Monday, 28 May 2012

More Words

Today the main task at work has been to draft answers to a prospective client’s questions. This is something that I have not done before and I am finding it heavy going. The reason for this is that I am quite able to throw a few sentences together to produce a reasonable paragraph of bull shit conveying the corporate “we can do anything” message but I have no idea whether Victor wants this or something more technical.

I have therefore been passing my output over to him for comment. He seems reasonably happy but does like to tweak here and there. I am also aware that anyone with half a brain reading my responses will know that there may be many words but they don’t actually seem to say a lot. Maybe that the issue; perhaps the client just wants some clear high level “we can do that because… “ statements.

I should have really spent more time at the laptop today but this evening we are out for 30%’s father’s 70th Birthday dinner so today has been planned to ensure that dogs get walked, work gets done, a suitcase gets dragged from the garage and packed and three days growth gets removed from my chin all before quarter past seven in the evening.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Weekend Round Up

Unfortunately I had a lot of work material to review in advance of next week so both Saturday and Sunday morning was spent in front of the laptop poring over questions and answers identify the all too many gaps. By lunch time on Sunday I had worked out the outstanding items that were within my remit and had sent out an urgent mail to the team to chase for the missing information.

To be honest I don’t have a great deal of confidence that I will get a response as the underlying theme of this project has been one of general indifference to the task. Absolutely every request has to be repeated and chased to get a response and when that arrives it generally has the appearance of being thrown together. It is apparent that no thought or effort has been applied to produce a product suitable of being put in front of a prospective client.

I’m not looking forward to next week as I will be chained to a desk in an office attempting to polish this turd. I am guessing there will be very late nights.

I was resolute that I would not work all weekend and Saturday afternoon saw me wobbling on a step ladder installing the new light in the Office. 30% and I then loaded yet another redundant piece of furniture on to the trailer and delivered it to a grateful friend in need of storage solutions.

Sunday afternoon saw the general de-cluttering continue and this time TP and I loaded up the trailer for a run to the local tip. The large pile of prunings has now disappeared and a monstrous 28” CRT TV made a long overdue trip to join many companions in a skip at the recycling centre.

Next on the list is a spare sofa to the local Charity shop but that can wait until work quietens a little.

TP and I also attempted to do a little tidying up in the garden but the heat made the simplest task exhausting and our hearts really weren’t in it. Eventually we were forced to stop and drink beer instead.

Friday, 25 May 2012

It's not getting any better

Today I finally managed to break away from the hard sums and instead, I wish I could say for light relief, took a look at the words we are proposing to set in front of the prospective client. Hmm, these are just as bad as the figures.

Our numbers have been concocted based on a reasonably factual figure. When I say factual I actually mean factual for a precise set of circumstances. We have then made a number of assumptions and applied a wide variety of ratios to this original figure to present a price for a completely different set of circumstances ...

... this is the outsourcing equivalent of knowing the price of eggs in America and making up  a set of calculations to present the price of a rasher of bacon in Australia.

Anyone can see that this is, and there is no other word for it, "Complete Bollocks" and having read the words I can advise that much of them are no better too. I am truly astounded by the lack of Proposal writing material at Dante's Nine Circles of Hell or perhaps it is more the lack of knowledge of where to access it.

Next week is going to be a nightmare as I am going to be stuck in a London office until late o'clock every evening panicking as we try to fill gaps and polish this turd. Thank God it needs to be issued by midday on Friday, at least the end is in sight.

Today was also the day that we would be advised whether we would be down-selected on the monstrous deal that I had been working for the best part of six months. Unfortunately the prospective client has mad!e significant changes to the scope and advised that although we were very capable and scored highly we were not selected to proceed ...

... Oh Bugger!

The Sales Exec for that failed bid called to offer commiserations and advise that it was certainly nothing to do with the parts we had managed. He is such a nice Guy and I really hope I can find something to work on with him very soon.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

First Ride Out

Work was very much more of the same. Victor is so keen to get this finished and in the best possible state that he took the day off to accompany his wife to the Chelsea Flower Show leaving me to run with stuff ...

