Mostly I haven't done anything exciting since April because I'm still bloody skint - other than decorating the lounge, and I already shared the pics of that on Facebook. :P (We finally got around to hanging pictures over a month later – after filling all the holes we were rather loath to put more in the walls!)
Anyway, here is my venting, in no particular order...
First off: the air conditioning at work is ridiculous. Despite the fact we are experiencing a heatwave, the residents of Lifford House - or more particularly the residents of Zone 2 By The Printers, namely CP Admin - are having to wear scarves/wraps/cardigans and spending the day dithering because the air conditioning is so cold. Yesterday some of the Social Workers were so cold they actually took their laptops out to their cars to work.
Apparently the thermostat’s minimum outside temperature is set at 20oC, meaning if it's below that the air conditioning should not come - and yet it frequently does, and even if it's not particularly warm outside it's actually freezing in the office. All the people walking around outside in shorts and vests must look in and think we're all barmy. It also means if you dress for the weather you freeze at work, and if you dress for the sub-zero office climate you suffocate outside. On several occasions I have left the office and literally been surprised by the fact that the weather is actually decent because it feels like winter at my desk.
We've told the building manager but he's adamant it either shouldn't be on, or that the temperature is fine. They’ve also “serviced” the so-called “chiller” (ha!) and for one day it was gloriously ambient, but now it’s even colder than before.
I think the fact that I've been perpetually cold may well have something to do with my being so tired lately. And it's hardly surprising people are always off sick. When we head off to minute meetings at other locations – the Access Centre in particular – it’s swelteringly hot instead.
The other reason I'm so tired is because until recently I’d not had any proper leave since I don't know when. I had a week off in May, when we were decorating, which took much longer than anticipated but was definitely worth it for the end result - now we just need to sort out the garden... and the kitchen... and the bedroom... you get the idea. Before that I had a couple of days just before Easter, when we went to Stratford, and before THAT I had a week in January which constituted my Christmas leave. Time goes much quicker in this job because I am, more often than not, actually busy.
That being said, I had a fortnight of leave at the start of July. Well, not quite a fortnight, and herein lies my other irritation.
I had eight days of leave left to use up before it refreshes in September, and by a fortuitous twist of fate, the last two weeks of July before the schools break up happened to fall over weeks 8 and 1 of our 8-weekly calendar. My plan was therefore to book four days each week and pop two flex days either side to make up a full fortnight. (We can take one flex day in each four-week period.)
With that in mind, from the first May bank holiday onwards (the week we were decorating, when I'd also booked a flex day), I made a concerted effort to build the requisite 14.60 hours of flexitime in order to book my fortnight off. During the last week of May it was half-term, so we were understaffed and my Grade 3 colleagues and I were helping our Grade 2's with unit work, i.e. booking meetings and such. As a result of that – and Ye Stats Faga which I half-recounted on Twitter, which took up far more work hours than it should have done through miscommunication and unnecessary repetition of work – I managed to build nearly 3.5 hours of flex, bringing my total at that point up to nearly 11 hours, and I was hoping to be able to relax a little bit for the remaining few weeks.
Except then, on 2nd June, I had to accompany Paul to A&E in the morning because he was having panic attack symptoms again (heart palpitations) plus some other more worrying symptoms (tingling in the back of the head and left arm). I didn't want him to go back to the GP just for them to write it off as stress again and we decided to go to A&E so they could at least rule out anything serious.
He had two ECG's and more blood tests and everything came back fine, though on 12th June they hooked him up to an ambulatory ECG for 24 hours to monitor things (it didn’t reveal anything serious, thankfully). They also raised concerns around his alcohol intake and wanted him to attend Aquarius, though he declined and just took their information leaflet. I can't say I'm exactly happy about that, given I've been trying to warn him about his drinking for bloody years. :(
Following that I requested special leave for the day, even though I had enough flex to cover it, because of attempting to book the aforesaid fortnight off. According to People Solutions (our HR database / information thing), you can take up to five days of special leave (which also covers compassionate leave) in a year and it's up to the discretion of your "Chief Officer" dependent on the needs of the service being met - in our case that would be our Professional Support Relationship Manager, or PSRM. One of the conditions for special leave is "an unforeseen emergency around a relative or someone with whom you have a special relationship".
