Three months off

It’s been just over three months since my last blog post. I found writing a blog a way to clear my head, think things through and take a step or two back to see what is going on in my life. 2016 has been treating me well so far! Given all the changes, turmoil and whole life change on late 2014 and early 2015, I’ve been due some quite time!

So, what’s been going on? Nothing major so far!! The boy is doing great. He’s settled into the routine and really enjoys time with us. He keeps complaining that wants to spend more time with me, after Easter and four whole days, there was no mention of wanting to stay! He’s currently being toilet trained. Given how strong willed, yet absent-minded he is, we are having the occasional accident. He just gets so into what’s he’s doing, he forgets he needs the toilet! He’ll get there!

TEWTB finally got the marital home valued. She got three local estate agents to value and went with an average of all three. It was within the valuation I expected. Now it’s on to the financial settlement. My solicitor wants to get the first offer in. We had a chat about a month ago and agreed that if she refuses the offer or makes a counter offer that is completely unjust, we will issue court proceedings and let a judge decide. As unpleasant and nasty as this sounds, reviewing the case there has been no effort or consolidator implications made. It’s been very hostile from the start. I had a long chat with a friend who’s a barrister and asked him for his opinion on the situation. Even though he’s not within the family law arena, in his professional view, a competent barrister will be able to paint me as a picture of fairness and that TEWTB solicitors are unnecessary aggressive. Given the financial offer will using the equity to pay off a joint loan then any remaining split 50/50, then the barrister when they cross-examine TEWTB, will ask her to explain herself. If the past couple of letter’s from her solicitor, at the end they have asked that they want to settle this quickly as possible. This is a new development. Throughout this, I’ve been tapping up people for information and seeing what I can find out. A rumour that came through was TEWTB family have spoken to a third party solicitors for advice. The advice given was to settle out of court, quickly and fairly as possible. Firstly, house prices are increasing at a good rate so I’ll get more cash. Secondly, my solicitors have completely outplayed her’s and if the case goes to court, it will be very unpleasant for TEWTB as my legal team has evidence of her refusing to mediate, negotiate and being amicable. If this is correct, they are right. I asked my barrister friend, would it be considered ‘poor form’ from a legal perspective to get a good barrister, but ensure TEWTB gets a hard time on the stand. His answer was no, it wouldn’t be considered ‘poor form’ and he would recommend it. I don’t think it will end up in court. TEWTB parents aren’t happy with the cost of her legal fees, currently estimated to be in the £12-15k range. Mine are currently running at £12.5k, which was the total cost of the wedding.

The boss announced he’s moving to another company. He’s only been in the role for 10 months, but it’s one of those roles you can’t turn down. It’s a wonderful opportunity for him and his last ‘big role’ before he’s starting to wind down for retirement. Interestingly, he asked if I’d be interested in moving with him. It’s an interesting proposition. He’s not starting in his new position until early July. I’ve got three months notice before I can leave, in theory, I won’t be moving until January next year. Given I get an annual bonus in March, I might want to stay until that’s in the bank, unless I get a substantial pay rise to cover that. More importantly, it depends on the role. The idea of being part of transforming a major company does appeal and even though the office is further away, it’s in the city centre, which is where I’d like to work. Currently, work is fine, but I’m getting a little bored and the politics are getting tiring. Potentially much to think about.

I’ve been continuing to read all the blogs I follow and there are some great ones. I’ll write more on which I follow at a later date. A few have reduced in frequency, some increased and others haven’t blogged this year!

April is looking busy, one stag weekend and one wedding to attend, then at the end of the month an early birthday celebration. I will be entering the final year of my thirties!

I’ll try and write another blog within a month!

Tune of the day: Soul II Soul – Love Enuff

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In Between days

It’s that funny time of year, between Christmas and New Year. You forget what day it is, where you need to be and what you need to do. Like the past couple of years, I’ve got two weeks off work. Last year was spent building Ikea furniture and creating a home. This year has been much more relaxing. Five days at the parents for Christmas and had the Boy for three of those. I was wonderful to see the Boy starting to understand what Christmas is all about. Preparing the plate with mince pies and sausage rolls,

Five days at the parents for Christmas and had the Boy for three of those. I was wonderful to see the Boy starting to understand what Christmas is all about. Preparing the plate with mince pies and sausage rolls, a glass of whiskey for Father Christmas, carrot and milk to Rudolf the Reindeer! Taking the Christmas sack and putting it on the end of the bed. Waking up in the morning and seeing the sack of presents with an excited little voice saying; ‘Daddy, Father Christmas has been!’. I sat on his bed while he opened the presents. The Boy was very excited with all of them, but being a toddler, the banana and satsuma got the most excitement! Then downstairs for breakfast and more presents under the tree. The Boy took great delight in looking at the presents, then handing them out. It was one of those special moments watching him, looking at his face and seeing the excitement and wonder of what is hidden behind the wrapping. We spent the day playing with his new toys and the Boy insisted we read all his new books!

After the traditional Christmas lunch, it was all a bit too much for the Boy and he threw a good toddler tantrum! He was tired, a busy couple of days and he had been suffering  a cold. I took him upstairs to his bedroom, got him into bed, lied next to him, chatted for a bit then he dozed off. I obviously got too comfy and dozed off too. For about three hours! We both woke up in time for tea! A few more hours playing with Duplo Lego, different puzzles and watching Stick Man on TV and Christmas Day was finished.

It was great to spend time with the family. Mother and my sister had a cold, which I managed to pick up, and still suffering from. Thankfully, I’d stocked up on pills in preparation. The worst of the cold has passed, just have a cough and catarrh. A few days of rest will sort it. Mother is still suffering quite badly with the cold. The symptoms; aching, fever, sneezing and general snottiness makes me think it’s the ‘flu she’s suffering with. It’s still a surprise to me to see that the parents are taking longer to recover from illness. You forget your parents are not immortal.

A three hour drive home to Miss B yesterday and now a week at home. To celebrate a year in the apartment, we went back to Ikea and got a couple more storage units to help keep things organised. As both Miss B and myself are experts in assembling Ikea furniture, that’s the next two days booked!  The Boy will be back later in the week and will be spending New Year and the weekend with us!

