Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Of course, it's not actually as bad as all that. Projected spending cuts are only taking us back a few years in terms of public sector spending. And let's face it, when certain regions of the UK have over 70% of their GDP as public sector spending something is seriously unbalanced. It isn't sustainable.
But where I work, and I work on the public pound, they are taking an axe to the payroll. I haven't had my P45 (pink slip) yet, but let's just say I don't see where I fit in the new organisation. Which is a shame, as I'm doing some really good work and I am excellent value for money (I would say that, wouldn't I). That doesn't mean things can't change or that there maybe still isn't a place for me where I work, but it does mean that I'm not there for just any job. No individual is indispensable, but staying on the same path isn't the only way to achieve what you want.
So what will I do with time on my hands:
1. I will take a step back from public life to concentrate on spending more time with my family. And I mean that with depth of sincerity of any politician...
2. I will become a kitten farmer**. When we were in the market for a new cat, I couldn't believe how much a regular old cat went for in London. Or how hard it is to get a cat from a shelter. We had to go through a RIGOROUS interview process and pay for the privilege before we got our (excellent) cat from Battersea. All I have to do is drive to the regions and pick up a breeding pair and in a matter of a couple of months, I'll be raking in the cash. Plus, there will be an infinite array of cute kittens which I shall capture on video and post to my blog for advertising revenue. I hear that the Internet loves kittehs.
3. I will become a reality tv star. With more and more channels all the time, there's more and more need for reality tv. And I'm more than ready. The Vol-in-Law thinks we may be a bit boring for a reality show, but I don't think so. I'm sure we'll learn to play up for the camera. And we have a cute kid who I can teach some cute catch phrases - he's already saying "Watchyou talkin' bout?" and "Go on, go on" - two catch phrases that have worked well in sit-coms. Plus, all those kittens!
4. I will finally take the plunge and pursue my dream career of country music star. I will not let my lack of musical talent hold me back. I will be wearing a lot of fringe and beaded shirts and exotic skin cowboy boots. Oh yeah.
5. I will market my skills elsewhere. My passion for better governance is unabated. And since I love what I do and love working with a lot of the people that I work with - the passionate and inspired ones anyway - both inside and outside my current organisation, I want to keep on doing that. And I'll find a way.
* actually that isn't entirely true - there was some genuine improvement as measured by the targets and PIs which were determined centrally as well as some good local stuff, too. But this performance was often bought at a high price without much in the way of sustainability if the money's all gone.
** an ethical kitten farmer, not a news-at-6 type kitten farmer.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
He sat quietly throughout the performance. A little too quietly perhaps, as there were many calls for audience participation and when I was singing and clapping he told me to stop. "Shhh, mommy quiet," and he held a finger over his mouth. And "Stop singing,".
For a three and half year old boy on a big day out in town on the busy streets of London he behaved incredibly well. And I told him so. And later on that night, I told his dad, too in his hearing about how impressed I was. But that's when his conduct took a turn for the worse. He was clearly upset by this. It's as if he doesn't mind being good when it suits him, but he'd rather have the reputation of a bad boy. Can't imagine where he gets that.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
I was never sure how I was going to handle the whole Santa Claus thing with a child. I like Santa as a concept in "Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus" kindness in people's hearts kind of way. But I don't like Santa in the "We must all tip toe around this great fiction and go to great lengths to preserve this collective lie or else it will ruin Christmas" kind of way.
It's clear that the nursery the boy attends has gone to some great lengths to fill their heads with tales. The boy has come back talking of "Father Christmas" and if he's coming and when he's coming and nothing at all of Santa. I have indulged in a little bit of "maybe Santa will bring it" when he pesters me over some longed-for toy.
Of course, I did issue some big whoppers this Christmas. One in particular over the Fisher Price Imaginext Space Shuttle that's been heavily advertised over the past several months. I did buy him the space shuttle, but unfortunately the boy spotted it and wanted it straight away. "Sorry," I said. "That's a present for another boy, but maybe you'll get one. Maybe Santa will bring it." There were a lot of tears, but eventually the boy gave up. "That's for another boy," he said a bit forlornly and eventually stopped mentioning it at all.