I put the request in with a lengthy explanation of what had happened, including Paul's diagnosis of stress at Christmas, the symptoms he experienced both in December and on 2nd June, plus the fact that he was afraid of needles (and had passed out during the last set of blood tests in December) so if I hadn't been there for the blood tests the whole ordeal would have been even more stressful. (Actually, the nurse was really good - she was from Zambia so she was telling us all about her country in a bid to distract him, and this time he didn't pass out. Bizarrely enough, I nearly did, as at that precise moment my period decided to start and I suddenly went really hot and light-headed. My body's sense of timing is seriously weird.)
In the meantime we'd had a management restructure which was characterised by shadiness. Our lovely Spanish PSRM was told she would be going to Adults at Woodcock Street along with a colleague - then on the Friday afternoon immediately after she'd left they decided her colleague would be staying for the interim period. So basically they effectively just got rid of her.
The new PSRM is very inflexible and immovable once she's made a decision. In a previous team that she managed, apparently she wouldn't allow anyone to leave early without booking it in advance with a valid reason, and also complained about the working pattern of a term-time only colleague who originally came from Education, stating that it wasn't "meeting the service needs" (except in Education it WAS meeting the service needs, because during the school holidays there was no work and thus no point having staff around doing nothing). Our team is populated by part-time / reduced hours workers, aforesaid term-time only colleague, and several people who have small children and need the work/life balance afforded to them by the Council's flexitime scheme. We were therefore worried that the new PSRM would come storming in to interfere with the casual, ad hoc system we have in place, where if you want to leave early for whatever reason you merely ask if anyone is staying til the end, and your colleagues are generally accommodating.
(Yeah, after Legal Services and that stupid late rota bollocks, this is such a breath of fresh air you cannot even imagine. I can leave early sometimes! I'm not the only one here after 3.30pm!)
Anyway, the upshot of all this is: the new PSRM refused my special leave request because, in her words, "that's not what it's used for". I don’t think it particularly helped that she never got to read my actual request, because it was filtered to her verbally during my supervision instead by my line manager. In any case, I'd like to know what the bloody hell it IS used for. Would it make a difference if we were married, or a gay couple? Does Paul need to have an actual frigging heart attack next time?
Given the tales of her rigidity, I decided there was no point in fighting it, so I lost six hours of my hard-earned flex and had to work hard to rebuild enough for at least one flex day so I could have most of a fortnight off if not all of it. I therefore had to go in to work on the Monday (7th July), and the temptation to be as inconvenient as possible - by working 10.00 til 4.00, for example - was really strong. Except obviously they decided to give me a meeting, so in the end I worked from 8.30 to 6.00 and built even more flex – and caused some chaos in my wake just to prove a point. :P
As an upshot of all this, my desire to get away for a few days whilst I was off in July merely increased. Paul had the Thursday to Monday off so I was toying with a couple of days at the seaside or similar, some nice cleansing sea air to soothe the soul.
Except everything is TOO BLOODY EXPENSIVE. Trains are expensive (I looked at Prestatyn as the last time we went [even though we drove with Lisa in the end], about five years ago, it would have been £30 - it's now over £100!). Coaches are less expensive but you lose an entire day to travelling. Hotels are expensive. Cottages are less expensive but impossible to get to in areas with limited public transport. UK holidays in general seem to be very, very expensive, so I'd then got it into my head that it might actually be cheaper to fly to Europe for a city break, except it's bloody July so everything is still - you guessed it - expensive. I budgeted around £250 for trying to find somewhere but it's actually impossible, even with late deals.
I am sick of feeling persecuted because I don't drive. Seriously. After some epic public transport fail at the start of the year (following another price hike and no improvement in the service) I had wanted to learn to drive this year, but I'm still too skint to pay for lessons or a car. Trying to get ANYWHERE remotely exciting when you don't have a car is akin to being stranded in the middle of the ocean, and it's impossible to budget for a holiday when you have to take public transport or taxi costs into account as well as your accommodation.
We spent some time looking at UK coach holidays, as well as separate flights/accommodation to Europe, and it was all about three times more expensive than I remembered, and definitely over-budget.
I gave up in the end, unsurprisingly.
(Paul was advised by a medical professional during the course of the A&E debacle and subsequent follow-up that he should have a proper, 14-day holiday somewhere in order to de-stress. Which is all very nice and everything, but we have no money in order to do so!)
