Friday, 31 December 2010

Advanced woodwork

30% claims not to know what a compound mitre is.

Having cut a slice of bread from the loaf this morning I'm not sure I believe her.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Thursday

Thursday morning was spent attaching the TV wall bracket in our bedroom. All went well and within a relatively short time it was firmly fixed and vertical. TP and I then slid the TV in to position and I swore repeatedly as it was irritatingly out of true due to some play in the aforementioned bracket. This necessitated numerous trials and adjustments to resolve, but resolved it was. I can now report that horizons are appropriately horizontal and street scenes are no longer reminiscent of Pisa or some post-earthquake location.

My next mission is to raise floorboards to locate and route coaxial to enable connection to the Sky box.

Today like Wednesday and also Friday is a holiday for me but I have been persuaded to attend a number of relatively short but vital review calls. The persuasion was the unspoken and therefore incredibly sophisticated "its only a couple of hours over the three days" but I am realising how even a single conference call* takes away that holiday feeling because a colleague is now controlling my time.

It is Moneypenny's birthday today so we are off the spend the evening with James Bond and Moneypenny and our mutual friends, and childrens' TV Rag Doll characters, Rosie and Jim. A splendid time was had catching up on news and generally taking the rise out of each other whilst the collection of children disappeared to munch on pizza, play on the XBox360 and watch DVDs until a time far too late for even the eldest of them.
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* Never mind the necessary follow up emails that then seem to be absolutely vital.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Hunter Wellingtons aren't worth the money

A real pea souper today that didn't clear.

A quiet day involving little more than a walk and a trip in to town to pick up a bracket to wall mount the new TV. You can tell it was quiet when a seasonal visit by Village Idiot gets a mention in The Journal. He was his usual self recounting tales of his Christmas Budget; £27.00, and the fact that he had already knackered his new Wellingtons shifting the lorry battery that he uses to wedge shut* the door on his fowl pen.

This provoked a rural Consumer Review and both VI and I agreed that there is absolutely no point in buying expensive wellies as they do not appear to have a longer lifespan than cheap ones. My last pair were Argylls that I inherited from my Dad who, in turn, acquired them from Ministry of Agriculture stores. These were at least 16 years old when they gave up the ghost in the January 2010 snows. I nipped on to one of the local feed merchants to get a replacement pair and briefly toyed with a pair of Hunters but these are for people with thinner calves than mine so opted for a replacement pair of Argylls. I noted, with mild interest, that Argylls are also produced by Hunter and state that clearly inside the boot.

I hated the damn things from the start. They were floppy and rubbery rather than firm but pliable like the previous pair and never gripped the foot properly as the old ones did. I persevered but never really bonded so it is with mixed feelings that I point out that they have worn out in less than 10 months. I kid you not - I haven't punctured them or ripped the upper - I have actually managed to walk the heels off them in under a year.

I only wear them when it absolutely soaking so it is not as though I have used them day in day out but my road test suggests that most of the £30 I spent on them was pure profit as a pair of Dunlops are about £12 and I am pretty damn sure they will give me at least as much mileage.

I cant believe I have just written a review of a pair of Wellies but, thinking about it, I wish someone had 12 months ago.
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* when I re-read this before publishing this read "wedge shit the door". Having seen the state of VI's fowl pen, either will suffice

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Tuesday was another lazy day and I make no apology for my slothful nature.

Prior to the Christmas break I had been very busy and am now taking time to recharge the batteries as the New Year may be even more manic if the project goes well.

Today 30%'s ex frolleague * Jules came over for the day and they both joined me and T&M on our morning walk through the slush. After a splendid lunch** we drove in to Stratford for a wander round the Sales. I escorted TP, who is now upright and clothed whilst 30% and Jules disappeared in search of bargains.

I wasn't really in a shopping mood but did cash in a Waterstones gift card and walked out with Bill Bryson's At Home - A Short history of Private Life and Iain M Banks' Surface Detail. I just need to finish Frankie Boyle's My Shit Life so Far which is laugh out loud funny but, by it's own admission, far from literature.

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* Frolleague - Noun, portmanteau word, a colleague who is also a friend.
** Brisket; slow cooked in Stout

Monday, 27 December 2010

The Thaw

I managed to have a lie-in this morning and it was gone eight o'clock before I rose and went through the morning ritual of turning on the coffee machine before letting out T&M and then going out side to feed and liberate the chickens.

I noticed that the air was much warmer and everywhere I could hear repeated dripping as the snow started to melt. I shall miss it. I have enjoyed the beauty it has brought and the associated cold doesn't worry me one bit but now we have the thaw. That few days where it lingers in shady corners but turns to brown slush so quickly everywhere else. It is peculiar how it goes from being lovely when all encompassing to being most unattractive as it starts to run away.

I checked the outside taps and was somewhat relived to find that all are running and that we have no bursts. Note to self; lag the taps before the next major freeze.

TP had another lazy day today but was well enough to dress and his appetite is returning. 30% and I nipped in to one of the local towns to have a wander round the Sales and return a couple of "wrong size" items. We managed to return with a Super King size duvet and a 32" flat screen TV for our bedroom.

I now see a couple of projects in my near future; one involving mounting the TV on the wall and the other necessitating the lifting of a couple of floor boards to locate the coaxial cable that the electrician left behind when the extension was built. This will allow me to pipe the satellite TV through to the two main bedrooms in the house.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Best Day of the holiday

That's how my Dad refers to Boxing Day. All of the stress, hassle, obligations and expectations of Christmas Day have gone away and you have time to enjoy yourselves, doing what you like with no tradition or rigmarole to follow.

I am inclined to agree.

TP is still unwell but is vastly improved from the 24th. Today was a Duvet Day for him. He snuggled up on the sofa in front of the fire, watched the beginnings of a few films and then slept through the endings.

30% seemed intent on staying in her pyjamas but I coaxed her out of them and we took T&M for a walk in the afternoon.

All in all we have had a most splendid day. A modicum of exercise has been taken so that we can avoid any self imposed accusations of laziness and the rest of the day was spent in front of the fire eating and drinking as we liked.

On the subject of food a couple of projects have been sampled over the Christmas period and they all get the big thumbs up. The Black Bacon  made a beautiful breakfast on Christmas Day. The Blackberry Vodka went down very well with 30%'s relatives and I have found that it is so much more than a liqueur as, when mixed with lemonade, produces a quality alcopop. The surprise eggsperiment was a jar of surplus eggs that I pickled in a white balsamic vinegar. These are a real surprise and a million miles away from the acidic bullets sold in fish and chip shops. I love balsamic vinegar so they had a head start but the sweetness combined with the tartness of the vinegar works beautifully to give them a real lift and make them worthy inclusions on the Christmas pickle tray.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

White Christmas

and the award for the most unoriginal Journal entry title goes to ...........

Having said that, this is the first occasion in my life that I can recall snow on the ground at Christmas. Falls like this are very rare in this part of the Country. They do occur every ten to fifteen years but they are usually much later in the Winter. The snow at present is spectacular but I will get to that in a minute.


It's Christmas Day and I woke at just gone 5. "Ah!" You're saying, "excited kids". "Bollocks" is my witty response. TP is 14 and far too laid back to get up at Godawful o'clock. No, the reason for my early start is that the alarm at the local Doctor's Surgery decided to go off and it is somewhat piercing. The lack of a contact number meant that there was a chat with nice lady at the end of the Non-emergency Police Phone Line. This isn't the first time the alarm has gone faulty and I have the suspicion that ultimately a call will need to be made to Environmental Health to get the situation resolved.

