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>No Longer Stuck? (T – 18)

1 April, 2010 1 comment

>Today’s soundtrack:  Various Artists – The Burt Bacharach Songbook

Oh my – I got the job!

After a pretty rigorous interview process, I seem to have come out the other side as the Last Man Standing!  So, subject to completion of all the formalities and paperwork, I shall be Head of Business Assurance for a major housing association based in Preston – starting on 19 April.  Hence the ‘T – 18’ countdown in the title above.

The recruitment process went through three separate interviews, culminating in a double-header down in London on Monday.  On arrival, I was given a topic to present upon for 15 minutes, and given 45 minutes to prepare.  No Powerpoint – just a flipchart.  So, hoping that handwriting wasn’t one of the characteristics I was going to be assessed on, I set to scribbling.

Finished just about on time, then it was downstairs to present my scribbles to the four-man panel.  And it seemed to go ok.  My mouth didn’t dry up, the presentation seemed to flow, I could see I was getting a few nods, and I stuck to my allotted fifteen minutes.  After a few questions on the presentation, it was on to the meat of the interview for the next hour and a half.  Again, it seemed to go ok.  Unfazed by any of the questions, a few more nods, even a few laughs and smiles.  In the right place, as well.

Still, you never know.  I came out thinking I’d done ok – pretty good, in fact – but the other guy might be even better.  Who knows?  At least I felt I’d done myself justice and set a decent benchmark for the other guy.

Fast forward to the next morning.  An early call from the recruitment agency – always a good sign – no offer yet, but good feedback from the interview…and could I give them the names of some referees they could contact for a reference?  Oh yes, I can do that.  A few quick emails, and the process swung smoothly and quickly into action.  By midday, references had been requested and provided, passed on to the company….

…and the good news came back – you’ve got it!

Oh my.

So – thanks.  Thanks to the two reference providers – you know who you are – who gave me what I am told were ‘glowing’ references.  Thanks to everyone who has sent me good wishes and congratulations – and thanks to everyone who has kept in touch either directly or through this blog for the last twelve months.  It’s been a long, sometimes stressful year, and your comments and support have helped me get through it all.  Oh, and extra special thanks to Mrs W, who has put up with all the ups and downs and mood swings without complaint.

Well without much complaint, anyway.

Anyway, enough of that, it’s beginning to sound like a bloody Oscar acceptance speech.

So – the light at the end of the tunnel probably isn’t the oncoming train after all.  It looks like I’m sorted.  Son No 1 is also working and happy in his work, and Son No 2 is successfully completing his treatment this week as well.  Onwards and upwards chaps.

Many of you have asked what is going to happen to this blog.  Well, I don’t want to stop – in fact, I’ll probably ramp it up for the next 18 days as we count down to D-Day, and then continue on a more occasional basis, just to keep in touch.

This is what I wrote on Day 1 about the title of this blog…380 days ago!

I’m amused by the irony of this blog title. “Stuck Between Stations” was originally a nod to my refusal to grow old gracefully – stuck, if you will, between the kid I was and the ‘grown-up’ I refuse to be. And, of course, a reference to the wonderful Hold Steady – a group of musicians who act no older than they need to. The song itself refers to being stuck between stations on the radio – when things are not as ‘crystal clear’ as they might be. Something else I can relate to at the moment.  But now, I’m stuck between two other stations – the job I had and the new job I’ve yet to find.


No longer stuck between those latter two stations. Thank God.


As for the original reason for the blog title – well, you be the judge!

And so to the soundtrack for today’s post. The mighty Burt Bacharach. And from the album, a track whose title reflected the way I felt twelve months ago. Not any more though.

Take it away, Dusty!





>Back on the Interview Trail

17 February, 2010 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack:  Bruce Springsteen – The River

Back on the interview trail last night, up in Preston (again) – when did Preston become the epicentre of the internal audit universe?  Too early for proper feedback, but I managed to stretch my 30-45 minute interview into an hour and a quarter, which may or may not be a good sign.  If nothing else, the poor bloke following me was restricted to half an hour as the building had to close at seven!

Shame.