... Cheers Mate!

I therefore did what was needed, knocked off promptly at five o'clock, threw a light snack down my neck, hauled the Honda from the garage and took her out for the first run of the year. I met up with Chippy Ian and we went out on the A44 towards Broadway before heading out to Chipping Camden and climbing in to the Cotswolds to explore the narrow lanes around Ilmington and Hidcote. It was a beautiful evening and the Cotswolds were splendid in their late Spring apparel of greens and yellows. The evening haze impacted the distant views somewhat but it was still a lovely ride out.

The trip home involved the mandated pub visit and we stopped at the Sandys Arms in Wickhamford. This was a peculiar halt as I spent the first 22 years of my life living no more than 400 yards from this pub but had never had a drink there. I had visit the off-sales hatch many times in my childhood to buy a bottle of R Whites Cherryade and crisps but this was my first ever venture inside...

... well all I can say on that front was that I am glad I hadn't planned a special visit out there. They sell alcohol and soft drinks there is nothing else of merit. If you are looking for a Country Pub  there are plenty better within easy reach.

The off-sales hatch was still there but now obstructed by a passage way filled with redundant pub ephemera. I cant believe that I used to be so small that I could barely reach the counter.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

W is for Wednesday ...

... W is for War Room.

Today Tigger and I were imprisoned against our wills in a very small cell and forced to do hard sums.

Highlight of the day was when Victor asked "if Tigger is doing the sums, what are you doing?" and my witty riposte was "Well I can always fuck off and do something else!".

It is fair to say that we are deep in the shit and only Tigger has a legitimate escape with his preplanned Golfing Granny Pulling escapades in Torquay next week. I have to stay here an do the hours until Friday 1st June when we deliver what ever we have pulled together to our prospective client.

Victor is expecting "Bells & Whistles" the realist in me is thinking more along along the lines of "no gaps and very few spellign misktakes".

It is at this point it is probably worth stating that our bid budget is miniscule and with the $50 available Victor wants our finished product to be a leather bound illustrated manuscript with the odd titillating picture here and there.  He is more likely to get something that looks like a Fourth Formers Jotter...

... so at least he stands a chance of a smutty sketch.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

It Lives!

Today has been pretty much like yesterday apart from the fact that I worked from home.

The Sales Exec's view of progress is "not in good shape". That review was about as helpful as "don't run with scissors" * ...

... For Fucks Sake! I know it is not in good shape that is why I am asking him for clear guidance not some cheerful waffly bollocks that gets me absolutely fucking nowhere. This Exec is a nice guy but he is not too hot on the management aspect and I am guessing that this may well be new territory for him too.

Anyway, from now on he will be called Victor as in V is for Victor, V is for Vague amorphous bullshit spouting know-it-all.

Putting work to one side I took T&M for a walk around a very sunny Three Miler and then wandered in to the garage with the keys to the Honda ...

... Chippy Ian had rung yesterday and, after telling me how much I owed him for fixing our stairs, he suggested a ride out on Thursday - If I could still afford to buy petrol. The Honda had sat through the winter connected to a battery charger and fired up on the third or fourth attempt. Looks like I'll be finishing work at five o'clock prompt on Thursday.

It also looks like I'll be mowing the lawn this evening as I can't use tinkering with my bike as an excuse not to.
* as in "tell me something I don't know"

Monday, 21 May 2012

Making Up the Numbers*

Today Tigger and I trundled in to the nearest Circle of Hell for the latest scintillating phase of our project...

We have already spent many happy hours coercing reluctant SMIs in to providing us with barely literate product descriptions when the prospective client actually wants honed prose that makes our products look like one simply cannot survive in Business without them!

Now we have to come up with some Rough Order of Magnitude Pricing to make them look attractive too. You know the sort of thing ... not so cheap that it looks like we are using a scabby monkey with one arm in a sling to support their systems and not so expensive that it appears that we have employed Steven Hawking as a Console Operator.

