Sunday, 30 June 2013


For some reason it seemed that most of Sunday morning was taken up by walking Marauder around the Three Miler. I am guessing that a combination of getting up later than usual, dropping TP off at the Rugby Club for fitness training and then taking a walk that might have included a few conversational halts were the main reasons why there seemed to be less of the morning than I expected.

As M and I wandered back to the The Pile we saw 30% heading off to collect TP and within twenty minutes she was back and making lunch.

After lunch I decided to haul the Ducati from the garage and take her out for a spin ... I wish I hadn't. I warmed her up and let her roll to the bottom of the drive where I waited for a gap in the traffic.  The nearby policeman with a speed gun meant that I was far less enthusiastic with the throttle when the traffic thinned and I stupidly stalled the bike. She toppled over at a virtual standstill and I now have a nice little scuff on the fairing lower ... I hope Steve can get an accurate colour match for Ducati model year 2000 yellow!

I did take a brief ride out but my heart wasn't in it and, after taking a tea break with BMS and SMS, I headed home and tucked her up in the garage. Whilst there my eyes fell upon the large pine framed mirror that we won at yesterday's auction and I started to root around for some new frame materials ... Before I knew it I was being called in for dinner and the sections of a fine oak frame were laid out on the bench ...

... After dinner I wasn't particularly taken with TP and 30%'s choice of television so I headed out and glued and clamped the frame.

Saturday, 29 June 2013


30% and I have quite different tastes in decorative art and, as a result of these artistic differences, do not have many pictures hanging on the walls of the The Pile. We have a few framed photographs of Tyson & Marauder and several of my "antique" mirrors that I throw together from time to time but very little art. In the spare room that is forever known as the purple bedroom* there is a stack of framed art but not one has been deemed worthy and made it on to the walls.

I like traditional oils and water colours whilst 30%'s tastes lie in a much more modern and much more commercial vein. We are generally poles apart but yesterday in the auction rooms a couple of cosmic cogs enmeshed as we stumbled upon a small unframed canvas. It was a very old and beautifully executed scene of two farmers scything hay in a meadow. We both liked it and after we had got over the amazement a commission bid was placed.

I drove over to the auction this morning to see whether we had been successful and was delighted to find that we had won the oil painting and a number of other items including some repro Staffordshire flat backs and a large bevelled mirror. It looks like we will be off to find a decent picture framer next weekend.

The remainder of the day was filled with normal domesticity. Marauder was walked and the lawn was mown. The Office project was also given a little attention as further items were cleared. It is a truism that there is nothing like an empty space for attracting junk and this virtually cleared room had already started to reaccumulate domestic items. I returned tools to the garage along with the two curtain rails that will be hung once the room is finished. I also disposed of the bin bag of hair following my use of the space as a grooming salon last weekend. There is still a random assortment of items that 30% refuses to let us touch but seems strangely reluctant to address either ... if she is not careful I will declare a statute of limitations on these and take matters in to my own hands. I also made enquiries about a replacement ledge and brace door and a very nice gentleman called Graham is going to get back to me with a quote in the next couple of days.

As for the room clearance, can anyone suggest where I should put the stuffed boars head?
* When we bought The Pile this box room was painted a deep purple and for several weeks when we remodelled the house two of the exterior walls, ceiling and roof were removed which meant that it was on display to every passer by. Our Builders used to use it as a land mark when ordering supplies ... "is it easy to find?" .... " Oh yes, just look for the purple wall and the radiator in the air"

Friday, 28 June 2013

Encapsulate this in a few words ... I can't

I suspect that if I asked someone to picture the end of a race they would envisage an athlete, with their head held high, thrusting their chest forward in to the tape that marks the finish line. That is not exactly how my "race" finished today ...

... for the past couple of weeks I have been coordinating the completion of a set of third party contracts and documents of understanding that all needed to be in place such that the main Agreement with the client could be signed this morning. This job has been a Royal pain in the arse. The Specialist Procurement personnel have been out of the office more than they have been in it, both of them seem somewhat less than motivated and most definitely lacking in any project management ability. The signing of the main Agreement was deferred by a week so they even had more time but they still managed to make a complete and utter pig's ear of things and we arrived at our deadline with barely sufficient documentation to satisfy the Daemons that these sub-contracts were in place. The ink was still wet on some of them and, if I am honest, other associated documents remain to be agreed and signed.

So let us review our imaginary Olympian with hair streaming behind them and replace that image with a decrepit octogenarian collapsing ahead of the line and, with breath rattling from their failing lungs, pulling themselves by their finger tips to the finish.

It is fair to say that I like to take a pride in my work and I leave this assignment with a self assessment of adequate and when I say adequate it should probably be accompanied by the adverb barely.

