Friday, October 31, 2008

Dear Prudence

I have (almost) always followed your advice and put into practice the message you preached. Prudence. For the future.

Encouraged to invest in my future I took out my first personal pension plan with Equitable Life. They were, after all, the world's oldest assurer.

After 4 years of investing a third of my disposable income, Equitable Life almost collapsed in 2000.

Although I was able to get my money out, I didn't get it out in time, and a lost a third of my investment.

When I bought my first flat, a sound investment you would have me believe, I was advised to consider an endowment mortgage. In 2003 the government estimated that about eight in 10 of the endowment policies then in force were unlikely to pay off the mortgages they were taken out for.

My target of £38,300 quickly reduced to a likely £22,000 return, then subsequently less.

My share portfolio - more savings for my retirement - is on average worth 40% less than the cash I invested. My £160k pot is now valued around £93k. Still, I don't plan on using it for another 10 years at least. So hopefully it will get back to where it was when I need it. I hope.

Four weeks ago I was advised that it would be prudent to cash in another endowment policy and bank it, for a better return. My redemption value then was £14,500 approximately.

Whilst my FA was exploring whether I might get more if I sold it to a 3rd party, the insurance company has imposed penalties to discourage policyholders from cashing in their policies early. That means I've lost another £4k or thereabouts in 4 weeks.

I might take the hit. I don't want another Equitable Life.

So, dear Prudence, looking to a financially secure future, what do you advise now?

Happy Hallowe'en

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The R Word - Day 3

Yesterday was day 3. The announcements were made.

Like a cat with nine lives, I'll live another day. But a number of my colleagues and secretaries were not as fortunate. The whole experience had been distressing and tiring.

Unpleasant subject closed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

David Tennant Quits As Doctor Who

David Tennant quits as Doctor Who
from BBC News

David Tennant is to stand down as Doctor Who, after becoming one of the most popular Time Lords in the history of the BBC science fiction show.

Tennant stepped into the Tardis in 2005, and will leave the role after four special episodes are broadcast next year.

He made the announcement after winning the outstanding drama performance prize at the National Television Awards.

"When Doctor Who returns in 2010 it won't be with me," he said.

"Now don't make me cry," he added. "I love this part, and I love this show so much that if I don't take a deep breath and move on now I never will, and you'll be wheeling me out of the Tardis in my bath chair."

'I'll miss it'

Three years was "about the right time" to play the role, he told the BBC in an exclusive interview.

"I think it's better to go when there's a chance that people might miss you, rather than to hang around and outstay your welcome," he said.

I don't ever want it to feel like a job, so I want to move on when it still feels exciting and fresh
David Tennant

His stint in the show had been "the most extraordinary time, it's been bewildering, life changing, very exciting", he said.

"And just so much fun, such a great show to work on.

"That's one of the reasons I think it's right to take a deep breath and bow out when it's still fun, when it's a novelty.

"I don't ever want it to feel like a job, so I want to move on when it still feels exciting and fresh and that means I'll miss it."

Drama award

Tennant, the 10th actor to play the Doctor Who, left fans guessing about his return at the end of the latest series.

David Tennant and Catherine Tate
David Tennant beat co-star Catherine Tate at the National Television Awards

In the last episode, in July, the Doctor had to defeat his enemies the Daleks to save the universe.

Almost 10 million people watched as the Time Lord apparently started the process of regeneration - but did not complete it.

Tennant will appear in a Christmas special, titled The Next Doctor, before filming four more specials in January.

"They'll be the four last stories that I do," he said.

In a sign of his popularity, he was voted best drama performer in a public vote at the National Television Awards.

He has been named most popular actor at the same ceremony for the past two years. That prize has been discontinued this year.

An average of 8.1 million people a week watched the latest series - the fourth since it made a comeback in 2005 - in its Saturday evening slot on BBC One.

'Spectacular' exit

Russell T Davies, executive producer, said: "I've been lucky and honoured to work with David over the past few years - and it's not over yet, the Tenth Doctor still has five spectacular hours left!

"After which, I might drop an anvil on his head. Or maybe a piano. A radioactive piano. But we're planning the most enormous and spectacular ending, so keep watching."

