Thursday 1 December 2005
To bring you up to date, in the last seven days:
- Hels went to hospital, but everything was fine
- We started ante-natal classes – Hels now knows how to scream convincingly during labour
- We bought six pies at the farmers’ market
- The family came over and we did more work to upgrade the Global Headquarters building
- We watched Hels’s dad in a village panto (actually very funny)
…and I’ve been very busy with work and stuff, hence the continued quiet here.
Bake me three
Monday 5 December 2005
A ferry interesting piece of writing
Yay! Travel blogging! This time aboard the Stena Discovery, the world’s largest high speed ferry. Today it is notable for being the largest nearly empty high speed ferry, carrying probably not more than forty cars.
I’ve forked out the not unreasonable sum of £11 each way to use the business lounge facilities, with magazines, endless free tea and coffee, extremely comfy seats, power points for laptops (Dutch-style sockets, power adaptor fans!) and, best of all, no children. I’m not sure that I should say that last bit, what with becoming a dad in a few short weeks, but when travelling for work, I like a bit of peace and quiet. Of course, once I’m travelling en famille, then things will be different, I’m sure, and I’ll be frequenting the brightly-coloured kiddies’ area of the ship. One thing that they could do to improve things is to offer WiFi in the lounge – having use of my laptop is great, but having no access to the wacky world wide webnet is a major drawback when so much of my business is conducted by email.
The purpose of this journey is a whistle-stop tour of Dutch clients, existing and potential, just to touch base before I disappear from the scene for a while during the last few weeks of the pregnancy and during my paternity leave. I’m entitled to take two weeks paternity leave and the government gives my company £105 per week towards my pay for those two weeks. As usual with this sort of thing, there is quite a lot of paperwork to complete. Sometime in the next ten days, I must serve a notice on myself notifying myself that I intend to take paternity leave and ensuring that I know that I must pay myself for that time. Then I must tell the Revenue that I’ve served that notice on myself so that they know that I’m going to pay myself for paternity leave and claim that money back against taxes that I’ve deducted from myself. But if the company can get £210 free cash, I don’t mind taking twenty minutes out to fill a few forms.
Woo! Yay! Free snacks! A nice young man has just brought a tray of crudités along with a voucher for a free drink in the restaurant – clearly a sprat to catch a mackerel, but all good stuff for my cunning money-saving plan to survive the trip without actually paying for any nourishment (free drinks, free fruits, free nibbles so far – it’s all going to plan). Oooh! Internet At Sea – wi-fi, hurrah! But boo! It doesn’t work due to "technical problems".
(And before anyone says, I know that these things aren’t free – I’ve paid £11 each way for them – but they are "free at the point of delivery" as HMG would say).
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the Netherlands – this trip will involve visits to places in order of increasing difficulty to spell, starting with Lisse, Hillegom, Hazerswoude Dorp and finishing with ‘s-Hertogenbosch – a place so difficult to spell and say (remember that the Dutch add phlegm to everything) that even the locals shorten it to simply Den Bosch. My business is coming up on its third birthday (February 12th, birthday cake fans!) and in that time I’ve got a much better handle on the whole European market, particularly the notoriously difficult Dutch section – having done my corporate Christmas cards this weekend, I know that I’ve sent more cards to the Netherlands than any other overseas destination.
Occasionally, one of you asks how things are progressing with the business (although it is very occasional these days – feedback has definitely fallen off, as have overall readership numbers, since my posting habits became more sporadic). I’m definitely working much harder these days (hence the lack of time for
slacking blogging) although the money is far from flooding in. The problem with working as a plant breeders’ agent is that, if a breeder comes to me with a new plant today, it might be three to five years before I (and the breeder) earn any money from it. Consequently, some of the very first varieties that I started working with are now beginning to bear fruit – one in particular is really beginning to take off worldwide, and will probably become the most popular variety of its type (and credit for that goes to the breeder, not to me – I just facilitate, but I can facilitate as much as I like and not get anywhere if the variety isn’t up to much). But the revenue streams from these varieties are not enough yet to really turn the tide – they do, however, hold out promise that things are improving. If only the general economic situation and market conditions were better – that would definitely help.
But don’t panic. I’m not about to disappear without financial trace just yet.
