Friday, 31 May 2013

Filling a Gap

After a three day weekend that was periodically interrupted by work concerns I wandered in to the Nearest Circle of Hell on Tuesday to find that my concerns were valid...

... On his last day before disappearing for a week long holiday the Lead Project Manager asked me to pull together a set of slides for a Project Review on his first day back. I made reference to some of the new processes* associated with this review and got a blank stare in return. This was the cause of my concerns as my limited recent experiences were  enough to know that the new process was a complete and utter bastard with huge amounts of checklists, artifacts and prescribed deliverables that needed to be in place before the review call.

Having given the back story let's return to Tuesday morning where I made the acquaintance of the Bid Manager responsible for arranging this review. It is fair to say that he was as knowledgeable as the Lead Project Manager so I sent him off to do some research and get the review arranged. 

I now knew what my working week would be like. I would be struggling to pull together a vast raft of materials for a solution review by a team that are beyond Germanic in their nit picking, inflexible approach to procedures. This was not going to be fun and, to make matters worse, I know very little about the solution and the team of SMIs are so busy that they don't have time to do their own work let alone help me with mine. 

There was a brief ray of sunshine in to my dark world when I discovered that  next Monday is a Bank Holiday in Ireland and the review could not take place until next Tuesday. This would allow me some time to get the Lead PM back up to speed and another 24 hours to cobble some shit together for the review.

Having gained a little clarity on how shitty my week would be, I stepped though a metaphorical door and started to look at project costs. After twenty minutes in that room I rather fancied stepping back out and getting a metaphorical Bricklayer in to brick up the door way using quick drying cement. Basically the costs are monumental and there are still more to come in. The target price is minuscule and there is unlikely to be enough time to do anything but watch a big number get even bigger.**

I am not going to have a great week and, to be honest, I don't plan to document much of it here.

Wednesday was another day spent at the Nearest Circle of Hell attempting to document and describe the Beast for the review. I managed to make limited headway today and wandered out of the Office at five thirty with few ticks on my to do list.

One might ask why I wasn't burning the midnight oil on this deal and you can take your pick from these options:-

a) Budgetary issues mean that I need to limit time spent working on this deal
b) Most of my deliverables will not be available until the very last minute
c) I have no skin in the game
d) I have tickets for a Box at the Palace Theatre in Redditch to see Andy Parson
e) all of the above

I spent today working from home as I had an important 'phone call in my diary this morning. It is fair to say that a planning and communications cock up meant that I was fifteen minutes late for the call and had to be chased to dial in.

The call was OK but went nowhere near as well as I had hoped for and I have spent the past few days reliving the conversation and thinking I wish I had said ...


On a more positive note; the chap who bought our old pine table on eBay finally pitched up to collect the damned thing. As a result we now have two crisp fifties in the loose change pot and the Hall is now free of furniture. This means that we can now set up the home office in the Hall and make a start on the Study refurbishment.

Oh Joy! Today I was again in the Nearest Circle of Hell for an Executive Review of the project I am baby minding. I spent ten hours solid *** listening to a rehash of the review that took place last Wednesday. I have to say that good things came out of this review but it was far too late for the observations and recommendations to be implemented effectively when we have to have everything finalised by the end of next Monday. 

I eventually shut down the laptop and headed home at around six thirty in the evening and was extremely glad of the G&T that was presented to me when I walked in to the kitchen at home.

In an attempt to make me feel like I had achieved something this week I hung up the slate notice board that I had made over the past few days.

* I acquired brief overview of these on the last project
** The project price has to stabilise before you can start to trim it back.
*** I left the room on five occasions and each departure was for no more than 8 minutes. Two of the trips were for beverages, one to grab a sandwich and the other were to the Gents.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Relaxing while I have the chance

There is not a huge amount to report today. I applied a couple of coats of Danish Oil to the slate/blackboard/kitchen notice board that I made yesterday and left it to dry in the garage. I'll finish it with a coat of wax, fix a slotted mirror plate on the back and it will be ready to hang in the kitchen. It hasn't been the most complicated of projects but sometimes simple things are the best.

By mid-morning I was at a loose end and 30% suggested a walk through the fields and woods on a nearby Country Estate. We threw T&M in the back of the Defender, drove over and parked by a Barn that has been converted in to a group of small commercial premises in the middle of nowhere.* We had a lovely walk in the Spring sunshine and our timing was perfect in that we arrived back at The Pile hungry and just in time for lunch.

I must admit that idleness got the better of me after the walk and the afternoon was spent watching TV and snoozing on the sofa. It was, after all, a Bank Holiday Monday and therefore almost mandatory that  I took it easy for at least part of the day.

I'm back in work tomorrow and have to admit that the weekend has been punctuated with nagging thoughts that the latest projects is nowhere near ready for the reviews that are planned over the next seven days.
* It comes as no surprise that the tenures of most of the businesses there are measured in months rather than years as there is little passing trade or traffic. You would need damned good reputation or web presence to stand any chance of survival at such a remote location.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Blackboards, Bikes and a Birthday

I had nothing that I needed to do this morning so I wandered out to the garage to knock up something that I had been considering for a while. Let me explain ...

... In the kitchen there hangs a rather kitsch blackboard and I bloody loathe it. I tolerate it's presence as it a very useful thing but I dislike it in almost equal measure. The reasons I dislike it are down to it's design. It is tall and narrow and consequently shopping lists become a list of abbreviations. Any Teacher will tell you that chalk tends to dictate its font size and this board is obviously designed for 24Pt text but the commonly available chalk in the UK is more like 36Pt.  As a result, in the near future I will be proposing a set of new domestic abbrevs including WUL for washing up liquid.

The other reason I cannot stand this item is that 45% of it's useful area is taken up with a naff graphic of a ginger cat. I don't like the picture. It is reasonably well executed but has not one iota of appeal to me, and consequently makes a poorly dimensioned blackboard even less useful. The final nail in the coffin of this piece is that the blackboard paint doesn't have a particularly good matt finish which means that the chalk often fails to leave a mark ...

... Here ends the case for the Prosecution.

So, as I was saying, I wandered out to the garage and found a thin 30cm square slate left over from when I tiled the kitchen floor. A diamond cutting blade in an angle grinder made light work of resizing the tile and I ended up with a 30cm x 24cm rectangle.* All I needed to do now was construct a frame. As I was fiddling with some pieces of scrap oak floor boards I noticed that the slate slotted neatly in to the groove in the edge of the boards. This was an ideal way to hold the slate within the frame and would give me a product reminiscent of a Victorian school slate.