It is unfortunate that the Doctor lives out of earshot of the fucking thing and consequently relies on our kindness to alert him. It is also unfortunate that he is too tight to have the damned thing linked in to a central point or have a service contract in place. He also seems to have forgotten to list any telephone numbers for facilities related issues. GIT!

Right, rant over, Christmas Day ........

....... it is likley to be a quiet one as TP is recovering from a dose of Swine Flue that he picked up whilst away at his Grandma's and 30% is none too bright having been working very long hours recently. I appear to be the only one in full health but I seem to have a strange ringing in my ears all the time ......

We are visiting 30%'s parents for Dinner this evening so have much the day to relax and exchange gifts and have snoozes in front of the fire.

I took T&M for a walk in the morning and the weather was amazing. There had been a haw frost overnight and as I walked huge icy flakes fell from the trees against the clear blue sky. It was quite surreal as it seemed like snow was falling from a cloudless sky.


Snow & Ice

Slippery & Steep

Friday, 24 December 2010

It's still chilly

The cold snap continues .... Ambridge

Willow in the snow

Ice & Ivy

Setting Sun


What do you want?

Its Traditional ....

This morning I carried out my annual survey of the profit margin on a non-drop Chrstmas Tree.

This seasonal experiment involves visiting the local Garden Centre as late as possible during advent and seeing how much discount I am offered to take the best tree he has. I now have a fantastic 5'6" spruce waiting to be put in to a stand and decorated.....

..... and the discount, well lets say that £20 magically disappeared from the price ticket just before I left a snowy car park totally devoid of other cars.

The tree will be decorated after Dinner this evening as we settle in after the Carol Service on the Village Green. It is a superb event and is very well organised. A local Brass Band will provide the music and song sheets are distributed. There is a PA set up so that the outdoor service can be heard and quite a crowd gather under the Christmas Tree on the Green. I'm no believer but I can vouch for it being a lovely way to celebrate Christmas Eve. I must admit that, at lunch time, I am assuming it will still be held and has not been canceled due to the snow.

To anyone reading this I hope the holiday period goes the way you want it to .......


..... Seasons Greetings - a Bad Man

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Potato, at rest

Out of the way of those bloody dogs !

B'Day

No, not a reference to an item of sanitary ware, but the abbreviation I use for birthday.

Today it is mine. Just in case there is a slim chance that someone might actually send best wishes or anniversary greetings I should point out that although today is anniversary of the day of my birth it is not actually the date that I celebrate it.

Why? You may ask and I will tell you. The 23rd of December is probably one of the worst days on the planet to celebrate a birthday and before anyone goes with the obvious " you only get one present, a combined Christmas and Birthday" I'll put that to bed straight away .........

........ I don't mind that at all.

The reason I dislike having my Birthday so close to Christmas is that it is somewhat overshadowed by one of the major Religious Festivals in the Christian Calendar.To be honest everyone is pretty much focussed on the big day as would be expected and there tends to be a bit of "Oh and then there's YOUR birthday as well..... " to it.

I have to be fair here and say that, in previous years, 30% was absolutely brilliant and took great efforts to make the day special but Christmas can be an intense time of year anyway, what with having the finish off ones work tasks, shopping, wrapping, decorating and giving, so to have some spoiled prat that needs a special day too just adds to the potential burden.

I had always thought about moving my birthday to another point in the year, perhaps to when the weather is more clement but how does one decide on which day? Does one simply push it out by six months or perhaps go with something more complicated and have a mobile date that coincides with one of the warmer bank holidays so that you have a warm three day weekend to celebrate your anniversary*.

You see, it is complicated and for a few years I pondered but did nothing. Then back in 2008 I had something that some people regard as a life changing event. I had a totally unexpected, some would say fluke, life threatening medical condition. I was lucky and survived and after a few months was able to return to a normal life. That event happened on 23rd March and it seemed to be an ideal point to shift my Birthday to.

So what will today hold for me? I will get a couple of cards and a few best wishes and greeting but no presents, no outings, no birthday feasts. All of that can wait for 3 months until the days are getting longer and the weather is getting warmer.

I know that there are other crappy days to celebrate ones birthday. One of my best friends has hers on 30th December, a week from now, She and I regularly have the same discussion - try inviting your friends out for a drink and you find a reluctance as they are really preparing for the following evenings to herald in either Christmas or the New Year. I'm guessing that Christmas day, New Years Day, Boxing day and 2nd January can all be a bit rough too.

So, if like me, you have a birthday around this time of year and don't really enjoy it, go on - shift it to a point in the year that suits you - after all It is YOUR BIRTHDAY and you can do with it what you want.

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* and one that absolutely no one else can remember. Can you tell me when Easter is next year? No, neither can I.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Word of the Day ...

Micicle 

(mice - ickle) Noun. A frozen water and rodent based dessert snack. These are usually made by stunning a small rodent and then hanging it by its tail under a dripping faucet on a very cold night. The resulting frozen dessert is eaten using the now solid tail as a handle and is now enjoyed all over the world.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

on / off

Having been full on and, on occasions, even more so for the past couple of months it is very strange to have a quiet day.

I still have things to do but my total call duration today was 30 minutes rather than 3 or more hours which has been usual each day in previous weeks. The e-mail arrivals have plummeted and I am able to relax a little. The problem is that I can't just wander away and do something else as I may be needed for a last minute enquiry or  5 minute call to settle some point or other. So having been used to moving at a fair rate of knots for hours on end the need to sit at a laptop sedately for a fairly standard working day is somewhat tedious....

..... Yes, I know, I shouldn't look a gift horse in the proverbials.

I had another lovely walk this afternoon and the quieter working day meant that there was no rush to be back by a specific time. The skies were grey and we are forecast further snow today but there were no flurries and all three of us enjoyed the fresh air and the increased daylight reflected from the snow covered fields and paths.

30% has been working from home these past couple of days and has been far busier than I. She was going stir crazy so this evening, after lighting the log burner and de-icing the Defender, we took a trip in to the supermarket to pick up a few odds and ends including a replacement phone for the one T&M destroyed a couple of weeks back.

Tescos was quite bizarre and had an almost post-apocalyptic feel to it with people trudging in with pained and wearied expressions tinged with a hint of "I've Survived the Arctic Holocaust" in their eyes. Their mode of dress added to the scene and they were filling trollies like crazy, stocking up for Christmas combined with fear of further snow.

30% and I are pretty relaxed about this and take the view that. unlike twenty or thirty years ago, Christmas is only a single day and the stores are open from Boxing Day onwards. Why panic and buy 4 tons of food and drink when, if you run short, your nearest store is open from 10 am on 26th December.

We actually take a different approach and keep plenty of supplies at home. We both work and there are occasions when we just can't be arsed to run in to the supermarket. So we have three freezer rammed to the gills, a very healthy store cupboard and a wine cellar so can avoid a trip to Tescos for a good while  if the need be.

So, that was my day; work, walk and the supermarket and an evening with a glass of Rioja in front of the fire.

An enjoyable lull before the Christmas chaos hits

Monday, 20 December 2010

Monday Review

No, not a gig or stand up session, today was the penultimate review* of my project before it can be released and combined with two others to form the programme in its entirety.

