gamiila: (awkward moment)
...for having left you in the lurch all this time. I don't know how it happened exactly, but I seem to have suddenly fallen out of the habit of logging onto LJ earlier this year; and the longer I've been out of it, the harder it got to get back into. I got to this stage where I was so depressed, that I couldn't think of inflicting any of my tales of unmitigating woe on you lot. To tell the truth, I'm still struggling, but a few things have recently started happening in my life that have given me a glimmer of hope -- though not of paid employment any time soon, I don't think.

It's been a year since I left Apple. At the time, everyone was quick to assure me that with my cv, I'd soon find work again; but that has proven not to be the case. There just isn't, or doesn't seem to be, that much call for an experienced Customer Experience Manager these days. Trust me to have once again picked a profession that doesn't do well in a recession.

So, I've thrown myself into volunteering again. This time, I'm co-coordinating the annual International Food Fair of The Hague. It's my job to approach and recruit the individual countries' boothholders, and make sure they have everything they need from licences to cutlery and electrics, and a sufficient number of volunteers to serve their customers. The event will be held over the weekend of 17/18 Nov. and my job will officially end on the 25th with a wrap-up meeting and evaluation. It's a charitable event, with the proceeds going to all sorts of projects around the world.

Apart from this, I've also started as a catechist (i.e. the RC equivalent of a Sunday school teacher) teaching 2nd grade (7-8 year olds) in preparation for their first Holy Communion in May. Which can be quite challenging at times! Just last Sunday, after I'd related the story of John the Baptist e.g., Gonzalo raised his hand and asked "Miss, don't you think these kind of stories are a nonsense, really?" He was referring, or so I presumed, to the supposed leaping of joy that John, as a foetus, did when he sensed the presence of his Saviour when Mary came to visit Elizabeth; and later, the vision of the Holy Spirit alighting on Jesus in the form of a dove at the time of his baptism. I don't know what the bishop would have thought of my answer, but I didn't think I could dismiss his objection out of hand, so I told him (and the rest of the class) that no, I didn't think these stories were a nonsense per se, but preserved in such a way that people could remember and pass them on easily in the days before books and computers. He's a clever one, that Gonzalo, and I like that at 7 1/2, he's already thinking for himself and questioning authority ;-).

Anyway, autumn's firmly upon us now, and the day before yesterday I took a stroll through the woods near my home. Thankfully, I had my trusty mobile with me, as without it I wouldn't have been able to show you what I saw...

Toadstools! Mushrooms! Fungi! )
gamiila: (woosh)
fiets

I damaged my bike in a collision with a yellow moped last Wednesday. It was my fault; I thought I could cross in front of it and get out of its way with seconds to spare. I was wrong.

My career counsellor, who witnessed the accident (we'd just finished a session), says it's due in large part to my failure to live in the moment -- I'm so preoccupied by my current jobless state that my mind keeps worrying away at it 24/7, with the result that I pay little or no attention to what's going on around me. She may very well be right.

Luckily, I'm okay, apart from a few cuts and bruises. And my bike should be good as new by the end of the week, too.

As for the moped and its owner, other than a few scratches, they were fine; and we decided not to bother with insurance forms. Instead, we exchanged phone numbers, and I called him the following day to find out how he was and what the damage to his moped came to, but he didn't pick up and even though I left a message, he hasn't rung back yet. Let's hope it means he's not interested in pursuing this, as the cost of repairs to my bike are already steep enough on their own.
gamiila: (Mitchell)
No post for ages, then three come at once (or follow shortly upon one another)!

Casting about for a job to go on the 'list of successes', this morning I hit upon the idea of giving the kitchen a good clean. So I got on my new stepladder, and began by scrubbing the tops of the upper cabinets. I am not a housewife, and when it comes to household chores, my usual philosophy to doing them can be described as "out of sight is out of mind"; so after I raised my eyebrows, I grit my teeth, and set to. I finished the cabinets, mopped the floor, scrubbed the splashback tiles, cleaned the work surfaces, scrubbed the cooker, cleaned the microwave...I'm on a roll!

