Thursday, 28 February 2013

Long days ...

The past few days have been very long and can mostly be described as back to back telephone calls with the odd interval where I can take a pause for breath.* I am forced to extend the working day in to the evening to clear the incessant flood of urgent e-mails.

I attempt to multi task on conference calls and handle instant messages and mails but have to be honest and say that I am kidding myself if I am taking in the conversations that rattle on in the background in the background.

This is not the way to deliver a quality product and, without a doubt, something important is going to be missed from our project.  As a result I am attempting to ensure we keep on track and that my arse is covered when it all goes tits up.

T&M are also disgusted as we only managed to make it out for a walk on Tuesday.
* There have been a couple of occasions where a cordless 'phone with a mute button has allowed me to take a pee during a two and a half hour call.

Monday, 25 February 2013

I'm not sure Dante's is very good at this!

Monday was my first day back at work and from first impressions it didn't look like anything much had happened whilst I was away. The tasks I had asked to be progressed had been shuffled forwards, never as far forward as I would have hoped, but at least they had gone in the right direction. However the final requirement information I was waiting for was still not available.

I spent the day catching up on progress, linking up with colleagues and clearing the backlog of email. Late in the day, about an hour before I needed to finish to take TP to the dentist, I attended a call in preparation for tomorrows face to face with the client. As the call progressed it rapidly became apparent that the timescale for this project had been reduced from a highly challenging and extremely risky fortnight to about a week and a half ...

... and to make matters worse that "week and a half" starts today even though I don't have final requirements.

I took TP off to the dentist and considered various tactics to get Executive support for this nightmare, whilst I got a close up view of just how deep the roots are on a lateral incisor.* It was then a case of a hurried narrative of 30%'s day, supper and a further couple of hours in front of the laptop, including a chat with the UK Sales Exec, catching up on the time I lost carrying out out Paternal Duties.

The next couple of weeks are going to be Hell but I suppose the positive view is that it is only two weeks rather than four!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Always read the fine print

Once Sunday stared rolling 30% subtly made it clear that she quite fancied a trip down to Bath to view a car she had found on a dealer's website. As a result I got the dogs walked early and by eleven we were ready to set off down the M5 ...

... for some strange reason the drive down seemed to take forever and if I hear that bloody Sat Nav say "in point six miles take the second exit off the roundabout" I swear I will launch the damned thing through the window.*

We eventually arrived and had a look around the vehicle. On first inspection it appeared to be in great condition with a low mileage and the interior looked beautiful with the Baseball Leather seats that attracted 30% to it in the first place. I took a peek under the bonnet and noticed that the engine oil was absolutely disgusting and this started to flash amber lights when we started to peruse the accompanying paperwork. It's last service was only about four months ago so with such a low mileage I would have expected the oil to look fresher than it did ...

... and when we read the Audi Service Technician's recommendations on the Service invoice further concerns manifested. The car need somewhere in the region of two thousand pounds spent on suspension replacement and a cam belt change. By the Dealer's reaction I am guessing that a) he may not have looked through the paperwork with as much attention to detail and b) that sheet may well get lost before the next Punter walks through the door. The Service Tech's recommendations were backed up by advisory notices on the MOT so it was time to walk away.

We arrived back mid afternoon after taking a diversion through Tewkesbury just to escape the tedium of motorway driving. A fire was lit and TP and I made further progress on the Resistant Materials project; the wood filler was sanded smooth, glue was mixed and the neck was finally fixed on to TP's lovingly crafted solid mahogany ukulele body.

I'm back at work tomorrow ... fan-bloody-tastic!
* This was heard repeatedly as we skirted Bristol and headed on towards our destination

Saturday, 23 February 2013

A cold day with a chance of badgers

Saturday was a quiet day. I took the dogs out mid morning and then gave TP some assistance with his electric ukulele project. He is at the stage where the body needs to be sanded down before the neck is attached. I must admit that the piece of salvaged mahogany he acquired looks fantastic now it has been finished and a coat of wax should really bring it to life.

After lunch 30% headed back in to Evesham on a mission  and left me to my own devices. I spent an hour or so drawing up some plans for a box frame to display the spear heads we bought at auction a couple of weeks ago and then wandered out to the garage to check on materials. I have most of the timber but will need a few fixings and sheet material before I can make much progress.  I also think there may well be some intense "head scratching" when I get to the point of mounting the spear heads and assembling the frame.

With that finished I lit a fire and settled down for a lazy afternoon. Some time later 30% returned from her trip to Evesham having successfully negotiated a price on an item we noticed in the old indoor market yesterday.*

We are now the owners of a stuffed badger. He is in lovely condition and simply needs a mount constructing to display him properly ...

... I must see if there is any more of that mahogany bench top going spare.
* it has long since closed as a market and now optimistically describes itself as an Antique Centre. Junk Emporium is a little closer to the truth.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Here's a story ...

About thirty years ago my cousin had a monumental row with her mother and stormed off with her boyfriend. If you knew either of them that spat would have come as no surprise as both of them were quite spoilt in their own way.

Now I appreciate that, as stories go, that isn't much of one, but I haven't finished. To this day neither Mother nor Daughter have had any contact.* They have lived separate lives, each cut off from the other. Sadie, for that is my cousin's name just packed her bags and disappeared, setting up a new life with her new family.

