Saturday, 31 March 2012

Productive but not exciting

If sanding the stripped bannisters and newel posts of a pine stair case to a satin smooth finish is your thing read on, otherwise I respectfully suggest that you find something else to fill your time.

Today 30% and I have spent a long and dusty day preparing the wood work on the Landing & Stairs. After clearing the floor and sealing the Bedroom doors to prevent dust ingress, 30% took on the oak cupboard that Chippy Ian built for us and I took on the stairs.

There isn't much more I can say. The wood is now a lot smoother and we were both covered in a very fine dust. We cleaned ourselves and the room up, took the dogs for a quick walk and then collapsed on the sofa with a drink and dinner.

The only problem is that we still have four door frames, the skirting boards, the window sill and exposed beams to sand plus the repairs to the trim panels on the stairs and the bleaching of a couple of stains on the soak flooring to complete before the end of the week.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Breaking Up

Today was my final day of work before a ten day Easter break. Yes, I have ten days away from work and will be spending them at home, probably with a power sander in my hand.

As was to be expected most of today was spent in hand-over activities and completing as much as possible "up front" as I know I am going to be very busy when I get back. My out of Office is now set and Tigger is clearly identified as the stuffed furry animal to be contacted if anyone needs anything.

I have had company here at home today as Andy & Steve are here to carry out the preparation for skimming of the Landing and Stairs. The original lime and horsehair plaster has stood up pretty well to the past two and a half centuries but there are a few areas where it is no longer bonded to the walls and the patching associated with building works and re-modelling mean that a skim is needed to pull it all together. Whilst removing the loose plaster S&A exposed one end of the oak lintel over the window. I made a quick styling decision and the entire beam was exposed. It will need a little attention with a wire brush but will look fantastic when surrounded by fresh smooth plaster.

S&A completed all the prep work and left having applied a bonding coat to the bare areas and a coat of PVA to all of the other walls. They will be back on Monday to apply the finish coat. After S&A had finished I switched off my Instant Messenger and took T&M for a walk...

... As I was nearing the end of the walk a Golden Retriever came charging towards us. He was trailing his lead but there was no sight of his owner anywhere. I recognised him as belonging to a local family that are currently doing their best to develop a bit of a reputation. I am no fan of the family and do my best to avoid them but could hardly leave their dog loose. There was also no way I was going to shake him off as he is intact and T&M are both in season.  I am guessing that the children had been walking him and couldn't restrain him. He has a good nature but has not been trained and is VERY strong. I assume he got wind of T&M and simply followed his nose. I therefore ended up grabbing his lead, calming him down with a swift kick up the arse and taking him home. It came as a relief but no surprise that there was no-one at home to receive him. After waiting around for 5 minutes there was no sign of the family so I found the side entrance and shut him in the back garden. I'm sure he was safer there than running loose in the village.

Back home there was time for a quick coffee and a shower and shave before 30% and I drove over to The Bridge at Bidford on Avon for supper. This is a super little restaurant that 30% has dined at on a couple of occasions but it was my first visit. I have to report that it lived up to its reputation and was lovely*. The interior decor is a mixture of rustic and modern and it has a huge window running the full length of the dining area giving a view over the river. The food was great. I had chicken livers done in garlic and cream followed by Sea Bass with pasta, pesto and pine nuts followed by a Creme Caramel. 30% went for scallops and bacon to start, a very posh burger as her main and an Eton Mess variant for pud. It was a lovely start to the holiday and it was really nice to be out as a couple rather than as a family which is the norm nowadays.

We had coffee at home on the sofa and watched a film before retiring to bed knowing that the alarm will not need to be set for another ten days. Fantastic.
* If I could make one tiny criticism,  their food deserves linen napkins. Paper serviettes will never do and their tariff suggest they could bear the laundry costs.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

A Mind Reader I am not

For some reason I reviewed Monday's Journal entry today and noted that I expected to have a quiet week with Tigger taking over command...

... it just goes to show how crappy my foresight is. I have spent the past few days running around like the proverbial blue arsed fly re-assembling my team and developing an outline of the changes they need to make in the design of our project. This has been complicated by the fact that the Global Lead doesn't seem interested in anything outside the walls of his office and just seems to expect my revisions to appear on the required date as a result of a series of intertwined miracles.

His lack of communication is now being taken seriously by Christopher Robin and chums and an escalation seems to be on the horizon. I think they finally focused on this problem when I provided an email from an Australian colleague showing that they had absolutely no knowledge of the need for changes.

I held a kick-off call for the team this afternoon and it seemed to go reasonably well. I am hoping that their silence means that all is clear and they are ready to crack on. The realist in me knows that it is actually an expression of their lack of interest and the challenge for Tigger next week is to keep them on track.

Away from work I received a text message from the wordsmith formerly know as TP. He is limping his way around Iceland* on a school trip and the best he could manage when delivering a description of this land of fire and ice was ... "just going past volcanoes at the moment".

I suppose he is only limited to 140 characters.
* the near bankrupt country, not the frozen food store

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Here we go again

After hearing mutterings for the past couple of weeks, I have managed to pin down the Head Honcho in the US and got him to confirm that he does need me to provide him with an updated set of costs in about three weeks time*. This is the chap who is crap at communication and, once again, I got a single line saying "Yes, I need updated costs" but no detail of the changes that need to be made.

I have therefore spent much of the day working out how my work products will change so that my hastily assembled team can make a quick start rather than sitting around waiting for Mr Uncommunicative.

