fell out of place). And he raises his left shoulder and tucks his ear down to meet it.

And he doesn't watch the road when he drives. He talks about everything that's going by outside the car windows. And he'll be looking at you and out the window and pointing to things. And only occasionally does he glance out the window to look straight ahead at the road he is driving on. This means he swerves sometimes to correct his course and prevent the car from landing in the ditch.

It used to make me nervous, all this twitching and not watching. I don't think he realises he does it. But, as he would be quick to point out, we have never NEVER ended up in the ditch.

I wonder if I've got a twitch.....

Friday, 20 July 2007

It's Raining Again

We are having a miserable summer and this morning brought the rain to our doorsteps. We live in Berkshire and the village just 10 miles away is flooded. So far the house is dry. The forecast is for more rain tonight and tomorrow. Right now the sun is shining. Pray for more sun!

The Week That Was

This was Abigail's last week of school. This year she went to a different preschool than Sebastian so she had a slightly different schedule. Now all the summer fun starts for her!

Sebastian went to Legoland with his mate, Jamie, on Monday. Big Big Huge Thanks to Joy for taking them! I hope he was well behaved......

He went to Tennis Camp Tuesday-Thursday. He's never picked up a tennis racket in his life and other than watching Wimbledon for a whole 5 minutes with me, he's not even sure what the game is. Several of his classmates were also at the camp. Amy and Roma have been taking lessons for the last 2 years and, quite frankly, I believe they are the future of tennis in the UK. Watch out Andy Murray!

Bad news was Daddy forgot to apply to sunscreen to Seb's ears. He dutifully covered all parts of his exposed skin except the ears. Typical Daddy error. Seb now has blisters on his ear lobes. Poor child! Now he is wearing mummy's hat which covers his ears.

He enjoyed the tennis though and by the end of the week I could see a major improvement. I mean look at the concentration. And in both photos he is giving the ball some muscle. Both feet are off the ground. Commitment & Determination!

We shared a milestone with the wee little angel that lives next door to us, Helena. She had her first mini-milk. That would be a chocolate ice cream lollie. At first the cold caused a really funny face (unfortunately not captured by the camera). But she quickly decided this was delicious and kept coming back for more!

It's Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong

No, but it is all about him. What did I expect? This is after all an autobiography of the serial Tour de France winner and his fight against cancer. The trouble is I just simply don't like the man.

It is especially hard to read about his relationship with his wife (from whom he is now divorced). I've seen subsequent interviews with her which attributes the breakdown of their marriage to his priorities being with racing, ie he spent very little time with said wife and their children. This book really show how self obsessed Armstrong is. Maybe when you reach those lofty heights of athletic achievement you need to be all about me. I hope not.

I won't be reading the sequel. Which is not doubt more about how great he is.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Post Op Bailey


Bailey succesffuly underwent the scapel yesterday. He had is gonads removed and a lmp on his tummy. The vet is not entirely certain about what the lump was. They believe it might be "scar tissue". But how a healthy 10 month old puppy got scar tissue on his tummy is a big mystery. We'll be sending that off to the lab for tests.

He is miserable. He hates the collar. He can't run. He can't pick up his chew toys. He keeps bumping into everything. He is whining and crying. He can't run and play. He is feeling quite sorry for himself.

We took the collar off of him for about 15 minutes last night and he immediately starting licking and caused some bleeding to one of his wounds so the collar went straight back on.

Poor little guy.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

The "Middle Wife"

I've been teaching now for about fifteen years. I have two kids myself, but the best birth story I know is the one I saw in my own second-grade classroom.

When I was a kid, I loved show-and-tell. So I always have a few sessions with my students. It helps them get over shyness and usually, show-and-tell is pretty tame. Kids bring in pet turtles, model airplanes, pictures of fish they catch, stuff like that. And I never, ever place any boundaries or limitations on them.

If they want to lug it in to school and talk about it, they're welcome.

Well, one day this little girl, Erica, a very bright, very outgoing kid, takes her turn and waddles up to the front of the class with a pillow stuffed under her sweater.

She holds up a snapshot of an infant. "This is Luke, my baby brother, and I'm going to tell you about his birthday."

"First, Mom and Dad made him as a symbol of their love, and then Dad put a seed in my Mom's stomach, and Luke grew in there. He ate for nine months through an umbrella cord."