I set to with table saw, planer and mitre saw and soon had the frame components laid out on the bench. At this point I was disturbed by 30% and I noticed two things about her arrival in the garage; firstly she had not brought me a cup of coffee and secondly she was hastily wrapped in a towel and looked mildly flustered ...

... She hurriedly advised that I needed to go and collect TP as he had experienced another catastrophic cycle failure on his way over to the Handcart & Fortified Structure. I whizzed down the road and found that one of his bike's pedals had parted company from the main crank. The bike got thrown in the back of the car and TP was dropped off at work. At this point I calculate that TP is managing no more than three cycle journeys without experiencing component failure and necessary repair! I commented that 30%'s cycle was much like herself; in great shape twenty years ago but now rapidly falling apart and demanding high maintenance.

This did not get the laugh I had hoped for!

I sloped back to the garage where I glued and clamped the frame. Then I wandered in for a spot of lunch before taking T&M for a walk. It was a glorious afternoon and, upon my return,  I couldn't resist the urge to take the Ducati out for a ride. I headed in to Redditch to pick up a pair of 14mm crank nuts to repair TP's bike and then headed over to see Bad Man Senior taking the most twisty roads I could find.

I spent a very pleasant half an hour or so with BMS, Tilly and Brother J drinking tea and catching up on their news before heading back home. I put my bike away and then spent five minutes fixing TP's bike.

With the evening rapidly approaching I was urged to get changed as 30%'s Mum and Dad were joining us for dinner. This had been arranged to celebrate 30%'s Dad's birthday which took place yesterday. Dinner was most pleasant and after parting company we settled for an evening of TV after a productive but very enjoyable Bank Holiday Sunday.
* I appreciate that this is not huge for a blackboard but I have ordered a chalk pen from Amazon which will allow legible shopping lists going forward.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Beer with Lunch ...

... never the best of ideas.

Today; S&H were joining us for lunch so the morning was spent ensuring that the house had a semblance of order. 30% applied herself to the food and domestic arrangements whilst I took T&M out for a walk to reduce their energy levels. This was a very sensible idea as will become apparent later.

The weather was somewhat warmer than the bitter cold we experienced yesterday and this had allowed the lawn to dry out. I took advantage and gave the grass a trim to give the garden a quick tidy too.

S&H arrived between one and two and we settled at the table for lunch and chat that filled most of the afternoon. I was on table clearing* and drinks duties and, as a consequence, served myself with quite a few glasses of premium Belgian lager. I stayed the right side of drunkenness but personal honesty  means that I have to report that I fell asleep on the sofa shortly after they left and slumbered through until eight in the evening.

It's a good job I hadn't got anything planned for the rest of the day.
* When 30% puts on a spread she really puts on a SPREAD! I did offer to install an extra leaf in the table to accommodate the vast array of pickles, salads and cheeses she loaded on to the table. I also enjoy her Tsunami aftermath approach to the arrangement of these morsels

Friday, 24 May 2013

Filling in the gaps

It is Friday, and the end of a week of forced learning. I suppose I had better explain what I have been up to since the Journal entries have been brief and intermittent over the past few days ...

... After Monday's trip down to Heathrow for my induction on to the latest project, I have been doing my best to get up to speed with things. The Lead Project Manager is considerably more experienced than I and has a magnificent depth of knowledge. Unfortunately his technical prowess is not matched by his scheduling ability and he is buggering off for a week's holiday next week. This week I have been expected to pick up everything that has happened over the past few months and then keep things on track for the week that he is away.

This sounds pretty straightforward but, and it is a huge BUT, upon his return I am expected to have everything ready for the Solution review so that the client can be provided with a proposal and price on Friday 7th June. Personally I think that I have climbed on to the footplate in the last few moments before a train wreck and watched the driver leap and roll down the side of the embankment. I appreciate that this is not a great analogy, as he will climb back on just before we crash in to the buffers and send up a monumental burst of splinters, steam and mangled metal, but you get the picture ... it is me that gets the grief and hassle as we charge headlong towards a review that we are nowhere near ready for.

After Monday's travel plan adjustments I took the train** down to London early on Tuesday and stayed there through until Thursday afternoon. For most of the time I have been trying to get a sense of what is going on whilst assembling Contract Schedules in my spare time. It is a bloody nightmare as it takes time to pick up the nuances and interrelationships of the facts and issues, but time is the one thing I do not have. I guess I will have to go with my standard approach of common sense responses and an occasional prayer to the Gods for good fortune ...

... I am so fucked!

Friday was spent at home in front of the laptop. Most of my day was spent developing a contract document.* I eventually escaped from the office around five o'clock and took a brisk walk around a freezing Three Miler. I was tempted to light a fire on my return but refrained when I remembered that we were out this evening to see Bill Bailey perform his Qualmpeddler tour at Warwick Arts Centre. 

I'll let you know how it went tomorrow ...
* I was''t required to write it, just cut and past elements in from other documentation.
** the scheduling of, and engineering staff on, this one were far superior to the situation on my metaphorical train referenced earlier in this Journal entry

Thursday, 23 May 2013

While the cat is away ...

The mouse made a start on a contract schedule, and then left the office at three thirty sharp so he could make the 16.22 from Paddington.

I'll be home before seven this evening.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

At the end of a long day

After eight long hours in a solution review followed by thirty minutes strap hanging to a hotel out in Stratford, East London I was looking forward to a refreshing beverage ...

I had to get a little Heath Robinson to overcome the kettle / base connectivity issue I encountered

Monday, 20 May 2013

If this is what you mean by work …

… then I have to say I don’t really like it

Monday started way too early and by twenty to seven I was climbing in to 30%’s car for a drive down the M40 towards Heathrow. Unfortunately there was no flight at the end of this trip. It just happens that the rehearsal room for the latest production just happens to be close to London’s main airport.

I arrived shortly after nine o’clock and soon found my colleague. The rest of the day was spent in a meeting room half listening to debate and conversation whilst trying to concentrate on merging two spreadsheets detailing Suppliers and Software products. After eight solid hours I had produced a beast of a spreadsheet that extended to over 2,500 lines …

… I pity the poor sods that need to review and update it.

