Saturday, 31 December 2011

Air Dried Ham; Day 21

So I find myself at the end of 2011; if you are expecting a neat summary of my achievements over the past year you are about to be disappointed. That would defeat the aim of keeping a Journal. If you want to know how the year panned out for me check the preceding pages.

The day started with an early wander around the Three Miler with T&M. I really owed them a walk as a combination of atrocious weather and a trip in to town meant that no walk had happened yesterday. The Christmas/New Year walkers were out in their hordes this morning and I counted more than a dozen of them. I have had a minor rant about them on previous occasions so I'll not bother with that today other than to make the observation that their numbers are expected to decline significantly in the next 48 hours and by the end of next week it will just be the usual miscreants out in the lanes.

After lunch it was time to excavate the leg of pork that I had been salting in the garage in preparation to make an air dried ham.
The leg weighed 6 kilos (a tad over 13 lbs) when it was placed in the salt on 9th December. After 21 days it now weighs 4.77 kg (10 lb 9 oz) so the salting appears to have reduced the weight by approximately 20%.
 After a thorough rinsing in cold water the leg is patted dry and then given a good wash in white wine vinegar.
It is then dried, wrapped in a double layer of muslin and then hung out in the garage for the next 6 months. All being well I should have a fine Prosciutto type ham towards the end of May 2012.
Other Stuff: 

TP returned home today after a few days away with his Mum, Bro and Sis down at Grandma's. 

On an entirely unconnected matter; 30% let Noggin & Tog have their first experience of outside today. Noggin nearly caused 30% to have a fit of the vapours when he headed straight for the main road. Tog, on the other hand, was far more cautious and took a long look around before a careful exploration of the patio. Having completed one circuit he re-entered the house with the look of a cat that thought the garden had not quite lived up to his expectations...

... perhaps he will change his mind when he discovers mice, shrews, voles and LBBs*.

On a slightly connected matter the Christmas Tree was taken to the local recycling point after achieving a world record three and one half day residence as a piece of living room installation art before cat attacks caused it to be deconstructed and placed in the garden. I think it says something that I liked it upright with baubles and lights intact whilst N&T preferred it sprawled across the floor with it's trimmings strewn across the room...

... We have a little under 12 months to rectify these artistic differences.
* Little Brown Birds

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

An Apple (a) day

Wednesday involved a trip over to Bad Man senior's to provide Step Mum Sue with what is know in the trade as a desk side visit. We had bought them a Kindle e-reader for Christmas and she wanted a little guidance on downloading books via the USB cable*. Having "closed that ticket" we took a brief trip in to Worcester before returning home for lunch and the daily walk.

The afternoon finally saw my new i-Mac removed from it's box and set up. It is a thing of beauty and after the painful tedium and irritating frustration of a Windows PC it is an absolute delight to use. It will take me a while to familiarise myself with the interface but so far it seems very intuitive...

... and as for the screen, it is huge and the image quality is amazing
* There are two things to note here; 1) "Senior's" home is not a wifi hotspot and 2) "Senior's" approach to computing is based around a very sophisticated voice interface ...

... "Sue, can you Google this for me, Sue can you print that off for me, Where is that photo we took on holiday? etc etc".

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Alternative Cure

It was another lazy day here at The Pile. The only item on the agenda was lunch with 30%'s Mum and Dad followed by a walk with T&M and an extended period of pottering.

I did start the cure of a loin of pork that 30% bought just before Christmas and has sat, until today, developing an inferiority complex beside a huge turkey carcass and a honey and mustard glazed ham in the fridge. Hopefully the cure will improve it's self esteem and in seven days time it will be happy to strut it's stuff as a full blown piece of dry cured, back bacon.

I have varied the dry cure by adding four pieces of star anise to the 2.25 kilos of dry cure mixture and it will be interesting to see what effect this has. It was recommended as an aromatic in the cure by a local butcher but the discussion did not cover quantities so it will be a case of trial and error to get the flavouring just right.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Creme de Menthe & Banana; his finest hour

"Tell 30% not to worry about the dessert, I've got that sorted", these were the words that immediately followed bad man senior's acceptance of the Boxing Day lunch invitation...

... it did not take a rocket scientist to suss out that bad man senior would be bringing a trifle because EVERYONE loves a trifle and "senior" is famous, or possibly infamous, for his trifles. Let me explain; many, many years ago my mum was absolutely crazy for trifle. Now there is a hell of a back story about my mum that would fill volumes let alone a Journal entry but for the sake of brevity lets just summarise that a set of unfortunate circumstances in a Renault 4 left her as mad as a hatter and bad man senior as the main carer...

... and every Sunday Mater would INSIST on having trifle for tea. Now I am not exaggerating, my crazy mother would insist on trifle for tea and believe me it was easier to comply than suggest an alternative, much, much easier to comply...

... and so the fruity, slightly boozy, creamy dessert that every loves on special occasions became a Sunday staple at my childhood home and since then I have done my best to avoid them. It is not that I dislike trifle but I have developed a theory that every human being has a natural trifle limit and that I exceeded mine at some point in 1978. I'm not actually sure what happens in the result of a major trifle overdose but you can be sure that I am not going to risk spending time in intensive care due to some close-to-fatal jelly/sherry synergistic poisoning...

... 30%, on the other hand, is still way off the point of trifle toxicity and as a consequence is more than happy to be presented with a free trifle. Pater, who is inordinately fond of 30% is therefore more than willing to present her with one of his specialities. Hence Boxing day lunch was to include a sherry trifle dessert.

I should point out that over the years Dad's natural curiosity and tendency to experiment perhaps combined with a lack of sherry lead him to develop a number of interesting trifle variants. The main source of his inspiration was a 1960s G Plan side board with a drinks cupboard that was filled with, you've guessed it, a 1960's liqueur collection. He lays claim to the first ever use of Tia Maria in a trifle and I have no reason to doubt that he has used Cherry Brandy, Baileys and Cointreau rather than endure the ire of my mother.

Yes, over the years I have sampled every type of trifle known to man and a certain number that are banned in all but the most lawless of parts of the planet ...

... out of politeness I agreed to a small portion and was served something the size of a small family car. I lifted the first spoonful to my mouth and it was just as I remembered it ...

... "Thanks Dad, it was lovely"

Sunday, 25 December 2011

I definitely wasn't expecting that

It was a quiet Christmas day here at The Pile; dogs were walked, food was eaten, a few drinks were imbibed and presents were exchanged.

TP is now kitted out for his skiing trip in February and 30% was overjoyed with her hand bag and blown away by the unexpected ear rings...

... as for me, I was thoroughly spoilt. I won't go in to details but a transvestite granny smith with some associated infrastructure sums up a few of my gifts quite neatly...

... and as for the mounted wild boars head; MENTAL!

Merry Christmas

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, 24 December 2011

We need a couple of concrete blocks

So Christmas Eve dawned and immediately after breakfast TP and I set out for a local Nursery to pick up the Christmas Tree. There had been much debate about how a tree would fare with two very inquisitive kittens but we finally succumbed subject to a few provisos set out by 30% as to which desecrations could be hung from its boughs.

After the purchase of the tree I took T&M for a quick whizz around the Three Miler before we nipped in to Worcester for some traditional last minute shopping. Last weekend's trip in to Stratford had been less than successful and TP and I really needed to get a little something special to put in 30%'s stocking. We had a loose plan but our initial forays were less than fruitful. Absolutely every thing we saw just wasn't quite right. We therefore broke off from our search and went for an old favourite; perfume. As we wandered back towards the car I had to admit that I wasn't totally happy with the selection of gifts. That ideal little something just hadn't been found and then the clouds parted and a shaft of light illuminated the Jewellers window and there they were ...

... a gorgeous pair of ear rings that were a perfect compliment to the necklace that she treasures. Within a matter of minutes they were gift wrapped and we were heading back to the car park. Shopping done we joined Jools for a late lunch and exchange of gifts before heading home.

