Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Time of Your Life

My cousin is in the process of making some big decisions right now. She's trying to decide what to do with the rest of her life, in other words she's deciding which college or university to apply to and what to study. She's strongly leaning towards medicine but also toying with the idea of becoming an archaeologist. I wish they told them at career councelling that an 18-year old is hardly expected to know what to do with the rest of their lives when they probably are unable to tell you what they plan to do next month.

I do hope she takes into account the length of her career, including the time it actually takes for her to pay back the student loans she'll have amassed unless she's lucky enough to have someone pay her way through school or she works her little arse off trying to make enough money to pay for rent, phone, food and most importantly, study materials.

My father retired at the age of 50. He was one of the last one in the armed forces in Finland to be able to do so, they have now raised the retirement age to 55 and are planning to raise it a bit further if at all possible. The general retirement age in Finland still is 65, which means that my mother, who is 3 years younger than my father, still has 5 years of hard work ahead of her. She's a nurse in a nursing home, which means it's a lot of lifting, walking, washing and feeding. She loves her job, don't get me wrong, but I'm left wondering should she really be lifting someone a lot heavier and taller then her, all by herself.

I'm sure my cousin will choose what feels right for her right now, but what if she changes her mind? In my experience, parents aren't always all that pleased to hear that their children aren't sure this is what they want to do and are going to take a year out. I wish I had taken a year out. I almost did, but then i got pushed through the same career tube we all did; graduate from secondary school, apply to colleges and keep on studying for another 4 years at least. I'm lucky in a way, because I landed into a job I actually love doing even though it's not strictly speaking what I studied but a lot of what I learned is applicable.

Not everyone is that lucky. I friend of mine spent 2 years in university studying molecular biology before realising she hated it and walked out to much protesting from her parents. She's doing a business degree in retail now and loves it, but just goes to show how wrong you can get it the first time around.

I truly admire people who go back to college at an older age. I doubt I could ever do that. Even though my grades were always slightly above average, I'm not an academic person. Studying does not suit me. I retain information if it's something of interest to me personally, otherwise it's in one ear and straight out the other one. I didn't really study as such even when I was in college, I merely skimmed notes that made very little sense to anyone else. I still graduated, by the way. I have a BBA in tourism, marketing and business administration of all things.

I do miss the college life that went on outside studying. We were constantly broke but didn't care. Somehow we always had money for drink and cigarettes, which goes a long way to explain why we were all so bloody skinny back then. Necessity truly is the mother of invention, as we soon noticed. We saved the water from noodles to cook pasta in the following day, it still had some of the flavour in it. Mind you, chicken flavoured pasta isn't the greatest of delicacies but drown it in ketchup and you're good to go.

Ketchup could be watered down to no end if it looked like it might run out before the government's monthly allowance came in at the beginning of the month. One of my friends worked part time at a burger place and stole endless sachets of ketchup to tide us over the last few days before we were in the money again. Another friend took a roll of toilet paper with her from college every day and never ran out of it in the 4 years of college.

I worked through college, which meant I had some money at my disposal, but that said, I was quite sensible in the end and spent most of it on books and other things I actually needed to finish my degree. What was left over was spent on luxuries such as fresh bread instead of the day-old "reduced to clear" one, cheese and maybe a new bottle of ketchup. Happy days.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

#1 Thing to Hit the Fan

The #1 thing to hit the fan last week was shit. Lots of it. All over the place. Last week was possibly the worst I've had in years. The worst week at work, anyway.

On Thursday the phones rang. We got summoned to a meeting with General Manager and the owner the following day. We were all to be seen individually. That's not good by any means. Not knowing what the meeting was about didn't help the growing feeling of dread. Quick round of phone calls later nobody was none the wiser and the only thing we had established at that stage was that we were all given 15 minutes for our meeting. Whatever it was it was going to be short and to the point.

Thursday night was sleepless. Imagine being hung with a noose that's just too loose to do the job properly.

Friday morning was spent consuming too much coffee and not enough food. Suffering from a caffeine overdose probably wasn't the best of strategies but in times of crisis we do tend to stick to the things we know to comfort us. One by one we went in and met the two men behind the big desk. Like being sent to the principal's office in school.

We had imagined all sorts of horrors waiting for us. We went in hoping for the best, fearing the worst. I was told my colleague was going to be made redundant and I was expected to pick up the slack, or at least some of it. Our Deputy Manager would look after the rest. We were all to do this while taking a 5% pay cut.

As the day went on, more news came. Changes we were going to undergo. Cuts in staffing levels. Savings here, savings there. "Restructuring of the business" they called it.

Some came straight out of their meeting, slammed the door and left. These including the colleague made redundant whose 40th birthday party was on that very night. Talk about timing.

Saturday was spent in disbelief. How could one person be singled out to be made redundant while the rest of us stayed? Survivors guilt, I suppose, in a way.