I also plan to clean and wax the parquet flooring - I can't remember when I last performed that task, it must be some years. It's such a hassle, as it involves clearing the rooms of all their furniture, leaving it piled up in the bedroom while waiting for the treated floors to dry. I used to do it once a year until someone told me I was a fool and to wait till one could actually see and appreciate the difference. I think one might, now.

I'm meeting Mum to go see a film. I was hoping we could go see The Dark Knight Rises, but Mum wasn't keen and so we've decided on The Intouchables instead. Apparently, it's won a bunch of Césars -- which hopefully translates to an eminently watchable film.
gamiila: (kiss kiss)
The two teeth that were damaged beyond salvation in my recent fall were pulled this morning, and replaced by an RPD. It feels weird to have this foreign object in my mouth. For one thing, it makes it difficult to enunciate clearly, as all of a sudden my tongue feels as if it's too big for my mouth, but my dentist assures me I'll get the hang of it soon enough.

I went for coffee and a sandwich immediately upon leaving the dentist's, to see what it felt like to eat and drink with this thing in my mouth. Perhaps I should have waited for the novocaine to have worn off first, as it wasn't a big success. I'll try again tonight.

Earlier this year, I started a 365 photo project, but then I fell off that ladder and into a gloomy outlook, and abandoned it. I don't think I'll resurrect it, either; but I started messing with Instagram the other day, after the world and his wife had gone before me, and I may show you the odd one or two here, before I get bored with it. For instance, this morning I looked up and snapped this picture of (the gable of) our old town hall (1595; the bell tower is a later addition of the 1600s). These days, it's only used for weddings, book launches, and the council's New Year's reception.

townhall
gamiila: (pieta)
The subject isn't often broached, but when asked what -if any- religious affiliation I profess, I usually answer that I'm a Catholic, and try to leave it at that, even or especially if my interlocutor then wants to have a 'frank' discussion about contraceptives, the rights of women and\or gays, and paedophile priests. I recognise that these are extremely difficult and very sensitive issues, that have angered me and that I struggle with same as any non-Catholic, and that I deal with by differentiating between the faith, the Church and in the cases of abuse past and present, between the faith, the Church and the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. Maybe that's a cop-out, I don't know; but it allows me to still identify as Catholic.

However, in recent years, I have had to admit to myself that in truth I ought to describe myself as a lapsed Catholic - over the last decennium, I have somehow fallen out of the habit of attending Mass regularly. This has been a gradual process, from practising my faith before and after my conversion (I was baptised in Oct 1994), to Christmas and Easter Only, to the point where I am now, of being "of the faith chiefly in the sense that the church I currently do not attend is Catholic" (thank you, Kingsley Amis!).

There is no barrier to a lapsed Catholic such as myself to seek readmittance to the Church; one need only return to practising the faith (going to Mass or to what used to be called confession -which these days is known as reconciliation- or carry out other practises of Catholicism), but somehow, even once I realised I genuinely missed going to church and even while I recognised that in order to have a relationship with God, one doesn't have to go to church, I couldn't bring myself to take that step. Catholic guilt, perhaps?

But this morning I woke up and knew: I'm going back to church. And what's more, I'm going to tell people and set expectations, so that I can't back out of it next time it rains on Sunday morning. So I walked over to the nearest Catholic church in my neighbourhood, that I supposed must be my parish church (the parish I was confirmed and baptised in is in the town centre and I stopped going regularly when I moved into my current flat); and as luck would have it, even though it was a hive of activity, with lots of people milling about (the craft workshop, the liturgical committee, the secretaries in the office), the priest -who I caught in the middle of his preparations for the weekend's sermons- was all friendliness and more than willing to lend me his ear. Long story short: I have started on my way back to being a practising Catholic again, in the English Speaking International Roman Catholic Parish of The Hague Church of Our Saviour. I didn't know it was an English expat church when I barged in ;-)!