What a shitty day it has been ... and to make matters worse the Sales Exec has lined me up to present "our" findings to to the EMEA Sales Director on Wednesday. Needless to say the aforementioned Exec didn't actually bother to give any clear guidance until last Friday and certainly didn't ask me if I thought we would be anywhere near ready on Wednesday ...

... I don't.
* The working title for this entry was "I am so screwed". The only glimmer of hope is that the last Project may recommence in earnest on Friday 28th and I get dragged back to work on that one**
** it is amazing that a Frying Pan / Fire scenario actually looks attractive at present.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Catching Up

Hmmm ... It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that the past few days have been quite busy and, as is usual when work is intense, I do my best to avoid a keyboard when I can. As a result I find myself sat in front of the TV on Sunday evening trying to remember what I have been up to since last Monday's entry.

Tuesday: How not to do it
Tuesday was another day of frustration as information failed to flow in. Late in the day our first set of responses arrived and I realised that one of the main reasons why I was feeling somewhat out of control was that my method of tracking progress was not the most the most efficient. I am sure I have mentioned that I have never carried out this type of task before and the short timescales have not allowed much time for planning, mentoring or reflection. As a result our "tracker" is a combination of document and spreadsheet. This is most definitely not the way to do it and I now know that the only way to do this efficiently is to spend time up front building a decent spreadsheet to detail all of the information that needs to be collated. Owners, responses and therefore progress can then be easily managed ...

... Oh well, I'll know how to do it properly next time.

Wednesday: T&M Get A Haircut
There is nothing much to say about work on Wednesday, "more of the same" sums it up quite neatly. The Idiot Manager showed himself to be a lazy sod by asking both Tigger and me for a copy of the same document and steadfastly refusing to actually contact the person that actually owns the document. The reticence on his part puzzles me but it is apparent that whatever the reason he sees no issue with taking up the time of busy people rather than going direct to the source. He could be shy but I think it more likely that he is just trying to flex his managerial muscle ... In his case this is an atrophied appendage much like your or my appendix.

Away from work T&M receive their first professional clip of the year and arrived home in the early afternoon looking very smart indeed.

Thursday: An Early Start
Today I was out of the door at quarter to six as I needed to be at a hotel near Basingstoke for a Briefing Session with our prospective client at nine o'clock. I was somewhat apprehensive as this is new territory for me but it went well, my questions were well received and my input to the follow up sessions at our nearby Circle of Hell seemed to hit the right spot too. It was a long day and I was very glad of the G&T when I finally walked through the door at half past seven.

Friday: Another Day in the Office
Again I had to climb in to the Defender but today I only had to trundle in to the Nearest Circle of Hell. The Sales Exec had finally got around to making his mind up on how he wanted to provide the client with sample pricing. I had been pushing for guidance on this for several days and I think it fair to say that I am not best impressed with having a fucking huge amount of work dumped on me and also being set up to present my "findings" to a Sales Director next Wednesday... For Fucks Sake - this is so bloody complicated it will take me a week to get my head around it let alone make up some numbers. It looks like Tigger and me will be back in the office next Monday.

In the evening we went over to see Paul Merton's Out of My Head show at Warwick Arts Centre. This was not your normal Stand Up routine and it saw Paul and a company of three other actors perform a Review type show based around the start of his career and a brief spell in a psychiatric hospital after suffering an extreme adverse ration to anti malarial pills. It was not crammed with belly laughs but it was funny and innovative when compared to most "comedy acts". There were several special effects performed where the cast were dressed in black and performed against a carefully lit black background to make them invisible; the squadron of white rabbits re-inserting Paul's brain to the Dam Busters theme tune was quite surreal.

Saturday: A Change of Pace
After a manic week at work I decided to try to forget about it for a while. This morning TP and I popped out to pick up a few vital items for his Duke of Edinburggh Award overnight hike that he will be undertaking on Sunday and Monday. He now has all his camping odds and sods and we also managed to buy a new pair of school shoes without argument too. This is amazing occurrence as he usually seems to have problems grasping why I am reluctant to buy him a pair of £100 high fashion items so that he can play football in them and have the toes scuffed by the end of the second day of ownership. ...