All of which meant I had to sacrifice the Everton-Sporting game, which kicked off at the ludicrous time of 5:45.  Had to listen on Radio Merseyside on the way home.  And but for ten seconds of madness with four minutes to go, it was all looking pretty good.  A 2-0 lead, with no away goals, taken to the second leg would have been fine.  As it was, 2-1, late penalty, sending off and things don’t look so clear cut – making a victory feel a bit like a defeat.  Still, we do take a lead into the second leg and so (just) have the upper hand.  Just.  Coupled with the news that Fellaini is out for the rest of the season following the horror tackle in the Derby and the Everton glass is looking more half empty than full at the moment.

Still, ManYoo at the weekend to look forward to.  No pressure there then.

Speaking of ManYoo, they managed to pull off a slightly fortuitous away win at Milan last night – after being battered for the bulk of the first half, they went in at the interval level thanks to a goal that bounced of Paul Scholes’ standing leg.  Second half they did come out fighting, and thanks to the brilliance of The Boy, took a 3-1 lead before Milan clawed a late goal back.

Advantage United for the second leg then.  Or rather advantage Rooney.  Interesting to see that Siralex is claiming The Boy as one of United’s ‘homegrown’ stars now, in the week before the game against the club that nurtured him and brought him on from the age of 9, and turned him into an England international before selling him for the best part of £25 million quid.

Think again, Alex.

Bit of Springsteen on the soundtrack today, actually the second disc of The River, Bruce’s 1980 double album.  I find The River to be a bit of a mixed bag.  Most of the slower songs and ballads are amongst Bruce’s best and most moving.  Unfortunately they are accompanied by some of the most lumpen rockers he (or anyone) ever committed to vinyl.  Cadillac Ranch, I’m a Rocker and Ramrod – I’m looking at you.

But when the album is good, it is very, very good indeed.

Here’s one of the best – Stolen Car, filmed live in 1985.

>Awopbopaloobop…..

1 November, 2009 1 comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Scientist v. Prince Jammy – Big Showdown at King Tubby’s

Ah well.

Preston was not to be, then.  After a very strange interview that focused heavily on a role I had twelve years ago, I came out of the company’s offices knowing full well that it wasn’t going to happen.  Sadly it seems that, although the first two guys who interviewed me had thought I was perfect for the role, their understanding of what the role required was completely different to that of the Chief Exec!

So the company is back to the drawing board and, it would seem, so am I.  But not quite – the response down in Staines to the outcome was firstly sympathy…but quickly followed by a pleased ‘so we can keep hold of you for a bit longer, then!’

Indeed they can.  Yes, the journey is a nightmare, and staying away from home for most of the week is a drag, the work is good and the people I’m working with are friendly and helpful.  Oh, and the money’s alright, too!

Although not normally the shy and retiring type, I’m having a real problem motivating myself to go out and eat in public of an evening, so it was nice to spend one evening last week out with Simon, who lives not a million miles away from Staines.  After a couple of pints in the Slug & Lettuce, we agreed a curry was in order and wandered over to Roshni’s, just next to the bridge over the Thames.  Roshni’s had been recommended to me by one of the directors’ secretaries, so we thought we’d give it a go.  ‘Fine Indian Cuisine’, it said on the door – no back street curry house this!

Oh, it was fab.  I started with some Murg Kathi rolls – a new one on me, chicken tandoori wrapped in a very thin chapati-type wrap, with a delicate sauce on the side…quite possibly the nicest starter I’ve ever had in an Indian restaurant.  followed by Gosht Xacutii – Lamb cooked with coconut and masala spices.  Accompanied of course by a selection of rices, breads and veggy dishes as well.  Far too much, even for two stout lads like us.

We’ll go there again, I feel!

The rest of the week, I was happy to pick up some stuff from the supermarket and graze in my hotel room (a much better room this week) watching DVDs on the laptop.  This week, it was Tutti Frutti, the ’80s series with Robbie Coltrane and Emma Thompson about The Majestics, failed Scottish Rock ‘n’ Roll band on their silver jubilee tour.  I really enjoyed this series years ago when it was first on the box, and was pleased to see it  finally released on DVD a while ago.  Watching it now, whilst the ’80s fashions have dated horrendously, the show is still really enjoyable with great supporting characters.  The series is completely stolen by Richard Wilson as dodgy manager Eddie Clocherty – the interaction with ‘Miss Toner’, his ‘assistant’ is an absolute joy.

Back home then, to a joyous welcome from cat and wife, to a Chinese takeaway and to a dozy evening that ended up with me falling asleep in the chair until three in the morning.  Takes it out of you, this working malarkey!

