Sunday, 23 November 2008

Happy Birthday

As I get older I am not happy, I want to stay young, so when a great friend announced she was turning 50, I was not impressed. 'I am too young to have a friend who is 50' was my first comment.

But then another friend said 'Just remember...every time a friend has a birthday, that is one more year they have been part of your life!' and I like that.

So I am currently in Germany at her party weekend and had a great time, my daughter and her children are great friends, it is so nice the friendship has gone on a generation.

Happy Birthday R xxx

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Stupid Women Drivers...

Embarrassed, stupid, pathetic, ridiculous just a few of the emotions I felt this evening, why, because I am a stupid woman driver.

Every week I fly wherever I need to be and pick up a hire (rental) car and drive off, not normally a problem but today was different. Yesterday I drove from Swindon to Bracknell, just about 70 miles in the dark but no issues, this morning I drove to the office and locked the car up OK, then when I got back in this evening the courtesy lights went on inside and nothing I could do would turn them off. I tried everything, checked every door, window, sun roof, everything was OK. I did consider just driving but then I could not have parked the car up this evening without the battery going flat overnight, so I had to ask for help.

But first I thought I would try the manual, no help. SO I rang the breakdown people who said they would be an hour, I just wanted to be in my hotel asleep. So whilst I waited I got the company security guards to have a look and they flashed their torches all around but no luck.

Luckily the AA man arrived quite quickly and even more quickly 'fixed' the lights. Apparently if you touch the headlight dial in the centre, even accidentally the courtesy lights stay on, stupid Vauxhall / Opel car / General Motors, but if you tap it again they go off.

So how stupid did I feel?, especialy when you have to sign a form saying what the issue was. No doubt something on the form is the breakdown man equivalent of PEBCAS (Problem Exists Between Chair and Screen)!!!

Friday, 31 October 2008

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

I mentioned that I hired a bicycle in San Francisco and cycled the Golden Gate Bridge. This was my first time in the saddle for 13 years, and then in Croatia I also hired a bicycle.

Fired up with these wonderful outings I came home and purchased my own bicycle. I ordered it from halfords which is a story in its own and only took 4 visits before i actually collected it. Where I live there is a 3 mile triangle which I thought would be a good daily exercise however I do live on a bit of a hill. Now how good this is going to be I am not sure, first I am not here everyday with all my travel and then what does happen here everyday is the rain. But I was determined to have a go.

I ordered the bicycle before Croatia but didn't finally collect it till the day before I went to Denmark, so today was the first time I cycled for the second consecutive day but my 5th outing in total. All i can say is with the extra padding on my backside it should not ache as much as it does. In fact I also had a flu vaccination today and my arm hurts but not as bad as my backside.

Currently there are 2 small inclines I have yet to manage one at about halfway by the creamery and the second the last 100 yards, but I will get there eventually.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Party for a Good Cause

On Friday evening I was privileged to attend a fundraising Gala Ball at the Europa Hotel in Belfast. The Phantom Ball was themed on Gaston Leroux’s classic French novel ‘Le Fantôme de l´Opéra’.

I was invited by a great friend Joanne Stuart who is a Trustee of the Integrated Education Fund. The Integrated Education Fund (IEF) is a financial foundation for the development and growth of integrated education in Northern Ireland which I believe is a very important element in the ongoing peace and growth of Northern Ireland, which I have called home for the last 13 years.

Joanne who is also Chairman of the IOD Northern Ireland, had selected a table of 10 wonderful ladies several of whom I had not met before. I had a fantastic evening and have hopefully made new friends.

The evening I believe was a great success and I hope we are one step forward towards a integrated education system that does not need a fund to make it happen.

Thank you Joanne

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Making the Most of Travel

In my other blog I talk about the many conferences I get to attend, and want to make them informative about the work that the UKOUG do, but I also want to enjoy all the travel. My daughter is now at university so with no one at home I can take advantage of the wonderful places I get to visit and do more than just the airport and hotel.

So a few weeks ago it was OOW in San Francisco which I think is my favourite american city. I stayed for the weekend after the event. I was using 'frequent sleeper miles' (I love that term) for 2 nights in the Hilton and was to actually pay for the extra night in the Marriott but after the Elevator incident (see the other blog), the gave me the night free, thank you.