 ...needless to say the shoes were a lot less than £100 but I am not sure that my threats will prevent the playing of playground soccer.

The afternoon saw a trip over to Alcester to visit the food fair. It was a great afternoon out as the High Street had been closed to traffice and about a hundred stalls had been erected selling a wide variety of tasty treats. There were a lot of variants on the theme of chilli sauce but amongst the chaff there was wheat and a fine pork pie and some amazing sausages came home with us along with some fab nibbles to go with a gin and tonic...

... Olives anyone?

The evening saw TP's rucksack packed in preparation for tomorrow's hike.

Sunday: A Change of Plan
Today started early as TP and a couple of his mates needed to be dropped off at school by eight thirty for the start of their two day hike. Back home I breakfasted and then took T&M for a walk around the Three Miler.

On my return the plan was to deliver a large and surplus glass fronted cabinet to a friend but it was a case of "hangover* stopped play" so 30% and I lunched and then popped in to town for a few necessities before I retired to the sofa for a much needed kip.

I then spent a couple of hours with a laptop on my lap trying to get a headstart on next week, followed by another hour with the iPad typing this drivel...

... way too much typing and thinking for a Sunday if you ask me.
* the friend's, not mine

Monday, 14 May 2012

Familiar Faces

Monday was pretty awful awful day at work. I am not at all comfortable with the role I have been asked to fill and the man in charge doesn't seem overly keen on giving direction. I therefore feel like I am getting nowhere and that is made worse by the fact that I also don't really know where I am supposed to be going. The net result is frustration and dissatisfaction. It is probably best if I leave it at that.

Away from work I spent some time pottering on the Landing and put these fellows up on the wall. They have been tucked away in a box for far too long and it is great to see them staring out. They might not be everyone's cup of tea and also might seem strange in a 1750's house but we think they look great and really seem to work in the space.

Bottom Right reminds me of a former Boss

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Weekend Round. Up

As has been the familiar pattern over the past few weekends the continuing theme for Saturday and Sunday seemed to be space rationalisation. 30% has set a challenging target of getting the house finished by the end of the year. Anyone who has viewed The Pile will know that this will be some feat but I am quite happy to give it go and even if we don't succeed we will be that much nearer completion. We now have only the office, dining room, hall and rear porch to go and the dining room is next on the list ...

... recently we have cleared out much from the office and, although not refurbished, I am now able to work in a dedicated space which is strangely satisfying. The clearing of the office resulted in furniture and surplus household items being deposited in the "to be" dining room ...

... and this weekend we made a start on clearing it. The room had degenerated from a "kid's sitting room" to a dumping ground for no longer required domestic items and had reached the point of being crammed to the gills. Redundant furniture was delivered to a grateful friend and arrangements were made for the Dresser to be collected for stripping. At the same time we picked up another book case that matches the one I bought a couple of weeks ago* so we now have a pair in the office. There is still a fair bit of stuff to go through in the dining room but we can now see the floor and have plans to deal with the vast pile of CDs** and the old television***. It doesn't take a crystal ball to realise that there will be trips to the Charity Shop and much use of the shredder in the next week or so too.

 Dogs got walked, lawns got mown, beds were lay in for as long as possible and wine got drunk. It has been a busy but very satisfying weekend.
* I also managed to part exchange a Pine Chest of Drawers for a far superior piece in Oak
** iTunes, of course
***  the local tip, of course

Friday, 11 May 2012

Apparently I like Fish Fingers

I started Friday in a slightly more positive frame of mind when I took a couple of steps back and realised that I had only been working on this Project for three days. It would be somewhat churlish to expect progress so early in the engagement so attempted to hold on to this positive view as I trundled in to The Nearest Circle of Hell to meet up with the Sales Exec ...

... much of the day was spent in a small Office reviewing information requests and allocated resources. It wasn't as bad as it could have been as the Exec seems like a decent chap and is easy to get on with. He has a reasonable sense of humour and swears like a Trooper which means that at least he not adding formality and lack of sociability in to an already pressured working environment.

I did manage a couple of breaks and took lunch with Grandad Jack and The Poet which was a pleasant interlude from the Tsunami of questions that need to be answered.