Off to Goodison to watch the injury-depleted Blues battle with the Villa on Saturday.  I wasn’t expecting a great deal, but first half at least, we began to play like we can, missing players notwithstanding, and took a well-deserved lead just on the stroke of half time.  But of course, this is Everton, so we came out for the second half completely flat and had conceded within a minute of the restart.  I don’t know what Moyes says to the team at half time, but the number of times we get caught sleeping within minutes of the restart is deeply worrying.

After the equaliser, things went flat for a while, sparking into life with a couple of sendings off near the end of the game, for the scorer (Bilyaletdinov) and one of theirs for a bad tackle on the Yak, who was looking to be close to back to form.  Indeed, overall the team seem to be getting things back together with some decent performances and although it was disappointing not to win, there were some signs that things might be turning around.

Just in time for Benfica on Thursday, a game I’ll sadly miss being stuck down in Staines.

An obscure bit of dub on the soundtrack today, from a couple of King Tubby proteges.  Scientist and Prince Jammy share the album with five tracks each, the ten tracks being labelled ‘Round 1’ through to ‘Round 10’.  Who wins?  It doesn’t matter when the dub is as heavy as this.

Great cover art too!

Here’s Round 5 – is there anything that isn’t lurking somewhere on YouTube?

>Day 198 – 5,000 up!!

28 September, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Soft Cell – The Twelve Inch Singles

Oh my – Check out the little counter thing at the bottom of the left hand column of stuff – at the time of writing it says ‘5,033’. That’s over five thousand ‘hits’ on the site since i started this thing, oh, 198 days ago.

A rough bit of mental arithmetic makes that an average of around 25 ‘hits’ per day. Not quite up there with the BBC or Google, admittedly, but I am quietly impressed, I have to say. Impressed (and slightly concerned) that there are around 25 people who are interested/bored/sad enough to read my daily ramblings.

Of course that’s a bit of a sweeping assumption. It could be that it’s a different 25 people every day who come along once, say ‘what is this rubbish’ and never come back again. But no, it looks like I’ve got a bit of a hard core following out there, who keep me doing this every day. What will you do if/when I ever get back into gainful employment? Expect me to carry on on a daily basis?

You would, an’ all.

But without coming across all Simon Bates, I’m glad you’re out there and – whether you like it or not – I’ll keep this going as long as I realistically can.

Some progress on the job front today – I gave my feedback on Friday’s interview to the recruitment consultant for follow-up, and got in touch with the business in London about the contract opportunity passed on to me by my former colleague. At this stage I just wanted to put them in the picture about my availability, as well as expressing my definite interest in the role if circumstances allow. It would not be fair to agree to the role, then try and wriggle out of it half way through because I had a permanent role to go to.

Although chance would be a fine thing.

Anyway, we are to continue talking – an initial phone call tomorrow to talk about the role and firm up on interest, if circumstances allow.

After a bit more internal admin-type things (audit committee expenses, house insurance, updating my jobseeking activity and the like) I forced myself to get the ironing board out again. Looking back, it was day 157, the last time I blogged about ironing – and looking even further back, ironing seems to rear its head every forty days or so.

So. Forty days worth of ironing. That’s a bloody big pile of ironing.

This time, rather than do all the ironing in the kitchen, I thought I’d lug it all up into the lounge and do my ironing up there, catching up on the DVD pile while I did so.

Which would have been fine, apart from two things.

Firstly, I discovered very quickly that my multitasking skills do not stretch to ironing and watching TV at the same time. This slowed things down considerably.

Secondly, the plug sockets in the lounge forced me to iron right handed instead of left handed. Now I do have a degree of ambidexterity, so this was not impossible, but it did slow me up even more.

But no matter – it was a lot more entertaining than standing in the kitchen doing the ironing.

So what did I (try to) watch while smoothing away? Two things – secondly the DVD of Magazine performing in Manchester that I mentioned recently, but I started by watching the recently-released Stones film, ‘Gimme Shelter’, about the performance at Altamont that ended with the death of Meredith Hunter, murdered in front of the stage (and on camera) while the Stones were performing.

I’d not seen it before – it is a very powerful film, particularly the moment when Hunter draws a gun in front of the stage, before being stabbed in the neck and dragged away by the Hell’s Angels who were notionally responsible for security on the day.

