Saturday, 30 April 2011

Tyson's Bumper Book of Crime. Number 1 in a totally unexpected series

A totally unexpected appearance by Tyson in the Dock this afternoon on a charge of aggravated rolling in fox shit necessitating a bath to get rid of the incredibly bad smell.

A lesser charge of removing a stale loaf from the work surface was dropped after it was agreed that it had already been decreed as suitable only for animal feed and the chickens decided not to press charges.

The reason that this entry is "totally unexpected" is that Tyson is 30%'s "best girl" who is absolutely perfect and totally incapable of any inappropriate behaviour. The result is that Marauder generally gets the blame. M was therefore quite chuffed to be wandering around the garden as T stood in the dog bath looking somewhat soggy and bedraggled.

Other Stuff

I made a start on the plastering in the bedroom today and am reasonably pleased with the results. TP has been recruited as Labourer for tomorrow when we plan to break the back of it.

This evening sees another trip over to Warwick Arts Centre. This time to see Ed Byrne's current stand-up tour.

Friday, 29 April 2011

The mission continues ..

... this morning was a quick trip in to the local DIY store to pick up a bag of plaster, a new float and a few other sundries. It was then back to the cell to finish the oiling and waxing, fill in a few of the deeper holes in the plaster work and contemplate the skim coat I will need to apply.

Downstairs TP and 30% were ensconced on the sofa watching the Royal Wedding. Whilst not overly interested most radio stations seemed to think that I should be kept fully informed of progress and should listen to the complete bollocks spouted by some fuckwit in a union jack dress and a hat that sounded like it had been made by someone with "Special Needs".

I'm not a Republican. The thought of who would we would get in place of the Royal Family leaves me in a cold sweat. For Christ's Sake, basically it would be a toss up between President Branson or President Blair and "toss up" was not an accidental choice of words!

Neither am I a staunch Royalist but as they don't really seem to have any particularly negative impact on my life I'm quite happy to pay that 62p per person per year that it apparently costs to have them.

The evening saw a trip over to Warwick Arts Centre to see Mark Thomas perform his Extreme Rambling, Walking the Wall tour. It was a great show as Mark covered his walk along the wall/fence that is being erected by the Israelis around the West Bank and the views of the Israelis and Palestinians that live and work alongside it. It was a great show and the front row seats were brilliant. The only downer were the pissed couple that turned up late and sat behind us. Their frequent comments and interruptions finally drew a barbed comment from Mark but they were obviously too far gone to pick their way through the sarcasm.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Free Lunch

It will come as no surprise that today saw me back in the bedroom filling cracks in the ancient plaster and applying a coat of wax to the cupboards that I have painstakingly stripped, sanded and oiled. We are both really pleased with the results as we have managed to turn a couple of nondescript aspects in the bedroom in to attractive features.

During the morning Chippy Ian phoned to let me know that he would be calling round with the wardrobe doors. This meant that I  had to have a quick tidy up and clear some space as he wants to let them acclimatise in the room before they are fixed to the carcass that he built last week.

After Ian had left I continued with my waxing mission and was again disturbed by the 'phone. This time it was my Dad. He had been over to a friend's farm to pick up half a pig and had come back with a rabbit carcass as well. He couldn't be bothered to skin and joint it and asked if I was interested. I gratefully accepted and popped over later in the afternoon to collect the bunny.

Twenty minutes with a sharp knife and I had a jointed rabbit bagged up and sat in the freezer. I'm wondering whether the Guanciale would make a suitable companion ingredient to add some richness to the rabbit.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


It was an early start this morning as T&M were booked in at the Pet Groomers at eight thirty for a Lamb Clip.

It was then back home and today's mission was to repair the floor boards. Over the years Plumbers and Sparkies have left some of the boards in a dreadful state as they have completed heating installations and re-wiring. I have a supply of elm boards in the garage that were lifted from the Landing during the extension building in 2008 and some of these have been used to replace boards that have either been ravaged by woodworm or careless tradesmen or both.

So most of today has been spent lifting split and generally knackered boards, cutting new ones to width and length and carefully screwing them down avoiding the myriad of pipes and cables that sit beneath them.

As I was nearing the end of this job a short length of board popped up disturbed by the insertion of a replacement. I lifted the board to remove the crappy nails and screws and fix it down properly when I had my Eureka moment.....

......  When we had the extension built we had coaxial cables run from "aerial" sockets in the Lounge and TP's bedroom. The original plan was to use these to route the satellite signal from the decoder in the Lounge to TP and our bedrooms. During the building work in 2007/08 I recall asking that these cables were left coiled under the floor in our bedroom.

Ever since we removed the bedroom carpet after the ceiling was replastered in March I have been peering under boards with a torch trying to locate these cables. To date I had found nothing and had reached the point of writing off the plan to pipe Sky to the bedrooms.

It was therefore a delight to find the cables under the "popped" board. It was a matter of a few minutes work to run the cables to an appropriate point in the room where they can be spliced to form the critical link between the three rooms.

All I need to do now is to pop in to the DIY store and pick up a few coaxial connectors tomorrow.

Other Stuff:

 We sampled the Guanciale (cured pigs cheeks) that I finished curing last week. A few thin rashers were cut off and fried....

