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Archive for February, 2009

So I’m in the middle of my second week of training for my new position as “Personal Advisor” at Big Company Healthcare.

I like the training; it’s been progressing at a quite sedate pace, I like my fellow trainees, and as I mentioned before, I admire the company’s dedication to their employees. It’s been so very good for me to get out of the house, to get up at a regular time, and to be using my brain for more than being a couch potato. Also, Francis and I have met co-workers out for a pint on occasion, which has been therapeutic and enjoyable in and of itself.

One of the signs of my depression waning is a simple and superficial thing: fake eyelashes. I’m thinking that I might get a pair or two. I just feel right purty when I wear them! It’s good for me to be paying attention to my physical appearance; there’s been too much of me staying at home in sweatpants.

Anyway, what I really wanted to write about is “tanging”. (Those of you who know me well know that my favourite animal is the BEE!) (I just realised that I’ve adopted the British spelling of things like “favourite” and “realised” with ease. Not sure how I feel about that. I’m not being pretentious, I swear.)

Tanging is an old bee-keeping technique for calming and organising a swarm of bees. See here for an illustration from a late 17th-century engraving from a rare book printed in Amsterdam. The custom was universal in the British Isles as in the ancient Roman Empire, and who knows how long before that.

Basically, if a hive was swarming, a bee keeper would take a large metal pot and repeatedly strike it with a metal implement. The “tanging” would serve multiple purposes: it would alert the neighbourhood that bees are swarming, it alerted other beekeepers that a claim was being made on a found swarm, and (perhaps most importantly) its rhythmic sound and vibrations would help soothe and coax the bees into inhabiting a carefully placed empty hive.

That is all.

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Click here to see a video of the smallest, most adorable little pig you’ll ever see.

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Small Update

I’ll post here what I wrote in an email today:

“So far the training for work has been tiring but fun. Everyone that I’ve met is kind and helpful, including my fellow trainees. I’m very much impressed with the value Big Company places on their employees, and I understand that the customer service department is considered one of the more friendly places to work. It is most likely that I’ll be in what they simply call ‘Corporate’, where I’ll be assisting people who have health insurance through their large corporation workplace. I think this will be more straightforward than if I were to be working with people who have individual policies, which I imagine would include a wide range of particulars to learn. Whew.

The work culture is different than I’m used to, but I think that’s more because it’s a type of company that’s new to me, rather than it being particular to English culture…”

Anyhow, the weather has been quite mild; I can feel a hint of spring in the air, and it’s nice to think that spring is on it’s way. I thought I’d be prepared for the climate here from living in the Pacific Northwest, but it’s been harsher than I’d imagined it would be. The warmer weather is most welcome, and the prediction for the summer is that it will be quite hot. (For England, anyway.) Bring it on, says I!

Working in the allotment with Francis and planning what we’re going to grow has been immensely therapeutic. (For the first time in nine months, my menstrual cramps have been very mild, which indicates to me that the physical activity and reduction in stress is directly affecting me physically, yay!) We’re planning on renting a rototiller thingy to get all the bramble roots up, and after that we’ll be planting one of everything. We haven’t got very far yet, but I’ll be posting some pictures on Flickr as we progress.

Also: I upped the dosage of my anti-depressant about a month ago, and it seems to be about right. Side effects include dizziness, short-term memory fuzziness, and intensely vivid dreams, but my mood is good and I can actually get things done. We’ll see how I feel in a month or two.

Thank you, as always, for your comments. It’s so good to know that you’re reading, even if we’re not talking on the phone or emailing much. Please let me know when you’ve stopped by the site!

And if you will, please send supportive thoughts to Francis. Work is very stressful for him right now, and I’m sure any good thoughts you can send would be most welcome.

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Yesterday I started training to be a customer service phone lady for what I’ll call “Big Company”, the fifteenth largest company (by revenue) in the world. They provide health insurance mostly, but also home, auto, pet, etc. I’ll be working in the corporate health insurance department here in Tunbridge Wells.

