Thursday, 31 July 2014

Waiting, a Leak and a Homecoming

Today was the day that the RFP documentation was due to be released by the new client. It came as no surprise to me that, at close of business, my in-box had not been troubled by it's presence. These Tender Documents are regularly delayed and part of me actually hopes that it doesn't arrive until next week as I know that if it arrives tomorrow I will spend the weekend reviewing it.

The rest of my working day was uneventful and, as I said yesterday, this is the calm before the storm. Talking of storms; the hot spell of weather broke today and torrential rain fell this afternoon … Unfortunately not all of it remained outside the house! At the sound of the storm I got up from my desk and did a tour of the house closing doors and windows. As I returned to the Hall I looked at the window and saw water running in at the top of the frame. A towel was quickly positioned to soak up the drips and puddle and it now looks like I will need to get a man in to check the pointing and the seal between the window frame frame and lintel. This is definitely a Fuck it moment but, looking on the bright side, at least the room has not yet been decorated...

… It looks like the weekend will feature a spot of Clematis removal so we can get a look at the Brickwork followed by a series of calls to Builders who want a small job.

Moving on to other news; after more than a fortnight away TP finally returned from his holiday in Italy with his Mum's family. It sounds like he had a great time but it also sounds like two weeks of his Mum's company also 'did his head in" … 30% and I are, indeed, his least worst parental option.  Today was another significant first for TP as earlier today we had got his car insurance revised* so he was able to drive solo for the first time  this evening when he went over to Norton to collect his girlfriend.

That just about summarises the main events of today and I must admit I am somewhat vexed by the leak as it could be a challenge to identify the point of ingress and also find a man willing to fix it.

Two steps forward, one step backward … perhaps?
* To take account of him passing his test.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Cold Caller

All being well I am now one day off receiving the RFP from the potential new client and then all Hell is likely to break loose. I am not getting too excited yet as it is not unknown for the release of RFPs to be delayed so it would not come as a surprise to not see it until after the weekend.

There is not a huge amount to report on today's activities. After all it is the middle of the working week and after work, walking the dogs and a few other domestic activities I don't really have either energy or inclination to do much else with myself. At the moment I seem to be doing most of my living at the weekend.

In order to fill a little more white space I will recount a ridiculous call I took on Tuesday from British Gas. I won't give a verbatim narrative but it started along the lines of Hello Mr bad man, I notice from our records that you used to be a British Gas Customer …". Basically it was a cold call using old customer data in an attempt to persuade me to return to them as my domestic energy supplier.  I had a few minutes free so didn't go with my normal practice of just putting the 'phone down and walking away; letting the caller talk to thin air. However, the first question didn't sit well with me. British Gas wanted to know who I currently used as my energy supplier and were somewhat surprised when I told them that it was none of their business. The call irritated me further when the Call Centre employee tried to persuade me to release this information by telling me that he was quite prepared to tell me who he bought his energy from. I pointedly replied that that fact was of no interest to me and didn't change the fact that my energy supplier was my business not his.

I let him make a start on his script before I reined him in and pointed out that it was obvious that this was an attempt to persuade me to return to British Gas as my energy provider. For some strange reason he didn't really want to confirm this as the reason for the call and attempted to waffle about wanting to understand my energy requirements and the choices available. I thought I was being helpful when I advised that what drove my selection of Energy Provider was the tariff and if he wanted me to revert to British Gas he simply needed to send me a leaflet that clearly showed that BG's prices were significantly lower than the other UK suppliers. The caller advised that he could only issue electronic communications so I rattled off my email address at a fair rate of knots. The caller didn't ask me to repeat the email address or repeat it back to me for confirmatory purposes so I was fairly confident that my in-box was not going to receive a non-existent tariff comparison email.

The chap from the Call Centre didn't seem convinced that price was the only factor in me deciding my provider so I pointed out that it was the only variable factor. After all, the electricity and gas will come from the same production plants via the same distribution networks irrespective of which Supplier I choose. I did ask whether he was going to try to tell me that British Gas was going to sell me a different type of electricity and at least he had the decency to acknowledge that they were not.

The caller then tried a new tack advising that he wanted to run through a series of Ofgen* approved questions with me. I said that was fair enough but pointed out that a) I only had 5 minutes before my next conference all and b) had a short attention span and low boredom threshold. The first few questions from the Ofgen List were house type, size and age. He then went on to ask how much I spent on energy every year and seemed somewhat surprised when I told him that was none of his business either. His alternative approach was to ask about my energy usage. I pointed out that if he was from British Gas they would have my customer records spinning on a hard disk somewhere at one of their data centres. I added that 2010 was a rather chilly Winter so that should be taken in to account when determining my annual usage. The caller advised that he did not have access to that data and seemed surprised when I advised that that was his problem not mine and that I had neither the time nor the inclination to do his job for him.

The final straw came when he asked when I used electricity. I pointed out that this was a bizarre question as the natural answer was "all the time". After all I have a refrigerator and freezers and they tend to work best when switched on 24 x 7. By this time my patience had long since dissipated and my conference call was only minutes away. I referred the chap back to the point I had made earlier about my short attention span and hung up on him.
* For readers** not familiar with British Administrivia Ofgen is the UK Energy Regulatory Authority.
** This is probably most relevant to the reader in Telford, Pennsylvania. You visit nearly every day but never say "Hello".

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The calm before the storm?

Tuesday was much more to my liking from a work perspective. I was "holed up" in the study at home and things weren't too frenetic. That is not to say that here weren't the usual cock-ups and mismanagement to deal with but it all came in reasonable quantities and support appears to be on hand when name dropping isn't getting any results.

I also managed to cross another item off my To Do List today when I finally paired the Bull Horns with their Mounting Plaque and screwed them to the wall. They may not be to everyone's taste but I love them.

42" from tip to tip.
Probably more than 50" when still attached to the skull
These were part of a scruffy lot at Littleton Auction and have sat in the garage for the best part of twelve months. Their "upcycling"involved the fabrication of a new cow hide sleeve to cover the join between the two horns, manufacture of a mounting plaque and then joining the two together.

Apart from that there isn't much else to report for today. 30% received an e-mail from TP advising that he has summitted the Leaning Tower of Pisa and will be back at home on Thursday. I must admit it has been strange not having him around for the past couple of weeks.

Monday, 28 July 2014

A gentle start to the working week

This morning saw 30% and I were up and active at a fairly early hour. Shortly after eight o'clock the dogs were put in the back of the car and we headed off to The Depot, taking a minor diversion to drop T&M off at the dog grooming salon.

The working day was uneventful and could be summarised as a reasonably gentle start to the week. The Office was very quiet now that the Summer Holiday period has started and only one of my team mates was in work today. Unfortunately he is somewhat lacking in personality so, after a few work related pleasantries, I was left to keep myself amused for most of the day.

We picked up T&M on our way home from work and they have undergone an incredible transformation after yesterday's rampage through fields, undergrowth and streams left them looking like Swamp Dogs. They are now definitely more "show ring" than "field dog"but it won't be long before they become scruffy again.

The evening was as uneventful as the day. I progressed my Bull Horn project slightly further,  applying the final coat of Danish Oil to the oak plaque and inserting two screw eyes in to the horns. I now need to fix a slotted mirror plate to the back of the plaque before I mount the horns and declare the job a success/failure.*

I also had a few minutes of fun with a can of Expanding foam filling a couple of cavities at the foot of the door frame between the Hall and the Kitchen. Once this has set it will be sanded back and covered with wood filler to deal with a gap between the frame and floor.

