27 May, 2009

Moving Day

Well, I've moved! I am now no longer staying with my mate, not because we fell out or anything, but because there was accommodation available at my place of work! I have a large room with a bed and a couch and an en-suite shower room, and it's a bit like being a student again! It's only a short term solution, as I can't live here with Isla, so I still need to get myself on a housing list of some description. It's great though - instead of having to drive all of ten minutes home after work, I can actually have a drink and just go upstairs! I'm really quite pleased with it.

I moved in yesterday - I had Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday off to get myself sorted out. I was moved in by midday yesterday, and after that I didn't have a clue what to do with myself! For the last six weeks there has always been something to do - whether it be job interviews or job searching on the internet - I haven't had time to just sit and relax. And I have to say I found it very difficult. I sat and watched a couple of episodes of Sex & The City, had a shower, and then went downstairs to have a drink and a cigarette. Then, to my relief, my mate phoned me and suggested the pub quiz at her local! So, off I went back to her house, and we went to the quiz, which, naturally, we won again!! And there were only two of us! So, we got a £15 voucher which we will spend on dinner next time we go! Happy Days!

Apart from that, the job is going well - I was saying today that it doesn't feel as though I've only been here a week - it feels like I've always been here. Like I said before, they're a really nice bunch of people and it feels like they've made it easy for me to slot in.

The only dark spot on the horizon is how the hell do I fit the job in around Isla when I've got her here? I'll cross that bridge when I come to it...a house comes before I even start worrying about that.

I'm going to Portsmouth next week because it'smy birthday. Loyal readersmay remember that it's also Isla's birthday, and she so happens to be in Portsmouth with my mum visiting Grandma, so we'll get to spend our birthday together after all. I can't wait!

22 May, 2009

A Useful Member of Society Again!

Well guys...I got a job! Not a nice desk job with sensible 9-5 hours though!

Last week, my mate and I were driving back from the garage and we passed a pub that had a board outside saying that they required a chef. So, we pulled in, and I dropped my CV off, and had a little chat to the boss. He invited me to come back for a trial day on Tuesday.

So, on Tuesday I duly turned up - much to their surprise! They have had several people come in for interviews and not bothering to come for the trial days, or coming in for one day and then buggering off. In UK, in order to receive the dole money, it's necessary to go to two interviews a week I think, so there are an awful lot of social scroungers who do the bare minimum just in order to keep their dole money without actually having to work to get paid! Anyway, I assured them that I wasn't on the dole, I was here because I actually needed a job!

It's been hard because I have been out of the business for nine years, but I'm getting there. The plan is that when I'm back up to scratch I'll be 2nd Chef. The first day I was ok, but I thought that the second day I was crap - second day nerves and all that! But it's getting better - it's just getting my head back into that mindset again. The rest of the staff seem to be a really nice bunch of people, and I think I'll really enjoy working here. My only problem is that I haven't a clue how to go about finding out about childcare. I've got the paperwork to fill in for the housing people, but no idea how to solve the problem with what to do about Isla when I'm on lates. How do single parent nurses manage? They have even worse shifts than chefs!

So, I am once again a useful member of society, and a British taxpayer again! I can start complaining about scroungers who are spending my hard earned tax money and all that! I too can moan like Jeremy Kyle!

Oh, I did get my car back by the way - got it back on Monday. It turned out that the fan had stopped working, MELTED the thermostat and the cam belt was shot. I was so lucky it didn't happen as I was driving up the motorway in France!

18 May, 2009

Out Of The Blue

To make up for everything on Friday, I had a lovely surprise yesterday.

We were supposed to be going to a party in the evening, and I was umming and aahing about it because I'm skint, I was depressed about the car and just generally pissed off and I wouldn't know anyone anyway.
I had a text in the afternoon, from Joocey, saying that her family were in Cheltenham for one night, and did I want to meet up for a drink? Silly question! So I texted back yes, and there was a party too, and it turned out to be a brilliant evening!

We met up with Joocey and her sister in town, had one drink and headed off to the party. A little while into the evening a discussion was had and it was decided that in order for us ALL to have a good night we'd leave the car at the party venue, and get a taxi, and my mate's sister (not Joocey's, the mate I'm staying with) would take my mate back to get the car in the morning.

So, we all got a bit hammered but not quite as much as Joocey's sister, who, by the way, got chatted up by an 18 yr old!
It was a lovely surprise that they were there, we had a great night, and it was fab to see Joocey's sister again as the last time I saw her must have been about 7 yrs ago!

