Friday, 30 April 2010

D Day

Well nearly. D Day of course is 6th June but my D day is now 1st June. i.e. the day I leave my employment after 18 years 11 months.

So the last couple of years I've found difficult - I like many of the people I work with - they are funny, intelligent, loyal etc. I get paid a ridiculous amount of money esp when you look at what those in developing nations get paid. The buildings are nice etc. However I seem disconnected from the main purpose of our business, I don't disagree with it which was my issue when I moved on from a defence contractor once many years ago but in the job I do now I'm just more removed from the "real work" of the company - I've become an IT outsourcing account manager just on the side of the parent company not the outsourcer. Also the company in the UK is contracting and has been for some time... all manufacturing has gone to Ireland and elsewhere (better corporation tax) buildings have shut other bits are being relocated to mainland Europe etc. So I found work had become a real drudgery.

An opportunity presented itself with a reorganisation and I'm being made redundant which has benefits of a good package, some help on career and financial planning etc.

Last night though having had the definite date seemed to make it all a bit mad. I know I'm ok with it but suddenly I didn't feel it all the "I'll never work again", "We'll lose everything" thoughts started rotating.

I need to regain some balance - there are very good reasons for moving on - this time last year I almost thought there'd be no choice and I got another year out of it luckily. So deep breaths needed for a little while.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Love and Acceptance

This post was inspired by a post by Suburbia...

Back in the old days I used to drink. Seems like very old days now, I'm about 2 weeks off hitting 6 years sobriety - amazing! You know I look back sometimes and it's almost like watching an old movie with some bloke I used to vaguely know in it. Odd. True though that I do feel at times very disconnected from that old persona of mine.

Here's one little example. Back in the old days when I used to drink I often used to say "I love you" to my wife. However just as often and I think on occasions more than I'd say that I'd say "Do you love me?".

Early on as I was sobering up I realised how dumb this was. Why did I need to keep asking? Insecurity; obviously but also because the relationship was all about me not about her and not about a partnership of love.

I had blinding flash one day - well sort of - which was all I could do was love her and hope that the love was reciprocated but if not there is nothing I can do about it. It all comes from the adopted prayer of AA

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference".

So now I don't seek the love of my wife or my children or the respect of my friends and colleagues. All I can do is do my best living my life by my code of good, bad, right, wrong etc. and trust that I'll get thier love and respect back. I cannot demand it and conversely if in living my life my way others don't like, love or respect me you know what... that is fine, that is their privilege and again there is nothing I can do about it but accept it.

Furtheron

Monday, 26 April 2010

What day is it?

I had a rubbish start to today. I opened my eyes and looked at the clock which said something like 5:48am. So I got out of bed and went to the bathroom. When I got back into bed my wife said "Why'd you do that - you're getting up in a few moments". "It's only just before six" I replied. "It's Monday" was her reply. WHAT! I thought it was Sunday - I'd lost a whole day. Never mind just as the resentment was taking hold the alarm went off and I had to drag my arse out of bed whatever.

I then got to the swimming pool and the lady on reception said "The pool is a bit warmer than usual. We are trying to fix the problem". Too right it was I have baths cooler than that! It was a bit of an effort to complete my 50 lengths frankly.

However all such trivial issues and my wife did cheer me up saying that I can have a lie in next Monday as it is a Bank Holiday! My son also cheered me up with him texting me a photo of a new guitar he has bought and saying he'd phone my wife later... so when my phone went off at lunchtime and I saw it was my wife calling I knew what the call would be about. :-)

Like father ... like son... :-) His justification is that in moving flats at the end of term he somehow is saving a months rent ... so he spent it on a guitar... :-)

Sunday, 25 April 2010

New profile photo


From a photo shoot with my son the other day... I like this one. :-)

Friday, 23 April 2010

Supertramp

I've got tickets to see them in October at The O2... yipeee!!!

So two threads to this post... the first is about the group and me...

