Cheesy celebration days . . .


So, it’s Fathers day! So what? I actually don’t like these ‘celebration days’. They all money making events, that don’t really mean anything. It started with Mothers Day which was a hijacked version of Mothering Sunday, which in itself had been hijacked from the pagan celebration of the Mother Earth. Fathers Day came about because men thought they were missing out. We now seem to have a celebration day for everything. I’m not against have ‘awareness’ days, I just think it is getting a bit too much when we have days such as Great Grandmothers day! What next?

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I get so annoyed when driving and a big car is tail-gating you. I had one today. The speed limit was 50 mph and that’s what I was doing. A huge 4×4 rushed up behind me and you could tell he was looking to try and overtake. On those occasions, I tend to slow down on the parts of the road where you cannot overtake, and then speed-up on the parts you can. It’s a form of bullying. It’s like the big boy at school picking on the little guy, just because he can. Some of these drivers seem to think that the limits just don’t apply to them.

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Work tomorrow. The chef is back after a weeks break, so it could be a hard day. He tends to get a little stressed when the place is busy, especially if not enough preparation work has been done on the previous Saturday. this has been the case since we opened back up fully on the 17th. Not really looking forward to it, but I’ll have to keep on with it for a while longer. Main reasons are, I like the life-style the extra money gives and I need to stay until my income tax rate goes back to normal. For some bizarre reason, as soon as my State Pension kicked in, my personal tax code has reverted to an emergency code. Of course you cannot email the tax office as they only accept telephone calls these days. I’ve gone from £40ish per month tax on my works pension to £140ish per month. I pay the standard 20% on my state pension and 20% on my earnings from work, so why the emergency code baffles me. I shall give it a couple more months, then will have to call them. Annoying!

Finally . . .


Urban Union Barbers

I finally got my haircut! The last time I had it done was just after the first lock-down in July. I was hoping to go again towards the end of October, but there was some issue and the place was closed on the day I had chosen. Then lock-down 2 reared it’s ugly head and that was it. The place didn’t open over the Christmas week so I had to wait. When they were allowed again, last month, the queues outside (they are only using one chair) were longer than I hoped. I tried a couple of times, but when I was told that the person at the front of the line had been there an hour, and there were 5 people after him, I gave up.

I was wandering past the barbers on Tuesday and saw that the customer was being shown the back of his hair, and there was nobody queuing, I bit the bullet and waited outside. I was in and out in about half an hour, and the look is now much better. For many years I just used to have my hair done with the clippers. Blade 3 on the top and blade 2 back and sides. However, I have grown to like the length and decided to abandon the clippers. Not sure what my colleagues will think, as I have also grown a full beard.

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Pomfretts

Talking of colleagues, my workplace opens up fully again on Monday, so I’m back to work. I’ve not worked since the end of October, so it’s going to be a bit of a shock to the system. To be honest, I could give up on the job. I have my works pension that I claimed when I left the Council under their voluntary redundancy scheme and on the 20th of last month my state pension became available. So I’m not really doing the job for the money, it’s more for the company and to get me out of the house (and my wife’s hair) for a few hours a week. It’s quite a physical job, but I think I should be okay. If not, I always have the option to leave or maybe ask for reduced hours. We shall see how it goes.

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I had my 2nd Astra-Zeneca vaccine on Wednesday. Once again it was so straight forward. Well organised and staffed. The Vaccination Centre is located in a Park & Ride carpark on the outskirts of York. There were marshals every 20 or so yards guiding drivers to their parking slot, checking your details and explaining where to go and what to do when you leave. All the medical staff were friendly and helpful and all very reassuring. My wife is due hers at the end of the month, hopefully nothing will change much before then.

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The Crooked Billet

We actually went out for lunch yesterday. I’m still very wary about mixing with people I don’t know. They say “You go to the supermarket … “, but I can avoid people there, you cannot avoid someone if you are sat down. However, armed with my two does of vaccine, I was persuaded to go. After all, I had to do something to celebrate the first State Pension payment hitting my bank account. It was a nearby pub called The Crooked Billet in the village of Saxton and is famed for it’s Yorkshire puddings .

Not really retirement, but . . .


This post is an attempt at a response to the Weekly Prompts Wednesday Challenge (fingers crossed I get this right)

Back at the beginning of 2016 our Head of Service, brought our team together for it’s monthly ‘Team Talk’. The theme, if you could call it that, was staff cuts. There had been a lot of hushed chatter among some of the more senior members of the team regarding the reduction of office staff in the department. The Council’s solution was a programme called ‘Early Leavers Initiative’ or ELI. What people liked to think was that it was Early Retirement, but was actually Voluntary Redundancy, with the benefit of being able to draw down the works pension scheme early, albeit slightly reduced.