It's probably for the best anyway, as I've put on loads of weight and going anywhere remotely warm would just make me self-conscious about being fat.
Which leads me into my next moan.
I finally cancelled my gym membership at The Gym in Birmingham city centre because I'd managed to attend about twice in the whole year. When I worked in the city centre it was ideal; the move to Woodcock Street was bad enough, but now I have to get a bus into town before I even start, and being citywide means I can't adequately plan when to bring in my gym stuff because my laptop bag is huge.
The other reason for cancelling was that I can get a corporate discount with Sandwell Leisure Trust of 20% off their £28.50 membership, so I only pay £22.80 - this includes all the gyms and leisure centres in the borough, including swimming, and there's a gym at Smethwick Baths which is conveniently on my way home - I have to get off the 11 in Bearwood and then the 120 stops right outside (and indeed is only five minutes away from home).
So on May payday (a month ago) I went along to sign up. AND THEN, of course, I came down with a kidney infection and wasn't able to go, and the one day I'd finally psyched myself up to go along for an induction session I had a bloody migraine. I’ve managed to go to the gym once (Paul went with me for moral support) but the stupid kidney infection simply WILL NOT go away and prior to leave I was exhausted, intended to go whilst on leave (ha ha ha yeah right), etc., etc…
I've been TRYING to motivate myself - for example, I bought myself two new swimming costumes from Sports Direct, because one of my existing ones is too small, of course, and the other has been in my work drawer for about three months now thanks to failed swimming efforts with Denise as we've both been collectively ill, too busy at work, etc., in order to go (so much for our swimathon!). My intention was to start going swimming first thing in the morning either at Smethwick or Langley Baths (which are a five-minute walk away) but every time I try to motivate myself to do anything, it's like my body goes "HAHAHA FUCK YOU" and I'm too ill (or too tired) to go.
The thing is, I really really want to get back into going to the gym, because I really really REALLY want to lose this weight and get back into the clothes I actually like. I can't afford new clothes, and in any case trying to buy them is a soul-destroying exercise in futility because all the nice things are too small and everything else looks frumpy or disgusting or doesn't fit over my STUPID BOOBS, GOD WHY ARE THEY SO BIG. I have never exactly been happy with my body, even when I was two dress sizes smaller - now I just feel like I'm on a downhill slope towards an emotional meltdown every time I attempt to look presentable.
Basically all of this is a lesson in never having good intentions because they will inevitably fail. A fact which I am consistently reminded of and which I should probably have learnt by now.
Oh, and during that fortnight off I achieved sweet bugger all, thanks to exhaustion. But thankfully I have another fortnight off in September, when we are hoping to go to Brighton courtesy of a LivingSocial hotel deal.
It's not all doom and gloom, though. :P
I am still enjoying my job. Everyone is very stressed at the moment because of the new Strengthening Families Framework which has been in place since March, because we are crashing in blindly for the most part and communication at all levels seems to have ground to a halt. The good thing is we're all in the same boat, so we are all offloading at each other in work rather than taking it home with us - and they're actually valid things to be stressed about, rather than the petty stupidities that caused such major issues in Legal.
There are a few colleague issues creeping through the cracks - a couple of my colleagues can be a bit annoying, and one of them is your classic example of doing the bare minimum rather than trying to exceed in any way then complaining that she won't pass her PDR... but it's nothing I can't deal with, and I'm learning to rise above it - it helps that the team has a really good relationship (both working and personal) and everyone mucks in to help each other out. It's such a breath of fresh air after my experiences at both Legal AND Ladywood, and makes me very glad that I chose to work at South rather than anywhere else.
Being skint does mean that Paul and I are catching on boxsets. Our Farscape rewatch is on temporary hiatus, as is the JC rewatch as I just keep forgetting about it and series 5 was such a mess of fail, but we are now on season 4 of Frasier and have just finished both Bates Motel and Fargo. We've just made a start on American Horror Story: Asylum as well, which is already looking as creepy/WTF as the first season.
This is the first time I’ll have watched the entirety of Frasier, as I got properly into it in season 7/8 and didn’t see many of the earlier episodes – indeed, when it first started I was a little too young to really appreciate it, and only started watching regularly. When we were about five episodes away from "Moon Dance", one of my favourite episodes, I already had a few murmurings in my brain for an AU Daphne/Niles fic. About six days later it was 6000 words strong and finished – it literally fell out of my brain over the course of three days. I haven’t tackled fic for this fandom since 1999; suffice it to say my style has somewhat improved since then. ;) (It wasn’t in script format this time, for a start!)