David Tennant in Love's Labour's Lost
David Tennant has recently acted with the Royal Shakespeare Company

A fifth series of the show is scheduled for 2010.

Tennant replaced Christopher Eccleston, who resurrected the show after a 16-year break.

Tennant made his name in TV dramas such as Blackpool and Casanova.

He started his career in theatre and in recent months has returned to the stage with well-received performances in Hamlet and Love's Labour's Lost for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

In December last year, Tennant denied rumours that he was planning to quit after Catherine Tate - his new companion in the Tardis - told the Jonathan Ross radio show she thought the next series of Doctor Who would be Tennant's last.

He said at the time: "Catherine Tate stitched me up good and proper. She goes on Jonathan Ross and makes up a load of old nonsense."

For more, see BBC interview here.

Mrs. Bartolozzi

I remember it was that Wednesday
Oh when it rained and it rained

Our washing machine/dryer is broken. The drum refuses to revolve. See?

I suspect that I might have overloaded it at the weekend, and the weight of the soaked washing inside has finally caused it to give.

The machine hasn't lasted terribly well. It's only 5 years old, and from time to time it doesn't seem to work effectively. I've never been a fan of washer-dryers.

I've suggested to Xfe that we'd probably be better buying a new one relative to the cost of calling out a repairman to try and fix it.

I don't have time to go to the laundrette. In fact I have no idea where I can find one. Now that I think about it, I can't think of any that I've seen close by. The closest I've ever come to one is seeing it on the telly, in Eastenders.

I'll try and get by until the new one is delivered. If I can't get that done for Saturday then I will have to organise that on Xfe's return.

In the meantime I'm washing stuff in the bath (though not while I'm bathing, obviously).

The problem with integrated appliances is that they are so hard to fit and to remove. They are also more expensive than stand-alone appliances.

They have to fit into the unit and the plumbing and wiring can be more tricky. In our case the electrical wiring goes straight into a fitted box, rather than a plug. Fortunately I've changed similar fittings before before so I know how to deal with it.

I've had to check the plumbing fittings too, just to make sure I can undo the old one so it can be taken away and I'm not left with 2 lying around.

Being a washer-dryer I had to make sure the model had a condenser for the ventilation, rather than a pipe.

I'd honestly rather pay someone to do it all for me, but I've yet to find someone I trust to do a decent job for me here in London and I fear being ripped off.

Update - Tues pm: Well, it wasn't so much rain as snow that we had in London today. Apparently the first time that we have had snow in London in October since 1934.

Photo by Jo BatkisDSC02156
Central London: Tues 28 October and Sunday 12 October

Bear in mind that just over 2 weeks ago it was an unseasonal 23°C.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The R Word - Day 1

Well, it's the week that I'll find out whether I'm going to be made redundant. I guess that is the source of my poorly rested night, recently experienced.

Our department was advised 2 weeks ago (when I was on holiday) that redundancies would be inevitable, but in the meantime if anyone wanted to move to a different discipline-there are jobs in other departments-or was considering a career break, now was the time to come forward.

It is only our department that is affected.

In terms of solicitors who are not partners there are 27 of us. This includes PSLs-professional support lawyers-who are not fee earners and provide support to the rest of us.

It may be that as many as 10 will have to go.

We work in commercial real estate. We do not deal with residential properties.

I opted not to go down the partnership path. I want control over my life. I want to be able to do other things. So I took an alternative route that is now popular in large City firms and was successful. I was promoted in July this year, with a sizeable pay-rise.

So, I might find out tomorrow. It might be Friday. Just like a Big Brother eviction. If it is later in the week, you'll get more of my thoughts:
  • what would redundancy mean for me (bye bye 6-figure salary)
  • why me/why not me?
  • what next - where do we go from here?
Stay tuned. If I'm evicted then I'm sure you'll discover over time the effect. If not, then not.

Maybe it's not such a Dead Set, eh? Life as we know it will never be the same again.

Monday, October 27, 2008

3 For 2 - #3

#3 - In the current economic climate I've been looking to see how I can bring better value. Here it is - 3 posts for the price of 2, which you will get over the course of the day.