Many years ago Bad Man Senior attempted to get in touch with her and I recall that a meeting did take place but no bridges were built and, after that brief encounter, she returned to her chosen life. That must have been more than fifteen years ago now and in real terms she is now just a distant memory. A childhood friend that was as close as a sister in our pre-school years but is now just an uncommon name that rarely surfaces in my thoughts ...

... until today. First stop of the day for 30% and I was Littleton Auction rooms where the table yet again failed to make an appearance. We then headed over to Evesham for a wander around a couple of sale rooms and found a possible. ** Anyone who has read The Journal will know that Evesham is my home town and that I have developed a disdain for the place as it has deteriorated over the past thirty years. We therefore set out for Craycombe Farm in an attempt to lift our spirits.

At Craycombe Farm we wandered around the Antique units and were thawing out in a very expensive establishment when we got chatting to the Proprietors. They were an elderly couple and, after a lifetime of Antique Deals, were as pleasant and trustworthy as a pair of underfed Vampires. As 30% enquired about the cost of having a table re-finished I watched as the wife quite openly and repeatedly encouraged her husband to increase his estimate for this task. It transpired that their son ran an associated antique restoration business and the Vampire Queen was ensuring he got his blood too. As we chatted further we mentioned that our next stop was to visit Jim who runs the wood turning business on the Farm.*** At this point they asked  if I had attended Prince Henry's High School as their son had briefly been a pupil there and also knew Jim.

I explained that I knew Jim through his wife Rose and the conversation wained. We made our excuses and left, never once turning our backs on the blood sucking duo. As we walked around the corner we bumped in to Jim and were soon stood in his workshop catching up on each others' news and chatting about our day. We recounted our conversation with Vlad and his undead Queen and Jim happened to mention the name of their son; Carl**** ...

... somewhere in the dark recesses of my brain a neuron glimmered ... Carl, Carl ... the glow increased and, one after another, neurons started to fire. I knew that name. Why did I know that name? I asked Jim if Carl had any notoriety and he shrugged and said that there was nothing he could think of. Suddenly, out of the blue, it came to me. "Does he have a wife called Sadie?" I asked. Jim looked somewhat taken aback and confirmed that he did.

So, after the best part of thirty years, a chance encounter with a pair of blood thirsty dealers followed by a chat with a friend and I come within a whisker of a cousin that I haven't spoken to for a generation. Will I make contact? I was going to say probably not but I know that the true answer is no. We have both drifted too far apart for a reunion to have any value or meaning.
* I believe my aunt may have written a letter in an attempt to make the peace but nothing came of it.
** It's back story suggested that it could be had for much less than the asking price and it would need that discount as a re-polish would be necessary to restore it to it's former glory. In the end we decided not to make an offer as, after laying out a 6' x 4' rectangle on the dining room floor, 30% MAY have finally realised that a four or five foot diameter circular table is the better option.
*** Jim, as in Rosie & Jim.
****surname redacted in a half arsed attempt to preserve anonymity

Other stuff
Today I also briefly had possession of my new helmet until close examination showed that I had been sent an ex-display item with a scratch on the brow. The damned thing was rapidly repackaged and sent back with a request for the new helmet I had actually ordered.

30% and I filled our afternoon by making a huge batch of pea and ham soup until it was time to collect TP from school after his Austrian skiing trip. He had been delayed by coach problems, missed ferries and diversions to avoid motorway crashes and arrived about four hours later than expected but reported that the resort was fantastic providing the best snow and apres ski entertainment he had ever experienced.

It is no wonder his nickname is Spoilt Bastard.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The search for THE table continues ...

The search for a dining table continued today with visit to Stratford. After taking T&M for an early morning walk we headed over to the home of the Bard for a wander around an Auction House, I have to be honest and say that I am getting more and more confused as 30% is sending some very mixed messages. The tables she says she REALLY likes are in tip top condition, highly polished and with an asking price as high as the gloss on their surface. However the tables she directs my attention to in Auction Houses tend towards either scruffy or totally impractical.

Today was a perfect example. We had visited this Auction for a viewing of a dark oak table she had seen in their on-line catalogue. Let's put aside the fact that I didn't like the carved edge and legs for a moment and consider the fact that the fucking thing was over six feet long at it's shortest and with it's six extra leaved added would reach a length of over fourteen feet. It was totally impractical for a room that is only 12' x 14' and matched neither the chairs we have just sent to be re-upholstered nor the fire surround she insisted remained as focal point in the dining room ...

... "but the Auctioneer's estimate is three to four hundred pounds" she reminded me. I silently said "yes, and that is because a) it is pig fucking ugly and b) no-one has a room or enough chairs to accommodate the monstrosity. It was totally inappropriate for the house and the clutter of the viewing room would not allow a close inspection either.  Talk about a pig in a poke. I toned down my true opinion by several notches and we moved on to the next table. This one was oak and was very scruffy. The top was badly scratched and would need a complete re-polish. It was a million miles away from the tables she admires on-line and I simply advised that we could do a lot better.

We finished our perusal of the lots and then nipped out of town to visit another Dealer 30% had located on the web. She had forgotten to read his web site so I hastily made a phone call from a lay-by near his house and made an appointment to view his stock. He had a couple of tables that had potential but our two minutes of notice meant that much of his stock was stacked in a poorly lit warehouse, so we left making promises to make a further appointment when he could move our preferred tables in to his viewing room.

