same_difference: (Me.)
Just going to write a quick entry before cooking a little food for Rachael and I. Another 10 minutes more of letting the motion sickness pass will be not bad thing.

We've had a shorter day of stuff today, but we're both now shattered after sailing around the Bay of Islands on the R Tucker Thompson, a tall ship (schooner) that was built in 1985 as a replica of a 19th century boat. It was a good trip, even in spite of some sea sickness. We both, along with the handful of other passengers, got to help open the sails and Rachael climbed the rigging up to the nearly the second cross beam. I avoided it on account of heights, and the 10 year old kid on board did enough extra climbing for me and any other passenger who didn't fancy it.

The cream tea and barbecue on board were a nice touch, and we had fun chatting to a student from the Isle of Wight and another from Dorset, as well as two native Kiwi's one who agreed to photograph Rachael up the rigging. The journey back was rougher, and it was fun standing near the prow as the ship rode the waves.

Plan now is to decide where we might want to stop tomorrow on the way back south to out next accommodation in Thames; and otherwise have a relaxing evening. Though first we'll be visiting the treaty grounds where the modern country of New Zealand was born.

Also got to see a shark from the boat on the way back to Russell.
same_difference: (Me.)
So day two sees us heading north to the Bay of Islands via a day trip detour to Tiritiri Matangi island.

Getting use to driving an automatic is weird. So far I've braked heavily trying to use the clutch at least twice, put the car in some other drive mode more trying to change gear, and the indicators are on the opposite side to add to the confusion. It's a nice big car though should make for some relaxed driving especially given the lower speed limits; the one thing I'm not enjoying is not being sure how much power I'll have available at any given moment.

The island of Tiritiri Matangi was very pretty; it, in the last 30 or 40 years or so, was converted back from farm land to a nature reserve, removing rats (via dropping poison across the island via helicopter) and reintroducing plants and native birds. All done by a team of volunteers one now 91 and still doing the guided walks. It’s not completely converted so you can go from seeing grass and thistles and other English plants to entirely native plants in a matter of feet. It adds to the generally surreal feeling of being a lot like England at times and then very much not.

Ended up being a good three or four hours of walking, lots of being shouted at by birds, and we managed a few photos. Lots of interesting little tour bits of info from our guide too. It was good we were in a small group consistent of us, a pair of Taiwanese honeymooners and a woman from Cardiff.

Once back on the mainland I drove us 3 hours north to Paihia which was mostly fine except from a night driving section if blind sharp corners. Funniest part was the directions to the motel where we're currently staying was basically drive straight for 200kms then take a left and you're at the destination. Also really happy with the motel owner, upgraded our room and parked the car as after 3 hours of driving I was struggling to get the automatic gearbox to let me make small controlled movements up an incline.

Just hoping now for no repeat of last nights likely jet lag related insomnia.

Also saw a stingray and some penguins in the wild :)
same_difference: (Me.)
One thing I forgot to mention in the post, the conversation with the taxi driver who took us from the airport to the hotel was about how there were too many immigrants, willing to work for too little leaving home grown kiwis without jobs.

Half way around the world, about as far from the UK as you can get and things don't really change.
same_difference: (Me.)
So as well as the photo spam that has started on Facebook I thought I'd try and do a few more long form entries in here.

So the holiday is now feeling more real as we're here; it was definitely a surreal concept till this point. Having said that I'm not sure I can keep the entire thing in my head as a real happening thing.

My first experience of long haul flights was a lot better than I feared or had been led to believe. Obviously the free upgrade to business class made a big difference to that. Though I definitely felt I'd be happy doing both legs Premium Economy. Business class was really weird in fact with the constant attentive service and always being addressed by name; definitely made weirder with the way having the table out meant you were trapped in your cubicle seat. Being able to lie down and sleep was nice, but it basically felt like sleeping on someone's settee more flat chair than bed. The business class food and drink was great and certainly not the place I expected to find the nicest mango I've had in years. The other unexpected detail of business - no view out of a window; clearly traveling business class means you should be beyond such things. Then again I expect photographing all your food is something else you should be beyond too.

One thing I missed from the second flight (other than being next to Rachael - though they did move us nearer to each other shortly before we took off) was the second plane didn't have an external cam underneath the fuselage you could watch. Seeing the first plane leave the ground was odd, but better was all the runway and London lights reflected on the bottom of the plane making it look like we were flying through the obelisk in the film version of 2001.

Booking a four star hotel was a very good idea. The bed is super comfy, the room huge and well appointed; just all generally what we needed.

