Thursday, 31 March 2011

Picture Post. No. 6

Two days of meetings attempting to improve the knowledge and interlock between an American and European Team....

..... Obviously time for a picture post then

 This youngster was found minding his own business in a field in NW Scotland during our 2009 holiday. I'm not sure it is possible to take a bad picture of Highland Cattle......

...... "So, What are you breeding them for? Milk production, carcass conformation, productivity?"

"No, I just like 'em pretty".....

...... Now there is a scary thought!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

So, how was it?

I picked up the Defender before work and am pretty pleased with the difference. To be honest the roads between the workshop and home are hardly ideal to test it out but it is far more responsive to the throttle.

It is a diesel four wheel drive truck with gearing and differentials to suit so is never going to be a rip snorting beast that drifts through the corners and leaves smoking trails of rubber as it pulls away from the lights. That sort of performance would require some form of NOS injected big block V8 which is hardly practical but would be highly entertaining.

First gear is a crawler so is very little affected but I found that as I change up the box there is far more power there. The engine spins up much faster, the throttle response is much improved and top gear acceleration is now a reality rather than a dream.

Hopefully I will get away from the desk to use it at some point this week......

.... work has been less than exciting. It is a hard slog. To continue with the motoring analogy, to date it has been like pushing a car uphill. It now seems to be like pushing a car uphill on its roof.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Weather Report

And the roiling clouds split asunder and a shaft of light lit up the scorched earth and there roaring mightily stood the Defender .....

...... "Bad Man, it's Mark from MP Trading. Your Defender's been Power upgraded. Its like a missile. You can come and get it. Phone me."

Sometimes, just sometimes, I get a message worth listening too.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Marauder's Bumper Book of Crimes. No. 7 in an occasional series

Marauder narrowly escaped a charge of Actual Bodily Harm after today's walk ......

..... our route took us past a free range egg farm and we dutifully put both T&M on leads as we walked the section of foot path that passes the barns and poultry enclosures. Once clear T&M were liberated and they charged off only to find a hen that had decided that working for a living was not for her and had plans to see  more of Warwickshire.....

.....  I don't think her plans to experience more of the world included being pinned down between Marauder's paws and plucked.*


* To any particularly concerned about Hen Welfare I can report that the hen escaped with only feather loss. I am also guessing that working for a living is probably a lot more appealing after this morning's experience.
It was a normal start to Sunday with an alarm call as TP has a rugby match. Fortunately 30% and I have recovered from the worst of the "bug" and we piled in to the Defender and arrived at the club at 9.45 for pre-match training.

30% and I took T&M for a nice long walk whilst TP and his team mates prepared ....

.... obviously they needed more time, much more time, as they got their arses severely kicked this morning by a squad featuring a number of Warwickshire County players.

This afternoon saw us trundle up the road to attend VI's first birthday party. Now regular readers will know that VI is definitely not one year old. He is actually 60, but has never had a birthday party until today. It was a really nice afternoon "do", all very relaxed and informal with a cold buffet and a surprisingly good home brewed cider supplied by one of the Guests. Mad Bat and Dickie were there too and it was lovely to catch up with their news. We also managed to put an order in for half a pig and selected a few cuts of beef from a forthcoming slaughter. It was sort of a rural version of home shopping.

30% and I had decided on a nice new pair of size 12 wellingtons for VI and these were gratefully received as his current pair are well and truly knackered. Apparently the new pair will be be undergoing sea trials in May when VI and his long suffering spouse take a trip to Borth.

We arrived home well before 7 as we are both still not fully recovered from the bug and I propose to do nothing more energetic than press buttons on a remote control this evening.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

The Dreaded Lurgy

Yesterday afternoon I started to feel unwell, nauseous to be honest.

I seem to have come down with the "bug" that is going round at present. This one is quite nasty. I'm usually pretty resilient to such things but I ended up in bed and haven't eaten anything for the best part of 24 hours. *

TP was unwell on Sunday and it seems that it is now 30% and my turn to share in it ....

..... yes 30% arrived home from work with a similar symptoms.

* as for the rest of the symptoms, you really DON'T want to know

Friday, 25 March 2011

If I could turn back time .....

I have just dialled in to a Conference Call where it transpired that "Statutory Consultation Periods" and "Expressions of Interest" were the main subjects of discussion.

As I waited for the call to commence, there was a knock on the door. T&M went mental and I opened the door with the phone held to the side of my head......

..... it was a Romany Lady selling Lucky Heather.

Perhaps I should have made a purchase?

Bad Night's Sleep

I woke on Friday morning having had the worst night's sleep. Let me explain....