Except when I asked him what he was getting for me. "What do you think Mommy wants?" I asked. "A white space rocket," he replied confidently.
On Christmas morning the Space Shuttle was opened and I snapped the moment of reveal. I may be reading too much into it, but I think something on his face isn't just the joy of receiving the longed for toy. I think there's a bit of "I knew it! This was for me all along."
"Because if you pull that, Santa will DIE."
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
This morning I accepted a package from a failed delivery to a neighbour's house. Normally I'm happy to do this, but today it was against my better judgment given that package was HUGE and took up a substantial portion of my tiny house's entrance way. I had fears of it lingering in our house over Christmas.
The box said it was an 'air cooler' a little portable air conditioner, but obviously what was inside the box had to be different. After all, we've had record cold lately and although today was the first in a while that it's been above freezing for a bit, I'd hardly say it was tropical. I relented because it was probably somebody's Christmas present or a whole bunch of Christmas presents and I'd have hated for it to go back to depot turning me into the Grinch who stole Christmas.
Thankfully my good deed was rewarded when a few hours later my neighbour (who, this being London I would not have been able to pick out of a line up) arrived to pick up his giant parcel. He was surprised by the size and told me "I ordered this one because our house is very hot."
I must have looked at him strangely. "It's hot in our house," he explained "it's not good for me."
OK. Merry Christmas, I said.
It really was an air conditioner. Ordered in December and apparently to be used in December in the snowiest coldest December in London in living memory.
I was imagining that they're running some kind of marijuana/cannabis farm inside their terraced house to produce such heat. Otherwise, just open a window, my friend.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
In my day to day work life, I'm a proponent of open government. More open data, more open governance, more open, more open, more open. But clearly there are limits*. But where those limits are is not clear. People like Julian Assange and other open government activists are playing an important role in campaigning for more openness. They are muck-rakers and there can't be significant change without stirring up a little muck.
But how much muck is too much? And oughtn't there be a little discrimination in the muck that's stirred? When millions of cables are released, there's no way either the leakers or the publishers of leaks can have read them all or made a decision about the value, importance or rightness of releasing the information. My natural instinct, even as a proponent of openness, was that this was wrong because it lacked thought. And wikileaks has a history of publishing data without sensitivity, failing to redact individual names, even in cases where being identified might mean death.
Having listened to an interview with Julian Assange this morning on BBC Radio 4, I can see how the organisation is, as ever, a reflection of its leadership. Mr Assange apparently lacks discretion or sensitivity.
I don't know the details or the truth of the allegations of sexual assault. But I do know this: Julian Assange is a prick. A prick either without much sense of irony or a supreme sense of irony (my organisations does not encourage leaks, he says - and that organisation is called, ummm - WikiLeaks). When Mr Assange and his legal representatives complained of his personal information being leaked by the Swedish prosecutors, I had to do a double take.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
The heavens opened and dumped a truck load of snow on London. Again. The perfect day for staying home or perhaps only venturing as far as the local cafe. But we had agreed to meet the boy's grandparents at the Imperial War Museum. Since they'd come down all the way from Scotland* it seemed churlish to cancel.
Actually the Underground was running ok and the boy was a little trooper through the snow. And he loved seeing the rockets and planes and tanks and stuff.
*not sure how they're going to dig their way back into Scotland
1. Plastic forks AND crayons in printers
2. CDs jammed into a PC drive
3. Two DVDs at once into a combi TV-DVD player*
4. Milk on a laptop keyboard
...and the latest...
5. Poker chips in a wii disc drive**
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
It's the nursery's Christmas party today, and they demanded that the children arrive in 'fancy dress' (American translation: costume). I knew I had two costumes I could pull together at short notice - cowboy and knight. I could have done pirate,too - but that would have taken ironing - so that was immediately ruled out.
I asked the boy "Do you want to be a cowboy or a knight?"
His response: A cowboy knight.
Well, of course.
Never mind that he looks a bit like he's headed to a costume ball of a white supremacy group raising money for 2nd Amendment rights protection, I'm sure it will be a lovely Christmas party.