From Then to Now … Decisions, Decisions


It’s the end of March and things had not got much better. Our usual whole-team meetings were now bi-monthly and there were rumours flying around about possible job losses. The head of our service had called a special meeting as he put it “To discuss certain issues!” He was quite up front from the start. The department had to save £XYZ the next financial year and that there could/would be job cuts. But there was good news too. The Early Leavers Initiative (see this post) that I had been rejected for was now looking at every application with a view to acceptance. The caveat was that it was a time-limited offer and we would have to work fast, because after the offer finished, the early link to the work pension would no longer be available.

My initial reaction was not a very positive one. I took the view that I was too important before, so I was too important now! After my initial thoughts had calmed down a little, I talked it over with my wife and decided that there was no harm in applying again, especially as I was no longer IT ‘king-pin’ that has been before my heart operation. And of course, if I was not happy with the offer I would be getting, I could always refuse it and carry on.

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The offer came through at the end of April and it was about what we were expecting. So after more talk and lot of soul searching, we decided it was the best thing. We decided that I should carry on until the end of October as this would give us more time to make any plans we needed. My idea was that I would take about 6 months off, doing jobs around the house that I had not had time to do, then start to look for some part-time work. I knew that after half a year, I could possibly apply for my old job back in a part-time capacity, but that thought never got off the ground at all.

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So after about 1 year of jobs and taking it easy (sometimes) I started to look for something paid to do. This wasn’t going to be easy. I had applied certain conditions to the job search. I could not work weekends (my wife worked Sundays, and Saturday was our ‘family day’). Evenings were also out as I just didn’t want evening work and I only wanted to work a maximum of 14 hours, over a 2 day period. This did limit the kind of work that was available. I also did not want a managerial/supervisory responsibility which limited it even further. It was nearly another year before I was successful.

From then to now …


With Christmas out of the way, I was now waiting for my transfer date. It had been my understanding that I was to move straight after the holiday. However, because of some delay with software I was to be testing. It was mid February when I took up my temporary position. The software was intended for residents so that they would be able to know when their bins were due to emptied.

Everything started well. I was able to work with my old team more easily than before, with being on the same site. The testing I was to work on was quite easy. The software company had listed the steps that were needed to do the tests, and it was simply a case of run through the list, making notes, until it broke. And ‘broke‘ it did! Often! When we came up with a problem, the full detailed notes were sent off and we waited for the next version to be delivered. This went on for about 6 months before the first beta version was put out for external testers. More problems were reported and so it went on. The testing and re-testing plodded on for a full year. Each time an issue was raised then a new version was produced, and the time it took to produce the latest beta was taking longer and longer. It was February 2016 when the first final version was put ‘on the shelves’ and could be downloaded.

Alongside this I was also working testing parts of the internal system and helping sort the IT problems that were happening with the Parking team. I was also expected to pick up some of the Housing IT issues, but I could always find a reason to miss these.

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Then came the moment, I was dreading. I was being recalled back to the main site, to carry on my main work. I was not happy and on the 29th February 2016 I was back in the City Centre office. But by now I had a little more knowledge and it was a little easier. The downside was that the person who had helped me the most, had been seconded to another team and didn’t have much time to help me. It was back to being helped by my old adversary “Nellie”.

But … things were about to change…

From then to now … all change


Within a few weeks, and a lot quicker than I imagined, I was ‘invited’ to attend an interview. It was one of those interviews where you know you have got the job from the very start. The team I was to be Interviewworking in were basically an IT help-desk for part of the councils Environmental Services department. We were the people that ‘sorted’ the problems that Environmental Health officers had with the software they used. ImprovingI found it difficult as a lot of the problems that cropped up were down to errors in the software, rather than user errors. To fix these, I needed to know the programming side of the software. Although I did know some programming techniques, the ones needed were far more complicated. There were five of us, and although I kept my grade, I was back at the bottom of the pile. I have to admit I struggled for the first couple of months, but gradually I began to gain more knowledge and my confidence increased.

Then it all went wrong again!