This meant that I as a "New Kid" had to dial in to a call and present to an anonymous executive and my line manager for an hour about a project of a type that I had absolutely zero experience of up until about 8 weeks ago. To say that I was shitting myself this morning was somewhat of an understatement. Fortunately my "Buddy" agreed to join the call in case it got a bit sticky.

I was nervous but I got through it and my work can be released on a conditional basis. My Buddy kept pretty quiet throughout the call only pitching in on a couple of occasions to keep things heading in the right direction. At the end I felt immense relief tinged with trepidation that, all being well, I will have to go through this again but in much greater detail at some point in the Spring.

The past few months have been quite an experience after 4 years in a role where I had become comfortable and very experienced. I am now in new pastures and the challenges are daunting. I have an immense amount to learn and am constantly out of my comfort zone as I dig out my pitons, crampons and ice axe and address the learning curve. Am I enjoying it ? ......

..... Hmmm! Tricky one that. If you ask me during each ascent I will give you a resounding "No" but at the end of each day after I have had time to savour the tiny accomplishments I will give a grudging nod and a quiet thanks to the army of people that support and assist through this climb.

I am hoping that the rest of the week will be calmer and let me have a degree of wind down before the Christmas break.

Outside of work we again experienced an extremely cold night. It dropped to minus 18 celcius down the road in Pershore last night and we had a water pipe freeze cutting off hot water to one of the bathrooms and the downstairs loo for a few hours. After bumping up the heating and adding a little extra from a portable unit we soon got things moving again and decided that perhaps we should leave the central heating on overnight during this cold spell.

I took T&M for a walk this afternoon and took delight in the solitude and quiet of the three miler. The snow means that there was no traffic and I was able to let the dogs off for most of the walk. I walked though a steady fall of snow for  an hour and enjoyed every minute away from a laptop and phone. It is still snowing this evening as I type this entry and we are already wondering whether TP will make it back from his Grandma's before Christmas.

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* The final one is not one I have to host. I just have to turn up,listen and hopefully not say much :-)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Stocking Up ...

No its not a reference to the practice of hanging lingerie from the mantel in the hope of Christmas gifts.

30% and I took advantage of a Sunday without Rugby and spent a good few hours in the Kitchen doing some bulk cooking. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a few staples that freeze well and provide a home cooked meal at the end of a busy working day.

We started off with a couple of gammon hocks and a kilo of split peas that had been soaked overnight and after a mammoth veg prep session and a three hour simmer we have about 7 litres of Pea & Ham Soup that makes a great lunch with some crusty bread. In case you are wondering what cooking vessel I use for a gallon and a half of soup ....

..... its not only Jam that you can make in a Jam kettle.

Once that was simmering we knocked up some home made faggots with a shoulder of pork and some liver that had been sat in one of the freezers. We had about 3 kilos of meat and liver and ended up with somewhere in the region of 50 faggots that have been pre-cooked and frozen in their own gravy. They are a lovely blast from the past with mash and peas for supper on a cold winter evening. All of the roasting tins were put to use and both ovens were running for a couple of hours to get that lot cooked.

By the time we had finished that it was lunch time and soon after we saw TP off to his Grandma's as his Mum had decided to drive down South today*

30% and I then took T&M out for a walk. It was beautiful out, very cold, but lovely. Earlier today I had caught the overnight forecast and we were one of the coldest places in the Country as the Pershore Weather Station recorded an overnight low of - 19 celcius.

T&M go crazy in the snow and ended up coming home absolutely covered with icy lumps where it has accumulated on their coats. We had to dip their legs in warm water to remove the ice and then let them dry in the hall before they were allowed further in to the house. Fortunately the hall has stone flags and the resulting water was soon mopped up.


Cold Feet!

Just below St Peter's

T&M at play
 Once they were damp rather than sopping and settled with a bone each from the gammon hocks, I put the final dish of the day on. We were going to need some freezer space and the pigs head and trotters just had to go so another batch of brawn was kicked off.

Somewhere amongst all this I got the Log Burner fired up and I will be collapsing on front of it alongside Eddy just as soon as I can.
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* He eventually arrived about 5 hours later having had to have a tow at one point when she skidded on a roundabout. The normal journey time from here would be 2.5 - 3 hours in normal conditions.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

A bit of an adventure

The general advice to day for motorists was to only travel if absolutely necessary.

What the fuck does that mean?

For some people that is "I must get down to A&E as I seem to have taken off my hand at the wrist with a chainsaw". For others it is "I absolutely must get my sister those fluffy pink ear muffs to go with the array of presents I have already been accumulating since the end of September".

Do you see what I mean? Some peoples definition of absolutely necessary is well off the mark. For example my ex-wife decided that a 140 mile journey in a rear wheel drive BMW was absolutely necessary. Actually that is not true - I don't think she actually considered the weather forecast at all. In fact if she actually engaged her brain this morning before piling her two kids in to a BMW and heading towards heavy snow for at least 50% of her journey I'd be amazed. The plan was that she would pick up TP in Stratford and head down to her mother's in SW London. I called her "en route" and from the conversation it was apparent that she had used none of the information sources available to her to determine what the weather was likely to be on the way down and was travelling with two young children on the basis of a discussion with her aged mother and alcoholic brother the previous evening.

My "on the ground" advice that the snow was falling fast and settling on the roads did not seem to persuade her that she ought to reconsider and the suggestion that she might want to check the BBC and Highways Agency websites fell on deaf ears. It was only when I point blank refused to deliver TP to her that she decided to abandon her trip and return to her home. We have had the best part of 8" of snow today and driving is treacherous. I checked the route that TP's mum proposed to drive with TP and her 5 and 7 year old and noted that at least one section had reported 4 to 5 hours delays and described the M40 as a car park.

Would you want to do that if you didn't have to? I certainly wouldn't.

The net result is that TP's mum is safe at home with her two kids and husband and is considering travelling tomorrow after checking the travel conditions. She could have spent a fascinating time with them stuck in a car on a snowy motorway because she decided that disappointing the kids and her mum meant that travel was absolutely necessary.

Now I'm just as bad in my own way as I decided that I needed to travel 12 miles to do a bit of Christmas shopping but I did take precautions. I did chuck a spade in the back of the car and the car of choice was the Defender. She is designed to go up a mountain via the shorter bumpier routes so 12 miles of snowy A roads weren't really going to be a problem and they weren't.

What were the problems were the idiots in 2 wheel drive cars that decided that they needed to go shopping too. There are a few steep hills between home and Stratford on Avon and on the way home every single one of them was blocked by someone in a 2 wheel drive car sat skewed across the middle of the road half way up.

I took several detours on the way home and in the end my tactic was to use the most snowy B roads as they were least used, most snow covered and least likely to be blocked by abandoned cars. We got home without incident but it took the best part of an hour rather that the normal 20 to 30 minutes.

The point I am trying to make here is that there is no definition of "absolutely necessary" and that will never dissuade an idiot from driving in deep snow. However, here's a thought, it might be possible to prohibit two wheel drive or rear wheel drive cars from blocking up roads if they are snow covered and only permitting 4 wheel drives and essential vehicles when the roads are deep and crisp and even.

It is treacherous out here at the moment and I am not kidding when I say that I saw an ambulance out with its flashing blues on and it was being towed by a tractor. We passed it and saw that it had just been pulled up a hill that had a fuck wit sat half way up in a two wheel drive car. I hope it made it to wherever it was going and that it's unfortunate passenger was OK.

If you are going out at the moment drive an appropriate vehicle or stay at home. It's no fun sleeping in a snow bound car - they aren't well insulated. Stay at home or get a vehicle you know has the capability of getting you to your destination.