Conference finished on the Friday I after finishing up all the outstanding work I went to the baseball, the San Francisco Giants v the LA Dodgers, my first american sports event. I was amased at how family orinantated it was, and even more surprised at how big a stand Oracle had that was mainly empty, as an important Oracle customer who attended OOW I think they should have offered tickets to those who stayed on.

On the saturday I cycled over the Golden Gate Bridge an ambition I have had for a few years, and I loved it. I havent been on a bicycle for 12 years and that in itself was a big challenge but I didnt back out, even when I realised that my left hand would not be able to work the front brake. A few years ago I broke my left wrist at an EOUC Presidents meeting in Amsterdam and it is pretty screwed up, although it is amazing how the human body compensates for issues. Anyway we cycled from Pier 39 upto the bridge (well walked up the hills), across the bridge and down to Sausalito, and then the traditional ferry back. I loved every minute of it and if you ever get the chance do it. We used blazing saddles who I ahve to say are very efficient and the bikes were excellent.

I would love to show you photos but I lost my camera! actually I have covinced myself that I threw it away, after the cycle I went to the Boudin Bakery on pier 39, something else you must do, but I think I put my camera that was around my wrist on the tray and then threw it away, I was so tired I didnt even realise I had lost it till the next day.

So Sunday I had no camera, and I went to the Folsom Street Fair, quite an experience especially if you don't know what is is about. Anywhere else and I would have been offended but in San Francisco anything goes, it is so liberal that people do their own thing, for themselevs and are not intimadating or 'in your face' or demanding of their rights or anything but people simply having fun.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Heaven on Earth

Well I am writing this from the Virgin Lounge at Heathrow, if you ever get the opportunity to use this lounge take it, it is my idea of heaven. My flight is not until 10.30 but I have been here since 7!

Before you make assumptions, let me clarify a few things. I get lounge access simply because I am a Gold Star Alliance card holder, I am only flying economy, then I took the opportunity to come in early as breakfast here is free and in my hotel it is not, as I live in N Ireland it is too much of a risk to trust in the first flight out arriving in time for this connection.

So the lounge is heaven except there is cold air blowing around my feet, but the champagne makes up for all that. My facial is in 10 minutes and my shoes are being polished. I could get used to this life........

Sunday, 7 September 2008

My Silversurfers

I love my job but it is good to do something different and so when a friend at Church who works for Help The Aged asked me to teach computers to OAPs I thought why not. However the scheme was to teach in a local library for 10 weeks and my job means I cannot commit to being in the same place every week.

Then this year she told me of a new scheme 'EverybodyOnline' where PCs and Internet access have been put into Retirement Homes and volunteers go in to teach, and as this is not a formal course it suits me well, I can go in whenever it suits me.

So I am teaching two ladies, Jean and Rita who are keen to use the Internet and email to keep in contact with their families and they say it is to keep their minds active.

There is also a gentleman Martin who is researching the Royal Navy from 1890 onwards. In this case it is me who is doing the learning. Martin was the 5000th person online and you can read his story here. He got the laptop he wanted for his birthday so there is no stopping him now.

And where does 'Silversurfers' come into it? Their name not mine. So what I started thinking was to give back actually gives a lot to me.

Sunday, 31 August 2008


So last week L and I plus other special Guernsey friends went to see Mamma Mia again ane ever since we have been singing Abba. There is a small set of lane's behind were L lives and i even found myself skipping along, until i thought If i fall over - how long till someone finds me?

Anyway last night we went to see a tribute band, Guernsey's own 'The Let it Beatles', they were brilliant. They are all from Guernsey and are actually away in England at University (I wonder if their parents still have to make sure they have everything ready like I do for my university darling?). They started the band last summer and now whenever they are home they have been gigging.

Not only did they play for 2 1/2 hours from the beginning to the end of the Beatles catalogue, they had ropped in a few musical friends to provide string and brass which just added to the feeling. The arrangements were quite complex, not just simply singing the words, you could see how much had gone into this.

What really appealed to me was their professionalism, no one took over, and they suffered from a few technical hitches which they simply moved on from. They were excellent. At the end when thanking everyone they included their parents who on the night had also doubled as fire marshalls. When most teenagers are embarressed by their parents it was fantastic to see this, we had one set of parents next to us, how proud must they have felt.

