Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy new year

So as 2008 staggers into history, the year the wheels fell off the banking system and may yet take lots of other people with it.

The temperature here has been right down there amongst the coldest we have seen.

So naturally we went off this morning to get a load of bits for the yellow goddess.

Then spent a pleasantly cool time this afternoon fitting some of them.

So now we are all set to go into town and see in the new year.

Management has volunteered to drive, and the IVECO too, some people say management drives so I can have beer, others know that I need beer if management is driving....


Tuesday, 30 December 2008

We're on the road again.....

An away day today.

A drive across the ice and frost to the mainroad then a blast up the motorway.

One child dropped with his nan then another picked up with a visit to managements mum in between. 98 years young the old lady, has a mind as sharp as a knife but the rest of her is starting to slow down a bit.

Back home and no repeat of last night. Last night she was letting her soft side show, poor little Sid the kitten, it was too cold for the poor little mite to be outside.

So out I was sent with a torch to find him.

About 4 AM and we have the katolympics, rumble, thunder, thunder, Da Man and him, up the stairs round the room, under our bed then downstairs again, with the odd bit of growl, snarl, growl, play fighting thrown in for good measure.

Management is a lot less keen and he is outside tonight.

Shame. Sid had found a seat under the log fire, I was trying to get a photo to put on here.


Monday, 29 December 2008

Cold snap - holy rolly...

Last few days have been a trifle inclement in the cold sort of a way...

We have given in, the log stove our main heat this winter so far has had to be helped by the central heating.

But we have still saved a fortune and the planet by vast consumption of wood over oil.

Some of the wood though is not quite as dry as it might be, soaking might be another way of describing it.

Management being nothing if not resourceful put a load of it in the aga main stove last night so that it was properly dry.

I will draw a veil of mercy and spare her embarrassment. But I can confirm that the fire might have been out this morning but that was no problem, all it took was to take a shovel and transfer the blazing inferno from the aga oven to the firebox of the log stove...

Still is is going well now and with the temperature barely above freezing all day the central heating has been off.


Sunday, 28 December 2008

We wiiii you a merry Xmas

One of the things we bought this Xmas was a Wiiii

Not for any particular child but for all of them.

It has been an unmitigated and total success.

Very unusual bt there is something different about the wii.

Previous computer games have been good but divisive. Kids always end up arguing and fighting.

The wee though is not like that.

It seems to be based on cooperation and fun. Even management for whom anything electronic is a no no has been doing various strange wii activities with something called a wiii fit.

Means I have to try and get the fire running.


Saturday, 27 December 2008

The green goddess vaccum.

In 2005 the Uk decided it could finally kiss goodbye to the cold war.

The very last relics of that "war" the green goddess pumps were to be stood down. Replaced by so called "new dimension" equipment. ND itself being a response to the new war or 9/11 and 7/7 anti terror initiative.

But it never quite made sense, The thousand emergency pumps were to be directly replaced by just 40 high volume pumps. It was clear capacity was something they did not have in a big flood situation.

The big pumping capacity for drought and flood was simply not replaced it was abandoned.

The greater mobility capability of the 4x4 GG was not replaced it was abandoned.

The ability to mobilise a whole fleet of simple to operate vehicles in support of the fire service was not replaced it was abandoned.

It could be argued that this was all too much to pay.

But the government had recognised that all it's little jaunts abroad were leaving the military overstretched and overworked. So they asked their good friends at group 4 to provide a fire service reserve.

Now the GG were costing about 1 million a year for which you got about 1000 fire engines 40 of which could be driven away immediately and every one of them could be working in 21 days. 500 miles of big bore water pipe, 1000 smaller portable pumps. Lots and lots of kit.

Group 4 were offering you, none of the above, a troop of people who might be there if needed but you would not know till the day if you had saved money by paying 10 mil a year for not a lot. Or blown it on smoke and mirrors

But of course now the government have decided they will not. They changed their minds. they don't have 10 mil a year to blow and now you get exactly nothing..

If the local managers of your fire brigade annoy the people at the coal face enough and they walk out: your house will burn down though you kids will probably be OK because our fire fighters will save life even if you don't pay them.

If the FBU decide that things are bad and their people deserve 50% this year, you better pray that Gordon has the money to pay out because that will be the sum of his options.

Oh and the final twist, the New Dimension deal was a private finance initiative. So, if your community suffers a major flood today there is no number to call to access 40 Green Goddesses and miles of pipe, the government would not pay for a 24/7 service. Catastrophe is only allowed in normal office hours.


Friday, 26 December 2008

"I wish it could be Xmas every day......"

One is often moved to wonder what exactly Roy Wood had been drinking or smoking when his twisted little mind came up with that line in his song.

I mean can you imagine, what if it was Xmas every day, what would we see?

Well thinking about it it might not all be entirely bad.

There would be no kids whining and whinging about what they wanted as the shops would all be closed so you could not buy anything.

No point looking to eBay and Amazon either, the post office vans would be parked up and nothing would be moving.

Just as well as of course everyone on the planet would be wasted.

Reality would be the little islands of hang over pain between a permanent alcohol filtered haze.

Obviously there would be a smattering of 24 hour garages and off licences open. So we would not starve or run out of things, though how in hell we would drive anywhere I cannot work out.

Neither would anyone live in fear of a plop on the mat, Visa bill would not be the nailbiting moment of January terror. Because of course in the run of things January would be like tomorrow and never come.

I wonder though, how long would it be before everyone got fed up with it all and demanded an unXmas day when everyone went to work, met people who were not their family, earned money and paid for the other 364 days spent drinking to much.

Of course by then with all that partying no one could get into work, they would need to be able to walk and with that never ending wine filtered, turkey, duck and goose dinner inside them that just would not be happening.

Perhaps Mr Wood was wrong, it is best that it is not Xmas every day.

Life here is ongoing, with Wii fit telling management she is underheight for her weight. Still it is keeping her quiet...

Which is more than can be said for.....

Serenity has displayed animal cunning by turning up with her four children and delayed opening grandads present till grandad could see them do it

Sooo I was seranaded with a mouth organ, recorder, tambourine and castanets.

Sir Bruce joining in with her new flute was the final touch.

When still recovering from an evening which featured the pop of the corkscrew rather more often than my GP might approve of that was just as unpleasant as you might think it would be....


I'm glad it isn't Xmas every day

And to be serious for once.

There has been a huge row about the UK channel 4 deciding to let the president of Iran send a Xmas message to everyone in the UK. Now the Iranians are a bunch of gay hanging misogenistic muslims who want to have the bomb so they can do for us all, or so we are told on every corner. Where they differ from some Americans is not very clear, but they are Arab and de facto the bad guys. The Sun says so so it must be right....

Reading the full text of what he said on the Guardians website really gives you food for thought. Makes you wonder if there is not a wisdom in the message, strangely absent from the queens homily, or the utterance of former members of the Hitler youth either.


Thursday, 25 December 2008

On Xmas day in the morning....

Ho Ho Ho merry wotsitmas.

The day is upon us, I had a celebratory morning splitting wood with an axe. Actually I quite love splitting wood.

I had a lovely Xmas morning, how excited and lucky, was I to get a cardigan?

Still the Wii has bought us a certain amount of peace.

Tallie has been quite amusing, announcing all the good things on the tellie that might tempt people off the wii so he can have a go. Not a man with a plan at all...

Dinner is in progress.

This year is slightly diferent though we have no P. He is not here, four years of work and he is back with his mum for Xmas.

Soon he is going back forever, foster care can be good, social work can be effective.

We should perhaps pay more heed to the times the service gets things right.

15 years I have woken here for Xmas, this should be the last one, if all goes to plan.

Who mentioned mice and men.....

Merry Xmas.


Wednesday, 24 December 2008

xmas nigh

It is upon us.

The annual festival of peace on earth and goodwill to "men".

It must be men since wimin are too bloody busy making it happen.

I walked through town yesterday following managements instructions.

Past me walked all these shoppers; their Xmas was their burden.

Of course that was so I could finish rewiring the damaged bits of utility room wiring, something that took a few goes to make work.

The local market town was an incredible tangle of nowhere to park and nowhere to walk with no one benevolent.

I told management that, yes we had bought a wii yes we had all sort of games, yes we had all sorts of controllers, no, if it turned out we had left behind one lead that would render the damn lot impotent, I was not going back into that inferno to get one.

I wonder at Xmas, my childhood Xmas was very different. My earliest memories are cold, in an old farmhouse where all the heat came from open fires and a big open chimney like our house in Brittany.

The house was often cold but we were always warm, it was magical. We could no more have an artificial tree than an artificial Xmas.

There are people who say that Xmas is about childhood - maybe they are right.

Maybe each generation remembers child Xmas fondly as a time of magic and parent Xmas as a nightmare.

But, I wonder where it all went wrong..

The Christians took over the Pagan tradition, where the nights stopped getting longer, the light got stronger, life restarted. It was a celebration of rebirth so the Christians locked their infant religion into what was already there.

But it was a celebration, not a spend fest. Not a time where you were measured by your ability to extend the Visa, move to a new card, extend into forever your inability to pay for what you have bought today.

Perhaps the usurers stole the show, oh but hang on the bible and the Koran have a take on that...

Still, this is nothing like Xmas 15 years ago.

15 years ago yesterday we moved in here.

Managements memories are so much more accurate than mine.

