Monday, 29 July 2013

I finally did it

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Weekend Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 26 July 2013

A letter from the Kat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Girding my loins

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Atmosphere changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 22 July 2013

A call from the Kat

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

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

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

Sunday, 21 July 2013

A long & full weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Putting the cart before the horse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 15 July 2013

Fortunately it was a slow day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 14 July 2013

A sunny day in a deckchair ... not!

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 13 July 2013

A full day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 12 July 2013

Refreshing News

I wandered down stairs this morning and heard a graunching noise coming from my laptop's cooling fan. It didn't sound too healthy. This unit has had a noisy fan since I  first received it over three years ago and has, on occasion, displayed a FAN ERROR message instead of booting up. Today I did what I had done on so many previous occasions and restarted my laptop ...

... Hmmm! FAN ERROR. I tried to restart a few more times and on each occasion it made horrible noises and displayed its succinct yet despondent FAN ERROR complaint. I even tried giving it a sharp thumb in the area of the fan in an attempt to dislodge any obstructions but all that did was add the ejection of a huge cloud of dust to the abortive start up sequence. I believe the technical term for the laptop is fucked.

I then had the joys of talking to Dante's high quality help desk in India where a very pleasant young man listened to my assessment of the problem, put me on hold for two minutes and then asked totally irrelevant questions along the lines of "what happens when you enter your password?" I refrained from swearing at him but did point out in no uncertain terms that the laptop required engineer assistance as start up was aborted well before any password screen. The dullard eventually got the message. I got a ticket number and I set about doing my best to carry out my working day with an i-Phone that has no network signal.

After a short while an Engineer phoned and I arranged to nip in to the Nearest Circle of Hell to let him give a professional assessment of the laptop. To cut a long story short he avoided using the word fucked on the problem ticket and instead went with Beyond Economic Repair. I now have a loan unit containing my hard disk and have started the process of ordering a brand new laptop all the way from that pinnacle of quality goods and engineering ... China.*

As the working day was drawing to a close** I wandered in to the kitchen in time to see a silver pickup park up outside The Pile. The driver climbed from the cab and I recognised him as Andy the Powder Coating acquaintance. He had completed the coating of the Defender spare wheel and the bench ends and was offering a personal delivery service in to the bargain. I have to say that I am truly amazed by the quality of the job. The wheel is immaculate and the bench ends are a glistening white and show a level of detail in the cast iron that is fantastic. I asked him what I owed him and he pondered for a moment before sheepishly asking if forty quid was OK. I was astounded and would have happily paid twice that for the job. He seemed pretty pleased too when I nipped back in to the house and raided 30%'s purse so he was paid on the spot.

All I need to do now if find a tyre fitter and some lengths of oak.
* This may turn out to be somewhat ironic but let's just wait and see.
** Remember that a) this is Friday and b) I work at Dante's Nine Circles of Hell so the day tends to start drawing to a close pretty soon after elevenses and certainly by four in the afternoon which is regarded as a late one!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Bad Man takes a slow, steamy strip - LOOK AWAY NOW!

After another working day of confusion, waffle and misdirection I abandoned the laptop and headed back in to the study to continue stripping wall paper. It might seem that this job is taking much longer than it should but I am in no rush to complete this task as I have not yet arranged for a skip to be delivered. There is no point pulling down the ceiling without a skip so I would abandon this Journal now if you don't want me to recount tales of a long leisurely strip ...

 ... The weather is also incredibly hot and filling a room with steam makes it a job that is best performed in short bursts with regular breaks for beer or gin and tonic.

Whilst on the subject of breaks I had a welcome interruption from my study-cum-steam room endeavours when I received a call from Helen to advise that she and Steve would be paying us a visit on Sunday week. The purpose of the visit is to attend to the recently acquired scrape on the fairing of the Ducati but I hope that we get some time for socialising too.

Helen has asked me to construct a non-functional garden gate, that will be used at their forthcoming wedding where it will form a structure to support a floral display. I plan to have this completed for their visit ...