.... and the verdict, I am never making brawn again! I like brawn but from now on Guanciale is the thing to do with a pigs head. The bacon it produced is fantastic and will make beautiful lardons for Italian dishes. I feel a Carbonara turning up on the menu in the next day or so.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

In and out.

Tuesday saw 30% and I hit the skirting boards in the bedroom. The paint work was dreadful so it was necessary to strip them back to the bare wood and start again from fresh. With a combination of hot air stripper, belt, 1/2 sheet and detail sanders and a couple of hours we had them back to the wood and in a fit state for priming and painting.

Having got them cleaned up I then applied myself to cutting and fixing the skirting board sections for the en-suite doorway aperture. I also threw a few screws in to the skirting boards wherever there was any movement.

It was then time for a walk with T&M and then back home for an early supper.

This evening I had arranged to meet up with Chippy Ian and Mick for a run out on our bikes. I took the Honda as TP wanted to come and the Ducati is only a single seater.

We met up at Ian's a little before 7 o'clock and set off through Badsey and Bretforton before climbing the Cotswold escarpment and travelling through Chipping Camden and on over to Shipston on Stour.  We then took the lanes through Brailes and stopped briefly at the Rollright Stones. We then headed back with a stop for coffee at Moreton-in-Marsh before descending "The Fish" and heading back in to The Vale.

It was a great run out although it turned very cool later on and the coffee at Moreton was a welcome warmer.

Monday, 25 April 2011

True Grit .....

.... and determination.

Monday marks the third day of the prep work.

I took T&M for an early walk and then clambered in to the bedroom. I suppose I need to add that the two doorways have been "tented", with dust sheets taped over the outside, so that the doors and frames can be rubbed down without the pervasive dust and grit filling the rest of the house.

It is not a fun job. It is hot and filthy and you are either balancing on a set of steps or are hunched on hands and knees. There seems to be very little middle ground.

Today I think we finally turned a corner but there is still a long way to go. 30% joined me and volunteered for the stripping of the window sills and the skirting boards. I persevered with the two cupboards and the door on to the landing and after lunch I actually vacuumed them "free" of dust and applied the first coat of oil to the bare wood.

The oil really brings out the colour and grain of the old timber and I would like to say that it has spurred me on but I take a lingering look at the skirting boards and shudder.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Weekend Round Up

Saturday; St Georges Day.

As previously advised, The Journal is likely to be less than exciting over the Easter Break as I have a mountain of decoration preparation to get through. I finally finished stripping the door frame and then 30% and I nipped over to Alcester to choose a light fitting for the bedroom. I then returned and spent a "happy" couple of hours making good the ceiling of one of the cupboards that had been somewhat destroyed damaged during the replastering of the bedroom ceiling a few weeks back by Andy & Steve.

I finally emerged from a very gritty, cramped space with enough time to take T&M around the Three Miler before I showered and shaved for the St Georges Day "Do".

"C" is a somewhat eccentric but delightful CBE who is in his late 70s and arranges both the Burns Night and the St Georges Day celebrations at one of the local pubs. These both follow a similar theme with a set menu, a few speeches, a load of drink and many laughs. 30%, TP, Jules and I are lucky enough to be on the guest list for these occasions so we all turned up at The Old Bull for a lovely evening of food, wine and discourse.

TP had spent the past week with his Mum and Grandma and arrived home in time for this Spring festivity.

I'm not really one for celebrations but St Georges Day now has quite a degree of significance for us as it is the anniversary of the date that TP came to live with us after a particularly lengthy and unpleasant Court Case resulting in a Residency Order. Saturday marks the fourth anniversary of the day that TP came to live with us.

And so, after a boozy night, we all rolled in to our beds to wake on Easter Sunday.

Before the "prep" work continued there were gifts of Easter Eggs and the chickens provided an appropriate breakfast; boiled for 30% and poached for TP and I. After breakfast it was back to the grind.

Having finished the stripping in the bedroom, Sunday marked the start of sanding. It is a grim job. Even with power sanders it is a grim job. I have a random orbit, a half sheet, a belt and a detail sander and every one of them will get used in the preparation work in the bedroom. I have two door frames, two doors and a cupboard to sand. Of these, only one door frame will be painted. Every thing else needs to be sanded clean of paint and smooth enough for an oil and wax finish. It will look fantastic when it is finished but is is a grim, dusty ordeal. Having stripped the wood it is a dusty progression through 80 then 120 and finally 240 grade abrasives to reach a silky smooth finish.

There will be more sanding to come as we still need to do the skirting boards and the wardrobe will need a "tickle" once Chippy Ian has affixed the doors.

I emerged from the bedroom around 5 in the evening and was literally coated from head to toe with orange saw dust. The first beer didn't last long!

30% served a splendid Easter Roast and I set this down slumped on the sofa eyeing a Madagascar vanilla and white chocolate egg on the shelf to my right.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Be prepared for a tedious few days .........

..... as 30% and I will be focused on the preparation work in the bedroom in advance of the Decorators visit in about three weeks time. The Journal is therefore likely to get more repetitive than usual

This morning we went in to Stratford to pick up a few essentials from the DIY store and coffee beans from Whittards. It was then home for a light lunch and back in to Bedroom#1until the weather cooled down enough for the dogs to be walked.