… and that was it. Monday was just about done. 30%'s lamb cutlets on a bed of roasted vegetables deserves a mention as it was very good and this plaudit ends my account for today.
* Delete where applicable

Sunday, 27 July 2014


I started Sunday at a gentle pace. The first of the day's activities was to head over to the local feed store and pick up a few bags of layers pellets and a bale of shavings for the chickens. I was soon back and was unloading them into the garage when 30% arrived home from her open air performance at Eastnor Castle. I caught up with her news and then headed back out to the garage …

… When I put the Enfield back in the garage yesterday afternoon I connected up the battery charger but the indicator lights showed that no charge was being delivered. I tried to power it off and reconnect it a couple of times but that had not rectified the issue so this morning I planned an investigation. The simplest approach was to connect the charger to another of my bikes*. I tried the Honda and was instantly awarded with the correct sequence of indicator lights. The problem was obviously inside the battery compartment of the Bullet.

It was a few moments work to remove the cover to the battery and I could then see that one of the ring connectors on the charger harness had self destructed and had detached itself from the battery terminal. Connection of the charger yesterday evening had obviously been the final straw and the slight wiggling of the cable had been enough to fracture the ring connector, separating it from the wire.

I put the battery cover back on the Enfield and rode her in to Redditch to pick up some 15 amp cable and connectors. Back at home it was time for lunch before I headed back out to the garage where I could be found crouched over a soldering iron; tinning bare wires, joining them and restoring this simple loom to working order. Twenty minutes later the Bullet was back in once piece, connected to her life support system and snug under her dust cover. A few moment more were required to put away the tools and I was then ready for my next project.

The next couple of hours were spent fabricating an oak plaque as a mount for the pair of Bull Horns I have been restoring. A short length of oak floor board was located and cut to size. A detail was routed around the edge and I then spent a good while sanding it before dusting it off and tidying up. Once the dust had settled and the tools had been put away I applied a coat of Danish Oil and then headed back in to the house.

The weather today was glorious, but nowhere near as hot as yesterday, so 30% and I decided to put T&M in the back of the car and head over to the woods and fields of a local Estate for a walk. We had a lovely time and part of the walk was through a short section of woodland. T&M were enthusiastically exploring the undergrowth when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. Unfortunately so did T&M and they were soon in hot pursuit of a small group of deer. Vigorous whistle blowing and calling soon had Tyson back on the lead but Marauder was much more intent. I wandered off the path and along the trail left by the deer and M. After a hundred yards of whistling and calling I saw Marauder heading back delighted with the experience ...

… "That was fucking awesome, those rabbits are fucking massive" was her summation of the interlude. This was not the only encounter with deer and a further pair of roe deer were seen close by in a field of barley as we neared the car. Fortunately I was quicker than the dogs on this occasion and had them back on their leads avoiding potential havoc.

We arrived home a little before six and this left us just enough time to get cleaned up and changed before we headed over to The Oak at Upton Snodsbury for their Lobster Evening. We had seen this event advertised when we lunched there last weekend and a booking had been made at the time. We had a delightful meal and I have to be honest and say it has been quite a while since I have have eaten such good food. Everything was just right. The service was prompt, friendly and informal. They served Hendricks gin with tonic and cucumber, the food was beautiful and arrived promptly and the restaurant was well set out too.

I can see us heading out that way again before too long.
* Each bike has a pair of leads terminating in a simple jack plug permanently connected to their batteries. This makes  connection to the charger a very simple operation.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

PRINTED Another couple of reasons why SMS pisses me off

Christ I had better save this as a draft too!

In the previous entry I mentioned the sale of a metal bed frame via eBay for a paltry twenty quid. To be honest the money is not important and the major plus is that we have managed to remove another unwanted item from The Pile. However, a couple of years ago I advertised this very same bed on Preloved and received a rather attractive offer for it. SMS then mentioned that she wanted it but wasn't quite ready to receive it so I declined the attractive offer and left it in the cellar, waiting for SMS's command.

It will come as no surprise that SMS forgot about this bed frame and bought another one leaving me with a cellar fuller than it should be and with a pocket emptier than it could have been! As I said, it is not about the money but she can be bloody annoying.

eBay is also relevant to the second part of this bitching session. In the past few weeks I have referenced the sale of a few items on eBay and a week or so ago she mentioned that she had a Steam Cleaner that had had little use and wanted to know whether I would sell it for her. I asked her to mail me the model details and I would research previous sales to give her an idea of what price it was likely to reach, if any.

I dutifully performed the analysis and mailed her back with pricing information and a few suggestions about auction options and the associated risks. She replied with a one liner saying "yes, put it on with a 99p starting price and no reserve". That was it, nothing else, just get on with it. I was somewhat flabbergasted at this as it takes some time to draft a decent auction listing and add decent quality photographs to give one a chance of getting a decent sale price and I had none of the information or images to do this.

I politely mentioned this in my second mail and unsurprisingly heard nothing from her. About a week later I rang to catch up on their news and she informed me that she wasn't going to bother selling the steam cleaner at the moment as it was too much bother.

For Fucks Sake! She is such a lazy cow. All I asked her to do was take a few digital photos and fire over a few details in an e-mail. It was going to be Muggins here that was going to do the donkey work of drafting the listing and handling the sale. I really think that she thought I was going to schlep over to Harvington to take photos and notes so that I could sell HER crap.

After all she must be very busy now she is retired and has fuck all to do. And it is not as though she has a computer literate 28 year old at home to help out if needed either.

A fairly lazy day

After breakfast 30% and I both headed in to Redditch by means of separate conveyances. She was off to the Supermarket to collect what basically amounted to booze and nibbles whilst I needed to hit B&Q for a peculiar array of goods including a new lavatory seat, fluorescent light starter units and 16mm cut tacks. I should point out that whilst my shopping list was for the common good, 30% was off for an overnight camping trip at Eastnor Castle with her friend Jules and her shopping was most definitely her version of trail food!

My trip in to Redditch was not wholly successful as I need to replace a short length of Ogee moulding in the Hall and thus far have found nothing remotely like it. To be honest this is not entirely unexpected as the moulding must be getting on for sixty years old but I thought I would try a couple of possible Suppliers while I was in town. I arrived home shortly after eleven to an empty house and got busy with my list of chores.

First task was to replace the lavatory seat in the Jack & Jill bathroom upstairs. This was a simple job and was soon scrubbed from my virtual to do list. 30% arrived home during this lavatory upgrade activity and lauded me like I had just rescued a kitten from burning well or had just discovered a cure for teeth … I obviously hadn't realised how precariously wobbly the previous broken seat had become!

Next on the list was the equally challenging task of inserting two new starter units in to the fluorescent lights in the garage. I then returned to the house to watch 30% pack her picnic and prepare lunch. We were just about to eat when Paul the Plumber rang to see if it was convenient to pop round and introduce a couple of litres of "inhibitor" to the heating system. Lunch was therefore eaten on the hoof while chatting away with PtP. 30% headed off for her camping expedition* soon after lunch and I was home alone.

I needed to be at home around four o'clock to hand over a metal bed frame that had recently been sold via eBay so had an hour or so to fill. The weather was absolutely scorching so there was no way the dogs could be walked so I did what comes naturally and hit the sofa for an hour and watched junk TV. "Ros from Alvechurch" arrived quite punctually and was not at all like her semi-literate emails had augured. I relieved her of two crisp ten pound notes** and lent semi-reluctant*** assistance to her assistant as he loaded it in and on the top of her tiny Suzuki.