The departmental heads still had to save money, and so our little IT support team (as we liked to call Helpdesk teamourselves) were to be merged with a much larger team that supported all of the Environmental service areas and also the councils Housing department. We went from being a team of five to be part of a team of over forty. This was a real help-desk job now. Sat in an office with a laptop, smart-phone and a head-set with a whole range of new software to learn. I knew from the start that it was not the job for me. I spent most of the time trying to understand the new work and really not getting very far.

And then the day of my heart operation arrived (see this thread for more) I was going to be off work for three months while I recovered, which was going to be an ideal time to find something I was more at home with. Or so I thought.

From then to now … getting the hang of it


For the first few weeks, I felt a little out of place. All the team I was with, bar one had been office workers since leaving school and most of them had been with a Local Authority, so I was a bit of an oddity. Most of them couldn’t seem to get their heads around why, with the qualifications I had, would I want to work in an office. This was something that had been explained to us on the course and so I was expecting it. They soon got over it within a couple of weeks, and I settled down to become an “Officer of The Council” as we were called.

The briefcase was the first thing to be ditched, quickly followed by the fountain pen and dictionary. I had also bought a Rucksacksuit and I soldiered on with that for a couple of months. We shared our office floor with a couple of other sections of the Council and I soon discovered that literally nobody carried a briefcase. Most of the women had some form of shopping/tote bag to supplement their handbag , but the men didn’t seem to have bags at all. I still had my lunch and calculator to carry, so I needed something. I eventually dug out my old school bag, which was one of those thick canvas army types that we used to be able to get from the Army and Navy stores. Now what ever happened to them?

It had been noted at my interview, that I had an interest in computers and technology. This of course led to me being given a ‘very important job’. Everyday, at 4pm I was to  perform the database back-up. Because IBM Computerthere was two types of parking ticket (on-street and car parks) we had two computer systems. The reason for this was that back in 1986 the on-street parking service (parking meters) merged with the off-street car parks service. Each brought their own systems which were not compatible. So the off-street system (car parks) used Microsoft Windows 2.1 and a software package called DataEase, dBase 2 screenwhereas the on-street part of the team had an old IBM machine that ran a program called dBase. It also ran Wordstar and Supercalc, but we never used them. It was dBase 2 that we had, but it was not like the other system which had it’s own built in back-up routine. No with this one, you first had to ‘drop out’ of the database and jump to a ‘DOS prompt’ Then you had to ‘Setpath’ which basically told the computer where to look and then type the back-up command. This had to be exact and had the location of the file to be backed-up, and the location where it was to be backed-up to. You then had to verify the back-up by following a similar routine.

It took me a couple of months before I realised that I could write a batch file to do all the leg work. When it worked first IT Experttime, I was a hero. I had shaved a good 10 minutes of the time and it was far more accurate.. The only downside to this was that I was now the Parking Departments IT expert! Everything from changing the computer plug filing the back-up discs to replacing the printer toner was now my job. I even got asked to ‘have a quick look’ at the photocopier. Other staff started to come to me with their IT related problems and I came to the attention of the IT Department. I was now the unofficial IT support (more on that later) for Parking. If IT wanted any small work doing, then I got the call and was talked through the problem and solutions. I was loving it.

Never usually bother …


Not quite the whole story … I never bother for small amounts! I’m talking about eBay purchases that go wrong. If the sum is less than £10.00, I tend to put it down to experience ebayand never use that seller again. I have a personal blacklist that I refer to when I’m buying something, and add new sellers that don’t come up to the mark.

About a month ago, one of my computer mice (or is it mouses?) started to fail. It was only a cheap wireless-mouseone, but it had lasted about two years. I thought at first it was just a bad battery, but it wasn’t and it had to be consigned to the “Tech Bin” for disposal when I next go to the recycling site. I started using a wired one, but it’s not the same after a wireless one so I looked on my favourite selling site … eBay! There were quite a few for sale within my price range, but I spotted an seller offering two for the price of one, or ‘make me an offer’. I made an offer, and it was accepted. I was well pleased with myself.