Supertramp were a hugely important band to me. In 1974 I'd just moved from primary school to the large grammar school which was a bus ride away (I was only there a year as then it merged with the school at the bottom of my road and became a very odd bi-lateral comprehensive with both grammar stream and non-selective streams - it is like that now still an oddity in Kent which still has the horribly divisive 11plus system). Anyway I was already pretty music mad and was probably also searching for something different, not in the mainstream which I could identify mnore with than the pop stuff of the time and something different from my siblings I suppose as well. Supertramp were a huge part of that growing process for me. After hearing Dreamer as a single I bought Crime of the Century - which I still rate as one of my favourite ever albums and find myself even now on Spotify playing it. That along with Crisis What Crisis (the followup) were hugely influential on me as a musician and person. They opened me towards heavy rock (along with my brother) but also prog rock, Rush, Yes and of course Marillion. I always thought that later albums weren't as good as the two I mention above, not bad just not as good even though their greatest commercial success came with Breakfast in America. And even though I'd gone punk then rocker I did continue to buy their stuff throughout. I remember a mate seeing Brother Where You Bound in my collection saying "You have stuck with them haven't you". Indeed - my last gig set list opened with "Give a Little Bit" so that influence and love of their music is still there.

I never got to see them live because very few friends had the same affection for them that I had, I nearly went about 10 years ago but didn't. I was recently regretting that as it looked like they'd gone forever off the live stage. So I was over the moon that they are back and now I can see them. Obviously the lineup is the recent touring line up without a couple of classic members - who are moaning on line about not being asked... even thought Roger H had publicly stated recently he wouldn't do a reunion. But to be fair they left the band some years back and so I think that is a silly spat and a shame that it is being aired publicly. It's a shame it isn't the line from the Crime through to Last Words era but whatever I'm ticking off one of my major gaps in the bands I really should've seen live when I had the chance list.

I hate Ticketmaster

Why? Right they are the preferred vendor for O2 tickets. Supertramp tickets went on sale yesterday at 9am - I was busy at work. When I got a chance to log on (I'm lucky my company allow limited personal use) it was about 10am but they were "sold out". My favourite band from a formative time - I was gutted. Then Ticketmaster since I have an account with them suggested I try their "Get me in" site. Brilliant - £175 a ticket! What a rip off!! In the upper tier in a different post code to the stage! Many were over £200. Stuff that I thought.

So I looked at Seetickets.com who I've recently used more than Ticketmaster. Tickets for the show to be on sale the next morning at 9am. I happened to be working at home today (as my car is being repaired from the minor shunt last week) and so I get on the site and buy two tickets in the mid raised tier (my feeling best place in O2) and no problem... they had seats in many other sections too including on the floor.

I think Ticketmaster are just restricting sales and promoting this higher cost service. Stinks to me!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

British Music Experience

The BME exhibition is a permanent exhibit in the "bubble" at The O2 (old Millennium Dome) in Greenwich.

We went last summer and I really enjoyed it... what do you expect with my interest in music. So last week we blagged some free tickets for an evening entry so we trooped off there again.

There are "pods" off the central core area that are based on various eras in music since the second world war. In them they have lots of museum like exhibits and other stuff to look at, listen too, etc.

Basically after a couple of hours it was obvious the rest of the family were flagging... well my son had wondered off to the guitar studio where you can play various Epiphone guitars... there are some Gibson's on the wall but you can't get them down... including a Dusk Tiger or whatever it's called but I wasn't impressed with the look of it... so we came away but again I think I need to go back and spend more time there. Although you get a ticket with a code on it and you can "remember" bits you didn't look at fully and do it via the website but I haven't had a go at that.

If you are in London and want to spend a couple of hours in a totally music orientated history experience I recommend it.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Some people just oooze talent

Roll up and feast your ears and eyes on my great friend Sue Menhart in her new video. This is "The Choice" a great great song from a great great singer...

Hey Big Spender!!!

... that was one of the highlights of my first ever "gig" sober playing with other musicians. Sat night was a mate's celebration - very odd a private party for alcoholics in a hired bar in a small local theatre - my daughter found that we were in the bar the funniest bit. The mate in question is a bass player and in a trio with a singer and keyboards... somewhere along the line he asked me to take part.

So I turn up about an hour before everyone else - we run through Green Onions (in G not F which I knew it in!) and talk about a couple of other things. Then we were into the "show".

Most of the time I was sight reading over the shoulder of the keyboard player. What a nightmare! However I did get through it - several people commented that it was good and when I told them it was all without rehearsal they were surprised, so I suppose that is a compliment.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Back from Wales

We've been over to Wales to drop my son back off at university.

Lovely weather for a couple of days. Makes a change in Wales. Not a bad drive - M1 a bit stuffed up with ghouls rubber necking what looked to be an awful crash on the north bound carriageway.

Gillingham - can't beat Brighton but can beat Leeds - go figure! What chance we do actually avoid the drop?