After their departure I was free of chronological restraints so I took the Enfield from the garage, donned minimal protective gear and headed back in to Redditch. The reason for this return trip is that, despite having them on my list, I had managed to forget the 16mm cut tacks on my first visit this morning. The ride was a liberating and refreshing escape from the afternoon heat but I found myself hyper-aware of the road surface, other road users and my vulnerability without the protection boots, jacket and gloves would provide.

Back at home I put the Enfield away and installed the dog guard in the car before heading inside. The tacks were needed to secure the cow hide sheath that hides the joint of the pair of Bull Horns I am currently mounting. This took no more than a few minutes and then it was time to walk T&M.

After an hour out around the Three Miler I headed home made a light supper and returned to the sofa for more strenuous inactivity.
* She was really going to an open air Jules Holland Concert. The overnight camping was an alcohol related by product.
** She had a bloody good deal, it should have gone much higher with that many Watchers
*** See previous note regarding the final bid for this lot.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Getting one in under the radar

Before I start I need to clearly state that I fully understand that what I publish in The Journal is in the public domain. That is why I use aliases and carefully control the content in an attempt to protect my privacy and that of the ones I love. I am sure that with enough detective work my identity could be determined but I am also aware that there is absolutely nothing in here that would make that a worthwhile exercise.

What this comes down to is fundamentally I quite like my privacy and have made a reasonable effort to preserve it. I am not concerned if someone from Telford, Pennsylvania reads this on a daily basis because they chances of a face to face encounter are virtually zero. Ergo my anonymity and privacy is preserved.

I do have another class of reader and those are friends and colleagues. These are very few in number and for some reason I am not overly concerned about them reading my diary. I suppose it is because a friendship status can be easily revised. It can go from  "let's go out for a drink" to "I love you and want to have your babies" but just as easily it can also wither to  "I used to work with him years ago". If I felt that their interest in my diary was getting weird or creepy they could, to use Facebook speak, be "unfriended".

 I am aware that ex-colleagues from Dante's Nine Circles of Hell read this but I doubt that they read it religiously on a daily basis and we rarely talk in person these days which means that I have no concerns about things getting a little strange. Also, there is a reciprocal arrangement in that they too tend to Blog so I can "pop  in and see how things are going" with them.

Now we get to the difficult bit; Family! For some reason SMS is fascinated by this blog and reads it every day.* This really creeps me out! She never talks to me directly about it but when I am talking to her or BMS on the 'phone I will occasionally recount a snippet of news and will get the response "Oh Yes, SMS read that in your blog". More recently she mentioned one of the more sensitive Journal entries to 30% and this caused a minor upset as 30% hadn't read** the entry and wasn't aware of the content.

I know I should not get wound up by this but I find it a very peculiar type of stalking. I am well aware that nothing in here is particularly earth shattering but I find her interest has gone beyond the norm and into an area that is not quite right. As I type this I wonder if she reads her own son's blog as frequently as she reads mine?

It also damages our relationship as I find her regular reading intrusive and I find myself needing to write this down as a way of venting. Furthermore I will set this post to todays date but I will leave it in draft format for a month or more. Only then will I publish it. By that time it will be well down the list of Journal entries, not visible on the main web page, and only accessible by web search or someone specifically interested in reading what I did in July 2014.

What this comes down to is this; this is my diary. I am allowed to be pissed off and I am not going to be deterred from writing about it. If you don't like it fuck off and read some other shit on the internet … or … get a fucking life instead of living mine by fucking proxy.

Having got that off my chest I will now get on with today's fun and games. The working day was busy and I attended the first call with the client on a project that is about to kick off. I took notes and published these to the great and good after the call. About an hour later I received an email from my Boss. A VP had been on the distribution list and had forwarded my meeting notes to my Boss with a single line of text … " I like him already". It is a great first impression but I now have to live up to it.

After work 30% and I headed over to Littleton for a wander around the auction rooms. A couple of weeks back SMS made it clear that she wanted to accompany*** us to a viewing so this evening we met her and BMS at the Auction House. I don't know what had got in to him but BMS was in a pretty foul mood. He was tetchy and scathing erring in to sarcastic and dismissive in almost every comment he made. It may have been the heat but I think it may well have been that he didn't want to go to the viewing but had been cajoled in to it by SMS.

Whatever it was, it was nothing of mine or 30%'s doing so I would just like to say thanks Dad for being such a miserable sod and casting a cloud over the end of our working week. Also being particularly shitty was not going to persuade me to offer to help move a redundant television in to the back of their car when they have my twenty eight year old half brother in the house.

Rant over … for the moment.
*Statcounter software logs the IP addresses and location information of Journal readers so I can get an accurate idea of who is reading what, when and for how long.
** 30% is not a regular reader. She will occasionally drop in if she wants to show a friend a photograph she knows has been published here but otherwise her view is "it's bad enough living with him".
*** I am somewhat bemused by this. BMS knows exactly where the auction rooms are and they are both old enough not to need to be chaperoned by us. 30% and I are somewhat time and energy poor and this is one of the few relaxing activities we like to do together. We just felt that this was yet another invasion of our privacy.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Do I look like a "people person"?

Thursday saw me heading in to The Depot. It will come as no surprise that I had expenses to submit but TP's car needed a service and MOT so 30% and I had offered to get this sorted while he is sunning himself with his Mother in Northern Italy. Bright and early this sunny morning I was to be seen trundling in to town in a banana yellow Fiat with 30% in hot pursuit in her Audi.

The car was dropped off at a local garage and 30% and I headed in to the Depot … and Oh what fun I had! Today I was joined in my cube by two recent recruits to my team. At this point it is worth stressing that I enjoy the solitude of working from home so imagine my delight at being crammed in to four square metres with a pair of Network Engineers. I am sure they are lovely people if you get to know them and unfortunately for me they were quite keen on getting better acquainted with me. They had assembled at the Depot from far and wide for a curry night with some of their former colleagues* and were keen that I joined them.

Now I have worked with both of them previously and I can say that one of them is fine from a professional perspective and the other is just plain odd. I could go on at length but let's just leave it at overly friendly and incredibly boring at the same time. Obviously I needed to get out of this jam pronto to avoid the alternative universe where I would later be slitting my wrists under the table in a cramped and gloomy Balti House in Moseley. I rapidly invented a late night call with a couple of real colleagues and combined it with the need to collect TP's car.** I was immediately excused and received admiration for my dedication to be working so late in to the evening.

I got on with my day and was head down for most of it. This was a necessity as the subjects of the conversations behind me ranged from speeding points and bans to what type of tyres I bought for my bikes … Kill me now!

30% eventually took a call from the garage and we headed over to pick up TP's car. Unfortunately it had needed a couple of age related maintenance jobs*** which increased the size of the invoice but it now has an MOT and a clean bill of mechanical health.

Our route home also involved a stop at 30%'s Mum and Dad's house where they were to be found sunning themselves in the garden. The purpose of the visit was to collect 30%'s keys after the weekend dog sitting. As we were chatting I noticed feathers littered about the lawn. I suppose it could have been from a kill by one of their cat's but my mind was drawn back to the conversation I had with Tyson yesterday!

We eventually arrived home and were greeted enthusiastically by T&M. It was way too hot for a walk and, if I am honest, I didn't fancy it at the end of a busy day so we enjoyed a leisurely evening. I did make further progress with my latest project and the cow hide I was messing around with on Tuesday is now glued around the centre section of a rather fine pair of Bull horns.
* One of whom resembles Frankenstein's Monster to a frightening degree including the shambling, foot dragging gait and the physique that suggests multiple body part donors.
** Bullshitting 101: Base your lie on as many truths as possible.
*** Cam Belt and brake fluid replacement

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

This may not be true ...

