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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 09:07pm on 04/05/2013 under , , ,
Reading back through the last few updates, there's a few things to update on.

The accident (http://phil99.livejournal.com/821313.html) from April 2012 that I wasn't really involved in, in any serious capacity, came back again to haunt me. I got a letter from Mold county court demanding that I turn up as a witness for the case against the person at the back. Actually it didn't really demand anything, it very subtly implied that I had to turn up, without actually saying it.

Court date was 18th April. I got a phone call on the day before saying I didn't have to turn up. Sigh. Hopefully that's it done with, for good.

Work. Work carries on, I'm still relatively happy with the place though actively keeping my eyes open for work closer to home as I'm really starting to get fed up with the 80 miles/2hrs a day commuting. I've been ITIL foundation trained/qualified through work and am off to London for a week's MySQL Administration training on the 12th, so I'm not giving anything up just yet.

Speaking of which, any London-ites fancy doing food/drinks/coffee after 5-pm Mon/Weds/Thu or Sunday evening, 12th/13th/15th/16th May? It's either that or I go to the theatre :)

Being on-call has settled down significantly, apart from the sodding gambling company who don't seem to be able to keep their processes working. We query their servers at 6am for some data, and I suspect about 1 in 4 or 5 days we make the call, it fails because of something at their end. It's great for my overtime pay, but I really want to be able to sleep in some more days.

Musical Theatre, our last show went OK, took a long time to get going but once we got there we certainly seemed to be there. AGM in a few weeks, I really must prepare a speech. Now got a lot of politics to surrounding the next show. I'm trying to get people to stop playing sodding games but people are people and they seem to like playing politics, so I'm keeping well back and letting them play games. Hopefully the bad things that I think may happen if they don't stop messing around won't happen, but I think it could.

I don't know what else I've been doing. Went to see Chris Addison do a show at Glyndwr Uni a few weeks back, he was hilarious. I hope he tours again, despite him saying he wasn't going to. Jane and I went to an evening in Chester hosted by the Balvenie distillery. It was great fun. i was driving so didn't drunk too much, but Jane was rather drunk by the end of the thing. It was amusing and horrifying in equal measures.

OHOH! The Sci Fi Weekender! Great fun. The caravan was absolutely f-ing freeeeeezing. The events were mostly fun. They overall did a good job, but some of the stuff they put on was a little... I want to say insulting, but that's not quite accurate, to the sci-fi fans who were there. Some guy with a saucepan on his head pretending to be a dalek is not funny. The robot marching up and down the aisle with the sound effects was impressive for the first 5 minutes. Then it just got dull. The guests and talks were brilliant. The screening zone was brilliant. More of both of those would be brilliant.

Rocky Horror at the Liverpool Empire was brilliant. Oliver Thornton as Frank was brilliant. Ben Forster is going in soon as brad, and Dani Harmer as Janet. You should see it.

I bought myself a Nexus 7 a few months back. It's awesome. It's not as slick and smooth as an iDevice, but damn it's good and a lot cheaper.
location: LL11
Mood:: 'mellow' mellow
Music:: The Voice - BBC1
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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 09:03pm on 02/09/2012
Hey this is good going for me. Posting every 2 weeks rather than every 2 months!

Let's start with work, as that's the main thing I'm doing at the moment. Things have calmed down on the on-call front somewhat. I've not had a major call-out since that first week (thanks be), and things seem to have hit a reasonable balance. Work in general is still crazy busy, the company is hiring another 2 in the infrastructure dept. and I feel that we will probably still not have enough people. I'm enjoying the busy, I'm genuinely learning something new every day, and the challenge is still there. It's all good for now. Plus I got my first pay-slip through with the on-call payments on it, and oh boy did that make me happy! If it carries on like this, my debt shall be in a sensible position much quicker than I planned.

Life - we had Ruth & John visiting us last weekend with their nearly-3-yr-old. It was a fun weekend mostly, apart from the idiot of a neighbour knocking on the door at 2am demanding that they move their car because it was parked on the road outside his house. No reason for it other than "when he looks out of his window he expects to see his car". Seeing as he was visibly very drunk we decided the only sensible option was to register our displeasure immediately yet go along with him, I've yet to have a word with him because every time I think about it I get very angry and I don't think I'll manage to have the conversation without attempting to hurt him.

We have two weeks of holiday planned at the end of September, we have no plans to go away for the first week but the 2nd we are off to Cornwall for a few days. Our only current plans are to visit the Eden Centre, but hopefully we'll be able to spend some time with my parents in Chippenham, and possibly Jane's friend Toria who has recently moved to Melksham.