Did we really live like that.

She can tell you.

Well she might, she is a bit busy just now.


Monday, 22 December 2008

Countdown to Xmas....

This is is heading to Xmas.

Woke this morning and the fires were in that state of heat called out.

As I sat with my first coffee there was a tremendous noise and the lights flickered as the kitchen filled with smoke as one of the sockets exploded.

No power in the little Kitchen, emergency extension lead power up the fridge and freezers, no lights.

The Aga has decided to play up and is flaring flames.

Ahh yes

Must be Xmas at Penole


Saturday, 20 December 2008

Merry merry Xmas.....

Today ah totally slipping day.

Should have been out of bed and up and at them, did we do that or lie in.

No prizes, mind you lie in still saw us on the road at a time that started 09 something.

Annoying though, all those software companies that were holding back stocks of "must have" games so they could punt them out at to desparate punters at "you cannot be serious" must have realised they would arrive in the new year with a big pile of stock and a need to discount big style to move it off the shelf.

Games we have struggled to find online all week, that were listed out of stock in store were suddenly on the shelf this morning.

But anyway we got through, management went off to take Sir Bruce to have her hair professionally done for the first time at a cost of ")*)&*^&)&^) _)*_*&_&". Very happy she is too.

Wandering round, being Branwen, exploring her new persona.

This left me to meet managements ex, delivering Perfectos Xmas money.

This has been a bad year for them, his 18 year old step son wiped himself out in an awful car crash.

I don't want to give a lot of detail but there is something we used to do as newly qualified drivers who lived close to Daycastle. I was fond of it in my Morris Minor, he used to do it, in a moggy too, my mate the firefighter who was on the shout had done it too. Youthful exuberance, invincibility, unfortunately luck had turned against his step son and he hit a tree not the road.

A family propelled into tragedy.

But here's one for those who feel for the banking system .

The banks and credit card companies had not noted that at 18 he had no job. No they noted he could sign on the doted line....

So of course he had a big portfolio of visa cards, and these companies who had not thought to ask his parents if lending him money was a good idea, had been phoning his bereaved parents now he was dead to ask for their money back.

Death of a young person is a very sad thing, telling banks to get stuffed is a very small recompense.

But this is how the financial system works, they recklessly lent him money, and now he cannot pay. They wanted someone else to pay for their folly.


Friday, 19 December 2008

Management meets her match.

It takes a lot to get the management through a door with doctor on it, she simply does not do ill and few germs would be foolish enough to invade her body.

But it has to be admitted that she has not been 100 percent of late and so this morning she was marched into the quacks for examinations. Now, anyone suggesting that the management is not perfect in every way is sailing into seriously dangerous rock strewn waters.

But this was courage beyond belief.

I have thought for a while that management was a little underheight, but no doc mentioned the phrase overweight. Whats more, she lived!!

More courage was required in asking about managerial lifestyle, she has some strange condition that means that she should not eat bread. Knowing that and mentioning it are two diferent things but no, management has been told to knock all the cereal type products on the head forthwith.

Her corkscrew habits were also singled out for attention. Apparently, and i did not know this, but vin blanc is not good stuff, management has been instructed to switch to rouge. So this day the vin blanc is heading my way and she is selecting a pricey rouge, we don't actually do cheap reds. I am rather proud of our little cellar of classy reds which usually have a medal from some competition or other and quite often wear a grand cru label to boot

Not sure that is good, ohh yes red wine might be good for her heart but counting the cost of the bottles she is considering opening might give me a heart attack...


Thursday, 18 December 2008

Fun things to do.....

Lie in a puddle underneath a bedford truck freeing up the clutch in December.

Any mechanical job on an IVECO turbo daily.

Drive a Triumph Acclaim.

Ride a Honda Super Dream

Change the points on a Morris Minor 1000 in the dark in the rain.

Ditto BSA Bantam

Have a huge hangover and ride to London at a steady bang bang 40 MPH on a 1956 AJS 350.

Drive round the M25 at 4 PM, well when I say drive that should not be taken to mean that anything was actually moving at speeds that were measurable without a theodolite......

Sort out the electrical fault that is causing all the lights to blow fuses on your land rover whilst on top of a mountain in Mid Wales in the dark in November.

Go to a Conservative Party Rally.

Talk to Tony Blair for an hour.

Go to a 2 day LACS form training course. (Looked After Childrens System)

Invite Jehovahs Witnesses in for a chat.

This is a list (though it is not meant to be complete) of the things I have done in my life that I enjoyed more than going to Bookers Aldi and Tesco today.

Ok so maybe I never did go to a Torry Conference or invite JW's into the house either.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Social work today.

Now I cannot give details of anything that pertains to children who live with me. But I would like to give an example of how it is in children's social services today.

A carer I know became aware of something about a looked after child, not one in their care but one in someone elses. Turns out this was a very well trained carer and they picked up this was indication of a possible mental health problem. As I said this carer is well trained so they knew that their duty towards children is general not specific to children in their care.

This being Wales where carers status as mental health workers is recognised they immediately made a direct referral to the mental health services CAMHS.

CAMHS picked up the ball, and made enquiries, turns out the information had been known to the social worker for some time. The social worker being new and green had asked their manager. Neither had any specialist training in mental health I might add but the manager was holder of a budget which might have to meet some costs if the mental health professionals decided they might wish to take the matter further.

Based in no knowledge at all the manager decided no referral should be made, the information should not be shared with the CAMHS team.

Now in the run of things this was no serious matter, the worst that could have happened is the child suffered serious lifelong psychological damage.

This is not baby P, it's just another day another case you may not hear about, unless.....

Monday, 15 December 2008

State of shock

Some things can go on here some things can not.

A few years back we were the subject of such appalling bad practice by a social worker we were left with a gun to the departments head. Material held by our solicitor that putting into the public domain would cause huge embarrassment, end careers, not to mention unleash a telephone numbers law suit.

Well, something that came to light today is not quite that bad but it is right up there.

You can measure management humour by her driving.

Fairly brisk and lively is "normal"

Car bouncing round and passengers holding on is " a bit annoyed".

"Passengers praying" is seriously angry.

"Eyes closed teeth clenched" denotes full blown rage.

"Passengers Catatonic and rigid" indicates a risk she might spontaneously combust.

But there is one more state to go, when she is driving slowly, artificially slowly, as if she did not trust herself behind the wheel, that is "be afraid, be very afraid"

Some SW manager needs to be afraid.....

That's all I will say.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Which one is Noah??

Now we live in the country, 750 feet up a mountain. Look up our address on floodwatch and the risk is so low there isn't any.

So I must have upset the big guy somewhere as last night we had a flood of biblical proportions.

It started when Perfecto found his Kitchen under water. Quickly re clearing a drain on the drive cured that but left me soaked.

I staggered back into the house to find a scene of carnage developing quickly.

I thought I had misheard when management said we had a flood but a trip into the living room revealed a scene of growing devastation.

"Make pumps one living room!" I shouted mainly because I had always fancied doing that and knowing that the kids would know what it meant and it would be the fastest way to cause play stations and laptops to be abandoned as everyone came to see what was going on.

Within minutes we had GG buckets and every towel in the house deployed on the inside with Branwen and big D working hard with management in charge. Meanwhile, Taliesin and I were in full fire gear outside, in the tempest, diverting the torrent that was raging down off our fields with light provided of course by something large, green with an orange stripe.

We did debate building a dam to protect the kitchen using the debris sheet and lots of hose but by then Taliesin and I had things under control outside and water was running towards an existing land drain I put in a few years back.

The internet is nothing if not useful and as it happened one of my mates who has just be made up to station officer was online and I was able to bring him up to speed. I explained how water was running down off the fields and hitting the building at a point where the outside was higher than the inside. His advice "you are f******* then" was slightly less than useful. But by then we had the problem properly under control.

Of course, there has to be an angle and it turned out that whilst Taliesin and I were outside in the raging storm management and the rest were gorging themselves on nibbles that she had brought back with her on the weekly tesc.

A trip only just completed due to phenominal quantities of water running down every road.

This morning, all was transformed, a different place, me, I am gutted. I have just heard there were pumping opertunities errrrh floods everywhere. We could have been playing for hours.

Still that would have meant that managements new bath would not be fitted and I would not own the moral high ground...


Friday, 12 December 2008

The art of survival...... The Xmas play.

Now, every year like the good parent that I am I have to go to the children's primary school Xmas concert.

This is a fairly high profile affair which the whole valley attends and there is much comparing and contrasting of previous years and teachers, so all in all it's cut throat stuff.

Though not as dangerous as poultry bingo, the first few games of which one year were won by relatives of the caller. I thought there would be a riot and they were going to pounce on the number machine to see how he was fixing the results.

But anyway, in previous years this had consisted of a relatively brief little show with items from the infants and the junior class. Much appreciative applause when it was over and time to move on to the pub on the way home.

This trend to simplicity had clearly been noticed and a decision made to reverse it. in essence this meant a 2 1/4 hour extravaganza was inflicted on parents relies and the casual observer.

I think I survived the percussion band, just, then on came the juniors armed with recorders; my heart sank. A couple of numbers screeched through and two children produced violins, this was getting worse. Next, from somewhere a couple of guitars joined. Then, just as I was fishing for a knife to slash my wrists the cacophony came to an end.

