Saturday, March 23, 2019

Practice Retirement Update

Before I bring you up to speed on my wife’s Practice Retirement, I thought I’d provide an update to my WTF blog post of 15 January:

In the nine and a half weeks since that post—highlighting the absolute lack of real progress on Brexit in the two years and seven months since the Referendum—here is what has happened: Nothing. We are, if anything further from Brexit than when we started, and there has been no actual progress toward an actual solution since…well, ever.

To be fair, if you call getting everyone in the country pissed off at one another and so frustrated with the government’s inability to govern that they are wishing they would do anything—crash out, make a deal, hold a water-pistol fight in Horse Guards Parade with the last MP standing getting to decide the future of the country, anything—other than point fingers, blame each other for their own failures and fritter away time as if it was as endless a commodity as EU migrants waiting to invade Blightly, then I guess you could say there has been progress, of a sort.

But that has little to do with my wife, other than she is also facing a cliff-edge date in about a week’s time.

As you know, my wife began her Practice Retirement on the first of April last year. The idea was, she could sample the retirement lifestyle and then decide if she wanted to return to work or not. It was an ideal scenario, because my wife liked her job and I was certain she would feel lost without it and would want to run back to it before autumn set in. As it turned out, she took to the life of leisure, and discovered she really wasn’t as keen on this working for a living thing as she thought. It was, therefore, something of a mixed blessing when, during her absence, they abolished her job.

Now, by law, her office had to offer her a comparable job, or redundancy, or something, so, as the deadline neared, she began querying her office to see what they intended to do with her. Due to her need to provide three months’ notice, her decision had to be made by the first of January, so she began her enquires in November. By the end of December, she had heard nothing.

The deadline came and went, and still no word. When she at last managed to get a meeting (only by accidentally running into her boss’ boss at an unrelated gathering) they came to the table with no deal in place and no idea what to do about her situation. (Sound familiar?)

An offer of a comparable—though, unsatisfactory—job was hinted at but no other contingency plans were mooted, so my wife decided to make it easy for them and sent them a letter of resignation in mid-February. The only issue with that was, it meant her three-month notice period would end in mid-May, requiring her to return to work for six weeks. The supposition was, when they got her letter of resignation, they would advise on what they wanted her to do concerning the stray six weeks.

So, she waited.

And waited.


No decision, not even an acknowledgment that her resignation had been received.

So, she sent a reminder, and received a response that made it clear that nothing at all had been done concerning her resignation.

At length, and not so long ago, she received a letter asking if she would be happy to simply not come back, and not be paid for any excess time she might have been required to work. Incredibly, my wife was happy, genuinely happy, to do just that. She sent off her final letter, accepting their offer of nothing, and has yet to receive an acknowledgment that her acceptance letter has even been received, much less acted on.

And so, as her cliff-edge date approaches, she does not actually know—via any official letter or acknowledgment—if she is actually required to return to work on the first of April or not.

You may draw any parallels between this and Brexit that you like, I’m merely concerned with whether or not I need to get my wife up for work next Monday and send her off with a packed lunch to an unknown job that she has agreed to not be paid for.

Brexit Chart
(Big Government Decision Making)
Just realized this is last week's Brexit indecision chart but, really, there's little difference.

Job Offer Chart
(Little Government Decision Making)
Still no word.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Treading the Boards

It’s 5:51 AM and I am sitting in my office looking alternately at a blank screen and the paltry list of posts I have put up on this blog over the past year, and pondering the mystery of why, if I am so busy, I can’t find anything to write about. The reason is, some time ago, I made the decision to not write about these activities because I didn’t think anyone would be interested in them (as opposed, for example, to my kitchen renovation).

While I am still not convinced anyone would be interested, I am aware that not a lot else is going on in my life right now, so I’d better find a way to make these niche interests more interesting if I’m going to continue writing this blog. (And I sorta have to now; it’s one of the longest-running blogs in the short history of the Internet)*.

This encouraged me to think about what I am doing these days, and brought to mind the fact that I haven’t even mentioned my most recent undertaken, which is the one taking up the bulk of my time these days. Somehow, some way, about six months ago, I became increasingly entangled in an AmDram production.

(AmDram, for the US readers, is short for Amateur Dramatics. I’m not sure if this is a UK term, all I know is I never heard it until I came over here, but that may simply be because I wasn’t paying attention.)

