Six and a half weeks

Where does the time go?

Am 6.5 weeks into my new job.

As each week goes past – I get to know more people and everything feels slightly less confusing and easier to get my head around.

The work restaurant/canteen is turning into something of a daily fixture. Today I even opted for a pudding, too. This won’t be good for the waist-line long term.

What else. Well, I cycle to work every day. I really enjoy cycling and at circa one mile, it’s really quite an easy journey on back streets. I don’t wear any cycling gear at all – only normal work clothes. Nor do I go at any great speed. This is in contrast to my last permanent job in which I commuted 2-3 miles each way every day (still quite short compared to many people) – but that route took me on the cycling superhighways and I cycled much faster.

I still long for the day when London will be more like Amsterdam, Copenhagen or Berlin – i.e. where cyclists are ‘normally’ attired, rather than dressed in full-blown road-warrior gear. Hard to say if/when that day will come.

So work is going pretty well overall. Inevitably I have some days where I think “hmmm, this is probably only going to be a 1-2 year job” and others where I think “hmm, I think I’m going to build a long-term career here”. Only time will tell.

In other news – I’m off to France for 6 days at the end of next week. Driving all the way down and then flying back. There is now internet at the house so I won’t just be reliant on the cafe across the square as has usually been the case.

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Springtime in London

Today was perhaps the most glorious day of the year so far. After 3+ long months of near continuous rain (the wettest winter since records began) – it does now, finally, feel like the bad weather has subsided. The sky was glitteringly blue, the sun warm and the breeze cool. It was about 18c in London and I think the sun shone across most of the country.

I cycled to Battersea Park – a 10 minute or so trip. The roads were clogged with cars and I was very grateful for the cycle superhighway that provides mostly unhindered access for cyclists.

I took a few photos. I did process them a bit in Lightroom and quite like how they’ve come out. The spring blossom on the trees reminded me of the cherry blossoms I had seen in Japan all those years ago, when I was living there. Spring and autumn in Japan are spectacular and the seasons are, overall, much more distinct than they are in the UK.

Battersea Park is my favourite London park and Battersea Power Station is certainly one of my favourite landmarks. It’s at the beginning of an enormous multi-billion-pound makeover which will see the entire area changed. Thankfully the chimneys will be saved. Click here to see what new development will look like or check the video below:

Click photos at the top of this post for larger.

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Cos I like Polaroids

Saw these on Tumblr and thought I’d repost them. I was never a full-blown X-Files fan but would invariably watch it if it was on.

(Click for larger)

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Quarter of a million

Where does the time go. The rhetorical question one always finds oneself asking.

Three months since last I blogged. And so much has happened in that time. I guess the key thing to say is that I’m now back in the world of (permanent) work after a hiatus / career break – call it what you will – of 16 months. I had never imagined it would turn into so long. I did of course work during that time – freelancing – but it was very different to permanent work and I only did the equivalent – man-hours wise – of a part-time job. This itself was quite erratic – ranging from a few very busy periods to longer periods during which I had very little work on.

Looking back I enjoyed the break I had. Stepping off the hamster wheel, being my own boss and also finding time to study, travel, cook, relax – is something I would recommend to any one. I have no regrets.

Coming back to full-time salaried work has been an experience. It’s been more than five years since I was last ‘new’ into a job and in truth I had forgotten what that can feel like. But it’s been good. I’m now into my 4th week and am enjoying the work, the organisation and the people.

Like any role and any workplace – there are frustrations and not everything is perfect. But ‘on balance’ – especially when I consider the culture, the role, the future opportunities – etc – it’s all positive.

So I’m also back to commuting by bike again. It’s very short; about one mile. I love not having to use public transport to get to work. Cycling has its own frustrations (mostly generated by other road users) but the journey is so comparatively short that it really is an enjoyable, stress-free way of getting to work. And because where I now work has a very strong emphasis on work / life balance – I find myself having my entire evenings to myself. I can cook, socialise, catch up, do some of my freelancing (I have some unfinished small projects and some longer, retained work on the go). I no longer have that ‘exhausted’ feel that is so common in much of London’s workforce.

So we’ll see. It’s early days, of course, but I’m already feeling fairly settled (and it’s a large organisation so there is a lot to get your head around).

The title for this blog post reflects that the blog itself has now crashed through the 250k hits mark. A minor milestone. I’m still surprised that it’s going after all these years. I guess, though, that it’s the de facto diary I never really had. So much is captured in the 800+ blog posts that cover the past 5-6 years. Interestingly – the very beginning of this blog (autumn 2008) is when I was commencing my last big career move.

Hoping that all who read this had a good Christmas break and are having a good start to 2014.

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Festive baking – sausage rolls & mince pies

So today I baked. Sausage rolls and (mini) mince pies. I made the sausage-meat mix using best-quality pork sausages, a chopped spring onion, some garlic, a bit more onion – and a handful of chopped parsley and a scant pinch of chilli powder. However, I used shop-bought puff-pastry. For the mince-pies – I made my own pastry (it contains ground almonds and also cream cheese) – but I used a jar of shop-bought mincemeat.

Next year I would really like to make both the filling and the pastry.

Anyway, very pleased with how both came out. I used my new high-qual mini-muffin tin (heavy) and they cooked really evenly and came out of the tin no problem. They really are small – each pie holding about a 1/2 teaspoonful of mincemeat.

The sausage rolls are better than the batch I made 1-2 weeks ago. The filling tastes better (I didn’t add water to it, which the BBC Goodfood recipe recommends) – and I didn’t use the food processor this time – instead using a knife to blitz the herbs/onions and then my hands to mix it all together. They’re also smaller than the last ones I made. The tip here is to (after rolling up the pastry) leave it in the fridge for a while before taking it out to slice thin pieces, using a heavy/sharp knife.

My Christmas soiree is tomorrow and I have a few more things to bake in the day.

Click any image for larger.

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C is for Champagne

champagne flutes illuminated by christmas lights

Occasionally I am minded to pick up my old dSLR camera, the lens on which I really love. It’s a 35mm f2 (which won’t mean much unless you have an understanding of photography). The dSLR itself is ‘ancient’ – a D50 dating from – wait for it – 2005. Only 6MP but still takes lovely pictures, and honestly, who really needs so much more resolution than that? I still love the camera and combination – though in truth it doesn’t get out much these days (as is always the way when one over-relies on mobile phone photography).

The pic is of the new champagne flutes I’ve bought for the upcoming party I am hosting later this week, illuminated by some cheap Christmas lights I have also bought. An American friend – whom I refer to as ‘the #AmericanHeiress’ – is insisting on bringing champagne (and she has expensive taste) – so I thought it was high time I finally bought some champagne flutes.

I love shooting wide-open at f2.

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