Slooshy sloshy slooshy sloshy
Get that dirty shirty clean
Slooshy sloshy slooshy sloshy
Make those cuffs and collars gleam
Everything clean and shiny

There's something about October's dark nights. When it starts to get cold outside and you need to be warm inside. When outside daytime colours mellow to gold and red and it's darker earlier, especially now the clock has wound back an hour, the glow of a warm interior is never more appealing.

Certain things instantly remind me exactly how that feels. The first is from my childhood. It's a particular Doctor Who story, Image of the Fendahl first broadcast from October 29 to November 19, 1977.

It's not a particularly "classic" story, but for whatever reason it evokes the feelings of when I first watched it, when it was black and I remember hearing fireworks cracking outside. Perhaps it was the hallowe'en-esque nature of the story, setup at first to play out almost like a ghost story.

Maybe it was the image of the Autumn-golden Fendahl Core rising.

More recently it's Kate Bush's Aerial album, released in November 2005 that does it for me. It was also around the same time that I started this blog. This was a time when evenings were lonely and I felt lost.

I can listen to any of those songs now, as I did then, and instantly I'm taken back to dark, empty evenings.

3 For 2 - #2

#2 - In the current economic climate I've been looking to see how I can bring better value. Here it is - 3 posts for the price of 2, which you will get over the course of the day.

Treachery, disloyalty... are the most DREADFUL of crimes. And deserve the severest punishment!

The last three weeks have been rather hectic socially with 5 theatre trips, a mini-break in Scotland and the footie at Arsenal. So this last weekend I decided to stay at home and chill with a good DVD (maybe) and a nice bottle of wine (see 3 for 2 - #1) below.

In the event I ended up watching quality drama that, thanks to it's central performance, was itself as good as a piece of theatre.

Mother Love is a 1989 BBC TV drama in which Diana Rigg gives an intense performance full of bitterness and hatred for her ex-husband and the Vesey "whores and bastards" - his subsequent wives and children.

The portrayal of Helena Vesey won her a justified Bafta for her lead performance. Just watch her retch and see her face twist as she discovers the extent of "treachery" perpetrated against her, all as her paranoia and loneliness take over, leaving her to extract a horrible revenge.

I remember watching the series when it was first shown on TV in 1989, on Sunday evenings. I was living at home with my parents at the time. I have to say that despite looking a little dated (costumes and haircuts) the drama not only stands the test of time, but was even more appreciable- Dianna Rigg's performance in particular.

3 For 2 - #1

#1 - In the current economic climate I've been looking to see how I can bring better value. Here it is - 3 posts for the price of 2, which you will get over the course of the day.

3 for 2

On Saturday I made the short trip to Marks & Spencer at Finsbury Pavement, to buy a few items. It was a toss up whether to go to M&S or Waitrose Barbican but, in the event, the prospect of picking up a bottle of Prosecco Raboso Rosé swung it.

The problem with shopping at M&S Finsbury Pavement is that if it's a Sunday, your gassed. They are closed. Waitrose is however open. Still, it was Saturday, so no concern on that account.

However the real problem I find with M&S Finsbury Square on a Saturday is that it's like shopping in a communist supermarket. The shelves are bare (though recently this situation has improved). Waitrose Barbican in contrast has a supreme choice of goodies.

So, M&S it was. Unfortunately (or fortunately) they only had the one bottle of PR Rosé left (see comment above), which I grabbed. I also grabbed one or two things that I hadn't quite intended to, and £74.67 later I was on my way home.

Now, even although I may have intended to buy only these items:

I also came home with these*:

So, let's look at the receipt. Ah, it's full of discounted and "free" items, thanks to 3 for 2, buy 1 get 1 free and Dine In for £10 assorted offers.

I mean Roast Chicken Pie!!?? What's that about? Well, it was one of the main courses of the Dine In For £10 offer. It was the best of a bad bunch. I mean, I didn't really want the pie, what caught my eye was sticky toffee pudding. But I'm not a huge dessert fan, although mon C is. But as he is away, there was no point buying the huge pudding that I certainly might have liked a spoonful or two only of (and not without custard).

But the cheese board which was part of the deal looked tempting.

"Hmm," thought I, "that alone with a bottle of wine might cost me £10 if I bought them individually."