The first proper day of the holiday we've definitely suffered some of the worst physical effects of jet lag but that didn't stop us exploring Auckland from a tourist bus, particularly an extinct volcano, a museum full of interesting Maori items and a war memorial, and riding up to the observation deck of the Sky Tower. First tower of the holiday. Having said that dizziness and tiredness from jet lag, a fear of heights and a 300m high tower with partially glass elevator and glass floor sections resulted in a nerve wracking experience. That's without thinking about the fact you can pay to walk around the outside with only a rope to keep you attached or even just leap off from the top...

Tomorrow will be our first drive and bird sanctuary island tour.
same_difference: (Me.)
That was a good weekend, admittingly I came down with a cold half way through (and I'm therefore worried I'll be patient zero for all my friends who I saw that weekend), but still a good weekend.

Friday was a good productive evening, which even if I ended up going to be bed at 2am, at least saw me go to bed with a chunk of ironing done, and the curry and the batch bolognese I wanted to cook made. Saturday started later than we planned, but we got things sorted before people arrived and had a nice day of boardgames with people for Rachael's birthday and English Cheesecake Company Red Velvet cheesecake to finish things off. The curry was also well appreciated. Circumstances meant we didn't have the people staying over we expected to, meaning we could have a reasonable lie in Sunday morning (till 11am ish) and got up and ready in time for Mary and Carrie's arrival. The lasagna I made worked well, and then off to see Joe Abercrombie and Garth Nix gave a very interesting/entertaining talk in the evening. Evening was finished off with the last of the chesecake and some good chatting.

So yes good food, great company, interesting things, fun games and getting sufficient things done. Aside from being ill nearly perfect really.
same_difference: (Me.)
It's run; it's done. Proven once again the formula works; makes for excellent games (if I do say so myself), but probably isn't suitable for Sunday linears given it's taken 8.5 hours both times. I realised this morning, how much pressure I'd put myself under. The dual challenges of living up to people's positive memories of a game I ran seven years ago (meaning some of the less good bits have probably been forgotten), my own need for perfection when I care about something, and just wanting to make sure everyone had fun and [livejournal.com profile] xanthipe and I survived the process intact.

As a GM the game itself is it's own reward; even if it's very much an effort in = reward out equation. Watching the players laugh or smile or give you the evils, and then seeing the roleplay you've spawned, is such a great feeling and hilarious at times.

There was less in this game than the last one in terms of planned encounters, but I think the player crew as a whole spent more time dealing with the things they were seeing, and roleplaying through the consequences, that the first lot had. Different characters, with perhaps a different level of acceptance of where they've come from and where they were going.

Glad I've done it, once again couldn't have pulled it off without [livejournal.com profile] xanthipe. We've got a very good balance and rhythm as a GM pair, the right mixture of organisation, communication and mutual support to make it all work.

The take away other than basking in everyone else's enjoyment and appreciation, is that I wait with hope and fear the next good larp idea that grabs me. Hope because when you get a good idea and it really works, it's am amazing feeling, fear because I set myself such high standards of games I can hit, and I know at times I fall far shorter than I like.
same_difference: (Me.)
I feel a need to make a list of the things that are currently eating headspace/or that I've committed to. If only to prompt me to get myself organised and get me out of perpetual fire fighting mode. Or at the very least so I can identify some goals to get done by the end of August, so I can see if I can go with the never stop and rest approach for that month and see how well I can sustain it, and how productive it ends up being.

Projects:
Future Reverberations larp - progressing well generally. I think I'd like to be further through planning and fic writing with Xanthipe, but we're certainly not behind where we need to be. Hoping the do nothing holiday in Spain with Rachael's family will let me get the bulk of statting/a whole bunch of future visions done; fear this may be wishful thinking.
Worship No Other Boardgame. I've got the card layouts now, need to do the work to get them into a state I can easily/quickly apply the card text, and make an initial short list of publishers to submit to. Probably worth looking into what options they are for printing/manufacturing in the UK if publishers comer to nothing and I attempt the kickstarter route.
Unnamed Space themed auction worker placement boardgame. Consists of a rules document and a single rough play test. Shows lots of promise, so I need to do the work of fleshing it out based upon initial impressions and begin the iterative development cycle. Will need a fair bit of math to work our how to balance the scoring. Suspect it will be a better game that Worship No other if I get it right.
All that unfinished cosplay and other sewing projects. Guest room is almost at a state I can start using it for that. Need to pick a project and try and get it to completion. Maybe pick an evening a week for that? Need to particularly define the AC2 Brotherhood Cesare Borgia costume project plan.

