Monday, 28 February 2011

They say two out of three aint bad .....

...... but I'm not sure that I wholeheartedly agree.

My Day went like this. Pretty much the first activity after seeing TP off to school was to drop the Defender over at the workshop - CHECK.

Then back home to receive Chippy Ian so that he could make start on the Landing cupboards - CHECK

The make a few work calls to ensure that the rest of the week goes in the right direction rather than veering off course like a riderless bike - CHECK

So that's it, my day is set up and I should be able to enjoy my day off work. 30% had a day off too so we took T&M for a walk before returning to keep Ian filled with tea and perform other domestic odds and ends - I got to wax TP's bathroom door - the fun just never ends....

...... and so we get to the point where we appraise the day's activities and that is where the title of this entry gets a modicum of relevance. Ian has made a great start. The Linen Cupboard will be brilliant giving us some much needed storage on the open Landing  but without impacting the space to any great degree. He should only need a couple more days to complete the carcassing and make to two pairs of doors. Win number 1.

The work calls all seemed to go smoothly and I am therefore claiming that as Win number 2 although I am sure to regret this smugness by about Wednesday when it all goes tits up.

So that leaves the Defender and I am sure that you are ahead of me here .....

..... The Stage 1 tune has not happened. I was hoping to be razzing around the lanes in a truck with a lot more oomph but that was not what happened. The ECU upgrade is pretty straightforward process. The mechanic procures the remap software, a one use item, and installs it on the ECU. The fact that the remap software is a single use item ensures that the Software House gets paid for every remap. They have a variety of control methods and it appears that, for whatever reason, this remap cannot be applied to the Defender due to a software glitch - FUCKING PROGRAMMERS - Mark has therefore paid for an upgrade that will not apply and I am sat here without a car until some geek pulls his finger out and stops playing World of Warcraft long enough to do what he should have done right in the first place. I am mildly irritated by this but am sure it will be sorted in the next day or so.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Star Performance

And so Sunday starts.

For me waking on Sunday morning is like when you are driving the car and don't depress the clutch far enough. That grinding of gears that makes the mechanically sympathetic wince is a bit like the start of a Sunday. You wake, the mental gears grind and you wince knowing that Monday is a whole lot nearer. But then you need to press the pedal down and enjoy what you've got left. Theoretically I have a day off tomorrow but I seem to need to do an hour of work here and there throughout the extended weekend to keep the various balls in the air.

Anyway, enough of that and let's turn to Andy Parsons or, as the Daily Mail described him "... a surprisingly well informed Green Grocer". Like many I came across Andy as a regular on the BBC show Mock The Week. I thought he had something but 30% was not so sure so the Jury was split as we took up front row seats at Warwick Arts Centre last night.
Andy closing his set

He was really good. A pretty straightforward set delivered in a mildly disgruntled way and spiced with plenty of sarcasm and irony. 30% was won over by his well paced stream of on-target gags.

Now I appreciate that you may be thinking that I say "go see him/her" after all of the stand-up gigs so for fair measure I had better point out that I have seen some absolute Turkeys in my time.  Andy was definitely great but I would never pay good money to see Stewart Lee after he bombed at Warwick about 18 months ago. I enjoyed Reg D Hunter's flashes of genius but he was pretty pissed/stoned and for much of the set was a little off key. Canadian One-liner king Stewart Francis is great but he has very limited range of material and if you have seen much of him on TV you will have seen his set already.

Anyway, give Andy a go. The Gruntled Tour is running through to May according to his website and learn how to avoid looking shit on Mock The Week...
Other Stuff:

It is Sunday and TP is in the house. This means that Rugby is the principal morning activity. We arrived early so he could train and took T&M for a walk before the eleven o'clock kick off. As we took up position on the touch line the heavens opened and poured a steady rain on the proceedings only stopping a few minutes before the full time whistle blew.  The weather didn't affect TP's team and they put in a competent performance and the game ended in a deserved win. TP seemed to have had a pretty steady game playing out on the wing. He made some cracking tackles and had two or three serious attempts at taking the ball to the try line. I was really pleased at how he had played and it appeared that I was not the only one.....

....... he appeared from the changing room, clutching a hot dog in one hand and the man of the match award in the other. I am indeed a proud Dad.

The rest of the day has been spent clearing the landing in preparation for Chippy Ian who will be turning up tomorrow morning to make a start on the Linen Cupboard.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Wanderer Returns

TP has returned from his Austrian tour intact with tales of his skiing expertise. He has had a fantastic time and took to skiing like the proverbial duck to water. He has never skied before but was moved up a class after the first 10 minutes when he had already mastered the snow plough and basic turns.

It seems that he has progressed incredibly well and quickly caught up with his friends that had previous skiing experience. He must have been pretty handy as he showed us a video he had shot whilst skiing a red run - pretty impressive for only a few days of practice.

He arrived home yesterday afternoon absolutely shattered after a 20 hour coach Journey and has spent much of his time sleeping since. He was alert enough to notice that he was now sleeping in his new bedroom and that 30% and I had installed a new wardrobe and supplied some very funky bed linen to go with his chosen colour scheme of Taxi Yellow and Orange.

His skiing exploits have prompted 30% to consider a winter holiday next year and I was surprisingly asked for my views on a Winter holiday.....

.... I agreed that the Seychelles or the Maldives would be nice in February 2012. Ouch! Apparently that was not what 30% meant.

Today the plan was to take T&M for an early walk, pop in to Tesco and then have lunch at a local pub. This would leave the afternoon free for an hour or so of work in front of the Rugby  followed by a kip and then over to Warwick Arts Centre to see Andy Parsons do a stand-up set this evening.

