Monday, 16 September 2013

Trudging Forward

Monday; the first day of week #2 and how did it go? ...
  • I worked from home and successfully connected to the Piano Moving Systems
  • I slogged my way through four hours of on-line training
  • I finally managed to access the Expenses System after hassling a colleague in Finance for PC config instructions
  • I managed to lock myself out of the e-mail application after carelessly misreading a login prompt (several times)
  • I made a new friend in the Help Desk and regained access to e-mail
  • I took receipt of my shiny new Blackberry Bold 9900* 
  • I was assigned to shadow a project and set up an introductory call with the Project Lead
By the end of the day I was, once again, frustrated by

  • the piecemeal approach to gaining systems access 
  • the lack of consolidated New Starter guidance notes, and 
  • the lack of progress, as yet, on gaining job specific knowledge and skills ...
I constructed a "to do" list and logged off. Fortunately a good walk around the Three Miler did much to remove the worst of my irritations...

... and Marauder and I enjoyed a few proper Blackberries.
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* This new 'phone looks great but is of absolutely no use until my Corporate Card arrives which will then allow me to contact the Neat & Tidy Piano Mover's UK Service Provider of choice and order a SIM card for the damned thing. (see comment above re piecemeal access to systems).

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Weekend Round Up

This is going to be a short one as I have shit to do ...

Saturday morning involved an early walk around the Three Miler as rain yesterday evening meant I couldn't be arsed to take them for a walk after work. In the afternoon 30% and I headed in to Redditch where we completed a few errands including paying in the cheque from the Kennels to cover our vets fees after Tyson's stay there. I also picked up a headset from the Office Supply store as many of my work conversations, going forward, will be VOIP * rather than traditional Land Line.

Back at home 30% and I dragged a lamb carcass from the fridge and started the mammalian anatomy exam that results from buying one's meat in the whole. I should explain that I picked up the carcass from Kathy H-R yesterday evening and shoved it in one of our fridges out of the way overnight. It was supplied as  a loose selection of joints, chops and offal and the final task before freezing is to identify, pack and label the meat. I even got keen and boned the two breast joints before freezing which meant that T&M got some choice morsels and this cut has more recipe options when it emerges from the freezer in due course.

In the evening we collapsed in front of the TV and watched a couple of films before retiring to bed.

Sunday also started with an early walk around the Three Miler as rain and gales were forecast for later in the day. I then headed over to see Bad Man Senior and took along half a dozen eggs and a portion of Liver, Bacon and Onions.** BMS had been taking care of the end of season glut of tomatoes and gave me a portion of his home made tomato soup and a large bag of ripe tomatoes. Having exchanged produce we chatted and drank coffee before I headed over to the Rugby Club to collect TP from his Sunday morning training session.

We then lunched before I got busy in the kitchen and made a large batch of Pean and Ham soup. The great thing about the recipe I use it that it involves a 3 hour long simmer on the hob which gave me ample time for a Sunday afternoon snooze on the sofa.

The rest of the day was filled with pottering and odd jobs before we dined  and I prepared for week#2 at The Neat & Tidy Piano Movers.
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* VOIP: Voice over IP telephony
** BMS loves Liver and Bacon but SMS is not a fan. As a result it is rarely on BMS's menu so 30% always cooks him a portion whenever we have it.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Buy shares in Gillette

Well, I've made it to the end of the first week so I suppose it is time to spend a few minutes summarising week#1...

... I have met my new manager and am slowly acquiring the software and UserIds that I will need to do important things like claim expenses and fulfil my job function. This is a frustrating process for a number of reasons. Firstly these are tasks that only ever need to be done once. As a result they have been completed and long forgotten by my colleagues. Consequently it often involves a combination of questions, intranet searches and Help Desk calls to take each baby step forward. Secondly any request to the Help Desk or UserID request is an overnight job so each relatively simple task still takes a working day to progress. Finally I am acquiring generic knowledge rather than job specific know-how so have reached the end of the first week and have a laptop that is in reasonable shape but still have only the tiniest jot of knowledge about how to do my new job.

A shiny set of chisels does nothing to allay the concerns of an apprentice carpenter. He needs far more than that to knock out a reproduction Chippendale.

The rest of my time has been filled with on-line eduction courses to provide me with background information about my new client and the Piano Moving Services we provide to them. These have been OK, but there is only so much dry material delivered in a Dutch accent that I can absorb  before my attention wanders and I wonder whether I will have absorbed sufficient detail to pass the multiple choice exam at the end.

The final shock to my system is that I have shaved nearly every day this week* after working predominantly from home for the past ten years or more. The only day I wandered in to the office without having dragged a Mach3 around my chin was on dress down Friday when apparently the only attire not accepted is a Football Shirt. There is absolutely no chance of me breaking that rule but I plan on going in next week as the back end of a pantomime horse.
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* This is probably more times than I shaved in the month of July

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

We meet at last

Wednesday started an hour earlier than it should have done as I needed to be down in The Capital at The London Depot to meet my new Boss. In my previous life I would have shaved the evening before to minimise the farting around in the dark hours before dawn but I even scraped a razor around my jaw this morning and attired myself in my smartest Business Casual.

The day was fine. Basically it allowed my Guv'nor to eyeball me, and me him,* and he seems to be a pragmatic and likeable chap. In between the plethora of calls and we had a few chats and started the building of a working relationship. Apparently the plan is for me to spend the next few days completing the various induction and education courses and I will then be assigned to shadow the completion of a project before I am assigned one of my own. This was obviously reassuring as I have, on previous occasions, just been thrown in the deep end with the a token lifeline of a couple of names to contact for guidance!

My day finished just after five and it was a quick journey around the Circle Line to Paddington where I was delighted to discover that the next train home left at ten to six. I was soon seated on the train and promptly fell asleep, waking in the vicinity of Oxford. As darkness returned my stop was announced and I disembarked at Evesham.

Within half an hour I found myself sat on the sofa getting myself on the outside of an enormous G&T and a healthy portion of 30%'s famous Sausage Sorrento.
---
*prior to today all of our contact had been by telephone

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Quote of the Day

"He's been here twenty five minutes and has a new laptop, a new laptop bag, a corporate charge card AND has a Blackberry on order ... I've been here twenty five years and get sod all!

I think 30% uttered this in jest.

From this it can be deduced that my User ID and password have finally been set up and I spent much of today attempting to familiarise myself with the basic tools of the trade. The Neat & Tidy Piano Movers have a similar suite of Office Tools to Dante's Nine Circles of Hell but use different tool providers. As a result each and every tool has broadly similar functionality but delivers it in a slightly different way.

If I thought that driving a different car on the right hand side of the road two weeks ago required a brain reset this is an order of magnitude beyond that.

By the end of the day I had started to pick my way through the email and instant messaging systems and had even tracked down an individual that could provide me with the password for my corporate charge card application...

... Thus far I have only had to make two calls to the Help Desk!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Piano Moving for Beginners

TP came home last Thursday with a worried expression...

After his first couple of days in the Sixth Form he had decided that perhaps A-Level Maths wasn't for him and his teacher was neither supportive nor encouraging too. Personally I don't blame him so we had a chat and he decided that Geography was a better choice. TP made contact with the Geography Teacher, who was an absolute star. Over the weekend we had a number of 'phone calls with him and he even analysed TP's GCSE results to reassure TP that he had the capability to succeed with this choice. Maths was deleted from the timetable and Geography rushed in to take it's place.*

The net result is that TP needed to be at school at the crack of dawn  slightly earlier than usual this morning for his first Geography Field Trip. I therefore needed to rouse him at six thirty so that I could drive him to school by quarter to eight  in order to catch the coach for a day of River Studies.

I then turned the car around and returned home to collect 30% and T&M  and we headed in towards the Neat & Tidy Piano Movers Depot. The reason for taking T&M was that they had an appointment at the Dog Groomers and not, as I had hoped, that Piano Moving was a Dog Friendly Industry.**

There is not a lot to report about Day #1. Things were a little disorganised and there were long periods of inactivity but I am sure that the pace will quicken tomorrow. Basically an HR systems glitch meant that my User IDs and passwords were not available so, whilst a shiny new Dell Laptop was sat there waiting for me it, the final tweaks and personalisation could not be completed. My new manager has reassured me that things should be sorted by tomorrow but his advice was not to rush in at the crack of dawn.

The main observation I have following my first day as Shifter Junior is that renaming of the PC Guy's lair might be worth considering following the recent activities of Operation Yew Tree!
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* Music Technology may well need to be replaced by Computer Studies but TP doesn't seem concerned about this possible swap
** Everyone knows that no-one should walk beneath a suspended object and apparently a Baby Grand can do a lot of damage if it falls on you. ***
*** I understand that it wont look that good either


Sunday, 8 September 2013

Weekend Round Up

So, I find myself sat a keyboard attempting to summarise the last few days of my holiday in advance of putting on the Brown Cotton Warehouse Coat as worn by all Piano Shifters. To be honest I haven't really done much and just enjoyed taking it easy  ...