How could such a thing happen? Or rather, how could the event have been organised in such a way that the possibility of such a thing happening could arise? I think Altamont has to be viewed in the context of the times. Earlier that summer, Woodstock had taken place and – chaos and disorder notwithstanding – had passed off entirely peacefully and calmly. This gave rise to the feeling that such behaviour was the norm, rather than the outcome of a relatively unique set of circumstances.

The Stones, who had missed out on Woodstock, clearly felt the need to have their own, mini-Woodstock in San Francisco, as the climax of their 1969 US tour. Working under the naive impression that it would all just come together and be groovy, man, such fundamentals as finding a safe, appropriate venue, with a full infrastructure including – crucially – security, were glossed over, rushed, and subject to some very bad decision-making.

The worst decision was to entrust security to the local Hell’s Angels – a completely different organisation to the ‘weekend Angels’ entrusted with a similar role at Hyde Park in London earlier that year. The San Franciscan Angels came fuelled with strong drink, armed with weighted pool cues that they were keen to use, and prepared to ‘own’ their territory in front of the stage, regardless of the bands and their fans.

Watching the film, in the context of festivals I have been to myself, the most striking thing is the height of the stage, and the lack of distance between the band and the crowd. No real secure area in front of the stage, which must have been a maximum of four feet above ground level – this to serve an audience in excess of 300,000 people.

It is clear from a very early stage that the Angels are out of control and are uncontrollable. The violence meted out is shocking, as is the bands’ and organisers’ inability to cope with it. Eventually everything descends into anarchy and mayhem.

The end of the Aquarian dream, the Woodstock era? Maybe. The inevitable consequence of a badly organised, naively controlled event, inappropriately policed? Almost certainly. Whatever, ‘Altamont’ will forever be remembered as one of the days the music died.

Phew!

Today’s actual soundtrack comes from Soft Cell, Leeds synth-poppers who come with ladles of camp and buckets of sleaze. ‘Pop’ is probably an unfair epithet to bestow upon them, because whilst they were certainly popular, their music and subject matter is as far from mainstream pop as it’s possible to get – stalking a seedy underworld of freaks, sordid and extravagant sexuality and misery.

The duo were at their best on the twelve inch single, as this collection shows. They were able to stretch out, turn their songs into extended vignettes on the sleazy underworld they took as their subject matter.

This was as good as they got – Say Hello, Wave Goodbye. It lacks the extended intro that comes with the twelve inch version, but does get straight into the meat of the story.

>Day 195: More Words about Music and Food

26 September, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: The Smiths – The John Peel Sessions

Given today’s blog title, the soundtrack should have come from Talking Heads (“…Buildings and Food”), or perhaps The Undertones (“…Chocolate and Girls”) – but no, it’s The Smiths (and about time!) instead. About whom, more later.

No, the title’s a cheeky reference to my mate Simon’s new blog, “Planes, trains & automobiles” which you can find here. It worries me that not are only are people choosing to read all the guff I post here of their own volition, but I’m now also inspiring people to start their own blogs! But you should read Simon’s stuff – he’s a top man and he knows how to write as well.

And badger him for recipes. You know he really wants to go there.

And speaking of recipes, I finally got round to the smoked salmon pasta dish I promised you a few days ago. Essentially a good way of using up some leftovers, it turned into a very tasty and filling (and calorific) meal.

No pictures, I’m afraid – it didn’t stay on the plate long enough.

Start by chopping and frying off some shallots in some olive oil. Add some mushrooms and garlic to the frying pan to colour and soak up the oil.

While this is going on, boil up a big pan of salted water and add a bunch of asparagus (trimmed at the bottom to remove any woody bits) – boil for about three minutes, chop into bitesize chunks and add to the pan. Then add your spaghetti to the water you’ve just cooked the asparagus in to cook, for around ten minutes.

Whilst all this is going on, chuck the best part of a pot of double cream into the frying pan, having turned the heat down first. If you have a calorie/cholesterol concern, use some creme fraiche instead. Stir around, and let it all warm through – keep the heat low and don’t let the cream boil. Cut your smoked salmon into strips, and add to the creamy mixture. Zest a lemon, and add the fine strips of zest to the pot. Finally grate a shedload of parmesan into the pot.

