Saturday, 10 December 2016

Friday 9th December 2016

Five years ago, a colleague of mine was driving home from work, nothing unusual in that. It was also a windy day, but in Denmark that isn't unusual either. A gust of wind took her car from one side of the road to the other and into the path of a truck. Nothing she could do, and she didn't make it. Last year, another colleague of mine had a stroke, Lee didn't make it either. And now another has had a heart attack and just managed to pull through. I suppose why I am writing this is that none of us know what lies in store for us, that today could be our last, and we might not have another chance to tell a dear friend that we think the world of them.

However, I plan to be around for many years, well if there is anything I can do about it.

Just to let you know.

And anyway, there is so much to see and do next year, heck, if the reaper calls, I won't answer!

Friday was going to be another one of them days. One of them days when IT was not going to work. My company, or rather my employer, is replacing SAP with Microsoft Dynamics AX. Its not going well, but one hopes things will be better in time. I have been waiting a month to clear some of my travel claims. The claim computer is sending me mails about how much I have on the company credit card; what can I do, the other week it told me I did not work for the company!

So, another day talking to IT.

Jools had the day off work, and had chores to run; barnet mangle, shopping at Tesco and so on. Whilst I stay at home, reading and writing mails, moving documents about and so on.

I was about to give up for the week, when IT call: Have you tried switching it off and back on again. A reboot in other words. NO I hadn't, well, I do and it makes things work. So I sift through eight weeks of travel, allocating receipts to reports. I will see if i cna get away without scanning them and sending to head office. See if they notice.

Anyway, it is four in the afternoon, the Lamaq show has begun on the radio, which means it is the weekend. Jools is going to the chippy, so I have no cooking to do, just butter some bread and make sure the kettle is hot when she comes back so I can make a speedy brew. Fresh and crispy fried cod from the newspaper wrapping, over salted and vinegared chips and finally, a huge brew.

Lovely.

Little did I know that an allergy attack was brewing. Well, it had been bubbling all day, but as the evening went on it got worse, so by the time I went to bed I could not breathe through my nose. Yuk. I toss and turn for two hours, then give up and come down to the living room to work on the computer and drink some rum. One rum. Two rums. Three runs. Probably a forth and fifth. I go back to bed and sleep deeply and I guess snore sloudly.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Thursday 8th December 2016

Waking up on a gezome day is always good. Meand I can lay in bed and think I shall be home in a few hours. But that means I have to pack, check out and drive to the office for the last time. On this trip at least.

I had been told that if I wanted, a bbq was being planned for breakfast(!), so I might like to think about skipping eating at the hotel. The football fan concierge was on duty, and we swap stories how our teams are doing, and is optimistic about City's chances, even after the recent crash in form.

Sunrise in Oostende I think about going up to breakfast, but decide maybe I should have bbq for breakfast after all. This means I am at the office on time, but no time for work, I have to make sure there are enough sausages put on the barbie for me, that done it is time for a brew and talking about music and anything other than work. Of course. Strange red sausages, bacon, frits are grilled. I zap a jar of beans and there is bread and other food, so soon we are sitting round the tea bar table, munching away

A fine way to start the day, doubly so as some of the team are currently bobbing around waiting to get onto a turbine foundation whilst we eat.

Sunrise in Oostende I have to leave at midday, so to be home for the car to be collected. Which means squeezing in a day's work into a morning and a bit, which I just about manage to do, even with senior management on site. There are meetings and all the other stuff that the day requires.

I leave at quarter past twelve, driving to the start of the motorway, then putting my foot down as I made my way to the intersection where I would turn south towards France.

It is another glorious day, maybe with a bit more higher cloud, but thin enough to allow the sun to weakly shine through. Traffic is again light enough to make the drive pleasureable. A matrix sign over the carriageway as we cross into France tells us that due to pollution, the speed limit has been reduced to 110, which is still quick enough.