There’s just over three days of 2015, for those days I’m going to relax, enjoy and have a bit of a tidy-up and sort out of the apartment. Goals, plans and thoughts for 2016 can wait.

I trust you all have had a wonderful Christmas, remember to enjoy the moment.

Tune of the day: The Cure – In Between Days

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People watching

The new boss wanted to go to the London office for a series of meeting and wanted me to join him. ‘You’re great at listening and arguing, so I need you there. Plus you know all the key people we need to win over to get the proposal approved’. I live about 200 miles north-west of London, and with meetings starting at 10 am, driving wasn’t the best. We didn’t want to stay overnight so we decided to do a day trip. The train from his local station was over £300 return and from Manchester was £290. OK, this was first class, but the standard class was only £50 cheaper. Feeling optimistic, I decided to have a look at company travel website. The global business has its own travel agency, which is useful. So putting the dates in and looking to arrive at Heathrow by 9.00am so we can get the tube to the office in West London. Surprisingly the airfare was only £230 each, plus parking at the airport and fast track was an additional £40. Telling the boss, it’ll be more cost effective to pick me up en route, as I’m only 5 minutes off the motorway, he agreed.

So Wednesday morning he picks me up at my apartment at 6.15am, and we head to the airport. We park the car in the short stay, walk over the bridge, go into the fast lane for security, and within 15 minutes of parking the car, we are sat in Costa Coffee having a coffee. The flight it a 7.40am, boarding at 7.20 and we have 30 minutes waiting. We’ve been working together for about 5 months and have a fantastic relationship. The boss is about eleven years older than me, northerner and a similar sense of humour. As we are chatting, we’re both looking around seeing what we can see. A pretty blond girl in her mid to late 20’s catches my eye and I look at who she was with. It wasn’t what I was expecting. A guy in his late 50’s or early 60’s, grey, untrustworthy face, a rather large overhanging belly in an expensive suit. So seeing this, I start grinning like the Cheshire Cat. The boss asks what humoured me. I nod in the direction of the unlikely couple. The boss comments; ‘she looks chargeable by the hour’. I mutter in agreement. I start wondering where they are going. Glancing up at the departure boards, the majority of the flights are either UK destinations or short haul European. By the way they were dressed, I would have expected them to be on the Emirates flight. Probably first class. I ask the boss where he thinks they are going. He says the same. So we watch which gate they are heading towards. We were both wrong. Aberdeen. Yes, that fine Scottish city know for North Sea oil. Amazing.

We got the Heathrow on time and get the tube into West London. I like using the tube. You see all sorts of people using it. The rush hour was starting to ease off. There was the usual mix of people, but at one stop, a granny got on wearing a pair of bright pink Beats headphones. I couldn’t hear what she was listening to, but said to the boss; ‘I wonder she’s listening to?’. He came back with; ‘By the way she’s nodding her head to the music, probably NWA or Snoop Dogg’. This had me chuckling away to myself!

The London office is a soulless place, so the less said, the better. A day of meetings and a wonder to the nearest Pret for lunch was the highlight. We were booked on the 18.40 back to Manchester. We left the office at 16.30 and got on the tube. As we jumped on, someone asked us if the tube goes to Rayners Lane. The boss and I looked at each other, then I looked at route map.’Er, no, this is going to Heathrow, think you need the Uxbridge train’. I felt numerous eyes on me. I’d broken the London Underground rule of not speaking to anyone and thus, I must be either a tourist, alien or even worse, someone from outside the M25 (the London orbital Motorway).  We get to the airport to find at the Terminal 5 north security check is close and we have to walk to the south security checks. We get there and join the queue. It moves at a reasonable rate and I watch people at the scanning area. Many people seemed amazed they need to take out their laptops and iPads from their hand luggage. Even worse, take off their coat so that can be scanned. It took one gentleman fool four attempts get through the metal detector. I’m one of these organised people. When there are two people in front of me, I’ll take the laptop out of the bag, put the watch in the coat pocket, check I’m not wearing a belt, if I am, take it off in preparation. Get to the conveyor belt, pick up a tray, put the laptop and phones in one tray, get another tray put bag and coat in. Push both into the queue and walk through the metal detector. No alarm, I’m fine. So now I’m waiting for my trays to come through the scanner. As mine come through, the belt stops right by where it get pushed through for the extra checks. Bugger, what have I forgotten to take out? Nothing, it carries on the journey but the try in front of mine goes for extra checks. There are 5 people getting their belongings from the trays. Instead of taking the trays to the tables, they decided to reload all their items on the belt. Slowly. So slowly, that it causes a jam of trays. I can see my two trays, but they are out of reach. Thankfully two members of the security staff inform the slow packers to take their trays to the tables and stop delaying the process. One idiot decides to argue with them. The security team are well versed in dealing with people like this. They just grab their tray and move it to the tables out of the way.

We have about 45 minutes before departure, so we grab the 7th coffee of the day and wait in the departure lounge. The boss says to me; ‘what do you think those two do?’ nodding in the direction of two middle-aged guys in white shirts and dishevelled suits. ‘Sales’ I reply back. ‘Yep’ agreed goes the boss. Then I see a guy on his iPad, speaking loudly on his phones trying to look important, dressed quite trendy with a beard and say to the boss; ‘he looks like a creative type, designer or some such nonsense’. We then both spot a guy trying to read through a mass of paper. We both agree he’s either a solicitor or barrister. He dropped a sheet of paper which had something vs something, so confirmed our guess.

We get on the plane and to our seats. Now I’m not the skinniest bloke around, more sturdy and built for comfort, but the chap who sat next to the boss was a right tubster in a suit. I though he’d need a seatbelt extension, but somehow managed to get the seatbelt on. The flight is only 30-40 minutes so you get a quick snack and drink. The tubster grabbed two packets of ‘Thai street food’. He started eating them and he didn’t stop cramming food in his mouth and while eating kept making this strange grunting noises. It was very undignified. I commented to the boss, that when I have the boy tomorrow, I think we’ll watch some Peppa Pig. The boss kicked me and started grinning and chuckling away to himself. When the plane landed, he got up to get his bag out of the overhead locker, and his shirt came untucked and the belly was release. What was seen, cannot be unseen.