Season to taste with salt and black pepper. By now your pasta should have cooked, so drain and then throw into the pot as well. Stir it all round so the pasta and sauce are well mixed, then serve and enjoy with a crisp white to cut through the cream.

Stretch out on the sofa and expire.

But all that took place at the tail end of the day. The day started with a bit of necessary pampering at the hairdressers. I’ve gone to the same hairdresser for the last eight or nine years, with one of the same two girls cutting my hair each time. Imagine my dismay when I noticed they’d opened a dedicated Men’s hairdressers in the same village! Would they now refuse to see me and pack me off to the men’s bit? Happily no – I can still go and sit with the women, have a head massage and a coffee and have my hair cut by Debra or Alison.

It was Alison today – normally Debra cuts my hair and the original plan was for her to see me at two. However my interview (see below) had been arranged for four-thirty, so I was a bit concerned about rushing and being interviewed with an itchy neck – so I brought forward the cut, which meant going with Alison instead of Debs. And which felt awfully like cheating on your girlfriend, when I saw Debs in the salon later…is that a normal reaction?

Anyway – the interview. Got there in plenty of time, and was there for a good hour and a half, interviewed by two senior members of the finance team. How did it go? Who knows. I thought it probably went well, and I think I got across all the points I wanted/needed to get across – but inevitably they have other people to see and who knows how I’ll stack up against them?

Pretty well, I would hope. But now we wait.

As I said above, The Smiths today – an album pulling together all their Peel Sessions in one place. Don’t look for it in the shops – it’s not there. Some of the tracks have appeared on legitimate releases, including Hatful of Hollow, but you’ll have to search the outer reaches of the internet if you want to find them all together in one place.

The Smiths are, of course, wonderful. You don’t need me to tell you that. Accusations of miserabilism are just lazy cliché. Anything built around the wonder that is Johnny Marr’s guitar could never be anything other than joyous.

This just might be my favourite Smiths song. ‘There is a Light that Never Goes Out’.

“Take me out tonight – to where there’s music and there’s people and they’re young and alive”.

See? Pure joy. (We’ll gloss over the rest of the lyrics, I think.)

>Day 172: Of Mice and Men(sa)

3 September, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Modest Mouse – This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About

Up early for a meeting in Manchester with a firm of accountants about a potential role with them. This is my second meeting – the first took place on Day 96, when we talked about the possibility of something opening up post-September.

Well, the upshot of today’s meeting is that something may well be available, subject to the submission and acceptance of a coherent business and personal case for my appointment. I agreed with my contact that, although there were no promises, it was definitely worth the two of us working together to produce and submit the case for the appointment, as it were. It will be a long, drawn out process – these things often are – but it’s encouraging to know that, at the very least, there is a willingness in the firm for them to even consider such a submission.

Took the opportunity while in Manchester to get one of Mrs W’s watches re-repaired – after changing the battery a fortnight ago, the new seal was too thick for the watch, causing the back to pop off. While that was being fixed, I picked up a few books from Waterstones – the pile of reading material is declining rapidly with my increased leisure time and I needed to stock up!

Back home for a late lunch, and out again in the evening with Mrs W for a meal – she treating me, this time. We went to Oswald’s in Frodsham, above the Helter Skelter real ale pub, which is well worth a visit if you like your ale authentic, chewy and with bits of twigs in. I jest – in fact there’s a good, cheap selection of well-kept beers in a single-bar pub with a really nice atmosphere.

The restaurant is upstairs, and is quiet and spacious. The food was really nice – especially my starter – Bury black pudding on a potato rosti with a creamy apple sauce. Delicious, if a touch filling. My main course of rolled sea bass with a lime and cabbage filling, with new potatoes and salad was also very good, but defeated me. By going early on a Wednesday evening, we also benefited from two special offers on the food and on the wine, so it was also a relatively cheap night out as well. Especially for me, since the wife was paying!

Modest Mouse on the soundtrack today – indie band from the Seattle area who became marginally famous a few years ago when Johnny Marr joined them for an album and some gigs, that included an excellent, if windswept, Glastonbury appearance in 2007.

This is a Long Drive… is their debut album, recorded back in 1996, well before Johnny sprinkled some jangly golddust on their music. Not the most immediate of albums, it does repay a bit of effort to get past the band’s idiosyncrasies. They have a jerky, tense way of playing, and coupled with Isaac Brock’s ‘yelpy’ singing style, are most reminiscent of early Talking Heads or Pere Ubu. Interestingly, the album was produced by Steve Wold, who also played with the band live and in the studio around this time. Steve Wold later became far better known as Seasick Steve, performing solo blues and generally making the world a finer place.