I also think a Red Bull will win in China tomorrow.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Oliver! Birthday celebrations

Yesterday was Mrs F's fortysomething birthday. We went to London to see Oliver! Very good I have to say. Obviously it has to be one of the best know musicals is there anyone who doesn't know Food Glourious Food, Pick a pocket or two etc. or the Oliver Twist story.

Griff Rhys Jones was playing Fagin and played it very well he did. Enough of "him" in it for himself to shine through but keeping the much loved characterisation popularised in the film. Pretty much the cast especially the boys playing Oliver, Dodger and the other urchins were brilliant.

One thing that really impressed me though was the scenery. There was much use of bits going up and down to create Fagin's Den but also bridges etc. However it was the back scenes and use of brilliant side scenes that made the stage look to be miles deep and really added hugely to the atmosphere.

We had a meal in Covent Garden - gave my Mother-in-law and daughter their first trips on the new "high speed service" - actaully it is only a few mins quicker for us given where we are in relation to London but St Pancras is a much nicer station - even if it is a bit further out - however for Covent Garden it's only 3 stops on the Piccadilly line so actually easier than Victoria which would have meant longer tube journey, changes and or longer walks.

Great day out.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Jeff Beck - Emotion & Commotion

I've been listening to this via Spotify and have had no option but to order the special edition with a live set DVD included.

Absolutely and utterly simply stunning.

Jaw droppingly beautiful.

His version of Nessun Dorma is amazing, Serene floats you away to a colourful river under a pink sky where it is warm and the world is at one with you and you with it. The bluesy I Put A Spell On You with Joss Stone is ace... but the opening Corpus Christi Carol and the unbelievable closing Elegy For Dunkirk completely restore your faith in music and how there are some a very small number of humans (or maybe they are alien :-)) who can connect to your emotional inner self through the medium of music so directly so forcefully it blows you quite simply away.

So difficult to classify is it rock, blues, jazz or classical? Yes! The man is quite simply a blinking genius.

BTW until today Slash's new solo album had shot into my consciousness as one of the best albums of the year... which it is. Great rock n roll, with the variety of styles he can write/play being just brilliant but then this arrives... sorry Slash old chap but Mr Beck is simply on a different universal plane from the rest of us this album should be mandatory listening for anyone interested in guitar playing. Actually scrap the national curiculum in music and just get students to listen to this!

Right off to put an axe through my guitars as I'll never get within a light year of this guy....

Just what I didn't need...

I had a letter to post this morning. So as I do on many days when I need to do that I leave my house turn right at the end of the road go a hundred yards or so and pull up on the right next to the post box. I jump out to put the letter in the post box - noting that a car was pulling off the drive just up from where I was parked. As I put the letter in... smash!

I turned back to see that the lady backing out had clearly not seen my car and reversed into it! Brilliant! It's only superficial damage to the bumper and as currently it is still a company car on a lease scheme it is now their problem to fix and does't cost me a penny.

But something I could really have done without thank you very much!!!

Monday, 12 April 2010

My Thumb hurts

It was a "pleasant valley Sunday" yesterday. I actually forgot I was supposed to go somewhere for an AA workshop... oopps! Never mind I can catch up on that later.

Anyway - I had to put a new "soil spike" in - it's the thing in the lawn that is the hold to put the new washing line into. Hell's teeth! I think there was more bricks under our lawn than in the house! Much swearing, a couple of pieces of broken wood an it was in. However it is distorted as it has had to find a gap in the bricks under my lawn - the pole still goes in but the cover will never close now.

Then I tried to help Mrs F re tie a wire that holds a bush thing up against the fence. The nail came out so I put a new one in... and hit my thumb... me and hammers don't get on!

Highlights of the weekend... we went to Rye for the day Saturday, lovely little town with nice cafes etc and a load of junk... sorry antique shops to look at. There's a good guitar shop there as well so my son and I were lusting after some nice PRS's and a lovely second hand Les Paul. My first attempt at a new curry recipe was a reasonable success although everybody reckoned it could do with yogurt in it as just water was too running and I added Cornflour to thicken it but as I say they all said try Yogurt next time.

My daughter baked a lovely Victoria Sponge which had already about half gone in the afternoon!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

One of the many old photos of me ....



To answer some of the questions...

Where - Ramsgate Model Village (long since sadly departed)
When - I think summer of 68 or 69

I liked it cos I look so obviously in the mode "Stand there and I'll take your photo".

