Friday, 30 April 2010


Goal 59: To give £200,000 to charitable causes

When I wrote this goal, I did not imagine I would be needing charity myself. An anonymous friend posted an envelope through our door yesterday. A close friend as they spelt my wife's name correctly! Very few of our friends do...

The envelope contained £100. Cash. A gift from someone who wanted to give without any thanks or reward. If I recall Jesus words on the subject of giving correctly, "when you give, do not do as the hypocrites do, shouting about it on the street. Give without even your left hand knowing what your right hand is doing. Then your father who is in heaven will see and you will have your reward in heaven."

Even as I write this, I feel a lot of emotion. I am incredibly thankful for the kindness. I am humbled at the generosity and selflessness. I also feel ashamed, I have to say, at my own inability currently to secure a job, and also at my own arrogance to set such a lofty goal but ignore Jesus advice on the subject!

I believe I will secure a contract soon. We do have savings that will last us for more months. But, I have to thank whoever has given us this gift. It means a lot. Thank you.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Lead climbing

Goal 88: To lead climb outdoors

With a lot of encouragement, I've made some progress towards this goal over the past two months. Two indoor lead climbs tonight and I belayed four. A recent visit to the quarry at Auchenstarry was encouraging. Even our four year old enjoyed bouldering there! Some great routes there. A year ago, it seemed like a distant idea, and one I wasn't in a hurry to pursue... Now though, I'm quite keen to take the next step.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses an Eye. Or so they say. Christopher Brookmyre's book has nothing to do with job interviews, unless you happen to be interviewing for the post of commando.

My first face to face interview today went very well. At least from my side of the table. Having sat at the other side on a few occassions, I'm much more relaxed about the whole process knowing that the interviewers range from being as terrified as the interviewees, to exhausted and jaded by the whole process.

I'm hoping to be offered the contract but aware that I'm competing against a potential cast of thousands laid off in RIF's and downsizings. I've started to hear from agencies of other positions where I wasn't selected for interview. I was even told that for one role I had the dreaded disease of being 'too over qualified'... Well, that's why I'm still studying towards a degree :)

Celebrated a successful interview with ice cream all round. Kids were very happy!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

He runs, he shoots, he scores

Football, a game of two halfs, or should it be halves? I don't really get the fascination of watching a ball being chased all the way up a pitch, then all the way back. Though, what really makes my wife crazy is that I'll occassionally drop everything to watch a world cup game and I can't explain why for that brief moment it's suddenly so important.

We bought my son a football for his first birthday. A few years ago now. Only one year old and he knew exactly what to do with a football!

My own goal with our central heating boiler is giving us a lot to think about. Do we pay British Gas £900 for scaffolding or rent our own and use it to paint and repair the high walls on our town house? Or, do we get someone in to do the painting assuming I will have secured a contract by then?

My number one goal is to secure another contract. First telephone interview today. I always find telephone interviews difficult. The agency had sent me a leaflet on interview technique reminding me that communication is 55% body language. Kind of hard to utilise that over the phone. Different telephone interview tomorrow. It is good to start getting interview experience again.

Received grade for my second OU TMA today: 79%!! Woop Woop! It is looking less and less likely that I'll get the grade one pass I had set as a goal but at least the grade has gone up a couple of percent. Heading in the right direction.

Also wrote 350 words towards Fallen Warriors today. I'm meeting my weekly target but still not my daily. Despite having a more rounded sub plot for each character, I don't yet have the sub plots worked together to a point where I fully know in what order, what will happen, in the novel. It is very like a jigsaw where I'm filling in the blanks currently and I know I need to take that last step of ordering events so I can see what is missing and complete it.

What have you done towards your goals this week?

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Boiler failure

We've just ben quoted £3,300 to replace our three year old A rated High Efficiency Condensing Combination Boiler!


It's more than we paid to have the full central heating system put in three years ago.

I am annoyed. Angry. Raging at Glow-worm, who make the boiler, for producing something so expensive and unreliable with a short warranty (only for two years). Angry with the central heating company who installed the boiler, though I have to acknowledge we went for one of the cheaper quotes. Angry also at myself for not taking out one of the many offers of service plans that would have only cost a small fraction of what we may now need to pay; and for not giving more serious consideration three years ago to a quote that would have resulted in a better quality boiler.

