Saturday, 24 January 2015

Kevin's way with words

Unbelievably, Kevin is now in his fifteenth year.

A teenager.

And in true teenage style, this week the Kevinettes wined, dined, laughed and chatted about all and everything, including the books - one which we all hated (facts, facts, more facts, names, more names, names that were referenced then not mentioned again until seven chapters later, more names, more factszzzz I have lost track... you get the picture), and one which only LCM loathed (blame it on the time of year, it just bugged the hell out of me even though the others loved it). We had some very lively conversations going.

It was almost a full house with only the Wine Writer absent. We all blame her husband, not the fact that she lives out in the sticks and has a good one hour commute each way to attend Kevin's rendezvous unless hosting them herself. Tsk. Totally inconsiderate.

Anyway, amidst all the banter - and the food and the wine, of which there were copious amounts of course, we are a serious bookclub after all - there was a sudden change in topic as the Kevinettes started announcing random English words they love which are not frequently used.

"Conundrum!" said the Botanical Artist.
"Inertia!" declared the Doctor of Psychology.
"Conniption!" stated the Lovely Radiographer.
"Nonplussed!" offered the Aussie Solicitor.
"Cantankerous!" countered Tough Mudda.
"Paraphernalia!" shouted LCM (necessary, it was getting very rowdy).
"Parasol!" said La Diplomat.
"Parapluie!" opined Belfast Blonde, our host for the evening.

The room went silent.

"That's French!" we all said in unison.

"Oh," answered Belfast Blonde. "I just liked it! What does it mean?"

"Umbrella," we replied, again in unison.

And then promptly moved on to more important matters by asking what was for dessert (lemon polenta cake, delicious btw).

By the time we finally took our leave, it was raining.

No correlation at all, I am sure.

(c) Schultz


Friday, 16 January 2015

The right to the right of freedom of speech

Warning: rant alert.

I read one of the most articulate articles this week about the post-Charlie Hebdo fall-out. 

Suzanne Moore puts it so succinctly when she states: 

"Critique is not blasphemy. Texts can be reinterpreted. Tolerance has to be reciprocal or it is not tolerance at all. We should at least be honest now. Those who don't believe in any god have as many rights as those who do."

Hear hear, I say. Enough of the hypocrisy and concern about individuals being offended if what you state - intentionally or not - is unpalatable to them.

I have been scolded in past years about my cynical posts depicting unsuspecting members of the general public and poking fun - with sarcastic commentary - about their attire.

"Someone might take offence," I was told (by a Facebook 'friend' no less, who has since been purged from my circle for double standards), as if I were a naughty child who had scribbled rude words on the classroom wall. I cannot believe I subsequently added a disclaimer to appease this individual (it's still there, see for yourself).

An aeon ago when this blog first started, I had a Paranoid Former Employer who took offence at anything and everything ever posted, claiming (indirectly, never to my face, out of fear of upsetting me no doubt) it must be about them, and threatening libel, slander and the proverbial kitchen sink. Anonymity did not cut it (nor did the fact that the posts were entertaining) but the PFE was seriously unpleasant. Interesting how they are now under investigation by the SFO for fraud.

I can think of at least half a dozen cases recently where I have been chastised (nicely, of course, because no one wants to offend me either) about proposed measures or discussions that need to take place within my own working and community environment. I put appropriately worded texts together, send them to a reviewing party and get replies that inevitably make me bang my head on the table.

Why? That old chestnut again. The need to "tread carefully". Not wanting to "upset anybody". Needing to "keep the calm". In effect the unwillingness to call a spade a spade, or even a fucking shovel despite the situation demanding it. 

It's okay. I get it. I understand, I can see beyond my own limited power of observation the need to take other people's concerns into account. It drives me insane and I could waste endless hours thinking about it. I don't. I have far more pressing matters to deal with.

But now the Pope - the Pope, for crying out loud - wades into the debate with his stance on the matter, stating that, "One cannot provoke; one cannot insult other people's faith; one cannot make fun of faith."

Wrong. You can. You can make the choice not to, and you can err on the side of politeness and what is deemed to be 'good manners', but you can. And in secular societies you certainly should be able to voice an opinion without being gunned down. 

As another commentator * has stated, "... it is not normal to punch someone who insults you [...] Verbal provocation is never an excuse for violence - that's the wife-beater's defence."

So, what's the point? The point is - or mine at least, for fear of 'offending' anyone, heaven forbid - that the 'right to freedom of speech' is one that we are all entitled to.

However the right to tell anyone, ANYONE, what you can or cannot say is something no one has in today's day and age. What you hear or read may be unpalatable to you. It may offend you. It may amuse you. It may go against everything you hold dear. 