She's standing there with her hands on the pillow, and I'm trying not to laugh and wishing I had my camcorder with me. The kids are watching her in amazement.

"Then, about two Saturdays ago, my Mom starts saying and going, 'Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh!' Erica puts a hand behind her back and groans. "She walked around the house for, like an hour, 'Oh, oh, oh!' Now this kid is doing a hysterical duck walk and groaning.

"My Dad called the middle wife. She delivers babies, but she doesn't have a sign on the car like the Domino's man. They got my Mom to lie down in bed like this." Then Erica lies down with her back against the wall.

"And then, pop! My Mom had this bag of water she kept in there in case he got thirsty, and it just blew up and spilled all over the bed, like shhheew!" This kid has her legs spread with her little hands miming water flowing away. It was too much!

"Then the middle wife starts saying 'push, push,' and 'breathe, breathe. They started counting, but never even got past ten. Then, all of a sudden, out comes my brother. He was covered in yucky stuff that they all said it was from Mom's play-center, so there must be a lot of toys inside there."

Then Erica stood up, took a big theatrical bow and returned to her seat. I'm sure I applauded the loudest. Ever since then, when it's show-and-tell day, I bring my camcorder, just in case another "Middle Wife" comes along.

- an Anonymous 2nd grade teacher

YouTube

I just happen to think that YouTube is one of the greatest things ever! I love that I can share videos with friends and family. And I love they can share them with me. I love that I can laugh at and learn from videos from all over the world. People's creativity is always astounding.

I blogged previously about a YouTube video called The Machine is Us. This was put together by Michael Wesch, a professor at Kansas State University. I found this video just when I started blogging and was completely in the dark about Web 2.0 and the social networking aspects of the internet. I've since discovered LinkedIn, FaceBook, Digg, Technorati and the wonderful world of the blogosphere.

Wesch's digital ethnography class is doing a study of Youtube that is absolutely fascinating. Check it out. Do it. You might learn something.

When I watched, I discovered loads of things about YouTube I didn't know. I share a couple of those here.

Most watched video





Most inspirational video (my personal favourite)




Most educational
Part 1



Part 2


Part 3

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Sara & Pippa

Sara went to school at St George's for his first 2 years. Sara is an American expatriate who was living here (with her parent's, of course). They returned to the USA (PA) in 2005. We've been missing them ever since.

Poo Painting

When Sebastian was 2 years old he was given a "grown up" bed. Basically, this consisted of a small bed without sides. He had been released from his crib prison.

Unfortunately, Sebastian was not yet potty trained when he made this transition. "What does it matter?" I hear you asking. Normally, it doesn't. These 2 childhood development milestones should be wholly unrelated.

And yet, they aren't. But first time parents never make the connection.

I work up one morning not long after Sebastian was granted his freedom to find him in the hallway. Covered in poo. I quickly realised that in addition to having poo all over his hands, he had it up to his elbows, on his tummy, on his face, up his nose, and in his hair. He was painted in poo. Only he knows if he ate any and he ain't telling.

The artist in him had clearly decided that his body was an insufficient canvas and had expanded his work to cover the walls and the carpet.

It was a warm July evening when we had put him to bed. We had decided against pajamas in the summer heat. He had woken up before us, gotten out of bed and removed his nappy which he didn't want to wear anymore (because it had poo in it). And then he decided he wanted to explore this new medium.

I was paralyzed with disgust. I began to scream. Marc came running. He took control of the situation. He picked up Seb by the feet (the only clean part of him) and placed him in the bath tub. He went downstairs and loaded up with cleaning products. He scrubbed the walls and the carpet. He then scrubbed Sebastian.

From then forward Sebastian was dressed for bed in a onsies that snapped regardless of weather. And we never made the same mistake with Abigail.

Honestly, the first child is a trial. There should be special allowances made for all oldest children.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Love in the Present Tense by Catherine Ryan Hyde

I have had this book sitting by the bed for a long time. It's one of those books that looks good but something else always looks just a wee bit better.

A five year old boy is left by his mother with a 25 year old neighbour they barely know. At least, that's the simple bit. Written in short chapters from different character's perspectives, this tells the complex and tragic story of how they all got to be where they are. And the little boy teaches all the adults a thing or two about love.

