Sunday, October 26, 2008

Stand By Your Phone

It's been another busy week (and weekend) for me and Mr KE. It was an eventful week at work for me, starting with another Monday morning announcement about the company's "resilience plan" for the expected downturn.

We were told that we were all at risk (including Directors) and that we had all been assessed and ranked according to performance. We were given a breakdown of numbers for people who were at risk - i.e. 3 Directors, 4 Grade XXX, 3 Grade YYY etc. There an explanation of the standard legal procedure i.e. that anyone at risk would be called in and HR would try to find them a position in another part of the company or another part of the world. If this was unsuccessful, then it would mean redundancy.

Everyone was asked to be available from 1pm onwards on Friday afternoon. So stand by your phone....for bad news.

I work in a satellite office, so we were away from the "hub" and tried to find some humour in the situation. We were even joking about calling people at 1 o'clock to scare each other. Anyway, while we were laughing about it - when suddenly my phone started was 1 o'clock....and I could see from the number that it was the Business Unit Director (i.e. the person who would be making the dreaded calls)........OMG!!!

Everyone in the office stopped laughing... and for a minute, I thought the worst!! But to cut a long story short - he was calling me to ask about a contract I was working on. Everyone around me was listening intently, so I had to shout out - it's OK folks, he's only calling about XXX! Not being big-headed, but I never really thought I would be at risk anyway.... but took a while for my heartbeat to return to normal.

Ack! How insensitive, huh?? Anyway, the process was delayed and the calls only began at 2:30 because the HR representative was late coming back from another office. I thought that was pretty cruel, as everyone was basically waiting to hear if their jobs were safe.

Someone from our satellite office was made redundant - from the same Grade as me. In fact, there were 3 names from my Grade, and they were all in about the same age late forties / mid 50s (I think). It's not nice when anyone is told "you are weakest link, goodbye" but from an Asian perspective, I'm glad that the assessement was based on performance rather than age/experience, if you see what I mean.

I think in Asia, the idea that seniority is based on age is so ingrained that a person in their fifties would never be made redundant over someone in their early thirties. As someone said to me once, there's no point having twenty five years experience when it actually means one year's experience X 25.

So, *phew* and back to work.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Clever Mr KE has fixed the car! He had to go to Halfords on the bus with the old car battery in a rucksack and bought a new one. Then he fitted the new battery and voila!

So there's no big rush to get our new car now. At least that's one less thing to worry about :)

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I'm sitting at the kitchen window watching Mr KE downstairs fiddling with the innards of our little car. He's so cute when he gets out all his spanners, pliers etc. He doesn't really know what he's doing, but with the help of the internet, anything is possible, right?

I'm still very busy at work although there is a overall feeling of pessimism as the country seems to be heading towards a long recession. On Monday, all the staff were all called to a meeting (actually it was more of an announcement) and told that the outlook was bad for the next 18 months. Yeah, no shit Sherlock.

The dreaded R word (redundancies) was not mentioned but it was highlighted that 80% of our costs are staff costs. The London and other SE offices are doing OK but the Northern offices are in dire straits. Unfortunately, the company can't just shut down the Glasgow office (for example) because of long leases on company premises and also because it wants to maintain a presence throughout the UK.

So the pain has to be spread throughout all the offices. Realistically, this means that every office will have redundancies, even London. I have heard off-the-record that a list has already been drawn up although staff will be told that everyone is at risk. The word is that the cuts will be at all levels - from top to bottom. The redundancies will also be made at the same time; so not 2 or 3 one month and then 2 or 3 next month etc which generally leads to widespread breakdown of morale. Short and swift is the aim. Let's wait and see.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


We have a little car that's about 15 years old. Even though it's tiny, has a lawn-mower sized engine and is worth around £2.50 ; it has been a faithful friend over the last 6 years. Since Mr K-E and I only use the car once every few weeks, we just couldn't justify running a more expensive car.

However, as things are changing around here, we have been planning to buy a new car by the end of the year. In fact, we have just about decided on the car and model etc, and all that's left to do is go to a car lot and pick one out.

Then, this afternoon, we had loaded up our little car with all our recycling, when ....arrrghhhh... it wouldn't start!! We don't have AA Homestart, so tomorrow morning Mr KE is going to walk over to the garage and ask them to have look at it. What bad timing! Hopefully it's just a flat battery because there would be no point spending ££££s on a car that's worth £200...

It's so annoying because now we might have to it cheaper to repair the car or just rent one for a few weeks until we get our new one?? Fingers crossed, it will just be a small thing, like a loose wire or something equally easy.

