Monthly Archives: January 2009

Leaving Lunch – A Month Late

I have been in my new job as the manager of the Volunteer Centre South Derbyshire for four weeks now, so I decided that it was high time to draw a line underneath my years in working in Nottingham by inviting former colleagues to a lunch to mark my transition.

Of course, anyone else leaving a job would have some kind of leaving “do” before they depart, but as I left immediately before Christmas, it proved to be impossible to find a suitable venue that wasn’t already booked up by Christmas parties.

 I had decided that I wanted to hold my own leaving celebration at the Adams Restaurant at New College Nottingham. This is partly because it is inexpensive and I have always had good food there in the past, but also because the staff there are students at the college who are training for careers in the hospitality industry.

The organisation of this meal proved to be something of a nightmare. This was due to me having to do it all by email; initially to my former work colleagues and the current custodians of the Nottingham Volunteer Coordinators’ Network. This took a little longer than I expected, but I had more than 20 initial expressions of interest in the meal.  With a great deal of help from Sue, who still works at the place that I left, the menu was obtained from the restaurant and was circulated by email to everyone who had said that they wanted to come.

This is where the fun really started.

Some people didn’t get that initial email, others wanted to come who hadn’t responded initially and some of the people who showed initial interest dropped out. Although I had agreed that everyone would pre-order their meal, the deadline came and went with daily changes and additions as some people responded late and others had to be chased up by email.

On thursday night before the meal on Friday lunchtime, three people had not responded, so I had to send them an email saying that they couldn’t come. Even then, one of the three came along after Sue had phoned the restaurant on Friday morning.

Sue, a college staff member at Adams Restaurant, deserves a sainthood for the amount of messing about that she received at our hands.

So the great day finally arrived when 22 of us turned up at the restaurant. It was great to see so many of my former colleagues, both staff and volunteers from Nottingham CVS as well as a members of great team of people that I had worked with at Nottingham City Council’s Community Development Department and even a couple of people from voluntary organisations that I had worked with.

Some surprise was expressed that I now wear shirts and trousers rather than Tee shirts and jeans and that my beard had been trimmed down to a very human-looking length. However, Sue has worked hard in both Debenhams and the House of Fraser  to make sure that I look suitable managerial, although I decided to trim the beard all by myself.

The meal itself was, for me, up to the usual high standard that I had come to expect from the students at the Adams Restaurant, although there were a few problems with some people’s main meals arriving a little late.  This may have taken the gloss off the experience for a few people, but my own view is that we had made a significant contribution to any confusion with a string of changes to the pre-orders. Anyway, mistakes are made in all walks of life, even in restaurants that would have charged us for more than we were charged on Friday.

I refused to allow anything to put a blot on the day for me because it was great to meet with so many people with whom I had worked for a long time and to feel that there remains some respect and even affection between us. I am very pleased that I am remembered a month on and that people wanted to come along to this lunch.

I wrote at the start of this post that I was drawing a line under my time working in Nottingham. Perhaps that phrase will turn out to be a long way wide of the mark. I still live in Nottingham, Sue still works with the people that I used to work with and I have no idea what the future might bring in terms of any of us working together in the future.

For many years I have joked that the voluntary sector isn’t really very big, but that a few of move round a lot and meet each other in different circumstances. I feel sure that this is true and that this lunch marks a transition rather than and ending.

I’m also booked to go back to Adams Restaurant in March when a few of us from South Derbyshire pay a “real” work visit to Nottingham.

Here are a couple of the pictures that Sue took on Friday.

The Belated Leaving Lunch At Adams Restaurant, New College Nottingham, Friday 30th January 2009

The Belated Leaving Lunch At Adams Restaurant, New College Nottingham, Friday 30th January 2009 (Photo taken by Sue on her phone)

Chuffing Hog (with Julianne) at his belated leaving lunch on Friday 30th January 2009

Shirt-wearer Chuffing Hog (with Julianne) at his belated leaving lunch on Friday 30th January 2009 (Photo taken by Sue on her phone)

Ride Safe
Dave

A Mid-Life Crisis Or Two

For a long while now I have joked about my first Harley-Davidson motorcycle, the Sportster, as the manifestation of my mid-life crisis.  This feeling continued into the era of the Heritage Softail and I am increasingly convinced that this is very close to the mark.

In fact, as I look back, I must have been having a succession of mid-life crises for more than 20 years now!

I used to think that the mid-life crisis was exclusively a male thing, but now I’m not so sure. It seems that it the majority of people showing the classic symtoms seem to be men, but I have seen enough women who also do this.

So what are these symptoms?

Essentially, it involves dressing up in some kind of tribal fancy dress.

Some years ago, I had good reason (the love of a good woman, to be precise) to get into the live country music scene in the UK midlands. Now let me make it clear that I have always liked country music on record and CD, especially the rocky end of modern country. (Although I have never been too averse to Dolly Parton or a few other of the more traditional artists – and not entirely for the reasons that jumped straight into your mind). No, my observations were made around a small(ish) circuit of singers, musicians and occasionally bands who would turn up and play covers of American country music, with the occasional bit of original songwriting thrown in that gave the British scene a modicum of originality.  It was not these artists who were earning honest fees for their perfomances, but the fans in the audience.

