Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Oh, so that's how you do it

This morning started with a trip over to Worcester for 30% to attend a consultation with her Surgeon. He is happy with progress and it looks like she will be visiting the local surgery for wound dressing until her next appointment with him in three week's time.

Back at home I made a start on reassembling the Enfield's kick stand and immediately ran in to trouble. The freshly powder coated parts should have simply bolted together but the bolt had thread damage and was very reluctant to screw in to it's locating hole.

A consequence of this was that lunch was rushed so I could make it over to Hitchocks Motorcycles before they closed for the New Year Holiday. The chaps at Hitchcocks were soon working their way through my hastily scrawled list of replacements for knackered components and then took a look at my side stand bracket. It was a matter of a few moments work for them to run a tap* through the thread to clean it and a shiny replacement bolt was added to my box of parts.

Back at home I soon had the stand attached to the bracket and then I dug out the new return spring …

… Oh shit! How the hell was I going to fix that on the two retaining lugs. The damned thing is made from 3 mm gauge stainless steel and there was no way on Earth I could manage to stretch the thing a micron, let alone the nine or ten millimetres needed to install it. After an extended period of head scratching I stumbled across a nugget of wisdom on the internet. Apparently the technique was to insert pennies or washers between the turns of the spring to extend it and allow insertion.

It sounded simple enough so TP's change jar was raided and I headed off to the garage. The internet did not mention that a vice, garden gloves, mole grips and pliers were also needed to ram a stack of low denomination coinage and assorted washers in to the spring. However after fifteen or so minutes the end of the spring passed over the retaining rod and the spacers were tugged free.
I am hoping, but am far from confident, that the rest of the reassembly is somewhat more straightforward.

The remainder of New Year's Eve was spent at home watching a film. TP was working behind a bar at a local pub so Lord knows what time he will eventually make it back home.
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* A set of these is likely to be added to my toolbox very soon

Monday, 29 December 2014

Meeting up

Monday was taken at a fairly gentle pace. The main event of the morning was a trip in to the hospital at Worcester for 30% to have her incision checked and dressed. We then headed home and 30% hit the sack for a snooze.  I roused her around one o'clock with a light lunch lunch.

The afternoon saw a walk around the Three Miler with the dogs and I must have met Christmas Walkers every couple of hundred yards. This necessitates all three dogs being called back and put on their leads to avoid muddy paws/clean coats or excited dogs/petrified walker type incidents. It is a pain in the arse and I will be glad when the New Year has passed and they will no longer feel the need to take a walk around the lanes.

I snoozed for an hour or so upon my return and also found a few minutes to apply a second coat of enamel to the gearbox mounting plate. As the evening approached we tidied ourselves and headed over to Rosie & Jim's house, taking a minor detour to collect Bond, Moneypenny and their offspring. We had a lovely evening with Rosie serving up a fantastic Jambalaya for dinner. Party games were played and we were introduced to the card game known as Spoons. I am not a huge fan of party games but have to admit that this one was hysterical and I can imagine quite catastrophic when drunk … I was, however, the designated driver this evening.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Picture Post

Today was hardly the momentous of Sunday's. The house is quieter than normal as TP is away at his Grandma's house and 30% and I were hardly rushing to achieve anything. The dogs were walked in the morning, the afternoon saw a visit to the supermarket and then we drove over to see BMS and SMS …

… We were not the only visitors at Dad's house. My Nephew and his partner were paying a visit and had, as expected, announced that Dad's will become a Great Grandfather towards the end of June 2015. After congratulations all round we chatted a while and then headed home.

Once at home; a fire was lit and I soon fell asleep in front of it for the best part of an hour. On waking I did manage to apply the first coat of enamel to the gearbox mounting plate on the Enfield. Bloody Hell! … theoretically I could actually be attempting to reattach frame to engine before I head back to work at the end of the week.

With so little going on I have, again, trawled my virtual trunk and retrieved a photograph from the past to fill some space. This little fellow was a regular visitor to courtyard outside the cottage at Pwll Du. We soon discovered that he could be tempted much closer with dried apricots and here he is munching his way through one of many that we gave him during our stay in April 2013.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Film Review

Today 30% and I sat down to watch a film about a mass kidnapping and the resultant effects of Stockholm Syndrome on the victims.  The quite bizarre aspect of this psychological study was that it was a musical … yep, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was on TV.

Friday, 26 December 2014

We don't like Christmas Pudding

That is the complaint I hear each and every year from 30% and TP.

I, on the other hand, absolutely love Christmas Pudding* but very rarely get to eat it. Basically after stuffing my face with Christmas Breakfast, various Christmas nibbles and finally sitting down to a humungous Christmas Dinner I have very little room left for a portion of Christmas Pudding and there seems very little point cooking the little fellow just for me.

As a result one of the Kitchen cupboards has, for a few years,  held a box purporting to contain one of the Finest of Christmas Puddings. 30% had extracted it from it's lair just before the 25th and cast a very doubtful eye over the package. The box very clearly advised that the pudding was best before a date in 2012. Eyebrows were raised when I advised that I was going to eat the damned thing at some point over the holiday.

Well today I opened the box and studied the cooking instructions. There are many accounts of food being fit for consumption long after most would have thrown it away. Recollections of WW1 tins of chocolate and Wedding Cakes where the top tier was preserved for a Christening years later all convinced me that the pud would be fine. After all the damned thing was soaked in Courvoisier, what could possibly go wrong?

I pierced the still sealed cover and nuked the pudding in the microwave in accordance with the still legible instructions on the tatty box … about twenty minutes** later I removed the box from the microwave and unpeeled the cover. It was piping hot and smelt gorgeous. I turned it out on to a plate and cut myself a slice of the steaming pudding. A dollop of cream was added and a first bite was taken ...

… it was beautiful, rich, fruity and slightly boozy from the brandy that had preserved it for at least two years beyond what the manufacturers thought best. The strange thing was that both 30% and TP were brave enough to taste it and both said they really liked it.
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* I did order a portion at The Oak when we dined there on the 23rd but it wasn't right. It tasted very strongly of marzipan and the texture was way too dry. I have a strong suspicion that the cheeky buggers simply heated and served a slice of de-iced Christmas cake and had hoped I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Unfortunately my palette is way more sophisticated than that and I fucking hate marzipan.
** 5 minutes on full power, stand for ten minutes followed by another 5 minutes on defrost setting

Mrs Tweedy's Bacon Sandwich

It had been arranged that 30%'s family would visit us for breakfast and an exchange of presents this morning. 30% wanted to present a full-on full English Breakfast until I reminded her of her convalescence and advised that bacon cobs would be served with ketchup of one's choice.*

Shortly after ten o'clock I could be found cooking a veritable mountain of bacon. There were only eight of us so twenty rashers of smoked back were judged ample, placed in a pre-warmed dish and rushed to the table along with two dozen crusty cobs. As the food started to disappear it became apparent that more bacon was needed so I returned to the kitchen and another thirty rashers of finest streaky were cooked and delivered to the table.

Now, I like my food but even I could only manage two cobs, both of which were packed with ample rashers of bacon, so I was somewhat amazed that 30%'s Dad and Sister both managed three. Neither of them are big people, her sister is positively tiny, but Christ can they put food away.

However, neither Roy nor Amy won the pig of the pig award. That honour was bestowed on Mrs Tweedy. At this point I should probably clarify Mrs Tweedy's identity. Back in the Summer 30%'s Mum and Dad did a spot of dog sitting whilst we had an overnight stay with friends in Cheshire. Tyson reported that she had found 30%'s mum squeezing the chickens in order to extract the eggs and from that day forward she has developed a reputation as the nemesis of hens much like the character Mrs Tweedy in the Aardman Animation Film  Chicken Run.

Now our Mrs Tweedy is not a big woman either, apparently there have been occasions when she has borrowed 30%'s sisters clothes.** Hopefully, by now, you have developed a picture of a somewhat shrewish woman with a frame that is erring towards gaunt. Well, this morning I was sat next to her and
happened to notice that a couple of bites in to her first bacon cob she paused and returned the roll to her plate. She opened the already healthily crammed butty and then added several more rashers of bacon to produce a bacons sarnie with a bacon to bread ratio*** even I would be amazed by.

I casually mentioned this to 30% later in the day and she confirmed that she too had noticed this boxing day gluttony and had been equally amazed.
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* Generally I go with brown sauce with bacon and tomato ketchup with sausages. Don't ask me why but to reverse this arrangement is anathema to me … positively a crime against nature.
* The word mutton would normally come to mind but fucking sad and delusional is probably closer to the truth.
*** A mathematical model has been developed here at The Pile that determines whether there is sufficient bacon in the sandwich. At least 20% of the sandwich must be bacon, preferably much closer to 100%

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Eve

After breakfast I hit my virtual "to do" list and extracted the gammon joint from the fridge and the rib of beef from the freezer. The former was taken up to the kitchen whilst the latter was left on a platter in the cellar to slowly thaw. The gammon was put in to a huge pan of water and hefted on to the hob. It was going to take some time to come to the boil so I wandered in to the study and made a start on wrapping 30%'s gifts.