In the post-viewing analysis it became apparent that 30% did quite like the look of one of his tables but the price put in the same bracket as one she lusts after in the wilds of Yorkshire.

Lord, give me strength.

In the afternoon I did my utmost to stay out of the biting cold and set up a temporary workshop in the house. I finished the glazing of my oak picture frames and inserted the mounted photographs. We now have a trio of portraits of T&M and need to find wall space to accommodate them.

In the late afternoon I finally found time for a nap in front of the fire and in the evening 30% then moved on to her equally haphazard search for an Audi TT. It is fair to say that her automotive selection process is just like her approach to furniture buying.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A minor mauling by a shark

As I set out on one of the very few motorcycle rides I took last year I noticed that some of the trim on my aged, but immaculate Arai Quantum F was starting to come away from the helmet shell. I have had the helmet for over ten years and, to be honest, it was well overdue for replacement but my limited annual mileage, it's great condition and the price of a new lid all have repeatedly persuaded me to put it off for yet another season.

That season has finally arrived and, after taking T&M for an early morning walk, I set off to the wilds of Hinckley as that was the most conveniently* located helmet superstore.** The reason for travelling to a major retailer was to try on as many helmets as possible to ensure great comfort and fit. To a non-biker I suppose the closest experience is buying a pair of shoes ... they need to look right, they need to fit perfectly and they have to say the right thing about the wearer. Then, in addition to this, imagine if it were illegal to be out and about without shoes so you couldn't just take them off if they started to rub.

As I mentioned at the start of this entry, it is more than ten years since I last bought a helmet but I can still remember the experience. *** Each helmet manufacturer uses a slightly different shaped shell and, as a consequence, some helmets fit better than others, so there I was in an Industrial unit on the outskirts of Hinckley trying on helmet after helmet ...

... I can report that nothing has really changed. The following facts sum up my helmet buying experience;

  1. Bikers have the most appalling taste in helmet graphics
  2. I don't know what happened to the wearers of AGV and Bell helmets in their formative years but am guessing that their heads were bound and compressed in some way
  3. Shoei's are good fit BUT just not good enough
  4. Why is is that every Shark helmet I put on bends the tops of my ears over?
  5. Arai helmets fit me best.

As a result I tried to walk away with a size L, gloss black Arai Axcess II lid but was advised that they were out of stock. I wasn't particularly disheartened as the Internet is full of on-line motorcycle gear retailers and I was now assured that Arai helmets still fit me better than anything else out there.

Once home I found a retailer that was happy to sell me a new helmet with free delivery for twenty five pounds less than the establishment I visited ...

... so I ignored that, added a hundred quid to my budget, and went and bought myself a replacement Arai Quantum instead.

Other Stuff

The afternoon was spent freezing my whatsits off in the garage routing the rebates in the two oak picture frames I have made. These have now been sanded and given a coat of wax polish and hopefully I will find time tomorrow to glaze them and mount the pictures.
* can 45 miles away be classified as convenient?
** They really do exist.
*** and the location; Farnborough. I took a minor diversion when down in the region for a meeting and spent a happy hour spending the insurance money**** received after dropping my Shark on the garage floor.
**** plus another tidy sum from my bank balance

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Sauce for the Goose?

30% was good to her word and made an appearance shortly after eight o'clock this morning.* After breakfast I nipped out to the garage and glued and cramped the picture frame that I had started yesterday. We then nipped in to town for a whizz around the supermarket, and a couple of other errands.

On our return we lunched and afterwards I happened to mention that I might take a nap on the sofa. 30% gave me a look and was about to say something but rapidly reconsidered and uttered "it doesn't matter". Now I have enough sense to know that when 30% says it doesn't matter what she is not saying DOES matter. I enquired as to the nature of the thing that didn't matter and it appears that my proposal to have a Tuesday afternoon kip on the sofa was not a good use of our holiday and I should be doing something more ...

I did try pointing out that her viewpoint could possibly be viewed as a tad hypocritical in view of yesterday's mega lie-in but this was simply met with a withering look ...

... Oh well, the dining room door has now been sanded and coated with liquid wax.
* Her normal reluctance to rise reminds me of a saying BMS used to chide my elder sister when she was in her teens; You'll lie in bed until the crows build a nest up your arse. Then you'll wake and wonder how the sticks got there.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Staycation; Day 3

On Saturday I mentioned the fact that 30% does like a lie-in and described Saturday's extended sleeping session as Gold Standard. Well if that described Saturday's inability to get out of bed, God knows what term I should use for today's session ...

... I wasn't exactly up early myself but managed to let out and feed the chickens, take a leisurely breakfast, make bread*, walk the dogs, re-salt the belly pork, order a load of logs and take in most of an hour long television programme before she sheepishly surfaced at eleven thirty.

We had an early lunch / late breakfast and then I loaded a set of 6 dining chairs in the the Defender and we drove them over to Sally; our Upholsterer of choice. The plan is to have Sally give the chairs a light clean and re-polish and then re-upholster with a grey green leather that we have recently purchased. We drank coffee and exchanged news with Sally before nipping in to the outskirts of Worcester to see whether Dave the Stripper had anything interesting in his shed.

Fortunately, for the sake of our wallets, Dave had nothing that caught our eye but one of his men was able to help me out by providing a couple of strips of mahogany that can be used to repair the damaged dental moulding on the corner cupboard we acquired on Saturday.**

Back at home we had a couple of hours of the afternoon left. 30% set to on the corner cupboard and gave it a good going over with furniture cleaner and I wandered out to the garage ...