This is all running to schedule but I would like to make one announcement to the absolute cock that gesticulated aggressively at 30% and me while we were taking T&M for a walk. This Bell End* saw Marauder crouch to do her business and then we walked on. The blind git assumed that she had taken a dump and that we were ignorant dog owners that were just going to leave it there. In response, I do clear up my dog's shit but if he had been slightly more observant he would have noticed that a) Marauder is a Bitch and b) she was taking a pee.

* aka the pretentious old prat who puts on a shonky Scots accent to address the haggis on Burns Night. I may take the opportunity to correct him when I next see him.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Swings & Roundabouts

Work has been a real grind today; lengthy calls, numerous emails and a momentary clearing of the fog to see a really crappy three weeks ahead. Ah well ,at least it was forward movement today albeit not very far.

I am also becoming very cynical about people saying they will do something. I now regard that as complete and utter bullshit until they send an email saying that they have completed the task.

But enough of that, Hopefully I have done enough that will allow me to take Monday off as a day's holiday with only a couple of hours effort required tomorrow to keep work crawling along like the first proto-amphibian that hauled it's slimy bulk out of a Devonian sea 400 million years ago or thereabouts. Yep, Dante's might think it is racehorse fast but the previous sentence is a far more realistic view.

Right, back to Monday. On Monday I had planned to take the Defender in to the workshop to have Alpine windows fitted in to the roof as part of it's civilisation. At present it has a van body and there are a few tweaks needed to make the back more passenger friendly. The great thing about Defenders is that they are easily altered and the plan was to simply remove sections of the roof and insert the aforementioned windows.

This was before the mechanic got cold feet and called. He advised that my Defender has the new smooth roof and he was therefore concerned that inserting the windows would increase flexing in the roof and could lead to leaky windows or them simply dropping out. He advised that similar "factory" roofs with alpine windows have a lip around the aperture to prevent flexing. Bugger, I thought.
It's an impression, not a Technical Drawing
"Don't worry" he advised "I can get you a replacement roof with the windows already fitted from a Dismantler and bolt it on". "As for your current roof" he continued "I'll buy that off you as I am always doing conversions". I probably need to point out that the Defender is one step away from a Mechano car and is incredibly easy to reconfigure from Estate, to Pick-up to Van. All it takes is a few bolts and usually WD40 and and Elastoplast. .......

...... The numbers all stacked up. The additional cost of the full roof was easily offset by the price the Mechanic would pay for the current one and the reduced time required to fit a roof as opposed to the modification of the existing lid. In other words it was pretty much cost neutral.

The only fly in the ointment was that this was not going to happen on Monday as a roof still needed to be located. I had a flash of genius .....

...... "Ah" I said "so you now have a spare few hours on Monday". "Yes" Mark, the mechanic agreed. "OK, how about still having her in and giving her a Stage 1 ECU remap then?" I suggested. Mark laughed and agreed. So, now the Defender is going to have her BHP and Torque adjusted to a slightly more aggressive level which should make her slightly more civilised at Traffic Lights and Junctions. RESULT!

Ploughing a 10 acre field with a Merry Tiller

That is how the yesterday finished.

First things first lets have a quick recap of the day. To be fair most of it went very well. The sun came out. For the first time this week it was a pleasure to wander round the lanes with T&M, hat off, coat open - steady now - and feeling the sun and breeze on my face.

On the work front, most of the stuff I needed to do went well and it was only the final job that has been somewhat problematic. Fortunately there are other ways of achieving the goal so it will not weigh heavy on my conscience if I don't get it done.

The job, yes, I was getting to that, I have an enormous model that covers the entire planet and this model has been developed in a Lamborghini* of a tool. To continue the automotive analogy, realistically I could do with a Ford equivalent because the tool is way too sophisticated for much all of the stuff I will ever do with it.

The tool itself consumes huge amounts of memory and processing power on my laptop so when asked to divide a global model up in to Geographic chunks it simply sulked. It didn't crash or anything like that it sat there looking like it was doing something but was actually achieving nothing. To be honest I think the damned laptop put 1% of its processing powers in to showing me an animated graphic of an egg timer and spent the other 99% of its capabilities looking at high res images of computer chips on the internet - Dirty little sod!

 Hence I felt that I was attempting a job with a tool that was seriously inadequate. I'm guessing that a large chunk of today will be spent doing the same

* as in it is very powerful, never works properly and the instructions are in Italian

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Glass half empty

Yesterday was one of those days when everything I touched seemed to turn to shit......

.... I needed to print out a couple of hard copies and, due to a complete melt down of the OS on the home PC, needed to install the home printer to my work laptop. "Ah" you say, "that should be pretty straightforward" and I would agree. All I should have needed to do is bung in the CD, click Yes and I Agree at the appropriate points and watch an animated file fly from one folder to another.

My hardware, however, had other ideas and it required three attempts and a re-boot before the printer appeared in the printer list and that pretty much set the scene for the rest of the day.

Every time I tried to do something I was either interrupted or required to complete a number of pre-requisites before I could do what needed to be done. The net result was a somewhat jaded individual.

From this morning's viewpoint I know that I actually did quite well. I got a project review arranged for next week. I got clarity on how to run that review thanks to Golfy. I also managed to coax the home PC in to life with a bit of patience, a straightened paper clip and a massive pile of data CDs so there is no need to go out and procure a new PC for TP to do his homework on.

So, all in all, it was reasonably successful - it just felt like a crappy day.
Other Stuff:
Marauder's Kennel Club Registration document finally arrived. It has taken the best part of a year to acquire this piece of paper as the Breeder decided that Marauder should be registered with an clause preventing any of her progeny from being registered. Even though we have no plans to breed from M we were quite miffed at this and requested its removal. Although the Breeder was willing to do so it has taken many letters and 'phone calls to get it sorted due to the fact that the Kennel Club point blank refused to liaise with the Breeder. This is in spite of the Breeder being quite happy for them to do so.