While talking to Tyson about being left in the care of a Dog Sitter over the weekend she informed me that she had heard the hens making a dreadful clamour and had found 30%'s Mum squeezing the eggs out of the chickens so she could steal them. I didn't believe this for one minute …

… but then again, the egg rack was suspiciously empty when we returned on Sunday?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Not sure how to sum this crap up?

Today was slightly less busy than recently and I actually found twenty minutes during the day to grab the clippers from the garage and trim T&Ms' faces. 30% has been "commenting"* on their appearance for a couple of weeks so this may well be a Personal Best in this domestic Endurance Event.

I have already mentioned that the day was calmer than the recent norm but late in the afternoon my Boss pinged then rang me … it appears that a new opportunity for another client will kicking off at the end of the month and I have been selected to lead it. This is more new territory for me but I must admit that I am up for the challenge in an "Oh Shit, what have I let myself in for" kind of way.**

The business day came to a close and I headed out for a walk in the glorious sunshine with T&M. On my return I checked my laptop for the final time and noticed a fairly recent ping from my Frolleague Lou in Nevada. She rang to say that she had volunteered to be my RFP Bitch*** and was really looking forward to this deal.

I also seem to have rekindled my enthusiasm for DIY and this evening I pushed forward a project that has been kicking around for ages. Tonight's activities involved the trimming of a piece of cow hide followed by the creation of fold over seams along the two long edges using a leather glue …

… I'll  leave you to guess what I am up to.****
* Who's a beautiful girl, does your face need clipping?" repeated in the style of chinese water torture whenever I am present. Eventually this dripping tap irritates me to the point where I grab the spanners and a fresh washer. It may also be worth mentioning that she says she prefers them shaggy and unclipped … I'm never going to win here!
** it needs to be remembered that much of what I do is based on the "let's throw spaghetti at the wall" approach … try anything and see what sticks. There is far more to it than that, but every opportunity is different and whilst there may be tried and tested practices you need a creative approach to endure the roller coaster ride that is responding to Outsourcing RFPs.
*** her phrase not mine!
**** CAUTION: Pressing this link will cause you to jump forward in time. Some discomfort may be experienced.

Monday, 21 July 2014

There is no such thing as a free lunch

To be honest there is not a huge amount to report today. It was simply a case of getting my head down and getting on with it. I am now in the second week of the three where I need to cover a colleagues workload and am being asked to get involved in all sorts of activities that he made no mention of in his hand-over. Mind you, I am never quite sure how to take this individual. My opinion swings from monosyllabic with a martini dry sense of humour to evil Danish Bastard. For the past week I have mostly been going with "eDB"!

I did find a surprising e-mail in my in-box this morning … after a quick skim read it appeared that I had been recognised for my contribution to the client and had been invited to a client hosted lunch at a nearby hostelry. I rapidly realised the repercussions of this communication and promptly read the invitee list VERY carefully … Oh Fuck!

It was a matter of moments to realise that, whilst I had been invited, 30%'s name did not appear in the e-mail. She was working from home today so, when she finally put the telephone down, I wandered up somewhat apprehensively…

… My opening statement in this potentially "difficult" subject might have been a little blunt as I went with the simple, but straightforward "Do you know anything about this Recognition Event that I have been invited to at The xxxx in xxxxxxxx". With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps I should have gone with something more tactful and sensitive as I was forced to endure two full minutes of non-stop invective and expletive covering my limited time with the company and my allegedly minimal contribution.*

Fortunately this was mock fury and things soon settled down, or at least they seem to have.

As afternoon turned to evening I got up from the laptop and wandered around the Three Miler with T&M.  I must have been feeling incredibly energetic as I then pushed the porn mower around the lawn and managed a quick snooze before 30% shouted out that dinner was ready.

I knew she had calmed down as a) it wasn't burnt and b) I wasn't wearing it.
* You have only been here 5 minutes, do sweet fuck all and get invited to a fucking Recognition Lunch and am I invited, Oh No! …. ad nauseam

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Weekend Round Up

The plan for this weekend was to meet up with a couple of friends that we haven't seen in a very long time indeed. They are both piano movers and we used to see each other socially on a regular basis but they relocated to deepest Cheshire a few years ago and for a long while contact has been limited to the occasional instant message on the Corporate IM application... Although there was an extraordinary occasion when I was delayed in Newark, New York and discovered that "B" was booked on the same flight and we passed the time together in the Business Lounge.

Saturday started quite early due to another thunder storm followed by some hard core snoring by 30%. I headed down stairs to start the day gently with coffee and, after an hour or so, made a start on putting the house in to some semblance of order … It seemed churlish to leave the house in a complete state of disarray as 30%'s parents would be dog and house sitting.

Most of the morning was spent tidying and preparing to leave apart from a brief interlude when "Bob from Wolverhampton" arrived to collect a couple of items that he had acquired via eBay. As midday approached we were ready to leave and headed off down the road. The first leg of the journey was the matter of a few miles to the Oak at Upton Snodsbury where we stopped for a light lunch. We then plugged B&C's* post code in to the Range Rover's  Sat Nav  unit and let it take over navigation duties.

As we neared Worcester I expected to be directed on to the M5 but the route selected was cross country. 30% and I were gifted with empty roads and fantastic views of rural Worcestershire, Shropshire and Cheshire as we headed towards our destination of Hoole near Chester.

It was a delight to see C&B after such a long time and conversation came easily was we chatted about work and home life. The later afternoon sun was glorious so we decided to take a walk in to Chester to take in a couple of views of the city. Miss Pickle** was put on the lead and we headed down part of the National Cycle Network that lead to our first halt at a canal side pub. We paused for refreshments before heading in to Chester proper and walking a section of the City Walls. This part of the walk gave us views of the Cathedral and Chester's famous Eastgate Clock. We descended from the walls and walked along a short length of the River Dee before partaking of further refreshment at another canal side pub.

We arrive back at C&B's house around seven and decided that a bottle of champagne was a good idea as we needed something to do until our restaurant reservation approached. At about eight thirty we headed down in to Hoole and arrived at an award winning Indian Restaurant selected by C for our evening meal. The food and company was lovely and a great time was had by all. On the walk home a swift one was drank at a reasonably quiet bar before we headed home.

Once back at C&B's the spirits and wine were broken out and I think we eventually retired at around four in the morning.

Sunday apparently dawned but I was not aware of this. I had fallen asleep as soon as my head had hit the pillow and the next thing I knew was 30% calling me to wakefulness at half past ten. I felt amazingly chipper considering the amount of booze consumed over yesterday's twelve hour session and wandered downstairs to see Miss Pickle charging around the kitchen and feet of a rather dishevelled C.

C and I took MissP out for a quick walk whilst B and 30% sorted out some coffee and then we all sat in the scorching morning sun waiting for the caffeine to take effect. Eventually it was time for us to leave as C&B needed to hit the road and head up to Ayrshire for a week's holiday. We threw our stuff in to the car and, again, let it decide on the route home.

Once again the car decided to go cross country and we settled down to take in the views.*** We assumed that we would be taking the same route home but this time the car decided that we needed to check out the delights of rural Staffordshire. A light lunch was taken at a pub called The Bell but don't ask me where the hell it was. All I can say is that we were both starving having been enticed to pull off the main road on two occasions by signs advertising Pubs with restaurants only to find that both of them had closed down!

Lunch was a simple but superb Burger and then it was back in to the car for the final leg home which featured Wolverhampton, the A449, Kingswinford and Stourbridge. We arrived home shortly after three and after an enthusiastic welcome by T&M we both settled down to catch up on some sleep. We woke shortly before six and did little else apart from eat a light supper and vegetate on the sofa until bed time.