I knocked out a high level set of design changes but couldn't put them in front of the team until the Head Honcho had confirmed that they were appropriate. I therefore had poor Tigger chasing him around a Manhattan Office with the firm instruction to sit on him until he read and responded to my proposals. Tigger's role is mostly Bouncing and making up numbers and I really should have got Piglet on board for a game of Piggy in the Middle.

Eventually, about an hour before a much needed Gin & Tonic, Tigger called to say that the Head Honcho agreed with my proposals. This is a huge relief as it means that I can get the team heading in a clear direction before Tigger has to manage them remotely from down town, New York next week.

Other Stuff
We received a text from TP to let us know that the Blue Lagoon in Iceland was amazing. there was no mention of his foot so I am assuming that he did not leave swirling red trails, of the type most attractive to sharks, as he swam around these Geo-thermally heated pools.
* If I hadn't badgered him, when would he have told me ?

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Movie Quotes

"If you build it they will come" - Ray Liotta  in Field of Dreams

"If I drop the kettle, it will dent" - badman in The Kitchen

No, He is not going for a Pizza

TP or "Jammy Git" as he should more accurately be described is off to Iceland tomorrow for a 5 day Geography Field Trip. 30% and I have been to the Trip Presentation sessions and we both agree that Iceland is wasted on him and we would be far more appreciative of the tour. To be blunt it looks fantastic and takes in the Fire and Ice features for which this country is renowned.

I was therefore somewhat perturbed when he wandered downstairs at the weekend and grunted "I've got some sort of rash thing". I examined the rash thing and realised that this would need Professional scrutiny.  As a result I have had to prostrate myself in front of the Doctor's Receptionist begging and bending the facts to ensure that he got seen by a GP and was cleared to fly to Iceland.

After a couple of consultations we have been advised that all is well and it is likely to have been triggered by a recent throat infection. They have confirmed that it is not infectious and he can go and wander over glaciers and volcanoes.

We were obviously relieved so you can imagine how peeved I was when he walked in the house and managed to cut the sole of his foot. This was no minor scratch. It was one of those where you can see a trail of blood spots leading from the scene of the accident. After cleaning and applying pressure it seemed to stop bleeding. This was a good sign and I also managed to locate a "Rolls Royce" of adhesive dressings that was left over from my hand operation back in November last year. This was applied and he claims that all is well and that he can walk.

I thoughtfully added extra Elastoplast to his luggage and hope he heals quickly. 

Monday, 26 March 2012


I'm on holiday next week. We are not going away and, instead, plan to finish the "preparation" on the stairs and landing. Work, on the other hand, had a completely different set of plans for me and wanted me to fly out to New York tomorrow and stay there until Wednesday next week. Normally I would consider rearranging my leave to accommodate but we are at the end of the leave year, I have a nit picking, pedant of a manager, I really want to get the house finished plus a thousand other reasons why I decided I wouldn't travel to NYC*.

As a result Tigger will be my most capable Deputy and what little work I did today involved making sure he was as prepared as possible for the trip. This is a challenge in itself as the US Project Manager is piss poor at communication and we have scant detail of what he wants Tigger to do. To give you some idea of the low quality of this PM's communications let me precis his request for UK representation in the US this week. His request was a one line e-mail asking for a UK representative to attend a client meeting and preparation. This e-mail did not include any dates and neither did it include any address or agenda details, background information was as rare as Unicorn Pooh**...

... funnily enough, item one on Tigger's "to do" list is development of a Communications Plan.

With Tigger on-board and heading off to the US for the main activity I am drifting in a back-water this week and will be hard pressed to keep myself busy at work.
* If we are successfully down-selected by the client there will be another opportunity in April or early May.
** I had to Instant Messenger him last week to actually find out when and where he needed Tigger.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Weekend Round Up

It is becoming a regular feature that Saturday and Sunday's activities are recounted in a single Journal entry going under the title of "Weekend Round Up". Not wishing to interrupt this evolving tradition here is a summary of this weekend ...

Saturday: Unleashing The Beast

After some non-specific pottering 30% and I headed towards deepest Stourbridge to drop the Land Rover off at The Defender Centre. The car should be with them for a week or so whilst various mechanical, cosmetic and functional changes are made. Under the bonnet the replacement of the dual mass flywheel and clutch will eliminate the judder that accompanies hurried exits from junctions. On the outside Alpine Windows will be installed in the roof which will then be colour matched to the body. On the inside there is a long list of improvements all aimed at making it slightly less van like; heated seats in the front, a pair of tip-up seats in the rear plus trim and insulation /sound deadening. Once finished I am guessing that I will be extremely reluctant to put anything shitty in it ever again.

Back home we lunched and then I took T&M around the Three Miler. The weather is stunning considering Spring has barely started. The down-side to this is that 30% keeps turning off the heating. I will break chronological conventions here by mentioning that being a late riser she is blissfully unaware that the nights and early mornings are still very chilly and that the heating most definitely still needs to be on until after breakfast.

Clambering back on to the linear time track I find myself back at home after walking the dogs. The lawn is looking dreadful after the Winter and I decide to unleash The Porn Mower in the vain hope that a trim will sort things out. This is very much like hoping that sticking plaster is a suitable treatment for accidental amputation and I really need turf, grass seed, exclusion zones and long hours with a sprinkler if I really want to use the word lawn with any credibility.

