Thursday, December 25, 2008

Greetings of the Season

Merry Christmas to you all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Plenty to say

Just no time in which to say it. Or, more to the point, to compose it into legible, well structured and, hopefully, interesting sentences.

In about an hour we're off to spend Christmas with my parents and we haven't finished packing yet so news of how last Friday went, plus our plans for 2009 will have to wait for now.

Monday, December 15, 2008

And then they came

So far my composure has held up reasonably well but last night saw the first small cracks.

L came into the room and said that she's got to pick up the photos of Cirrus we've ordered from the nursery when he's ready to go back this week. And that she doesn't know what to do with the fourth copy.

It took me a couple of seconds to remember why we might now only need three and then the tears came. A couple at least.

I might take a pack of tissues or two to the funeral on Friday.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A pox on all of you...

...or on all of Cirrus, at any rate.

I'm at home today, having booked it off weeks ago because it's L's work's Christmas lunch and the second performance of the Christmas Play at Cirrus' nursery (the first having been yesterday, which L was going to see).

The trouble is, Cirrus, like a significant proportion of the rest of the cast, has come down with the dreaded pox, so I won't be seeing him dressed up as a shepherd or hearing him sing the songs he's been absent-mindedly practicing for the last couple of months.

What is it about chicken pox that makes people so worried? I mean, at the first sign of it the nursery packs an infected child off home to try and stop it spreading further. But is that such a bad thing? I mean, sure, it's not a terribly nice illness, with the open blisters all over you, but it's not as if it it lays kids up in bed or makes them feel more than a little off-colour. And it can be much more dangerous, for a man at least, to get it later in life as it can cause fertility problems. So you'd think that you'd want kids to have it when they're young. Or am I missing something?

Anyway, Cirrus has spots all over him (including one on the edge of one of his eyelids) so I've got to stay at home with him (and Nimbus, of course) watching DVDs all day. It's a hard life.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Farewell

It won't be long now. That's the message that makes work seem suddenly unimportant. All I can think of is getting there before it's too late.

It won't be long now. Waiting impatiently at the station, I read to try and distract myself. Finally the train leaves. Half an hour and I'll be there.

It won't be long now. On the bed is a woman who lost her husband almost a quarter of a century ago and kept her illness secret for many years. Her family is gathered around her, waiting, thinking.

It won't be long now. Her breathing is rapid and shallow and we wonder whether she knows we are all there. My mind drifts to memories of trips into London during school holidays. Can the last of those really have been almost half my life time ago?

It won't be long now. Eventually, I say my goodbyes and take my leave. There's no reason to stay right to the end. I'm just glad I was able to be there to see her before she left. Now starts the wait until the phone rings again with that last, fateful message.

It won't be long now. And then the tears that stubbornly refused to come during that long afternoon may begin to flow freely.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Good Train Service

As my local station is one of the minor ones on the West Coast Main Line, there are only two trains per hour into London, which makes it very annoying when the one you're going to get in the morning is cancelled. Now, don't get me wrong, it doesn't happen very often - my usual gripe is that the trains are often several minutes late - but when it does it can really mess up your morning.

So, it was with a heavy sigh of resignation that I sat down in the waiting room this morning to read my book for half an hour. Less than ten minutes later, though, I was up again because a service that usually blasts through on the fast line was diverted to stop instead.

For once, then, I'd like to commend London Midland for their good service.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Unless you've spent the last twelve months in a cave somewhere in Outer Mongolia, you won't need me to tell you about the woes that have afflicted the global economy. Every day there's yet more gloomy news from the City and as the recession begins to bite, this is more and more about jobs being lost, particularly in Financial Services.

So, what is it like to work in Financial Services in the City at the moment? Well, if you were to ask a banker or stock market trader you may well get a very different answer to the one I'm going to give.

You see, there is one sector within Financial Services that may not be staring into the abyss in quite the same way as the others. And it happens to be the one I work in.

Lloyd's had its own problems in the early nineties and since then has cleaned up its act considerably when it comes to dodgy dealings and the like, so the market is in the right kind of shape to weather the current storm. Of course, it doesn't hurt that when the economy hardens, insurance rates (premiums) tend to go up because the competition in the market drops off. And because it doesn't necessarily follow that claims will increase, it can be a lucrative time to be in the industry. As long as you don't insure a large percentage of the American mortgage market against defaulters, of course.

Credit Crunch Silver Lining #3

It's finally possible to choose sides in British politics once more.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Council Tax Idea

Given that the chancellor is going to be announcing a raft of tax-cuts tomorrow in the hope that they will soften the landing as the economy heads further downwards, allow me to set out the basis of an idea that could be used to help reduce the financial burden of council tax while, at the same time, improving the local environment and possibly even fostering better community spirit.

