Thursday, December 12, 2013


There has been a lot in the media about the impending opening up of migration rules which would allow Bulgarian and Romanian citizens to freely move around the EU. Clearly as I am married to a Pole I have a certain bias. Indeed I think the migration Policy has been correct in terms of Europe. The UK economy has benefited from the influx of hardworking and cheap labour.

In Geography class they used to teach about push and pull factors in migration. When Poland joined the expanded EU in 2004, the UK had been very positive supporting Polish entry and not putting up barriers as some European countries had done. For Bulgaria and Romania the UK did put in restrictions, even going so far as to use negative adverts.

A lot of people think take issue with the sheer number of Polish people who came to the UK after the 2004 expansion of the EU. There was also a long history of Poles migrating to the UK. Not least after the settlement act following the second world war. Given The UK twice let down Poland, in World War 2, firstly by failing to do anything practically to stop the Soviet Union and Germany carving up Poland, then at the end of the war the Yalta treaty allowed the Soviet union to keep Poland under communist rule. Rather than delivering the free democratic state the exiled Polish government had hoped for.

One thing I haven't seen much of is the raw numbers. In terms of population Romania at 21 million and Bulgaria 7 million people. In 2004 Poland's population was approximately 38 million people. So even if the same proportion of Romanian and Bulgarians moved to the UK as did Poles, in terms of numbers there would be far less actual people. Thanks to the lower combined population.

Therefore in terms of simple push and pull there are less cultural ties between the UK Bulgaria and Romania less pull factors in terms of our failing economy, so right now I don't expect to see as many Romanian  shops as Polski Skleps.

Friday, November 29, 2013


I received a letter in the week to inform me that the price of my Virgin Media services was going to increase by £4.50 per month. This is pretty annoying as I had renewed only last month after negotiating a discount.

Money Saving Expert had done a 50% discount on SKY for an entire year, this would have been significantly cheaper than Virgin  so I was all geared up to cancel the service. However Virgin offered a new deal including a price match. That was great until this price rise (which starts in February).

Fortunately Ofcom have recently decreed that price rises inside contracts represent  "materially detrimental" to customers.

This Guidance sets out that:
  • Ofcom is likely to regard any increase to the recurring monthly subscription charge in a fixed-term contract as ‘materially detrimental’ to consumers;
  • providers should therefore give consumers at least 30 days’ notice of any such price rise and allow them to exit their contract without penalty; and
  • any changes to contract terms, pricing or otherwise, must be communicated clearly and transparently to consumers.
Therefore I have 30 days to find a better offer, or suck up the price rise.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Disappear here

I was awoken early this morning by an engineer from United Utilities. I had done a survey on their website after advice that I am spending too much on the water charge from the Coop bank. It appeared that having a meter could save me £150 per year, and given installation of the meter is free seemed like a good idea.

I called United Utilities last week and asked for an installation. They sent me a message saying that they would come and do a survey. The guy arrived at 9, and after checking outside comes back to inform me that I already have a water meter, and not just that the reading on the meter is pretty low. He installed a different meter apparently the new ones have some sort of circuity to allow easier reading.

The meter is sat out on the road next to the water stop tap I never lifted the cover as its not on my property. When I moved in they could have told me that I had a meter! Surely they should know what buildings have meters? I am going to write to United Utilities and see if I can get the meting backdated as the engineer helpfully gave me the reading and serial number.  The reading was pretty low so it helps justify getting a meter.

Sunday, November 03, 2013


I have just finished reading a book Jono gave me called Abduction, by Mark Gimenez. It follows the abduction of a young girl. It was quite entertaining, especially the first section which focuses more on the effect of the abduction on the family and the response of the FBI. I must admit the larger plot and eventual ending was a bit much for me to stomach however the characters were very well drawn especially the mother Elizabeth and Vietnam veteran grandfather Ben.

Interesting to compare the drunk character in this to Jo Nesbo's Detective Harry Hole. Nesbos character seems more realistic, whereas Ben is an all American hero who cant stop drinking to save his marriage but suddenly stops to save his granddaugher. In the plot itself is somewhat better done than I lay out. The action plays out in an exciting and interesting way coupled with several story arcs to keep you entertained.

Indigenous Britons face a bleak future

According to this telegraph article British citizens have generally worse literacy and numeracy skills than immigrants. It appears that schools must be failing to instill the most basic skills. Odd given that A-Level and GCSE pass rates have risen for over a decade. What is really happening here, is the general population suffering from a lack of skills, or are people with the skills not applying for the jobs forcing employers to look abroad?

