Posts Tagged ‘work’

I read the news today oh boy, an MP killed just doing their job.


Shocked, just totally shocked that an MP, going about her job has been killed in the UK. I’m not totally surprised. The febrile atmosphere from the media over the last few years about how ‘they’re all in it for themselves’. The hapless MPs who took the piss of the expenses regime. Both have worked together to give the impression that MPs are not people’s representatives but fair game for hate and bile.

OK. Hands up. I was married to an MP and I worked for the same MP. So, I might have a biased view. But anyway, here it goes.

Most people who go into politics do so because they want to make the place they live better. Some get the chance to do so. Some get the chance to move on and have the chance to make the place they live, or come to represent and then live, better. Being an MP is a thankless task. I know, I saw it from the inside. I had to fight to get my wife to take one Sunday a month off and go to the cinema or do something else human. Reading happened on holiday. Otherwise it was politics at work and home 24/7. Hey I’m not complaining, it was a great life. However, go shopping and you have people looking at you, what do you have in your shopping bag? A bottle of wine, oh must be a drunkard! Go to the cinema, oh you’re neglecting your work. Do we want robots or humans as our representatives?

That’s one of the first problems. Consult the supposed expert upon our constitution and the answer is the MPs are representatives. Not delegates. They are sent to Westminster to listen to the arguments and make an informed decision. Not to do what you want. Not to do what you thought they went there to do. They are not delegates. Representatives. Lots of times working for an MP I heard or read people say, I want the MP to do this, they are my representative, therefore they must do this. No.

But enough of getting things off my chest. The main point about this post was that, despite the cynicism about MPs, fed massively by the media, most are good, hard-working people who have only their constituents interests at heart. I say this of Tory MPs of my acquaintance just as much as Labour ones.

After the Cheltenham MP, Nigel Jones, was attacked by a constituent in his surgery, and his member of staff lost their life protecting him, a review was undertaken of the security of offices of MPs and their surgeries. The MP I worked for did not encourage people to come to our office and we were on the second floor, there was a well populated reception area of another organisation and people were welcomed there and not invited up, unless let into the building by some of the other, clueless, tenants of the building, so we could invite a member of the public into the foyer of the building, if we had to, and there were plenty of eyes looking at what was happening. That did not happen often.

Surgeries were different. People came, by appointment, and were alone with the MP and a member of staff. An essential requirement to make sure the MP could focus on the needs of the constituent, the member of staff could take notes, and that there was a witness and a written record in case any argument ensued about what happened afterwards. Initially these surgeries, in the case of the main local council area the MP represented, were stuck away in a room hidden at the back of the building. The room was small and it was only possible to organise it so the constituent came in and sat next to the door with the MP and member of staff facing them. If the constituent got agitated, upset, or, even worse, violent, there was no way past them. The MP and member of staff were stuck there. In a tiny room, out at the far distant edge of the building from the security or other member of staff. It must be OK we were told as that was what councillors did and previous MPs did. It must be OK, there was a telephone in the room. Yes, also behind the constituent. After what happened to Nigel Jones the office requested the council move the surgeries to somewhere they were overlooked, especially by their security staff and somewhere the MP could escape from easily. The council were not happy. It had always been fine for previous MPs and councillors, why change things now? The death of an MPs staff member and almost of the MP were not a strong enough argument. I know some of the members of the council would have been happy if a nutter had taken care of the MP, but that was not the reasoning of the body itself.

Fortunately we managed to get the local police onside and they recommended that a more publicly visible venue, overlooked by the council security be sought and it was. Security intervened in the case of an old man unhappy at losing what he thought had been left to him, someone known to the community and no threat, just prone to shouting when he got emotional and unhappy.

They were not to be seen, maybe checking the rest of the building, when a man came in to the surgery with two knives in his belt, complaining about a burger chain restaurant in a nearby town, that was crushing up beetles and putting them in his burgers to get him sexually excited. The man was listened to, an undertaking was given to look into his problem and he left. All the time the MP was nearest the door and I was between the man with two knives and her. I was glad he left happy as otherwise it was me between them.

First world problems in a developing country


On the way home last night, despite purchasing a bottle of gin and a lime, I realised there 20160531_140226.jpgwas no tonic at home. No shop near me sells tonic, despite a frantic search, although the place I lived previously was more cosmopolitan and had it readily available. So, the gin remained unopened.

This morning then the dilemma. Could I justify going to the supermarket just to get tonic and a lemon? Heck yes. So I went to my local supermarket and, instead of a six pack of tonic at $2.80 I could get a slab at $8.90. Result. But, one step forward two steps back. No lemons for sale. Existential crisis, what to do? Lime it will have to be.