House:
Cleaning. I've got a sizeable ironing back log, several things need to be cleaned that haven't been cleaned in too long now (mostly oven), need to get into regular routine for certain jobs. Bank holiday weekend is my next weekend when I might get a chance.
Improvements. There's a long list of things that need doing, some of them probably 5 years old at least. I need to try and pick one a week to try and get it sorted - guest room is a success though.
Garden. Is back to the 'ah I didn't look at it for 2 months everything is overgrown' stage again. Ultimately need to decide what I want to do with it. Maybe set aside a couple of hours a week of just working at it? Need to decide how best to make use of the 1 day of labour from Nat and 10 hours of labour from neighbours to get this done.
Car. Could use a clean, maybe bank holiday weekend job/maybe evening job?

Hobbies:
Gaming. Resisting buying new games, slowly slowly working through back log.
Larp. Not happening as much as I'd like, getting better at going when Sunday has no other plans, so as much as possible is probably sufficient.
Tabletop. Mistborn great and fortunately unfortunately irregular. Wish it was more often, but my time is as limited as the players. Dark heresy fun, feel bad it's not the mini campaign Cat planned. Unnamed tabletop with Liz, Jack, Scarlett and Rachael still in the want to do nothing organised stage. Need to find a nice relatively simple system, and agree a time and place.
Cosplay - see projects
Game design - see projects
Boardgaming - managing fairly frequent social nights/weekends, would like to play with a wider variety of people.
Reading - finishing book 2 of The Stormlight Archive, have another 5 fatish fantasy books to read. Have come to realise that Sanderson's plans means I'll be reading novels of his in my 50's and maybe in my 60's before he completes the full 36 Cosmere related books he has planned. Conclusion, will be reading new Sanderson books for most of the rest of my life, this is no bad thing.

Exercise:
Walking down the hill to work, need to bite the bullet and start walking back too, but that then costs me 30-45 minutes in evening in recovery time from walk. Also warm bad.
Swimming, have gone once this year, plan to swim as much as possible in Spain, need to swim more.
Larp - sort of counts right?
Joining the Louisa gym. Seems like an excellent plan, have no idea of when I'd have time to go/how to make time to go. Will be easier if I can get back to getting into work at 8:30 rather than 10.
Kettle bells and the Dan-su exercise regime. Need to do this again, intention is no larp Sunday's at minimum - except non-larp Sunday's are normally away Sunday's...

Other concerns:
Thank yous. So behind in wedding thank yous, need to do them, because they are important and then they'll be done. This is a lovely source of guilt and stress.
Honeymoon. We really really need to get on with booking it or New Zealand is not going to happen, or will happen at more expense. This is a growing source of stress.
Scube diving lessons. This years birthday present. Step 2 in operation swim with sharks. Need to work out a time to go.

Socialising
Too many wonderful people, not enough time. Doing sufficient time it seems, but would always be happy with more.
same_difference: (Me.)
Not something I would usually choose to write about, but with Rachael away I need to get it out of my head so I can sleep.

It's finally clicked that I've effectively been conditioned to feel insulted whenever a certain person utters one of a small set of phrases, or uses a particular tone of voice. Conditioning that also encourages my natural quiet state in group conversations, because to make comment is to provide opportunity to contradict or undermine my opinions. The conditioning has taken years of low level bullying through passive aggressive behaviour, and body language combined with physical positioning designed to make me feel outside and not included (say hello teenage mental hangups, haven't see you in a while). Conditioned so that I know I have been insulted, delivered in a way that no one else should have any reason to register anything has happened, unless they have an understanding of the situation. Always delivered in social situations as that's where the only chance of real interactions has been in the last few years, but also as it limits any opportunity for confrontation without disrupting the situation or unfairly ruining the mood for anyone else.

I've gone back and forth on how intentional it is, but that doesn't change the nature of the beast, nor does the intention really matter. It's born out of dislike, and has once crossed lines that mean if there was an opportunity for reconciliation I wouldn't be able to take it. It's out of my control, beyond just minimising contact, so I continue to work on Zen acceptance of it such as I can. Remembering the Serenity Prayer* to help me reclaim inner peace, and to let the passage of time heal the sting of the insult. Remembering that good friends and the good will they have far out ways this one insignificant view of an irrelevant petty person.

But I have been insulted during a gathering of friends, conditioned to hear the insult where no one else would, I feel it's sting and I do not want it.

But I was able to both get necessary things done and spend the majority of the day surrounded by friends, and really that's the bit that matters.

*Maybe the only useful thing I took out of primary and secondary Roman Catholic religious education, and it was simply on a poster on a wall.
same_difference: (Me.)
One of the things about having lead a charmed life or at least one I perceive to be charmed is an acute awareness of how one is one's own architect of one's own downfall. In this case the fact I tend to only be organised along certain axises or more accurately that I am disorganised along certain axises (anything I don't plan myself or sort as soon as it occurs) is why I'm writing this from a hotel in Belfast.