Tune of the day: The SOS Band – Just the way you like it

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It’s the end of November already…

As promised, I did hibernate for October. Nothing untoward happened, it was quite quiet and uneventful. Just what was needed. I was planning to do a post in early November, but three weekends with the boy, one weekend to catch-up on sleep, then the boy for the weekend, then this weekend trying to catch-up on sleep and before I knew it, it’s the end of November.

Between working, having the boy on the allotted days and trying not to spend any money to pay the mounting solicitor bills, it has all been very quiet, yet busy and productive. There’s been plenty of GTA and Civilisation to keep me amused!

On the work front, it’s increasingly likely I’ll be changing roles in the new year. The new boss and I are getting along fantastically well and starting to form a great team. We are ahead of a couple of projects and transforming how the business understands risks. The shiny new role will be more risk-focused and certainly help to further my career. A couple of projects I’ve been leading have been noticed by the leadership team. It amused me when they find out I’ve been involved or led 3 of the top 10 projects currently going on in the business. The CEO said to me; “Whenever there is a major project, your name always comes up. Your influence, networking and expertise in the business is understated. You are understated. No matter what gets thrown at you, you always provide results and always with a smile. You are also known for your very direct, candid feedback. I really appreciate that. I will be calling you up to get your opinion!”. So some great feedback. My returning comments were; “this better convert into a good bonus in March!”. We shall see. With the change in role, I’ve had to apply for it. I’ve been the only applicant, but the HR function still says I have to go through the interview procedure. The new boss commented that I’ve been doing 90% of the role for the last 18 months, so that’s constitutes as the interview and I want to offer him the role. He’s got a meeting with the HR leadership this week to discuss.  He’s also pushing for a good pay rise. I asked him what he thoughts were on a ‘good’ pay rise. He tactfully answered with, what’s your thoughts. So, no guts, no glory, I went in at 19.9% as this is the highest the business until can give before going to the HQ for sign off. He answered with, that’s reasonable considering how badly the company have treated you. If I got 10%, I’d be happy and that would help my personal cash flow status. The new boss wants it all sorted before the Christmas break. I won’t hold my breath.

It’s been a year since this: It’s all gone horribly wrong. The first part of the divorce has been issued by the courts. We now need to agree on the financial settlement. Considering we exchanged financial details in September, I provided questions to this in two weeks to my solicitor and he passed them on, I still not have had any questions on mine. My solicitor has had two or three emails from her solicitor saying they have questions and these will be forthcoming, but to date, I received nothing. One of the key financial details is the valuation of the former marital house. Currently, there is a difference of £50,000 on our valuations. Mine is obviously the end! I’ve engaged three local estate agents (real estate vendors to you colonials), who agreed with my evaluation and said it’s at the lower end. TEWTB, agreed to get three independent estate agents to value the matrimonial home. That was four weeks ago. Again, neither my solicitor or I have heard anything. We both think that TEWTB is playing the ‘delay and frustrate’ game. It’s the only way she can attempt to control things. I’ve instructed my solicitor to do nothing until the new year unless there is something critical or urgent. He is in agreement. If there has been no news on the house valuation and questions, then we will start the new year with a bang. The worst case scenario is that I will have to legal proceedings against TEWTB to get the divorce finalised. This will cost an estimated £7-12,000 on top of the £9500 that I’ve already paid so far this year. I’ve got the feeling the new year big bang will have the desired effect. To ensure maximum bang, I’m going to post a copy of the letter from my solicitor to her parents. I’m quite convinced she is not telling her parents everything and naturally spinning the story in her favour. They are funding her legal fees and expect to be paid back. They can raise the £10-15,000 for her legal costs, but it could be completely avoided if TEWTB pulled her head from the sand. I’m quite relaxed with this overall. The ‘delay and frustrate’ tactics are not working and will only benefit me financially in the long term, something TEWTB has forgotten.

For Christmas, I’d like my sinus’s to stop causing pain. It’s getting quite boring now. Being a man, I haven’t been to the doctors. Two reasons, I haven’t moved doctors since moving and secondly, plain laziness. It hurts but doesn’t hurt enough to do anything about it. I might just call the company private medical insurers to say I’ve been to the GP and they want me to see an ENT consultant. I had a sinus operation four years ago and this should have fixed it. So I expect it just an infection that needs some antibiotics to fix. The idea of spending 45 minutes in a MRI scanner isn’t great as it was very claustrophobic last time. Not helped by having Radio 2 blasting in my ears.

Since the Dublin trip, I’ve developed a taste for Jamesons whiskey. On Friday Miss B and I had some friends over, and I drank half a bottle without realising. It’s a slightly more delicate flavour compared to Macallen, the brand I usually drink, but it goes down very easily!

I’ll be back later this week. I forget how much I enjoy writing down my thoughts!

Tune of the day: Kool & the gang – Straight ahead

P.

Two steps forward, one step back

That’s how life feels at the moment. I don’t recall walking under numerous ladders, crossing kicking black cats or breaking many mirrors! To quote Paddington Bear ‘Things are always happening to me, I’m that sort of bear’.

The one step back

The third love of my life, the one after the Boy and Miss B, has died unexpectedly. Drowned. A simple decision that went horribly wrong. There was nothing that could have been done. I killed my beloved car. Having owned it for three and a half years, we were at one. Sturdy, comfy and growled a lot. It was a vehicle version of me. When I had to move out of the marital home, I could fit all my worldly possessions in the car with the seats down. Now it’s gone. Going through a flooded road, water got sucked up into the engine, into the combustion chamber and bent valves and goodness know what else. Thankfully the insurance has paid out as it’s deemed as an accident. After a discussion with the assessors, we quickly agreed the cars market value and the car finance was paid off and the remainder sent to me. Taking the emotion out of the situation, it is only a car. A big metal box. No humans or animals were hurt. It was just unfortunate. Whilst waiting for the recovery organisation to arrive, I counted 19 other cars go through the flooded road, all made it out fine. Why did my car have to suffer damage? For a change, I was driving sensibly. These things tend to happen when I’m sensible. If I’d ploughed on through the flooded road at over 30 mph, sent water everywhere like you see rally cars do, it would have quite possibly survived, but no, I was sensible and I’m on the receiving end of a bad situation. Ho hum.