Sunday: Stair Repairs

After a couple of weeks off we were back at the Rugby Club this morning for a training session. Being conscientious parents we left TP there on his own and disappeared in to Redditch for supplies. The supplies were a large amount of paint, to be applied to the stairs and landing, and a small amount of groceries, to accompany a shoulder of lamb this evening. 

As is the norm; lunch was followed by a walk and I then made a start on the refurbishment of the stair case...

... The older parts of The Pile date back to the 1750s and the stairs are most definitely one of the older parts. Building techniques in those days tended to be along the lines of using what was near at hand and as a result there are some rather peculiar construction features to be seen in the house. These are all quite sturdy. They have, after all, lasted more than 250 years but their "finishing" is, shall we say, a little rough and ready.

The stair case is a classic case in point. A couple of weeks ago I stripped the paint from the trim panels on either side of the stairs. These were found to be made of elm and in pretty good condition. The only problem was that the gaps between the trim panels and the stair treads were large and unsightly and these gaps had been concealed with crude strips of 1/2" softwood. 

The plan is to sand, oil and wax these trim panels so the softwood strips have to go. I have therefore spent a good chunk of the afternoon cutting replacements from my supply of old, elm boards. These new strips are of a simple design but the addition of a bull-nose to the edges and front corner and the use of very old timber mean that they look to be part of the stair case rather than crude additions. I have cut half a dozen so far from a final total of eighteen. It doesn't sound like many but the strips need to be prepared from inch thick planks and each one needs to be individually sized...

... I wonder how busy I'll be this week?

Friday, 23 March 2012

Thought for the day

Tigger and I spent a huge amount of time on the 'phone today talking nonsense but we did manage to come up with this pearl of wisdom...

Pooh                I think the best thing in the world is finding half a Pork Pie in the fridge?

Tigger              Wouldn’t a whole Pork Pie be even better?

Pooh                No, because it is very difficult to prove that you have sneaked a slice of an already cut pie

Tigger              Ah, I see. In that case wouldn’t it be better to find two cut Pies in the fridge?

Pooh                It would.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Am I sitting comfortably?

The Car Trimmer called yesterday to let me know that he had finished the Land Rover seats. As a result my first activity this morning was to get some cash from the auto bank and then nip round to his workshop. I turned up and we had a natter and he joked that the seats were far too good for the Defender. We then got on to the subject of the refurb and he commented that the door cards were a bit scruffy. I agreed and asked about having them sprayed. I had been pondering their replacement but new cards were in the region of £350 and I had found that price a little off putting. He gave them a quick glance and said that he could have them looking as good as new for £50. A deal was struck and the car will be dropped down there as soon as it comes back from the Defender Centre.

My attention was then directed to the seats. I can quite honestly say I was lost for words. They look fantastic. I am guessing that they were a pretty straightforward task looking at the other vehicles in the shop. At the time of my visit there were two late 1980's Mercedes SL coupe's and a Range Rover all awaiting his attention. The Defender was, perhaps, a little outside his normal market sector.

As work was quiet I took the opportunity to install the seats as soon as I got home.

There is not a lot else to report; a long overdue haircut was performed and my troublesome camera arrived back from Canon's Service Centre. After a few initial shots I am not yet convinced that they have actually fixed the problem.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Man Hunt

Wednesday saw Tigger and me meet up at the Nearest Circle of Hell. There were a number of reasons for this outing and they are outlined below in order of importance:-

  • My Social Development. 30% thinks it is very important for me to mix with other human beings on a regular basis. Apparently I get a bit "odd" if I spend too much time at home with just the dogs for company.
  • Spreading joy and delight amongst our colleagues. My interpretation of some of the looks we got during the day suggested that perhaps were just a bit too joyful for some of the people in the office
  • The barter of half a dozen eggs for one medium cup of black coffee plus two empty egg boxes. The chickens are laying like maniacs now Spring is here and I badly need containers for the glut.
  • General discourse on work in general and the continued character analysis assassination of the Idiot Manager. This latter discussion topic is now mandated whenever two or more job holders congregate for a period of more than 36 seconds. The discussion must be repetitive, not produce action items but must conclude that the man is, at the very least, a Tit.
  • A game of "Hunt the Senior Daemon".
It is this final  activity that is the subject of today's entry. Tigger and I have been instructed that we must request Governmental Security Clearance in case we get seconded on to some work that may be on the horizon. This, as you might expect, involves filling out several forms, and providing proof of one's identity.

I was somewhat reluctant to send one of my empty hunny jars and Tigger just didn't get it. He pointed out that EVERYONE knew who Tigger is, even very small children, so why would he need to prove his identity? I pointed out that he might need to get in to a secure location when there weren't any small children around to verify his credentials and integrity. Tigger wouldn't accept this until I pointed out that this might occur after their bedtime.

Tigger and I were still very reluctant to send in our passports as our job has a nasty habit of requiring us to cross the Atlantic at very short notice and this is tricky if your passport is 110 miles away on your Manager's desk. We therefore decided to submit a photocopy that had been duly certified, as a true and accurate copy, by a Senior Daemon at Dante's Nine Circles of Hell.

We foolishly thought it would be easy to find a Senior Daemon and wandered in to the Office we normally frequent. There was no sign at all of manager. We then wandered down to one of our old haunts and tried there. There was no-one of sufficient authority there either. Next on our list was a visit to see Grand Dad Jack. He knows everyone and we were sure he would be able to point us at someone...