Mind Your Manners

Kath was over this weekend, she arrived Thursday evening, I picked her up from the airport after work. After a quick stop off at home to drop off Kath's bag, we headed out ont he train to Wilmslow. The aim was to catch the early evening buffet at the Samsi. We walked in on a Thursday night at 6.30pm. The restaurant was nearly empty when we entered but the waitress insisted on going through the rigmarole of checking how many reservations there were (I can tell you there weren't full up at 8.30pm when we left). Service was pretty good once we sat down though it was difficult to attract their attention. The banquet started with Miso soup, followed by a choice of 4 pieces chef's choice sushi, Gyoza, Karage Ginger and Garlic Fried Chicken or Vegetables tempura. I took the sushi and Kath took the Vegetable tempura, it was really good, the batter was light and crisp and the teryaki sauce was lovely. The main course was a choice of Chicken or vegetable yakisoba noodles, Yakitori grilled chicken skewers with rice, Pork Katsu curry with rice or Crispy chicken curry with rice. I had the chicken katsu curry and Kath ate the chicken skewers. Both were very nice, the skewers had a really nice flavour, while my chicken was succulent, the curry sauce was lovely not too spicy but flavoursome. Finally there was ice cream. The banquet was excellent value at £12.95 per person, the drinks were a little more expensive £5.50 for a can of Sapporo beer. After the meal we headed to the Bollin fee for a drink before catching the train home. It was ages since I was last in Wilmslow drinking, it used to be a regular thing but things change. On Friday Kath and I went to visit my aunt Jean*, unfortunately we managed to miss her. The chairs had been broken so we decided to take a trip to Ikea to look at tables. We wondered the huge expanse of furniture, trying to decide on things like all the other people on the Conveyor belt drifting from soft furnishings to kitchenware. In the end we bought a new table four chairs and after finding its impossible to get replacement parts from Ikea we bought a replacement shoe cupboard. Spending the rest of the afternoon putting everything together. Then I made a stir fry dinner to christen the table. Saturday we relaxed built the shoe rack (which oddly took longer than both the tables and chairs). I made dinner of tuna steak, using our new blender to whip up a fish sauce. The weather was cold and wet so we decided to mostly hide from the world and enjoy each others company. A lot of people ask what Kath and I are going to do when she is over, and often we do try and do special things together. Sometimes thought its just good to be with each other, I think a lot of people don't realise the value of spending time together, not just the special event time but the normal everyday time together. For Kath and I we spend most of our time apart so we miss those moments. Making dinner together, lounging on the couch watching TV these are precious times. *she isn't my actual aunt rather a close relative.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lighting up my life

Just replaced the last of my compact florescent GU10 bulbs for Osram GU10 7 Watt LED GU10 Bulbs, so much better instant light and only 7 watts.

LED bulbs are so much better than halogen and compact florescent. They light up immediately, rather than slowly light up from a dull glow. They also last up to 15,000 hours whereas a standard halogen bulb has a lifespan of around 1,500 - 2,000 hours.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Girl Who Fell From The Sky

I spent most of the day reading The Girl Who Fell From The Sky by Simon Mawer. I got the book free from WHSmiths as an O2 priority offer, and its sat on my side table for quite a while. I quite regret that now as it was an interesting read, following a women recruited into the Special Operations Executive her training and posting to France. Some of the scenes were a little clumsy bit it chipped along at a good pace and was pretty entertaining.

Other than that I finally completed all the main missions on Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox 360). Overall it took around 40 hours of playing, tohugh I did complete a lot of the side missions in the tat two. Not sure I have the patients to find all the letter pieces though.

I tried playing online but it wasn't much fun, out of passive mode your lifespan is short. No-one seems to want to play the missions, I tried to begin one and waited for 15 minutes without anyone joining. It was a great game though, I really cant believe how large and detailed that map is, its truly amazing.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Facebook is a weird world

Readership of this blog has dramatically fallen off in recent times. Mostly that is down to my failure to publish, but also notably attributes to Facebook removing the ability to publish from bloggers RSS feed.

Increasingly I have been wondering what facebook is for. Everytime I go on my feed is full of narcissistic postings. I am as guilty as anyone for posting things that portray me in a good light, tha the point though itsnt it?

This weeks nes that Facebook allowed posting of videos showing someone being beheaded made me think what a strange digital world this has become. If a pervasive and agenda setting website like Facebook which blocks pictures of Women breast feeding but allows pictures of beheading. What is going on with our society if the perfectly normal is veiled but distressing and violent scenes are allowed?

