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At work, for the past week or so, was a notice. An odd notice. It contained the names of pretty much everybody known to be working for the company, along with a list of days that we will be having off in January.
You see, our hours are supposed to change to 7am until 4.30pm (with a 45 minute break). This increases our time actually at work to be nine and a half hours. Under EU legislation, the working week is fixed to 35 hours. Plus or minus a bit, it would be viable to do 40 hours one week and 30 the following so long as it all averages out. So we will be working for eight and three quarter hours on four days. That equals... 35 hours. You see, also, as the difficult period was coming to an end, and as the teams were merging into one shift, some people were going to have their contracts not renewed when they finish - at the end of December. Except, well, it appears from the notice that it would be one team of some sixty people!?!?

Turns out the notice is a complete fabrication. In actual fact, the company is getting rid of all of the seasonal workers, save one girl in the emballage (boxing/packing), somebody in "prepa" (the kitchen/preparation room), and somebody in the production area. In the production area they want a reliable tidy-up person. A 'menage' person. In other words me.

This was supposed to be a secret, as shedding twenty-thirty people and keeping me might be seen as a touch controversial given, well, given that I'm not French. However it could be counter-argued that my job description states, actually, "preparateur", a position that I held for about forty minutes. Since then, for four months (give or take a week), I've been the cleaner/gopher/fetch-boy. I've caused as little problem as possible (you can't blame me for the coat incident!) and I've busted a gut heaving all that stuff around. I guess this definitively answers my question as to whether or not I am useful... that I am the only one being kept on!

Of course, the cynical side of me would prefer to see my signature on a piece of paper; but hey...
Anyway, I say it was supposed to be a secret. The big bloke asked me not to tell anybody. Then he called a meeting today, the last working day before Christmas and his female counterpart said that only three people, one from 'here', are being kept on. She explained that we are seasonal workers and the season is over. C'est comme ça she said.
Somebody asked who is being kept, and she said me. A well-kept secret! And, while I am not overly concerned whether or not the others know (while the final two days could be a tad 'difficult' if anybody takes to it badly... it would be known soon enough), however I do feel that this should have been decided and said a day earlier, or held until we return on the 29th. It's got to be better than "Merry Christmas, and bye-bye!". Bad timing, no?


WOW! (part 2)

Today we received a Christmas Parcel from the company. Everybody, that is. Inside the box was 12 verrines of... I'm not quite sure what. A platter of "amuse-bouches" (think party snack food with class), two platters of little... well, there's a selection of cakes and shortbread cheesecake with raspberry on top (those are nice, couldn't resist!) and little marron chocolate thingies in a chocolate 'cup'. And there's a huge box which is a sort of potato-mushroom speciality that is oven-roasted. Really looking forward to that - along with some Campbell's condensed Cream of Mushroom soup - on Christmas Day. There was also a box of foie-gras things, but we gave those to a friend as neither of us eat foie-gras.
It was a big pile of stuff, and I really don't want to reduce it to a value, but I think we're looking at something in the region of €100. A lovely surprise, and something to make our Christmas meal a little bit extra, you know?


Westminster should be ashamed...

People on the French social welfare system (I am on the RMI sort-of (as I am working now) and on another scheme, RMA? RSA? lots of initials and papers to complete...) received a Christmas bonus in December.
Last year, the bonus was €152,45. This year, in keeping with inflation, the bonus was an astonishing €220. For exchange rate to Sterling, just assume €=£, at 1.05 (source CNBC) it isn't far off.
And as part of her pension, my mother received... £10 "turkey bonus". I think it has been £10 for about as long as I've been alive? Certainly it dates back to Maggie Thatcher. Back then a tenner might have got a reasonable turkey and some veg. Nowadays? Oh, and Gordie has made some promise about an extra £60 for pensioners. Well, um, when? Nothing on her bank statement as yet, perhaps it will be promised for the week after the next general election?
At any rate, while everybody everywhere is suffering in the "credit crunch", this certainly shows up some differences in the two countries. An extra ten, frankly, won't be noticed. An extra 60 (if you get it) won't go far. What do I plan to do with my 220? Well, I plan to keep our little oil-filled electric radiator on more so the temperature in here is somewhere between 14 and 18 (as opposed to the 10-13 range we'd aim for in the winter) and use some of the money to pay for the electricity for that. And to me that's an acceptable practical thing to do. No alcohol, no pointless excess, but something useful.


That harddisc

Just for reference, I've been fiddling around and it seems that the 'big' harddisc cannot be seen in its entirety by XP SP1; or anything prior to when these size drives became commonplace (say, then, 2004/2005ish).
XP with service pack 2 (or later) will be able to talk to the drive. As would Vista, and up-to-date operating systems such as I would imagine Linux/Ubuntu and so on.

You don't have a hope in hell with the likes of Windows 98(SE)/ME; and anybody that wants to format a drive that size to FAT32 is either desperate or a little bit wacky. ☺

Those who know me might have decided I've changed my mind on my dislike of NTFS. My dislike had arisen from a number of ex-pat's computers that I needed to fix after, apparently, they were turned off incorrectly and then the computer booted, and immediately blue-screened with an error about UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME. The error? The disc map is all in a muddle. So what does XP do? Blue-screen and freeze. This, to me, is reprehensible. Why can't it run chkdsk on the drive?
I won't say I 'like' NTFS, exactly, but since I have Hirren's Boot CD with the ntfschk tool (that can fix messed up NTFS partitions...), it is less of a problem to me. Where NTFS is invaluable, and guarantees I'll never switch back to any version of FAT, is that it can handle files over 4Gb. Like, say, this movie that I am recording right now. An hour and a half will run to about 4½-5Gb, which is two hours (and approaching 6Gb with adverts) with adverts, and as for those foreign ones on FilmFour that go on for ages... none of this would be possible with FAT.
Bear in mind, also, that I am using the default recording which is 354×288 in a sort of MPEG1-alike (the best my CPU can manage). If I was running a better computer and looking to record near-broadcast quality? Well, we are looking now to really big files. Gee, why d'you think I got ~230Gb? Big but not terribly expensive, lots of room for work-in-progress video files because I can't record directly to XviD. Now that my VCR is on its last legs with recording (some recordings are fine, some are horribly jittery, I'll try to get a screenshot of this), and now that it is so simple to make up XviDs and drop films on DVD-R, and now that I have my Zen for watching stuff I missed (I've been watching the horror film Mortuary during my work breaks this last week); well, there's so much less reason to go back to videotape. In fact, I only use it now because this computer isn't 'powerful' enough to operate in timed recording mode, so away stuff must still be on tape.


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