So boys congratulations, you make a lot of people feelgood, are a credit to your generation and proof that talent shines out, and all for charity. Well done. Only problem now, is i keep humming Beatles' songs!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

My Favourite Place - Guernsey

In my job I am lucky enough to travel the world, and I do make a point to try and actually see each city, I have done most of the Open Top Bus Tours around european cities I have visited and most hotels can arrange tours elsewhere.

But at least once a year i like to go to my favourite place - Guernsey. I suppose it doesn't sound as exciting as the other places I have been in the last 12 months (Singapore, San Francisco, Denver, Finland, Sweden, New York, New Orleans, Paris, Munich) but what Guernsey has to offer is friends and relaxation.

So why is being with friends such fun, well friends don't let you down, it doesn't matter about the weather we can still have fun. I met my friend L many years ago when we worked together in Berlin and that was before we had our daughters who are now 20! L is from Guernsey and over the years her family have adopted me, seen me through highs and lows and are always there for me. I have been included in her circle of friends who I now call my own. They have come to me in Ireland (for Robbie Williams concerts, great at Landsdowne Road, not so good the following time), we all went for tattoos when we needed (except L the coward :) ) to prove we weren't old, and have partied over and over again.

This year I have been to see Mamma Mia again, although their enormous cinema only seats 75!, 6 ladies of culture, who were later chastised for the noise in the restaurant, we thought our singing was in tune. I have managed only one swim in the sea, the weather is not at its best but chilled out in Herm ( a tiny island where we once lost our children, that includes mine you have previously read about, home next week).

Today L and I went around the coast in a Rib, I am a bit of a 'wince' and held on for dear life but it was fun, and we enjoyed it. I love water and especially light houses. We had to wear all the gear and it was like being in your own personal 'hug'.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

2012 Olympics Aquatic Centre

When ever a country hosts the olympics there is always a massive rush to get the building finished in time and within budget.

It is fantastic that London is hosting the 2012 Olympics and we have done so well in the Beijing Olympics it will be a great event, but there is talk of our aquatic centre, how much is rumoured to cost and will it be finished on time?

Well here in Belfast we have the answer - we have spent our £102 million pounds on our aqautic centre and it can be filled with 22 million gallons of water in just minutes.

Although I actually lie, this is the main Belfast to Dublin road as it runs through Belfast, a brand new underpass, that simply filled with water when it rained.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

The Siege of Ballynure

I live in a very small village in Northern Ireland called Ballynure which means ‘Farmstead of the Yew Tree’. The 2001 census put the population at under 700.

Now don’t muddle us with Ballynure Jamaica which is a little bigger and possibly a little warmer.

The village is split in two by the main Road from Belfast to Larne and I live on the west side. On the East side is my Church Ballynure Methodist and the shops, we have 3! But one of the shops is Jackson’s the best butcher in the UK, and that is not me being biased as it was voted best in 2007. People come to this butcher’s from all over and so on a Saturday morning it is actually a very busy place.

So what I want to tell you about is the road works, they are resurfacing this main road through our village, which first I don’t understand as it wasn’t that long ago it was done before, but anyway they started in June and it is meant to take 10 weeks. It seems to have gone smoothly except for the two weeks they went on holiday and left all their cones as a reminder. But today was a disaster.

I arrived at the main road and want to drive to the West side so I have to turn right and then left, and, for those of you who do not live in the UK we drive on the right so turning right onto a main road full of lorries travelling to and from our port at Larne you need a little patience.

The before mentioned butchers means that despite our modest population Saturday is a very busy day for the village and I was one of them. And today they are laying tarmac on the main road with men in yellow jackets and orange ‘babygrows’ directing traffic and it is chaotic! Most places have temporary traffic lights but we have men with lollypops, who cant hold them still let alone co-ordinate between themselves. So I finally get told to go and as I weave between the cones and tarmac layers there are cars coming towards me and another sign holder with his hands in the air, he has simply given up!!

When I left the butchers I decided to drive on to the ‘town’ of Ballyclare although my daughter would tell you it doesn’t really count as a town, anyway on the roundabout there is a new monument, some sort of topiary in honour of Wallace and Gromit . Made me laugh.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

When's our Flight?

So if you are following the adventures of a scatterbrained teenager, you may have been disappointed there was no episode last week. Well I had a good excuse; I was busy getting her off to Europe for the great interrail trip.