So far it’s been going really well. The training is much more in-depth than I thought it would be, and it will take about twelve weeks to complete. The company has a wonderful reputation for its treatment of their employees, and I have to see I’m seeing quite a bit of that. There’s about 175,000 employees, and their average length of employment with Big Company is an astounding 11 years.

The downside is that I’m not making very much money at all (about half what I was making in the States), but hey, it’s a paycheck!

Plus, I got a water bottle and chocolate and a compliment on my accent, and was even told that I look remarkably like Renee Zellweger! And I’m out meeting people, which is wonderful. I’ve already found someone that I really click with: a woman named Gail. She’s in her late 40’s, early 50’s maybe, and has a wonderful Scottish accent. We share a love of cooking and music, and I just think she’s a neat-o lady in general.

I’m super tired (I actually have to get out of bed before 10am!) but more excited about the job than I thought I would be.

I’ll keep you posted!

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When my Uncle Ron was in the army in 1942, he was stationed for a time during basic training at a garrison in the north of England, quite possibly Catterick, although I couldn’t say for sure.

The King and Queen were due to visit the troops before they were sent abroad, and so there was much running around like headless chickens by all and sundry to make sure everything looked perfect for Their Majesties’ inspection.

Because he’d been late for drill, Uncle Ron was ordered as a punishment to paint the markings on the parade ground. So, he got some white paint from the stores, and made his way around the parade ground, re-marking the lines that were almost faded away.

As he stepped back to admire his handiwork, he kicked over the tin of paint, leaving a huge splodge of white paint, as if a giant pigeon had crapped in the middle of the parade ground.

There was no way he could clean it up, and he knew that if his Sergeant-Major saw it, he’d end up in the glasshouse and not get to meet the King. But my Uncle Ron was a bright lad, and, after a moment’s panic, he had a flash of genius.

He ran back to the stores and got four planks of wood, all the same size. He set them out around the spilled paint, and spread the paint out to the edges. When the planks were removed, there was a perfect white square in the middle of the parade ground.

Fast forward 50 years. In 1992 Uncle Ron attended a regimental reunion at his old garrison. Much had changed about the place, the old tin sheds they used to sleep in had gone and the food was better but there was one thing that was exactly the same.

Right there in the middle of the parade ground, exactly where he’d spilled the paint 50 years earlier, and pristinely repainted for the reunion, was that same white square.

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During a 7.30pm newscast on Channel 4 (not a BBC channel, by the way) they aired a story on Boris Johnson, the mayor of London. Apparently, everyone’s in an uproar because he swore vociferously at a colleague over the phone. During the newscast, they repeatedly referred to “the F-word” and his use of “explicatives”. They showed footage of the phone call (all the mayor’s phone calls are requires to be taped), and they bleeped out all the instances of the F-word. However, they did NOT bleep out when he said “bullshit”.

I don’t know why I find this amusing, but I do. Americans think of Britons as being prim and proper, and they are, just not when you’d expect it.

And! From The Guardian newspaper’s website: “The Tory mayor is said to have used the F-word 10 times and accused Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the home affairs committee, of talking ‘bullshit’ during a telephone call, according to the London Evening Standard.”

You can also see full-frontal nudity during prime time! Right on!

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We are covered in snow!

Yesterday saw the worst snow London has seen in 18 years. The city has effectively shut down. It’s like Portland, though: 2″ of snow and the airport has trouble functioning. We got about 5″, which was enough to close most of the shops in the town centre. I find this rather amusing: when I lived in Massachusetts, we wouldn’t even mention the snow unless there was more than 6″ on the already-plowed roads.

Francis left work a little bit early and we went for a walk in Dunloran Park, which was filled with deliriously happy children screaming and sledding. The snow was really coming down, and the trees and fields looked absolutely beautiful. (I took a few pictures, but haven’t downloaded them yet.)

My toes are cold and I’m craving hot chocolate with whiskey!

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