spikegifted.net - Archive Q3 2009
Home: I was just saying it was the end of the summer but we have been enjoying some great weather. It has been so good that we even have opportunities to eat in back garden in the evenings. We were just trying to take the best advantage of the unusually good weather ahead of the autumn and winter. The question was: How long could the weather hold up? After all, there was a lot to be done in the garden before winter set in, or more precisely before the ground gets too hard to dig. Also, there was many plants to trim, both ours as well as our neighbors', but that has to wait until the leaves have started falling.
Home: The garden has been coming along nicely. For the past years or so, the Ruler_of_spike and I have been putting some effort into getting some result. It was not just the case of going to buy new plants all the time, but it was most rewarding to see things established and grew. Of course there has been times when things looked grim. Take for example this summer: we came back from our vacation and found out that there hasn't been any rain for nearly two weeks. Some of the plants didn't look at great and part of the lawn looked burnt. So we started watering the plants and lawn almost daily and nearly everything recovered. Now it was towards the end of the summer and hopefully we have done enough so that they will grow well next year.
Work: Finally, after all the hassle and uncertainty, we seemed to have some kind of resolution on the work front. We knew the teams in the two old banks have to merge to create a single coherent unit, but the questions were when and how. It has been months in the making and there was so much uncertainty regarding just how many vacancies were available. Of course, absolutely nothing made sense, for people from neither bank. Even more strangely, some of us were earmarked for a completely different team, including me. Although I only have limited understanding of this job, there were a number of factors in its favor: competition was not as fierce as in my old team as few people would actually volunteer for the role; I have been doing pretty much the same thing since I joined the bank four years ago and things were getting a little stale; and, last but probably most importantly, this would add to my portfolio of skills and make me a more complete credit analyst. So, off I went for a new challenge!
Home: For couple of weeks after coming back from our vacation, we still had the ‘vacation feeling’. This was largely due to the fact that there were many of our colleagues still away on their summer vacations and also the trains were less busy compared with ‘term time’. Of course, there were things happening at work that also contributed to this, but that an entirely different story. Still, it was good to have maintained the comparatively good spirit after the vacation.
Home: There is nothing like the shock of the first day back at work after a long and wonderful holiday. In my more youthful days, I didn’t notice how dirty London was; how crowded the public transport was; how horrible people were to each other and just how awful London could be. I guess now that I’m living in one of the suburbs, I notice these things more. Don’t get me wrong, I still like London. It is an exciting, dynamic and vibrant place to be. And perhaps London is so dirty and crowded because of the energy and vibrancy. Anyway, we were back in London and missing our holidays.
Home: We were having such a good time and with the rather long drive from Calais still fresh in our minds, we were dreading the return trip. To make sure we would make our allotted Shuttle, we would have to leave really early, drive over 700km, rest during the brief trip across the Channel and then drive for another couple of hours to get home. That just sounded like another trip from hell. So it was a sigh of relieve when the Ruler_of_spike suggested that we should just book a one-way trip on the ferry. This sounded expensive, but given that we haven’t had to pay for the extra tank of petrol and all the tolls, it was not as bad as it sounded. The real bonus was we got to stay for an extra day - the original return trip via the Eurotunnel was scheduled for Saturday but the ferry trip was on Sunday. That extra day was priceless.
Home: What is the matter with the UK? We were buying some food in a supermarket in Brittany and the choice available was just staggering. I think one of the major differences is that in the UK, comparatively speaking, a lot of shelf space has been wasted on sugar-loaded chocolates and chemical-rich potato chips. Just look the space wasted there. Additionally, you can’t get ready meals in the supermarket in France - they are just not there! Instead, fresh seafood and high quality cuts of meat are offered. Unlike in the UK, seafood is really fresh, not frozen at source then defrosted at the counter. We bought some common fruits and vegetables and they just tasted better, and they were cheaper. Why? We figured that nearly everything has been frozen somewhere between the source and the shop. The process of freezing just makes everything taste flat. What a waste!
Home: One sure thing about south Brittany is that the weather is unpredictable. In the past couple of years, the weather hasn’t been great and we actually spent a lot of time indoors. Obviously, that’s not great, given the fact that we were on vacation and staying indoors, either at home or going to shops, didn’t count as ‘really enjoying ourselves’. So we were really hoping that the weather this year to improve. We need not to worry - the weather was fantastic! Of course, we didn’t get wall-to-wall sunshine everyday, this was Brittany after all. However, aside from a bit of rain on a couple of days, the weather has been really agreeable. Even if there was cloud cover in the morning, it was usually cleared up, or burnt through by the sun, by the afternoon. At times, it was so hot that we had to stay under shades. Without fail, we showed up on the beach late in the afternoon to enjoy the sea. Now, that’s what I call ‘really enjoying ourselves’!!