The week before we go to Cornwall we go to see Starlight Express at Venue Cymru, Llandudno. I've never seen Starlight before, I've heard it's an experience! Then there's Wales Comic Con, which this year seems to be turning into an extravaganza, loads of quality guests. Could spend an utter fortune on photos and signings if we wanted. Must limit self... :-)
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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 12:24am on 07/08/2012 under , , , , ,
I'm now officially on-call with the new job. At the moment 1 week in 2 but call-outs should be "relatively" rare. They are actively trying to hire more of us though, so give it 4-5 months or so and I expect it to be 1 in 3, much more palatable. Think of the money, think of the money, think of the money...

I'm enjoying the work still, it's proving a challenge and I think largely I'm rising to it. There's a few bits here and there that I don't feel too comfortable with (e.g. - managing a relationship with outsourced DBAs) but overall I'm learning loads, and I think everything I'm learning here is really useful. Gaining lots of basic Oracle experience - it's taken me days but I can now at least log in to Oracle Database RAC using the service name or SID! Learning about FastStats, Unica, eMessage, Odystar, Capscan, managing PAF data, lots of data analytics stuff that's proving really interesting at the moment.

I got a reply from my MP on the letter I wrote to them about tenant's rights. I would tell you exactly what it said but the letter's not where I left it... It essentially said that they understand the point I was making (a lack of information available to tenants on their rights), that someone was doing a review of residential lettings within government, and they would forward my letter on to them.

Last weekend we spent at some friends' house in deepest darkest North Wales. We went for dinner in Mold on Friday for Tapas, and left on Sunday afternoon. There wasn't anywhere near as much debauchery as I was prepared for given some of the states I've seen him in, but it was a fun weekend. Nice to see him "growing up" :)

I've been sneakily buying a surround sound system for the past few weeks. That sounds like a weird thing to say, but I "accidentally" bought an Onkyo TX-SR508 from ebay a few weeks ago (I bid to a value that I thought was below it's real value and nobody else bid it up any further!) and have had my old stereo's speakers connected to it for a while, since then I've bought a set of 5 speakers and a kick-ass sub-woofer, so now the house shakes if we have the TV turned up too loud :-) I'm still not used to hearing sounds coming from behind me occasionally, especially when it's loud and unexpected.

We've got a busy few weeks coming up later in the year. Both pipsytip and myself are off work for 2 weeks in September. We haven't arranged anything yet but a holiday away somewhere would be nice. We're talking about Cornwall, I've not spent much time in that part of the world so it'd be nice to get down there and my parents are near Bristol/Bath so it could be convenient. September 21st we've also got tickets to Starlight Express in Llandudno, and Comic Con Wales is in wrexham on the 23rd. In October we've 2 gigs - Amanda Palmer at Manchester Cathedral and Idina Menzel at the Palace Theatre. Further on, at Christmas, because of the nature of the company we can't close down like AD/DM used to, so the company is open and I'm not sure whether Joe (the other guy on my team) wants any time off yet. Personally I'm not too bothered, Jane might be though so we'll see.

I'm coming to the end of my mobile phone commitment period in September. I am yet to decide what to do. I have been using an iPhone 4 now for the past 2yrs and to be honest with myself, I love it as a phone. My first adventure into proper smartphone land (excluding a Sony Ericsson T68i - which by today's standards is retarded) was an Android G1, and that did me well for about 6 months, but flakiness and Android version fragmentation really screwed the Android OS, leading me down the CyanogenMod route. I got jaded with it and gave up. So whether to wait to see what price my current provider will offer me on a new iPhone (rumoured for release in September), whether to upgrade to a 4S (not sure I see the point) or switch hardware completely, I don't know. I need to investigate the market again.

One "problem" I have is that I get half-price line-rental from my current provider on any price-plan, as I used to work for them. So I'm on the top-price package they offer (£60/mo) and pay £30, almost everything is included (3000mins, 3000 SMS, a bunch of MMS and fair-use policy (I think it's still 1GB) data a month), of which I use virtually none! So moving to another provider? Unlikely to happen.

We have been busy lately, unfortunately with my current style of journalling (once every couple of months), writing about anything in more detail than "Oh yeah, we did that, didn't we?" is tricky :)
Music:: Family Guy on FX
location: LL11
Mood:: 'tired' tired
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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 12:28pm on 10/06/2012 under , ,
By Phil Sumner, aged 32 and a bit

I was almost home yesterday evening and pulled off the A483 onto the roundabout here. As I was coming round the roundabout I spotted some car had come on from the Wrexham direction, joined the left hand lane from the wrong lane and cut someone else up, but this is fairly normal behaviour for people on this bit of road so thought nothing about it.

