Wednesday, 30 April 2008

I'm dealing with it

As part of dealing with Dad's affairs I've been in touch with banks and pension people to ensure everything is frozen.

Confirmation of an account being frozen is needed together with the status of the account as at the date of death.

Different organisations seem to treat this process very differently. The most involved, so far, was Barclays.

I spent a lot of time talking to the Barclays member of staff, answering his questions. He needed to ask his colleague quite a few questions because he was unfamiliar with the processes he needed to follow.

It transpired that Mr Barclays needed to make a phone call and he needed to pass on all of the information he had gleened from me, including how to pronounce bronchopneumonia.

I sat and I listened while he relayed the information to his colleague (and checked pronunciation along the way).

Mr Barclays advised me that they would be in touch with all of the information I would need.

I received a letter today from Barclays. It included the following:

"May I offer my sincere condolences on behalf of Barclays and its staff.

If you have any questions, please give us a call.

Please note our promotional mailings are selected several weeks in advance. It is possible that mail could still be addressed to the deceased. If this happens please destroy the mail and accept my apologies. Future mailings will stop shortly."

But there was no information about the accounts at all.

And can a company offer condolences? I'm not sure it can.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

External influence

If my children didn't interact with other people, other children, then birthday and Christmas present buying would be easy and cheap. As it is, there are too many influences that mean it is likely to be expensive and more complex.

Hannah and Ethan have had the opportunity to spend a fair bit of time with their cousins recently and I think that has dictated the birthday present requests.

Ethan will want a trampoline. Every spare second, regardless of the weather, he was outside playing on their trampoline.

Hannah will want a Nintendo DS. Every opportunity that she had was spent glued to the small electronic pink gadget.

I have less of a problem with the trampoline request as this at least promotes outdoor activity. Dave says I shouldn't be surprised Hannah wants a DS - her mother spends every spare second hooked into a laptop. Like mother like daughter.

Friday, 25 April 2008


Facebook has just added chat as a feature. I think it's an enhancement, but I'm not sure.

I think it's too early for me to tell whether it's a good thing or not. I think I like it.

I might change my mind. What do you think? Good, bad, waste of time?

Thursday, 24 April 2008

And another thing

I suggested a way of handling personal photos the other day.

Here's some more advice. Print the photos and write on the back of them. Tell people that don't know, who the photos contain and where and when it was taken.

This doesn't just benefit those who will be sorting through your effects in terms of deciding whether that baby the picture is a girl or a boy, or exactly where a little girl was sitting when her picture was taken. It helps you to remember after a few years have passed. You will forget. Not for all pictures, but for most you will forget exactly who, where and when.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Save money, build a machine

I went into a bank today and sat down for a while and watched. Don't worry, I'm not going mad; this isn't a new hobby of bank visiting.

There was an area devoted to a machine that looked rather like the cash machines that one finds inside a bank.

There was a note above it that said "Manage your account here."

I watched as people approached the machine.

They all looked a little bemused and lost, and I got the impression this wasn't because I was in Romford.

In fact, everybody that went to use the machine needed assistance. I couldn't help think it would be more efficient to ditch the machine and train the employees to do the job of the machine.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

De-clutter your life

Digital cameras are wonderful aren't they... One can take pictures of this and that and Mrs Miggins who lives down the street.

Did you know that when you die and someone is going through your photos then they'll probably only bother with the ones you print, and then they'll throw out the pictures of this and that but they'll keep the picture of Mrs Miggins, because they won't know who she is and they'll assume that because you took a picture, she must have been important to you.

So throw out your brick red images of Uluru, ditch the picture of the infinite turquoise of Crater Lake and bin the beautifully crafted shots of the sunset at the Grand Canyon. They will mean nothing to those that you leave behind.

Keep the drunken party shots of your friends, save the pictures of the family at the zoo and treasure all school photographs. These are the ones that your loved ones will pore over when you are gone.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Missing rulebook

What are the rules about who attends funerals?

If I, as next of kin, don't want someone to attend the funeral, is it reasonable that I request they don't attend?

In my case, the situation is that they most certainly don't think it's reasonable.

It's not through any malice that I made the request but because I believed that this individual's presence would do more harm than good.

This individual caused my father hurt. Because of this individual, for a period of time, my dad was afraid to pick up the phone. In fact this individual is the reason that Dad installed caller id on his phone.

If someone had treated you in this way, would you want them at your funeral? Do you think your nearest and dearest would want to be reminded of this hurt by the mere presence of this person?

Should I forgive and forget? Should I bury the hatchet?

Sunday, 20 April 2008


I shouldn't have abandoned you so abruptly without an explanation. I apologise.

My Dad died last Thursday and I haven't really felt like writing.