The early part of Friday was spent hanging around at home waiting for a delivery that had failed to happen while we were away on holiday. The parcel eventually arrived late in the afternoon and I am now in possession of a Made to Measure shirt courtesy of M&S and I can report that it is fantastic. I have spent a lifetime in shirts that either strangulate me but fit my arms and body or fit nicely around the neck but look like I need to pump a huge amount of iron to develop a corresponding gorilla-like physique ... basically I am a short arse with a 16.5" neck. The new short fits perfectly and I could even go as far as wearing it trendily untucked* without it looking like a mini dress.

With the shirt tucked away in the wardrobe it was far too late to nip over to the Littleton Auction viewing as 30% had a clashing appointment. As we considered alternative uses of our time I noticed that my wallet wasn't where it should be and started to search likely alternative locations. I eventually gave up and started the process of cancelling bank and credit cards** when 30% located it on the floor beside the vegetable rack.*** Fortunately I had only cancelled my bank card and can survive on credit cards until the replacement arrives.

Friday evening saw us head in to Redditch to see Milton Jones at the Palace Theatre and I can report that it was a fine show but the repetitive one liners became hard work after a while, probably due to my Jet Lag. A change in the tempo and structure of the set would have made it seem less arduous. It was still a great evening and Milton gets a well earned 7/10. His Support Act; James Acaster also deserves a mention as a name to watch out for.

Moving on to Saturday; 30% and I rose early and headed over to Littleton for the viewing. After a swift wander round we realised that there were a limited number of lots and didn't even bother hanging around for a coffee and a bacon sandwich let along the start of the Sale. We were home well before lunchtime.

In the afternoon I took T&M for a walk before heading out to the garden and finally dismantling the trampoline; outgrown by TP. This is destined for the O&L residence where it is hoped that the O&L Juniors will spend may happy hours fighting over who pushed who and the fact that their turn was shorter than the other siblings ... Happy Days.

Our plan is to convert the freed up space in to an open fronted garage extension but there is much garden clearance, ground works and builder consultation to take place before that dream becomes a reality. However the space is the perfect location for a small garden incinerator and Boy do we have some materiel to feed in to it!

Impossible though it seems, Sunday was even less productive than Saturday and apart from delivering to and collecting TP from rugby Practice and walking the dogs I did very little, other than a few odd jobs and errands to avoid 30%'s ire ...

... I did also collate envelope of necessary documents prepared to hand to HR at The Neat & Tidy Piano Movers tomorrow morning.
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* Perish the thought!
** whilst smugly congratulating myself for having the foresight to note down card numbers and cancellation 'phone numbers many years ago in case of this very situation
*** She did say that she thought something fell down when she was doing something there earlier in the day!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Stop Press

At little after midnight a cat's meow was heard as we settled down to sleep. 30% reached out in the dark and as her hand stroked the cat she was able to confirm that it had a tail. This meant one of three things ...

1) Eddy has miraculously regenerated his missing tail over the course of the last hour
2) The Ghost Cat* has certainly got a lot more confident, or
3) Bloody Noggin has finally decided to come home

The lights were turned on and a very noisy ginger and white cat started to perform circuits of the bed.

Hello Noggin.
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* Ghost Cat is a VERY timid black cat that regularly haunts the house and garden. We know that it comes inside and helps itself to Noggin and Eddy's dinner and also sleeps on one of our sofa's but all we ever see is it's backside as it scarpers through the cat flap and it occasionally skulking in the garden.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Still No Sign of Noggin

Whilst we were away we left Village Idiot in charge of chickens and cats and he has done a fine job. All the hens are present and correct and he has thoughtfully taken away their eggs as he didn't want us to return from America and eat stale eggs by mistake.*

Eddy** was delighted by our homecoming and we cannot walk past him without him yowling at us to encourage us to pick him up. After scratching his ears for a few minutes he is satisfied and we put him down only for him to demand similar attention again no more than a quarter of an hour later.

Noggin, on the other hand, is conspicuous by his absence and 30% is already starting to fear the worst. Her first question after any period spent apart is "Have you seen Noggin?" and every opening of the cat flap has her sit bolt upright like a Meerkat only to be followed by a slightly disappointed "Oh Hello Eddy, go and find Noggin".

We have both independently scanned the road for signs of the worst possible scenario and are only slightly reassured by the lack of cat pancakes. We have also chatted to Neighbours and they too report minimal sightings but also no road mortalities.

I guess we have to just sit and wait.

The rest of the day has been spent in post holiday activities. I can report that the washing mountain is now a molehill and that the store cupboard and worryingly low gin stocks have now been replenished courtesy of 30%. I have mown the lawn, exercised T&M and also had a hair cut in preparation for next Monday.

It is fair to say that today has been taken at a leisurely pace and has had a constant unspoken concern about the bloody cat.
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* VI assumes "scrumping rights" when taking care of livestock and gardens. Actually I should point out that this is written for comic effect and he was told to take the eggs as the last thing we wanted was to return to an egg mountain. Mind You, he frequently turns up with Rhubarb over the course of the Summer and I know he hasn't got any growing in his garden!
** Eddy Percent; our three legged, tailless cat ... say it aloud

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Back Home

The final two days of our holiday were spent heading back from the Finger Lakes region towards Newark. We spent Monday night in a town called New Windsor. The reason for selecting this fairly anonymous location was it's proximity to a large Discount Designer Retail Park so we spent Labour Day evening shopping. It was absolutely crammed and also gave us a massive attack of Deja Vu ...

... Basically it was a larger version of the retail outlet at Bicester Village in the UK.  "Ah" I hear you say " You are just drawing a loose comparison there". Well No, Woodbury Common Premium Outlets was EXACTLY like Bicester Village right down to the layout and architecture. The only difference was that Woodbury was about four time the size of the UK equivalent. I am guessing that the same company is behind both outlets.

As for the shopping, I can report that our first impression wasn't particularly positive but that didn't stop us taking a second look on Tuesday when things were much quieter. We ended up spending a few more dollars and came away with a few "must have" items including a pair of Converse Baseball Boots for TP and a Thomas Pink shirt and a pair of cufflinks for me. 30% was frustrated not to be able to track down the hand bag that caught her eye on the previous day.

We then continued our drive back towards Newark Liberty Airport and boarded the 19.10 flight back to sunny Birmingham.

We arrived back to a fine day and first task was to take a very keen TP in to school for his first day in the Sixth Form. It was then a case of taking in more coffee* and doing the normal post holiday activities that involve emptying cases and repeated filling of the washing machine. By mid morning neither of us could wait any longer and we headed over to the kennels to collect T&M.

We were all delighted to see each other but I was concerned to note that the hair around Tyson's eyes was wet and matted and didn't look at all good. When I enquired about how long her eyes had been running I got very vague responses from the Kennel Girls and the owner and this left me feeling somewhat concerned about the level of care the dogs had received.

To cut a long story short I took Tyson up to the Vets on Wednesday evening and the diagnosis of conjunctivitis came as no surprise. I am now £55 worse off and Tyson is on antibiotics and eye drops for the next few days until the infection clears up. As for Marauder, she was just in desperate need of a bath, flea treatment and vast quantities of affection.
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* I got very little sleep on the flight back

Monday, 2 September 2013

I must be having a good day if I look under 21

Monday 1st September 

We started today with a drive in to Ithaca and a wander around the Farmers Market. It was held in a purpose built open sided barn at the edge of the lake and seemed to be incredibly popular with the local Middle Classes ... Pretty much like every other Farmers Market in the Western World. 

It had the usual array of organic vegetables and small scale agricultural output combined with "hand made" products and was a fine Sunday morning stroll. I have to say that the multi-coloured arrays of produce looked fantastic and I was amazed to see Cotswold Lamb and Belted Galloway Beef so far from their Counties of origin. 

After the market we drove a short distance to The Robert H Treman State Park and I can report that it was $7 well spent. Our first stop was the Lower Falls and these were only a short stroll from the car park. 

We then drove to the other end of the park where we walked just under a mile along the Rim Trail to view the Lucifer Falls. These were quite splendid and TP literally took the plunge and swam in the pool at the foot of the falls. 

Unfortunately our return via the Gorge Trail was not possible due to storm damage a month or so back so we had to retrace our steps along the Rim Trail which included 150 steps to ascend from the gorge to the rim!

It was mid afternoon And my breakfast waffle seemed a long time ago. Consequently we stopped off at Glenwood Pines for Ithaca's best burger ... I can report it came a close second to the one I ate in a Diner two days back and I will be filing a report with America's Trades Descriptions people shortly. 

Having eaten late in the afternoon we decided to go with a TV dinner; nuked in the motel room microwave and eaten in front of a film. The aforementioned Chinese meal was purchased from Wegmans Supermarket and this is where the title of this entry has a modicum of relevance ...

