Saturday, 27 December 2008

2009 - what are you hoping for?

2008 has been a year of extreme highs and such dark lows for me and T.

We spent such a wonderful few days together last Christmas & New Year and started 2008 with so many wonderful expectations. We even created our very own manifestation collage. By the time March rolled around we were even more optimistic. T had a secure job, I had found work in Cambridge that I would love and we found a flat that, although not perfect, was pretty darn good compared to the others we looked at. It felt like our dreams were coming true and all that we had wished for ourselves for this year would be granted to us.

Then the dream turned into a nightmare - in May T developed severe pain in his arms and wrists and had to leave his plumbing career behind. Redundancy came before he had chance to find more work and however many job applications he filled in he just never received a reply. Living on my meagre wage just wasn't enough and twice we had to rely on my parents to bail us out. We tried to keep positive even when T was feeling so weak and helpless and depression started to sink in, but it was so hard...

Then things started to look up when I received an invite to an interview at the city council's tourist information centre. That sounded right up my street - and just in time as the week before my interview I fell ill with such a debilitating inner ear infection I couldn't move for days without throwing up and it took me the whole two months of my notice period at the nursery I couldn't even work full-time. But I started work at the end of August and things were perfect. My colleagues were great, I had a new sense of pride in my work and a spring in my step. They even offered T a casual post to help us get by until his new job (NEW JOB!!!) at the hospital began. Things were finally going our way...

November was a hell of a month for me though - with medical treatment for an ongoing issue causing me more problems than I started with and rendering me unable to work for most of that month my self-esteem dropped to such a low. And although the treatment was stopped over a month ago I am suffering from worse symptoms now than I was before. Christmas has been a sad affair for me - the first spent away from my family and one spent curled up in pain and close to tears.

2009, however, should hopefull bring with it a return to less rollercoaster rides. We will be moving house again - but this time to a beautiful place thanks to friendship and generosity of kind and loving people. I see the gynaecologist in January and hopefully get some answers - if not my manager has offered to refer me to occupational health - and with the support of understanding managers I have received great reviews at my probationary work meetings. I am quietly optimistic this year though - after last year's optimism being cut so short I am trying to take it day by day...

2009 is going to be such a hard year for many. T and I have already been through our first year together in such hard circumstances we feel we can face anything - but we'd rather face nice things for a while. I do hope that others find a bit of peace and respite in 2009 too. And that's what I hope for 2009 - not just for us but for all of you too!

With love
Amanda x

Friday, 19 December 2008

Ice Skating - OUCH!

T and I went to my work's do last night - at the outdoor skating rink and German Christmas Market. As we are part of city centre management who have dealt with these things coming into town it was great to go and see it. We even got to go ice skating for free!!

Not everybody was brave enough to have a go but those of us who did had a great time. I was amazed at how well people were doing - I personally fell over twice within my first lap and once again on my last. T had to show me how to actually skate (I didn't know I had to bend my ankles inwards to balance) and he held my hand as I went round to begin with (having had to pick me up off the floor twice when I tried on my own!)

When I was younger we went skating a couple of times at a place which had a two level ice skating rink. I would always end up in a heap at the bottom of the slope going down to the lower rink and attendants would have to come and save me. I was glad this rink was on one level and not quite so crowded.

The rink was so wet though - as soon as I fell over the first time my jeans were soaked straight through from ankle to bum. *BLEUGH* After that that I thought it didn't matter if I fell again and just went for it...

Of course the second time I went down I wasn't wearing any gloves and smacked my palm against the ice so hard I have bruised it. I wondered why it hurt so much. And then the last time I fell quite badly on the base of my spine and smacked my right elbow on the ice - followed swiftly by T falling on top of me as he had tried to catch me before I fell. Oh the heroics...

shame he didn't get wet as well!! I didn't think to take spare clothes so had to sit for another hour or so in soaking wet jeans in the ice cafe (although the non-alcoholic mulled wine made up for that!) and then froze as we waited for our bus to take us home. Needless to say, I jumped straight in a steaming hot bath when I got home.

Today I ache quite a bit but have very happy memories of the night out. We almost missed it as I got my dates wrong but I am so glad we didn't. It was great spending some social time with the guys I work with. And I told my supervisor that if I complain about my pain today he is entitled to tell me it's all my own fault... the way I'm feeling I probably will complain - do you think he'll do as I said?

"Ow my back hurts!"

"It's your own fault, Amanda!"

"Ow my arm hurts!"

"Seriously, Amanda, you said..."

Yeah... I think he might just enjoy that :o)

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Other blog

As I haven't posted on my private blog for some time now I thought I'd just leave a quick note to let those of you who are following it know there is a new post there now.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Contemplative Christmas


I was so overjoyed to find this nativity scene in the charity shop recently. As a child, however much I loved the tinsel and baubles on the tree the nativity scene was always a favourite addition to the decorations. I find it strange really to think we had a nativity scene now because my family is not Christian and never marked the birth of Christ but rather a joyous time for family and friends in the depth of winter. One of my friends once asked me in my teens what Christmas meant for me if I wasn't a Christian and I found it hard to really say as I'd never thought about it - it just was.

Although my family never celebrated in the Christian tradition I was taught the Christmas Story at school and later as a member of a church choir I was reminded of it once again. As a child I would love to sit by the nativity and think of Mary and Joseph making their journey - this and thinking of santa and his elves took up a great amount of time in advent during my childhood years. I had the exact same faith in santa as I did in God - unquestioned faith that these things existed. I fought so hard not to hear that santa wasn't real (I even made santa and his wife and his elves and the reindeer cards and presents when I was 10 trying my hardest to prove what everybody said was wrong!) In some ways the loss of one belief signalled the end of the other.


I never actually lost all my belief - it just changed. I still believed in the intangible, in something beyond what I could see - but that something became very indistinct. Through the years it developed into what I now believe which in many ways separated me from the Christian faith. I followed my heart and found that it didn't agree with what I had been taught - yet still I would love the quiet moments after everybody else went to bed on Christmas Eve to sit by the tree and think about that night so long ago when a mother and father desperately searched for a place to welcome their son to the world. Such a humbling moment in the fast paced Christmas festivities.

Which is why out of all the characters in my new nativity scene I think my favourite is this shepherd boy. Stood behind the wise men he brings a humble gift of a lamb - it's not what he brings but that he came at all. Last night T and I watched A Muppet Christmas Carol and two things struck me: 1) how amazing it is that a tale about humility and love of mankind has become as much a part of Christmas as the Nativity (well they compliment each other beautifully don't they?) and 2) how very hard life used to be for people and this humbled me more than anything. T and I have had the worst year ever and have reached the limits of our funds yet again. And yet we still have a home - it is cold and damp but its still a home and through the kind generosity of newfound friends we will have a beautiful home next year. And despite one of us being made redundant through health and the other still struggling healthwise we are still together, with a life ahead of us. We don't have to worry about paying for healthcare or putting food on our table as nobody will let us go hungry. Our lives are so much more than many who have gone before us - hard to remember sometimes when the world is bent on telling us how much we need this or that or doomsayers tell us we're heading for deflation...

This is my first Christmas away from my parents - it is a strange prospect not to be with them but I am so excited to spend it with T and start our own traditions for this special time of year. We are hoping to head to a Carol Service tonight. I dreamt about Carols the other night - I honestly cried in my dream at the beauty of them. Everything seems to be taking on new meaning this year. I can't say I'm a believer - I believe in something and I am pretty sure that the Nativity happened in one way or another but I cannot say I am sure I fully believe. But what I can say is that the message of what happened that night so long ago will continue to haunt me (in a good way) this Christmas time and perhaps every Christmas to come. It's a humble Christmas for us this year - I'd love to have more money to treat those I love to things they will cherish - but I am reminded that my love and thoughts are enough.
Apologies if this is a rather sentimental post - but I am feeling rather overwhelmed by the spirit of this season - especially after all that has happened this year for us. So I leave you with a candle for contemplation and wish you a very joyous Advent.







Thursday, 11 December 2008

Seals - finally!



Sorry it's taken me so long to get round to this post. I have been wanting to share these photos for ages but just haven't had the time to post them - too many Christmas cards to write and gifts to wrap and parties to attend (hehe no actually they don't start til this coming weekend - along with the long list of carol services I've told Tim I want to go to!)

I've been very contemplative this Advent season and will most likely post more about my musings but for now I will just get on with the long-awaited post!

The photo at the top of this page is meant to show how far along the beach the seals were and also how bloooming cold it was that day - but it's too small so you'll have to use your imaginations :o)


This was the most common sight along the beach - a mother and baby having a rest. The babies would occassionally make a noise that honestly sounded like "mum, mum" and the mothers would occassionally look up at an unexpected noise, see it was just 'those humans again' and settle back to her sleep. It's so strange to think that they are so relaxed with all us humans taking pictures of them - but they have come to this same beach for so many years and been protected by the lifeguards and the RAF that they truly have no fear.