On a better note, while I'm typing this, Mr KE is cooking dinner. On the menu - rump steak, oven chips, salad and a homemade tomato salsa. Can't wait.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Neighbourhood Chinese

It's been a long and tiring week. On Friday evenings Mr KE usually has a few drinks with his friends before we meet up and have dinner in town. Then we have a wander around Leicester or Trafalgar Square before heading home to our nice comfy sofa.

Tonight I came straight home, so we decided to eat at our "local" Chinese restaurant. Friends and family know that I live opposite a Chinese restaurant - but we never actually go there. Once in a while we get a takeaway, but in general we eat Chinese food in Chinatown. In the 8 years that we have lived in this flat, we have only been in there 4 times (including tonight). I think the last time we ate in was more than 4 years ago.

The food is OK, but it's just a little too close for comfort. I've never been the friendly neighbour type of person, and I just find it embarassing when the staff recognise me. I don't do neighbourly chat, unfortunately.

Also, it doesn't feel like eating out when you can see your own front door.... and your own kitchen.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sunday Night Dinner

It's been a while since I've blogged about cooking, although rest assured I have been trying to to cook more and not just live on processed food.

Tonight I tried a new recipe -roughly based on Jamie Oliver's Meatballs and Pasta. I love Spagetti and meatballs, so I had high hopes for this one.

The recipe actually calls for half beef/half pork mince, but I only had beef mince so that had to do.

Mr KE prefers fusilli to spagetti so I used fusilli instead. The recipe says to bake the meatballs and sauce together without the pasta - yeah, well, who follows recipes anyway.

Pour the tomato sauce on top.

The recipe asks for mozzarella and parmesan, but I didn't have any mozzarella so I used a cheddar/parmesan mix instead.

This is what it looked like when it came out of the oven. It tasted OK, but I thought the meatballs were a bit dry. (It wasn't as nice as the meatballs I had as a kid.)

Maybe because the mince beef was a very lean mix and there wasn't enough fat in it to keep it moist. The next time I'll try it with half pork and see how it goes.

Duck Tour

Mr K-E went on a team outing last week. They went on a Duck Tour, which is a ride on a World War 2 amphibious troop carrier converted into a bus. The bus takes you round Westminster and then onto the Thames.

Mr KE said it was quite fun, especially for kids. You can join the tour near the London Eye.

He is also of the exclusive :) "over and under club" which means he has been over and under a bridge in the same vehicle.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Apples in Norfolk

While we were in Norfolk, we went to an "Apple Fair" in the village. A neighbour of Mr KE's parents has a walled garden with more than 85 varieties of apple trees. He and his family organised the apple fair to raise money to repair their local church bell tower. Village fundraising!

Mr KE's parents were busy helping, while Mr KE and I tagged along.

The walled garden. You can see that all the walls and cottages are made of traditional Norfolk flint.

The organiser really knows his apples. All different varieties were available for people to compare. As for me, I only know 3 types of apples i.e. red, green and brownish :)

A medieval tent was set up and people could try fresh pressed apple juice. All the apples were from the trees in the garden; organic of course!

In the garden, there is an apple tree which was planted in 1887 in celebration of Queen Victoria's Jubilee. This 121 year old tree is still producing lots of fruit, although it looks like it's about to fall over any minute and has to be propped.

It wasn't just the apple trees that were on show. The garden had lots of beautiful features, like this statue above and the old well below. There was also topiary (hedges cut into animal shapes, chairs etc), formal planting and (of course) tea and cakes for sale.

A Norfolk Garden

Mr KE and I spent the weekend at his parents' place in North Norfolk. His parents live in a Norfolk Flint cottage about 10 minutes away from the coast.

The weather was nice (for September) so I spent some time in their garden and took some photos while the sun was out. I really like their garden because it's really interesting and looks good all year round.

This part of their garden always reminds me of the sea. It looks beautiful, even in September - so you can imagine waht it looks like in high summer. At the end you can see their blue summer house. The summer house is a cosy space with doors that open completely at the front; the whole house is built on a turntable so you can rotate it to catch the sun.

You can also see one of their beloved Siamese cats in the photo.

Another view of the garden. It's divided into sections, almost like rooms.

This a view of the house from the bottom of the garden. It is actually a terrace of 5 small cottages converted into one big house. As one of their relatives said, "You've bought a whole street of houses!".

Their back door. You can see the "flint", which is the traditional building material in the Norfolk area.