But. It does not give you the right to tell the person perpetrating that view that they have no right to do so. 

Deal with it. Or answer with sarcasm. It's a wonderful tool.

And it's free.

* just in case you think I have a bias for a particular newspaper, given the articles quoted in this post, worry not, I read widely. I wouldn't want to offend anyone.


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The mysterious case of the disappearing toe covers

You may have guessed that this post is about cycling.
If you hadn't, guess what? This post is about cycling.

Well, cycling and how things that you can have on or about your person for some four hours then mysteriously disappear when you suddenly recall not having seen them for a while.

Familiarity breeding absentmindedness, perhaps? I have no idea. You be the judge.

So, in a bid to 'up' our cycling prowess to the same levels as the Wine Writer and the Aussie Solicitor - a rather fearsome task - LCM and Tough Mudda (also a fellow Kevinette, as are the other two, we live very sheltered lives you see within restricted social circles) decided to partake in an organised event on Sunday.

We even featured - albeit from a distance - in one of the organiser's official photos, proof that we were there I suppose:

Elegantly wheeling their bikes to the starting line, the ladies ponder whether
anyone will notice if they bunk off for a croissant and hot chocolate

Anyway. It was freezing. The thermometer said +2C. We pulled on leg warmers, arm warmers, under layers, thermals, socks, tops, bottoms, fleeces, beanies, jackets, full gloves and windproof protection.

I then pulled on overshoes - essentially a wetsuit-style neoprene cover for cleated cycling shoes - which although not particularly sightly, are very effective (my toes were still frozen until about the 47km mark, but never mind).

so elegant... sadly neither the legs nor the bike are mine

Tough Mudda got second dibs on the goodies and had to make do with toe covers, which are, funnily enough, just that: covers that go over the toes of your cycling shoes. Some respite from the cold but not enough (her toes also froze until the halfway mark when we realised her shoes were overtightened and hence restricting circulation... *sigh*).

much more fetching, yet not quite as warm as full PVC

But we finished. Some 66km later, the longest bike ride ever completed by Tough Mudda, in one piece albeit with *ahem* a few sore 'bits'.

Back to the car, racking of bikes, peeling off leg warmers, arm warmers, under layers, thermals, socks, tops, bottoms, fleeces, beanies, jackets, full gloves and windproof protection. And overshoes and toe covers.

Home to tea and pancakes. Bliss.

Two days later and I am suddenly aware of some missing items in the garage cycle-kit-storage-area-that-doubles-as-a-Halfords-showroom.

Yup. Missing toe covers. Vanished into thin air. (And yes, I did check around and on top of the car before leaving the cycling venue, have learnt that from past experience...)

Which in itself is no big deal. Except that they weren't strictly mine to lose as both they and the overshoes belong to someone else.

No one less than BB. Erstwhile training partner on her (rapid) way back from injury.

Uh oh. I haven't told her yet. Although she probably knows now if she reads this.

*practices happy apologetic smile*

I'll just blame Tough Mudda. She wore them last.

And she also lost one of her gloves. Just one, mind you, not both. So I think the toe covers are keeping the 'gant perdu' company somewhere in the wilderness of the A4 corridor. Or on eBay.

Now, where's that website for buying replacement cycling kit? I might need a tougher helmet as well.

(c) Doug Savage


Saturday, 27 December 2014

One more thing

Since the last grump-fest, I have survived the 'C' day and it's aftermath - also known as the period when all common sense goes out the proverbial window as people queue for hours, nay days, to get their hands on something that they never even realised they didn't need in the first place anyway, like a 50in TV that will not fit in any shape or form in their 4x6ft kitchen/diner/living room, but hey, who am I to criticise?

Anyway. I have been very busy today.

I decided, for some random reason - possibly related to the strand of post 'C' day craziness alluded to above although I have been nowhere near any shops for a fortnight or longer - to have a look at my Twitter followers.

All 1117 of them.

It makes for some interesting enlightening entertaining reading.
I have broken it down into statistical percentages* for your benefit.

  • mother-and-baby-related (games, toys, clothes, parties, mushed food, organic what-not, purified/amplified/multiplied codswallop tripe, play groups, random things that must appeal to post-natal females somewhere but not me) followers: 57%
  • "I'm a new mum/soon-to-be-mum/mother of eight-and-counting" followers: 23%
  • PR agencies followers: 12%
  • dad/male followers: 4%
  • crazy cat lady followers: 2%
  • writers of erotic fiction followers: 0.5%
  • published authors (in any guise) followers: 6.85%
  • fitness fanatics/triathletes/nutters who run/cycle in any conditions: 1%
  • followers who are actual bloggers I have met: 7%
  • followers who are actual bloggers I have met and liked: 0.25%
  • people who are on Twitter but never actually tweet anything: 9%
  • followers who only follow me (presumably) because I tweet rubbish: 4%
  • followers who only follow me because they see the word 'mum' in my handle but do not bother to read my profile, let alone realise it is in parentheses, ie these: ( and ), for a reason: 71%
  • actual people who make me laugh and I follow back: 11.38%
  • actual people I know in person who make me laugh and I follow out of fear of recrimination: 0%
So there you go. Another little useless bit of nonsense.