...... Spring is here and the mouse population is booming. Potato and Eddy have free rein so come and go as they please. Last night Eddy hopped up stairs and decided to play with his latest "friend" in the bedroom that has just been plastered.

Yep, that's the one, the empty bedroom with bare floor boards that is nice and echoey. T&M being inquisitive dogs decided to go and investigate and soon we had a cat, a mouse and two dogs clattering round the bedroom. It is now three o'clock in the morning and I am wide awake.

Eddy then decides to take his prey downstairs and things quieten - briefly. I try to settle but am disturbed by a peculiar scraping sound. I wander down stairs. The mouse has obviously climbed inside one of my boots and Eddy is trying to encourage him out.

Using my opposable thumbs and monkey brain, I open the back door and shake the little bugger out. I then retire to bed with Eddy giving me a "look".

I then toss and turn for another couple of hours before falling properly asleep just before the alarm.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Judge Dread ....

Today we have been spending time trying to get our Quality People more comfortable with our Project.

We have been holding a number of calls to further familiarise them with the scope and issues as they seem not to be able to pick up a 'phone or draft an e-mail independantly. Apparently I am their serf.

Today we held a call with Human Resources and during this call Judge Dread shouted out a question about billing and revenue streams during a particular phase of the project....

..... I was somewhat taken aback and asked him to explain the relevance of the question to an HR discussion. He then said "so we are only talking about HR"......

..... "Er, yes" was my reply since that was the specialism of the Key Speaker.

Is it me?

I wonder if he take this approach in other parts of his life. If so, I can see him walking up to the Doctor's Receptionist and asking for a couple of fillets of Sea Bass.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Today ....

... is the day that I celebrate my Birthday. It is not the day that I was born. That date sits a couple of days before Christmas and is not a great day to have a Birthday. As a consequence, a few years back I decided to have an official birthday but could never find a day that seemed suitable.

After all, if you have 364 other days to choose from which one do you go for? Obviously you can weed out the crappy ones such as those in the same month as your day of birth and obviously you don't want to clash with any of your  friends or families anniversaries or other religious festivities but that is still going to give you a good 250 dates to choose from.

I settled on the 23rd March. The fact that I was born on the 23rd of a different month is pure coincidence. The reason I chose this date is because back in 2008 I had what some people refer to as  a "life changing experience". I would rather refer to it as a killer after dinner story.

Those who know me really well know a lot more detail than I am prepared to record here but back on 23rd March 2008 after a busy day tiling the kitchen floor I had a major headache. The sort that comes on very rapidly and results in incoherence and vomiting. I later found out that I had suffered a sub-arachnoid brain haemorrhage. To cut a long story short these are a killer. 40% of people who have them don't make it to the hospital and, of those who do, 40% leave the hospital severely disabled.  I survived pretty much unscathed which means that I am one of the lucky 36%. It took the best part of 6 months to get back to work and a full year before I was back to "normal" but here I am with a great after dinner story* and the perfect day to select as my official birthday**.

So there you have it. Am I a changed person as a result of nearly shuffling of this mortal coil? No, not really. I do know I am lucky and I do know that every day should be treasured. I also have very little tolerance for people who think that a work deliverable is the most important thing in the world.

As for today I have been bogged down in arranging a series of meetings to get my project's quality rating improved. To be honest I had totally forgotten that it was my "official b'day" until a card arrived from 30%'s mum and dad.

That leads me to my final point. At the age of 47 I have pretty much got past the excitement of a birthday and perhaps having most of them overshadowed by Christmas is the reason why. I am sure that 30% and I will do something nice in the not too distant future and I am sure that at some point I will think of something that I would like as a gift. But there is no rush as I joke that I am now immortal as none of the gods wanted to take me 3 years ago in 2008.


* I have another one about a "Lads trip to Amsterdam" and a live sex show but I need to be very drunk to tell that one.

** Probably not a good idea to tell me you have a bad headache. Mine lasted 5 weeks and they used to move me on to morphine at night when I had reached prescription limits of codeine and paracetamol. Incidentally the drugs only took the edge off the pain I had to wait for my body to clear the haemorrhaged blood before the pain dissipated. 

Nothing was stirring not even a mouse ....

 ..... I know they weren't stirring. The little vermin sods were sat on the sofa having worked out how to control Sky+. Let me explain ......

..... I now recount the only possible set of circumstances that could have lead to the tale TP recounted when he returned from school today.

Eddy, it is always Eddy, had obviously brought in a rodent victim for some "entertainment". The aforementioned victim was obviously of sterner stuff than Eddy expected and made a run for it and managed to hide out in some corner of The Pile.