Back at The Pile the tree was unwrapped and installed in the living room where TP and I dressed it. It lasted less than an hour before Noggin and Tog had climbed it and brought it crashing to the floor. It was then decreed that the kittens needed to be accompanied in the lounge at all times until twelfth night*

Imagine now a speeding clock with the hands settling at six in the evening. 30%'s family join us for the Village Carol Concert. This is a fantastic open air celebration on the Green under the Christmas Tree. It is very well arranged with a local Silver Band and PA System, so that everyone can hear the melodies, and Carol Sheets so that everyone knows the words. It is always well attended and it is not unusual to draw in visitors from several miles away. It might seem odd, considering my lack of faith, to enjoy a carol concert but I do despite my renowned inability to carry a tune.

After the concert 30% served Dinner. Further exchanges of presents occurred and by half past nine we had the house to ourselves once more. As we settled down to relax Noggin and Tog returned invigorated and resumed their attack on the Christmas Tree. It was toppled at least once more and several of the decorations were strewn across the floor. It now stands a noticeable few degrees off vertical and I think that TP will need to redecorate at some point tomorrow.

As we retired to bed I pointed out that we need a couple of concrete blocks to sort out the tree. "What?" she enquired, "to weigh down the base and make it more stable?"...

... "No" I replied "We tie one to each of the cats. That will stop the little sods wrecking it"
* Fat Bloody Chance

Friday, 23 December 2011

Nothing of huge import to impart today.

Cathy H-R turned up on the door step with the Turkey and after a brief natter departed safe in the knowledge that she had a buyer for half of the pig she would be slaughtering in February.

T&M were then taken for an early walk and were subsequently bathed as the lanes are even muddier than last reported. We then all tidied ourselves up and nipped over to a reasonably local pub for a non-birthday lunch.

In the afternoon I set to boiling a large gammon joint that was finished off in the oven with a  honey and mustard glaze ... mmm!

30% was also creative in the kitchen* and TP amused himself by tidying his bedroom and searching for the i-Phone 3 that has been lost for the best part of a week.

Dad and a small sampling of Sues** paid visits with cards and gifts in the late afternoon and the evening revolved around the trinity of sofa, log burner and television.

* Delia's Black Bean Chili
** Mad Bat and Step Mum Sue

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Quote of the Day

On the last team call before Christmas our charming manager had managed to issue the most insipid and insincere Christmas wish to the team. It was delivered as though it was a trivial and unnecessary annoyance  in his otherwise perfect agenda.

Golfy and I had a post call analysis ...

Golfy            He is the Black Hole of mirth

bad man       He needs a fucking good kick in the event horizon

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

I'm putting the band back together...

Yes, you heard it right. I'm putting the band back together ...

... after the mega successful tour earlier this year ,where we covered 14 EMEA countries and made a couple of Stateside appearances too, the record label have asked me to put the band back together for another European tour.

It is great to be going back on the road but this is tinged with sadness as I know that I am unlikely to get the original 2010/11 line-up back on the tour bus. I know for a fact that Fat Deb is not going to be on vocals but, to be honest, she never knew the running order of the set and was always forgetting the lyrics so that's no great loss. Her replacement looks like he has a top notch rock 'n roll pedigree judging by his surname and I am expecting great things, in fact a Quality performance, from Mr Bowie.

Judge Dread is back on the team too, having been appointed by the record label to make sure that our performance is as good as it can possibly be and that we don't have any problems with prop malfunctions when we go live.

It is with great, and hopefully mutual, disappointment that Tigger is not lined up to take on his usual role at the keyboard. He is currently performing in the Armada Room at the Holiday Inn with Merv and the Magic Tones*. We've had a couple of chats about him coming back and he's keen but there seems to be some contractual/managerial issue that means that he's forced to sit there looking down the cleavages of senior citizens while picking out the notes of The Girl from Ipanema on his organ.

The Brass Section is made up of the usual Europeans. They are not the most sociable of guys but they have an unnatural ability to put so much in to their work. I cannot recount the occasions where Tigger and I looked at their previous performances and were truly incredulous at what they could fit in to their moments in the spotlight.

So there we have it, most of the band are lined up and ready to start rehearsals in early January. There are going to be some rough nights ahead of us but what else can you expect with American Management. Now where did I put my favourite Harmonica ?
* That's a nowhere gig if ever there was one.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Weather Report

I know that the odds were against it and with over 40 years experience of British winters I knew there was virtually no chance of a repeat of last year's December snow fall but I always hoped for more of that fantastic weather. Yes, it was incredibly cold with temperatures down to minus 20 degrees centigrade, but it was beautiful.

This December we have the opposite. It is mild and soggy and my daily walk is becoming an exercise in avoiding mud splattered roads, soaking wet fields and woodland paths that have turned in to sloughs. The reason for this pedestrian delicacy is not personal. I can simply take off a pair of muddy boots and throw on a clean pair of jeans. No, the reason for this mud avoidance is for the sake of T&M. They both have long coats and these are a magnet for water and mud. As a consequence our walks  are planned to take in the dryer routes with the aim of avoiding daily baths and long hours spent drying in the hall before they are allowed in to the lounge.

Hopefully we will get a cold snap soon as slippery muddy paths and soggy dogs do tend to diminish the enjoyment of my daily walk.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Noggin & Tog or is it Toggin and Nog?*

I've not made any significant mention of Noggin and Tog since they turned up towards the end of September. They have both settled in amazingly well and from day one seemed totally unflustered by the over eager attentions of Tyson and Marauder.

Just the other day I was sat at the laptop and Noggin; the confident one was sat on a chair beside me. He decided to entertain himself by reaching through the back of the chair to bat Tyson about the head with his paws. Tyson's response was to take this quite stoically and "gently" snap at his paws when they came within reach of her jaws. Fortunately Noggin's fearlessness was matched by Tyson's patience and this game continued for several minutes before Noggin' became distracted by the cursor moving across the computer screen.

Noggin is quite a character; very inquisitive and always the first to investigate anything new in the house. It is Noggin who has learnt that the alarm goes off at seven and can be found purring by your ear at five minutes ahead  of the hour because he knows that cat food is imminent.  Noggin is the mountaineer who quickly picked out the route to the summit of island in the kitchen and then leapt to each and every work surface. He has advanced further and can now leap straight from floor to work surface**.

Noggin is the cat who likes to sit in stuff and is never happier than having a box, basket or virtually any container to curl up in. 
Noggin trying out a handbag for size
 Tog, on the other hand, is completely different. He loves company and is curled up beside me now. He even likes being stroked but he is not one for being picked up or carried and is far less confident or athletic than Noggin. He is, in my opinion, stunningly handsome with broad, dark, ginger stripes covering most of his body with only his belly, chin and paws white.

He is very alert but he is not the athlete that Noggin is becoming. Tog aspires to be able to reach the worktops and has even attempted the ascent of the stool that leads to the summit of the island. Unfortunately for him he can make it to the second rung but, like many a novice mountaineer, has not sussed out how to master the overhang that is the seat...

... this is bad news for 30% and me because he is now developing the habit of climbing up the backs of our legs in an attempt to reach the kitchen surfaces. And that bloody hurts!
* 30% wants to rename them as she says their names are too similar and therefore confusing. 
** I know it  is not hygienic but virtually all cats do it. Even Eddy with his three legs can manage it but only if yowling at someone to lift him up fails.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

From Stratford to Rugby

There is not a huge amount to report from the weekend.

I took TP in to Stratford to do some Christmas Shopping and have to say it was not the most successful of trips. To be fair a lot of that is to do with the quality of retail establishments in the town but TP's disinterest and general vagueness needs to be combined with crappy shops and the Seasonal morons crowds to give you an idea of the experience. I see a trip in to Worcester at some point next week to pick up something suitable for TP to present to 30%.

Sunday morning was the usual outing for Rugby, it was an "away" match and it did not look promising as we stood waiting for the kick-off and snow fell from a very grey sky. Fortunately the flurry was brief and the sun soon made an appearance. The opposition were very good and TP's team were soundly beaten. I have to be honest though and note that TP played with a lot more aggression, was catching and passing very well and made a couple of solid attempts for the try line only to be brought down by some sizeable opponents.  Other observations from the match are a) that the Full Back is an idiot, very keen but still an idiot, and needs to play his position or not play at all and b) the captain needs to develop some maturity and pass the ball out to the backs rather than playing like he is a team of one.

The trip home was concluded with a brief visit to the Supermarket and I bought a huge gammon joint that will become a honey roast ham subject to me finding a pan big enough to boil it in.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Oops, one slipped through ...