... in the Autumn I had made a start on a trio of oak picture frames to display some prints of T&M. I had managed to complete the first frame but numbers two and three had never made it off the drawing board. Well today I made a start on putting this right and can report that frame number two is glued up and cramped on the workbench and the components for frame number three are cut and will be glued up tomorrow.
* the bread maker has a three and a half hour cycle to produce a loaf and it was out and cooling as her Ladyship made her first appearance of the day
** I can report that after twenty four hours in the house the door closes. It is snug, but it shuts.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Staycation; Day 2

After crowing about having a freezer drawer full of Guanciale* and subsequently cramming it in to virtually everything she cooks, 30% reported yesterday that we were running short of home cured bacon. She offered a plea to the Gods to encourage Kathy H-R to slaughter a couple of pigs** whilst I took a slightly more direct approach ...

... and that is why the first job this morning was to bone a piece of belly pork and start the dry curing process. By the end of the week this will be a fine piece of streaky bacon hanging from a hook in the kitchen. A week further on it will be ready for slicing or cubing.

Next job on the list was to get T&M exercised so it was out and around the Three Miler. Upon my return I spent a lazy morning pottering before we sat down to a lunch of scrambled eggs and bacon on toast. I wouldn't normally be so precise about my repast but 30% pointed out that everything on the plate had been produced here at The Pile; home made bread, home cured bacon and eggs courtesy of the chickens.

In the afternoon we continued our hunt for a table and visited a couple of Antique warehouses over towards Stratford. Neither had what we wanted but we did end up purchasing a fine reproduction oak Captain's chair upholstered in black leather. It looks much more appropriate in front of the desk than the crappy pine chair I currently use.

At this rate this holiday is going to cost us a bloody fortune.

On the way back home we popped in to an Antique shop tucked away on a back road between Stratford and Alcester. As we walked in I noticed a copper lined, mahogany planter that looked rather familiar. I was certain I had seen it for sale at Littleton Auctions a week ago and we asked the proprietor if that was it's origin. He sheepsihly admitted it and almost*** looked embarrassed when I commented that I now knew his margin and knew how far he was likely to move on his prices. As we wandered around 30% noticed an oak arts & crafts sideboard that had also interested us at the auction. It had sold for £85 and was now on offer with an added coat of furniture wax for more than £360. It will come as no surprise that we made no purchases at this particular establishment.

With the afternoon drawing to a close we headed home, lit the fire and settled in for the evening. Supper was eaten from our laps and loose plans were discussed for the rest of the week.
* A bacon made from cured pigs' cheeks
** None of her customers want the head so we get them given to us
*** the word almost is important. He was, after all, an Antique Dealer

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Staycation; Day 1

Saturday started abruptly at seven o'clock ...

... that git of a son of mine had left for his skiing trip yesterday without bothering to cancel his repeating alarm as a result 30% and I were awakened ready for school. 30% can sleep on a clothes line in a hurricane but once I'm awake, I'm awake so I dressed and wandered down stairs ...

... after multiple cups of coffee, release of poultry, the early morning news and my breakfast I realised that 30% was in for a gold standard lie-in and that I may as well do something constructive with my time. I rounded up T&M and took them for a walk around the Three Miler. I arrived back home a little after eleven o'clock to find 30%, still pyjama'd, preparing a Spaghetti Bolognese on the stove.

We discussed our plans for the day and an early lunch followed by a tour of the Leominster Antique shops was settled upon. We had a pleasant time in the little Herefordshire Market town and saw plenty of splendid pieces of furniture but none of the tables were the one. On our return we stopped at a roadside cafe and Antiques barn as we descended from Bringsty Common.  As we mooched amongst some gloomy containers we came across a dusty mahogany corner cupboard. It was in great original condition and the only issue seemed to be that the door would not shut. The container was unheated so our guess was that the door may have swollen in the damp and was now binding on the face frame. It's price was very attractive so we took a punt and popped it in the back  of the car.

I just hope that the door shuts after a few days in a centrally heated home.

Friday, 15 February 2013

I'm outta here

It is Friday and my last day at work before a week's holiday. I think it fair to say that I am so glad to be away from work even though I know that I will return to a complete and utter nightmare. The reason for this is that my current project is running behind schedule due to delays in finalising the client requirements. Everyone knows that we are at least a week behind in our plan and everybody but one is freely admitting it. The problem is that the One is the Lead Sales Exec in America.  In his heart of hearts he knows that he is not going to get this signed by the end of March but there is so much Senior Executive focus on this deal that he cannot be seen to paint the true picture ...

... as a result he spent a merry forty five minutes on the phone last night attempting to apportion blame to this side of the pond. We stood firm against his unjust criticisms and pointed out that his minimalist approach to communications and ludicrously short timescales for review of documents* weren't really helping move things along. To make matters worse the Client in Europe is not really focussed on progressing this deal as they are under contract for another forty months so an extension is understandably not at the top of their to do list. In the end he did what was expected and promised to improve the trans-Atlantic communications and to apply pressure to the client where vital information was not forthcoming. **

 The realist in me recognises that we are going to be worked like slaves to achieve the non-achievable target and then there will be a last minute extension. This is why I am taking a week off; first, it allows me to recharge my batteries and secondly, it is one less week of dealing with bullshit. This is not a mature approach. Rushing this project will introduce errors and the last minute extension will be used to get Senior Executives to mandate the release of an imperfect product rather than taking it at the appropriate pace and delivering a decent proposal. In view of all of this I did my best to do some preemptive arse covering and had a briefing call with my Second Line Manager this afternoon. ****

By six o'clock I had run out of steam couldn't be bothered to do any more.  I set my out of office, changed my voice-mail message and turned off my e-mail application.