I got home at a reasonably civilised time and although I really should have spent a couple of more hours at the Laptop I put that off to later in the weekend working on the principal that no bugger is going to look at an e-mail from me this evening*

At home my plans for the weekend appear to have been changed as a text from Tim Hyett advised that the Ducati is not yet ready to be picked up from the workshop due to a paint issue. To be honest this is no big deal as we have loads of stuff that we want to get done this weekend and removal of a return trip to Cheltenham gives us back an hour or more. It is not as though I am without a bike ...

... the actual problem is having the time and weather to ride it.
* not unless it is entitled "Friday Fun" and the content would most definitely not live up to the headline

Thursday, 10 May 2012

I see no light at the end of the tunnel

Thursday was very similar to Wednesday except that it had ADDED TIGGER!

When you are about to hunt a nelifunt you need to have your trusted friends* and who better to have on board than Tigger. We spent much of the day trying to work out which Subject Matter Idiots we needed and then raised Resource Requests so that, in a couple of days, we could enjoy the disappointment and stress associated with the "request denied" responses that we will get.

We have made a little progress in a couple of areas but this is an "all or nothing" activity ... we need it all, end of story.

By the end of the day I was feeling tired and very frustrated. I seem to be putting in a lot of effort but I am not likely to see any results or indications of how effective I have been until a couple of days in to next week. It is only then that I will see how deep the shit really is and by that point I will be close to half way through the time available ...

...  Oh Fuck.
* Oh, and a Winchester Model 70 African Rifle and a healthy supply of .458 Winchester Magnum shells too

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Attempting to gain traction

Wednesday was spent requesting resources and attempting to beg favours from colleagues and contacts. To be honest I don't really feel comfortable attempting the "can you do me a favour" approach as this is an absolute pig of a job and if someone is going to get shafted with it it only seems fair that the appropriate process has been followed in order to dump this pile of shite in their inbox....

... basically it is is the only way to prevent them escaping to do something else.

To sum up the day I appear to have been very busy but I am not really sure whether I have achieved that much. I have made lots of requests but it is only when I get hold of named resources and they have completed an initial review of the task in hand that I will finally get a clear idea of how deep the shit is that I am standing in*

Away from work 30% finally got hold of the Upholsterer and we delivered the settee and new hide over at her house. She was very impressed with our eBay bargain hide and is really keen to make a start on the job. Hopefully it won't be too long before we will be collecting it.
* I am only 5'3" and am therefore hoping that it is not too deep**
** Fat Chance!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Dante's Bumper Book of Outsourcing

I spent much of today getting to grips with the latest Project. This involved a trip in to the Nearest Circle of Hell to meet up with the Sales Exec and many hours pouring over a long document thinking "How the Hell am I going to get that information ?"  ...

... Basically I have been brought in at the very early stages of an Engagement where the prospective client is looking for information on Supplier Capabilities rather than priced solutions. They have just provided us with a very long list of questions and all but a handful of them require detailed responses from Subject Matter Experts.

As is usual we have very little time available to complete this task and key resources are required on other activities. Hence it is the all too frequent story of bad man fighting to get the resources he needs. As the title suggests, the client is looking for a tailored edition of Dante's Bumper Book of Outsourcing in order that they can reassure themselves that we are suitable prospective partner. After all you wouldn't want to be at the point of signing a contract with  Steve's Right Price Outsourcing and be thinking "can they actually manage data centres across the Globe?"

This Sales process is a standard way of initiating an outsourcing deal and you would think that Dante's Nine Circles of Hell would have a honed  set of processes and a team of Geniuses ready to tweak intellectual capital so that this would be little more than a formality ...

... How fucking wrong is that? The words of the day are "indifference", "disinterest" and "nebulous"...

... Christ, I wish I knew what I was supposed to be doing. Ah well, in the absence of clear instruction I will just do something. It has to be better than doing nothing.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Bank Holiday Weekend continues ...

... and I am afraid that I have nothing of great interest to report.