.... or taking the "Christmas" out of Christmas.

I think it is fair to say that I am not a huge fan of the cynical, commercialised monstrosity that Christmas has become. I'm certain that I am on solid ground when I question the motives of those behind the array of tawdry and generally useless items that appear in the shops with festive decoration and a somewhat inflated price tag.

However, even as an atheist, I understand that this is not what Christmas is truly about and I certainly respect those that wish to take time out at this time of the year to celebrate the birth of Christ. I don't have the faith and therefore need to construct a Christmas that has some meaning for me and avoids any major friction with those that worship in Church and those that worship on the High Street...

... So my Christmas has to be a  time for relaxation in the comfort of my own home and spending some quality time with friends and loved ones. There are gifts. There is a tree. There are even carols but as I get older the childish avarice is long gone and I feel that "quality time with friends and loved ones" should not be restricted to the back end of the year and hence question the relevance of Christmas as it pertains to me.

Before I go any further I need to stress that I am not anti-Christmas, it just does not have a huge amount of relevance to me and I feel somewhat coerced to conform. I suppose it is a bit like the Office Party. It is a party and so you should be able to let your hair down and really enjoy yourself but you know that the Boss and colleagues are watching and there are rules that must be followed. Christmas is somewhat similar; it is a celebration but there are a set of unwritten rules that must be followed unquestioningly. Over the years I have reviewed and questioned many of these but breaking them seems virtually impossible in light of tradition.

Now where was I going with this ...

... Oh yes, this might seem a little "Bah Humbug" but at least I acknowledge the presence of Christmas and am happy* to take part in a "miming to the backing track" sort of way. However I am not so sure about the Senior Daemons at Dante's Nine Circles of Hell. This morning I received an e-card and so I clicked the link and watched. It was a 4 minute video in which 34 General Managers of the Organisation passed on a Seasonal Greeting. "Fair enough" you might think, but in those 34 Seasonal messages the word Christmas was only mentioned once. Yep ONCE. The actual script seemed to be a repetitive variation on the theme of "Happy Holidays" and "Have a Great New Year".

Now I am wondering whether this message was intentionally constructed in this way to avoid any offence to non-Christian colleagues because I can see no other reason why one of the two most important Christian celebrations got diluted down to "Have a Happy Holiday and a great 2012" by 33 out of 34 speakers .

I'm not a Christian but am quite annoyed by what appears to be a sanitisation of a religious message. Whether it be Diwali,  Eid, Christmas or Hanukkah, their religious festivals should be acknowledged and celebrated not sanitised and euphemised.

Rant over.
* "happy ish"

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Russell Howard at the LG Arena

Wednesday; the onslaught of inactivity is overwhelming!

The one scheduled conference call was cancelled, although this was actually fortunate as it coincided with the only "must do" on my agenda viz collecting TP from school at 3.30 and running him over to the Dentist.  Other than that and a walk my day was very quiet.

The evening saw a trip over to the LG Arena in Birmingham to see Russell Howard's Right Here, Right Now show. It was a fun evening of mostly observational comedy and 30% had arranged some fantastic seats only 20 or so rows back from the stage. Highlight of the evening for me was the tale of the West Country man whose daughter's pet mouse had died. He glued it to a toy motorbike and then buried it in the garden ...

... to really mess up a future episode of Time Team.

I have to be honest and say that although I enjoyed the show it wasn't the best piece of stand-up that I have seen. The audience loved him and that created a positive atmosphere that helped the show along but some of the material was not as honed as others on the circuit at the moment.

In his defence it must be very challenging to write a show and get up and perform when there are so many satellite TV channels showing comedy at the moment. The editing of those shows ensure that only the best gags from the best performers are featured and therefore sets a very high bar for a live performance.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Nothing, nada, naught, zero, zilch ... to see here !

It has been a very quiet couple of days here at The Pile. To say that work was on a slow simmer is an extreme exaggeration and I have been forced to regularly return to the pan just to make sure that the gas hasn't gone out.

Monday would have come and gone with nothing worthy of mention if it hadn't been for the encounter with Vetus homo iratus on my walk...

... its probably best if I leave it at that*.

Tuesday was slightly busier as I made a start on getting to grips with the new project that looks to kick off early in the New Year. I read through a few documents and, whilst I have a better understanding of what is going on, I have to admit that they raise more questions than they answer. I see a phone call with The States in the very near future to try to get an idea of what it is they exactly want from us. I also expect them to be very disappointed when I raise a few legal and corporate restrictions against that which they are proposing.

* You will note, however, that this entry is NOT entitled "Marauder's Bumper Book of Crimes..."

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Foxes, Fenton and Fallow Deer

Sunday started with the regular trip down to the Rugby Club. It was a training session so 30% and I dumped TP and took T&M for a walk.

We found a lovely circular route that took us out over the local farmland and through a parcel of woodland before dropping us back at the training pitch. The dogs had an absolute blast; charging here, there and everywhere with their noses pushed in to whatever they could find. Unfortunately one of their "finds" was a large pile of fox shit and the sods managed to roll in it before we could call them off. This meant that a bath was on the agenda as soon as we got home. We also nearly had a "Fenton" * moment while we were walking through the woods ...

.... as we wandered down the path I heard a rustle away to my right and turned to see three Fallow Deer running through through the trees less than twenty yards away. T&M were off like rockets charging after them. Marauder gave up pretty quickly but Tyson was pretty intent and charged off in to the distance. She came back after a couple of minutes of calling covered in leaves, twigs and other woodland debris. Having discovered the delights of chasing deer she remained absolutely wired for the rest of the walk in the anticipation of another encounter.

Once home the dogs were bathed and lunch was eaten. I then set about stacking the logs that had been delivered earlier in the week. I must have curried favour with the Gods as the logs have sat there for most of the week and not a drop of rain has fallen. In fact it was only as I stacked the last few that the heavens opened and it poured down. RESULT.

The rest of the day was a fairly usual Sunday. I took a trip over to Chippy Ian's for a natter, a cuppa and to settle a recent debt. I then returned home and set to with the hot air gun and completed the door frame  at the foot of the stairs. After stripping away coats of paint I have uncovered a fine elm frame that will be oiled and waxed rather than hiding its charms under a coat of white gloss.

All in all it was quite a productive day.
* For the benefit of the blissfully unaware; this is a reference to the internet meme that is currently circulating showing a black Labrador chasing deer in Richmond Park to the complete distress of it's owner. The anguished shout of "Fenton, Fenton, FENTON ...... Oh Jesus Christ!" must strike a chord with any dog owner.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Lady Bracknell summed it up quite nicely

Today I was out on the Three Miler a little after nine o'clock. The reason for the early start was that we planned to spend a good chunk of the day in Birmingham on a reconnoitre for 30%'s Christmas present. Since T&M were to be home alone for a good few hours it only seemed fair for them to have their constitutional before we departed.

For quite some time 30% has yearned for a Mulberry handbag. She has many handbags and is regularly to be found scouring eBay for another "must have"  bag*. However these are nothing when compared to the items of fascination, nay adoration and worship, that are displayed on the Mulberry website**.

Well today was the day and Selfridges was our first point of call to finally move from the visual to the tactile.  They didn't have the particular bag 30% desired but showed some of the finest customer service I have ever experienced when they phoned a competitor who had the right model albeit not in the desired colour and even gave us explicit directions on how to get there. Fifteen minutes later we in Harvey Nichols and 30% was wafted to handbag heaven...

... and now, or rather in fifteen days, she will have the handbag of her dreams. The funny thing is that it is a completely different design and a completely different colour from the one she thought she wanted.
*There is a long standing joke that it is I that has the handbag collection since it seems to be my Paypal account that is used whenever payment is due.
** I'm guessing that the sensation is similar to me finding a mint condition Ducati 900 SS (1991 to 1998) with FSH, one careful owner, low mileage (all dry) etc etc etc


Friday, 9 December 2011

Air Dried Ham, Day 1

The working day was spent with my head down trying to complete the spreadsheet from hell. It's not fun and seems to have no real benefit or future use but its completion is mandated and so I spent many hours locating and manipulating data because a nameless individual says I have to...

... oh well, I've nearly finished and once I have the charmless cows who are demanding it will be off my back until the next contract is signed and that will be months away.