You only need to see how many Facebook share buttons adorn the average news website to realize Facebook how incredibly important Facebook is in terms of promoting news stories.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

All abord the failboat

I saw this on Slashdot, its a report on the failure at Knight capital whom lost over $400 million after a glitch in their trading software.

I can't imagine how I would feel if I had worked on that! Its a typical developer error, a logic flaw introduced accidental, then not tested and put into the wild without peer review. Generally these are caused by oversight and sometime arrogance on the part of the developer, unfortunately god syndrome is quite prevalent amongst some developers especially in the high octane world of finance.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I have just finished reading the latest book from Jo Nesbø, Police
. Its the eigths in the Harry Hole detective series. I think he is back to his best form. It reminded me of the Redbreast the third in the series, and probably the best of the lot. The book follows on from the events of the last book the Phantom which left on a cliff hanger with us not knowing whether Harry would make it. It takes about a third of the book before we find out what happened.
Like the other Nesbo books I have read the action clips along at a pace with plenty of Red Herrings and twists to the plot. I  could bearly put it down once I got into the story, overall a very good read.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Wedding photos have arrived

We finally got the professional wedding photos back this week. The look really nice, Kath and I look really nice. Now we need to chose our favourite and make an album. I already have hundred of photos taken myself and given to me by others. Such amazing memories of our wedding, happy times.
Kasia and John by the fountain
Photo in Bialystok

Monday, October 14, 2013

Summertime sadness

Kath has been over this weekend. It's the first time since we returned from honeymoon in September. She arrived on Saturday and we spent the day relaxing and enjoying each others company. I made dinner of Higgidy Pie salad and wedges.

Sunday I booked us in to the Hilton Hotel for afternoon tea. The Hilton has a bar on the 23rd floor called Cloud 23 (see what they did there?). The view is pretty spectacular, we dined and enjoyed a cocktail overlooking the city, even saw a rainbow over the horizon.

Today we had a busy day. We are trying to integrate Kath into the UK signing her up for a bank account and to the local GP surgery. Getting a bank account involved a producing lots of different type of ID and answering what seemed like never ending questions including a full account of our major regular income and outgoings. We were also advised to go and get a will!

 The GP was slightly less difficult just a couple of forms and proving our address and photo ID.

After all the boring form signing it was a treat to go and see my relative Jeanie. Due to her health she hadn't been able come to the wedding, so she seemed really pleased to see the photos and see Kath and I. She was in good spirits talking about my cousins.

There seemed to be something slightly surreal about this weekend, the first of our normal married life. We had a really nice time just being together but always somewhere in the back of my mind that she is heading back to Poland on Tuesday. Hopefully in time it will become easier,  and eventually there wont be so many times apart.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Vampyre of Time and Memory

Kath arrived for a weekend a week last Thursday, I picked her up from Manchester airport and as my Polish lession was cancelled we decided to go and get dinner. The Bulls head in Handforth do two steaks and a bottle of wine for £22.99 on a Thrusday night. I can heartily recommend it!  The wine wasnt anything special but the steak was very tasty, in face the food has been consistently good there.

Coco has been having a hard time recently. It all started last week, she was off colour for a couple of days, not eating her food and general spending her time moping not moving. Last Friday Kath while was over we got so worried as Coco felt hot that we took her to the vet. A shot of painkiller, and antibiotic we took her home.

Friday evening Kath and I went to the Stockport beer festival. We met up with Phil Caroline, Nick Charlotte, Bruce and Nina and Phil's sister Tina. It was a fun evening of sampling beers chatting and handing out our wedding invitations.  After the festival we went for a curry at Kantipur, they have had a refit since I was last there, and the food seemed to be of a higher standard.

By Sunday Coco seemed to be a little more lively even eating a little food, however when I got home from work on Monday evening (saying goodbye to Kath in the morning) it appeared coco had thrown up. I decided to take her back to the Vet, she seemed very worried about Coco, her neck was covered in what we thought was vomit. She offered to shave it off and I am glad that she did. Underneath was a massive abscess, which had burst. Her neck was a mass of necrotic tissue, and rather than vomit it was puss, yuk! She suggested the best course of action was to take Coco to the veterinary hospital. For a moment the cost put me off but then I thought she is worth it so off to veterinary hospital.

The next day I got a phone call from a surgeon, they had operated to clean up and remove dead tissue, and when they knocked Coco out they had to put a tube down her mouth they found that she had a sewing needle lodged there! It had puncture from her mouth to neck and cased the abscess. No wonder she was off her food it must have been terribly painful.