The little sod has been deep under cover learning our ways and becoming familiar with every routine and habit. It then discovered Sky + and watched the recording of The Great Escape. I can see the little sod now, kicking back on the sofa, munching on a Dorito that TP had previously dropped down the crack between the cushions. I can see him now; studying the plot and then the Eureka moment as he sees the way out of the prison......

..... he scuttles upstairs and secretes himself in TP's school bag. He knows all too well that he is never going to go hungry in there with the crumbs that accumulate. He lies in wait listening for the slam of doors, the bus stop bullshitting and finally the settling of kids on the bus. This is it, a blast of light as TP opens his bag and Mousey scuttles out and up TPs arm. TP takes Mousey to the Driver who escorts him outside and with a cheery "Danke" he has made his escape.....

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

I am the Law ....

I have noticed of late, that The Journal is becoming less interesting than usual. I am entrenched in a piece of work that both fascinating and tedious, exhausting and invigorating. It is also very on/off. At the moment it is very "on" so I tend to leave the laptop at the end of the day with little energy for much else.

Today was spent trying to get a particularly intractable member of the team on side. It looks like we are going to have to spoon feed and pamper him to stop his irrational outbursts. On a call today he complained that he couldn't hear because a dog was growling ....

....... I always knew Tyson was a good judge of character.

Monday, 21 March 2011

War Room

On the work front we enter the final phase of the project......

Within the next couple of days we will provide the client with our latest set of numbers and, all being well, we will progress to the final stage.

This means that all the assumptions we have made need to be verified and all of our risks need to be mitigated and this is an area where I, and I think Golfy too, are stood with necks bent back staring up a very steep learning curve. Whilst we have both been involved in this general type of work for many years this is a very different ball game and there are a whole array of new elements that we need to become familiar with and address.

We have not yet been given the thumbs up to progress but there is so much work to do in such a ridiculously small amount of time that we need to throw ourselves in to the next phase before we know we have "made the cut".

Fortunately one of the whip carrying Daemons has decided that we need assistance and so Golfy and I have been sat in a bunker with a very experienced colleague reviewing our status and planning the next phase of our campaign. It was a long and tiring day and there is still much to do but the end of day summarisation seemed to say that we weren't in too bad a shape.

I managed to take a moment out during the day to capture this snap of us during our deliberations.

Lets go and grab a carrot and then assess these risks ...

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Where does the time go?

Sunday started way too early as TP had an away game over near Leamington.

We dutifully hauled our backsides out of bed and trundled to a very pleasant club to be advised that they had "pitch issues" and that TP's game would need to be delayed until after the Under 13's match as there was only one playable pitch.

I did a swift mental calculation and proved that however good and cheap their bacon rolls and coffee would be there was no way that it would make up for the 90 minutes of sleep that I had just sacrificed at the altar of Rugby Union.

Fortunately TP's team won 22:17 so my offerings had been accepted and the team were rewarded.

The late start to the match put us behind for the rest of the day and to be honest we achieved little more. T&M had their usual walk and I managed to sort out and submit my expenses. All I need to do now is a final clear of the bedroom in advance of Andy & Steve's arrival, plastering trowels in hand.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Site Clearance

Today has been a "bit of a mad one" too.

30% rose at a quarter to nine and managed to dress, ablute and throw a coffee down her neck before disappearing down the road to the hairdressers for a nine o'clock appointment. I had a slightly more leisurely start to the day but was soon out of the door to take T&M for their walk.

Back home, 30% and I lunched before emptying and dismantling the vile flat-pack wardrobe in the bedroom in preparation for the Plasterers arrival on Monday. The wardrobe was a bit of a monster and we decided that passing the sections out of the window was far simpler than carrying them down the stairs and out of the back door. 20 minutes later we were hitching the trailer to the Defender and loading up the vast pile of chipboard.

A quick trip to the local tip and we were then able to relax and survey the result of our efforts.

30% decided that a quick trip to Stratford was in order whilst I opted to put my bum on the sofa and watch the England:Ireland Rugby International. Ireland were fantastic. England were most definitely not.

Oh, I forgot to mention ....

Eddy* came in through the cat flap last night and dropped a dead, but still warm, mouse on the hearth rug.

Tyson walked over, gave it a sniff and then promptly ate it. The look on 30%'s face was a picture as she covered her ears to avoid listening to the enthusiastic crunching.

By the way, Eddy didn't look too impressed either. If I was Tyson I would think long and hard before messing with Eddy.


* For any newcomers, Eddy is a three legged cat - hence Eddy Percent (say it out loud)

Friday, 18 March 2011

Standing on a Ridge

I have had a bit of a week.