There is, of course,  a footnote because it is Marauder. Typically her poncy registered name is misspelt but, after dealing with the KC, I'm not going to go through the rigmarole of a name change.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Caution !

This Journal entry contains brief nudity and adult themes and may be upsetting for younger viewers.

Let me set the scene. It is half past ten and I have retired to bed to watch the News. 30% has wandered downstairs "au naturelle" for some undisclosed reason.

Whilst watching the news I pondered that being a Dictator must be really hard work if, in the past 40 years, Colonel Gaddafi couldn't find the time to promote himself further up the army ranking system. Whilst musing on how much time suppressing political opposition takes up I heard 30% shouting at Tyson downstairs. This is unusual as 30%'s general conversation with Tyson goes along the lines of "Who's my best girl".

The shouting continued so I hauled my arse out of bed - look away now, really there is nothing for you to see here - and stumbled down the stairs.

In the Hall I find Eddy, Tyson, Marauder and a half naked 30% all scurrying round excitedly. I make discrete enquiries and am advised that Tyson has just eaten a live mouse. I am suitably shocked at this and say "good, saves me catching the bugger" and am about to retire to bed when I am instructed to check Tyson's jaws ......

..... I assume for shreds of mouse stuck between the teeth - so difficult to remove, and who wants mouse breath next morning?

While I am doing this 30% kindly locates the still living mouse scampering round the floor. There follows an amusing naked romp involving the removal of dogs and cat, gathering of boxes and capture of misplaced rodent vermin.

I really need to talk to both the sodding cat and Tyson. They need to be taught not to play with their food as the end result is that I missed the weather and I do so like to comment on what Shefali Oza wears on the Midlands Weather forecast. Christ that woman needs a new wardrobe and don't get me started on Genelle Aldred!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Hedgerow Salad

The weather today is miserable. It is cool. It is damp. It is grey and dreary. It is not even worthy of being called weather. It is sort of what you would imagine would happen if someone switched off the weather or it defaulted to a limp home mode. I don't like it when it is like this. I would rather that it was pissing down with rain or hurling hail down on the ground than this insipid, damp, lack of meteorological action. I suppose I just like "weather with balls;" pouring rain, blazing sun, a gale anything but this.

Work has been similarly insipid. Nothing significant to do, just lots of irritating things that need to be kicked off or completed before the chaos starts in a week or so. I'll be back out in Boston in a couple of weeks time trying to get sufficient information so that our fag packet number is good enough to put in a contract.*

This afternoon I reluctantly grabbed coat, hat and the usual dog walking ephemera and set off with T&M round the Three Miler. I enjoy the walk and the opportunity to get away from the desk but the weather hardly made it the most enjoyable of rambles. T&M, of course, thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and now have a new delicacy to add to their foraged snacks. For the past few weeks they have had pretty poor fare and have been subsisting on the odd road apple that they come across. There was a week of bounty when one of the local farmers was muck spreading and the roads were littered with extract of cow shed. The dogs were as happy as pigs in shit that week. That was pretty much how they smelt that week too.

This week however the Goosegrass (Galium aparine) has started to shoot and T&M absolutely love it. They charge from patch to patch nibbling away and seem to select it in preference to the other greenery. I noticed this last year too. I can only encourage them as the damned stuff will be a nightmare later on when it starts to seed and their coats are filled with the wretched stuff.

* ooh look, Gloucester Old Spots coming in low from the South West. Their hams look beautiful silhouetted against the setting sun

Other stuff:
Chippy Ian rang back with the quotes and they are pretty close to what I had estimated. He has been booked for next Monday to start on the first of the jobs, the floor to ceiling linen cupboard on the Landing.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

From Lazy to Bone Idle

With TP away falling down hills in Austria there is no Rugby training or games to fit in to my Sunday morning.

As a consequence no alarms were set and 30% and I further practice the art of the line-in. Eventually caffeine withdrawal got the better of 30% and she was first out of bed. I was roused with a double espresso at an especially civilised 9.15. The icing on the cake was that she had also let out the chickens so there was nothing to drag me from my pit.

The rest of the day involved me putting considerable effort in to "pottering". I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I have finally reached a pottering age but have also discovered that it is a euphemism for doing sod all but looking incredibly busy at the same time. This is therefore an art worth perfecting.

This evening saw a trip over to Warwick Arts Centre to see Radio 4's "I'm sorry I haven't a clue" stalwart Jeremy Hardy live on stage. He was dry, sharp and very witty with a stream of slightly edgy left wing intellectual conciousness that was very entertaining. It was difficult to pick out any material as a highlight but he was in the middle of a Middle Aged rant about Americanism where he came up with .....

......  "It's not I'm Good, it's Mustn't Grumble" . As it says "You probably had to be there"

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Lazy Day

30% and I have had a very easy time of it today. We lay in until gone nine and, after a leisurely breakfast, popped in to Worcester for a wander round the shops. The weather today has been miserable which means that the sanding of doors in TP's recently decorated room is still on hold.

Perhaps it is for the best as we have both had a manic week so a lazy day is just what the Doctor ordered.

A welcome interruption at lunchtime was a text from TP to let us know that he had arrived in Austria.

The afternoon saw me drag a basket of logs in from the pile and take T&M out for a walk. The log burner was coaxed in to life on my return and I found that The Dam Busters was showing on HD so my afternoon was sorted.

The Mad Bat & Dickie are popping round this evening for a few drinks and a catch up. The Mad Bat's has had a particularly harrowing time recently so, understandably, it has been a good while since we last met up. It will be great to see them both and relax and chat in front of the fire.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Phew, I think I got away with it.

Today was deadline day at work. All week I have been updating numbers that needed to be passed to my American colleagues this evening. It was debatable whether I needed to have these numbers approved or not but, being the "new guy" I thought I had better get a Green Light.