It was made clear to everyone in the room, that the Department were looking for ‘volunteers’ to take advantage of this. It was also clear that this was a case of ‘jump before you are pushed’. If that had been the case, then it would have been compulsory redundancy, with no arrangement to take the pension early. After a lot of discussion at home, I decided I would go for it.

Not the real cake!

The day came, and it seemed to be just like any other day. I was taking calls and trying to keep my excitement under control. My manager asked what time I wanted to leave, and I had worked out my hours so that I could finish at three pm. At about half past two the office manager appeared with a large cake which was shared with the staff on duty. It was significant that my line manager and the service head weren’t present.

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I decided that I would have a couple of weeks living the life of luxury, then get a part time job. It took a lot longer for something to come up. After about 18 months, my current part-time job suddenly happened. Now furloughed (as at 11/03/2021) I am now just waiting to return. It is not looking god, but I will have to just wait and see. But . . . on the 19th April this year (2021) I will have reached my state pension age and will have to decide the future. Do I carry on with two days a week? Or do I cut down to one day a week? Or . . . do I just stop all together?

Not had the best of starts …


Firstly there was the new ‘lock-down’, which was not unexpected if a little late. Secondly, the dishwasher has packed in. We think it may be the pump but are waiting for someone to have a look. Then I had the sad news that a former colleague had died. DWP2Thankfully not the virus. Then we were hit with the snow, again not unexpected. The final kick in the nether regions came with the post yesterday. I got my “State Pension Invitation!” Another thing that was expected, but something I didn’t really think about too much. I do think it is a bit of a strange way of putting it, an “… invitation to get your State Pension“. An “invitation” to get something I’ve been working towards since 1971. Are they really expecting me to pass on it? 

Many people thing I have retired already. However, leaving the Council back in 2016, was actually a form of  Voluntary Redundancy. They called it the “Early Leavers Initiative” or ELI. It was basically redundancy with the ability to take a slightly reduced workplace pension early. Everything just fell into place at the time and with the rumours of compulsory redundancy in the air, it was the right thing to do … jump before I was pushed.

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Step ShawlI finally finished the piece of knitting I had been working on for the past two months. It’s called a “Step Shawl”, but it’s more like a neck warmer than a shawl. I used Aran yarn on 3.5mm straight needles. It got a bit tricky towards the end as I nearly had too many stitches and should have changed to circulars needles. I’ll know next time. I had started this pattern before using some 4ply and had managed to knit six ‘steps’ before it accidently fell off my lap, dropping four stitches which ran to the beginning of the piece. After advice from fellow knitters, I added a ‘life-line’ every couple of steps, just in case. I’m quite pleased with it, but I’ve no idea what to do next.

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.

You know what !!!


Well my little part-time job in the local cafe has gone. Hopefully just for the time being. It wasn’t the most intellectually challenging work I’ve ever done, ‘Pot Washer/Kitchen Porter/Kitchen Assistant’ but it was a small friendly place that got me out of the house for a couple days a week. I say ‘hopefully’ because you never know what pressures small business owners have in keeping their business open. I suppose one of the dangers is that the owners will just give up, call it a day and that is my worry now. If the shutdown goes on for too long then maybe the staff will think the same. It has crossed my mind. I was aiming to hang my apron up just before by State Pension date in April 2021, but that may have to change.

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K*** has gone off to work and she is not looking forward to it. She works part-time in a large supermarket and has seen first hand the chaos and bitterness this virus has caused. It’s the staff that are getting the blame for the shortages and it can get dangerous in some cases. I can understand a little about ‘panic buying’ and stock piling. When you see someone buying up packs and packs of toilet rolls, you begin to think, maybe I should do the same. But what I don’t get is some of the things people are stockpiling.

I needed to get a few things on Friday and went to a nearby S********s. It was only bread, eggs and a bit of veg that we wanted, but I passed an elderly couple pushing a trolley. There wasn’t much in the trolley, but they were discussing how many bottles of ketchup they needed. As I ‘ear-wigged’ it came to light that they already had two bottles, at home and were a bit disappointed that they were only allowed to buy three. They were actually thinking about coming back later in the day and getting some more. How many bottles of ketchup do anyone need? Crazy! I do think that the rationing most stores are doing, should have been started a month ago though.

A new year … new beginnings? Perhaps …


So, all those promises I made to myself about getting a part-time job within two months, turned out to be just bluff and bluster. Well …not really. I have been looking, but maybe not as hard as I could. At the moment, things are working out quite well and there is no urgency for me to supplement the pension I’m getting. Of course, that could all change. As R*** starts to increase his respite stays, income we get for him may (will) start to decrease and that’s when our financial situation will alter. But that’s in the future.