Here they are on Letterman, with Johnny Marr, performing ‘Dashboard’.

>Day 164: Interview Day!

26 August, 2009 1 comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Elvis Costello & the ImpostersMomofuku

Up early then, to avoid any traffic problems on my way into Manchester. These initial interviews were being held at the agency’s offices, rather than on the company’s premises. I parked up in my old parking space in plenty of time. A quick wander around the city centre to gather my thoughts, then into the offices where a quick glance at the signing in book suggested I was second on. Didn’t recognise the name of number one candidate!

After a quick coffee, I was escorted into the office occupied by the company’s FD. And for the next hour we had what I felt was a good, informal chat around the company, the role, my background and ‘fit’ for the role. At the conclusion of the interview, he said he’d ‘enjoyed’ the interview (hopefully a good sign!) but had two ‘questions’ (potential concerns, I suppose) about my suitability for the role – one concerning my seniority (essentially my willingness to roll my sleeves up and get my hands dirty) and the other concerning the acceptability of the proposed package (which is significantly more than £64 per week, but less than I have been earning). I answered the questions as best I could, then went out for a coffee with the consultant handling the appointment from the agency’s perspective for a debrief.

With the promise of a phone call at the end of the day to update me on progress, I headed off back home. From my perspective, the meeting had reinforced my belief that there was enough ‘meat’ in the role to interest me, that this was a company I could see myself working for, and that, importantly, the FD was someone I would be happy to work for.

After a quick change out of my suit, it was off to Warrington to remind myself just why I need to get back working as soon as possible. Yes, it was signing on day! Nice to be able to tell them I’d been for an interview that morning, they do like to hear of some – any – progress, and it tends to stop them pushing accounts assistant roles in my direction.

Back home, and pretty drained after the morning’s activities, a spot of baking and reading was in order. It looks like the Lescott deal has been concluded – finally – with Everton splashing some cash on Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, a left winger from Lokomotiv Moscow. Who he? You might well ask. Can he play centre back though? Hopefully rumours that Sylvain Distin is on the way are well-founded as I could see him doing a good job for us.

Six-thirty and the all-important phone call came through – and it’s looking positive. Of the five candidates interviewed today, two have been ‘dropped’ – and I’m not one of the two! The FD is sleeping on the way forward – which might involve a further pruning of the three still in the race – prior to further meetings, probably with the Chief Exec and the Chair of the Audit Committee. But as it stands, I’m still in the game.

Elvis on the soundtrack, from one of his more recent albums. A glance at the ‘top artists’ to the right of all this guff will show just how much regard I have for the former Declan McManus, either solo or in collaboration with others. Ever since ‘My Aim is True’ in 1977, I have as a matter of course bought all his work, including re-releases, deluxe editions etc. It’s not quite an obsession, but it’s not far off.

Momofuku is Elvis’s last but one album, and is rockier than some of his more recent efforts. Which is not always a good thing with Elvis, particularly as he has aged – sometimes the rockiness feels a bit forced. For me, the more mature Costello is better suited to working with the likes of Allen Toussaint and Burt Bacharach in a more ‘mature’ style. That said, Momofuku (awful cover apart) is one of his better recent efforts and well worth a listen. The title is a reference to Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen noodles. Make of that what you will!

Here’s a good one. It’s Elvis and his missus, Diana Krall, alongside Willie Nelson, singing Willie’s classic tune ‘Crazy’. Doesn’t get much better than this. Nice head of hair for a mature gentleman, Willie!

>Day 163: Research Day

26 August, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Radiohead – Hail to the Thief

Busy day today, I needed to get myself ready for the interview the following day – which meant finding out as much as I could, from as many public sources as I could, about the company interviewing me. Which, essentially, means trawling through all the information on their two websites – the ‘public’ website which is the link between the company and its customers (real and potential), and more importantly, the ‘investors’ website, which includes more formal and statutory documentation including press releases and full/interim reports and accounts.

So the day was spent surfing, reading, downloading and putting a few thoughts/summaries down on paper. How did we do all this before the internet? With a lot more legwork, and a lot more lead time, to track down, order, receive and review what information we could.