This is how close they would come. We were stood behind a second fence about a foot away from this seal pups head. This was one very nosy pup and s/he left the safety of mum's side to come and investigate. Alright for her but two of the mothers then started fighting over whose pup it was...

We think that it was the one in the background's because the one in the foreground has blood on her neck and from what we could gather she had no pup in sight. We think maybe she lost her pup and kept thinking others were hers only to be fought off by the real mothers. This is of course only speculation and I do hope it wasn't so - but knowing how hard it is for babies to survive in the wild we know it is a real possibility. Although I do not like to see them fighting I love this photo as it really catches the moment and the true nature of the seals - firecely protective of their young!

This last photo makes me laugh the most though - I don't know if you can enlarge the photo but basically a pup is nursing at the base of the sign which says:
"Danger: Military firing range. Keep out when warning flags or lights are displayed.
Danger: When access allowed do not touch any military debris. It may explode and kill you"
That is just how weird this whole thing is - the seals come over once a year and take over a whole military firing range. Last year when my parents when apparently the aircraft were flying over practising and the seals were less bothered than the humans. And the RAF there work to keep the seals safe whilst they are there. There was even a story of a seal who many years ago came close to death caught with wire around its neck. The RAF worked with the lifeguards and local conservationists to free the seal and save it and since then it has come back each year to the exact same spot to have her baby. How cool is that?
Right I really must go to work now - I hope you enjoyed seeing the seals as much as I did!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Ok, no seals, but...

I haven't had the chance to sort out a picture post so no seal tales today. However it seems like forever since I updated my blog so I thought I'd do a quick one before heading to work.

We've been so hectic since coming back from our break in Lincoln. We've been to visit the house we shall be moving into - end of February - we have a date we can move in we just have to arrange with our current letting agents the date our contract here will finish. I cannot wait to move in and then take pictures to show you all :o)

After that we put up our tree and did the last of our Christmas shopping. I wrote tons of cards - I even sent one to a friend who I was convinced I hadn't sent one to yet. And now I can't remember if I sent one to a fellow blogger or not - so she may be receiving two cards if I can't figure it out soon!

Then it was back to work. I worked yesterday so it was a strange week - I also cashed up most of the days last week so with long days and T starting his new job (which he loves so far btw) we've not really had time to stop and think. Especially with babysitting last weekend - very enjoyable but also ate up quite a bit of last weekend.

On that note - can I do a shameless plug here? T's sister has set up her own business selling silver print jewellery and nursing necklaces. Please go visit her site and have a look - some of the things are just so beautiful.

In other news - I was recently very poorly. For reasons of a personal nature I didn't really post about it on here but started up a private blog. I've been experiencing lingering effects of the medication I was given. Then I saw my uncle and had some reflexology. Has anyone else tried that? I never had but boy did it do some good. I have felt great for most of this week - like my usual energy had come back. I had the reflexology on Thursday and my symptoms starting returning yesterday slowly - that's a good few days symptom-free. Amazing really when you think about it.

Better go - time for work. I promise I will write a proper post soon x

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Real People

I've been away for a few days so I have a few blog posts to catch up on. So imagine my suprise when I found I had received a blog award from my dear friend Clairey. And not only is it an award but it's a REAL PERSON award - apparently Clairey thinks I'm a real person - YAY!!

Seriously - what better compliment can a blogger receive? I'm not just a a name on a screen but a person people can imagine and hopefully get to know. Now I don't know about you but that is the whole reason I blog - and the blogs I continue to read are those who belong to people I can imagine writing their blog posts - real people!

So instead of nominating just 7 people I am going to pass this award on to all of you lovely ladies I have in my blogrolls - you're all very real to me. Feel free to take the award if you want to!

I'll be back soon with lots of news about the move (yes we are going to move) and tales of my driving lessons and the baby seals we saw...


But for now I have to finish unpacking from our trip and start decorating for Christmas - I don't usually decorate so early but this is the last chance T and I will get to enjoy a day decorating together as he starts his new job next week and we'll both be working some weekends at the TIC. Ah it's almost Advent so it's not too bad... is it?

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Moving time again?

It seems that my little wings don't like to lie still for over the past 6 years I have lived at 8 different addresses (plus stayed several times at my parents' home in between moves). For someone who lived 17 years of her life in the same house it's quite a shock really - and it has certainly made my Criminal Records Bureau checks I had to have each time I got a new job in care work very long and demanding things to fill in. But despite all of this T and I are considering yet another relatively short-term move...

When we moved into the flat we are in now we felt incredibly lucky. For the money we are paying (which is ridiculously high just because we are close to the city centre) we got a lovely light flat. Honestly, some of the places we looked at in our price range were so depressing I shudder to think we could have ended up living there. They were worse than student abodes. But as time went on we quickly realised it wasn't perfect - our neighbour downstairs is a DJ or something and works nights so he complains when we try doing our housework in the middle of the day at a weekend (when else are we going to do it?!) and then comes home early hours of the morning and talks on his phone so loudly it disturbs us if one of us is sleeping in the living room (which we've had to do a lot recently due to ill health). The sound proofing in this place is pretty much non-existant. Even more annoying is we have electric storage heaters which although good (most of the time) at heating things (and we do use an oil radiator more often to save us money) the heat just goes flying out of the flat as there is zero insulation. Every room has an outer wall as we are the corner flat and between us and the sky is a thin ceiling and an uninsulated loft with a metal roof. It's blooming freezing in here most days.

But despite all these problems we have no money to put a deposit down on renting a place elsewhere. There are houses for a similar rent as our flat in neighboring villages which now that I work in the city centre have great bus links and would be a viable option for us now. But we just do not have the money to ake the move and we decided to stay here until we had enough money to put a down payment on a house of our own instead of moving around loads and loads.

That is until a colleague of mine found out she was moving abroad for 18 months and wanted someone to rent her house. For the same price we pay for our one bedroom flat we could have a 4 bedroom house in a lovely village. Our landlord and landlady would be people we knew and trusted. We would have a spare bedroom so when long-term illnesses hit neither one of us has to sleep on a creaky, uncomfortable sofa bed. And even better we wouldn't need to have a deposit of nearly a thousand pounds meaning we would get that money back from our letting agent and it would go a long way to helping us out right now whilst T is still waiting for his new job to start and we could start saving it back up again during the 18 months we are living there.

Sounds perfect, right? There's only a tiny problem - getting to work. This particular village is not on an easy bus route. If I could drive to the park and ride site I'd be laughing. If mine and T's working hours coincided we'd be fine but as he's going into healthcare he will be working some shifts. There is a bus that goes direct from the village to the city but only 3 times per day and it takes a lot longer meaning if I am feeling rough my days will be much longer (I've done the commuting thing before and it is rather tiresome). We are planning to go see the house and my colleague this week to further discuss our options - we don't want to let a great opportunity go by but we also don't want to find ourselves regretting moving further from work.

On the plus side - if we move into a house I can buy the dancersize dvds I've always wanted with no fear of turning my neighbour into a crazed lunatic bent on my destruction... that in itself is enough to make my mind up!!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Meme

I found this one over at Zena Moon and thought it was time I did one :o)

What is your occupation right now? Information Assistant at the local Tourist Information Centre.

What color are your socks right now? I'm not wearing any - I don't have a favourite sock colour but I do like pretty ones with pastel colours or flowers on.

What are you listening to right now? The film Hackers - T is watching it.

What was the last thing that you ate? Some dried toast and chilli flavoured doritos with hummus - I woke up from an afternoon doze feeling rubbish and needed to eat something.

Can you drive a stick shift? Most people do in the UK. I'm learning to drive so yeah, kinda.

Last person you spoke to on the phone? My mum.

How old are you today? 24 years and um 194 days (I think that's right)

What is your favorite sport to watch on TV? I don't like watching sports but if I had to it'd be gymastics, ice skating or ice hockey. Oh I lie I LOVE watching dancing :o) Always have and always will.

What is your favorite drink? It depends. I mostly drink hot water. But I do love tropical jucie and apple juice.

Have you ever dyed your hair? Nope. I think people would kill me if I did - besides I like my hair colour and it changes with the seasons anyway.

Favorite food? Risotto. I also love pasta dishes and my all time favourite as a child (and when I'm poorly now) is fish fingers, chips and spaghetti *yum*

What is the last movie you watched? The Santa Clause (yes I know it is a bit early but I felt like I needed some Christmas Cheer after the past few weeks).

Favorite day of the year? Christmas Eve - I just love the excitement of it all - the last minute gifts to be wrapped and put in stockings, the carols on tv and the dreams of the next day.