Today's job has been the stripping of the door frame and the repair of the architrave as we have replaced the door and changed from a rim lock to a Suffolk Latch. This means that I have a 4" chunk of an antique architrave to replace now the rim lock has been discarded. Fortunately I have a few pieces in the garage and with a few pins and some wood filler all will be well. As my Dad says "It's a good job Painters follow Carpenters".

Away from the decorating mission, I finished the dry curing of the piece of belly pork and pigs cheeks this evening. These have now been washed, soaked, dried and wrapped in muslin and will now be hung in the garage for a week or so before slicing or cubing or smoking or whatever else I decide to do with them.

The Belly is most likely to be left as green bacon and simply sliced to become rashers of streaky. The cured cheek is an experiment and, at the moment, I am planning on cubing it and using it like lardons of pancetta would be used in cooking. Apparently Guanciali (cured pigs' cheeks) is one of the ingredients in a pukka Spaghetti Carbonara so I may be trying one of those at the back end of the week.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Zen and the art of the Conference Call

Down in the Hundred Acre Wood Golfy (aka Tigger) and I have been tidying up before we try to spend a good few days climbing the oaks and sitting in the sun enjoying the almost merged Easter and May Bank Holiday break.

We held a few conference calls and it became apparent how similar they are to the game of Pooh Sticks. Let me explain; firstly to play Pooh Sticks you need a bridge. Bridges are useful things and it became apparent on one of our calls that my job is to build metaphorical bridges. Even though I am apparently working with adults who are capable of looking after themselves they seem to be totally unable to contact people whose names they know without me formally introducing them and making the initial contact for them. For God's sake this is a truly archaic situation where I am required to chaperone or match-make these initial meetings. So there you have it building the bridges so we can play Pooh Sticks.

Now once we get the conference call up and running you learn that a stick has two ends; a nice end and a not so nice end - hence the name of the game; Pooh Sticks. On a conference call you need to understand the rules so that you always end up with the pleasant end of the stick. A few key tips are as follows:-

  • always draft the actions/minutes. It might seem like a slog but you get to put your particular slant on the narrative and get to allocate the actions
  • always ask for feedback on the accuracy of you minutes/actions. No-one ever responds so your view of the world must therefore be unquestionably accurate. After all, no-one asked for changes
  • always try to host the call and summarise the actions and be sure to allocate the tricky ones to other invitees. I am, after all, a bear with very little brain
  • always be at the front of the queue to accept the straightforward actions. You may have ten of them but if you can clear them before elevenses it leaves the rest of the day free for Hunny Sandwiches or planning an Easter Woozle Hunt.
Follow these key tips and you will always end up with the pleasant end of the stick and everyone else will soon learn why the game is called Pooh Sticks.

What do you mean, you thought it was about the first one to get their stick under the bridge? For Christ's sake if you are hunting Nelifunt you need to be playing advanced Pooh Sticks.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Sharpening our pointed sticks

For a good few days now Golfy and I have been sat high in an oak in the Hundred Acre Wood swinging our legs and telling tales of sword fights and fantastic beasts. We have sat in the sun and looked out over the fields and watching the Villagers running after pheasants and rabbits.

This small game is not for us. Its Hunny or nuthing for Golfy and me. Actually we are after a Nelifunt but we need Christopher Robin to start the hunt so here we sit in the dappled sun light imagining the hunt and laughing at the Villagers chasing small game along the hedgerows.

Today Judge Dread sat astride his Lawmaster with his holstered Lawgivers at his hips and rode from Mega City One to the Hundred Acre Wood. We were expecting the worst and many of the woodland creatures had secreted themselves in burrows and warrens in fear of his roar ..........

.............. "I am the Law!"

Golfy and I steeled ourselves and climbed down from the oak and wandered towards the glade where the fallen beech makes a great seat for planning the Nelifunt hunt. Eventually Dread turned up and we were expecting the worst. We were somewhat surprised to find that he had been spending his evenings preparing a leaflet on community policing and had some very good suggestions for us preventing antisocial behaviour and limiting the chances of shed theft.

Experience thus far has been that Judge Dread has taken his role as Judge, Jury and Executioner very seriously but he now appears to be confusing his roles and the cryo-rehabilitation in Demolition Man appears to have taken effect and he now appears to be more interested in us having a successful Nelifunt Hunt than telling us that we are a shower of shit with no chance of hitting a barn door at twenty paces.

I am guessing that this is probably a little on the cryptic side for most readers but if you are hunting a Bull Nelifunt and there are other hunters out there you lie low in the long grass and do your best to make sure that you are down wind and have a clear sight on the target. All we need now is for Christopher Robin to declare "open season"

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Tuesday has been just one social whirl.

In between work tasks I had lunch with my Dad and also went over to a timber yard with Chippy Ian to pick up the oak for the fitted wardrobe that he is constructing in the bedroom. £300 lighter we returned and I continued with work.

Chippy Ian is a fellow Biker and he asked if I wanted to link up with him and one of his friends for a run out this evening. The tax disk had arrived for the Ducati in the past couple of days and I had been looking for an opportunity to break her out from under her dust sheet so watches were synchronised and a rendezvous point was selected.

This resulted in a mad dash out of the door as soon as CI had finished for the day so that T&M could get their, and my, daily constitutional. I arrived home at a little before six and had about 30 minutes to rehydrate, get the Ducati started, checked over and warmed up and throw myself in to my boots and leathers before setting out towards Ian's house.