We had had a lovely weekend away with some fine company and really must get a reciprocal event arranged soon.
* "C" wanted to know whether he could pick his own alias for the Journal and was concerned to learn that was not going to happen. He was further dismayed when we broached the touchy subject of his passing resemblance to a young Noel Edmonds and warned that could be the foundation for his moniker in the Journal. "B" was also wary that she might end up being referred to as "Blobby" so I think that the decision to go with simple, sequential initials is evidence of my magnanimity.
** Their lovely but very reserved "rescue" Springer Spaniel
*** The car is more comfortable than the average living room sofa, has acres of glass giving fantastic views and the automatic gear box makes it the most stress free drive I have ever encountered.

Friday, 18 July 2014

C'est Le Weekend!

I dragged the Honda from her lair this morning and headed in to the Depot in Redditch. My purported reason for a trip in to the office was that I needed to submit an expense form but actually I just fancied a ride on my bike and the weather forecast was excellent.

The morning was incredibly busy and included my mid year review discussion with my manager. That went swimmingly and whilst I may still have huge gaps in my knowledge he is delighted with my progress, integration and the general skills I acquired in my years at The Nine Circles of Hell.

By midday things had calmed somewhat and I wandered over the road to get a haircut. Unfortunately the local Auto bank was out of action and the Barber is so traditional that only cash is accepted. I wandered back to the office and grabbed my helmet and keys from my desk, taking one look at my jacket and the hot sun outside before deciding "nah!".

I am normally safety conscious when it comes to motorcycle apparel but it was a delight to head off down the road wearing a helmet, T-shirt and jeans and enjoy the cooling breeze. With my cash reserves replenished I headed back to the barber and was shorn. I then headed back in to work for a somewhat quieter afternoon that mostly involved hosting calls and some investigative work on how to determine Adjusted Peak Performance on some server environments.

Five o'clock soon arrived and shortly after I left a very empty office and headed home. The evening was a fairly normal Friday evening featuring wine, supper on the sofa and the huge sense of relief that the next two days are free of the demands of work. We also spent and hour or so with 30%'s Mum and Dad as they will be House and Dog Sitting tomorrow and Sunday as we are off to see friends in the wilds of Chester.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Not in the mood

Yep, that just about sums up today. I just wasn't in the right frame of mind for anything. Now, don't get me wrong. I had a busy and productive day with a number of projects nudged forward but all with a significant lack of grace on my part. I don't know whether it was the weather or a reluctance to sort out a colleague's problems but throughout the day I wanted to be anywhere but sat at the desk working.

The day ended with a wander around the Three Miler and I can report that the weather was incredibly warm. Both T&M were panting like the little engine that could as we walked the final mile back in to the Village and home. The walk and the end of the working day produced a somewhat sunnier disposition and 30% and I had a pleasant evening in front of the TV before retiring to bed.

Normally a Journal entry would end just about now but tonight there was an incredible storm and we were woken by T&M barking at the thunder. They then decided that they needed to be as close to 30% and me as possible and leapt up on to the bed, huddling close beside us. 30% reported that the lightening flashes were incredible but I must admit that I kept my eyes closed, threw an arm across the nearest dog and fell back to sleep.

It has been a busy week.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

I don't remember reading this in the job spec

As mentioned yesterday I am charging through this week at an incredible rate of knots on account of having my own workload plus that of a slacker colleague who is taking a three week holiday.

Today I needed to make some updates in a rather complicated workflow tool. I was somewhat apprehensive as I had only attended three disjointed hand over sessions, none of which had given me a great sense of confidence. So, as soon as I had cleared the crop of overnight email, I girded my loins, located the relevant notes and made a start in this tool. The first set of changes went well and I was quietly confident of success. The final change didn't look quite right and I wondered if I should have taken an alternative approach.* I saved my work and then went to the screen where I should initiate the next step in the in the process and was presented with a single button … The button I was told never to press!

Hmmm! After a few minutes of cursing my colleague, re-evalauation of the training he had given me plus wondering what the hell a Technical Solution Manager was doing plugging configuration changes in to a workflow management tool I aborted this activity and searched his notes for salvation. I found it in the form of a young lady in Atlanta who was more than happy to take part in a screen sharing session and walk me through the changes.

On a positive note, I had correctly determined how the config changes should be entered and the reason for my encounter with The Button That Shall NEVER Be Pressed was due to a record ownership issue rather than my mistake. I now hate the tool more than I did yesterday but am slightly less afraid of it.

The end of the working day soon came around and I headed out around the Three Miler before the forecast evening showers.

This evening saw the end of the last of the current crop of eBay auctions and  in a flurry of last minute bidding the closing price more than doubled on a set of Land Rover wheel rims and tyres. I will not be able to retire on my eBay earnings but I have got rid of some bulky items from the garage and cellar and now have a two hundred and fifty quid credit in my PayPal account.
* As someone who worked in workflow management and application design more than twenty years ago it says volumes about this tool when the User can consider an alternative approach. This indicates that the Business rules, validation, error and warning messages are not accurately represented …

… or, to put it another way; it is shite!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Keeping Busy

If this week carries on at this rate I am going to be reaching Friday in no time at all.

It is fair to say that managing my own workload and that of a colleague is certainly keeping me busy and five o'clock soon chimed, signalling the end of a full day. It wasn't non-stop and I did find time to step away from the laptop during the day to provide some assistance to Paul the Plumber.

PtP had finally found time in his busy schedule to hang and connect the new radiator in the Hall. So, from time to time, I was required to locate certain items, assess the positioning of the rad and assist with the refilling of the system. He finished shortly after mid day and this is the penultimate job that needs to be performed on The Pile's heating system. Over the past few years he has either temporarily removed or replaced the rads as we have refurbished the rooms in the older part of the house. This has meant that the system has been flushed numerous times and his final job will be to return in a few weeks and add an inhibiting compound to the system to prevent corrosion or blockages. Mind you, there is more to plumbing than heating systems and last year's leaking pipes demonstrated the ability of an old house to spring surprises on you ... and the convenience of having a friend in the trade.

With the working day over I headed out around the Three Miler and returned to slouch before eating dinner on the sofa with 30%.

TP is now, presumably, safely arrived in Italy with his Mum and family although early this morning I did get a call from school to ask where he was. This worried me as I had been reassured that his Mother had sought permission to take him out of school for the last week of term. I pointed out that he was swanning around Northern Italy with his Mother and the school secretary seemed quite unconcerned about this, suggesting that there had been a communications cock up somewhere in the school!

I bloody hope so as I do not plan to get dragged in to the repercussions of an unauthorised school absence.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Lulled in to a false sense of security

It all sounded so easy when I participated in a series of hand-over sessions over the last couple of weeks. These gave me the impression that everything in the garden was wonderful, nothing really would happen and that I just had a few simple actions to complete over the next three weeks.

Well that was complete fucking bollocks wasn't it!

I must have developed an incredible reputation during my first nine months as a Piano Mover because contacts, unknown to me, seem to think that I have super powers that encompass mind reading and the ability to travel back in time to attend meetings that occurred bloody weeks ago.

Basically they have received an out of office message from my colleague and have then simply added me to the email distribution lists. At no point have they thought "What do I need to do to bring this chap up to speed?" or even "How can I summarise this so that my requirements are clear and concise?". They have simply carried on ping ponging mails to one another leaving me to sift through the scant facts and attempt to work out what they wanted.