This morning while checking us in for our flight to Prague tomorrow, Rachael spotted that my passport had expired 2 months ago. This resulted in panic for me and tears for her; followed by calls to the Passport office; the discovery that my only way to definitely go on our minimoon was to be at an appointment in the Belfast passport office at 8:30am on Friday; research into flights; a call to Easyjet to get confirmation I wouldn't need a passport for Belfast; getting permission to take 1.5 days holiday at no notice from my lovely work; booking one of the last 5 seats and a cheap hotel; a slightly frantic hour in town getting a form, passport photos, cash for Belfast, Euros for Prague and a toothbrush; asking my Mum for a lift to the airport; heading home to realise Rachael had my keys*; getting them and my passport from her at get school; quick minamalist packing; returning house keys to Rachael; a journey behind learners and tractors; then an 80 minute wait at the airport; a flight; and some very friendly helpful people in NI to get me where I am now.

*Rachael had forgotten her keys, but was due to meet me in town after work so wouldn't need them, then realised she forgot her purse so couldn't go into town, then it didn't matter because my mistake was orders of magnitudes worse.

There are lessons to learn like keeping an eye on passport expiry dates and as lessons learned goes is been an expensive one in time, holiday allowance and money (2 last minute flights, a hotel room for 1 night, the cost of a premium (4 hours to get the document) passport renewal, meals out, taxis to get around makes for around £450-500 unplanned spend). I could make excuses about distractions in the last few months, and infrequent need but none of these were unmanageable and my fault is clear and I owe Rachael a lot for causing this error. However happiness is about perspective. It's solvable. I'm doing all the right things to get it sorted by acting rationally and decisively. I have people who I can rely on in an emergency. The minimoon is not been abandoned at a cost of the nonrefundable flights and hotel £600-700ish), and I won't need to sort my passport or for a decade. I have an amazingly understanding and accommodating job and colleagues. A patient and forgiving wife. Plus and life is always ready to offer to give you perspective if you're paying attention, at least my country isn't in the middle of a coup complete with martial law and curfews as a friend of mine is experiencing.

Plus now I'm here might add well spend some of tomorrow doing touristy things in Belfasr, and I'll have a story to tell.
same_difference: (Me.)
So finally got to run a game of the Mistborn RPG system the weekend before I started writing this back in January (oops!), having spent the preceding couple of months wrangling my players into creating their characters and designed their heist largely in advance.

I have to say I'm really impressed with the system. It works well; handles a wide variety of situations in a straightforward manner; is narrative rather than rulesy but without being woolly; and really captures the feel of both the novels and of classic heist movies.

Thoughts on the system )

Yeah, so in summary the system works well and really captures the feel of the books.

The first heist )

In summary the crew pulled off their first heist pretty successfully, and have found themselves with a whole new set of opportunities and problems of their own devising.
same_difference: (Me.)
Going to try and write something about the wedding soon, need to get as many things down as I can while it's still fresh, just on another night when I'm less tired.

I've never been happier or more relaxed to have my photo taken than I was throughout Saturday, and I'm really enjoying seeing everything everyone has taken. There's just the fact I still don't recognise the person in them as me, like I'm looking at a parallel universe of the day. Ah well I mostly find myself looking at Rachael in them anyway.

10 days

Apr. 16th, 2014 11:12 pm
same_difference: (Me.)
Weird to think that in 10 days time at this point the evening would be winding down for the end of the wedding.

Also have I think now fully internalised the whole you will see no one at your wedding, working out just spending 3 minutes with each of the day guests would take 5.5hrs has done a good job of that.

Left to do:
- Final suit is still ok fitting Friday.
- Collect suits Tuesday.
- Purchase thank you presents for John, Andy and my Aunts making the cakes.
- Work out what to get Jack and Judith as thank you gifts.
- Burn the songs for the ceremony on two CDs.
- Make up about 30m of the book page table runners.
- Call Grittleton to confirm what rooms we have for sticking board games in.
- Send a final email to the DJ with updated song requests.
- Write my speech
- Write the quiz questions

The last two I can do on my train journeys tomorrow. Off to London for company away day and social thing in the evening, not looking forward to being up at 6am for that train. New job is good so far, will write more post wedding.
same_difference: (Me.)
Start my new job tomorrow, which I'm genuinely looking forward to doing. Starting at 10am on the first day helps too.

Wedding stuff appears to be mostly in hand. Things that are left:

- Confirm final details with the venue on Thursday evening.
- Confirm the hog roast booking details.
- Have my Stag do (And Rachael her Hen do).
- Write my speech.
- Collect rings in a couple of weeks.
- Check fitting of suits a week before.
- Make some table decorations.
- Make a quiz.
- Wedding List

Nothing else I can think of right now.
same_difference: (Me.)
So what with it now being somewhat less than 6 months till the wedding thought I probably ought to post about it, if only to remind myself what needs doing. [livejournal.com profile] purplegirl23's mum is largely keeping us on track, so I can never be entirely sure if we doing things at a reasonable pace or massively early on somethings.