Having said that, this experience has given me a million things to write about, but I will need a bit of time before writing, or typing, is possible without pain.

I do wonder though why life, and death, can't be a little simpler.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Business idea

I can't believe the poor quality of people participating in The Apprentice show this year.

I think people with a bit more experience, would obliterate this years competition.

With this in mind how about a business that offered aspiring corporate climbers (or corporate has beens) the opportunity to participate in Apprentice style activities.

Good idea?

It would be particularly attractive I think if the participants had the boardroom experience too.

I hereby nominate myself as someone willing to do the boardroom thing. I consider I'm obnoxious and gobby enough, just like the on screen persona of Sir Alan.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Compare and contrast

This morning I had two completely different customer service experiences.

Firstly I dealt with Ali at Enterprise who was the best example of customer service that I have seen for years.

I followed this with an encounter at Essex Ford where I couldn't have felt less valued.

I wonder who in an organisation needs to be convinced that customer service is key, the owner/manager or the customer facing staff, or both?

Monday, 14 April 2008

Today I learned...

Today I learned that if I were to increase my muscle mass by 2kg I would burn an incredible 24,000 additional kcal a year. Apparently that's equivalent to 100 burgers.

This information was contained in an advert and I could tell you who the advertiser was, but I won't.

This ad didn't work for me because the product doesn't fit with my lifestyle, but the message stuck, and it is clearly very sticky because I recalled it without having to write it down and, given the state of my memory, that is a feat indeed (my children tell me I have a head like a sieve).

The key to the success here was a curious hook. So if I were to write and advertising text book it would have a title heading "The Curious Hook."

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Life and death and stuff in between

Dad is being kept alive.

He's not on life support in the more usual sense of the phrase but he's experiencing the human provided equivalent.

He doesn't move or eat without help. He's got a chest infection and is on antibiotics. His voice is virtually non-existent. He's being propped up, figuratively speaking.

He's dying.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Advice to motorists

If you have a dodgy motor then may I proffer advice.

Park your car on the street facing the direction in which you wish to travel in the morning. Ensure that there is sufficient space in front of your vehicle for a long wheelbase Transit van with a Luton (box) body.

If you are unfortunate enough to require vehicle recovery by the likes of the AA or RAC the recovery truck will have enough space to park in front of your vehicle and your vehicle will be pointing in the right direction.

Contrast this with the disaster that was my car recovery this morning. It took the manpower from three patrol vehicles to push, pull and tow my car into a position where it was possible to get it onto the back of a tow truck.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Tea anyone?

Tonight I came home, exited the car, locked it with the remote and walked through the garden towards the house.

No sooner had I gone in through the door when the car alarm went off.

Not wanting to annoy our lovely neighbours, I used the remote to try and unlock or lock the car; anything to tell the car it wasn't being stolen.

Nothing worked.

I couldn't unlock the car to get in using the remote and the alarm was being very persistent and loud.

I realised that I would need to unlock the car manually, which is a bit of a challenge with these new-fangled keys. I started to take the key apart to remove the metal key bit. I mistakenly removed a silver bit of trim from the wrong side of the key. (I blame the blind panic that a car alarm induces.)

Eventually I removed the key cover and the key. I put the metal bit in the lock and levered it using the key fob to unlock the car successfully.

The alarm continued together with the hazard lights flashing and the headlights on.

Dave out of the house to come to my rescue with the spare key. That proved useless.

Dave bravely continued despite a migraine which must have been excruciating with an alarm overdose. He got the handbook out which proved next to useless although it showed me how to change the alarm settings, all of which I'm sure works fine if the car isn't having a hissy fit.

After what seemed an eternity the alarm stopped. We opened the car up and turned the headlights from automatic to off. The hazard lights seemed unresponsive to efforts to switch them off. The car locks also seemed to be ignoring our entreaties.

So my car is unlocked with the hazards flashing and will be recovered by the lovely people at the AA who know me so well now that they'll be inviting me round for tea.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Dirty protest

Some people disapprove of China's behaviour in Tibet. I'm no expert but, based on press coverage, I'm inclined to agree with them.

So why didn't I join the protesters trying to disrupt the progress of the Olympic torch through London?

Well, it would be hypocritical of me.

I remember when South Africa still had apartheid and I remember sporting boycotts and protests. I also remember product boycotts and official sanctions at the same time.

For China there are protesters but there isn't a big move to boycott Chinese products. I imagine it's because it's too difficult. China supplies too many of the goods in our stores. A boycott requires too much effort and protesters have become lazy.

It's easy to turn up, wave a placard and hurl abuse. It might even be fun. Making life more difficult by trying to source alternatives to Chinese manufactured products is, frankly, too much like hard work.