I didn't take any pictures today, but I went for a nice long walk with a friend of mine, and she took the following

portrait of me )

which I think is lovely; and which she thinks shows me with 'a characteristic expression' on my face - her words, not mine! All I know is, I need a haircut again!
gamiila: (winter)
On my way to the cinema yesterday, coming upon a scene of people enjoying their Saturday out on the ice, I stopped to take a few pictures.



afternoon on the Hofvijver )

The film we went to see was The Iron Lady, and it was remarkable how creditable an impression of Baroness Thatcher Meryl Streep gave, though the story told in the film was pure conjecture. It hadn't read about the film and it was Mum who wanted to see it, and I was somewhat surprised at how much I enjoyed it, and especially Jim Broadbent's humourful role as Denis. I was also quite pleased to see Anthony Head play Geoffrey Howe, though he is of course far too handsome.
gamiila: (complaints dept)
Well, hello 2012!

So far, you have not brought me any hope of a new job or relief from financial worries (the same thing, really), but you have brought me addictive television in the shape of Sherlock. A pity then, that this weekend's episode will be the last in the current series.

I have had a so-so morning: first, I had a near apoplectic fit when I found out that contrary to our agreement, my current utilities company had taken 238 euros out of my account, and when I called to complain, although the girl was as nice as she could be about it, proved unhelpful in the extreme in giving it back. I was informed in no uncertain terms that they could not rectify the mistake and that if I rescinded the payment, even if I then sent them a cheque for the 74 euros we had agreed on would be my monthly payment, I would be in immediate arrears and would be regarded (and treated) as a non-paying customer.

All the girl could advise me to do was wait until the end of May when my annual statement will be drawn up, and provided I don't go crazy on the use of gas and electricity in the coming months, the system will then automatically readjust my payments to a more realistic level. I won't receive any cash back, but I am likely to only have to pay a minimal amount for the next year.

Of course, I've only got the girl (Juliette)'s word for it...just as I had her colleague (Harriet)'s word for it last time I complained, as the confirmation in writing that I asked for and that she promised to send has never materialised. In short: I wish I had never switched providers! I will send them a letter of complaint, but I don't expect that it will do me any good. I'm stuck with Essent for the next year, but as soon as the contract comes up to its renewal date in December, it will give me great pleasure not to extend it and go back to my old provider, that never gave me any problems at all.

Still fuming after ringing off, I checked my e-mails and was put in a slightly better mood when I read that I had won a free pair of spectacles (frame & glasses!) through a comp I'd entered a few days earlier on Facebook. Now I gave up wearing glasses 25 years ago after I became allergic to the metal used in their frames and hinges, but who knows, there may have been advances made in their construction in the last quarter century...and if it's free, it won't hurt to try it out, will it?

Dearie me

Dec. 29th, 2011 01:12 pm
gamiila: (oops!)
Funny, how I always seem to be getting a response from those applications I don't really want to go forward. I sent another uninspired letter off yesterday, carefully failing to address the main criteria...and got a call from the hiring manager this morning. Of course, I was too polite to tell him I don't really want the job, it's just that I need another rejection letter to show the Job Centre that I have been trying to find work in this last week of the year, too. I wish I didn't have to go to all this subterfuge, but the type of jobs I do want are posted few and far between.

Although I hate it when I get cold called and usually end the conversation before it starts, the other day I got cold called by another utilities company and switched over on the strength of their sales pitch. Now that there's less money coming in, I'm more susceptible to special offers. Imagine my dismay then, when I received notification that instead of me paying less for gas and electric as I had been led to believe over the phone, my monthly payments with this company would amount to a whopping 238,= euros, 141 euros over what I paid before! I rang their customer services to complain and after apologising for 'the mistake', they said they'd readjusted it to 74,= euros a month, but I won't really feel reassured until I receive their confirmation in writing...or my bank statement, whichever comes first.

Hello

Nov. 30th, 2011 07:36 pm
gamiila: (embarrassed)
Well, LJ appears to have survived another DDoS-attack...