It was a beautiful evening and we set off out through Evesham and Pershore before heading out through Bredon and Ashchurch and then climbing up in to the Costwolds via Winchcombe. Sudeley Castle was a fine site settled in the landscape under the  evening sun.

A quick stop at a pub for a coffee and then a run home via Stow on the Wold, down The Fish  and back in to The Vale.

It was great to be back on the Ducati but, to be honest, the roads were probablymore appropriate to the Honda as the Ducati is a little "focussed" and  far better suited to fast open roads and flowing turns rather than Cotswold Lanes. Still a great evening and I look forward to the next one.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Nearly There

Monday and it is back to work after a very productive weekend.

At present we are waiting for out client to make a decision and are in a "holding pattern". I am doing what I can but, to  be honest, I am having problems getting motivated as all of this could be for nothing if the decision goes against us.

So Golfy & I* are sat on a branch at the edge of the Hundred Acre Wood swinging our feet and shooting the breeze after inviting Piglet & Roo** to a party that might not happen.

It is very frustrating to be under utilised as there is a mountain of work to do at home. To sit here on tick over when I can see so many DIY jobs that need doing does make me feel somewhat constrained. However, Chippy Ian is here and making great progress on the wardrobe carcass. He has sole rights to the bedroom from 8 until 4 so any DIY on my "to do" list can only be progressed in the evening.

Mind you, no DIY this evening as T&M return to puppy training after a long lay off due to various reasons including "seasons" and a Peter Kay gig.

* I'll leave it to you to decide who is Tigger and who is Pooh.
**A couple of European colleagues who's specialist knowledge will be needed if we have to make Hunny sandwiches in a weeks time.

Sunday, 17 April 2011


This morning was the final Sunday Rugby session of the season. It was a training session so there was no rush and we turned up at tennish.

TP went off to lark around with his team mates and 30% and I  took T&M for a quick romp around the fields behind the pitches.

On our return it was a quick lunch and then back in to the bedroom ..... easy tiger ..... back in to the bedroom to finish off the electrics. The final spur was connected up and I applied myself to the task of stripping. I finished the larger of the two cupboard doors and removed it from its hinges and took it outside for sanding. The random orbit sander has made a fantastic job of removing the final traces of primer and it will look beautiful once it has been oiled and finished. Unfortunately the Velcro on the sanding plate of my detail sander gave up the ghost so I cannot finish the door. I need to find a replacement pretty quickly as there is a massive amount of sanding to be done. I see a return trip to Screwfix on the horizon.

Whilst stripping ........ easy tiger ...... Chippy Ian phoned and advised that a job he had planned for Monday had been delayed. Every cloud has a sliver lining as this means that he will be turning up tomorrow morning to make a start on the fitted wardrobes in the bedroom.

I have now managed to get myself outside of a Leffe Blonde and a glass of something pink .... don't ask .... it was in the fridge and had an ABV percentage - nuff said.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Elastic Trickery

Andy & Steve are booked in to decorate the Bedroom starting on the 17th of May and that date is galloping towards us.

I have a huge amount of preparation to complete before they turn up as they are expecting to perform a quick whizz over the wood with sandpaper and then break out the emulsion and satin wood. My Job List is as follows:-

  • Sand both doors, apply Danish Oil and then finish with a coat of wax
  • Strip and sand the door frame
  • Strip, sand, oil and wax the two window sills
  • Strip both cupboards, sand, oil and wax
  • Replace the two surface mounted sockets with recessed boxes and new double sockets
  • Install a junction box in the ring main and run off two spurs terminating in double sockets; one to be recessed below the TV bracket and the other in a flush mounted box that will ultimately be  built in to the end wall of the wardrobe
  • Install a pendant light fitting
  • Replace the Pull switch over the bed
  • Floorboard refurbishment
  • Fit skirting boards in to the en-suite doorway recess
As can be seen, there is a fair bit to do and this is without the built in wardrobes that Chippy Ian has been booked in to build and the fiddly little jobs like filling cracks and holes.

I have made a start on the list and am pleased to say that the two cupboards are already stripped but today I took a break from the heat gun and the shave hook and applied myself to the elastic trickery.

I took myself down to the local DIY store and returned with new sockets, socket boxes, 2.5 mm, twin core and earth cable and light fittings and have been as happy as the proverbial pig pottering around replacing the ugly and obtrusive surface mounted boxes with neat flush mounted sockets. I have installed a junction box in the ring and installed one of the two spurs. I have sorted out the cable run for the second spur and plan to install the socket box and connect that all up tomorrow. A light pendant has also been fitted.

I've still got a lot of sanding and waxing to do but have broken the back of the electrical work. 

Friday, 15 April 2011


Guanci what? ....

..... Let me explain. I got a call from Cathy H-R yesterday and she advised that the half pig that we had ordered would be available for collection this evening. At half past five I picked up the cheque book and drove over to pick up the carcass. Cathy had slaughtered a couple of pigs and most of her customers are only really interested in the prime cuts. As a result, for my £70, I left with the half of the largest pig plus both heads and all of the trotters.

Now, what do I do with two pigs heads? I have previously made brawn, but on this occasion I had something more unusual planned; Guanciale. Guanciale is an Italian dish and is basically cured pig's cheeks. I mixed up a batch of dry cure and prepared the cheeks by removing the jaw bones. I also had a piece of belly pork spare so that got de-boned and cured to provide either pancetta or a few rashers of streaky.