I'll try not to make this too boring so intend to be brief. back in September last year I started a new role at Dante's Nine Circles of Hell. I have been pushing rocks uphill for the past five years and wanted a change so here I am in another circle with some very Senior Demons, more temptations and much bigger rocks!

It seems less like Hell and that, in itself, is worrying. Am I starting to enjoy my job again? Am I finally wearing pips at Starfleet? .....

..... We will see.

For the past few months I have been progressing a project through a number of iterations with a client. Initially I was quite heavily supported by a Senior Colleague but for this current phase I have been mostly flying solo apart from recently when I have been ably assisted by Frolleague Golfy.

To change analogies or mix metaphors it has been, and I hate to use the phrase because I think that most people sound like complete knobs when they say it, "a bit of a Journey".

Here are five words:-

job    can    do    this    I

Looking back from the ridge upon which I current stand they form the phrase "I can do this Job". If I swivel 180 and look forward they reassemble to make the question "Can I do this job?".

So far, so good but I know, because absolutely every Fucker takes pleasure in telling me, that the next and final phase is going to be so much worse that what has been before.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

More Channelling

I have have had a peculiar day. I have had an intense review session with my European colleagues which appeared to go reasonably well but then went tits up because the Chair revoked on the summarising action that he declared at the end of the call.

Instead of taking the "split decision" to a Senior Exec he backed down and now appears to be presenting an "un approved" decision. Needless to say this has caused all sorts of ructions and I propose to move slightly in to the shadows and watch for a few hours to see what happens.

I appreciate that this is not peculiar but what is most strange is that for most of the day I appear to have been channelling an Estate Agent's thoughts and voice. Not just any Estate Agent (Realtor for any US Readers) but one who appears to sell Lairs to Criminals. I am not talking Crack Houses to "Homies" here I am talking about pukka hollowed out mountains to International Shadow Figures. I can't get the bloody voices out of my head....

.... This is the scene; I am in some Swanky Office. You know the sort, high quality images of the residences and their fine interiors, prices that make you wince and walk on. In limps my prospective client, a scar down one side of the face, a cat and a henchman. He enters and in a faint European accent advises that he is looking for a new "base for his operations" and wonders what I have on my books. I escort him in to the office and politely suggest that the Henchman might like a coffee from the machine. Typically the Henchman says nothing and stands stock still. I follow Mr Ex in to the Private office and present a number of glossy brochures.....

I have a number of possible properties on my books at the moment. Perhaps you would like to consider this very traditional Volcano Lair with sliding lake allowing helicopter access direct in to the interior. It dates from the 60's and has been beautifully maintained. The Seller is an old friend and we know that he has had the Lake mechanism serviced annually and it is whisper quiet. We appreciate that some do regard this type of base as somewhat dated but I have to say that retro is "in". It is absolutely delightful and a snip at this asking price.....

....... yes, I am sure that the Volcano is inactive but, of course, we would recommend that all of our Purchasers do avail themselves of a full structural, and in this case, Geological Survey before completion......

..... Yes, this other volcano is slightly more spacious and does have a more modern monorail transit system as opposed to the older electric golf carts but I would point out that there is a slum township on the lower slopes. Some say a cunning disguise but we here say "trashy" and most definitely not you.

If the volcano residence is not for you perhaps we can offer something different. I do appreciate that the Volcano is only really suitable for Gentlemen that operate in a single Geographical Region. As an alternative, have you considered and under sea complex. We have a fine one just adjacent to the Marianas Trench. It is an up and coming area and is perfectly placed for the hijacking of high value goods being transported by shipping including the old favourite; radioactive waste.

I have to say that the views from this residence are absolutely fantastic and there are no troublesome neighbours. Have you seen this interior shot showing the circling sharks ......

..... do you know, I think you are right, that IS a severed hand falling from the jaws of that one on the left.......

..... The previous owner - oh he is a lovely chap. Retired now. got out of the game at the right time and has settled in Devon and runs an organic Veg Box Business as a hobby.....

.... Basically made a mint holding most of the Russian Federation to ransom with a threat of contaminating their oil supply and took the money and ran after considerable cosmetic surgery.....

... No, not you, yes I appreciate that it is a little out of the way and Ocado are never going to deliver.....

.... by the way I just noticed that your cat's titbits look just like severed pinkies, how cute ....

... Oh, they are ........ Well I never ....

.... now, where was I, we've looked at Volcanoes and they are a possibility, the under sea complex is a little oppressive and gloomy, have you ever thought about a Jungle Complex? No, not one of the old ones, they are all sat behind Aztec ruins, are full of spiders and have dodgy air condioning....