,,, 30% was desperate for a glass of cider so a bottle was selected and presented at the checkout desk. "I'm sorry Ma'am I can't serve you alcohol" was the reaction from the girl at the desk. I assumed it was because she was a minor and headed toward another desk with the bottle as she suggested ,,,

... We eventually managed to buy the cider after 30% had presented her driving licence AND a Supervisor had confirmed it's suitability as evidence of age. 

Now we may be wearing well but we are both in our 49th years and there is no way on earth that either of us is ever going to pass for a minor even with extensive cosmetic surgery. So why the fuck does a supermarket demand evidence of age from someone who is clearly not a minor?

Not impressed, not flattered, don't get it!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Taughannock Falls

Saturday 31st August 

This morning we headed out to Taughannock Falls for a second look. We drove out and parked up in a pull in up on the rim of the gorge. From there we walked the rim trail which, after a mile and a half, put us at the start of the Gorge Trail ...

... it was then a further mile or so to the foot of the falls. 
Apparently higher than Niagara 

The falls were splendid but the return hike was hard work with temperatures in the high eighties and humidity levels to match. We arrived back at the car somewhat wilted and were truly glad to turn the air con to max. 

After the falls hike we headed across town to check in to another motel and then filled the remainder of the day with some gentle shopping and dinner at a "Sports Bar". 

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Crossing back over the Border

Friday 30th August 

Today we packed our cases and left Niagara Falls heading for Ithaca; home of Cornell University. 
One Last Look at The Falls

On this occasion the Sat Nav took us through downtown Niagara and it truly was like Blackpool. The part of town where we were staying looked quite restrained by comparison. 

We crossed the Rainbow Bridge back in to America and drove through the Immigration checkpoint in no time at all ... Usually I pick the slowest checkout queue at the Supermarket but this time I struck lucky!

It was then a drive of one hundred and sixty miles down towards Ithaca in The Finger Lakes region of New York State. 

As we neared our destination we took a brief detour to view the Taughannock Falls which plummet 215 feet in a gorge very close to town ... I'm guessing we may be taking a walk up to see them at close quarters tomorrow. 

After checking in to our motel we took a wander down in to Ithaca but I am afraid it didn't have a huge amount to offer. The central shopping district was filled with ethnic and craft stores ... All very nice, but not selling anything you would want to buy!

As we wandered home we nipped in to a Diner to escape the heat and humidity and seek rehydration. It was a Fab little place and, as we found out later that evening, it served amazing fast food.  

Friday, 30 August 2013

Lazy Day

Thursday 29th August 

Thursday had been designated a "chill day" by 30% which meant that there was no driving or other organised activities. 

We walked down river towards the American Falls but the humidity combined with temperatures in the high nineties was exhausting so we headed back to the air conditioned comfort of our room and took in the sights from there ...

... I may have had a brief kip. 

I also persuaded 30% to invest ten bucks to get a fist full of hotel wifi accounts and passwords and she spent the time wisely bragging on Facebook ...

... and also finding us accommodation in Ithaca for tomorrow. 

The evening was taken up with a pizza and a wander down to Horseshoe Falls to check out the night time illuminations. 

I quite liked Niagara. There is bugger all to see other than the falls but they are impressive and change depending on time of day and angle of view. It is many years too late to avoid development around the falls and on the Canadian side, at least, things could have been oh so much worse. Overall I'm glad I've seen them. I'm not sure I would come back but I'm glad I've seen 'em. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Day 6: Binghamton to Niagara Falls

Wednesday 28th August

There is not a huge amount to report for today as most of it was spent in the car travelling 280 miles from Binghamton up to Niagara Falls. 

The forested hills and mountains that were the backdrop to yesterday's drive gave way to farming country and fields of maize and open sided barns filled with dairy cows took their place. 

In the afternoon an eagle eyed 30% spotted a Walmart from the freeway and we took a detour for this now mandated element of any US road trip ...

... An hour later we exited the store laden with jeans, T shirts and other sundry items. 

Back on the road we drove some more and in the mid afternoon arrived in Buffalo on the US side of the falls. This was the point that we learnt two things ...

.... 1) We DO have Canadian maps in our Sat Nav and 2) the aforementioned GPS unit appears to be set to direct us through the shittiest, most derelict part of any town ... Buffalo's steel works no longer work!

We looked out over Lake Erie as we drove towards the Canadian border and managed to persuade TP that it was no deeper than 2' 6" at any point. 

By four o'clock we were settled in our hotel room that has a fine view of both sets of falls. 

Later we took a walk along the park that leads right up to the edge of Horseshoe Falls before returning for dinner and an early night. 

It is fair to sy that I was shattered after the drive. 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Back on the road again

Tuesday 27th August 

After packing our cases we wandered around the block before settling once again in The Murray Hill Diner for breakfast. It was then a case of checking out and trundling our cases a few blocks West to Penn Street Station where we caught a train out to Newark Airport. 

We arrived around midday and headed over to the Avis office to pick up our car. After a few minutes familiarising myself with the Chevrolet, and realising that there  was nowhere to stick the Sat Nav suction cup bracket, we headed out of the conurbation towards Newburgh.  

The buildings and blocks were replaced by a landscape of rolling, forested hills with the occasional clapperboard house within sight of the road. 

Newburgh was about 75 miles from Newark and is home to the delightfully tacky Orange County Choppers that provided ten years of material for the American Chopper TV series. There was no sign of the disfunctional Teuttle family but the store cum showroom cum cafe was an interesting diversion and made a welcome break after an hour and a half on the road. 

After taking our fill of Choppers we hit the road again with the aim of reaching Binghamton, a further one hundred and twenty miles nearer our next scheduled stop at Niagara Falls. 

The road wound through the Catsgill Mountains with a view of forest to the horizon and an empty highway. This was in complete contrast to the city scenes experienced earlier in the day

As the afternoon progresses we played roadkill poker to fill the time. I made a good start with a raccoon and a porcupine but 30% managed to play a live deer that no one saw but her. She then went on to turn her single deer in to a pair when a doe crossed the road less than 75 yards ahead of us ... She was winning hands down. A discussion developed with the aim of formalising the rules of the game and TP announced that nothing could beat a dead bear ....

....  until I pointed out that a Full House comprised three dead bears and a mangled, blond teenage girl. 

This was much more fun than I-Spy. 

We eventually arrived in Binghamton at around seven, checked in to a motel and hinted down a Diner before collapsing in front of the TV. 

More Sightseeing

Monday 26th August

This morning we started walking uptown along Lexington and stopped off at a Deli for breakfast en route to Grand Central Station. 

We wandered around the station foyer for a while and TP and 30% found the Apple Store therein where they lingered fondling the electronic goodies. 

After exiting the station we continued up Lexington and within a short while the Radio City Music Hall sign could be seen up ahead. We had now reached our next destination; The Rockefeller Tower. The tower was built during The Depression and is famous for the photograph taken during construction of the Steel Riggers eating lunch on a girder hundreds of feet in the air. 

We checked out the shops on the basement level before purchasing our tickets for The Top of The Rock. The elevator ride to the 67th floor was a journey in itself as the elevator carriage had a glass ceiling and the shaft was studded with blue lights that accentuated the high speed ride to the top. 

The views over the city were fantastic and without the crush of fellow tourists that we experienced yesterday at the Empire State Building. The icing on the cake was that the view also included the aforementioned skyscraper. We wandered around the observatory platform and ascended a couple more floors to the uppermost deck where a 360 degree view of the city could be enjoyed. 

We felt neither crushed or hurried at the top of The Rockefeller Building and descended when a few drops of rain started to fall from a sky that threatened a downpour. 

We continued our walk uptown and stopped for a coffee in the foyer of The Nearest Circle of Hell in NYC before wandering on to The Central Park Zoo via the vast glass cube that is the Apple Store. 

The zoo was a relaxing break from the hustle of the city and we spent a couple of hours wandering around this petite menagerie. We saw most of the exhibits but I must admit that I am developing a theory based on the fact that neither the Harbour Seal nor the Polar Bear could be seen in their enclosures. A coincidence ... I think not!

After the zoo we wandered out of the park and headed for the nearest subway station wearied by our day in the city. Dinner was eaten close to our hotel as we were too tired to explore further. 

Monday, 26 August 2013

Sightseeing Essentials

Sunday 25th August 

This morning we breakfasted once again at the Murray Hill Diner before walking a few blocks West to board a subway train down to the Southernmost tip of Manhattan. 

We found ourselves at Battery Park where we took a ferry out to Liberty Island to view the Statue close up. 
After an enjoyable hour walking in the sun we headed back to Battery Park and took  return trip on the Staten Island Ferry ... it would have been rude not to as it is, after all, a free service. 