We were then treated to two plays, one called babushka, delivered by the infants. To be fair this is a little valley school with about 30 children everyone gets a role of some sort and these children aged from 4 did really well.

Of course that was not all, we had the great juniors extravaganza, this was a remake nativity play set today with flashbacks to the bible tale. This featured all the Bethlehem's around the world (did you know there are 9??) and various scenes in various countries each of which required it's own song. I did start to wonder if we would end up doing the whole united nations but I think they did leave a few out.

Monumentally ambitious with a cast of about 15 with everyone having about 3 main parts each of which had been learnt over the preceding weeks. Tremendous effort all round and of really good experience that means my older children are so used to being on stage that they are all quite natural and relaxed.

Gwion was Herod though I didn't think it polite to ask if this made him the head of Israel or of one of it's neighbours.

Naturally not to be outdone by wise men (management still does not believe there has ever been three of those) every country gave the baby Jesus a gift. From Japan came a camera so that photos of the baby could go online using the computer given by the USA.

I could see a problem looming, getting up to stuff like that, Mary and Joseph would have child protection and the NSPCC all over them like a rash, I mused. And saying in mitigation they had to do it as the child was the son of god might not be an altogether wise idea either.

But of course this was a play, not real life. Of course not, if this was real life America's gift would be a stick of cluster bombs from an F18 and the British would mop up any survivors with Challenger tanks. Halliburton would then move in and pinch anything worth any money and charge for millions of meals they never cooked. Mary and Joseph would probably do OK if they got out quick enough. (Though the fact that Mary was 13, a single mum and hanging out with a lot older man who wasn't the father would have to be handled a bit carefully.) They would make a bundle on the film rights and McDonalds would cut them a deal to hand out free dolls with happy meals.

Ah yes, the Xmas play, makes your head go all funny so it does.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Build me a bath- continues.

One of the things about our postcode is that it throws GPS.

This morning I had worried delivery drivers concerned that their GPS wanted them to drive up what looked like a dirt track.

At least they stopped before they got to the bog. I would have had to reverse the Green Goddess half a mile just to get to them.... Actually that would not have been too bad, I could have got lots of photos.

So anyway with the bath delivered off we sallied.

Urgent mission since Gwion is apparently King Herod in the Xmas play on Thursday and dress rehearsal is tomorrow. That was managements day planned, well no it wasn't, the cloth place I had hidden so well for all these years does not do Tuesdays.

On to the plumbing warehouse where of course they did not have 10- 15mm adaptors in my normal quick fit hep fitting only having compression joints. I will draw a veil over the rest of the day but suffice it to say that what should have taken about 20 minutes, a simple connect two taps, did not. If it could go wrong it did, if there was not way on the planet it could go wrong, it did also. It is sort of finished now though, we have cured most of the leaks.

It has only taken three hours. Still I was now ready to finish off, fit the doors and shelves. Yes the shelves could go in, I would just get the hinges......

Fortunately management was in charge of procurement.

She has had enough; she has locked herself in the bathroom I am sitting here in a kind of shocked disbelief.

Now there's a funny thing......

So anyway bright and early yesterday morning I got an email. Our link worker wanted to pop in today and have a quick meeting.

"Great" I replied, "there is an awful lot to discuss".

Now I am sure something very urgent has come up.

That's why she has canceled.

Could not be that she is avoiding uncomfortable situations.

Of course not....


Monday, 8 December 2008

Build me a bathroom....

Those who work on cars will occasionally come across a job that tests your patience. Something so needlessly fiddly and difficult that you refuse to believe the job can be this badly thought out.

This includes almost anything you might chose to do on the IVECO a vehicle that sets standards for bad access.

Early Japanese cars were legendary centres of bad design and Citroen's regularly figure in lists of impossible jobs.

But if modern cars are by and large easy to work on the people who used to design impossible to do tasks into cars. They have all gone to work for companies that offer things to do with kitchens and bath rooms.

I have spent a day fitting a sink; contorted into impossible shapes securing things in inaccessible corners. Writhing to reach impossible to find screws and bolts.

Some of use can remember the old days when things were made in places like Tipton and Sandwell, then suddenly cheaper alternatives came in with oriental names and collections of random words in books with "instructions" on the cover.

Again there is no need to assume those writers of gibberish are retired. No they go and work for DIY companies. I looked at the instructions for the mixer 4 times before it dawned on me there was no way on the planet that mixer would go on the way the chaps in IKEA told you to. What a fiendish plot to drive you into the hands of a plumber.

The instructions for the waste was far better, well they might have been, management managed to put them with the rubbish and then burnt them.

It might have been pique, I was still laughing after putting the work surface she had bought on top of the units I had just fitted to the wall (with tools and bits from the GG store I might add) and I asked her which end of the unit did she want the 1 Metre gap....

That's it though, it's nearly done, in as many hours as it would have taken me to do a full service on two green goddesses.

Might be an early night for me.


Saturday, 6 December 2008

ON any saturday

We awoke to a lovely clear day today. Time for some wholesome family activity.

Processing a ton of fire wood.

With the less safe chain sawing over we got all the kids out and set about the task of splitting and stacking loads and loads of wood. With three of us splitting two on wheelbarrows and the rest on carrying and stacking duties, 11/2 hours saw everything done and out of the way.

Now I dare say some social worker somewhere will be horrified at looked after children being in close proximity to axes and flying wood but this is all normal country life stuff and we are set up with a few weeks supply of wood.

From there it was on to the big shed building project of Tallies and of course the sad bit.

Now management is rather a whiz with a sowing machine and Bethans choice of Xmas gift was therefore not entirely good news.

Then an "alleged" friend mentioned a place locally where a former television dress maker has set up a store that deals in cloth. Now I had known about this place for years but had successfully kept the knowledge to myself.

A bit like she would if someone set up a green goddess parts place just up the road well maybe that's not a good analogy, I already have my own.

But, anyway, away we went and got to a place of open wallet surgery. A former farm house and barns filled from floor to ceiling with rolls of cloth and bits.

Fortunately, this place lived up to it's reputation for value and management was able to get enough material for a number of projects for less money than I had expected.

There was a big down side, management has seen lots of good things and says she will be back.

Then again, while she is doing these projects she cannot be bothering me. I could be outside doing important things like building a fire station...


Friday, 5 December 2008

The weather has closed in and the wind has risen.

This house is odd cold is OK but wind is a recipe for coolness.

The fire is in blast furnace mode which is great, I don't think I could be without a wood stove now.

Management has been out and about, she has been to a house that uses wood to drive central heating, water and cooking. I suspect we would need to get seriously organised on the wood chopping front though.

Thing is when we moved here and this is 15 years back mind we were using 1000 pounds worth of anthracite coal every winter. Then we went to oil and were using about a third of the value in fuel first winter. A combination of efficiency and cheaper fuel. Next leap was a new boiler in about 2000 which was even more efficient.

But of course oil prices went bonkers they touched 50p a litre at one stage, our heating bill was heading for 4 figures again, now we are heavily into wood.

This winter we have burnt about 120 pounds worth of wood so far OK add in a lot of hours and litres of two stroke.

So this being green thing is actually a good sound economic decision.

Today has been survived, I am coming to hate our shopping days.

Starts with a trip to bookers and a bread grab.

Kingsmill bread that retails at about 1.20 for about 15p a loaf is good value.

Then a trawl through Aldi in pursuit of value, or in English grab whats cheap.

But today was frankly GREAT.

There in their specials section was the dream Xmas presssie, a box with a recorder (ohhh yes) A harmonica (welcome to pain) a tambourine (yes yes) and castanets (awesome). The very things to give my step grand kids for Xmas.

Serenity may never speak to me again - all in all a win win situation.

Actually she is not a bad old thing.

Maybe I will suggest Perfecto goes there for Xmas, now that would really make sure she never speaks to me again.


Thursday, 4 December 2008

Xantia xanadu - well not quite

With the weather looking like there is going to be lots more of it management and I headed off on firewood bent.

Now normally this is a matter of hitching up my big trailer to the IVECO and heading off. But as management pointed out there is the odd fire engine parked here and there.

Far simpler then to move the transit and try to squeeze through the odd small gap to the trailer.

This of course started very well as the transit, being very low in the ground pressure on ground that was soaked beyond soaked slewed immediately sideways narrowly missing the kitchen in the process.

Selecting a suitably big rope I hitched the Iveco to the transit and with barely any effort the big IVECO dragged the transit out of the way.

Then, on a whim, rather than reverse the heavyer IVECO through the mud I dived into the Xantia and tried to get that into place next to the trailer. This proved easier than expected and then, just to show off I dropped the suspension to low reversed so the hitches were one above the other, then put the suspension to normal meaning it hitched itself.

I was very pleased with myself so very carefully set off. Fortunately the gradient was a slight down hill and therefore the trailer combo came out with surprising ease.

This was all starting to feel dangerously easy. Off to the wood yard loaded up and back we came. The Xantia towed the heavy trailer with surprising ease and of course when we got back home it was far easier manoeuvring a saloon car with trailer attached than the larger IVECO.

Just to complete the show off element, as I got the trailer where we wanted it I adjusted the suspension to "high". Then it was simply a matter of chocking the trailer setting the suspension to "low" unlocking the hitch and driving the car out.

All very trick, now all I need is a dry day or two to get the chain saw out and in action...

And the Xantia heater has started to work again!!!