After work, I set to and packed the leg of pork in salt. This is the first stage of the process to produce an air dried ham. A good inch of table salt is poured over the base of the box. This is then sprinkled with cracked black peppercorns and coriander seeds. The boned leg is then weighed and the cavity created by the removal of the bone is packed with salt. It is then placed in the box and further salt is added until the leg is covered with at least an inch of salt between it and the sides and base of the box. There must also be at least an inch of salt covering the meat too.

A board is placed on top of the salt and it is weighted with bricks, these should be in the region of twice the weight of the pork leg. The salted leg is now left in a cool room for a period of time calculated using the metric of 3 to 4 days per kilo of pork. The leg is 6 kilos so it is going to be salted for about 21 days. It will be New Years Eve before it sees the light of day again.

In case anyone is interested, it took approximately 27 kilos of salt to pack the leg.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Turkey or Beef?

Thursday started with a shave and presentable apparel because Christmas Lunch was on the menu at the nearest circle of hell. To be honest I wasn't particularly fussed about whether I partook of the canteen's festive offering or not but it was a good excuse to link up with Tigger and Grandad Jack for a few laughs.

The plan was just to meet up for lunch but that rapidly got enhanced to include a couple after work at the local.

Any time spent with Tigger and Jack rapidly degenerates in to a stream of ridiculous stories and daft jokes and consequently is considered time well spent.

To give some idea of how it goes here is a transcript from an Instant Message ...

bad man             Wot time are we going to the pub?

Grandad Jack     17.30

bad man             is that the year of your birth?

Grandad Jack     ‘koff

bad man             :-)

The day wasn't all fun 'n frolics though. I have been dragged back in to the deal that was signed back in the Summer and now have to spend the next few days completing the spreadsheet from hell.

The day certainly wasn't fun 'n frolics when I got home and had to spend a few moments discussing* English assessments and Work Experience placements with TP.
* The discussing actually went on for quite some time and did involve references to lack of preparation on TP's part and regular reminders issued by my good self and 30%. I really don't know where he gets his obstinate streak from.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

I need a much bigger bag

The most important task this morning was to nip over to the Butchers to pick up the leg of pork I had ordered last Saturday.

I turned up and was shown a complete leg at a price that was too good to be true. A man with a very sharp knife in his hand advised that there was a considerable discount if I bought the whole leg …

… so I did. 15 minutes later I was walking out with the boned leg plus bones and trimmings in a separate doggy bag. I am going to end up with an absolutely enormous Prosciutto as the leg weighs a little over 13 lbs, allowing for moisture loss it is still going to be a hefty ham…

… I am also going to need considerably more salt than the 12 kilos 30% bought home a couple of days ago.

Last year’s experiment used a 3 lb shoulder joint which took about 10 kgs of salt and needed salting for about 10 days. This year I am looking at a salting period of at least 40 days using the recommended metric of 3 to 4 days per lb. I haven’t a clue how much salt I will need but I am guessing that I am looking at 20 kilos to adequately pack the leg with a minimum of an inch of salt between the meat and the sides of the box.

The leg is now sitting in the fridge whilst I buy all local stocks of salt.

On the work front I finished the critical piece of work that was dumped on me I was given on Friday. I have fired this across the Atlantic where it was received without even a murmur…

… Let’s hope that is a good sign.

Right how big are the bags of salt at Tesco?

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Things to do

My Colonial Colleagues finally responded to my list of questions and, "Surprise Surprise"  they provided half arsed answers and a demand for my deliverable to be available to them in the next 48 hours.

This isn't as bad as it initially sounds as everything is very simple and very low risk. The one issue I do have is to ensure that I have covered my arse and have all boxes ticked. My Sales Administrator seems to think that I do not need to have check marks in the aforementioned containers but I note that he doesn't seem to be prepared to put that in writing and he has a certain notoriety for doing as little as is humanly possible* at work. I have therefore spent much of today ensuring that the right people know what I am doing and are given the opportunity to say "STOP"...

... so far, so good. The right people have been alerted and are making the right sorts of noises so my fingers crossed in the hope that no-one starts putting flies in the ointment.
* Tigger and I think he just sits out on the verandah and drinks Pimms all day.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Kicking Things Off

Monday has arrived and so I made a start on the most critical of the two pieces of work that my Charmless Manager chucked at me late on Friday afternoon. I had a quick chat with one of the Sales Support Team and most of my assumptions appear to be valid...

... it is a very simple piece of work and I just need to ensure that I adequately cover my arse and ensure that all necessary ticks are in boxes before I chuck it back across the North Atlantic. I therefore drafted a lengthy list of questions, demands and assumptions and e-mailed it over to my colleagues in The Colonies.
You can't have too many of these.

I then had a quick look at the next project and realised that that was likely to be a completely different kettle of fish* but that nothing urgent was going to come up this side of Christmas. I therefore put it to one side and will give it further consideration when boredom strikes towards the end of the week.

That basically was all I had to do on the work front. I'm not exactly maxxed out but with the Christmas Break on the horizon I hope things keep quiet until after the New Year. This time last year I was in the first iteration of my first major deal and was working right up until Christmas Eve. To be honest I hadn't really wound down from work until about 27th December and would like to be much more chilled about things this year.

The other big news from today is that 30% has managed to book us a week away in a cottage on The Gower Peninsula in February when TP is away on his skiing trip. The cottage is accessed down a rough track only suitable for 4 wheel drive vehicles and is right on the edge of a sandy bay. It looks remote and fantastic and are really looking forward to some windswept walks and evenings in front of a fire.

The only other news from today is that, in the true spirit of decoration procrastination I avoided peeling away remnants of  wallpaper on the stairs and landing and instead found a door frame that needed stripping.
* actually more accurately described as a complete and utter bastard of a project

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Nothing to see here

There is very little to report for Sunday.

It was an early start as TP had an away match so we were out of the house by quarter past nine. TP's team got beaten by a very experienced team but they put on a good show and I thought the game was very good. TP made some fine tackles and playing at Outside Centre rather than Wing seems to suit him much better. All they need to do now is have a couple of fixtures where the opposition are more closely matched to give them a much needed confidence boost.

After the match it was home for lunch and another spell in the very fresh air as I walked T&M around the Three Miler. Then it was my finest hour as I lit the log burner ...

... funnily enough, once you get one of those burning in your living room you don't tend to do much else for the rest of the day.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Home alone .. ish

30% is away for a sleepover at her friend Pinky's house. Not being one for half measures, she was away with her overnight bag at ten thirty this morning with plans for a day's shopping in Worcester followed by a visit to a Chinese Buffet and then back to the aforementioned Pinky residence for wine and relationship counselling or perhaps more precisely post-relationship counselling.

This meant that I had the house to myself apart from TP, Tyson, Marauder, Noggin, Tog, Eddie and the chickens. I make that pretty much Home Alone as, apart from feeding and watering, they pretty much take care of themselves. Some of them do need their litter tray emptying but I won't go in to that as it will embarrass TP.

The morning was taken up with a trip over to the nearest DIY store for a couple of electrical components. On the way their I popped in to one of the local Butchers and finally ordered a tunnel boned leg of pork for this year's Prosciutto. After an enjoyable chat with the Butcher an order was placed and the leg will be ready for collection on Wednesday. It will actually be half a leg rather than the full leg as that would be a huge amount of Parma ham if all went well and a very expensive mistake if it didn't.

Once back from town I spent an hour or so removing the surface mounted light switch at the foot of the stairs and replaced it with a neat recessed switch box and shiny new switch. The stairs and landing are the next project on the decorating list and at the moment I seem to be finding anything to avoid finishing the preparation. In that vein the next job to be put off for a while is stripping the remnants of the wall paper.

The rest of the afternoon was taken up with a walk and a snooze on the sofa. I awoke just in time to prepare supper for TP and I and then returned to the sofa for a quiet evening in front of the TV.

I seem to have got to the end of Saturday without mentioning last night's Sarah Millican stand up performance. So putting that right I can report that it was a great evening. She was fast and bawdy with a great blend of anecdotal jokes and improvisation based on audience interaction. I'm not quite sure what my favourite joke was but the routine about what to use when you run out of toilet paper was very funny and Sarah's choice of Flash Wipes is obviously not to be recommended.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Just when I thought I was done for the week

Before I start I'll mention that we had the first light frost of the Autumn today, It was nothing to shout about, just that the lawn was just slightly crunchy as a I wandered over to let the chickens out. 