.... what I am proposing for you is 90 square miles of pristine Jungle. Total seclusion, great weather and beautiful views and, here is the big plus, you get the Complex that really meets your needs. We happen to have an up and coming Architect who can bring your dreams to life. He has had the perfect upbringing to visualise your needs, develop them further and bring them to life in this verdant setting.

His background gives him the perfect mental perspective to make this work, his mother hated him, his father hated him, his friends mocked him and his teachers loathed him. Even his Teddy preferred to be tied to the front of a dust cart than join him in bed. These experiences have made him the perfect guy to build your base for world domination and a joint degree in Architecture, Politics and Nuclear Physics make him the man to turn your dreams to reality .....

.... No, Oh I see, Mrs Ex isn't keen on that amount of gardening. Hmmm, Ok, we are down to the last one in the pile....

.... I have to warn you that it is expensive and some of my less discerning clients have not been able to pick up on the atmosphere. This one is most definitely gritty and urban in a totally remote, non-urban way......

..... It is perfect for the man who wants to rule the world and will give you the best location for that type of operation. It is delightful, very modern, very monochrome, lots of space, easy maintenance and plenty of parking, no intrusive neighbours, no nearby military bases or aggressive, interfering right wing Governments that want to be seen as whiter than white and try to limit your "operations"....

  ..... viewing, err yes ............ I'm sure we could arrange a viewing although that might not be for a couple of weeks........

... the location, well .......

... it is the dark side of the moon.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


This week has been somewhat intense, especially after last week's US trip followed by the Under 14's Rugby Tour. Basically I feel like I haven't stopped to wind down for the past 12 days and am feeling somewhat frazzled.

This week I have to progress my project through a series of Executive Reviews in order that I can pass my outputs to my US colleagues who can, in turn, crank a handle and present some numbers to our client. I have 5 reviews in 4 days and, so far, I have managed to clear every hurdle. I am not saying that this is an easy ride - it is far from that - but so far we have managed to get conditional approvals to progress to the next stage. This intense schedule has also dictated that I visit the Office for the first three days of the week which is an unusual working pattern for me.

I appreciate that this is far from exciting but it has occupied so much of my time this week that I have had little time for anything else. Today, however, there was a brief lull and Golfy and I met up at the nearest circle of hell and disappeared down the Pub at lunchtime like the dedicated professionals that we are.

I also managed to get home at a reasonable hour and managed to pop over to the Blacksmith to pick up the curtain rails and also take T&M round the Three Miler for the first time since Sunday.

My final review is tomorrow afternoon and hopefully I will then be able to relax and ease my way in to the weekend.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Channelling Your Pets

Today has been spent reviewing the project with the aim of ensuring it is in a fit state to go through a series of Executive Reviews later on this week.

There is no way that I can make this entertaining or interesting so I thought I'd provide a brief description of one of my latest diversions......

..... since T&M joined out family unit they have become exactly that, members of the family. They have their own personalities and peculiarities and consequently anthropomorphism has blossomed and each one has become a furry person with much the same rights and degree of latitude as that given to young children.

This has allowed me to develop a new form of entertainment known at The Pile as Pet  Channelling. This is quite straightforward but does allow me to get away with some of the most outrageous behaviour. Basically I crouch near either T&M and start a conversation with them in much the same style as Johnny Morris in Animal Magic except that there is more bad language than in the children's BBC TV Programme. Generally I tend to "channel" Marauder as her personality is the more talkative of the two dogs. Tyson is more of the "strong silent type". Obviously I am delivering both parts of the conversation but it is amazing how much I can get away with as both 30% and TP seem to go with the flow and take part in this ridiculous charade.

Here's an example of a recent Channelling Experience....

Badman              Hello Marauder, did you miss me?

Marauder            Yes  (in a plaintive tone)

Badman              Did you have a nice week with 30% and TP while I was away?

Marauder            I wanted to come with you (again in a plaintive tone)

Badman              I’m sure you had lots of nice walks with 30%

Marauder            No, it was shit!

So, there you have it, give Pet Channelling a try and create a whole new dimension to your relationship with your furry companions.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Match Day

TP and I rose at eight, breakfasted and headed over to the host Rugby Club. Their team were absolutely enormous. I have never seen 14 year olds like them. In terms of skill they were on par with TP's team but their size gave them a considerable advantage and it was a home win.

Back home TP and I watched the England v Scotland International before 30% and I took T&M around the 3 Miler.....

...... it's great to be home at last.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Revolving Doors

I arrived back in Birmingham at around 6.45 am and was firing up the Defender in Long Stay 1 about 30 minutes later.

After a 40 minute drive I walked through the doors at home to be enthusiastically greeted by 30% and T&M. Actually, if the truth be told, 30% has to wait for T&M to calm down before she can get close enough for a kiss and a hug .....