The afternoon saw u s take a stroll through the Financial District and we took in Wall Street and the famous bronze Bull Market statue amongst the many sights. Some of the older buildings in this area may not have the height of the newer towers of steel and glass but the y have an ornate grandeur that is simply stunning. 

We closed out our afternoon by walking out to the East River and partway across the Brooklyn Bridge before we turned around and rode the subway back up to 33rd Street. 

After dinner we walked a few blocks North and took in The Empire State Building. The view of New York's skyline from the 86th floor observation deck was incredible but it was incredibly busy up there with a constant crush of sightseers jostling to take in the city at night.  

So, after this busy day, how did I close things out? A few beers and a movie on TV? ...

... Well basically "yes", but there was also a brief session spent vigorously pumping  plunger in our hotel suite's lavatory ...

... Thanks TP

Sunday, 25 August 2013

A walk in the park

Saturday 24th August 

As to be expected, I woke early this morning and loitered until TP and 30% entered the land of the living. Fortunately their body clocks were still on BST and neither of the slept too late. 

Shortly after eight we headed across the road to a nearby Deli for breakfast and a double espresso and a short stack with sausage set me up for the day.  

We then headed down in to the subway in an attempt to get uptown quickly and with minimum effort.* I think it is fair to say that our first trip was relatively successful in that we headed in the right direction but selection of an Express train rather than a local one meant that we somewhat overshot the 81st Street station and had to double back on ourselves. We eventually arrived at our destination have been treated to a peculiar piece of performance art involving two women having a very deep and meaningful argument for much of our journey. 

81st Street is the location of the American Museum of Natural History and we spent much of the day wandering through it's halls and exhibits. The high points were the dinosaur galleries and the live tropical frog exhibits both of which stood out in a museum that does nothing by half.**

We left the museum late in the afternoon and walked across the street and in to Central Park. Once in the park we walked in a roughly South Westerly direction taking in the sights and sounds as we headed back in the direction of Times Square. 

The park was exactly as it appears in every movie scene ever shot there. It was filled with New Yorkers and tourists enjoying this fine sunny day. People talked and walked, rode and rowed and played, occasionally in plaid, in this fine open space set within it's encircling range of concrete and steel mountains. 

Considering how much walking we had already done in the day we were incredibly keen on exiting the park and decided to walk back to the hotel ...

... It was only later that I realised that from 81st Street to East 34th is at least 50 Blocks!

We didn't walk far in search of dinner this evening. 
---
* overground transport is far from rapid due to traffic and pedestrian volumes
** by way of an example; the African mammals hall features eight mounted elephants as it's centrepiece 

A Letter from America

Friday 23rd August

We were out of bed shortly after five o'clock this morning as we needed to be at Birmingham by seven to check in for the 8.55 United Airlines flight to Newark. 

Seven or so hours later we emerged from US Customs and caught a shuttle bus to the Affinia Dumont Hotel at the junction of Lexington and East 34th Street. Our suite is up on the 17th floor and has views of the Chrysler Building only eight blocks away to the East. 
After dumping our bags we headed out and made out first tentative exploration of NYC. The Empire State Building is a couple of blocks West of our hotel and we passed it as we headed up towards Times Square. We dipped in and out of Stores as we wandered and Macy's was one of our stops. Jet lag and general tiredness started to kick in and we looped back via the Chrysler Building as we headed back towards our hotel. 

I feel that I should give my initial impression of New York City and basically it is a city, ignore the hype and that is exactly what it is; a city, no more, no less. I'm not saying I dislike it but it is just a large city with it's particular set of land marks and customs and I look forward to exploring it over the next few days. 

So far I can report that the hamburger I ate at a nondescript delicatessen was amazingly tasty and put British "gourmet"  burgers to shame, I was delighted to find 10 dollars on the sidewalk as I wandered the streets and ecstatic when I discovered that the local Deli sells Leffe Blond ...

... Belgian Lager and Summer in New York City, is there a better way to start a holiday. 

And I haven't even mentioned the topless  young lady I encountered in Times Square!


Saturday, 24 August 2013

Life Events

Thursday 22nd August

Today was significant for both TP and me. In the case of my one and only son, it was GCSE results day, whilst in my case it was my last 
"working day" in The Nine Circles of Hell. 

The plan was for 30% to take TP in to school to collect his results whilst I loaded T & M in to the back of the Defender and took them over to the kennels where they will spend the next twelve days in the eccentric care of Chris and Yvonne. 

Theoretically both missions should have had the same duration so I was slightly concerned to return to an empty house. My mind went in to overdrive and I started to imagine worst case scenarios. Basically TP needed a minimum of B grades to allow him to enter the Sixth Form and study the A-level subjects of his choice. Unfortunately he had not bothered to develop a back- up plan so if he had failed to make the grades we had half a day to make alternative study arrangements.

I am delighted to say there was no need as they arrived home twenty minutes after me and reported a fine set of results with TP attaining his predicted grades in all of his subjects...

...so he will be studying maths, physics, chemistry and music technology when term starts in a couple of weeks. 

After sincere congratulations and 'phone calls to grand parents we lunched and then I headed over to The Nearest Circle of Hell to return my lap top and pass. 

Fortunately my manager was not able to make the trip to see me off in person and had tefloned this task to a far more pleasant manager. We chatted as he ticked off the various items on his check list and it became apparent that he thought my decision to leave was wise. We also learnt that we both worked for the Inland Revenue at the same time and that he managed the DCS Engineer who provided much of the on site support for the systems and infrastructure I managed in Nottingham back in the 1990's...

... It is a small world!

I finally left the Nine Circles of Hell after a farewell chat with Grand Dad Jack* and headed in to Redditch to collect the oven element. 

It will therefore come as no surprise to learn that I then spent half an hour sprawled on the kitchen floor putting the oven back together. 

The remainder of the day was predictable too as holiday preparations were completed ...

... We have an early morning flight out of Birmingham to New York tomorrow. 

---
*I will miss the old sod. 

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

I love it when a plan comes together ...

... unfortunately today it was a case of almost, but not quite !

A few weeks ago an element failed in one of our ovens and, from previous experience, I was aware that I was looking at a sum in the region of one hundred and twenty pounds to get a man out to fix it. For this expenditure all I would get was a new oven element installed and I thought I might be able to get better value for my money with a fairly simple plan.

I ordered the element from the cooker manufacturer and once I knew approximately when it would arrive I booked in a mobile cooker cleaning service to come and give the beast a damned good going over. My plan was simple; during the cooker cleaning the oven would be dismantled and cleaned and all I had to do was halt proceedings for five minutes whilst I installed the new element and Bob's your Uncle' I would have a sparkly and fully functioning cooker for about the same price I had been quoted to come and install a twenty quid element.

This morning a very nice Gentleman arrived at The Pile and spent a good four hours giving our range cooker a thorough valeting and was more than happy for me to interrupt proceedings to install the new element ...

...Unfortunately the morons that manufactured the cooker managed to dispatch the wrong element despite being provided with both model and serial numbers. A quick phone call ensured a replacement would be here in the next few days but I now have the internal components of one of our ovens forming an interesting art installation on the kitchen worktop until it arrives.

The Completer/Finisher in me wasn't happy with this state of affairs so I headed in to Redditch to see if the local Domestic Appliance Spares Shop had an element in stock ...

... "it'll be here tomorrow Mate" was the reply I received. I ordered it working on the principal that it is always useful to have a spare and this way the oven will be restored to full functionality before we head off for our Summer Holiday.

I'm guessing that tomorrow could be a very busy day what with packing, dropping T&M off at the kennels, collecting TP's GCSE results, returning my laptop to the nearest circle of hell AND fixing the cooker.

Other Stuff

TP arrived home after his few days away in Cornwall and we "christened" the pristine hob by cooking the puff ball that I foraged a couple of days ago. It was lovely sliced, coated with bread crumbs and pan fried in butter. We served the mushroom slices topped with fried eggs and accompanied by home cured bacon.

It was very much a home made supper.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

On becoming the invisible man ...

The main activity on this morning's agenda was my Exit Interview with my manager. It came as no surprise that this was completed with a complete lack of flair and a minimum of interpersonal skills on his part and basically involved him reading items from his managerial checklist with the occasional pause for me to provide the appropriate confirmation.

After 15 minutes were were finished and I was somewhat taken aback to find myself formally placed on Garden Leave with clear instructions not to enter any of the Circles of Hell without prior permission from a Daemon. Neither was I allowed to have any "business contact" with any of my colleagues from that point forward. Within moments of my interview ending an email arrived in my inbox covering the terms of my Garden Leave and, with the exception of the final sentence which thanked me for my contribution , the rest of the letter read like I was under suspicion of committing the most heinous of crimes ... Fucking Charming!

I finished off a couple of final deliverables and took one final peep at my inbox. It was interesting to note that my Manager had cancelled my access to an application that allows remote access to my email. Under the terms of my Garden Leave I am to "remain available for [Dante's] to communicate with" so how the hell does that work? 

