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

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


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.


* 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.

* 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”.

* 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.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


Most of Saturday morning was tied up with ironing and packing as I leave for Boston tomorrow morning. TP was spending the day with his Mum so 30% and had the day to ourselves which is unusual.

I’d got everything sorted by lunchtime so 30% and I had the afternoon free. We visited a local Pub and had a light lunch by the fire. It was rather good. The Pub was what I would call a Traditional Local. It hadn’t been tarted up or themed and the menu looked fantastic. We only had baguettes and a side of chips but the portions were generous and the quality great. We promised ourselves an evening visit in the near future to sample something more substantial.

In the afternoon we walked T&M – my last one for a week – and then had an early dinner as we were off to see the Armstrong and Miller show at Warwick Arts Centre.

The show was great, featuring many of the characters from the TV Series. I’d thoroughly recommend it if you can get tickets locally.

The show meant that we hit the sack around midnight which was not great in view of the early start that I had on Sunday.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Stuff I forget to mention .....

...... "Be careful what you wish for".

Now that is an interesting caution. I prefer the alternative; "May You live in interesting times", but both speak for themselves and don't really need an explanation.

Now I like to see someone's leg pulled and provided it is not too cruel or too uncomfortable I'm quite happy to see someone placed in a situation that puts them slightly off their "beaten track" so imagine my cruel delight when a colleague asked me for a lift to the meeting in Middlesex yesterday.

 "Of course" I replied "I'll pick you up at the Office at 8.45 and we can travel down together". I'm guessing that he was imagining cruising down the M40 in something falling between a family hatchback and a conserative saloon*. Imagine his surprise when I pulled up in the Defender and invited him to climb aboard.

To be fair he took it really well once he had got over the surprise and we had a pleasant and leisurely journey*** down but he did seem to stretch and creak a little after two hours in the cab. One wonders whether he was contemplating the return journey and the possibility of taking a train.

Today has been fortunately quiet as TP has developed an infection and consequently I needed to take him to the GP's this morning and also managed to squeeze him in at the Dentists later on. Fortunately Mr D thinks that the GP prescribed antibiotics will do the job so no needles were needed ........ SO FAR.

After a day off School TP felt well enough to take a trip to "The Local" for a Birthday Supper and we were joined by 30%'s much younger siblings and one of their partners. We had a lovely time and can finally give a report on the food at the Ugly Sister.**

* Dante's does NOT have a generous Company Car Scheme.
** Mind you - it's likely to change hands again before I'm asked. Oh, yes, it was lovely!
*** For the uninitiated, this should read as "noisy and bouncy"

Getting them cornered

Thursday's News.

For the past few weeks I have been attempting to hand over a "project" to the teams that will take it forward through the next stages of its lifecycle. This has been made more complicated by a number of factors .....

..... firstly, I did not really work on the first phase of the project as I joined at a very late stage. To use a cooking analogy, I have basically taken the cake out of the oven and put it on a wire rack. Unfortunately I now need to tell two teams how the cake was made and the best way to store it, serve it, eat it and bake further cakes.

Secondly everyone who did help "bake the cake" has now been pulled on to more vital new projects, as have I. Consequently they not really available to assist and,. if they are, they are not really focussed. In other words they have a five tiered, fully iced, wedding cake to do and it needs to be at the Reception in the next 5 days so don't really want to tell me how this Victoria Sandwich was made. "Just have a look in Mrs Beaton. You'll be fine"

The third factor is that the teams who will take things forward are hampered by resourcing issues - THEY DON'T HAVE ANY! - and seem to prefer it if they can leave things with us. "We're not really Cake People. We're better at Pies and Pasties, You Know, Savouries"

So, after three weeks of herding cats I managed to gather a good proportion of them in a room in darkest Middlesex. I spend three hours showing them slides, that I didn't know as well as I would have liked, and hosting a discussion about whether the flour should be sieved before it is folded in. I was somewhat apprehensive as it was the first time I had run one of these sessions and it had been decided that the presence of a couple of US Executives would calm me down -NOT.

To be honest it went really well and the US Guys were appreciative and helpful.

I have mailed the teams the recipe and if they come back asking for guidance I am almost at the stage where I can reply "Google it".

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Not turning up ....

..... seems to have been a sub-plot to today. There have been a couple of occasions where visits were planned but did not come to fruition.