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Yet again, one of this years New Year Resolutions has been broken. I shall go into a little more detail here, if I may. K*** had wanted to watch the Robbie Williams new year show (I didn’t) and in the spirit of compromise, I gave in. My opinion …total rubbish … sexist and egotistical does not describe what we watched. Anyway, to cut a short story even shorter, we watched the London fireworks (fireworks on the TV don’t really work for me) and then K*** went to bed. I quickly changed channels to watch Jools Holland and his, now famous ‘Hootenanny Show’. Where is this taking us, I hear someone ask? Well, it was during a performance of Tilted by Christine And The Queens that I once again resolved to ‘post everyday‘ which I quickly modified to every two days. As the date of this post shows, that was a fail! It is now modified to ‘post more often‘, but even that may yet be modified.

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Now here’s a question for you. What do you use to write your blog posts? I know I’ve asked this before, but that was before I started with Windows 10. The reason I ask (again) is that I tried today to use the desktop WordPress app. It started okay, and I was able to write and my work was saved as a draft. But then the program crashed … repeatedly. It crashed so many times, that it became unusable in my opinion. So I’m back using the faithful Open Live Writer which works without any problems. Just wondering if anyone who uses the Windows 10 WordPress app have had similar problems.

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Wait a minute! Where does the “new beginnings” part of the title come in? I just thought it was a good sound bite!

It’s sunk in … finally


I think it has finally sunk in. It got to home time and J*******, who I have worked quite closely with, shook my hand, thanked me and wished me well. He is on leave next week and will not be in on the day I finish. It was a nice touch of him to say what he did. On the other hand, there are others who are on leave next week, who have said nothing. Quite frankly, I don’t care about those few. In fact, there is one person that is off all week and it pleased me to know that he will not be in. One of the many reasons I’m not having the obligatory ‘night out’ or ‘leaving do’. I’m not a very sociable person, but I could not leave anyone out if I was having a do. I would have to invite everyone, even those I do not want to be there. So not for me.

What amazes me at the moment, though, is the number of times I’ve been asked, what I’m going to do when I finish? What are my hobbies? Have I planned any trips? All valid questions you may say, but my point is, nobody has asked me any of these questions before! Well not in this team. Way back before the numerous restructures, the team I originally worked with would ask. With this team, they don’t even ask where you’ve been if you’ve had a few days holiday. Strange bunch of people some of them.

Then when I got home, the pension company had finally sent my retirement pack. This is the documents I need to complete so that my pension is paid. Surprisingly it only took two emails to get the pack sent. But that helped it hit home. Made it very realistic. Now I’ve just got to find a part-time job to fill a couple of days in the week. It will be a bit of spending money and keep me occupied for a few years until my state pension comes in 2021.

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I had a crack at knitting a rose brooch this weekend. Rose BroochI had seen the pattern and downloaded some months previously, but it looked quite tricky. Stitchwise I was fine, but one of the main techniques was a little more involved as it were. Still, I had a go and finished it quicker than I expected. I completed the making up today and I very pleased with how it has turned out. Just as it showed on the pattern.

Having a moan and other things …


I’ve not posted for over a week now. I suppose it’s a combination of laziness and wanting to write a more substantial post. I did try, some time ago, to post every day. I think it lasted just over a week, before I began to struggle to say anything at all. So that fell by the wayside and I returned back to simply writing when I felt up to it and had something I wanted to say.

Now that’s out of the way, it’s back to the moans and groans.

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We, that’s me and K*** had a great day out on Tuesday to Beningbrough Hall. We walked round the gardens, which were really beautiful. We then toured the hall which was extremely enjoyable. Where does the ‘moan’ come in you may ask? Well Beningbrough, as the above link shows is an estate owned and managed by the National Trust. A fine example of a house and gardens of it’s time and a great educational place to for all to visit. So why do some parents (and I counted at least five families) think it is a great idea for their ‘children’ to take a football with them? It’s a piece of important history not a sports field! If you want to kick a ball around, then there are plenty of of open parkland in this country to do just that!

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After our visit, we had a look around one of the large shopping parks in the area. Now I get a little upset with some of the shops and I have mentioned before the issue of clothing sizes, so I’m not going to visit that again. No, my ‘moan’ this time is the price of razors! We needed to get some for R*** to take on respite as we had been told he was getting low. K*** was buying some kind of cosmetic stuff and I was charged with picking the razors. It never fails to amaze me at the price of these things. But what amazes me more, is when they are sold on ‘special offer’. I saw one pack that had the razor handle and six individual ‘multi-blades’ priced at the special offer price of £30.99! What really annoyed me was that at the side of this offer price was the words ‘Worth £45.99’. Who says that these are worth what they say they’re worth? Is it some kind of expert retail gurus? Or is it simply the manufacturers that are just trying to con us? I feel that it could be the latter.

