Saturday, 31 May 2014

Not according to plan

Saturday's activities started a little after nine when Kathy H-R knocked at the door and deposited four suspicious, dripping plastic bags …

… She had called yesterday evening to ask if we wanted any pork as she had just had a kill and had a few joints left over. There was, of course, also the head for a batch of guanciale. We had gratefully accepted and I was now looking at what I thought was a minor change to my plans for today.

I had planned to make a start on filling the nail holes and so forth in the new woodwork in the Hall and thought that dealing with a few joints of pork would take no more than thirty minutes but my estimate was way off the mark. I started with the heads and soon had the cheeks removed and trimmed. I also cut off the ears to roast as a treat for T&M. I then reached in to the cupboard to grab a jar of cure mixture and found barely a handful in the jar…

… Bollocks! This meant that a further half hour was spent finding ingredients and grinding spices to make a couple of kilos of dry cure mixture. Only then could I get the cheeks salted and packed away in the cellar.

I was then able to attack the joints. The handful of chops were quickly sorted and packed in bags of three. The joints, however, were a different matter altogether. All of them needed to be boned, have the skin scored* and be trussed up ready for roasting. By the time I had them packed in bags, labelled and stashed in the freezer eleven o'clock was long gone and I was looking at a pile of bones and the final bag of trotters.**

The Jam Kettle was dusted down and filled with water. The trotters and bones were thrown in along with handfuls of roughly chopped veg, herbs and seasoning.  It would take a good three hours to convert this in to stock and I used the first one to tidy up the kitchen.

30% conveniently arrived back around one in the afternoon just as the last traces of carnage and butchery had been cleared away. We lunched together before I headed out around the Three Miler with T&M. By the time we had returned the stock was just about done and it wasn't far off three o'clock.

It was then a case of a quick cuppa before we headed out to check out a few cars at a local dealership.  There were some very attractive models there but we held back from talking to the Salesman as we know a chap who works there and need to enquire about discount before possibly taking things further.

Back home I eventually made a start on Saturday's objective … filling nail holes, remember? … some nine hours later than planned.
* A Stanley Knife is the perfect tool for this and I had one handy … in the hall with the rest of my tools!
** In case you were wondering; 30% had conveniently arranged an appointment with local Jeweller so I was flying solo on this mission.

Friday, 30 May 2014

IF(O2="12x7x4", "12x7x8", "oops")

After a brief discussion with my Boss yesterday there was a possibility that I might need some help today …

… so first thing this morning I dragged the Bullet from the garage and headed in to the Depot. On my way in to work I stopped off for fuel and as I wandered back to the Enfield I was accosted by an elderly gentleman with a strong local accent. "I used to have a real one of those" was his opening gambit and he then went on to regale me with tales of classic motorcycles and the speed of which his Royal Enfield was capable. To be fair he was nice old chap and his dismissive initial comment was softened when he cast his eye over her and said that she looked really good …

… and I had the final word when I left the forecourt. I simply swung my leg over and hit the starter button and she fired up instantly. There was no struggle to kick over a 500cc single … and there were no drips of oil on the ground either.

Once at work I settled myself in and eventually addressed the problem I was facing. I had 1200 lines of data and these entries contained one of eleven possible values. I needed to convert the data cells to a new set of values. At this point it is probably worth mentioning that I am more of a words and actions type of person than the sort that revels in complex spreadsheet formulas. I have heard of vlookups and I know what they do … but I'm fucked if I know how to create one!

Anyhow, back to the problem in hand. I was aware that I could use nested IF statements to perform a fast and accurate conversion and the natural estimator in me knew that an hour spent fathoming this would be time well spent. I wasn't overly confident of flying solo but settled to the task in hand and the first attempt simply returned "Formula Error" messages. This was bloody frustrating as if I used a much shorter set of IF statements it seemed to work just fine. In the end I had to build up my set an element at a time and within a few minutes I was done. The formula was copied an pasted in to 1200 cells and the data was converted.

I was quite chuffed with my small success, especially as I had not needed to consult an MS Excel Guru who inhabits a cubicle a little way down the office. I had also got this out of the way by lunch time and could return home and spend the afternoon working from home. However, before I left I took the time to remove the power cable from my secondary screen and lock it in my desk … It appears that the Cuckoo just hasn't got the message!

The afternoon waned and 30% arrived home a little after five o'clock. We took a ride out to the Sale Room in Littleton, met up with Moneypenny and took a wander around the lots. It looks like tomorrow's auction won't be the most exciting sale we have ever attended but there are a couple of lots that might be worth watching.

Unfortunately the 15th Century Fireback is a) a replica and b) too wide.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

At least it's not another elephant photo

Most of today was spent working alone in an office in Victoria.  My Boss and colleagues obviously can't handle two sequential days in the office so I was on my lonesome until mid afternoon when I headed out for a pre rush hour train back to the Midlands.

There is little of any great interest to report about my day* so I have trawled my photo archive and retrieved a couple of snaps from last years trip to New York. Normally these would have been presented in the weeks following that holiday but I didn't produce a single Journal entry for six months as I got to grips with the fundamentals of the new role.
So, as it says in the title to this entry; at least it is not another Sri Lankan elephant.
* I'm guessing TP will want to put it behind him too as it was his Driving Test today and it didn't go as well as hoped.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

So that's what you look like!

Wednesday was an even earlier start as I needed to be at Evesham Station for the 06.49 to Paddington. 30% had graciously offered me a lift to the station so she was up early too but I found out later that she had gone back to bed for an hour upon her return home.

The reason for the trip down to London was that my frolleague* and mentor; Lou was in from Nevada for a Yellow Pad session with our Customer and I had managed to blag an "over nighter" so I could join up with the deal team for a few drinks, a meal and a lot of laughs.**

My working day was spent in an office in Victoria where I kept a few balls in the air and helped out my Boss with a key opportunity that is described as a "must win".*** The support was mostly to do with engaging a somewhat obstreperous Pricer and invovled me formatting costs to align with her demanding requirements.