Bollocks to the lot of them.
* in his diatribe it became apparent that when he sent over a document for us to review what he expected back was comments along the lines of that's great, go for it.  What he most definitely did not want was expert analysis and identification of areas of risk that could expose Dante's to excessive cost or poor service delivery.
** I equate this statement the same degree of trust and belief as I do the response the cheque is in the post ***
*** This is the second biggest lie in the history of mankind. The first is no Darling, I won't come in your mouth.
**** I hope that a) she read between the lines and b) remembers we had the conversation

Thursday, 14 February 2013

A change of plan

30% and I were both really looking forward to a week away in Pwll Du Bay, so it came as a disappointment to learn that our tranquil week was likely to be somewhat less solitary than expected ...

... The owner contacted us to advise that the building works on the cottage had overrun and that the drilling for the ground water heating system was likely to be a backdrop to our week on The Gower. The main reason we go there is because it is so quiet and people free so the idea of spending time with a band of merry Ground Works Contractors was absolutely not what we had in mind.* I should point out that she did offer a partial refund but in the end we decided to cancel and re-book for Easter.**

As a result 30% and I will be having a staycation next week. We have no real plans but I am guessing that we will get a few jobs at home completed and have the time to actually go out and hunt for the dining table and possibly a new car for 30%.

The one thing I am sure about is that I am most definitely not telling Dante's about my change of plans. As far as they are concerned I am away on holiday in the wilds of Wales.
* especially if the weather was appalling and we wanted to spend the day at the cottage in front of the fire.
** there is a possibility of better weather then too

Monday, 11 February 2013

Oh Joy, it is Monday.

A couple of inches of wet snow had fallen overnight and the garden looked quite attractive in the early morning light. However, signs of thawing were already apparent and it didn't look like it would lie on the ground for long.

Work was it's usual endless riot of laughter and amusement. Today's big news was that my request for replacement of the individual assigned to provide holiday cover had been ignored. As a result only two of the five days I am away will be covered. To make matters worse my deputy only works three days a week so I either need to perform my hand over on Wednesday or, more realistically, spend Friday evening writing a War and Peace email attempting to describe how to keep this shit* on course.

Of more interest were the lots that 30% collected from the Auction House at lunchtime; the coal box looks fantastic after a quick polish and is now sitting beside the fireplace in the dining room. As for the African spear tips, they too are very attractive and today's game is to lay them out in a pattern that would look attractive as a framed mount.

You could do some mischief with these
* this is not a typo

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Anyone know how to make an electric ukulele?

Sunday's weather forecast had never sounded promising; cold and wet, turning to snow later and the Met Office had certainly got the morning's weather spot on. There was never going to be a dry spell today and I also had a lot to do so I bit the bullet and took T&M out for a soggy walk whilst 30% drove TP over to the rugby club for a training session.

I was out and back by ten thirty and spent a merry ten minutes toweling down the dogs before thawing myself with a cup of coffee. 30% was back by about eleven and I got her to help me carry yesterday's trunk project from the garage in to the house where I applied a coat of wax polish. This took up the remainder of the morning and I finished as lunch was served.

The afternoon was spent back out in the garage assisting TP's with his electric ukulele project. Today's objective was to prepare the solid mahogany body for the electronics. A socket was drilled out for the jack plug and the mortice for the volume and tone controls was chiseled out. We also got the holes drilled through the body for the wires connecting controls, jack and pick-up.

This took most of the afternoon and it is fair to say that it was most definitely not the weather for working in a large unheated garage. As a result my next priority task was to light a fire and thaw my bones in front of it. As the daylight faded the rain turned to sleet and then snow ...

... looks like I will be drying off the dogs AGAIN before I go to bed tonight.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

I need a break

Saturday seemed to be a day of fetching and carrying combined with frustrating loitering.

The day started with me running TP over to a nearby Paintball establishment to link up with his rugby mates for a team building activity. Having completed this paternal duty I returned home for a coffee whilst 30% and I entered a few on-line bids on a local Auction house's website.  We had attended the viewing yesterday evening and there were a couple of items that we quite liked, however neither of us thought hanging around an auction room on the off-chance of being successful was a good use of our morning.

30% has hopes of finding the table at this fortnightly auction but I am not so sure. I appreciate that a table might come up but the general condition of the lots suggests that there is a quality gap between what she is looking for and what tends to be up for sale. Then there is the factor of how long she is prepared to leave the dining room without furniture. To be honest I  think a bargaining session with a relatively local antique dealer is more likely to be fruitful.*

With our bids made I donned hat and coat and took T&M for a walk around a drizzly Three Miler.** On my return my next task was to pop over to the local feed store and pick up some shavings for the chicken coops. I returned and found myself with one of the aforementioned periods of loitering ... 30% advised that she would be getting lunch in about half an hour and so I was left with 30 minutes to fill. Every task I had on my to do list would fill much more than this and so I kicked my heels and hung around frustrated a not being able to get on with anything.