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I made a start on clearing out the garage on Saturday. When I say ‘made a start’ I mean just that. For the past few years, the garage has been a dumping ground for everything and anything that we/I/she felt might come in useful at some point. But it’s come to the point where even I have trouble getting in and out of the place. So something had to be done. I was going to the opticians and the local authority tip is én route, so thought I would kill two birds with one stone. Well I think I must have had a chip in my windscreen, and the numerous speed humps on the one of the roads must have exasperated this, because when I got home, I noticed I had a small crack in said windscreen. Not very happy that I have a £60.00 excess to pay to get it fixed, but even more unhappy, that it cannot be fixed until Wednesday at the earliest.

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On a more positive note, my early retirement figures came through on Friday. They are looking like I expected, and I am going to take up the offer. My intention is to finish at the end of October, but ‘they’ have sort of thrown spanner in the works, so to speak. The figures from the pension company provide me an annual pension and a lump sum. But ‘spanner’ is that they have also offered to increase the lump sum, if I take a lower annual pension! So what do I do? K*** doesn’t know what would be best and I think I know, but cannot be sure. I’m going to give the figures to K***s father to look at, to see if he could advise. It is a bit of a quandary, but at least I don’t need to make that decision first. That can be decided at a later date, but it’s still a puzzle.

Goodbye to a long year


     By the time you read this, 2012 will nearly be over. It’s a year that has had it’s ups and downs and I’m probably glad to see the back of it. Some the downsides have been quite traumatic: finding out that the job you’ve been doing for the past seven years, will no longer exist; Mrs H finding out she had a Melanoma on her arm; coming home to find the Police in the house after R*** had had a melt down; discovering that there was a plan in place to section R*** if needed and that the ‘plan’ had nearly been invoked twice, must all rank at the top of the downers. Then of course there was the uppers: getting a new job; R*** settling in at his new place; R*** taking to his respite without a problem; S**** getting a great review for his part in the local panto; surviving Christmas (still have New Years Eve) are all up there with good times. I also got a new laptop, and I was not sure if it was an upper or a downer. It was struggle to get it to how i wanted it, but when it was all done, it was brilliant!
     My writing is coming along. It is a slow progress, because I think in my own mind, that I’m not good enough to do it. I will have days when I will just sit at the keyboard, and do not know what to write. Then on other days, I will hammer out a couple of hundred words. But then i read back what I’ve written, and realise that it is nonsense, and I have to start again. I’m currently writing a story that has a troll involved. I’ve got up to 4000 words, but I don’t know where I am going from here, or even if going to take it any further. I may just use this a practice piece whilst I figure out what I really want to write about. I did start writing a blog for a national magazine and wrote a few  posts, about the local area and what was happening, but the stats were very disappointing, with no comments neither good or bad. You do need people to comment. Even if they just tell how bad the piece is, it shows that they have interested enough to read it and offer advice. I gave up after four posts and have not written anything for it since December 2011.
     I have recently taken one of the pieces I have written and turned it into a sketch/play. It still needs some work, but with that one, I know what I need to do. I’ve been reading and bought a couple of books about Creative Writing, and am now beginning to understand where I have to start from, and how to develop ideas. It is going to a long process, but as I have indicated to HR at work, I am interested in taking voluntary early retirement in March 2015, I need to get my skates on, so to speak.
     I suppose, that the last sentence needs a little more explaining. I work for local government, and without going in to the politics of it (especially my views) a number of staff in the 55 – 65 age bracket, have been asked to consider either early retirement (VER) or voluntary severance (VS). As I fall in to that age category, I decided to apply for VER. I have sufficient service to give me that maximum payout, and although the pension will not be full amount, I would only be eligible for a further £2000.00 a year if a I stayed on until I was 66. It has yet to be passed by management, but at my level, I do not think there will be a problem. It will mean a massive change, and I will need to get some kind of part-time job, to help with the finance situation, but I think it will be okay. So you see, if I can get my head around writing and develop the skills I need to write creatively, the boredom factor that people get when they retire should not creep in. Who knows, I may even make a few pounds from the experience.

 

     Well, I think I have blathered on for long enough. All that is left now is to wish you all a  very prosperous and successful new year, and hope that 2013 brings you everything you wish for.