So, this trip should be quite easy, Brooke and her friend Amy bought their tickets a while ago and had booked their flights to Prague. (2nd attempt at the flight tickets originally they had the wrong date, but that was along time ago so I’ll not dwell on it).

In theory all they need is the tickets, their passports and money, plus the obligatory credit card.

The intention is to see Eastern Europe, they don’t have a final itinerary as they want to be spontaneous and also if they tell parents where they are going we will probably interfere so we don’t know where they are going. The intention is to book the train and hostels for the next destination just a few days in advance.

Last Saturday they sat in my living room, searching for all the hostels in Prague and booking for the first 3 days, finally got that sorted and off Amy went both excited that the next day they were off on the adventure.

So no last minute disasters or forgetfulness…………..not a chance. A few hours later, Amy rings up and says ‘Brooke we are not going tomorrow, our flight isn’t till Monday’, well at least they were a day early and not a day late. Look out Europe they are your problem now.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Great Service

We are all quick to complain when we get bad service so it is only fair to speak up when you have great service.

When Brooke went off to University in January the list of kit she needed was long, very long. Off she went to Buxton with everything on the list and most of it has been used now except her day sac, a 40 litre rucksack had only been used a few times for just a few hours each time. So the trip to Morroco was the first real test. Unfortunatley it failed, the drawstring collar came away from the main bag. Having looked at it the collar was only just inside the sewing line. It happens.

So we have a failed rucksack, 7 months old and no receipt. I know this counts as 'unfit for purpose' and technically the supplier or shop is liable but it can be a difficult thing to prove. Still off I went to Mountain Warehouse in Antrim, who also sell a nice line in 'wick tees', and showed the rucksack to the staff. No problem what so ever, no issue that I had no receipt, no 'did you misuse it', no 'it was too long ago', simply 'we are very sorry' and an instant replacement.

Good service, well done and thank you.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Where are my wellies

So she came back from Morocco on Monday with a bag of dirty clothes and the smelliest feet I have ever come across! But hot water sorted out both.

She has a brilliant sense of achievement and wants to go again; she didn’t find the mountain too difficult but explained that if you climb too quickly you end up with altitude problems.

It is great to have her home, but then I had to go to London. She did ring me on Wednesday but only to ask when I was home, ah she misses me, no; she wanted to know when she had to tidy up by… Not sure why she bothered as when I got home Thursday evening the downstairs was well on its way to matching the upstairs, typical teenage tidiness. Still you have to love them.

She was back at work this week in the leisure centre, not very busy this week as they were filming The Cherrybomb there with Jimmy Nesbitt and Rupert Grint , Ron Weasley from Harry Potter. It actually turned her off any idea of a career in the movies as she found it incredibly boring going over and over the same scene all day.

Today was the start of the next trip she is going horse riding with the Royal Artillery, everything should have been fine we checked on all the kit when we were getting ready for the Morocco trip, so no last minute panics, of course not, ‘where are my wellies’ she shouts 10 minutes before she leaves. No joy, so she flew to Southampton and had to go to the shops before she caught the train. Oh the joys of parenthood…

Sunday, 13 July 2008


Teenagers are put on this earth to bring parents a range of totally unexpected challenges…

My 19 year old daughter is also a great friend, however opening the door to her bedroom does put risk on the relationship – how can you live like that?

Anyway, she finished university for the summer on 3rd May and then set out to have a brilliant summer.

• Trip to London to get her Gold Duke of Edinburgh award at St James Palace
• Accompany me to the OUGF conference sailing between Helsinki and Stockholm
• Renew her Lifesaving qualifications
• Summer Break in Newquay – when students all go to Cornwall and everyone living in Cornwall goes away!
• Trip to South Africa (second trip of a lifetime in 8 months)
• Mountain Climbing in the Atlas Mountains – Morocco
• Horse Riding in Wiltshire with the Royal Artillery
• Inter-rail around Eastern Europe

Between each trip she comes home for a few days to work as a lifeguard at our local swimming pool to top up the bank account.

Had I have known university was this much fun I may have stayed at school and gone myself.

I have to say she is very good with her money, I have donated airmiles but everything else she has funded, and I thought students were meant to be constantly poor.