By ten o'clock the gammon was simmering nicely and my wrapping was just about done. This was perfect timing as 30% and I needed to head in to Worcester to have her incision dressed.* TP was left in charge of the house with strict instructions to tidy up and keep an eye on the gammon.

We were home shortly after midday and by the time we had lunched the gammon was ready to be removed from the jam kettle. It was placed in a roasting dish, studded with cloves and basted with brown sugar and honey. It was then roasted for twenty five minutes and emerged from the oven looking quite splendid.

Buoyed by this culinary success I took a ride in to Tesco to pick up a few last minute necessities and to see if there were any bargains to be had. I did return with a Grade A fresh Turkey which had been reduced by twenty pounds but it was not exactly cheap even after the reduction.**

Back at home it was a case of unpacking the groceries and further present wrapping before settling in front of the TV for a film.
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* The nurse seemed to think all was going well but took a swab just to be on the safe side. Both 30% and I took some convincing as the dressing smelt quite unpleasant. If I am truly honest I thought that one of use had trod in dog poo as we drove in to Worcester. It probably needs to be said that I have always had a keen sense of smell.
* Twenty eight pounds, or thereabouts.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Apparently I was given a tailor made leather coat*

Today is my Birthday.

 I woke just before six this morning and wandered downstairs to enjoy an espresso from the new Gaggia. I had spent a while yesterday evening flushing the thing through and grinding some beans so that this morning all I had to do was turn it on, let it heat up and then create a perfect double espresso. Whiffler even slept in so my first coffee of the day was undisturbed by a dog demanding to be let out for a pee.

Eventually 30% and TP appeared and I was rewarded with cards and humorous gifts. 30% presented me with a novelty ice cube tray that produces icebergs and Titanics to be added to one's Gin and Titonic. TP presented me with a large but very light gift that I shook but was none the wiser. 30% warned that it might be fragile and TP advised that it most definitely was breakable. I removed the paper to see that he had been to the Pound Shop to replace the Drain Cover that he destroyed with the wheelie bin a couple of weeks ago … Little Git!

During the morning I actually found 5 minutes to apply a coat of primer to the Enfield's last engine mounting plate while 30% was distracted by a telephone call. As I was cleaning my brushes I was informed that there was a free slot for her CT scan this afternoon so a 2:30 appointment was arranged at the hospital in Worcester.

The remainder of the morning was taken up by a visit by BMS and SMS who called in to pass on Birthday gifts and greetings. BMS advised that he is to receive some important news when his Grandson; Anthony calls in on the 27th … it didn't take Rocket Scientist to surmise that he is likely to become a Great Grandfather at some point in 2015.

Shortly after midday we headed over to The Oak at Upton Snodsbury for a birthday lunch and 30% and I then headed in to Worcester for her 2.30 appointment in the Imaging Suite at The Spire South Bank Hospital on the Bath Road. It was not far off four o'clock before we were back at home.

A good chunk of the early evening was spent lugging enormous presents down from the spare room and wrapping them in front of the TV. As birthdays go this one was par for the course … it had the usual Christmas interruptions plus, on this occasion, 30%'s hospital visit too for added variety.

One day I swear I will do exactly what I want on my Birthday. I know that is a very selfish thing to say but if you can't be selfish on your birthday when can you be? I am also aware that trying to have a birthday with Christmas knocking at the door is like trying to focus on a candle in front of the sun at midday … it ain't never gonna happen.
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* Over the past couple of months I have made numerous visit to Jonny on Stratford Market as he has designed and then fitted a tailor made leather coat for me. It was to be my birthday gift but at the time of jotting this down 30% has made reference to it but has yet to present it to me. I hope it turns up soon it is supposed to be cold on Christmas Day.

Monday, 22 December 2014

A very short week

My annual leave allowance required me to work today before starting my Birthday/Christmas holiday, which will run through until New Year's Day. I therefore had a working week exactly one day in length … I am pretty sure I can manage to make my way through this one without too much trouble.

I managed to make it in to the office just before nine and wandered in to a room that could house upward of fifty people. Today the occupants could be counted on the fingers of one hand. I completed my expenses and then scratched around for something to occupy me … I found nothing so nipped out to visit a couple of local supermarkets in search of a few essentials. One of these was a large gammon joint that is destined to become a honey roast ham. Unfortunately I failed to locate the perfect chunk of pork and returned to the office realising that I would need to visit a third supermarket at some point in the day.

I spent the remainder of the morning chatting to colleagues before making a discreet departure at midday. I then raced around Tesco and finally found a decent gammon joint to be boiled, skinned, studded with cloves, basted with honey and roasted at some point over the next couple of days.

Back at home I was delighted to find that my Gaggia had arrived and it was nice to see TP and 30% too. We lunched and then I set up the laptop in the study and sat in front of it until I decided that no-one was particularly interested in whether I was there or not.

The evening saw a further visit to the hospital with 30%. On this occasion it was a pre-planned visit to see her Consultant. He reported that her histology results were good and made a few tweaks to the treatment plan for her incision to ensure her recovery progresses at the best possible rate.

We headed home greatly encouraged by the consultation and delighted by the histology results. The evening was spent on the sofa as we are likely to be doing for the next few weeks while 30%'s abdomen knits itself back together.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Lazy Day

After yesterday evening's excitement 30%, understandably, was none too prompt when it came to rising this morning. This was very useful as it gave me the opportunity to nip back in to Stratford to purchase a semi-surprise present without a pre-departure interrogation.  Note the use of the term semi-surprise as I doubt it would take 30% more than a few minutes to accurately deduce where I had been and for what purpose. If I added in a couple more minutes I am fairly sure that she could work out what I had bought too.

I was back at home well before lunch and spent the time prepping the Enfield's gearbox mounting plate for painting. It was a matter of rubbing down the still attached mounting plate before cleaning up, degreasing and masking up the surrounding area. I then applied a coat of rust preventative. Primer and enamel will be applied over the next few days.

After lunch I headed out around the Three Miler with the dogs before settling on the sofa for a King-sized nap. I had managed to sleep until the early evening and it was only the arrival of a delivery from the supermarket that stirred me from my slumbers.

If I am honest that pretty much sums up my day as the evening involved a couple of films and little more. I really did have a very lazy day.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

An outing, going solo and another trip to hospital

This morning I had a trip in to Stratford planned, to pick up a few gifts and some essentials including coffee beans. It was therefore somewhat ironic that the Gaggia expired when I attempted to produce my morning espresso. I am not exaggerating when I say that less than sixty seconds later I was logged on to the Amazon website and a replacement should be here on Monday.

The trip to Stratford was successful and quite brief. 30% had accompanied me so walking was strictly limited to a few hundred yards and we were back home before the clocks struck eleven. We pottered, took an early lunch and immediately after 30% was visited by a frolleague who also lives in the village. Andrea, the frolleage, had brought along her young daughter Emma and I rapidly grew tired of shepherding three excited dogs in and out of the lounge dependent on Emma's whims …

… I therefore headed out around the Three Miler with all three dogs on my first solo outing.  The new lead seemed to work well with T&M not making any fuss about being attached to each other as they were walked through the village. They only had to endure this subjugation for a few hundred yards at each end of the route as we walked through the village streets. As soon as we were out in they lanes they were released to race about as they pleased. There were a couple of occasions when I needed to get all three back on their leads and this went smoothly although the real test will come when we encounter one of their canine chums and I need to control three very excitable dogs.

After the walk I managed to squeeze in a brief kip before I finally dismantled Whiffler's puppy crate and stored it in the garage. I then managed to relocate the Enfield's engine in to the house on a temporary basis while I paint the one remaining engine mounting plate that cannot be separated from the motor.

I had just finished heaving this heavy lump when 30% appeared and advised that she thought she had just felt her surgical incision tear. I took a look and, although reassured by a complete lack of blood, felt that a trip to the hospital was needed. The hospital staff were fantastic and 30% was immediately shown to a private room and was examined by a nurse and doctor within minutes. Her incision was judged to be healing well with no worrying signs and the tear was judged to be minor and simply needed to be packed and dressed.

Within half an hour we heading home and a Chinese takeaway was ordered en route. It is fair to say that after that "excitement" the remainder of the evening was understandably quiet.


Friday, 19 December 2014

I am now "mince pie enabled"

This morning, yet again, I found myself on the eight o'clock train from Redditch into Birmingham. By a quarter past nine I was strapped in to the Dentist's chair and spent the next forty minutes having my implant tweaked and adjusted until it sat perfectly amongst my natural choppers. Once the cement had set I was released from the chair and I asked if I had to avoid using the new crown for the next twenty four hours. "Oh No" replied the Dentist, he continued advising that the implant could chewed with immediately and uttered the immortal words "You are now Mince Pie enabled".

I do have one further check up in the middle of January but hopefully that will be the last time I need to schlep in to Brum to make a wealthy Dentist wealthier.