... I hope I don't let her down.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Catching up

There is not a huge amount to report from the past couple of days. The main work activity on Tuesday was to develop an estimate of the budget required to fund the team that will be needed to develop the latest solution.

Once I had exited the virtual office I powered up the steam stripper and spent a happy hour in the study removing ancient wood chip wall paper from the walls. The walls themselves are in reasonable condition considering the age of the plaster work but the colour is a rather unpleasant shade best described as "I shouldn't have had that curry" brown. The plan is to have them skimmed with a new coat of plaster but that is a way off and there is much work to be done before Andy & Steve appear with floats in hand.

My plan of action is to get the walls stripped of paper and then identify a free weekend when TP and I can pull down the ceiling. It will then be a simple matter of getting a skip ordered and we can "get medieval" on the ceiling and fireplace. I will then have a blank canvas and can start on simple tasks like rewiring and complicated tasks like the worrying damp patches on one of the walls ...

... I am guessing that Chippy Ian will be called upon to give advice and professional services quotations!

Moving on to Wednesday; this was a day that started much earlier that I would have liked. I crammed myself in to a suit and was sat in the car by quarter past six in the morning. I than had a dreary drive down an overloaded M40 to spend four hours in meetings discussing "next steps" with the latest client.

The meetings were reasonable and the Sales Exec on this engagement is human enough to acknowledge the duration of my journey home and consequently told me to sod off around four o'clock in the afternoon. This meant that I was home by six and able to enjoy a pleasant evening at home with 30% and TP.

Monday, 8 July 2013

To fail to prepare ...

... is to prepare to fail. Benjamin Franklin put it so succinctly when he stated the need for organisation and planning if one was to succeed in an endeavour. My initial thoughts on the latest assignment is that they have certainly been busy doing "stuff" but there are some fundamental preparatory items that just haven't been developed. I should point out that "they" are the embryonic Engagement Team and they have been in place for a time period measured in months rather than weeks or days.

I have only been assigned a couple of days and I have already drafted a solution responsibility matrix which identifies which of the globally dispersed individuals will be responsible for which solution elements. This is fundamental if there are to be no gaps or overlaps in our final deliverable. Today I was presented with a worrying request. I was asked to review the budget for the development of the solution. With the current level of planning this is like walking up to a man on the street and saying "how much is a car?". It is a question that cannot be answered without parameters that define the requirement. At present there is no information on when the client will provide us with requirements and the date we are proposing to deliver a price seems to move in and out with the tide! There was no way that I could comment on a budget without a bid plan that identifies the key milestones and phases of this engagement. Did one exist? ... Did it Fuck!

So you can guess what I pulled together yesterday afternoon.

I could continue this diatribe with tales of hour long calls with no agendas or actions but I am trying to be positive and make firm but gentle recommendations that will put the team on the right track. I just hope that I can get off at the next station.*

Putting work to one side, I had a slightly more successful day. I managed to combine taking TP to the dentist with collection of a replacement spare wheel from Mark at MP Trading. This lingered in the back of the car for a couple of hours before I took it down the village and dropped it off with Andy who will sort out the media blasting and powder coating. I also took the two Victorian cast iron bench ends that I have had in my possession for the best part of twenty years after finding them in the back of a shed in a house I bought. They have a twisted ivy element to their design and will look fantastic once they have been cleaned up and painted but it is fair to say that twenty years is a long time for a project to be on hold.

I hope it doesn't take me another twenty years to get the timber for the seat or, for that matter, get the tyre fitted to my replacement spare wheel.
* or failing that,leap from the Guard's Van and tumble, limbs flailing, down an embankment

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Ninety six square feet

Perhaps a slightly random title but an explanation will be forthcoming, Let me explain ...