The two steps forward

I now have a new car. It’s got 60% less power, but I’m gaining at least 300% more fuel efficiency. It’s a hybrid and no, it’s not a Prius! It’s more mature and will help stop me driving like I’m playing GTA! I was pleasantly surprised that the car finance was approved by the manufacturers finance company. With the legal costs mounting, my credit cards have been hit hard. Having spent the weekend driving the car, it’s completely different to the old one, but I do like it and have already got a soft spot for it. It doesn’t make the same noise, have the acceleration or road presents. I’ll be likely to lose more traffic light Grand Prix’s, but the car is designed for fuel efficiency with a luxury level of comfort. The best bit? It has BlueTooth connectivity so I can listen to the music on my iPhone!

It’s been four weeks since the boy’s new routine started. Four weeks? Yes, four weeks. His Mum took him away on holiday at the end of August, so the rotation of the two weeks didn’t happen. At the time of the decision, my gut feel was this it was right. It’s proved to be correct. He’s settled into the routine great, less upset when dropped off at the nursery, back to sleeping through the night and being a happy toddler! I’d love to spend more time with the little fella, but all things considered on the child front, things are settling down nicely.

Bonus additional thoughts

I started writing this post two weeks ago, with getting the new car sorted, developing an eBay habit, the boy now has a new winter wardrobe, work and other things I’ve forgotten about, I haven’t had time to finish!

October’s have never been kind to me. Many unpleasant, bad things have happened in October. The anxiety attack, close relatives dying, crashing a car (I still have the scars even though it was 16 years ago) and a major disaster have all happened to me in October. I’m not looking forward to October. To add to my anxiety about October, the TSTBEW emailed me to say she is taking the boy for a two week holiday. Fine, know where she is going, know the Island, not an issue. Four days later, I get another email saying there is a change of plan. She is now going for ten days but to an island I’ve never been to.  More concerningly, the island is split into two and one side does not have an extradition treaty with the UK. I know she is going with friends who are senior in their professions and would lose their positions if they were involved in anything untoward. However, it’s October and that make me nervous.

Tune of the day – Lonnie Gordon – Happenin’ All Over Again

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A long weekend away – live from Dublin Airport!*

With all the stress and difficulties, I decided a long weekend in Dublin with Miss B would be a great way to unwind. Thanks to Ryanair two return flights were less than £100 flying at half-sensible times. We took off late Thursday evening. Thanks to the magic of Uber, we got to the hotel within an hour of landing in Dublin.

The hotel is in Dublin’s redeveloped Docklands area. It’s all new apartments, offices, wine bars and hotels. We stayed at The Spencer Hotel on the north bank of the Liffey river. On the 6th floor with a bed the size of a small island! We crashed out asleep. thumb_IMG_3488_1024

The view from the hotel window!

It was a sunny Friday and after a leisurely lie in, we headed off to the centre of Dublin walking along the bank of the Liffey. It’s only a twenty-minute stroll to O’Connell street, the sun was shining and it was a balmy 18c. Winner. A quick bucket of coffee and a cake from Starbucks and we carried on to the Irish bus shop. During our research of Dublin, we both agreed that using a tourist hop on and off bus was probably a good way to see the city.

This was Miss B’s first time in Dublin and I was last here for a friends 21st birthday back in 1998! We got two-day tickets for the green bus which had live commentary! The driver gave commentary whilst driving. Interesting.

Thanks to roadworks for the tram extension, initial progress was slow! From our seats on the top deck, it looked like organised chaos! Buses, taxis, car, trucks and cyclists all over the place! The bus finally got to Trinity College, which looked fantastic. The bus carried on, around the edge of Temple Bar, the main area full of bars, Dublin Castle then to our stop, St James’s Gate, the home of Guinness!

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The driver warned us there would be a queue to get in, he wasn’t wrong! It only took about 5 minutes to get into the area where you pay. This had a bigger queue, a line about 10 deep. Miss B decided to see if we could get tickets online. The queue wasn’t moving very fast, so we when for it. The online tickets had a 10% discount, two minutes later we had the code just as we were at the ticket collection machine. Miss B jumped out of the queue and put the details in then out popped two tickets. Winner! So we jumped the queue and arrived at the Guinness storehouse. The first area you come to is a giant Guinness retail shop.

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Anything that could have a Guinness logo on was for sale. We decided to give that a miss and start following the tour. You go at your own pace learning how Guinness is made, all very interesting. The storehouses as seven different levels each level has something different. When we got to level 3, we had the opportunity to do a taste trial. In the room, we had to smell each of the ingredients then collect a miniature pint of the black stuff. We were then given a short talk from a tasting expert. He spoke about how you should breathe, smell and taste. I was a little sceptical but following his instructions could smell the different ingredients! We carried on with the tour. There is a whole floor dedicated to Guinness’s advertising. It was quite cool seeing all the advertising through the years. There was a large cinema room showing some of the TV adverts. Unfortunately, they didn’t show my favourite, the snail race from 2000. If you haven’t seen it, here it is! The Guinness Snail Race! They did have my next favourite advert playing, the ‘Sapeurs’.

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A wonderful advert that hasn’t got anything to do with what is actually being advertised! After about an hour, we made it to the top and the gravity bar and our ‘free’ pint of the black stuff. It does taste better in Ireland!