Moving on to Life rather than Work, today's moment of humour came when I took Tyson back to the Vet as her torn claw is troubling her and has bled on a couple of occasions. The Vet suggested sedating her so that the claw could be removed and I agreed that this was the best course of action. He asked whether she had eaten anything this morning as the light anaesthetic could induce vomiting. I think he was expecting a yes or no so was taken aback when I looked at her and then back at him and replied that she had eaten a ham sandwich ...

... I reminded the Vet that her drugs needed to be taken with food and both T&M have food constantly available so I needed something tempting to ensure her pills sat on a full stomach; hence a ham sandwich. He laughed at this unconventional approach and we continued with the pre-op consents and confirmation of contact details. I left her there with instructions to call for a progress report at two o'clock.

Two o'clock came and I called to be informed that all had gone well and that I could collect her later in the afternoon. She is now curled up on the sofa as right as ninepence.

30% returned from work somewhat excited* by her new role and it fair to say that she needed to do a bit of shouting to get it out of her system ... eventually, reassured by the sight of Tyson virtually restored to normal levels of craziness, she was ready to start the weekend and we headed over to Littleton Auctons to view the lots.

Tomorrow could be expensive.
* This is most definitely a euphemism

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Sick Note

There is little to report from the past couple of days. I'm getting over my cold however Tyson's recovery has not been so straightforward. The anti-inflammatories and antibiotics have had the desired effect on her torn claw and consequently she is quite happy wandering around with a barely a limp. This increased actvity is loosening the claw and on a couple of occasions it has started to bleed. I have had to apply a dressing to stem the flow and to keep her from niggling at the wound. She looks quite comical with her paw bandaged and has a tendency to sit with her paw held up for all to see.

Realistically the injury isn't going to heal until the nail is removed and it looks like I will be back at the Vet's tomorrow for another consultation.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Bleurgh !

If I am honest I did very little today. My head is full of cold and I felt quite dreadful. I spent the bare minimum of time at the laptop, just enough to keep matters on track as we head towards Friday when this deal gets signed.

I did manage a walk around the Three Miler with Marauder and felt somewhat better for being outside in the sun. Mind you, it could just have been the vast quantities of over the counter medication that I have been throwing down my throat.

I encouraged TP out in to the garden this afternoon and he made a reasonable job of edging the lawn. I also let him loose with a garden sprayer filled with weedkiller to sort out the herbal invaders in the block paving ... I hope I don't regret this in a couple of weeks time when things start to die ... after all, a while back I was tempted to draw a huge cock and balls on Idiot Manager's front lawn with a solution of RoundUp!

I spent the evening at home slouched on the sofa alone as 30% and TP headed out to a School Barbecue arranged as part of the Zambian Exchange programme. I really don't feel very sociable at the moment.

Monday, 24 June 2013

When home and work collide

I had a dreadful night's sleep and can recall waking almost every hour. My head was full of cold and it is fair to say that I didn't feel my best. Looking on the bright side, at least I only have to wander as far as the home office rather than schlep to London or some other location where my physical manifestation is mandated.

First job of the day was to arrange an appointment for Tyson at the Vets. A nine o'clock slot was available so I lifted* her in to the back of the Defender and headed down the road ...

... Fifty five British Pounds later I discovered that Tyson had partially torn one of her claws and an infection had set in. She was given a jab to ease the pain and hit the infection and she is to "take it easy" for the next few days whilst she consumes a variety of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

I headed home and settled in to my day's work. This included submitting my expenses and managing the signature of a variety of Third Party Contracts and Documents of Understanding. I would like to think that I am having some impact but the realist in me knows that the impending signature of a new contract with a client is the real impetus driving the activity. At best my role is that of either Shepherd or Reporter.

In the early afternoon I headed out for a walk with Marauder before yet more shepherding as I coaxed TP out of the door and whisked him over to the Dentist for an inspection of his damaged incisor ...

... it is settling back in to its socket and a further two appointments have been scheduled for root canal fillings to the tooth and its neighbour.

By the time I arrived home I felt most unwell and would have liked to call it a day but I had a conference call arranged for six thirty that I needed to attend. I'm glad I did as it was hysterical. The purpose of the call was to review a document of understanding and agree it in principle. What it actually turned out to be was one of Dante's most unprofessional senior Daemons having a  rant at another sect of Devils and pointing out that she would not be incurring any financial penalties if they had cocked up their estimates.

As I said, at best I am either shepherding or reporting on this activity.
* obviously to ensure she didn't hurt her paw. However, it is a regular source of amusement that Marauder will leap, from a standing start, in to the back of the Land Rover whilst Tyson, even when in full health, will simply place her front paws on the load bed and wait patiently for one of us to lift her rear end in to the car.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

I've felt better

I woke this morning and felt like I had gone three rounds with a champion boxer after yesterdays re-stacking of the wood pile. My back and legs ached and it is fairly obvious that the recent weeks of hotel stays and office based working have done me no good at all. I need to get back in to my exercise regime. To make matters worse I have woken with a snotty nose and a scratchy feeling at the back of my throat. My initial diagnosis is a cold but 30% says hay fever. I guess it could be but I have never suffered like this before.