Done:
Venue booked
Evening Hog Roast booked (though need to finalise numbers)
Accommodation booked
Menu for the day chosen
Day Invites have been sent (And we have most of the replies)
Website done (though I need to go back and add photos)
Flowers booked, awaiting them to come back with the first trial.
Photographers sorted.
Favours booked, and a tasty trial had in the process

Being done:
Suit hire to finalise (though I have booked a trial)
Stag do (I should do more to help organise really)

To do:
Rings
Table centres/decorations to decide/make/acquire
Speech
Evening invites
Seating plan
Vows (And generally double checking what we need to do with the registrar)

Nearly 30

May. 13th, 2013 11:42 pm
same_difference: (Me.)
So tomorrow I turn 30. Which to be honest is just a number, given significance due to the base 10 system we tend to use for general counting. I tend to hold to the view that birthday's happen regardless so either ignore them or enjoy them but don't let them upset you; though I stick to the enjoy them camp personally. Plus I write this knowing that I'll feel somewhat different in two years time when my younger brother turns 30, and my sister hits a different mile stone age. That'll be weird. My being 30 not so much.*

*Also it helps having parents and many uncles and aunts in their 60's and a granddad working through his 90's redefining what old age means.

I suppose it would be natural, or maybe just expected, to take stock; I mean this journal charts some nearly 10 years of my life, but I've got no need to go back and read all of it. I'm currently engaged; I have many and varied great friends (and numerous interesting acquaintances); I own a great house; I have a good job I generally enjoy that pays me a pleasant amount; my health is better than I perhaps deserve given how little effort I've really spent maintaining it. Things are good, they could be better, there are always areas of self improvement of course, but as always I only have to look around a little to feel I shouldn't complain (and I really should do more for others). I have no bucket list, I don't see the point, not that there aren't things I want to achieve (there are) but I don't feel the pressure that I suppose bucket lists always imply to me, to have achieved them by a certain date or somehow have failed at life. I've spent my life generally doing things I enjoy, working hard (though perhaps not hard enough or at least as hard I could) when I've needed to and living the kind of life that appeals to me. I got better at not wasting time these last few years, what I need to do going forward is get better at prioritising my time, so that the things I want to do and need to do get done, instead whatever I feel like at the time.

So I think I'll turn 30 and set myself some goals, so when I hit 40, and 50 and however many multiples of 10 I manage, I can look back with the same calm happy serenity I can generally view my life with as I do now.

So:
- be everything Rachael deserves and more
- prioritise better
- be more reliable
- be less selfish with my time
- learn more (so much fascinating science/world/universe and not enough time spent learning it/about it)
- maintain and improve all my wonderful friendships
- be healthier

That ought to do I think. For a decade or so at least.
same_difference: (Me.)
I've had a really good weekend, probably nearly* the ideal weekend in many ways. It was that good mix of productive and social-able. It wasn't restful, but restful and productive then be either-ors I find. So it being a good weekend and with nothing else I particularly need to do right now (See aforementioned productiveness) I'd thought I'd actually get down to writing something for a change.

*could have done with a bit more Rachael, as she was away Friday evening and only back late Saturday.

Friday evening was somewhat sleepy, but I managed to do the remaining washing up, a little bit of ironing, a little bit of gaming and make a batch of bolognese.

Saturday I had through persistence/fortune managed to find a time where both Alex and Nat, and Steve and Cat were free and happy to come around for dinner. After waking up an a reasonable time, and a shortish (45mins or so) reading* in bed lie in, I got up got ready headed out to acquire some ingredients for curry, and got back shortly before 12. What followed was a quick meal and then my managing to do the following: Demildewed the tiles around the shower, hoovered the house, cleaned the cooker top, washed the kitchen, utilities and bathroom floors, tidied the lounge, and ironed about three loads of washing** and finished about 5 minutes before Cat and Steve turned up sometime after 7.

*Currently reading the collection of Pratchett short stories - I may have started with the Discworld ones
**While watching one of the Dara O'Briain DVDs.

Alex and Nat turned up a little later, and I prepared steak and spaghetti with a bit of bolognese (and I hadn't quite enough steak for 5). The steak and spaghetti involves making a sauce out of the leavings in the steak pan, a stock cube, some pepper and the starchy pasta water, and using it to coat and finish cooking the pasta. This was accompanied by one of the bottles of wine my grandad has made. Nat had also provided a simple but delicious Steve friendly apple desert. The food was tasty, the wine excellent, the steak (some rib eye from a local butcher) was gorgeous, and there was an evening full of good chatting, and a brief board game. The evening did that thing good evenings do where they suddenly turn out to be much later than people expected as time has whisked by in pleasant company, resulting in a bed time at about 1am.