My manager cancelled my mobile phone* over a week ago and has now removed my ability to access e-mail from home. How the fuck am I supposed to make myself available for Dante's to communicate with? Perhaps I am to use this spare time to develop my telepathic powers!

I should point out that I need to meet up with another manager at the nearest Circle of Hell on Thursday to return my laptop and at present only know the time of the interview as a room number was missing from the invitation ...

... Looks like I had better brush up on the mind reading skills pronto!

Feeling slightly bruised by this unnecessarily brusque handling of my final couple of days I wandered away from the laptop and decided to do something else instead ...

... I crammed myself in to my leathers, hauled the Ducati from the garage and headed over to a Vehicle Bodywork Company in Bidford on Avon to get a quote for the repairs to my recently scuffed fairing panel. I had a lengthy chat with a much tattooed gentlemen who introduced himself as "Dagger" and it was agreed that I should leave the spray job until the beginning of Winter and then drop off the damaged panels for him to paint at his leisure. His estimate for this work was a very economical eighty quid.

I left Bidford and then headed over towards the Nearest Circle of Hell in the hope of persuading Grand Dad Jack to come out for a natter, as he had frequently expressed an interest in perusing my bike. It came as no surprise that GJ was away from his desk on one of his extended tea breaks and consequently he was not answering his 'phone.

I headed back home and after putting my bike away I took T&M for our usual walk around the Three Miler arriving home to find 30% putting the finishing touches to supper.

I'm really not sure how I feel about today.
---
* This is the 'phone that I bought but that he refuses to allow to be "unlocked' from Dante's preferred cell 'phone provider. I wonder how annoyed he would be to know that the handset is now unlocked and my new Sim card has been accepted. There are several ways to skin a cat.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Why are you carrying an Ostrich Egg?

As to be expected, things are very quiet as I walk towards the perimeter of the Nine Circles of Hell. Consequently my most significant deliverable this morning was a Bolognaise Sauce that was later piled on a heap of spaghetti for supper this evening.

As the morning petered out I took an early lunch and then headed over to the local DIY store to pick up a few bags of dry mix concrete. It was then a trundle over to BMS's residence where the aforementioned concrete was wetted and mixed before being applied to his drive to form a more gentle ramp in to his garage ...

... apparently his mobility scooter is the lowered suspension model and it bottoms out when he enters the garage at speed.

All being well, he should be able to make high speed departures once the concrete has set in a couple of days time.

The remainder of the day was as quiet as the morning. I had a brief kip on the sofa before heading out around the Three Miler with T&M. As I wandered along the lanes I saw a white, almost spherical shape in the verge and headed over for a closer inspection. I was delighted to find a fresh puffball mushroom and carefully pried it loose from the earth as they make good eating. I spent the remainder of the walk looking like I was carrying the spoils from an Ostrich nest raid.

30% and I are alone at present as TP is spending a few days in Cornwall with one of his friends but we were joined this evening by Sally the Upholsterer with the curtains for the dining room. We had a pleasant evening catching up on each others news although it would be fair to say that Sally has had a rough time recently.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Supervision Needed?

For the past few days 30% hasn't felt quite right and after a morning wandering around the shops in Worcester we returned home and she took to her bed. It soon became apparent that she had picked up a bug and I was left pretty much to my own devices with regard to catering and entertainment.

The entertainment was easily covered and I lost most of the afternoon to a hideously long snooze on the sofa. I then attempted to banish the post siesta drowsiness with a walk but rain drops started to fall from a leaden sky and the Three Miler was more accurately described as the Three Quarter Miler this evening.

I then needed to prepare "Dinner for One" and, after a wander around the kitchen, settled upon a omelette as eggs were in plentiful supply. Four eggs, a slice of ham and some cheese were rapidly formed in to a perfect omelette and a couple of chunks of crusty bread provided a perfect accompaniment to this sofa supper.

As I pondered the variety of sweet and savoury fillings that can be folded in to an omelette I wondered whether Marmite would work.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Is this what they mean by Garden Leave ?

I had one and one half days of annual leave to take before I emerge from the Nine Circles of Hell in to the blinding sunrise of a new job. Yesterday afternoon and all day today have been strategically booked to dissuade any of my colleagues or managers from attempting to give me anything to do. My logic is as follows ...

... No-one is going to expect anything much from me  in the last week, or rather 4 days, of my penury in Dante's Inferno. However, in my penultimate week, the Daemons might be less forgiving, so I have booked my remaining leave to minimise their opportunities for giving me work.*

Before I recount today's activities I probably need to fill in my activities over the past few weeks. Basically I decided to take Garden Leave whether Dante's liked it or not. My approach was as follows; I decided to perform the bare minimum that I assumed would avoid me being on the receiving end of any irritating complaints. This involved me dialling in to the early morning team call where I announced my presence. I then said nothing more unless I was asked a direct question. Needless to say, none were asked and my interpretation of this was that I was not required for the rest of the day and I metaphorically wandered off to do something far more interesting.***

Obviously I didn't have a Team Call today and, after a leisurely breakfast, I dealt with a few items of personal paperwork and accounting before heading over to Bad Man Senior's residence. The plan for today was to collect BMS, several lengths of timber and his decrepit garden gate. All being well the timber would get assembled to form a new gate and BMS and I would have a relatively relaxing day pottering in the garage with a leisurely lunch roughly around the mid point ...

... and that is exactly what we did. By four o'clock I was loading a new garden gate on to the Defender's roof rack and we headed back to the BMS residence where the gate dropped neatly on to the original hinge pins. After a swift cup of tea courtesy of SMS I attached the latch and bolt and the gate was as good as new.

All I need to do now is spend and hour or so tidying up the garage.
---
* According to their own "guidelines" I should be on Garden Leave but for reasons kept to themselves they seem content to leave me "working" ** on a Client Engagement.
** Snigger!
*** My lawn looks lovely and there is nothing better than an hour's kip on the sofa on a warm afternoon.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Where are we going to hang it?

Saturday started with a trip over to the picture framer to collect the small oil painting that we acquired at Littleton Auction a month ago. It looks fantastic now it has been framed and all we need to do now is decide on where to hang it.

After collecting the painting from Evesham we headed over to Redditch where 30% attended an eye test and I decided to refresh elements of my work wardrobe. After all, I suppose I had better look the part in view of the fact that any reputation I had means very little to my new employer.

We arrived home in time for lunch and then I have to admit both 30% and I fell asleep for a couple of hours. I awoke as the heat of the day started to wane and took T&M out for a circuit of the Three Miler. Upon my return it was time to tidy myself up as we had decided to sample the menu at one of the Pubs in the Village.

It is well over a year since we last visited this Hostelry and it has had troublesome times. Tenant after tenant has failed to make a viable business of it and in the past few months the freehold was finally sold. It has been purchased by a local couple and they have made a sound start on re-establishing the business. They have tidied up the entrance, designed a simple but elegant pub grub menu and appear to run it with a level of enthusiasm borne making a significant investment.

We had a good meal in pleasant surroundings and I took slight pleasure in noting that, as we left after our meal, The Bull's Head appeared to have significantly more trade than the other pub sat on the Village Green.

Friday, 2 August 2013

There are some Tossers about

At present the Engagement is in a phase of back-to-back telephone calls each and every day. The calls are to establish requirements and hopefully the client will actually decide not only what they want but also when they want it too.

"Now," I hear you ask "why would one be interested in attending these calls?" Initially I had the same thoughts; Why would I want and sit with a phone glued to my ear listening to material that had no real importance to me? Especially after the delightful prospect of Garden Leave lay shattered like a crystal glass impacting on a cold stone floor. These are all very good and valid points but the way I see it is as follows ...

... If I MUST continue to work on this deal then spending all day on a conference call is the least worst option. All I do is dial in, announce my name and say absolutely nothing for the remainder of the call. I leave the windbags at Dante's to fill each sixty minute slot with noise that I pay no heed.This leaves me time to have Instant Messenger conversations with friends and colleagues and explore and progress the activities I need to complete as part of my exit plan.*

After all, if I have spent seven hours of the day on a series of conference calls it would be churlish in the extreme to expect a significant output of work products in the same time frame.**

So that is how I propose to fill the remaining fourteen working days at Dante's. Actually this number has now been reduced to twelve and one half working days as my complete and utter bell-end of a manger has finally deigned to respond to my Exit Plan e-mail and it is fair to say that a couple of his responses have annoyed me somewhat but he did grudgingly confirm that my leave had been pro rated and that I had an extra day and a half to book.

First I had better explain that, after giving notice on Monday, I was advised that he needed forty eight hours to get things in motion. I felt that this period expired around midday on Wednesday and so was somewhat disappointed to hear nothing at all. After all, I am only going to resign from Dante's once while he, as a manager, should be expected to experience it on a number of occasions. *** I didn't know what processes should be taking place and was looking to him for guidance. Actually a formal acknowledgement of my resignation would have been polite and professional too.