... I'll quickly race through the supermarket visit, lawn mowing and dog walking and arrive breathless and glistening at Sunday's principal achievement. I finally cleared the dregs from the study and laid the protective hardboard sheets in preparation for pulling down the ceiling and taking out the fireplace.*

Let's paint the picture rail apart from the bit behind the curtains
Charming reconstituted stone fireplace.
note 2'6" of unpainted skirting board
I appreciate that it looks grim and has a truly tasteless fireplace-cum-wall unit that takes up one complete wall but it is a lovely room to work in. Being on the ground floor it is close enough to family life but it is in a quiet corner of the house and the door can be closed to shut out domestic distractions. We plan to install a small log burner in the fireplace so the room will be toasty in winter without the need to run the central heating throughout the day. All in all it has the potential to be a lovely room to work in, I just need to spend a few months sorting it out.

Finally, it took three 8' x 4' sheets of hardboard to cover the floor so I know that the study has a floor area of ninety six square feet.**
* not to mention rectification of the dreadful surface mounted electrics
** it is actually 108 square feet (9' x 12') but the fireplace and cupboard weren't included in my calcs.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

A sunny Saturday

First order of business this morning was to clamber in to the Defender and head out to collect TP from his after Prom party. Unusually for TP, he was ready and waiting outside the venue with four friends. They were all sprawled on the ground soaking up the early morning sun and looked suitably dishevelled after what I am guessing was a very late night with more beer that was wise.

Half an hour later I had dropped them off at their respective residences and was back at The Pile for a quick cup of coffee. I then collected 30% and we headed over to Evesham where we dropped off our oil painting at the picture framer and then headed over to the DIY store for some 8 x 4 sheets of hardboard that will be laid down over the office floor to form a temporary protective cover for the original elm floorboards when the ceiling is pulled down.

It was then time for lunch followed by a spot of DIY as I hung the oak framed mirror in the kitchen and then recruited TP to help unload bales of shavings and sheets of hardboard from the Land Rover. The weather today was amazing and I left my walk with T&M as late as possible but the Three Miler was still sweltering as we completed the loop in the later afternoon sun.

The reason I could not delay their walk any later was because 30% and I spent a delightful evening with S&H sat around a table in their garden, telling tales, exchanging news, eating some great food and, in the case of S and myself, drinking beer and gin. We had a lovely time and I must admit that I fell in to an alcohol induced snooze on the car journey home.

Friday, 5 July 2013

An unusual conveyance in to the weekend

I find myself at the end of the working week and have to be honest; reporting that I have done my best to avoid hard work over the past couple of days. It can't be just me that thinks that Thursday or Friday are the worst days of the week to start a new endeavour. New assignments should start at the beginning of the week, not half way through when one is already mentally preparing to stop working  and embrace the weekend ...

... well that is the way  my mind works so I have done very little on the latest project since my "official" start on Thursday. I have explored the scope, both in terms of service and geography, and have pondered its apparent deficiencies and what needs to be done to get things heading in the right direction. I don't think that's too bad having had less than forty eight hours exposure to the beast but I haven't raised a sweat yet.

This morning I finished the oak framed mirror that I started last Sunday. A coat of wax polish was applied to the frame and I then inserted the mirror glass and backing board and pinned it all in place. It was a case of perfect timing as it is the day of TP's School Prom* and he found a 4' x 1' dressing mirror ideal for checking out his outfit of tail coat, dress shirt and bow tie before I dropped him at a friend's house for pre-Prom beers.

With TP away partying 30% and I headed over to the Neat & Tidy Piano Movers** Summer Family Evening. Every year her employer arranges a fair for employees and their families and a local outdoor space will be filled with Marquees, fairground rides and stalls, a hog roast and ice cream stall and all is supplied free of charge. It is amazing when compared to Dante's Nine Circles of Hell which appears miserly by comparison.

We had a lovely time wandering around, talking to friends and acquaintances, munching on the free buffet and taking in the sights. A hands on display of exotic pets was a real hit with the children and I must admit both 30% and I were quite taken with the pythons and the coati mundi. I also experienced a new form of transport when I had a trial ride on a Segway. These are the bizarre two wheeled platforms that  looks like they should have no inherent stability. It was an amusing diversion and I soon became accustomed to the basic principles of propelling the device around a course. However I have to report that a) I felt that the helmet and high-vis vest were totally unnecessary and b) I can see why these are rarely encountered in the real world ... it is an expensive gadget at best.
* Yes, I know it is a dreadful Americanism and School Disco is the British equivalent
** This is an alias

Thursday, 4 July 2013

A plan comes together ...