Today involved waking up surprisingly early, considering the night before, and I was up at 8:30. After breakfasting and sorting out the washing up, started the process of making curry for the next evening, as it would be our turn to host the Monday night watching interest TV shows for our group of 9 (Well 8 as one is away tomorrow). Preparing the meat took longer than planned, and so I was still making curry when people turned up. Tomorrow is [livejournal.com profile] nert's birthday, and Joe had suggested a big meet up to celebrate and we offered to host to having the largest space, with the decent sized table for gaming in the same room. I ended up teaching Nikki how I make my curries (well how I make the curries the way my Dad taught me), and before too long we had 14 people chatting, playing games, and snacking on the collaborative efforts everyone had bought. It's very gratifying getting to host, and something very sastisfying at knowing that there's room here for big gatherings.

Now I get to collapse quietly and relax.
same_difference: (Default)
So a little while ago I completed an exceedingly busy month and had some time to write about it. Then I did some other things, so now I'm finishing it off. So since getting engaged I've finished my time with old job, started my new job, gone to a wedding, gone to a convention then ran a weekend long larp, then had a relaxing couple of weeks.

Change of job )

Jennie's wedding )

Amecon 2012 )

The 36 hour I think I'll write about separately in the near future.

Engaged

Jul. 23rd, 2012 02:42 pm
same_difference: (Default)
So I'm sure almost everyone should know as of Sunday the 15th Rachael and I are engaged.

It's something I've been thinking about for a while. Definitely not a snap decision. Partly this was about making sure for myself how I felt, and partly this was due to experience in the last long term relationship I had. What that was like at the time, and how that ended made me much more cautious generally. Which is certainly not a bad thing. I've been together with Rachael for a little over four and a half years now, I've lived with her for more than half of that and she was with me, supporting me and assisting me through the whole house renovation process and everything that's followed. So yeah by early this year I was definitely certain about her.

How I asked )

It doesn't need saying but I am of course both very happy and very lucky. The day couldn't have gone better if I'd planned each detail.
same_difference: (Default)
I'm sure this will get less attention than the next post, so I'll write this one first.

Last Thursday I got confirmation of my start date with the new job, and that all of my references/CRB checking had gone through fine. Which is good, because the references had turned out to be a pointlessly awkward process.

So new job has a part time head of HR, and use BackCheck to do their reference checking. I'm making an assumption that these facts are related here. Anyway I had to fill out a 4-page form.

So first page is name, address and past address details. All fairly standard.
Next form asks for three references giving your last immediate manager names, so I put down the names of my two current project managers and my career development manager. All from the same company as that's the only place I've worked since graduating. Now I was aware that my company only do a standard boilerplate 'yes he worked here and on these projects' response to reference requests, but I thought that's all fairly standard that won't be a problem. Foolish me.
Anyway form three asks for my GCSE and A-Level results and the examining body. This to me seemed largely irrelevant, but thankfully my parents keep all the certificates so I could find it out. If they hadn't I'd have been stuck, I can remember the overall marks I got, and the 12 GCSE and 3 and 2 1/2 A-level's but I can't remember which mark goes with which subject let alone the examining body.
Finally form four wants my university mark, yep ok fine, and my student number... Yeah really glad my parents had kept an old letter about my course otherwise that would have been a headache to find.

So form is completed and posted off and I think no more of it. Until I get an email saying they'd like two more references, followed about an hour later (during which time they'd actually called my first reference) asking for three more references. Turns out they want to interview my references and don't deal with standard HR responses. For a company who do nothing but check backgrounds this seems like a fairly major flaw in their processes. So I reply stating that there aren't any other options for work related references (unless I track down people who have previously left) so what they want me to do? They reply personal references are also acceptable. Fine says I, would three personal references be ok then? Sure they reply as long as your new HR person agrees. Her reply; that she'd quite like to actually see the reference from my previous employer. So I get current job to email new job and bypass BackCheck entirely.

Now I unfortunately missed up a couple of numbers when giving the references, and from the sound of it the reference interviews were odd, but not too time consuming (thanks for doing them again).

Still though so much unnecessary faff.
same_difference: (Default)
You know it's got to the point where I'm genuinely concerned I'm reusing LJ entry titles. No idea why it concerns me, just shows how long I've been updating this. Obviously updates are much more sparse these days, but I still want to make use of it, so entry time.