At some point in the afternoon I finally got to meet Lou face to face for the first time and after congratulating her on her successful session with the customer we chatted for a while before heading off to complete our working days.

It was just shy of seven before we had all finished up and we then headed off to a nearby pub for a few drinks and a natter. Fortunately the weather was fine and we were able to booze "al fresco" where we actually stood a chance of hearing each other above the noise of a packed London Pub.**** As the evening progressed our numbers thinned as the locals headed off home and we headed to another pub for dinner and more gin.

I rolled out of the pub at a respectable eleven o'clock and decided that I couldn't face the Tube. A cab was hailed and twenty minutes later and twenty quid lighter I was deposited at the doorstep of the Roach Motel.***** I have to be fair to the Cabby and report that he a) declined a tip and b) knocked a pound off my fare because we got held up in traffic around Hyde Park.

Within ten minutes I was checked in to a "budget" room and settled down for the night.


* noun: portmanteau of FRiend and coLLEAGUE
** The Sales Guy insisted that I had every right to be there after I had helped out by attending a workshop with a vendor and had assisted with knocking up some estimates to support our ROM pricing.
*** always a dangerous statement to make.
**** The Phoenix, Victoria
***** Normally expense guideline would not allow an overnight stay in the capital for a team meeting, but my Boss was flexible in view of the fact that it was a rare chance to meet up with a US based team mate. Lets just say that I had to be somewhat creative in my choice of Hotel to meet the cost challenge I was set!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Trouser Mathematica

The day started early and I found myself stood on the platform at Redditch Station at quarter to eight in the morning.

The reason for this unusual start was that I had an appointment with an Implantologist in Birmingham at nine and there was no way I fancied the alternative of driving in and finding car parking. Once I had actually found the Practice* the consultation went well and a provisional appointment has been made for the extraction of the dodgy crown. My transition to a Cyborg commences.

Once back at home I settled in the study, cleared the accumulated emails and made a start on this abbreviated working week. Five o'clock eventually arrived. I shut the laptop down and headed out for a walk with T&M.

I had barely reached the centre of the village when I heard a "hello" called out behind me. I turned and saw Deb** doing her best to stay upright with Cappy, her chocolate Lab, hauling her in our direction. We decided that company would be good and decided to walk the Three Miler together.***

The dogs were unleashed and charged excitedly about the lanes. Within a couple of hundred yards Cappy had managed to trip me up. I found myself falling "arse over tit" and landing in the lane in a most inelegant fashion.

I scrambled to my feet, dusted myself off and, no worse for wear, continued my walk.

At home, an hour or so later, I was chatting to TP and 30% and I asked if the back of my trousers were muddy as a result of my trip. TP opined that they were "filthy" ...

... I took a look myself and noticed a muddy smear about the size of a hand print on the leg of me jeans. "Is that it?" I asked. "Yep" TP replied "they are disgusting". There then followed a long, three way debate about just how dirty my otherwise unblemished jeans were. My position was, and remains, that the muddy mark covered no more than 5% of the total trouser area and a minimum of 25% mud coverage is needed to qualify as filthy.

You have to be up around 50% dirt to enter the realms of disgusting.


* Curse you Apple Maps app
** neighbour, friend and also colleague at the Neat & Tidy Piano Movers.
*** this is dog walking etiquette ... Always ask if company is welcome as many walkers, myself included, prefer to walk alone and enjoy the mind clearing benefits that brings. Of the couple of dozen dog owners I know there are only two or three I will actually walk with, the remainder I just cross paths with.

Monday, 26 May 2014

High Tea

Monday morning was spent finishing the stripping of the woodwork in the Hall. It only took a couple of hours and, having completed this milestone task, I started to clear the room of tools and debris. As I worked and pottered to and from the garage I was witness to much hustle and bustle in the house as 30% had invited the majority of her immediate family over for High Tea this afternoon…

…  The tea had been arranged to celebrate 30%'s Dad's birthday* and we were to be joined by 30%'s sister, brother, The Elf, Mum and, of course, the birthday boy. As a mountain of sandwiches, savouries, sweets and cakes were prepared I did my best to make the hall and my self look at little more civilised and little less like a building site. I also took T&M for a walk around the Three Miler in an attempt to curb their enthusiastic welcome of guests.

At half past three our visitors arrived and after chat and viewing of the latest projects we settled in the dining room to a table heaving under a mountain of tea time delicacies. 30% was concerned that an additional leaf needed to be inserted to seat eight of us. I assured her that this wasn't necessary and all were comfortably spaced around the table. She was also worried about a blemish on the table cloth but that was never going to be an issue with a table covered from end to end and side to side with savoury dishes, scones and cream, and, of course, freshly brewed tea** brought home from our recent tip to Sri Lanka.

We sat, chatted and ate until the early evening. Our visitors departed around seven in the evening and we settled to a lazy evening in front of the television.
* His Birthday is 25th May but, better late than never
** Broken Orange Pekoe, if you were wondering.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Nose to the grindstone

There are many positive things I could say about Sunday; the weather was better than Saturday, I spent it at home with the family rather than at work with a laptop and I made progress with the renovation of the Hall…

… However it is this final entry on the list that made the day seem arduous and tiring. Basically, apart from meals and a walk with the dogs, I spent all day chemical stripping the frame of the floor to ceiling cupboard in the Hall. This involved covering a small area* with a home made, chemical gloop, waiting a few minutes and then rubbing vigorously with wire wool. The resulting slurry then needed to be washed off the wood with clean water and the wood surface was then neutralised with white vinegar.

I have made great progress. The eighteenth century oak, appearing from under the paint residue, looks fantastic but it is hard going. My fingers and shoulders are sore from my labours and I have another morning's work before I can strike this task from the "to do" list.

I was dreading this task from the start and procrastinated for a while before actually getting on with it. All I can say is "I'll be glad when this is over".**
* say about the size of an A4 sheet of paper
** The Hall also features another large cupboard that looks to date from the 1940's or 50's and houses the electricity meter. The original plan was to strip that one too. This , however, has been revised as the frame and sides have been stained rather than painted and would never strip successfully. Plan B is that the doors will be natural wood and will sit in a tastefully painted carcass.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

I'm not going out in that!