Anyway back to the challenge, she is currently in Morocco having successfully achieved her mountain climb, and is home tomorrow, but before she went there was the kit list to pack. It included a tent and down jacket which needed to be good quality and fit for purpose not just what is on offer in the local store suitable just for music festivals. So out we went for the day and eventually tracked down specialist shops in Belfast, spent a fortune and came home. Job done? Not quite…

Day before she goes I am helping her to pack and the packing list says two ‘wick tees’, “what is a wick tee?” I ask, (I have no idea about mountain climbing or the equipment needed – except it all seems to be expensive). Brooke says she doesn’t know either so it can’t be important so she will manage without!

A bit like a DBA not understanding Oracle instructions about a patch at install and just ignoring it (hang on I have met some like that).

So mum googles ‘wick tees’discovers that they are very important t shirts that are to keep you dry and draw out sweat from the body. So quick rush out to another shop – did I mention we live half an hour each way from a town with shops!

It probably doesn’t sound too bad to you does it? But on the way to South Africa she rang me in a panic and ended up having to buy a new memory card for her camera as she couldn’t find the cable to download the last set of photos. Probably somewhere in that bedroom!

Home tomorrow, horse riding the following week – now what will the challenge be then?

Still you have to love them and I am so proud of her.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

It’s June so it must be Wimbledon.

Early this year UKOUG held an event in conjunction with IBM on upgrading. It was planned that Oracle would kick off the day with Upgrade Best Practices but I was asked if I would do so instead. As I had just returned from Collaborate and this had been a key message I was happy to do so.

The event was held at the Magic Circle in London which is a great venue…. If you like magic which I don’t as I don’t understand it and am therefore not in control, however my boss attended and he loved it.

Warren Daniels from IBM (with the Optim product from one of their acquisitions Princeton Softech ) promised to make up for this in the future and I was really pleased to pick up a message from him last week inviting me to Wimbledon.

Totally out of character the day was sunny, I was in Birmingham on business the day before and travelled by train down to London, this in itself is a novelty for me as I normally fly from Belfast direct to where I need to be; anyway I was very impressed by the speed and service but not the cost.

IBM is the official providers of IT to The All English Tennis & Croquet Club who host Wimbledon, and their corporate facilities were excellent. We partook of all the quintessential things associated with Wimbledon, Champagne, Pimms, Strawberries and Cream as well as a great lunch, but what we were really there for was the Tennis. I had tickets for Centre Court and watch Venus Williams have to work for her first set against the almost unknown Naomi Cavaday from UK, and then Nadal stride to a 3 set victory over Beck. I had hoped to watch Andy Murray but he was only just about to start when I had to leave, the downside of buying a cheap Virgin ticket is set trains.

We also had a tour of the IBM IT facility where statistics and results are processed, provided to the media and on the official website with mind blowing speed. But what really amazed me was that all the statistics are entered manually from specially designed keyboards, backhand, ace, let etc. As the guide said the most technical bit was a sticker on the keyboard telling the operator who was player A and player B. For big matches two people enter and there is always a paper backup. Then IT gets to work and cuts the data any and every way. So next time you see the statistics on the screen remember someone entered all that by hand!

Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday in June, thank you Daniel and did I remember to tell you reader…. I love my job.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

I don't want the box!

I am not a member of the fanatical green brigade but do not like waste. My current big hate is unnecessary packaging. This week in the US I have had so many boxes that simply exist to help a machine pack them into bigger boxes.

I flew over last Friday and had a box on the aircraft that contained a packet of crisps (chips for those of you reading this in the US), and a small bar of chocolate. Why?

Then at Newark airport I decided to have an ice cream and that was as expected in a wrapper, but wait for it, the wrapped ice cream was in a box.

My hotel gave me a take out breakfast bag, a beautiful, high quality bag, advertising the hotel and inside was… you guessed it, a box, and inside the box was a carton of juice, a lovely wrapped muffin and an apple. So give me a box or a bag but not both.

And then that makes me think about bags. In the UK now supermarkets don’t give out plastic bags free of charge to encourage you to recycle. But clothes stores have more and more fancier bags to advertise themselves. I don’t need them either. As I’m in the US and the dollar is weak I do a lot of shopping, when I pack to leave there is an entire collection of pristine shopping bags left in the hotel.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Here Goes

The best blogs I have read are the ones where the business thoughts are separate from the personal thoughts and if this works that is what I intend to do.

So having written my first business blog this is the first private one. If nothing else it will embarrass my daughter.