I tried sending them a mail asking for a clear problem statement and a summary of their requirements …

… they just ignored that and carried on with their email exchanges.

That is a bloody strange way of getting someone to provide assistance; by ignoring their requests for clarification. In the end I decided to set up a call to see whether they made any more sense in person. I doubt it but they are either going to play the game my way or I am going to take the ball home.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Just a thought

If you were a werewolf and were really, really fat … I mean super, morbidly, unable to get off the bed, obese … what would happen when the moon was full?

You are hardly going to instil terror and leave a trail of dismembered corpses if all you can do is growl, howl and roll around on your reinforced bed until the sun comes up.

One of the more tricky items on the "to do" list

I didn't have anything planned for today so Sunday was started at a leisurely pace. A short way in to the morning the 'phone rang and I headed off through the lanes to collect TP and tent from a overnighter hosted by a friend to celebrate the end of their school days. On the way back I offered him the command of the Range Rover and he leapt at the chance, describing it as massive but really easy to drive.

Back at The Pile I finally settled on something to do and headed out to the garage. It has been some while since I partially dismantled the Ducati* and I was getting concerned that she would get forgotten in my never ending list of projects. This morning I had decided that I would finally strip out and replace the holder for the rev counter and temperature gauge. The Haynes Manual gave this a three spanner difficulty rating which suggested that it should be within the capabilities of a competent home mechanic … Well, that's me fucked then!

After an hour the headlights were dangling, only supported by their power cables, as was the horn and the majority of the instrument cluster nuts had been removed. Only one bolt remained and there was no way I could undo it without a 10" extension bar for my 3/8 Socket Set …

… twenty minutes later I had drunk a cup of coffee and was being chauffeured in to Halfords by TP. A shiny extension bar was soon located and we headed back home in time for lunch. After eating I returned to the garage and removed the previously inaccessible nut. Then came the tricky job of disconnecting the instruments and swapping them from one cluster to another … An hour later the cluster was back on the bike and I was reconnecting the battery. I checked the lights and all were found to be working so I pressed the choke button and thumbed the starter. She fired up on the second push of the button and ran for the first time in ten months.

Unfortunately it was then time to put the tools away as the dogs needed a walk but this significant progress has restored my motivation and encouraged me to get her cleaned, reassembled and back on the road before the Summer turns to Autumn.

After walking the dogs TP drove me over to see SMS as it was her Birthday today. As we arrived I had a rare encounter with my elder sister and we exchanged polite "hellos" as she gathered up her husband and foster daughter and headed off home. We had a short but pleasant time with BMS and SMS and handed over gifts and caught up on our news before an impending Sunday Dinner forced us to leave.

Sunday evening progressed and two more eBay auctions ended. Late in the evening I had a pleasant conversation with Pete from Oldham who will be making use of his free train pass to come and collect a set of "Brand New Royal Enfield Crash Bars" in the next couple of days.
* During the missing months I removed the fairing from the Ducati and had the scuffs in the paintwork rectified at a vehicle body shop over at Bidford on Avon. While she was naked I also set about replacing a few components that had been damaged over time. One of these was the instrument surround that had been gnawed by mice during the many years she had been off the road.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A fairly standard Saturday

After a wander down to the local Post Office to dispatch the first of my eBay sales, 30% and I headed off to the auction rooms in Littleton.  We stopped by the entrance to the site to stroke a Piebald Mare and her foal in the paddock and got chatting to an auction goer. Apparently the Auctioneers were linking up with an internet auction site today and had suffered delays. The sale had only just started and we would have to watch the best part of one hundred and sixty lots go through.

We wandered in to the Sale room. It was rammed with buyers and very warm. Within a few minutes we could see that the internet link up had really slowed down the rate at which the lots were being sold and had really pushed up the prices. It was most definitely a day to sell rather than a day to buy. After a couple of hours it was time for the pendulum wall clock and 30% started to bid. We went somewhat above our agreed limit and decided enough was enough as the bidding continued. It was lovely but there was no way we wanted spend that sort of money.

We left the auction slightly disappointed and headed in to Stratford to collect my new jacket,* followed by a fascinating hour in the supermarket, as the kitchen needed restocking after TP and my predations  over the past week.

It was close to two o'clock by the time we made it back to The Pile and my stomach thought my throat had been cut. A late lunch was taken and then I dragged the porn mower from the garage and tidied up the lawn. My intention had then been to take a ride out on one of the bikes, but a quick peek at my e-mail indicated that an eBay lot winner would be collecting their item in a short while. I was therefore forced to potter in the garage for an hour or so; sorting out items for the charity shop and sneaking** other items in to the bin or the pile for the Tip.

Wandering off at something of a tangent, I can also report that Tyson is overjoyed by England's piss poor performance in the World Cup. Their early departure has resulted in a glut of reduced price, England branded, football ephemera and here she is with her latest acquisition ...
That stitching will hold up about as well 
as the England Defence
As dinner time drew near I ran TP over to  a friend's party in a nearby village and returned home for a steak dinner and a glass of a rather fine Chianti followed by a couple of films on TV
* a linen shirt caught my eye while I was there and found its way in to my bag too.
** 30% has a great reluctance to dispose of redundant items. We joke that she channels the spirit of her Grandmother who lived through the war and was therefore of the make do and mend generation. I, on the other hand, do not like clutter and am the nemesis of obsolete crap.

Friday, 11 July 2014

A slightly more positive end to the week

Well the good news for today was that TP passed his driving test at the third attempt. The bad news was that he needed me to drive him in to school after his early morning test as there was no time to revise his car insurance. To be honest I really didn't have time for this as I was already on the hook to collect 30% from Birmingham airport later in the morning and I do actually have a fucking job to do! It was a bloody good job that I started work incredibly early this morning and cleared as much as possible out of the way before I suddenly got mistaken for a chauffeur by the rest of my family.

It was lovely to have 30% back home after her successful trip to Houston but her return was tinged with sadness as I had to impart yesterday's news about Noggin. I have to say that she took the news well as she absolutely adores all of our animals and used to delight in Noggin's slightly deranged character and the way he would play with the dogs.

The return trip to the airport took about an hour out of my day and I had to hit the inbox and 'phone as I soon as I was back, pausing briefly to thank 30% for the four litres of Gordon's Gin and packs of Beef Jerky that appeared from her suitcase.

I eventually finished at a reasonable time in the evening and 30% and I headed over to Littleton to view the auction lots. 30% found a ring that took her fancy and we both took a liking to a rather elegant pendulum wall clock in a simple but beautiful inlaid case. The Auctioneer reckons that it is 1930s and that it will not make a huge amount of money. We think that it would look lovely in the Study.

After a busy week I reported that the kitchen cupboards were bare and refused to cook so TP drove me to the local Chinese Takeaway without L Plates. I then settled down in front of my computer to watch four eBay auctions end, finding myself more that £100 better off and, even better than that, have people actually turning up to takeaway clutter from the garage.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

and this one was no better

Today was going reasonably well until about half past two when I heard a knock at the door. My curiosity was piqued as I wasn't expecting anyone or anything. I opened the door to Annabelle from the  Salon next door and she had called to say that she thought our cat had been run over.

I grabbed a pair of shoes and walked outside to the verge and there was Noggin stretched out on the grass. "Fortunately" it had been a swift ending. I gathered him up, gave a half hearted attempt to placate a lady that had witnessed it, and took him in to the garden where I lay him out in the sun.
Noggin: August 2011 - 10th July 2014
In the evening I buried him alongside his brother in the garden.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

It was one of those days ...