I woke early on Saturday to fine weather but within thirty minutes that had changed and torrential rain started to fall from a leaden sky …

… and it didn't stop.

When T&M wandered downstairs with 30% an hour or so later I opened the door to the garden and encouraged the dogs out for a pee. Marauder grudgingly accepted but was back in a couple of minutes, taking no longer than was absolutely necessary. Tyson, on the other hand, refused to step outside and I swear that dog did not pee until about one in the afternoon when there was a break in the downpour.

I wasn't keen on heading out in the rain either and spent the morning chemical stripping the frame of the smaller of the two cupboards in the Hall. This went pretty well and is now just about ready for finishing. As lunchtime approached 30% returned from a shopping trip and her arrival was preceded by TP, who had spent the night at his girlfriend's house.*

After lunch the weather cleared somewhat and I donned coat and hat before heading out around the three miler. All three of us needed a walk having not been out since Wednesday. We managed to stay dry for most of the walk but as we headed back in the village I felt drops of rain. I took a stoical view of this, after all most of the walk had been dry and we were only ten minutes from home …

… However, within 100 years the Heavens opened and it was pouring down. We trudged on with T&M pausing every so often to shake the rain from their coats then, coming down the road, I saw a familiar vehicle. 30% had taken on the role of Search & Rescue party and had come to pick us up instead of receiving us soaked by a walk through the storm.

We arrived home in a relatively dry state and the dogs were soon towelled down. I then spent a fun session in front of the computer changing a series of passwords following the recent security breach of eBay servers.

The rest of the day was uneventful, TP was ferried to and from work, a Chinese Takeaway was eaten and a film was watched. It wasn't an exciting day but it was perfect. Things were achieved, exercise was taken and I felt quite rested after a busy week.
* in the spare room!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Thank God there is a three day weekend ahead

If I thought Thursday was busy, Friday was even more frenetic!

Fortunately, and I cannot believe I am using the word "fortunately" in this context, I woke a little after five and consequently was fuelled and ready to hit the in-box at around seven in the morning. This head start was exactly what I needed and by nine thirty I took control of a review meeting having drafted and populated an action tracker and issued it to the meeting attendees beforehand.

My Boss was on the call and he said my approach was "perfect". There was no time for any self congratulation though as three sequential calls followed and it was midday before I came up for air.

Again, there was no time for a break as 30% had purchased* an Art Deco Bookcase earlier in the week and we both leapt in to the car to head out to collect it. One might ask why she is buying a bookcase when we already have a quartet of Lebus, glass fronted, Barrister's bookcases dotted around the house …

… Well, her handbag collection has now reached a size where storage and display facilities are needed and this '30's piece of furniture was deemed just the job. I am hoping that this encourages her to make a start on her hoard in "The Purple Bedroom." **

The afternoon was equally hectic and at one point I was attending once conference call and minuting another. It eventually all calmed down around five in the evening and I didn't do much more that hit the sofa for the rest of the day.
* or rather, I had been instructed to do so on her behalf.
** I don't recall whether I have ever mentioned this before but we have a room forever known as "The Purple Bedroom". It was painted a strident purple before we bought the house and achieved notoriety during the building work we had done back in 2007. During the build this room was clearly visible from the road as two walls and the roof had to be demolished and reconstructed. It was so noticeable that the builders used it as a landmark when giving directions to delivery drivers … "just carry on down the High Street and stop when you see the purple wall" … it never failed!***
*** I should point out that is is now a far more sedate "Ivory Lace"

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Head Down.

I'm not sure what to jot down for today.

By the time I surfaced some time around six in the evening I realised that I had been head down all day on a wide variety of projects including a new one where my Boss would like me to "help out as needed". This was not the most useful guidance I had ever received but, looking at it in a positive light, it appears that he trusts me and values my input on a very significant opportunity.

So that was it; a day spent at the laptop with a short break for lunch but no time to head out around the Three Miler.

Away from work I have finally finished the chemical stripping of the mantle shelf above the Inglenook and am sure that, after sanding, it will look fantastic. I realise that this job is taking some time but I would rather be over cautious than end up with woodwork that is permanently stained due to aggressive chemical strippers.

Friday is fast approaching and I hope I can finish this element* of the Hall renovation over the three day Bank Holiday weekend.
* I still have a door frame and two cupboard frames to strip

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

A Blast from the Past?

Work is picking up and I am avoiding the temptation to write a Journal entry cataloguing the excitement of a series of Networking Projects.

Instead I'll pick a day or two from the missing six months and attempt to fill in some of the gaps…

… towards the back end of December last year I made it made it to my fiftieth birthday and pessimistically realised that I had just entered my sixth decade. I have to be honest and say that the morning of my birthday was not the happiest I have ever been and  I felt quite depressed to have an age that had a five at the beginning rather than a four. This dark cloud didn't hang around for long as I was well aware that I cannot halt the passage of time and I just needed to get over it, and on with things.

Now the transition from one decade to another is seen as a significant event and, unbeknownst* to me, 30% was keen to get me that special something. As I just implied, she was keen for it to be a surprise but a week or so in to the month she had an attack of nerves and demanded that I stopped what I was doing and attended to the iPad.**

She advised that she was tempted to buy me "this" but wanted to be sure that I would like it before she committed to the purchase. I took receipt of the tablet and looked down and there was the website of a classic vehicle dealer showing a Royal Enfield Bullet Classic. It was an Indian made bike with minimal mileage and was only four years old. I was gobsmacked by this thoughtfulness and generosity and stammered a delighted acceptance.
I now have more space in the garage
but it really needs tidying
Within 24 hours a deal was struck and a delivery date was arranged. It turned up a week later on the back of a car transporter after a run down from York in the pouring rain. This meant that I spent a few days over the Christmas and New Year break cleaning off the accumulated grime.

