Top Ten First World Problems

If I were creating such a list, top of this one would be the end of Summer Time. Now by this I don’t mean the end lazy of days by the beach, drinks outside, wasps or cows sharing your picnic etc.

In the UK that all ended weeks and weeks ago and sure that is a disappointment, but we just have to embrace the seasons. Indeed us Britons have all been well trained since we are toddlers to be ready for bad weather at any time, the formation of orderly queues for shelter, ruined days out and generally being very polite stoic about all of these things!

No, the problem is the changing of the clocks at the end of British Summer Time and reverting to the real time! That is GMT (Greenwich Mean time) , we generally don’t like to depress ourselves further by calling it Winter time.

Its a bit like one of these early computer games where you had to eradicate gremlins that would keep popping up on your screen , and just when you thought you had them all, another one pops up.

We have this problem with there being clocks everywhere – everything imaginable has a clock: mobile phones and landline phones – actually these seem to be able to cope with this momentous day in our life and update themselves, as do the clocks in at least one of our cars…the other car will resolutely show the wrong time for 6 months of the year.

Then there is the cooker in the kitchen – the changing of the clock display on this always necessitates finding the gravy stained owners manual and still the process always goes wrong and instead of retarding the clock by one hour we seem to be setting an auto-cook setting with the oven timer, for a 1kg – 2kg chicken (no giblets)! So, then onto the microwave, similar problems…manual needed, and just when we thought we had done it we noticed that its actually a defrost process we have just initiated…..!

So thinking then that all bases are then covered, we noticed our energy Smart meter was showing us the time in Paris, France not Yorkshire, England so that needed intervention too. Smart meters are smart in name only – we have had ours a year and it has never so much answered a crossword clue, or even one of the easier questions on University Challenge! Its actually not even so smart at doing stuff its supposed to do like displaying how much energy we are using. Quite important really with all the additional flashing displays and bleeps going on at the moment from various domestic appliances that are being adjusted!

So having completed everything, a quick stroll into the garden…….aaargh, I had forgotten the recent addition of a garden clock. Thankfully no instructions needed…its very analogue and just needs its hands moving!

Happy clock change day, if its happening with you today!

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Just living the dream or living in Hope?

In the UK we have a good selection of town and village names that will bring a smile of amusement to those that chance upon them. One of my favourites is the village of Ugley. Inevitably it’s various organisations and clubs prefixed with the village name periodically feature on the internet..top one being the Ugley Woman’s Institute.

All credit to the village hall who embrace this strangely found fame!

The Woman’s Institute or WI for those from outside the UK is essentially a social club for middle class ladies of a certain age ! At one time considered a staid, safe and reassuring bastion of jam recipes and flower arranging, but more recently epitomized as risque from the film Calendar Girls based on the (true ) story of when a WI in North Yorkshire did a nude calendar photo shoot to turbo charge their fund raising for cancer research! Who says village life is dull!

Anyway added to my list of favourite village names is Hope where we went walking a few weekends ago. Wouldn’t we all like to live in Hope? In reality most of us do……

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A mars bar, a glass of rose and usually a hug!

With all due respect to Accor Hotels, owners of the Ibis brand, not many people would be heard to ask the question ” is there surely just no better place than the Ibis Hotel at Luton Airport” . Well yes and no is the obvious answer to that!

Certainly it’s not a destination on most bucket lists, but most people do need a day job to fund the fun!

When I was offered a job at one of the airlines head quartered at London’s Luton Airport I had the option of not relocating to the area but just being there for 2 or 3 days of my working week; the rest of the time I was mostly travelling or worked from home.

So the Hotel Ibis became my ‘home from home’ for 2 nights most weeks for 5 years! When you stay in a hotel for 5 years two things happen…you either hate it and feel frustrated that on those days you are not in your own home and socialising with family and friends. Or you embrace the unique position you are in that you get to know the hotel staff and they get to know you very, very well and you develop a relationship that other customers just cannot have.

I very much went for the latter – on arrival always big smiles and often a hug…much to the bemusement of other customers; some chocolate in my room and some fresh milk ready for me to take to my room as they knew I liked “A proper cup of tea”.

Quite often, in the later part of the evening, a phone call to me suggesting to come down now for a chat, particularly if it had been busy at reception on arriving earlier. A glass of wine would be already poured for me…

If I was going out meeting work friends in the area or going into London for the evening, I didn’t come and go anonymously- there would be discussion on where to go , what to do and even on what I should wear!