... but there was no-one in Jack's lair* either. At this point we were getting desperate and wondered if a Restaurant Manager would do. Eventually, after three separate forays, Jack suggested we ask for assistance from one of his more rotund lionesses. She pointed us in the direction of a chap who was more than happy to validate a photocopy.  Job done, applications now in the post. The irony of this search is that Dante's is notorious for having a huge number of Daemons but on the one occasion you need to find one they are conspicuous in their absence.
* Jack's resides in his lair like a venerable, but still sprightly, lion. His favourite resting place gives him fine view of the plains and frequent sightings of young lionesses.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Status Report

30% is now 36 hours in to her three day Jolly in the Netherlands. I am writing this for her benefit as she will be fearing the worst and will envisage TP and I as having gone feral without the benefit of her ministrations...

... Fear Not! We are not sat half naked, surrounded by our own waste, picking nits from each other's hair...

... Yet!

Monday, 19 March 2012

If you ignore me ...

... I do not go away.

For the past few days at work I have been managing the compilation of a set of questions that we would like our prospective client to answer. This has been run with a very tight time line imposed by the US Team. As a result I have spent much of my time attempting to persuade, cajole and on occasions subtly strong arm SMIs* to deliver the goods.

One of the SMIs was on holiday last week so I persuaded the Americans to extend their dead line and then worked with the SMI's Team Leaders and Managers to ensure that he was available to do the job first thing this morning. There was a fair bit of work for him to do so I wanted him to start as early as possible so that everything could be finished and fired over to The States before they woke up.

Being a courteous sort of chap I refrained from 'phoning the SMI at eight o'clock when I started work. Instead I sent him a text asking him to contact me as soon as he started work. I followed that up with an Instant Message and, when nine o'clock finally arrived, I phoned ...

... no answer, so I left a detailed voice message and waited...

... and waited. I needed to pop out to drop the Defender seats and covers over at the Trimmers so I updated the IM and left a further VM and nipped in to Redditch. I got home about 40 minutes later and checked my inbox, the IM tool and my phone. No contact from the SMI...

... I started chasing colleagues of the SMI and discovered that he was en-route to my Nearest Circle of Hell so I nudged a colleague at that location and asked them to "collar" the SMI and tell him I needed to talk to him urgently ...

... Eleven o'clock came and went and I had left further voice mails, additional IMs but not a peep was heard from the SMI. I eventually got hold of him at around eleven thirty when he advised that he was working on another project and had no knowledge of my request for his time or need for his services. He did comment that he had several missed calls from me. At this point I tried to put myself in his place and failed miserably ...

... If my mobile was showing half a dozen missed calls from the same number, a text message, a few detailed voice messages advising of an urgent task and a number of instant messages showing the same requests I think I would ring the Requestor back as soon as possible and try to get things resolved. This SMI decided that he would totally fucking ignore me, presumably in the hope that I would just disappear.

The little git refused to make a start on my task and it was only after a low level escalation and plea to another colleague that he actually, grudgingly agreed to start the task he was bloody supposed to do in the first place.

I really hope that he asks me for feed back as part of our appraisal process.
* SMIs: Acronym, Subject Matter Idiots (plural). Please note that unfortunately there is always more than one SMI. Like the word Gallows there is no such thing as a singular form of SMIs. Thinking about this I wish that SMIs were even more closely connected to Gallows**
** in a sort of ropy, dangling way

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Weekend Round Up

Saturday started at a leisurely pace. After breakfasting I spent an hour or so removing the driver's seat from the Defender and also stripping out the rear load space mat. This latter task involved partial removal of the Dog Guard to free the  fitted rubber mat from the rear of the car. With the cab and rear finally empty I could give it a long overdue clean. I am working on the, probably deluded, principal that the cleaner the car is when it goes in to the workshop the cleaner it will be when it returns.

Just as I got in to the car cleaning activities I was forced to take a break to pick up TP who had spent the night at a friends house. They had had an inaugural band practise session and by the look of him it had been a late finish. He refuses to admit it, but he isn't an "owl" and late nights do him no good at all. As a result I was collecting a teenager who appeared to have lost most of their mental capabilities and had a response time that was measured in hours rather than seconds.

This meant that the trip to the local Garden Centre for Mother's Day gifts was one where I did the thinking, choosing and paying and he could only be relied upon for the necessary supporting role of "Hanger on". To be fair it was a successful trip and suitable gifts were purchased for both Step and Natural Mothers.

The rest of the day was dominated by the final three matches of the Six Nations Tournament. I avoided the pre-match and half time analysis and just about finished cleaning the inside of the car. I have to admit that I am amazed at how tidy it looks now that the sand, mud, silt, grit, and feathers have been removed and a liberal dose of trim polish has been applied.

Sunday was another quiet one. After breakfasting together TP had arranged to spend Mother's Day with his Mum, brother and sister. This left 30% and me with a free day. We started with a walk around the Three Miler. This was my first attempt since pulling a muscle and it was taken at a leisurely pace. We were joined by 30%'s friend Jules and Max. Max is a Collie cross, rescue dog that belongs to a cousin or aunt or some other relative. Jules is dog lover whose lifestyle doesn't suit dog ownership and so has possibly come to a perfect arrangement where she has the pleasure of Max's company for walks but avoids the food bills and the crap in the garden.