..... they do get a little excited.

I had barely walked through the door before we were climbing back in to the car to take TP over to the Rugby Club. 30% had made a couple of calls and had arranged for another parent to take TP over to the days first activity; a Water Park session so that I could spend a couple of hours at home before leaving for Newcastle-under-Lyme. I therefore  managed to unpack one bag, repack another, shove a bacon sandwich down my throat and have a nap before I climbed back in to the car and trundled up to Newcastle-under-Lyme.

I have never been to this part of the world before and can now report that I saw absolutely nothing to drag me back, motorways, dual carriage ways, speed bumps, warehouses  and motels......

....... welcome to North Staffordshire!

After finding the Hotel, and TP,  we drove over to the host Rugby Club and watched the Ireland : Wales International before returning to the hotel for Dinner. I was pretty shattered and made it through to 10.30 before retiring to bed .....

....... where I had to do my Good Samaritan act as an elderly lady was collapsed outside my room apparently suffering from a hypoglycaemic attack (low blood sugar). I'm diabetic so am familiar with the condition and took the appropriate measures;  I quickly emptied a few sugar sachets in to a mug, added warm water, stirred  and got her to drink it. She slowly became more lucid but none of the people in attendance could get her upright and her partner was pissed and useless. Eventually we called a paramedic and it became apparent after a blood test that her problem was alcohol rather than poor diabetic management.

Tiredness rapidly converted my concern to irritation as it became apparent that a) she had just got drunk and fallen over and b) her tanked up companion couldn't be arsed and showed not one iota of concern for her condition.

I eventually slipped in to bed at 11 having had 4 hours sleep* in the past 36. I could, as my Dad would have put it, slept on a clothes line I was so tired.

* in a Continental Airlines cattle class seat
Other Stuff - Whilst I was in Boston Chippy Ian had finished the Linen Cupboard on the Landing and I finally got to see it. He has done an absolutely fantastic job and his design is perfect for the space and age of the house. He will be back fairly soon to build wardrobes in the same style once Andy & Steve have re-plastered the bedroom ceiling.

Friday, 11 March 2011

No Peace for the Wicked

A hotel room in Cambridge MA. It is 6.30 in the morning. Bad Man is stumbling around in his underwear and a T-shirt packing his suitcase.

Fish                 Badman, we need to talk.

Badman           Sure Amerigo, What’s up?

Fish                 Badman, this relationship is not working. To be honest, I feel used. You had me dragged from the Tank downstairs where I was happy with my fishy buddies and for the past week I have swam around this crappy bowl on my own and you have hardly spent 10 minutes in the room let alone had any quality time with me …..

Badman           But Amerigo …..

Fish                 Don’t you “But, Amerigo” me. You have treated me really badly and I want out of this relationship. You have treated me like crap and I’m telling you I want out of this. I spoke to Sebastian and he said you were a really nice guy but you are a shitty, uptight British idiot and I hope you get a cramped, window seat on a rammed flight that is delayed you ass hole.

That didn’t go very well at all did it? With retrospect I guess that I should have found time to visit the Mall and get Amerigo a gift at the very least. But, what do you buy a hotel fish? I suppose he might have liked some new plastic weed or could have got him a Castle. Mind you, he is very much a US Goldfish so he would probably have been happier with a little plastic Condo to swim in and out of. 

My Mom warned me about people like you !
As you may have guessed I have had a pretty intense week that didn’t leave much room for “me time”.  Working in the States means that my UK based team mates have a 5 hour advantage on me and they use that time well. They devote many hours to filling my in-box with as many emails as they possibly can. This means that my in-box is rammed even though I had diligently cleared it the day before.

The plan for this week is to have 4 days of sessions with our Client with the aim of honing our Proposal to a greater degree of relevance and accuracy. I need to keep on top of the information flows making sure that new data gets fed back to the UK and that UK questions get answered by the client or our US colleagues.

Needing to keep material moving has meant that most days have started with me checking my mail at around 6 in the morning and taking a couple of hours to get the priority stuff dealt with before getting breakfast and crossing the road to the Office. On Tuesday I woke at around 4.30 am due to Jet Lag and stupidly wandered over to my Laptop. I ended up having a chat with Golfy who has been ably “minding the shop” back in Blighty whilst I am infiltrating Corporate America.

The early start is a great way of keeping stuff moving back in the UK but it does result in a long working day. Each day has ended with a hour long Review and Highlights meeting that finishes around 7.30 pm but there have often been additional activities after that. To cut to the chase, I have rarely left the Office before 8 pm and then it has been a case of going straight to a restaurant for dinner and a couple of beers before returning to my room. I have then generally crashed immediately hence the issue with the Fish that is currently demanding relationship counselling.