Actually, no. Strike that last sentence. We were quoted £6,000 three years ago for the most expensive option. We paid slightly more than half that then to the company who installed the Glow-worm and now are being asked to pay slightly more than half for what I understand to be one of the best makes of boiler.

I'm still angry at Glow-worm. Has anyone else had a central heating boiler fail after such a short time?

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Welcome to Hell

Some people say there is a great big sign at the entrance to Hell, welcoming all comers.

There is now a big welcome notice in the job centre. It certainly isn't hades, or even purgatory, but a place I really want to avoid.

I had my signing on interview today. This precipatated several hours of hunting round the filing cabinet, looking for all those lost and misfiled financial documents that the job centre insisted I provide to prove that I deserve any form of benefit. Financial documents that I really hope don't end up on a stolen laptop, or CD left on the Glasgow to Edinburgh 15:20 from Queen Street.

I thank God that before the morning was over, I had two calls from my favourite recruitment agency, in the whole world, telling me of two interviews they now have lined up!!!! I still had to make my way to h... I mean, the job centre, this afternoon for the interview, but at least could do so knowing that there may be a light at the end of the current unemployment tunnel.

I should say that my perception of the job centre has changed tremendously since the last time I attempted to sign on. A much friendlier environment and one that is beginning to catch up with modern technology. As a computer geek, I was analysing their systems as we went through the process, very hard to switch these things off. It probably helped that I went knowing that I see this only as a safety net and the ultimate motivator. I already know what I need to do to secure a contract. But, there are no guarantees, so if they offer me any money, I'll take it!

Monday, 19 April 2010

If I was elected Prime Minister...

Goal # 89: To change laws for the better

If I did not need to work, I might just put myself up for election. Being unemployed/in between contracts, it almost seems like a possibility until I remember how much actual work and expense would probably be involved. I'd rather concentrate on securing a new contract.

But, if I was Prime Minister, there are a lot of things I would try and change...

  • Discourage use of credit facilities and encourage saving.
  • Link benefit system to a system where individuals who are able to contribute in some way, only receive benefit if they do contribute to society.
  • Get rid of current human rights legislation. I would replace it with a human responsibilities act that emphasises our responsibilities to each other primarily and our rights to be secondary.
  • And, if I'm not lynched for all of the above, begin efforts to abolish prisons. If someone is not a danger to society, I would rather they be forced to compensate victims for crimes committed. If they are a danger to society, well, that is more tricky. I do believe in some cases the death penalty is appropriate. I also do believe even the worst offenders are capable of repenting, of turning from the acts they did and living a better way, but, I do not believe every crime is the same. Some acts are so terrible, the risk that an individual may not change is so great, that as a society we have a responsibility to set limits and enforce them, even to using the death penalty.

Extreme thoughts.

What would you change if you were PM?

Fallen Warriors update: 255 words written today.
Job Hunting update: some encouraging calls from agencies. Just need to start getting interviews.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Island dreams

Goal 79: Own 100 acres of land

Although I did not specify this in my original list, one of my childhood dreams was to own an island. The tales of Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson were early inspirations but also just the sheer fun and adventure of living in such a remote location.

The way I've always seen it, if you own your own island, you essentially become your own monarch. I'm sure the local monarch or government would not see it that way but the chance to create your own world is an irresistable one for me and objections are just an obstacle to overcome.

Anyway, The Times has an article published this week: The world's 10 most affordable islands (currently for sale)

Number one is even affordable...

Raspberry Island, Nova Scotia, Canada, 8 acres, £51,200

Even while unemployed, if I could persuade 11 friends to join me in a joint purchase, I would beg or borrow £5000 to invest in the chance to own a share in an island. Anyone interested?

My wife thinks I'm crazy. I asked her what she would do with an island. Her response, build a bridge!

I signed up for the Amazon Associates program recently. If you fancy buying any of these books, click on the link and I get a percentage.