We continued on our bus tour seeing other sights of Dublin. About thirty minutes after boarding, Miss B declares she absolutely needs the bathroom and we have to get off. So we did, somewhere near Phoenix Park. Unfortunately, there was a lack of public toilets, so Miss B dashed into a pub, which turned out to be the Nancy Hands, of the oldest in Dublin! Two shops down was a Subway, so we grabbed a quick, er, sub and waited for the next tour bus. Luckily they are every 10 minutes so we didn’t have long to wait. We continued the journey back to O’Connell Street, where we wandered around and made our way back to the hotel. I wanted to go down to the Temple Bar area and see what Friday night in Dublin is about. Unfortunately, Miss B was far too tired for that! So we found a Thai restaurant a ten-minute walk from the hotel. Being the hardcore, high living people we are, we were back in the hotel and asleep by 23.30. Rock’n’roll!

During our bus tour we said there were two places we wanted to go to. Dublin Castle and the Old Jameson Distillery. So we walked to O’Connell Street to pick up the tour bus. We expected to be busy, especially on a Saturday, however, it was crazy busy! One of the causes was the local Harry Krishna’s doing some kind of drive-by with a large float. Apart from causing traffic mayhem, I’m not sure what they were doing!

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Krishna’s causing chaos.

We got on the tour bus and headed for Dublin Castle. We were warned that the natives would be protesting about having to pay for water. I was quite bemused that the Irish were protesting about having to pay for water. In the UK, my water bill is about £700 per year. Our very informative tour bus driver told us that the reason for the protest is that many years ago, the Irish government decided that the cost of supplying water would come through general taxation, as part of income tax. Now the politicians decided they need to raise more money and came up with this genius idea. So that made sense. The protest organisers were expecting anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 people to join the protest. This meant the local police would be closing many roads to accommodate the protest. It took about 45 minutes to do the 3 miles or so to get to Dublin Castle. So we jumped off and had a wonder around.

Dublin Castle. It’s not really a castle, more of a Victorian Army parade ground. It was half interesting, but  not much to see. After about 45 minutes, we decided to get some lunch and head to the Old Jameson Distillery.

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Dublin Castle – the only castle looking section.

We grabbed another Subway lunch and chowed down back on the bus. The drive started giving us live updates on the protest. He told us not to worry as the Irish aren’t like the French and very unlikely to start rioting or burning down the place. Reassuring. As we got near Phoenix Park the protesters started gathering:thumb_IMG_3508_1024

Then as we turned into another road, we were greeted with this:thumb_IMG_3512_1024

Our driver wasn’t amused as they were blocking our way. Thankfully, there were only a few hundred and the past quite quickly. We were getting close to the Old Jameson’s Distillery and there weren’t any more protester to get in they way!

thumb_IMG_3513_1024This was my favourite tour. We had a chap called Niall giving the tour and telling us about how Jameson’s is made and why it’s the best whiskey. He was a brilliant story teller and kept the whole group intrigued! Then we got to the best bit, whiskey tasting! To prove, Jameson’s is the smoothest whiskey, we tried the best-selling American and Scottish Whiskey’s with the Jameson’s. I’m not a fan of Jack Daniels, but it was rough. The Scottish whiskey, Jonnie Walker black label, was OK if a little peaty in favour. Indeed the Jameson’s was the smoothest and best tasting! At the end of the tour, we were offered a nice glass of Jamesons or Jamesons with ginger and lime. We took the Jameson with ginger and lime, let just say we will getting a bottle and drinking this at home!

thumb__DSC0517_1024After a hard day sampling Whiskey, we headed back to the hotel to refresh. We decided to go out for dinner in the Temple Bar area of Dublin. After spending an hour wandering around and decided most of the restaurants were to ‘touristy’, we utilised Google maps for a nice restaurant. We found a couple, but, unfortunately, didn’t have any room. After a further thirty minutes, we found a nice little Italian who found us a table. The food was great, but the service wasn’t. The staff took an age to take orders or deliver drinks.

Sunday, we had a long lie in!! Two days of walking around Dublin and we decided to have a chilled out day. We spent a couple of hours walking around the city centre. Miss B found an MAC shop. Oh dear. It’s her favourite makeup shop. Thankfully, she didn’t spend too long in there. As we only travelled with hand luggage, it meant Miss B could buy half the shop! She did get some more war paint. Being a bloke, I’ve no idea what it was! We spend  a few hours on Sunday afternoon in the hotel pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. It was wonderful just chilling out!

In the evening, we went to Farm Restaurant. It was absolutely brilliant! The food and service are amazing! If you ever go to Dublin, it’s highly recommended! The fish pie was one of the best I’ve had while Miss B had the fillet steak with a Jameson pepper sauce. Both were amazing. The dessert menu was out of this world. There were at least four items I would had!

Monday, it was time to head home. We decided to get the 747 bus to the airport as it stops outside the hotel. When we got on, the driver waved us on and we didn’t have to pay! Bonus.

*I started writing this blog at Dublin Airport as our flight was delayed for 30 minutes. However, my iPhone ran out of charge about a quarter of the way through on the plane, so I finished this at home!

Thank you Dublin, for the wonderful hospitality and Miss B for being a wonderful travelling companion!

Tune of the day – Gypsymen – Babarabatiri (Tee’s Latin Mix) – from the Guinness Snail Advert!

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A good compromise

So now the dust is settling, wounds are starting to heal and my finances are on par with Spanish Government. The final dispute hearing happend just under two weeks ago. It happened as I expected it to. Angry, relieved, frustrated, annoyed, pleased were some of the emotions I went through in two minutes. So what happened?

In the UK, family law is frankly a mess. The government doesn’t want middle-class families using the court system to resolve disputes. Mere mortals are suppose to resolve the issues amongst ourselves and carry on. If you have a spare £200-400k, you can use the best solicitors and barristers and get the legal system to resolve for you. The rest of us, it’s not so easy. The UK Ministry of Justice have cut back in the family law area. So now you have less district judges doing the circuits. The solicitors and barristers get to know each judge and their like, dislikes, attitudes and how they will interpret the case, so thus, can advise clients if they are likely to ‘win’ their case. This has led to too many cases for the district judges to sit on. To help keep the system going, in family law cases, magistrats are now used. Anyone of good character over 18 can be a magistrate. They do have to be an experienced magistrate and have special training for Family Law. In most family law cases, you only find who the magistrates are on the day. In the Family Law disputes, the case will wither be heard by a district judge or three magistrates, know as a bench. It is a complete lottery on who will be on the bench that day. So you have no idea on what their outlook is, their opinions or how they will view the case.