It is fair to say that she is neither the fastest nor the best handling bike I own but she looks truly delightful in the bright sunshine and sounds fantastic. I am tempted to procure a dateless number plate so I can replace the modern yellow acrylic plate with a traditional black plate with white letters and numbers.***
* I have never used this word in a written sentence and I am fairly sure I haven't voiced it either.
** Yes, this is the jointly owned iPad that I am not allowed to use as, apparently, 30%'s lungs will terminally explode if she lets go of it … She certainly makes a lot of noise when I take it off her!
*** This results in shouts of Hypocrite as I am on record as disparaging those who need to label their vehicle with a piss poor attempt to convey their name whilst being restricted by car registration conventions.****
**** I don't want to spell out my name. I just want to make my bike look forty or fifty years older

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Winging it

It was an odd sort of day today. For starters T&M had to be dropped off at the Groomer's salon early this morning so I spent the day alone.  I also seem to have a plethora of small scale projects on my platter plus a "Beast" that I am helping out with. Consequentially I was busy flitting from project to project or from home to Redditch to dispatch and collect the dogs.

In the morning I was summoned to a call about The Beast. I had been looking after a couple of activities and had been invited to this call to represent my colleague. She wanted me to make sure that the key objectives were met. I settled down expecting to be an Observer in a discussion about Hosting of virtual servers but within moments ascertained that a couple of my team mates were not particularly skilled in summarising project background and requirements.

I therefore found myself sitting in the Captains chair and hosting the discussion. I am far from an expert and spent much of the time "winging it" and there were a couple of occasions where I just plain Bullshitted my way through the discussion. Things got particularly tricky when I was asked how a Rough Order of Magnitude price had been developed and I managed to state that it had been developed  by fusing Intellectual Capital, similar opportunity costings and standardised pricing units rather than incriminating colleagues and advising that we had just "stuck a wet finger in the air".

At the close of the call I summarised the actions and scarpered from the virtual meeting room. I had barely hung up when my 'phone rang again. It was one of my Manager's Peers who had been on the call. Apparently my Bullshitting Hosting skills  had been appreciated and he particularly liked the way I managed to avoid saying "we just made up the numbers".

It has taken me a while to realise that Leadership and giving direction really is appreciated in these parts. I guess that taking an Upright off a Lorry is one thing but setting up a Concert Grand is another.

Monday, 19 May 2014


I have been putting off the chemical stripping of the woodwork in the Hall for quite some time but eventually carried out a small trial at the weekend. That trial involved Nitromors and wire wool and I have to report that the results did nothing to encourage me. Basically it was very poor. I could see it taking weeks and still leaving a very indifferent finish.

30% had suggested that I use a home made stripper comprising wallpaper paste, caustic soda and water but I had resisted the temptation as I am stripping hardwoods and they are notorious for staining in the presence of water let alone sodium hydroxide …

… Well today, in desperation, I bit the bullet and performed a test patch in a concealed area. I didn't leave the alkaline gloop on for very long and, after a vigorous rub with wire wool, the solution was washed down with clean water and neutralised with a white vinegar solution.

The results are fantastic and I am sufficiently encourage to continue the task. I just need to be restrained and do a very small area at a time.

Incidentally, I did dip a fresh piece of oak in the home made stripper and within minutes it had changed to the colour of raw umber. This  is definitely a process to be executed with care.

Sunday, 18 May 2014


It was a late, but incredibly enjoyable night with Bond and Moneypenny and it came as no surprise that I felt somewhat jaded when I crawled from my pit at around eight this morning. I threw a couple of painkillers and several coffees down my throat and soon felt a little more human.

The plan for this morning was to head over to see BMS & SMS, so shortly before eleven I threw a few tools in the back of the car and headed off down the road. The aim of the visit was to install a couple of hand rails in the bathroom and this was addressed after cups of coffee and catching up on each others' news. It was a lovely morning and BMS is very keen to pop over and see our recent auction wins.

Back at home it was time for lunch and then I headed in to the Dining Room ... When we emptied the hall, prior to starting it's renovation, I moved the 30 hour long case clock in to the dining room but have not had it running. The recently acquired 8 day clock now sits in the Hall so today's plan was to secure the 30 hour clock to the wall and get it running. This wasn't a major task. A hole was drilled in the wall and a spacer was cut to fill the gap between clock and wall. A hefty screw was used to secure the clock to the wall and then all I had to do was adjust the position of the mechanism in the case, re-set the striking mechanism, set the time, wind it up and nudge the pendulum in to action.

This activity took it's toll on my hung-over self and I retired to the sofa for a kip. Feelings of guilt forced me from this snooze about an hour later and I headed out in to the garden and whizzed around with the pom mower. I felt that the tidy sward actually justified a further snooze and sneaked another twenty five minuets before pre-dinner bustle disturbed me.

After a splendid steak supper 30% and I hung a couple of pictures …

… We came home from yesterday's auction with a couple of late 19th Century oils and we also acquired a beautiful, elm, bible box that was, most definitely an impulse buy.* Yesterday we tried this little occasional table in a few rooms but it didn't look right in any of them. I was disappointed by this and was considering putting it back in to the next sale, but 30% found the perfect place in the Dining Room. It now sits to one side of the fireplace and supports an antique set of scales.  This frenzy of creativity urged me on and I got the two oils hung before retiring to the sofa until both clocks struck eleven.**
* as was the silver capped, otter's foot which I just had to have
** This currently happens a few minutes apart as the 8 day is running fast and I need to lengthen the pendulum.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Lot to do

Saturday started earlier than I would have liked but six o'clock found me wide awake. I headed downstairs and hit the coffee and a couple of hours later I heard 30%'s delicate footsteps on the staircase. We had a quick chat before I headed out around the Three Miler with T&M.

The reason for this unusual weekend preparedness was the need to get over to Littleton Auctions for a couple of lots that had caught our eye. We stopped off at VI's house en route and dropped off his house key, enquired about his holiday and commiserated over the loss of the squab on my watch. VI was resplendent in his boxer shorts, having just showered, and was amazingly comfortable about receiving guests in his underwear. He took the loss of the young pigeon well and seemed to think that he should perhaps use a fantail dove to incubate and rear the young as the parents didn't seem to be particularly good at it. It was only a flying visit and we left promising to set up a wine and cheese evening in the very near future.