Sunday saw the end of season presentations at the Rugby Club where TP got to shake the hand of an Hereditary Peer and received a "Trophies-r-Us" medal complete with ribbon for his year's efforts on the pitch. I cheered and clapped with vigour as it now means that I have at least 4 months of Sundays where I do not have to haul my sorry arse out of bed to run him over to the club.

The rest of the day was filled with domestic activities such as lawn mowing and general tidying.

Monday was no different apart from the point early in the day when I was called to the Lounge by 30%. I arrived to see Eddy sprawled alongside a recently deceased young rabbit and he was looking mighty pleased with himself. I must admit I was pretty impressed too as Eddy only has three legs and it must have take some effort to drag that back from the fields, up the drive and through the cat flap. Both Noggin and Tog were quite interested by this scene of feline carnage and I have the feeling that it will not be too long before they too will soon be bringing "gifts" in from the garden.

30% mentioned that she thought Eddy may well have brought it in alive and killed it in the lounge as she recalled walking in at one point to see all three cats staring intently at the settee. It may therefore have sought temporary refuge beneath the sofa.  She also had a vague recollection of  hearing scrabbling and a scream earlier in the day.

On the subject of feline carnage I may have managed to put the cat amongst the pigeons with the final item on my to do list. This was the drafting of a letter that I had needed to write for a couple of weeks. I finally found a few minutes to unearth the necessary details, knock up a few paragraphs and get the thing printed and posted. We will see how that pans out over the next few weeks but lets just say that I am only asking for that to which I am entitled.

The rest of the day was taken up by a trip in to Worcester to look at curtain material and carpets and we came home with a couple of samples. The only irritation over the weekend was the inability to locate the Upholsterer so that we could deliver the cane backed settee and hide ...

... My, my, it is getting frightfully Middle-Class here!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Domesticity ...

Saturday started with a run over to the Defender Centre to sort out a minor issue with the heated seats. Initially I was concerned that they did not work but as I was driving over I switched on the passenger seat and noticed that my bum was getting noticeably warmer. It appears that I had been the victim of the "Dual Control Electric Blanket trick*" and we soon had the cables swapped over and shortly after I was on my way back home.

Back at home I discovered that Kathy H-R had popped round and dropped off a pigs head that was going spare. She had obviously just had a kill and the customer didn't fancy the head. Being slightly more open minded I know of the potential of a pig's head and set to with a sharp knife. 30% popped the ears in a roasting tin and cooked them as a treat for T&M while I carefully removed the cheeks from the skull and rubbed them with a dry cure mixture. In five or six days they will be transformed in to Guanciale and, once cubed in to lardons, are very popular here at The Pile.

30% had also been busy and had managed to find a "friend of a friend" that had a clutch of chicks due to hatch in the next couple of days. Our solitary chick will fare much better reared with other chicks and so it was dropped off to await the hatching of it's adoptive siblings.

The day continued in this vein with jobs being removed from lists. I fitted a pair of new door seals to the Defender in the hope** that they will combat the rivulets of water that trickle down the insides of the doors when it rains. I also managed to reassemble the Band Saw in the garage and fit a new blade. This might seem trivial but the degree of dismantling had almost reached the point where the less patient than I*** would be perusing the Screwfix catalogue and the Axminster Tools website.

The evening saw us take a trip out for a combined 50th Birthday and House Warming Party hosted by the parents of one of TP''s friends. I would like to say that we had a lovely time ...

... but being crammed in with three times more guests than the house could hold made crossing any room not dissimilar to an old fashioned Tile Puzzle. It was no fun at all. Then there was the fact that all of the guests EXCEPT US were members of the same Baptist congregation. This meant that they all knew each other and had something in common. Neither 30% nor I are Church goers and the crush and noise made any attempts at getting to know new people impossible ...

...Needless to say we made our excuses and disappeared after judging 90 minutes to be more than enough.
* This is a fiendish and pure Practical Joke involving a double electric blanket with dual controls. One simply swaps the controls so that each occupant is controlling the other side of the bed. As a result one person ends up freezing and the other ends up roasting.
** Most Land Rover owners will say "vain hope"
*** These are the people that ride around on unicorns

Friday, 4 May 2012

Hmmm !