Let me see what have I been doing since I last wrote anything:

Well the big news, that chances are almost everyone knows about (as the number of people I have here, who aren't on other social media sites is small) is I got myself a new job, after nearly 7 years of working for the company I worked for since I graduated. I'm currently about half way through my notice period with my last working day due to be the 19th of July. New job starts on the 24th, so I've got all of two weekdays to practice the journey. Speaking to someone I know who regularly makes a similar trip, the commute might actually be shorter than I'm expecting (40-45 mins rush hour, rather than 60) so that will be good. New job is based in a small village (Kington Langely) about 5 minutes north of Chippenham, in a series of converted buildings on a working farm. The work is still programming, but this is a products rather than services company (or in other words they make things, rather than sell staff) who do not-Oyster cards (so things which look and act a lot like the Oyster card, but aren't the Oyster card).

My reasons for wanting to leave my current job are four-fold:

1) Location certainty. I want to know where I'm working month to month so I can make long term plans (and to be honest I don't like uncertainty and change), and while I'm losing the ability to walk to work (when work is in Bath) and go to town at lunch, I'm gaining a commute I've chosen (so no Newport, Basingstoke, London, Swindon or Southampton for example) and lunch time walks in the country side. It says a lot about a company that gave me less than 24 hours notice that I was working in London, and rarely gives more than a handful of days notice for projects generally, could tell me months in advance what and where my next project was likely to be when I resigned.
2) Money. It's rapidly come to my attention that I need more of it, and changes at current/soon to be old job have made pay rises less likely, and my salary growth has not been as I had been hoping these last couple of years (i.e. there hasn't been any). Not that I'm not comparatively well paid (because I am), but that looking to the future I don't see how I'm going to afford any sort of retirement (assuming it still exists when I get there) with where I am now and the career path I was on. Looking at my parents, particularly my Dad who has worked incredibly hard and had some very well paid jobs, the collective result of the various pensions (while pretty good) is certainly not what he would have once expected (given all the final salary schemes he's contributed to, etc) and in reality my parents retirement income is really going to be the student houses they still rent. So I'm looking at the relatively small pension contributions I've been making (because I've needed the money in my pocket for other things) and it's pretty clear that this is not going to go very far when I get there, and that's without considering all the other things likely to happen in the intervening years to further devalue it. Everyone has different senses of what enough money is, and ultimately you live to match your means (or you exceed them and have real problems), but at the moment doing a fairly standard piece of work to my house consumes a good 18-24 months-ish worth of savings, and puts me back at square one. Square one being I can't then afford to really do much else. Short term I'm going to have to save aggressively to be able to pay off the car by April next year, after spending something like 7-8 grand doing the roof and the back porch area in the last few months. Long term though marriage and kids is something that is wanted and that's going to be a whole other set of costs. So I'm looking at the future and realising that as far away as it is at the moment, I've got to start planning in the next few years to have anything to look forward to when I get to stop working.* Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, I have nothing to complain about in this regard (I'm doing very well), but this is where my thinking has got to in the last year or so, and is why I've gone from feeling happy to just go do my job and come home, to really deciding to get on and make a career for myself.
3) I'm jaded. I've got to the point when I view all the decisions made by the company's management in a pessimistic light, and to put it simply I've got fed up for working for Smeagol. The things they say they want to achieve can be nice and positive and generally good to hear, but the business reality is all Gollum. To take some things from my resignation chat I had with one of the senior managers, for example, he told me how they try and consider things like young families etc when assigning projects, but that didn't stop them from selling one of the other graduates I joined with to a project based in Basingstoke so he spent 9 out of the first 12 months of his first daughter's (and first child's) life taking a two hour train journey there and back, and barely seeing her as a result.
4) There are nicer companies to work for. For a while working as a subcontractor for other companies made me appreciate my job more, because after all I could be working for one of those companies and that would be awful. Then though I started encountering really nice places, places I'd happily be employed by if they just weren't in Basingstoke or London. So it hit me, if there are other nice, and potentially nicer companies, why should I stay working somewhere that's generally nice, but can send me off to companies that are either kind of horrid, or just located horribly, when I could try and find somewhere nice to work at all the time. In fact trading off to somewhere less nice on average, but without the pits of potential horribleness, would be an entirely reasonable trade too.

*Of course when Rachael's becomes a published children's author she might be one of the lucky few to earns lots. If that happens then all these concerns become moot. Still while I have absolutely no doubt she will be published I'm under no illusions how unlikely it is to be one of those top few authors that really skews the earning figures.**

**Average author's salary: £16k, average author's salary excluding the really big earners: £4k. Writing books is not about the financial rewards.