The inspiration for this came from the very intriguing Orange Rockcorps []. If you haven't heard of it before, the idea was this: there was a concert at the Albert Hall featuring a pretty good lineup. Tickets for this concert could not be bought; rather, they had to be earned by doing 4 hours of voluntary work on a community-based project run by the organisers. A great idea that puts a value on people's time and uses it as currency.

So, I thought, why not extend this idea and allow people to pay off part of their coucil tax by volunteering their services to the council during weekends? Here's how it might work:

The council wants to improve the character of the local town centre and commissions a programme of work including jobs like removal of graffitti, clearing the rubbish out of ponds and streams, repainting the local subways and trimming back the undergrowth in the park. All of these could, to some extent and with varying levels of supervision & training, be carried out by volunteers, who, in return for their time, get a reduction in their council tax bill.

Of course, there are many kinks that need ironing out and any fully-realised plan would have to:
a) set a value on people's time that is high enough to induce people to get involved but low enough to ensure that the council doesn't end up with a smaller pot of money to fund all its other services
b) appease any fears that unions may have over council workers' jobs
c) be administered as effectively as possible to minimise the overhead on the part of the council

Would a scheme like this be a success? Well, I've got some ideas on that, to but I thought I'd see what you have to say about the idea before I lay out my reasoning. So, please, let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Family News

Nimbus is now almost four months old and weighed in at 21lb 12oz yesterday (that's a nice round ten pounds more than when he was born). He's now wearing 9-12 month clothing and, amazingly, cut his first tooth at the weekend. We're going to see some friends on Saturday whose first daughter is just a couple of weeks older than Nimbus - it'll be interesting to see the difference between them.

Cirrus (now three and a half), meanwhile, is doing really well at nursery, beginning to learn how to read and do basic arithmetic. A month ago we had just finished applying for a primary school place for him so now we are just waiting for confirmation that he's got into our first choice school.

When we moved house eighteen months ago, we knew there was a primary school within a hundred yards of the front door but we hadn't looked into it at all so we didn't know whether it was any good, so it was with some surprise, when we went to see it, that we found out it's more than just good - it's one of the best schools in the town! And with a two-form entry, it's exceedingly unlikely that there will be 60 other children who either have siblings at the school or live closer than we do (the two main criteria), so we're not at all worried about it. Two more months and we'll know for sure.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Credit Crunch Silver Lining #2

The word 'banker' is no longer merely a euphemism for someone who enjoys spending time with himself, it's a pejorative in its own right.

Friday, October 31, 2008

What the...?

Why is it that when you leave the country for a few days, something totally unexpected happens back home? I'm currently staying with friends in Paris and learn that not only has it been snowing a home in late October (and we turned the heating off completely when we came away!) but that a completely avoidable crisis has hit the BBC.

Now, I'll admit that I don't know the full story and I haven't had the chance to read up on it so I'm not going to say anything about the prank itself. I think the bigger questions revolve around how the show was ever aired without the offending parts edited out. How is it that no one was sacked for gross negligence or something similar? The BBC has not come out of this looking terribly good. And I'm usually a supporter of the corporation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Something Munchy

The phone in my pocket starts to ring. On the other side of the train door the weather is pretty awful and my hopes are raised at the prospect of a lift home.

The number on the phone is unknown, which means the call is coming from home rather than the car. Those hopes begin to fade.


"Can you get me something munchy on the way home?"

The hopes are lying in tatters around my feet right about now. "Pardon?"

"Can you get me something munchy on the way home?"

"Erm, okay. Any particular sort?"

"No, you know what I like."


"Get two."

I manage not to say anything about how this conflicts with certain efforts to be good. "Two?"


"Okay. See you soon."

I put the phone back in my pocket. Looks like I'll be getting damp, then.

Blimey, the lengths you need to go to to hide a chocolate craving from a three year-old.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Comments, Layout and Stuff

If you followed CBS in its last incarnation, you'll have noticed some changes around here. Most obviously, there's the new template. Not terribly original, I know, but better than the last and I may actually play around with it much more this time.

Secondly, I've given up on the old comments. They were too full of spam and didn't quite feel right any more. So, I'm afraid you'll have to make do with the Blogger comments for the moment. Again, I may change this if I get the time.

Which brings me on to some expectation setting. At the moment, life is very busy so I must be mad to want to take this up again. It means that I will have to fit blogging around everything else so updates may well happen mainly at weekends. If I don't post for a week or two, don't worry. If I'm going to hiate again I'll tell beforehand.

So, content will probably be much the same as it used to be, i.e. no set style, or theme. I hope you enjoy it.

Credit Crunch Silver Linings #1

No more awful ads featuring a crab saying "What's in your wallet" in a dodgy oriental accent.

Hello... Er... Again.

I was sitting on the train a week ago thinking about the various crises facing the world at the moment and suddenly felt the urge, in a way that I haven't for about three and a half years, to have my say on them (and many other things).

So here I am, clearing away the clouds that have obscured the view around here for so long.

I can't promise it will last very long. I can't promise to write frequently, either. But, for now, I can certainly say that I am back.