Last night, the CO alarm started beeping. I didn't know it was the CO alarm at first, having quite forgotten I had one. I tried to muffle the sound by pulling a pillow over my ear, but that didn't work and by first light, I gave up trying to get to sleep. Instead, I went to see if I could find whatever it was that was making such a racket; and there it was, beeping and flashing a red light, in the bottom of the hallway cupboard underneath all the rubbish I tend to shove in there and forget about. I took it out and examined it and as it said to call the emergency services straightaway in the event that it went off on the label, I did just that...only to be told that the alarm was beeping to indicate that its batteries needed changing. Made me feel like a right muppet...At least, I now know what to do if it should ever indicate a real emergency: grab the keys, grab the phone, grab the cats, and get the hell out.

In other news, I got turned down for the job of Quality Coordinator, so the hunt for employment continues. I don't expect to be back in work this year, though.

On a lighter note: I managed to obtain a ticket to David Sylvian, whose Implausible Beauty Tour 2012 will bring him to Amsterdam on March 9th. To me, seeing him in concert is the fulfillment of a long-held dream, and I'm looking forward to it with eager anticipation.
gamiila: (Annie)
I attended my ex-colleague's funeral last Friday. It was a beautiful service, well-attended, with live music (she'd studied bassoon at the Royal Conservatory and been part of a chamber music ensemble); and although it was a sad occasion, still it was nice to be able to chat and catch up with people I hadn't seen in 3 years.

As for the job hunt, I got a call from the HR manager who'd interviewed me on Oct 21st, to tell me that they were still keen on meeting with me a second time, but that they had decided to re-advertise for the position in order to attract more candidates before they would commit themselves to a specific date & time for that to happen.
gamiila: (*headdesk*)
The laptop remains well and truly lost. It's ironic that I had to go into a police station and report it missing soon after completing an online questionnaire about how often I dealt with the police and ticking the 'Rarely or Not at all'-box.

The next day, and after hearing that it was a MacBook, the Left Luggage-attendant declared that it was unlikely it would ever be handed in. I was surprised to hear it. Surely, I can't be the only honest person in The Netherlands, can I?

I had arranged to meet some of my former colleagues from the bank for dinner last night. I turned up at the Thai restaurant exactly on the appointed time but no one else turned up in the next hour, and they weren't answering their phones; so I left and stopped by a chippie on the way home. A day later and no one's called to apologise yet, which I think is rude in the extreme. Right now, the only excuse I'll accept is if they were run over and killed dead while en route to meet me.

And then I found a letter in the post this morning, from the Municipal Tax Office, informing me that they were expecting me to settle my arrears on the dog tax. Dog tax? Since when do I have a dog? They clearly have me confused with somebody else (perhaps the new neighbours, who do have a dog), but it's likely to take a couple of phone calls and maybe a visit from an inspector chappie before this gets sorted out.
gamiila: (who's there?)
One of my friends, who lives in Birmingham, happened to be cat sitting in London the other week. She's now returned home -safely- to Moseley, but did find it rather hard going because of the recent riots. Here's part of the e-mail she sent me in which she writes down her eye witness report:

"I came back from London, Monday night, but did not realise what I was walking into. I was sitting in Euston station watching all the footage on the big screen, never crossed my mind that anything similar could be happening in Birmingham. The first cryptic clue came when we arrived at New Street, they announced on the train that all exits were closed apart from one, due to an incident in the city centre earlier on but the good news was that no trains were cancelled. There was next to nobody in the station but for a few people walking up and down talking into their mobile 'phones. Walked past the police cars, smiled at the police and walked into a group of lads who asked me where Argos was. I dutifully told them and added quite innocently that I did not think it would be open at this time of night. I did think it was funny, these lads doing late night shopping on a Monday night at 10pm, dressed head to foot in black. So I carried on into the Bull Ring and fell over all these coat hangers, funny I thought, was there some clothes give away earlier on. Then I realised I was in the midst of young lads and screaming girls, so I smiled at everybody and scuttled off to the 50 bus stop. There was one other guy there who was recounting this tale into his mobile, of him being in a bar and everybody crowding round him, checking his 'phone to find out what was going on outside. So I asked him, what is going on?