Today was already looking complicated. I had to take a couple of hours out of the day for a minor medical procedure over at Droitwich and I also had TP requesting that I collect him from school as, now he has a job as a school cleaner, his late bus does not get him home in time for his guitar lesson. Throw in work, pets and ensuring that every one was fed meant I was going to be busy. I was also unsure of whether I would feel like driving after the procedure. I did try pointing this out to TP but I may as well have been talking to one of the chickens!

So, how did this all pan out?

I wandered downstairs at around seven in the morning to espy Noggin peering intently under the sofa. It was only a moments contemplation before I settled on "you brought him in here so you are certainly capable of catching him yourself". I then started the day proper by turning on the coffee machine and feeding the cats and dogs. I went to get a bowl of dog of food and discovered that the second bag of dog food was in fact an empty one that had not been put for recycling. Fuck! This meant that I needed to cram a trip to Pets-at-home in to an already busy day.

Once TP had left for school, I made a start to my day and realised that getting dog food could be challenging. The afternoon was rammed with personal and work appointments and the morning was little better. Fortunately there was a ray of sunshine when my ten o'clock call got cancelled and I raced in to sunny Redditch to grab two huge bags of dog food and couple of necessities from a nearby supermarket.

Back at home I carried on with my day and as noon approached it was time to head off to the hospital. I won't go in to any detail about the procedure but will simply say that I can only think of two ways you can get to see the inside of your own bladder and I wasn't disemboweled by a ravenous werewolf today! The verdict on the procedure was positive. There is nothing to be concerned about although I may need minor surgery in later life. Ho hum … back to work then!

Fortunately, there was no post-cytoscopy discomfort and driving was not going to be an issue. This was a bloody good job as 30% is in Houston and I was reliant on my own good self for transport services. I also managed to get in touch with TP and learnt that his guitar lesson had been cancelled so I was not required to pick him up from school.

I headed back home to resume the working day. As I wandered in to the lounge I noticed not one, but two, mouse carcasses laid side by side on the rug. It looks like Noggin had been busy while I was out.

The working day eventually drew to a close and I took T&M for a walk around the Three Miler before heading in to the kitchen to throw together s Shepherd's Pie for supper. TP arrived home as I was cooking and rapidly disappeared upstairs with barely a "hello". I must admit I was somewhat annoyed at this as I had run my arse ragged all day, including being on call to potentially collect him from school, and here I was cooking dinner and having to harangue him in to assisting with a few domestic chores.

I think it may be time for a few words along the lines of "This isn't a hotel, stop treating it like it is one"!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Picture Post

Tuesday was spent pretty much in solitude. I saw TP briefly in the morning before he set off for school and then again for a few minutes when he returned late in the evening after a fund raising evening for the school's Zambia Exchange Programme.

Now, to some people this would a terrible day; devoid of social contact and conversation but I loved it. I really enjoy time on my own and I spent the day blissfully alone.

There is not a huge amount to report. After all, who can make operating the washing machine, walking the dogs and scrambling a few eggs for supper interesting? The great thing about time alone is having the time to just think, to revel in one's own private thoughts and not have them interrupted or questioned. So that is what happened. There was nothing earth shattering. I spent the day in my own company and enjoyed it.

It doesn't make much of Journal entry though, so here, as a space filler, are some elephants that I snapped in the Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka back in April.
The photo was take on our first Game Drive through the park. We had come across a group of five or six cows and calves walking slowly through the scrub and, as we followed them in the truck, they wandered down to a large water hole that was a lurid algal green in colour. The whole group slowly wandered in to the pool and drank before resuming their browsing of the bush.

Monday, 7 July 2014

What am I going to cook for Dinner?

Following on from yesterday's closing statement I spent a few minutes perusing the contents of the refrigerator and kitchen cupboards this morning before deciding that I would assemble a sausage casserole. I quite like cooking but it is not something I do very often. I regularly get involved in curing and butchery but actual presentation of an assembled dish on the table is not a frequent occurrence. As the house refurbishment nears conclusion perhaps I will have more time to rattle the pots and pans.

Now, back to the sausage casserole, I have never actually cooked one of these before but have eaten many prepared by 30%. I knew the basic ingredients so decided that I would wing it. This is what I came up with;


  • 1 pack of 12 pork sausages
  • 1 or 2 Kabanos (diced)
  • 2 cans of chopped plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp of tomato puree
  • 2 or 3 medium onions (chopped)
  • 2 or 3 sticks of celery (chopped)
  • 1 or 2 peppers (diced)
  • 8 to 10 peeled new potatoes (2 cm dice)
  • glug of olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1/2 vegetable stock cube
  • 1/2 tsp salt & loads of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried Basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried Rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried Thyme
  • 2 Bay Leaves


  • Heat the oil in a large flat bottomed pan
  • add the onions, pepper, celery and garlic and soften for a couple of minutes
  • add the sausages and start to brown them (they don't need to be cooked through)
  • once the sausages have started to brown add the potatoes and cook for about five minutes
  • add the seasoning, herbs and crumbled stock cubes. Mix in thoroughly
  • add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and diced kabanos, mix in and bring to simmering point
  • transfer the heated ingredients to a slow cooker and cook on "low" for 4-6 hours. Keep an eye on it and stir in additional water if it becomes too dry.
This was served with chunks of crusty bread and I can report it as a great success. 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Home Alone

I managed to wake before the alarm this morning, which was impressive as it had been set for twenty to five!

The reason for the early rising was that I had been emotionally blackmailed in to taxiing 30% to Birmingham Airport in time for a 6.20 flight to Houston via Paris. At this point in the narrative I should also point out that my waking was not exactly self-induced as ... how can I put it ... 30% can be a noisy sleeper!

We hit the roads shortly after four, thirty and it came as no surprise that we had a clear run through to the airport. After all, who in their right mind would be driving around at this time in the morning.

After saying our farewells I headed back home and walked through the door at a little after six o'clock. I was far too awake to return to my bed so I took a very leisurely approach to the first three hours of my day using them for reading, drinking coffee and breakfasting.

First proper job of the day was to remove a set of Land Rover wheels and tyres from the front cellar, photograph them and get them advertised on eBay. That sentence makes it sound so straightforward, but  the fact that the first 20 minutes of this task involved secateurs, brambles and an abundance of Cotoneaster gave some idea of how it was likely to pan out. I eventually gained access and dragged the wheel rims and rubber in to the sunlight. They had lain there for many years* and were covered in a layer of dust and cobwebs. An hour of cleaning removed enough of the grime and the photos were taken. I then headed on to the house to write the copy and start yet another eBay auction.

This was the last of the eBay listing items on my to do list but I don't feel that they can actually be crossed out until the auctions have ended and the items have actually gone. As a result my list currently contains an attractive set of pink highlighted stripes to indicate that I have actually done something.

This activity consumed the morning and after a light lunch it was time to head around the Three Miler; gorgeous in the July sunshine. After that I am afraid that the early morning finally caught up with me and I fell asleep on the sofa.

During the course of the early evening I finally made contact with TP and learnt that he would not be back from his Snowdonia Geography Field Trip until late so I dined alone on a chilli con carne created from yesterday's leftover bolognese sauce.

TP eventually called at around nine o'clock and I headed over to school to collect him. He said he had had a great time and had even made an ascent of Snowdon earlier in the day. Understandably shattered, he didn't hang around long once we got home before heading off to his bed.

Shortly after ten the 'phone rang again and this time it was 30% informing me that she had arrived safely and extolling the delights of Business Class flights and a suite at the Houston, Hilton.  We caught up on each other's news and then I headed for my bed wondering what the hell I was going to feed TP tomorrow.
* since I found a shiny set of alloys for the Defender and I think this was back in 2009.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

I seem to be trapped in a loop at Jaeger.

