Thursday, 20 December 2007

More nonsense from work!

People have been hitting the bottle at work I think. This email was forwarded to me but was originally sent to all university staff. The University has to submit the results of five years of its best research to the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). If the University is judged to do well then it will get enough money to continue next year and if it doesn't then departments will close and jobs will be lost! Quite important then..and you would think the transporting of all this information would have been carefully planned down to last detail. Take a look at this! (The opening comment is from my colleague)

Christ! What an opportunity! Call Ruth Kelly immediately!!!!

Dr. Melvin Fracas
Senior Lecturer In Psychology ______________________________________________
From: Melthick Julie Sent: 20 December 2007 10:09 To: uni info
Subject: Wanted - person with van to drive to Bristol on 16th Jan

Does anyone have (or know anyone who has) a transit van or equivalent and would be prepared to drive it down to Bristol and back on Wednesday 16th January? We need to transport the University's boxes of RAE evidence down to the RAE Depot that day and need someone with a van who could help us.
If you can help please reply to this email or phone me on xxxx
Thanks, Julie

Julie Melthick Academic Research Officer Registry

I replied saying that it would depend how much they were willing to pay as I knew someone (ie. me in Ian's van on a days annual leave) but it wouldn't be for free! I have not heard back!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

The Spirit of Christmas

I guess some people don't have much of it! This was an email sent yesterday from the Head of School! Note the pleasant Christmas greetings!

From: Prune Gillian
Sent: 18 December 2007 15:13
To: h health professions staff
Subject: RE: Christmas closure

To add to the information given by Jane, to the best of my knowledge, the University is open until 4.00pm on Friday 21st December. I gather some people were saying that they would stop work at mid day on Friday because this is what we normally do on the last day before Christmas. This is incorrect and instead of asking you to work until lunch time on Monday 24th, the University is giving you the whole of Christmas Eve off, but it is not giving you half of Friday as well. If you want to take Friday pm as annual leave, please feel free to do so, but ensure this is recorded.


Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Banana llama cake

It was my birthday last Friday so I made some cakes for work and tried to make them look like llamas! The end result was quirky and a bit odd and next time I will do better but they were fun to make. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture! The cake was a banana cake so I called it a banana-llama cake! (I laughed!)

Llama walking

I had another go at llama walking last weekend. Due to the foot and mouth outbreak earlier in the year all llama walking (and the movement of most other animals) was suspended over the summer in the South of England. This came at the busiest time of year and has caused real hardship amongst the community. (The owner of the company told us he had been forced to go back to full time work for a while and was hating it!) The walking finally resumed at the beginning of November so I combined some market research with catching up with a friend and we went on a Sunday morning trek followed by a pub lunch. It turned out to be just the two of us, two llamas (Pandu and Mungo) and the owner. It was very pleasant. The llamas were good company and seemed to enjoy the chance to get out. They took every opportunity to eat as much bracken, nettles, trees etc as they could, rolled over in the sand a few times, scratched their bellies on the heather and surveyed the landscape from above (see picture).

I heard a llama hum for the first time (a sort of gentle guttural sound almost like a purr) and I saw a llama kick a dog that got too close (a remarkably quick move for such a large animal). I found out more things about llamas and felt quite comfortable with such awkward looking but elegant and dignified creatures. I learnt that they form close bonds with each other to the extent that if their best friend in the herd dies they can just give up, sit down and never get up again, dying of a broken heart. This had happened to two of the llamas from the herd we were with. One had collapsed and died of a heart attack and his best friend had just given up. I also found out that they are susceptible to bovine TB and two if the biggest breeders in the UK have lost most of their herds.

Ian and I are looking into the costs of importing some llamas from Peru (on the grounds that the cost of transporting them may be not much more than buying them in France). The problem in France is that the national herd is quite small and many of the llamas are related to each in some way! We reckon if we got a genetically different stud male he may pay his way quite quickly!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Lovely's Christmas letter

Thanks so much for being interested enough to get this far! This new method of greeting people at Christmas will certainly sort out those of you who have enjoyed reading my letters from those of you who think 'oh God, another one of those boring Christmas notes!' In an attempt to save on postage and the environmental effects of posting wads of paper all over the world I have tried to summarise my news and publish it on-line so that only those who are really interested have to read it! As you can see if you look at the rest of the blog, this year I have kept a kind of on-line diary. However, I decided to spare you the pain of reading through the whole lot and write a summary here! If you should feel inclined to venture further into the blog at a later date don't be concerned by the characters with the strange names. I have not got a new partner, neighbours, friends and family but have loosely disguised them in case the tax department is after them!