The hotel had a very international staff from Lithuania, Romania, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Germany and many other countries as well as the UK and over their shift patterns I got to know them all. One thing that never ceased to amuse me that one of the employees Jesus was often rostered with his colleague Christ doing the next shift…I am serious!

I also had a few birthdays there over the years and something special was always done for me at breakfast on these days…much to the surprise of other customers.

But now life has moved on and I no longer work for that airline and don’t need to stay there…but the friendships with many of the people remain.

In fact on my last night there, I was presented with gifts, farewell cards and a had a leaving drinks party…A better send off than I have had from some of my own workplaces!

If ever I learnt something from this, is that friendships can develop in any part of your life and it’s the unexpected ones that can be the best!

Happy days! ….With love to Kristina, George, Valentina, Christ, Nikki, Jesus, Alex and many others who I have may have omitted …….

Greek dancing in the office

Much is being written at the moment about how people working from home during present times are missing out on the social interaction of working in the office.

I agree.

Its actually a while since I regularly worked in an office as I now work for an International employer headquartered in Germany, but am home based in the UK (irrespective of Covid etc.)

But back in the 1980’s (yes, I know its unbelievable I was even at work then and not at nursery school, or even just a twinkle in the eye of my parents!) I worked in an office of a small Greek Travel Company of about fifteen people above a fashion retailer in London’s trendy South Moulton Street in the West End.

London has a large Greek, mostly Greek Cypriot community and many of my colleagues were from there. It was a young and fun place to work and in fact probably some of my happiest working days were at that company as we had a great post work social life there as we really were minutes from everything in the West End.

Anyway one of my colleagues Maria was getting married and we were all invited to the wedding …but a prerequisite …we had to participate fully in the dancing at the reception of this huge event. And when I say huge, I really mean huge! So at lunchtime every day for two weeks before the wedding another colleague Georgia would teach us Greek dancing in our tiny little kitchen/staff room. Well, we learnt the basics and didn’t disgrace ourselves totally at the wedding….such fun times.

Well my career in travel and aviation has taken me back to Greece many times over the years and much as I don’t have a professional need of those skills that I learnt (I think…) , I always feel so at home when I hear the music in Tavernas and restaurants. Ευχαριστώ Georgia !

So employers and leaders, never forget the value of office life…when it can be safely provided!

That don’t impress me much….as Sex, Brexit and Fridges in Greenland

Any followers of Country Music might be hoping for a post on Shania Twain, singer of song of this name…apologies to her fans but this is not what this is about.

Like life, just going round in circles

I don’t normally write midweek blogs but I got involved in conversation today with someone  on the vexed subject of  how I use SEO. Those not familiar with the term may be thinking along the lines of some corporate post holder…like CEO, COO, CFO etc.  No, it means Search Engine Optimisation i.e.  how easily, (or not at all!) someone will find your blog post site.

The conclusion of the conversation was just that said person was bemused that I was not attempting to do it and that nobody will find my site!

As aficionados of SEO will know it is fair to say that without liberally sprinkling topical keywords I will remain an unknown to 99.99% of the population.

Actually that’s probably a good thing!

Well, as most of my subject matter never requires use of  words such as sex, Brexit or thankfully Covid,  these have little chance for a mention even once.

In fact if the advice I have been given is to be believed I should be slipping in these very words in my title and repeatedly in the message body like some kind of protest chant .

Realistically as the word ‘sex’ attracts a certain type of reader, they will then be disappointed with the lack of it in the content; Brexit will be mainly off-putting no matter what side of the ‘divide’  you are on,  and if you don’t live in UK  or Europe…you probably really don’t care.  Why would you?  and mention of Covid something that we likely do not want to read even more about, so this then means that these key words  will be as relevant to my blog  as needing a fridge in Greenland!

I was also told I should consider some long tailed ones…..keywords that is! I am getting out my tape measure now……. and to make sure I updated my slugs! Slugs, yeah well something along similar lines too, but don’t ask me to explain what they are…other than not something you find under a flowerpot!

Slugs, snails, and puppy dogs tails!

Happy days, and glad to be in obscurity 😁😁 And apologies again to all feeling very short changed by the title.

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A very polite dog

A few weeks ago I was helping a younger  family member in a house move. As we all know, the more moves you do, the more stuff you accumulate each time.

I recall my early house moves where it literally all could be done with a few suitcases, some boxes and a hired taxi or minicab for one trip across town.

Then as time progressed this process morphed in to needing somebody with an estate car (that’s station wagon for my North American readers), then fast forward a few years and houses more  and then  it’s small vans, then larger vans and so on!