Was it Friday 13th?

I'm sure it must have been. Too many unlucky things happened on the same day for it to just be coincidence.

First of all, the day started off ok. My mate had to take her car to the garage, so off we went in convoy. We passed a pub that was advertising for a chef, so I made a mental note of it. We went into Specsavers for my mate's new glasses, and I made a free eye test - thanks to Grandma's glaucoma I'm entitled.

Decided to come back to the house for a spot of lunch before having to head out in the afternoon to collect the car, and we also both had more applications to fill in. We got to the house, got out of the car talking about what we would eat, my mate went to get the keys out of her handbag and it suddenly dawned on her that she had given the keys to the garage man and left the house keys on there. So, we were locked out! And starving!

We went up to the local, and had the cheapest meals we could see on the menu, as we couldn't wait until the evening to eat.

I had an interview with another agent in the afternoon so off we went back in to town. We went to collect my mate's car after that, and stopped in at that pub on the way back. I spoke to the owners, and basically had an interview there and then, and they have asked me to go in on Tuesday for a trial day in the kitchen, so I am really hoping that goes well. After that, we headed home.

We pulled up at a set of traffic lights, and all of a sudden I saw steam pouring out of the bonnet, so I turned the engine off immediately, switched on the hazards and beeped several times to tell my mate (in front of me) that I had stopped. I leapt out of the car, opened the bonnet and was stunned to see that the coolant in the reservoir was actually boiling over. There had been no warning, the temperature gauge must have literally shot up because I hadn't noticed it being hot. I then had a panic! I'm REALLY good at panicking! A nice bloke stopped just behind us, and helped us to push the car into the pub car park opposite, where he poked his head in the engine and couldn't come up with much that was useful except to say wasn't he lucky he had a bloody german car and not a crappy Vauxhall, to which my mate agreed. I snapped that that was hardly helping me now was it, and they became a little more helpful! Vauxhalls, for the record, are not actually crappy - this one we have had for 11yrs, since it was 3 months old, and, apart from one little incident which was totally our fault involving no oil change before the winter and no use of the car involving the old oil granulating and requiring a new engine, we have never had a moment's problem with it. And I drove it 700 miles on Wednesday without a second's problem. Anyway, the bloke just so happened to have a tow bar in his car, so he offered to tow me back to the house, from whee I could phone for assistance. We did it, and I have never been so shit scared in my life (apart from Space Mountain at Disneyworld when I was 6 - it was on a par). He drove far too fast, my brakes and powered steering didn't work, and it wasn't much fun.

I phoned the French insurance when we got in, and they arranged for the RAC to come out - that's a good thing with French insurance - you get roadside assistance. The RAC man decided that he thought it was probably the thermostat, but as he couldn't get to it without dismantling the engine, which is too difficult by the side of the road, that we would organise for it to be picked up and taken to a garage the next morning. So, I got up bright and early (sacrificing my longed for lie in) to meet the very cute new RAC man. He towed it off to the garage we had been at just the day before (he's a friend of my mates, so trustworthy). All I know is that he's going to do a head test - the RAC guy said he thought it was unlikely that it was the cylinder head as if it was there would be black smoke pouring out of the exhaust and there definitely wasn't. So, please everyone keep your fingers very tightly crossed that it is the thermostat.

Incidentally, on our way back from the pub that day, we passed some gypsies - real ones with bright caravans and horses! It was lovely - like a scene from a postcard.

Going back to the Friday 13th theme...
My mate's daughter had a bad day too! Her partner locked himself out of the flat by mistake and had to get a lift to her place of work for the keys, she got into her car at the end of the day to realise that she'd lef the lights on and the battery was flat, and then once she got it going, she ran out of fuel on the way to the petrol station!

Don't you think sometimes we should all just stay in bed!


I've had a frustrating evening - well, except for watching LOST which was amazing and made me bawl my eyes out!!

Anyway...the trip switch went this afternoon - I think we were running too many things at once. Thought nothing of it at the time, until this evening when I tried to go online. No wireless signal - bugger! I tried all sorts of clever things, but nothing worked, so eventually I plugged in the ethernet cable and bit the bullet and phoned BT. The guy fixed it remotely, but it doesn't help that the call centre is in India. And it doesn't help that when you ask an intelligent question the person who is supposed to be helping you replies to the question he THOUGHT you asked, not the one you actually DID ask. Why do they have to be so patronising? And when will we get all the call centres for British companies back into Britain?