This person got round to the NNW junction (Mold Rd), positioned themselves to go off there, then decided that they didn't want to go that way after all, slammed on their brakes and indicated right to continue going round the roundabout. I was behind them, so had to brake hard and avoided hitting them by not very much while swearing at them loudly. All was well until I felt a bump from behind.

I kept my eye the car in front of me as I started pulling up to the side of the road to see what had happened. Instead of actually stopping and facing up to what they had done, they continued round the roundabout and onto the A483, never to be seen again. I was fortunate enough to be able to note down their reg so hopefully something can be done there.

I pulled to the side of the road along with the taxi behind me, and only then saw the Astra who had obviously hit the taxi from behind quite hard, causing them to hit me. The front of the Astra and back of the taxi were a bit of a mess. It looks like they took the brunt of the impact because my car and the front of the taxi both appear to be undamaged.

The three of us pulled over and got out, the taxi driver called the police and the lady in the Astra got out looking very shakey. She got quite a shock and I think hit her chest on the steering wheel in the impact.

Not long after, things got a little ridiculous. An ambulance car turned up and looked at the scene and checked some people over quickly. An ambulance proper turned up and took the lady in for a good look. Then a police car turned up with two cops, who largely ignored me. Another undercover cop car turned up, and lastly, another ambulance. So for a 3 car accident which was relatively minor, we had 3 ambulance crews and 3 police in attendance.

I was breathalysed (0 - how boring) and taken into the undercover car and given a producer (show MOT, licence and insurance docs at a police station), and gave a brief statement to one of the cops there. I've got an appointment at 4pm today to go give a proper statement.

Overall, it was lots of waiting around, I felt pretty much ignored, nothing much happened to me or my car and I've got to turn up to a police station this afternoon. What an experience...
Music:: Big Bang Theory
location: LL11
Mood:: 'indifferent' indifferent
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Since the last entry several things have happened. I guess the first and most important one, given the content of the last entry is that we took the house with the feature walls I linked to back there. We moved house on Good Friday and it took us a week or so to get almost everything sorted. The move was bloody hard work but thanks to Jane's colleague and partner (Alison & John) we didn't have to hire a van, and they gave us so much help I don't think we'll ever be out of their debt.

The new house is mostly great! I'll take & post some pictures eventually. It's an ex show-home and all the main rooms have feature walls - for example the living room wall is turquoise with patterned wallpaper. It doesn't sound that nice but it really is. It's about as different from our old house as it's possible to get. It's significantly bigger to start - the old one was a 2-up-2-down with huge kitchen, small living room and an extension for utility room, and an enormous garden, this one is 3-bed with a large living/dining room, fairly small kitchen and a tiny garden :)

Since moving, we've discovered that this new house has significantly less storage than our old one. So we've had to buy new furniture - a new oak wardrobe (well actually Jane's parents bought the wardrobe) and sideboard from Colour Supplies, as well as a new 2-piece sofa (3-seater and 2-seater, brown leather) from the Shrewsbury Alan Ward sale as they're closing for a refurbishment. So we're now skint. But we'll have a nicely furnished home with plenty of storage, so it's all good :)

In other news, I have a new job! This happened rather suddenly at the end of March. I went for an interview with the company which lasted almost 2hrs on the Tuesday, then Monday the week after I was offered the job! Didn't take me long to accept it, but working the month's notice at my current employer has been a weird experience.

The new position is with a company called Transactis, and my job is "Application Support Engineer", which as far as I can tell means making sure data gets from point A to point B and fixing it if it stops. The company are part of the Shop Direct group who own the Littlewoods & Very online catalogue shops along with various others.

It's a significant pay rise for me, and a slight increase on the commute (yeah I know... but it's only a slight increase and hopefully they'll be moving somewhere where I can get the TRAIN to work!!! What a concept!). It'll also involve working some on-call, which will be an experience but shouldn't be a bother.

Being on-call means that I probably won't be able to do the next show with OMTC, which I am slightly disappointed about, because it's panto and panto is relatively easy. Having said that, taking a break every now and then is a good thing, gives us time to breathe. Both Jane and I were in the last production (The Sound of Music) which was just about a sell-out. Fabulous show in the end, despite grumblings during the rehearsal process.