We swapped stories, seemingly we all got the same story. Business levels down, recession etc. We knew all that going in.

On Monday we met our financial controller. She's been with us for 22 years. She was let go as well. After being offered a different title with same duties she's performing now, only with 30% less pay. Needless to say she refused. She's leaving in 8 weeks.

That was pretty much as much as I could take. It was a culmination of an exceptionally shitty few days.

I got home that evening and talked long and hard with Mr S. I had a little cry. Then I put on some Miles Davis while Mr S poured me a huge glass of red wine. I cooked comfort food; cheese and bacon risotto with baby leeks and white wine. All seemed right in the world of me again. We'll see how long until the shit hits the fan again. Until the I'll find solace in jazz and carbohydrates. And alcohol.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Busy Doing Nothing

What exactly have I done over the past week? Apart from morphing into a 1950's housewife and at the last minute managed to reverse the process thanks to The Big Thaw (yes, they're actually calling it that) and me being able to leave the house again. Apart from that, I've done SFA.

Somehow I've still been quite busy. I feel the days haven't got enough hours to accommodate my Very Important needs whatever those needs may be. And all those things I listed in an earlier blog post needing my attention still remain unattended to.

I did return to work on Saturday. It was a surreal experience to say at least. Having been gone for nearly two weeks, the place having been closed for a bit longer than that, everything had to be started from scratch. My colleague and I were hovering around the place not really knowing where to start. All day long. I'm sure we managed to get something done, but in fairness, I cannot tell you what.

I have a busy week ahead as well. My planner is full for the week already. Today I have a date with a friend, we'll somehow combine running errands, shopping and catching up. Surely that won't be a problem.

Tomorrow Mr S and I are going to view an apartment. We're not entirely sure if we want it, it is in a very nice location, in a town, it's in a managed apartment complex, fully furnished and all sorts of other nice things. We're thinking about buying it as an investment more so than anything else. We're being convinced it would be very easy to rent it out, especially in the summertime when the town in question is packed full of holiday-makers. We'll wait and see.

Wednesday is me-day. Massage, facial and mani-pedi. And that's all I'm going to do that day.

Thursday is a day off with Mr S. He tells me he has something planned. On the edge of my seat here =)

Friday I'm back to work and there's a 40th birthday party I'm invited to, too. Only problem is, it's miles away and I'm working on Saturday as well. If I choose to go by the taxi I hear is being arranged, I'll be stuck there until everybody else who doesn't have to get up early the following day, are ready to go. Which usually is around 4am after a house party has wound down. If I choose to drive instead, I'll be stone cold sober watching everyone else getting more and more drunk. Is it just me, or does neither of those options sound particularly appealing?

Saturday and Sunday are busy days at work, I won't even attempt to plan anything else for those days. Just reading this back to myself is making me exhausted... See you on the other side!

Monday, January 11, 2010

One year from now...

...I will be 30 years old. The big three oh. I am fairly certain that this time next year I won't feel all that different. I'm not really all that bothered about getting older. The one thing that does frighten me is the fact that I will probably be expected to act like an adult. Mind you, Mr S is a good deal older than me and still acts like a 16-year old. And there's my brother who will turn 37 in a few months and his mental age is closer to 12 than anything else. Just ask his fiance. She left me a message yesterday saying "He was out last night, now hangover and in a very irritating mood. Has scrapes on his head from wrestling 'the boys'." Needless to say "the boys" she's referring to are the same age as my brother is.

One of the people I work with is a woman who's 43. She looks about 33. I once asked her how does she do it. "I don't act my age." was the simple reply. And she is right. She doesn't. She is very professional and all about the business when the situation requires, but she is also the same woman who took out her camera and was pretending to take a photo of a painting on the wall when in fact she was photographing one of the customers who she thought was hot. He was, in fairness a nine and a half. Another thing she attributes to her youthful looks and ways is the fact that she's not married nor has she any children. She may be onto something there.

I have made a promise to myself and a couple of my friends that when I turn 70, I will start wearing pleated floral skirts teamed with thick, knee-high tights and very sensible shoes. And cardigans! Lots of cardigans of different colours and patterns. I may even start knitting them myself now that I have had plenty practice.

Yes, that's another thing that's come out of me being more or less housebound due to the freezing weather/snow/ice and other extreme conditions. I've started to morph into a 1950's housewife. I've knitted, crocheted,
needlepointed, cooked, cleaned and baked myself into some state of insanity. It has kept me busy and my mind off the fact that given a choice I would much rather be at the sales picking up things that I hadn't realised I even needed until I saw them at 60% off. I have quite successfully managed to produce a woolly hat and mittens for my friend's baby boy, a scarf for Mr S(that I know he won't wear), a scarf for myself, a cushion, a door sausage (draught excluder I think is the proper name) and some pot holders. Disaster struck last night when I ran out of yarn. I found myself suddenly feeling the same way I did when I gave up smoking. It was as if my hands felt like vast, empty appendages screaming to be filled with knitting needles or at least a crocheting hook. I managed to unearth from the bottom of the closet we never use, a needlepoint kit I got from my godmother for Christmas several years ago. It is huge. It is a picture of a girl feeding a horse. It will take me about a year to finish. Handily just in time for my 30th birthday. Looks like my year ahead is sorted.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

So little time... many ridiculous things that seemingly need my attention. Okay, well maybe not entirely ridiculous, but they are the sort of things I'd rather forget all about and then a few months later curse my own laziness and ask myself "Why didn't I do this months ago?".