After walking we lunched and then 30% nipped in to Worcester in search of luggage suitable for overhead lockers. I'm not quite sure why, as we have several, but apparently they were all too large and she wanted something smaller. With the wisdom that comes from ten years of life with 30% I bade her Good Luck in her hunt and wandered off to fit the borrowed drivers seat in to the Defender. I spent another couple of hours playing with the car; cleaning the grimy load space mat and packing the seats in to the rear for the trip to the Trimmer tomorrow morning.

Friday, 16 March 2012


For the past three days I have been suffering twinges in my lower back. The reason for this, I think, is as a result of one of Marauder's idiosyncrasies...

... At one point in the Three Miler there is a stile to be crossed. The builder of the aforementioned stile thoughtfully constructed it with a gap of a suitable size for most dogs. Tyson leaps through with barely a thought whilst Marauder, on the other hand, simply refuses to climb through.

I have tried bribery with treats, they do not work. I have tried abandonment; walking more than 75 yards, that does not work either. She simply looks plaintively between the rails despite the fact that she could easily fit through. At this point I should mention that there are several other fences and gaps in hedges that Marauder will scramble through without a moment's hesitation but she will simply not climb through this stile. I have tried encouragement. I have even manipulated her through the gap. Nothing has succeeded she will not jump through.

As a result I have to lift her over each and every time we need to pass it. Normally this is a slick procedure, we both know the score; M waits patiently by the obstacle whilst Tyson charges away down the next field. I  place one hand between M's forelegs and the other under her abdomen and lift her over the stile. I must have down this more that four or five hundred times in her life without incident* but on Tuesday I felt a tug in my side and since then I have been considerably less mobile than normal.

I'm guessing that I have pulled a muscle and it appears to be slowly improving but for the past three days my walk has been restricted to a couple of circuits of the local playing field and T&M have had to be entertained chasing a tennis ball launched from a "wanger".** I have to admit that the first hundred yards of this walk is bloody painful but once I get moving I feel a whole lot better. It just goes to show that sitting at a desk all day long is most definitely not good for one.

Apart from the twinging muscle there is little else to mention. Work involves the collation of data from a number of sources in to single spreadsheet with the upcoming joy of having to review the contents on several hours of transatlantic conference calls early next week. Some days the fun just doesn't end.

The Defender refurb project also lurches forward with the arrival of the seat components today. These will be delivered to the Car Trimmer on Monday and the seats should be ready for collection by the end of next week.

30% has also managed to blag a three day Jolly Business Trip to The Netherlands next week so TP and I will be Home Alone from Monday through until Wednesday.

* apart from a muddy footprint or two on my coat
** one of those Atlatl based devices that allow you to hurl a tennis ball a huge distance and also allow you to pick them up without the need to bend down,

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Jumping forward a Generation

Yesterday evening we came forward a comedic generation and saw Rich Hall at the Glee Club in Birmingham. I am a huge fan of Rich and have seen him perform many times over the years. I have even been lucky enough to see him perform as his White Trash, Jailbird alter ego Otis Lee Crenshaw at this very venue.

It was a great night which ended with Hall being joined on stage by a guitarist and drummer to perform a set of improvised songs woven around interactions with some of the audience members. I had seen much of the material before on TV and even versions of the songs but that didn't diminish the man's performance. He got huge laughs from the crowd and it was a brilliant routine.

On the work front; Tigger and I are currently performing as a Duo when we really need the whole band. The task in hand isn't particularly arduous it is just that we need to do it very quickly and, unfortunately for us, most of the band are either performing at other gigs or are on holiday. The very short timescales are a real demotivator as it means that there will be no real opportunity for any quality control ...

... and if you are just chucking shit over the wall, why chuck anything at all?

Actually before I go, I will just give a few lines to the US Project Manager that is directing this activity. She is most definitely at the forefront of a totally new way of communicating. Tigger and I have sat and listened to her on several conference calls and we are in total agreement that on an individual basis we understand virtually every word she says. HOWEVER, when we attempt to combine them in to sentences and extract a meaning we haven't got a clue what she is on about.

She is also one for inventing words. Now I know that a malapropism often happens when one is talking but she  really does invent words. I have in my possession a spreadsheet that includes the word explosure. I took time out to Google this "word" and it only appears in the Urban Dictionary. Now this is a fine piece of literary work but you will generally find that it's contents are rarely used in formal meetings or communications. I therefore fail to see how a term describing clothes so tight they are at risk of ripping can be linked to finding details of server hardware and their interrelationships in a data centre.

Is it me?

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Classic Comedy

Yesterday evening we went to see Barry Cryer perform at The Palace Theatre in Redditch. Barry is probably best know now for his utterances on Radio 4's I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue but he has spent the best part of 50 years writing material for, and working with, some of the biggest names in British Comedy. As a result he has a huge amount of material and anecdotes to draw from and that was how his set was assembled.

Basically he used the alphabet as his framework, going from A through to Z, reeling off jokes, stories and songs associated with each letter. He was joined on stage by pianist Colin Sell who is also a regular on "I'm Sorry ...". It was a great evening in a real gem of a Theatre.

I am no great fan of Redditch and this was my first visit to The Palace. It was a delight. It is a tiny venue seating an audience of maybe 400 people and it's diminutive stature means that it is very intimate. It dates back to just before the first World War and has recently been refurbished and provided with a modern glass fronted entrance. Prior to this encounter I would have said that there was absolutely no reason to visit Redditch. I can now think of one very good one.