Down to Calais, through the roadworks and into the tunnel terminal, where there are no queues for the flexi ticket holders anyway. I get the boarding card, drive through French immigration, and for the first time ever there are no lines for British immigration. I am through to the lounge in less than 5 minutes, to find that one train had been cancelled, and having a 40 minute wait, but that meant enough time for lunch. I have a baguette, which was my favourite price, free. And a coffee, and that is enough for me. As I finish, we can proceed to the train, joining those in steerage in line to drive onto the train.

I have a copy of the Financial Times to read as we speed under the see back to Blighty, but my eyes soon droop, and I wake up as the low sunlight pours into the wagon from the left hand side. Back home.

For a change I come back via the Alkham Valley, at the end of a long line of cars driving at 40mph, but then I'm in no hurry and enjoy the countryside as we tootle along. There hasn't been enough rain yet to turn the land brown, in fact it still feels autumnal.

A quick blast long the A2 and then down the Deal road brings me home. At last.

I enjoy the drive along the road cross the top of the downs, past Wallett's Court to the top of Station Road, down that and then up the other side to home. No cats are about to greet me, but once Molly finds out I am back, sits on the table where I am having late lunch, meowing generally wanting attention.

I have some mails to fire off fr work, all the while listening to the wireless and stroking various cats. I prepare dinner; breaded pork and lentils. A fine dinner, and all ready for when Jools comes home.

There is TOTP on TV; all 1982; Kids from Fame, Sharon Redd, Shakin Stevens; but then Bauhaus doing Ziggy Stardust too. The wheat and chaff, right there.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Wednesday 7th December 2016

My minions, QI inspectors really, had to be in work for half five, so it might have been good if I would be there at the same time to listen to the tool box brief. However, due to noisy people in the room next to mine, i had to sleep with ear plugs, so slept through my alarm, waking up at quarter past seven. Oh bugger.

Still, nothing I could do about it, best have a shower.

That done, I dress, go down for breakfast and arrive at the office just after eight. Oh well.

One of the inspectors, Jesper, could not go offshore, but he don't mind I wasn't there. He'll go far with talk like that.

Work days in Oostende are pretty much the same now; catch up on mails, review minutes, send mails, attend new round of meetings. With a break for team lunch, coffee and chat.

Afternoon progresses in much the same way, with added meetings and finger pointing. Which is nice.

Outside it is another glorious day outside, clear blue skies and sun shining behind whispy high clouds. Still felt cold mind.

So I drive back to the hotel at dusk, mixing it with the rush hour traffic, which is mostly going in the other direction. I call in at the supermarket to look for more Christmas beer, but don't find the Leffe I wanted, so get dried fried onions for sandwiches and some toothpaste, and I am out. But like French shops, it is full of lovely things, especially at the bakery and cheese aisles. I am tempted.

At half six I meet Jesper and Kurt outside the hotel for the short walk to the burger place. It is only open 5 days a week now, so this is my only chance this week to eat there. I have chorizo burger, which is great with the bountiful bowl of fries supplied and great with mayo. The guys have a huge double burger, and even though that doesn't beat them, the fries do. We are stuffed.

I take a bottle of beer up to my room, watch the football and try to stay away. Another three days completed away from home, and back to Blighty on the morrow. Yay.

Through the Brexit looking glass

Sorry about another Brexit blog, but this is a very important week in its history, and maybe defining.

The court case at the appeal court is drawing to an end as I write this, but it was yesterday that will have sent shockwaves through HM Government.

Wednesday, the devolved assemblies and Parliaments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had their time in court, and it seems strongly possible that in NI the prerogative was handed to the Northern Irish people in 1998, and so their NT Government's brief was that the NI people should say. THe Welsh brief said that although the country voted to leave, the Welsh people should have a say on the best deal. And in Scotland, that depends on the interpretation of the Act of Union 1706 and 1707: you really could not make this up.

And all the time this is risking there being a legal limit to the Government's powers, something there isn't now. That the PM insisted the case be appealed risked this, and seems a silly thing to do.

So, there is a possibility that the Government could only trigger Article 50 in respect of England. Or England and Wales. Or some other combination.