Tyson is no better so a) it looks like a trip to the Vets tomorrow and b) it was just Marauder and I that took a walk after breakfast. I have never walked Marauder on her own and I was amazed at how she behaved. She was a different dog, she was calm and walked to heel most of the time and there was no straining at the lead as we set off down the road. We were stopped a few times on our walk and acquaintances asked about Tyson's whereabouts. We also received three separate compliments about Marauder's recent clip ... it was nice to have independent confirmation that I had done a decent job.

After completing the Three Miler I dragged the pawn mower from the garage and whizzed around the lawn before the first of today's showers hit the village. The morning's exertions combined with an achy back meant that I was knackered and starving so a lazy, extended lunch was taken before 30% and I nipped out to pick up some fruit 'n veg from a nearby farm shop.

On our return I fully intended to do nothing but snooze on the sofa but I felt the need to do something constructive so I unwrapped the curtain poles that I had collected from the Blacksmith last Monday and wandered in to the dining room ...

... after assembling a pile of assorted tools and deployment of some imaginative invective the rails now grace the door and window frames and 30% can now arrange for Upholsterer Sally to come around to measure up for curtains.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Mr Teasy Weasy?

I have a suspicion that my body is far more in tune with the rising and setting of the sun than I would like it to be. For much of this week I have been waking early and this morning, despite obvious fatigue, I was up and about by half past five. I pottered, drank coffee and just enjoyed being at home rather than the succession of sterile boxes I have been forced to inhabit for much of the past couple of weeks. It is a sorry state of affairs when the only space that had any personal significance is the cab of the Defender and I was only in that for the commute to and from the office!

Anyway, enough of that, I am home now and not away for at least a couple of weeks. 30% surfaced early for her and we were in to the Defender and heading towards Worcester before the clock struck ten.* The purpose of our visit was to collect the remainder of the wood Jules had scavenged for us and to present her with her birthday card and gift. We passed the time with Jules and exchanged news before heading back home.  The sky threatened rain so we left the wood in the Land Rover and wandered in for a coffee.

I then fancied a walk so grabbed a hat and coat and was instantly joined by an excited T&M. We had hardly got fifty yards from the door when I noticed that Tyson was limping so the walk was aborted and I headed back somewhat annoyed and frustrated to find one of the dogs had picked up an injury while I was away. With time on my hands I went and collected the clippers from the garage and gave them their summer haircut.  It took a good couple of hours to get them so they looked reasonably presentable rather than though they had just got over a bad case of mange!

By this time my early start had caught up with me and I crashed on the sofa for an hour or so** before waking and feeling slightly more human. 30% was attacking and Everest of ironing so I thought that I had better do something productive too ... I shuffled cars and positioned the Land Rover for an easy extrication of the wood ...

... As I took the first few pieces to the pile at the back of the garage I realised that I may have made it easy to unload the wood but stacking it was going to be a complete bastard of a job. The pile was a collapsed mess and as a result I spent an hour outside re-stacking the wood pile.

I wandered in at beer o'clock and caught up with TP's news of his day with his Mother and siblings before settling down for a sofa dinner. I then did something that I have never done before  ...

... 30% had combed the tangles from Marauder's topknot and I had a pair of scissors at hand so I started to trim it back in to shape. Previously I had left this to the professionals but M was a star and lay still allowing me cut back the 70's Afro that was starting to develop on her head. Encouraged by my efforts Tyson got coiffeured too.

I'm not sure I am ready for a career change to dog grooming but I am more than willing to take them out in public looking as they do.
* Despite 30% and TP knowing that the clock only likes to be wound between the hours of eight and nine they somehow manage not to follow this simple instruction. As a result they prematurely initiate the chiming mechanism and put the chimes out of synchronisation with the actual hour. Hence the clock struck ten at nine o'clock ... and yes it is only me that knows how to put the damned thing back on track.
** possibly an under estimate

Friday, 21 June 2013

The longest day

Yep, they got that right! It definitely felt like the longest day as I spent four bloody hours, I repeat, four bloody hours in a page turn review of a nineteen page contract document in the company of a lawyer and a procurement specialist. It is fair to say that they were in their element whilst I and the Supplier's Director were not. From well before the midpoint onwards we were exchanging pained expressions which clearly had a sub-text of "Christ they are making hard work of this".