They arrived after about two weeks, and as they were coming from China, I thought that was an acceptable length of time. Now for the crux of the matter … they did not work. Angry FaceThe computer could not see either mouse. The seller started nattering a bit about feedback for the sale, so I simply put in the feedback box ‘Don’t work’ and gave it a neutral rating. I thought no more about it and left it at that. Meanwhile, my original mouse had been borrowed by a friend who had taken it to pieces and cleaned some part or other, and handed it back in full working order.

Skip forward to this morning, and an eBay message from the seller asking if I could amend the Refundfeedback, and he would issue a refund. After a bit of messing around with eBay, the said feedback was amended to something like ‘issue resolved with seller’. Within ten minutes I received an email from PayPal to say that I had received a full refund from the seller. I was surprised to say the least and there has not been a request to return the faulty goods.

So I have now raised an issue with another seller regarding another piece of IT equipment that I’m having a problem with. We shall see how that goes.

Can’t believe it worked …


This might get a little bit ‘techy’ so look away now, if you’re uninterested.

The youngest son has two laptop computers. He has an old Windows 7 machine that he keeps in his bedroom. He uses it to watch YouTube videos, and that’s about all. His other machine is a Windows 10 laptop thatNontworking lappy he takes when he is on respite and sleeping away. Some months ago, we got a message that the laptop he took away had a problem. When he got home I found that the machine was stuck in a ‘Repairing Windows’ loop. The IT people at his respite could do nothing with it and neither could I. So for the past six months it has sat at the back of the sofa doing nothing.

Fast forward to the beginning of November and an interesting article on a news-feed that I subscribe to. The article related to updating Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10, for free. The so called ‘offer’ from Microsoft(MS) to upgrade to Windows 10 expired some time last year, but the article explained that it was still available, and it gave instructions on how to get it. After reading the article a few times, I began to think that I may be able to do something with the trashed laptop. At worst it would still be trashed and at best it could  be a working laptop.

I downloaded the files and yesterday I bit the bullet and began the process. I was expecting the task to take 4 or 5 hours, but in the end it took just over 3 hours. It actually worked!! Of course, there were a few issues that made the process difficult. working againNot least, the laptop battery expiring when I was trying to login with my current MS account. By 21:50 the machine was up and running with the latest Windows 10 operating system. As you may imagine, I was beside myself with joy. I could not believe that it had worked. I rebooted the machine again and it was still working. I installed a couple of bits of software that I knew was needed and rebooted aging. Still working !

So I go to bed thinking that I’m a genius.

This morning, with bated breath I switched the said laptop on … still working !! I still can’t believe it worked, but work it did, and I’m one happy, ecstatic, cocky bunny and think I can do anything  !!

Seems a lot longer …


Well, it’s been 18 months now since I took the plunge and ‘volunteered’ for early retirement, or as it turned out to be voluntary redundancy. It does seem a lot longer since I was driving into the City centre multi-storey car park. To be honest, it has not really gone according to the vague plan I had formulated, in my head during the few months leading up to my last day. I had sort of thought that I could:

  1. take it easy for the first two months
  2. get a part-time job, between 10 and 16 hours a week
  3. get a bit of decorating done
  4. ditto in the garden
  5. take over most of the washing and ironing (I weirdly like ironing)

None have really materialised with the exception of number 5. Okay, I did paint the staircase, and I have done a bit(?) in the garden. But that’s about it. I’m still looking for a part-time job, but K*** seems to think that I have made my options in that area, too narrow. I don’t want too many hours and I want it local.

I thought I would get bored very quickly, but that has not happened. I thought that we would not be able to live on the pension I was getting. Altering where we shop for most our groceries has eased that pressure. So basically, at the moment we seem to be okay.