08 May, 2009

Onward and Upward

So, having returned to France what are my job hunting plans from now on?

Well, I am going back to England on Wednesday and I have an interview on Thursday. I am leaving home at about 4.30am (again!) and driving up to Le Havre and catching the 17.15 ferry to Portsmouth.

I have enough money to last a little while, to keep us in food for a bit, and hopefully I will find a job. Having the car there will enable me to extend my job search, so keep your fingers crossed that the perfect job will throw itself in my direction!

Having spent three weeks in UK, it is clear to me that that is where I want to be, and not in France.

Watch this space!

Ride A Cock Horse

On Bank Holiday Monday, we went up to Banbury to see my mate’s daughter, who has just moved into a beautiful little village. We went to the Carvery for lunch (I don’t think I could have eaten more if I had tried!), and then took her dog out for a long walk through the fields. We had to go through one field with cows in it, so she put the dog on the lead, and walked though the field. I couldn’t believe it though – both of them were shit scared of the cows! Unbelievable – what a pair of wussy townies! I tried to explain that cows are just nosey, but they would have none of it, and even though I explained that if they ran, so would the cows, they still didn’t listen. I walked right through the cows. The scariest thing about cows is falling over in a cow pat! I grew up in the country in Scotland, and my cousins and I would play in the fields all the time – cows are not scary!
We spent most of Tuesday painting in the house, and decided that we really needed some fun, so we went to the pub quiz. A friend of my mate’s came with us – completely changing the subject he brought me some Yumyums! He had mentioned them on the phone earlier in the day, and I wondered what they were so he brought some. They are like very light doughnuts, with icing on, and are absolutely gorgeous!
Anyway, back to the pub quiz…we went up to the pub, and had dinner there, as we had been working too hard to think of cooking! As the pub quiz started, the compere bloke said he was so pleased there was such a good turn out – there were six tables!! If that’s a good turn out, I’d hate to see it normally! We were joined by the chef and his wife, so there were five of us. We had a good laugh doing the questions, along with a bit of heckling! We did end up winning, and it really upset the boffin team, who apparently normally win! It’s good to give them a bit of competition! We had a really nice, fun evening – the sort of evening I’ve missed in France. Our local bar isn’t bad, but you never get the atmosphere of an English local. I mean, I’ve only been in this pub three or four times, and there are already a few people that I can say hello to in there and pass the time of day with.

Wednesday morning dawned bright and early, and we went out for our early morning walk. My mate does it every day; I do it if I’m awake when she goes. We then finished off a bit of painting, while we waited for another friend, LW, to pick me up to take me to Somerset. I was leaving Tewkesbury, spending the night with them in Somerset, then leaving from Bristol on Thursday. She got very lost trying to navigate along the temporary one way system in Tewkesbury, whilst having the wrong directions that Via Michelin had given me that I had sent to her. We had lunch – a really yummy meatball recipe that my mate does with cheese and cherry tomatoes – I’ll try to get it from her. We left around half one, because LW had to get back to pick her daughter up from school. Slight problem though, we got very lost in Bristol! There were roadworks in Cabot Circus, and the road we wanted was blocked, but it turned out that it was only partially blocked. We ended up, more by good luck than good management, on the right road out of Bristol, but LW had to phone her partner to pick her daughter up!
We had a lovely evening. I hadn’t seen her daughter since she was two, and had never met her youngest son. Her two older sons are hugely tall now, and very grown up! Her daughter is a really sweet little girl – one of those children that it is just a pleasure to spend time with, and her little boy is adorably cute! I’m sure that they are not always angels, but they were brilliant that evening! We were up until 2am - catching up on four years of gossip in one evening! The next morning I went with her to school, and then we went to Bristol.
We didn’t get lost this time, the airport is easy to find. I was a bit worried about my suitcase being overweight, and it turned out to be 22kg! The guy at the check in told me it was going to be £90, and I said I don’t think so. I don’t think he meant that, he was foreign (of some description) and I reckon he probably meant £19. Either way, I was not prepared to pay anything, so I did some juggling. I had ten packs of sausages, 2 pork pies, and numerous bags of sweeties for Isla which couldn’t go in my hand baggage, so I moved some other bits and when it got down to 20.6kg he let me off with the rest! I had to empty my hand bag though, fill my jacket and jean pockets with iPod and phone etc, just so I could get my bag into the little suitcase! What a hassle!