Friday, 17 December 2010

It's Panto Time .....

Oh no it isn't

Oh yes it is ......

This is now getting ridiculous. The long awaited approval came though this morning from one of the Execs. The problem child was carbon copied on the communication. I have now been told that I still need the problem child's tick in the box. It should be noted that the two of them work as a partnership so are we going to see a good versus evil battle on stage?

To be honest I'd prefer Jack & The Beanstalk

Thursday, 16 December 2010

A watched pot ..

Today has been a hiatus as I waited for the approval that was implied on yesterday's call.

It hasn't arrived and so, tomorrow, we have another potential train wreck of a call with the Problem Child.

I have used the time to clear the decks and take the dogs for a decent walk.

My Dad turned up for a coffee and for the first time in a few weeks we had the chance to chat and laugh. His hot topics were that Tilly had been clipped a couple of weeks back and had been spayed at the beginning of the week. He absolutely adores her and it is a delight to see a really soft side of him come out when he talks about her. She has had the same effect on Step-mum Sue too.

Other news included a visit to elder sister's to pick up a lamb carcass and to meet younger sister's new man. He shares the same name as a cat we had when younger sister was a child and in true Bad Man Senior form his opening line was "You look nothing like Colin the old cat". In fact he would have probably pronounced it cyat (keeyat) if he delivered it in the local dialect.

He was happy with the lamb but not impressed that the dog was admonished for jumping on to the Sofa to reach his lap.

It is elder sister's 50th Birthday early in the New Year and she is having a Grand Do at a local Stately Home. It is Evening Dress and Pater is already muttering that he is too old for this lark.

Not a lot else to say really. It has started to turn cold and after the rain this afternoon we have had a few flakes of snow this evening. I have lit the fire and Potato and Eddy are already installed in front of it. I plan to do the same quite shortly.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Phew!

11 hours stuck in front of a laptop, with a phone glued to my ear, typing one handed in to an instant messaging application.

At least this time we moved forward. We have had a reasonably successful review call and hopefully we can move forward to the next "gate". The main issue has been related to a Reviewer that wants to address points that are outside their remit and are outside the scope of what we are trying to achieve.

Fortunately we had another Exec on the call today and due to an over run the Problem Exec had to leave before the end. The net result is the view that we have included what would be expected for the scope of our project - A tentative thumbs up.

I'm not being Bitchy - actually I am - but I got a bit concerned when the Problem Child stated that they thought CH* was an abbreviation for the Channel Islands rather than Switzerland. For God's Sake! They work for an International Company but don't know the standard abbreviation for Switzerland. Is it me?

After three tiresome and expensive meetings, where the Reviewer threw the proverbial toys each time, I got the feeling that they might be either very busy or a bit thick and were using aggression instead of trying to actually understand the answers we were providing.

Anyway, we now hopefully have progressed and all is well.

I therefore managed to step outside the house for a walk with 30% and T&M albeit after dark. 30% had purchased reflective coats for T&M so they looked like a road repair crew on acid as the cavorted across the fields in the dark for the first time in 48 hours - I actually knew how they felt and reveled in being outside and away from work.
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* For anyone interested it is an acronym of Canton Helvetica.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Arghh!

14 hours sat in front of a laptop with a phone glued to my ear whilst typing one handed on Instant Messaging software as I experienced the changing of goal posts.........

........ Unfortunately I wasn't watching Groundsmen Live on the BBC iPlayer and excitedly telling all of my mates about it.

The only similarity to Groundsmen Live was the lack of Supporters

Monday, 13 December 2010

Christmas Party

After a day of chasing around for numbers that didn't exist and getting absolutely nowhere the last thing I needed was the dog training Christmas Party with games and prizes galore .........

....... That just goes to show how much I know.

It was exactly what I needed, something completely different with people who don't know or care what I do. It was exactly the "corridor" to take me from my working day to my evening. TP and Tyson won the egg and spoon race and I managed to forget about crap for a while - RESULT.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Big Match

TP's Rugby team were playing against TP's old club today.

We had moved to TP's current club after 5 seasons. The reason for the move, one of the Coaches behaviour was, shall we say "erratic" and after a few ranting sessions and some bizarre decisions I decided to approach him. His response was that if I had a problem I should put it writing*. I did. I also kept reminding the club when they seemed a little slow in progressing my complaint. A long 5 months later it appears that my complaint was upheld as I was advised that the Coach would no longer be Coaching and is now just a Dad.

After that it was never really the same and the fact that they didn't appear to have a full squad  was the final straw so we moved to TP's new club. They are not the strongest team but they have a great ethos and a committed squad. If they can find a bit more aggression they will become a great team.

So, the match. It was a cold and foggy day down by the river - it was an away match - and the home side had managed to pull together a team - JUST - 15 plus a single sub. It was a bit of a grudge match and, from what I saw through the murk, it was pretty evenly matched except for the fact that TP's team seemed unwilling to pick the damned ball up and run with it. Their defense was great but they simply seemed to lack the aggression to get hold of the ball and keep it.

Final Result 25:7. At least they scored!

Am I sorry TP swapped clubs? The answer is a definite no, even in defeat still no. Furthermore it was TPs decision where he played. We asked him how he felt after today's game and whether he regretted moving on.Again, a definite no. He enjoys the structure and discipline at the new club and hopefully they will gel and get the win they really deserve.
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* Much of my "day job" is writing forceful arguments and justifications so if he thought that was going to put me off he was sadly mistaken.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Shopping

High Spot for 30% - I didn't moan and did actually find something I wanted that could be classed as a potential gift

High Spot for me - I found a Gruffalo Glove Puppet* which kept me entertained for 10 minutes

* This wasn't the "suitable gift"

Friday, 10 December 2010

I'm gonna blog.....

... while you two watch Eastenders. I don't know what I'm going to blog but I'm going to blog.

That pretty much sums up my mental state. I have finished work for the day - note day, not week, - and am now on the outside of a Chinese Takeaway and a large Gin and Tonic.

Today has had highs and lows. I suppose I really need to describe what I am up to for any of this to make any sense. My project needs to go through a series of reviews or gates before I can complete it and pass it on to the next team. Each individual component needs to be reviewed by experts and then the whole project needs to be reviewed from a design and quality perspective and then there are the financials ..............

........... by now anyone reading this will have hit the "back" button or chewed off their own arm for light relief. Basically I have a load of ball-breaking reviews to get through. Some have gone really well but the last one was a bit of a traffic accident! To be fair the reviewer had a valid point and it needs to be addressed but her approach killed the review in its tracks and we lost the opportunity to cover the rest of her material due to her "I'm not going any further" approach. It was a little rich as she then acknowledged that she hadn't given the project the support it needed and commented on the unfairness of introducing a new approach a couple of days before the call.

Fuck it - its Friday - I've done what I can so can hit the weekend with a clear conscience. I've fired off a couple of mails, set up a call for Monday, spoken to my Exec and 2nd Line Manger and am forgetting about this nonsense for 24 hours at least.
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Today the weather has warmed slightly and the haw frost has disappeared. The ground is still hard but there has been a slight thaw. Its a shame. I love the cold frosty weather, the high pressure that gives beautiful clear, blue winter skies and the frost transforms the world from Autumnal drab to Winter sparkle. The forecast suggest that it will be back by the beginning of next week, so fingers crossed.