For most of Friday I thought "there's not going to be a lot to report in The Journal today". The morning was filled with a couple of conference calls. The first was best described as a  Mother's meeting and the second covered an educational slide deck that I had already reviewed.

The afternoon included a walk around the Three Miler with T&M and by half past four I was about to close everything down as were were out early this evening to see Sarah Millican at the Warwick Arts Centre. As I was wishing Golfy a great weekend I was messaged by our Manager to to ask if I was free for a call.

I stupidly said yes and within 5 minutes had suddenly acquired two pieces of work to do. Now I don't have a problem with being given work to do it is just that the timing of the work allocation is typical of this idiot's approach. Let's recap ...

... it is 4.30 and Dante's Nine Circles of Hell is notorious in the Industry for everyone knocking off at lunchtime on a Friday. Now this might be a slight exaggeration but realistically what am I supposed to do with a couple of new projects in the next 30 minutes before I finish for the week? Most of the relevant contacts will have the same view as me and will want to leave things until Monday so why didn't my Manager?

I'll tell you why, because a) he doesn't appear to have the ability to analyse how his actions are perceived by others and b) I really don't think he understands how people tick. Who in their right mind would give a member of their team a new piece of work thirty minutes before the start of the weekend? What was he expecting me to do with it?


Thursday, 1 December 2011

Thursday's News

Hmmm! Apparently yesterday's Journal entry has caused a bit of a kerfuffle. On opening this morning's post it became apparent that Amnesty International (Domestic Appliance, Power Tool and Garden Equipment Division) are not at all happy about the Tumble Dryer.

To be honest this isn't the first time I have been the subject of their scrutiny as anyone who is familiar with the malevolent practises of the notorious criminal lawn mower will know. However, following the disappearance under mysterious circumstances sad passing away of the lawn mower coupled with the fact that the replacement is treated like a Thoroughbred Stallion, I thought that they had lost interest and I would be allowed to govern here at The Pile without unwanted external interference ...

... but no, I now have a 15,000 word report summarising my alleged crimes against electrical and petrol powered devices and advising that a whole new investigation is under way following anonymous reports that a Tumble Dryer named Beko has been incarcerated without trial in a cellar at The Pile.

I am now in the process of drafting a carefully worded response to their allegations. To be honest I should treat the report for the nonsense it is and simply ignore it, but it is another quiet day so I have pulled together a few notes ...

... The main thrust of my reply will be based on the treatment given to other appliances at home. After all lets have a look at the Slow Cooker. Despite taking forever to do anything that inverted tortoise of a contraption is treated like Royalty. It sits on the worktop snug in its own electrically heated jacket and after each use it is lovingly hand washed in warm soapy water, then towelled dry and carefully placed back in its base. Are those the actions of a Despot who treats appliances like dirt under his feet? I think not.

Then there is the chain saw that I am on record as declaring my undying admiration for and, of course, the Porn Mower whose perfection has been recounted on several occasions. This is without even starting on the care and attention that the Motorcycles get.

Basically I think the AI (Domestic Appliance division)* are operating outside of their remit here. I think after careful consideration they will see that a) my treatment of powered goods is superior to that of most Developed Nation States and that b) they have no bloody jurisdiction here at The Pile anyway.

As a closing statement I would just like to point out that any Domestic Appliance that likes to have women's underwear stuffed in it's mouth is likely to quite enjoy being chained to a wall in a dark cellar!
* What this comes down to is the embarrassing lack of action on their part when Tony Hawks ** kidnapped a Fridge, smuggled it across International borders and literally dragged it around a foreign country for his own entertainment and profit ***. This is the White Goods equivalent of a Dancing Bear!
** No, not the fucking skateboarder you illiterate
*** Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks (Ebury Press)

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Slow Day

Bloody Hell! What am I going to write about today? If Monday and Tuesday were "quiet" Wednesday was like an empty Morgue...

... TP was off school today due to the strike being held by the Civil and Public Service "workers". He decided to take a trip in to Worcester with a couple of his mates so my working day was only slightly disrupted by his day care requirements viz collection from the City Walls Road Car Park at four o'clock and the writing of a cheque for his Guitar lesson. Other than that, I barely felt his presence.

Golfy and I had an extended work discussion that covered a variety of key subject areas*, none of which I can recall, but that took up a good chunk of the morning.

I also managed to relocate the new tumble dryer from the hall to the cellar where it will be chained to the wall, in the damp darkness and will be expected to perform it's drying duties without thanks until it expires like the last one**.

After lunch I took T&M for a walk and had yet another gossiping session with Golfy before departing on the aforementioned mission to Worcester.

The evening saw me in charge of cooking supper which, with the assistance of a call from 30%, was timed to perfection and was served up within 5 minutes of her walking through the door at 7:15.

That's just about it for Wednesday.
*50% gossip, 30% nonsense, 4% work, 15% death threats and general ill wishes to fellow workers
** a little harsh perhaps but 30% won't allow me to incarcerate anyone without trial down there so I have the Tumble Dryer in the iron mask and imagine the rest.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Virgin on the ridiculous!

It was another quiet day today. I did however instigate a piece of Manager Manipulation or, as Golfy puts it, major creeping...

... every week we have a team call and, for some strange reason, the Chair is usually too busy to host it so I end up with the job and the resulting minutes. To be honest I don't mind. Its not a tough gig and and my idiot Boss probably thinks its a more significant activity than it actually is.

To say my manager is a bit geeky is a bit like saying that the Pope is slightly catholic and, for balance, that the Devil may not have you best interests at heart when he directs you to Molten Brimstone Pool#14. Yes, he absolutely loves technology* and will spend hours farting around to automate an activity when a repeating meeting invite and a couple of emails will do the trick. My perception manipulation creeping was to emulate this technology fetish and perform a similar activity for the weekly team meeting. I had a Mmwahaha moment as I removed another potential area of criticism from the nitpicking idiot's list of doom.

Other News: on a fairly frequent basis the tabloids will print a picture of a crisp or slice of toast that bears a slight resemblance to an iconic figure such as Jesus or the Virgin Mary.  Quite how anyone knows what Jesus or TVM actually looks like mystifies me since they both pre-date the daguerreotype by the best part of two millennia.  What they are actually saying is that they have found a potato that looks like Robert Powell** or the front cover of The Ladybird book; The little lord Jesus...

... I may have rambled off there but I am slowly getting the point. Today I went for one of my 5-a-day and found this in the fruit bowl
Its a bloody miracle
If you look closely in the right lighting you can see that it bears a slight resemblance to a Virgin Atlantic airliner. I'm guessing that its just not clear enough to be picked up by The Press.
* My Manager. I'm not sure whether the Devil is a Mac User or not.
** Powell played the lead in Jesus of Nazareth in the 1970's

Monday, 28 November 2011

Picture Post. No. 15

It was another quiet day today. My most significant achievement at work was to achieve a score of 86% in  an on-line test covering the training material I reviewed last week. I suppose I should have considered taking the test again and aiming for a clean sheet but to be honest I have already had experience of including this type of service in a solution and know that there is a team of Specialists that have to be brought in to work out what to do and and how much it costs. I am assuming that those guys are more than capable of attaining 100% in the test and I am therefore satisfied that my paltry score indicates that I know who to contact and what they would be proposing.

That, I am afraid to say, was the most significant activity at work today. I have plans for the rest of the week but the only other thing that occupied me today was to finish clipping Tyson and Marauders' hind feet. For some reason they get rather fidgety so I only clipped their faces and front legs yesterday and  today I addressed the remaining tootsies. They now look reasonably presentable but there is some extensive brushing and de-tangling to be done as their coats are getting quite long.

The lack of news means that it is time for another Picture Post. This one is yet another from our Summer Holiday and is the Grizzly Bear we encountered near Mount Washburn

It was a long way off even with a 300mm lens
It may not be a great photo but it was a real treat to spend nearly an hour watching the bear wander across the hillside grubbing around amongst the herbage for whatever morsels it could find and this is a great reminder of that day.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Weekend round-up

Saturday's activities had been set in stone for a good few months as we were off to Twickenham to see The Barbarians play Australia. This was the final element of TP's array of Birthday surprises. TP has a close friend; Nathan and their birthdays are only a few days apart. As a result of the birthday proximity and their friendship their celebrations frequently have a degree of overlap. This year 30% arranged the Top Gear Live event and Nathan's Mum; Trish arranged the trip to Twickenham.