It was then a quick race over to Littleton to hit the auction. The weather was beautiful and we didn't fancy being crammed in to a stuffy sale room but when we arrived there we found it to be very civilised and neither packed nor dead. The auctioneers were trialling an internet bidding service and we found that although we had arrived an hour in to the auction they were nowhere near their normal 100 lots per hour rate. 30% went to check on a couple of commission bids we had left on very early lots while I queued for coffee and bacon rolls.

Unfortunately I hadn't won my stuffed Barbel, neither had 30% been successful with her art deco oak bookcase but we had won an old oil painting that we both quite liked. We settled down to watch the lots and it wasn't long before the first serious lot came up.It was an oil on canvas of corn stooks and fortunately there was only one other bidder who dropped out leaving us with a lovely rural landscape to hang on the wall at home.

It was then a long, long wait to virtually the last lot of the sale. It was a pair of art deco, diamond and white gold, drop earrings that 30% had settled on for one of her 50th Birthday presents. My bid went unchallenged so we won them at their reserve price…

… I am guessing that she will be wearing these when we head out this evening for supper with Bond & Moneypenny.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent helping TP set up a carpet cleaner so he could remove a rather dubious stain from his car seat. I then headed in to the hall to start the chemical stripping of the woodwork …

… that went as badly as expected!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Channelling your Pets

I know that I had used this title before but it perfectly sums up my start to the day.

I was having a cup of coffee before I headed off to work* when I happened to pass the biscuit jar. Being a naturally inquisitive individual I took a peek and notice the presence of Oreos. As I stood there munching one Marauder looked up at me and this dialogue followed;

Marauder:       You could make dog biscuits like that.
bad man:         Really Marauder?
Marauder:       Yes, like gravy bones on the outside but with
                             chicken pate in the middle .. or duck … or pork.
                             We could call 'em "Dogeos"
bad man:         That's a great idea M
Marauder:       Yes, get Pedigree on the 'phone. You do the
                             buttons, I'll do the talking.
bad man:         OK, I'm on it.
Marauder:       I'm an "ideas" sort of dog.
* In the office on four occasions this week, impressive!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Ding Dong!

Thursday saw me in the office for the third day running this week. The reason for this increased attendance is that my Boss is in town this week and a) he offered me a free curry on Wednesday and b) it seemed a good idea to actually appear to be working rather than be conspicuous by my absence.

A good chunk of the morning was spent on a coaching call with one of my team mates. The unusual thing about this was that I was the coach rather than the coachee. I was rather surprised to be asked to perform this role, especially as I have only nine months experience of Piano Moving, however it became apparent that my years of experience of making up bullshit numbers and then adding vaguely plausible justifications was a new skill in these parts. As a result I spent the morning prattling away and we soon had a cost estimate for theoretical team of individuals, available to calm down an irate customer when a lot of shiny infrastructure fails to operate as promised.

I left the office at midday and headed back home as Dave the Stripper had arranged to call round in the afternoon. He arrived shortly before four o'clock and was soon setting up the new long case clock in the Hall. It looks beautiful there and, as if that wasn't enough, he also gave me back a considerable amount of garage space when he took away a dresser base, a pine cupboard and a small pine desk as the non-cash elements of the deal.*

The working day came to a close and we all headed over to the local Auction Rooms to preview the lots in Saturday's Antiques and Fine Arts Sale. There is a rather fine oil of Corn Stooks in a field that we both like and 30% is rather taken by some Art Nouveau earrings.  As for me 

... I quite like the mounted Barbel in the bow fronted glass case.

* There was a cheque for a Monkey too

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Cuckoo

I need to preface this entry with a few details about my workspace preferences. For many years I "worked" for Dante's Nine Circles of Hell and for most of that penance I did not have an allocated desk at my designated workplace. Instead I used the nearest vacant "hot desk" whenever I needed to pop in to the office. This approach has many benefits for an employer. It is far cheaper than providing desk space for the entire workforce and is perfect for a flexible, mobile workforce. It also, by definition, re-enforces a "clear desk policy" ... After all who is going to bother putting up photos of loved ones and pets, arrange boxes of tissues, mount clipframed Industry Qualification certificates and stick Gonks across the top of a monitor only to have to remove them at the end of the working day.*

So to summarise; I have been used to sitting at a spartan workspace and leaving it clear of any belongings or paperwork at the end of the working day. To be honest I like the absence of clutter ... I guess it suits the minimalist side of my personality.

Here at the Neat & Tidy Piano Movers things are different. I am free to work from home but I also have an allocated desk at an office a few miles down the road. I spend most of my time in my home office and tend to pop in to the proper office once a week. My desk at work reflects my ingrained habits and has the necessary tools but exhibits very little personalisation. There is a docking station for my laptop, a secondary screen, an IP phone, my trackball mouse, a Land Rover Mug and a teaspoon ...Oh, I forgot that it also has a small monotone image of my avatar taped to the divider that separates me from the adjacent workstation.

However I need to be clear that it is MY DESK and other inhabitants of the office space are well aware of this. They sit at their desks, I sit at mine. There are, I should mention, a number of vacant/unallocated desks in the area where I sit

So why is it that recently a chap has started to sit at my desk when I am not there? I first noticed this a few weeks back when I went to log on to my 'phone and noticed that the login screen showed someone elses logon details. It didnt take a rocket scientist to work it out and 30% confirmed that the "cuckoo" was starting to use my desk on a regular basis.

A couple of weeks ago I turned up at work and actually found the cheeky fucker sat in my seat. I am guessing that he could tell I wasnt impressed by the way I dumped my laptop bag alongside him and asked him to move while I had a quick chat with a colleague about a project. When I returned he had moved to one of the nearby vacant desks and, instead of offering an apology, advised that he rather liked the wide secondary screen that I have connected to my docking station.
Basically this cuckoo has an allocated desk in another part of the office but instead of using that he sits in my chair at my desk, using my equipment because he likes my shiny, secondary monitor. For some reason this really fucks me off!