Plans for the weekend; Shopping tomorrow and if the ground is soft enough TP will play against his old club at Rugby on Sunday. I have, of course, Parented in the appropriate fashion and told him to show no mercy against his old team mates. 

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Playing Dirty

This morning I was somewhat jaded after the review yesterday but my spirits were lifted after a discussion with my Buddy.

As I am the "new guy"* on the team, he is there to mentor me and make sure that I am not too far behind the curve on this current project. He had a look at the outputs from yesterdays review and decided that things were in good shape.

He also confirmed my suspicions about a couple of reviewers that were taking a rather limited view of their scope and Geographic responsibilities. Being a straightforward sort of chap I took a head on approach and got a definite "No" when I asked them if they were going to coordinate the inputs from other reviewers in their area of responsibility.

This was not a good situation meaning that I needed to do my day job and have 3 or more reviews** instead of one. I therefore decided that we should all discuss this with my Exec and find a "way forward" - RESULT ! - suddenly everyone is a lot more compliant and has far more encompassing view of what they need to do.

I don't like being given the run around by Teflon shouldered Old Lags because I am new to the job. I have been around the block and have a few tricks up my sleeve too. I used one of them today. As a Learner I don't have the time to put up with Posturing and Bluster. If my Reviewers are adding value I'm more than willing to take it on board. If they are just in the game to justify their existence or have an easy time on the run up to Christmas .... well that is a different matter.

Today's high point was on a call with a few Lawyers where my project and my understanding of the law stood up to their scrutiny - Bloody Hell - I might actually survive this :-)
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* more accurately "old, new guy" as in plenty of years on the planet, only a few weeks in the job
** and the huge amount of crap each one would generate

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Wednesday Review

I spent all day in a review of my project and it went as well as I expected. It got a thorough going over and got plenty of constructive comments. It is unfortunate that, at times, the Reviewers thought I had to deliver a final product when in fact my output is most definitely a draft. I have therefore taken the previous draft, improved it, and received acknowledgment that it has been refined but still feel that I am likely to get a worse assessment that the previous round - puzzled!

This didn't put me in the best frame of mind for the evening when we went to see Tim Minchin in Birmingham where he was backed by a full orchestra. I first came across this Australian .....

..... I was going to type comedian but that hardly does him justice. Performance Artist is probably better in view of his undoubted musical talent.....

I first came across him about 18 months ago via a You Tube clip and we went to see him, at that time, in Warwick to see what he was like. He is an amazing talent and his songs are delivered beautifully but have  the most peculiar and funny lyrics.

Last nigh his repertoire included the love song for his wife; " If I hadn't found you it would have been somebody else" where he covers the statistical probability of finding another soul mate and the classic ode to racism Only a Ginger can call another Ginger "Ginger". I must admit that one of my favourites last night was his tirade at the Pope about the Catholic Church's covering up of child abuse entitled "Fuck You Motherfucker"

 Go see him - he's Brilliant - unless you are a staunch Catholic who doesn't like to see the Holy See given a thorough drubbing - in which case stay in.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Impending Doom?

Tomorrow is a big day for the Project I am currently working on. An all day review will consider the design and the quality of my team's work and will ensure that the numbers are the right order of magnitude to take it on and run with it.

As a consequence I have been pulling materials together, organising rooms and equipment whilst still trying to assemble my deliverable. It is very much like struggling in to one's Dinner Suit whilst travelling to the Venue and having the Tailor along to make some last minute alterations to the cut and leg length.

I'm expecting a mauling tomorrow - if I look at things like that; glass half empty, with a drowned fly floating in it, then anything less than crucifixion will seem like a blessing.

Whilst this is the main focus of the week I still have many other threads to pick up and progress so my day was a procession of calls, meetings and it was a struggle to find an hour to get lunch and travel in to the nearest circle of Hell for this afternoon's calls and face to face meetings.


As a result today's walk was very early in the day and the weather was amazing. It was absolutely freezing but the sky was clear and blue and like yesterday everything was covered with a blanket of ice crystals. At one point I brushed against a tree and for a full half minute a shower of icy dust fell to the ground. The noise was amazing, a hushed whispering as the crystals fell amongst the undergrowth.


Monday, 6 December 2010

Its cold out.

Freezing fog has blanketed the village all day and made my lunchtime walk an unusual experience.

My horizon was, at best, 75 yards and on higher ground anything more than 50 yards away was shrouded. It also had a deadening effect on sound as well as restricting vision so it really was just me and the dogs as we wandered round the Three Miler.

Every surface was a delight of ice crystals. every plant wearing a coat of fragile white needles, some nearly half an inch in length. All the recent snow may have gone but the ice and fog gave another, perhaps rarer, winter perspective.

I noticed that T&M had started to develop frosty bibs as their breath condensed and fine crystal webs started to form on their coats as we walked.


It was a delight to be out and away from my desk for an hour savouring the novel perspective the fog and cold brought.
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Other Stuff:

Tonight we are off to see Rich Hall at the Artrix in Bromsgrove. Generally dry and cynical - he is one of my favourite Stand Up Acts. He also has moments of lunacy and I was lucky to see his alter ego Otis Lee Crenshaw perform a few years back in Birmingham. For some reason Rich is regular player at the Artrix which is surprising as it is tiny and certainly off the beaten track in terms of comedy venues.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Calm before the storm

Sunday started at around 9 o'clock when I called TP from his pit as he need to be up ready for Rugby Practice. His team have a match next weekend against his old club. It will be a close run thing and it would be nice for his new team to win as they did when they last played each other.

While TP trained, 30% and I took T&M for a long walk along the footpath that runs over the fields behind the pitches. It is a lovely route and it was at its finest under clear blue skies and crisp underfoot due to the overnight frost.

The afternoon saw TP and 30% nip in to one of the local towns for a spot of Christmas Shopping while I spent a couple of hours crunching some numbers and summarising them for a presentation later in the week.....

.... the observant of you may have noticed that I have just used the "C word" in my blog. Yes, Christmas - its on its way. For several weeks now I have managed to turn a blind eye to it. Working from home means that the October kick off of the retain extravaganza has escaped me and the new role has occupied so much of my time that I have given little thought to the upcoming festivities.

I'm not a great fan of Christmas and I think its probably best if I leave it there.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Motorcyle Live 2010

Today TP and I took ourselves up the road to the NEC for the Bike Show.

It is a good few years since I have been but it's a pretty formulaic Trade Show so no real surprises; hordes of tattooed Back Street Heroes readers interspersed with nylon clad acne ridden Scooter Boys.

You need to remember that I am not really a "people person" so walking round an exhibition hall filled with dawdling fools was somewhat frustrating as I really wanted to see the show just not the General Public that tend to clutter these occasions.

The day was good and I got to try a few machines for size. I know I have a couple of bikes already but there is always space in the garage for another should a bargain arise. I have to admit that I am not wholly convinced by the styling of many modern machines.

MV Agusta F4 - Styling I could definitely live with
MV Agusta detail
 There seem to be two approaches at the moment; something from the set of Judge Dredd or new models that have taken their design cues from 30 years ago.

One of these is the Suzuki Vanvan 125 which was a real blast from the past since it looked like the TS models from the late 1970s on steroids. I know it is a "learner" bike and not really indicative but it caught my eye due to it's similarity to the bikes me and my mates rode back in the early 80's when we first took to the road on a Provisional Licence that allowed you to ride anything up to 250cc without passing a test first. Back then I had a blue Suzuki TS185 that I worked, scrimped and saved to buy brand new just after my 17th Birthday. I still remember the registration some 30 years later; BUY 100W.