Fortunately over the last week she has recovered well, her appetite is back and she is I can even put with her waking me in the night as I know its a sigh of recovery.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Should be higher

Yesterday I sat and watched the Eurovision "song" contest for the first time. The reason for this was a post BBQ TV session, nestled into Bruce and Nina's comfortable new reclining sofas. Nina was celebrating her 30th birthday, they were throwing a BBQ day. I arrived about 5, in time to help out cooking the meat. Bruce hand managed to get the coals so intensely hot the hairs on my forearms got singed while flipping a burger! Holly Jo, Phil and Caroline were already there. The food was fantastic and plentiful after gorging on burgers, and kebabs there was homemade cake. I sank into the recliner, and sat back in to take in the delight of Euro vision. Phil used his industry knowledge running a commentary on the stage and set design. He was impressed by the Swedes I think, especially the projects onto the presenters dress. I found the music pretty dreary, however with a room full of good company and banter it was bearable enough. I caught acab to the Cheadle Hulme with Phil and Caroline just managing to fit in a Gin and Tonic night cap before catching the train home.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Like Spinning Plates

Apparently more than 250,000 people will be unable to repay there interest only mortgage at the end of its term. Interest only mortgage were very popular as they reduced monthly payments. In an standard repayment mortgage each payment pays the interest and a small part of the capital. Over time the proportion of your repayment covering the original borrowing increases as the size of the borrowing reduces. In the interest only scenario you only ever pay the interest on the original borrowing, and at the end of the term usually 25 years you still owe the original amount borrowed.

For example on a £100,000 borrowing at £3% over 25 years with a £995 fee added the monthly repayment would be £474 / month totalling £143,258 over the mortgage, an interest only mortgage you would pay £250 / month and £75,995 in total (plus the additional £100,000). So overall although the monthly payment is lower the overall cost of the mortgage is considerable higher £32737(around 22%).

 Proponents of interest only included, saving the money into a separate investment might be more beneficial over the long run (you can check this using Money Savings Exerts payment calculator). Also the rising value of the property would enable you do sell up downsize and pocket the difference. Interest only also makes a lot more sense on investment property as it frees capital for investments or improvements. If you have an interest only mortgage you need to decide on the best plan of action for you, but bear in mind though it might cost more a month in the long term it could save you a lot of money to switch to repayment.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Saw Phil last night, he told me all about his trip to Mexico. The Cave diving sounded amazing, I was pretty jealous. Phil looked better than I had seen him for some time, tanned and relaxed after the trip. We sat in the Kings Hall drinking and chatting, it was like the old days. In the last few years going out has gone from regular to a rarity which is a shame I miss it. I woke up with a dry mouth and headache though, don't miss that!

The rest of my weekend has been spent cleaning up the house in time for Kath and her sister Karoline visiting next week. She has never been to the UK before and we have a few things planned it should be a great week. Unfortunately because my holidays are limited I have to work some of the time but have Friday off and Monday is a bank holiday, so we should be able to do something exciting. I just hope that the weather holds out.

I just finished the On the Road film, somehow it was deeply unsatisfying, it had all the major scenes from the book but somehow lacked all the energy. The characters weren't quick as larger than life as I expected. Sal wasn't nearly as naive or wild eyed to Deans crazy antics.  The books is a wild trip with full of characters and events. In the film we don't really get to know any of the characters well. The scenes are well set but something is missing, there isn't enough energy its not frenetic enough.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Yesterday morning after only a couple of hour sleep I was sat drinking a glass of beer in the beer garden of Cafe Esperanto. Kath and I both felt a little overwhelmed after booking the wedding venue.

I had arrived into Warsaw the previous evening and we travelled on the night bus to Bialystok arriving around 3am. The appointment with the registrars office was at 10 in the morning. Accompanying us was the state registered translator, Jolanta. Apparently a necessity to explain what was going on to the alien, me.

First we went into a room where two ladies went over the documents and the translations. I had to provide a certificate of no impediment, my birth certificate and passport. All of which had been translated by Jolanta. Kath had to present her ID and birth certificate too. One if the women checked Kath's the other mine, she had difficulty distinguishing the area from my British address.

After they were happy with the documents we all trooped into the office of the registrar general. As we entered I could hear Jim Morrison's voice eminating from his computer speakers. The registrar a large balding man looked very relaxed with his music wearing a velvet suit jacket. He gave Jolanta a piece of paper with conditions for the wedding.

Then we had to sign some declarations, It was quite strange to be told that our children would have my surname, that was a last minute decision by Kath that she would use my surname.