Fallen Warriors update: Finally managed to get my BIC today. 387 words. Met my weekly goal for the first time in a month. Onwards and upwards...

Friday, 16 April 2010

Signing on

After my contract ended on 31st March 2010, I've been busily calling recruitment agencies, looking for and applying for jobs. Like most people made redundant, or in my case, with a contract not renewed, I'm not seeing much out there.

Last night a friend hassled me to get on down to the job centre and sign on. At worst they might only pay my national insurance for a few weeks, at best, I may get a small benefit payment until I can get a new contract.

So, I got up early today, trimmed my beard, left the suit in the cupboard (jeans are good enough for the job centre, right?) and printed off my CV. Drove up to the job centre (up, down? Hmm. Up.) and said I'm here to sign on.

"Here's a phone number," the nice lady said. "Call this number and you'll be asked a series of questions..."

"That's it?"

"Yes, just phone that number."

Far cry from being told to come back in two weeks, or even having to stand in a queue. I was barely in the place two minutes.

Fifteen minutes later and I'm on the phone to someone who initially doesn't appear to speak English but he slows down and I catch up and 75 minutes later I've answered more questions than Gordon Brown on announcing he is standing down as Prime Minister. There's a thought...

I've been extremely fortunate to have been in consistent employment since we moved back to Scotland in 2005, well, after a couple of months of job hunting then. Quite a shock to be unemployed. Quite a few of my financial goals are seeming like fading dreams at present, not to mention any that require any significant expense. But, we have a little bit saved away. My sometimes investing, sometimes speculating has generated a 50 percent return in the last six months. Shame it was such a small amount to start with but it gives us a few more weeks assuming I don't speculate it away in the mean time.

I'm really hoping, as I discussed with my friend yesterday, that some quirk of fate will ensure that now I've admitted defeat by signing on, someone will offer me a job and I will have completely wasted my time answering all those questions. I live in hope :)

Thursday, 15 April 2010


I finally submitted assignment two late this afternoon, one day late but with an extension. Was a bit alarmed by the Open University warning notices - if your tutor has not agreed an extension they do not have to mark the assignment... But, done now and less than one month till assignment three is due. What a treadmill.

Have done no writing today. Still have Friday and Saturday to make up, I can do it... BIC!

On a different note, I've been fasting today. Stomach making rumbling noises as I write. Our church has been fasting and praying for a day each, over this month to ask God to heal people who are ill.

I find the whole concept of fasting scary and attractive at the same time. Attractive because there does seem to be a link between fasting and spiritual experiences, including miracles.

Scary because giving up food is not a rational action. I don't like choosing not to eat for a day and have to say that I have not fasted for the whole day today. I 'broke the fast' with some fruit while my family had their evening meal and joined them to catch up having shut myself away when I would normally have had breakfast and lunch to pray.

I find fasting to be practically very humbling. I'm quite aware of my own weakness and needs when fasting and I guess that is the main point. It certainly isn't an attempt to force God to act. I believe I am more open to God while fasting. A very subjective experience but one I value.

Jesus is one of the few people said to have fasted for 40 full days. I believe he did and possibly fasted for shorter times afterwards. I find it fascinating that when he healed people, he is recorded as having acted in a way that was extremely sensitive to the situation, sometimes in a way that still seems bizzare such as choosing only to raise Lazarus from the dead, not stop him dying in the first place or spitting in dirt and then making mud to put on blind eyes and healing sight.

It seems to me that Jesus had a supernatural knowledge of the right thing to do in each situation. Personally I think that fasting played a part in that. If fasting does allow me to be more open to God then I hope I will know what to pray for and have more faith to believe it will happen.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010


Nathan Bransford wrote a blog entry yesterday that really appeals to me. I'll let him explain what a BIC is.

Quick update:

I've hardly written anything over the past month. No excuses, but job hunting has taken priority as my contract ended 31st March. But, BIC is what counts so I'm determined by the end of the week I will have reached my weekly word count and will have written for at least three days.

Not today though. Assignment two is due today and I still have a fair bit to do. So enough procrastinating...