Monday, 16 September 2013

Trudging Forward

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

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

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

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Weekend Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 13 September 2013

Buy shares in Gillette

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

We meet at last

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Quote of the Day

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

I think 30% uttered this in jest.

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

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

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

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

Monday, 9 September 2013

Piano Moving for Beginners

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Weekend Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 6 September 2013

Stop Press

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Still No Sign of Noggin

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

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

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

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

I guess we have to just sit and wait.

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

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

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Back Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 2 September 2013

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

Monday 1st September 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Taughannock Falls

Saturday 31st August 

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

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

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

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