Dramatics—Am or Pro—is not something I ever thought of getting into. While I do like theatre, I never leave a production thinking, “Hey, I’d really like to give that a go.” In fact, having known a few low-key thespians over the years, I was put off the idea when I discovered the amount of time and effort needed to put on even a small production. That, plus the fact that I can’t act. (Although, having seen a fair share of Amateur theatre, both here and in the States, I wonder that this is a requirement.)

My tale began last autumn, when a newish member of my choir sent me an email asking if I knew of any tenors (hint, hint) willing to help out with some songs a group she was in was doing. I said I’d be interested, even though I was unclear of what it was all about. I met with her, she explained a bit and, still not aware of what it was all about, I went to the meeting.

It turned out to be a local group putting on a sort of review of WWII songs and they needed a tenor and, well, stroke my ego and I’ll follow you anywhere. So, I signed on.

Over the ensuing weeks, I learned the songs, the movements, where the coffee was kept and, believe it or not, remained unaware of what I had gotten myself into. I remember thinking, as I was updating my schedule, that this new venture was not, as I had supposed, just another choir. With a choir, you can miss a session or two, but this—whatever it was—demanded my presence at the practice sessions, and I had to be there for the performances because—again, unlike a choir—there were parts only I could do. And I remember thinking I didn’t relish that sort of pressure.

And yet, I still remained unaware of what was going on until a few weeks ago, when I found myself on the costume committee, visiting local, and sizable, AmDram groups and hearing them chat to the other committee members, saying things like, “Weren’t you in that production of Oklahoma, back in ‘98?” or, “I was in Guys and Dolls with Allister last year, you remember him?” followed by, “Oh, yes, he and I did a modern-day version of Much Ado About Nothing in Guildford last year.” That’s when all the clues added up:
  • While I was practicing my songs, others were in a different room, practicing sketches.
  • Although I thought I was in some sort of choral group, not everyone in the group sang.
  • As the weeks went on, they became more and more focused on synchronized movements and costumes.
Then, belatedly, it hit me: I am in an AmDram group, doing amateur dramatics.

Fortunately, I don’t have a speaking role. All I have to do is sing, and do some movements to the songs, and over time I have noticed that, in most of the songs I am involved in, those movements (read: dramatic opportunities) have become less and less, and often disappeared altogether. (I told you I was a rubbish actor.)

As of this writing, there are two weeks and two days to the production. It will be presented at the Unitarian Church in Horsham on the evenings of the 22nd and 23rd of March, the Friday and Saturday. And I can’t say I feel anywhere near ready.

If you care to come see us—The Unity Players—present “Keep Smiling Through – WWII in songs and sketches” then, by all means, come. We’re trying to fill the hall; apparently, it’s no fun playing to a half-empty room.

Admission is free, which should appeal to you in the US. There is a Retiring Collection but if you’ve just spent a couple hundred on air fare, we’ll cut you a break.

And so, that’s what I spend a great deal of my time doing these days, until the end of March, that is, when they break up for the summer. They may or may not ask me to join them for their next production, but if they do, I think I might give it a go, as long as they don’t give me a speaking part.

* I didn’t want to digress inside the post, but a claim as bold as that needs some validation, hence the long footnote:

The actual, longest, continually running blog is (or may be) Rec Humor Funny (you can read a bit more of the story of RHF's creation if you like), which was begun in August 1987.

My first foray into the Inter-Web was on the 26th of March 1996, and I began a Web Log (the forerunner of Blogs and from which the term Blog was fashioned) shortly thereafter. In those early days I used Xoom, Geocities and Tripod, among others, before buying my own domain,, on 11 November 1999.

While I did have a number of blogs, they all merged from one into the other to form a continuous chronology, just with different titles. They were:

Cracks of Time
The Dumpster
Suburban Hell
The Soapbox 
and possibly a few others. 

These were all attempts to have some sort of creative, cathartic outlet while being held virtual prisoner by She Who Must Not Be Named (read the book).

In April 1999, I renamed my blog to Dance Diary so I could chronicle my latest obsession: becoming an Irish Dancer. This blog followed my progress, my competitions and my eventual trip to Ireland in 2001, after which it was re-branded as Postcards From Across the Pond, and it has remained so to this day.