That just about sums up the day's most significant event. 30% managed to avoid a return trip to hospital today so I actually managed to get out and around the Three Miler with the dogs. Today's walk featured a trial of the new dog lead accessory that allows both T&M to be attached to a single lead. Hopefully it will allow me to walk all three dogs on my own going forward.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Just Stuff

It will come as no surprise that it was another quiet day and that was just as well as I needed to ferry 30% back in to hospital …

… without going into great detail the removal of her sutures had an unexpected effect and, after a quick call to the hospital, it was felt that she should pop in for them to take a look. As it transpired there were no major concerns and we were soon on our way home.

You would think that 30% would then take it easy for the rest of the day but had, instead, invited her brother and sister over for lunch. As they nattered, munched and drank coffee I headed in to the study and pretended to work on and off for the rest of the afternoon*. As 30%'s siblings disappeared Dr Oranges & Lemons turned up and visiting hours were extended accordingly.

When her guests disappeared 30% was somewhat shattered and disappeared upstairs for a snooze. I did the decent thing and left her to it while I prepared dinner. Tonight saw me deliver a peanut chicken curry** which went down a treat.

The preceding paragraphs hardly warrant publishing so I thought I would pad this entry out with an observation of Whiffler's behaviour that we find rather charming …

… Upon his arrival here at The Pile he was given a small sheep skin rug to sleep on and instantly became very attached to it. Initially this caused a few problems for us, as it was a case of near perfect camouflage when he lay on it, and we would often have to perform double takes to ensure he was on his bed rather than up to mischief elsewhere in the house.

As I said, he became very attached to this rug and after a few weeks we started to notice that the rug seemed to have a life of it's own. It was never where we thought it should be. Eventually we discovered what was going on when we heard an odd scraping noise and saw a very small Whiffler dragging his rug from his puppy crate through to the lounge where, with considerable effort and dedication, he got it up on to the sofa and promptly settled on it. If you imagine a lioness on the savannah dragging her kill in to the shade of an acacia you will get some idea of both the technique and effort Whiffler puts in to this labour.

He has continued to do this and his spot on the settee is regularly to be found piled high with his bedding, toys and favourite chews. This evening he took things to another level when we found him dragging in a sack of dog kibble … it seems he fancied a snack in front of the TV.
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* I did actually have a couple of calls scheduled and only one of them got cancelled
** Think Chicken Satay, but served as a chicken in a peanut curry sauce much like standard British Indian Restaurant fare rather than meat on skewers with a dipping sauce.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Frustration

I'm feeling somewhat frustrated at present as I have very little to do but feel that I should be sat in front of my laptop during the working day. 30% says that I am far too conscientious and advised that one of our colleagues had just posted on Facebook that he was currently attending his daughter's nativity play and many others just bugger off to do their Christmas shopping.

Now don't get me wrong I am definitely winding down for Christmas and have no great desire to work my wotsits off for the next few days, but I also feel that it is wrong to just absent myself from work. I therefore do what I must and only occasionally disappear for a few minutes to complete the odd vital chore. Today I did have one such vital chore and a couple of hours were taken up in the middle of the day escorting 30% in to Worcester to have her sutures removed.

Understandably she was feeling none too lively after that, so I was also on dinner duty this evening. I managed to deliver lambs liver, bacon and onions in a rich gravy to the table along with vegetables and creamy mashed potato perfectly time to coincide with the end of the evening edition of The Archers.

I also ordered a few critical components for the Enfield … this is to avoid further frustration over the holidays, if I manage to reach the point where the engine is ready to go back in to the frame, I don't want to be held up by the absence of a few nuts and bolts.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Picture Post

As things are quiet on the home front I thought I would fill some space with a photo taken earlier in the year when we visited Sri Lanka.

This mother and calf were seen at the Udewalawe National Park.  The area of the park frequented by the elephants is fairly open with low scrub. It makes them fairly easy to spot but it was incredibly surprising how quickly they disappeared from view when they turned tail and wandered away from the tracks in the park. For an animal so large they moved with little or no sound and within a couple of paces seemed to simply blend in to the low scrubby trees.
Other Stuff
The reassembly of the Enfield creeps forward and today I unwrapped the freshly powder coated head lamp casing and installed the upper bearing race and the ignition switch bezel. Both of these needed to be driven in to their respective housings with a hammer and bearing driver and I was somewhat nervous of marking the shiny paintwork. Fortunately the job went smoothly and this casing is now ready to be reattached to the frame where it is a principal component attaching the forks to the frame via the steering head bearings.

I just need to finish painting the engine mounts, polish the engine cases and order some new mounting bolts and the engine and frame can be paired up once more. It all sounds so straightforward when jotted down here, but there is always something else that needs doing too.

Monday, 15 December 2014

It's Quiet ...

… too damned quiet!

It must be the because of the lead up to Christmas but I have very little to do. It is fair to say that I had a very easy day.

A trickle of spare parts arrived for the Enfield and a front disk is now bolted, but not yet torqued, to the front wheel and a pair of shock absorbers are decorating the floor of the Study. A pair of Fork Plug Screws managed to wing their way over from India in just over a week for less than half the price demanded by a UK Supplier … they were only four quid and will catch one's eye every time the speedometer is viewed so definitely worth having in place of the rusty crap they will replace.

The evening saw the final puppy training class of this year. It was the traditional Christmas Party where the training exercises are tweaked somewhat and turned in to party games. It was a bit of a giggle and Whiffler and I managed to take first prize in the Musical Chairs game. TP looked on in bemused fashion as 30% had remained at home to convalesce.

There has always been a pair of us attending the puppy training classes as Whiffler has been somewhat nervous travelling in the back of the car. 30% has, to date, sat in the back of the car and reassured him and rewarded him with chunks of cheese to get him used to the rides. He now appears to be much more confident as he learns that the trips result in fun and games at the classes and I don't think it will be long before he is relaxed and confident in the car.

So that was my day. I am guessing that things are likely to stay like this until the New Year.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

I almost forgot ...

A combination of a lethargic diesel pump and the car's humongous fuel tank meant that the car behind me contained a mouldering corpse and a teenager struggling to escape the restraints of a child car seat by the time I had fuelled up at the Supermarket Petrol Station on Saturday morning.

I wonder how my back will be on Monday?

30% has taken the decision to sleep in the spare room during the early phases of her recovery. This is understandable as I too would be nervous of being bumped in the night if I had an eight inch wound down the centre of my abdomen. As a consequence I am sleeping relatively alone* and am amazed at how well I have slept. I do wake in the night when I hear 30% on bathroom visits but I go straight back to sleep and it was gone eight o'clock before I woke this morning.

After a leisurely start to the day, I donned hat and coat and headed outside where I spent a couple of hours stacking the logs that had been delivered earlier in the week.** These are now relatively snug under a tarpaulin and as I finished I muttered the necessary hexes that would bring pain and discomfort on any git that failed to re-cover the stack or in any way caused the tidy cuboid to collapse or be exposed to the weather.***

I had the remainder of the morning free and finally got around to spending some time working on the Enfield. This morning's job  was something of a landmark as it definitely fell in to the category of assembly rather than deconstruction or refurbishment. Today I reinserted the bearing races back in to the frame's neck tube. It is a small, but critical, step forward as this needs to be done before the engine is dropped back in to the frame.

The afternoon saw a walk around the Three Miler with TP and the dogs before I returned to the Enfield. I spent a few minutes applying a coat of black enamel paint to one of the engine mounting plates and then headed out to the garage and recommenced the polishing of the engine cases. The plan is bring the motor in to the house at some point over Christmas so I can paint the gearbox mounting plate … then reassembly can really commence.

The evening saw 30% and I join forces to cook dinner before we spent an evening in front of the TV.
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* With Tyson, Marauder and Whiffler in the house one never sleeps alone.  I woke this morning with Tyson curled up alongside me.
** Tuesday
*** TP, this means you!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Will She, Won't She?

I was up and about fairly early on Saturday morning and could be found heading towards Stratford well before none o'clock.

First stop was at the market to collect the stuffed crocodile that I had carelessly abandoned a couple of weeks ago. It was then a quick rip around the supermarket to ensure that we had the basics in the store cupboard;  beer,  hummus, tortillas … all the crap we eat instead of proper food. I then hit the road with the aim of heading over to Worcester to collect 30%.

As I was about to drive in to the village my 'phone rang … It was TP who advised that 30% had been trying to get hold of me for the last hour. I pulled up on The Pile's drive and called the patient. 30% advised that she might have an infection and that her discharge* was to be delayed, hopefully just until later on today. I was instructed to go about my business.

TP and I unpacked the groceries and lunched before heading off around the Three Miler for a much needed walk with the dogs. Neither Tyson, Marauder nor I had walked since last weekend and we are all looking quite rotund. We really need to improve our exercise regime. As we walked my mobile rang … It was 30%, who advised that she was to be checked later in the day by her Consultant and I should ring around six o'clock for an update.

An hour later we were back at The Pile and had just about de-booted and sought refreshments when the dogs started to bark. I headed towards the back door and was greeted by SMS peering through the gap between frame and door. She and Bad Man Senior had called to pay 30% a visit. They stopped and chatted for the best part of an hour before heading home and, to be honest, I then crashed on the sofa for the remainder of the afternoon.