On the day, I arrive at court at 9am. The hearing is scheduled for 10am. I go to the correct level, there are 8 levels in the building each dealing with different sections of law, so there is an ‘interesting’ selection of society there. I go and see the court usher to inform them I am here. Thankfully my barrister has already arrive and got a private room and a section of coffee. We go through the case, discussing how I could be cross examined and how the opposition barrister (that’s the TEWTB, The Ex-Wife To Be) will attempt discredit our case. My barrister has prepared a three page note for the bench. In the lead up to the final hearing, both parties have to write a statement on out positions with supporting arguments. I paid for my solicitor to write this and then reviewed with my barrister about 5 weeks before the hearing. The supporting note basically my barrister reviewing the opposition statement and pulling it apart. I was very impressed with mine and asked for the oppositions. This is where things start to get interesting.

‘There isn’t one’ my barrister said. ‘He couldn’t write one because the statement was not good enough and the oppositions case is too weak’. Wow. ‘The opposition barrister has said to her; your case is too weak, the statement is not good enough and I highly recommend you negotiate out of court. Your ex-husband has one of the toughest cross-examiners in the circuit and she will eat you alive’. Hell fire, things are looking up.

Both barristers work for the same chambers and know each other well. My barrister in legal ratings has been described as ‘formidable’. Thankfully, we hit off well and after the conference got to know me and my mindset. The opposition barrister has been described as thorough, with good attention to detail.

So the barrister asked me to open the negotiations as the opposition are only offering what they have stated. ‘Which is ridiculous’ according to the barrister. Since the split, I’ve argued to TEWTB that the Boy should spend equal time with each of us. Her view is that the Boy should only have one home and not keep tooing and frooing. We have already agreed the Boy should spend alternate weekend with each of us, so we are now trying to get the working week resolved. So to open, I suggest the Boy is with is Mum every Monday and Tuesday, every Wednesday and Thursday with me, followed by the alternate weekends. So the barrister goes to the oppositions room.

When the barrister returned she had some interesting news. TEWTB’s Dad is there. I was a litte surprised that he was there. He absolutely dislikes conflict, but he’s a really down to earth guy and I hope he will be the voice of reason. To my barrister’s surprise, I comment is that him being there might be helpful to us. There was a knock at the door, the oppositions barrister, so mine goes out to get the update. My solicitor isn’t there as there is no benefit of him being there and I’d be charged £260 per hour for him to drink tea at my expense. TEWTB does have her solicitor there though.

My barrister comes back in, the offer has been rejected and the opposition has not proposed any news proposal. Frustrating. I ask my barrister to ask the opposition to make a proposal as I am not going to agree their original proposal. I’d rather take a chance and let the magistrates decide. She goes off to inform them. The court usher knocks on the door and asks the barrister to go into court and inform the bench of where we are. As previously stated, the bench prefer for parents to come to an agreement rather then them decide. Both barristers ask for an interim adjournment. The bench agrees and asks for regular updates on the negotiations. The chair of the bench does make a comment to the opposition barrister; ‘I do hope your client is negotiating as it is apparent they have not previously’. Interesting comments my barrister. The barrister says the bench are ‘robust’ and is apparent they have been recently on the Family Law training. There are a mature bench, probably in the 55-70 age range. I’ve never seen any of them before.

The opposition barrister knocks, so off pops mine. The barrister comes back in. TEWTB has made a new offer. I can have the Boy every Wednesday. Super, smashing, great. For someone who has argued about the Boy having ‘stability’ that’s a pretty poor proposal. Every other week, the Boy would be at mine, then hers, then back at mine for the weekend. Rejected for those reasons. My barrister and I as discussing proposals. My barrister says is a sign TEWTB is starting to cave in. Let’s keep the negotiations going. I’ll inform the opposition that is being rejected for those reasons, which are perfectly valid.

I start looking at the extra day. I start scribbling different ideas down. Utilising this extra day, I move it from the Wednesday to the Thursday when I have the Boy for the weekend. He’ll get 4 days with me in a block. In the week where I don’t have the boy at the weekend, I keep the Wednesday and Thursday nights with me. My barrister comes back in and we discuss the new proposal. ‘It’s great. It’s not your ideal, but should we go into court I can argue that all the way through, you’ve been the one willing to negotiate, coming up with the proposals, I think it is a good compromise’.

It’s now approaching 10.40am and I say to my barrister, if the opposition does not agree to this proposal, I want the bench to decide. Just as I say that, the court usher knocks as the bench want an update. Armed with this latest information, my barrister goes in. The barrister informs the bench that the negotiations are ongoing, however, there is little in compromise from the opposition. My client has offered a final proposal and that if the opposition doesn’t not agree by 11am, that he wishes the bench to decide. This apparently caught the opposition barrister wrong footed. The chair of the bench agrees and says that two is enough time and that if not agreement is reached by 11am, then both parties shall come into court and proceedings will start. The barristers chat on the way out. TEWTB’s Dad is telling her that she needs to start negotiating and if you are put under cross examination you won’t cope.

My barrister starts preparing the court order, the view is that TEWTB will cave in and agree. I’m feeling the same. I’m not getting exactly what I was after, but it’s close enough. Over 14 nights’ the Boy will be with me for 6 night instead of the 7 I wanted and the 4 I had. My gut feeling is that this proposal is right. Two minutes before 11am there is a knock, it’s the opposition barrister. Off goes mine. The barrister comes back in, sits down and looks at me right in the eyes. ‘She’s capitulated and has agreed to everything, including the Boy spending alternate Christmas’s, brilliant work, thanks for your thinking and flexibility. I’ll get the order drafted and we’ll going into court and get the bench to sign it off’. It’s over.