Wednesday, 3 December 2008

You could not make some things up.....

A short while back I wrote how I would be intertwining serious posts with silly humour.

Today I am at one of these "where do you start" moments, management is actually beyond livid. I have not seen her this angry since, well I am not sure when.

Picture the scene, last day the house is running along as nicely as a house where 11 children have just sat down to tea might do. Well when I say sat down I would have to admit that some of them SAT down for tea...

Anyway all is happiness and light and then the phone rang.

Now, two of the looked after children are part of extended sibling groups, one of them has been trying to contact his sibs for 5 years and has so far got as far as speaking to his brothers wife whilst the brother hovered in the background declining to speak.

The other was promised contact with his sisters last year but since then of course his social worker abandoned the case and nothing has happened.

Soo anyway out of the blue the phone rings and it turns out it's his sister.

Lets not get confused here, this is good, this is very good.

So anyway sister makes a brief first call then says she will call back shortly.

This is exactly the sort of mayhem yp's mum likes to cause so we rapidly get on the phone to the emergency social worker who was to be fair most excellent.

Young man was very surprised, confused and scared. What was she like, would she really call back or would she be like mum and not keep her promises.

Sister phoned back and spoke to management who found her totally delightful.

But it turned out that sis had phoned the office yesterday afternoon and the SW had given our contact details to someone he had never met in the same way as you might dish out smarties. Now, those not in the UK might not realise the technical word for this is illegal..

Not to mention of course the bombshell effect that this had on the household.

Lets add in some extras, 1 child doing their mock A/S 2 doing mock GCSE's the rest doing their normal end of term exams, fantastic timing then!!

But look at this realistically it's great for the one child but is this the way to treat a co professional?

Yes one child was happy excited and surprised, totally put off his stride for the exams in fact.

The other was deeply distressed and dismayed, totally put off his stride in fact.

Really this is the sort of stuff you could not make up.

The pearl in the crown though was the subsequent phone call. Poor hapless SW, OK so he did phone first thing this morning, but the poor little soul was concerned that he was being "blamed". Hang on, so far, we had not tried to blame anyone, we had actually asked if this was an OK thing to do, not blame anyone.

Apparently this was not about best practice courtesy or respect shown to us, the important thing was that he not be blamed. This is British social work in microcosm, the important thing is not harm, not best practice, not respect it's all about avoiding blame.

So all in all it's been a lively little day. The icing on the cake, she went outside this morning the windscreen was iced up and the wipers ripped as she switched them on.

It would be OK if this was a first but it was only a short while ago that they gave mum my mobile number so that she could contact her son whilst we were on holiday in France, OH yes, they volunteered me to pay the international leg of her phone calls.

And no of course they didn't ask...

I think I need to go and fill the chainsaw with fuel, a bit of chainsaw and axe therapy is indicated.


Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Children's Care.

The circus rolls on.....

Very interesting developments.

No one was able to explain why OFSTED had recently given 3 stars to Haringay and then quickly found there was stuff under the carpet that they had missed.

It makes you wonder really, how will lots more oversight of necessity improve things?

What will improve things is for the social workers, foster carers, nurses and police to actually feel able to stand up and say things are not acceptable.

A service that is set up in such a way that individual social workers have caseloads in the twenties cannot because of it's structure be adequate. That's something a director should know and if they don't they should be asking.

There is a culture of tick box assessments, did a visit take place on time - tick the box. What happened during the visit is not a tick in the box....

So three knock on the door and out in ten minutes represent a "better" child care service than an hour spent assessing the family.

This is a part of a knee jerk response that followed Climbie. What is needed is a bit of joined up thinking.

We have noticed as foster carers that we are recording lots and lots more but less and less of it is the key information.

Day to day stuff we have to write down but when a child is unallocated, has no social worker for and extended period, you might not find this written down anywhere...


Serenity superstar.

Serenity my stepdaughter has yet to make much of a mark here, though before I began blogging her exploits had a considerable following on the fostering support group.

Serenity used to live with the Great Intlectual Thinker whose best efforts got little beyond fathering her multiple progeny and running up big bills on internet porn sites and chat rooms. Following years of providing me with material stories so fantastic sounding that you could not possibly make them up, Serenity developed a serious outbreak of sense and threw him out.

Of course he could not possibly end their relationship without leaving her with something more than 4 children, yes he left her a whole pile of debt too. She has struggled with all sorts of ways of dealing with this but today she has resorted to bancrupcy as the only logical way forwards. As of today she is bankrupt.

This has left Bethan and I to look after one of her kids who is not terribly well. A continuous stream of daytime kids telly is slowly sapping my will to live. I don't care what those actors get paid, it's not enough money to expect a human being to make that much of a exhibition of themselves, as for script writers, I know exactly what they are up smoking, I bet you can smell a script writing meeting all round the building....

Serenity of course has gone to have her wisdom teeth taken out; very aposite. But it makes me think she should have taken me up on my offer to perform some amateur orthodontics on her ex. Far better than setting the CSA on him.


Monday, 1 December 2008

A grand day out.

Silly silly me,

Now, just because it is large Green (with of course the orange hi viz stripe) one would not expect management to realise there was a fire engine outside the house and not where it was on Friday. It was of course exactly where it was yesterday afternoon...

So anyway the car was not that badly damaged and the fire engine not at all.

A quick trip into the bank with my beloved all attentive in a touching way. A cheque paid in and off we went to the scrap yard.

Getting a rear light out of a xantia estate is not that complex. You open the tailgate, well unless the car is in a scrap yard and you can't open it in which case you open the back doors unless of course it's in a scrap yard and the door cannot be opened in which case you climb from the front seat over the back seat form there you get into the back of the car and using the skills of a professional contortionist you pull the trim apart at the back of the car and reach in to the nut that you cannot see and with lots of force undo the light unit.

That completed and you will be able to repeat your complicated contortions out of the car and rejoin the management outside of the car. This being the bleakest midwinter the heater motor in the Xantia has decided that now would be a good time to die. Filling the car with brutal electrical cremation smells.

I did think of going back to get the heater motor then thought better of it...

Naturally, the heater on the IVECO did not want the Citroen to feel lonely.


The path of true love.

It is great to be loved.

To bask in the warm affection of your familly

The love of those around you.

It is also great to have a cheque made out in your favour for several thousand pounds.

I am not at all suggesting that those two events are linked.


Saturday, 29 November 2008

Children's Care.

Been a few interesting thought provoking developments this week.

The head of the local government association carping on about how the death of baby P should not be taken as a reason to bring lots of children into care and of course strain the budgets. Now children should stay home as the evidence is that children in care fare badly, out came the stats about poor educational attainment and outcome. Interesting things in words, it was not framed in an action framework with a commitment to improve service, rather, the angle was, the service is crap so we must not use it.

Some people have accused the Sun of simplistic reductionism but that is a breath taker.

We are back to the; don't expect us to divert money from roads and leisure centres (not to mention CEO salaries) to fund front line services and make them work just because people are killing children.

And the Sun wants to blame the social workers when their boss says that...

Then we had the guy who went across Britain, fathering children by his own daughters. The technique was a recognised one - team hoping. Go and live somewhere, stay until services start to notice you exist and then jump ship to somewhere up the road. Assuming anyone works out where you went they will probably not bother to phone the team in your new area and say they were worried and if they did no one would pay much attention as social workers don't seem to trust each others judgement.

This was more common than you might think when we started out, it's harder to do today thanks to one of the recommendations of the Climbie enquiry

But there has been nothing like the noise generated by the Baby P case. Presumably killing a child over a couple of months is less serious than subjecting them to years of sexual abuse.

The games people play......

Last night it was very interesting.

All computers off children round the table playing board games.

All together.

Playing a 80's game of "blockbuster" with Branwen adjusting the question levels to keep it all equal.

Three quid well spend in anyones money.

Of course today is a construction day, Tallie down in the field building his shed, me watching the rugby and management off buying stuff for her and Bethan to make a ball gown.


Friday, 28 November 2008

Another month another auction.

The direction of wind is a remarkable thing. It can switch from a balmy Southern draft to an icy northern blast within a tiny time interval.

So it is also with the management, last weeks expensive dinosaur IVECO is this weeks highly useful long wheel base high top van.

This would of course have nothing to do with the imminent arrival of the date of another auction of course, not a bit of it.

So anyway off we went in convoy this morning, her roaring off in a cloud of gravel that had a xantia somewhere in the middle and me following on in somewhat more sedate fashion in the IVECO.

Of course today was a bit different, an auction with a stat review in the middle, does no harm to let SW know that your whole life does not revolve about their every whim and desire.

But I digress, she had spent a pound here a fiver there and with the credit crunch in full swing she was buying us in to all sorts of things and ornaments. Gwion is on an inset day, for reasons I did not really fathom we bid five pounds on a fish tank for him. Another five pounds bought a big box of games and a pound bought a box of original magazines from the 50's.

Auctions are strange places and rules such as they are can be hard to fathom.

Management had decided she needed a new sofa, now with 9 kids on the plot it does not pay to spend out hundreds of pounds so management was looking for good second hand. A couple were on offer, a rather nice three seater went for a mind boggling 160 pounds. Declining that one, management opted for the one next to it, a two seater for a whole pound now, it was hard to see 159 pounds between them. Both were newish both perfectly serviceable, yet one went for a mountain one went for an anthill.