My other piece of shopping on the way home was a paintbrush. This is not because I have just developed a love of the fine-arts but because my chilli plant is flowering. I dot see many bees around the neighbourhood, despite there being more greenery than you would think in the centre of Phnom Penh. 20160531_141159.jpgSo, if I want chillis, which I most certainly do, then I am going to have to fertilise the plant myself, which has now been done to the two flowers showing so far. With more on the way it looks like I’m going to have to get more familiar with fertilising things than I previously thought I would.

Tuesday and Thursday I start work at 17:30 which kind of makes up for having to work five hours on Saturday morning. It allows me to get admin, studying, cleaning and other things done which do not then have to be done at the weekend. One thing I also have come to enjoy doing is 20160531_111914.jpggoing for a swim at the Olympic Pool in the Olympic Stadium. It was not built to host the Olympics but there was hope of getting the Asian Games in the 60’s which led to the construction of the stadium, pool etc. For $2 I usually get personal use of a 50 metre pool. This time I was not alone. A video was being shot, first the star lip-syncing then joined by a troupe of backing dancers. First with the diving board and pool as a backdrop, then through the fence. It entertained me as I made my way up and down to complete my 7 x 100 metres swim. On getting out I took the picture above of the ‘star’ does any reader know who it is?

Everything’s coming up lovely


When we left for our Christmas break in the UK, which I wrote about here, we had some bulbs starting to show Birkenhea bloomersin the planters on our balcony, their green shoots poking out of the soil. This made me sad as I was afraid they might not survive the winter.

I’m not a big fan of the winter, more specifically things getting darker through the autumn and then staying dark in the winter. So occasions like Monday when the sun was shinning after 16:00 and it was still light after 17:00 are welcome signs of the improvement coming. Similarly the arrival and flowering of bulbs, when younger indoor ones that had been planted for me and given to me usually by my mother or other relative, whilst of late more that we have planted in the special planters on the balcony. The first photo is of myself in the 80’s trying to be arty and take a photo of myself taking a photo of myself and to my right are the daffodils I had received that year.

P1110881On my return I was pleased to see that the shoots had not died off in the cold weather whilst we were away but they had prospered and grown. The picture here is of them in the sun this morning. I’m so looking forward to them blooming whilst today I just enjoyed cycling in the sunshine on my way home from work, even if it was cold, and seeing the sunshine on the neighbouring buildings out of the window.

I’ll keep holding on


I have written before about the fact that I am converting, what is a much bigger vinyl collection, in terms of numbers, than I had thought it was, to MP3 before. The most recent time here(It is about half way down). When doing this I discovered there some albums I thought I had in my collection but I discovered were no longer there. Two that fall into this category are More Songs About Buildings and Food by Talking Heads and Velvet Underground and Nico. The first I managed to buy again from  eBay a few months ago and I have enjoyed listening to it again. The second is still not in my possession. Cycling down one of the main streets in Strasbourg, perhaps that’s why it got the name ‘Grand Rue’, I passed this record and clothing shop pictured left and my eye was caught by what was in the window. I have inserted a close up picture if you cannot picture what it was that caught my eye. Yes, the album I need to add back to my collection. The bugger is that I have been working for the University a lot lately. It is good in that they pay well. It is bad that they do not pay for work done between September and December until March. So, I’m earning a decent whack but haven’t got my hands on any of it. I have done some work for the regional engineering apprenticeships organisation but I get the first installment of my pay from them at the end of the month. There is no point asking you to guess one of the first places I shall go when paid but until then it is a case of hoping that no one else who wants this album sees it before I get paid. Which will happen first?

The title of this piece comes from a fantastic song by The Action, enjoy, although the film is very old, here:

I want to ride my bicycle


I guess it should have been obvious. Last weekend I wrote about the bout of good weather we had with temperatures over 20°C during the day. It continued into the week and, as the picture shows the beautiful colour of some trees on the way home in the sunshine on Wednesday. This weekend I woke to sleet and the temperatures last night hit negative. You can also see in the picture there is a cycle path on this quiet, backstreet, road and I have just come on a cycle path in a tunnel under the autoroute, that has lights which come on when you enter it. Strasbourg has over 560km of cycle paths and, together with being on the banks of the Rhine and therefore it is very flat, are probably the reasons the city is the number one city in France for the number of people cycling. Iuse a bike as my main form of transport and I have not experienced such fantastic provision for cyclists before. I wrote in the post one before last about having posted French translation of the title of Johnny Cash songs to my friends on facebook in advance of seeing a great tribute to the singer. I have also posted up on facebook the same map you see here of a journey I have made on Friday morning between two different sites where I work, finishing at 9:50 at the site B and have to cycle the 5.2km to site A to start at 10:00. Obviously It is understood that I cannot possibly make this journey in that time. On the map from the park all the way to the autoroute there is a dedicated cycle path separate from the road then there is the tunnel under the autoroute and then another (pictured above) under the rail line. It comes out into a space next to the off-ramp from the autoroute into the centre of the city which is one-way. To get the cyclist up to the next junction and allow the cars to turn both left and right there is the pictured route with the cars able to turn right and left and cyclists able to travel through the junction. What a marvelous piece of civil engineering. When you get to the junction, as a cyclist you are treated as any other item seeking to get through the junction and, because the cars are going left and right, the cyclists can go straight ahead. Through the junction and you are then on a raised, protected route in the middle of the road past a car park and down onto the route past the main shopping centre. For a cyclist it is a dream. This is nothing special but just one example, from a journey I had to make for work for a few weeks. This is why Strasbourg is so cycleable.

St Luke’s Summer


According to the Oxford Dictionaries website St Luke’s Summer is “a period of fine weather around 18 October (the saint’s feast day).” That is certainly what we’ve been having recently here in Strasbourg. Today the weather was sunny and the temperature reached 23°, it has been warm for the end of the week and it is forecast to last into the beginning of next week. It is wonderful seeing the sun so late in the year, people are sat outside cafes and you can go out without a coat, although being France, every French person is still wearing a scarf although there is no need.

Getting up in the dark is no fun but seeing the dawn break is a consolation, as can be seen from the first photo above. The second picture has the Protestant Seminary on the right and the church of St Thomas, sometimes known as the Protestant Cathedral of Strasbourg since the return of the city to France in 1681, behind it. The building on the left is a block of homes and the people on the foreground are standing on St Thomas’ bridge.

Finally, another picture taken at dusk on the banks of the Ill as the sun sets. Being seen as something of an interloper people are always asking me, do you like living in Strasbourg? Then I just think about these views as part of my daily journey to and from work and there really is only one answer. The sun shining in October is an added bonus. Thank you St Luke. I don’t know what you did to earn the sun and good weather around your day but it is welcome, now time to go to Franchi for the best sea salt caramel ice-cream, the definition of to-die-for.

Up with that sort of thing I will not put


Earlier this week I came out of work to discover these students holding

up these blank banners. What’s it all about? Questioning only revealed that they would be doing this for two days around the University campus. Then the student on the left, who I was talking to, handed me the piece of paper on the left. Ah, it’s to do with some chap called Gaëtan Bulourde and features the French for ‘sign’ and seems to be taken in a Dutch speaking place. Fortunately the back was more revealing. Ah, so it is a piece of perambulatory art by a Belgian artist supported by Strasbourg’s theatre to celebrate 20 years of the Carte Culture, which gives cheap access to cultural activities in Alsace to students. I learn from the facebook page I linked to earlier that also this week there have been a group of Alpen hornists playing at various places around the campus, well I missed them. But, you need not as here they are pretending to be a Didgeridoo:



Eric the Half a Bee went the Monty Python song that some of my colleagues at school took great delight in walking around the school singing. During the last week I received a notice on facebook that there was an open day at a Honey producer in south Strasbourg.

So, after she had finished her Sunday morning observances JTO and I headed to the southern end of the tram network I have written about before. There was then a walk, the direction both of us had but didn’t quite know exactly. However, between us we managed to walk in the right direction and we came upon a street closure which then led to the street containing the honey producer. On our left was a someone providing rides upon Shetland Ponies, we were faced with the Strasbourg society of small animal keepers, and you knew they weren’t keeping them as pets and to our right were a number of other stalls down the street in front of the honey producer’s factory.

One of the first thing that happened was that we were caught by a couple of children (second picture) seeking for us to pay €5 towards the tombola. The winners won a pot of honey every week for a year, which was an attractive prospect, but more importantly, contributed towards the cost of training Frédéric, a student from Ziguinchor in “the luxuriant delta of the Casamance”.

We walked around the stalls which included everything from clothes made in Venezuela to artisanal soaps and cosmetics, where JTO bought some soap. We watched some people being shown a working hive and then walked into the yard of the factory and were asked if we wanted a tour, which we did. A very nice man then explained the process they go through to make the honey, the importance of pollination to the agricultural economy and showed us the equipment they use to take hives out into various places around Alsace which pollinate different plants for the farmers but also results in the company getting honey from the exercise. The hives have to be moved at night when all the bees have returned. If they are moved in the daytime, those who are out of the hive will not find their way back, even if the distance moved is very small.