The original plan was for me to stay overnight at Heathrow for a further day of fun tomorrow when I was to observe rehearsals for a presentation to the prospective client. However the client rescheduled the presentation session to the following week and as a result my travel and hotel plans needed a complete overhaul …

… The “plus” is that I was able to travel home this evening, the “minus” is that I will be staying in some crummy Holiday Inn in darkest East London on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

By six o’clock I had emailed the spreadsheet to a selected list of victims so I packed up my kit and headed back to the car. I wasn’t looking forward to the drive home after this morning’s two and a half hour slog along a congested M40. It was peak rush hour and I was expecting the worst. How wrong was I? After a busy few miles on the M4 and M25 I joined the M40 and it was virtually empty. Within ninety minutes I had driven one hundred miles and was walking in through the door at The Pile where I was greeted with a G&T and a list of messages …

… now which did I attend to first?

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Fixing Stuff …

… or not, as the case may be.

This morning was warm and sunny and, I thought, a perfect opportunity to haul the sideboard from the garage and get it rubbed down. It was a fairly straightforward job and the timber was soon becoming silky, smooth to the touch. However the problem with sanding is that the object is scrutinised in detail and I was soon noticing further problems or areas that would become problems in the future. Basically the sideboard dates from the 1830s and is of a fairly crude construction. After nearly 200 years of use it is showing its age and it the point where it needs serious restoration* is not far off.

I probably have the skills required for the restoration but the issue is the time needed to perform the work. We also regarded this piece as a stopgap as we would both prefer an oak or mahogany sideboard that featured fewer drawers and more cupboard space. After a discussion with 30% it was agreed that we would abandon the restoration as the sideboard was now at a saleable stage. We will get it advertised over the next few weeks and continue searching for something more in keeping with the room and table.

With that project abandoned I must admit that I spent the remainder of the morning kicking my heels. After lunch 30% and I headed in to town to pick up a few necessities including food, diesel, a toilet flush handle, a replacement double socket power outlet, two bicycle tyres and a pair of replacement pedals …

… the more peculiar elements in that list defined much of the remainder of my day.

TP’s new job at the Handcart & Fortified Structure requires that he have a reliable form of transport and at present he most definitely does not. Having knackered the derailleur on his bike he has now moved on to using 30%’s Mountain Bike. This has seen little use in all of the years we have been together and was in need of a few replacement parts to assuage the effects of twenty years of neglect. I therefore spent an hour or so fitting new tyres and replacing the pedals as corrosion meant that they no longer spun freely.

I am hoping that this will mean that he will now return from work without accompanying tales of woe involving failed cycle components or loss of air from Mr Dunlop’s revolutionary pneumatic tyres. **

Having sorted out TP’s transport problems I headed back inside and hit the sofa for a snooze before performing a couple more repair jobs. I’ve already described our peculiar shopping list so you can probably work out what I was up to.

Dinner followed and then I checked the results of my eBay auctions. I am pleased to say that both items sold and  £150 will soon be nestling in my Paypal account. More importantly, the sale of the old pine dining table was key to the next stage of the house refurbishment. Once it has been collected the Hall will be furniture free. This means that I can relocate the Office in to the Hall leaving the Study ready to be gutted and re-modelled … before pictures coming soon.

The rest of the evening was spent watching television and packing in preparation for the first of next week’s two business trips.

* or re-purposing
** because it always falls to me to perform repairs. TP’s approach is to abandon each bike once it reaches the point of terminal failure and then move on to the next one!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Guests for Lunch

Today we had planned to have our first dinner party in the now almost complete dining room. Originally this should have taken place over the May Bank holiday weekend but busy schedules and TP's new job have resulted in dinner becoming lunch and today was finally agreed upon as the date for the get-together.

A consequence of this was that there has been much house tidying in progress over the past few days and this morning my first job was to prepare a marinade for some salmon steaks. It was a few minutes work to get half a farmed fish coated in a mixture of olive oil, garlic, rosemary, crushed chillies, sun-dried tomatoes, Worcester sauce and seasoning and it was then popped in the fridge in an attempt to give the bland, pink fish some flavour.

With my culinary contribution completed I breakfasted and headed out around the Three Miler with T&M in an attempt to wear them out before our guests arrived. By the time I got back 30% and TP had just about completed the domestic preparations and I had little to do apart from inserting a leaf in to the table in advance of luncheon.

At a little after twelve we were joined Bond, Moneypenny, Rosie and Jim and their sons. My God, Did they bring some beer with them! In a very short space of time nibbles were being nibbled and Pimms and Leffe were being quaffed. In short, after throwing pizza at the kids, we spent much of the afternoon and early evening drinking and eating our way through three courses and a cheese board.

I will confess that I needed to have a small sleep after they had gone.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Cooee, Mr Shifter *

First task of the day was to mail a copy of my CV over to 30%. Recent discussions with colleagues have highlighted a vacancy at the Neat & Tidy Piano Movers which appears to be a very close match to my skills. 30% has therefore put my CV forward via the Neat & Tidy Employee referral programme to take on the role as Shifter Junior...

... If TP ever reads this in the future, I wonder if any of these cryptic, cultural references will stand the test of time or just seem peculiar. Let us hope that You Tube and Wikipedia still exist in the years ahead.

Having done that I settled down to half listen** to the Review call that would determine whether the latest solution could be priced and presented to the client. It went as well as expected and the Lead PM just needs to close out a couple of actions before he can pause, take a deep breath and gallop headlong in to the next phase of the Engagement.

The rest of the day was fairly relaxed up until the point where I had a call with another very experienced Solutioner about my role in the Musical about the Department Store. I thought I was auditioning for the role of understudy to Mrs Slocombe's Pussy but it appears that, for one week only, I will be in the spotlight performing as the Mr Grace.*** We chatted about the ins and outs of the production and it became apparent that I was required to spend much of next week in and around The Capital ...

... That is the last thing one wants to hear at half past three on a Friday afternoon as Dante's expense approval system is a disorganised fuck up that involved e-mails, pdf files and databases and once that obstacle course is completed there is the joy that is their Hotel and Travel booking system. If one then adds in the fact that there are budgetary constraints it will come as no surprise that it took several e-mails, phone calls, estimate revisions and a brief liaison with a Senior Sales Director before I could get confirmation that I was actually allowed to travel.