In 2006 I finally moved from HTML to Blogger, and the Lindewald site eventually became home to my author website. All the past posts—the on-line versions at any rate—are gone, and Xoom, Geocities and their ilk no longer exist.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Renovation Resolution

When we last visited the ongoing renovation saga, we were waiting for an electrician to visit. This visit was promised by the electrician who had fixed the blown fuse that had defused our Thanksgiving Dinner, and who had been appalled by the state of the electrics. This had happened before, and no promised visit had occurred, so my wife and I set out to find suitable tiles for the half-finished kitchen.

This is what we have been living with since November
We brought the tiles home and I contacted the Kitchen Guy to come and finish the job. Then an amazing thing happened: an electrician came to the flat to prepare an estimate for the landlord to upgrade the fuse box.

We were astonished by this. The landlord had, heretofore, shown no interest in fixing the the fuse-box, despite it having been repeatedly reported as A) antiquated and B) dangerous. Apparently, he got tired of being told and figured he’d at least see how much it would cost to stop electricians chuntering on about it.

The electrician fiddled a bit, wrote up a quote (nowhere near as much as what we had already spent on the kitchen) and then set about unscrewing a switch-plate so he could see what the wiring behind it looked like. I told him he could see all the electrics he wanted to in the kitchen, where the walls were still nothing but plaster and wires, and he thought that was a grand idea, until he saw it.

When he entered the kitchen, he literally groaned and said, “I wish you hadn’t shown me this.”

Apparently, the wiring in our kitchen was not only dangerous, it was illegal, and to remain true to his electrician’s oath, he was duty-bound to report it. This meant the landlord would have to have the kitchen rewired, which did not make me happy. Causing the landlord to spend money had not been the plan. In fact, the entire project had been conceived so he wouldn’t have to spend any money, and here he was being forced to shell out God knows how much to rectify illegal wiring. This was not going to endear us to him, and I could see our nice, new kitchen being enjoyed by someone else while we lived under a bridge. (Revenge evictions are like a competitive sport among landlords here.)

Apparently, this isn't the done thing.
And so, the electrician left, and we called the Kitchen Guy and told him to stand down because it would do little good for him to tile the kitchen only to have it torn apart for the wring to be done. And we waited.

And waited.

The holidays came and went, a new year arrived, and another birthday eased me into an era that, as Paul McCartney notes, finds me losing my hair and wondering if someone will still send me a valentine, birthday greeting or bottle of wine.

And, still, we waited.

Then, in mid-February, the electrician arrived, and we had to move everything out of the kitchen and stack it in the living room while, for two days, he fiddled with wires and left us sitting in the dark for extended periods. When he left, we cleaned up, moved all the stuff back into the kitchen and called the Kitchen Guy. I expected to spend a week or so chasing him around, but he called straight back and told us he’d send a guy to do the plastering the next day.

So, we took everything out of the kitchen, again, and re-stacked it in the living room.

The plastering took only one day, but it needed five days to dry.

It also took me into an arena I am unfamiliar with. I can put up sheet rock, but plastering, to me, is a dark art. And seeing the plaster go on is a stark reminder that rooms in British houses are really little more than squared off caves. Plaster also has properties I was unaware of. Before the Plaster Guy left, he told me I needed to put a mist coat on it (after it dried, of course). I was grateful for this information, because it was news to me. When would I have ever painted raw plaster?

The Plaster Guy told me to mix equal amounts of paint and water, put it on and let it dry, after which I could do the real painting.

Then the Kitchen Guy came to inspect the work. He mentioned the Mist-Coat, as well, and I told him I was going to mix the paint 50/50 with water, as if I had known this all along. He said a 10 percent solution would do, and it depended on the paint, anyway. Not to worry, though, he told me, the directions for mixing a Mist-Coat were on the side of every paint can.

They weren’t.

Google suggested a seven to three ratio, and since that was between 10 percent and 50/50, I went with that.

Two days and three coats of paint later, the walls were painted.

We moved all the stuff back into the kitchen and called the Kitchen Guy to tell him he could start the tiling. I expected to spend a week or so chasing him around, but he called straight back and told us he’d send a guy to do the tiling the next day.

So, we took everything out of the kitchen, again, and re-stacked it in the living room. Again.

The next two days saw the Kitchen Guy and his minions tiling, grouting and siliconeing and, when it was all over, we finally had our renovated kitchen—three months to the day after the work began.

The following morning, we took all the kitchen stuff piled in the living room, put it back in the kitchen and life, at last, returned to normal.

Whatever that is.