The first of these was TP being taken to A&E. He hurt his wrist at Rugby practice yesterday and complained this morning that it was very painful. Having initially missed a broken scaphoid bone earlier in the year I was ready and prepared to take him to A&E once he got home from school. However, he turned up this evening advising that it was much better and then buggered off to his guitar lesson so I'm pretty sure that, if he can play Razorlight, I'm OK to leave it for a day or so and see if the swelling subsides - Its Tough Love here at The Pile.

..... so that, as they say, "was Goodness".

It should also be pointed out that it is TP's 14th Birthday today. We noted that 10-11.10 was binary and converted it to a decimal number. It turned out to be 46 which is my age - coincidence and not significant. TP was much more impressed by the fact that the latest release of Call of Duty had appeared in his pile of presents and is now plugged in to his X-Box 360. Apparently it features Nazi Zombies!

The second "cancelled visit" came to light at 6.40 pm when I was well in to a glass of 2009 Cotes De Ventoux. The work Mobile rang and I took the call. One of my Presenters at tomorrow's workshop had been "instructed" to cancel and concentrate on other priorities. Its a bit of a bummer but I'm not going to get stressed about it. I cant get a replacement so I'm just going to ensure that any questions or open actions are pointed directly at him. 

Dad and Step-Mum; Sue arrived this evening with Tilly and gifts for TP. As a consequence we had an hour of manic dogs and more of the Cotes De Ventoux.

So, in summary, it has been an intense day at work followed by a complete change of gear as we switched to Birthday mode. It is a bit rough for TP having his Birthday mid week so we will stretch it out to the weekend by dining out on Friday because its not a "school night"


Other Stuff: the weather today was glorious; Blue Skies and the wind had dropped. I managed to get Tyson and Marauder to sit for a moment during the lunchtime walk and managed to snap them.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Weather Report

"Cawld blo ennit!"

For those of you who live more than 10 miles from my home town and don't understand the local dialect .....

...... The wind is blowing in from the North East and consequently temperatures have dropped. I noticed this when I took T&M for their morning constitutional and realised that my ensemble might be altogether improved by the additional of a muffler and perhaps gloves too.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Herding Cats

That pretty much sums up my day.

I have a workshop to run on Thursday and trying to sort Agendas, attendees and presenters as well as my own material. Everyone seems to be congenitally unavailable which has meant that a single workshop on Thursday now has two associated "sub-sessions" tomorrow.

I lost the will to live when an attendee asked me about travel expenses so I pointed him at the budget holder but he decided to use me as a handy "go between". He also decided that I was similarly handy when he needed information from the company intranet on how to get to the workshop location......

...... "Give me a broom and I'll * sweep the floor as well
* I have avoided using the words "shove", "it", "up", "my", "arse", & "and" to ensure I don't offend anyone.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Done and Dusted

After smoking the 4 flitches of bacon yesterday I left them in the fridge overnight. I suppose, at this point, it is worth mentioning that smoking doesn't only add flavour but also has preservative effects. Many of the chemical compounds released during the smoking process are antibacterial or antioxidant. Smoking therefore reduces the amount of bacteria in the meat and also slows down the process by which the fats in the meat can become rancid

By way of a recap the original side was cut in to 3 flitches to make handling during curing more straightforward. After curing the 3 flitches were divided again to make 6 in total. Two of these were left as "green" unsmoked bacon and were massaged in black treacle and maple syrup and left for just under a week in the fridge. They were sliced and frozen just over a week ago. We tested them before freezing and can report that both were fantastic. The Black Bacon is an amazing colour and the sweetness of the treacle combined well with the salty flavour of the cure.

The remaining 4 flitches were wrapped in muslin and hung in the garage for a couple of weeks. This is a necessary stage as the meat has to develop a pellicle on the surface which allows the smoke particles to adhere more easily to the meat.

The bacon was smoked yesterday and all that remained to be done was slicing and packing.

The original side weighed just over about 15 lbs. Approximately 3+ lbs of weight is lost as a result of water removed by the process.  I have therefore ended up with about 12 lbs of dry cured, hand cut bacon*. The original cost of the side was £60 so the Lb weight is £5.00 or thereabouts. I know I haven't costed my time but I guess that this is no more than 3 hours in total and the cure and smoking sawdust were either free or a couple of pounds at most.

It tastes great and because it is dry cured, there is none of the  white scum and water that oozes from commercial wet cured bacon during cooking.

I appreciate that a full side of pork is a large investment but, if your interest has been piqued, why not give it a try on a smaller scale. A piece of belly pork will cost a few pounds and will give fantastic streaky bacon or beautiful cubes of pancetta to add authentic flavour to any Italian pasta dish. I appreciate that smoking may not be achievable for everyone but it isn't mandatory.