My optician keeps sending me reminders to get my eyes tested. Yes, I know it's been over two years. Yes, I know I can't use my
PRSI to get money back. Yes, I know that as a contact lens wearer it is incredibly important to look after your optical health. I just haven't gotten around to book an appointment. Now I'm being pestered by green and white envelopes and very polite voice mail messages. I'm sure I'll go soon, I quite fancy new, cool designer glasses...
My car is due its annual service. Or moreover, was due its annual service last month. I couldn't get it booked into the garage I normally use, and to be completely honest, I'd rather have Mr S with me when I do go. He can articulate the things that need checked out far better than I can. They're more likely to respond to the "Can you check the shocks and suspension?" than my "It makes a clunky noise when I hit something. I mean a pothole. Or a bump. Not a person. Or an animal...". I'm sure you know what I mean.

I need to shop around for car insurance. The constant ads on telly and radio have me convinced that my current insurance company is ripping me off. For the last two years I have quite happily just rang them at the time of renewal and given them my credit card number. No more! I'm sure I can find a better dea
l by listing the hundreds of insurance companies and brokers and shopping around a bit. If I do this online there's always the danger of me just stumbling upon things rather than doing actual research. If I do the shopping around on the phone there's always the danger of Mr S exploding when he sees the phone bill. Rock. Hard place. Insert me in the middle.

I need to find a dentist. I have been living in Ireland for 6 years or so, and I still don't have a dentist here. I went once and swore I'd never go back. I don't think it's acceptable for the dentist to leave you there mid-treatment and go off to tend to another patient before he's finished with me! I don't know if dentists do that on a regular basis in Ireland, but I was shocked. And since I still
go to Finland roughly once a year, I kept the dentist I have there. Ridiculous, I know, but for something as uncomfortable as a dental visit, I like to keep things nice and familiar for as long as humanly possible.

The one thing I have managed to do was to take Lily the cat to the vet's for her annual check up. That's one thing I wouldn't leave until later. It's not my health and well-being at stake but an animal's I've taken the
responsibility for. She wasn't happy being shoved unceremoniously into the cat carrier and then transported in Mr S's jeep on very icy roads for full 20minutes longer than it normally takes. She has survived the ordeal, gotten a clean bill of health and is currently sleeping beside the radiator. Happy kitty.

Monday, January 4, 2010

How green can you be?

I feel as if I'm an unwilling participant in a reality TV show with that name. I think it's fair to say this so called cold snap has gone beyond being just a snap. Maybe it is the planet itself taking action towards reducing our carbon footprint thus giving itself another few years until the human kind cops on and starts doing such things in its own accord.
Step one: Make sure roads have a sheet of ice on the surf
ace. This is best achieved by raising the temperature during the day to about +5 and sprinkling everything with a lovely little shower just before sundown. Then lower the temperature below zero and voilà! The road has taken on an uncanny resemblance to a skating rink. This of course prevents anyone in their right mind getting into their car and traveling anywhere at all unless they have to. You have successfully cut out any unnecessary journeys for the majority of the population. Step one complete.
Step two: Continue with the freezing sub-zero temperatures. If you have successfully completed step one, you have a truly captive audience since everyone is cooped up inside. This will freeze the water supply to most houses, giving the people a chance to firstly, really appreciate what they have by taking it away, and secondly, reconsider the things they consider necessities. Do I really need to shower daily? Do I really need to do a load of laundry every day? Does that plate really need washing up? How long can I go without flushing the toilet? Step two complete.

Step three: Now it's time to up your game a bit. Create a storm. This may require raising the temperature above zero for a while, but if you time your storm correctly, you will be able to combine this step with step one, just to give the roads a top up of ice. If all goes to plan, your perfect storm will disrupt the electricity supply. This means no lights, no heating, no cookers and no pollution. Remember to keep the water supply frozen, this way any oil-fired central heating will be out of action too. As long as you make sure step one has been completed and keep repeating it as needed, there is a very slim chance of the electricity supply to be fixed, because the people working on it will be unable to travel where ever it may be they need to go to fix it.

To sum up your terrific efforts, you have eliminated carbon emissions from cars, stopped people wasting water and brought to a halt the reckless consumption of electricity generated by fossil fuel. The people who installed solar panels are laughing all the way.

Not to mention, it all looks so very