As six o'clock approached I called 30% and she advised that she was being discharged and I could head over to Worcester to collect her. Shortly after seven we were all back home and attempting to calm a very excitable three dogs who were overjoyed to greet their returning Mistress.
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* no pun intended

Friday, 12 December 2014

Good News

Early in to the "working" day Whiffler yipped which suggested that he needed a pee. I dutifully responded and wandered outside with him. He is a little sod and, even though he needs to pee, will arse around the garden rather than do what he is supposed to be doing. I therefore needed to give him the appropriate command to ensure he "performed".

While this was going on I noticed how bloody cold it was, so I wandered over to the pile of logs that had been delivered earlier in the week and collected a few … having a log burner in the office is a wonderful thing. I wandered back to the house, deposited the logs in the porch and called Whiffler. I was amused to see him race around the corner of the house with a piece of kindling in his jaws. I know it is anthropomorphism but it was as though he was helping me to bring in wood for the fire.

It was a fairly quiet day and I managed to find time to prepare a Shepherd's Pie for dinner during the midday lull.

I managed to escape from the laptop shortly after four o'clock and then had to endure the nightmare crawl down Worcester's London Road towards the hospital. It must have taken me an hour to complete a drive that normally takes twenty minutes.

30% was doing well and her Consultant dropped in while I was visiting. The good news is that after checking her over he feels that she will be able to come home tomorrow.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Apparently I am in charge ...

It is strange waking alone when used to having someone sleep beside you.*

30% is hospital for a few days having had planned surgery on Wednesday. I popped in to see her last night for a few minutes and she seemed pretty good … very groggy, but pretty good considering she had spent a good few hours on an operating table. So, as the title of this Journal entry suggests, apparently I am in charge.

First executive decision of my tenure was that I couldn't be arsed to drop in to the nearest Depot today. Fortunately the God of Proxy Settings** smiled down from above and my laptop agreed to connect to the internet as well as the corporate intranet. This meant that I could semi--fill my day working through some mandated training as the completion deadline is fast approaching.

I had a quick chat with 30% early in the day and she sounded pretty good although she had had a disturbed night as she continues to recover from the effects of the anaesthetic.

I continued my day which mostly involved listening to a series of presentations from an overly personable American. If I am honest I must admit that I tend to multi task and tune him out for much of the time … there are no tests at the end of these lectures!

At lunchtime I threw together a lazy man's curry*** for TP and my supper before heading back to my desk and volunteering to help a colleague on a new project as he will be on holiday next week. A short while after that my Boss IM'd me and asked me to let him know how my colleague got on with the aforementioned project … Hmmm! That raises all sorts of questions and perhaps concerns.

As the afternoon progressed the 'phone rang … it was 30% with a declaration of boredom and a demand that I bring in packets of cheese and onion crisps … Christ she is going to be a bloody nightmare during her period of enforced convalescence. It is fair to say that 30% is piss poor at just relaxing and I think we will need to drug her and tie her to a chair during the early stages of her recovery.

TP and I popped in to pay her a visit during the early evening before heading home for the curry and an evening of Man TV.
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* Mind you I slept like the proverbial log … 30% is not the quietest of sleeping partners!
** One of the more mysterious members of the Pantheon of IT Deities. No-one is quite sure what this God does but they bloody well know when he/she is vexed and wreaks vengeance on his/her worthless worshippers. Pay heed and make regular offerings!
*** Sauce in a jar variety

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

30% goes under the knife

It was an early start today, as 30% needed to check in to The Spire Hospital in Worcester at 7.30 sharp. Needless to say we then spent a hushed thirty minutes in a full-to-capacity waiting room before she was finally escorted to her room. I lingered for a while, leaving after she had received visits from the Catering Manager and her Consultant.

I was back home by nine o'clock and made a start on my working day. There is not a huge amount to report on the work front and around midday I checked in with the hospital to see how things were going. At this point I should mention that the Surgeon had indicated that she would be first or second on today's list, so to be told that she was still in theatre didn't exactly raise concerns but did make me think that her operation had been more complex than originally thought.*

I phoned again a couple of hours later and was again told that she was still in theatre. I wouldn't say that this had me panicking but it is fair to say that my level of concern increased. It was finally four o'clock before the status changed and I was advised that she was in the recovery suite and should be back down in her room in the next half an hour … that was a relief.

I popped in for a fleeting visit some time between five and six o'clock. It is fair to say that there is huge difference in one's level of reassurance moving from being told that "all went well" to actually being able to make my own layman's assessment. 30% was to be found zonked out in her room. She was connected to a variety of drips and monitoring devices but she looked pretty good and as soon as she spoke it was apparent that she was fine … for someone who had just spent a good chunk of the day on an operating table having had a surgeon rummage through her innards.
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* Her Surgeon had advised that the fibroid was 16 cm x 16 cm x 10 cm but it's precise location was not accurately determined. It could be straightforward to remove or complex if it had become entangled with other organs.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Should I be doing this?

I spent much of this morning pulling together an overview of the latest RFP for presentation to my Boss. In this line of business no-one really likes to say "no" to an opportunity but as I trawled through my notes and applied a bit of common sense it was very much as case of insufficient time and resources to develop a solution for this let alone being able to deliver it should we win it.

As I have already said, nobody wants to hear "no" so I set out my case saying that we should really reject the piece but the best way forward would be for us to demand clear and concise requirements for the required solution elements and we would do our best. No commitments would be made until the request was clarified and that needed to be immediate in view of the fact that this would need to be worked over a period when most people are more interested in turkey and presents.

As I intimated in yesterday's entry, I didn't like the timescales associated with this opportunity. I had discovered that the RFP had been delivered in the second half of October but it had taken the Opportunity Team until the second week of December to come to us for assistance … talk about getting the shitty end of the stick!

The RFP was also for a client outside of the Industry Sector Team in which I work. My experiences with the last RFP demonstrated that getting resources within the Sector Team can be hard enough so very early in my presentation I made these points clear and asked whether we were the right team to be developing this solution.

My Boss latched on to this point and agreed that this wasn't for our team and advised that we should take no further action. He would liaise with the Requestor and inform them of the reasons for our disengagement. I must admit that I was quite relieved. I don't like having no work to do but I prefer my tasks to be challenging rather than bloody impossible.

The rest of the day was the fairly standard fare of calls and e-mail and I finished at a very civilised five o'clock.

A fire was lit in the lounge and I spent a while pottering in the garage which translates to taking a multi cutter to the bolts holding the front engine plate that remains stubbornly affixed to the Enfield's motor … after much deliberation I have decided to reverse the nuts and bolts that mount the plate. This allows me to remove the damned thing from the bike and paint it in the comfort of the house.

There may be some faffing around to get the thing remounted on the engine but it seemed the best way to refurbish it.


Monday, 8 December 2014

What have I done?

I had a chat with my Boss this morning and mentioned that that I was currently kicking my proverbial heels. "Why don't you give Deepak a call" he said "He has just picked up a new RFP and might need some cover".

About twenty minutes later I found myself on the 'phone with Deepak where I learnt that he knew very little about the RFP but had a massive amount of work on and wanted me to lead it. I pointed out that I also knew sweet FA about the deal, but what I had learnt was that the Proposal was due on 15th January. As I was taking the best part of a fortnight off over Christmas there was no way that I could effectively lead this piece of work and, at best, we would have to co-lead it.

Without knowing anything I already knew that this was going to be difficult as getting anything completed over the Christmas / New Year period is challenging. The first thing I did was to arrange a call to try to get an understanding of what the Sales Team and Service Owner actually wanted …

… We spoke late in the day and it is fair to say that we have little more than three weeks to produce a coherent, costed solution and significant, and I mean SIGNIFICANT, chunks of the solution remain ill defined.* As for requirements … if we had them I am not sure we would have the time to read 'em.

Outside of work it was Puppy Training with Whiffler tonight. All went well and my technique for teaching Whiffler to lie down drew praise as I had remembered it from when T&M were puppies. We do, however, need to practice getting him to sit and stay while we walk away from him.
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* non-existent


Sunday, 7 December 2014

I almost forgot ...

When we bought the Range Rover there was a strange looking fob accompanying the spare key. After poring over the Owners Manual it appeared to be a remote control that would activate the car's heater on a cold morning allowing one to pre-heat the car.

This was obviously piqued my interest but was of minimal value when we bought the thing in the middle of the Summer. Well, on Saturday morning we had a hard frost and 30% and I needed to be in Stratford early. As I was pottering about the house I looked out and noticed that the car was heavily frosted. I recalled the magic heater fob and retrieved it from the drawer. I peeped out of the door and pressed the button and was rewarded by a humming noise coming from the car. I retreated and let it do it's thing.

About twenty minutes later I noticed that the windows had defrosted nicely and ten minutes after that we exited The Pile for our trip in to town …

… that has got to be the best gadget EVER. The car was beautifully warm and the windows were frost free. There was no need to faff about with ice scrapers or waiting for heated windows to defrost. Simply remember to hit the button half an hour before you plan to leave and you are rewarded with a car as cozy as the house you just left.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Mostly Pottering

This morning we headed in to Stratford early, where we divided and conquered. 30% hit the supermarket to ensure our cupboards were full for the next week or so* while I headed in to the town centre to pick up a jacket and shirt I had ordered from Jaeger.