Is it any wonder that I am looking for alternative employment?

This evening 30% and I travelled over to Warwick to see Julian Clary in his Position Vacant, Apply Within tour. Hmmm! What can I say? Clary is a master of camp comedy and biting comments and there were brief moments of his genius but overall the show was piss-poor. The first half was short at under forty minutes in length, if the two songs were excluded, and the material was a little thin. The second half involved Clary selecting seven male members**** from the audience and performing a selection process with the aim of finding him a new husband. The show culminated with a wedding ceremony and diverse alarums. It wasn't very good. Clary was reliant on willing members of the audience to get laughs and the sequence of seven interviews and practical tests soon became repetitive. It was lazy comedy, reliant on the audience laughing at paying punters rather than Clary's talent with acerbic put down and narrative. I'm being generous with a 3 / 10.

Sorry Julian, but no warm hand on your exit this evening.
* I have to admit that I am probably not doing very well if I need a footnote for the title. Apologies to anyone who is a) under the age of 40 and b) doesn't hail from the British Isles as the relevance of this title will be totally lost on you. I suppose I had better attempt to explain, "Cooee, Mr Shifter" is a line from one of the most famous PG Tips Chimps series of commercials. The line is actually performed by the delightful Irene Handl and was dubbed over cleverly edited advert which showed two chimps attempting to move a piano down a flight of stairs. The punchline was, of course ...

Shifter Junior:      Dad, Do you know the piano is on my foot?

Mr Shifter:            You hum it Son, and Ill play it

** Why would I pay full attention? I disengage from the deal today and move on to yet another interim assignment.
*** I'm not even going to attempt to explain Are You Being Served? to the Junior and International readership ... sorry, look it up.
**** Was that a euphemism ?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

It is nearly the weekend

There is little to report for today. Marauder is deserving of a brief entry in the Bumper Book of Crimes when I let her out in to the garden and she caught sight of a Leghorn that had absconded from the run. Energetic leaps and bounds were accompanied by air-borne feathers and startled cackling as the hen got pinned to the ground and plucking commenced ...

... Fortunately Marauder is smart enough to know that the chickens are off limits and withdrew when she heard me yell. I then had to grab her and Tyson by the collar and lead them back in to the house. Did I mention that I was hosting a Team Call at the time? ... oops!

Late in the afternoon I gave up, as my rapidly approaching disengagement has induced almost complete disinterest in this deal and I headed out around the Three Miler with T&M. Upon my return I dragged the Porn Mower from the garage and gave the lawn its second cut of the year. We have friends over for lunch on Saturday and it was my token attempt at making the garden look presentable.

Just don't look too closely.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Walking off the stage

The Review that was supposed to take place this morning got cancelled. It appears that, for some strange reason, the Sales Team have been understating the potential receipts from this show by 50% or more. Now the costs have been disclosed it is apparent that this is a much bigger production. Clip levels have been breached and mandated additional reviews must take place. This is a boon to the Lead Project Manager, as he was nowhere near ready for the review, and now has a couple more days to rehearse and prepare. The good thing about this is that the delay is not of his making and consequently he will not have Sales beating him up.

I spent most of today chasing for approvals and coaching the Lead PM for the next stage of this project. It is a great deal with a reasonable value and I must admit I would love to be running it. It is straightforward and relatively politics free. However I must leave at the end of the week and join another cast in another show.*

Ah well, at present my role seems to be to float from one deal to another, taking on ill-defined roles while I wait for a decent script to arrive in my in-box.
I apologise for the mixed metaphors

* I think it is a Musical about a Department Store. I am hoping to take the role of Mrs Slocombe's Pussy

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

eBay Idiots

I rarely text. It is a form of communication that has little relevance to me. I'll use it if I have to but gossip in 140 character chunks really doesn't appeal.*  Its use has to suit my purposes. There have been occasions where an SMI has been "off net" and has not responded to e-mails or phone messages. In such as situation a carefully worded text tends to grab their attention. I also use text to communicate with Tim at Moto-vation. He rarely responds to 'phone calls or answers voice mails but a text seems to get his attention.**

When I am forced to text I have to admit that I am very "old school". I use full sentences, correct grammar and punctuation. I avoid txt spk like the plague. I loathe text speak. It is a virtual manifestation of teenage grunting and the last thing I want to be exposed to or, for that matter, be expected to respond to. If TP grunts at me I ask for elaboration and reply in my usual conversational manner ... I do not lower my communicational abilities to his level and grunt in response.

At the moment I have a couple of items being auctioned on eBay so was delighted and enthralled to receive this enquiry in respect of my auction for a pine table and four chairs ...

hi hv u gt a bye it nw thanks

This grunting idiot had managed to piss me off with the use of nine words. Now I am using words in its broadest definition as, personally, I would only recognise hi, bye, it and thanks as actual words. I also need to state now that "bye" has no bloody place in that sentence. I also need to point out that I am using sentence in the broadest sense of the word, as the string of characters lacks the capital letters, punctuation and a number of key vowels and consonants that would ordinarily be needed.

I decided that the best response to this prospective bidder was to give a reply that was far closer to a pass mark in an English Language examination. I went with this ...

Good Evening [name removed to protect the fuck wit], Thank you for you inquiry but I have to reply in the negative as my preference is to let the auction run its full course.  
I wish you the best of luck if you do decide to place a bid or two.  
Kindest Regards
bad man

I was hoping that this would encourage, nay challenge, the illiterate to put a little more effort in to their scrawlings. I was sorely mistaken as, shortly afterwards I was sent the following ...

aw so enit u gt a price in mind

I took a few moments to control my ire and decided that I would be wasting my time by setting an example and moving on to direct insults*** would only result in my eBay account being blocked. There was only one thing I could do ... resort to sarcasm ...

Hello again [name removed to protect the fuck wit],  
I have to be honest and say that I would like to get enough from this auction to retire to the South of France. I estimate that £12 million should be adequate to fund that fantasy. 
However reality intrudes and I have to acknowledge that you, or anyone for that matter, is not going to bid that much for my table so, as I said in my previous message, I'll let the auction run its course and see what I get. 
 Good Luck if you decide to bid. 
bad man

Funnily enough he has not come back to me and there are still no bids.
* if you are going to gossip, grab a coffee, get face to face and have a proper character assassination session. A bitchy text is half arsed at best.
** ... eventually
*** I demonstrated extreme self restraint when I didn't respond with u r a cnt

Monday, 13 May 2013

Monday Stuff

First things first, this one got accidentally left on the press overnight ...