After lunch I finally succumbed to 30%'s unsubtle hints*** and clipped T&M's faces. Having got this ten minute job out of the way, I then paid a call on BMS and SMS. The reason for this visit was manyfold; to catch up on their news, to reduce our glut of eggs, to borrow a router for TP's electric ukulele project and to collect my exchanged Christmas Present. We chatted and drank tea as the afternoon passed and I realised that TP needed to be picked up.

Next stop was the Paintballing site to collect a cold and soggy son before heading back to The Pile. It was now about four o'clock and, as I said at the start of this entry, all I had done was fetch and carry and loiter for five minute spells before my next task became due. When we got home the auction results had finally listed on the internet and we now appear to be the owners of a fine mahogany coal box **** and a collection of African spear heads. *****

It was now nearly five o'clock and I didn't feel like I had really achieved much so I wandered out to the garage to take out my frustrations on a few pieces of timber ...

... a couple of hours later I was pleased to report that a stripped pine trunk has now been sanded and given a coat of wood reviver and will be ready for polishing tomorrow.
* although more costly than she would like.
** Note to self: I saw C&M walking the Three Miler earlier in the week and C was pushing a trundle wheel. When I asked he confirmed that he was measuring it to see whether it really was three miles in length. I must remember to ask him what his findings were ... and it is true of C that once a Quantity Surveyor, always a Quantity Surveyor.
*** Hello Darling, does your face need clipping? repeated ad nauseam
**** in need of nothing more than a coat of wax polish
***** in need of mounting in some sort of box frame

Friday, 8 February 2013

Easy come, easy go

A couple of hours later there was another knock at the door. I fought my way past two frenetic canines and opened the door. It was yet another middle-aged lady* and she too was lacking the expected parcel, stylus and electronic pad. "Hello" she said "Have you got my chicken?". I confirmed that I had and that it was merrily pecking away in one of my runs. She then went on to regale me with an unnecessary narrative of how distraught her daughter would be if the bird could not be found.**

I then threw her a curve ball by suggesting that she came back when it was dark as it would be far easier to retrieve the roosting bird from the coop than to chase it up and down the run. She showed signs of  a visible mental hiccup as she assimilated this suggestion,  agreed to my plan and departed.

As I returned to my desk I considered the fact that from her perspective it might have looked a little odd that I was not prepared to instantly return the abscondee to her less than perfect care. However she was obviously unaware that I have a fucking job of work to do and have far better things to do that run around after middle-aged women and their errant poultry problems.
* actually there were two of them but one of them remained silent and looked as if she really didn't want to be there.
** I did what any man would do here and tuned 80% 90% 95% of this wittering out and waited for a gap where I was expected to insert a vague non-committal response.

Receiving stolen goods?

This morning I was sat at the desk mulling over various tasks and how to progress them effectively with as little personal effort as possible when I heard a knock at the door. "Ah" I thought "that must be the upholstery hide that 30% has ordered for the dining room chairs". I rushed to the door, fighting my way past two barking poodles, and found a middle aged lady stood on the step. With a keen eye I took in the lack of large parcel or stylus and electronic pad and quickly came to the conclusion that she was no Delivery Driver.

Her next question took me aback slightly; "Do you keep chickens?" she asked. I replied in the affirmative and she then advised that she had found one in her garden and from her non-expert description I decided that it could be one of our Marans. I grabbed a pair of shoes and followed her down the road passing the time of day. As we walked I started to think that this was a bloody long way for one of my birds to have strayed. Your average chicken is not generally an adventurous creature. Provided that there is food and water, a place to lay eggs and decent accommodation they will come home to roost each and every night. The phrase coming home to roost is perfectly true of Galliforme behaviour. To have reached this lady's garden this bird would have needed to cross at least eight or ten gardens and a couple of estate roads. I kept my concerns to myself and chattered away ...

... eventually we reached her house and I was shown through to the garden. There on the patio, pecking at scraps of red pepper, was a Maran hen. With a turn of speed that surprised the owner, I had the hen captured and tucked under one arm. As I was walking through the house saying thank you and so forth the hen shifted in my grip and splayed one wing and it was at that point that I noticed that it's wings had been clipped. I pointed this out to the owner along with the fact that this proved that the bird was most definitely not one of mine. She advised that if I was happy to take it she was happy to see it go so I left ensuring that she was aware that I now labelled her as some dark, nefarious trafficker in stolen poultry.

As for the hen, it is now in the run with our dozen legitimate pullets getting itself on the outside of as many layers pellets as it can stuff in to it's crop. I made a note of her address and mentally considered dropping off half a dozen eggs as a thank you. Mind you, if the bugger doesn't lay, I also know where to take the damned thing back.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

A suggestion?

I rarely make reference to happenings deemed  newsworthy as there are plenty of real and virtual pages covering them but today was a slow day so I have a suggestion for UK food producers ...

... have a chat with your packaging company of choice and get two extra stickers produced; one saying 25% off and the other stating may contain horse meat.

Problem solved.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Going nowhere fast

I checked out of my hotel and was in the Office bright and early this morning.  As with yesterday, I bumped in to one of my colleagues on arrival and we settled to clear accumulated emails before today's meeting. During our conversations it became apparent that the sessions planned for Thursday and Friday were only 2 hours in duration. We both agreed that this did not warrant me staying in London for another two days and that a conference line should be made available for me to dial in to. I was delighted to not have to use Dante's God awful booking system to locate a hotel for tonight and looked forward to being at home, however late in the evening that might be.