It seems that I shouldn't count my chickens even after they have hatched.

I nipped outside after lunch to check on the broody and found her taking her last few breaths. It seems the strains of incubating the clutch were too much for her and she is dying. She had not managed to gather the chicks beneath her and they had chilled and sadly died. I found one chick still breathing beneath her and put it in a box under a lamp. It didn't look very strong but after an hour or so under the warmth of the lamp it had struggled to it's feet and looked like it could make it. In fact by the time I finished work for the day it had become very noisy and was starting to peck at the chick crumb I had placed beside it...

... Let's hope it's luck continues and it turns out to be a pullet rather than a cockerel.

Stepping back a few hours I took an unexpected call from the Idiot Manager where he assigned me a new piece of work that he wants me to progress while the current project is in a quiet phase. This new project looks quite interesting as it will see me take on a broader role as the main technical contact with the client. I'll learn more on this next week when I have my first meeting with the Sales Exec.

Away from work I spent an unnerving half an hour stood on a step ladder at the top of the stairs installing a new light fitting. It is not the height that worried me it is the potential to end up as a crumpled mess at the foot of the stairs that had me wishing I didn't have to do this job...

... obviously I completed this task without suffering either electrocution or paralysis following a headlong flight down the flight and am now looking forward to a long weekend during which we should finish the final few jobs on the landing.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

They have hatched, I have counted

Today the plan was to meet up with Golfy and Grandad Jack at the Nearest Circle of Hell and go out for a couple of drinks after work. The plan stumbled in the second furlong when GDJ failed to make the running. We later found out that he was feeling "shyte" and unable to stand the demands of imbibing a couple of post-work shandies with Golfy and me ... Southern Softy.

This change of plan meant that Golfy and I needed a new purpose to our working day. Instead we sat down and started to investigate and arrange some training that appeared to be highly recommended, if not mandated, if we wanted to stand any chance of career progression to the level of Assistant Goblin, second class. The system we had to go through was revolting. It was badly designed, repetitive and contained numerous links that ended in a "404 - not found" type of page. The Conspiracy Theorist in me wonders of the system is intentionally crappy to dissuade all but the most anal from getting ticks in the appropriate educational boxes.

After a frustrating forty minute period Golfy and I managed to arrange just over 25 hours of on-line training. Do you know, some days the fun just never ends!

Jack's lack of fortitude meant that there was little point staying in work all day so I got flexible with the truth and cancelled my one meeting of the day so that I could get home at a very reasonably hour.

The evening saw me finish applying a coat of wax polish to the door at the foot of the stairs and an investigation of the chicken coop  shows that 5 chicks have hatched.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Feeling Dog Rough

This morning's first significant activity was a trip to the Vets with Tyson. Marauder also came along as she has worked out that if she looks cute enough she can blag a couple of dog treats from the Vet while T suffers the indignity of having a thermometer shoved up her backside.

The reason for this trip was that T is suffering from an upset stomach and, after 18 hours of vomiting and worse she most definitely needed medical intervention. The diagnosis was an infection rather than an obstruction and an anti-inflammatory injection and a course of antibiotics were prescribed. The Vet advised that she should be restricted to small portions of bland food and that we should see an improvement by the evening.

Having dealt with that Medical Emergency the rest of the day was reasonably quiet. Today was the day that the eggs under the Broody were due to hatch and, at the encouragement of Village Idiot*, I took a quick peep in the coop this evening. I was reluctant to disturb the hen so gently slid my hand underneath her. I had barely lifted her feathers when I heard cheeping and felt fragments of egg shell. I left it at that safe, in the knowledge that we have  at least one chick.
* He turned up this evening with a fist full of stolen Rhubarb, regaled us with tales of his failing health and gratefully munched his way through the leftovers from our supper**.
** Salmon Fishcakes and  chips

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Wax Bannister *

William Arthur Xavier "Wax" Bannister:
Born 1 January 1898 - Deceased 23 April 1924
Child Prodigy, Athlete, Gentleman. Inspiration to all Middle Distance Runners.