This is really a very simple little story about unconditional love. And how badly adults are at it. I like this book. It was quick and easy to read and I couldn't put it down once I started. I loved all the characters although I''m not sure how believable the story was. Somehow I don't think that was the point.

School Report

On the last day of term we received the class list for next autumn and Sebastian's school report for Year 1. He received an excellent report card. It showed how hard he has tried all year!

Well Done, Sebastian!

Next year he will be joining Mrs. Saunders class and will have some new classmates. They are mixing up the classes this year. He is very excited and would have been happy with either teacher. He is looking forward to having some children in his class that have always been in "the other" class.

We have had a couple of overcast, very humid but mostly dry days. This morning it rains again! Oh I need a holiday from this wet soggy island......

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Player of the Week

Last week Sebastian was named "Player of the Week" during his Summer Football Camp. I'm not entirely sure what he did to deserve this accolade. He didn't even tell us he had won. We learned from one of his mate's parents. When we asked him about it he just said "Yeah" and shrugged his shoulders.

Wish I could enlighten you more....but I can't.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Swimming Certification

Last week, at last, Sebastian reached a major milestone. He passed his Level 1 Swimming Certification.

This is a boy who sinks like a stone. He is really struggling with his swimming. Since Nursery he's had weekly swim lessons at the school and he is still wearing arm bands. After the swimming gala lat term, Marc and I decided we needed to intervene. I had visions of a 16 year old walking around New Quay trying to impress the girls with his surfing abilities wearing arm bands. I would not be held responsible!

We signed him up for private lessons at the Leisure Centre in Windsor. He joined Jamie and Ben, mates from school. Both these boys could probably swim the English Channel and Sebastian held them in pretty high regard so I figured they would inspire him to focus and figure this dang thing out.

It wasn't working. 2 weeks ago, the instructor refused to give him his certificate because he was messing about and not listening. He wouldn't prove that he could do all the things she needed him to do despite her confidence that he could. Well, that just made him mad. He was humiliated.

Humiliation is a strong motivator. On Monday Seb received his certificate. He was seriously proud of himself! I was too.

Marley & Me by John Grogan

Melanie is a mum of one of Sebastian's school mates, Michael. Mel and her family have a beautiful Labrador named Doogie. Mel was excited when we joined the Labrador owner's club when we acquired Bailey.

One numerous occasions Mel has listened to me rant about the destructive and boisterous nature of our beloved family pet. There is not an aggressive bone in this dog's body. But it is a big body. And it knocks over everything in its path. And it is a large path. If you include the animal's tail, the path of destruction is a mile wide.

And this dog is so loving. He knocks over Abigail every time she walks through the door. Not because he is being mean but just because he wants to say "Hello. I missed you. Did you miss me?" Abigail is not impressed.

He has destroyed my kitchen and my beautiful lawn in the back garden. Walks work tiring him out for oh, I don't know, about 20 minutes!

Listening to my doggie complaints (yet again), Melanie loaned me this book, Marley & Me. It is the true tale of an American journalist and his wife and their journey through life with their yellow Labrador. The tales had me laughing. No, not just sniggering. I mean laughing out loud and snorting through my nose laughing. And it had me crying: sobbing incoherently.

Grogran does an excellent job of weaving the growth of his family with the aging of his dog. He doesn't get all mushy and overly sentimental. No, he just tells it like it is. And this telling has taught me that I need to find the joy in owning our dog. I need to spend a little more time appreciating how wonderful he is in spite of his behaviour!

I really recommend this book to all dog owners. And I recommend it even more highly to people thinking of welcoming a dog into their home. If you already have a dog and this dog is aging, bring out the tissue box and prepare for a heart wrenching read.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Wimbledon 2007

My favourite day of the entire summer calendar is the final Sunday of Wimbledon when the Men's Championship is played. Sure there have been numerous finals that didn't live up to the hype but I love the occasion.

I had an old boyfriend who was quite a keen tennis player and tried desperately to teach me to play the game. I couldn't do it. I was to small to cover the court. I had too short of arms to have much of a reach and not enough muscle to ever ever ever serve the ball properly. I quickly lost interest in playing the game. What he did do though was ignite a fire in me as a spectator of arguably the greatest individual sporting contests.

How thrilled I was to find myself living in the country which hosted arguably the most revered and challenging tennis championship in the world: Wimbledon.