Today's sessions were slightly more relevant to my role but it was apparent that there is a significant gulf between Dante's view of when the new Agreement will sign and the client's time line. Our Sales Guys want this done and dusted by the end of March but the Client doesn't expect to have a clear statement on requirements for two or three weeks at least.* These requirements are key to finalising my work and if I was to make a bet I would say that a late April signing is going to be challenging enough.

The workshop finally folded mid afternoon and by half past four I was Oxford bound on a commuter filled train. I had escaped any official actions from the workshops but had a personal list of activities and enquiries I needed to progress.

 At the moment there is a distinct lack of clarity on this project. Everywhere I look I see misunderstanding and contradiction.  I also hear a lot of waffle but no-one appears to actually be creating targets or objectives and steering this in the right direction.

This badly needs some focus and planning.
* and, if you ask me, that is bloody optimistic

Monday, 4 February 2013

Why am I here?

As intimated yesterday, it was an early start this morning. It was probably worse* for 30% as she had kindly volunteered to drop me off at the station and was therefore hauling her arse out of bed for no personal gain.

I managed to catch some sleep on the train down to Paddington and crossed the city without delay. At around nine thirty I walked in through the electronic security barriers at one of Dante's principal Circles of Hell and found myself  face to face with the Imps, Daemons and Clients** I was there to meet... Perfect Timing.

Let's forget sequential event recording here and drop back to the end of last week. There was an extreme lack of clarity over the need for me to be in London. The main driver for my attendance was a series of Client workshops held over four days and it was hoped, note  HOPED, that these meetings would clarify the changes they require to their service. There was no real detail on objectives or outputs beyond the first two days. The net result of this lack of clarity was that the Lead US Sales Exec had already declined to attend and I responded by reducing my hotel booking to a single night with the intention of taking stock on Tuesday ...

... I am so glad I did. Today's meeting was attended by more than a dozen senior client and Dante's managers and executives and featured the standard, unimpressive, corporate sandwiches and nibbles. The hourly cost of the attendees must have been colossal and was inversely proportional to the output of the session. It most definitely did not identify required changes to the service and was actually a mothers' meeting of uninformed individuals recounting half truths over historic service issues. At the end of the day not one actual action or direction had been set to address any of the problems. It had just been a lot of hot air. It became apparent during the meeting that the Client Team had no knowledge of the what they had procured and expected a completely different range of services to be delivered. To use an analogy they had bought a boat and were now wondering why they couldn't use it to drive in luxury from London to Birmingham in two hours. Dante's weren't getting away from the session without criticism either. It was apparent that they had made no effort in educating the client in what they had and, more importantly, hadn't procured and also had made no effort to assist the customer in rectifying the gulf in expectations. During the day there were also intimations that the some of the individuals running the service had been derelict in their duties.

I did my best to remain to attentive and, during breaks, to negotiate an escape route back to Worcestershire tomorrow evening. I have to report that, so far, I have made no significant progress but the hotel is fully booked for Tuesday night ...

... I am not yet sure whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.
* I may have mentioned before that she is NOT one of nature's Larks
** I suppose I should use an alias term for Clients and Customers. I can think of a particular word beginning with c that might suit

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Grudge Match

Sunday too was also fully booked. The morning started very early and I was out walking T&M before the clock struck nine. Whilst I was out traipsing around the Three Miler, 30% dropped TP off at the rugby club for pre match practice. We returned to the club in time for the eleven o’clock kick off…

… it was a local Derby against TP’s old club and it didn’t start too well. TP’s team were down by a good few tries by half time and looked lack-lustre at best. The opposition were also fairly aggressive and the expectation was of a landslide victory. However in the second half TP’s team returned to the pitch invigorated and played incredibly well. They didn’t do enough to win but only lost by a couple of points and certainly outplayed the opposition. It was a shame that this was most definitely a grudge match and whilst a few punches on the pitch can be overlooked the one thrown by a member of the away team as they were clapped off the pitch wasn’t  particularly sporting.

In the afternoon TP and I returned to the garage and spent several hours cutting a socket in to his ukulele body perfectly sized to receive the donor neck. The light was fading as we returned to the house and another weekend had been exhausted.

The final task of the day was to pack an overnight bag for next week’s trip to London. I haven’t a clue how long to pack for as the information on the Client workshops is scant at best. I was originally going to stay until Friday but am now hoping to be coming back home on Tuesday night. If my plans go awry I could end up sleeping in Cardboard City on the South Bank.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Like that was ever going to happen

The weather forecast for Saturday indicated that it was going to be cold but sunny, perfect weather for trialling my recently acquired Rolleicord with it’s roll of Ilford HP5 waiting to be exposed. I made this intention clear to 30% and she seemed to be in agreement, so my plans for Saturday left the bulk of the afternoon free to wander around in an eccentric fashion with an antique hanging from my neck…

…or so I thought. The discussions with TP earlier in the week made it clear that I needed to set aside a goodly amount of time to assist him with his electric ukulele project. 30% also advised that she had arranged for a visit by Dave and Dot, the former of whom is the guitar player in 30%’s Dad’s band and has assembled a few axes in his time. On top of this I was also advised that this was the final opportunity for TP to spend some time with his girlfriend before heading off to Austria for his half term skiing trip. I saw my plans evaporating in the heat of familial demands. I rapidly gave these matters some thought and came up with a plan …

… it was arranged that TP’s GF would spend the afternoon and evening with us thereby satisfying the requirement for time spent together and, at the same time, leaving some time in the morning to work on the stalled ukulele project.