With the case now closed and all arguments from all sides heard, it will be several weeks before the Appeal Court announces its verdict. Whether an Act is needed or the 1972 European Act repealed. Or not. Or, will the Welsh Assembly have to be consulted? And/or the Northern Irish Assembly also consulted? And/or the Scottish Parliament consulted? And what happens if one or more refuse to sanction it? Brexit dead? Article 50 could not be sent let alone talks start.

Such is the mess of the British Constitution and the British Government's decision making.

A massive climb down by the Government in the House of Commons meaning they have to share the Brexit Plan with the house, and allow discussion has been painted as a victory for the Government, odd as this goes against all what the PM has said to this point. There was also the backing of the triggering of Article 50 by the 31st of March.

But with the Appeal Case judgement notwithstanding of course.

And it could have all been avoided by inserting a clause into the 2015 act that allowed the referendum, stating the result would be binding. No arguments, we would be leaving.

Tuesday 6th December 2016

At some point in the night my allergy attack had ended, so I slept the rest of the night very well, and waking up was refreshed. Waking up at just gone six, which gave me an hour to get ready for work before the breakfast bar opened.

Not much had changed, except that the leak from my previous visit had been fixed, and I guess any damage to paintwork. I have the usual for to eat; fruit followed by a bread roll with Nutella.

Outside it is still dark, just, and traffic not yet jumping, so I can cruise to the office via the ring road using only about 20% of my brain. Just as well as the other 80% is still mostly asleep. I beat the minions into the office, and already sorting mails when they arrive. Tomorrow they will beat me as they are sailing at half six in the morning.

Work begins, with meetings. Followed by more meetings with added meetings into the afternoon. And there will be minutes of each to either write or review.

In a change, I am invited to join the workers for their lunch; each put in ten Euros a week and share bread and meat. It saves going out to eat for sure, or getting a roll for the nearby garage. And it also means stopping to eat and socialising when we eat, not doing the eating at the desk thing which means we never take our brains off the hook.

Anyway, the day passes in much the same way a working day does, two steps back and two steps back. And so we dance our way through the working week.

Come half five, it is dark, and with the last mail of the day written, time to go back to the hotel before meeting up with Manu later on the hunt for dinner.

The seaside town out of season, whether at home or in Europe is a strange thing; looks the same, but rows of shops and restuarant stand clocked and in darkness until the spring and customers come. A few are open, so we must find one that will be open.

We end up at a nice place and order baked cod with Belgian fries and mayo. And good beer. But then all Belgian beer seems to be good. And strong.

I followup the cod with Creme Brulee, and a coffee, first time I have had desert for months, and it is as great as it sounded. And all I could do to not pick up the dish and lick it clean so yummy was the vanilla filling.

Back in my room there is football to watch; last CL group games, but the only game on was Benfica v Napoli, and is a dull game, enlivened by two late goals to register a 2-1 away win. No idea what it meant for the group though.

The BREXIT that was built on sand

We don't know what the turning point in a process until months, maybe years, later. But for Brexit this has been an interesting week, and I am writing this on Wednesday morning.

Monday saw the Appeal to the People's Challenge to the Government#s assertion that it had "royal" prerogative rights. As you may know I have helped crowdfund this case, and so have more than a passing interest. What is stake here is not defying "the people's will", as Brexit meant something different to almost everyone who voted to leave, but to make sure the Government follows British Law, and ensuring there is proper Parliamentary oversight.

The fist day and a half, the Goverment side put their case, and yesterday the other side, through chief legal council, Lord Pannick, put ours. He has come up with seven basic arguments in taking down the Governments case, but whether that will be enough we will not know until the New Year when the judgement is released.

The case continues this week, but by the time you read this, it will be over.

Also yesterday, the Government caved into a Labour motion allowing some details of the Brexit "plan" to be shred with parliament. Whether the get out clause of some secrecy allows anything at all to be disclosed remains to be seen.

The EU's chief negotiator in the forthcoming Brexit talks made his first statements about it yesterday, and does not look good for the Government: 1. the EU 27 are united. 2. The deal Britain gets will be worse than it has now. And 3. Negotiations will have to be complete in 18 months of Article 50 being triggered to allow the ratification process. The overnment is surprised by this timeline. Apparently.