How do you vent anger? I'm very bad at it. I tend to get upset rather than angry. It does take a lot to make me really angry but when something or someone does I tend to explode - I'd never want to be the person my anger is directed at. Thankfully it only happens like that once every few years. Usually I just get irritated and get sit and contemplate on why I feel that way and then either work it out in my own head or talk it through with someone and then it's ok.

What was your favorite toy as a child? My baby dolls. I only owned one of my own the others were my sister's but I stole them hehe. She outgrew them and wasn't as interested as me anyway. I wanted pushchairs and prams and all sorts of things - I went from playing with dolls to helping my mum with the kids she looked after and then into working in nurseries - is it any surprise to any of you I loved my dolls? lol

I also loved Playmobil and Lego. Anything I could use for role-playing games - I loved to make up stories. But my dolls were always first and foremost on my mind - they were truly alive to me.

What is your favorite season? I would say Autumn because I love the colours but I also love Spring for the freshness of it all, and winter for the beautiful crisp mornings and summer for the glorious evenings. I cannot decide on one and feel blessed to live in a country where we have all four - even if they are a bit screwed up sometimes.

Cherries or blueberries? Cherries definately - but only fresh ones - I hate glace ones and morello ones are my absolute fav! I never had blueberries til this year and they are ok but not my fav.

Living arrangements? T and I rent a one-bed apartment - top floor on the corner (we enter it on the second floor and go up some internal stairs to the third floor) It has a bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom and hallway. It's small but it's our home.

When was the last time you cried? Last night, whilst laying on the sofa with T. I was getting psychotic and he called me a drama queen and I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. I couldn't stop - but it felt good - I needed to release. It wasn't his fault. He was perfect.

What is on the floor of your closet? Everything - some clothes that fell off their hangers, T's shoes (he has more pairs than me), a box of cotton and wool for crafting, some handweights and various other things.

What did you do last night? Lay with T, cried, ate risotto, went to bed, got up again at 3:30am so I didn't disturb T. It was a pretty crappy night.

What are you most afraid of? I'm afraid of many things. My biggest fears include letting people down big-time, losing T, never getting to have a house and kids or should I say never getting to live my lifelong dream!

Plain, cheese, or spicy cheese hamburger? I don't like burgers but I did use to like cheeseburgers with pickles.

Favorite dog breed? Hard to say - I like most but particularly like Dalmatians, Collies, Spaniels, Red Setters and those ones that look like they have too much skin - you know the wrinkly ones?! I think they are gorgeous - I don't know why I just do.

Favorite day of the week? Sunday - apart from the summer it is the one day I am guaranteed not to work, it is a quiet peaceful day to go for a walk with the people I love and there is a beautiful silent meditative service on at church. It's a day to just "be".

How many states have you lived in? None - I have lived in England, Germany and Russia though.

Diamonds or ruby? Diamonds - they are my birthstone and I love the clear quality of them. One of my favourite crystals is Clear Quartz too - they just seem to help with anything - pure in some way other crystals and stones aren't.

What is your favorite flower? I don't think I have just one favourite - a few of my favs are snowdrops, daisies, delphiniums, grape hyacinths, snap dragons, clematis, wild roses and bluebells - I much prefer wild forest flowers and country garden style bouquets than the more regal, posh collections of long stem roses, chrysanthemums (sp?) and the like. I'd rather receive a bunch of hand picked flowers from a friend's garden than a shop bought one.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Peanut butter and...

What do you eat that people say "ew that's weird" when they hear it?

The other day I asked T if we had any peanut butter. This is a strange request from me because I tend to like quite bland food (although recently I have really taken to much stronger flavours). He asked me why I wanted peanut butter and my response was - "to put on my cereal".

It seemed quite normal to me. You see, one summer when I was on camp we ran out of milk at breakfast and the girl sat beside me decided to eat peanut butter with her cornflakes and banana and whereas everyone else looked on in disgust I thought I'd try it. So I put a dollop of peanut butter on the side of my bowl, filled it with cornflakes and sliced banana and with each mouthful I'd take a slice of banana, some flakes and a small bit of butter. It was a bit dry but oh so yummy! That was actually my first experience of peanut butter (we never had things like that when I was little - we didn't even have chocolate spread!)

So, I was quite peturbed the other day when we didn't have any peanut butter and made T buy us some yesterday. I made him try peanut butter cornflakes this morning and he still thinks it's weird hehe. Oh well - I guess I'm alone in this.

So, am I the only one with a weird food choice?

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Rant

Ok - so since I've decided to write just what I think I'm going to do something I've never really done before on m blog - I'm going to tell you all about how annoying some of the tourists are that come into my workplace.

Now, I'm not going to be cruel - on the whole I love my job and the people I serve - but just occasionally I get riled up beyond belief at how much they expect us to be able to do. Seriously, when we say there is no way we can do something, why do people still insist that not only is there something we can do about it but that we MUST do it.

Yesterday, for example, I had an Italian lady and her teenage son come in asking for accommodation. We have two options for people wanting accommodation - we have a guide with all of the accommodation providers we work with listed in it, complete with map references and everything you'd need to find a place or we can find a place for people based on their specifications and charge a £5 booking fee for the time we take doing it and take a 10% deposit from the accommodation provider (because they get the business through us). Make sense so far? So, I am talking to this lady and she is saying she wants a twin room for £40 max. You're lucky to even get a single room for that price, especially when you come in the day you want the accommodation for. So I explain to her that the bare minimum for a twin room would be £50 IF she had booked weeks ago but as she wanted it today there would be limited availability and it would be more expensive. I know these things - I book accommodation for people every single day. This is why we have the service, it takes the stress away from people who do not know the area. And most people are happy to have someone who knows the area to book somewhere for them. But not this lady - she was insistent that she wanted one for £50 max now and no more.

I spent 45 minutes with this lady, ringing every single provider I could think of. There was nothing for less than £60. She insisted I ring the youth hostel, which I did, and they had a twin room for just short of £60 for one of the nights she wanted to stay but not the other. Seriously - if the youth hostel is charging that much per night then you really won't get anywhere cheaper. But still she would not believe me. Eventually I found a room - a family room that would normally go for £75 but out of sheer desperation I managed to meet a compromise with the guest house that if I didn't take the 10% deposit she would give them it for £60. That's £15 off and yet the lady still complained that it was 20 minutes away by bus (a direct bus route I might add) because she wanted to be closer to the city. OMG can I just say that at this point I felt like walking away.

Eventually she took it. And she left. And I told my manager. He said next time if someone gets like that I should just give them the guide and tell them if they think they can find somewhere cheaper then they can do it themselves. Sounds rude doesn't it? But seriously - I don't have 45 minutes to spare on a busy Saturday afternoon when the customer is just being stubborn.

It's not just people like this lady either - you get the other side of the coin too. You'll get people come in who think they know more than we do. Fair enough, we don't know everything and we readily admit that. We don't mind people giving us advice and helping us out, seriously we don't. What annoys us is when customers in the queue hear half of the conversation, decide they know more than us and shout across the line that we have got it wrong and the person we are helping should do this and that rather than what we have suggested. To which, I have discovered, you just have to turn round, smile sweetly, and say "yes they COULD do that IF..." and fill in the blank with whatever reason you have already discovered to not suggest such a thing to them. It may be that we have been told the place is closed that day or that the customer we are helping has told us they aren't interested in such and such. We spend day in and day out dealing with such requests - we know what we are talking about. Like I say - I have no issue with people suggesting things and sometimes people have good ideas - it is when they butt in and say things we have already thought about because they haven't heard the whole conversation. It just seems so rude.

So we have the people who think we can work miracles and find them cheap accommodation (which is impossible where I live anyway) 2 hours before they want it (why oh why do people leave it to the last minute?) and then we have the opposite side of things when people come in and assume we are useless. We also have the people who think we are ripping them off by asking for 30p for a city map. I know there are free maps in othe cities but we don't get as much funding as other cities because they know tourists will come whether they fund the service or not. We don't have the money to provide maps free to everyone. And besides - free maps are usually cheaply made - ours are glossy, colour coded maps with every single street marked on them and all the one way systems marked down. And it's only 30p - if you can't afford 30p in this town you really can't afford to be here.

So there you go - my gripes about work. I still love it - 95% of the time it is fantastic. But occasionally, just occasionally, you get some really annoying people who test you to the limit. And sometimes you just need to rant!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Random Thoughts

Thanks to all of you for adding your comments to my last post - I don't think I've ever received so many comments on one thing before and can I say it's gone to my head - I'm becoming a comment whore!!

I find it quite amusing that so many people responded to one of my random thoughts (and also quite glad to find I'm not alone in my hatred of horror - especially as T spends yet another night watching Dead Set... not so much scary as gruesome! *sighs*)

It also got me thinking - maybe I should write more of these random thoughts down as you obviously all enjoyed the last post more than my usual blatherings - which, may I say, I usually think about hard as to whether they would be interesting or not. Seems I misjudged you all - you're my kinda people - here for those little random thoughts that show we're actually more alike than we might think.