At ten o'clock we* all climbed in to the car and set off down South. In accordance with my usual approach I had failed to do much up front planning based on my sketchy knowledge of the local Geography** and my blind faith that there would be adequate car parking in close proximity to the Stadium...

I'm sure that I have now wandered in to an alternate reality as, again, The Gods smiled upon me and we turned on the Sat Nav to be immediately instructed to take the Staines junction of the M25 and cruise up the A316 straight up to Stadium. We circled a roundabout and pulled in to a temporary car park at Richmond College and were only 200 yards from the Ground and even on the right side of the carriageway for a rapid departure back towards the motorway.

We had a great day and saw some cracking Rugby. It was slightly unfortunate that most of the Rugby was played by Australia and the final score of 60:11 says it all.

As for Sunday, it was pretty unusual. I drove TP to rugby practice and took T&M for a walk while 30% stayed at The Pile and did a serious amount of tidying.

After lunch the dogs were given a much needed clip to their faces and feet and the rest of the day was spent doing as little as possible.

All in all a rather pleasant weekend.
* Me, Trish, TP and Nathan
** I spent 6 years living just South of the River in Motspur Park, New Malden and "sort of" used to know my way around Staines, Richmond etc

Friday, 25 November 2011

Red Letter Day

Friday: I thought I'd got a reasonable Friday arranged for myself. If my in-box were a swimming pool it would most definitely be the shallow end*. I have no conference calls scheduled and all I need to do is complete a few on-line training courses before a civilised finish at five o'clock. How could you improve on that without taking a day's holiday?

Basically this was one of those days where I was eating the apple and expecting to find the worm at any point. At lunchtime I was halfway through a slice of toast when my Manager** pinged me on the Instant Messenger ...

... "Oh Shit" I thought, rapidly followed by "what does this twat want" and finishing with "I'm about to get dumped on". I grudging agreed to taking his call pointing out that I was free, if being half way through a sandwich fell in to his definition of free. I did but a smiley face on the end but was, in fact, being sarcastic***. Apparently being half way through lunch is free and I am of a mind to start some tests to see how formal the meal has to be before he doesn't call ....

Manager:   bad man, are you free for a call?

bad man:    I'm carving a roast swan for the Queen

Manager:   That's fine, it will only take a couple of minutes

bad man:    Sorry Maj, I'll get rid of this dick and then I'll dish up the roast potatoes.

Apologies for wandering off the point, I took the call and was somewhat amazed to find that I had been granted a Service Excellence Award and would be receiving the princely sum of $500 in my next salary payment. I was obviously chuffed with this but I STILL THINK THAT HE IS A COMPLETE COCK and he proved that by putting his usual tarnish on everything he touches.

Manager:   remember that that is dollars not pounds

bad man:    yep, got that

Manager:   and that it is subject to tax and national insurance deductions

bad man:    shut up before we reach the point where I owe you money!

So all in all my working day looked good at the start and actually improved. I am now slightly worried that I may have actually entered an alternative reality because I am fairly sure that there is a Natural Law that states that an easy day at work can only get worse, much worse.
* I think that this is a great analogy, even down to the fact that it has used plasters floating in it i.e. things you neither need or want to see.
** I refuse to call him my Boss on the grounds that suggests a degree of familiarity or even conviviality between us
*** unusual for me, I know.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

I usually just let things pan out

Today I had actually put some effort in to planning my day ...

... Golfy and I were to meet up at The Nearest Circle of Hell. The aim was to have the shortest possible day stood in pools of molten brimstone and then retire to the nearest public house for a couple of drinks. This, as plans go, is pretty good and quite achievable. I do have some absolutely fantastic plans  but I do tend to find that my truly great visions tend to be quite hard to complete, By way of an example, the plan to draw a huge cock on my manager's front lawn in a strong solution of Round-up* was truly inspired but realistically it is never going to happen**.

Anyway, back to my scheduling, the plan was to work then visit the pub with Golfy, Grandad Jack and The Navvy. To fill my working day I arranged a couple of meetings interspersed with plenty of tea breaks. Now anyone who knows me well will be thinking "surely he means coffee breaks" but today, for some reason, the coffee was not sitting well with me and I spent the day drinking tea.

Apologies for the mundane digression there, the other great thing about this planning was that I had totally managed to avoid the School skiing trip meeting at seven o'clock by way of the fact that I would be sat laughing and joking in the pub; RESULT. Fortunately my delegation skills meant that 30% took on this parental duty ***

So, the day started and ran pretty well to plan. One of the meetings was an "interview". Our team has a monthly newsletter and every month one of the team gets selected picked on for a light hearted interview. This month the spinning bottle stopped at me and I had to sit and answer a string of the most peculiar questions. I won't recount them here to preserve my anonymity but needless to say Golfy and Grandad had huge laughs at my expense based on one of the answers I gave.

Apparently I am now the living embodiment of Elton John and apparently this is payback for the incredibly accurate e-fit photo of Golfy I produced a few weeks back.

The pub was fun but we all came to the conclusion that a couple of drinks was a dangerous point to stop as there was an incredible temptation to just keep going. Basically this is drinking equivalent of coitus interruptus.

I rolled on to the drive at eight in the evening and TP and 30% arrived a few minutes later. Supper was had in front of the TV and we basked in the warm glow of knowing that tomorrow is Friday.
* a systemic weedkiller
** only because I don't have his home address
*** Don't worry all you fans of equality ; I'll pay for this a thousand fold

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

I was doing something else

I have been moaned at by Golfy and the Mad Bat for the scarcity of Journal entries over the past couple of weeks. So  now I am back at work, I will do my best to avoid doing what I should be doing and will scrawl instead.

Why haven't I blogged? I don't really know. I just, sort of, lost the urge. There wasn't a huge amount going on and there was only so many times I could write "I walked the dogs" or "I did some cooking" before I felt responsible for engendering a feeling of extreme tedium in anyone that cared to linger here.

This is not to say that stuff didn't happen, I just didn't feel like weaving it in to a narrative. I guess that I just got plain lazy. So for all of you that have persevered with a bad man's journal here is list of some of the shit that happened over the past week or so ....
  • I did make the Puy Lentil and Bacon soup. TP & 30% really liked it*
  • I took TP and two of his chums to see Top Gear Live at the NEC**
  • I paid a further visit to the Dentist to have a crown fitted ***
  • I had my retinas photographed
  • The camera that failed  on holiday was returned from the repair shop
  • I took Marauder to the vets on two separate occasions ****
  • I went to Motorcycle Live 2011 at the NEC
So there you have it, as my hand slowly healed I discovered what life would be like if I took early retirement...

... And now I am back at work and am spending the first few days clearing the e-mails that have built up and completing some mandated training. It is possible that I may have slightly exaggerated the amount of training and email to my Manager.

Other news: I now have irrefutable evidence that 30% cannot slice bread.
That's 25 degrees off vertical
Now I agree that this approach does give you a larger slice but if you are going to use that argument you may as well slice the loaf horizontally.  This bread assault is a regular occurrence in our house and there have been occasions where I have had to rectify a "compound mitre de pain" before my morning toast can be made.
* I'm yet to be persuaded.
** It was exactly as you would expect it to be
*** That bloody hurt ... "No Mr bad man, we don't numb you up for a crown fitting"
**** That cost over £100 but at least I no longer need to mop up dog pee

Thursday, 10 November 2011

TP's 15th

Today is TP's birthday and the day started with cards and presents before he left for school. His main gift was an Electro Acoustic guitar and he was absolutely delighted with it. He has had an electric guitar for a good few years and, for reasons of his own, now wants to revert back to the more natural sounds of an acoustic. We therefore settled on a Takamine G series electro-acoustic Dreadnought to give him the best of both worlds and fortunately our present choice was exactly what he wanted - Phew.