Basically an hour beforehand, things had really kicked off and they were smashing into all the shops, everyone had dived into the bars and taken all chairs etc in with them and locked the doors and told everyone to stay away from the windows, just in case. After chatting for a while it became apparent there was not going to be a 50, as everything kept disappearing off the screen. In fact there was no cars, buses, taxes or anybody over the the age of 20 passing through. From nowhere this mass flock of teenagers started walking down the road towards us, at around Moor Street Station they started running towards Selfridges trying to get into the shopping centre but they just bounced off the reinforced glass and bus stop guy started to put his rings in his sock ready for a rumble. We were just debating whether to try and go back and stay the night in the train station, when the cars started to arrive with four or five lads in each and we thought it was a good idea to move on.

We found the other civilians hanging round the riot police because none of us knew where else to go, we where pretty much trapped. We started to see all the broken glass, the mobile 'phone shop stripped, Louis Vuitton smashed into and even the sweet shop, which had a total cobweb of cracks but the glass had not broken. Ha! he says, what kind of people break into sweet shops, erh.. I say as we where passing a bunch of lads....people with a sweet tooth. No! crack heads, crack heads, I was beginning to see why this man got beaten up so much.

I managed to find a hotel, though all the lights where out and the reception abandoned, I caught this fleeting shadow and persuaded them to let me in, she was so nervous this girl, she processed me in the dark, it pained me to pay £69 for a room at Premier Inn but I was kind of glad to be there. The guy disappeared into the night, to take his chances. I still can't get my head around recreational looting as a nights entertainment, but there you go."


I'm preserving it here because -I don't know- I think it's too good an account to sit gathering dust and eventually getting deleted from my inbox. She has no online presence and she doesn't mind me recounting her story.

Flowers

Aug. 4th, 2011 10:03 pm
gamiila: (Rose)


These are the flowers my boss surprised me with today. I expect the next time he'll give me flowers, it'll be to say goodbye, but these were intended to mark the passing this upcoming weekend of another year in my sublunar existence.
gamiila: (rain dance)
In the Bible, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights and the earth was turned into a waterworld. By my calculations, it has now been raining for 51 days at a stretch, and I imagine I know exactly how Noah and his family must have felt all cooped up in their little Ark. Already, our Met have declared this the 'wettest summer since 1930', and it doesn't seem as if there'll be an end in sight any time soon.

I wouldn't mind, only...the leaden skies depress me; and when I'm depressed, I tend to eat far more chocolate than is good for me, which leads to me no longer fitting comfortably in my trousers; which fact would lead to even more depression, except that I have a plan: I'll go on a diet as soon as my contract expires. There's no point of going on one now as there's cake almost every other day at work, as the Sales department always seem to have something to celebrate: if it isn't the opening of a new shop in-shop or store in-store or some record-breaking deal, it'll be somebody's birthday. Which means I'm already racking my brains as to what treats I'm going to bring into the office in a fortnight, when it'll be mine. I do hope it'll stop raining then, if only for the day...

Smitten

Jun. 23rd, 2011 11:05 pm
gamiila: (sexy)
I had my very first (ever!) manicure today, and I've been sat here looking at my beautifully pampered hands and thinking "I could get used to this!" To think I've gone almost half a century without realising what a marvellous invention blue lotus/green tea-based hand cream is! Or that my nails could ever look so perfectly varnished! On the rare occasions that I've done this myself, the result has never been as good. I could switch careers and become a hand model!

There I was walking down the street, minding my own business as [livejournal.com profile] jonesiexxx so famously describes it, when a girl pressed a promotional voucher for a free manicure into my hands, and explained that they'd just set up shop two doors down. As I'd broken a nail 10 minutes earlier, and had been mentally bemoaning the lack of nail clippers on me, I didn't need much more persuading. I wonder how long they'll keep looking this nice?

Joany, the woman whose shoes I'm filling at Apple, came in for a chat and to show off her baby this morning. Little Lois will be 5 weeks old tomorrow, and she's the most gorgeous little thing I ever saw: big brown eyes, a dainty little mouth and nose, lots of black curls and a perfect café-au-lait complexion. Her mother had told me over the phone that her baby reminded her of me, with her dark hair and eyes, but honestly, Lois is far prettier!