After the tour we got a tasting, which went down very well with a group of children with us at the time. It wasn’t so bad for those of us slightly older either, getting a taste of honey that was being produced in front of us.

After the tasting we bought some honey and headed home. An instructive day about the importance of bees to the economy, and in the process to make honey. Here’s the song in full…..

How economics works


Last month was very slow for work. Other people I’ve spoken to have said the same thing so I do not get the impression it is me. I have had the time to patch a pair of jeans and repair the collar of my winter coat. The material that makes up the collar of my winter coat had worn out badly and the stuffing inside was coming out all the time. It got so bad that I had ben asked if I was going to get a new coat. Certainly not just for a bit of worn out material at the collar. This last week I repaired the collar with some hounds-tooth check material we had spare. You can see in the picture there is no stuffing sticking out and I think it’s quite a good repair. My needlework even received positive praise.

The jeans, as you can see in the photo, had got thin at the point where the bottom of the pocket rubbed against the jeans. I had not come across this before. The same thing had happened on both sides though. On one side there were also areas of wear further down on the left hand side so it needed a big patch, as you can see on the third photo. Whereas on the right hand side a short one was enough. (Last photo)

So, that’s about my sowing, what’s that got to do with the title of this piece, how economics works? When I have worked and have less time to sow myself I take my sowing to a personat Faubourg National who always does a good job for me and is not expensive. If I have earned €10 then I pay that money to the person who does the sowing. They have to pay some money for materials and then pay the rest to themselves. Some money goes to the people who make the materials and the rest to what the person who does the sowing spends their money upon. Thus €10 paid to me, is paid to the person who does the sewing, is paid to the materials & what they spend their money upon, thus the €10 I earn once is spent three times increasing the economic activity. This is called the multiplier effect. It is the recognition that adding extra money into the economy, the €10 I earned, results in further expenditure and growth in employment and expenditure upon materials etc.

My doing my sewing has had a dampening effect upon the economy and has not helped us out of our crisis.

To have a look of hell


Another in my occasional series about the use of language following the first about the mistranslation of stuck-up cow. This time it is from a poster in a window of a shop in the centre of Strasbourg, between Place Homme De Fer and Place Kleber, being refitted. Or, as the sign says “Your shop is closed for a relooking”. My dictionary defines look as look, and goes on to define ‘avoir un look d’enfer’ as to look great or wicked. So the shop is getting a new look so much nicer than being refitted.

In previous jobs I worked in offices and sometimes had to meet members of the public or attend public meetings. So it was required to wear a suit and tie. I have around 40 ties but until now I never had anywhere to keep them. So they ended up with about half of them on a tie holder that came when I bought one of them and the rest on a hanger in the wardrobe. It was not good for the ties and took up more room in the wardrobe than needed.  After looking at a number of websites I decided I needed a tie rack to tidy them up. I decided the bes place to put it would be on the door of the wardrobe. There were some good ones on the Amazon website but it would cost almost the same in postage to get them to France as it would to buy them and make them very expensive. I found one on a website in France after googling the google translation of tie rack in French, support à cravates. I also tried to find one in Germany but all it came up with was the shop tie rack and website with contacts for manufacturers in China if you wanted to order loads of them. I was worried the with the Rapture last weekend being the that I would miss out on the delivery of the tie rack and leave my ties in a mess so it was a bonus that it is now put-off to October. Well it arrived this week but it was too big for the door of the wardrobe! Oh no what to do? I managed to fit it under the rail that shirts and suits hang on and 32 of my ties now hang up nicely in order.

Mr Mojo Risin reprise

In this post I wrote about converting my vinyl to MP3 tracks. Having worked my way through some, but less than half, my UK 80’s and 90’s vinyl I discover I have already converted more than 40 albums. This means my original estimate of 100 to do is way low and, considering I have more in the 70’s and 60’s and earlier racks there must be over 300 to convert. I’m now prepared to consider that it might be the end of the year before I am able to complete the task, especially as I will be working in the UK in July and August and plan to be in Australia in Novevember. The good news today was that I awoke to be told by JTO to look at my emails. On doing so I saw that she had ordered an iPod Touch from the online store of FNAC. I was immediately jealous but this changed upon being told it was a present for me to listen to all the tracks I had been converting. How cool is that? Perhaps the way to a man’s heart is through his ears?

Anyway the music to end this piece could only be one track, one from among the many I have converted:

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