Once the meat has been prepped it was well rubbed with the dry cure and stacked in a plastic box in the fridge. It will be rubbed with cure every day for the next week before being washed and air dried. It will be a month in the case of the Guanciale but the pancetta will only be hung for a week or so before being smoked and eaten.

The Guanciale is likely to be cut in to lardons so realistically the belly pork is most likely not to attain it's Italian pancetta aspirations and remain as a definitely very English streaky bacon.

As for the rest of the head, TP has taken the ears, rubbed them with olive oil and has baked them in a low oven as a treat for T&M and 30% is roasting the rest of the heads and I'm guessing that T&M are in line for those cuts too.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Getting There

Another trip to my nearest circle of hell as the Electricity Company had decided to turn off the power for the day so they could clear overhanging trees from the supply lines. This meant that important appliances like the kettle were out of action so the Office seemed a reasonable solution.

I trundled in and perfected the art of multitasking ....

... turn on laptop, initiate training lecture number 5 of 11, mute volume and dial in to manager's weekly call. At the end of the call I had been updated on what my colleagues thought of these lectures and managed to knock off lectures 6 and 7 during an extended coffee break.

That is pretty much how the day progressed. I knocked out minutes and stroppy emails whilst lectures 8 through 11 ran in the background. By three o'clock I was done and the power supply was likely to be restored so bade farewell to my colleagues and came home.

The late afternoon saw me take T&M out for a walk and Chippy Ian and his Wife Deb called in to measure up for the windows that are to be replaced over the Summer. We will finally say goodbye to the plastic, sealed unit monstrosities that were installed about 6 months before we bought The Pile and install casement and sash units that have the benefit of double glazing but are appropriate to the house.

We also have Ian booked in to build the fitted wardrobes in our bedroom before Andy & Steve arrive in late May paint brushes in hand.

All in all I have had a pretty successful day. My domestic ducks are not wonky and I now know where to go and look if need some information on the various technical elements of my job.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Rubbing your tummy & patting your head ......

Being a member of an International workforce means that getting us all to use the same tools in the same way is a necessity but also a challenge.

Apparently classroom based training is now too fucking expensive old fashioned and modern alternatives allow the work force to be educated at a time that suits them and with minimal disruption to the day to day business of the Organisation.

Right, enough of the bull shit, are you familiar with the concept of a negative confirmation ? This is where you send someone a letter or email and say "if you don't respond I will assume that, from the 30th April, I will own your immortal soul and all your worldly goods become mine". Basically if you employ the scatter gun approach you will have plenty of souls and quite a lot of capital by the end of the month.

Where I am I going with this? Computer based training, that is where I am going with this.

This is the educational equivalent of the "negative confirmation". You send all your victims a web link and a "complete by date". Then you wait until the "complete by date" and resend the link and a new CBD. You repeat a couple more times and then send a threatening email and a "drop dead date" and then you are able to report back that all of your victims employees have been trained and are fully skilled in the new process for rolling rocks up a hill.

This, of course, is absolute bollocks. I am afraid that it is difficult to give a precise translation for "bollocks" to any US readers so I will suggest that you go with "nonsense" but you probably need to be aware that bollocks has many uses  from noun to verb to adjective and depending on the context it can appear to be totally contradictory. It's a British thing, dont get up tight just be aware that in this instance I mean nonsense.

Education is where a the students are assessed for their current level of understanding in a particular subject. They may know nothing, a little or a lot. From this assessment a clear set of educational aims or goals are developed based on increasing the level of knowledge in the aforementioned subject. Using this defined knowledge gap a syllabus is constructed that allows the student to gain knowledge and understanding. The syllabus is then developed in to lectures and practicals and so forth and presented in a way that allows the Tutor to check the progress of the student and ensure that knowledge is being gained.

Sending me a link to a PowerPoint Presentation is not education it is akin to chucking a book over the fence and hoping that someone picks it up and reads it. This approach is appalling. Let me explain ....

..... I find a slot in my day to "be educated". I click on the link and a window opens up. I am told the duration of the presentation and the number of slides. I click on the start button and off we go ....

.... yep, "off we go to sleep" or "off we go to do something else" or "off we go to cut off our own heads". There is no interaction it is just a charmless presenter in transmit mode. There is no opportunity to stop them or ask a question and it is so easy to loose track as you ponder on a point made a little to long and then loose track of the narrative. That is if you are lucky enough to have a narrative that corresponds to the material on the slides. It might sound odd but the best least worst of these presentations is where the Presenter just reads the slides. There are some where the Presenter's narrative has little relevance to the slide being shown and you are then trying to listen to a narrative whilst reading a slide that bears no relation to the words you are hearing.

It is like watching TV whilst listening to talk radio or patting your head while trying to rub your stomach. It can be done but it is not conducive to taking on new facts.

Also these presentations are given by Manager rather than professional educators. None of this material has been properly developed or assessed for it's value and combined with a one-way delivery method means that little or nothing gets taken on board.

Add in to this the fact that despite setting the status message on my instant messenger to say I am being educated twats people still ping me to ask me inane questions and then ping again when I don't respond in the next six seconds.

You may have guessed that I am not having fun and I have several more hours of this to get through. The frustraing thing is that the material is important and useful but it is just so badly put together and delivered via a totally unsuitable medium.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Its a raid!