I had a brief approval call and despite understandable concerns was allowed to proceed. This should be a cause for celebration but the further we progress the more the common concern is that it will end in tears. That is what can happen when Big Guns say "make it so".

Away from work my Dad popped round for coffee this morning and we spent half an hour catching up on each other's News. He asked if I was still writing the Blog and mentioned a tale that I might like to jot down. It concerns my Grandfather and Dad felt that it would sit well in the Journal.......

When my Dad was a boy the family home was very close to the local railway stations, note Stations plural it was GWR and LMS in those days. Instead of buying coal by the sack from the local Coal Merchant, Grand Dad would take his pick-up truck down to the Goods Yard and buy his coal loose there.  It was all above board and the process was that the pick-up would be weighed empty at the Goods Yard weighbridge. It would then be filled with coal and weighed again. A quick subtraction and Grand Dad was billed for the load of coal.....

.... "OK" I hear you saying "but it isn't the most interesting of tales". And I would agree if it wasn't for the fact that in those days the family dog was an enormous Springer Spaniel called Sam. Sam was massive for his breed and was probably about half a hundredweight if he was weighed. I appreciate that that is in "old money" and it translates to 56 lbs or about 25 Kilos in more modern coinage. Dad and Sam used to accompany Grand Dad when he used to buy coal but only Dad and Grand Dad used to get out of the truck when it was first weighed. This meant that the "empty weight" included 25 lbs of dog.

When the loaded truck was weighed everyone including Sam got out and Grand Father got 25 lbs of coal for nothing.


 Other Stuff:
TP set off for his skiing trip to Austria today. as I look at the Dishwasher and the pile of recycling that needs taking out I think "God I miss him already"

Cold Cuts for Supper ?

Yesterday I was having a status review when I was asked to comment on a candidate's suitability for a role. It was all very off hand and an informal request.

I thought back fondly to when this candidate used to be a Task Manager for me and replied rather formally "I didn't feel able to comment on their suitability for the role". The Reviewer laughed and commented that I need not say any more.

As I said in the title, I think it is cold cuts for supper.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Progress.Part 2

The important things first; another egg was laid today. A Minorca egg this time which suggest that the day length has reached that critical point and the flock is about to start laying with a vengeance. To the non Hen savvy out there I suppose I had better point out how I know who lays what. My birds all run together as a single flock but each breed of chicken lays a different coloured egg. The Minorcas lay white eggs, the Marans deep chocolate brown, the Sussex pink tinted egg and the Araucanas actually lay a pale blue one. The combs and wattles also turn a deep red as the girls come in to lay so it is fairly easy to see who is earning their keep - even if their pay is chicken feed.

On the dog front Marauder encountered a couple of new Border Collies without barking today, although she did produce a few rumbles and grumbles later on the walk. Still this is an improvement on how she has been so hopefully she is finally calming down and becoming less nervous of other dogs.

On the work front I have managed to consolidate my costings and just need to discuss them with an Exec tomorrow before I get the thumbs up to pass them over to my US colleagues. I did learn today that when one of my colleagues says "yes, that seems a reasonable approach" what they actually mean is something very different when you ask them to put pen to paper. As they say - it is all part of the learning experience.

Back at the Pile, TP is off to Austria skiing with the school tomorrow so we are busy making sure that he is packed and ready to go. Earlier in the week he informed me that he is doing a project on The Middle Ages at school. Nowadays it is all "multi-discipline" and a project will cover many subjects including Science, History and Technology. I therefore helpfully suggested that he should train monkeys to Joust using cats as mounts and buy some leprosy bacteria culture (Mycobacterium leprae) off e-Bay and see if he could surreptitiously infect his form Tutor for that authentic  Medieval Beggar look *......

.... What do you mean "I'm not helping"
* I thought innovation in a project was a good thing, as is going the "extra mile"

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Picture Post. No. 4

Most of my day has been spent number crunching and the hours I wasn't doing that were spent walking T&M or packing TP's case for his skiing trip.

A consequence of this lack of news is that it is probably best if I go with a Picture Post rather than trying to make cramming salopettes in to a case sound interesting. Believe me I wouldn't even attempt to make consolidating cost estimates even slightly appealing.

Double Rainbow Loch Glencoul, Scotland. Aug 2009
This double rainbow was taken during our 2009 Summer Holiday in North West Scotland. It was taken from the window of the chalet which overlooked Loch Glencoul near Kylescu. It is an amazing place; remote beautiful and wild. The loch is home to seals and sea otters, although we only saw the former while we were there.

At low tide TP and I would wander down to the loch shore and collect wild mussels. After a quick scrub to remove the barnacles and weed 30% would cook them in a pan with white wine, shallots and garlic and serve them with a cream sauce. They were amazing and one evening TP actually found a small pearl in one of them.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Progress: making head way, moving forward, developing .....

...... Hmmm, probably far to early to tell.

I took Marauder to Dog Training last night and, for the first time in months, she was relatively calm whilst waiting to go in. There was no nervous barking, just friendly sniffing of her class mates. I also noticed while we were walking today that she didn't bark when we met Dave and his Welsh Terrier Grace. Is she making progress? Hmmm - probably far to early to tell.

I let the chickens out this morning and found that one of the Light Sussex had laid an egg. I have mentioned before that the hens are an aged bunch that only lay when the sun shines. We had a few eggs back in January when it snowed and I wondered at the time whether the light reflecting off the snow was enough to stimulate one of the Minorcas to lay. I may have had something there as it was very early in the year and the supply soon dried up again. It is getting to the point in the year when they should start to lay like crazy. They are certainly ploughing through the food at the moment and it would be nice if the relationship was a little more of a two way street.