Dragging myself back from memory lane, there were obviously the models from the "Traditional" Manufacturers like Harley Davidson and Royal Enfield that market their bikes with a strong sense of nostalgia or Heritage as I think they prefer to call it. Don't get me wrong they are quite eye catching and I'm not so Sports Bike biased to dismiss them out of hand. I love Sports Bikes but anything is better than nothing and I am perfectly willing to accept that pootling along on an Enfield or throbbing nosily along on a Harley is far far better than standing on the side of the road dismissing them as outdated or poor performers.


Royal Enfield detail

For the days when you think you're Steve McQueen perhaps?

 TP and I obviously took a few minutes to visit the Chapel and genuflected at the Altar before immersing ourselves with the icons on display.

Let Us Prey - no its not a typo


There were obviously Trade Stands aplenty and I did treat myself to a new pair of Sidi's as My Alpinestars are  showing their age. I'm not sure they were such a great bargain when I take in to account the ticket price, car parking and the crappy expensive fare that is part of the NEC Experience but all in all I had a pretty good day and it was nice just to wander taking it all in.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Winding Down

The fire is lit. My in-box is at manageable proportions. I have no-one shouting at me. I have finished work for today. I would like to say for the week but I will need to knock up a PowerPoint slide or two at some point over the weekend.

This week has been productive but it has become apparent that some of my colleagues have been further behind the curve than me. This is worrying since I am the "old new Guy" whilst they have been hanging out on these streets for a good while. I am therefore concerned that only now are they having the scrap about who has the authority to do what.

Storm in a teacup perhaps but we are talking about grumblings from all over Europe and even further beyond too.

If they decide to be difficult they could cause delays and create a lot of extra work in the weeks before Christmas. Lets hope that they have a dose of common sense over the weekend and come back to the table with a little less posturing on Monday.

It is still very cold here but we have missed the snow that has covered the North and South. We have an inch at best and TP is disappointed that School is open and there are no sledging opportunities at present.

I'll bet that Village Idiot is miffed too, as he took delight in telling us how he wandered around the bottom of the most popular Pistes here in the village and accumulated a couple of quid in loose change spilled from the kids pockets when we had major snow falls in January.....

.....  Yes - he does have too much time on his hands.

Plans for the weekend - all a bit loose really - TP and I plan to go to the NEC Bike Show (Motorcycle Live 2010) tomorrow. It may be rugby on Sunday but only if we have a good thaw.
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Word of the Day - "RATSUMA" - a small orange rodent, easily peeled and often eaten at Christmas*

* They used to be put in Childrens' Stockings but they tended to chew their way out. Also the Men who put Ferrets down their trousers managed to get this practice halted on the grounds of copyright infringement. Tenuous - but true

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Marauder's Bumper Book of Crimes. No 4 in an occasional series ...

Today I practiced my splicing and soldering of cables.

Marauder decided to chew through the 'phone cable* mid way through a Conference Call with my Exec!

The 'phone still works and my Exec just laughed.
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* it now sports a nasty bulge which is wrapped in red insulating tape

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Grim Day


Sell-by Date, better know as Ollie, 
Classical Joker if we were going to be really formal.
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September 1997 - 1st December 2010

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Nothing to see here

Today I had to go in to my nearest Circle of Hell in order to do some tormenting rather than be tormented.

This was a novel situation for me and it took me until this evening to realise that I was crapping on someone else rather than being crapped upon. To be fair and slightly more realistic I was handing over a project to the Team that will take it though the next phases and consequently they have the problems to solve rather than the situation I am normally more used to where people give their problems to me.

The "crapee" was a delight to talk to and had obviously been around the block a few times. He fully understood the situation and was comfortable with taking this forward. He was more than pleased with the numbers he had to play with and seemed confident of minimal problems.

The rest of the day was spent playing with numbers and herding cats. It wasn't fun but it was reasonably productive.

I came home in the early afternoon but only because that is the best point to break the day. My US colleagues come on line in the early afternoon and if I don't get home then then I can be trapped in the office until God knows when.

Didn't even get a walk today - will make amends tomorrow.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Quote of the day ...


30%                 Oh that’s lovely, you’ve lit a fire!

Badman           Yes, Marauder was looking chilly this
                       afternoon

30%                 *@@***  &**@@*%

Badman           Ouch

Sunday, 28 November 2010

An unexpected morning

The hard overnight frost meant that the Rugby match was cancelled and the ground was too hard for training too.

As a result TP got a lie-in and when he finally crawled out of bed we made a batch of Black Pudding Sausages. These are a real delight. The recipe couldn't be simpler; equal quantities of finely minced pork and black pudding with white pepper, mustard powder and salt. A good glug of water to moisten and after several minutes of mixing and massaging we stuffed them in to hog casings.

Black Pudding Sausages

The net result was 7 lb of fresh bangers.

After lunch 30%, TP and I took Tyson and Marauder for a walk over towards the reservoir. It has been a good while since we have been out that way but the views are beautiful and the frosty landscape would only add to the experience.

The reservoir is not the key point of the walk. It is an underground reservoir for the village and consequently only a minor landmark on the way home. The main feature of the walk is the footpath along the ridge that looks out towards The Malvern Hills. It is an incredible view and the frosty setting sun made it worth the cold.




Towards The Malverns
 Back from the walk I'm now sat in front of the fire and don't intend to stray far from it as the Weather Reporter announces overnight lows of -3 Celsius.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Quite the Social Animal

Saturday morning started with a quick run over to the Feed Merchant for half a dozen bags of layers pellets and a bale of wood shavings. There is a tad of irony in the previous statement as the hens haven't laid an egg since they went in to the moult in late September and now the days are short and cold we stand little chance of eggs until the spring.

After reeling over the price of chicken food - it is not only bread that goes up due to global wheat demand - I made a mental note that I really ought to weed out the aged hens that no longer lay.

My Dad and Step Mum came over with their puppy for a lazy lunch and we had a great time catching up with each other's gossip whilst Tyson, Marauder and Tilly charged around our feet.

There was more socialising as we had agreed to join up with a couple in the village to make a team for the dog training club's Christmas Quiz evening. The couple - let's call them Anthony and Cleopatra - attend a different training session to TP and I but Anthony works with 30% and that is how we all know each other.

The evening was a fund raiser for the club which is going through an extraordinary surge in popularity and demand at the moment. To be honest I was cynically expecting a bit of a damp squib but it was really well attended. There was a splendid buffet and we had taken plenty of wine to help it down.

The quiz was really well arranged and, to top it off, our team won with a reasonable margin.


As I write this I am sat in the lounge and 80% of the family's pets are worshipping at the alter of the Log Burner that has been in constant use since Friday in response to the cold snap. We have only had a couple of millimeters of snow but, as my Dad would say, "an 'ard frost".

Friday, 26 November 2010

Its all in the name

This evening I had just settled down for a coffee and a quick chat with 30% before we thought about getting dinner. I had barely started when the phone rang. It was a local Farmer who had Village Idiot in her sitting room - poor woman.

She had just had a steer killed and butchered and VI reminder her that I was likely to be in the market for a few cuts, hence the call. I nipped up the road and returned a while later. The haul included a sirloin and a fillet joint that I sliced in to steaks and three massive rump steaks that I sub-divided before placing in the freezer. Her beef is absolutely superb. It is local, grass fed and she hangs the fore and hind quarters for different lengths of time to ensure that the beef is as tender as possible. Apparently the rear end of this one had been suspended for the best part of 4 weeks. It looked superb. The meat was dark and well marbled with a good jacket of fat to ensure succulence.