In this information vacuum I started to work my way through my perceived set of exit actions and fired off a few e-mails to my manager with pertinent questions. All I got back was a holding reply which told me nothing. I then picked up on a conference call**** an utterance that suggested that my manager was off work next week. I therefore sent him an e-mail asking for a formal response to my questions and nomination of a managerial deputy during his absence.

In response I got a snotty email that carried the absolute bare minimum of information and there was one answers that infuriated me ...

... I asked if I would be allowed to port my work mobile 'phone number when I left Dante's. I also asked if my 'phone bought by me through a company scheme could be unlocked thereby allowing me a wider choice of service providers after departure. I should say at this point that both of these requests are documented as permissible in the Leaving Dante's Checklist.

I was therefore somewhat taken aback when he replied advising that in the circumstances he was not prepared to authorise. Now I can grudgingly accept that he might decline porting my 'phone number as there could be a conflict of interest due to the relationship between Dante's Nine Circles of Hell and The Neat & Tidy Piano Movers but I can see absolutely no reason for him not authorising the unlocking of my handset. The phone is my personal property and is restricted to a particular Service Provider because it was bought through a company scheme. There is no conflict of interest in allowing me a wider choice of mobile 'phone services in the future.

Basically he is either taking a dog in a manger attitude or just doesn't have the intellect to have understood what I am actually asking for.

Still, as they say, there are several ways to skin a cat and I am now in possession of the IMEI number that will allow me to choose any provider I like.

It is annoying about the number porting though.
---
* There is probably a goodly chunk of cyberloafing too. That is a lovely turn of phrase
** Pot calling the Kettle Black? ... possibly
*** actually, the way things are looking, he could be doing it a lot more in the next few months
**** amazing that I was actually listening!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

A Bleak Outlook for Some?

It is fair to say that my plans for a long Summer off work have come to naught and a managerial decision has been made that I will continue in my current role for the next two weeks; working alongside the chaps who will take over. I still don't get to escape then as I am required to hang around like some moth eaten chimp* in a supporting role until I finally emerge from the Circles of Hell on 22nd August.

Apparently a certain Idiot Manager has decided that my departure bears no significant risk** to the Engagement hence I am to stay in post. What this really means is that Dante's is critically short of people following their recent cull of personnel and basically they haven't got a pot to piss in when it comes to resourcing. It is a very strange place to be working at present and it is not only the cull that is impacting staffing. A number of key managers are moving on and then there are the occasional voluntary departures like mine.

Now the news that I am leaving is out in the open a number of colleagues have commented that I am doing the right thing and have intimated, some more openly than others, that they, or people they know, are thinking about doing the same. A discussion with a manager revealed that he had lost over 22 people in the cull. Each and everyone of them had gone on to find a new role with an increased salary. One of them achieved a 100% pay rise. I asked him if he had managed to retain a critical mass to allow him to continue delivering his function. He looked me in the eye and simply said "I am fucked".

So what of the future at the Nine Circles of Hell? I don't know but I do know that they are in for some interesting times over the next few months. The current climate and environment is doing a fantastic job in increasing my certainty that changing my job was the right thing to do. People are leaving, the Sales Pipeline has reduced to a trickle of stagnant waste, the Industry is changing and there is no clear direction from the Senior Daemons on how The Nine Circles of Hell will respond.

So, I suppose the question is how am I going to fill my last three weeks at Dante's? I am attempting to limit my rock pushing activities to the traditional nine 'til five and ensure that my Exit Plan activities take precedence. I managed to take up almost all of a working day yesterday with the setting up of my replacement lap top ...

... I have fifteen working days to go and still have one and a half days of holiday to build in to that.
---
* and that is exactly what I propose to do. I will sit there with a look of disdain on my face, picking things both real and imaginary from my pelt, examining each one in detail before either eating it or flicking it across the cage.
** so the fact that I have no sense of investment in, or ownership of, the engagement combined with the fact that it is very difficult to fill a leadership role when you won't actually be available to lead a force out on to the battlefield aren't seen as risks ... Hmmm ?

Monday, 29 July 2013

I finally did it

After ten long weeks, which featured a traumatic telephone interview and an amazing face to face encounter, I have finally received written confirmation of the offer of a job as Shifter Junior at The Neat & Tidy Piano Movers and have been able to submit my resignation to Dante's Nine Circles of Hell.

It is fair to say that my First Line Manager was somewhat taken aback by my news and after a significant period of spluttering and expressing disappointment he finally got with the programme and recognised my reasons for moving on. I confirmed my notice in an email and also put a paper copy in an envelope and wandered down to the post box. Talk about thorough, about the only way I haven't delivered my resignation is via the medium of dance!

I think it is fair to say that I have little interest in the future of the current project and am hoping that a replacement will be assigned within the next forty eight hours. Dante's has quite sensible rules about putting resignees in close association with customers and I am hoping to use this to my advantage and finagle a period of garden leave.

It will be great if I can blag a six week summer holiday, roll on Wednesday to see if this plan comes to fruition.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Weekend Round Up

Saturday started very early and I was pottering around the house shortly after six o'clock. The hot humid weather is still with us and once I am awake I tend not to be able to fall back to sleep hence I have been seeing some very early mornings recently. I pottered for a while and was joined at a surprisingly early* eight o'clock by 30%. After sharing a few moments and thoughts whilst we both drank coffee, I headed out for a circuit of the Three Miler with T&M.

I was back at home by nine and had time for another cup of coffee before we headed over to the Auction House. At last night's viewing we had seen a number of interesting lots including a 17th Century, reproduction oak sideboard. It probably dates from the 1950's but was a perfect size and colour for the Dining Room and consequently warranted being at the auction in person rather than relying on a commission bid and loosing the lot.

Basically the sideboard was coming home with us and it did along with a second oak sideboard, an amazing set of bellows, a iron and brass balance on a wooden stand and a couple of porcelain figurines.
A Twisted Fire Starter?
Sideboard number one just fitted inside 30%'s Seat and we took it and a few of the smaller items as we made our way home for lunch. After we had eaten, TP and I unloaded the sideboard and left 30% applying a coat of wax polish as we returned to Littleton to pick up the rest of the loot.

By the time we got home again 30% had just about finished cleaning up the piece and  we shifted it in to the dining room where it looks perfect.

I now had some free time so I headed out to the garage where I finally finished the restoration of the Victorian garden bench. It is fair to say that there was some swearing and use of a Spanish Windlass to get the final bolts in place but it looks lovely and now has pride of place on the terrace beneath the dining room window.

After a full day the evening was spent on the sofa watching a movie** before retiring to bed.

After Saturday's early start, Sunday was a refreshing change. I managed to go back to sleep after waking at five and was dragged from, my slumber at a pleasant eight o'clock by 30%, who came bearing coffee and news that the chickens had been let out and the dogs emptied.

We had a leisurely start to the day and headed over to the Rugby Club as ten o'clock approach. TP had a training session and we had decided to take T&M for a walk over the woods and fields of a local estate as an alternative to their usual loop around the Three Miler. After a fine walk in the sun we headed back to the club, collected TP and returned home for lunch.

I may as well end this post here and now as, after eating, I wandered in to the lounge and promptly fell asleep on the sofa for two hours. I awoke with that groggy feeling of having slept for far too long and set about filling in the raft of forms that arrived in the Kat's package ...

... Having completed that it was time to get ready for a short drive out for Sunday Dinner. The justification for this was partly in celebration of my recent news and partly because 30% couldn't be arsed to cook.  We had a table reserved at The Why Not but up on arrival is was apparent that the table was right in the centre of a Christening Party and the chance of a free slice of cake did not make amends for the chaos that would be all around us. We politely declined the table and headed down the road and stopped, in desperation, at The Neville Arms ...

... That was a big mistake. We hadn't eaten there for eight years or more and I now remember why. The food was very poor; lacking taste and having the appearance of being hastily assembled. 30% expected a starter of mushrooms served on a toasted wholemeal crouton but what she actually received was mushrooms that normally garnish the steak dishes, drowned in a steak sauce and sitting on a slice of soggy white bread.

Rest assured that the proper celebration dinner is yet to be arranged.
---
* for her
** The Shipping News

Friday, 26 July 2013

A letter from the Kat

The plan for Friday was to cross off half a dozen items from my to do list before knocking off at a reasonable time and heading over to preview the lots at Littleton Auctions ...

... and that is basically what happened. End of Journal entry.

... apart from the fact that the letter from the Kat was finally stuffed through the letter box sustaining a minor tear to one corner in the process. I eagerly pounced on this package and started to leaf through it's contents. All looked well and I could finally start to implement plans that I had been assembling in my head for six weeks at the very least.