A leisurely morning followed until a mild case of guilt set in and then I rustled up a couple of litres of leek and potato soup. I also finally got round to slicing the black back bacon that I had started curing a couple of weeks ago. This had spent a week in a dry cure and a further week coated in black treacle. After slicing I ended up with 4.5 lbs of sweet cured bacon plus another few ounces of lardons. The rashers are now sat in the freezer and the lardons may well end up in a Puy Lentil and Bacon soup.

The evening saw a Chinese take away served as the Birthday supper and we were joined by 30%'s brother and his good lady who came bearing gifts and cards.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Busier than expected

Wednesday's culinary offering was Butter Bean & Bacon soup. The recipe is pretty much as Delia Smith set it down so there is no need to reproduce it here. Its a great recipe, definitely got the "thumbs up"  and made sufficient to provide a lunch for me and 30% and also a portion for the freezer.

After making lunch I took 30%, T & M round the Three Miler. 30% was a dreadful nuisance, always stopping or lingering behind or running up to strangers and annoying them.  I have obviously been somewhat remiss and need to ensure that she is kept under proper control the next time I take her out for a walk.

Lunch followed the walk and then we were paid a visit by The Mad Bat. A visit from MB is always fun and a good hour or so was spent drinking tea and catching up with the news from the other end of the village. If it seems strange at The Pile there is a whole new level of lunacy in MB's locale*.

Having seen MB off the premises, Step Mum Sue walked through the door to drop off TP's birthday present. More tea was drunk and further news was shared.

The evening saw me visit the Consultant to have the stitches removed from my hand. All is well with the incision site and the dressing can finally come off in a couple of days. Apparently I am also OK to drive after the weekend ...

... I ignored this advice as I'm not prepared to stay in Droitwich until next Monday and climbed in to the Defender and trundled back home.
* Remember Village Idiot lives closer to her than us !

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Goodness! Things to do

Tuesday was quite busy compared to my recent sparse agenda. After seeing TP off to school and 30% off to work I got busy in the kitchen. Today's effort was a batch of vegetable soup. It is incredibly straightforward and takes little effort and I have noted it down below if anyone cares to give it a try ...
  • 12 oz carrots (peeled and cut in to 2" lengths)
  • 12 oz celeriac (peeled and cut in to 2" cubes)
  • 12 oz leeks (peeled, washed, halved and cut in to 2" lengths)
  • 1 large onion (peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 6 oz parsnips (peeled and cut in to 2" lengths)
  • 6 oz potatoes (peeled and cut in to 2" cubes)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3.75 pints of stock (vegetable, chicken or a combination of the two)

  • I weighed and prepared the ingredients as described above and put them in a large Slow Cooker and simply left them cooking for about 6 hours.
  • After it had cooled a little the soup was liquidised and is ready to eat or freeze. A swirl of cream or crème fraiche and a few chopped chives can be added when serving.
Having got the soup on the go I had a quick chat with Tigger before taking T&M for a walk round a very gloomy and very soggy Three Miler. It is fair to say that Autumn has most definitely arrived.

Back home I had time for lunch and twenty minutes with my head in a book* before I was out again. This time it was a trip over to the Dentist to have a 30 minute crown preparation appointment. I'm no great fan of the Dentist but I have to admit that it was nowhere near as bad as it sounds. The final fitting is scheduled for next week and that shouldn't be too bad either. The appointment took up a good chunk of the afternoon and the book and soup blending took up the remainder.

We then all had an early supper before we headed over to Warwick Arts Centre to see Steven Merchant on his Hello Ladies tour. I am mostly familiar with Merchant from his involvement in The Office and the occasional appearances with his writing partner Ricky Gervais. I say occasional  as Gervais is one of the few people that has me reaching for the off button on the remote control as I find him intensely irritating. Consequently I was not particularly familiar with Mr Merchant. I have to say that he was absolutely brilliant. He was laugh out loud funny and his 6' 7" gangling frame gives him a naturally comedic appearance. His material was sharp and very well written and he had an amazing ability to engage with the audience and poke fun at himself.

It was a great night and I hope he does more solo work as I would definitely recommend him.
* Sovereign by C J Sansom - not his best,  but still very good

Monday, 7 November 2011

What's for Supper?

A while back I had the idea of using the Journal to jot down recipes for some of the things I cook as I have a tendency to adapt them rather than slavishly follow cook book instructions*. One such example is a Pea & Ham soup recipe that is a family favourite but that one will have to wait until I have a couple of Gammon Hocks...

... Today 30% asked me to marinate a fillet of Salmon. I'm not a huge fan of the farmed, pink fish but there are occasions when it is sold at a price that is just to good to be true. The aforementioned fillet was taken from a whole fish reduced to a ridiculously low price. It was brought home and filleted and frozen.

A few years back after eating yet another bland chunk of farmed Salmon I finally decided to get creative and this is what I came up with ...
  • grind a level teaspoon of black peppercorns in a mortar
  • add a couple of dried red chillies and grind them too
  • next add a level teaspoon of salt, 4 crushed cloves of garlic, a handful of roughly chopped fresh rosemary and grind to release the flavours
  • finally add a good glug of Worcester Sauce and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix well
  • place the Salmon skin side down in an oven proof container and brush liberally with the marinade
  • now cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours
  • finally pan fry  or bake - whichever you prefer
It works really well and gives the fish a much needed boost. We usually serve it with fresh green vegetables and new potatoes for an easy weekday supper. The other great thing about this recipe is that it can be varied depending on what you have in the store cupboard/herb garden. The chillies can be replaced with Sun Dried tomatoes to give it a more Mediterranean feel.

* I then have a tendency to forget what I have done - hence the idea of jotting them down here as an aide mémoire

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Weekend round up

Saturday saw me take a take a trip over to see the Orthopaedic Consultant. His brief appraisal went along the lines of; very good, take more pain killers, do more exercises, see me on Wednesday to have the stitches out.

The afternoon involved a trip in to Worcester to buy TP's Birthday present and a few other sundry items. After making the major purchase there was the inevitable moment of concern about whether we had bought the "right thing" in view of the fickle and shifting whims of the modern teenager. Fortunately 30% carried out some subtle investigations and it appears that I am unlikely to need to exchange the item.

Moving on to Sunday we found ourselves at the Rugby Club for the second match of the season. TP's enthusiasm for rugby has waned slightly recently and my own personal opinion is that this is as a result of a poor decision about his preferred playing position combined with a little bit of peer pressure from a couple of his so called mates.

Fortunately he was moved in from the Wing to Outside Centre and had an absolutely cracking game which featured some solid tackles and some nifty footwork that saw him break through the opposition's defence, run 40 yards and score a try just 10 feet away from the posts. The final score was 27: 7 to TP's team and this seems to have recharged his enthusiasm ...

... although I am tempted to have a quiet word with his mates.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Picture Post. No. 14

The recovering hand hampers both activity and the recording of the limited range of activities achievable. There is only so much I can report about dog walking, cooking and the Satellite TV scheduling before tedium sets in here so Lord knows how that limited repertoire would sit with anyone who cares to linger here.

As a consequence of my limited ability to type I have continued my review of this year's holiday photos and am presenting a selection here.

Today's selection are Elk and Bison that we encountered in during our drive of the South Loop in Yellowstone National Park.

Bull Elk
Elk Cows
Bison Bull
I am really pleased with the back lit shot of the Bison Bull. He had just swam across a river and crossed the road in front of our car. He then proceeded to shake himself dry just alongside us. Right Place, right time.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Picture Post. No. 13

Today's accomplishment was a beef stew that is now sat bubbling gently in the slow cooker.

With such low level of productivity I decided to go with another Picture Post.

This selection were taken around the Upper Geyser Basin in the Yellowstone National Park on days 7 and 8 of our US holiday. This area is best known for the Old Faithful Geyser which is famed for its regularity. While we were there it was erupting every ninety minutes or thereabouts. It is very impressive but one does tend to get a little blasé about it after the fourth or fifth eruption.

One evening we were sat talking to a local who recounted the tale of the tour bus driver who told his passengers that it was OK to walk up to the geysers mouth. Apparently a Japanese tourist was hurried away from a close inspection of the vent unaware that the surface has a tendency to give way and that the geyser spout is a combination of super heated water and steam.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park
Old Faithful at sun set
The Upper Geyser basin is a fantastic place and the Thermal Pools are quite mesmerising. They are crystal clear allowing one to see right in to their depths with their amazing architecture of mineral growths and multicoloured mats of thermophilic bacteria. The Geysers are very impressive but for me it was colour, clarity and structures of the pools that really captured my attention.
Mineral formations and thermophilic bacteria
The Morning Glory Pool

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


The decline in to decrepitude continues ...