And so Saturday arrived. The weather was as predicted and I was out very early in the day to get T&M walked. As I returned through the Church Yard I was taken by the Church in the sunlight and, after dropping the dogs off at home, I returned to take a few trial photos before rushing back to meet up with Dave & Dot.

Dave’s advise was valuable and, as soon as he left, TP and I wandered out to the garage and made a start on cutting a halving joint on the ukulele neck. This is new territory for me as I have never worked on a musical instrument before and unlike most woodwork I cannot simply cut another piece of timber if I make a cock up. At this point I suppose I ought to explain that TP has constructed a body from mahogany and the project involves the transplant of the neck, bridge and other components from another electric ukulele. Basically, if we balls it up we will need to acquire another ukulele to obtain the donor components. The session went well and the result of our efforts was a jig to hold the neck and a neat halving joint cut.

We wandered back in to the house, pleased with our efforts, just as TP’s GF arrived. As I thawed 30% reminded me that we needed to drive over to Alcester to pick up an office chair. It was an eBay win and looked ideal for TP’s bedroom d├ęcor. She mentioned that a brief visit to the supermarket was needed and that she had also happened across an Audi TT coupe in a garage in Redditch. I took my camera along on the slim chance of there being some light left to take pictures but I already knew that the five shots I took in the churchyard were today’s photographic output.

The chair got collected, the supermarket got visited and the TT got inspected*. We returned home in the fading light. I lit a fire and a start was made on supper.

Normally my Journal entries tend to have very little material recorded after dinner but today was an exception. My final task of the day was to take TP’s GF home …

… as I reversed out of their poorly lit driveway I heard a sickening crunch. I had only gone and reversed 30%’s car in to the low wall that borders the driveway. I inspected the damage when I got home and could see that a visit by the local Chips Away body repair man is on the horizon.

* it looked like an honest car and after a valet and some work on a couple of paintwork blemishes it may well be the one. A refundable deposit was placed and a test drive was provisionally arranged for next Wednesday.

Friday, 1 February 2013

A change is as good as a rest

Today  it was time for something completely different ... well, when I say completely different, there were actually quite a few similarities but, as things that have similarities go, this one was completely different. Let me explain ...

... Dante's Nine Circles of Hell likes to be viewed in a positive way by the general public at large and consequently has a Division of Daemons who arrange voluntary activities out in the community. At this point, as an aside, I would love to see a size comparison of the Voluntary Division Daemons and the Tax Division Daemons as, I am sure we would all know which one was the larger team.* Getting back on track, today Tigger and I had, for one day only, arranged a small, two venue tour. Yep, most of the band were scattered to the distant horizons but today we were back on the road as a two man ensemble for we had taken a proverbial step forward and volunteered for one of this year's community programmes.

After a many weeks of waiting and a number of frustratingly unanswered e-mails with less than sparkling individuals I had managed to coordinate and schedule the voluntary activities for today. ** As a result we found ourselves trundling up to the North, Eastern Districts of the fine and glamorous city of Birmingham to install some Nursery equipment at two Children's Day Care Centres.

It was great to be back in Tigger's company and I think we both thought that it had been far too long since we had got stuck in to a jar of hunny together. They may not have been any profit in today's activities but we were both fairly sure that it was likely to be sticky in some areas.

We arrived at the first venue and introduced ourselves at the reception. Whilst our welcome was not exactly frosty, we were most certainly not greeted with any enthusiasm and were just pointed at a huge cardboard box and then ignored. The job was not particularly arduous and entailed assembling large brightly coloured pieces of plastic and strapping in some cheap technology to ensure that it was a) bloody noisy and b) had lots of fast moving, anthropomorphic monstrosities to entertain the little bastards darlings.

As neither of us had done anything like this before there was much head scratching and consultation of instructions and like all proper workmen we had an expectation of a steady stream of tea and coffee. This was thirsty work and whilst the paying guests appeared to by nicely catered for, receiving milk and snacks on a regular basis, Tigger and I were left gasping and spitting feathers. During the two hours we were there not one drink was offered and when we did need to talk to the Nursery staff to ask vital questions like where are the the other boxes? and is there someone we can just talk through what we have done? we were given a less than effusive response... Miserable Sods.

It was then time for a true workmen's lunch, taken in the cab of the Defender, looking out across the fine vistas of the local Civic Centre. Refreshed and re-energised we drove over to our next venue. Our reception there was as cheese is to chalk and we were warmly greeted, instantly offered hot beverages and settled in to our working area. Whenever anyone walked past we were chatted with and one of their members of staff had actually done a good deal of the assembly prior to our arrival. As a result we were done and dusted in an hour and were trundling back towards The Pile before two o'clock in the afternoon.

It was an enjoyable day as a) there was actually a physical product as a result of our efforts b) the work had been done as a team and c) once the first unit had been assembled we knew what we were doing and the work could be progressed without the constant battle and confusion that is at the very core of what we normally do.

Oh, and if you are looking for a Nursery in the vicinity of Birmingham Airport I know which one I would recommend.
* One would like to think that these two Divisions are rarely ever involved with each other but the cynic in me would think that they are, in fact, quite closely connected.
** I did say that there were similarities