Barry was very good and it was a shame that there were so many empty seats. A chap sat next to us in the front row had booked less than 24 hours before the show and there were 350 seats available including a number in the front row of the stalls. Mind you , if you have ever visited Redditch, the lack of Radio 4 listeners in the general populace will come as absolute no surprise.

It is probably worth mentioning that many of the jokes were older than 30% or me and it was interesting to see TP roaring with laughter at a Comedian who is nearly as old as his Grand Father. I thought Barry might be seen as a bit "past it" by TP but it just goes to show what I know.

A consequence of Barry's age is that this was described as a "sit down" rather than a "stand up" routine. Mind you the old devil did get up just before the interval for a couple of numbers sung to a different tune. This included the Laughing Policemen sung to the Dam Busters March and My Old Man's a Dustman sung to the melody of Heartbreak Hotel.

All in all it was a fab night out and the venue added to the experience giving it an old Music Hall feel.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A Chance Encounter

Lunchtime today found me frantically rushing around the kitchen knocking up a Shepherd's Pie for Supper. The reasons for the frantic rushing was that I had a conference call in the diary at one o'clock and the reason for supper being prepared in advance was that we are out this evening to see Barry Cryer at The Palace Theatre in Redditch.

Five minutes before the conference call I answered a knock at the door and was engaged in conversation by a Gentleman in his late 60's...

"Hello" says I. "Hello" he replied, rapidly followed by "I'm lost". At this point I expected him to ask for a particular road in the Village or perhaps a local Hamlet that is a little off the beaten track. I certainly wasn't expecting the next couplet in this conversation...

... "Where are you trying to get to?" says I. "Birmingham" says he.

At this point my brain took time out to consider the situation. I was stood talking to a man who was having problems trying to find Britain's second largest city. If he couldn't manage to locate Birmingham I could see him having some serious challenges locating a particular suburb, street or building in the aforementioned city. How many of us actually head out to an unknown location apparently without either map or satellite navigation unit these days? I know that I can be a little flippant about my preparations for a journey but even my minimalist approach includes noting down the destination address and taking either an Atlas or a Sat Nav. Sometimes, if I am really keen, I will plan out the route before I leave AND take a mobile 'phone and contact numbers in case I get lost.

This chap appeared to have taken none of these preparatory activities and seems to be relying on luck to get there. He was at least twenty five miles from his destination city and had got lost already. It is not as though he was just having problems with the final mile. This chap was obviously seriously out of his depth.

I suggested that he follow the main road and then take a turn and follow the signs for Redditch. Once in Redditch he would then pick up signs for Birmingham. He didn't look convinced so I advised that he could follow the same road towards Alcester and then pick up the A453 that would take him to the Motorway. "Which Motorway?" he asked. I nodded in jaded confirmation when posited the M42.

"Ah. OK. How will I know that I am going in the right direction as I have a habit of going the wrong way". At this point my incredulity level is off the scale. He added that he was heading for the airport so I suggested that he look for signs towards Solihull to keep him on the right track. He seemed reasonably satisfied with this and pottered back towards his car.

As he wandered off I pondered his obvious lack of planning, lack of resources and blind faith in support from chance encounters along the way.

A few months ago a Chap went missing on a journey along the M25 and was eventually found 30 hours later, safe and sound, but a little confused, parked in a London suburb. I remembered reading this and wondered who would let their elderly relatives drive journeys that are beyond their abilities? Apparently it is far more common than I thought and is definite evidence that there really are some bloody stupid people around.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Its all coming together

Debbie called this morning to let me know that the rear seats and sundry items for the Defender will be available for collection by next Monday at the latest. This was great news. Her next statement was music to my ears when she went on to say that if I paid cash there would be no VAT...  Result !

Next item on the list was a call to the Vehicle Trimmer and the seats will be dropped off next week and he should turn them round in a few days ...

... this was followed by a call to Marc at The Defender Centre and he can take the car in for the refurbishment and repairs in the following week so by Easter she should be magnificent.

Sunday, 11 March 2012


A couple of weeks back 30% arranged for Steve* to call round to give us a couple of quotes.  One of these was to put a skim of plaster over the walls of the stairs and landing. Basically this part of the house is long overdue for decoration but had reached that point where all of the prep jobs take longer than the time available at a weekend and consequently just weren't getting done.This is now back on track with S&A coming at the end of the month for the aforementioned skim leaving 30% and me to spend our Easter  holiday with some serious sanding to do.  S&A will then return a few weeks later to apply paint to the now smooth walls and woodwork.

So what, one might ask, has this got to do with Sunday 11th March? Well today all three of us spent a good chunk of the day stripping off patches of wall paper and the gloss paint on the stairs to allow the aforementioned plastering to progress.

Breaks were taken for Rugby**, Dog Walking and also a trip down the Village to link up with Matt & Philip who are sons of one of 30%'s colleagues. M&P both own Land Rovers too and I had arranged to borrow a driver's seat for a couple of weeks while my seats are at the Car Trimmers.
* as in Andy & Steve; The Decorators
** The England v France International rather than TP's escapades, of which there were none this week.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Am I sitting comfortably?

There is not a huge amount to report for today. After breakfasting with 30% we went our separate ways; she towards Stratford for some proper shopping and me just down the road for some Land Rover seat "shopping". After winning the seat covers I needed to obtain two rear seat frames and there is a very well known Internet retailer that is conveniently based a stone's throw away. I called yesterday evening and they were more than happy to have a look over what I had acquired and ensure that I bought the correct seat type...