Whilst living in England I have attended the event 6 times. Once I have stood in the queue (line) and been unsuccessful in getting in. Twice I have stood in the queue and been successful. Four times I have been successful in win the lottery that is the draw for tickets.

The way the lottery works is that by December 31 of the previous year you must complete and submit a form (available on www.wimbledon.org). In January/February of the following year, you will be notified if you have been successful. Every year a reserved number of tickets are held back for distribution on the day of play only.

Twice times I have gotten tickets for Court No 1 and twice I have gotten tickets for Centre Court. Never have I gotten tickets for the days of the women's or men's final although we had tickets for the men's quarter-finals. You never know who will play on the day. You never know if you will be rained off. But you are assured a good time.

The grounds are impeccable. The flowers are beautiful. The grass courts are immaculate. The atmosphere is brilliant. My husband (who thought tennis was as exciting as watching paint dry) is now a dedicated fan of Wimbledon (but only that tournament).

This year I was so busy I barely caught any of the action in the run up to the finals. I would flick on BBC and find it there but had to always run off before I could actually get into any matches. But last Sunday I sat myself down determined not to let anything get in my way. Two of the greats in tennis were going head to heard: Rafael Nadal & Roger Federer.

The two faced each other in last year's final which turned out to be nothing more than a general floor wiping. Federer kicked Nadal's tight little bottom. The match was over in just over an hour. Hardly a way to spend an entire afternoon.

This year saw the 2 of them approach Centre Court again. But things were different this year. Federer hadn't played much tennis. One of his matches was a draw due to his opponent's injury and the rain had wreaked havoc on the scheduling. Nadal on the other hand had clawed his way through the matches and was in the best shape of his career.

Federer is the king of the grass court. Entering this final he had won 4 Wimbledon titles.

Nadal is Spanish. He is young. He is getting better and better with every match. He was the only thing between Federer matching the record set by Bjorn Borg: to win 5 Wimbledon titles.

Federer played like the Swiss that he is: disciplined, unemotional, patient, strong, determined. Nadal played like the Spaniard that he is: passionate, fierce, wild, aggressive. Both played like I've never seen them play before. In the 4th set Nadal had shaken the great and good Federer who lost his stoic mask and displayed some uncharacteristic emotion. And the set went to Nadal.

In the end Federer decisively took the 5th set and won the best out of 5 match in just under 5 hours. But the gauntlet has been thrown down. Federer should not sleep peacefully at night. The Spaniard will haunt him and next year could be anyone's tournament.

A French Affair by Susan Lewis

I started this book very excited. Whoever wrote the teaser on the back cover really should get paid a load more money than the author. It sounds compelling and leads you into a false sense of heightened expectation.

Nothing could be further from the truth. This book is absolute total and complete rubbish. None of the characters are believable. They are even less likable. They are one dimensional. And their priorities are all screwed up.

Jessica used to be a television presenter. Her husband, Charlie, is a news reader. Their daughter, Nathalie dies. Jessica is convinced there is more to the story than she has been told. Charlie and Jessica's best friend, Lillian, try to convince Jessica that she is crazy and that her daughter simply fell down a flight of stairs whilst visiting her grandmother in France. Then Jessica falls in love with Lillian's husband, Luc, whilst in France investigating the accident all on her own.

I won't give away the ending just in case you are woefully misguided and decide to pick this book up on your own. Although I do strongly urge you not to. This is nothing more than a trashy romance novel. The sex scene at the very end is absolutely cringe worthy.

The characters are self-absorbed and self-indulgent. The book is unnecessarily long with false suspense that never really delivers. The plot is predictable and the writing is cliched.

I can't believe we actually read this for the book group!

Book Group Review: Everyone agreed with the above. D has apologised profusely for picking a stinker. We reassured this is not a dimissable offense and we have all been victims of bad literature. Next month we have chosen Suite Fran├žaise by Irene Nemirovsky. I have high hopes for this one!

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Remember Me by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen

This is not a book I would ever normally pick up off the book shelves. But Lisa's Work in Progress blog is one of the best. I try to read it daily.

A while back I volunteered to review some books that had been sent to Lisa for review. Instead of just sending me the one I requested she sent me a whole stack which I am slowly making my way through. Also, included in the pack was an autographed copy of her very own. How could I not read that one first?