No journal entry yesterday as it was work, followed by a quick walk for T&M, a rushed dinner and then in to the car and over to the NIA in Birmingham for the last night of the Peter Kay "Tour that doesn't tour tour".

I feel that the NIA must be quite daunting for a stand-up comedian. It must be a challenge to form a connection with an audience in a venue of that size and get them to go with you on that journey that is a successful stand up set. A few years back I saw Eddie Izzard in the same venue and it just didn't seem to work. I am a huge fan of Eddie but he just seemed too remote and the laughs just didn't flow.

Now Peter Kay seems to have an ability to bond with the audience from the start. Within seconds he had the audience laughing with some atrocious old gags and then smoothly transitioned to his material that had "in joke" references to previous tours and was based on his unique observational approach. It was a great night and the audience loved him. If I am honest I would say that it was not his best material but it was acutely observed, beautifully paced and perfectly timed and it was still consistently "laugh out loud" funny.

Today involved a trip to my nearest circle of hell to link up with Golfy and spend a happy few hours reviewing and revising a vast amount of risks, assumptions, issues and dependencies associated with the current project. With over 250 lines of information to cover we felt that it was best to do this face to face rather than attempt it via a phone call.

The Defender had an air of a mobile shop this morning as there was a dozen eggs for the Gloucester Boy and a sample of Black Pudding Sausages to see if he can be persuaded to appreciate the charms of the blood sausage.

Visiting the local "ish" circle of hell turned a real chore in to a reasonably tolerable task as The Boer and Grand Dad Jack were both on site and lunch and coffee breaks degenerated in to raucous laughter as we told tall and bawdy tales and generally took the mickey out of each other. This was a welcome relief from the spreadsheet review and we ended the day having done a great piece of work and also having managed to have a few laughs too.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Mad Sunday

Today's Journal Entry title comes from the one day during the Isle of Man TT races when any individual can ride Mountain Section of the course.....

..... The Pile is located alongside a popular route with motorcyclists. I see them and hear them and, when time allows, I join them on one or other of my bikes.

So today was quite frustrating because the weather was glorious but I had a mountain of cooking that I needed to get done before I got anywhere near a motorcycle. I stood in the kitchen preparing veg for a batch of Pea 'n Ham soup and watched as they flowed down the road, engines muted as they throttle off to observe the 30 mph limit. Come on Chaps, give me a break you're not making this any easier!

The morning progressed, the bikes continued to pass the house and I got the pot of soup on the hob and then started cubing and mincing pork and black pudding to make a batch of Black Pudding sausages. By early afternoon we had eight litres of soup and eleven pounds of sausages packed in to the freezer. I have just noticed that I have managed to mix both imperial and metric measures in a single sentence and have probably committed a Euro crime as a result. My defence is that a litre of soup is three servings as is a pound of sausages. I would have written 454g but I felt it didn't flow.

At 2.30 I grabbed the garage keys and unplugged the Honda from the life support system* and wheeled her in to the sun. Ignition on- check, choke on - check, engine in neutral - check, clutch in and press the starter button. I don't want her start first time as I want her to pump oil over the engine internals and get the oil pressure up before she fires up....

.... a few more tries on the starter button and fuel flows down from the tank in to the carbs and she splutters, then burbles in to life. I reduce the amount of choke and wander off to get chain lube and a foot pump as she starts to warm up. I check her over as she idles in the sun; lights, tyre pressures and oil level and......

..... then have to put her away as 30%'s family have turned up for a cuppa and a walk. I was going to write CURSE THEM but it was fine. They are good company and it was nice to catch up. After tea and a quick review of progress on The Pile we took a wander round a very sunny Three Miler with T&M.

Note to self: Get the Ducati taxed

It is now early evening and I finally get out for my first ride of the year. Accompanied by TP, we take a quick circuit that includes several sets of "twisties" and a fast section of dual carriage way too. It was great. There was very little traffic and what was there was soon overtaken. So I finally got out after a weekend of waiting and look forward to many more sunny days in 2011.


* Optimate battery charging system

Saturday, 9 April 2011


Today is Presidents Day. Before you rush off to examine your calendar to see what corner of the world is celebrating let me explain .....

...... A few weeks back TP's rugby team played and won against a team from Sutton Coldfield. Today is that team's Presidents Day and we were invited back to play them at home. This meant that I had a shit load of things to do before we all met up in the club car park at eleven o'clock.

By eight thirty I was breakfasted and caffeine charged and was climbing in to the Defender for a trip over to the feed stores to pick up 3 cwt of layers pellets. I was traumatised by the fact that the price has gone up a tenner in the past 12 months and am glad that I can simply reduce my flock to cut the feed bills. God knows how farmers can manage with the aggressive pricing policies that the supermarkets apply.

The price of wheat has gone up from £110 per tonne in June last year to nearly £200 per tonne now. That is a doubling of the feed price, add in the increases in fuel costs and general inflation and you have to ask how the supermarkets can keep food prices as low as they can and offer aggressive price cuts on meat products. One really has to ask what corners are being cut and who is being screwed in this economic model.

Sorry I digressed, but I have concerns about animal welfare and production standards when the  Supermarkets can sell two chickens for £5 or £6 and can halve pork prices on a regular basis.