I’m just seeing what all the fuss is about with this here ferry – for the last 50 minutes, we’ve been trundling along at fairly sedate standard ferry speed. We’ve now got out into open water and they’ve just opened up the throttles on the gas turbines. Now we’re motoring! When the ferry left Harwich, the lifeboat was sailing out of the harbour – we’ve just overtaken it, going considerably faster. Mind you, there’s a massive wake and I wonder how envirnmentally friendly this all is. H and I have been looking at our carbon quotas – we’re almost certainly polluting more than we should, the product of not being very good at turning electrical equipment off (instead of to standby), taking far too many short-haul flights, living in a rural area so using our cars constantly, having fairly inadequate insulation on our home and so on – and so I’m a little more conscious of this sort of thing. Whilst my crossing of the North Sea today probably produces lest carbon emissions than flying, the fact I had to drive for two and half hours to get to the ferry probably negates a lot of the benefit (not train connection could get me to Harwich in time for the sailing, besides I need the car in the Netherlands). As with all things, there is no simple answer.
Actually, the thought that occurs to me is that you could wipe the floor with the discount airlines on this route by using ekranoplans – both fast (as fast as an airliner) and environmentally friendly (or at least less damaging than aircraft). Now that would be fun!
We’re now approaching Hoek van Holland – there are dozens of ships at anchor as we approach the port. I’ve taken a picture of the view along the wake which I’ll add later. A stroll around the ship reveals bored passengers with glazed stares before TV screens blaring classic Eric and Ernie, children parked behind screens showing Tom and Jerry (a few seconds confirms the episode as Ol’ Rocking Chair Tom – yes, I’m a 40s cartoon anorak).
Time to power down and see what bits of the Netherlands are open during Sintaklaus.
…to my brother and his
girlfriend fiancée Tracy, who have announced their engagement. Hurrah! Apparently Tim proposed whilst sitting in a Ford Fiesta – all class.
Apparently, I need to get my best man speech-writing skills up to date.
Tuesday 6 December 2005
Ik werk voor BERK
Spotted in the car park of De Vroomen Holland BV, Lisse, Netherlands, 6 December 2005.
Friday 9 December 2005
The perfect place to get your lovely fresh Rommels. Three for a fiver!
Spotted by junction 43 of the A59 near Vlijmen, Netherlands. 8 December 2005.
Sunday 11 December 2005
Hmm. I’m having problems with the Akismet anti-spam plugin for WordPress. It won’t let me review comments and I know from just before it went belly-up that it was screening out Brian’s comments as spam (clearly not the case). I’ve emailed the plugin author to alert him, but no news yet.
Anyone else had the problem of not being able to review messages? I’m using Akismet 1.12 on WP1.5. When I go to the review/moderate page, I get this error message where the list of messages should be displayed:
Fatal error: Call to undefined function: get_post() in /var/www/vhosts/grayblog.co.uk/httpdocs/wp-content/plugins/akismet.php on line 253
Monday 12 December 2005
Quote of the day
Erwin Rommel. I expect you all to act on this advice today.
Tuesday 13 December 2005
Note to Microsoft – the correct spelling of Seamus is Seamus, not Shamus. Please update your spellcheckers.
That is all.
Thursday 15 December 2005
Hels has now officially finished work. She has a little bit of holiday to use up, then her company’s Christmas holiday and then her official maternity leave begins – but, in effect, her maternity leave begins now.
Of course, once the baby arrives, there’ll be no shortage of things to do. But, in the meantime, she’s now engaged in some sort of phoney war preceding the onslaught of the nappy hordes. I give her three days before she is bored rigid.
UPDATE: three days? More like three hours!
Monday 19 December 2005
Hoogstraten criminally responsible for Raja’s death, says the High Court – according to the Raja family’s lawyer, the evidence suggests that Hoogstraten is a psychopath.
Maybe now there will be some sort of justice for the Raja family?
Tuesday 20 December 2005
Big billed catty puss
Today – two cats to Nearbyville for a prod, poke, two jabs each and a pill each – the feline equivalent of a 10,000 mile service. Outcome? £77, please and thank you. Ouch.
Wednesday 21 December 2005
Bob’s guide to dealing with ghosts. How handy.
Level all crear
Amusing oriental game involving cubes. It takes a few minutes to figure out what’s going on, but is pretty easy to work out even if you can’t read Japanese.
Captain Suave vs A Large Monkey
Thursday 22 December 2005
Notice that everyone is on their last day at work today? You can tell by the way that they are doing nothing other than sending ecards to everyone in their address book to give them something to do until the Christmas sherry is opened at lunch time (bought from the discount bin at the Co-op, no doubt). So far I’ve had five and, thankfully, only one of them was musical. Mind you, that’s two more than the number of actual cards that I’ve received and one of them wasn’t even made of card!