I got into Toulouse on time, and the first person I came across was the woman at immigration checking passports. I think if she had smiled or said Bonjour her face would have cracked – if her face was any longer she’d have tripped over it! Welcome back to France – I don’t think so. In three weeks in England I have come across nothing but friendliness and helpfulness – as soon as I get back to France I’m met by a miserable dour faced misery guts. Vive la difference!

Isla loved all the presents I brought with me, and we had to open the suitcases within minutes of getting back to the house! My dogs went bananas, except Murphy, who refused to speak to me until this morning!

Misunderstandings and Pipped at the Post

Well, I got back to France yesterday. The last week or so has been kind of a blur because we’ve been so busy, so I’ll try to summarise it.

My last update was Saturday 25th April, so I have to think hard about what else has happened!

On the Sunday, we went to Gloucester, and met some of my mate’s friends for lunch. We went to a little pub/bistro which was amazing inside, and gorgeous outside. I had a Caesar salad which was enormous and not very expensive. We had a lovely lunch in the sunshine, and after we had finished, we were going to go to Guiting to an interview I had organised. The guy from the pub there had told me to come up either after five on Friday, or over the weekend. I had explained to him that I was dependent on my mate for transport at the moment, and that I would do my best to make it up as soon as possible. So, Sunday it was. I had the bright thought to phone before we got there to make sure that he was there. He said yes, no problem, see you in a bit, but then phoned me back within two minutes to say well actually don’t bother because you’ve left it too late. I wasn’t quick enough to think of a retort while I was on the phone but as soon as we got home (luckily we hadn’t driven very far out of town) I went upstairs to the office and wrote an email to him basically saying that he had said pop in over the weekend and as far as I was concerned Sunday WAS still the weekend. Well, it obviously was not meant to be, so I put that out of my head. We went out in the evening for an Indian, and after that we went to the local pub, where they were advertising for an Assistant Manager, so I applied for that too.

I spent most of Monday morning trawling the job sites on the internet. My phone rang halfway through the morning from one of the agencies, offering me an interview at 2pm in Tewkesbury. So, I went to the interview, thought it went really well, and went off into Cheltenham. The agency rang back saying that the company wanted me back immediately for a second interview. I got the feeling that I had a great chance at this job. I thought that the second interview went pretty well – it was with a different person to the first one, and I left with my hopes high. On the way home we called back into the local pub where we had a drink, and I gave them my CV, as there was more information than in the application form. Only to be informed that the position had already been filled, the staff had not been told, which was why I had been given a form to fill in. We stayed and had a couple of drinks, gave the new assistant manager a little light hearted abuse, and met a couple of people including a chef who I got a couple of good contacts from.

The rest of the week was spent waiting to hear about the job, going to the dentist with my mate – she ended up in serious pain and on antibiotics and painkillers, but at least it was al at the government’s expense! The worst thing is when you have to pay to be in pain!

I didn’t hear, and I didn’t hear, so eventually I phoned the agency to ask what on earth was happening. By this point I had accepted that I probably hadn’t got the job, but wanted confirmation of that. Apparently the person who deals with my file had been off, but the person I spoke to asked me what on earth went wrong in the second interview. I was stunned – as far as I was aware, nothing had gone wrong. The guy who had interviewed me had completely misunderstood what I had said. I had told him I was relocating back to UK, I had to collect my car in France, and that I would be back straight away. I said I was staying with a friend, and once I had a job I would be looking to rent my own house. He seemed to deduce from this that I was homeless and moving back to France. Apparently, I lost the job not through any shortcomings on my part, but through a misunderstanding. I was so disappointed. I had really wanted that job.

No point standing still though, back to the grindstone of applications and painting the house! We must have painted the hall stairs and landing (including the banisters) about five times! It’s done now though!
Last weekend, as in the Bank Holiday weekend, we went to a friend of my mate’s for lunch. She has a really cute little girl, and we all went to the docks in Gloucester after lunch. We had an ice cream while we looked at the canal boats, and then went into Gloucester to see the cathedral, which is gorgeous. Apparently, in the houses around the cathedral, they filmed the Christmas episode of Doctor Who. I did kind of recognise it from the show – does that make me sad or cool? You can see pictures of the filming here.