On the work front...... actually "Bollocks" to the work front. Most of my team seem to think that I am there to apply the proverbial toilet paper. On a number of occasions today they have chucked crap over the wall and expected me to just live with it. To continue with the metaphor, since my hands were already dirty and full, I just threw it back at them and politely asked them to sort out their own problems rather than pass them to me. I have sat goggled eyed incorporating their outputs in to a costing tool for most of the day and can report that the tool is pretty lacklustre too. I have therefore signed off and called it a day.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Head Down

Today has pretty much passed me by. I managed to get out for a walk mid afternoon but other than that I has been sat on front of a laptop or with a phone glued to my ear.

I have to update a set of costs by the end of the week and am consequently chasing round to ensure that the right people are available and understand what to do. So far, so good but it is only Monday evening. I would suggest that we monitor the levels of expletives in the Journal as the week progresses.

Outside of work it was St Valentine's day and I was rewarded with a fantastic Monkey Card and a pair of tickets to see Dolly Parton when she tours in September. As 30% put it "a trip to see the Grand Tetons"*. This was a very appropriate cryptic clue considering our planned August road trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks.

* Translate it via Google if you must

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Rain Stopped Play

The plan for today was that 30% would take TP to Rugby Practice. She had volunteered to assist with the fund raising car wash at the Rugby Club. Having seen the state of her car, whichever poor devil got to wash that had definitely pulled the short straw. It was, to use the popular vernacular, minging.

I had planned to stay back at The Pile and sand the doors in TP's newly decorated bedroom.  This task was originally in the scope of the decorating work recently undertaken by Andy & Steve but they cocked up their estimates and didn't have enough time. So I now have a freshly painted room and two stripped, pine, ledge and brace doors to sand. Obviously I didn't want to fill a freshly painted room with dust so the plan was to drop them off their hinges and sand them outside on a couple of saw horses.....

....... as I said "that was the plan" until I checked the weather and saw that it was going to be drizzle followed by rain. Ho Hum, so I went with Plan B and put a coat of emulsion on the walls and ceiling in TP's bathroom.

Actually that was Plan C. Plan B was to place my arse on the sofa and watch a recording of yesterday's Rugby International. I know that there will be shouts of hypocrite following my piece on not getting the point of Sky + but the fact that I already knew the score and therefore painted the bathroom sort of reinforces the point I was trying to make; that most television isn't worth recording and, whilst TV ranges from an informative medium to an entertaining diversion, real life generally has the edge.

30% and TP returned shortly after midday and reported that the car washing had also been postponed due to the inclement weather. This means that the Seat is still crud encrusted and I am beginning to think that Thursday's break down was some form of protest. I am wondering if the lawn mower has been agitating again.

After Lunch Ian the Chippy and wife Debbie called round and we had a good natter and talked through the bits and pieces we wanted doing. They are a really nice couple and easy company and it will be great to have him involved in the next phase of the project.

The remainder of the afternoon was filled with a soggy walk round the Three Miler and then a quick bath for T&M.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The sun came out and 30% and I got busy today.

TP was spending the day with his Mum so it was a quick trip to Tesco, Lunch and then a list of chores. The new light and switch were installed in TPs bathroom and, after the dogs were walked, the bathroom cabinet was put on the wall.

Floors were scrubbed and swept and the debris that accumulates during the week was cleared away. Nothing exciting just a long list of domestic duties but a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day that The Pile looks a little more "together".

Over the past few months we have been more focussed on the renovations and we have a Chippy coming over tomorrow to quote for a few tasks including a fitted wardrobe in our Bedroom and a cupboard on the Landing.

He is a very capable Carpenter and General Builder and was part of the Team that built the extension back in 2007/08. Due to the age of the Property and it's consequent irregularity he built the roof by hand on site. There were no pre built roof trusses to be craned in to place and each length of wood was individually cut to fit. He also laid the oak floor on the Landing so we know that his carpentry repertoire runs from structural to decorative.

 All we need to do now is "get our ducks in a row" so that Andy and Steve have replaced the Bedroom ceiling before Ian is ready to come in a build the wardrobe.


Other Stuff:

30%'s car came back from the local workshop. They had run a diagnostic test and no faults had come up and the damned thing started when they got it back to the workshop. It was fortunate that they tried to start it when they picked it up from home and it resolutely refused to fire up, otherwise we would have looked like a right pair of idiots. The fuel system has been checked and the filters replaced but nothing significant has come to light. It may have been contaminated fuel but they cannot be sure.  The Mechanic had come across this before in an Audi with the same engine and no cause could ever be identified. The engine type is normally very reliable so it is a case of fingers crossed that this is a "one off". Their advice was to join the AA and it if started to play up consider it time to get a replacement vehicle.

Work has started to ramp up as our prospective client has decided that they quite like the proposal that we have presented and we are through to the next stage. There will now be many weeks of discussion, debate and development of "numbers" hopefully followed by a similar amount of time devoted to Contractual debate before pen is put to paper.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Roller Coasters are for pussies .....

..... pass me the cream bowl.

Early yesterday evening 30% and I popped out to see a Blacksmith at his Forge over the other side of Droitwich. He was a nice guy and the iron curtain poles were just what we wanted so an order was placed for a couple of the bedrooms and the landing. We then returned to the car and drove off. Within 300 yards 30%'s car stalled in the middle of a country lane and refused to start.

Not what you want to see down a dark country lane

When I say Country Lane I mean COUNTRY LANE it was narrow with high banks and hedges either side."Ah" you are thinking "Banjo Country, stuck in the middle of nowhere"  - "No" this lane was like the M1. Within is a couple of minutes we had cars behind us and a truck in front. So there we were blocking a country lane in the dark.