... after several weeks of web searches and consultation of calendars and exam timetables 30% has finally decided where we are going on holiday, when we are going on holiday and flight bookings have been made. A number of destinations were considered during her research and here is a summary of what was considered and the reasons for rejection:-
  • Luxor, Egypt - great destination but too hot in late June
  • India - fantastic but pricey in view of plan to celebrate our 50th birthdays with a special holiday*
  • Western States, USA (fly drive) - very expensive flights
  • A tour of Slovakia and Austria - this sounded shite to me after the preceding options**
So after much Googling I can now advise that we will be spending ten days exploring New York and its environs later on in the Summer. All I need to do now is cancel the holiday I had booked when I thought we were going away in June.

Having rectified that omission let's move on to today. Work was the usual periods of boredom interrupted by tasks that a) didn't really interest me and b) should have been done weeks ago. I progressed them with as little effort as I thought I could get away with. I really am quite disinterested in this deal and the main reason for this is that I am not being stretched at all and do not have a proper role. I do what I can to keep things heading in the right direction but don't really have a defined role or responsibilities.

This morning both 30% and I were working at home and we were joined by Steve, an old friend, who was here to fix the massive scrape I managed to add to the bumper of 30%'s car a few weeks ago. He spent most of the morning with us restoring the scarred bumper to as new condition and then refused to take any payment for it. 30% forced eggs upon him and it was agreed that a dinner invitation would be arranged to repay him for such a great job. He also took away a scratched panel from the Honda and promised to sort that out over the next couple of weeks.***

The replacement handles for the sideboard arrived today. These were judged acceptable and were affixed during my lunch break. All we need now is some decent weather so I can drag it out of the garage and get it sanded.

As the afternoon progressed I was "pinged" by IM it looks like I am to be re-assigned to a new project for a couple of weeks. The peculiar thing about this new assignment is that I will be carrying out a different role in each of the two weeks. This will be interesting as, whilst that might work in a production line environment, I am absolutely certain that it does not translate to the development of outsourcing infrastructure solutions.

I eventually managed to escape from the desk shortly after four o'clock and headed out around the Three Miler with T&M. The weather is unseasonably cold and we got caught in a shower. As a result we returned home soggy and a fire got lit to add some cheer to a chilly evening.

Normally my recount today's activities would dwindle at this point but I am responsible for the care of VI's livestock so headed off down the village to shut up coops and collect eggs.

I'll cover my experiences with eBay idiots tomorrow.
* and the funding of TP's Exchange Trip to Zambia
** I have subsequently been advised that it is very nice out there but I am yet to be convinced
*** The back story to this dates back nine years to when 30% and I were in the process of moving in to The Pile. I was about to ride the Honda from 30%'s house to our new home and she got dropped at a standstill on a gravel drive.**** I managed to find a brand new replacement fairing half on eBay but never managed to find the removable inspection panel. Hence this one panel has always carried these scars.
**** note to self: NEVER move a bike when I am hypoglycemic

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Come and fetch me

Sunday dawned cool but dry and I started my day with my usual routine. Chickens were fed and let out then coffee was made and drank whilst I sat and wrote yesterday's Journal entry. I then wandered out to the garage to reaffix the sideboard door after yesterday morning's repair session.

I hadn't been out there long before a pyjama'd 30% appeared in the doorway, wondering what I was up to ...

... This morning's primary activity was to nip over to Cheltenham to collect the Ducati and by ten o'clock I clambered in to 30%'s car with helmet, gloves, jacket and chequebook.* After a quick whizz down the M5 and a race up Birdlip Hill we dropped down in to the outskirts of Cheltenham and pulled in to the small and slightly scruffy, industrial units that are home to Moto-vation. My bike was sat ready to be collected. Her paintwork was gleaming and she chirruped** every few minutes as if to say come on, lets go. I passed the time with Tim, paid a very acceptable invoice and then fired her up and threw my leg over her.

After a quick blast up through Leckhampton and down the other side of the hill I spent the next fifteen minutes carving through traffic on the motorway, before taking the Worcester exit and enjoying a few miles of curving A roads back to The Pile. I have made an informal resolution to use my bikes as much as possible this Summer and I really hope that the weather allows me and the Ducati to get better acquainted.

I arrived back home in time for lunch and headed out shortly afterwards for a walk with T&M. As forecast, rain started about twenty minutes in to my walk and towels were needed to dry off the dogs when we returned home after an hour in the nearby lanes.

I spent the rest of the afternoon pottering and significant activities included clipping T&Ms' faces and advertising the old dining table on eBay. In the early evening another fire got lit just in time for TP's return from his first day of work at the pub. He was knackered after five hours of washing up but seemed to enjoy it and will be back there next Saturday for his next shift. I did need to point out that he is not yet management and, as a result, he does not get a valet parking service ...

... in other words; he still has to put his bike away when he gets home!
* He doesn't take cards as I found out last year when I attempted to pay for the engine re-paint. Fortunately he is a trusting chap and I was able to whisk her away and drop a cheque in the post the next day.
** the alarm was in workshop mode.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Sideboard repairs

It wasn't exactly a Spring Day today. There was a cold wind and a grey sky with very few breaks in the clouds, add in showers of rain and there was little to encourage me to spend much time outside. It came as a relief to find that the Ducati would not be ready for collection until tomorrow morning when, hopefully the weather will have improved somewhat.

It was one of those rare days when I didn't have anything particularly significant planned, especially now that collection of my bike was off the list, so I wandered out to the garage in search of something to occupy me. I have to admit that, having spent a fair amount of effort clearing the garage over the past few weeks, it is now a guilty pleasure to spend time in there. I have a huge amount of bench and floor space and my tools can now be reached without having to squeeze past or clamber over the clutter that had accumulated. As a result, even though it was quite chilly in there this morning, it is now enjoyable to work in there.