Anyway this move was at the large van stage…… plus some car loads.  So we did our first trip of about an estimated four more  for the day and soon discovered that parking  at the new house destination was best achieved by unloading at the adjacent leisure centre car park rather than squeezing in to a small parking space immediately outside the property.

So after a tiring day with  four trips done it was time for a quick meal break in the evening  with some  pizza before Ikea furniture re-building! We had soon discovered that Billy the bookcase was not keen on this concept of moving …anyway that’s a tale for another day.

Boxing day

So we just relaxed for this quick meal break and I used the opportunity to look at my phone and check for messages.

I was a little surprised that Google had become aware I was right next to a gym and wanted to know how I rated my visit!!

Thorough and efficient as ever,  she  asked me the same question, three  more times. Did I enjoy my visit and can I write a review? Dare I say it , a bit abrupt in its tone and approach with me…especially as this is just my phone in dialogue with me!

It reminded me though of the opposite situation…our dog in his letter years was becoming a regular visitor to the vet particularly in his latter years for various boosters, dental issues and so on. We had a very kindly, softly spoken a Scottish vet in our Yorkshire veterinary surgery thst we had attended (No, it wasn’t James Herriot, but it was that kind of place).

Tool kit ready

On lifting Geoffrey our dog onto the bench and sticking yet another needle in him and just getting compliance and tolerance from the dog…the vet was heard to comment ” you know, I am sure if Geoffrey could speak, he would be a very polite dog”. So Google….please do take note of how to behave and learn some manners!

Sleeping dog is a happy dog

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride!

One of the great things about working in the aviation industry is that you do get to visit a lot of places. Over the years working for various airlines, ground handlers and an aviation technology company, I have put a lot of pins on the map.

Travel the world
A world of choice

Ok, at the moment it’s all a bit in abeyance and in the past six months where I might reasonably expected to have been in numerous European countries, the middle East and possibly USA…my travel has been limited to Aldi, Lidl and the Co Op in my local town..but hey ho, I am not alone in that respect of a changed life!

Tins of beans
Full of beans

Travelling is great , I love it and I never forget to be grateful and aware of my privilege of having these opportunities even if they don’t return in the future.

However it isn’t always quite as wonderful as it sounds. I was asked by a friend recently had I ever visited Johannesburg? …I had to think a lot and answer realistically.

My trip there had been out on a flight for 9 hours, walk through the terminal to the airport hotel. I then attended a meeting (included refreshments: one cup of coffee!) After the meeting, straight to bed in same hotel, and up again six hours later for flight back to UK!

It gets better….a quick flight one morning to a European capital to attend a meeting with a Low Cost Airline. On arrival I was met at gate by pleasant but anxious young man tasked with getting me to the airline office by car across the ramp area. Lots of phone calls but still no (airside) transport arrived..he was very apologetic at this point. Then a phone call or two was then reassured that alternate transport would arrive. After some more minutes waiting – it surely did arrive…a toilet truck!

I do this job purely for the glamour!

Toasted Sandwich Naked

This isn’t my What Three Words location, although a good one to have as my actual one is not very memorable and certainly won’t spring to mind if I am shipwrecked, stuck up a mountain or just lost in Ikea’s one way customer flow.

Never a cross word

It is also not a crossword clue for a Danish Open sandwich. It was actually an unfortunate message I sent to one of my sons and his fiance. I was at the top of ladder at home clearing our attic and found various items of possible use to the next generation and decided the best way of determining if it stayed there or was destined for a new home was a quick What’s App to ask the question as and when I found items. The message ‘Do you want a toasted sandwich maker?’ becoming ‘Do you want a toasted sandwich naked’ unfortunately was a result of auto-correct and my haste!

I do actually have to confess to an earlier mishap with predictive text. Some years ago a more junior colleague was seeking my approval to attend a meeting in Latvia as I had already made it clear it had to be a low cost airline trip. When asked about what they could book for the journey, my text message of ‘you can only travel there by Air Baltic …unfortunately got corrected to…You can only travel there by…. air balloon caused some stress, calls to HR and the company’s insurance department!

Just a lot of hot air

Anyway, back on the home front…I think the wedding is still on but some doubt as to whether any thoughts of a father of the groom speech being a good idea …..

We are family…….

Anyone reading this hoping for a blog about the 1970’s band Sister Sledge who had a hit of that same title…be prepared to be dissapointed now when you read on, to see that the post is about genealogy.

And for those aged 40 or younger, do take note, and look them up…you will probably one day find you have a serious gap in your musical knowledge as questions about Sister Sledge and their profusion of similar sounding hits will often feature on ‘pop music’ quizzes and you will be none the wiser.