I got out to explain our predicament to the truck driver. He was understanding and said he would reverse back. As we were talking a Traveller Gentleman in a small flat bed wagon asked if I wanted a tow out of the lane on to the main road. We gratefully accepted and within a few minutes were attached to his wagon by about 12' of rope - make a note of this as it becomes relevant later on.

So off we went at a fairly sedate 20 miles per hour down the lane. Mind you 20 mph down a narrow lane is bad enough add in that I am 12' from the back of a truck with no power steering and no brake servos and, lets say, it demanded a high degree of concentration.

At the end of the lane we stopped and my new Traveller friend came to untie us. He asked where we were from and we told him. He was unfamiliar with the village but was going to Redditch which was a damned site nearer civilisation than we were at present. He offered to tow us and we gratefully accepted. Thus began the ride of a lifetime.

If you have never been towed before let me tell you that it is not fun. It demands absolute concentration in a vehicle which handles like an absolute pig due to the lack of power assistance to steering and breaks. Remember I was 12' from the back of a truck and could see nothing so could only concentrate on his brake lights with my foot hovering over the centre pedal. It was dark and the route took us around the edge of Bromsgrove and down a dual carriage way. Roundabouts, drizzle and the end of the rush hour summed up the conditions. I wasn't having fun.

I hoped things would be better when we got on to the dual carriage way but my Traveller Buddy seemed to think that 50 mph was a suitable towing speed. So there we were, 12' from the back of a truck at 50 mph in the dark. Every cell of my body was screaming hit the brakes but I could do nothing but go along for the ride. You will not believe the sense of relief when we finally drew to a halt in Redditch.

As I said in the title Roller Coasters are for pussies, pay a Gippo £30 to tow you 16 miles along a blend of country lanes, suburban roundabouts and fast dual carriage ways if you really want to get your heart pumping and a real sense of danger.


A quick call to 30%'s younger brother got us a lift home and then Dickie and I went out with the Defender to tow the car at a far more sedate pace back home.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Marauder's Bumper Book of Crimes. No. 6 in an occasional series

It has been noted that Marauder has been coming in from the garden with muddy paws, much muddier than usual.

Investigations have discovered a large hole has been excavated at the edge of the lawn near the chicken coop.

Marauder is asking that six similar offences be "taken in to consideration" after consultation with the cat's brief.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

At the end of the walk

As we were nearing the end of our walk this afternoon a Buzzard lifted up from a paddock maybe 20 or 30 yards away. I watched as it slowly gained a little height and then headed off alternating between shallow glides and stiff wing beats.

It then dived and alighted in a tree about 200 yards away where the Bridle Path meets the field where TP sledges when it snows. It was a lovely few moments and, thinking it was finished, I turned to continue my walk.

As I adjusted my heading another Buzzard caught my eye coming in low from the North East. It too flapped and swooped then settled in the same tree, perhaps a pair.

Let's call it a draw

This morning I wandered down stairs to find Eddy with a mouse sat between his paws.

He looked up and in the manner of a true psychopath his expression changed, in an instant, from one intent on dissection and murder to one of pure innocence."He was lost and I was just giving him directions" was Eddy's response to my knowing look.

I collected up a small cardboard box and torch and in a couple of minutes the mouse was safely caught. It seemed intact and was soon released in the garden. All in all it was a rare comeback from the rodent team against some serious opposition. One all!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


Very little to report today.

Yesterday evening's dog training went well with Marauder showing much improvement. This was the second week that she had attended without Tyson and she was far more comfortable with the exercises and generally more focussed. There was mention of the feasibility of splitting the two dogs in to separate classes but realistically I'm not sure that would be possible.

On the work front things are still quiet and I have a feeling of impending doom as I have a strong suspicion that every day of inaction now will mean extra long days in the near future. In other words, just because the client is not yet able to give us any direction does not mean that they will move their "end date".

I have a few odds and ends to keep me ticking over - barely.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Fasten your safety belts ....

.... it might get a little bumpy. Yesterday 30% and I had one of those odd conversations.

"You mean you had one of those odd monologues and I had to suffer it",

"Thank you Darling"
Basically we started off talking about the weather and ended up with a mutant combination of biblical character, enigmatic and slightly malevolent children's fairy tale anti hero and associated rodents. 

It went like this ... actually I had better forewarn the sensitive to look away now ...

...... Basically were we off to to watch TP play Rugby and I was dithering about whether to wear a hat or not. "Take one and put it in your pocket" advised 30% "You've got millions". "I've got millions of pockets ?" I replied. "That must mean I've got a coat like Joseph".

That was the first mental leap from one set of rails to another. Hold tight it gets worse.  I then managed to mangle this so that the son of Jacob was wandering around in the ancient Middle East in a coat with a million different coloured pockets. It then slid further in to chaos  ....

...... At this point the Pied Piper of Hamlin entered; stage left with his entourage of vermin. I'm not sure how I made this leap but it might have been a peculiar wardrobe based decision. To cut a long story short Joseph, well know star of West End Musicals and part time biblical figure is now wandering around with a horde of trained rats each of which is trained to sit in its own particular pocket.

30%'s long suffering response; "aren't rats colour blind?"

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Must be a phase of the moon

For the past week, or so, whenever I have sat down and started to do something one or other of the bloody cats has started yowling or scratching at the to be let in or out. How is it that the little gits are so persistent and that their vocal demand is perfectly pitched to hit my central nervous system like lemon juice in a cut....

..... I am jerked, puppet like from my endeavour to act as door man for the little sods. This is where it gets ridiculous. Most of the time they don't seem to want anything particular. They just fancy a mooch round the closed off room and then want to come back and try another door or see whether they can kip on the keyboard, basically anything that interrupts me from my mission.