The kids have spotted that many are taken in model villages, at steam railways or on the beach. All the things we did as a family when our kids were younger... maybe there is a lot to the nuture side of parenting... :-)

Friday, 9 April 2010

Lucky man

Who is? I am that is who. Why?...

Firstly the house is a buzz just the moment, Easter Hols means that both the kids (kids!? one of them is 20 later in the year!) are at home without school worries for one. My son has turned his bedroom instantly into a Physic students paradise... i.e. it looks a tip! His desk is strewn with books, papers etc. No idea what he is working on at the moment but he at least posted on Facebook that he made some progress yesterday. He is also busy catching up with his old mates whilst he/they are back from uni. I've not sold him on Planet Rock yet which is my latest rave to have playing in the kitchen... normally as things like Yes are followed by Bad Company etc. is to say... "Jeez Dad this is like your old vinyl collection". The battle to keep it on that station and not Radio 1 or Kiss is a constant one with my daughter. Having her off school has great benefits... namely peanut cookies!!! Lemon Meringue pie!! Mrs F is busy spring cleaning as well - all the net curtains look sparkling now. I ought to get out and weed the gardens tomorrow I think.

So after the momentary panic I posted about earlier in the week I've settled down a bit. The bottom line is no matter how well paid the job has been I've run my run in it, I need a change, a new challenge a chance to move forward. I saw Suburbia's post about whether anyones life pans out the way they plan. Made me think - I commented to her post with the following...

I jumped out of bed at about 4 and half as a I started school and said...

"Mummy - I'm going to be a nightmare teenager pretty much realising too late I've screwed up my A-levels, I'm going to flunk out of one college course, try to get a job and get onto another... I'll then become a software engineer, a database administrator, project manager, portfolio manager, support director and then a service delivery manager. I'll get married in my early 20s to a girl I'll meet at school and we'll have a boy and girl. Oh yes I'll also be a raging alcoholic for 25 years of my life..."


Right - it was never like that, at 8 I wanted to be fighter pilot and fly a Lightning in the RAF. Then for many years I was going to be the new Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page etc. then briefly in my teens I was going to be an MP and change the world... Right!

So now I'm 48 and it's fair to say most of those options are gone... how much is a deposit to stand as an MP? However whether my childhood/younger dreams have not been fulfilled look at everything else. I have a very good life, a terrific family and feel very privileged to live where and when I do.

I've done a "financial audit" and organised meetings with the financial advisor the company gives us two free consultations with before my redundancy comes through. I've also got a consultation with the outplacement folks and that is the start of a 6 month programme which the company again pay for... how unbelievable is that. So a more positive outlook - embrace the new and unknown live in the here and now and work on identifying opportunities for the future not closing my mind off to suggestions.

I need to work on this attitude and not the usual crash back into panic and closed mindedness that often follows for me.

Side note... just listening to Supertamp Crime of the Century from 1974 - great album. Great line "lend me 15p I'm dying for a smoke"... 15p!!!! Players No6 no doubt :-)

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Panic!

So the redundancy timetable slowly ticks forward. Or rather not, the company "reset the clock" yesterday. Some legal technicality so I'm back with 30 days "consultation" before being served notice. To be honest it makes little difference time wise I was expecting to go about late May / early June anyway and this makes no difference to that which my boss has asked/agreed to.

My job has been split into three bits and all but one of the new players are in place to take over so I'm beginning to plan what I need to hand over to who and actually have got some of that underway.

Suddenly though not surprisingly I've had a couple of waves of panic! "What the hell am I doing? Giving up this high paid job etc. with nothing concrete on the horizon"... etc.

All daft really. I've long come to the end of my relationship with my company - they are a really good company to work for and I've really enjoyed my time here but the company, the people in it, the culture, the drivers etc. all move on and I find myself out of kilter with it all these days. I'm sure it is because I've been here so long and had a couple of previous periods which I'd describe as "career bests" when I was really enjoying what I was doing, it was recognised and rewarded and everything seemed line up just right. I know part of my problem is that the conditions that lead to those times cannot in the current company re-occur. Hence I need to be somewhere else to find new challenges without the "it used to be so much better" baggage in my head.

So I know moving on is the right thing - but I can't help but worry about the future. It's an unfounded fear of financial insecurity or of me being viewed by others as a "failure".

In "The Promises" which is an extract from the book Alcoholics Anonymous just after the description of Step 9 it claims that "Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us." Right... still work in progress clearly.