It was pretty stressful for me having to rely on the interpreter to explain, however we resolved that we were happy. There was a moment of panic when he opened the calendar to the 24th August and there were already a list of names written. Fortunately there was a gap at 16:30, so that is when Kath and I will be married.

Walking out we went for a quick look around the venue itself a rather psychedelically painted period room. I tried to picture our friends and family in there watching us getting married, it should make for a good scene.

After saying farewell to the translator we decided despite the early hour a drink was in order to celebrate and contemplate. The weather was a warm 22c then sun beating down on us not a bad way to start the rest if our lives together.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A tooth for an eye

I started at a new company in January, so far it's been going really well. The team is well organised and the project we are working on is interesting. As a side benefit I found that I have more time in the evenings as I don't have to work like instead working 8-4 most days.  The extra free time has helped me get back into going to the gym and not too soon. 18 months of longs days in an office sat too close to the vending machine have left me flabby and unfit. I decided I needed a bit more focus so I decided to try out a personal trainer. After searching on the internet I choose Jon Bass and expert in Tabita training, a kind of high intensity interval training. So far its been working and I have started to turn the tide slowly improving my fitness. I still feel half dead after a session, not really managed to do a full hour as yet, but I am hopeful.

Thanks to vsauce I saw the following chart charting when people will forget. Its a good reminder that history is in fact not dead in spite of what some books might say. It is a point that has been reinforced to me while working with one of the interns. He is where I was in 2002, part way through university doing a year out in industry. It really interesting I can see something of myself in him, only he has a totally different set of experiences. He didn't grow up using Basic, typing in lines of code out of Computing magazine. He didn't have to rely on encyclopaedias or magazines like Quest to find out information the whole internet and Wikipedia is available to him. Who knows what changes will take place to the next generation, history certainly isn't dead.

Friday, March 01, 2013

The boy who read some books

I have just finished "the girl who kicked the hornets nest" the third and final part of Stieg Larsson Millenium Trilogy. Kath bought me all three books almost a year ago, but I have spent that time very slowly reading Life and Fate. I finially finished that and started reading the girls with the dragon tattoo. I was hooked from the first chapter, and read like a manic finishing the first book over the weekend. The spending more of my free time, hitting a chapter before work at lunch in the evening. Its been a while since I read a story that was so engaging as this. Larsson invented some really interesting characters, including Lisbeth Slander an almost unique heroine. highly recommend them if you fancy a goodbook but be warned they are a hard habit to break. I was sorry to finish off the book in the knowledge that following Larsson death there will be no more to follow.

Life and Fate is also a spectacularly good book, both frightening and surreal it documents the battle for Stalingrad. Written as a homage to Tolstoy's War and Peace. In War and peace where Tolstoy wraps his characters lives around the Napoleonic invasion Vasily Grossman exposes the monstrosity of Stalin's state. There are a number of incredibly distressing chapters showing both the brutality of Fascism and Communism.  It took me a long long time to read my mum bought me the book after I lightened to the excellent BBC Radio drama. I am very glad that I read it and though its a hefty tomb weighing in at over 800 pages I would recommend to any bibliophiles.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A tale of two stores

Today the news that HMV was going into administration had lots of people on talking about why shops fail and lots of people were talking about ways to fix up the shop.

 I got me thinking about something, today I went out into Altrincham centre to buy some lunch and a couple of other things. I popped in to Waterstones, formally a part of HMV now on its own. Oddly I was drawn in there by the Kindle display. Recently refitted the store is excellent, a nice coffee shop enthusiastic staff, reviews of merchandise and still room for tables with special offers on. The special area for e-readers is what I went in to look at, though I have enough unread books at the moment I have been thinking about getting an e-reader as my iPad is a little heavy for reading a book on in bed. Overall I was very impressed with Waterstones I wanted to buy a book and sit and read in the coffee store like a sceanster, unfortunately I had to get back to work.

Across the road is WHS smiths, I popped in to buy a pen, and well there couldn't be more of a start contrast.  WHS Smiths are attempting to sell e-Readers too, they retail the Kobo glow but rather than than have a nice display they simply had a sad pile of empty boxes stuffed into a cardboard display, not very appealing. In fact the whole shop looked tired, cluttered. Even worse when I turned round there was a very dodgy looking legal services stand. Behind the counter were a series of dirty ugly office filing cabinets, horrid.

With so many chains failing I would suggest that stores need to go do more to entice customers in create an experience. Attempting to compete with supermarkets overstocking shelves isn't the answer, then again which shop did I spend my money in, I didn't walk out with a Kindle but I did buy a pack of Pilot G2 pens from WHSmith so what do I know!