Go on, give it a try.**
* Plus a few lardons or pancetta
** I'm more than happy to answer any questions via the Journal

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Got a Light Boy?

Yep, I'm still Smoking.

The side of Bacon that was dry cured a couple of week back has been retrieved from the garage and suspended over a smoky little charcoal fire in the Inglenook. Most of today has been spent doing chores with one eye on the fire. This reminds me of yet another of my Dad's descriptive sayings; "one eye on the fire and the other up the chimney" for someone who had a cock-eye or a glass eye.   It pretty much sums up my day so far.

This evening we are off to see Reginald D Hunter over at Warwick Arts Centre tonight so it will be an early supper and out of the door by 6.30.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Blackberry News

Well that's got rid of the i-Phone Users.

Back in August 30% and I picked some of the early blackberries. They were still quite tart and there weren't really enough for a decent pie or crumble so, after some recipe research and adaptation, Blackberry Vodka was the product we settled on.

Now nearly three months later I have strained the liquer off the fruit and spices and bottled it. I checked the position of the sun with regard to the Yard Arm and sampled a small glass. I'm really pleased with the result. It is sweet and "Christmassy" as a result of the Brown Sugar and Spices with the, still present, spirit sensation of the Vodka. The Blackberries are there too adding a splendid colour and a distinctive fruity flavour.

Now, I've nothing against Baileys but .......

I appreciate that it is way too late to make a batch this year but the recipe was as follows
  • a litre, or thereabouts, of inexpensive Vodka
  • 15 tbsp of Brown Sugar or thereabouts
  • a couple of cinnamon sticks, crumbled
  • a dozen, or so, cloves
  • one and a half pounds of  Blackberries
Add all of the above to a preserving jar, seal and shake very day for the first week. The shake once a week, or when you remember. After three months strain off the liquer and bottle. It will improve further with age.


Travel Plans

These seem to have occupied a good chunk of time today ....

.... arranging flights, arranging visa waivers, phoning credit and debit card companies to avoid having one's cards blocked and so it goes on.

People say that that "it is better to travel than to arrive".......  Well, that may be so, but having to estimate virtually every expense and then gain four, YES FOUR - levels of approval before I could even book the flight certainly sucked the joy out the planning stage.

I have been to the States a couple of times but never to the East Coast. I'm hoping that Boston lives up to the glowing reports that everyone seems to give it.

..... HANG ON - "its better to travel that to arrive". I have flown on many occasions and I know what air travel is like. Customer Service that seems to be based on the assumption that they are doing you a favour and that very expensive ticket you have purchased is their license to treat you like pond life. A seat that varies from "miserly and uncomfortable" to "broken" and food .......

.......  Yes food - that's probably a subject to steer well clear of.

Then there is their ability to loose baggage and delay flights without so much as a by your leave. Hmmm, I hope it's better to arrive than travel.

A few years back 30%, TP and I had the good fortune to be upgraded to Business Class on a flight to Cairo. I can say without fear of contradiction that the unintentional and intentional pain and distress of "Cattle Class" are totally reversed up there behind that Curtain. There were as many Flight Attendants for the 24 of us "up front" than there were for the remainder of the flight which was probably 240 peasants. The drinks were free and frequent and the food was served on bone china with cutlery and there was a choice. I had the Turbot.
Yep - TURBOT - real fish not some nuked pap that had been knocked up three months ago in a warehouse near Heathrow and had then been deep frozen after the secret process to remove any flavour or texture from it.

The seating was large and comfortable. They had selected a fine blue leather to upholster them and had considerately spaced them so if the chap in front wanted to recline he could do so without imposing in to my personal space. We loved it.

I'm sat here wondering what sort of offering* I need to make to the Gods in order to secure similar good fortune on Sunday week?


* I'm thinking that this is way beyond chicken or goat and probably up in to the realms of Hippo or Lion.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Motoring Update.

I'll start today's entry with a crappy joke ...... What do Pelicans and The Prius have in common? ......

 ....... Big Bills!     I did say it was a crappy joke.

Today the Prius went in for a Service at the local Independent Dealer who sold her to me a couple of years back. He is a lovely guy and, when asked how Business was, he advised that there was a national shortage of quality used stock and consequently prices were incredibly high. He cast an eye over the Prius asked for the mileage and smiled when he said that if I wanted sell her I could easily get the same price as I paid for her a couple of years back.