Other than a mid-life crisis, why would otherwise sane adults of a certain age, dress up as cowboys complete with spurs, six guns and stetson hats? It made no difference at all to their enjoyment of the music, but instead gave them a sense of belonging.

Similarly, I was on the outside edge of the Rock and Roll scene for a while in the late seventies and early eighties. Again, it is the the fans who spend a great deal of money, time and effort on dressing the part. I have also been part of the Northern Soul tribe, community radio groups, a canoeing and sailing tribe and I went through Scouts and was, for quite a few years, a scout leader. I’ve done my share of “belonging”

So on to motorbikes, and to the world of Harley-Davidson in particular. Why do I have so many Harley T-shirts, jumpers and other clothes? Why did I wear a leather waistcoat covered in Sherwood Chapter and Harley Owners’ Group patches and why did I ever go to rallies and chapter meetings wearing this kit?  After all, my best riding has almost always been with Sue on the back and no-one else on the road. Group riding was just part of the tribal aspect. 

There seems to be something of a trend here. The tribe is really about showing that you belong to something.  It is also an escape from the everyday grind of life and work into a fantasy world where you can pretend to be a cowboy for the evening,  recapture what it might have been like to be a Teddy Boy for a few hours or play at being a “Hells Angel” rebel biker for the weekend before putting on a suit and going back into the office on Monday morning.

In each case, alcohol helps to fuel the fantasies. However, it really doesn’t matter if the cowboy falls over drunk and a pissed-up Teddy boy is little more than a joke, but it is rather more worrying that many of the weekend biker rebels guzzle a dozen pints on Friday night then ride a motorbike on Saturday morning.

Now that I have left the chapter committee and have not (yet) renewed my chapter membership, I am looking dispassionately at this particular tribe and at tribes in general. Does this mean that I am now in a post-mid-life crisis period of my life. If so that’s a bit worrying because after mid-life, I guess, comes old age and I’m nowhere near ready for that yet.

Actually, it’s OK. I still dress up as a guard when I go to play trains volunteer at Peak Rail – I must still be in mid-life. Phew!

Ride Safe
Dave

New Year New Job

Well, I’ve done it! I started my new job two weeks ago as manager of the Volunteer Centre South Derbyshire, based in Swadlincote.

After 25 years working in Nottingham CVS, it is very strange being the new boy, but I have been welcomed by all my colleagues in the organisation and by people from partner organisations and the few community groups that I have met so far.

As I expected, the rural area that is South Derbyshire is very different to the compact urban environment of Nottingham. I have yet to get out to to the villages beyond Swadlincote, but this is something that I really want to do soon.

In my first fortnight, in addition to my induction, we have also completed an office move for the Volunteer Centre team. We have been given a small building in the grounds of South Derbyshire CVS as our Volunteer Centre which has been refurbished for us with office space for the three staff members and a small interview room where we will be able to meet with our prospective volunteers.

I already have lots of ideas for ways to improve our service, but I am really keen to find out what works well and to build on it because I see no point in making change for its own sake. I also have to get to grips with my new relationship between the countywide Volunteer Centres Network in Derbyshire.

Over the coming weeks and months, I will keep you posted about how things are going, although it is very likely that there will soon be a new blog for Volunteer Centre South Derbyshire.

Ride Safe
Dave

Dave’s Very Late Leaving Lunch

Hi Nottingham VCN Members,

I promised that you’d heard the last from me, but not quite!  The new job is great, but I am very much missing my many friends in the VCN.

When I left the Volunteer Centre Nottingham just before Christmas, it proved impossible to book for us to have lunch. Now that things are a little quieter, how about us getting together on Friday 30th January? I am hoping that we can have a three course lunch for about £12.

At this stage, please let me know if you would like to come for lunch on this day by emailing me at home by midday this Friday 16th January (dave.thomas001@ntlworld.com). Once I have an idea of how many people are interested, I’ll book a venue and circulate the menu, etc.

Many regards
Dave

It’s Not A Cold – I’m A Man

New Year’s day saw a dreadful pestilence sweep through Chuffing Hog’s pain-racked body, with a simultaneously blocked and runny nose, multiple sneezes and a hacking cough.

I was ill.

Very ill.

So ill that I spent two full days in bed; mostly asleep; whilst being careful not to actually miss a meal. This was a potential disaster in the making because I could only spare five days to be ill before starting my new job.

In the end I dragged myself from my sick bed by the sheer force of willpower, the power of paracetamol and lots of TLC from a very long suffering Sue. 

I write this at the end of my first week in my new job where I have been very warmly welcomed by everyone and I am really enjoying myself.

Now all I need to do is shake off this infernal cough, get my nose unblocked and get a full night’s sleep. I can present a first-hand report that there is nothing worth watching on TV at 4:00 am.

This is why I have been missing from the blogosphere for the past week. I will attempt to resume normal service.

Ride Safe
Dave

York – A Weekend Away – Part 2

It’s well over a week later than I had intended, but here’s part 2 of my take on Mr and Mrs Chuffinghog’s trip to the north.