And may I take the time to tell you that my blog would be updated much more frequently if I were to type out a greater percentage of the thoughts I have each day - I just never did as I didn't think they were that interesting to others... usually they just make people laugh and shake their heads at how funny I am (in a weird way). Actually - T finds it funny in a haha funny way :o) I like that about him!

So what do you think? Can you cope with more of my ponderings and observations on life?

Monday, 27 October 2008

Freak out!

Am I the only person who hates horror movies? They scare the hell out of me - quite literally. Heck, I can scare myself silly by watching things a million miles away from horror - I can't help it, my imagination is just too wild. It makes me a great writer - but means anything I can respond to by putting myself in the character's situation (which, btw, I do naturally) is either the greatest book/film/series ever or the one that will haunt my dreams for far too long.

Why am I telling you this, it seems a bit random, right? Well this weekend we watched a programme about our nation's favourite horror moments. T LOVES horror movies and I feel bad when he has to watch them alone - especially when he would love to watch one this weekend. But just watching the clips from these movies kinda freaked me out. I was doing so well and T was even impresed I'd watched 28 Days Later when at uni, but then we saw a clip from Ring - not THE Ring but the original Japanese version. Omg, the moment when the corpse crawled out of the tv scared me so much I couldn't walk down my hallway for fear she'd be there. I'm 24 for crying out loud - I shouldn't be so irrationaly scared by these things anymore. But I am.

Maybe it's in my genes. One of the first dates my parents went on was to watch The Exorcist. My mum was so freaked out that my Grandma had to get out of bed and turn all the lights on in the house for weeks every time my mum wanted the toilet during the night. I'm not quite that bad - but I will curl up next to T and I cannot help noticing every sound and flicker in the shadows. Silly, huh?

But it's not just horror that scares me - I get scared by episodes of Doctor Who and The Lost Room. Has anyone seen The Lost Room? The man in the room scared the crap out of me - when they saw him in the photo a shiver ran down my spine and all I could think of that night was the man. He wasn't even sinister in the show - but that didn't matter. And have you seen the episode of Doctor Who where the Angel statues come to life and chase you when you blink? Ack - I thought they were coming to get me.

Sometimes a creative and overactive imagination can be good - like I say I am never bored and I can easily knock up a story for a child if no books are available. But sometimes that same imagination can just creep me out. Do any of you have this problem... or am I just a freak?

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Salon Rouge


T and I were offered the chance to go to a Moulin Rouge inspired club night on Saturday and as it was free and we were to be put on the guestlist (oh yes!!) we could hardly say no, now could we?

But of course we were told about it Thursday and so we had very little time to prepare (especially as I was working both Friday and Saturday and being the "lead" at work meant two later finishes - i.e. not really much time to shop!) In fact I bought my first ever red lipstick on Saturday during my lunch - and taking the advice of a lady shopper I bought a long-lasting one which looked lovely but would not come off and I had red lips for the rest of the day *blushes* - I should have figured that one out before trying it on in the shop!!

I wore the red dress I'd worn for T's sister's wedding and she leant me a black corset, feather boa and did my hair for me. She used to do modelling and always looks so perfect - I am quite jealous really because I haven't got a clue. She has said she will go shopping with me and teach me how to use make-up (yes I know I am 24 and I stil don't know how to use it properly). But with her help I looked good to go.



It took her almost an hour to do my curls though because believe it or not I have incredibly thick hair. Well, no, actually I have incredibly fine hair but there is so much of it. I was always told by hairdressers that I had a perfect combination and so many people have commented on how beautiful it is colourwise and quality wise - it's a real shame I don't actually know how to style it, huh?

T also got into the mood and got all dressed up - he even took his "cigar" with him. T used to smoke and loved a cigar on special occasions but he gave up a while back (for which I am very thankful). However when he found this snazzy fake cigar which has vapour in it he had to buy it. I tried it out of curiosity wondering how it worked - bleugh it tasted like a cigar smells - weird how it can just be vapour but have that taste.


So, just over and hour late we arrived at the scene (hey I had to eat, watch Strictly Come Dancing, shower, get changed and do my hair - I think I did well to get all that into less than 3 hours tee hee). Besides, we were on the guestlist - what did we care about being on time?! The bouncers on the door were lovely - very polite and we felt very welcomed into the whole thing. There were loads of people there, most dressed up - some more than others - and we found ourselves some drinks and then a place to perch ourselves to watch the entertainment.


No, that is NOT a pint of beer in my hand - it was a non-alcoholic cocktail - the one thing wrong with the whole night was the fact the cocktails didn't come in fancy glasses as was befitting such an event. The music fit, the dancing fit, the entertainment and company was perfect - just the glass was wrong and I'll forgive them for that!

Do you like my stocings btw? T bought me them. And the gloves were his mum's - I never did ask what she was doing with such a pair of gloves. The pearl bracelet and necklace were bot gifts from T (one for Christmas, the other for Valentine's). Did I mention that this weekend we also celebrated our 1 year anniversary - crazy to think it's only been a year!

Anyway, back to business. The entertainment was fantastic. The host - this wonderful "lady" *ahem* here was hilarious. We tried to get a picture with her but the girl taking our photo couldn't figure out our camera (I blame the drink) and so you can't actually see it is us.



She was accompanied by her two starlets who roamed the floor, getting people in the mood and generally having a good time. It really did feel like being taken by to 1920s Paris - people were there for a good time and nobody cared that we were dressed strangely or in provocative outfits - you knew you weren't going to be manhandled by drunken men - it just didn't happen that way.



I think the highlight of the whole evening was Empress Stah however - she was amazing and did things with her body I never knew a woman could do. To say I was overwhelmed by the ladies in the circus the other day and thought I'd never see their match was perhaps premature. This lady must have had thighs of steel - the act just went on forever!


(Did you spot the sailor?)

There was dancing between each of the acts - the first time T and I have danced together. T used to go to raves and loves to dance but I never enjoyed going out because everyone else would be drunk and I'd be all self-conscious and sober. It didn't matter that night, I was with the man I love and we were having fun. So we boogied on down until the next act, by which stage we were quite tired and decided to call it a night (although the party actually went on for another 2 hours!!)

Lady Carol sang some songs with her teensy, little guitar and gave us all her thoughts on being a lady "why do we worry about leaving lipstick marks on glasses - I like to leave mine on everyone's glass so I can claim it was mine and get free drinks," and "if you leave lipstick marks all over the place you can retrace your steps back home the next day - much cheaper than a taxi". Lol.


And so I leave you with a lasting impression of my smooth, sleek and handsome (he's mine ladies) man enjoying his last smoke of the evening.





Thursday, 16 October 2008

Circus

I've never been to the circus before. I've always wondered what it would be like. Last night I found out because thanks to our local Chinese takeaway and my work we managed to get 3 free tickets to the Chinese State Circus. So T and I took T's brother along as a 21st birthday treat (that we didn't pay for *blushes*) And it was amazing!

Seriously - the skill involved in what these people can do is incredible. We saw ladies spinning plates whilst doing all sorts of acrobatics (who else can keep 12 plates spinning whilst having another person stood on top of their heads!!), men doing all sorts of incredible flying leaps through hoops and off swinging bars, we even saw a lion dance :o) Then there was the contortionist who could rest her bottom on her head (ouch) and the man who balanced himself on ever so sharp poles. And let's not forget the man and woman flying around the room held aloft by silks! Amazing...

I wasn't quite so keen on the "narrator" - a man prancing around whilst a pre-recorded narrative was played - nor did I enjoy the man with swords (he seemed far too much like an energetic child playing warrior - although I am sure lots of skill actually goes into what he does). And the people who blatantly ignored the "please do not use cameras" message seriously got on my nerves (how rude). But all in all I had a wonderful evening.

I don't think I would like any other circus - freak shows and clowns just don't do it for me - but the skill that was shown last night just took my breath away. Even when the ladies didn't quite master all their tricks with the diabolo it was still a great piece to watch and I found myself clapping even harder to let them know it didnt matter - I still loved them!

I won't forget last night for a long time - if ever!
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For those of you who are following my private blog I have just put up a new message. Let me know if you want to be informed when I update or whether you'll just check yourself every now and then.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

No more than a list

I have been meaning to post something all week so that my previous two posts are not just hanging there. I am still in two minds about my private blog - there is a part of me that feels I need to write about what is going on but there is a part of me that says "why should you feel you have to hide it away?" I guess it is so hard because I am someone who goes all the way with the things I do and this just seems so half-hearted - I would normally either keep my mouth shut or be open with all those around me about it. It feels weird because I am writing it as a blog because I feel I want some support but I am actually shutting off that support by keeping it private. And having those last two posts at the top of my blog just keeps reminding me I have to work this out and as I cannot decide just yet I thought I'd better post something new here.