I am starting to think that they are in competition to see how many doors they can actually get me to open in a set amount of time. My suspicions were alerted this morning when Eddy wanted to view the cellar. There is absolutely nothing down there to entice a cat. It is a typical cellar; cool and slightly damp and marked by a complete absence of rodents. Whilst the remainder of the house features warm, soft beds and cat food Eddy wants to go and check on the St Emilion. He's messing with my head.

Well they need to be careful as Potato was sat by the meat slicer last night and I noticed that he would comfortably fit on the mechanism that slides the meat past the blade. It was at this point that a synapse sparked and a new Deli product was on the drawing board.....

..... Parma Cat. It would be a 100% certified number one seller, Cat shaped, wafer thin slices of air cured cat. How chic would that look on a plate? I hope the furry cads read this and realise that the one with the monkey brain and opposable thumb is getting ideas above his station.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

It finally arrived ......

Butcher to his wife "I had to let go of Jim today. I found him with his cock in the bacon slicer".

Wife in response "Oh, that's revolting, what about the bacon slicer?"

Butcher "I fired her too"

It is certainly not the best joke in the world but it has a certain relevance today .....

.... first things first, the relevance is tenuous. I have not been dismissed from Dante's for inappropriate relations with company equipment. Anyone who actually reads this stuff will be aware that one of my hobbies is the curing of bacon, plus a singular foray in to air dried ham which will not be ready to sample for another month at least.

To date I have hand hand sliced the cured flitches which is fine and I can make a reasonable job of it. However a Bacon Slicer would allow a decent job right up to the end of the flitch when hand slicing results in a certain nervousness about one's fingers.

Several months ago I mentioned that I was curing bacon to Pat. Pat is an elderly divorcee who lives in the centre of the village. She is quite a character with two Jack Russell Terrers and a penchant for gin. She is a delight; straight talking, independent and a mean cook. Her cottage is right where I cross the High Street when I take T&M round the three miler and we regularly bump in to each other as she is always "coming and going".

"Oh" she said "You must talk to my son; Richard. He is a Butchery equipment supplier, based in Scotland". A few days later she called at the door and thrust a card in to my had. "Call him" she said "He'll sort you out with a slicer".  After having looked on e-Bay I had a vague idea of what I was after but was reluctant to bid on a Slicer without a better understanding. I called Pat's son and he was an absolute star. He talked me through the ins and outs and advised that bacon is one of the most challenging products to slice due to its texture and the expectation of quite thin rashers.

Top end kit runs in to the Thousands but he advised that he would be able to sort me out with a trade in unit for a couple of hundred provided that I would accept a bit of "tailing". This is where the end of the rasher tends to stretch and the final few millimetres of cut is somewhat ragged. As a hobbyist this was not a major issue so a deal was struck and he said that he would drop a slicer down the next time he visited his Mum......

...... and that was the last I heard from him for a good few months until the middle of this week when Pat slid a note through the letterbox. Richard had moved house and had lost my phone number but had not forgotten about me. He was visiting this weekend and I simply needed to call him if I was still interested.

The call was made and I now have a beast of a slicer sat on the island in the kitchen. It may seem an extravagance, perhaps it is, but we home prepare a lot of food that needs slicing from hams for sandwiches to the much mentioned bacon. We did try a domestic slicer that was loaned by a frolleague of 30% but it's performance was inadequate and it's cleaning a nightmare.

I now appear to have another power tool and this one is in competition with the chainsaw for the title of tool most likely to remove Bad man's body parts.

Friday, 4 February 2011

I love my chainsaw

I guess that like a lot of men I quite like power tools. The fact that The Pile is a bit of an ongoing project means that they are a necessity and get used on a fairly regular basis, all of them except one; my chainsaw.

She is supreme amongst the drills and saws, the routers and sanders, the planers and strippers. Why? Why because she is a Power tool with a Capital "P". I don't get to use her often but that little two stoke engine is outrageous. the noise, the smell and the sheer brutality as she chews her way through wood.

That is one of things about her. She demands absolute respect and absolute concentration. She is scary, dangerous and needs 100% concentration. She is both absorbing and enthralling.

Last week at the  Burns Night Supper I was seated at the same table as Village Idiot. At some point in the evening VI asked if I wanted a couple of pallets for the fire. I was short of kindling and accepted the offer. VI and I have a very casual relationship and there was a common and therefore unspoken understanding that the transfer of the pallets would happen at some point and that it required no further arrangements.

It was therefore no surprise when I found them dumped on the drive one afternoon this week when I returned from walking T&M. They were a couple of beauties; lots of nice thin planks that make great kindling and plenty of chunky corner pieces that burn easily and would soon form a good bed of hot ashes to kick out some heat and allow hardwood logs to take light.

This afternoon I finished work while it was still light and took the opportunity to break out the chainsaw and convert the couple of pallets in to firewood; literally. It was absorbing and a great change from my normal day. The kindling bin has been replenished and the chunkier pieces are smouldering as I type. There is nothing like coming home to a real fire and its even better when the fuel is "gratis" - Cheers VI.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

I dont rate Sky +

I have been meaning to jot this down for a while but have never got round to it before today.

Is it just me or is Sky + bloody pointless. Don't get me wrong I enjoy the range of channels made available by satellite television but I am yet to see the real advantage of adding a hard disk to the box that allows you to record/rewind the channel you are watching plus record a programme on one other channel.

Lets go with pausing/rewinding live TV first. The way this is done is that Sky + has a buffer function that holds a maximum of 30 minutes of the selected channel. This allows you to rewind and replay an event just watched or pause an programme while real life intrudes. This is seen to be great for Sports fans and probably watchers of the pornographic channels too as they can watch that climactic moment time and time again or pause while they nip off for beer and snack* .  The thing is, while doing this the actual programme continues and one is left with two options; hit the square button and jump to real timing, missing what happened while your created your personal replay, or carry on watching in delay mode which has a tendency to screw up the viewing of later programmes .....