There are still a couple of areas in the garage that require attention. One of these is occupied by TP's bike. The derailleur needs replacing and he has abandoned it, using 30%'s Mountain Bike instead. He has been warned that it needs to be repaired or it will be scrapped. The other area of garage that needs to be cleared is currently home to an eighteenth century,  pine sideboard. This is destined to live in the dining room* but it needs some mild restoration beforehand.

Over the past week I have replaced a worn out rear leg and this morning I made a start on the drawers. These are in great condition apart from the handles. The sideboard originally had turned wooden handles that have long since been lost leaving a 5/8" diameter hole in the front of each drawer. These holes were partially obscured by some replacement brass handles but these too, are at the end of their working life and only two of five remain functional. I have ordered a set of antiqued brass replacements and, while I wait for them to arrive, I made a start on filling the holes in the drawer fronts left when the original handles fell apart. This involved cutting 5/8" diameter cylinders of pine and these were glued in to the holes. After sanding and waxing they will be barely noticeable once the new handles are in place.

That activity filled my morning and in the afternoon I headed out for a walk with T&M. I only encountered one shower and we arrived home damp rather than soaked. The rest of the afternoon was very lazy and the only activity anywhere near worthy of mention was that I advertised TP's motorcycle leathers on eBay. He has sadly outgrown then as they were, by his own admission, cool.

As the evening drew in a fire was lit to insert a little comfort and cheer in to what had been quite a stern, grey day.
* until 30% finds a mahogany one she we likes

Friday, 10 May 2013

A day in the home office

One good thing about working in the Nearest Circle of Hell is that periods of boredom can be filled by wandering off for a chat. I did not have that ability today and was chained to the laptop with little to do. My sentence lasted until four o'clock when I hosted a preliminary review call for the latest deal ...

... Hmmm! I think it fair to say that the Lead Project Manager needs to polish his Delivery Style very quickly if he wants to have a successful call next Wednesday. I remember my first one and it was neither fun nor an award winning performance but I got through it and am trying to give my colleague a few hints and tips. The problem is that he loves the technical side of the work and the delivery of a beautifully assembled cost model but he needs to develop his management skill set in order that he can deliver a concise and authoritative presentation that reassures the reviewers that he is in charge, knows what he is doing and is believable.  At the moment he is a ditherer who takes the discussion down metaphorical rabbit holes at every opportunity.

After thirty minutes the call ended and my weekend officially started.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Tough Love

For most of this week I have been working alongside Judge Dread* in an attempt to get this wobbly wagon running smoothly. There is nothing particularly scary about the solution but the team structure and management is all a bit flaky and, as a result, there are some considerable challenges to overcome if they are to be ready for their major review next Wednesday.

After several days of subtle suggestion and delivery of informal coaching we have run out of time and patience. As a result the theme for today was delivery of blunt consequential messages along the lines of stop doing "x" and start doing "y" or you will fail. The Lead Solutioner is a nice guy who wants to get everything just so but, and Judge Dread puts it quite succinctly, he needs to find his inner bastard and start telling people what he fucking wants and when he fucking wants it!

His main problems are inexperience and a poorly selected team where the main SMI is wholly inappropriately skilled. As a result he has been concentrating on technical and ignoring the management parts of his job title. Today we have attempted to pull him up from the technical depths and get him to concentrate on the route through to a successful review rather than development of a polished cost model.

After a day of coaching that was definitely used some of the skills I have picked up as the father of a sixteen year old boy I headed home and took T&M out for a walk. I could not believe how cold and windy it was after the glorious sunshine of Tuesday evening.

I was half tempted to light a fire when I got home.
* JD is an ex-solutioner who now assesses the "Deliverability" of our solutions. He isn't too bad provided one is aware of the following; firstly, he wasn't that great as a solutioner and never worked on anything particularly huge and secondly don't trust him, especially when you can't see him ... he likes to have little conversations behind closed doors

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Sometimes you need to take charge

Rain stopped play today and, due to parking arrangements, I was encouraged to use 30%'s car to travel in to work this morning.

There is not a lot to report on the working day. I had a call about the status of the deal that occupied much of my time from October through until early April this year. Reading between the lines I think that one is dead in the water and will not require any attention for twelve months or more. Back to the current engagement, today's problem to overcome was that the Sales team had made a few promises about scope that had only come to light in the past twenty four hours ...

... the problem is that the Lead Project Manager needs to finalise every thing by Friday afternoon in preparation for a major review next Wednesday. I wandered in to a meeting covering this additional scope and listened to the Sales Exec talk about Revenue Streams and the Lead PM plead for information that he would never get. After five minutes I thought I understood the problem so left the meeting room in search of a whiteboard marker ...

... upon my return I put on a mildly bossy persona and threw up a quick diagram / graph on the board. The audience gave a series of nods so I summarised by telling them to sod off and model a simple bubble of costs with sufficient stated assumptions to cover their collective arses. "but, but, but ... ?" came the response from the PM so I pointed out that with two days to go he had no option but to follow this very simple approach. He is a good PM but is focussing on detail and having everything just right rather than being endpoint orientated and knowing that some times being in the queue outside the ball park is close enough.

The bulk of the day was spent in in a solution review which allowed me to get thoroughly acquainted with current affairs via the BBC News website.

I eventually arrived home at around six o'clock having already decided that there would be no evening walk due to a threatening sky and drizzle. Instead I wandered out to the garage and fixed the replacement leg to the sideboard before returning to the house for dinner.

As we settled down for the evening VI appeared on the doorstep and joined us for an hour or so. The main reason for his visit was to ask me to look after his chickens and pigeons when he is on holiday next week. I agreed to pop down on Friday evening to be given an overview of Poultry Husbandry Village Idiot style.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Step forward, stand down

Today started well. Using twisted employee logic; the working week starts today but by tomorrow we will be half way through the week and on the downward slide towards Friday. Fan-bloody-tastic! On this basis it is almost the weekend already and I have very little in my in-box to trouble me.

The weather forecast was for a dry, sunny day so I pulled a shiny Honda from the garage and headed in to the Nearest Circle of Hell. The traffic Gods looked down and bestowed upon me a traffic free, one and a half miles of "S" Bends. These were taken at a sensible sixty five miles per hour* and I must admit I was very tempted to stop, turn around and try them from the other direction.