Home: When we drive in the UK, our radio is constantly tuned to Classic FM. In France, we typically try to pick up Radio Classique. However, the signal for Radio Classique is often difficult to pick up, so while driving through northern France, we were forced to listen to some, ‘modern’ music, radio stations. Frankly, the choices were not that great - they were either pop trash or some monolog. When we finally got close to Région Bretagne, we began to pick up something called Virgin Radio Bretagne. Some catchy tones were being played and it was ok. By then we were just so tired of the journey, we just couldn’t be bothered to change to another station. After a couple of days in Brittany, the station was beginning to annoy me. It appeared that Virgin Radio Bretagne didn’t actually have that many tones to play. The result was like listen to someone’s very limited and horrible playlist in shuffle mode - you hear the same tunes over and over again during the course of a few days. I finally had enough and pressed the search button and, magically, Radio Classique showed up. It was relieve all around! At last some real music, not some unmemorable pop trash that we had to endure! Three cheers for Radio Classique!
Home: We crossed the Channel in less than half hour and we were in France. Again the transition between the terminal and the connecting motorway was just smooth. In no time, we left the terminal complex and we were on our way. Now, the real driving began. It was a long hard drive. The car performed well and we were cruising along just fine. However, the glare of the summer sun was making me tired a lot faster than anticipated. Although we were pushing along at a good pace, the Ruler_of_spike had to endure frequent rest stops so that I could take onboard more coffee and use the bathrooms. The worst part was after lunch. I was getting real tired and it was getting to the point I was struggling to stay awake and alert. We had to pull into a rest area where I caught a short nap and consumed more coffee. To add to that, there were tolls. The route we took, the most direct route available had tolled sections which we came in and out of. The tolls and the extra tank of fuel meant the trip was nearly as dear as the ferry crossing, but with more driving. In short, it was a trip from hell. When we got to the house, we were tired beyond words. Not a good way to travel.
Home: The first part of the journey was the relatively short drive from our house to the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkstone. Although we have travel with Eurostar to Paris in many occasions, this was the first time we use the Shuttle service and I have to say, it was impressive. The road to the terminal was just off the motorway. There were no surprises and the transition from motorway to being put onboard the Shuttle was about as seamless as you can get for international travel. We even had time to stop for a quick visit to the bathroom and pick up a detail roadmap of France (something I should have thought of before we started). The ride through the tunnel was smooth and we didn’t even notice the train was moving until we notice the scenery was moving outside. That’s how trains should run like!
Home: Yee ha!! Here we go!! It was vacation time. As it was the first weekend of August, the entire nation of France was on the move, so we decided to travel on the Sunday. This year, as a kind of experiment, we decided (more like I convinced the Ruler_of_spike) to carry out an experiment. Rather than the usual trip down to Portsmouth and take the overnight ferry, we drove down to Folkstone and crossed the Channel through the Eurotonnel. From Calais, we would drive down through northern France, through Normandy and finally across Brittany. It was going to be a long drive, but I was hoping that the drive would not be too much stressful.
Work: Last year, I mentioned that the bank I work for has been acquired by another bank. It was first announced nearly a year ago, but we were still no ‘integrated’. Our observation was the organization was disintegrating! Teams after teams on the business side have disappeared; they have either been made redundant or have left by themselves. It was clear that our new masters’ idea of investment banking was very different from what we have been practicing in the past. Therefore it was no surprise that three of my colleagues resigned in the space of two weeks. The lack of activities on the business front and the complete lack of information from our management has had a really demoralizing effect on the team. It would not a surprise if there were more resignations in the near future.
Home: We were less than a month away from our summer vacation and we just couldn’t wait to pack our bags and get out of here. It has been nearly a year since our last vacation and we were really looking forward to this trip. It has been a difficult few months on the work front and two weeks away from that was no less than what we deserve.
Opinion: Is it just me who found it was a little too much to hear the world-conquering prime minister of the United Kingdom claiming that the world financial crisis has been caused by greedy bankers? Sorry, Gordon, but bankers only worked with the rules that were decided by regulators and politicians. If you don't mind me giving you just timely reminder of recent history, the sources of the crisis were poor regulation, lax fiscal and monetary regimes, and the government's own greed for the tax revenue from the financial services industry and from those who work in it. In the older more, principled days, those who live by the sword, die by the sword. Now, those who are most responsible just simply point their fingers and blame the easy targets. I would agree that some of the banking executives and high revenue generators have been given excessively generous rewards, but not all of them have been responsible for the financial crisis. Given how the prime minister, as Chancellor of the Exchequer for more than ten years prior to his promotion, were promising that the UK was in a good position to handle the global economic downturn and given the deep recession that we are enduring, and if the prime minister and the government are true to their promise of not rewarding for failure, they should all resign and let other more able people to run the country.
Home: Many times over the past couple of years, we have had guests coming round to our house for meals and we thoroughly enjoy having our friends around. However, we have never had guests around for a barbeque before. I can tell you now it was a great deal of fun! The weather was just right, despite the fact that there was a threat of rain early on in the day. We spent the late afternoon through to last light outside under the canopy. Fantastic! The Ruler_of_spike did a great of with the food and the barbeque was just right. Great company, great food, great time. Let’s have more summer days like this!