But I can't decide what to write about so I thought I would just write a list of updates for you all on what is happening chez Amanda!

  1. I love my job. Seriously. I used to spend my weekends thinking about how I could get out of the work I did (because however much I loved care work it was so tiring I couldn't imagine doing it for the rest of my life). Now I just look forward to spending as much time as I can where I work. Especially as I have the opportunity to train as a tour guide for free and have the assistance of Russian and German speaking guides to help me improve my languages in a useful way - how cool!
  2. I also love my job because the people I work with are so lovely. I especially love the fact that we have a good laugh, especially when I say odd things (as I often do) or do something very "Amanda-like" (you gotta know me to know what I mean by this!) Anyway they genuinely care for each and every other person of the team. And as such they have offered T the chance to work as a casual member of staff until his new job finish all their checks on his health and references etc before letting him start.
  3. I even love my job when there are only two of us on the desk and I have to man it all by myself - it gives me a buzz that I am already trusted to do work to a high standard. Whoo!
  4. T and I joined a church last weekend. We have been thinking of doing this for ages but we just never got around to it. I miss the community part of it all and we both knew we needed something regular to kick us up the butts and get us remembering the make time for our spirituality. We were so happy to find the Unitarian church near to us where the people meet in a very open manner where the similarities the members have are more important than the differences, yet the differences are valued as a way to analyse one's own faith. The first service we went to was an evening service or silence, prayer and lighting candles. There were only 4 of us and the minister and it was so beautiful. We went to the morning service today and the minister (who used to be a professional jazz musician) played his bass for us :o)
  5. We also went to a Mind, Body and Soul show yesterday where we heard Lucinda Drayton singing, which reminded us of some of the first weekends we were together as a couple. It is almost our 1 year anniversary and we heard her play that first weekend when we moved from friendship to partners and it almost went disastrously wrong. I also got to meet an old friend who I have missed and didn't know would be there. I was suddenly wrapped in the biggest hug I've ever had - what a surprise!!
  6. T took me driving today - I am still terrified of driving so there were a few tears. But we had a good old giggle when the L plates when flying off the car and we had to turn around and run back along the road looking for it.

I think that's it for now - all in all good stuff. We are very blessed, despite the problems we're facing and we are so lucky to be reminded of all this.

Have a lovely week. xx

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Whoops

Just a quick note as an addition to my last post - I'm not pregnant! I've already had a few people thinking this is what I might have been talking about and upon re-reading my last post to T I realise how it could have come across that way - my bad *blushes*

The issue I am having is with my reproductive system but it is actually nothing to do with pregnancy. We're not planning on that for at least a couple more years - we'd like a house big enough to fit a family in for starters ;o)

Just so you know :o) (don't want to get anyone's hopes up or anything!)

Don't forget - just let me know if you want to read the private blog. I've started setting one up so it will be up and running this week.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

To tell or not...

Since Tuesday I've had a rather startling issue whirling around in my mind -and I just cannot decide whether to blog about it or not. It's not that I don't trust my regular readers, because I do - it's the fact that it could be out there for all to see and it's those I don't know that makes me worry. Not just that, but is it really something that you guys are gonna want to read about?

I have been thinking about it for days and I see two options - to just tell everyone openly on here or to do as I have seen others do and open a password protected blog for now which you can only get the password to by emailing me. The third option of course is not to bother at all - but as it is such a huge thing (for me anyway) it would be good to share it with a few people, especially as I don't know anyone but my work colleagues here and T's family and although I have told my two managers and one colleague just so that they know what's going on with me, I have decided not to make it common knowledge at work. I'd much rather as few people as possible know - it's a rather sensitive subject, you see. I wouldn't have even told my managers if I wasn't concerned it might affect me workwise occasionally (even if just for doctors' appointments) and I told one colleague just because I haven't been able to speak to my mum about it yet (she's on holiday) and I needed to speak to another woman (however wonderful T is, he just isn't a woman).

Are you getting a hint as to why I don't want this to be so public? I guess the question is really this - would any of you guys visit a password protected blog? I'm not dying - it probably doesn't even seem that bad to some people, but it is a massive thing to me (and I cannot say more without giving the whole game away). If no one is interested I will just keep a journal for myself, but if you do feel you want to give some female friendship and insight by reading it then please leave me a comment or email me and I'll make my decision over the next week or two.

And if no one is interested just ignore this post - regular blogging will resume next week. For all intents and purposes, outside of the private world nothing is happening.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Borscht (A Russian Favourite)


When I was in Russia I ate a LOT of soup - every evening my landlady would serve up a meal of soup, main dish, salad, dessert and homemade fruit juice (often with pieces of fruit at the bottom). Can I just say now that I have never eaten that much in one sitting in my life and it took me about a month to get used to filling my stomach with that much food! So every day I had soup - chicken soup, vegetable soup, cabbage soup and the all famous borscht.

I have no idea where the t at the end of the word comes from because it certainly doesn't exist in the Russian word - I guess it just helps us say it more accurately. I remember one of my teachers telling me that although borscht is known as the traditional dish of Russia, it actually originated elsewhere in the Eastern European countries and Russia's national soup is actually Shi or cabbage soup (equally as delicious I might add!)

I've been meaning to have a go at cooking some borscht ever since returning from Russia 3 years ago but only got around to it quite recently when my parents brought us some beetroot they had grown in their garden. We searched out a recipe for it and decided to make a few variations to suit our needs and then away we went. We were originally going to have it as a chunky soup but when we became too hungry to wait for it to fully cook we blended it up to make it cook quicker (blushes). We then adding the obligatory dollop of sour cream and sprigs of dill and ate it all up - yum.

On a side note - dill reminds me so much of Russia. It felt like the only herb my landlay ever used - and I don't mean in small quantities either... I remember eating a sandwich made of bread, ham and a whole branch of dill. I kid you not! Just the smell of the herb transports me back there.

Anyway without further ado here is our Borscht recipe, a variation on the recipe found in Best-Ever Cook's Collection - Vegetarian by Roz Denny.

Serves 6 (or 3 if you have a very hungry boyfriend!)

1 onion, chopped
1 large or 2 small raw beetroot, peeled and chopped
1 large cooking apple, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
115g/4oz mushrooms, chopped
1 tbsp butter
30ml/2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
2 litres/3 1/2 pints/8 cups of stock
5ml/1 tsp cumin seeds
pinch dried thyme
1 large bay leaf
fresh lemon juice
salt and ground black pepper
soured cream
few sprigs of fresh dill, to garnish

Alterations made to original recipe:
  1. The recipe called for 1/2 red pepper but we chose to use the full one instead of wasting half

  2. It also suggested using 2 tbsp of butter but knowing how greasy borscht can be I chose to halve this quantity and it still turned out rather greasy so if you don't like greasy soup use less butter. Borshct is nt borscht without a bit of grease though so don't cut it out entirely unless you really have to.

  3. We used a combination of vegetable and chicken stocks - 2 1/2 pints of vegetable and 1 pint of chicken. You can keep it completely vegetarian if you like (we only cook vegetarian because we find it difficult to digest meat so we don't mind using chicken stock - organic of course!) The recipe suggest you can use water instead of stock but I think that would be far too bland to be considered real borscht.

  4. As stated above we chose to keep it almost completely meat-free. However true borscht often has offcuts of meat in it so please do feel free to add leftover scraps to the dish!

  5. The recipe suggests using 150ml/1/4 pint/2/3 cup of soured cream but I don't like to put quantities on it. We just bought a tub and added what we liked. I found a good heaped teaspoon was enough for me but T added at least 2 teaspoons to his own. It is all a matter of taste.

The cooking process


  1. Put the butter, oil and 45ml/3tbsp of stock into a large saucepan and add the chopped vegetables. Cover the pot and cook gently for about 15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally

  2. Stir in the cumin seeds and cook for a minute before adding the remaining stock, dried thyme, lemon juice and seasoning.

  3. Bring to the boil, then cover the pan and turn down to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes. If you want your soup to be chunky then you need to leave the soup to cook for several more minutes until all of the vegetables are tender. We didn't do this but I would guess it would take another 10 minutes.

  4. Strain the vegetables and reserve the liquid. Blend the vegetables with a blender until they are smooth and creamy.

  5. Return the vegetables to the pan, stir in the reserved stock and reheat.

  6. Check the seasoning and then serve the borscht. We served ours with hot toasted bread rolls that we had stuck under the grill before blending the vegetables.

  7. Swirl in the soured cream and garnish with a few sprigs of fresh dill.


Enjoy!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

"Oh how hard it is to be looked after!"

Thanks for all the comments on my last post - I had no idea BlogHer was so unknown I guess I must just read certain blogs of people who have been lol

I am still interested in the idea of a British meet up of bloggers - maybe such a thing already exists - if not I don't know if I'm up to organising one - perhaps it's a challenge I'll take if I find people are interested.