So I constructed a £10 dine in offer around that, ending up with the Roast Chicken Pie and a tray of ready to bake roast vegetables, well, ready to bake.

The cava was £6.99 a bottle, but two for £10, so with only 1 bottle of the PR Rosé available I thought buying the cava was an alternative. But why pay £6.99 for 1 when I can get 2 for £10? And, as I don't really like the taste of the cava compared with prosseco I thought I shoud buy some creme de cassis to dilute.

Then some more bargains, but only because I was saving by spending. Well, that was how I was meant to feel as a consumer, and as you can see, it worked 100% on me.

Doesn't that tell you something about my psychology?

*other products were purchased-these are the "offer" items.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Stranger, In My Bed

Xfe is away in the French Caribbean for a 10-day trip. He left on Tuesday.

Last night, at an unspecified time, I woke up in bed and found that I was not alone. I remember in my sleep sensing that someone was in the room, and to force myself to wake-up (as I often do when I'm having a nightmare, to end it).

When I woke up I heard Xfe's glasses tap gently on the table, as they normally do when he takes them off and places them there.

He said something gentle, then I felt him shift next to me as he put his arm around me. I turned around in his arms and saw his smiling face.

Smelling his familiar scent, I drifted back to sleep.

This morning I woke up alone.

This really happened. Sense tells me that I must have dreamed it, but when I ask myself if it really was a dream, I clearly remember being asleep having to force myself to wake up sensing there was someone in the bedroom. I then remember waking up, and sensing relief that it was Xfe, but knowing it strange as he shouldn't have been there.

This has never happened to me before.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Oh God.

I just sliced through the top half of my thumb just under top of nail level on my left hand.

It goes half the way round the back as well....

AYE-I was chopping some chilli at the time. So it's stinging LIKE FUCK now.

Still, should have helped sterilise it I hope. Please let it heal so I don't loose top part....

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The R Word

Well, it's not yet official, but Britain is in recession. Not technically, but we soon will be.

I returned to work on Monday morning after a week's holiday and a trip to visit the parents in Scotland with Xfe. I bumped into a colleague before I even reached the office.

She broke the news. Redundancies in our department will be made, and the announcement as to who will be affected will be made by the 31 October (2 weeks after the official announcement).

So it transpires that out of 27 associates in the department they are looking to make between 5-10 redundant. So that could be as much as a third of us!

Oh dear.

Still, on the bright side, if I survive the cull the first thing that I'm going to do is buy a new 2.4Ghz 13-inch MacBook. I'm going to buy from the Apple on-line store so that I can upgrade the HD to 320GB. I was tempted to upgrade to 4GB DDR3 SDRAM, but I don't think there is any point. I don't need it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Game Of Two Acts

After the footie on Saturday it was off to the theatre in the evening.

Elena Roger (last seen a little over 2 years ago in her West End debut playing another 20th-century female icon, fellow Argentine Eva Peron) was wonderful in Piaf. The role so very suits her, and she certainly makes it her own.

Once again she projects such a big sound from her little body. A body that shrivels as Edith destroys herself.

I didn't see Elaine Paige when she performed the same role in 1993. I certainly can't imagine our first Lady of British musical theatre saying the word "c*nt" on stage over and over (and having a drug induced seizure on stage). No wonder potato actress La Paige suffered from exhaustion early into the run and disappeared off somewhere sunny to rest and recuperate. It's hard-going stuff playing such a grim lead, crashing through life on drink and drugs.

Like the film, the play jumps to moments in her life, but unlike La Môme, at least it's chronological (apart from the opening sequence).

The Marcel Cerdan scene was particularly moving, and brought tears to my eyes. The extended slo-mo action was very well executed.

For a round-up of reviews, click here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Up The Arse(nal)

Last Saturday Scotland drew 0-0 in their World Cup qualifier with Norway.

In his international debut Scotland's Chris Iwelumo (pictured here swapping shirts with Norway's Morten Gamst Pedersen) came a cropper by missing what should otherwise have been a tap-in to score a goal.

More football fun today as I'm off to see Arsenal v Everton at the Emirates. I must remember to take my camera...

Fleeto @ The Nave

Last night we were at the theatre again, but this time it was right on our doorstep.