I am guessing that I must be getting a bit territorial in my old age and he better fucking watch it because if he doesn't sod off back to his own desk he could well find me scent marking my desk and the environs in an attempt to keep him off my patch.

Although scent marking** my desk space was tempting I have decided that I actually quite like Piano Moving and would like to remain employed. I therefore decided to employ some slightly more sophisticated tactics to secure my patch. My first was quite simple ... I took a biro and penned the words "bad man's desk" at the bottom of the monotone print of my avatar that is pinned to the desk divider.

I then heard a conversation that suggested that the cuckoo might have OCD tendencies as he avoids touching hand rails on stairs "because of the germs". Bingo! When I left the office yesterday I ensured that my coffee mug remained unwashed and was stategically placed in the middle of the desk. I also positioned a minging teaspoon between the QWERTY and ASDF rows of my keyboard.

Surprise, surprise; when I walked in to work today my desk was vacant and the cuckoo was sat opposite me. Perhaps he has finally got the message.
* Anyone who thinks it is to prevent industrial espionage is deluded
** Think Hippopotamus spraying it's excrement at the edge of the Great Congo River

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Bad Man 1 : Psychopathic Cockerel 0

I was up early and decided to head off down to VI's cottage straight away with the false hope that the evil bastard would be still asleep. Obviously he is a cockerel and everyone knows they are up at dawn so it came as no real surprise to hear the bugger clamouring to be let out as I wandered up the path.

I took the sensible approach and fed VI's pigeons first and then steeled myself for the hens and the accompanying psychopath. I sensibly stood outside the run and opened to coop door …

… I kid you not, the cock headed straight for me and was strutting and jumping with no thought to mounting the hens which is what most cocks do when they are let out in the morning. He really is an aggressive little sod. I managed to access the coop by careful positioning of the coop door and fence netting so succeeded in collecting the eggs and left a frustrated cock fuming inside the run.

That done, it was a quick run down the road to feed the sheep and then back home to let my chickens out.

I spent the morning in the office before exiting at lunchtime, getting a haircut at the nearby Barber* and working from home in the afternoon.

In the evening I finally fixed the two pieces of oak trim in the inglenook which means I have no excuse and now need to start the chemical stripping of the woodwork.
* I have been using a "Salon" in the village for the past few years but have never been particularly impressed with the quality of the cuts. This cut was far better and exactly the same price.

Monday, 12 May 2014

I really should pay more attention

It is Monday and I settled at my desk to attend to today's working matters. The day wasn't particularly arduous and time was found to walk the dogs and contact Dave to arrange delivery of the new clock and the collection of the surplus pine furniture.

I finished at a very civilised five o'clock and then headed over to the Vets to have T&Ms' ears examined. Fortunately their recent rubbing and scratching is nothing more than a build up of wax. They are off to be groomed next week so this will be dealt with as their ears will be plucked as part of the grooming regime.

Back at home I found time to mow the lawn and put a second coat of oil on two trim strips that will be fitted in the inglenook. I then joined TP and 30% for dinner. My last task of the day was to head up the Village to VI's house to shut up his chickens and this is where the title of this entry has a modicum of relevance …

… It was still light when I arrived at VI's house and consequently his small flock was still out in the run. I threw some corn in their house to encourage them in and they came over to investigate. I was about to climb in to the run to herd them in when his large Light Sussex Cock came up to the fence and started to strut in front of me. Moments later the evil fucker was launching himself at me with a fair pair of spurs outthrust. I didn't really fancy having this monster coming in at me at chest or even face height so I grabbed a handy bamboo cane and, shall we say, "encouraged" him in to his coop.

I'm bloody certain that I don't fancy collecting the eggs with that malevolent sod at liberty in the run tomorrow morning. As I drove home I had a faint recollection of VI mentioning that his cock was a little feisty. As it said in the title; I really should have paid him more attention.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Keeping Busy

Sunday morning was taken up with a second trip out to Rubery/Rednal to collect TP's car. This became a family outing as 30% was required to drive me out there and TP obviously wanted to come along and ride home in his new vehicle.* Unfortunately this didn't pan out, as TP needed to be in work by midday and the Car Lot Manager took his time rolling up to work this fine Sunday Morning. ** As a result TP had to leave with 30% and I had to hang around for about ten minutes until the manager turned up.

Once the tardy sod actually appeared it was a rapid presentation of the invoice followed by a hand over of keys and paperwork. I then headed over to the nearest petrol station to deal with the amber light on the fuel gauge! Once I had sorted out the driver's seat position the little car drove well and half an hour later I was home and reversing up to the top of the drive.

Lunch followed and I then headed out for a walk around the Three Miler. The walk was shower free but the weather was incredibly chilly especially considering that we are well in to May.

30% and I then took a tea break before heading out to drop off a few items at the Tip. On our return we stopped at Village Idiot's house, where I was appraised of my Poultry and Sheep care duties as he will be spending next week holidaying in the Isle of Wight. TP was then collected from work and we eventually walked through the door for the last time today.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon sanding and oiling a couple of oak trim pieces that will sit inside the Inglenook before retiring to the sofa for a kip.

Oh, and it looks like I will be 'phoning Dave and asking him to deliver one of the clocks when he comes to collect the pine furniture later in the week.
* He can't drive it yet as he has not yet passed his test and there seemed little point in insuring it when it will just sit at the top of the drive until he has.
** He eventually arrived around 11.40 when he should have opened up at eleven o'clock. His sorry tale of having to retrace his steps to retrieve a forgotten mobile 'phone was an inadequate excuse from my perspective.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

He will never have any money again ...

It was no surprise that TP was up, dressed and ready to leave the house on time this morning as we are off to look at a car. He hasn't yet passed his test but we have space on the drive and this one looked like it could just be too good to pass over …

… earlier this week we were sat in the Lounge and I was enduring Eastenders.  Apparently TP and 30% were watching it and the fact that they both had their heads buried in their iPhone and iPad demonstrates the quality of the programme and the minimal effort needed to follow the plot. They were both searching for potential cars for TP and 30% found a bright yellow Fiat Seicento.