I knew from the moment that I saw the space where my spare wheel used to be that I was never going to get it returned so there was no point letting it ruin my day. I just needed to accept it and sort it out in the most economic way possible. I didn't want to claim against my car insurance as that would negate my no claims bonus so it was a case of how do I get a genuine Land Rover deep dish alloy and tyre for the lowest possible cost* ...

...My first call was made to Mark at MP Trading and he commiserated and advised that he had a scruffy OEM deep dish alloy on a Defender he was breaking. He advised that I could have it for somewhere around £30 but I would need to have it shot blasted and powder coated and I would also need a tire. I accepted the quote and asked him to remove the best of the wheels. As we discussed options for rubber, powder coating and collection another cosmic tumbler dropped in to place when I realised that I would be barely a mile from Mark's workshop next Monday when I take TP to the dentist.

With the wheel rim reserved I now needed a tyre and that was simple. Tucked away in the front cellar I have a pile of tyres that were fitted to my alloys when I bought them a few years ago. Most of the tyres are reasonable at best but the spare was unused. A quick inspection confirmed that it was the correct size and whilst it is not the same manufacturer or tread pattern as those on the Defender it is more than adequate as a spare.

 Next on the list was to arrange the refurbishment of the rim and that is where one of my dog walking acquaintances becomes relevant. Jazz's owner; Andy runs a powder coating business and I have previously discussed getting a couple of items refinished by him but have never got around to it. The need for a spare wheel was the metaphorical kick up the arse I needed to get in touch and put a bit of business his way. Yet another cosmic tumbler dropped in to place as I bumped in to him whilst I was walking T&M this afternoon. A quick chat confirmed that he was more than happy to take on the work and I arranged to drop the rim at his house early next week.

I then purchased some replacement wheel nuts and this was done on-line and set me back £27, including postage. Mindful of the theft, one of the nuts is a locking wheel nut of the same type as is fitted to the rest of the car. Hopefully this will prevent another automotive violation!

All that is left to do is to assemble these components at some point later next week and I should be back to normal and only about £100 lighter in the wallet.
*  The cost of an OEM wheel rim is circa £230 and a BF Goodrich All Terrain 235 x 85 is going to add a further £140. When I start adding in wheel nuts too I am easily going to hit £400.

Other Stuff

Today was my first walk out with T&M since Tyson ripped her claw. We had a gentle stroll around the Three Miler and all seems well.

I also made a start on my latest work assignment. It is another contract renegotiation and I spent much of today with a 'phone glued to my ear attempting to understand the scope and work out what needs to be done to get this beast moving forward. It also reminded me of how small this industry is when I learnt that I would be working with a couple of colleagues I last served time with more than five years ago.

It is a Global deal with a limited range of services and it will be led from the UK. It is an interesting opportunity and, for once, I have been brought in early enough to allow it to be managed effectively although my holiday plans may clash with the first client deliverable.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Not Happy

For the past three days I have been trundling in to the Nearest Circle of Hell to attend a training course covering Dante's Lamborghini of a cost modelling tool. It was very informative and the trainer was his usual self right down to the selection of personal photographs that interspersed his lecture slides, the irreverent narrative, the borderline xenophobia and even the rhino patterned tie made an appearance. He is most definitely one of a kind and I have a soft spot for him and his eccentricities.

The last day ended and I wandered out to the car park.  As I walked around the back of the Defender to throw my laptop in the rear I noticed that things were not as they should be ...

... some f***ing c*** had stolen the spare wheel off the mount on the back door. I subsequently spent a further forty five minutes going through the formalities of reporting the crime to both site security and police knowing that there was no real chance of ever catching the thieving arse hole and  recovering my wheel.

I'm not having a good week with my vehicles.