During Lisa's maternity leave she was given an assignment by her editor to explore the rites of death in America. Death is changing in America. Not death itself. Not that's pretty much set in stone. But the way we celebrate and mourn death is changing dramatically as the baby boomers age and want to do things their way.

I thought this was going to be a very depressing book. What fun is there in traveling from funeral to funeral with a newborn baby strapped to your back? You can't really crash a funeral. I mean, invitations aren't sent out like they are for a wedding. But you've got to think to yourself that you are invading a very private time and space when you don't even know the person. And then some reporter starts asking you questions. And I didn't really want to bear witness to the tragedy of death and these people's grief.

But I loved this book. It made me think long and hard about how I want the end to be for me. It made me think about how I want to be remembered and how I would like my friends and family to mark the occasion of the end of my life.

Lisa's style is honest and she writes like we were having a conversation. My favourite part of the book is about the people who have turned the remains of their young daughter who died way too early in life, into diamonds and shared the diamonds with their closest friends and family. I particularly like the fact that they gave one of the diamonds to their daughter's best friend when she got married. Obviously, the daughter couldn't be the maid of honour. But she was there as a diamond.

I highly recommend this book. It made me laugh and it made me cry. Best of all, it made me think about my death but not in a depressing way. In a loving way and in the way I hope I will be remembered.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

A Cold in July

I'm ill. It started with a irritating sore throat and in less than 24 hours has spread to full assault on my nasal passages. I can't breath. I can't taste. I can't smell. I can't see. My eyes hurt. My head is foggy and pounding. My entire body feels like its been hit by a truck. I tried to go to work this morning but left midday unsure if I could drive the 6 miles home. I went straight to bed and have only just gotten up for a cup of Lemsip (hot drink with paracetamol and decongestant).

Marc has does the childcare and dinner routine. He's now bathing the children and preparing them for bed with a bath. I've got to administer my goodnight kisses.

And then back to bed for me. I've got a huge presentation at work tomorrow! Ugh!

Volunteering

I want to give back.....but how do I do that? I work outside and inside the home full time. I've got 2 children under 7. My husband and I run a business (in addition to my full time career). I'm supposed to be exercising and can't find the time (although some may argue I should be doing that rather than this).

I would really like to find something where I could volunteer say 1 evening a week/month (after the children have gone to bed) close to home. Is that too little/too late? Does anybody have any ideas?

Where do you volunteer?

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Sleepover

On Saturday night I felt like I had teenagers in the house. Sebastian had his mate, Jamie, stay overnight. The boys played well together despite Abigail trying to interrupt. She believes that Jamie is her mate too and couldn't understand why the two 6 year olds didn't want her hanging around them. And so it begins!

The two boys stayed up well past bedtime. Despite getting into bed by 8 pm when Sebastian informed me he was just too tired to continue playing, they didn't fall asleep until well past 10 pm. They sat up in bed reading the Flanimals books to each other. We could hear them laughing the night away. I finally had to go upstairs and give them a bit of a stern warning.

Despite the late night they did not sleep past 6 am. We had a breakfast of our traditional pancakes and bacon on the table by 7:30 am. They used the rest of the morning for yet more playing. Who knew there was so much to do with Pokemons?

Must See Blog

Seriously, you have got to check out the progress on my husband's biodiesel blog!

A Football Star and the Hippie



Terror Alerts

As many are aware, the French government recently announced a raise in its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide". The normal level is "General Arrogance", and the only two higher levels in France are "Surrender" and "Collaborate". The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.

It's not only the French that are on a heightened level of alert: Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing". Two more levels remain, "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides".

The Germans also increased their alert state from "Disdain" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs". They have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbour" and "Lose".

Seeing this reaction in continental Europe, the Americans have gone from "Isolationism" to "Find Another Oil-Rich Nation For Regime Change". Their remaining higher alert states are "Attack Random Countries (Ideally Those Without Any Credible Military)" and "Ask The British For Help".

The British are also feeling the pinch in relation to recent bombing threats and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved". Soon though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross". Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the Blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance".

The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Editor's Note: Big thanks to Marc W to forwarded this to me via email!

Monday, 9 July 2007

Great Job

I don't want to boast.....but oh heck, yes I do!