I am now going to do something far more productive.

Laundry, anyone?


* I may have made some of these numbers up

ADDENDUM (am getting good at these): what I inadvertently omitted to say at the start of this post is that there was a reason for all this extremely scientific analysis proffered. By idly looking at the LCM Twitter followers I noted that my favourite candidate from this year's series of 'The Apprentice' was actually following me.

I am hoping that it was because of my extremely insightful and amusing tweets shared every Wednesday night for the past twelve weeks. Or possibly not.


Wednesday, 24 December 2014

That time of year. Again.

I have written a number of versions about my stance on this time of year.
There was the letter version.
There was the summary version.
There was last year's version.

And undoubtedly plenty more for those who have been unfortunate enough to see me shudder when the 'C' word is mentioned, let alone when the tinsel comes out.

So this year, I thought I would take a leaf out of a recent book - pardon the pun - and tell it as it is.

Ready? Here we go. Hold on to your hats. And the reindeers' reins while you're at it.

Hello friends near and far!

Hope you are all well and looking forward to the festivities.
As ever, I cannot wait for it to be over and January 2nd will not come a moment too soon.
It's been a year of ups and downs here at LCM HQ.

After a stellar year gallivanting round the upper echelons of senior management, things came to an abrupt halt when my replacement finally showed up and took over the role. I'll be honest, that is what interim management is all about ('interim', not 'forever'), but the fact I hadn't even met the new fucker, let alone interviewed him for the role I had prepared, tidied up and restructured did leave me slightly perplexed. Go figure. I did hear mixed reviews about his tenure post departure, so small mercies.
Anyway, that was that and I headed back out into the wilderness of consulting and other management positions. Glory, glory, here I come.

The horizon was pretty bleak.

One upside was finding in the midst of the previous company a fabulous individual with whom I then started working on other new projects. We set up a joint venture and proceeded to get many fingers in many pies (not revenue generating, yet), but BY GAWD it's a bloody hard slog setting up a business and getting things off the ground. You'd think I would know this after some fifteen-odd years in the consulting world, but reality always hits you round the head with a very unsubtle clout, just as a reminder.

I have been feeling like a hamster on an eternal wheel going nowhere in particular. Networking, meetings, proposals, discussions, more networking, more meetings... repeat. Ironic since this management lark and pitching for projects is nothing new, but... ever feel like grabbing people by the lapels and shouting in their faces, "JUST GIVE ME THE BLOODY WORK you fool!"?

Yes, that.

Oh, and then there are the other people who waste your time. Who will not be drawn into any sort of commitment, or agreement, or communication. Yet they persist in stringing you along in the off chance that something, just something, might come good. And milking ideas and proposals you discuss with them -  under the guise of "exploratory talks" - with not a word of thanks or acknowledgment either. Exploratory my arse. The only thing they are exploring is how much they can tap you for ideas and insight and leads without forking out a penny for your services.

Well. They can also fuck right off. Enough.

Same for all the extra 'free' stuff I have been foolish enough (or nice enough, you decide) to take on. I calculated that if I had charged daily rates for all the hours I put in for this type of work, I would probably be able to take a year off. At least.

Which leaves me at the end of 2014, in this time of enforced festive cheer, contemplating what I have become and how the bejeezus this could ever have happened.

I have turned into a SAHM. And a very grumpy one at that.

The 'role' is just not me. It is not what I set out to do when the kids came along. It is not where I ever saw myself at any point in my career. I love my kids, but I hate this role. It depresses me beyond reason even though I should probably be grateful.
Well, I say 'should', but really? It's just not me, like I said. That's it. So gratitude actually has nothing to do with it. Disgruntlement does. In buckets.

But the kids are great. Growing exponentially, eating us out of house and home, and becoming increasingly lippy as they slowly approach the teenage years (another couple years yet to go, not that you'd know it). At least they do their own washing and run errands to the shops for me now - even though they all know my card PIN number, probably not a good thing. Well, given the bank balance it hardly makes any difference really, come to think of it.

The amusement arises from random exchanges, such as Widget declaring with delight that they had a session at school on "religion and sex education". Interesting, I thought. He actually meant 'relationships' and sex education, RSE in school acronym talk. But his version sounded much more fun.