What it used to look like.
What it looks like now.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

WTF Primer

For the sake of my friends and family in the US who might be wondering WTF is going on over here (I mean, what are we voting on, and why, and what’s at stake?), I thought I’d post a primer on WTF is happening, and how we got here.

In case you haven’t been paying attention over the past two years:

David Cameron wanted to prove he had a bigger dick than Boris Johnson (he doesn’t) so he called a Referendum, in which the people of Great Britain were asked if they wanted to stay in the EU or leave. The Referendum leaned toward the Leave side by 2%. Then David, who had promisedif the Referendum results were Leavethat he would immediately trigger Article 50, which is the codicil that would initiate our withdrawal from the European Union. Instead of doing that, however, he picked up his dolls and dishes and went home, leaving the country leaderless and showing just how stalwart, honest, and exemplary our politicians are.

David Cameron
Lost his vote; ran away.
Theresa May
Cleaning up the mess.
Boris Johnson
Has the bigger dick.

Also, it proved he had the smaller dick.

This was how we ended up with Theresa May as Prime Minister. As usual, it came down to a woman to clean up a mess made by a man. Terri had been a Remainer during the vote, but when the top job came into her orbit she swapped sides and decided she would lead the UK out of the EU and into the Promised Land, because it was the “Will of the People” and nothing must stand in the way of the Will of the People and the Democratic process.

Jacob Rees-Mogg
Just a random, rabid Brexiteer because I wanted you
people in the US to see what a poncy, smug
politician should look like.
ASIDE: I am really trying to be unbiased here, and I am doing my best to refrain from saying which side I think is right or wrong, or if leaving the EU is a good or a bad thing, BUT, I think it is a bit of an exaggeration to represent a 2% win as an overwhelming mandate from the people, especially when a large number of those people came out after the election and said they voted Leave just because they hated David Cameron. No sour grapes, just saying’. END of ASIDE

Anyway, the first thing Terri did was say she was going to negotiate a deal with the EU, and then it would be implemented without a vote in Parliament, because what could be more undemocratic than allowing the people’s elected representatives to weigh in on something as important as the direction the country would be heading in for the foreseeable future? That would be a terrible betrayal of the people. Well, the people, and Parliament, didn’t see it that way, so today they are voting on The Deal that Terri and her minions spent nearly two years hammering out with the EU.

A bit of why everyone’s knickers are in a twist over this:

Terri came back with The Deal, as mentioned, after nearly two years of negotiations, the details of which she held close to her vest while the negotiations were going on. That’s as it should be, but when The Deal was presented to Parliament, not all of the details were made available, because what could be more undemocratic than allowing the elected representatives of the people to be fully aware of what they were voting on? The people, and Parliament, didn’t see it that way. Terri did, however, and it took a Contempt of Parliament ruling to force her to reveal the full details of The Deal.

Now, when you have a country split essentially down the middle over an issue as important as this, when you work out a deal on how you are going to implement it, you are bound to piss off at least half of the population. Terri, however, managed—after nearly two years of negotiations—to return with a deal that pissed off everyone. The people who wanted to remain hated it, and the people who wanted to leave hated it. And the fine print, that she tried unsuccessfully to hide from Parliament, essentially gave the EU the power to hold the UK in the EU for as long as it wanted, and the UK had no say over it. This was the dreaded “backstop” which, both the EU and T. May assured everyone, was simply a last-resort option that no one was expected to invoke, except it was in the contract and, if it was there, that meant someone was planning on using it.

(When all this came to light, I began to wonder if this wasn’t Terri’s plan all along. She was, recall, a Remainer at first, so perhaps this was her way of keeping the UK in the EU, while pretending to take it out. You never know; this could be true.)

And so, the vote that the Prime Minister didn’t want Parliament to have, and which is happening today, is certain to end in a defeat for her. She’s not happy about this, because it is a dreadful blow to Democracy that she isn’t allowed to implement something that no one wants without a pesky, undemocratic vote getting in the way.

Furthermore, this may result in a vote of No Confidence in her and her government, which could mean a new Prime Minister, and perhaps a General Election. It also might cause a Second Referendum, to ask the people what they want to do now, and the Government is adamantly opposed to that because it would be a hideous blow to democracy to ask the people what they want, especially when the government is pretty certain the people don’t want what the government wants, and that would be a lethal blow to the Democratic process of dragging the people in a direction the government knows the people do not want to go in.