In other news - I had a wonderful weekend, my parents came to visit and we went for a glorious walk in the woods with T's niece. I have loads of photos of the cake we made which I will share in a later post with you all but for now I am sitting, wrapped up in bed under orders not to do anything (I shouldn't even be online) but I am going stir crazy and thought I'd pop on quickly for a quick chat. *shhhhh don't tell T!!*

My cold has progressed - my sinuses are almost cleared but my ears are blocked and that has made me a bit dizzy. On top the virus has gone to my chest and although I made it to work yesterday I had my managers telling me not to come in today if I wasn't right and the T telling me I am vey bad at being ill and so he has quite literally tucked me in and not let me move from the bed other than to pee.

You see I get very bored very easily - I hate being ill because it slows me down. You'd think I'd be used to it because let's be fair I get ill a lot but that is actually the problem. When I was at uni I was very ill and if I didn't just keep going I'd have failed - there was no time to stay home and get better because what I had would take months to get better not a few days. Then when I graduated I started work in care and had no money so I had to work when I was ill or pay the consequences - i.e. starve! Since T lost his job I have found myself in the same position - so I carry on...

I never used to find it hard to stay home and watch tv and get better but now it is so hard. I feel so guilty because it has become a habit to get up and go. Even when I had the ear infection and could barely move I couldn't shut the inner voice saying "you should be using this time to DO something!" I actually used to find it weird how people couldn't stop and just "be" but now I find myself in exactly the same place.

So spare a thought for me as I lay in bed, wrapped up in blankets, with hot drinks and fruit forced upon me and a nursemaid of a boyfriend reading The Hobbit to me in attempts to stop me from thinking/doing/fretting. "Oh how hard it is to be looked after!" my sister said scornfully when I rang her - and to be fair, once I got over the first 2 hours of fidgets I actually began to enjoy being like a child again - it really is nice to be cared for by someone... so I am going to make the most of it when T returns home from his errands... but please do remember that I am breaking a habit right now - so I'll probably be back at work tomorrow ;o)

Take Care all of you and wrap up nice and warm as the weather begins to change and these nasty cold viruses begin to catch hold once more!
Amanda xx

Friday, 19 September 2008

A British BlogHer?

Right, so I'm sitting at home, in my pjs, feeling a little sorry for myself. I have a stinking cold and spent most of last night in a feverish dream interspersed by having to get up and visit the little girls' room. So, to indulge myself (and take my mind of feeling guilty about not going in to work) I thought I'd catch up on all the blog entries that have been collecting over at Bloglines waiting for me to have time to read them.

And one of the bloggers I know is just preparing for BlogHer in Vegas. Have you heard about this thing called BlogHer?! It sounds so cool and exciting getting to meet blog friends in one big get together. But they are all in the US (or am I missing something here - is there a British version?!)

I was really looking forward to going to a Vintage and Handmade craft fair in November that is being held by some blogger friends I recently found but unfortunately I now realise I am already booked up that weekend - a birthday party with some old uni friends who I haven't seen in so long and T hasn't met so I can't go...

I know how exciting meeting online friends can be and I know how much of a difference it makes to the friendship you have with someone. Twice now I have met up with a group of people from a forum I visit and although I had some amazing friendships before - I now have even deeper level of understanding and love for them. We missed the chance to meet up this summer and I really missed it as we had so much fun and I cannot wait until we have chance to do it again.

But this all got me thinking - do any of you guys wish we had a blog get together, somewhere central for most people, easy to get to, not too expensive, and a way to spend a weekend with the people you have forged friendships with? What do you think the chances are of arranging such an event? Do you think people would turn up - would YOU turn up? Would you want to be involved in the planning of it or would you rather just turn up? What would you bring - photos, crafts, gifts, cakes..?

I can't help but think how fun it would be - and hey if only Cambridge were a little more central for everyone there would be no problems sorting out accommodation - I'm becoming a real pro at that sort of thing... can you see my feverish mind is making me a little happy and perhaps a bit overambitious?! But a girl can dream - especially a girl whose blog contains the word dream in the title haha...

So tell me - what do you think? Would you go to a blog-meet? Or have you been to BlogHer yourself? What was it like? Come on people, leave me comments - or else I'll go crazy sat at home all day :op

Friday, 12 September 2008

Can I help?

I guess you're all wondering how the new job is going, huh? And I guess it's about time I got round to posting about it, eh? Ok...

I started at the Tourist Info Centre 3 weeks ago and have been having such a blast. The staff are all so incredibly friendly and the day is always busy but very rewarding. I love standing behind the desk and helping tourist after tourist and I have learnt so much about the city already it's unbelievable.

My first day I was sent on a 2 hour walking tour which we send out twice a day at the moment (4 times in the summer) to learn about some of the more famous colleges. Then I was thrown in the deep end and left to "sink or swim" as they put it and apparently I decided to swim!!

I have learnt how to do accommodation bookings for visitors, how to book coach tickets with National Express and am so well versed in the prices of certain tours and places to visit that I sometimes wake up trying to sell one to someone lol
Tourists are, on the whole, happy people which makes the world of customer service so much more enjoyable than when dealing with complaint after complaint. Sure we get the odd grumble, mostly to do with the state of services in Britain and occasionally because people want a free map and won't pay 30p for one. Seriously - if you haven't got 30p to spare for a map then you certainly shouldn't be in Cambridge because it is one of the most expensive places to visit and definately live in Britain.
On the topic of paying for maps - the only reason we do not give out free maps like some of the larger cities like London and Edinburgh is because tourism (believe it or not) is not a statutory service so the government do not have to give us any money. We do get funding but not enough to run our service as well as we'd like - so we have less staff than we really need and not enough money to give out free maps!! I am actually one of only 2 full time members of staff in the centre the rest are part-time and my position has not been filled since January so that tells you how difficult it can be making ends meet!! But still I love the new job, love that the days go by so fast and love my new colleagues :o)
I am working my first weekend tomorrow and Sunday and it will be interesting. I have been trained in cashing up and have picked it up really well (apart from forgetting to check the cash amounts properly the other day so having to make 3 trips to the bank to deposit money instead of the usual 1 - that'll teach me to pay more attention on busy days hehe). Tomorrow is the first day that I am "officially" cashing up, although I have done it "unofficially" 3 times this week already so know what I am doing. I will however be working with 2 people I've never met before, 2 I have worked with and the lady who is supporting me has been away since a couple of days after I started work so it'll be interesting.
I have to say though that the best part about this job is that I feel like a totally different person - I feel calm, collected and confident. I am a senior member of staff in a council role and for once in my life I feel like I am in exactly the right place and deserve to be here. I've never felt like this and certainly never expected to feel this way so soon after starting a new job. I used to wish I didn't have to work and could stay home - now I feel like going to work is a great part of my day.
Oh and the questions I get asked - those are the best!! Like "Are there any circuses in the area with elephants?" "Can I have an application form for citizenship?" and "Do you know what cemetery *insert name of supposedly famous mathematician* is buried in?" Seriously - some of these just crack me up and it is so hard to keep a straight face!! I mean every question is take seriously and we endeavour to answer every one of them and treat everyone with respect - but sometimes the questions are just so out there even the people asking them find it amusing!!
Anyway better go - I can smell the scent of vegetables roasting nicely in the oven, T has just come home and I think we may be about to eat *yum*
Have a lovely weekend
Amanda x

Monday, 8 September 2008

Does anyone else worry about identity fraud?

I have been meaning to write a post updating you all on my new job (it is going so well by the way) but right now I am so vexed about this that I need to get it out before normal posting can resume! Sorry...

You know how people are always going on and on about how important it is to be safe when using the internet - don't share your pin number, account details, personal address etc online because it's SO easy for someone to piece it all together - well I heeded that advice. Truly - I may not be the most safety conscious blogger of us all - I am more than happy to share my real name, the city I live in and what I do for a living - but I NEVER share my postal address and when I use internet banking I always check for the secure website sign and use PayPal as much as I can for online payments to avoid entering my details to yet another third party.

But it seems that what I should really have been concerned about all this time is not the internet but the services in my own country! This makes me so incredibly angry I cannot tell you - I mean why bother shredding all your bank statements and watching what you do and say when nobody else bothers to look after your personal details (and items!!) properly.

Let me explain...

Yesterday morning I awoke to the sound of our answering machine taking a message. I got up to listen, thinking it was my Grandma ringing to arrange a time for afternoon tea and cakes, only to find it was some stranger asking for me. This lady explained that she had received a soaking wet and half-opened envelope addressed to me which she could clearly see had my passport in. So she opened it up to find out whose it was and where to send it to. I am just so thankful that an honest lady received it and not someone who might have used my details.