A sense of duty** prevailed and I headed in to work and settled in to a very empty office. Fortunately Grandad Jack turned up shortly afterwards and we met up in the canteen for tea. The working day went well and I was hailed as a hero for not arranging a review session ... basically no-one wanted to attend the review but when a Director suggests that it might be a good idea to have one there are very few people brave enough to contradict that view. I was asked to set up the session as I had worked with this Director before so I pinged her and used a few magic words carefully selected to fertilise her disinterest. As soon as she was aware that this iteration of the engagement was not providing a firm price and that it was a contract renegotiation she agreed that we could forego the review.

The rest of the day was spent extracting estimates from a delivery model and tidying them up before presenting them to Approvers for their metaphorical thumbs up. By four o'clock I was scratching around for anything to do and decided to head home. As I returned to my laptop I noticed an instant message from IM. He wanted to know if I could be in London tomorrow to attend a meeting with a client. I pointed out that I had prearranged activities for Wednesday but that they could be cancelled if needed. He thanked me and then said he would get back to me if he needed me to travel. I was therefore forced to loiter in front of my laptop until five o'clock to see if I was needed. Five o'clock came with no further contact from IM so I chased for an update. He had no further news so I advised that I was leaving work and would check with him again when I got home.

After a traffic dodging, twenty mile run I arrived home, put the Honda away and booted up the laptop. IM still had no news and asked if I would take a call later on if I was needed up the smoke. I advised that this was fine and then headed out for a walk with T&M in the glorious evening sunshine. When I wandered back in to the house an hour later I checked my laptop and IM had finally advised that my presence was not required in the Capital. It is fair to say that I was relieved by this decision. I was quite happy to traipse down to London and blag my way through a meeting with a client, about whom I know nothing, but I would rather not if it could be avoided. *** What I wasn't looking forward to was the screwing up of my evening having briefing calls and obtaining necessary permits to travel ... Phew, narrow escape!

Today's big news is that TP has been called by the Handcart and Fortified Structure and his first shift of washing up will be next Sunday ...

... welcome to the world of work.
* the speed limit is 50 mph you tit!
** stop sniggering
*** it also means that I avoid the pain of having to get travel and budgetary approvals via Dante's tortuous processes

Three great things about Bank Holidays

1) The weekend is 3 days in duration
2) The following working week is one day shorter
3) They seem to annoy Americans

This is all goodness.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Woodwork, walking & waxing

Yesterday evening I made a start on the repairs to the old pine sideboard. I had removed the damaged back leg, cleaned up the underside and glued in an oak pad to receive the new leg. This morning I got busy in the garage and made up the new leg from some scraps of 22 mm oak boards. It is a fairly simple affair of two pieces of board that are mitred to form an "L" shaped leg and I have strengthened this structure with another piece of oak to hold it all square.
Sketch of dresser leg
The leg is drawn upside down to give a better view of its components and assembly. The only components that can't be seen are the biscuit joints and liberal quantities of glue holding it all together. I then left the leg drying on the workbench and headed back in to the house.

There was a rumour of some part-time work at local Pub and TP needed to provide them with a copy of his CV. 30% decided that we could walk over there with T&M and have lunch as it was a beautiful day so, shortly before twelve o'clock, we headed across the village and out towards, for want of a better alias, The Hand Cart & Fortified Structure. The route was one we had never wandered before and it took us across arable fields and past an ancient hay meadow that belongs to Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. After the best part of an hour we found ourselves sat in the Pub garden perusing a menu...

... the CV was deposited, lunch was eaten and, rested and sated, we headed back towards The Pile. We actually managed to follow the true route of the footpath on our return journey rather than the approximation  of our outward walk.

The rest of the afternoon was taken up by giving the Honda a wash. The great thing about washing the bike was the enforced break I had to take while it dried off in the sun. After an hour with my feet up I pushed her back in to the garage and started to give her a coat of polish.

I had forgotten how long it takes to give a bike a proper clean!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

First cut of the season

The first part of Sunday was consumed, yet again, by Rugby. After last week's final match of the Season, today was presentation day, so I headed out around the Three Miler early in the morning to allow T&M to stretch their legs. 30% dropped TP at the club and we headed over there later on to watch the speeches, hand shaking and post-presentation celebrations.* I also consumed a £1 beef burger that was significantly better than the one I paid £9 for on Friday.

We arrived back home for a late lunch and then I headed back out to the garage to continue the reorganisation. The final pallet was removed and rapidly converted to firewood with the assistance of the chainsaw. I then gave the Porn Mower her first outing of the season ... I primed the carburettor and pulled the starter cord and she fired up at the first attempt. Twenty minutes later I was tucking her back in to the garage. I would like to say that the lawn looks fantastic but I can only manage better and I need to be careful as that is stretching the truth. I really need to spend a good afternoon out there with soil, grass seed and a couple of rolls of turf followed by a month of watering to get the lawn in to a reasonable condition.

Next on the list was to clean and lubricate the chain on the Honda which involved an our hour spent with a paintbrush and paraffin removing grease from the chain before giving it a fresh spray of lube. I am hoping I can find time tomorrow to give her a bloody good clean as she is filthy.

Final activity of the day was to make a start on the early nineteenth century pine sideboard that was stripped last year and has cluttered up the garage since then. One of it's back legs was damaged when it was returned from the stripper and today I made a start on its repair. The legs are basic affairs made from pine board and nailed to the sideboard base.  This is most definitely not a high end piece of furniture but it will be fine until we can find something we like better and I plan to make the replacement leg from oak which should be somewhat more resilient.

It looks like today's activities may have set the agenda for tomorrow.
* This seems to involve a race where the participants have to stand on a chair and consume a pint of lager also containing a mars bar and pickled egg. First man to empty the glass wins. Fingers can't be used to grasp either the chocolate or the egg.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Meat Fest

If my week was "slow" today was most definitely a change of pace.

After breakfasting, first job of the day was to take the Ducati in to Moto-Vation in Cheltenham for a service and MOT. 30% kindly offered to follow and give me a lift back.* I had pre-arranged the delivery of my bike using the medium of SMS** so was somewhat perplexed to find the workshop closed and the usual array of Italian exotica nowhere to be seen. The chap from the Scooter workshop next door popped his head round the corner and advised that TH was off at a social event and would not be back in until next Tuesday. I cursed a little and explained my predicament ... "No worries" responded Scooter Man, " I do all TH's MOTs any way, leave it with me and I'll pass it across to him next week".  So I did what any sane person would do and handed the keys and alarm fob of an appreciating, modern, Italian classic to a man I had never met before and wandered off to see if 30% had arrived.