This makes the likely bill a little more palatable. To be fair it wont be expensive as a Defender is not a particularly sophisticated beast and, having just passed it's MOT, I am only looking at replacement of fluids and filters plus the annual fiddle with the wiper motor*.

The discussion was also fruitful, and here is the "large beak", as the Dealer can perform a couple of modifications that I have been considering for a good few months. I may be booking her in for a bit of cosmetic surgery in the next couple of weeks.

its amazing what you can knock up in MS Paint
* The thing will take you up the side of a mountain but if it rains don't expect to see out of the front screen. It seems that they decided to retain a wiper motor design that dates back to the 1960's**
** good it ain't - but she is still not for sale***
*** its a peculiar car that leaks and pours water on you when you get in and you just shrug, smile and get on with your day.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Eddy's Politics

Eddy came in through the cat flap last night.

Having seen off a Grizzly bear and at least two cars in his short life I would have thought that hunting mice was beneath him, but no. Yesterday evening he brought in a live mouse and promptly let it go. The mouse was amazed at this basic feline error and scarpered under the Sofa.

Now I'm not sure if Eddy was saving it for "Ron" - "Later on" - or has heartily embraced the previous Government's view that hunting with hounds is vicious and cruel so they banned it - well, when I say banned, they banned the final kill with hounds, but it is still OK to shoot the fox, deer etc or set a bird of prey on it to tear it apart, kill, dispatch, euthanise it **.

I know Eddy doesn't have a gun license* and I am sure that I would have noticed a large hunting hawk perched in The Pile so I am guessing that it is my role to perform the final act thereby ensuring that we all stay on the right side of the law - as long as they don't look in the box.

A couple of traps were set and I have added another mouse silhouette to the side of the Prius.


* but he does keep a large locked box under his bed
** I'm not actually sure which one of these the Labour Govt thought was appropriate

Yesterday ......

...... I seemed to spend a hell of a lot of time re-arranging a meeting to suit two people that didn't need to attend but thought it would be a good idea seeing as they were in the country etc.

Another large chunk of the day was spent estimating how much a trip to Boston is going to cost. I didn't realise Lincolnshire was so expensive to get to.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

One step forward, two steps back.

For the past few weeks TP and I have been taking Tyson and Marauder to a later Dog Training class. It was going really well as the dogs had all reached a reasonable level of training and there was none of the chaotic clamour associated with the puppy classes. The exercises were more advanced and T&M were performing well.

Then a particular Collie decided that it wasn't overly keen on Marauder and took a couple of nips at her heels and barked at her every time she performed an exercise.

Unfortunately M is not the most confident of dogs. She is very bright and very easy to train but, despite socialisation, is nervous of certain dogs. We don't know what triggers it. With some dogs she is happy to say hello and bounce around but others elicit playful but nervous barking. It is improving as she grows up but there is still some way to go.

Well the relationship with the Collie did not improve despite attempts to get them acquainted and M became more and more withdrawn to the point where her tail was between her legs for the entire class and she would lie under my seat unwilling to perform any tasks. Her tail would spring up as soon as we left the Village Hall at the end of training so it was clear that she wasn't happy there. She had literally gone back months in her training at class but was still fine at home.

In an attempt to resolve we have moved to a Monday class and the first session was yesterday. Things are much better, not perfect, but much better so fingers crossed that this will bring her confidence levels back up.

Tyson*, incidentally, is a completely different character and despite the Collie's antics simply gets on with things and ignores him. Most strange how two dogs brought up together in the same environment are so different.


* This is the dog that has spent a good proportion of this morning stood on her hind legs attempting to nibble Potato's ears. Potato has shown heroic restraint and tolerated this abuse from his perch on the island in the kitchen.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Catching Up ....

I seemed to spend most of Sunday outside.

The morning was spent at the Rugby Club as TP had a match. We arrived early because of the pre-match chat, warm up etc so 30% and I took T&M for a romp around the fields at the back of the club. The match started at 11 but unfortunately it looked like TP's team thought it was starting at 11.45. It wasn't great and I think I'll leave it at that.

Home for a late lunch and a quick Sunday afternoon doze on the Sofa - RESULT - and then out again for a proper walk with T&M.

The evening saw TP out terrorising the village with a Halloween bucket he came back with plenty of Goodies and a tale of rather nasty, but bloody funny, trick that he played on someone who, with hindsight, should probably have said "treat" rather than "trick"

The evening ended relatively early as I am back to work today or tomorrow, as it was then.