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The latest Windows update became available for me yesterday. About 2pm I checked and it was available. So I began the update process. It finally finished at around 7:30pm. This is the reason I did not post this at Fthe time I wanted. I’ve had a quick look, and the only thing that seems to be a ‘new’ feature is that I now have a nearly full “F:\drive” that wasn’t there before. As I understand, and I may be wrong, but this new drive is the location for the recovery data. I think it used to be in a folder, but it seems that Microsoft now wants it in a separate partition. This is fine if there is sufficient space. I believe Aaaaghthat this partition will mysteriously be removed in 10 days, which is a little unnerving. With working in an IT support team before I retired, I tend to read up on the major updates to see what ‘exciting new features’ I am about to receive. I only half-heartedly did it this time, but I think that will change for next time. The problem is, that since Microsoft decided to move towards Windows being provided as a service, there is no choice but to update when they tell you.

I am now updating my other laptop. It’s been going 1 hour and seems to be proceeding faster than the previous time. Wish me luck.

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Update to Windows update:- The second laptop only took just under 4 hours to run, so a slight improvement there. The issue with the new “F:\drive” has been resolved. I trawled the internet with no luck, then had this brain-wave … ask the Windows community. Within minutes, literally less than 5 minutes it was solved and the drive is no longer visible. It was a Recovery drive, but it should not have been visible. If anyone has got the same issue, I am going to post the answer as a separate post. 

A Long couple of weeks …


Just over two weeks ago, my father-in-law went into hospital for a hip operation. He is in his early eighties and he had been going through a lot of pain prior to going in. He was also very very apprehensive about the aftercare for both him and his wife.  His wife is really quite frail and forgetful these days, so the whole thing had been quite traumatic for him.

Between them K***, my wife and her sister have taken to sleeping at their parents house so that they can help them and gradually ease them back into some kind of normality. The big worry for me and K*** was how our youngest son R***, would cope with his mum not being at home every evening. R*** is Autistic and does not cope with changes to his routine. Amazingly, he has coped really well. He seems to have accepted that mum is sleeping at grandads house and that she would be home the next day.

As an extra trial, we have had the rendering on our house replaced. This entailed drilling all the IMAG0446old rendering off and putting new on. So for just over three weeks (it went last Saturday) we had scaffolding all around the house. One consequence of this was that we lost our satellite connection for the television. I may have mentioned before that one of the things R*** likes is to have his television on all night. It is on with the sound very low, but it is on all the same. We were expecting serious problems. However, he simply played two of his DVD’s over and over again.

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Still no news on the job application. I’m beginning to think I may have missed out, but then again, they simply may not have filled the interview quota. I’ll have to look out to see if it gets re-advertised. The project I’m currently on shuts down at the end of May, and it looks like I may be moved back to the main team. Something I’m not looking forward to for reasons I won’t go into here.

The job I applied for seems to be along the lines of the work I’ve been doing for the past 18 months, but in a more formal and structured way. Although I don’t have all the IT knowledge they ask for, I think it is something I could pick-up reasonably quickly.

The fingers are most definitely still crossed.

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I have always been a knitter. It is something I learned how to do when I was very young. During the early years, I tended to make baby clothes (my parents were pre-adoption foster carers at the time) so I became quite skilful in knitting complicated lace-like patterns.

Now, I have begun to take an interest in crafting as a whole. It was really sparked when we were visiting a small craft exhibition, and I saw a handmade Valentines card. It was simply a piece of card folded in half with a variety of small coloured buttons stuck oMy versionn the front in the shape of a heart. Price was £1.99 for a single card and envelope. A quick trip to our local £1 shop and I had a pack of blank cards and envelopes and a pack of small coloured buttons. Price? £2.00 for enough to make ten cards. I was almost hooked. The thing that finally convinced me that I could do this crafting as a hobby was when I saw how to make a small bow using a four pronged dining fork.

Since then, I’ve been collecting a variety of bits and pieces that I think will be able to make some ‘craft type’ thing with. It has now got to the point where I have subscribed to a crafting magazine that comes with a small beginners sewing machine as a free gift. There is no stopping me now!

Just a little pi**ed off … Geek speak time


    It has been a bit of a stressful week, computer wise. I’ve been trying for the past six weeks to get our ICT department to install Windows Mobile Device Centre (MDC). I used to use Active Synch to reinstall the handheld computers that some of the staff use. However, when we moved to Windows 7, that all went to pot. It seems that Active Synch does not work with Win 7 and MDC is the replacement. But in accordance with the ‘lock down’ that our ICT department operate MDC was not available.