To make matters worse the review filled the hours from ten until two and by the time I wandered in to Dante's refectory the staff were cleaning the counters and there was little to choose from apart from a rubbery cheese and soggy tomato baguette ... mmm lovely.*

It appears that I am still needed to provide support for a couple of days next week but this will be on a part-time basis and from home so, at the very least, I will finally get some exercise and a break from hotel restaurant food.

This evening we headed over to The Bridge at Bidford where we met up with The Elf to celebrate her birthday. We had a lovely meal although the Restaurant Manager who escorted us to our table was a little snotty. Our table wasn't particularly fantastic either and I spent most of the evening being blinded by the setting sun and having to ask 30% to adjust the louvre blinds in an attempt to prevent cataracts. The moment the sun had dipped behind the horizon Mr Snotty appeared from nowhere and, without a word, reached across the table to open the blinds. I have to be honest and say that he was verging on fucking rude. Fortunately the company, food and the waitress service made up for the manager's lack of civility and we had a delightful evening catching up with each other's news.

I was expecting to be unenthusiastic about another restaurant steak dinner but I realised that there is a huge difference between dining alone and dining with friends. It isn't the food and it isn't the location, it is the company that makes the meal.
* just in case you hadn't noticed, that was sarcasm.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

If life gives you lemons ...

... then make lemonade.

Thursday was another early start. This time I was in to the office before the canteen had opened so I turned left and headed to the fourth floor to set up my laptop before wandering back downstairs to break my fast. A little sense prevailed this morning and a slightly more restrained almond croissant and banana were selected for breakfast before the daily shit shovelling commenced.

Alternating between a visually sterile, threadbare office and a very similar hotel room has not been particularly enjoyable andI had been tempted to head back home early. The perfect opportunity arose today when a Procurement Manager arranged a contract review tomorrow at my Nearest Circle of Hell. * I seized the moment and suggested my early departure to the Lead Project Manager. He took the bait, hook, line and sinker and I spent the rest of the day with my head down attempting to gain purchase with my allocated tasks.

By five thirty I had got as far as I could with work so called it a day and headed out in to the traffic towards the hotel. Twenty five minutes later I was wandering towards room 309 for the last time and wasted not a moment as I hastily threw my clothes in to a bag. I paused briefly to return my key at the Reception desk before clambering in to the Defender and heading homeward.

I wandered in to The Pile just in time for dinner and was greeted enthusiastically by T&M and even 30% and TP seemed quite pleased to see me.

It comes as a relief that this assignment is virtually over. It hasn't been particularly hard work but it has involved unnecessary travel and hotel stays. In addition the work is poorly defined and insufficient to keep me occupied. As a result I have had to spend long days attempting to look busy on a job that is best described as herding cats.
* Let me just be clear that a three hour long, "page turn" review of a contract document is most definitely an example of life giving you lemons.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

This is not a job

I was out of bed early this morning and walked in to the foyer of the client offices at a quite remarkable half past seven in the morning.

The lack of restaurant facilities at the Travelodge was the impetus for this early start and I turned right and headed for the refectory. I had worked up quite an appetite on the drive in to the office so I pitched up to the counter and ordered the "seven item, Full English". It is fair to say that I wasn't quite ready for the portion size ... the plate was piled so high it was spilling on to the tray and I was charged less than £3 for this cholesterol extravaganza.

I am afraid that was the high point of my working day and for the following ten hours I alternated between reviewing contract documents and just trying to look busy.

As I type this I am sat in the Holiday Inn restaurant with a G&T wondering what the chances are of me being "cut loose" next week.

Anything is better than providing holiday cover.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The grass is always greener ...

Now I have been around long enough to know this idiom well and be aware that generally the word "not" needs to be inserted in to this phrase.

At the moment this metaphor is a recurring theme in my life but today I really was in a grass is greener situation. Let me explain ...

... Last week I stayed at a Holiday Inn and it was OK, nothing great, but it was perfectly acceptable. This week it had no available rooms so I was allowed to book a room that was not featured on Dante's list provided I observed tight spending limits.

As a result I find myself fifty yards away from last week's hotel at a Travelodge and it is an experience that I never want to repeat again EVER!

To call it a shit hole would be paying it a compliment. I can honestly say that it is the cheapest, tattiest arsehole of a place that I have ever encountered and remember I have slept in a mobile home in Monument Valley that smelt of horse piss ... By comparison that place had charm

The room is the most depressing, tatty environment and is long overdue for refurbishment. The walls are perforated by screw holes where infrastructure has been removed and plastic rawlplugs still protrude from the holes. The furniture is made from laminated, particle board that has several unexplained holes where the laminate has come away and the board beneath has been picked at by a succession of depressed "guests" leaving craters an inch or more in diameter. All of the furniture appears to have been soaked with water at some point in its history as the edges have swollen and bulged showing more chipboard peeking out between laminate and edging strip. This has proved to be an irresistible temptation to previous residents too and this to has been picked at repeatedly. The room has the unmistakable odour of air freshener attempting to cover up cigarette smoke and if I highlight any more of its faults I am concerned that I will enter a depression that may take years to recover from.