We saw Fleeto at local arts venue The Nave.

Written mainly in iambic pentameter liberally sprayed with the word "c*nt" and spoken in thick Glaswegian accents, Paddy Cunneen's Fleeto is difficult to follow at times. But as the rhythm of the dialogue flows the effect is rather hypnotic.

It was a credit to the cast-especially Jordan McCurrach (Mackie) and Neil Leiper (Kenzie)-that they skillfully deliver their complicated lines without hesitation.

Inspired by The Ilead, it's a contemporary re-working of Greek tragedy, hence the Greek chorus chanting "Go home you c*nts".

The play is based around knife crime and teenage gang warfare in Glasgow. We follow Mackie after his friend is facially scarred by a blade. Under the guidance of gang leader Kenzie, he rouses the gang to seek revenge.

Xfe found it incredibly hard to understand, but I am sure he easily understood the story that unfolded, feeling the tangible threat of violence as real as the 6-inch blade that was brandished on stage, right under our noses.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Back, Hectic

We're just back from 4 days in Scotland.

We've been home less than an hour, and I'm waiting for Xfe to finish his shower. My brother is in town for a fortnight doing a course in Hendon on how to go further undercover (or something like that - though if he told me, he'd probably have to kill me, well so he says).

Tonight we're off to The Nave (a new arts and performance space which sits on the border of Hackney and Islington) to see FLEETO, a hard hitting play about knife crime in Glasgow.

It's written and directed by Paddy Cunneen. He is a friend of the friend we recently visited in Glasgow, so we're off for dinner at Fifteen with them both after the play.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another 5 Years

On Sunday evening Xfe and I attended the Theatre Royal Haymarket for the Notes From New York production of Jason Robert Brown's The Last 5 Years.

We last saw a production of this at the Menier in August 2006.

The problem with going to the theatre on a Sunday night is that it can be a bit of a busman's holiday. The theatre tends to be full of industry jobbers who treat the performance as one big in-joke. Such an audience has a tendency to whoop or laugh out loud in knowing fashion at the slightest nod or nuance that they consider can only be appreciated by them. It becomes rather wearing.

Fortunately friends on freebies pad out the seats at the back of the theatre that are harder to sell, and luvvies who pay tend to buy cheaper seats (perhaps it's an ironic personal protest at the price of tickets and thus the hand that feeds them, but more likely it's because those seats are all they can afford).

Happily the two performers steered away from playing the in-jokes. When they did occur it was entirely the fault of the audience, and certainly not Julie Atherton or Paul Spicer.

Atherton skillfully avoided the temptation of playing Cathy's audition sequence to a knowing audience. Although at times (but only occasionally) a little too squeaky for my taste (too much time playing Kate Monster in Avenue Q probably), she was a thoughtful Cathy. Her I'm a Part of That was particularly well performed.

While Spicer was a sensitive and sympathetic Jamie, he sometimes didn't have the power in his voice to convince us of Jamie's anger at the frustration he feels when Cathy can't support him, despite his efforts to see her through difficult times.

Certainly in the Notes production, the reason why Jamie and Cathy's relationship unravels before us is clearly apparent, thanks to precise direction and thoughtful performances.

Fiona Laird and Amelia Sears' direction is a little untidy around the edges at times. Just before the one moment that Jamie and Catherine are at the same point in time, Cathy waltzes onto stage. They waltz together in that instant, but as we see Jamie move forward, he simply walks off the stage, leaving the sequence incomplete.

The singers struggled against an over amplified band, especially at the beginning when most of their words were lost, but other than that a very satisfying evening.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sunday In The Park With

At the beginning of the month I suggested that we had seen the last of summer. Two weeks later, the weather continues to be surprisingly unseasonal.

This was Sunday in the park, with more than just the forecast sunny intervals, and temperatures reaching 23°C.



I was interested to spot another photographer in the park, taking pics not too dissimilar to those I took a couple of weeks ago - quite literally.




My equivalent pic from 2 weeks ago...



My equivalent pic from 2 weeks ago...

Felton Street N1


Early in the morning and later in the afternoon the light and the colours are super good for taking pictures.


I quite like people watching and snapping up some of London life.


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