As with most of my 90’s show rewatches, it’s proving really interesting with the benefit of hindsight and maturity. I'm discovering that Niles remains my favourite character even when I'm trying to approach things more objectively. In fairness, though, there's not a single character (in the family, at least) who isn't awesome in their own way. Frasier is an overblown and pompous drama queen, who nonetheless remains likeable because he has a good heart; Daphne brings her quirky, well-meaning Englishness to the show (even though some of the English/British cliches fall short sometimes, but hey, this was the 90s!); Roz is a refreshingly strong, independent, no-nonsense woman who brings Frasier down the several pegs he needs; Martin is an interesting mix - an ex-cop with decent morals and simple tastes, who nonetheless obviously loves his boys with everything he has despite not really understanding them (we see this so clearly in his interaction with Eddie – obviously it’s safer to show affection to a dog!); and Niles, who somehow manages to tread the line between sophisticated, suave psychiatrist and a physically-hilarious manchild without any effort whatsoever, which explains why David Hyde Pierce was nominated for an Emmy practically every season.
I actually really enjoyed two of the most recent episodes that we watched, “A Cranes Critique” and “Mixed Doubles”. The former involves Frasier and Niles meeting their favourite author (T.H. Houghton), who has only written one novel in his life, and whom Martin inevitably befriends in a bar. Whilst Martin and “Ted” are out, Frasier and Niles sneak into his briefcase to read the first draft of his second novel. It’s lovely getting the little insights into the brothers’ relationship, as usually all we see is the ongoing sibling rivalry and one-upmanship that has defined them since childhood. (A few episodes ago, we learnt that Frasier is 45 and Niles is 38, which gives a bit more context; Niles comments that Frasier should have asked for a puppy rather than a baby brother, and his response is “I did.”) In this one, as in several others, we see how their shared interests overshadow their competitiveness – although I’m sure the fact that Frasier is a faster reader must be a bone of contention. ;)
As for “Mixed Doubles”, I’d forgotten how much I like this one; I think I caught it a while ago on Comedy Central or had definitely seen it a few times before, as I remembered some bits word for word. It mainly revolves around the first of many attempts by Niles to tell Daphne how he feels, only to be put off for a day by Frasier as she has just been dumped. In the space of that day she meets Rodney, who is a carbon copy of Niles. It has a few classic moments, particularly Niles’s reaction to his clone, and Frasier’s collection of antique coffee cups sporting images of the wives of Henry VIII… At the very end, though, it segues effortlessly into the bittersweetness of Niles and Daphne pretending to have just met at a singles bar – her platonic affection and his heartfelt but resigned response. It’s the moments like that which remind me why I fell for the ‘ship in the first place.
I am thoroughly enjoying the Niles/Daphne ‘ship and watching it develop – that seven-year slow burn of will-they-won’t-they-but-they-totally-wi
It’s easy to forget just HOW GOOD this show was back in its hey-day, in much the same way as X-Files or Friends were, because the popular series these days are so much bigger and, I suspect, because their online fandoms are so much more ubiquitous. The 90’s was an awesome decade for TV, perhaps all the more so because our fandoms were not pre-made before we got there, like so many things these days – you really had to work at a fandom back then. ;)
I really wish I had the time and mental capacity to do in-depth rewatches for everything, like I’ve done for Jonathan Creek, but I think I’m up to my fifth 90’s show boxset now (Frasier, X-Files, Buffy, Farscape, Creek) and there are not enough hours in my life, especially given the sheer amount of episodes! If you tally them up it’s a cumulative 36 seasons, over 800 episodes, and I do not even want to think how many hours. I did attempt it for TXF but only got three episodes in before I gave up, and as much as I’d love to attempt it for ‘Scape, I think it might actually break me within half a season. :P
This is why I have a tendency to ignore most modern-day series, or for those I do watch I only do so without such a vested interest. I have too many old fandoms still vying for supremacy, and too many work-in-progress fics for most of them, to start investing energy into shiny new ones. :P
Aaaaanyway, I think this is quite long enough. I had intended to post some fic somewhere whilst I was off, and didn’t quite get around to it… but hopefully I will actually manage to get the JC stuff online this year. :P
Over and out.