So, there you have it, the pattern of the week has been 12 to 14 hours days of meetings and information management followed by a few hours of relative relaxation with my US workmates before retiring to partake of the intermittent sleep of the mildly jet-lagged.

I’m basically knackered and the flight home is once again rammed. I think wistfully back to my last trip when I had a row to myself and could stretch out. This time it will be a fitful doze in a Cattle Class seat.

I won’t really be able to kick back and relax on Saturday either as it is TP’s Rugby Tour and I will be driving him up to Newcastle under Lyme in Staffordshire within two or three hours of landing back in the UK.

With that thought at the forefront of my mind I had better sign off. I would like to be able to promise that normal service will be resumed next week but I am guessing that a series of Executive Reviews is likely to occupy most of my time

Monday, 7 March 2011

Wings & Carousels

So, here I am. 33,000‘ above the North Atlantic in a Boeing 757 that is absolutely rammed to the gills. I have been given a window seat and, it is fair to say, am not best impressed.

I am becoming somewhat claustrophobic as I get older and am feeling hemmed in by my laptop, the chap in front who has reclined his seat and my two travelling companions who I have to trouble every time I need to leave my seat. I used to enjoy the window seat but now I will happily let others take in the view and I will enjoy the comparative room and freedom of the aisle seats.

I suppose I should put away the laptop and give my self the illusion of some more space. I did try to complete some work and got as far as knocking up a spreadsheet for one of my colleagues but the environment is hardly conducive to doing anything more complicated than that.

How different this is to my last trip when, on both flights, I was the sole occupant of the row and was able to stretch out. On that trip I had the best of both worlds; plenty of room and the views from the window too.

I eventually arrived in Newark and, for once, was pleasantly surprised. Actually I was bloody amazed. Things were running like a Swiss watch and I was through immigration,  baggage reclaim, customs and the security checks for the internal flight in under 30 minutes. On the past two occasions these processes have taken 90 minutes or more so today was a welcome surprise after the cramped 7 and a half hour flight.

I arrived in Boston at around 4 in the afternoon and took a cab to the hotel. I checked in and ordered my fish*. Amerigo arrived some 40 minutes later and he is now happily doing circuits of his bowl as I write this entry.

I killed off threescore emails and then joined up with a few of my colleagues for a Chinese meal and learnt that when reading fortune cookies you have to add the words  "between the sheets" or  "in bed" after the fortune ....

... it really does give them a much needed lift.
* My preferred hotel is pet friendly and will supply a goldfish for your room if requested. I do as I quite enjoy having the little fellow around.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Licking their wounds

Sunday started early as T&P was playing in the grudge match between his previous and current Rugby Clubs.

We were all out of the house by half past nine so that TP could train before the game. 30% and I did our own pre match warm up by taking T&M around the fields before the eleven o’clock kick off.

We hoped for a win and things looked good when TP’s team took an early 5 point lead with an unconverted try. Unfortunately they lost focus and the Visitors quickly equalised. Despite managing to keep on the pressure and keep the ball in the opponents half for an impressive amount of the game the Home team did not manage to increase their score.

Unfortunately the Opposition scored on two more occasions so the long hoped for win was not to be. TP’s team played really well and it was a close game. With a little more luck they could have got the win they deserved. As expected things did get a little heated at times and the Referee came close to putting one of the visitors in the Sin Bin for throwing a punch.

It will be the Autumn before they meet again if the rivals can still manage to pull a team together. One of the reasons we moved clubs, putting aside the conduct issue with one of the Coaches, was that they seemed to have problems pulling in sufficient lads to form a squad and that was apparent today when they arrived with no substitutes.

The rest of the day was pretty domestic. I had to pack for tomorrow’s trip to Boston and I also popped over to see my Dad. He is licking his wounds too as he took a tumble in the week and has a number of bumps and bruises and possibly a cracked rib. I was relieved to find that he was in good humour but is obviously in pain when he has to move. I gently chastised him for not paying a visit to his GP and urged him to do so if the pain doesn’t subside. I hope it is just bruising as I have cracked a few ribs of my own over the years and they are incredibly painful and take a long time to heal.

It will be an early night tonight as I have a five o’clock start to make a seven o’clock check-in at Birmingham airport.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Being Prepared ......

Andy & Steve have been booked in to take down our bedroom ceiling and re-plaster. They will be here for the week commencing 21st March.....