In other news, go over to Scaryduck and give him a well-deserved HONK. I think I might have to make some sort of New Year’s Resolution about finally getting around to doing something about upgrading my existing crop of post-name letters (from ACIM to MCIM) and adding to them (with the words "Chartered Marketer"). This will mean study and evenings in seminars, but it will be worth it – one of my competitors has the upgraded version of my letterage and I want to be seen to out-do him.
And in yet other news, I see that the WordPress 2.0 will be released on Boxing Day. I feel a festive upgrade coming on, which might resolve the issues with the non-functioning archives and the malfunctioning comments. On the other hand, it might make no difference at all.
Saturday 24 December 2005
Last year, my Israeli clients all seemed to make a point of sending me emails on Christmas day, as if to say "Ha! Makes no difference to us!". It’s not a tradition that I wish to see encouraged.
So, having put together our quiz for the family for tomorrow (goodness knows why we have to do this sort of thing – I’d rather eat loads of food and then sit around being bloated than have to entertain people), wrapped all the presents (there were lots – and I only had to do the ones that I’m giving to H, as she has taken care of gifts for everyone else – delegation is the name of the game), stocked up the food and fuel stockpiles in case of unexpected snowdrifts (60% chance of snow on Monday and Tuesday could render Ruralville isolated if the gritters don’t make it out to us on Bank Holidays), we’re now fully prepared for whatever the next few days throws at us.
Expect quiet here for the next few days (though you probably won’t notice much difference from normal) except for automated posting of the quiz here tomorrow (can’t do it today in case the in-laws read it). Whatever you’re celebrating, I hope you have a good time.
Sunday 25 December 2005
As given to our family. No prizes, just the satisfaction of knowing you got some of the questions right. Answers in the comments please. I’ll publish the answers next week somewhen. And remember that you’ll get no satisfaction if you use Google.
REVIEW OF THE YEAR
- Name all of the orignal declared candidates for the Tory party leadership.
- England won the Ashes series 2-1. Give the results (win, lose or draw for England) in the correct order for all five tests.
- Charles Kennedy became a dad during the election campaign. What name did he and his wife give their child?
- Lucy d’Abreu, the oldest person in the UK, died this year. How old was she? (just the years!)
- Name the other three teams in England’s group for the World Cup.
CHILDREN’S ROUND (easy questions for the kids!)
- Name the lion in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
- What sport do they play at Hogwarts?
- Name Wallace’s favourite cheese.
- How many colours of the rainbow are there?
- What’s the name of the policeman in Balamory?
- In the Twelve Days of Christmas, what did my true love give to me on the fourth day?
- What gifts did the Three Wise Men bring to the infant Jesus?
- Charlie Chaplin died on Christmas Day – in which year?
- What do you traditionally do at Christmas under Viscum album?
- There are three verses in the carol Deck The Halls With Boughs of Holly. How many “la”s are there in total in the whole carol?
GENERAL KNOWLEDGE ROUND
- If Doe is a deer, a female deer, what is Te?
- If petrol costs 90 pence per litre, how much does it cost for an imperial gallon? (within 5p either way will be considered correct)
- In which year was the original King Kong movie made?
- According the the Office for National Statistics, what are the number one names for girls and boys born this year?
- Name the capital of Pakistan.
TIE-BREAKER: In which year was the last Dodo seen alive? (nearest answer wins).
Doctor Rip Off
I caught the first ten minutes or so of the Doctor Who Christmas special. Was it really necessary to rip off Quatermass and The Pit so much?
Tuesday 27 December 2005
WordPress 2.0 has been launched, along with a complete redesign of the wordpress.org site. But the support forums are not functioning correctly, so I suggest that you hold off upgrading until things settle down a bit.
Does it pay to run towards shelter when it is raining? With real maths, apparently.
Friday 30 December 2005
Sunrise over Ruralville
…with mist in the trees. We wake up to this view every morning – envy us!
Snow on a phone pole
How does snow have enough stick to stick to one side of the pole like that, yet was so powdery that none of us could make a decent snowball, yet alone a snowman?
Photo taken yesterday at Tenterden, Kent.
Saturday 31 December 2005
I’m now running WP2.0 which seems to have cured the Akismet problem, but still leaves my archives in a dysfunctional state. I’ll see if I can find time to have a go at them again – it’s been a long time since they worked properly.