We were back at home before eleven and I filled the time before lunch putting another coat of enamel on the Enfield engine plates.

Much of the afternoon was spent in front of the Mac finishing off a recent project … The fourth volume of this rubbish is being transitioned from the internet to the physical page and I will soon be  instructing my printers to produce a print run limited to a single volume.

Around three o'clock TP and I headed off around the Three Miler with the dogs. It was bitterly cold out and a fire was lit upon our return. A happy hour was then spent toasting my toes before 30% returned from a shopping trip with Jules.  I caught up on her news … and an enquiry as to whether I might be interested in funding this trip as part of her Christmas present.

This evening TP headed off to a nearby pub for a trial shift behind the bar. We settled in front of the TV with a chinese takeaway and booted up the Apple TV** as an alternative to the pre-Christmas shite the TV schedulers are punishing us with.
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* more on that subject in an upcoming post
** The World's Fastest Indian with Anthony Hopkins, if you are interested

Friday, 5 December 2014

An Interview or a day in Court?

Walking in to work on dress down Friday wearing a suit and tie was bound to draw some curious comments and the majority of these were based on seeking a new job or looking respectable in front of a Judge. The actual reason was that 30% and I needed to be at the Redditch Crematorium by half past twelve for SMS's mother's funeral.

It wasn't exactly a sad day as Kate was well in to her eighties and had suffered from Alzheimer's for many years so this was more of a natural ending than a sad departure. Obviously and understandably there were tears from those who were far closer to her than us. The funeral was as pleasant as they can be and, once again, I was quite taken with the design of the Redditch Crematorium and the view given by the full height windows looking out over the cemetery and the Abbey Park. It was perhaps fitting that the grey drizzle was replaced by a bright December sun as the service progressed.

There would not be a lot more to say about the Funeral if it hadn't been for the fact that both of my Sisters were also present. It is fair to say that we have a strained relationship.* The reality is probably that we have all just grown up and grown apart but there also some unspoken niggles that have festered, particularly with Sara and Emma. As a result we did little more than exchange nods of acknowledgement and terse Hello's before attending the service.

After the service we attempted some small talk and I asked Emma how her new job was going. She returned the question and then 30% offered a metaphorical Olive Branch by saying that perhaps we should consider getting together at some point. I saw Emma's expression grow harder than her normal stern visage and recognised the warning signs … I gave 30%'s sleeve a gentle tug to indicate that this had not been well received.

There then followed a few choice comments where Emma attempted to induce feelings of guilt in me for not attending the funeral of her ex-husband. The fact that she had neither informed me of his death nor invited me to the funeral didn't seem to present any obstacle to her twisted logic. I didn't rise to the bait and simply informed her that this was neither the time nor the place and that I was going outside.

As I said earlier in this entry, it is apparent that there are some family issues that have festered over time and I think 30% managed to knock the scab off one of those metaphorical sores today. As for me, I definitely don't feel guilty and I definitely will not be attempting to build any bridges with my younger sister. She grows more like my Auntie Joan with every passing day from the stern face to the spoilt child demeanour and the expectation that the world should revolve around her. She still has a lot of growing up to do but in her late forties I don't think that is going to happen.

It is quite sad that someone who was so gregarious and personable as a young woman has such a dependency on my elder sister for her social needs and has upped sticks and relocated to Herefordshire after taking a job vacated by one of Sara's friends … talk about living in each other's pockets!**
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* Actually we don't have a relationship. I last spoke to Emma in 2008 and apart from a couple of brief encounters with Sara at Dad's house and at Jeff Wilson's Funeral it has probably been a good five years since I had any contact with her either. I get regular updates on their lives from Dad but that is about it.
** Apparently Emma's company is already loosing it's shine as she has started to critique Sara's parenting of Beatrice***
*** David's four year old niece, who has recently moved in after many suicide attempts and mental breakdowns suffered by her natural mother.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Another quiet day

Thursday morning was filled with a jaunt in to Birmingham for yet another session in the Dentist's chair. This time a number of impressions were taken of my dentition and, all being well, within two weeks my double crown will be ready to be installed in to the titanium socket.

The trip took most of the morning and it was lunchtime before I was back at The Pile. Work is still quiet so the afternoon was spent tidying my in-box and a further coat of enamel was applied to the Enfield's mounting brackets. I did also venture out out the garage with the aim of separating the front disk from the mounting plate but it is way too bloody cold for that at present …

… andI may also need to buy some 1/2" Hex Sockets too.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Haircuts all round

I was up, suited and booted and out of the house a little after eight this morning. Tyson and Marauder accompanied me as today it was a case of haircuts all round.

Normally I try to avoid the office if work is quiet but I desperately needed a trim so I volunteered to drop T&M off at the Groomers and kick my heels in the office until they were ready to be collected. As I have intimated, it was a quiet day and apart from a wander across the road to the local Barber and a couple of calls I wasn't exactly busy. The Office was quiet too so neither were there a huge amount of colleagues to pass the time with either.

Eventually I received the call and was able to make my escape a few minutes after four o'clock. T&M look superb and I really must try to get a decent photograph of the three dogs whilst they all still look salon fresh.

It was a quiet evening at home with not a lot to report apart from a further session of enamel painting. It is going well but I am taking a slow approach, curbing my natural impatience in the hope of achieving an attractive and durable finish.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Picture Post

It was very much a "slow news" day today and, if I am totally honest, I had very little to occupy me. As a result I took some time out in the morning to get the first coat of enamel paint on the Enfield's engine mounting plates. It seems to apply far better than the primer but I will not be able to make a proper assessment until I have a second or possibly third coat applied.

I could just leave it at that but this would then be judged a half arsed Journal entry at best. I have, therefore, rummaged through my photo archive and selected this as a space filler …
I took this snap at a living exhibition of tree frogs at the American Museum of Natural History back in August last year.

Monday, 1 December 2014

What ?

Monday was a relatively quiet day so I thought I would jot down a couple of random thoughts to fill a little space.

Firstly, I need to consider a follow-on series to Marauder's Bumper Book of Crimes …

… On Saturday I wandered back in to the house after our shopping trip to Stratford and TP asked whether I had left my glasses on the coffee table in the lounge. I confirmed that this was likely and he then wandered off in that direction. Moments later he returned with a pair of very mangled titanium armed, frameless spectacles. It appears that Whiffler had managed to strip the rubber grip from one of the arms and the lenses now bear his teeth marks.

They went straight in the bin and Whiffler was given an evil glare.

The second was a discussion TP and I had about who would win in a fight between a crocodile and a reindeer …

… Initially this seems to be a no-brainer with the croc rapidly dragging Santa's steed beneath the muddy waters and twisting chunks of flesh off the still living body with the traditional death roll. However, if you give this one some thought it all depends on whether this is a home or  away match from the croc's perspective.

If this death match takes place out on the Arctic Tundra that ectothermic reptile is going to be somewhere between sluggish and immobile and the odds of the reindeer winning increase massively.

Hold tight as I am now going to make a massive change of course …

… This evening we had an early dinner, loaded ourselves in to the car and headed over to the Malvern Winter Gardens to see a touring production of the 50's musical; Calamity Jane. It was a super show with an incredibly talented cast that not only acted, danced and sang but also played the score too.

In some ways it was a wander down memory lane as, when I was a young child, my parents had the sound track and I can recall my elder sister playing this* on the record player on Sunday mornings. As a consequence all of the tunes were familiar and I thoroughly enjoyed the show. One of the things that struck me was how far removed a musical is from the type of entertainment prevalent now. The 50's musical was actually a legacy of the Victorian Musical Theatre and consequently worked perfectly on a stage. It was, however, quite surreal at times and I did, on occasion, wonder if I was having some form of flash back!
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* She was also very fond of Oklahoma and Frank Sinatra's Songs for Swingin Lovers

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Hell, it's December tomorrow!

My first activity on Sunday morning was to give my engine mounts a quick rub down and get a third coat of primer on them. I had added a dash of thinners to the primer, changed my brush and it has made a world of difference. With a fair wind I should get some enamel on to them at some point in the coming week.

Painting activities took me until just before ten. The local feed store doesn't open until then on a Sunday so I was then able to head over there and pick up enough layers pellets and wood shavings to last us through until the New Year.

The remainder of the morning was spent out in the garage where I attacked one of the gearbox mounting plates with a mini sanding drum on the Dremel to remove the corrosion and remaining paint. These mounting plates are going to be a pig of a job to paint, and achieve a reasonable finish, as the garage is unheated and that is before I list the accessibility issues presented by them being bolted to a bloody great big engine. I guess I will just have to persevere and trust to good fortune.