I work for a good company with a great group of people doing a challenging and rewarding job. It's not what I planned for myself when I was in university but a lot of my life hasn't turned out exactly as planned and that's fine because I don't think my plan was all that great to begin with!

In a bid not to get myself fired I am diligent in not citing specific corporate references. All bloggers have heard the stories about the flight attendants who got fired after trashing their employers online and then giving away the company identity. Not good public relations and corporations don't look to kindly on that type of behaviour.

So I won't risk my job and give it away. If you are one of my colleagues and you're reading this (and I know there's lots of you!), you'll have a bit more insight. Please respect the confidential nature of the blog.

The company is a big UK employer with over 30,000 employees worldwide. We operate in the UK, North America, Africa and mainland Europe including Scandinavia (which some consider Europe and others don't). I've worked for them for over 5 years and always struggled to find a match between my skills and their corporate culture.

I've been a Project Manager for the last 14 years or so. My specialty has developed into going into projects that have gone off the rails and getting them back on course. I tired of that a few years ago and have been desperate to get out of project management. It can beat a person down to always be picking up someone else's steaming pile of poo. Team morale tends to be quite low and the stakeholders are pissed off and everyone hates you before you've even started. A person can only do that for so long. OK, they payoff is great once you've sorted it and got it back on track, especially when the project actually gets implemented. But by then people tend to be embarrassed that it took so long or spent so much money and don't even want to celebrate. And then I move on to another pile poo.

But for the very first time ever, I've got a permanent team with real objectives. I've got a great boss (well, best as can be expected really) and he's now been my boss for almost 9 months. This is a record since in the past I've had 10 bosses in the past 5 years! 4 of those I had during 1 year whilst I was on maternity leave. He knew when he took me into this role that I didn't have all the skills required. He has quietly mentored me (ok, not so quietly at all). Our styles tend to be well suited to each other. He gives me a hard time and I take it and I give him a hard time and he takes it.

And I've got a great team of people who work for me. That's them in the picture on the left (with only a few people missing). These people are so dedicated and clever. They work days (and nights) on end to solve problems. They balance on the edge of the technology curve in a company that has never been even near the technology curve. What we do has the power to absolutely transform the way we do business internally with each other and externally with our customers. They believe in the vision and want to be a part of the execution. We all went on a day out on Wednesday last week to a theme park (Thorpe Park). We rode the roller coasters and water slides and got our adrenaline pumping. Boy, they don't make them like they used to. There was one called Stealth which basically does 0-80 in 2.3 seconds straight up then straight down. Literally. It is raw thrill seeking. I couldn't believe I did it. And doing ti with the team was a great adventure!

I also work with a team of colleagues that are also pretty amazing. They are clever and supportive. They inspire me to be better than I am. And are patient when we don't see eye to eye.

It has been a rare occurrence in my professional career that I've had the opportunity to believe in the work I do and the people I do it with. Sure the stress levels are off the chart at the moment. Everyone wants a piece of me, my team and our time. But that just means we are doing something right. And the right people are doing it! It's all about the people!

Saturday, 7 July 2007

7/7 Anniversary

Today marks the second anniversary of the bombings of 7/7. It was the point in time when the British could no longer convince themselves that their support of the US war in Iraq would not carry a price.

52 people died. 784 people were injured. All the bombers died.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Happy Days

Today was the last day of school for Sebastian! But we have had a very busy week!

On Tuesday, Sebastian performed in his ballet recital. This is the first year he has taken ballet. He is the only boy and has found some things like skipping very difficult. I was thrilled to see how much progress he has made since the beginning of the year. He still struggles with his skipping but he clearly thoroughly enjoys the ballet class full of girls. In October he has a duet with Amy. He is very excited about this despite the fact that he keeps threatening to quit on her. He's just winding her up! (Photos to follow. Mummy forgot the camera so borrowed somebody else's. Will update post when photos arrive!)

On Wednesday the children of Year 1 at St George's performed a World War 2 assembly where they presented all the facts they've learned about the second World War. We had some excellent acting from a young Hitler and Churchill. The costumes for the girls playing the Women at War were fabulous. What creative mummies we have!