At this point I'll make an interesting observation. I pinged two senior Daemons at Dante's to discuss the implications of the package from the Kat. One of these Daemons works outside my immediate Circle of Hell and our paths haven't formally crossed for the best part of eighteen months. She was more than happy to hear from me and accepted a call within five or ten minutes of my initial instant message.* The other senior Daemon was my second line manager. I first pinged her at eleven in the morning requesting a short call. She eventually responded a little after four advising that she would take a call at half past the hour. I pointed out that her suggested timing was no good for me as I had an Engagement Kick-Off call to host so decided to spread my news using the medium of the Instant Messenger application.

As she crawled from the crater left by my bombshell she was seen to type the message "Oh Lord" followed by "You have shocked me". With her attention finally captured we actually managed to have a call shortly after five in the evening.**

It was pleasant but it doesn't change anything.
---
* That's one reference sorted
** For quite some time I have had the impression that 2nd LM operates a system whereby her deals fall in to one of two divisions. If you are in the Premier League then her time is yours. If you happen to work a deal in the lower division then don't hold your breath.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Girding my loins

Wednesday and Thursday has been spent preparing the team for the ordeal we are about to embrace. There is much to do, little time to achieve it and a stunning lack of detail about how we are to reach our target.

I am doing my best to add structure and focus but, for reasons that will shortly become apparent, I am also trying to keep away from much of the detail on this engagement. Part of the reason for this is that I have an incredibly capable second-in-command and he knows the Technical details far better than I do, having spent more than three months embedded with the Delivery Teams. With only five weeks until we deliver our proposal, I was never going to gain an understanding equivalent to his so I have let him wear the horn rimmed spectacles and I have donned the flying helmet and silk scarf and have taken on the role of dashing squadron leader ...

... unfortunately this is likely to be one of those roles where I die unexpectedly half way through the film.*

I suppose I should point out that I arrived back at The Pile on Wednesday after a couple of days in the South. There is still no sign of the parcel from The Kat but I am sure that it will be along before the end of the week.

So after two long days of hassling, harrying, organising, coaxing and cajoling I just about have an International Team informed and poised ready to start developing a Global Services solution.

OK, I'll stop bullshitting. This one is showing all the warning signs of yet another Train Wreck courtesy of Dante's Nine Circles of Hell and their comedy approach to Outsourcing.
---
* or perhaps disappear in a Pea Souper somewhere over The Channel with no signs of wreckage or flotsam when the sun breaks through.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Atmosphere changes

Tuesday involved an early start. I was out of the house by six thirty and wandering around a Business Park in stormy Uxbridge well before nine o'clock in the morning.

It was a bloody frustrating day. Tim Nice-but-Dim likes to have me around as some form of security blanket and, as a result, I have to adopt his working pattern. He is the proverbial cuckoo and flits from vacant room to vacant room, moving whenever people, who have actually bothered to book a facility, turn up and glare at us interlopers.

I do not like this approach. It is unstructured, certainly not conducive to effective working and fundamentally fucking rude. If I add in the fact that I could not achieve network connectivity in the client office it is fair to say that I spent a good chunk of my morning hanging on Tim N-b-D's coat tails and achieving sweet FA.

As a result I spent as much time as possible down the road at a relatively convenient Circle of Hell where I could at least receive emails and contact work colleagues.*

The most significant news of the day is that there appears to be some Client in-fighting about what is to be delivered and by when. As a result our time line has been contracted by two weeks and we now need to have our Proposal ready when a number of significant team members, including myself, are on holiday. To make matters worse we still have no clear requirements from the client and, if they manage to pull their finger out, I estimate that we will have about one week to refine our solution before we need to take it through the arduous series of gate reviews prior to release.

This is obviously far from good and both Dante's team and the Client's consultants recognise this but, for the moment it looks like the Client Procurement Director will have his way.

I have played this game enough times to know that there is no point in baulking and all I can do is attempt to define a deliverable that we stand half a chance of delivering in the limited time available.**

I also learnt an important lesson today. Never leave an office in the Greater London conurbation at five thirty in the evening ...

... five miles in one hour! I needed that double G&T in the hotel bar when I finally got there.
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*"Ah! ..." I hear you say; "surely your iPhone was working?" ... and you would be correct but there is no way that I would regard it as an effective substitute for a full blown laptop. They are great for single sentence communications ... Think Twitter or Facebook status updates but there is no way on earth that you would want to draft a detailed email on one.
** whilst at the same time expecting an extension when sanity finally prevails.


Monday, 22 July 2013

A call from the Kat

I spent most of my working day with a telephone pressed against the side of my head. As a result any incoming calls were directed to the answerphone. The working day had just about finished and I was wandering aimlessly about the house simply enjoying the relative freedom granted by not having to sit in front of a laptop and listen to middle management prattle ...

... As I walked in to the kitchen I saw 30% listening intently to a telephone handset. She made the international gesture* that indicated that I should shut the fuck up and not interrupt her.

The message was from The Kat. It is good news and it looks like I should be getting a parcel through the post in the next few days.
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* an outstretched arm, palm face down, fingers loosely spread and firmly patting the head of an invisible child.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

A long & full weekend

I'm not sure whether I have been too hot and tired to sit  at a keyboard and write recently or whether I have just misplaced my blogging mojo. I feel that the entries are becoming a little samey and my lack of inclination to write means my entries are certainly less frequent than usual hence this one is a case of three days in one ...

Friday; Hot Dogs anyone?
Today we were out of the house early and spent the day at the CLA Game Fair at Ragley Hall near Alcester, Warwickshire. We had a splendid day wandering around the various retail stands and exhibitions but Christ was it Hot! The sun was shining from a cloudless sky and out in the full sun temperatures were well above 30 degrees centigrade.

We took T&M along, as dogs are welcome, and they coped well in the morning but seemed grateful when we doused them with water at lunch time in an attempt to cool them down. As the temperatures continued to climb through the afternoon, soaking the dogs became a regular activity to keep them comfortable. Fortunately there were dog baths and showers all over the showground and we even found a dog swimming pool, so this was never a problem. However, as we tired and headed back towards the car, it was apparent that Tyson had had enough of the heat as she insisted on walking in the shade of the trade tents wherever possible.

We also noticed that, despite the presence of dog water bowls at most of the stands and stalls, T&M refused to drink from any of them; waiting until we got back to the car to drink from the water we had brought along. I find it interesting that they will drink from puddles and ditches out around the Three Miler but turn up their noses at a bowl of water that some other dog has used.

Saturday; Pushing a couple of projects forward
Saturday started cool and overcast which was a relief after yesterday's scorcher. I made the best of the lower temperatures and decided that I would load up the trailer and take the debris from last weekend's studly demolition to the tip ...

... How wrong was I! The humidity levels were high and it was still very warm. TP and I were dripping with sweat after lugging the demolished fireplace from the study to the trailer. On arrival at the Tip it was apparent that very few individuals were stupid enough to be undertaking manual work on such a warm day. We soon had the rubbish unloaded and were headed back home.

In the afternoon I continued my debris clearance theme and took the chainsaw to some lengths of hardwood timber that had originally formed the mantel shelf of the study fireplace. It seemed wrong to be hacking up 60mm thick hardwood but the realist in me knows that I will never find a use for it and it is far better cut up in to chunks and added to the wood pile.

Having made a lot of noise and saw dust I headed over to the DIY store to pick up some hardware for the bench project and stopped off to see BMS & SMS on the way back home. I filched an extra length of oak board for the project and caught up on their news whilst drinking tea and playing with a very excitable Tilly.

I arrived back home to find that 30% had been busy in the garden but had had to abort her pruning activities after a falling branch had caught her eye as it fell from a laurel she was trimming. She wasn't making a fuss but having had a scratched cornea a couple of years back I was extremely conscious of how painful it can be and would not be surprised if a visit to A&E is in the offing.

I filled the remainder of my afternoon and early evening planing and trimming the oak boards that would form the seat and back for the restored Victorian bench.

Sunday: A trip to A&E
Unfortunately it came as no surprise that 30%'s eye was no better and a trip to A&E was necessary. My amateur diagnosis was confirmed by the professionals and it looks like 30% is in for a few painful days sat in a darkened room until the cornea heals.

Fortunately A&E was fairly quiet but I will make mention of the couple who brought in their baby for medical attention. They were obviously sufficiently concerned enough about their infant to decide that a trip to Casualty was warranted. However not so concerned about this emergency that they couldn't afford the time to pop through McDonald's Drive Thru and pick up a couple of coffees on the way to the hospital! I kid you not, they swanned in to A&A in their Sunday best with a Latte in one hand and the other on the bars of the baby's stroller! ... is it me?

We arrived home shortly before midday and 30%'s plan was, understandably, to not do much more than snooze in a darkened room. We therefore lunched early and she was about to disappear upstairs when Steve and Helen arrived ...

... it was only a fleeting visit from Helen as she had a supermarket visit on her itinerary but she called in to say "hello" and collect her gate-cum-wicket that I had made last weekend. It was a relief that my design aligned with her concept and all she has to do now is apply a chalk paint and decorate ... Steve has promised photos of the finished article.