Similarly G plan stuff seems out of fashion, now you would have paid a fortune for this back in the 80's and it's built like a built thing, yet we got a whole bedroom full of the stuff last auction for 3 pound. I could not see any possible need for any more so I let it go 2 quid.

This brought us up to lunchtime and time for the stat R. Left to my own devices and with strict instructions from the management I carried on with the bidding which is where things started to unravel.

Some little while later, returning to the auction management somehow missed me and, with lots coming up she quickly got herself a new buyers number. This was all very well when she bought an immaculate 1960's era push bike for 5 pounds but of course when the carpentry tools came up she was sitting at the front of the auction whilst I was acting on her instructions, at the back.

I shan't say exactly what happened next, I'll leave it to your imagination....

But anyway the day wore on and our little pile of goodies grew into something altogether bigger. By the end we had an impressive pile and a wee bit of a dilemma.

You see yesterday I picked up 4 sleepers for Tallies shed and these were still in the van begging the minor question of how it was to be transported home.

Now lets see a drop leaf table (pound) sofa (pound) an adult bike and several large boxes of woodworking tools added to the four sleepers and of course this all had to be safe so 4 kids could travel in there too.

Not a big problem then....

Being of a managerial disposition she delegated, well, buggered off is another way of describing it.

Anyway pooling our resources we managed to shoe horn everything in.

Well we did after we had paid for it all, ahh yes paid. Now this is the sort of local auction where you pay on the day, cash being preferred though cheques are also OK. Plastic is simply that, plastic.

So of course where was our cheque book? Safely with management in the Xantia which was at that moment screeching it's way across the county. I had a slight dilemma then, fortunately there was a cash point, about 15 miles away....

Fortunately pooling all our cash the kids and I managed to come up with enough money, well we had about 75 p left over..

It meant we could not bid the pound it would have cost for her last few items, a couple of wicker baskets to hold fire wood for the best really, we would have had to leave a child behind to bring them home....

But all is well, the box of comics contains a number of 1950's and 1970's originals which management assures me will make us unbelievably wealthy when they hit eBay. Well OK maybe we will not be buying a yacht in the Bahamas but they should realise more than a pound we bid on them, if all else fails she says they will be cheaper than buying newspaper to light the fire...

Five box games for three pounds. Oh and there is a deluxe corkscrew brand new in it's box, hmm I think I might try that out later on today.

Management is over the moon, she has found one just like it on eBay for 15 pounds she says she has decided what she is giving me for Xmas....


Thursday, 27 November 2008

Oh my blog.....

Somebody said to me that to have a successfull blog you need a theme. There needs to be a thread that runs thorough it all.

Well I'm bucking that trend; sometimes I have serious issues and views and other times I am just being plain silly, you will have to read the subtext to find the clues.

Today has been brainbendingly boring trip out to Tesco and noting that the downward trend in prices of the last few weeks has stoped and even gone into reverse. one wonders if the decision to stay out of the euro was one of our better ones as a country, would not half make my life easier if we were in and i think in 20 years time the euro will be a proper currency and the pound a nothing bit of paper.

Still it's a real news day, odd how the BBC repeats the same old mantra though. People have attacked hotels in India and it's serious because there were Brits there. If 100 people died thats 100 families thrown into turmoil, it matters not where theses people were born nor what passport they carried they are people first.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Festering - a dying job??

Interesting day, speaking to an English foster carer. It seems that qualification and registration are on the way. Altogether a good thing. But lets looks at this in detail.

Qualification has been an issue in social work for a while, recognition that social work has a workforce that is woefully undertrained for the job in hand. The response was welcome; introduction of a proper degree level course combined with the introduction of central registration linked to a code of practice.

One thing that has been absent retrospective qualification, that is making those who are currently in practice go back to qualify at a higher level.

Now it seems in England the plan will be to make every foster carer qualify within two years or be barred from the profession.

So a social worker with 5 years under their belt will be deemed competent and a foster carer with 20 years will be automatically incompetent.

This kind of thing can in large part be placed at the door of the Fostering Network a national charity that pretends to represent foster carers but had historically done very little for them.

But I wonder, how many doctors, suddenly told they had to requalify all over again, would go and do it or would they just walk away.

Make them people who do not earn the kind of money that a GP earns rather put them close to benefits level income and I wonder how joined up this thinking really is.

I wonder if many people will simply walk away.

For me fostering was a way of being home when my own children needed me. They are growing up now and I could easily go off and do something else.

I am, I hope, quite good at what I do, I wonder if I am as expendible as I feel.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

On the tiles again....

So the great project goes on.

This morning we hit a snag; the toilets not for moving. Having been screwed and siliconed in by yours truly in 1998 the heads of the screws are a bit beyond unscrewing. This could be resolved using the hearth kit and a chisel. Of course the danger being that there might be a slip and a shattered pan.

So management set herself the task of tiling around it. To an expert this might be nothing as challenges go but in managements case this was the real deal. As the profanity rose to tusnami levels I decided that now was an ideal eBay moment and went into town to do some posting.

Back just in time to be handed flat pack boxes and set to work building the base to take the sink. Tomorrow, she announced, I can plumb in the sink. Oh goodie....

Whats more, she informed me brightly, there were enough "spare" tiles to do the downstairs shower. I mentioned earlier that her maths was suspect, but now I am not so sure...

Taliesin who is home ill has spent much of the day scanning the horizon and wistfully hoping for snow.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Meet the borgias....

There is nothing like a family and family dynamics.

Yesterday, as the rugby loomed on the telly Bethan decided it would be nice to make sure her Xmas pressie was bought before the Xmas rush. Of course timing it with the rugby meant the only sensible thing to do was to let the girls and their mother go into town, so off they went whilst I did important things.

Hours passed and back they came with a state of the art sewing machine, which was to be duly wrapped for Xmas.

Well no, apparently not. Beth just slipped into the conversation how there would be a 6 th form Xmas ball which would of course require a ball gown. By sheer good fortune we had just bought the very tool for making a ball gown. Well for her mother to make one anyway...

Her mother of course is still basking in happiness. She got an early Xmas present herself, I whisked into town on Friday and bought her an industrial grade tile cutter. wrapped in Xmasy brown paper, festive baler twine completed the ensemble.

Management is really good at hiding her delight. Her eyes did not light up in exited anticipation as she realised she had a surprise gift. There was almost a stoicism as she unwrapped the string. When she realised what it was, she concealed her feelings behind a sigh and swiveling eyeballs, but I know she was delighted really.

She was so happy with me that she brought me breakfast in bed this morning with several cups of coffee. "It's nice to be loved" I mused as I pushed my thick roll of notes, the proceeds of Green Goddess parts sales into my pocket.

"We can go to IKEA tomorrow" she said with a smile.


There's a suprise......

Now there is a suprise.

Even in the few weeks since it was all over the papers, there has been a marked increase in applications for care orders.

And here comes the truth of social care, the cost of applying for a care order had recently been bumped up. There were lots fewer applications. The perceived wisdom was it was better not to intefere in familly life and leave children at home.

All of a sudden there are lots more kids coming into care.

Now dear reader note the timing, it is 18 months since the unfortunate death of baby P. So that cannot explain the increase.

It is a while since the interim report into events surrounding baby P's death. So that cannot explain the increase either.

It is a while since the court case that found the three guilty. So we can safely rule that out too.

No the increase has kicked in since the current bun and daily mail set their sights firmly on the social work profession.

That shows how inexact a science this whole field is, just a knee jerk reaction to media covereage. A desire not to be the next council with egg on it's face in the press. Note: just because a child is dead is not a reason to change practice, but bad press works every time.

That said, there is not some mysterious formula that says a given situation is harmful enough to require intervention. It sometimes feels like a lottery.

We have read case note catalogues of neglect where we were simply staggered that the children were left in the household, the SW only eventually deciding to act when there were concerns about the family dog, and yes she took the dog first then went back for the children!

Then we have read the case of a family where the kids were fending for themselves, and doing really well at it too. All going to school, all clean, all well fed. The eldest popped into the family centre and asked for a bit of help getting her sibs to school so she could do her GCE's and they were all whisked off into care on the day, just like that. Oh and she didn't get to do her GCE's as they moved her completely out of the area bang in the middle of them.

SW decision making can appear peverse at times.

Neither is outcome easy to predict. The children involved in the two scenarios above are reasonably well adjusted adults who work and have their own houses. So it's dificult often to see how SW does anything useful.

Mind you, I bet a few of those councillors who have been so busy making sure the leisure centre is open and the street lights work have suddenly found they are interested in child protection....


Thursday, 20 November 2008

On the tiles.....

To change the tempo and indeed the subject...

Today management decided she was having a girly fun day. This was her chance to tile the bathroom. Naturally she mixed a bumper bucket of quick setting tile adhesive and set to work.

I suppose it might have helped if she had checked to see if her new tile cutter was big enough to take the tiles she was using before she started. The new tile cutter had to be sourced as her best one, (was it a birthday present, or maybe Xmas, anniversary perhaps..) is currently in the basement of out house in Brittany.

In hindsight maybe unscrewing the door would have been a good idea too, not to mention removing the sink.

This was not the only little event.

During our lovely weekend away we had bought a few useful shopping items but not of course coffee, having been assured that our stocks were sufficient I gave it not a thought.

I am a mere man not for me to question.