So, that's all the news that's fit to print. How about you?
location: LL11
Mood:: 'pleased' pleased
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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 02:51pm on 04/03/2012 under , , ,
We've been to see a few properties over the last week or so, and also not been to see several properties that we wanted to see - agencies are a bunch of incompetent goons I swear - so we've got a good idea of the local market again.

We saw this place (http://www.eclettings.co.uk/index.php/properties-available/3-bedroom-barn-conversion-holt/) on Saturday, which although nice and would have been a big change from where we are now, just didn't feel right. Things I can explain: it was single-glazed, had only 1 parking space (for a large 3-bed house?), was in the grounds of a nursing home, and somehow felt unfinished. It was like it needed a bit more work to be complete. I can't explain exactly what was wrong but it wasn't right.

However, on the same day we also saw this place: http://www.northwooduk.com/node/35502. It's an ex show-home on a new estate and is slightly oddly shaped but is also well-maintained, a good size (3 good-sized bedrooms), has 2 bathrooms and a downstairs loo! You probably don't appreciate how exciting this is!

We shall be applying for this on Monday morning. I hate this phrase - "applying for". It feels almost dirty. Even more irritating when the agency in this case are the same agency we're with now, so it's not like they really need to do credit checks and the like. We've been paying rent to them every month now for 2yrs, you'd think they'd trust us some more by this point.

Yet they're still going to charge £200 "reservation fee" (admittedly this goes towards the deposit if we're "accepted" so I'm not so bothered about it) and £100 "admin fee" as well as the rent & deposit, all payable on the day of the tenancy starting, though what they claim that's for I'm not entirely sure? Perhaps for photocopying/printing the agreement.

Then of course there's the period of overlap, which is all going to be a bit odd. Our tenancy formally ends on the 7th April, which this year is Easter Saturday. What letting agency in the world will actually do anything on a bank holiday weekend? I'm curious how they'll want to work it. I suspect it'll go one of these ways - either we pay them a few days less rent (it's only £30 or so but it's better in our pocket than theirs!) and hand it back on Thursday, or we hand it back on Tuesday having paid nothing more (seeing as it's not our choice).

I want to keep the overlap (paying rent on the new and the old place) as short as possible - 2 days should be enough but I suspect we'll end up with more because agencies are evil, right?
Music:: The Secret War of Harry Frigg
location: LL11
Mood:: 'pleased' pleased
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We've been renting our house here in Wrexham since April 2010. We've been perfectly happy - it's a nice house, it's a good and quiet area. The owner of the property lives near-by and is a good owner, he deals with things as they need dealing with and is a nice bloke

On a technical note: we signed our agreement with the agency, they are our landlords - the owner of the property lets it to them who then sublet it to us.

A few months ago the owner of the property approached us asking how much we paid the agency. We talked and it turns out he's paying them £100/mo in fees, plus fees for finding tenants and drawing up new contracts when the fixed term tenenacy expires. He suggested that if he could get management of the property back from the agency then he'd reduce our rent by £50/mo and he'd still be better off.

Nothing much came of this until a week or so ago when he told us that the agency had been back in touch with him, giving him 4 options:
  1. We carry on with the tenancy as agreed, nothing changes
  2. They kick us out and find him new tenants at a cost of £400
  3. He takes over management of the property for £1,400 (+ VAT)
  4. They return the property to him, empty.


Now he's understandably a little unhappy at this, however it's all in the agreement that he signed (we have a copy of this, it's awful for the owner). He now wants nothing more to do with the agency which rules out options 1, 2 and 3. He seems to be of the opinion that he'd rather lose a current good tenant and a regular income "because of the principle of the thing".

I talked to him about this and, told him that the course of action he'd taken was going to lead to us leaving, and not through choice. He didn't really say anything, so I think he either doesn't understand the problem thoroughly, or he is too wrapped up in "the principle" to care about the impact it will have on him and us.

So, tl;dr - we're going to be moving house in April.

The next job is to find somewhere... but where? Too many options...
Music:: Pan Am - Ep 11/22
Mood:: 'pissed off' pissed off
location: LL11
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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 10:52pm on 10/01/2012 under , ,
I've been semi-actively looking for a new job now for about 6 months. However I've decided that I'm going to be a little bit fussy about where I look. I don't want to be commuting 30 miles each way to work any more. If I can - I want to get a job fairly locally - Wrexham, Chester, Oswestry - that sort of area. I've not so far had any luck finding the kind of jobs advertised that I think I shoiuld even bother applying for, never mind the kind of jobs that I want. Excepting of course jobs for the local council which I may as well not bother applying for.