In part 1 I got as far as Sunday morning when we set out to visit the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.  This line seems to have formed the kind of relationship with the “real” railway that most of the other heritage lines can only dream about. Their regular through services to Whitby and occasional forays in the other direction on the main line are evidence of the line’s staff and volunteers’ drive and enthusiasm.

Even in the dog-days between Christmas and New Year, they had two train running with standard four and black five locos in steam as well as a diesel in action – not counting the gronk (Class 08 shunter, for the purists) serving as station pilot at their Grosmont terminus. We travelled on the standard 4 hauled 11:00 departure from Pickering, having just made it there and found a car parking space in time to buy a ticket and board the train.

As working volunteers at Peak Rail, Sue and I are the proud subscribers to the Inter-rail pass scheme run by the Heritage Railway Association. This excellent concept gives working volunteers the chance to travel on almost every other heritage railway in the country for free, or at a very reduced rate. In fact, most railways, including Peak rail, allow free travel for HRA pass holders except during gala and special event weekends. I was a little surprised that the North Yorkshire Moors Railway only allowed us a 50% discount. The experience that we subsequently enjoyed on the railway justified this pricing policy.

So, with our privilege tickets in hand, we joined the train which was well patronised, but not crowded. On a fairly cold day, the steam heating was well in evidence all along the train and our carriage was warm and comfortable. Again, this is more than can be said for many other heritage railways at the start of a day’s service.

I was also impressed that the train provided a trolley service for drinks and refreshments and I enjoyed my hot chocolate and bag of crisps.

When we arrived at Grosmont I fully expected that I would hop off the train, watch the loco run round and re-take my same seat for the return trip. However, this was not to be. The railway was running a dining train which departed from the far platform and we were to travel back on this.  I was most surprised that the railway was running a THIRD train, although this was in place of the set that had brought us from Pickering.

Their dining Set comprised a number of Pullman coaches (including a Mark 1 coach painted to look like a Pullman coach, although only an anorak like me would have spotted this). They also had a Gresley teak coach in the dining set.  As we were not booked for dinner, we were relegated to one of the three ordinary Mark 1 coaches towards the rear of the train which proved to be quite full.

For our return trip, the Standard 4 steam locomotive was double headed with (I think) a Class 25 diesel.

The railway runs through some spectacular scenery across the moors and the journey even saw some blue appearing in the overcast sky.

When we arrived back at Pickering, I went to fetch the camera that we had (again) left in the car and we decided to wait for the arrival of the next train, due some 20 minutes or so later. It arrived some 15 minutes late, giving us plenty of time to visit the excellent model shop across the road from the station where Sue actually spent some money, not on a new loco for the layout that I am going to build one day, but on a birthday card.

However, one of the culinary highlights of our weekend away was in the refreshment room on Pickering station. They serve home-made soup, which on that day, was pea and ham soup. This was absolutely delicious and was almost worth the trip to the railway in itself.

After grabbing a few photographs of the train and of Pickering station, it was time for us to leave to return to York and our hotel. I’ll put a picture here as soon as I get round to downloading them from the camera.

On our return to York, Sue and I caught up on some more sleep before waking mid-evening and deciding that we ought to go out and explore a little of the city and find something to eat. We discovered that a Sunday evening may not be the best time to find anywhere other than York’s many pubs open for business. For some reason that I no longer remember, I said that I fancied a pizza, so we tried one Italian restaurant where we were told that we might have an hour’s wait for a table, so we walked deeper into the city of York where Sue spotted a Pizza Hut sign in the distance. With mounting excitement, we reached the door, only to find it firmly locked.

We retraced our steps to discover that we had taken a different road back. This fortunate accident brought us to the restaurant, Il Bertorelli *.  The service here was outstanding, the food was excellent and the music was great. What more could we have wanted? It was also not at all crowded, with just one other group of people in the place. In fact, we were the last ones in the place, but never felt hurried or under any pressure to leave. I would certainly want to eat there again.

Monday morning came as something of a disappointment, not only because we had to leave the hotel (after another sumptuous breakfast), but because we had originally planned to go to Scarborough. Unfortunately, we had to get back home to keep an appointment with someone from Virgin media who was coming to restore our cable TV service that had been out of action since Boxing Day.

We were not happy when, some three hours after the promised arrival time, Sue phoned them to be told that they were not coming. An aggrieved Sue is not a pretty sight, nor, I would imagine is she the kind of customer that Virgin’s call centre most like to get. The phrase “firm but fair” almost applies to the conversation that I overheard and the engineer turned up five minute early on the following day.

The very reasonable basis for Sue’s complaint was that we had come back from holiday early and had missed the opportunity for a trip to Scarborough on that last day. Having extracted some financial recompense from the company, honour was considered to be satisfied and life goes on.

In my next exciting post on here, I’ll reveal a bit about the missing week since my last online sojourn here.

* This link is to the website of the London Bertorelli restaurants because I can’t find a site for the York one. I believe that they are now a national chain and may formerly have been Cafe Uno. Anyway, the food was wonderful.

Ride Safe
Dave