After lunch I had summoned sufficient enthusiasm to unload 150Kg of chicken food from the car along with a huge bale of wood shavings. I also managed to get a coat of rust inhibitor on the mounting plate I had stripped earlier in the day. Late in the afternoon TP and I headed out around the Three Miler with the dogs before returning home and doing very little for the rest of the day.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

I know just the spot for it ...

I suppose it must be that time of year as, yet again, we found ourselves in Stratford this morning.

The main purpose of the trip were fittings for a couple of items of clothing and the collection of a large leather beanbag but we managed to find a pair of presents for 30% and also one for TP too. We also managed to get mildly squiffy on the free Prosecco offered at Jaeger. I generally tend not to drink until the sun is well over the yardarm but must admit that a large glass of pink, sparkling stuff at ten in the morning does tend to take the edge off the irritations of Christmas Shopping.

We also took a wander through the antiques stalls in the market and it was there that I spotted the must have item … at front and centre of one of the stalls was a small, vintage stuffed crocodile. Our eyes met across the crowded market and through a tightening throat I uttered the immortal words "I fucking love that". 30% looked horrified but before she could intervene I had committed to the purchase and money was changing hands. She did however manage to dissuade me from carrying the small reptile around the town and it was left for collection upon our return to the car.

We went about our business and eventually headed home. It was only as I was about to sit down to lunch that I realised that my beloved crocodile had been forgotten. It goes without saying that I lay all blame for this with 30% as there was no way that I could carry a large leather sack full of polystyrene beads, walk AND remember the earlier purchase of a taxidermied crocodilian. Fortunately we had the telephone number of a Stall Holder* on the same market who was more than happy to collect and hold the beast until we can collect him in a couple of weeks time.

The afternoon saw us totally ignore the threat made by the Dog Groomers and we took a walk around the Three Miler. It was filthy out there and Whiffler's lower half was covered in shite by the time we wandered back in to the house as the sun started to set.

If I am honest I really just wanted to spend the evening in front of the TV but we had promised to attend a show that had been put on by the local Am Dram group at the Village Hall. This rash promise had been made because TP had volunteered to work the lighting and sound console for the production and we felt that we should do the right thing. I'm not really sure how to sum up the evening so I will just stick with the lager was reasonably cold, at least I hadn't had to travel far** and I did manage to laugh in the right places … most of the time.

I also have a cold coming on.
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* The artisan leather worker who had constructed the fabulous leather beanbag that caused crocodilian amnesia in the first place.
** 400 yards

Friday, 28 November 2014

Whose dog are you?

This morning I ran a razor around my face, threw on a tidy…ish pair of jeans and headed towards the Nearest Depot.

I should have been accompanied by 30% but she had woken to an horrific migraine and preferred to lie in a darkened room only venturing from her bed to vomit.* It was therefore left to me to drop Whiffler off at the Dog Grooming Salon and head in to the Office where I spent a happy few hours chatting to colleagues, filling in an expenses form and grudgingly completing the final field on my on-line appraisal form.

By two o'clock I was done and my colleagues were silently wishing me to go so they could get on with whatever had dragged them from home in to the office on a Friday. Fortune smiled on them when the Salon called to let me know that Whiffler was ready for collection. I headed down the road, wandered in to the Salon and was greeted by this …
I had left them a fluff ball of a puppy. Admittedly he had been a very large fluff ball of a puppy, but I had returned to collect very attractive coiffed young dog. I had forgotten the shock of how different they look after their very first clip. Apparently he had behaved beautifully during his wash and cut and I was threatened with dreadful retributions should I consider taking him for a walk down the muddy lanes for at least a week. I was also asked if I would like to consider buying shares in the Grooming Salon as T&M are booked in for a clip next Wednesday!

I headed home and finished my working day from the study. That really sums up the day. I did need to head over to Worcester and drop off a pair of Peter Gabriel tickets with Jules as 30% was in no fit state to head over to the NEC this evening. I then settled on the sofa for the evening and as the hours ticked by I felt less and less chipper …

… I don't know if it was the bad night's sleep I woke from this morning or if I had a cold coming on. What I do know is that I felt quite yucky and was glad when TP came home and I could lock up and hit the sack.
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* This statement might seem a little "cold" but after more than a dozen years together I am well versed in the lore of the migraine. There is nothing I can do but just leave her be and let it dissipate over the course of the day. Questions like "How are you" or "Do you need anything" are pointless and simply an unwelcome intrusion in to a world of pain and nausea.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

It's that time of year ...

... for most of today I experienced rising panic as I stared at the Neat & Tidy Piano Movers' On-line Appraisal Tool. What on earth should I write? What have I done over the past twelve months to justify my continued employment as a Junior Shifter? I bloody hate this self-justification exercise and am absolutely certain that much of the angst comes from my twelve years of servitude at Dante's Nine Circles of Hell. I'm not going to start a rant about the perverse aspects of their staff appraisal system. I am sure there is a Journal Entry from a couple of years ago where I moan about it and a recent blog post by an ex-colleague suggests that things are probably worse there rather than any better. What I do know is that I am somewhat scarred by Dante's appraisal system and consequently have the same expectations here at the Piano Movers. 30% is far more relaxed about it and tells me that I shouldn't worry. My Boss loves me and the grading decisions have been made already. Apparently all I need to do is enter a few concise notes that simply say that I succeeded in or delivered my various objectives. I'm not so sure ... what if I miss out a critical piece of evidence and my career dissipates like mist in the early morning sun or, likely more accurately, like a small antelope with a bad limp wandering past a starving lion. I guess I should relax but it is hard when it is my livelihood that is at stake.

I approached the day on a task and reward basis. Each time I fancied a cup of coffee or food I made myself enter the evidence for one of my dozen objectives before I allowed myself the luxury of getting up to seek sustenance. By the end of the day I had entered results against all but one of my objectives and I have until Monday to complete the exercise. I still find it surprising how relieved I feel when I can finally press the submit button and get this crappy task completed.

In the late afternoon TP and I took the dogs for a walk around the Three Miler and we then had an early dinner before heading over to the NEC ... A colleague at work had tickets for Lee Mack's Hit the road Mack tour but was not able to attend. As a result TP and I found ourselves in pretty good Block A seats to enjoy the spectacle. The warm-up act was an appalling misogynistic throwback to the seventies and I was relieved when his half hour finally drew to a close. Mack, on the other hand, was a delight and his set was filled with laugh out loud moments.  A definite 8/10. This would have been a higher score but there was no free tin of Spam.*

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* a running gag coming out of some audience interaction.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

This is gonna take longer than I hoped

I applied the first coat of primer to the engine mounting plates and spacers this morning and it is fair to say that I ain't impressed. It looked fine in the tin and loaded up on the brush beautifully but is horrible to apply, leaving runs or streaks depending on the quantity applied and the amount of brushwork. It may be the temperature. It may be the rust preventative applied yesterday.  I just don't know, but what I do know is that I will have some rubbing down to do and may well be thinning the stuff to see if that improves things. I also know that painting the brackets that are still connected to the engine is going to be an utter bastard of a job based on today's experience.

Sticking with the Enfield Project I also finally bit the bullet* and ordered tires and tubes for my shiny new wheels. I had been contemplating a pair of road legal, but super soft and grippy, trials knobblies but was concerned about the wear rate** and instead settled on a pair of Continental Escape Trail Tyres that are the best part of sixty quid cheaper than Dunlop D803s and probably a lot more sensible on the road.

I also learnt that patience is a virtue as random perusal of a website taught me that my standard rear shock absorbers are ten millimetres longer than I thought. Had I rushed out and ordered a shiny set of Hagon shocks I would have ended up with the wrong size …

… Perhaps an oily fingered God is looking down on me and my project bike.***
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* Did you see what I did there?
** Christ knows why. It is not as though I do a huge mileage on any of my bikes!
*** and is, no doubt, shaking his head and sighing in a combination of frustration and desperation

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

I haven't a clue about a title for this stuff …

It was another cold, wet day and by lunchtime I had succumbed and had a fire burning in the study. It does make the room delightful to work in but it also adds a very strong temptation to just close ones' eyes and lean back in the chair for a few minutes … zzzzzzzzz!

For most of today things had been pretty quiet at work and then, just as I was about to step away from my laptop I received an urgent mail from one of my colleagues. The consequence of this was that I then spent the next thirty minutes reiterating information previously provided and excavating evidence to demonstrate that the client is now asking questions about service elements that had been clearly marked as out-of-scope.   

I eventually escaped just before five o'clock and attempted to head over to Alcester. This involved a search for the car keys and within moments I found them or, more accurately, identified their current location … they were nestling in 30%'s handbag after yesterday's trip to puppy training. This was no good at all as she was still in the Office.* I grabbed the spare set and headed out to the car where I made a startling discovery … the Range Rover alters it's settings dependent on which key is used to open it. I found myself sat in a new seating position, with different radio stations stored and a rather posh, but irritating woman, talking to me from the innards of the Sat Nav.***

It took a few minutes to restore the car to it's previous set up and, after a brief stop at the Auto Bank, was soon collecting my shiny new wheels from Ray. He has made a super job and I am so pleased that I made the decision to invest in new hubs rather than attempt to restore the tatty originals.