Once home I managed a further coffee and then took T&M out for an early walk. The Opponent Club's dog policy is an unknown and so the terrible two will have to stay at home rather than risk being shut in the car for a couple of hours. They are pretty good at home on their own but it only seems fair to give them a good run before leaving them cooped up inside while we go out.

The match was a bit of a disaster. The opponents seemed to have significantly increased the size of their squad in the past 6 weeks and more realistic/cynical observers commented that the second row and flankers seemed a little more mature that the rest of the team. TP's team were massacred. Lets leave it at that.

Having run round like a mad thing to complete domestic duties so that I could donate 5 hours of my time to junior rugby I was a little annoyed that TP could do little more than grunt in response to anything I said today. Actually, scratch "little annoyed" and replace it with bloody furious. All he had done was get up, feed and dress himself while I had ensured that all those annoying little jobs had been completed so that I could chauffeur him North of Birmingham to get his arse kicked.

Needless to say we had "words" upon our return and a somewhat chastised TP was to be found wrestling the beast around the lawn for the first cut of the year. Regular readers of The Journal will know that the lawn mower and I are not the best of friends  - "Die You Red Rusty Bastard" - and making TP mow the lawn from now until eternity seems to be an admirable solution to this dysfunctional relationship.

A session with the Mountfield followed by half an hour with the yard broom and general garden maintenance under 30%'s tutelage seems to have improved TP's demeanour and by Dinner Time his company was tolerable to pleasant .........

............ Teenagers!
Other Stuff:

I bumped in to Cathy H-R at the Village Shop on the way back from my walk and she advised that her two pigs will be going for slaughter next week. I have a half pig on order and she has offered me both heads which I gratefully accepted as I have found a recipe for cured pigs cheeks which looks like it could be very interesting.

I also managed to make a start on the preparation work in the bedroom this afternoon and a beautiful pine cupboard has slowly emerged from beneath 150 years of paint and grime.

Friday, 8 April 2011

I aint dead yet ......

Back on the 6th October 2010 I started a charcuterie experiment. We had just bought a half pig and I decided to attempt an air dried ham.

The leg was boned and and packed in a box of salt with weights applied to compress the joint. Ten days later it was removed from the box of salt, washed in white wine vinegar, wrapped in muslin and hung up in the garage.

Now six months have passed, so I steeled myself and  took down the ham. The muslin wrapping had a few patches of grey, green mould but my research indicated that this was to be expected. Apparently black mould is a bad sign but green and white are acceptable and one should rely on their nose. If it smells bad, throw it away. If is smells OK it probably is.

I unwrapped the ham and the surface was covered in a grey, green mould. It didn't look appetising but it smelt just like a commercial air dried ham.

Following the advice I had gleaned from the internet, I washed the ham with white wine vinegar and patted it dry. It certainly looked a lot less scary after that.

I summoned my last reserves of courage, picked up a sharp knife and cut away the outer surface. The smell was amazing. I cut a few thin slivers and sampled it .....

...... it tastes great. The texture near the surface of the ham is quite similar to beef jerky as it is dry and somewhat coarse but as the surface is pared away it becomes more like a prosciutto. The flavour is beautiful, not too salty and definitely comparable with a commercial ham.

All I need to do now is be still breathing tomorrow and I will be able to declare this cure a success.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Mother and Children doing well ....

After the surprise whelping of my Dad's hat on Tuesday, I thought I would take this opportunity to show you the latest picture of the litter.
I think Golfy has taken a shine to the one in the middle

 As can be seen, they are all doing really well and it wont be long before we need to find homes for them.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Still no news ....

On the work front there is still no news on the latest project. I managed to grab the attention of one of the Global Leads and was advised that our Senior Team are in with the client this afternoon and are expected to be given "a number". In other words our price is too high and they are going to be given a pricing target.

This snippet of information didn't really tell us much and there are so many permutations of "whats" and "ifs" that Golfy and I decided that we were not going to get anywhere with analysis and decided to talk rubbish instead for most of the day. The other interesting fact here is that I am having to drag updates from the Global Lead and forward them on to my colleagues in Europe, Japan and Asia ......

...... Apparently communication is not his strong point.

While we are waiting for the client decision we do what we can to improve the shape of the project* but this is challenging without additional information and my team really need to apply themselves on other activities that have more pressing time scales.

Other stuff

The day was beautiful and the lull in the workload meant that I had the opportunity to take a leisurely stroll round the Three Miler with T&M rather than some of the more rushed or missed walks recently.

This evening 30%'s friend; Jules will be joining us for dinner and it will be great to catch up with her and her news.

Not a lot else to report really and after the madness of the past few weeks I am enjoying coasting in neutral for a day or so.
* "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming" - Dory in Finding Nemo. Golfy's suggested quote was from the out takes; "Nemo, where the fuck have you been?"

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

I wonder where I get it from?

This is an actual telephone conversation between me any my Dad ......

Bad Man jnr.      Hi Dad, you left your hat here when you called round to drop off 30%'s birthday present

Bad Man snr      Never Mind, I’ll pick it up when I pop round next week.

Bad Man jnr.      OK, so long as you don’t need it …..

Bad Man snr.     No, I’ve got plenty of hats. If it has a litter you can keep one of them ….

Bad Man jnr.      Fantastic, it will be like a speedy little tortoise

Obviously it’s not just me who thinks this way.