The job hunting process was weird over all. I took [livejournal.com profile] gunstarvixen's advice. Wrote my CV had her check over it, and stuck it up on a job site, and let recruiters come to me. I wasn't prepared for the rush, 30 odd emails and two phone calls by 8:30 of the morning after my CV went up. In the end the job hunt went as follows:

1) Technical phone interview with place in central Bristol of nothing but Java questions which I sucked at. For reference this was the first technical phone interview I'd done, well first phone interview generally.
2) Unexpected face to face follow up interview with place in central Bristol, got rejected.
3) Phone interview for soon to be new job.
4) Technical phone interview on Java by a well known phone manufacturer, got rejected for not being madly in love with Java.
5) Face to face interview in Bradley Stoke, all credit for giving me a technical test that involved handing me a laptop with an IDE running, instead of asking me to code on paper.
6) Face to interview with soon to be new job, on the afternoon of the morning after 5), got told they might not need to do third interview due to interviewing me with extra interviewer. Got offer couple of hours later.

The whole process took just over a month I think (CV up on the 23rd April, offer received on the 31st of May), so surprisingly quick all told. The nice thing was each preceding interview either got me to learn/relearn something I hadn't known/couldn't remember when asked, helped me practice interviews generally, but also help me get a better handle on what atmosphere of company I wanted to work for. The biggest headache I had with the process was the nature of my current job has made me a generalist who learns quickly. Recruiters want to pigeon hole you so you're easy to sell, and it's simple to decide which jobs to suggest to you. These things aren't entirely compatible.

Other highlights over the last few months:

We had our roof redone, and gained a massive Velux window in the process, which makes out loft infinitely more useable. (We'd had it floored the end of last year and had being using it to store things, but decent light up there is such an improvement). We are currently having the back porch area redone, will have to paint it this Saturday but we are finally getting near to the point we can have our washing machine in the house rather than the garage. So looking forward to our washing machine not freezing over winter.

We went to Mike and Amber's wedding at the end of March. It was lovely, they seemed incredibly happy, and they had mostly friends for the bulk of the day, which is good considering the massive family pressure*** they'd had the whole way through planning it. The food was good to, and I say this as a veteran assessor of the quality of wedding food (as are much of my immediate family).

***The grooms words to me about his family and the wedding a couple of weeks before was (approximately) thusly, "I don't understand it, they've been real dicks."

More recently we had a short break in Worthing for Lou and Paul's wedding. Once again both seemed very happy, the wedding was very very much there day, the assorted table decorations of toys caused much amusement, and the food (a carvery) wasn't something I could find fault with.

Still have two weddings left this year. The first, Rachael's sisters, I am concerned there could be drama considering the mother of the groom generally and the very acrimonious divorce of the grooms parents. Plus there has already been some family drama that has put a couple of dampeners on things; still as long as it avoids some of the traditional aspects of Welsh weddings (of which I had a very instructive instruction a couple of years ago at Rachael's cousin's wedding - the father of the bride's speech + him making sex jokes about the bride + my being sat next to Rachael's grandparents = NO THANK YOU) I'm sure it will be good. Still if the speeches are toned down somewhat between the red colour scheme, the welsh love spoons as favours, the welsh venue and welsh family, there will be no shortage of welshness to go around. The last, well I just hope that the whole thing proceeds as unstressfully as possible for the two of them, because they both deserve a nice, relatively straightforward, endlessly happy day.

August is getting closer and there's a lot of business coming, which unfortunately seems to be making me unmotivated and apathetic currently. Rachael's sister's wedding first week end of August, then Amecon the weekend after, then my 36 hour larp weekend the week after that. There is a lot of planning, and work to do, for the latter two of those, and considering I want to focus on new job, this means I really need to get on with and have them sorted by the end of the 23rd July. Hopefully writing this post will be the first step of just knuckling down to get on with things. Still if I'm online on MSN, feel free to gently remind me I should be planning the larp.

Starting new job is going to be interesting. 3 month probationary period, and while they don't normally allow holiday during that time, they would like me to start ASAP, and so would rather I start and take the holiday than wait 4 more weeks for it to be done. The end result is the start of new job goes like this:

Week 1: Start on Tuesday: I wanted time off to practice the journey, they want to induct me on Tuesday so Tuesday start it is. Result 4 day week.
Week 2: Had said I need the Friday off, but that's only to be in Wales the day before the wedding. Can afford to not take the holiday so probably won't. 5 Day week.
Week 3: Amecon, have Thursday and Friday booked off, do think the extra day beforehand will be needed. 3 day week.
Week 4: Amecon finishes late Sunday, so coming back Monday. Friday 36 hour that I'm running, need the day off. 3 day week.
Week 5: Recovering from 36 hour so Monday off. 4 day week.
Week 6: August bank holiday. 4 day week.

So yep the first half of my probationary period I'm only going to be working a single full week. That's going to be interesting I suspect.

Well that's everything for now I think. May have more news soon. Will certainly have a rant about background check company stupidity. You never know might update more than once this month!
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