To make matters worse I had to wander across the car park* to dine at the Holiday Inn as the Travelodge has no restaurant** I therefore was able to experience briefly how green the grass can be before trudging home to accommodation only marginally better than a cardboard box under a bridge on the Oxford ring road.

Roll on Friday.
* Which has a separate fee! How may hotels do you know where the cheapskate fuckers make you pay for car parking?
** although, based on the state of the room this is probably a very, very good thing

Monday, 17 June 2013


The good news, if you can call it that, is that TP's incisor doesn't appear to be fractured and has now been gently* repositioned and splinted while it reattaches to its socket.

The bad news is that this weeks hotel is a Travelodge on the outskirts of Oxford ...

... What have I done to deserve this?
* although not as gently as TP would have liked

Sunday, 16 June 2013

As days go, this one should have been better.

Sunday morning was somewhat energetic; the dogs got walked, the lawn was mown and this reckless activity might explain why the majority of the afternoon was spent in a mildly hypoglycaemic state. This was not an ideal way to spend Fathers’ Day but I was reasonably coherent by the time BMS, SMS, Tilly and 30%’s parents joined us for dinner.

I can report that the new dining table easily seats seven and that a “three rib” joint of beef leaves plenty over for midweek meals and cold beef sandwiches …

… just a shame that I have to base myself from sunny Oxford this week.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Probably what I needed ...

It was a quiet and very domestic day today.

I awoke reasonably early and spent an hour or so filling in on-line forms and uploading digital copies of documentation while 30% slowly entered the land of the living. We then paid a visit to a local meat wholesaler who had been recommended by a friend. It was agreed, before entering, that we would be restrained taking a sample first, come back again approach ...

... Hmmm! Things didn't quite go to plan and we ended up with a huge quantity of meat to re-stock our dwindling supplies at home. One of the purchases was a complete, boned loin of pork which provided a loin joint, six loin steaks and a further 10" piece of loin that will be cured to give us some back bacon.* We also acquired a large quantity of black pudding which proved to be very tasty and will allow us to make some much needed black pudding sausages in the near future. Legs of lamb, a large brisket joint, sausages, chicken breasts and a compulsory pork pie completed our order and I can report that the little we have sampled has proved to be very good indeed.

We then headed in to Redditch for a trip to the supermarket and to pick up dog food before returning home for lunch. Lunch was followed by a much needed walk around the Three Miler and, despite a heavy shower early on, I actually managed to avoid a soaking by the showers that have punctuated the day.

The remainder of the afternoon was filled with some light butchery as we reduced catering packs and joints down to family sized portions and I started the cure of the aforementioned loin of pork

I really should have mowed the lawn but I will stand by the it's too wet to cut alibi if questions are asked.
* As I will be in Oxford next week TP will be introduced to the art of curing and will be responsible for this task.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Fortuitous Scheduling?

After another unrewarding day in the office I packed up my laptop as four o'clock approached and headed back out on to Oxford's ring road. It was a slow crawl out to the motorway where the traffic spaced out a little. I arrived home at half past five to find 30% stood on the drive nattering to a passerby.

The "reason" for my early departure from work was that I was required to ferry TP and mates to a party this evening and 30% was unable to assist as she was having her hair done ...

... so I was a little taken aback when she advised that she had just left the salon and TP was nowhere to be seen. I'm not complaining, I was home at a reasonable time and could just loiter for an hour or so until I was required to operate the Dad's Taxi Service.

After dropping TP off at the party I headed home for a steak dinner and a large G&T. 30% and I had just settled on the sofa for an evening when the 'phone rang...

... It was TP calling to advise that he had just chipped and dislodged one of his front teeth as a result of an accident involving a beer bottle and a mate.* I eventually got to speak to an adult who advised that it was a fairly minor chip and the tooth was still reasonably straight but TP was quite shaken by the episode and it was best if we came and collected him.

We did so and then had a chat with a very nice lady at NHS Direct who gave me advise on the symptoms of concussion and advised that we should seek emergency dental treatment if the pain became unbearable or the blood flow recommenced.

It is perhaps fortunate that he has root canal treatment scheduled for this tooth next Monday, although I am guessing that there may be changes to his treatment plan after tis little mishap.
* Whenever TP is involved with this adolescent something ALWAYS goes wrong.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The only thing in life that is constant ...

... is change!  Well, I have to say that I am not so sure.

If you want to know what my Thursday was like please refer to yesterday's entry and replace "chicken dinner" with "steak dinner" and "contracts drafted" with "risks reviewed".