Back to the present, we were soon sat in the Defender heading up to the outskirts of Birmingham and found ourselves waiting for a second hand car lot* to open. The manager turned up and we had a wander and a prod around the car and it simply looked too good to be true. There wasn't a mark on the paint work. The panels were straight and the engine ran like a little sewing machine. The only minor issue was that the Driver's seat was filthy. We wandered in to the Office and started to review the paperwork and the low mileage was supported by a sheaf of old MOT certificates.

I then noticed that the MOT certificates were all issued by someone with the same name as the registered owner of the vehicle. Now everything made sense. This tiny little Fiat had been a runabout and courtesy car in a garage. This explained its 4,000 miler per annum mileage as it had never been exposed to proper family life.

I am no car expert but it seemed to be very good** and most importantly TP liked it, so we decided to take a punt and will be picking it up tomorrow.

We headed home for lunch and in the afternoon I took a ride over to see Dave the Stripper. I had a couple of other items that had not been subject to our bargaining on Thursday so these were thrown in the back of the Defender and taken for his perusal. To cut a long story short, the chair and pine bookcase netted another £70 and one of the two Long Case clocks was fabulous. I took few photos and hope I can convince 30% that we should buy the preferred clock.

Back at home I finally grouted around the slate flag in the Hall and settled in front of the TV for a quiet evening as TP was revising for his A/S Levels and 30% was spending the evening in Birmingham at a Dance Performance with Jules.
* I am guessing that the owner would prefer Used Car Dealership
** It will need an MOT and Road Fund Licence in the next couple of months and I am sure that a couple of new tyres wouldn't go amiss either.

Friday, 9 May 2014

A Deal with Dave

As I was browsing my in-box this morning the telephone rang. It was Dave the Stripper, who called to ask if it was convenient to return the stripped cupboard doors at lunchtime. I wasn't exactly rushed off my feet today so I enthusiastically accepted his offer.

When we had dropped the doors off last Saturday we had mentioned that we were looking to sell a few antique pine pieces that I had neither the time nor inclination to restore. We also mentioned that we might be looking for another long case clock, as our 30 hour clock is currently residing in the Dining Room, while the Hall is renovated, and looks absolutely perfect in there.

Dave is always on the lookout for antique pine as it sells well* and was more than happy to come over and take a look. He also mentioned that he had a couple of 8 Day Clocks due to arrive in his workshop and that there was always the possibility of a deal.

Returning to the present, Dave was as good as his word and arrived at half past twelve. We had a pleasant chat and I showed him the furniture we wanted to sell …

… a price was agreed. It wasn't as good as I would have liked but he has to make a profit and it does mean that I will recover a significant quantity of garage space when he comes to pick up the pieces next week. He also mentioned that the two clocks had now arrived and that we were welcome to pop in and have a look.

It looks like tomorrow is going to be a busy day as TP has found a car that he likes and I have promised to accompany him to view it. I also fancy checking out these clocks.
* Lord knows why! He struggles to shift beautiful oak and mahogany pieces that will out last any pine and are far better quality furniture.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

I may have been procrastinating ...

It has been a quiet couple of days here at The Pile and there is little to report on the work front.

At home I had taken to repeated sweeping and  tidying of tools in the Hall rather than actually doing anything and this evening I finally decided to break out of that unproductive loop by fitting the final length of skirting. It was a pig of a job that involved careful chiselling of the slate flags to remove the worst protuberances. I then needed to scribe the bottom edge of the board and trim to match the uneven profile of the floor. The final task was to plane a chamfer on the last few inches of the board so that the Dining Room door would still open in to the Hall…

… Did I just say "final"? What I meant was that I could then offer a silent prayer to the Gods that my drill holes would all terminate in masonry or brick rather than mortar, use far more Gripfill* than is actually necessary on the reverse of the board, offer another silent prayer or two and then start to screw the damned thing in place using a temporary wedge in an attempt to curve the board to the shape of the uneven wall.

I did say it was a pig of a job.

All I can do now is wait a few days for the adhesive to fully cure before I remove the wedge and pray once more that the board will accept the flex rather than revert to normal and pull the 3" screws from the wall.

Having done this I could then revert to sweeping and tidying again so that I will be able to get in to the Inglenook and grout the replacement flag and a complete a couple of other minor jobs.
* Other Building adhesives are available but use the water based ones at your peril … they are bloody useless.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

A Quiet Day

After the Bank Holiday I was expecting to return to multitude of emails but that was not the case. There was very little that needed my attention and this was probably fortunate as I needed to take an hour or so out of my day for a follow up appointment with the Dentist.

This involved sixty seconds of prodding, tapping, humming and hawing before we reached a joint decision. Basically there is a very slim chance that a root canal filling will be effective and I asked about the possibility of an implant as an alternative. My Dentist agreed that this was an option and will be arranging a consultation with an Implantologist* for me.

In my mind this is the first step on the way to becoming a Cyborg and I can already see myself with metallic jaws looking like a still from one of the Terminator movies.

Stepping away from Dental and Occupational matters I can report that I fixed the last sections of architrave in place this evening and now just have a single length of skirting board to put in place.** I am doing my best to do ANYTHING but start the chemical stripping of the original woodwork but it is an inevitable task that is getting nearer day by day.

As there is no coherent thread in this Journal entry I will finish by advising that 30% has gone in to a Holiday booking frenzy and we now have four days on a Narrow Boat booked for August and a long weekend in Bruges seems to be in the offing too.
* Yes, really.
** This will not be straightforward. Andy & Steve were somewhat thoughtless when plastering and the skirting will need to be chamfered or planed at one end to allow the Dining Room door to open in to the Hall.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Worcester disappoints & progress is made in the Hall

The plan for Monday morning was to nip in to Worcester. TP was looking for new strings for his recently acquired Tanglewood, 12 string, electric guitar,* I was tempted by a Sale at Jaeger and 30% just fancied a wander. We also planned to visit a car dealer and take a peek at a potential new vehicle …

… By lunchtime we were all back at home generally disappointed with the trip. All of the guitar shops were closed for the Bank Holiday, I could find nothing I fancied in the menswear department and the car was not carrying its age or mileage well.