Dealing with each point - this is more my benefit than anyone reading this... I'm getting a good package so no need to panic instantly, included in that is help from a consultancy on assessing skills etc. and planning and executing changes into new areas if wanted etc. We have some savings etc. Plus it would probably do me no harm at all to have less, it'll help me appreciate what I do have more, I know the things I really truly value aren't measured in financial wealth at all.

What is "failure"? I've had a successful 20 year career here including many highs, internal and external recognition. However my life my choice - why should I give a toss what others think of me at all? The fear of the unknown and the future shouldn't be that it should be viewed as an open page for new chapters or entirely different book. Whatever I choose to do from now on.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Pictures to look at

My brother, his fiancee, our nephew and soon to be step-niece (can you have a step-niece?) came over yesterday.

Now when my Mum passed away a few years ago we found loads of old slides that my Dad had taken with his old Kodak camera. My brother took them and has painstakingly been scanning them in. He gave me a disk with them all on yesterday. Huge memories of happy family times when we were kids. And much laughter at my fashion sense... or lack of it... the old haircuts etc. etc. Holidays in Herne Bay and later Isle of Wight, days out at Broadstairs and Ramsgate. All brilliant stuff.

We only got through a small amount... I need to spend more time with it. Also old photos of my Mum and Dads wedding which was great and also others of the family including "spot the relative" which are old photos that we have no idea who is who in them. I reckon one of them was our great grandmother and father from the facial features but who knows.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Tom Edwards' Poem "Why I don't drink anymore"

Thanks to my friend DeeJay for pointing this out to me - it was on a BBC2 show. An excellent summary of alcoholism


I changed because I have the sickness of alcoholism, alcoholism doesn't come in bottles it comes in people.

You should have seen me.
I drank for happiness and became unhappy;
I drank for joy and became miserable.
I drank to be out-going and became self-centred;
I drank for sociability and became argumentative and lonely;
I drank for sophistication and became crude and obnoxious.
I drank for friendship and made enemies,
I drank to soften sorrow and wallowed in self-pity;
I drank for sleep and awakened without rest.
I drank for strength and felt weak.
I drank for masculinity and it sapped my potency;
I drank medicinally and got sick.
I drank because I thought my job called for it and lost my job.
I drank to stimulate thought and blacked out.
I drank to make conversation and got to where I couldn't talk at all;
I drank to forget and became haunted.
I drank for freedom's sake and became a slave.
I drank for power and became powerless;
I drank to erase problems and saw them multiply.
I drank to cope with life and invited death...

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Freedom

I was pointed to this story by Candy.

Please take time to click the link and read it. In it a Jew who survived the Nazi final solution talks about how great his freedom is within America where he settled after the war.

It got me thinking - this guy really knew the meaning of freedom didn't he? Freedom is one of those words that has got lost in the nonsense soundbite nature of today's politics and press. On the one hand politicians are telling us that new laws to restrict this or that will protect our freedom, our soldiers die in dusty lands which few I doubt can find on a map or know much about other than these soldiers are "protecting our freedom"... etc. etc.

We should be grateful for freedom, I have the freedom to write this and apart from somebody who thinks I'm a berk posting a critical comment there is little it will cost me. We have little suppression of expression or opinion in this country. Good. Sometimes though I see people complaining about others expressing their opinions and want to suppress that to retain their freedoms or so they say... but hang on you can't have your cake and eat it can you? If you want the freedom to say this, do that, be able to meet who you like when you like where you like, the freedom to travel, the freedom to read, look, ask, question etc. you have to extend that to everyone even if it is not for you. To suppress it takes away the very freedom you state you are protecting. Tracey Emin's sexual depictions for example - not my cup of tea but I can't deny her right to produce those works.

I did this political compass thing some time back and was fairly libertarian in my positioning. I'm not surprised I would rather people have freedom and learn to judge wisely how to use it and to determine what is right or wrong for them... as long as others are harmed by it. For example my policy with Internet in the house has always been an open policy, no filters to stop this or that - I trust my kids to use it wisely. My son one day some how found himself on some websites about far right politics. I'd rather he find that look at it and come to a conclusion on his own rather than me impose something stopping him or to stop him that people have a right to say that stuff.

Freedom... if you have it use it wisely, consider what that means to what others you may disagree with can do with it also and weigh the risk/benefit of that.

Freedom - something we don't value or think about enough you know in my humble opinion