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Nothing to see here

Wednesday went like this ...

... Out of bed by six thirty and morning ablutions rapidly followed. Thirty minutes later I was partaking of a healthy bowl of muesli followed by a less healthy "full English" 

By seven thirty I was crawling around the ring road and by eight I was wandering in to an office that looks more like a house after the removal men have finished. *

After eleven hours of dull and repetitive hassling to get contracts drafted I headed back to the Holiday Inn for a G&T and a chicken dinner. I then headed back to my room and collapsed on the bed...

... This is far from the most exciting assignment I have ever been given!
* complete with dust balls and abandoned domestic debris

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Red Letter Day?

Tuesday started with a drive down the M40 to Oxford.  The sat nav optimistically informed me that I would reach my destination in an hour and a quarter. It had obviously not been programmed to take account of Oxford's rush hour and it didn't seem to have a particularly precise knowledge of the ring road either.

I eventually arrived at the client site and was escorted up to a deserted wing of the building where the team had set up camp with oddments of furniture and mismatched chairs. I kid you not when I report that I saw our Pricer attempting to use a shelving unit turned on its side as a desk...

... It's a glamorous life working in IT Outsourcing.

The day was the usual round of spreadsheets, calls and impromptu meetings. I now have a reasonable idea of what I am required to deliver ... It is the usual story of having to harry overloaded team mates for deliverables they just don't have the time to produce.

Three times this afternoon I was interrupted by calls on my mobile. They were following up on yesterday's meeting and it is patently obvious that it went very well. There are a few formalities that I need to complete but all being well this will develop in to a fantastic opportunity.

I thought the feedback had sunk in but I knew it hadn't when the waitress taking my dinner order asked how my day had been. I shrugged and pulled a face to indicate that it had been nothing special ... a brief moment passed as I gathered my thoughts and realised what a great and scary day it had actually been.

Monday, 10 June 2013

A surprisingly good day

Have you ever had a day that was expected to be an ordeal but in actuality went amazingly well?

Well today was one of those days. The morning started with a face to face meeting, so I got myself suited and booted and arrived comfortably early. I was surprised by the lack of butterflies and felt at ease as I delivered my pitch. I was rewarded with beaming smiles and positive feedback and I departed feeling that I had given a good performance.

I left and spent the remainder of the day in the office back at The Pile. It was nice to be at home for once, as the rest of the week will be spent at a client site in Oxford. I passed the time getting up to speed with the next assignment but it is fair to say that I had an easy day and an hour was found to walk T&M around the lanes.

The evening included the now regrettably regular, last minute packing of a bag. Tomorrow I will be heading down the M40 to push another rock up another hill ...

The thing is, it isn't my rock and it isn't my hill.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Weekend Round Up

After a week in London, this weekend seemed at least a day shorter than it should have been. To make matters worse next week is likely to be quite intensive too, as I have an important meeting early on Monday morning and am filling in a gap on a new project too. I could have done with three days of "me time" but instead got the standard family sized, two day weekend which had been fortified with the jobs I should have done during the week but couldn't because I was in a hotel in the Capital.

Let's start with Saturday ...

... out of the house by five to nine and a very short walk to get my haircut, Next on the list was a trip to the feed store to stock up on layers pellets* and then it was a walk around the Three Miler with T&M. I arrived back around midday just in time to greet the O&Ls who joined us for lunch and an extended afternoon of chat. It was lovely to see them all and we all had a fine time eating, restrained drinking and chewing the fat.

We had a quiet evening at home together. I did my best to think about nothing ... I may have achieved this but I cannot be sure.

Sunday arrived far too quickly and the morning was taken up by walking the dogs and preparing a PowerPoint presentation. After lunch 30% and I headed in to Worcester to pick up a couple of new shirts and then over to Jules' house to collect the remainder of the pallet wood she acquired from her workplace. It rapidly became apparent that Jules had severely underestimated the quantity of wood she had as we filled the back of the Defender and will need another trip next weekend to pick up the rest.

The rest of the afternoon was spent reviewing and refining my presentation taking frequent breaks to do anything other than what I was supposed to be doing. As a result I can report that the back of the Defender has been swept clean of sawdust and splinters and Steve has been provided with the colour code** for a 1995 Honda CBR 600 F-S ...

... did I ever say that I have a tendency to procrastinate?
* I used 30%'s car and once again managed to scrape the damned thing. 
**NH-1  NH1K if you are interested. This is vital to Steve if he is to match the black on the scratched fairing inspection/access panel.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Has the wind changed?