Time now to dig out your parents compilation cassettes..and find a device to play them on…..

Teenagers…just ask your parents

Anyway having recently had another birthday ending with a zero, it focussed my mind on not only where do I come from, but who were the people and what were there lives like? A recent gift to me of a DNA analysis test identified that I was 97.5% Irish…so no surprise there, but also 2.5% Akenazi….huge surprise there. But it’s not just the country or culture, I want to know more about the people.

My mother’s family tree is well documented and my origins are from mostly shop keepers but also an assortment of engineers, doctors and other professions.

In the scale of things, quite prosperous and financially comfortable people owning their own homes and businesses, employing people and in some cases having domestic staff!

On the contrsry, my father’s family had previously not been documented but now armed with some family tree software, some sketchy notes of 10 years ago collected from a now deceased relative, I have been tracing my paternal blood line.

Emigrants from Ireland to the UK but a very different story – many of my family including my paternal grand father and great grandfather lived and worked in Bermondsey, London as labourers in the docks. There are also a number of my female relatives working as chars (cleaners), washerwoman and domestic servants. So several generations of people working in tough and not well rewarded roles.

It was not until the last generation that life improved. My own father and one of his brothers were the first to go beyond this and study and train to go into professional roles.

As I unfold more detail it is very evident to me that life in my grandparents generation was really harsh and challenging…but considerably better than the Irish potato famine that they had fled that had killed over one million people literally wiping out half of the country.

So we are a family of two halves…different measures of good fortune…with one half being able to afford the domestic staff and the other providing it…but also united in a shared cultural history.

I have to admit to almost being obsessed now with this genealogical investigation and how uplifting it is in these strange times to understand and feel a connection with my descendants.

Dummies guide to?

As I write this, its the Late Summer Bank Holiday Weekend in most of the UK …..but not Scotland…they are holding out until September for theirs. And theirs is known as the September Weekend…no Marketing consultants or focus groups for naming things required here folks!

Unfortunately, so far it is actually the coldest August Bank Holiday weekend for 20 years according to the weather statisticians. Forget any ideas of picnics, walking in the moors, trips to the sea or al fresco dining of any kind. What the weather did invite however was a trip to our nearby independent bookshop.

Our local town Holmfirth (known to many 40+ year olds in the UK and perhaps beyond, for the Fictional TV Series ‘Last of the Summer Wine’) has a good mix of craft shops, eateries, cafes, independent stores and a recent addition of a small bookshop.

As covered in a previous blog, Bank Holidays are a somewhat curious quirk of the uk and yet another example of our use of the English language using a term that is blindingly obvious to us native speakers, but very confusing to others.

Yes for sure the bank staff get a holiday on these days but so do many other people in industry , commerce, education and government but of course not those in essential services or indeed shop workers who rely in some ways on the rest of us not being at work to give them some added footfall through their shop doors.

So on the subject of shops, back to this one. There is actually not a moments doubt as to what is sold in this shop….. it is books …its called Read. Holmfirth is a tourist destination so even for non native speakers you will know what the offering is here.

Its a great little bookshop with well selected fiction (and many of the books are signed) The only downside is, you may have to queue to get in…its not a huge shop, and with current social distancing rules, if one family enter the store that’s it…until they vacate to make a space for you

It did strike me that actually very few shops in the UK have such a simple and obvious name. We rely on tourism in many parts of this country so why not make things a bit easier for visitors?

Ok, for those of you who are UK residents or at least familiar with the UK High Street you are now reeling off a list of names and brands that provide ‘what it says on the tin’, so as to speak. Yes, I too can think of a few UK examples past and present : ‘eat’ is a chain of outlets that sell …yes, eat in and take away eats; Toys ‘r’ Us, (sadly departed) , ‘Patisserie Valerie‘ (ok, of course Patisserie is a French word, but you get the idea) , The Perfume Shop and so on.

However the ones that may confuse a non native speaker are far more commonplace: ‘Curry’s’ are not a restaurant selling Indian food, but are an electrical goods retailer; ‘Boots’ are a chemist with not a chance of any footwear being on sale other than perhaps a Dr Scholl sandal; ‘Lakeland’ – garden pond accessories? …sorry, its a cookware retailer; ‘Jigsaw’ – not a single children’s puzzle for sale here. You get the idea……

Anyway, this is just nothing compared to what we at least historically named our pubs (and our beer!) …but that’s another story for another blog for another day.

I’m off to the Bulls Head for a Pint of Old Peculiar now……….