The emotions of anger, relieve, frustration, annoyance flashed through me, followed by that feeling of knowing that all the heartache, distress and frustration was over. Of what I proposed 95% was agreed. The 5%? Not having the Boy for every Wednesday. I realise I have a monster of a head ache and hope I have some pills in the car.

We go into court and sit in front of the bench. The chair is a polite gentleman who thanks us for coming to agreement outside of court. The bench appreciates how difficult is can be to reach agreement and commends us for doing so. The bench fully support the proposal and will turn it into a court order for immediate effect. The chair also says that there will need to be continual communication between us. Interestingly, he says this whilst looking at TEWTB. All done and dusted, we go back into the room to finalise the paperwork.

My barrister say that TEWTB’s Dad told her to agree to the proposal as it is fair and there is a significant risk that if you going into court you will loose the Boy for longer. This was then when we decided to agree to the proposal. The barrister also shared with me that her Dad has been paying for her legal costs and couldn’t understand why we hadn’t come to an agreement. He read the note from my barrister and said many times ‘I didn’t know that’. The opposition barristers impression was that TEWTB had kept much information from her parents and that her Dad was not impressed with her or her solicitor. He said to her, there is much to discuss when we get home. My barrister saw them leave the room and said it was like a naughty schoolgirl leaving the headmasters office with her Father. TEWTB just walked out with her head down and said nothing.

Walking back to the car, it felt like a huge weight was off my shoulders. I didn’t feel like celebrating as this isn’t something to be won. We were talking about where a little boy should spend his time. The Boy has done brilliantly is dealing with the changes over the last 8 months. This agreement will mean he will spend quality time with each parent.

When I got to the car, I spent two minutes sat in silence and relaxed. The proposal was right and the fight had been worth it. Just the divorce and financial settlement to go. This should be easier. We will see.

I didn’t have any head ache pills in the car. Bugger.

Tune of the day: Odyssey – Inside Out (Original 12” Version)

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I’m still here….

I’ve realised it’s been nearly three months since the last post. Indeed, I’ve been rubbish! The final court day is not far away regarding how much time the Boy will be spending with me. The first hearing there was no agreement and we are both far from an agreement. Given that the opposition legal team is trawling social media to use in court against me, I’ve decided to keep quite. Given the cost of my legal team, which now includes a senior Barrister, I am hopeful of a resolution that is fairer for the Boy. Once the outcome has been decided, I’m planning to be back as I’ve missed blogging, and there are many things floating randomly around in my head!

I have been trying to keep up to speed with other blogs, reading them, pressing the like button and adding comments. Simple pleasures and all that! I’ll be back soon!

Tune of the day: Hamilton Bohannon – Lets Start To Dance Again (Original Extended Mix)

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Another year older…

May the fourth be with you and happy 38th birthday to me. It’s been a manic few weeks and the blogging has taken a back seat. So what’s going on? Let’s start with the headaches.

55 weeks without a boss!! There are major changes at work, so am hoping something will be resolved. Have decided that having a work-life balance is more important than working all hours. Frankly, I’m bored of constantly fire fighting, arguing with senior managers about why things haven’t been completed or why I’ve had to extend deadlines. I’ve generally been quite forthright in my opinions and stubborn about timelines and how I do things. As long as I get paid each month, that’s all that matters. It likely I’ll be changing roles as well once I have a boss in place. I’ll be trying hard to get a pay rise out of this. All things considered at least 20%!

The biggest headache is the ex-wife. There’s still no agreement with regards to the Boy. We’ve been to mediation where I thought we were making progress. She agreed that the Boy needs to see his Dad more often and that it’s not fair to him that there are eight days between seeing me. I proposed that a 2-2-3 over two weeks arrangement would be best for the Boy. He’s gets to see both parents regularly and the time between seeing each parent is three days maximum. The ex-wife said that too much change would be confusing, but given the seven-day week, you need to have it on a rolling two-week basis. At the end of the two-hour mediation session, we were asked to consider the idea and come up with other proposals. A week later, we returned to the mediator to resume the negotiations. The ex-wife presented her proposals. They were completely different to what was discussed the previous week and what I already said I would agree to. It was totally a waste of time. I challenged her on why she dismissed my proposal. ‘It’s too confusing for me’ was the answer. FFS. I continued challenging her that that answer isn’t in the Boy’s best interests and you know that I would not agree to this. Her response was to pack her stuff. start crying and walk out. The English family law states that couples need to go through mediation before launching court action. So I got the certificate, paid over £500 mediation costs and instructed the solicitor to launch proceeding against her. I got the court date through the back end of lat week, 8th June. Thanks to quirks of the English law system, I now need to get a barrister to represent me in the court. The solicitor has given me a recommendation so I’ll go with them. It’s frustrating it’s come to this. The next thing will be the divorce. After the ex-wife got solicitors involved, I’ve decided to retract the offer of giving her the house. There’s around £30-40k of equity in the house and given that I only took my clothes, Clash posters, PS3, TV, office chair, drill, NAS Drive and the Nespresso coffee machine, there’s at least £10-20k worth of furniture and various other things I am entitled to half of. Realistically, £15-20k is what I am targetting. Given I’ve spent over £2500 on legal fees, this year so far and had to completely furnish a new apartment at a cost of around £5000, my credit cards are looking rather beaten!

There’s probably more things that are causing me headaches, but these are the main ones. What about the good things in life?

The Boy loves his Daddy and enjoys every minute he spends with me! He’s developing into a wonderful little character. He’s no trouble at all, keep him watered, fed and amused and everything is good! He like his sleep, when staying with us, the very lovely Miss B and I, he sleeps for at least 12 hours! The lazy beast did have 14 hours one night after a busy day! He loves going swimming, wondering around the part and being pushed in his pushchair around the city. The Boy has got his Dad’s taste for Ribena! He drinks loads of the stuff in his beaker with a straw!