Farly promptly after I got home I sent TH a text to advise of my possibly over trusting gullible actions. He replied reasonably soon afterwards to advise that it was he that had cocked up the dates and that leaving it with Mr Scooter was perfectly fine. Al being well I should be able to pick her up in a week or so.

On the way home from Cheltenham 30% and I popped in to Worcester to pick up the holiday films that had finally been developed and printed. On the plus side I can advise that the Rolliecord and the Weston Light Meter definitely work as all of the shots came out but there are a few peculiar patches on some of the prints and negatives which are indicative of light leaks. These patches are irregular which suggests to me that light hit parts of the film during loading or developing so I will persevere with another couple of rolls before deciding whether to continue with the Rollie or sell her on and look for a Bronica.

We arrive home just before midday and I took down the two pieces of guanciale that had been hanging in the kitchen. After hanging for a week they were ready to be cubed and frozen. Twenty minutes of knife wielding later I had over two pounds of pancetta bagged and ready for the freezer ... although a few pieces did find their way in to a pan on the hob.
Guanciale (dry cured pigs cheek)
A cured meat theme permeated the rest of the day as, after lunch and a walk with T&M, I finally took down the ham that had been air drying in the garage for the past six months.
Don't go "urghh!" What do you think is on the outside of a Brie
Penicillium spp
It had acquired a coating of white and green mould during its sojourn in the rafters and this was removed by giving it a brisk scrub with white wine vinegar.  I then lugged out the bacon slicer and set to for a mammoth slicing session. After more than an hour we ended up with over a kilo of thinly sliced ham and there is a huge piece lurking at the back of the fridge waiting for a follow up session.
If am honest a significant quantity of ham was tested during the afternoon and a cold Leffe was then needed to cleanse the palate. This had soporific effects and I snoozed on the sofa until dinner.

I need to get back to work for a rest.
* She also still thinks that each time she sees me get on my bike will be the last. This is ironic as the closest I have come to death was in our bed.
** as this seems to be the only reliable way of liaising with this quite splendid independent Ducati specialist.

Friday, 3 May 2013

I did slow down today

As has been the case for most of this week, today hardly left me breathless; A few e-mails were read, a few calls were attended and the working day can be summarised as long spells of boredom interrupted by occasional activity. I can think of only two occasions where I came anywhere near justifying my existence today.

The first of these relates to a Division of Dante's that provide us with certain Security Services. I had asked them for an updated quote and, for some strange reason, they treat this activity like a completely new business opportunity and set up opportunity records and take it through selection processes to decide whether they actually want to do it or not. I attended their Selection Call and persuaded them that it was a good idea to move forward ... That was today's fifteen minutes of fame.

The second occasion was late in the day where I arranged a review call to examine my statement on tooling on this current deal. What? I hear you ask. Yes, I know, it is sad and hardly relevant but this is a hoop that each and every deal has to jump though before a price can be put on the client's table. There is more too ... I have to ask a a panel to authorise the use of tools other than Dante's standards before we can offer a price, even though we have been using those same tools for the past four years with this client.

So for much of today I did very little and the work I did was overcoming Dante's imposed obstacles to winning business.

By four o'clock I had lost the will to live and headed out with the dogs for a walk. On our return I tidied myself up and 30% and I headed out to Littleton Auctions to to view the lots in advance of tomorrow's sale. There were a few bits and pieces that grabbed our attention but nothing that we will actually bother to bid on.

At the end of viewing we headed back home and stopped at The Fish at Wixford, where we met up with 30%'s brother and the Elf, for supper. It was nice to catch up on their news* but I wasn't overly impressed with the establishment. The burger they served was grey, hard and dry and the service started well but fell apart from the point when we were asked if we wanted to see the Dessert Menu ...

... we waited and we waited and we waited some more but nothing arrived. We continued chatting and eventually decided to give pudding a miss so I eventually caught the eye of a member of staff and requested the bill. It arrived quite promptly so I dropped a credit card on top of it and waited for it to be collected ... .. we waited and we waited and we waited some more but no-one arrived. In the end I picked up the saucer containing bill and card and headed up to the bar where I plonked it in front of the member of staff that had delivered it in the first place. I got an apology and and quite prompt service but I don't think I'll be eating there again. It just wasn't very good.
* The Headline item was that a new home is needed for their Camper Van after a formal removal notice has been placed on it by the land owner

Thursday, 2 May 2013

I really ought to slow down

For the past three days I have been using my bike to get to work and it is great. The weather is warm, the roads are dry and, with some careful filtering, there are absolutely no queues or hold ups, despite travelling during peak periods. The problem is that it has been such a long time since I rode my bike that I am enjoying the novelty probably a little too much ...

... it is not that my style of riding is dangerous but it is fair to say that I am exceeding the speed limits far too often and really need to slow down before Plod catches sight of me. The problem is that a new set of tyres and an incredibly willing motor make it very difficult to ease off the throttle.

On my journey in to work there are a couple of miles of country lanes with low hedges, open vistas and a flowing set of bends. They don't look particularity special when viewed on a map but the reality is fantastic. I am not alone in knowing this and bikers are regularly seen riding this stretch purely for the pleasure of it. The problem is that, despite appearing to be a wide lane, the road is actually classified as an "A Road" and traffic regularly puts pay to any fun and games on this short stretch of road...

The Cartographers got this so wrong
 ... Every day this week I have found myself sat behind some other vehicle whose presence has limited the pleasure of tipping a bike from side to side through these twists and curves. However this evening I had the road to myself. There was no traffic in either direction and I found myself and the Honda flowing along this lane with nothing to disturb this simple pleasure.

You probably had to be there, but I was very glad you weren't.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

For a view on today's activities please refer to the previous Journal entry

No, seriously, I mean it ...

... today was virtually the same as yesterday from a work perspective and I am not going to repeat myself. Of course there were differences; there were no early morning discussions about vehicle parking at The Pile and today's obstructive Subject Matter Idiots were different to yesterdays but if I look back at this day from a year in to the future do I really need to recount the minor details that distinguish today from yesterday? I think not.

I will mention that it was a glorious evening and I did head straight out with T&M for a walk before dinner. Apart from that see yesterday.