Sebastian played a wartime evacuee. During the second World War, the children of England were evacuated from the big cities and sent to the villages dotted around the countryside. We dressed him in green and blue clothes (fairly drab) and put a name tag around his neck with a box for his gas mask. he had a real ration book that our neighbour, Gill, had loaned us. Seb thought it was seriously cool that he had a real ration book. We also made a fake identity card for him and gave him a small brown suitcase for his clean pants and socks.

He had one speaking line. Bella says "I'll miss my mummy." Sebastian adds "Me too!" It was an incredible spot of acting. I think he takes after me!

It all made me think of what a horrible time that was. The choices a mother had was to keep the children in London with them and possibly die in a bomb attack or send the children off far far away all alone. Oh I just don't know where one gets the strength and courage to make those decision. Nowadays I worry about white or brown bread.

Yesterday, he brought home all of his work that he's worked on throughout the year. I was amazed at all the things he's done and learned. I swear he knows more than me! His handwriting has improved massively. And he is a very talented writer. Some of his short stories are incredible! I like to think he takes after me in this area as well but that might be pushing it a bit too far.

And today was the end of the school year. This morning we went to the Leaver's Service in St George's Chapel inside Windsor Castle. This is one of the most magnificent chapels in the world. Henry VI and one of his wives, Jane Seymour, are buried here along with numerous other monarchs. I found myself sitting with a caliph of one of Napoleon's sons in front of me. i ask myself, "How did that get here?"

The children sang and we all prayed for the children now leaving the school and going on to senior school. We are also losing Miss Filmore who taught Sebastian in Year 1. He is actually very sad about this and we've had quite a few tears. I think it is the uncertainty of the future.

But with the end of the year came the beginning of the next year and we were given the class list for next year. Sebastian's teacher will be Mrs Saunders and he is very excited. We also have a whole bunch of new classmates who have been at the school but never in Sebastian's class. This is also very exciting for him as he says "Now I get to make even more friends, Mummy."

Gosh, I wish I had his positive attitude about everything.

And now the summer holidays begin in earnest!

Sad Day


Our neighbour, Gill, moved today. She sold her house a few months back and as of today she longer lives there.

I am deeply saddened by this. With Marc's mum all the way down on the Isle of Wight and my parent's living 5000 miles and a very long expensive plane journey away our children greatly benefited from having Gill act as a surrogate grandmother.

She was a former district nurse so when I had the typical parent panic stricken moments agonising over high fevers and raspy coughs she would always soothe my anxiety and suggest whiskey. For me, not them. I liked that pragmatic approach.

She would drop round on Saturday mornings early (by 8 am) still in her dressing gown for a cup of coffee and more than once she popped in for Sunday breakfast when she smelled the bacon cooking. I loved that about her.

She was always available for gardening advice and her garden always made me envious.

She's an avid reader and we swapped books all the time. None of her recommendations have left me disappointed.

She babysat for us and insisted that Marc and I go out once a month for some married time. The children were always thrilled when she stayed. I think she reads stories better than we do!

She's not going far (just over to Windsor) but it won't be the same. She will be greatly missed.

I hope the new neighbours are nice.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Independence Day

I love this holiday. Some readers think I am anti-American. I don't know how that would be possible. My family are American. Many of my friends are American. I love visiting America.
I love so much of what America is about.

I love the way we are taught from a very young age that we can anything we want to be. It doesn't matter if your father is a truck driver. You can be president, if you so desire. Hard work and imagination can get you far. The entrepreneur spirit is alive and well and is encouraged in particular my the investment opportunities and corporate tax structure.

In the UK when my husband and I told British friends that we were starting our own business they all took a solid and sharp intake of breath and told us we were crazy. When we told our American friends they were like "Go for it!"

But this isn't why I love this holiday. I love the occasion that it celebrates.

A group of men (supported by their wives and children) decided they felt so unjustly treated by the leaders of their government that they were going to rise up against it. They had tried to reason with the King of England and Parliament. They had tried to negotiate what they felt had been unfair treatment. They debated the issues endlessly and eloquently in the various halls in the "cities" of those first 13 colonies.

But when this all this failed, they wrote an amazing letter (aka The Declaration of Independence) and said they wanted to be left to their own devices. They fought hard against what was arguably the world's super power at the time. They fought against their neighbours who were loyal to the crown. They fought against one of the best trained militaries in the world.