Back at home, yesterday's lamb carcass was brought up from the "beer fridge" and 30% and I set about identifying and packing the joints and chops. I also, briefly, wandered off in to the realm of butchery, as I needed to bone out the two breasts before I could say my work was done.

With half an hour to go before dinner, I finally made a start on the painting of the brackets and spacers. These now have a coating of a rust preventative and I will start on the first coat of primer tomorrow.
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* I should point out that she is notorious for putting things safely in her hand bag out of the way.  She will claim, in her defence, that she is always the nominated beast of burden and ends up with anything I refuse to put in my pockets such as diabetic paraphernalia.** However, this week I have already had to search the cavernous chaos to extract my cheque book that had been missing for the best part of a week.
** Blood testing kit, syringe, emergency high carbohydrate snacks etc etc …Allegedly these are required on all outings but I rarely take them unless I am away for a good length of time and am eating out.
*** I get enough of that at home, Thank You!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Busier than expected

Monday … and I didn't need to sit in front of a laptop.

Today I had taken a day off to take a wander around the Motorcycle Live exhibition at the NEC. I had hoped that, by going on a week day, the crowds would be reduced from those tramping the exhibits over the opening weekend.

 I started the day at a leisurely pace and cleared my crap from the study so that 30% could work there today. I also did the decent thing and lit a fire so it was toasty warm for her by the time she settled to work. I left her and home shortly after nine and had a gentle drive up to Birmingham.

The show was very good but the attendance was huge, and after four hours of walking, side stepping visitors and throwing my leg over countless bikes I was ready to go home. I had gone with a shopping list of a few bits and pieces for the Enfield but there were no massive bargains that simply could not be missed. I purchased nothing more significant than a rather crappy burger … I'll source the parts I need via the internet over the coming weeks.

I arrived home in the early afternoon and had barely sat down with a coffee when the 'phone rang … it was Ray the wheel builder … my new wheels are ready for collection so I arranged to pick them up tomorrow evening. I then took it easy for an hour or so, after all it was a day off, before getting busy again.

I spent the next couple of hours setting up a warm, dust free working area where I can paint the engine mounting plates and spacers from the bike. The components were attacked one final time with sanding disks and wire wheels before they were degreased in preparation for priming tomorrow.

The reason I was not painting this evening is that it is puppy training but yet another errand needed to completed before heading off the class …

… Kathy H-R had called yesterday to let me know that she had a lamb for the freezer, so this evening I raced over to her small holding, handed over a cheque, threw the carcass in the car and headed back home. It was then a case of removing the lamb and replacing it with Whiffler before heading off to the Dog Training Club.

30% joined me for the training class and Whiffler, once again, performed incredibly well considering that he has only just started. The highlight of this evening was a retrieve. We had forgotten to bring one of his toys so were given a squeaky, rubbery item and were told to throw it half way down the hall and then release the dog. Like last week I was extremely dubious of success as this was a novel experience for Whiffler … again the little bugger proved me wrong … I threw the toy, he charged after it, fumbled the pick up but persevered* and moments later was charging back towards me with it clamped in his jaws. He even let me remove it … he will do anything for cheese.
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* This drew a collective "aww!" from the club members

Sunday, 23 November 2014

A quiet Sunday

This morning we took a leisurely start to the day and, after breakfasting and a quick tidy of the kitchen, I prepared some vegetables and put another batch of vegetable soup in the slow cooker. 30% and I then put on our coats and boots and headed off around the Three Miler with the dogs, wandering back in to the house in time for lunch.

In the afternoon 30% needed to head back in to Stratford to collect an internet order from M&S and I was informed that she wouldn't be very long. I volunteered to stay at home and keep the dogs company and woke two hours later just as she was parking the car back on the drive.

I then headed out to the garage and spent a couple of hours sorting through spacers and fasteners, either cleaning them of crud or sanding them free of rust, n preparation for painting.

I wandered back in to the house shortly before dinner and put myself on the outside of a beer and a few olives before settling down to enjoy the evening. I have a day off tomorrow and I had that warm glow that results from knowing that a) the working week is still a day away and b) it will be quiet as the Americans are celebrating their Thanksgiving Holiday and will have taken their eyes well and truly off the ball.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Shopping, Cooking and Dancing

Saturday morning involved yet another trip in to Stratford.

I needed to attend a fitting for a coat that 30% is having made for me, so my first stop involved putting on a calico. The calico is a basic coat stitched up from panels of calico cloth and eventually becomes a customer specific pattern. It is used to ensure that the fit is perfect and for the next few minutes Jonny wandered around marking the positions of pockets, hem and sleeve lengths and various other tweaks that need to be made. He also provided a sample of the most beautiful yet tough leather that will be used to make the coat. A further calico will be made over the next week incorporating the adjustments and I will need to attend another fitting before a start is made on the coat proper.

Whilst being fitted for the coat we also made a sort of impulse purchase … many months ago we had seen and tried a beautiful leather bean bag chair that is another of Jonny's product lines. Today he had one in cream and brown that would be perfect for the study. The one we saw was about to be collected by it's new owner so we ordered another one just like it.

Having finished with our purchases of hide based goods we then legged it over to Jaeger where I had a voucher that was nearing it's expiry date. I had initially thought to use it on a sweater until my eyes fell on a rather fine jacket. They didn't have one in my size but the assistant soon had one on order for me and a combination of my voucher, a promotional reduction and free alterations meant that I will have managed to buy a four hundred pound jacket for less than half of the price.

The shopping then had a deleterious effect on my health and I had a massive hypo necessitating the consumption of a chocolate bar and a short stop at a pub for a coffee and cake. We then headed homeward making a brief stop at the supermarket to pick up a few essential groceries.

One home we lunched and a quick look at the clock made us realise that we needed to divide and conquer. The reason for the time constraints was that we had agreed to assist at a fundraiser this evening and dinner needed to be eaten early. TP and Peanut were encouraged* to take the dogs for a walk whilst I prepared dinner …

… for some reason a packet of lasagne sheets had been left out on the work top and I had decided that I would make one for dinner. The presence of the lasagne was surprising as it is something that we almost never eat, so lord knows why it was in the house in the first place. I imagine that this is because we live in a a busy household and generally just make a bolognese sauce and add it to some cooked pasta rather than going the extra miles of making a cheese sauce, assembling the dish and baking it in the oven for half an hour.

Well today I had the time and the ingredients so we sat down to an early dinner of lasagne, salad and crusty bread and it was declared a huge success. It looks like I may well be down to make another one in the not too distant future.

With dinner out of the way we all put on our chequered shirts, boots and hats and headed down to the village hall where we we helping out with a Barn Dance that had been arranged to raise funds for the Zambian Exchange that TP is involved with. I was directed to the bar and spent most of my evening selling beer and wine to the dancers. It was a well attended do and I actually did get dragged out on to the floor for a couple of dances at the very end of the evening. I also received a very early Christmas Present which Stevie and the Elf insisted I open there and then … `

… Stevie had been working at Motorcycle Live and had purchased an Enfield Workshop Manual from one of the exhibitors. He knew it would be needed before December so did the decent thing and gave it to me today.
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* Nagged until they got off their lazy arses, came downstairs and actually did something constructive instead of trying to suck off each others' faces.


Friday, 21 November 2014

Warm & Toasty

Today was cold, wet and grey … a typical British November day.

As I sat in the study this morning the house cooled rapidly once the heating had switched off and I noticed that my feet were bloody freezing. This was no good at all so I headed out to the garage and wood pile returning with kindling and a few logs. I opened up the log burner and lit a quick newspaper based flash fire to heat the flue. Five minutes later I had a fire laid and lit and twenty minutes after that the room was warming delightfully.

I then did what any decent human being would do and pinged 30% who was seven miles away at the Nearest Depot. She absolutely, and I mean ABSOLUTELY loves a fire so I knew she would be delighted to know that I lit one all for myself in the study. There was most definitely a slight tinge of envy in her response.

In the early afternoon TP and I headed off around the Three Miler with T, M and W and returned with three very soggy dogs. The piping hot study was a delight to return to and within moments Tyson and Marauder were curled up in front of it drying out. Whiffler, on the other hand, settled for the large dog bed in the Hall for his post walk snooze. We think he may find the house a little too warm as he has yet to be clipped and his coat is long and no doubt insulating.

My day, and also the working week, finished at a civilised half past four just as 30% returned from her day at the office.We passed in the kitchen as I headed over the road to the local surgery to collect a prescription. By the time I got back I found her literally curled up on the rug in the study in front of the fire.

Marauder was not impressed.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The rudderless ship

In the middle of last week I was assigned to a new project so, over the past few days, I have dutifully attended calls, listened relatively carefully and made several pages of rather scruffy, but comprehensive, notes. We had already worked out that I had been summoned to perform task a when in fact tasks b and c  were also needed and, in fact, needed to precede task a.

As I asked a few probing questions it became apparent that, although a solution was required, none of the project team had considered it necessary to document the requirements for that solution. I could understand this as, after all, they had only been assembled for several months and the issue that spawned the project raised it's head years ago*!