In one sense it’s great, because all the information you should need is readily available (to anyone with access to a computer and a broadband connection) but it does mean that there is no excuse for going into the interview room underprepared.

So I read, and thought, and read some more.

The other advantage of there being so much information readily available is that it allows me to make an informed decision as to whether this is the sort of company I’d be happy working for. And so far, the signs are good. Yes, they’ve had a rough twelve months or so, but so have most organisations. It is clear they have acted decisively to address the issues brought about by the credit crunch, to ensure they are positioned as well as they can be to take advantage of the opportunities that will arise post-recession. They have a clear commitment to corporate responsibility, to the health and safety of their workforce and their customers, and it is clear that they are a business with a well-defined long-term strategy that is still in place, despite the need to address short-term pressures.

All well and good, but what is really important (for me, at least) are the people. And I get my chance to meet the Finance Director tomorrow. Of course, he’s got to like me as well…

Son No 1 headed back down south after lunch, leaving me and the cat to our own devices. Which in his case, meant doing a touch more hunting. I was on the phone to the recruitment consultant, talking about tomorrow’s interview, when I spotted the Hunter crossing the lawn with something small and wriggly between his jaws. Which was a bit distracting, to say the least! Luckily I got through the call quickly, and managed to corner the Beast before too much damage was done. Vole and Cat were separated and each went their separate ways, cat indoors for another ‘grounded’ session!

In other recruitment news, I took a call from another agency about some contract work which sound quite interesting. Not so interesting as to distract me from the interview tomorrow, but definitely something to consider if this role goes nowhere.

Finally some Radiohead on the soundtrack. Hail to the Thief is the third of the ‘difficult’ albums (following Kid A and Amnesiac) that the band released after the “Greatest Album Ever” that was OK Computer. Hail to the Thief represents a slight return to the rockier end of the Radiohead scale, and is less wilfully ‘difficult’ than its two predecessors. Nevertheless from my perspective it’s an album to be admired rather than adored.

Here they are performing the album’s opening track, 2+2=5, on Letterman. With loads of guitars and real drums!

Categories: interview, Pedro, radiohead

>Day 96: We Built this Village on a Trad. Arr. Tune

20 June, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Fairport Convention – Nine

Maybe the first signs of some light at the end of the tunnel?

Or just wishful thinking?

Had a meeting today at a firm of accountants about the possibility of a position in the future. Not an interview, we’re not in that position yet – just some exploratory discussions over a plate of sandwiches and a coffee.

But quite productive discussions all the same. I had previously met the guy I was meeting, in ‘interesting’ circumstances that I can’t go into here, so there was no need for too much introductory chit-chat. Anyway, the long and short of it is that there is a possibility that a suitable position may open up – probably post-September, and there may also be the possibility of some contract/secondment work in the intervening period. This, coupled with the potential contract I mentioned on Day 94, might be enough to keep the wolf from the door until a permanent position comes up.

Or it might be another false dawn. Who knows, but for the first time I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Or maybe as Wirral funsters Half Man Half Biscuit would readily point out – The Light At The End Of The Tunnel (Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train)…

And for those who missed the reference – today’s blog title also comes courtesy of HMHB in honour of the Fairport Convention soundtrack. But you knew that, didn’t you? Oh.

In the excitement of yesterday’s concert report, I forgot to tell you about my latest culinary exploits! Yes, folks, it’s recipe time!

I’m told it was delicious – I wouldn’t know because I never got to taste the thing. But Mrs W and Son No 1 both gave it the thumbs up.

What was it then? Well I’m sure it’s got a proper name, but in Waring Towers it goes by the name of ‘Guinness Casserole’. That’s all you need to know really, isn’t it?

Anyway, in your big casserole pan, brown some stewing steak in some oil, until cooked through. Dry the meat as much as you can, so it fries rather than boils. Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon, then fry some chopped onions until translucent in the oil and meat juices. Add chopped carrot, celery and mushrooms and cook through. Finally stick some chopped garlic in. Add Oxo if you want.

Return the meat to the pan and (this is the good bit) cover the meat and veg with Guinness. Original, in cans or bottles – not the fizzy faux-draught stuff. Drink all the Guinness that is left over. I find it best to buy too much Guinness in preparation for this bit.