Well done to VI for thinking of us.

Now ..... the name .... I have recently encountered an American colleague who has been christened with a forename that is identical to his surname. I kid you not, this individual carries the moniker Davis L Davis. I have obviously anonymised this chap but I am sure you get the idea.

Now I have had to introduce Davis to a few colleagues and one wag referred to him as Davis2 in an e-mail.  Now this tickled me and I smiled - its not been a funny week.... and that should have been it. A one liner in an email that made me grin and its all over .....

..... but no. As I wandered round the three miler at lunchtime I pondered this joke and realised that whilst it may be algebraically correct it is not all the way there. Pay attention and I will explain.

The chap's name is Davis L Davis. I personally feel that this is most accurately expressed algebraically as 2(Davis) + L.

It is possible that 2(Davis) = Davis but only if Davis = the square root of 2. For all other values of Davis, which is an unknown, only 2(Davis) expresses it accurately if one is tasked with simplifying Mr D L Davis' name.

For example, if Davis = 2 then Davis2 = Davis + Davis + Davis + Davis or, if simplified, 4(Davis).  We already know that Davis L Davis is the chap's name and we only have 2 instances of Davis in the expression. All we then need to do is take care of the L and we have simplified the name as an algebraic expression as far as is possible. 

so 2(Davis) + L it is

I know that people will say that I should get out more but on this occasion that was the problem.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Where did it go?

It is Thursday evening. I have just got back from a presentation about TP's skiing trip next February and I am wondering where the hell the week has gone.

I have had one of those work rammed weeks which has flown by.......

..... Fortunately I have got loads of things started......

..... unfortunately they have not yet been finished. I'm guessing I will have a few more weeks like this before Christmas.

Apparently I appear to have volunteered for a 3 day skiing course on the Dry Slope down near Gloucester. I have never skied before but am quite looking forward to it. The aim was to give TP a bit if a "starter for 10" before his holiday and one of his school friends wanted a refresher. Before I knew it two Dads were going too. It should be fun and apparently a broken leg is no impediment in the job I do.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Every Cloud ......

Local News .....

.... Village Idiot popped in last night and I nearly said it was nice to see him. He was looking well and was his usual self; Rambling, Tangential and Evasiveness perfected to the highest art form. You may have picked up from this that a conversation with VI is never a linear process. It is always, to put it bluntly, "all over the place".

Whilst I was in Boston VI suffered an unfortunate incident. A local dog (a "rescued" Staffordshire Bull Terrier) had attacked one of his sheep. The attack was not fatal but it was necessary to have the sheep slaughtered. Fortunately the owners had been identified and had contacted VI to make amends.

VI was incredibly fair with them. He avoided involving the constabulary and instead settled on a very reasonable fee for the sheep plus the cost of having it euthanised.

Under the UK law it is not possible for this animal to enter the commercial food chain as it requires a Veterinary inspection but this is not necessary for it to be home consumed so VI bled it, skinned it and self butchered it and it is now residing in his freezer.

He muttered that he had always intended to have it for home consumption so he has managed to get paid for the carcass and avoid the abbatoir and butchery fees.

Sheep worrying is no laughing matter and it is up to every dog owner to ensure that their dogs are kept away from flocks. The attack on VI's sheep obviously caused stress and pain and cannot be condoned but from a blunt agricultural perspective at least he was able to have the animal put down promptly and the carcass was not wasted.....

....... as I said, every cloud ......

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Thinking Time

Tuesday was manic, fortunately productive, but manic.

I have a new bunch of cats to herd and luckily they are all going in the same direction at the moment.

I have promised myself that I won't fill the Journal with the trials and tribulations of Dante's Inferno but some days it does tend to dominate. Even though I am busy I have a rule,  occasionally broken, that I take an hour out of my day to walk myself and the dogs - well two of them, the walk would put Sell-by-date in his coffin - poor old bugger.

The walk takes me away from my desk and allows me to clear my head and plan my afternoon. A mental "to do" list gets constructed along with preliminary drafts of a few e-mails. I sometimes wonder whether this is a break or a sophisticated "New Age" Planning Session.

The reason I state this is I enjoy my walk much more when there is no pressure to be back for a 2 o'clock call or some other pressing need. I noticed this a few weeks back when I was having a week's "stay cation" and could walk with no pressure to return and nothing to plan whilst out there.

Don't get me wrong, my walk is always a delight and Tuesday was no exception. The weather was clear and cool and the views from the top of the low hill were great.

A shame to use it as a virtual whiteboard!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Pop Quiz

If well known salad dodger Meatloaf will "do anything for love but wont do that"....

..... what exactly is the "that" that he won't do?

Answers in the comment box below. If its going to be rude make sure it is funny and subtle.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Taxi!

What is it with Cab Drivers?

Now that sounds like the mid point in a bad observational stand-up set - Michael McIntyre perhaps!*

I'm back home and am just about settled in to the normal Sunday routine. Its Rugby practice so 30% and I took T&M for a good walk over the fields behind the Rugby club whilst TP went through two hours of  practice and drills.

After lunch I took on the long over due task of de-scaling the Gaggia. Coffee may be the national drink of Americe but from my research they have yet to learn how to make a decent cup of it. I have spent all week drinking either hot brown water or something that has been stewed for so long that any aroma has been replaced with a vile bitter burnt flavour. "Ah" you might say "what about Starbucks?" "What about them?" is my pithy reply. I'm not a fan and am yet to walk out of there with an Americano that has had a decent double esspresso as its foundation.

So here I am at home going through a de-scale cycle so that I can have a decent cup of coffee tomorrow morning. My coffee of choice is Whittard's Old Brown Java - freshly ground it makes the most superb cup of coffee. The thing about coffee is that it rarely tastes as good as it smells - well OBJ actually does.

I usually buy a load and freeze the beans. They can be ground from frozen so I can always have that fresh ground flavour. I'm no coffee expert but I can heartily recommend Whittards coffee blends if you want a decent cup. Other ones to try include Monsoon Malabar, Cafe Francais, After Dinner Blend and the Italian Espresso blends. I suppose I should point out that these are all at the higher end in terms of strength.

Now, Cab Drivers - I was advised not to hire a car in Boston so all week I have been partaking of the Services of various Boston Cab Companies.

Now I was away on Business and these trips were of sufficient length and frequency to be expensed items. So I dutifully requested a receipt at the end of each trip.......

..... Now here is the issue, why is is that Cab Drivers always want to leave me with a blank receipt plus a few spares "just in case"? Do I look like I am in to embezzlement in a big way? I find it most peculiar that they are of the mind set that I am the sort of person that will submit a crooked taxi receipt and put my job on the line so I can claim a couple of dollars more than I actually paid.

Have they really thought this through? My line manager approves my expenses and I am sure that there is not a different kind of cab with a different kind of cab driver for any journey he takes so when he gets out and asks for a receipt he is also offered a blank one or a few spares too.

So he is aware of this and is going to look bloody closely at any taxi receipts I submit.

The consequence of this is that I have had to spend all week twisting the arm of Cabbies to get them to scrawl a few words on one of the most dodgy and unconvincing documents on the planet.