I'd like to know how many of the protesters in London yesterday let their views affect their entire approach to life, and how many viewed it as a "day out."

Sunday, 6 April 2008

I am bovvered

I watched the first of the new series of Doctor Who.

I wondered how Catherine Tate would fare in the role of Doctor's assistant. Having seen her in the Christmas special I was dubious about her acting ability.

I had a look online to see what others thought. There were lots of people that shared my reservations about Ms Tate's theatrical ability but I was reassured by the overwhelming view that "the girl done good."

Well I didn't think so.

Unfortunately she has been exposed portraying a variety of odious characters in The Catherine Tate show. Her range seems to be contained within those characters and throughout her performance in Doctor Who I kept seeing Catherine Tate rather than Donna, the Doctor's new friend.

I liked Rose Tyler and I liked Martha Jones. I don't like, or consider credible, Donna Noble.

And even though it's a fantasy show, I am bovvered.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Memory Lane

I drove along Memory Lane yesterday. I parked the car, got out and took some pictures.

This is a picture of the house in which I spent my first few years.

It's posher than it used to be. I don't recall uPVC double glazing and the extension above the garage (and even the garage) is not present in my memory.

I recall the nearby common upon which ponies were tethered. The ponies have gone but the common remains.

There is a strange familiarity about the area despite my departure at the age of four.

I doubt I'll visit again unless the BBC knock at the door and invite me to participate in an episode of Who do you think you are?

Memory Lane = Fordbrook Lane

Friday, 4 April 2008

Funeral headache

I've had a headache for most of the day.

Today I went to a funeral and not unsurprisingly I cried. Funerals are generally sad places and they induce crying caused by emotions.

I always get a headache when I cry. I had previously thought this was caused by some kind of pressure build up caused by trying not to cry. Whenever I find myself crying I don't want to and I try not to. I'd thought that the headache I experience was because I was trying really hard to maintain composure.

Well the "crying headache" is a known phenomenon. OK, I'm saying that based on a quick Google search. There were loads of links confirming a link between crying and a headache. Some suggested it was the stress behind the headache that was responsible, others that it was dehydration caused by water loss through tears.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Triumph over hypocrisy

We aren't religious. We only go to church when invited to attend a life event or when nagged by the children.

The nearest primary school to our house is a Church of England Aided school.

A common practice amongst parents of pre-school children is regular attendance at school until the school application form has been signed by the priest. We didn't do this. Hannah managed to bag a place at the school anyway.

This week we waited to see whether Ethan would be equally lucky.

The council make the decision these days which has its downsides. If the school were to make the decision we may have had a few factors in our favour.
  • Ethan's sister is very well behaved at school and she also performs well academically.
  • Ethan's mum has a history of cake-baking to support school cake sales.
  • Ethan's mum has a history of supporting school fund-raising activity.
  • Ethan's parents never miss a parent's evening for his sister.
But none of these were considered, and still the top 5 criteria for admission relate to being demonstrably religious.

We didn't crack and betray our beliefs by attending church just to make our lives easier. We just hoped for the best. And it seemed to work, because yesterday I read the e-mail that confirmed he had a place.

It's a relief. Handling school runs for children attending different schools would have been a challenge, but one I risked rather than live with hypocrisy.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Love Sugar

The Apprentice is compelling viewing.

One has to admire Sir Alan Sugar for the gall that he displays when taking aspiring professionals and requiring them to, in the first week, sell fish, and, in the second week, do washing and ironing.

How great to see people who have a high opinion of themselves doing dirty, sweaty work.

And I do wonder, especially after the firing tonight, whether Sir Alan is chasing ratings rather than making the decision that would provide him with the best assistant.

But maybe that's Sir Alan making the best commercial decision after all.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008


Today, described by highlights and lowlights.

  • A beautiful sunrise
  • A sunny walk this morning
  • Receiving a copy of an April Fool's message from Hannah's best friend "All my teeth fell out today"
  • Receiving a copy of a reciprocal April Fool's message from Hannah "I went to the hairdresser today and had all my hair cut off"
  • Klaus saying terribly nice things about other people's work for which I claim credit
  • Seeing two rabbits at lunchtime next to the office
  • Reiner offering to help another team
  • Beer at the airport
  • Buying "duty free"
  • Ben Schott's page in the Times
  • Flying above clouds made from cotton wool
  • Seeing my two children sleeping sweetly when I got home


  • A very early start
  • Not having a tea or coffee before the flight
  • Having a tea on the flight
  • German coffee
  • Carrying a laptop to Cologne and then not using it
  • Lunch
  • Problems with the other people's work for which I claim credit
  • A near miss on the coach transfer to the airport
  • Delayed flight home
  • Getting home after the children had gone to bed
Do more highlights make me an optimist or just lucky?