It's strange to think how little experience I have of babies. My sister and I weren't speaking when she had hers, my two best friends never had any children, and obviously I never had a baby myself. Years ago, I was friends with a woman whose husband left her just before her son was born, and I sort of became Lars's de facto nanny after his mum went back to work and I worked on my final paper for Uni - but eventually she got back with her husband and they moved away to another part of the country, and we lost touch after a while. So I'm always a bit unsure when someone asks me if I want to hold their baby, because I don't really know what to do when they start to cry -- and Lois was already crying when they came in. Luckily, she stopped almost as soon as I took her, probably from the shock of being handed over to a perfect stranger. As I was walking around the office cooing to her, she seemed to study me so intently in that slightly unnerving way that babies have, and in the end, I do believe I saw the merest hint of a smile on her face. It could have been just wind, though.

After they left, I couldn't settle back to work and so I called it a day, breaking my nail shoving my laptop in my rucksack.
gamiila: (bow tie)
We received the news this morning that the man who fell past my window last Wednesday had died of his injuries in hospital this weekend. He was 30 years old, recently married, and the father of a little one only a few weeks old. Needless to say we were all quite saddened by the news.

His mates returned to work today, after the authorities had given them the go-ahead; they strung up a safety net in the courtyard where the accident had occured, and every single one of the men that were working on the cupola were properly and conspicuously tethered and secured.

On a personal note: it turns out I'm not menopausal yet.
gamiila: (oh noes)
A man fell past my window today.

There's been building work going on at our office building ever since I started. It's been dusty and noisy and I've cursed it under my breath several times (and I'm not the only one). Today, they put up some scaffolding outside the windows of my section, and then some builders came, in safety harnesses, and started doing whatever it was they needed the scaffolding for.

At one point I looked up and noticed one of the men wasn't wearing a safety harness. I didn't think anything of it, though; I just went back to work. Next thing I hear is this screech and an awful thud.

The three of us in our section sat bold upright, looking at each other uncertainly and going "Was that...?" "That sounded like..."

The ambulance was there in under 6 minutes. The man was still alive, but he'd fallen 3 storeys and landed on his head, or so the shocked security guard came and told us.

I hope he makes it.
gamiila: (camera)
It's been a fairly wet Whitsun, but still, I managed to enjoy myself. We celebrated my niece's 18th birthday yesterday, and on Saturday, I joined a friend and some of her acquaintances on a trip to the Vught Biennale; a rather grandiose name for an art exhibition and fair that has so far been held just once before at a dealership located in this rather charming Brabant village.

Upon arrival, we took advantage of a lull in the rain to take a stroll through the gardens and observe the artworks displayed there, and while I was taking pictures of the pieces I liked but could not afford, my friend took a picture of me:




and of our company:



More pictures under the cut )

In other news, I think I've entered the menopause.
gamiila: (smile)
One thing I do too little of is go out of an evening. I've never been much of a pub crawler, and as I'm on my own, I don't often go out to dinner either; so when I do, it's a rare and special treat.

Last night, I met up with a friend in Utrecht, and had tapas on the canal (this one):



at a Spanish restaurant that also offered live flamenco music, and needless to say it was lovely. She ordered Manchego cheese, a green salad with Serrano ham, and calamares while I opted for spicy chorizo, artichoke hearts, and chargrilled big prawns. I'll let you in on my worst-kept secret: you want to get on my good side? Feed me prawns. The bigger, the better, though to be honest, any shrimp will do. If I had my way, I'd gorge on them morning, noon, and night. Washed down with several bottles of lovely wine, we sat by the water and watched the world go by in barges, and finished our meal with rich dark chocolate cake and Cuaranta Y Tres.

We stopped by a Belgian pub on the way to the station, and sampled some of their beers before moving on. By that time though, I'd missed the last regular train and so I stayed the night, sitting up and talking until the early hours while more wine was consumed. Then I remembered I had a driving lesson at 1pm.

I made it home with about quarter of an hour to spare; and I must say, I should get tired and tipsy more often, as it all went swimmingly for once.

ETA: What's with this annoying scrollbar that appears to the side of some of my recent entries? Is this some new LJ-feature? If so, I don't like it.

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