Today's post is dedicated to this little known amateur runner in an attempt to raise his profile and give him the recognition he truly deserves.  It is a little know fact that "Wax" is attributed with running the first sub-four minute mile back in 1924 with an astounding, but unrecognised, 3 minutes 56 seconds, but more of that later.

Wax was born in to a privileged background and at an early age was recognised as a child prodigy. His stunning intellect and physical prowess caught the attention of British Intelligence and he was recruited from his Boarding School as an Agent in the First World War. It was whilst serving in Greece that he became fascinated with running and, at the end of hostilities, he continued this sport as a recreational diversion from his career as a Professor of  Defence Science & Technology.

Many of his creations are closely guarded secrets to this day but it can be revealed that he was responsible for the early versions of the "rab-bots" that guard Golfy's secret lair. He can also lay claim to the anti-tank badger and the proposal to use auto-asphyxiating spaghetti if the Italians ever got "a bit stroppy".

Back on the cinder track Wax was most definitely "old school" and shunned the new fangled flannel shorts, vests and plimsolls that were becoming popular with young whippersnappers who fancied a crack at setting a record for the mile. Wax tended to prefer corduroy slacks and de-studded football boots for training although he would remove his jacket, tie and shirt studs for  more serious competition. It was during these runs that Wax gained his nickname as a result of his tendency to apply a secret mixture of Carnauba and Beeswax to the inner thighs of his trousers in an attempt to reduce the inevitable friction of corduroy against corduroy.

One should not be fooled in to thinking that Wax was against progress as he was the first British runner to use pacemakers in record attempts. A lifelong dog lover, Wax tended to use Border Collies or Airedales during training and would move on to Whippets for his record attempts. It is alleged that he once ran an exhibition race at White City against a very strong field of Greyhounds and came a creditable third.

It was in late 1923 that Wax began training in earnest with the aim of running a mile in under four minutes. On 14th September he had received a telegram informing him that his American, arch rival Stanley "Stan" Astaire-Luft planned to break the four minute barrier on Independence Day the following year. This prompted an intense training programme with the aim of setting the record on St Georges Day.

Although rivals, Astair-Luft and Bannister were friends too and Bannister was delighted to receive a modern, American, low friction wax that Astaire-Luft had thoughtfully shipped from a new laboratory in Wisconsin.  His Widow, Hermione, recalled that he was so pleased to receive it and planned to use it in the record attempt.

St Georges Day 1924 dawned and the cool, clear weather was perfect for the attempt. Eight of the finest Lancastrian Whippets had been selected to act as pace makers and a calm Bannister stepped out on to the cinder track. A Gentleman from The Times was on hand to act as timekeeper at this historic event and a few locals gathered as the mist cleared and Bannister approached the starting line.

A pistol crack started the attempt and Bannister set out at a steady pace keeping a constant distance between him and the first whippet. The race was uneventful although there was a comical moment around the twelve hundred yard mark when Wax nearly dropped his pipe and a bystander had to offer a lucifer to relight the lucky Briar. At around the fifteen hundred yard mark Wax was running like one of the King's Thoroughbreds and the record seemed within his grasp. He crossed the line in a stunning 3 minutes and 56 seconds and promptly self-combusted to the shock and astonishment of onlookers.

It was a tragic end to a momentous occasion and all were distraught at the loss of one of Britain's finest young men. Later investigations indicated that some observers thought they saw plumes of smoke rising from Bannisters trousers during the final quarter mile. These rumours were never substantiated and neither was the theory that stray spark from the Briar caused the heated wax to ignite as Bannister crossed the line.

Conspiracy Theorists will point to the fact that Astaire-Luft provided the wax that Bannister used on that fateful day and also that Astaire-Luft later openly accused Bannister of using Liquorice Comfit suppositories to achieve the incredible feat. At that time liquorice was a banned stimulant and, as a result, Bannister's feat never entered the Record Books.

Wax Bannister; Gentleman Athlete at least you are remembered here. 
* actually this was another item on my to do list but I came up with this instead.