A couple of people recently who I've talked to about jobs and the complete lack of anything useful in Wrexham, have (essentially) suggested that I should stop being so fussy about where I look. Manchester would be a long way out, but it might be worth it as a short term stop-gap. If I can find perhaps some development work in Manchester and do it for a year, get some real experience in that field, that might expand my options locally.

A commute to Manchester means either a hellish drive of about an hour and a half, or a hellish train journey of about 2hrs. Neither of those do I like.
location: LL11
Mood:: thoughtful
Music:: Little Britain - BBC Three
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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 11:45pm on 05/01/2012
This year Jane and I went to Cambridge to see Dawn and David over the new year. We didn't *do* an enormous amount but we had a good time and there was curry, more food than I knew what to do with, lots of wine and silliness, plenty of Wii'ing and we enjoyed ourselves. Ely is sweet, relatively (surprisingly) cheap and reminds me of Oswestry in many ways :-)

I'm disappointed once again that on our trip down to that area we failed to meet up with my family who are down there, and any other friends in Cambridge. We always seem to be either in a rush or I don't plan far enough ahead... one day, it shall happen.

Going back to work after almost 2 weeks off was a shock. A shock beyond normal. I suspect I may be slightly ill as I've been both exhausted and unable to sleep, sore all over and generally pretty grumpy. Hopefully things at work will calm down soon and I'll be able to relax a little more...
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posted by [personal profile] pmsumner at 09:44pm on 27/12/2011 under , , ,
Jane and I wanted to do something different than just going to her parents' place for Christmas day this year. We talked to each other's parents and offered to have them all at our house for lunch/dinner/some other mutually acceptable combination of food & drink. We thought it would be a suitable introduction to preparing a Christmas meal and hosting. Cooking for six - not too different to what I'm used to, and at home.

Well... this changed fairly soon. This changed in almost every imaginable way.

Jane's mum wanted to do it at her place, partly out of a feeling of being bound to do dinner for some family friends (they've alternated at each other's place for the last 5yrs or so), and partly because I think she likes having it there.

Then, as well as the six of us, there are the five family friends that Jane's mum felt honour bound to invite. So now instead of a nice cosy meal for a manageable number in a familiar kitchen, we're doing dinner for eleven in an unfamiliar kitchen.

Eeep.

Doing it there is not a bad thing, not at all. Our house is small, only a 2-up, 2-down but we could have fitted six in easily. We agreed to do it on one condition: Jane's dad promised that he would feed her mum sherry and keep her out of the kitchen.

Jane's parents offered to buy the turkey (a crown), and the wine. We would do the rest. Then at some point, they gave us £50-worth of Morrison's saving stamps. We got occasional phone calls from her mum telling us not to buy X, Y or Z as she'd got it, and then she went and won a 2-minute trolley dash around a local supermarket!

We made plans, lists, and bought stuff. In the end, we really only bought veg, and stuff for puddings. Everything else was provided for us.

Overall the food all went really well. We arrived at their place on Christmas Eve, and immediately set about preparing veg, making puddings (all cold), cranberry goop, and soup (easy to prepare in advance). Apart from a silly mistake about plain/self-raising flour (seriously: don't make a pie-crust with self-raising flour, it's just wrong) it all went to plan. No emergencies, no disasters.

My parents arrived at their hotel in Oswestry and threw our plans a little bit, asking if they could come to Jane's parents rather than going for coffee/drinks in Oswestry as we'd planned. Despite her mum flapping like crazy about the state of the house, a good night was had. Wine, carol singing and amazing ham (really need Jane's mum to write down what she did to it).

Christmas day came around, we had little to do now except actually cook! I'd planned out timings in my head and knew what needed to be done and when. We were calm, and bar occasionally needing to ask Jane's mum where X, Y or Z was, or how best to use the hostess trolley (things I'm unfamiliar with), and the gravy at the end, it was done on our own. Jane was ace, she claims to have just been a helper but in reality it would never have been done had she not been there.

I was pleased with the outcome. There were a few bits here and there that I would do differently were we to do it again. I would take the turkey out a little earlier (Jane's mum was a little over-cautious about this in my view), I would cook the broccoli a lot less and I would do one fewer pudding (in retrospect, 4 was too many. Even if 2 of those were fruit-based and therefore not really "pudding"!).

We got lots of compliments and fun was had. Hurrah.

I'd do it again, but I would do it at home and I would want to be responsible for buying everything. Using someone else's kitchen, someone else's equipment and not knowing exactly what you've got is more stressful than you might expect.
Music:: BBC News on BBC HD
location: LL11
Mood:: 'pleased' pleased

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