So.. this year has seen several events and decisions made but at the end of it I am still in the same job and living in the same house! My health has fortunately continued to be good and I am now really pretty much back to normal. In April we went to Gran Canaria for a week to do some cycling. The weather was exceptionally hot but we managed to cycle most days. That's me in the picture and the long sleeves are not because it was cold but because it was so hot you needed protection from the sun! I felt like I was really back to my 'old self' after 6 days of cycling up and downhill with no ill effects other than the need to go to bed at 9.00 every night!.

Ian (sic) bought a flat last Christmas and we have spent the best part of the beginning of the year decorating as well as trying to get things sorted in my place. The pattern for the year has meant alternate weekends in London and here, which has been okay but perhaps not a long term option if we want to stay sane! Ian also had to make a decision about the land that he owns in France as the planning permission for the house runs out at the end of December and it would never be granted again. He went over at Easter to review the situation and we both did some thinking and basically decided to have a go at it! Consequently we spent two weeks in August looking for a builder and trying to get things started with the house. It was quite a hard two weeks but ultimately proved successful as the builder started last week and has marked out the house and erected a sign. He tells us that the foundations, walls and roof will be finished by next summer. It is all pretty exiting but quite scary if you think too much about it!

As the land is agricultural we must run a legitimate 'farming' business from it and after a few thoughts I decided that I would really like to breed llamas! Strange I know, and when people ask me how I came to decide on that I honestly can't remember as now 9 months later I have read and researched as much as I can, come face to face with several llamas and met several llama owners and breeders and now I can't imagine a time when I didn't want to have them! The photo is of Ian with a llama at Ashdown Forest LLama Park. So, the date to move to France is probably at least 2 years away, but that will go fast! In order to prepare I have also started French classes again and now when we buy things for our respective homes we say 'is this just temporary or is it something we will take to France!

Although my health has been good the same cannot be said for the rest of the family! My sister-in-law's mother died early in the year which was pretty sad for all concerned as she was quite a lively and positive woman and later in year my sister-in-law was seriously ill with acute appendicitis while on holiday in France. Fortunately she is okay now. My mother has also not been too well this year. It seems in the end that most of her problems were due to an under-active thyroid gland causing her get depressed, slow, to have painful joints and aches and to loose most of her independence. It took a while for it to be diagnosed and she ended up in hospital for two weeks; which just happened to co-incide with the weekend that we were packing up her house and helping her to move to a new flat in Windsor. All rather difficult and stressful for all of us but fortunately she is now recovering and is definitely settled into her new home and I think quite glad she made the move. She continues to improve, albeit it slowly and the the move to a new place where there are people around to stimulate her and to keep an eye on her has really been the best decision she could have made, even though it was very stressful at the time for all concerned.
Work is much the same. It was interesting to make a decision to plan to change careers and leave something that has pretty much been most of my life for 35 years now, but I really think the time is right to try another path. I like aspects of my work even now but it would be so nice to think that there are other things that I can do with my life before I get too old! Making the decision to look to move on has been liberating in some ways as it has enabled me to focus on the things at work that I really enjoy and not the things that are supposed to be important and that has been a good lesson.

So, at the end of the year I am looking forward to a rest! We have various family obligations at Christmas and then will just use the time to get things done at home and maybe go out on the bikes if the weather permits. Next year we will go over to France a few times to keep an eye on the building and probably will need to make some plans over the summer with regard to the next stage. This bit is really the exiting bit as we are doing lots of thinking and planning but haven't actually had to make too many changes! I'm sure it will get harder but we will take each stage at a time and see where we get!

So, here's wishing you all the best for Christmas and hoping that 2008 is good for you!
Thank you again for reading this far!
Best wishes
Lovely (sic)