The afternoon was spent back in the Hall and by early evening I had made significant progress fixing architrave and skirtings to the walls and door frames. I still have a wall and door frame to attend to plus the fiddly sections of oak that need to be inserted in the Inglenook.

Oh, today and yesterday's productivity cleared significant items from the garage and meant that I could now extract the Porn Mower and persuade TP to use it.
* A Littleton Auction steal!

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Carpentry and not a lot more

As is traditional and commonplace, judging by recent TV commercials, my plan for the Bank Holiday weekend mostly comprised DIY activities.

Up until yesterday all I seemed to have been doing of late has been the removal of the fabric of the house and the creation of a fine collection of building materials.* However, after yesterday's achievement with the replacement of the broken flag I felt somewhat more positive about progress and today I continued in that vein …

… The plan for today was to make a start on the second fix carpentry. Normally this would simply be a matter of cutting the architrave and skirtings to length and fixing them in place. Unfortunately this was not the case in the Hall. The don't 'n dab method of plastering has resulted in a need to cut packing strips for all sections of architrave to ensure that they sit flush with both walls and door frames.

These strips need to be neat as they are not concealed and, as there are three more door ways** to be trimmed, there are several to cut. Most of the day was spent cutting, gluing and screwing these strips to sections of architrave and, as the day progressed, the Hall became filled with lengths stacked waiting for the glue to dry.

As the day waned I was  not overly impressed by progress. The room simply looked more cluttered rather than more complete. Hearing the clock strike gin o'clock I decided to fix the first length of skirting board instead of hitting the bottle. A few minutes of effort involving 3" screws and builders adhesive had it firmly fixed to the wall and this had another benefit …

… I could finally bring in the oak coffer in from the garage and free up a little more space in there!
* I/We have also managed to fill the garage to the point that work or simply moving in there is virtually impossible. This is somewhat counter productive in view of the fact that I need access to the table saw and other tools on a regular basis to complete the secondary fix in the Hall. It is fair to say that I have reached the point of ranting about items that have not yet been disposed of and the fact that every job is extended by 50% due to the need to constantly rearrange items before work can commence.
** I had already done one; the Office Door frame on 19th April

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Today I learnt an important lesson …

… William* and Noggin are both adult cats. Noggin is nearly three and we have lost count of William's years, but he must be seven or eight. Their age is of no real concern, basically they are both adult, both have free access to the great out doors and both are fully house trained …

… so why did one of the little sods think that the rectangular space of earth and stone, left when I lifted the broken flag last weekend,  was a fantastic, period litter tray! Yes, the first task this morning was to tidy up the aperture and as I knelt, with hammer and bolster in hand, I noticed a distinctive odour. One of the little sods had pissed in this nice new earthy patch, obviously believing it had been provided for their indoor convenience.

The rest of the morning was spent on the task of replacing the flag and included cutting a hardboard template for the flag. I only had one piece of slate to fill the aperture and stood little chance of ever getting another that would be close to the right colour or thickness so was understandably cautious to get it right before I attacked it with a new diamond cutting disk,

By Lunchtime I was gently lowering a heavy flag on to a carefully prepared bed of mortar. It was a snug fit but some judicious thuds with a rubber mallet and some gentle agitation soon had it sat beautifully in the Inglenook.

The rest of the afternoon was spent routing the wood I picked up on Monday. This was nominal 150 x 25 mm PSE softwood but a couple of hours with a 1/2" Router and Beading Cutter produced the lengths of Skirting I need for the Hall.

Late in the afternoon 30% and I also managed to find time to take the cupboard doors over to Dave the Stripper in Worcester and we had a pleasant chat and a wander around his stock before heading home. Dave has advised that he will drop the doors over later in the week.

I was hoping that the trip to Worcester was the last of my activities and that I could spend the remainder of Saturday slumped on the sofa with a gin and tonic in my hand. Unfortunately this was not the case as TP's girlfriend had spent the day here and due to some later transport revisions I became responsible for chauffeuring her home later on in the evening.
* aka Eddie or Eddie Percent dut to the fact that he lost a rear leg and tail following an accident with a car a fight with a bear many years ago.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Picture Post

Friday was quieter than expected. I headed in to the office to submit an expense claim and expected to be tied up reviewing a Proposal with our client. Fortunately for me, the client was unavailable and the hour long review became a somewhat disorganised fifteen minutes attempting to find a mutually convenient time for most attendees …

… I am so glad that I have Project Managers to deal with this for me.

The rest of the day involved further calls, a finish at a very civilised hour, purchases from the DIY store* and a trip over to view the lots at Littleton Auctions.

In view of the fact that it was a slow news day I have pulled this snap from the hard drive bytes allotted to our recent Sri Lanka trip. This impressive Bull was encountered on our first Game Drive through the Udawalawe National Park.

* Don't get excited, it was a bag of cement mix to fix the replacement slate flag in the Hall

Thursday, 1 May 2014

It is not all about work ...

I appreciate that there is a significant gap in the Journal from last Autumn until I recommenced a few weeks back. One could assume, incorrectly, that very little happened but I can reassure that that was most definitely not the case. I have no intention of attempting to fill in this gap in this post but hopefully over the next few months some of the missing entries will get covered in some form or another.

I appreciate that tales from the wonderful world of outsourcing and networking do not make the most exciting read so perhaps I will use the missing months as filler instead.

Since Thursday's achievements are unlikely to be of interest to the casual observer I will use this entry to bring you up to speed on the Home Office. Back in July last year I finally cleared the room that was destined to become our Office/Study. I even posted a few photographs to show what a grimy, miserable space it was.

In the intervening months, plaster has been stripped, ceilings have been taken down, rewiring has been completed and much, much more. We finally managed to move the furniture back in about ten weeks ago and it now looks like this …
The Badger was a steal from a local junk emporium.
I just had to fabricate a plinth for him from some scavenged mahogany
Toasty warm in winter and the original stone hearth was a real find
The curtains are temporary …
and I had to build and fit the door frame as well as hang the door
It is a lovely place to work