... So I spent a happy 40 minutes in the company of Debbie discussing dogs, Land Rovers, Kids and erm Land Rovers and my order was placed. The parts should be here within a week and she even said she would "see if she could do something about the VAT if I paid cash". I now need to see if I can borrow a driver's seat from anyone or my car will be off the road for a week or so while the Trimmer does his stuff.

The rest of the morning was filled with a walk around the Three Miler a which then meant that the afternoon was free. This allowed me to watch the Wales v Italy Rugby International, have a short kip on the sofa and then remove the passenger and centre seat from the Defender...

... and surprisingly these activities were all completed without swearing.

Friday, 9 March 2012

C is for Canon ...

... yes and c is for c**ts too but I'm going to do my damnedest to get this down in chronological order so I'll get to that multinational in a few paragraphs ...

... The day started early with a quick run up to The Defender Centre which sits in Banjo Country between Bromsgrove and Stourbridge. My initial reception was definitely one of disinterest until the Mechanic released that their absent salesman had not invited along a customer who wanted a sows ear turned in to a silk purse. Once they had take a look at the car and the wish list they realised it was all doable and turned positively enthusiastic about the job and a few other odds and ends that would really tidy up the appearance of the car.

At this point I'll just get back to the Defender Centre Salesman for a couple of observations. I had arranged to see him on Friday morning and so was somewhat surprised to have to talk to him via a mechanic's mobile because he was at home "watching an auction" and wouldn't be in for about half an hour. Now I have an expectation of a car salesman. I expect them to be unreliable, and he had definitely ticked that box, I also expect them to be creative in their Bullshit and I think he had totally failed by telling me the obvious truth here. The stupid bugger was  sat at home with his trousers round his ankles looking at porn on the Internet whilst he waited to place a bid on an eBay auction during the final 40 seconds.

Anyway, moving on, they agreed to work up a quote and I left to get back to my working day. At home sat in front of the laptop I heard T&M announce the arrival of the Postman. I wandered out to pick up the post and spied a letter addressed to me. I opened it to find a letter that appeared to indicate that Canon want me to pay for the repairs of my camera despite a) being under a US warranty and b) having offered to undertake reasonable repairs on a goodwill basis. The letter was a standard quotation with no reference to my complaint or any previous communications so I phoned them for clarification...

... it transpires that they will not repair my camera on a good will basis and their previously undefined reasonable costs now seems to vary between £30 and £50 depending on which Customer Service Manager I spoke to. At present the repair quote sits at £170 and I pointed out that £72 of that was an inspection cost i.e. a Service that they had already agreed to undertake free of charge and a further £9 was to clean a lens that was less than 9 months old. I pointed out that approximately 50% of their quote was for stuff I either didn't need or stuff they had already agreed to do free of charge. In other words it was, and their is now other way of stating this, artificially inflated.

The current situation is that they have agreed to revise the quote, I will then pay for the work and then claim the costs back from Canon US. I may go with this plan or alternatively I may go to their Director as, after three requests, they agreed to provide his name and address. At this point I think it fair to say that the customer service offered by Canon is absolutely fucking appalling as  they have reneged on their promise and provided an artificially inflated quote in an attempt to support their position. They are fucking charlatans.

Having finished my rant at Canon I then decided to chase up the location of my Land Rover Seat covers so I phoned the Second Hand Car Dealer in Coventry that had sold them to me. I asked for "John" as that was the name on the e-mail advising that they had been "lost". I was told, in a somewhat suspicious tone, that there was no-one called John there. At this point I changed tack and advised that I was calling about the Land Rover Seat covers. The chap also changed tack, went in to full on sales mode and started telling me what a fantastic set they were and that I could have them for £150. I let him ramble on for a while before advising that I had won them in an eBay auction for £25, had already paid for them and had now been told they were "lost"...

... There was a tumbleweed moment whilst the Salesman shifted a few mental gears before advising that a) some mistake had been made and b) I could not have them for £25. We both knew that the covers, if they were as described, were a steal at £150 so I really didn't want to upset the apple cart and end up with a refund so I let things play out. The chap was a true salesman and told me I could have them for £100. After a bit of tooing and froing we agreed on £80 and I climbed in to the car to pick them up before he changed his mind.

Once home I examined the goods and I think it fair to say that I have a very good deal. Lord knows how this chap came across these covers but there are three front seat covers and eight rear seat covers. They are all in "as new" condition and the only issue is that some of the seams have been cut where they were removed from the original vehicle. As a consequence I will need the services of a Car Trimmer but there is one just down the road who has quoted £150 to fit them.

So today has been one of ups and downs. I am really very cross with Canon and really very pleased with the seat cover deal. I suppose on balance things are heading in the right direction.

Oh, and I did some work too.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Is that Rat I can smell?

At the beginning of the week I spotted a company selling a full set of half leather seat covers for a Defender on eBay. Now these would really improve the luxury rating of the Land Rover so I watched them with interest ...

... yesterday evening they were still at 99p so I placed my bid about 40 seconds before the end time and waited with baited breath ...

... Result! I was the winner for a little under £25 plus postage. I promptly paid and started dreaming of how the car would look with half leather seats. I couldn't believe my luck as the auction had a "Buy it Now" price of £150 and I had won it for a sixth of that price...

... in the corner of my mind a niggle started ...

... this evening I received an e-mail from the seller advising that I should refrain from paying as the set of covers had been misplaced during a relocation to new storage facilities and they would contact me once the items had been found.