Blossom now states I am "too slow"for her to go running with. She's right, but that's what happens with age. You may become less tolerant, but you also get slower. We have not yet ventured out cycling together, but I dread the occasion as I am liable to be left behind there as well. And that'll be with her on a single-speeder and me on a road bike with gears. Embarrassing.

Mr Man has only a few centimetres more before he reaches my height. On a recent school trip to visit the Weihnacht markets in Germany (departure 10.45pm on Thursday night, return 4am on Saturday morning, no rest for anyone) he had no suitable shoes for the predicted cold weather conditions. He borrowed my Timberland boots, last seen worn by yours truly in a photo with this same child when he was one year old and riding on his father's back in a baby carrier in New Zealand. How did that happen? His verdict? The boots "were okay". Excellent.

OH queries "So what did you do today?" when he gets home in the evenings, then continues to answer emails/take calls/do other stuff while I answer him.

He says he is listening ("I can multitask!") but I put him to the test. I told him I was running away with the postman and that we were planning to adopt a baby gorilla before selling his car to make up the shortfall in my salary. He didn't bat an eyelid, but looked up some fifteen seconds later and merely said, "Hmm, what?" Yes, exactly. Oh, and he still does not 'get' twitter. Never mind.
Thank goodness for Kevin and great friends who keep my spirits up.

So, vale 2014 and may you all rejoice and enjoy the festivities.
I will be thinking up new strategies to drive my business forward and finally get some projects underway that will pay me a living wage, hopefully more.

Until then, OH will be in charge of the cooking, the kids can dismantle the tree, and I will take myself off for a very lengthy solo bike ride, because, I know all too well, no one likes a long face this time of year.

Have fun.


(c) Gary Larson

p.s. (thank heavens for electronic updates) I forgot to add that one of the upsides of not being in full-time gainful employment this year has been spending an inordinate amount of time mucking about on bikes, on runs and in lakes (swimming of course, what did you think?) all of which has led me to complete (for no particular reason aside from 'because they were there' and possibly also 'I did not really think about this thoroughly') the London Marathon, Tough Mudder, the Bacchus Half Marathon - highly recommended - and even get an age category first in the South Coast Triathlon. Get me.
Okay, so they made the latter a duathlon because the sea conditions were so rough "even the lifeguards are refusing to go in the water", but anyway, I got the goody bag, so there. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
It's the small things people, the small things.


Friday, 12 December 2014

Kevin's night of fire (and smoke)

'Twas the last meet up before Christmas.

Almost a full house barring the Aussie Solicitor (flown to warmer climes Down Under for the festivities, most wise) and the Wine Writer (ensconced at a wine and canapés soirée for year five parents, not so wise).

After much joking over the past years about how we have evolved from a simple 'wine-and-cheese-only' into a 'full-blown-sit-down-dinner-complete-with-starter-dessert-selection-of-beverages-mostly-alcoholic-and-cheese-platter-to-boot' bookclub, our gracious host the Lovely Radiographer decided she would lead by example to set the record straight again.

We were served beans on toast.

Well, very posh beans on toast.

Actually, decidedly delicious slightly spicy beans on soda bread toast.

Inspired by a recipe from a book ("the only thing worth photocopying before I donate it back to the raffle from whence I won it last year") and embellished by her enviable culinary skills, her food was scoffed back sooner than you could say "Kevinette".

And there was a cheeseboard. And dessert. And wine.

Did I mention we also had snacks and prosecco upon arrival? It's a tough job being part of Kevin, but someone has to do it.

Anyway, before we sat down to eat, there was much catching up to do and chatting about books, of course. Caught up in all the chaotic noise and banter (we are not the silent types), there was a sudden panic stricken moment followed by a distinct smell of smoke.

Burnt toast. Nothing major, soon remedied and, as mentioned above, of absolutely zero impact on Kevin's hearty appetite. We are a very committed bunch. And a serious bookclub.

The evening passed all too quickly. We did our annual Christmas book exchange (each Kevinette wraps a book up, new or old, puts it in a bag and then we all take turns to select one - very civilised) and then it was already time to head off back home.

With the Botanical Artist and Tough Mudda in the car with me, the conversation continued.
Well, mostly me making disparaging remarks about other drivers, but the banter still flowed as did the laughter.

Never mind that along our route we saw some amazing fireworks near The Oval and a people carrier by Battersea Bridge burst into flames as we drove past it.

The Kevinettes were pretty unfazed. Our main concern was whether the fire brigade has been called (probably) and whether cars blow up when the engine catches fire (they don't apparently, thank you Google).

All part of a normal Kevin outing: no smoke without fire, you see.
That's the way we roll.

flamin' beans baby!


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