30% and I hit Stratford early this morning in an attempt to avoid the crowds. There were likely to be more people there than usual on account of the Riverside Festival, so we were parked up in town shortly after nine o'clock. We didn't have huge amount to do; 30% picked up a fistful of dollars in preparation for her departure to Houston tomorrow and I needed to collect a jacket and suit that had been subject to alterations…

… I seem to have become trapped in a cycle of shopping and alterations at this store. I find something I like, they don't have it in my size so I need to come in the following week as they are "more than happy to get one in". I return to the shop a week later, try on the aforementioned item, decide to purchase, subject to the shortening of sleeves or trouser legs. Pins are inserted, payment is made and a further visit is required in seven days time to finally collect the clothing. I then find something else I like and the cycle starts all over again. This time it was a Silk, Herringbone, Check Jacket ... I think I had better go in blindfolded when I collect it next week!

We were back home in time for an early lunch and I then headed out for a walk with T&M. Upon my return I had a quick snooze on the sofa before heading out to the kitchen and assembling a Bolognese Sauce for this evening's dinner. As it sat simmering on the hob I pondered how I should fill the rest of the afternoon/early evening and set to inserting a couple of dutchmen in the door frame that leads from the Hall to the Kitchen. This frame originally supported a door but has been a simple opening for many years. As part of the Hall refurbishment I need to fill the hinge and latch rebates with wooden inserts before sanding and painting the frame.

These are now glued and pinned in place and will be trimmed flush with the frame surface once they have dried. We then dined and it was soon time for an early night as we need to be up shortly after four to get to the airport for a flight to Houston.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Something for the weekend?

If I thought Thursday was quiet Friday was an absolute non-event. Being Independence Day, all of my American colleagues, were taking the day off to celebrate and there was very little happening in the Piano Moving Depots on this side of the pond. I had a couple of calls, one of which was mildly troubling as it relates to a project that we should avoid resurrecting at all costs. I really hope the Sales Guy got my message loud and clear, but I know that he hasn't the balls to tell our customer we don't want that type of business.

Away from work, I once again managed a constitutional around the Three Miler and also managed to list another couple of items on eBay. That's about it for today apart from the fact that I have noticed that I am strangely reluctant to drag a redundant set of Land Rover wheels and tyres from the front cellar to get them cleaned up and listed on eBay.

Something for the weekend perhaps?

Thursday, 3 July 2014

It's still not Friday ...

… unless you are American and get to take July 4th off as a Public holiday and therefore enter the weekend one day before me. I am still in a state of temporal synch and am guessing that it is as a result of 30% spending a few days away in Manchester. I must admit it I find it most peculiar that this change in our routine has had such an odd effect leaving me thinking I am a day further in to the week than I actually am.

Well that rambling paragraph has filled a bit of space as a recount of today is not going to be particularly inspiring. On the work front I have been continuing with my efforts to familiarise myself with a work flow/configuration management tool. I should probably point out that when I say familiarise I mean in the same way as I am familiar with the Large Hadron Collider. Knowing that it is a larger circular structure, built underground on the Swiss/Italian border and designed to create high speed collisions of atoms in an attempt to create, detect and identify new sub-atomic particles is not going to get me a job there.*

The working day finally drew to a close and I headed out for a walk with T&M. The only other significant activity worth recounting is that I managed to list another couple of items on eBay. This activity stemmed from my recently constructed to do list as I have a quantity of now obsolete Land Rover spares in the garage. This, however, has now escalated and I have broadened the scope to include any items that are surplus to requirements. I am not sure what I will do with the proceeds of the auctions … I guess I will just wait and see how well I do.
* and that sums up how prepared I am to support this tool for the next few weeks

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Wishful Thinking

I am at the the half way point of the week and for some reason I keep thinking it is Thursday. I haven't a clue what is causing this temporal confusion. This week isn't overly arduous and there is nothing that I want to put behind me, neither is the there anything special planned for the weekend that makes me want to get there faster. There is also little point in me checking the date indicator on my watch to re baseline myself as, since I started wearing reading glasses, it is way too small to see and consequently doesn't get reset at the end of the shorter months … Like me it is out of synch too.

The morning started with a trip in to the Depot as I had the opportunity to meet a Supplier who is involved in a couple of my projects. This was no planned meeting. They were there for a Presentation to another team and a colleague mentioned that I was conveniently located so they arrived early and we pressed the flesh and had a chat before they headed off to their meeting.

I headed home at lunchtime and spent the afternoon with a phone glued to my ear on a series of calls. The working day eventually came to a close and a walk was  taken around the Three Miler with T&M. 30% returned from her wanderings just before seven in the evening and we ate together and caught up on her news. This is almost a flying visit as she is off to Houston on Sunday and will be away all week.

I do need to have a word with her about her travel planning as it has been assumed that I am fine with getting up at four thirty on Sunday morning to run her over to Birmingham Airport for her flight. Has she not seen those large, fenced, tarmac spaces with serried ranks of cars on the periphery of the airport? I guess not!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

It could have been a moment of genius ...

The main objective of the working day was to become sufficiently familiarised with a Data Centre Hosting Configuration Tool such that I could support bids and projects whilst a colleague takes a three week long Summer holiday. I had a couple of sessions today and from my sub-orbital level of understanding it all looks reasonably straightforward. However, I can see that at ground level it is intricately detailed and there is endless potential to omit vital information or simply put it in the wrong place. I am also conscious that I will be dependent on the output of a Design Architect, who hasn't yet been told that he is "it" for a good chunk of the Summer either!

Leaving that, for a moment I can also report that things are going well with my Global Flea Market Campaign and I now have three items listed on eBay. All have received bids but I am likely to need to continue working as £2.97, less auction fees, isn't going to last very long at all. The lots still have nine days to run and most of the bidding action will be in the last few minutes so I am hopeful that I will turn my garage clutter in to a few quid at least.

And so I move to this week's major concern, that of Hanoi Jane, the escaped Barnevelder Hen that has gone native in a neighbours garden. After more than a week of liberty, which featured three chaotic attempts to retrieve her, I finally decided to put my monkey brain and opposable thumbs to work and spent five minutes in the garage attaching a large plastic storage box to a long length of wooden batten. My plan can be neatly summarised using the power of infographics …
It all looks so simple when you put it like this
Frontal assaults at dusk* had failed with the hen slipping quietly away in to the undergrowth,** so the plan was to come in from the rear, under cover of darkness, and simply lower the trap over the nesting bird. I appreciated that I had a slim chance of success as the graphic makes it look so simple but the fence is actually 6' high and I needed to balance precariously on the fence of the chicken run to implement my plan. Add in various shrubs, undergrowth and impending darkness causing poor visibility and I was giving myself a less than 10% chance of success.

At ten o'clock TP and I tooled up*** and headed out to the garden where I had already bridged the chicken run to fence gap with an aluminium ladder to make lowering the trap slightly easier. I took an initial recce and couldn't believe my eyes … six brown eggs and no fucking chicken. The damned thing was nowhere to be seen and the only positive thing I could draw from this is that my ludicrous plan was prevented from failing by never actually being implemented.

Later that evening, as I was emptying the dogs and shutting up the hens, I took a peep inside the coop. There on the perches sat two Barnevelder Hens. It looks like the damned thing has slipped back in to the compound unseen during the  day.
* When the hen was roosting and likely to be far less alert
** Actually she had charged across the lawn, cackling like a lunatic, but I like the first image better.
*** got torches