Meanwhile Theresa May, the PM stated that "For weeks after the EU referendum, the only description Theresa May gave was “Brexit means Brexit”, but now the prime minister has a new slogan - “a red, white and blue Brexit”." You really could not make this up.

In Wednesday's Daily Mail, Ian Duncan Smith launched an attack on the Judiciary that would have been funny in that it lacked many real facts, and shows that the political agenda of Brexit must not be allowed to fail, and that anything, especially the truth will be consigned to collateral damage.

Self-styled legal commentators pontificating" - Which IDS is not, of course.

"Watching paint dry" - It's a court case, not a circus.

That is not the question. It is not in dispute that Parliament is sovereign. He misunderstands the entire premise of the case.

There's no question of judges "superseding" the wishes of MPs. The opposite - judges will decide whether wishes of MPs shd override govt.

The government's own lawyers agreed that there was no possible perception of bias. This was on day 1 of those "boring" proceedings.

It is real anger at gutter attempts to smear judges and undermine judicial independence for political gain. It is beneath contempt.

IT'S NOT AS IF JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE IS A "CENTURIES OLD EDIFICE THAT HAS STOOD THE TEST OF TIME"??!?!?!

IDS on the creation of Supreme Court. I just thank god we now have IDS to offer us the "thoughtful debate" on the role of the judiciary.

A nice broad assertion entirely unsupported by evidence, there. "There are more judges making personal/political decisions cos I say so."

Well OF COURSE the Human Rights Act is to blame. Why wouldn't it be? After all, the courts NEVER interpreted constitutional law pre-1998

Many thanks to The Secret Barrister on Twiter for the above comments.

Monday 5th December 2016

I wake up with a full blown allergy attack, so take to drugs to sort it out. This will teach me, or at least I hope so anyway.

Jools makes coffee, gets ready for work, and I try to sort out the attack which has me sneezing so much, I can't in all honesty drive anywhere until it is under something close to control.

Welcome to the working week I take another dose of drugs, and wait for them to take effect. It's just horrible, but in time it susides enough to enable me to pack the car ready for the escape.

I have a Citroen C4 automatic; not bad, but the gearbox is lazy and slow to change, but it will do me fine to get to Oostende.

The first coffee of the week I leave as the sun rises away to the south east, shrouded in mist. I should have taken shots of the castle and from St Martin's Battery as I drive to Aycliffe so to avoid the port traffic. But I am single minded now to get to the tunnel and onto a train so I can get across to France.

I check in, stop at the lounge to pick up a free lunch, and then onto the train, parking behind the ugliest BMW 4X4 thing that only just makes it onto the train. I have to look at the bloody thing whilst we trundle under the sea to France. I read the FT and learn about the markets and comment on Brexit and Trump; the dual follies of the year.

A drive through Flanders We arrive and drive off the train, onto the motorway and then north, across Flanders into Belgium to Oostende. It is still a glorious day, not a cloud in the sky, and little traffic about, it was a real pleasure to relax and put my foot down and hammer up the motorway to the Oostende tunroff. By which point my bladder was telling me it really regretted not being emptied on the train.

A drive through Flanders I sped up, roaring into Oostende, round the ring road to the office, bursting in and rushing to the restrooms, ignoring all greetings.

A drive through Flanders Phew.

So the working week can now begin, with the truckful of mails to sift through, answer calls and the rest.

Outside, darkness falls, and it is time to go to the hotel to check in. THe sky is bright red overhead, and I was hoping for a sea facing room from which to watch the show. But I had another room facing into the courtyard, just above the kitchen. Darn.

Christmas Balls So I take my camera and go for a walk, heading into the centre of town to snap the festive decorations. There are shops still open, and people about, and above attractive lights brightening the place. I get the shots I wanted, then walk back to the hotel.

Icy reflections At seven I meet my minions outside Den Artiest as we had a booking, so once inside we order a Chouffe and mixed grills each. Perfect.

The food is great, and we whinge and bitch a bit, but its a good evening, especially with a second beer too.

I walk back to the hotel along the quiet streets, not tempted by the flashing neon signs of the empty bars in the way.