Of course turns out I had made a serious mistake when I didn't count the coffee, we are running out. And because I had not checked she told me we had plenty when in fact we were down to our last packet.

This is serious, without my daily supply of French Carte noir I might be unable to function. Whats more we will not be able to resupply till after Xmas - this is an emergency.

Meanwhile, I got on with man things, this afternoon a fellow Green Goddess enthusiast came done the drive and soon we were locked in commercial enterprise and he had acquired a big stache of parts and parted with lots of money.

Funny how women can suddenly get interested in man things, especially when I have a couple of hundred pounds on the hip. Apparently I want to go to IKEA soon.....

And I have the pleasure indeed honour of checking the new part tiled bathroom, a fantastic job it is too. That's another of my functions in life; to note her excellence and ability in all things and in all areas, either that or lie.


Tuesday, 18 November 2008

currant bun

Of course, when anything goes wrong we can rely on our media to be there reporting the facts, dispassionately and objectively.

In the UK we are blessed with a newspaper called the Sun, the place to go if you want real news, like photos of Pamela Andersons boobs and things like that.

Currently the Sun has decided it's open season on social workers. With fox hunting now illegal they must need to set their dogs on something else.

But anyway I would urge you all to wander over to: and sign their petition.

First though do go read the sun, well when I say read you don't really read the sun....

You do got the odd good idea mind. They point out how all the executives of public bodies that fail walk away with a big handshake and say this isn't right.

This is actually a good idea, just think if all those who preside over a disaster have to leave with nothing. That would seem logical, those who have left millions in poverty and pennyless, should be out of a job and up the road. Yes, lets start in the financial sector.....

Monday, 17 November 2008

The moral high ground

I am comfortable in the moral high ground.

Every so often I get a virus which for reasons I cannot fathom goes to my knee and locks it up. This has been a bit bad so with her out of theatre today I soldiered on and stripped out the bathroom.

Well when I said bathroom I mean what we originally meant to be a bathroom upstairs and never quite got round to finishing.

Any way I hobbled up the stairs pulled out loads of shelves moved tons of towels and bedding and lifted the carpet. Not the place is ready for the management to move in and seal the floor with UPVA so we can lay a tiled floor on top.

This is a considerable act of heroism with a knee that doesn't do knee type things.

So, I award myself the moral high ground.

She won't see it that way of course.


I am turning into a prophet....

I am begining to worry myself.

My very last words yesterday speculated that we might learn they are better at covering things up.

And what should plop on my intray this morning but a copy of the interim report into Baby P.

This it has to be said is as marvelous a piece of newspeak and spin as one could ever wish to see.

It is heartening and I am sure we are all relieved that the "lessons" such as they are, have been learnt and such a thing could never happen again, well until the next time.

Those who can get UK BBC1 might find it worth a visit tonight at 8.30 Pm uk time.

Interesting too that yesterday that esteemed rag the News of the World was able to share with us all the things that were going on in that house from the point of view of someone who was lived there. Either the sister of Baby P or the "girlfriend" one of the men had moved into the house. Either way one speculates why, if she was witness to all these things she details she did nothing about it at the time. One wonders also how many zeros there were in the cheque.


Sunday, 16 November 2008

I told you so...

With knees jerking over baby P I prophesied that it would not be long before people were calling for more children to be taken into care, reversing at a stroke the current perceived wisdom.

And here it is, in the observer today we hear that the deputy children's commissioner for England thinks exactly that.

The thinking bounces either way and every way, one might conclude they really are clueless.

As more and more comes out about the baby P tragedy one is driven to wonder if anything at all was learnt in the Climbie affair.

Though of course we have not had the enquiry yet, maybe we will find that the powers are even better at covering up....


Friday, 14 November 2008

Children in need

Yet again we get the annual night of torture television interspersed with clips of children in urgent need of assistance.

Now, I cannot deny that there are children out there who need help, I cannot deny that money is desperately needed to help them.

Would it not be better though to meet those needs by raising general taxation rather than having parade of self congratulory celebrities and collecting money which on previous patterns of charitable donation will come more from those on lower incomes than those on more money.

Is it anyway good message to send to children in need that they can have what others are prepared to give for them not what they need.

That said I think I would probably give quite a lot to children in need if someone shot a certain smug Irish TV presenter....

It has been everywhere today.

Gwion went to school as a "super hero", Jack Sparrow, of course he has no need to dress up, he IS a superhero. He shares his mum, dad, brothers and sisters with children who cannot be with their own families. He shares his birthday, his Xmas, his holidays, his days out, his whole life. That's a proper super hero and a lot to do at 9.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

We told you so....

As things continue to develop, there is a level of this being as anticipated.

Management and I have watched as this situation has developed. For years, there has been a switch from taking children into care to leaving children at home.

This has a lot going for it and I really think that many of the children in care could do a lot better by being at home and their parents helped rather than whiped into care and their parents demonised.

All that said there is also the key indicators, things that really should get people moving.

Trouble is individual social workers are less and less able to make decisions on the spot, most often they have to run it past a manager and they in turn might well be more interested in the figures on the balance sheet than children.

That is the challenge in social work, getting those higher up the ladder to connect to "the coal face" the reason why their department is there.

It is not until those like the director of Harringey lose their jobs and their pensions because the department they run has presided over a death that anything like real change is likely.


Wednesday, 12 November 2008

You get the services you ask for - to a point.

So the carnival begins again.

A child has been murdered under the noses of the very services set up to protect children.

Of course this is against a backdrop where the service philosophy has been to leave children home unless there are compelling indeed overwhelming reasons not to do so.

In truth you get the services you ask for. Let the street lights go out, the holes in the streets start to swallow cars and your councillor will get phone calls and letters.

Run a children's service on a shoe string and no one says anything until a child dies and even then it's blame game at the sharp end whilst the managers who shaped the service take cover and the councillors who agreed the budget lead the baying hordes.

That said there is a growing culture of managerialism inside children's services with a lot of the money not going to children but those who manage the services. At least these days when Rome burns we have a manager to fidle shame we don't have a fire engine or fire fighters!

The quality of social workers is on the up too, those of us involved in social work training cannot fail to be impressed with the calibre of the new recruits to social work in the UK.

Whether of course they will be allowed to make a difference is another matter. we could just be recruiting for people to leave burnt out in a few years time, or use their new better qualification to go and practise social work abroad.

As I said you get the social services you demand.


Monday, 10 November 2008

Back to the grind.

We have had a nice weekend, make no mistake it was seriously good.

Friday started with a serious outbreak of social worker. Meetings that got on the boring side of interminable. For a large part because they had serious concerns that we refused to own but rather re framed in ways that meant SW would have to act.

We were not confiscating every child's mobile phone at 9 every night because one adult was not sticking to an agreement about phoning one child.

At the end of the day why should any child be sanctioned, the adult was the problem and therefore the issue needed taking to them.

Making us the bad guys for taking every one's phone was not a way for a SW to avoid confronting an adult about their behaviour. After all, we get paid to look after children they get paid to be SW...

But eventually they all went and we went into holiday mode.

Kids all rounded up and the motorway blasted up.

Daycastle and looked after ones left with mum and gran it was footlose and fancy free for the ferry.

It's hard to explain to someone who does 37 hours ever week and then goes home to their other how life how this feels.

As foster carers, we have a good life, but, we work all day every day.

We get up we get the kids to school, then we sit and deal with all the paperwork of recording, and of course we are there for whatever meetings or phone calls the SW decide to hold, but strictly in office hours. Then the kids are home and we carry on as late into the night as it takes.

So when we get the chance to have time out it's a rare event. I think we have had about 10 days properly off in about 10 years, at one stage we worked 3 years straight through. I am not sure this is good for our health.

Off we went and spirited driving saw us in Plymouth with time to spare.

When i say spirited perhaps it does not do the trip justice. Left to it's own devices the Xantia consumes miles and in a ridiculously short time we were on the ferry and ready to go.

The first thing to do was have lunch, yes with all the meetings and the day we had skipped every meal since breakfast. Still you cannot fault Brittany Ferries, for not a lot of money I got as much langoustine as I could eat followed by a steak which was perfect and a desert that I could not really understand how I could possibly have one helping of, never mind go back for two....

The beds though were a new experience and not a good one. The berth in the Pont Aven were tiny before they were put in the shrink machine and I like the idea of marble but not as a material to make mattresses out of.

Next morning and out of the ship and down into Guemene. The house was fine and the lawn mower still in the garden (coff coff). With everything sealed up again, apples collected from the garden, it was time to head off, we got all the way into town and the Trois Marchands. The most fantastic traditional restaurant. 4 fantastic courses and change from 30€ as well.

The trip back to Roscoff was suitably uneventful and not at all like us. Stoped in Morlaix to look at bathrooms (oh dear, work to come). Then admitting defeat by having just the one crepe for tea.

Fully refreshed by the last evening we were in bed before the ship sailed and asleep before the ship sailed. That's something about us having time off, we always spend a lot of it asleep, it's as if we don't get enough in a normal week.

Still it's home now and another standard Wednesday with me having a list of things to do and her off ripping down trees.

I have however booked our next trip away, next February and a early trip on the new ship the Armorique.


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Waking to incredulity

I do not normally do much politics on my blog.

That should not be taken to mean that I am not a political animal.

I woke up a little while ago to almost a changed landscape.