A good sized litter for a young Trilby bitch.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Dangling ...

Today has been spent responding to repeated requests for news about our Client's decision. Over the weekend I had occasionally checked my e-mail hoping for an announcement. None came and so this morning I was repeatedly saying "no news, as soon as I hear anything I'll let you know".

The US finally came on-line after lunch and I contacted the American Lead to be advised that the decision may be pushed back a few weeks and more will be known tomorrow. A FEW WEEKS! .....

.....So, what do we do now? We take deep breaths, wait a little longer, revise our resource plans once time scales are known and do what we can to progress those matters that can be progressed. Needless to say it is not going to be a late night tonight and the dogs have already been walked.


Other stuff

The shell shock brought on by our Mothers Day visit to the Biscester Village retail outlet seems to be diminishing but I'm not sure that I will ever truly recover from the mental scarring that 4 hours surrounded by superficial, shopaholic, fuckwits has given me. I saw it all there! I can confirm that the Fashion Police definitely needed a Black Maria or two and I hope the coalition government see fit to ensure that this particular area of front line policing is not impacted by budget cuts.

Low point of the day* was the posturing guy with the blond highlights outside Superdry. He thought he looked the dogs bollocks but all I saw was him in the hairdressers chair wearing the rubber hat with his hair pulled through the holes  having the bleach applied. Also worthy of mention was the lady in shorts with tanned legs. It might have been a good look for her 15 years ago but the extra 28 lbs and the extremely noticeable cellulite were not working for her.

Now you might think I'm being an absolute bitch. Perhaps I am, but if you're going to try to make a statement be prepared to have someone critique it. Also "does my bum look big in this?" was a valid question that should have been asked and answered honestly in a number of cases yesterday.

* actually this wasn't the low point of the day, that was the shop assistant so thick that he couldn't cope with the question "do you have these in a 28 inch waist?". I hasten to add they were for TP not me.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Rhubarb, Rhubarb

Yesterday we took a trip in to Stratford to pick up a few odds and ends and took a wander around the Farmers Market. There were a couple of stalls selling Rhubarb which has just come in to season. Now normally I wait for VI to arrive on the doorstep with stems that he has acquired in his wanderings. Thus far this year none has turned up so I dug deep in to my pockets and purchased a kilo.

Now before you drift off, I need to point out that these lovely tart pink stems are going nowhere near a crumble and are not going to be simmered to form a compote. Here are my ingredients ....

The  observant will notice a complete lack of flour or fat. All I have here are a litre of very cheap vodka, appropriately 600g of Rhubarb, about 300g of sugar and a splash of vanilla extract. The Rhubarb gets chopped up in to small dice and is added to the preserving jar along with the sugar, the vodka and a few drops of vanilla essence. Clamp the lid shut, give it a good shake and put in a dark cupboard.

 Shake it every day for the next week, then shake weekly for the next six or seven weeks*. Finally filter and bottle.
* Keep an eye on it. If you leave the rhubarb in for too long the colour of the liqueur can fade from pink to grey. Those in the know say 6 to 8 weeks at most.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

No Washing Up

This evening we all applied spit and polish and drove out for dinner.

We approach Mothering Sunday and 30%'s birthday in the next few days so I had made a reservation for the Belle House in Pershore. None of us had eaten there before but an acquaintance who had been of great assistance in the project to get the Vespa back on the road last year said it was worth a visit.

He was spot on the mark. The restaurant is a converted Georgian House on the High Street, which is confusingly called Bridge Street*, and has an associated Deli next door - they confusingly call that a Traiture. Our table was on the first floor in an oak panelled, high ceilinged room. The service was great and the food was fantastic. Apparently they run demonstration sessions which might be an interesting diversion.

I won't bore with the details of who had what but the assiette of deserts was splendid as was the Guinea Fowl with the side order of local asparagus.

* Pershore is a quite attractive little Georgian Town that has seemed to miss out on any great development. It therefore has an air of a reasonably well kept back water. It has always been the butt of local humour and even now older Pershore residents will bridle if they hear someone from Evesham mention the practice of "putting the pig on the wall to see the band go by". This implied insult is based on their simple and naive nature and desire to show their livestock something exciting.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Food Hygiene ....

Today 30% learnt that if cooked chicken is left in the fridge uncovered it evaporates* at an amazing rate....

...... Apparently even cling film (Saran wrap for  any US readers) won't stop cooked poultry from simply dissipating in to the atmosphere. It needs to be covered with aluminium foil or other non-transparent material for it to remain in the fridge without significant reduction in it's volume or net weight.


* There are a number of foods that will evaporate. Most scientists will tell you that only  liquids evaporate and will do this very slowly in cool environments. What do they know? Have they seen the strange way that a Pork Pie appears to segment and diminish if left unattended?

Decisions Decisions ...

Today is the day that our prospective client makes the decision about which Supplier they would like to try to form a contract with.

So basically it is a case of "shit or bust". Either way someone is in for a rough ride. If we fall at this final hurdle I wouldn't want to be one of the Lead Sales Execs. If we clear it and take the lead Golfy and I am in for a god-awful 6 weeks starting on Monday.

In anticipation of success I have been making as many preparations as possible but today my efforts had a certain air of potential futility and I felt that, although success is likely, I should just sit and wait until Monday. I didn't, but I felt that way.