Season with some salt and pepper, then leave to simmer for hours, until the meat is tender and the sauce has reduced to an acceptable thickness (thicken with cornflour if you need to). Serve on rice or with baked potatoes.

Bit of hey-nonny-no on the soundtrack today. I have quite a low tolerance for folk/folk-rock, but the Fairports are ok in relatively small doses. ‘Nine’ is, quite literally, their ninth studio album (see what they did there?) and is not their best – both Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson had moved on by this stage. Whilst the ‘Trad. Arr’ stuff is fine, some of the original material plods a bit. You’d be far better off with ‘Unhalfbricking‘ or ‘Liege and Lief’ if you want to investigate the Fairports.

Anyway, here’s ‘Polly on the Shore’ from Nine – Trevor Lucas on vocals:

>Day 94: The Deluge

18 June, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: The Clash – The Magnificent Seven ep

Off to Manchester today for a couple of reasons – Son No 1 had his second interview for his job, and I had a meeting with one of my ex-colleagues about a potential interim role that might arise from some work they have been doing.

Dropped Son off at his interview location and wandered across town to Spinningfields, where my old firm has just this week moved to posh new offices. I got down there and realised I didn’t actually know which building they were in, but eventually found where I needed to be. Very pleasant new surroundings from what I could see – and I hope the move has not impacted adversely on the cost savings they obviously had to make three months ago(!) – would hate to see further personnel fallout as a result of an unfortunately-timed move to new premises.

Walking across town, I managed to get drenched to the bone as rainclouds gathered, and unloaded, over Manchester. Hopefully this will get June’s required rainfall out of the way this week, leaving next week dry and sunny so I can sit in a dry Somerset field chillin’!

Met up with my ex-colleague, who I’ll call Mark (since that’s his name) and we hot-footed it down to Wagamama for noodles and a chat. Very interested in the project he described to me, and I’ve confirmed he can put me forward as a potential candidate for the proposed ‘troubleshooter’ role when they present their report at the end of the month. Obviously can’t say any more than that at this stage. Delighted they are thinking of me, and shows the benefit of not burning your bridges.

My first time at Wagamama, and enjoyed it a lot (although Mrs W had something to say about the resulting garlic breath). Spicy noodles, chicken, duck dumplings (which were ace) and some ‘black’ Japanese beer went down a treat. Couldn’t finish my plateful, which as many of you will appreciate is not typical Waring behaviour!

Wandered back into a (slowly drying) town centre, to get a text from Son No 1 that his assessment would continue until 8:30 in the evening at the earliest, so headed back home, planning to pick him up later.

Duly drove back into Manchester for 8:30, and (after a few ‘holding’ texts, finally picked Son up at around 10:15. After a long and intensive day – the process started at one o’clock, he’d been given the news that he’d passed the assessment and had the job, if he wanted it. Which in itself is great news, and I’m proud of him for having the drive and initiative to go out looking for work well away from his current Southern base. What he has to do now, on the back of what he learned today, is decide whether the proposed role actually reflects what he wants to do and is a role he will be comfortable with going forwards. And if, after due consideration (and discussion with friends and relatives) it is something he wants to do, then we’ll support him all the way.

Downloaded the latest version of the iPhone software this evening, and my phone can now do all sorts of wonderful things like…send picture messages! And support cut and paste! And record voice memos!! All things of course, that cheaper, less trendy phones have been able to do for years.

It’s still ace though.

Got The Clash back on the soundtrack today – I’m sure we’ve had them before. Today’s waxing is a single from the ‘box set’ of singles, which includes each single released by the band in a facsimile of the original sleeve. The Magnificent Seven comes from Sandinista!, at a time when the group were diversifying into rap and other musical forms some distance from their original punk roots, and this single contains eight (count ’em!) tracks including a number of ‘dance remixes’ and dub versions of this and other tracks from Sandinista. Not all of them work, but the fact that the group was prepared to stretch itself and explore new avenues is one of the things that stands them out from the rest of the punk massive. a recent debate on the Word blog asked whether The Jam or The Clash were the better band and, while they were both wonderful, it was The Clash’s desire to experiment and stretch, within the group context, that swung it for me. Paul Weller had to break up The Jam to realise his musical ambitions, he couldn’t do it within that context. The Clash could.

Here they are in June 1981 performing The Magnificent Seven on the Tomorrow Show in the States. How good is this?

Categories: Andrew, Clash, interview, Wagamama