The absence of a Requirements Architect from the project team was no surprise either so, with four days exposure to the issue, I set about drafting a high level requirements document. I then e-mailed it out, asking for comments and approval. I received a couple of replies and it suddenly became apparent that this project had been running for the best part of a year and no-one had bothered to involve the relevant Service owner.

This was unbe … fucking … lievable! These halfwit, cretins had been attempting to create a new service and had not involved an accountable individual who would take responsibility for the new service. Needless to say there were several tumbleweed moments on today's call when I pointed out this fundamental deficiency with the project. How the hell did they think they could make decisions when none of the group had any accountability. Give me fucking strength!

Feeling that I had definitely earned today's pay, I headed out to the garage and turned these manky, shitty items
 Into these shiny, soon to be painted engine mounting plates
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* This, for any American Readers, is sarcasm

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

From Shitty to Shiny, Part 2

A couple of weeks ago I made a start on degreasing and tidying up the Enfield's engine. It runs and starts up beautifully … or at least it did before I took the bike apart … so hopefully all it will need is attention to the cosmetics and a service as part of this project. I have made a few references to this activity so I thought I would use today's Journal entry as an opportunity to illustrate progress.

The Journal entries of 28th September, 12th and 26th October show the grimy and oxidised state of the engine. These photographs show the progress on this almost Herculean endeavour.
Most definitely a "before" 
Getting There
Very different to the photo taken on 4th November
I'm now willing to approach it without donning a Hazmat suit
Note the nasty engine mounting plate on the gearbox
The enamel and primer is due to be delivered tomorrow so the weekend activity is likely to be sanding brackets and spacers before I get busy with the paint brush.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Enfield Stuff …look away now

There is not a huge amount to report for today but I did find time in the early evening to head over to the other side of Alcester and drop of my wheel components with Ray. He is a semi-retired chap who likes to keep his hand in and his pension topped up. If all goes to plan I should be able to pick up my new wheels in a week or two.

I also made another call to my friendly Bike Workshop with yet another MOT related enquiry … During the shot blasting and powder coating the VIN Plate needed to be removed from the Enfield's frame. There was no way that the original plate could be riveted back on* and I started to look at replacement services. They do exist but the quotes were high for a few square centimetres of stamped aluminium plate. An internet search suggested that the VIN plate was not mandatory from an MOT perspective provided that the vehicle identification number was clearly stamped elsewhere on the frame. The number is clearly engraved on the Enfield's headstock and a quick call to my local Bike Workshop confirmed that this was sufficient.

I now need to concentrate on reaching the point where the engine and frame can be reconnected. My to do list looks something like this …
  • Strip and paint engine mounting plates and spacers (paint ordered, stripping started)
  • Polish Engine Cases (in progress)
  • Refit Headstock Bearing Races (this weekend perhaps)
  • Check and refurbish or replace engine mounting bolts
It doesn't look too bad but the first job is going to be tricky as a couple of the engine mounting plates need to be stripped and painted in situ. This means that there will need to be some very careful sanding and masking to avoid marking the engine. The other bits and bobs are straightforward to paint and I will probably do those in the warmth of the house.
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* Perfectly legible but the fixing holes were destroyed during removal from the frame. Now carefully filed with the bike's documentation.

Monday, 17 November 2014

School Fees are due

Today started with yet another two hours of travelling to spend twenty minutes in a waiting room and five minutes in a dentists chair.

After poking, prodding and tapping on my implant the Dentist pronounced that all was well and my next visit will be in three weeks time. Only then will they finally take the impression for the double crown that will be anchored by the aforementioned implant.

I managed to make it home before eleven o'clock and fortunately had a relatively quiet working day. Having installed my front wheel bearings yesterday, I found the time to call a local, semi-retired chap who builds spoked wheels. I talked him through my requirements and he seemed pretty pleased with my approach … apparently former clients had turned up with 36 spoke hubs to be connected to 40 spoke rims and all sorts of other nonsense, so my fairly straightforward request was viewed positively. I arranged to drop the parts over to him on Tuesday evening.

30% arrived home well before six this evening as tonight was to be Whiffler's first attendance at school. At six o'clock sharp we bundled him in to the car with a large bag of treats,* membership forms and a cheque book to pay his school fees. We are rejoining the Dog Training Club that we used when Tyson and Marauder were young and it was a delight to see familiar faces still running the sessions.

The puppy class was the expected chaos of excited young dogs and we took our seats after registration and introducing ourselves to our new classmates. Neither us nor the trainers had any great expectations for Whiffler as general experience is that it takes a puppy a good few weeks to get over the excitement of school and work out what they are supposed to do.

The first exercise was walking to heel and sitting. We have already taught Whiffler to sit on command and he is reasonably used to walking on the lead so this went very well. From the dog's perspective he was getting free cheese for stuff he normally does for nothing! The second exercise was the real test … the recall. I left Whiffler in the arms of an assistant and retreated the length of the Village Hall. The aim was to call him and have him run directly to me. I must admit that I had real doubts as to his new puppy friends and 30% all sat in a row on his left. I thought the chances of him running to me were minimal. I gave the club assistant the nod and she released Whiffler. I called him, crouched and opened my arms to encourage him …

… and he charged across the hall to me, barely swerving in the direction of his classmates. The little Devil had, as they say, nailed it! The final exercises were doorway etiquette and walking amongst dogs and their owners. The former was a doddle as this has been ingrained in him from his first day here at The Pile and the second went well using a vast quantity of cheese to keep his attention on me rather than the other dogs.

It was a great start to his edumacation and I really enjoyed taking him along to puppy classes. I always regretted not training T&M further than we did, but the classes just did not work for Marauder after she was nipped by an unruly Collie.

Let's see how far we can go with Whiffler.
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* cubed cheddar … he will do anything for cheese

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Weekend Round Up

Saturday started with some gentle tidying after TP's party and then seemed to be a re-run of last Saturday, in that we again headed over to Stratford, ... but this time we managed to spend less money.

After a few essential errands we headed back to the car, pausing at the market to buy extra vegetables after locating the long lost soup recipe a couple of days ago.

The afternoon saw me nip in to Bromsgrove to purchase a new Dremel, as I have killed mine polishing the engine cases of the Enfield. TP and I then took a wander around the Three Miler with the dogs and, at no point, did we see either Gypsies or any dead horses. This might seem a little random but the reason for this statement will become apparent later. After not seeing any dead horses TP and I headed home and, to be honest, I didn't do a huge amount for the rest of the day.

I did remember to put my new front wheel bearings in the freezer in the garage as I planned to fit them in the Enfield's front wheel hub on Sunday … those in the know advise that they are far easier to knock in if they are chilled and the hub is warmed.

Late in the afternoon were joined by Stevie and the Elf for an early supper. 30% had foolishly agreed to attend a Carol Concert performed by the choir in which her mum sings. She kindly advised that I didn't need to go if I didn't want to … This was a result, as a group of pensioners singing festive and religious songs was never going to have me champing at the bit to attend. To make life easier for everyone I even came up with some semi-plausible bullshit to justify my absence … apparently I needed to stay home with the dogs as their routine had been sufficiently disturbed already after TP's party.* It was obviously Stevie was in no mood for carols either as he asked me if I needed a hand to look after the dogs.

30% eventually rolled in from the Carol Concert at about half past ten and it was apparent that I had had the better evening. The concert was the typical cliche'd church choir "do" right down to the tea being served in the lined, green, Wood's Ware Beryl teacups.

Saturday rolled in to Sunday and one advantage of Whiffler sleeping on the floor in the bedroom is that he no longer wakes me as early as he used to. I actually managed to remain in my pit until after the clocks had struck seven.

My morning started with a couple of minor DIY jobs before I headed back in to the kitchen and put a batch of vegetable soup in the slow cooker. I then headed out in to the garage and, after a little tidying, made a start on fitting the wheel bearings in my new front wheel hub. The job went incredibly easily and by eleven I was back in the kitchen drinking coffee.

We lunched early and then 30% and I headed out around the Three Miler with the dogs. As we headed back in to the village we noticed that there had been some fly tipping in the gateway to one of the fields. For some reason I wandered closer to view the pile of rubbish and only then did I notice something peculiar poking out from under the heap … it was a horse's muzzle. It didn't take the deductive powers of Sherlock Holmes to come up with the theory that one of the local Gypsy groups must have decided that a piss poor attempt to hide the corpse was far easier than paying hard cash to have the poor thing taken by a Fallen Stock Handler … tight fuckers!

Once back at home I headed back out to the garage and rapidly got bored with polishing aluminium engine cases. I therefore decided to degrease the Enfield's engine plates and start to remove the paint and corrosion as they need to be repainted before I can mount the engine back in the frame.

It was dark by the time I returned to the house and, after cleaning up, I seasoned and liquidised my batch of soup. I then pottered and irritated 30% as she prepared a superb roast leg of lamb for Sunday dinner.
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* There is a modicum of truth in this nonsense as Whiffler was not a happy boy after TP's party and was not going to settle in his crate … it now appears that his new sleeping place is on the floor on 30%'s side of the bed!