I’ve got back into jogging again. The weather is still rubbish, but as I live in the north-west of England, it’s to be expected! I’ve started running 5kms every Monday and Thursday evening. Still not at last year’s pace, but getting there! On Saturday, Miss B was at work, the Boy was with the ex-wife, so I was home alone. I decided to go for a run after doing some household chores. I had a couple of routes planned in my head and decided that I would aim for distance rather than time, so I targeted 7-8kms. The run was going well at a steady pace of about 6.50mins per KM, enjoying the run, listening to music and letting my thoughts wonder. In the end, I ran 10.5km in 70 minutes. Pleased with that. As today is a public holiday in the UK and my birthday, I’ve given myself the evening off from running! I’ll be back out again on Thursday night to cover around 6-8kms.

Regular readers will know how Miss B and I got together. We are still all very loved up, living together and enjoying life! Our relationship is absolutely wonderful and I feel human again. We always make time for each other and it feels like I am part of an equal team. We do things to help each other out and we really do compliment each other. We’ve spent the day chilling out on the sofa, suffering from minor hangovers, chatting, laughing, relaxing doing our own thing. It’s been a great birthday! As I said, we are still very much loved up and enjoying each other company and looking after each other. Miss B has been a wonderful support through this stressful time. We’ve been living together from over fours months and we haven’t argued once! We might have the occasional grizzle, but nothing serious. It wonderful waking up next to her, seeing she is awake and getting her lovely, gorgeous smile!

Tune of the day: Utah Saints – Something Good f/ Kate Bush (Original Version 1992)

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How hard can it be?

Customer service. It’s not a difficult concept. You listen to the customer, understand their requirements, offer a solution, negotiate the solution, agree on solution. Everyone goes home happy. Simple theory. As I said, not a difficult concept. However for the majority of large multinational companies it seems customer service is one of the most difficult things to do.

The bain of poor customer service? Idiots reading a script in a call centre. Now I appreciate there needs to be processes to enable standard scenarios to be followed, but not allowing people to think for themselves is not helpful. Over the past two months I’ve spent far too much time dealing with call centres in the UK, India and South Africa. Personally, the company I’m calling can have a call centre in Mongolia or Mars as long as the customer service advisor understands and can speak English to a relatively high standard and the ability to deal with my enquiry. This is too much to ask for for some companies. After deciding to complain about the poor customer service, I asked the call centre worker to put me through to their manager as the issue was not being resolved. Helpfully they put me through to their IT helpdesk. You can imagine their surprise when I asked to make a complaint;

“Sorry, do you have an IT incident number?”

“No I asked to be transferred to a manager, why would I have an IT incident number?”

“Err, you are through to the [removed company name to prevent embarrassment, however it sounds like Yodafone], IT helpdesk.”

“Can you tell me who transferred the call and transfer me back to them?”

“Yes we can, do you want me to do that?”

“Indeed”

Now, I’m easily annoyed and have lack a tolerance for idiots, the thick and slow and work shy chancers. By now I’m getting very annoyed. The work shy chancer lived up to his name and didn’t have a call so I got put straight through to him. Being very annoyed by this but in a mischievous mood I wondered what to do. Should I ask him in a deep husky, yet worrying voice “what are you wearing?” like some weirdo stalker? No, too easy. I decide to go for the angry, annoyed approach. Call Centre Monkey, CCM as he’ll be known, as I can’t remember his name:

CCM – Hello?

P <stays quiet>

CCM – Hello?

P <Still quiet>

CCM – Errrr, hello is anybody there?

P – [In an angry, deep English accent] Why did you think it was acceptable to transfer a customer complaint to your IT helpdesk CCM?

CCM – er, well….

P – Come on, answer the question

CCM – well I thought…

P – You thought wrong CCM. Now I know your name and direct dial, now put me through to your manager, please.

CCM – I’m sorry is was a mistake

P – Manager now.

CCM – OK, I’ll do it now

P – Chop chop

CCM did actually transfer me to his manager where the complaint was made. However Yodafone’s customer service and complaints process is so broken that I ended up emailing the CEO. 4 times. So far no reply. If the CEO doesn’t care about customers why should the staff? Having emailed two different CEO’s and the other CEO replied within an hour, apologising and forwarding to his executive complaints team to deal with. Then two weeks later a follow up email to ensure that my issues are being resolved. I think it is fascinating to see the differences in customer service between two similar companies.

This doesn’t just go for complaints. I’m a great believer in rewarding fantastic customer service. Before Christmas Miss B and I had a night away at a hotel. We decided to eat in the restaurant, where it was an Al a carte menu. The waiter was French, so let’s not hold that against him(!), the service he gave was one of the best I’d experienced. The bill included the service charge, but I want to add extra because his service was wonderful. It was only £10, but he was ecstatic about the additional tip and told the restaurant manager. He came up to us and thanked us, we told the manager what brilliant service the waiter had given us and it was just a small token of our appreciation. If there is an internal award for service then he should get this too.

Maybe I’m getting old, but receiving good service is important. I believe it is good manners. Having spent seven years working in retail I’ve been on the receiving end of difficult customers, shop lifters and outright liars. Each time I have given the best possible service I can. On the shop floor, in the restaurant, in the office, you are the face of the business you work for. Each potential person you could meet could be your next customer, next manager, next decision maker about your career.

If you decide to give poor service, it would be to an idiot like me. This idiot will complain to ensure some other poor soul doesn’t have to suffer. I’m not after compensation or any other recourse, I just want to receive good service, to be treated with respect and feel like my hard earned money is being looked after. I will complain, provide feedback until I feel like the complaint is dealt with the seriousness it deserves. I have no issue questioning the company dispute process and asking what your escalation procedure is. I’ll be polite, won’t swear, I might deepen my voice and growl or shout should I feel I’m not being listened to, but I want to make sure my complain is being listened to. I’m good at using Google, should I need to find out the CEO or Chairman of the company and their contact details I will. I have no issue emailing them to tell them how poor their company is at customer service.

Remember, the next time you are rude to customers, provide poor service or think the customer is an idiot, this idiot will complain high enough so your bonus or even your job is at risk.

How hard can it be? It’s not hard to provide good service, you just need to do it.

Tune of the day: Womack and Womack – Love Wars

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