But they were clever men and they aligned themselves with other military powers. France came to the rescue to help them out in the seas and cut off Britain's supply chains in the ports. And eventually those clever men and the armies they had assembled won against the big bad wolf. David had slain Goliath. And a nation was born.

I used to go to Boston quite often when the company I worked for was based there. I would walk the Freedom Trail and marvel at how courageous the founding fathers and their friends must have been.

It is always a bit odd to be here in England on this day. With their usual pithy comments, the English try to pretend that they don't regret losing their former colony. Good riddance and all that.

But I know the truth. We were quite a catch. And now we are free.

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form,as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty,to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual,uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records,for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation,have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province,establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages,whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of allages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must,therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown,and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace,contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

There are 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1 Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton
Column 2 North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn,
South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr. Thomas Lynch, Jr. Arthur Middleton
Column 3 Massachusetts: John Hancock
Maryland:Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr. Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
Column 4 Pennsylvania: Robert Morris Benjamin Rush Benjamin Franklin John Morton George Clymer James Smith George Taylor James Wilson George Ross
Delaware: Caesar Rodney George Read Thomas McKean
Column 5 New York: William Floyd Philip Livingston Francis Lewis Lewis Morris
New Jersey: Richard Stockton John Witherspoon Francis Hopkinson John Hart Abraham Clark
Column 6 New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett William Whipple
Massachusetts: Samuel Adams John Adams Robert Treat Paine Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins William Ellery
Connecticut: Roger Sherman Samuel Huntington William Williams Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire: Matthew Thornton

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

No Vacation!

And what do you think of this nonsense?

I am thrilled to work in a country that has 20 days annual leave for all permanent full time workers s a matter of law. It is one of the reasons I stay in the UK. I also earn an additional 9 days with my current employer taking my total annual leave up at 29 days. I work less than 11 months of the year!

I get to enjoy my family, my friends, the world. I can take time off to go teach in my sons school. I make sure I take annual leave to go to Sports Days and School Plays. My family and I will take 2 weeks off in August to go to France and Cornwall. I am about so much more than work work work.

I feel sorry for those people who work for Mr. Trump.

Like the Flowing River by Paulo Coelho

Several months back I bought a book called 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I have the travel version of it and love reading about places I've been and planning the trips for the future. So I was really looking forward to what the literary experts had to say about what I've read and what I should read.

Nothing short of sheer panic set in. Several books which have been highly praised by traditional literary critics were cited in the books. These are the same books which my book group, trusting the literary critics, had agreed to read. And I have been sorely disappointed.

The book recommends The Plot Against America by Philip Roth which I just don't get. I'm halfway through and have decided that my time would be better spent reading something else. Just about anything else.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen suffered a similar fate in my hands. Also notable are the omissions. Where is The Kite Runner? Why in the world would they select The Grapes of Wrath rather than East of Eden? Are they serious? Fingersmith by Sarah Waters is the most puzzling of all recommendations. Whilst I liked that novel I wouldn't put it in the top 1001 Top Books. Of All Time. That would be like including a John Grisham novel.

However, I was inspired by the fact that several authors had several entries. and one of those authors I have never ever read anything by him. Balancing the fear of reading something that is highly recommended by these literary critics but joyful at the prospect of discovering a new author I decided to see if I could find a short story collection and see how I got on.

Which led me to Like the Flowing River by Paulo Coelho. This is a book made of journal entries he made as he travelled around and various articles he has published in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines.

Paulo Coelho is Brazilian. He spends a bit of time living in Brazil and a bit of time living in France and a bit of time living in England. And he is a keen observer of the human condition. And a insightful pondere of what lies ahead of life. The introduction at the beginning of the book is worth reading alone.

I loved these stories. They could be blog posts. They are spiritual. They are funny. They are contemplative. They are quick and easy to read.

I am inspired to read more. Think I will pick Veronika Decides to Die. It comes highly recommended (by these literary critics) whom I don't quite trust entirely. Has anyone else read it?

Microsoft Visit

For the very first time I went to the visit the Microsoft campus in the UK. They employ about only 1,600 people in the UK. You couldn't tell it by their facilities. I can only say "WOW!"

If you forget that parking was a bit of a 'mare, I was very impressed. They have clearly invested in the work environment both for the benefit of their employees and their customers. Who says Microsoft doesn't care about the end user? Happy employees make happy customers I reckon!