My cynical mind translates this as "we really expected to get more fore these items and are hoping to fob you off with this excuse allowing us to re-post them at a later date". I have replied advising that I have already paid and asking for them to contact me to progress this matter to a satisfactory resolution.

The realist in me is seeing taking this through an eBay Dispute process ultimately ending with me getting a refund rather than a set of seat covers worth the best part of £400.

Watch this space to learn which Coventry Car Dealer to avoid like the plague.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Tyson's Bumper Book of Crime. Number 2 in a totally unexpected series

I've been on a bit of a mission today. First task on the "to do" list was to prepare a Bolognese sauce for Supper. I managed to combine this with listening to an hour long team call so that definitely counted as work.

Lunch was hastily prepared and eaten  and I then nipped down the road to pick up a Defender "A Bar" that I had won on eBay last night. There is no way that I can pass this off as work so I'll explain that trip away as my lunch hour.

T&M were frantic for a walk upon my return so I went straight out again for a circuit of the Three Miler. The weather is beautiful and I would have lingered but I had spent less time than normal in front of the Laptop today and really needed to make sure nothing urgent had arisen.

I therefore didn't need "30%'s Best Girl" to roll in fox shit necessitating a bath before we could re-enter the house ...

... Thanks Tyson!
* It is interesting to note that Tyson's last criminal escapade was almost 12 months ago and bears a striking similarity to today's event.

Monday, 5 March 2012

My Luck was in

I spent a brief while perusing that Global Marketplace of stolen goods and Chinese fakes that is commonly known as eBay today...

... I couldn't believe my luck when I  found a Defender "A-Bar" being auctioned. It was only a few miles down the road and was half the price that these are normally sold for. No-one had bid on it and the auction ended this evening.

My luck didn't run out and I can pick it up tomorrow.

With the simple addition of a couple of 8" Spots she will have a little more "presence" and I might be able to see where I am going at night.

Catching Up

It is Monday morning and a quick glance show that I have jotted nothing down since last Thursday. I suppose I had better rectify this lack of output.

Friday: Hanging Around

On Thursday evening I received a snotagram from an American Delivery Director querying some of my recent deliverables and requesting a call. You will note that "requesting" was presented in italics and was therefore optional in the way that pouring water on yourself is optional if your shoes are on fire. I therefore politely responded making myself available for a call, clarifying my position and hung around all afternoon for him to ring or respond ...

... he didn't.

Saturday: Out and About

Saturday morning saw me take the Defender over to Liverage 4x4 to let them give it a once over and then discuss refurbishment options. They seemed a friendly bunch and had some fine looking machinery over there but my shopping list will result in a very big bill. I am assured that she would look like she just left the production line and that her general sound condition definitely makes it a worthwhile venture. It is just whether I am prepared to take the financial hit. I await the quote with interest.

The afternoon saw a walk with T&M and then a visit to Bad Man Senior's residence for dinner. This was very pleasant as he had taken it upon himself to roast a leg of lamb and, as is traditional, had prepared a trifle for 30%.  We mentioned that his supreme trifle expertise had made it's way in to The Journal and he smiled and advised that he felt his finest trifle was one based on Sloe Gin that had put my mother to sleep for many hours. Anyone unlucky enough to have ever encountered my mother in the second half of her life will appreciate that she was far more tolerable in repose.

It is rarely a late night at BMS's now and we were home before the ten o'clock news.

Sunday: Frozen Fish

TP had a rugby match this morning and the weather was foul. It was bitterly cold and a steady rain was falling. 30% took pity on T&M and decided that I should walk them before the match, get them home and dried so that they were not shivering on the touch line for the best part of a couple of hours.

Did you see what she did there? She kindly arranged for me to get wet and cold before the match so that T&M could spend the morning snoozing on their beds, having been exercised and towelled dry, whilst I then froze my proverbials off in rain that was turning to sleet*...

... You can see where I come in the pecking order.

The match was against TP's original Rugby Club and we were hoping for a win but that was not to be in a very muddy match that had the backs bogged down and frequently had a tendency to slip from rugby to mud wrestling as tempers frayed on both sides.

At home and thawed I took it easy for a couple of hours before rattling the pots and pans in the kitchen. We had an early supper planned as we were out to see Richard Herring's** What is Love, Anyway? show at the Warwick Arts Centre that evening. 30%'s Mum, Dad and Sister joined up for both the show and supper and seemed to enjoy the show at the very least.

Herring was very good; intelligent, constantly witty and incredibly fast paced. We saw his "Christ on a Bike" tour last year and whilst the subject of religion tickled more of my funny bones this was still a great piece of work.

* that is the "Frozen" part of the title dealt with
** and that is the "Fish"

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Shopping List

The recent trip to Wales in the Defender made us realise that, whilst it is a truly great car, it could definitely do with a few tweaks to give it a few more home comforts and an even greater load carrying capacity.

Initially we were thinking along the lines of a roof rack and a couple of rear seats but before long 30% was suggesting that I look for an upgrade to a County Station Wagon. A quick look at used Land Rover prices made it apparent that they were selling for silly money at present and that investing some of this year's bonus on a refurbishment of the current Defender was probably the best way forward.

There is a local company who specialise in this type of work and I made a call and arranged to go an see them on Saturday to discuss my options and get some idea of cost. I am now drawing up a shopping list with the aim of sprucing up the 90 and making her a little less "van" and a little more "capable tourer".

I wonder how much of my shopping list will make it to reality?