So this is the clusterfuck we find ourselves in at the moment. But do you know what? I’d still take Brexit over Trump any day.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Lurching Forward

Well, at least we don’t have to wait to see if 2019 turns out to be the shit-storm that 2018 was because the shit-storm has followed us into the new year.

Yeah, I'm looking at you, shit-storm makers!
Enjoy the ride!

For me, personally, it's not so bad.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but last year I did propose to make 2018 the year I learned to play the piano. How did I do? Well, I won’t be playing Carnegie Hall any time soon, but I do know my way around a keyboard, and if I have a music score with only a few notes (as opposed to some classical piece that requires you to hit 15 keys at once) I can puzzle it out fairly well. So, I would say I can, indeed, play the piano, with much room for improvement.

At this point, I'm pretty sure this dog plays better than I do.
On the other hand, I must be learning something, as I was able to
figure out what this tune was just by looking at it.
(Stole this off of FaceBonk)
As for 2019, I don’t have any goals aside from finishing book 7 of my 8-book fantasy-adventure series, and starting book 8 before this year is out. That will allow me to start finalizing the series in 2020 and, hopefully, have a book or two up on Amazon in 2021.

That’s the plan, anyway.

Our kitchen still looks like a construction zone, and since it’s down to the landlord to make the next move, I expect it will be like that for some time. On the other hand, Curry’s delivered a dryer a few weeks back that filled up our dryer-shaped hole, so life is good, and today they are bringing (they promised) a dryer that actually works, so life is about to get even better.

Someday, this will be a nice, clean, newly-tiled wall.
Some day.
My flirtation with vegetarianism is taking hold, with only a few niggles, the main one being that vegetarianism is suddenly becoming the In Thing, and I don’t like looking as if I just jumped on the bandwagon. Accordingly, I’ve half a mind to jump off, but that would be self-defeating.

The other niggle is, all those meat-substitutes that lured me into the world of vegetarianism do me little good because my vegetarian wife avoids meat solely because she doesn’t like it. Therefore, a non-meat product that looks and tastes just like meat isn’t something she would eat, so we still have to prepare separate meals, which was one of the main reasons I chose to go meat-free.

Vegetarian friendly, unless, of course, you simply don't like meat.
To her credit, she’s researching some tasty vegetarian (and even vegan) meals that suit me just fine, and there’s no reason I can’t have a faux hamburger or a fake sausage roll from time to time.

My wife and I took up Tai Chi some time ago, and we will continue this activity in the New Year, despite that, too, having turned into The Next Big Thing as soon as we took it up. Accordingly, probably half of you reading this will be doing Tai Chi. If you’re not, don’t fret; you will be by the time this year is out. Don’t fight it, it’s pretty cool, even though you feel like a tit when you first start doing Parting the Horse’s mane, and Cow Looking at the Moon. Just remind yourself that you are doing a real Martial Art and that, once mastered, you will be able to kill someone, albeit very slowly.

Grab the Chi!
The benefits of Tai Chi are numerous. Do a Google search; you’ll find more information than you can take in. Also, you’ll find there are several classes near by to where you live. They’re like AA meetings. Come join the cult.

Despite the benefits of Tai Chi, I thought something more high-impact, to balance it out, would be a good idea, so my wife suggested we take up swimming again.

We used to go for a weekly swim at the local leisure center when we first moved to Horsham sixteen years ago. Due to the inconvenience of jobs, we had to go in the evenings and we soon tired of that. The leisure center was brand new back then, but the the lockers and changing booths were already vandalized and, after a day’s use, the pool area was a proper mess, so we stopped going. Fast forward to now and we are able to go in the morning, which is more agreeable. The vandalism we witnesses all those years ago has still not been fixed—the same changing booth locks are broken and the same lockers have their doors ripped off—but at least the place is cleaner in the morning than it is at the end of the day.

The disadvantage I have now is, with all the activities we are taking up, I am finally getting to know some of the locals, which means I am more likely to run into someone I am acquainted with. There is nothing like exchanging awkward, morning greetings with someone you vaguely know while you are nearly naked. I like to think I’m in fairly good shape but let me assure you, a bathing suit does me no favors. Most of the exercise I get at the pool is from walking around with my stomach sucked in.

And so, 2019 starts with better eating, more exercise and the hope of finishing my epic, seven-years-and-counting writing project. Now, if the politicians would just sort themselves out, it might be a good year.

Happy 2019!