Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Slow Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Virgin on the ridiculous!

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 28 November 2011

Picture Post. No. 15

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Weekend round-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 25 November 2011

Red Letter Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manager:   remember that that is dollars not pounds

bad man:    yep, got that

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

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

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

Thursday, 24 November 2011

I usually just let things pan out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

I was doing something else

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 10 November 2011

TP's 15th

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

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

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

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Busier than expected

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Goodness! Things to do

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 7 November 2011

What's for Supper?

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Weekend round up

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 4 November 2011

Picture Post. No. 14

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Picture Post. No. 13

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


The decline in to decrepitude continues ...

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

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

What's cooking?

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

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

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

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