    Then, miracle happen and I was ‘granted’ access to MDC. This meant that I could also connect my personal PDA and synchronise my office diary with my personal diary. You would think this would be a simple thing to do. Noooooo!! It seems that the diary Outlook 2010 uses does not like the diary on Outlook 2013, and when I tried synching the PDA with my personal diary, the damn think wiped both diaries clean. Not a problem (or so I thought) I’ll just re-synch my PDA with my works diary. Guess what??? Same thing happened. So now I’m sat there with three blank diaries. Now some people would think that is great, but I had lost everything. I managed to recreate my personal diary from a backup (all those experts were right about backups) but our fantastic ICT told me they could restore my emails (which had not been lost) but not the diary. Certain words of a blue nature issued forth when I heard this. After a few hours of manual entry, I managed to input most of the details that had been lost.

    Now, we come to the problems with my email account at home. For a number of days, my main email account has been getting very slow to upload the emails from Gmail into Outlook. Apparently, it is a known issue and accordingly, nothing can be done. It had got to the stage tonight whereby the main account refused to upload any emails since before 05:30 this morning. Many hours searching on Google came up with various options, none of which worked. I even took the drastic step of re-install Microsoft Office, which is not something to do lightly with Office 2013. This of course proved fruitless. I then had one of those ‘light bulb’ moments. If I removed my main account then reinstalled it that might work. A few minutes of breathe holding, and I had done the job. All the missing emails uploaded instantly, and I was one ‘happy bunny’, so to speak. That state of euphoria lasted about ten seconds, where upon I found that removing my account resulted in the eradication of both my diary (again) and all of my contacts. More bad language ensued and another backup restore was required. Everything is now more or less back to normal, but the whole episode reminds me of that famous saying:

“It is isn’t broken, the don’t fu*k with it”

Back to work


     Well not really ‘back to work’ in the sense that others may say. It was back to work after the New Year. Of course, the IT system failed again. Lost a couple of network drives over the weekend, so the automatic program that should have run at 5 past midnight did not run. That put me back a couple of hours, so some of today’s work will have to be done tomorrow.

     Big problems with the youngest last night. Screaming and shouting and intense anger  at around 10pm. Nothing seemed to calm him down at first, then he was awake up until about 2am. Tonight, much the same. At around 9pm, we got the screaming and shouting and the anger, but tonight he was crying and saying he was so unhappy. Now, he was probably reciting a DVD or video that he has remembered, but it was very upsetting, and had me convinced it was him trying to tell us what is going on !! Who knows. This could be the side effects of the small dose anti-depressant that he has been prescribed, or it may just be another development is his Autism !!! It is now 11pm and he seems to have settled down, but he could turn at any moment.

     Christmas cards are now beginning to get me down !!!! Just want it all to be over. I know, I know, only a couple of days to go, but it is not soon enough. If I had my way, the decorations would go up on the 24th, and come down again on the 26th !!!! I know what you’re thinking …… and I have been expecting a visit from the three Christmas ghosts for many years.

A struggle to post sometimes …


   Well, we did not go to the quiz after all. The weather wasn’t too good, and I was a bit tired. There are many nights when I just cannot be bothered, and just want to sit and read, or listen to some music.

   The IT stuff got sorted. The folders that the staff needed access to are only available to staff who have a certain application, and although all the staff can see the folders, only certain ones can do anything with them. I have no idea why they do it that way.

   It was Mrs H’s birthday on Sunday. Eldest came over for the weekend, and they both went to the local music event. It is usually me that goes with S****, but we all thought it would be nice if him and K*** went. I think she enjoyed it. You never can tell, especially when she says things like ‘It was different’ and ‘I did not know what to expect’.

    A busy day coming up on Wednesday. It is the end of the financial year and I have a number of reports to run. We did a test run last week, and the Finance Manager (did I really capitalise that) seemed happy with them. Fingers crossed things stay that way.