I was frankly surprised, I half expected a wave of contested counts and broken votimg machines and a republican winner just like we had a while ago.

Instead America has a democrat president but lets look at this again.

Obviously Obama is Black, something in itself but he is also a new generation American and not of a long standing family of the American political elite. That too incredibly significant.

America has been flagged up as the best democracy money can buy but, this president was elected on peoples 10 and 20 dollars not so much on corporations billions.

Crucially, Americans have almost always not quite trusted their president. If the Republicans had the presidency there was a democratic check and balance in the congress and senate to hold them in check.

Today America threw itself behind the democrats and people turned out for democracy a turn out we in Britain can only look at and gasp.

Of course this is the American political establishment; they might yet shoot him.


Of tiles and bathrooms. and a bit of social work thrown in.

Now there is a certain first day of the holidays feel to it when the children go back to school.

Adults with the responsibilities drastically reduced can wander off and play.

Yesterday we set ourselves schedule for the first day after the children go back, not a terribly grueling one and we missed it anyway.

We struggled manfully and had lunch in the pub where Cerys Mathews got married.

So anyway today being more buisneslike we decided to go off to look at some stuff to redo the bathroom. Since selling is on hold we might as well do something with the house.

You could also argue that we were doing our patriotic duty to spend our way out of recession, you would be wrong but there we go.

Anyway a morning of tile comparing, fainting at the prices of baths, "don't worry thats not a lot" said a voice suspisciously like mine - going to kill that ventriloquist one day....

Anyway plans have been drawn measurements made, and we are ready to make a start on it next week.

Thats good, I have been putting off a few jobs on the Goddess and if she is laying tiles and putting in a bath it will be an admirable time to get on to them....

But I digress this afternoon we had a professional collegue on the phone wanting to discuss an incident that happened over the weekend. Now, you do not need to know what went down but on a scale of 0-10 it was a 6 and on a potential to place people in danger in the future a 7 worst of all, on a scale of things it was something that a SW was going to have to actually do something about and get by saying "Oh dear".

Records are of course the bane of everyone's lives and SW was very keen that we record everything that happened which as a matter of course I do. Further more SW wanted a copy of our exact records.

Now this is an odd one, it strikes me that SW are very careful not to put anything down clearlyand to write nothing at allif they feel they can get away with it.

If I had a pound for every time that I asked for something in writing before I did as they asked or instigated some response only to be met with an embarassed silence or be promised a follow up letter that never actually arrived:
I would be doing very well for myself.

We are apparently required to work in a different way and they wanted everything; chapter and verse including a lot of things that someone might ask to see under the data protection act and get very angry about if they were not historically very stable in the first place.

It is part of the new order that the Data Protection Act allows people to see what is recorded about them and know why. This can be good and helpful but can also be immensly destructive.

Funny thing is though whilst they would have us put in writing this incident this weekend, what about the child in need who was illegally not allocated a social worker, for 11 months. All kinds of legal requirements not met, had that been recorded???

Had they recorded the concerns we expressed in stat reviews and monthly supervision, did they print off and keep the emails that pointed out that their practice was illegal not to mention dangerous?



Saturday, 1 November 2008

Driving Miss D.

It has been known for people to suggest that sometimes I gild the lily.

Occasionally, so they say I will not let the truth impede a good story.

I of course always tell the truth and will be completely honest in my recording of events.

So anyway today we had to facilitate contact for little D with his mum in the South of the county having picked up his little sis on the way.

Therin came the first problem. She had phoned for directions but as far giving the MD directions you might as well give her coin and say heads is left and tales means right.

We did get the right country, that's the advantage of having the sea on three sides in Wales, you have a 75% chance. After copious wandering round we decided to let technology take the strain, on went the GPS.

Now here is the genuine technological proof that her driving is bonkers.

With her at the helm and roughly on the road we lurched bounced and screeched along and the GPS could not get a fix on our position. Millions of pounds of technology in space could not get a bead on the Xantia with her at the wheel. The yanks have spent billions on stealth technology when all they needed to do was learn to drive like management!

I did venture to share this information:

"I am only doing 40" she said indignantly and here you come across another of the MD's little foibles.

She learnt to drive on a Morris Minor which compares to the Xantia as an abacus compares to a super computer. On the minor there is a simple gauge and if it says 40 it means you are doing 40 MPH*. When she said we were doing 40 in the xantia we could have been telling me the speed, the revs or the engine temperature. And crude statistics tell you that there is only a 1 in 3 chance she got it right....

Now, she is quite miffed with me for these observations and she says that the GPS would not work because of something called a Faraday cage which was stopping it working inside the car and saying that once it was attached to the windscreen it was able to tell us where we were.

Of course I would love to believe her, but that would be letting the truth impede a good story.

* It should be noted that if the minor gauge says Zero it does not necessarily mean you are stationery; it actually means you are stationery or the speedo is having a British Leyland moment and has gone on strike. To prove that evolution is not always forwards; at least the minor speedo can be removed in a reasonable amount of time and does not require total disassembly of the car and removal of countless electronic components each of which has it's own pin number to achieve.

Friday, 31 October 2008


I know the UK has jumped on the band wagon and slavishly copied the American trick or treat.

I really think that this American corruption of a festival that has roots in the pagan circle of the year has very little to commend it.

Old people are often terrorised by unruly children and the whole thing has turned nasty in many places.

I had thought of taking precautions, rigging up one of the fire engines with a couple of ground monitors covering the front of the house.

So the little angels could hammer on the door and pelt the house with flour and eggs.

Then I would spark up the fire engine and let fly.

See if they still thought it was funny.

Mind you the only source of bulk liquid here is the septic tank, or sewage pit to our colonial friends.

I would take a house covered in eggs and flour in good heart, I wonder if the parents would laugh as their beloved walked into the house dripping....


Thursday, 30 October 2008

Give us this day our daily bread.

Now, with the aga properly back on stream the management has felt more inclined in the culinary direction.

Today has turned her expert hand to the production of bread, she made some wonderful buns that filled the house with their unforgettable aroma.

Lovely, and with a traditional crustiness, a bit more crusty than the ones from Tesco, well quite a lot more crusty in fact. Still, it could be worse, if we didn't have a green goddess with it's specialist kit for opening up brick hearths, we would not have been able to split them and they were absolutly full of flavour, as you chewed and chewed and chewed and.... isn't NHS dentistry wonderful.

Even the cats have given up, still I bet they will be ideal for soaking up the lovely juices of our tea which is a curry that has been fermenting er cooking all day.

She is a great cook really, I would not dare think otherwise. I am sure the curry will be a another unique culinary experience. The pizza for lunch was pretty good too.

Childhood adventures

One of the things as children mature is watching their independence grow.

Today the girls have gone off on a shopping expedition. On the train on their own, well taking big D with them to see his parents and collecting young P in the process.

The girls were excited, their mother beside herself with anxiety.

Mum gave the lecture, watch you Ipods, phones, cash. This is not round here, dancing in the street to the tune on your ipod will not be considered normal, well it's not normal here wither but Pembrokeshire has more eccentrics than the big city...

It's quite strange really, I remember Bethans first steps when she walked and now she has gone off, as a young adult, in charge of herself and with her sidekick Branwen aka Sir Bruce.

Could be a tough day with management.


Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Half term

It's funny, for a foster carer life is sort of backwards. When everyone else is gearing up for a good time we are bracing ourselves for hard work.

Christmas is a happy family time, for us it's a max work time.

Summer means nice balmy days off work, for us it's 6 weeks unrelenting grind.

Term times are our best times.

This time of year can be particularly hard since the weather means the kids are indoors and getting on each others nerves.

Today, thank goodness is not too bad.

The temperature outside is about 7c so as things go it's not so bad. Mainly because the wind has dropped. Cold is OK but the wind here is a big problem. This is a very exposed place on a hilltop.

The nature of old houses is different to modern though.

Having been warmed yesterday the house was 3 degrees colder this morning than it was last night. Wheras a modern house would warm up quickly, the degrees are crawling on here but there's the big challenge. Get it warm and it stays warm for a long time. Allow it to get cold and you have a veritable mountain to climb.

Something very nice about log stoves as well.


Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Bi polar weather - nope just polar.

There is something nice about winter.

The crisp chill and sun.

Of course up here the enemy is wind chill.

Today the wind is howling, sucking the smoke up the chimneys both fires are going full out. Still not really making an impression.

This morning, rolling round under a fire engine opening the drains for the winter, no that wasn't fun either...

Still there are good things. Our V the big V phoned for the first time in a while to say she has got a job. That's great, she is a good kid who was lured away from here by leaving care then pretty much dumped.

No wonder so many of these looked after children come unstuck. She is climbing back up, hope she will be OK this time.


Monday, 27 October 2008

Test of green credentials

So we sit in amazement at this weather.

Today the weather man said the S word.

Snow, for goodness sakes!!

We have had snow maybe six times in 15 years and been properly snowed in maybe twice.

Well when I say snowed in I mean can't take the car out snowed in.

If the weather ever delivered anything beyond the Bedford the whole area would be at a standstill.

Now I have snow chains for the Bedford given an unladen weight over 5 tons with chains on once that fire engine is moving it's going to take something pretty big to stop it!!


Saturday, 25 October 2008

Close encounter with the grim reaper....