Today was as quiet as I expected, although next week will not be as I have yet another "last minute" assignment and it looks like I will be spending most of the next two or three weeks in Oxford. Yet again I am pulled from the substitute's bench to make up the numbers in a team before being sent back to watch and wait for a match where I will play both halves. It is fair to say that I am already less than enthused with being dragged from pillar to post, supporting deals about which I know nothing and in which I have no sense of ownership.

I really need to find another job.

As for today, I spent most of this morning claiming my expenses and at one point, had to construct a spreadsheet to determine VAT allocations on a less than clear hotel invoice. I suppose it is my own fault for exceeding evening meal limits. This session of accounting, photocopying and mailing was interrupted by a wander over to the local surgery for an eye test. I then returned and tidied my in-box before lunch.

Unusually 30% came home for lunch and brought along a frolleague;* Rich. We spent a pleasant hour putting the world to rights and exploring the delights of delivering network services to oil and gas suppliers.

The afternoon was quieter still and I would have said that the most significant thing was my first walk around the Three Miler for five days but late in the afternoon Idiot Manager pinged and then sent an SMS** to attract my attention. This was when he informed me about the need to be in Oxford ...

... unfortunately it will be less gleaming spires and more vehicle component manufacturing.
* Frolleague: portmanteau noun derived from friend and colleague
** I wasn't sat at my laptop

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Clock Watching

I have two days left until I finish my current assignment and I delivered my principle piece of work yesterday. This means that I have nothing left to do and am just hanging around in case something crops up. The team are focused on finalising the Proposal and Contract Schedules for delivery to the Client tomorrow and I am there like the Teddy at a Dinner Party for 13.*

This was hammered home when we dialled in to the final review call before the price release and my name was omitted from the attendees in the room ...

... I'll get me coat!

There was no point hanging around in London and joining a commuter crammed, rush hour train so I left the Office at three thirty sharp and within an hour was heading North on the 16:22 out of Paddington. Mechanical issues caused a couple of delays but I was back in Evesham by seven o'clock and 30% appeared in the Station car park five minutes later with T&M in the back of the car.

 I was whisked home to a gin and tonic and a home cooked supper of cottage pie. I'm not kidding when I say that it beat the restaurant cooked, steak dinners and waitress service by a country mile.

Shortly after dinner Jules appeared at the back door. A large quantity of pallets had been cut up at her Employer's site and she had thoughtfully acquired this scrap timber for our wood burner. I was truly amazed at the amount of wood she had piled in to the back of her car and further delighted when she advised that she had half as much again for us to collect from her home over the weekend.

If there is one thing better than a real fire it is a real fire with free fuel.
* It is regarded as bad luck for thirteen to sit down to dinner together. I heard somewhere of a restaurant that has a Teddy Bear to make a sitting of fourteen should thirteen guests ever arrive for a meal.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

It is all downhill from here

Wednesday, the hump in the middle of the week. Once it has passed, it is a gentle coast through to the weekend.

This is particularly true of my current assignment as today was the day of our Solution review. This is the penultimate gate our project has to pass through before we can release our price to the customer. Once this review has been completed I will have very little to do as I will be disengaging at the end of this week and moving on to pastures that will be new but, as yet, are unknown.

This has been a short-term assignment* and, as a result, I have had to define and delimit my role rather than the more usual approach which is just to get on with whatever needs doing. There is a new process for today's review  so I made it my mission to educate myself and ensure that the procedure was followed.

I can report that, after a week and half of preparation, I spent the morning scrabbling around for documentation and invoking threats upon those whose submissions were extremely  late, I finally had all of the deliverables stored in databases and the Presentation slides available for the reviewers. Unusually it was not me that needed to present to the review board so although I needed to have everything in place for the afternoon conference call I had none of the responsibility or pressure that accompanies ownership of the solution.

I therefore half-listened as the review progressed and it came as little surprise that we were given a conditional approval with half a dozen actions that we needed to complete over the next couple of days.

The rest of the working day was spent addressing those actions and I left the office a little after six and rode the Tube back to Marble Arch for another night in The Cumberland.

I will be home by this time tomorrow.
* three weeks

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Kill them all. Now!

I've expressed my frustrations with the muddled thinking of SMIs on many previous occasions. Well, today's experience indicates that there are still virgin seams of idiocy for the lucky Prospector.

I'll use an analogy to allow me to convey today's example of lunacy. It went something like this ...

SMI           bad man, we have a major risk. Basically we don't know how fat this person is so we don't know whether they will fit on the bus.

bad man    Ok, I agree that is a risk but it is hardly a major risk as we have time to weigh them before the bus leaves and make alternative transport arrangements if necessary.

There was a pause ... then

SMI           We can reduce the risk by arranging personal transportation for the possibly chubby person now

This had me perplexed so I responded with …

bad man    How can you arrange personal transportation for the person if you don't know the size of the passenger? Surely the risk is still present and remains unmitigated?