Let me explain further - I recently sent off for my provisional driver's license (£50 by the way!!) and the DVLA asked me for a passport photo and my passport (even though I applied online and entered my passport number). I duly sent them in a special delivery envelope (to ensure safety) but stupidly forgot to send return postage for special delivery. I worried about it getting back to me safely - but never did I imagine that the DVLA would send it to someone living the other side of the country to me. This lady said she doesn't even know how they got her address as nobody from her home has even applied for a license. Nevermind the fact that there was a form inside the package with my actual postal address and phone number on - hence her ability to call me and verify my correct address.

Now is it just me, or is this just plain stupid?! How could they send my passport to the wrong person when my address was clearly marked? Was it not the DVLA who last year lost the personal details of hundreds of people?? Can you tell why I am irate yet? But even more annoying is the fact that the form I sent with my passport clearly stated that if I were sending my passport as proof of identity then the photo I sent didn't need to be signed by someone to prove it was me. The only reason they sent my passport and form back this time was to say that I hadn't signed the photo - grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! But it doesn't end there...

Last month I was due to receive my new debit card. My bank still have my parents' address on records and I can't be bothered to change it so they sent it there. My mum duly put it in the post (in a blank envelope so no-one would know it was from the bank) but it never arrived. Realising I had but 2 days left on my old card I rang the bank and had to ask them to cancel my card (leaving me with no access to my own account) and reissue me with a new card. So in less than a month the royal mail have managed to lose my bank card AND deliver an envelope that was so wet it had opened up and the recipient could clearly see there was a passport inside it. This is also not the first time this has happened - earlier this year I sold a book on ebay and wrapped it up in tissue paper then in a brown envelope and had to refund the money because it arrived so wet the tissue paper had discoloured the book itself!

But wait - there's even more!!

In May this year T was made redundant and applied for benefits. We were told what we were eligible to received based on my income but I had to send off my previous two wage slips. We duly sent them to the Job Centre only to have my wage slips arrive at my Aunty's house with a note saying that they had no record of me making a claim so had returned them to me. This means that a) they had separated my wage slips from T's claim otherwise they would have known I hadn't personally made a claim but it was connected to his and b) they looked up an address they had on record from when I made a claim whilst trying to find my first job over 2 years ago! They never once bothered to check that I still lived at that address - as it is I am lucky my Aunty still lives there otherwise anyone could have got hold of the information on my wage slips. Seriously, how long does it take to make a couple of phone calls to check an address?

So, you see, I am most unsettled about the lack of thought put into our services - how can I possibly look after my personal data and ensure nobody steals it when our country's services cannot be bothered to take more care of it all? I shall be writing some strongly worded letters over the next few days and may even take my sister's advice and write to the papers (or maybe watchdog or something) - seriously - this is not on!

Friday, 22 August 2008

Awards

What can I say... I received my first blog award this week. I've seen these awards on other blogs but never dreamed I'd be honoured by one. It's nice to think people enjoy popping along to my little home on the internet to catch up and maybe have a cup of cyber-tea!




So thank you, Tammy, over at Rainbows and Sunshine for nominating me for this award and giving me the awesome pleasure of choosing who to pass it on to. I have chosen to keep it to the minimum of 7 blogs, although this is a hard choice seen as though all the blogs I read are, in my opinion, brilliant (otherwise I wouldn't stop by so often, would I?) But I just feel to pass it on to every blog I read would completely invalidate the whole idea of choosing blogs which I feel, at this time, are posting some especially brilliant pieces for me to read each day.



Please understand though that I value every single blog I visit and the list below are the 7 blogs which have inspired me especially in the past few weeks - this does not mean if I do not pass the award on to you that you haven't inspired me as much in the past because you have all inspired and touched me in ways I cannot tell you!



So without further ado, here are my 7 brilliant blog nominations - along with the award itself and the rules of passing it on. You are by no means obligated to accept the award or to pass it on if I do nominate you - I truly believe in blogging without obligation *hugs*



Louise at This Is My Patch for sharing such beautiful pictures of her world with us - the flowers and freshly grown vegetables always lift me up on grey, sad days

Clairey at Nothing Will Go Wrong whose blog I have loved following as she settled into her new home, shares tales of life which just tickle me to the core, and because I just love visiting

Glenda at I'll Do It Myself Blog. Glenda shares her experiences of living with cerebral palsy and writes such informative and inspiring posts using only her left thumb. I have huge respect for Glenda, and think what she is sharing with the world is incredible.

Kim at Ragged Roses for writing such wonderfully romantic posts, that I can only describe as being akin to the most luscious chocolate, about family life, weekend trips and crafting. It really is like dibbing into a favourite box of chocolates when visiting her blog.

Rebecca at Irish Sally Garden who I first discovered at her other crafting blog, but have since followed her to this new blog where she shares her family's journey into self-sufficiency. Rebecca has inspired T and I to work towards being able to at least grow some vegetables and rear chickens in our future (plus it has re-inspired our love of the tv show The Good Life hehe)

Erika and Bryce at Love From LV for sharing the journey they are taking with their daughter, Caroline. Having worked with teenagers with special needs I was aware of a certain amount of the difficulties as well as joys of being around those with different needs to our own but their blog has really opened my eyes to even deeper levels of joy and pain and I am very grateful for their blog!

Fergus at My Diary of Triplet Fatherhood for sharing the joys and trials of bringing up triplets. I have followed this blog pretty much since it was started and just love to read about how the girls are growing and how life with triplets differs from life with a single child.

I hope you enjoy visiting and reading some of these blogs as much as I do!

For those who wish to pass on this award, follow these simple steps:


1) Add the logo of the award to your blog

2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you

3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs

4) Add links to those blogs on your blog

5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Baking spree and leaving presents

I have finally uploaded the pictures from T's phone so can share the baking joys we've had the past couple of weeks :o)



First was T's birthday. We decided for this one to make a lemon and poppy seed cake, and I trailed the intenet for a recipe I liked the look of (i.e. one that didn't request an obscene number of eggs - what is with recipes these days and piling on the eggs and fussy steps to cakes that used to be so simple?!) Eventually I found this one which worked a treat even with changing the flour for Spelt flour - yum! Here is T making his wish...



I had then planned on reproducing this cake to give to the staff on my last day at the nursery, however on second thoughts I decided to bake enough goodies for the children as well and it just seemed more feasible in my timetable to make up a huge batch of fairy cakes. I worked out how much I needed for the 40 cakes but like the daft thing I am I thought there were 16 ounces to a pound and not 14 so ended up with 18 ounces worth of everything... that meant a quick calculation on how many more eggs were needed (luckily we had enough) and I ended up with 54 ounces of cake mix (well a bit more with the eggs added) and needing 20 ounces of icing sugar to cover them all. In the end I had enough cake mix to make 10 extra fairy cakes AND a small jam sponge for T, much to his delight!! Here is the result of all that baking, which T took before taking up his duties as official smartie-putter-on-er hehe




I iced whilst he put the smarties on (and took pictures like the good boyfriend he is, knowing I'd want to have evidence of all this to share with you guys!)


And then we sat back and enjoyed the fruits of our labour...


T, more than I, seen as though they were made with wheat this time and I needed an official taster - need I tell you how much persuasion he required before taking up that role?!



My last day at the nursery was long and short all at the same time. I knew from previous leavers that the nursery has a tradition of gathering the whole nursery into one room to say good bye and I wanted to avoid this. I didn't want to be reminded I was leaving as I was seriously sad to go and I made it to an hour until I went home and thought I'd escaped. No such luck... Suddenly the entire nursery turned up in our room and I was showered with gifts of wheat-free cakes (which I have complained many a time are too expensive for me to buy for myself), a little me-to-you bear and the following little book and cards...




The inside of the book has pages of drawings made by each of the babies and toddlers I have spent most of my time looking after. I was so touched and barely kept it together! One of my colleagues had made it her mission to make me cry so I wouldn't leave and she very almost succeeded with this one!



Needless to say, I am still getting used to the idea of not going to work there again. It is a very bittersweet farewell as I loved being there so much and I truly feel as if I will be missed as much as I will miss the place, which is very rare indeed. But I am so glad to be moving into a role where my health will not suffer so and we will have the money we so desperately need just to survive. Many people around us have not realised the seriousness of our situation and truly comprehended that when we said we had no money we actually meant we didn't even know where our next month's rent and food would come from. It is a sincere relief to be passing that stage in our lives. I've never had much money but I have also never had so very little.


So now I am half way through my week of transition - time to get used to not working there any more and preparing to work in my new place. I should probably be learning directions and such but quite frankly I'm to busy enjoying the relaxation.