..... let me explain. If I am watching a football match, which is highly unlikely, and decide to rewind to watch a goal or go and answer the phone I have caused the programme to over run. This may be a few moments but could be several minutes. This can mean that I that I miss the start of the next programme because I am watching the end of this one.

Even more frustrating is pausing a programme while someone else in the household takes a phone call. You then end up sat in front of a frozen screen while a family member or friend rattles on in an inane fashion. They don't have to worry about missing Eastenders because it is paused and are oblivious to the irritation that rapidly manifests when you are listening to half a conversation whilst watching what has become a poor quality urban still life. In the good old days they would have a hurried conversation and then get back to the telly. Now the gits know they have half an hour to talk bollocks without missing a moment of the "drama". The net result of this increasingly frequent scenario is that the pain that is life in Walford is drawn out to even greater lengths and I get to miss the start of the documentary I had been looking forward to.

Let us now move on to the second "advantage" of Sky +. You can record up to two channels of TV simultaneously. To be fair here I can accept the use of begin able to record TV but a Sky + box can hold about 180 hours of the stuff.

What does anybody want with 180 hours of recorded TV? The standard Sky package has an enormous range of channels and I like to browse the programme guide and select a programme to watch. I am not interested in creating my own personalised TV channel. I like to select from what is offered. If one goes down the road of using the hard disk to just store and watch personal selections little or no time may be left for the gems that worm our way in to our viewing consciousness because there is "bugger all on".

Creating your own TV channel is like going in to a restaurant and just always asking them to cook your favourite dish. I like a good pate' as much as the next man but the smoked duck I selected at a restaurant a few weeks back was fantastic and I would never have thought to ask for it if it wasn't on the menu. Do you see what I am saying here? Sky + has a tendency to  limits your choices and can inhibit opportunities to find new televisual delights.

Moving on, I appreciate that there are certain benefits to watching pre-recorded TV, It gives you the ability to fast forward through, rather than endure, the ever increasing quantity of commercials that punctuate the media. This allows you to avoid the opera singing prat and the irritating meerkat vermin that invade every programme**.

I can't believe I snapped one of the little sods. San Diego 2006

 Mind you, there  is a down side to this. You then reduce an hour of TV to about 45 minutes and have to watch the last 15 minutes of something else which is basically a preview of what Alzheimers is going to be  like......

...... what has happened? Who is that man? Why are they trying to stick a tag on that shark?

To cut to the chase, TV is a great form of entertainment but it is just that, a form of entertainment. Enjoy it but don't get so wrapped up in it that you need to see every damned minute of the stuff. You don't need to watch every episode of Eastenders to keep up with the plot. To be honest it, and other soaps, are pretty predicable and it doesn't take a lot of effort to work out what you have missed and what is likely to happen next.

If you haven't got the time to watch a programme just let it go. Realistically there are so many channels and so little new material that it will be repeated within a couple of weeks and on Dave every other day within a month or so.

I like TV but I don't like the way the supporting technology is trying to make it something that it is not. It doesn't matter if you miss it. There are far better things you could be doing than watching a lot of the dumbed down nonsense that is broadcast.

I have to admit that I go with Lord Reith's approach of television to inform, educate and entertain. I have yet to see quite how cash in the attic or hole in the wall fit in to those categories.

Do yourself a favour and be selective but open to new opportunities. if it is crap tun it off or turn it over. Don't endure it.

Rant over
* or tissues and lube.
** I do have a plan for these two. It involves plunging the rodent in to liquid nitrogen and then bending the singer over - need I say more...... ?

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


A few days back 30% accosted me and asked if I had completed a chore that had some how appeared on my "to do" list. I thought for a moment before mendaciously responding with a "yes". "Seriously" she responded "have you really done that?".

Knowing that I was never going to get away with it I confessed but followed up with a pretty reasonable piece of bullshit to cover my tracks.....

.... I advised that I had recently been experimenting with time travel and 30% had just had a chance encounter with a "me" that had "fluxed" from the future where the chore had been completed as promised. That "me" had subsequently "fluxed" back and she was now talking to the current "me" that hadn't quite got around to the aforementioned job yet ....... but would do so shortly.

"I'll flux you" was her pithy response as I wandered off to complete the task. Apparently I can be somewhat infuriating at times. I cant see why?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Warming Up

Today I was treated to a Blue Sky when I took T&M out for a stroll.

Although it is still early in the year, the first signs of growth are appearing in the woods and lanes. Small Cow Parsley shoots are peeking though the Ivy on the woodland floor and the pastures are slowly starting to green again.

Work too is starting to gather pace and numerous calls have filled my day and each one results in numerous actions and minutes.

I am concerned about the way the project is running and, to use a horse racing analogy, at the moment it is a bit like a riderless horse. It is running with the group in the right direction but is likely to veer away from the hurdles without a decent jockey on its back. At the moment the Lead Project Manager's communications are lacking in depth and direction and it is only through experience and common sense that we are heading in the right direction. "Lead" might be a bit of a misnomer. At the moment he is a bit too focussed on getting a signing rather than giving adequate consideration to the "What" that will be signed up "to".

I am not alone in this opinion and a number of my American colleagues have made similar utterances. It is a bit of surprise to be herding my European cats and then finding that I have to prod and nudge the leader of the Pride too.

Other stuff

Tyson is definitely "in season" and therefore barred from Dog Training for three weeks. Last night it was just Marauder and me under Len's scrutiny. 

I have previously mentioned that Marauder was an A-Grade student until a Border Collie took a dislike to her and since that point she has become very nervous in class and we ended up moving to another session to get her back on track. She is still very nervous and Len thinks that a few sessions without Tyson may improve her confidence. 

She did reasonably well last night. She is still nowhere near her previous form but it wasn't an absolute disaster.