Friday 1 November 2013

The Original Plummy Mummy back again...

Well only briefly. Last week I was down in London with the kiddo and we stayed overnight at a lovely friend's house in Plumstead.
During the day, we met with another friend in Greenwich. God I miss the old place. We walked around the Cutty Sark, the Painted Hall and Chapel and had a quick visit to the Maritime museum (great new map on the upper floor) and a wee bit of Greenwich park. That night, there was going to be filming for the new Man from U.N.C.L.E. film so there were some great old cars around. Inside the Chapel, the volunteers told about the blue backdrop being made of curtains from the Queen's Coronation, about the medallions made of Coade stone which was manufactured in Lambeth by Eleanor Coade in the 1780s (yes, a WOMAN inventor) and about the ornate ceiling. The original Chapel was not at all ornate but after it burnt down and was rebuilt, it was made very fancy indeed. There is so much to see both in the Painted Hall and Chapel though I recommend not going with an impatient 6 year old who has a huge love for the Maritime museum and doesn't want to dally anywhere else.
It was great being back there, the sun was shining and I was relieved that (as far as I could see) Greenwich park had been restored post Olympics.Kiddo was very taken with the water feature in the grounds.
We had lunch at the Plumtree Cafe (241 Greenwich High Road, SE10 8NB). What an utter shame that the owners never got this into Plumstead as they had originally planned as it would have been wonderful to have the cafe on the Common. The day we visited, everything was a bit hectic but I found out that some regular staff weren't there and so it wasn't normal service. The food was good and lunch didn't cost much so that was great. Kiddo loved it as there is a dedicated area at the back with a kids playhouse! Definitely worth going for a bit of nosh there.
After lunch, kiddo and I made our way to Woolwich Arsenal to catch the bus. Ah good old Woolwich never fails soon as we got off the train, we had a run in with not one, but two locals. Nothing changes huh! I do NOT miss these hideous encounters and find it shocking now that I live away from London. Luckily, a quick bus ride and we were in leafy, beautiful Autumnal Plumstead. First call was a mum who had just had a new cute as pie baby. Then we went to a friend's house to meet up with other mums and their kiddos we knew - it was so wonderful to catch up with old friends. It was topped off with a lovely dinner and beds in the attic. My friend's place is so different from mine - very arty Boho and just full of wonderful things to look at. I miss having coffees with her very much.
The next morning, we sneaked round to our old place to have a look and I was delighted at how well the garden has grown. Sadly, as the place has tenants I couldn't look around the inside. Probably best, as the visit had left me rather weepy for the old place.
All in all, it was fun being back albeit briefly. Some pictures below, in no particular order.
As for the "Original Plummy Mummy" above....well there is now a very big group of mums on Facebook with the name which is nice but please don't forget that I AM the original Plummy Mummy and though I may be away, I haven't forgotten about the old place.

Friday 24 May 2013

My best friend is Muslim

My best friend is Muslim. She's a normal person. We first met at a north west London school 35 years ago when she sat at the desk in front of me cos her surname began with an "A" and mine with a "B".

When mindless idiot men do something so utterly horrific as hack another human being to death in the name of her religion, it makes me angry and also very, very afraid for her. Afraid that some idiot will do something to her as she's got a headscarf on.
I've already lost an old school friend to that type of utter scum idiot - I truly do not want to lose another. I condemn such savagery, as all decent human beings do.

And my heart goes out that a son has lost his father, a wife her husband, sisters their brother, a mother and father his son.