Hope you're all having a good week xx

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Last day tomorrow

I cannot believe it is my last day at the nursery tomorrow - I have only been there 4 and a half months and although it is a huge relief to be leaving after the past four months of financial and health crises, enough to last us a good few years no a good few months, I am still very sad to be leaving so many friends (both in staff and the children). I'm even leaving someone I used to work with at my old nursery and am very sad about this - but if fate brought us together again this time I have no doubt I'll see her again in the future.

I know, I know, I promised a post on T's birthday and a cake I baked and I will get round to that next week, along with photos of the FIFTY fairy cakes I baked for the nursery as a leaving gift. But for tonight I just want to take it easy - chill out and prepare myself for the emotional day tomorrow will be. T is currently cooking us a stir-fry, we will then watch some more Star Trek (we LOVE Star TRek and just discovered "The Best of the Borg" on On Demand :o) Plus Voyager (my fav show as a teenager) has just started to rerun on Birgin 1 each evening - yay! During the ad breaks I'm gonna be making a few goodbye cards and wrapping up books and crystals I have promised friends around the world - busy but also enjoyable!

Last night I finished off my proposal for the German lessons I will be teaching come January - it ended up 12 pages long by the time I had detailed how they would meet several of the new Early Learning Goals in the new curriculum. But I am glad I took the time to do it in such depth because it not only shows professionalism (which I love to do) but it also made it so much clearer in my mind what direction and focus I need to put to the lessons in order for them to fit into the nursery routine the best. I might even take to putting some of them on here (some songs and basic games and phrases we will be learning) if anyone is interested - now I have a working microphone and webcam I could easily record a lesson or two. I'll see what I feel like when the time comes.

But now I smell dinner and am off to enjoy the evening - take care and have a wonderful Friday!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Childcare provision and a trip to Bury

I have far too much I want to blog about right now and although it might seem wise to keep some of it back for later posts I am sure I will forget about them or just never get around to it. Therefore this post is going to be two rolled into one - hope you don't mind!

Part 1 - Childcare Provision or more appropriately how languages are approached in childcare

This past week I have been working in pre-school. I have worked in pre-school before and have to say I really quite enjoy this age group (although saying that I'm quite happy to work with any age from baby up to about 7 or 8). We presently have 2 German speaking children, a Polish speaking child and a Chinese speaking child. The latter two both started at the nursery with no prior knowledge of English - how scary for them!! I remember being at the nursery when the Chinese little boy started and he would hardly interact with any of the children and would cry so much - hardly surprising I think I would cry too. In fact I have cried when in another country and unable to understand what people are saying to me and being unable to express what I felt and that was as a teenager and adult not a 4 year old child!! But what shocked me the most was the lack of compassion, tolerance and patience some of the nursery staff had for this child. Seriously, because it made their lives more difficult they would moan and sometimes just ignore his cries - and if I didn't already have a soft spot for this child (which I did) I would have developed one there and then. As it works out I bumped into this child and his mum once in the supermarket and his mum stopped to tell me that he'd told her I was his teacher!! Bless him.

Anyway, this week I was lucky enough to see how far this little boy has come. Although he barely speaks more than a few words he does understand what is being said to him most of the time. It always amazes me how incredibly good children of this age are at learning new languages. But what made my heart sing was when he came up to me with a set of flashcards his parents had made. On one side of the card were English words like "home" and "play" and on the other were the Chinese characters. And guess what? He started reading the Chinese characters for me and teaching me what they said. He's 4 years old for crying out loud - most kids of his age can only just manage their names not Chinese characters!!! And his face, when I began to copy what he was saying was enough to fill my heart for the rest of the week!! He was overjoyed that someone would take the time to listen to his language and I like to think the reason he brought them to me was because at some level he knew that I would do so.

I'm sure most of you are aware that I studied languages at University - next to children and arts and crafts my other passion is languages and communication. I adore being able to communicate with others and I cannot tell you what a thrill I get from listening to and reproducing foreign sounds *sigh*. So when another little girl started at the nursery this week with absolutely no understanding of the English language I wanted to do all I could to help her. She speak Polish and although Polish has similarities to Russian it is different enough for me not to be able to understand what she was saying. After she calmed down and stopped crying enough for us to try and play with her, and after the other Polish child had spoken to her, I took the time to try and listen to what she was saying. All I could work out were the words for "mum" and "home" and I just could not comfort her by telling her that he mum would take her home soon. And although we had a Polish speaking child there to speak to her, he just isn't old enough to understand the concept of translation. Eventually she calmed down enough to sit on my lap and listen to a story but it broke my heart not to be able to do more for this child.

This is why this weekend I am looking up key Polish vocabulary we can use with her this coming week and why I feel more strongly than ever that the childcare and education system needs to put much more emphasis on foreign languages. Personally I think that there should be a system whereby each council has several native language contacts they can call into nurseries to help integrate foreign children into the system and I definately think foreign languages should be taught at an earlier age than it already is, not just to the children but to the childcare providers as well. This is one of the main reasons why, however much I'd like not to take on the extra work, I am going back to the nursery in the New Year to begin teaching German to the pre-school. We curently teach all staff and children sign language, why not another spoken language?

One of my plans when I left university was to set up my own business going round schools and nurseries, teaching staff and children German in fun and exciting ways that they can actually use. Although this has not been a possibility I do hope that one day, perhaps when I have children of my own (if I have the option of becoming a SAHM) I'll be able to take this idea further. But for now I am reduced to hoping that the system changes somehow. It is particularly of interest here where I live because at my nursery alone (bearing in mind there are only around 70 children registered) we have 3 Polish children, 2 German children, 3 Italian children, 1 Spanish child, 2 Arabic children, 1 Chinese child, 1 deaf child and 2 American children, who I know do not speak another language but come from another culture which would be great to introduce to the other children. One of my other ideas I had was of a bus that was specifically changed to be a playbus but with different areas to cover the world - toys and games and books and music in different areas to enable children to "explore" the world in their own playground. A great dream - most likely not a reality and certainly not one I can pursue - but wouldn't it be great if we had such things as that?!

Part 2 - A trip to Bury

And now on to part 2 - T and I made a day trip to Bury St Edmunds yesterday. We are hoping to go to the coast one day during the week I am off between finishing at the nursery and starting at the council. But this would be a far longer journey than I have tried since having this ear infection. So we thought we'd try a shorter journey, especially as Bury has a lovely crystal shop and as T has just started a distance Crystal Therapy course he wanted to check out what was available.

Thigns didn't go exactly to plan when I got home Friday so exhausted I could barely stay awake. I had felt brilliant all week long and I thought I was finally over the effects of the infection but then suddenly I had a setback and even though I slept for about 10 hours Friday night I still woke up feeling hungover. This was not how I wanted to attempt our first long journey in the car but I didn't want to miss out so we tried. We had to stop once on the way because I felt sick but then I got so panicked by all the cars speeding by us I decided I'd rather feel sick!! I never thought I'd be panicked by cars - it was so weird and very unpleasant. But eventually we arrived and it was well worth the journey!

I was desperate for the toilet when we got there so we began looking for a nice cafe to have a drink and use their facilities. We came across a fantastic place called Coffee 'n' Kids where you can stop to have a lovely cup of fresh herbal tea, homemade cakes and even buy some craft materials to enjoy either alone or with your kids. The people there were incredibly friendly and T and I came out with smiles on our faces and hope in our hearts for a perfect day.

We then visited the crystal shop and spent far more than maybe we should have but we've been SO careful with our money of late and now T is starting his new job and I am due to move to a bigger wage we decided it was ok to splash out this once. This was about the same time we realised we were very hungry, so we went in search of food. Finding food is quite difficult for me because I cannot currently eat wheat. This is a new thing that developed after an operation in 2005 and I am hoping to try reintroducing wheat into my diet again sometime in 2009. But until then we are left with trying to find non-wheat products. Usually this means soup or salads but we found this amazing store on the market square where a lady was selling butter beans in tomato and herby sauce and potato and chorizo sausage with peppers and onions all packaged up in biodegradable boxes with wooden forks and all including organically grown food. The portions were HUGE and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal - I only wish every town had this kind of market stall!

After that we popped into Woolworths - a shop neither of us has visited in years because they seem to be becoming quite extinct these days, much to our disappointment. There we bought a lovely cake tin for putting homemade cakes in (which reminds me I must post about T's birthday). After that we visited a nice "bargain store" where I bought a sketch pad and some new graded pencils as I have lost most of mine and am hoping to try my hand at drawing again. I can draw pretty well and did a fairly good sketch of T watching tv last night (although he kept moving a bit too much for my liking hehe) but I do not draw as well as I'd like to.

After all of this we headed back to the car, through the abbey which won the Britain in Bloom Award in 2007 - it has beautiful garden and I wish so much that we'd had a camera to take pictures. We're hoping to head back there to do some Christmas shopping later in the year so I promise to take photos then!

I think that's it for now - this is certainly a long enough post so well done if you've made it this far!!

Have a lovely week
Amanda xx