   Youngest is supposed to be going to the dental hospital on Thursday. Trouble is he has started with a cold, and I don’t think they will let him have the treatment if he has a cold. Still, it will be another day off, and I think I will have earned it.

Work and stuff …


Work went quite well yesterday, up until around 2pm. I had to demonstrate how to do a job, and it went completely wong. It would seem IT struck again. Some of our staff, need to save images on a computer network drive. However, they get an Access Denied message. Very strange, as the drive is a shared drive.

Leeds lost again last night, and to Milwall of all teams. That put Leeds in a very vunerable position. They cannot afford to lose anymore matches, as Milwall is only three points behind them. At this rate, Leeds could end up in the playoffs again, and I don’t think anyone wants to go through that again !!

Work today is problematic. The toilets are blocked again (seems to be every two weeks this happens). They know what the problem is, and ‘think’ they know who is causing it, but it is not getting fixed.

Quiz night tonight. Me and Mrs H are to have a go. Can’t see us winning, but whilst the youngest is away, it’s a chance to get out. And then I have a day off tomorrow. Last of this years leave.

Friday is still a long way off ….


   Another, more or less uneventful day. The IT guy I was trying to contact finally got back to me, so that was a success. I need to get some cases to the new company ASAP. Things are looking good for tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

   Not heard from the eldest, since Mrs H rang him on Monday to tell him that his phone bill was too high. I don’t know how anyone with 700 minutes call time can rack up another £26.00+ in call charges. He claims it must have been when he rang the ISP, but I’m not so sure. The final bill is due on Friday. I’ll know for sure then. I have an idea his flatmate has been using it !!!!

   Youngest was up very early this morning. First heard him at around 04:00am. He tends to make a kind of droning sound, which I think is an attempt to drown out the tinnitus, the we think he has. But he was making ‘his noise’ from the moment he awoke. We never got back to sleep at all really. Made for a tiring day. He is still awake now, although it has gone quiet.

   Watched the first half of the footie tonight. Not impressed much. I hear though, that they improved vastly in the second half ! Just my luck eh !

Dragging…..


Work seems to be dragging on today. There is plenty to do, but I seem to be waiting about for other to do their bit. I had to get IT out to one of the printers this morning. It has been making an odd noise for a day or two, and catching the paper down one edge. It’s going to cost nearly £200.00 to fix it. Problem is that we print such a lot of documents, that it is bound to have some effect.

Weekend … what weekend ?


   Well nothing much happened over the weekend. I did the run around with the Christmas presents, for my family, on Saturday. That took all of 2 hours. Great fun, I don’t think !!!

   Sunday at home, then into Leeds to pick up the eldest, who is stopping here for Christmas. He is going back on the 2nd or 3rd of January he says. Well his washing should be done by then !!! He has now dyed his hair RED !!!! Saying that, it was his Mum that dyed it. The jury is still out I’m afraid. At the moment, it looks like he has not washed out the make-up from the panto. I suppose it will grow on me.

   The scheduled routine on the computer, at work, that was supposed to run over Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening did not work. I had my doubts when the IT guy suggested running it from a batch file. I did everything I should. My PC was left switched on. We will see what the IT man has to say in the morning. I have a strong suspicion, that one of the staff, may have been logged in, and that may have caused the problem.

   I had a lot of printing to do today. Some of it I could have left for next week, but I thought I might as well get it done. About 3,500 printed pages, and there is still another 300 to do. Over the next couple of days, I’m going to try and get everything that needs doing this week, done. I do not want to do much at all on Thursday.

   I think, I have just about finished Christmas shopping now. Although, I’m sorely tempted to get some Grand Marnier. I’ve got 14 presents in total, which is not bad to say, i had no idea what to get.

   May not post tomorrow night. I think me and the eldest are going to the pub-quiz in the village. I also have to get my hair cut. I should have gone on Friday, but what with the bad weather, I thought I would leave it until Saturday. But Saturday came and went, and I could not really be bothered. It needs doing though, so it is either tomorrow or Wednesday.