There was another pause so I repeated my question. Eventually the SMI came back with ...

SMI           We have been given information on the passenger's weight.

bad man    If you have been given the weight of the passenger then you know whether they will fit on the bus or whether you need an alternative. There is no risk.

SMI           Yes, that’s right. I'm going to close down the risk.

I paused, took a deep breath and imagined their slow, painful death...

It may have involved lemon juice and salt!

Monday, 3 June 2013

There are checkout queues ...

... and then there are Marks and Spencer checkout queues.

This morning I climbed aboard the 6.50 Express from Evesham and headed towards the Capital for what is likely to be an intensive week. All being well it should culminate in the delivery of our Proposal to the client but I wouldn't bet next month's salary cheque on that!

At lunch time I wandered out of the office and headed down the road to a Tesco Metro store. I grabbed a sandwich and some fruit and headed towards where I expected the lengthy lunchtime checkout queue to end. For some reason the line was much longer than normal, stretching all of the way around the small store and reaching almost to the entrance.

Being a patient sort of person I thought "Fuck this for a game of soldiers", dumped my prospective purchases on a convenient shelf and headed out of the store in search of somewhere less busy.

Enjoying the Spring sunshine, after a morning in a cool drab office, I strolled down the road and walked in to M&S. I chose my lunch and, to my dismay, noticed another enormous queue. By this point hunger tempered my impatience and I stood in line. As I waited I noticed a store assistant walking the length of the queue with a tray ...

... Some genius had decided to calm potentially irritated shoppers by offering them portions of flapjack while they waited their turn to pay.

It bloody worked too.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

A Sunny Sunday

I was up and about well before 30% and TP so, after breakfasting, I headed back in to the Study to continue the clearance. My first job was to take down the light fitting and pack it away. A pendant light fitting now hangs in its place and will remain there for the next few months of demolition and reconstruction. Having done that, the mahogany corner cupboard project was relocated to the garage along with the bacon slicer and other odds and ends … did I ever mention that the Study had a natural tendency to attract junk and act as spill-over area for projects?

I then persuaded 30% to assist me in the rationalisation of the contents of two cupboards. Half an hour later the Charity Shop pile was significantly larger and we had more space in which to store “keepers” from the Study.

These activities consumed the morning and, following lunch, we threw T&M in the back of the Defender and headed over to the nearby Country Estate to repeat the walk we took last week. After a splendid hour in the sun we headed home.

Wanting to make the most of the fine weather I found the flimsiest of excuses to extricate the Ducati from the garage and headed in to Redditch to pick up a strip light starter from the DIY store. I then took the twistiest roads I could find over to Bad Man Senior’s house where I stopped for a tea break and to catch up on their news.

Back at home I fixed the faulty fluorescent light in the garage and then filled the time before dinner by packing a bag for next week’s trip to London. When I say “packing a bag” what I actually mean is that I piled the clothes and sundry items I will need on the bed. For some reason I dislike packing bags and suitcases and will always leave it until the very last minute … thinking about this for a moment I realise that I am quite happy to pack a bag in a hotel room. This seems to suggest that it is not the bag pacing that I dislike but the fact that work will drag me away from home for most of the week when I would much rather be at home.

After dinner and an evening of television I eventually succumbed and placed my clothes in a bag minutes before climbing in to bed. It is an early start tomorrow as I need to be on the ten to seven train to Paddington.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

House Clearance

This morning all three of us headed over to Littleton Auctions and took a wander around the lots. There were a couple of items of interest and we made a few bids on an old safe and a lovely inlaid Edwardian bedroom chair but backed out short of winning either. 30% took a liking to an old yoke and kept bidding until the hammer fell at £12. It is a really nice piece and will look great on the wall somewhere in the house.*

We loitered to see what price a mounted Stag's head went for, but baulked and left when the bidding started at £650. Apparently it was mounted by a well known Taxidermist but I am afraid that, to me, it was just a dusty Red Deer and eBay has far more exotic mounts for less than half of the opening bid.

We arrived home in time for lunch and I headed out around the Three Miler with T&M as soon as we had eaten. The dogs and I have been deprived of walks this week due to work and next week will not be any better as I will be based in London until Thursday evening.

After a restorative coffee I mowed the lawn, again conscious of the fact that I am away next week and the grass will be up to my knees in a week's time. After giving the garden a token tidy up I headed back to the house and, with the assistance of 30% and TP, we made a start on clearing the Study and setting up the home office in the Hall ...

... after an hour the main items of furniture had been relocated and we could see that with some ruthless decision making the remainder of the clutter could soon be disposed of.

I must admit that I am quite looking forward to refurbishing the Study but in a corner of my mind I wonder what horrors will appear as wallpaper and plaster are removed.
* Once a bracket has been fabricated, as I found out later after the trial hanging.