..... so this morning was spent dismantling our bed and moving it out on to the Landing ensuring that there was still space for Chippy Ian to work when he returns on Monday to finish the Linen Cupboard. It might seem that this is all a bit premature but I am away in Boston for the next week and return on Saturday 12th March just in time to accompany TP to the wilds of Staffordshire for his Rugby Tour.

The following week is likely to be filled with work activities so realistically it is best to get as much done up front.

After lunch 30% and I took T&M for a walk and then nipped in to town to drop some no longer needed items off at the Charity Shop, stock up with supplies and pick up some electrical components from the DIY store.

The rest of the afternoon was spent sorting out the light switch in our bedroom. For some strange reason this had been surface mounted with the cables run through plastic conduit. It was a fairly simple matter to re-route the cables and install a new box and switch such that it is neatly mounted flush with the wall and with the cables concealed from view. Andy & Steve will rectify the plasterwork when they arrive in a couple of weeks.

Looking to tomorrow TP has a rugby match against his old team and it will be something of a grudge match. Lets hope his team play as well as they did last week as it would be especially good to beat the old side.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Most of today was spent tying up as many loose ends as possible and getting my ducks in a row as I am crossing the pond on Monday.

I think you will find that I have just called a Full House on Management Bull Shit Bingo!

In reality I managed to tie my shoes to the chair leg and the ducks are hung in a very crooked line with the one at the front looking like it has just taken the contents of both barrels of a 12-Bore up it's chuff.

Fortunately Frolleague Golfy has climbed on board to assist over the next week or so and will be there with Tape and Spirit Level to ensure that the Ducks would pass Hilda Ogden's* inspection. I have made this reference to Coronation Street as Golfy makes no secret of his fanatasicm and I need to keep him on-side.
They still look wonky to me.
The next couple of weeks are going to be a bit manic with a high likelihood of veering right in to the shit at the back end. Ah well, its only 14 days, I may need to make some arcane sacrifice to curry favour with the Gods.

As the day length increases in line with my workload I have been walking T&M later in the afternoon. The recent high pressure has meant that the days are cold but the skies are clearer and this evening I had a lovely walk. I had timed it perfectly ....

...... actually this should have read "luckily" and the sun was setting over the hill behind the Church as we wandered back in to the village. There were no clouds and I was treated to a fantastic couple of minutes as I paused to watch the Sun merge with and then drop below the horizon. That means that the Sun is officially over the yard arm and I can open a bottle of wine. Mind you five o'clock is a bit early perhaps I'll shift another few emails first.

* I am aware that Hilda was better known from a Decor perspective for her "muriel" but apparently she also had ducks.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Don't tell 30%

I had to host a Review in Farnborough today.

Home to Office is 120 miles, Journey in; 2 hours and 20 minutes, journey home; 2 hours 20 minutes including a 15 minute stop for a conference call. Both journeys involved the M25 during rush hour, several country lanes, a very busy M40 and Farnborough town centre.

30%'s car seems to be performing very well and picks up nicely when the traffic clears!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Picture Post. No. 5

Forgive me,  but my day has been e-mails followed by calls "ad-infinitum". I have made great progress but not one iota of that will be of interest to you.

I have therefore picked out this one from the archives as today's entry. This is a shot of Half Dome taken in Yosemite National Park in the Summer of 2006.
The view from the car park !
Yosemite is an incredible place with an awe inspiring scale to someone used to UK Geographical dimensions. Half Dome is so high that climbers actually "camp out" on that sheer face when they make an ascent with ropes. Apparently they haul up a narrow collapsible platform to sleep on held to the face by camming devices or whatever it is those head cases use.

It is truly beautiful and amazing that the Sequoia National Park is only a few miles away and equally wondrous.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

It's not good news ...

A few weeks ago I had minor moan about my Wellies. They were less than 12 months old and the heel was already so worn down that the internal cavity was just visible......

..... well, on a recent walk I noticed a cool feeling in the region of my toes, Hmm, I thought and wandered on. The cool feeling took on an element of dampness and then, as time progressed, a hint of definitely soggy.

I arrived home to find one foot as dry as bone and the other "not".

Like any caring Wellington owner I took them in to an Emergency Cobbler but the  prognosis was grim. "It's not good news ...." he said "... and such a young pair too, barely in to their stride". I surreptitious wiped a tear from my eye and stifled a sniff. "Is there anything you can do?" I asked, knowing the answer already. "The best thing we can do is put them out of their misery. Don't worry it will be painless, a swift hobnail driven in to nervous system and it will be all over"

It was nice that he sugar coated it. I wouldn't have wanted the grim details. I left them there to be euthanised and will pick them up later on. I'm not sure whether to go with a simple burial in the garden or a cremation although I guessing that the Environmental Health will have a go about me casting my Argylls on to a funeral pyre.