Steve expected to be at The Pile somewhat longer as it was planned that he would repair the scratches on the Ducati's fairing. Unfortunately his visit was fleeting too as  a colour match could not be found. He did recommend a Body Shop a few miles away and it looks like I will need to get them to order paint from the manufacturer rather than go with the colour match approach.

The rest of my day was spent routing and sanding the timber for the bench and I managed to apply a few coats of exterior furniture oil before returning to the house to prepare dinner under 30%'s beady eye.*
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* Note "beady eye", singular. The other one was less beady and more sort of weepy.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Putting the cart before the horse.

The past three days have been as busy as Monday was quiet. The work load hasn't been excessive but my business days have been filled from end to end. I won't go in to detail as there is nothing of interest or import. We are at the early stages of a sales engagement and the Sales Executive is more of a relationship type than a strategist. Unfortunately he really needs to be both and it seems to fall to me to provide the strategic guidance.

To make matters worse he sounds just like the Tim Nice-but-Dim character created by Harry Enfield and every time he speaks I find myself picturing the upper class twit. I won't list his crimes here but it is worth pointing out that he can't even get the code name of the project right and refers to a maker of winter sporting equipment rather than the large migratory fish that gave the engagement its correct moniker.

So, what have I been up to over the mid part of the week? Most of my activities have revolved around the development of budgetary estimates and the rework of them as information provided by Tim Nice-but-Dim proves itself to be complete bollocks. I did take trip in to The Nearest Circle of Hell on Wednesday for a fascinating series of Vendor presentations by companies that are tendering to provide certain services on this deal. This in itself confused me and is yet another example of how confused this engagement seems to be. Let me explain ...

... I have only been assigned to the deal for a couple of weeks and it was apparent from the first meeting with the client that the final requirements are not yet established. We know the general nature of what we will be required to do as this is a contract renegotiation but there will be scope changes. I therefore do not understand why the engagement team felt confident of approaching Third Party Service Providers and asking them for their best and final price. Is it just me that thinks this is putting the cart before the horse?

There was a glimmer of light on Thursday when our Bid Manager finally joined the team. I am hoping that she will assist in giving the much needed structure to the team and I can start working with Tim NBD on what he wants to sell ensuring that he remembers that our budget is made up of what Dante's has managed to find down the backs of their collective sofas.

Outside of work I haven't done much. T&M have been walked whenever possible and this evening I took a trip over to Stratford to collect an oak ledge and brace door that I ordered to replace the one that current fills this role in the study. The door is a beauty but is a second reference to the title of this post as it is going to be a good few weeks before the study is anywhere near ready for second fix carpentry.

Tomorrow I have taken a day's holiday and we will be spending the day at the CLA Game Fair. It should be a fantastic day and one of those rare events where T&M will be most welcome.

With the current heat wave in full swing there is no need to pray for a sunny day.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Fortunately it was a slow day

Both TP and I had dental appointments this afternoon. The timing of these meant that much of the afternoon would be spent in sunny Bromsgrove either reading a magazine or attempting to force my body through the molecular structure of the chair in an attempt to escape the de-scaler ... I'm not a huge fan of the dentist.

In view of this enforced sojourn in a dental waiting room, I did my best to make good use of the time by dropping off my wheel rim and tyre up at MP Trading prior to the appointments. The tyre was fitted and balanced while we took turns in the dental chair and was collected before we drove home. It seems like I have been to the dentist every week for the past month following TP' s unfortunate accident with a beer bottle but I can now report that his treatment plan has been completed and, for once, my check up revealed no need for any additional work.

By the time I arrived home I had spent the entire afternoon away from my desk but fortunately it didn't look like I had been missed. I fitted the spare wheel back on the car and then headed out for a walk with T&M. Moving on to the subject of dogs, I can report that 30% has been repeatedly visiting a Poodle Rescue website recently as a young, cream dog has caught her eye. She finally bit the bullet this afternoon and rang the contact number ...

... after a long chat we have forms to complete and return to ascertain our suitability. We also need to know whether this lad is suitable for us, particularly in view of the fact that we have 1.8 cats* in residence.

30% asked why a ten month old dog was up for adoption and was advised that he had been previously owned by a couple with three children under four years old. He had not been given the attention or investment of time that he deserved and the family had now realised their mistake in acquiring a large energetic and excitable dog that needs daily exercise and regular grooming. Apparently the poor lad doesn't even know his own name.

This seems to be a case of someone having more money than sense.
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* if you are new to The Journal I will point out that Eddy** lost a hind leg and his tail as a result of a car accident five years ago hence he has been measured and judged 0.8 of a cat.
** Eddy percent ... just say it out loud.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

A sunny day in a deckchair ... not!

First real task of the morning was to drive over to the Rugby Club and collect TP after a night under canvass with beer. He was surprisingly chipper due to a very sensible, self imposed abstinence and  seemed ready for his dish washing shift at the Hand Cart and Fortified Structure this afternoon.

Back at home I headed in to the garage to add the finishing touches to Helen's gate-cum-wicket. Having finished that I wandered in to the study where I decided that it was far too hot to fire up the wall paper stripper. I consequently decided to make a start on the far more relaxing task of demolishing the fireplace and ripping out the built in cupboard in the study. After a sweaty, dusty couple of hours the cupboard components were leant against one wall and the fireplace was now a pile of bricks on the hearth. The red mist of demolition had obviously descended as the picture rails were then torn from the walls and chucked on top of the heap of debris. Delighted by this scene of carnage I retired to the garden with a long, cool drink to plan the logistics of a tip run next weekend.

Lunch followed and then 30% and I headed over to pay another visit to Bad Man Senior and Step Mum Sue. The purpose of this visit was to raid their neighbour's bonfire for the huge quantity of firewood that was destined to burn in the open air rather than in a fireplace. We tutted about this lunacy and within half an hour had a decent pile of firewood cached in BMS's garden. Tea and birthday cake were then consumed before we liberated a few lengths of oak from BMS's garage for my garden bench project.

At home once more, we sunned ourselves in the garden before attending to poultry and dogs. The former have red mite and their coop needed spraying with insecticide, the latter needed and seemed to enjoy a cool bath ...

... I had quite forgotten that Tyson is black as opposed to a dark, dusty grey.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

A full day

This morning started with an early walk around the Three Miler with T&M. I was back at home before ten o'clock but the day was very warm already. My return coincided with 30%'s departure for a  visit to the supermarket and I looked for something to occupy me...

... I clambered around behind the garage and eased a dozen or more lengths of pallet wood from the stack. The plan was to use these to fabricate a garden gate to be used as part of the decorations at Helen and Steve's wedding reception. I must admit that I was concerned as to whether my thoughts and ideas aligned with Helen's as her design brief was, for want of a better word, brief.

With the wood sorted I headed inside, praying for creative inspiration, and wandered in to the study where I started to gather up the tatters of wall paper from the floor. It was possible that I had fallen foul of the spirits of procrastination. After half clearing the floor I noticed that the morning was rapidly disappearing so encouraged TP to get his act together and prepare himself for the demonstration of Touch Rugby at a nearby Carnival. The way time was moving on combined with 30%'s continued absence suggested that when she did arrive there was going to be some frantic activity and TP did not want to be the cause of further delay.

30% eventually arrived, laden with shopping and things were calmer that I expected. She set about assembling an early lunch while I whisked TP off to the Carnival for the aforementioned rugby demo. I returned, lunched and then we headed over to see BMS and SMS for today was SMS's birthday.

We had a lovely time catching up on each others news and also making sure BMS was well after the minor procedure he underwent yesterday at a local hospital. Any time spent with BMS and SMS does tend to be enjoyably random. Today was no different and we ended up at their neighbour's house gathering up lengths of timber left over from a recent garage construction. BMS wants to use them to construct a new garden gate and I was recruited to construct a functional gate at some point in the near future. BMS also kindly offered several lengths of oak that will be perfect to form the seat and back for the garden bench project that has recently been started after a twenty year slumber.

As we were about to leave my mobile 'phone rang. It was TP calling to advise that the Rugby Demo had not taken place and that he had walked home where he was sat in the garden without a door key. We bade our farewells to BMS and SMS and headed home.

With a good chunk of the afternoon still available I knuckled down and assembled Helen's decorative gate feature. I was still rather concerned as I wanted it to be just right. To allay these worries I emailed over a couple of photos with a three word title; "Yes or No?". The email was followed up with a 'phone call and was relieved that both Steve and Helen though it was just the job ... phew!

The day ended with a trip over to the Rugby Club for the team's summer barbeque. We had a splendid time chatting, drinking and eating whilst the lads played enthusiastic games on the pitches as the heat of the day waned.

God knows what state TP will be in when I collect him tomorrow morning ... he is camping out at the club and the tent is full of booze!