... today the dentist informed me that the large amalgam filling in the rear molar just had to go and be replaced by a nice new crown. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

What's cooking?

Today I offered to cook this evening's supper and had enough forethought to ask 30% to open the cans of tomatoes before she left for work as I had no chance of completing that task with my bandaged mitt.

I had further realised why I have been removed from active duty when it took me the best part of an hour to peel the onions and mushrooms in preparation for a Bolognaise sauce.

The spaghetti bolognaise turned out really well and was wolfed down by 30% and TP when they came home after Rugby practice.

Apart from that the day was relatively mundane. The dogs were walked and there was an "incident" with Marauder near the Poultry Farm but other than that I sat around and healed.

Monday, 31 October 2011

I need a plan

Three weeks, Twenty One days, THREE WEEKS.

It is Monday and I am now at home having been judged not fit for work for three weeks. After running around like a maniac for the past few weeks on the latest project I was thinking I would enjoy some enforced leave but now I am not so sure.

For starters the transition from 100% to zero mental effort is a bit of a jolt to the brain and that is combined with the frustration of only having one hand in full working order. Basically I am sat at home with a load of things I would like to do but even the simplest jobs need to be assessed and reworked so that they can be accomplished with one good hand and one little better than a boxing glove.

I have worked out that dog walking is feasible so that takes up an hour of my day and general tidying is well within my limits so that should take up more than my three weeks of sick leave. However heavy items or anything remotely grubby or soggy is most definitely off limits so garage projects are unfortunately not going to happen which is a real shame. 

I really enjoy working with my hands as well as my head and I really wish I was able to knock up something in the garage over the next few weeks. I'm not even able to drive so it looks like it will be limited to TV, books and tidying.

Ho hum!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Sick Note

It is up to you to decide which of the following three approaches I have used to jot down today's Journal entry;
  1. Using a stick attached to a band around my forehead to peck at the keys
  2. Dictation via 30%'s supreme typing skills*
  3. Child exploitation of TP by making him do it** 
It was an early start and 30% was an absolute angel to get out of bed at half past six to have me over in Droitwich for seven thirty. I was soon wearing a surgical gown and by nine thirty I was lay on the table having large quantities of local anaesthetic  pumped in to my left hand.

15 minutes later it was all done and dusted and I was being monitored for complications before being trundled back to my room. After a quick cuppa and a snooze I called the saintly 30% and she selflessly dropped everything to come and pick up the  ingrate  invalid.

I collected my "Get out of Jail Free Card" Doctor's Note and was soon being chauffeured back to The Pile to spend the day catching up on some TV and sleep on the sofa.

* He I very much under values me her and he I should show some bloody gratitude and appreciation by going out and buying me her something nice like a Mulberry handbag 
** very much like option 2 but with more shouting

Friday, 28 October 2011

It just gets worse

By now the corpse of the Badger is very smelly indeed but still surprisingly bloated.
"bad man, how can it be that big? The magpies and crows have been pecking at it for three weeks"...
 ... actually it was a lot more "shouty" than that!
"Your assumptions are wrong, make different assumptions"....
... I did have the genius idea of this one; It is assumed that there will be a breakthrough in Fusion Power generation in the next few months that will lead to electricity being free at the point of delivery by mid 2012. This assumption would solve many of my problems but, for some reason, Tigger was not keen to progress with this one now he is in charge of the Enterprise ...

... Try not to crash it Matey

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Role Play

Today Tigger attended a cultural awareness course. This involved him having his orange bits painted black so he could start to experience life from a Panther's perspective*...
"How was it Tigger?"

"Pooh it was great. I ate three deer and a Native who was planting pineapples. Pass me the dental floss will you old bean"
Back in the real world today has been pretty much the same as yesterday. Hence this nonsense rather than the usual griping about resources and costs.
* This may not be true

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Thought for the Day

Did you ever watch Changing Rooms? It was a BBC Makeover show where two Celebrity Designers would be teamed with a two home owning couples. They would then survey a  problem room in each house and then, here's the catch, they would then swap homes and sort out each other's problem room over the course of a weekend.

Now, as someone who likes DIY and home decorating, I used to watch the programme and wince at the corners that were cut and think what an absolutely dreadful job they would deliver. Everyone knows that "the key to decoration is preparation" and if you only have 48 hours your room will look like you employed Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles to do the job*.

Now you might wonder why this is my thought for today. Basically the current project is being run using the Changing Rooms approach - lets do a quick and dirty job, it'll be fine because it will only be viewed through a cathode ray tube and no-one will see the spiders in the gloss and the massive cracks that we didn't have time to fill.

Unfortunately the couples have now swapped back and they aren't happy**
* You can bet they aren't cheap either!
** everyone seems to forget that they signed up to the show in the first place

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Mission Impossible

Tuesday started with the Admiral's Team briefing and Tigger and I were there to recount the sorry state of the Enterprise. I gave my report as concisely as possible and watched all hell break loose. The Admiral was incredibly aggressive and seemed to be suffering a complete loss of memory about the train of events that lead us to where we are now. I stood my ground and took the flack and the net result is that a call needed to be held to see if we could progress the Mission with the Enterprise taking a less prominent role.

An interesting diversion was at the tail end of the briefing where one of the other Captains and our Commodore had verbal fisticuffs about crew numbers. We are reliably informed that there are NO issues with crew numbers...

... apparently the issue is with the way that Admirals are asking Captains to crew their ships. My Winnie-the-Pooh understanding of this is that all emergency situations now need to be planned in advance.

As Lunchtime approached Tigger and I stepped away from the problematic Replicator, it just will not dispense Hunny, and spent a happy hour in a briefing with another Captain. His plan is for the Enterprise to take a far less prominent role on the Mission and less prominence means less Glory. 

So it looks like, at best, we will limp along at the tail end of the fleet do the stuff that nobody else wants to do.

Now this might seem a bit cynical but certain Individuals have mentioned that we might have been set up on the current project. The thought is that we are in the "game" to make the US look good. Let's call it the Levis theory...

... even the most simple imbecile knows that a pair of Levis will cost far more in the UK than if you buy them in the US. This applies to many consumer goods and services, cars, property, food; they are all cheaper in the US.

The current project has the UK and US pricing a similar range of Services to present two pricing options to the client. The Sales Execs seem to be totally unaware of the Levis theory and think that we should be near to like for like costs with a small delta for additional UK activities.

There is a lot of "Make it so" management direction with absolute failure to acknowledge the fundamental flaws with the approach and the issues of resourcing and time lines.

I am very much looking  forward to receiving the tender ministrations of Nurse Chapel in a few days time.

Monday, 24 October 2011

They're not happy

The working week commences. Tigger and I are sat in the Briefing Cabin of the Enterprise pulling together our latest Mission Plan after the Admiral puked* all over last week's reports.

He needs us to get The Enterprise to the Gamma Quadrant Trade Negotiations by the end of the week and is not happy about the amount of gold pressed latinun we need to get her out of Space Dock. "You are incompetents" he bawled at us this morning. His rant continued with "I could procure a brand new ship from the Chinese Colony on New Beijing for the price you are quoting for having the Injectors recalibrated".

I'm guessing that our quip "Yes, but would you want to trust it to get you to the moon, let alone Vulcan?" whilst precise, was not the best judged of responses.

Basically he thinks we have had the Replicators re-programmed to deliver nothing but haute cuisine  and fine wine and that we have re-crewed the Enterprise with a team of the best looking, most highly qualified Mission Specialists in the Sector...

... We haven't. We just threw what we could together in the limited time available and he is a bit pissed off because we didn't have to time to got the planet Lidl to get everything cheap in a dented container with a label you don't recognise.

In the real world our review of our costs has made some significant reductions but the US are still not happy with them and I have spent a significant part of the afternoon having my arse chewed by American Salesmen. I'd like to take a moment to thank my UK Exec who stood to one side and let me take the bullets for him.

Cheers Mike.
* He claimed that he had Aldebaran Flu but I think it was too much Romulan Ale.