It caused certain questions in the garage when I turned up with the square wheeled xantia that she had driven over a curb. Greasy the garagistes curiosity was aroused when he noted that the damaged wheel was on the offside and in this country convention says we drive on the left.

Never one to be held back by such matters the MD had managed to bend the right hand wheel...

Some delicate surgery using tools sourced from a green goddess (beating the crap out of it with a 10 lb sledge hammer) and soon we were back on the road.

Well when I say "on the road" I mean somewhere near the road anyway.

This morning having received the call from the perfect one my step son off we went into town to offer him his usual free taxi service. Management was as always at the helm and in control.

Round the bend towards us came two bikers who were in a big hurry, whoosh they were gone in a flash of colour and a roar of engine.

Clearly the management decided evasive action was needed and she indulged in a series of violent swerves to miss the bikers who were now a mere 500 metres past us and disappearing fast.

The windscreen was filled with views of hedge and a series of other solid looking objects any one of which might well be about to contact the car at any second. There is only one thing to do when it's like that, close your eyes and brace.

Seconds passed and the sensation of rocking ceased, tentatively I opened one eye, then the other. The car was the right way up, roughly on the road and roughly the same shape as it had been when we left the house.

Management seemed not to have noticed my discomfiture and she continued to chat away as we drove into town. I was eventually able to talk again and we picked up the perfect one.

Life with the mistress of all we owe money on is lots of things but it's never boring.

She has gone off shopping with the girls, I did get an invite, but fortunately I had a few other things I needed to do instead; like my laundry.....

The weather is bi polar.

It is now blowing like a blowing thing and here comes the rain.

Yes the weather is bi polar.


Friday, 24 October 2008

Is the weather bi polar or what??

I mean yesterday we were near blasted off the face of the planet by a huge hurricane.

Today it's flat calm and sunny, I cannot reconcile this at all.

Today was also a good day to chainsaw, and an excellent day to axe.

We should have wood enough to last virtually till March.

Need to cut just a bit more.


Oh God,

The pain the pain.....


Thursday, 23 October 2008

stormy weather...

The weather has changed overnight.

Gone the crisp sunshine.

We have blustering gale and sheets of water.

Water rushes across fields.

Pours across roads.

Pauses in pools.

Rivers leave their beds and explore the roads and fields.

All in all it's pretty bloody wet.

So today with the weather so clement she decided to drive over a kerb at about 40 mph.

Citroen suspension seemed unphased but the rim was not that impressed.

Over 50 MPH it feels like you are driving on square wheels.

Really I need to jack the car up, remove the wheel and see what has happened.

I am remarkably unkeen though to do that in a howling gale lying in a pool of cold water. I know, I know, another life experience refused, except it wasn't.

I have previously freed off the clutch pedal of a Bedford RS whilst lying in a stream; it was not fun, just in case you were wondering.

So we head into half term, minus the car.

Given that choice, I think I might find some deep puddle, park the car and set to work.....


Families going nuclear.....

I am sort of insulated from that alleged cornerstone of society the family.

I was born an only child but have sort of seen from the outside the wilder excesses of family life.

Now things are really warming up for the management or rather her familly.

I wonder sometimes why they call it "nuclear family" or is that just a reference to the kind of explosions they generate.


Wednesday, 22 October 2008

When the going gets tough....

That's some old saying, there is an implicit implication that somehow in all situations and all occasions there is an element of control, when in actuality things often spiral right out of your ability to exert any influence on them at all.

We knew it wasn't looking good but last night got the confirmation that our buyer for this house has officially pulled out.

Well he hasn't he and his family love the place really want to be here and really are trying to find ways around things.

But there are times when you are in the grip of circumstances and this might be one of them.

So today a lovely sunshine day we did really decisive things.

First of all we put the house back for sale to all those people who cannot buy a house and at a reduced price which is all academic. Someone who has bugger all will not suddenly have money if you wipe 50 k off the asking price. Instead of attracting buyers who don't have 500K you attract buyers who don't have 450...

Just get a lower class of tyre kicker...

So the going being tough and us being tough we got going, we went down the pub for lunch.

Didn't help mind....

Baaaaah houses.

Management is pretty low, me I just have this feeling that something good is around the corner. Yeah I was never a realist....


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The stupidity of saving money.

We have, over the last few months been regularly cutting wood and even more regularly sharpening the chainsaw.

I was aware that we hadn't changed the chain in a while but thought not a lot of it.

Yesterday I had enough, a brand spanking new chain went on the saw and, bloody hell.

What a stupid thing saving money is. The new chain cut more wood in 40 minutes than we had in weeks. The management and I fair reduced the wood pile to matches.

Of course it all still needs splitting with the axes.

But we are a good way towards having enough wood to last us all winter.

We have never been this organised, usually we are outside freezing in a howling gale in February....


Monday, 20 October 2008

A change of day......

We seem to be rolling along slowly.

Had a bit of a morning with the chainsaw but it seems to get blunt every 5 minutes.

So we went to see our local chainsawologist who looked at the chain and said it was past it's best.

By the time we had sorted that of course it was raining so all operations were on hold.

But and here's the but, the buyers solicitor has been giving everyone grief about things not moving quickly enough.

This is a bit of a strange one for me the guy is not in a position to move but his solicitor wants us to jump through hoops.

Maybe he knows something I don't.....

I hope so...


Sunday, 19 October 2008

End of weekends part the two.

Opening a decent red is like switching on a magnet.

Nano seconds passed and our mate Phil came down the drive.

We all agreed the Baron makes half decent paint stripper.

Phil of course being Phil knew how to use our sharpening kit.

The chain saw soon had an edge on it.

The fire is blazing, pouring heat into the world without warming the planet a huge amount.

I am feeling benign in the way only a glass of ridiculously dear red can make you feel.

Then again it would only be ridiculously dear if I bought it in the UK today, I bought it in Brittany a good few years back which makes it a lot cheaper.


The weekend ends.

OK so we have tried and failed.

The AGA is: Off.

The chainsaw is: blunt.

The fires are: out.

Only one thing to do;

management selected a bottle of 2001 berger baron rothschild

We are going to chill for the rest of the day

Mind you if I don't actually light the fire we will all chill, litterally..

Saturday, 18 October 2008

sharp as a chain saw.

Management is nothing if not inventive and, aware of our current high level chainsaw usage she has decided to move the chain sharpening operation in house.

This in turn eBayed our way a chain saw sharpening kit all of which has some exotic usage that I have not been able to fathom and a set of instruction which must surely make sense to someone but they sure as hell make no sense at all to me.

Checking online for guides to sharpening chains saws has succesfuly added to the air of confusion and as I speak management is filing with a determind look.

We will get the hang of this eventually and at least the saw is no blunter than it was.


Friday, 17 October 2008

At the auction - for gods sake don't wave!!!

I have one weakness, well oK maybe I have a few but anyway one of my weaknesses is an inability to pass a "to the auction" sign.

I have to go and look, so anyway with the kids safely at school off she went with me to the auctions.

Before I moved down here it was a bit of a standing joke as I would come home with truck laden with military surplus. It might have been a joke but all the neighbours made sure they came to have a look at whatever it was that I had bought this time.

I remember the time I arrived home laden with furniture, not MFI tat but ex military tables in solid African mahogany. I was trying to unload the truck but it was not making the house. Management was selling it, faster than I could unload it, and the punters were lined up around the block!!

Today was nothing as exciting, a general sale with a few gems hidden. This is managements territory and so she was charged with spotting the bargains and waving the card.

Meanwhiles I got on with the lesser tasks. Not a bad day, a wetsuit for a whole pound, an Ewenny jug that the dealers missed for 15, a new fire basket for Brittany and a 2 pound bargain bucket of tools.

That is my real weakness, when something goes for a few pounds I will often stick my hand up just for the hell of it.

At a ministry sale I once bought ten vacuum cleaners for seven pounds. Turned out they were big nilfisk industrial things, that absolutely filled my cavalier and sent her into eyes rolled back despair. Things got worse when I gifted management one to use in our then B&B. What we didn't realise was that these were hundreds of pounds worth and soon the local B&B's were lining up to buy them for 50 pounds each.

Of course life has not been one continuous triumph. There was the time I bought an ex army land rover trailer because it was silly cheap money. One of my mates asked if I had actually looked at it first. I noted the gleam in his eye and felt a moment of concern. When he offered to take me too it I sensed there must be a problem. Sure enough this was not any trailer, this was a special trailer this one had fallen out of a Hercules at 5000 feet and landed in the path of a challenger tank. At least that's what it looked like.

When I borrowed a trailer to bring it home the news spread quickly and kind friends were soon calling to offer sympathy, and lean against the wall in helpless hysteria.

There are still people who remember that, mind you many of them are sitting at mahogany dining tables when they tell the tale.

But anyway, I digress, everything was going well, the lots were clicking away. Each auction is different and you have to respond on the day. Today there were some bargains to be had some modern stuff went for absolutely mad money.

Then up came this wonderful dresser, 1800's maybe a really nice item that would sit wonderfully in our new house if we ever get there. Started at 500 pounds then worked it's way briskly to 1000 pounds. The bidding was lively I turned to say to her, then noticed who was bidding briskly. I suspect I went a little bit white, certainly I needed to sit down soon. So I did, it went eventually for a very cheap 1500 pounds but goodness was I relieved when I discovered it wasn't our 1500 pounds....