Tuesday 12 March 2013


I'm grappling with a course assignment at the moment - I have to work out a week's menu for a  family of four with a budget of just over £36. The course I'm on is all about healthy eating, so the menu has to show that even on that low a budget you can eat healthily. I've been working on it for about two weeks now and it's been interesting trying to work out the right balance of meals. It's messing with my head as a vegetarian as I'm recommending meat and fish meals.
This year I have felt the pinch made worse by my guilt for not having earned any money for nearly six years. A few large bills (repairs on the car, repairs to the house due to the rain last year) and it's tipped us over the edge of being comfortable, to having to watch our pennies. But even so, we are not struggling so much that we have to give up all treats - it's relative isn't it what a struggle is for one family compared to another. We treat ourselves with food but we won't be going on a holiday abroad this year (or probably the next). I know that most of our bills are over £40 for food a week and there are only 3 of us. Shockingly, this is with a mostly vegetarian diet and home-cooked meals. I would dread to think what our bill would be if we ate more meat, bought more processed meals and ordered a take out out more than once a month.
As part of the course I've been volunteering on some cooking courses - I come across people who are much less fortunate than me and who are going to struggle even more when the benefit changes come in. It is so shocking that in 21st century Britain, families are starving. The thing is, these are not lazy benefit scroungers. Some are in this position due to the lack of employment, living in areas where there is less choice in terms of food outlets, others due to learning difficulties or mental health issues.
Then there are those that never learnt to cook well - didn't have parents to teach or inspire them. I am grateful that both my parents taught me about food in their own way. I'm obsessive about food - watching lots of shows, poring over recipe books, wandering around supermarkets and markets looking for new foods and for bargains so that I can try something out. I'm lucky.
I hope we don't have any other large bills as I fear it would catapulted us over the edge of being comfortable into the realm of scrimping and I wouldn't be able to feed my obsession which would really mess with my head.

Thursday 28 February 2013

Working from home

So the new CEO of Yahoo Marisa Mayers, wants to stop all working from home. We should applaud her for having a baby and returning to work in no time at all.
Sorry, what was I writing....we should be appalled that she had a baby and returned to work in no time at all! Mind you, I'm sure she has a help with the kid, something that's not available to all people with Yahoo.
Of course, if she improved access to childcare (either onsite or with flexible working) then that's a different matter. Then I would go back to applauding her.
In the days I worked in the technology industry, I used to feel it was something hated by HR staff, or by  managers who didn't trust their staff, or those who felt their importance was measured by the size of their teams and so had to be visible to all (trophy designers...I like that!) were the ones who were not keen on working from home. It doesn't suit all industries nor all people...some people like structure of the office rather than having the  discipline  to work from home. I didn't want to do it all the time as designs ideas benefit from being bounced off colleagues (and even the odd sofware engineers) and yes, I do agree with the Yahoo CEO that a meeting can be a lot quicker when it's done face to face. But when you had to concentrate on something and had to have a deadline to meet, working in an open plan office with constant interruptions was not ideal.
Then there is the costs to think about - transports costs for your staff getting to work or getting to other offices for that face to face meeting, office costs for housing them all, meeting room space that has to be found. I used to resent the travel time to work as it was less time get stuck into work. And at the end of the day, resented the time to get home and have a life. And while meetings can be faster face to face, there is also the lost time wasted  chitchatting which I found did not happen as much in remote working.
I wonder how the policy will play out. I know that HR managers around the world must be dancing with glee in the hope that the policy sticks.

Thursday 31 January 2013

Oh no, Taleo

A few weeks ago, I spent an agonising day filling in a job application using a HR programme called Taleo (talent acquisition system). To say it was painful is an understatement. It's suffers from very poor usability and is very inaccessible to those with disabilities...which is ironic as the post I was applying for was for a Usability and Accessibility specialist. I think part my issues were multifaceted:

  1. I needed to fill in the same information in a few different ways. It was annoying. Even when they let you upload your own formatted CV, the system still insisted on a plain text CV. Why enable the former if the system demands the latter?
  2. It took a lot of time to fill in all the form boxes. I'm lucky that I was able to take a day to do it - a busier (perhaps more qualified) person would not. I must admit there were a few points where I just decided to jack it in but I kept going
  3. According to some reviews I read online, the applicant may be very suitable but if they do not put in the right buzzwords, they will not pass the TALEO phase of applying for the role. Now I realise this is not an issue unique to the TALEO system - even a paper based applications has to contain the right language to appeal to the recruiter.
  4. It feels very impersonal - I wasn't sure when, if ever, a human would read my application. Two weeks later I was lucky to receive a rejection email - some companies that use the system do not bother with this courtesy. I am still not overly convinced a human has been involved in that decision but there is no way I will ever know as I never talked to a human about this job.
My biggest issue is that I know after taking 5 years out to raise my child, that it is going to be very difficult to find any job in today's recession, let alone one in design or usability. It was bloody hard when I was single and very single-mindedly driven about my career to get my ideal position. I know in retrospect that when I took the decision not to return to work that I should have kept my hand in doing freelance work. Hindsight is a wonderful thing huh...shame it's not a buzzword that robotic HR personnel deem important.