Now this is the puzzling thing - a Cabbie has to think sequentially otherwise you would never get beyond the first junction on your route and certainly would never get to where you needed to be. So why is it that they haven't sussed that fiddling taxi receipts is not worth the money. They only have to consider the process to see the flaw in their misplaced generosity.

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* If you were there, why were you still there at the mid-point?

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Home again.

You know that light aircraft with the liver, the one that crashed at Birmingham on Friday taking out the landing system antenna.......

..... Guess what, it had a minor impact on my flight back. I was due to fly out of Newark Liberty at around 19.00 ET but the closure of Birmingham meant that we didn't actually leave New York until 00.30 ET today. I had obviously done something to please the Gods of air travel in the recent past as the delay was not too bad.

30% phoned me as I landed in Newark to advise that a mutual friend / colleague was on the same flight so I had some company. Things got even better when the friend - lets call her "B" - bumped in to another colleague on the same flight who had been upgraded to Business Class.
The "pointy" one is the Empire State Building - "sans Gorilla Malheureusement"

The net result of this was that we were "guested" in to the Business Lounge to wait out the 5 hour delay. It could have been much worse.

As promised Continental took off at 00.30 ET and we were the third plane to land at Birmingham after the airport opened a lunchtime. By 1.30 I was in the car and being whizzed home. I know I lost out on my Saturday morning but I know that it could have been Oh so much worse.

This afternoon has been great - I have eaten bacon sandwiches, drank decent coffee and have actually been outside and taken T&M for a good walk.

Its good to be home.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

War Room

Hmmm ! The Journal entries are a little light this week. Before I set off for Boston everyone was telling me how lucky I was and the words "jammy" and "git" were thrown around.

Well the reason that the Journal is on the Thin side is that, so far, my days have been spent in a windowless, airless sauna of a war room planning a strategy for a series of meetings that take place today. The working day starts around eight in the morning and generally runs through to a similar time in the evening.

After 12 hours of that all I really want to do is get back to the hotel, climb out of the suit and sink in to a chair in the bar and have a late supper and a G&T.

OK, I know its just talking and being hotel based means that I don't have to stack the dishwasher or drive the car or any other domestic duties but as a lifestyle choice it is somewhat constrained. Hotel, cab, office, mall for lunch, office, cab, hotel has a certain symmetry to it but I much prefer the variation of home life.

Everyone tells me that Boston is a lovely city and one day I hope to have enough time here to enjoy it. I had a brief experience of its splendor yesterday evening as I was driven back to my hotel

The route from the office back to the hotel takes me along the bank of the Charles River and on the opposite bank I got to see the Boston Skyline at night. I'm not a fan of cities preferring the natural landscapes but this was truly amazing. Along the banks of the River the buildings are maybe 20 storeys high and behind them is the most splendid range of skyscrapers. All of these were lit up and I mean LIT UP-  not just an occasional light here or there - they were burning power like it was going out of fashion.

It certainly wasn't a "green" view in any sense of the word but it was truly impressive and makes me wish I could have stopped the cab to get a photo.

Today is meetings and tomorrow is a debrief then the flight home. I've not seen anything* that I can sacrifice to the airline Gods as a plea for an upgrade or, at the very least, a spare seat next to mine.
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* That is quite a peculiar experience for someone who lives surrounded by animals to spend a week devoid of their contact.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Pressing the flesh.


Since taking on this new role I have been working closely with a UK based Executive.

I met him today for the first time.

That is remotely based teams for you.

I have traveled over 3,500 miles across the North Atlantic to shake hands with a guy who lives 100 miles from my home

Monday, 15 November 2010

It Lives!

I woke early, breakfasted and wandered up to the reception to book a place on the hotel shuttle bus in to Harvard Square.

Before booking I had examined a few hotel maps which interestingly seemed not to bother with a scale indicator. However a quick recce of the immediate locale seemed to indicate that I could nip in to Radio Shack, pick up an adapter and walk back and then get ready to get in to work for the scheduled meeting at lunchtime.*

I mentioned my plan to the receptionist and she looked at me like I was absolutely nuts. Walk back! WALK BACK. She brought in her colleague who was equally amazed by this proposal. She grudgingly agreed that it might be feasible if it was nice but wasn’t willing to give an estimate of either distance or likely duration.

I pointed out that I was from England and the fact that it wasn’t raining automatically meant that the day was falling in to the “nice” category. She laughed and then ran off to do some photocopying or whatever excuse they use when they need to hit the panic button.

The shuttle ride took 5 minutes and the Kosovan driver agreed that it was an easy walk back. While waiting for Radio Shack to open I wandered in to Staples “on the off chance”. They pointed me in the right direction and 5 minutes later I was walking out of the office supplies shop with the necessary gizmo.

Cambridge, MA

The walk back to the hotel took me 20 minutes. 20 MINUTES. I pondered the receptionist’s incredulity as I wandered in to the foyer and hit the lift elevator button.
Charles River, Cambridge MA

Back in my room I had a Baron Frankenstein moment as I connected the phone to the mains and shouted “IT LIVES”.

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* This is not strictly correct - this is what I hoped would happen. I was actually thinking "they are not going to have one, I will have travelled over 3,500 miles to watch my laptop and phone die on day 1" **
** I am not a pessimist. I am a realist.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The 29 hour Day

I woke moments before the alarm at Horrible o’clock or 5.30 am as it prefers to be called. 30% had stupidly offered to take me up to the airport momentarily forgetting that a 9 o’clock flight has a 7 o’clock check-in and then there is the 40 minute car journey too. It was very kind of her and nice to be seen off by her and TP rather than travel to Birmingham airport on my own.

As I type this I am 1629 miles short of New York and am just off the South West tip of Greenland.
Motive Power will be provided today by Messrs Rolls & Royce - shame they didn't build the cabin too!

The flight has been OK so far – just OK – initially I thought the Gods had smiled upon me as I had a row of three seats to myself but then I was joined at the last minute by a middle-aged Brummie and her aged Mum who were off for 3 weeks in Vegas via NY City. Ah well  - snug it is.

Lunch was served at a peculiar time  - 10 o’clock - and I was surprised that they gave me metal cutlery especially as they had allowed a number of parents with crying infants on board. Bloody good job 30% had reminded me to take some ear plugs as otherwise I would have been met by Police at Newark. I pity those poor buggers that were sat right next to them.

Oh well, I suppose I’d better use the Laptop for the real reason I booted it up ………

…………… where is that documentation I need to familiarise myself with.

The transfer from Newark to Boston went without a hitch although I was sandwiched between two travelers who had decided that oral hygiene was not for them. The only positive thing I can say about the arse-breath traveling companions was that a) they were of normal human proportions rather than US XXXXXL and that b) the flight was only an hour in duration.

I got in to my hotel about 4 o’clock EST and the 29 hour day was starting to hurt. I spoke briefly to 30% and TP and then unpacked …..

……. This is the point I learned an important lesson, in fact, two important lessons. The first is that I am a fuckwit and the second is that the travel power adapter I brought is for Europe rather than the United States – BOLLOCKS.

I am therefore tired and sat in a foreign land watching my communication devices slowly die before my very eyes – Bollocks, Bollocks and, one more time, Bollocks. In a fit of optimism I mosey down to the hotel shop thinking that many travelers must have made the same mistake. This, apparently, is not the case from the array of goods in the aforementioned retail outlet no one except me has ever brought an electrical appliance to the US but forgotten to pack their adapter.

The Concierge suggested that I try Radio Shack in Harvard Square in the morning but his demeanour suggested hope rather than absolute knowledge.