Sunday, 31 August 2014

What have we done?

This morning and, to be honest, for most of the day I felt absolutely exhausted. I may have drank and gone to bed late but neither of these were excessive and certainly nowhere near sufficient to warrant the level of tiredness I felt today.

This morning I headed out around the Three Miler with T&M and must have met half of the Village. One of these encounters was fortuitous as it was with Martyn; the Civil Engineer who drew up the plans for the extension we had in 2007. For some time we have been considering remodelling the steps that lead up to the front door and also rebuilding the collapsed wall that forms the boundary with the road. We have found a bricklayer who seems willing to do the job and just needed some designs and advice on potential interactions with the local authorities … a meeting has been arranged for next Saturday morning.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent doing very little at all. I headed up to see VI as I will be looking after his chickens for the week while he heads up North for a stay in Berwick Upon Tweed. I also dragged the Enfield from the garage and headed over to the auto-bank at Tesco to make a couple of withdrawals …

… as the afternoon drew to a close all three of us piled in to the car and headed up the motorway towards deepest, darkest Willenhall. After a forty minute drive we reached our destination and faced an agonising decision. In the end we decided on this one …

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Just what I needed

This morning I woke and relished the freedom that the weekend gives. After a leisurely breakfast I headed off for a walk with T&M whilst 30% headed off to the Hairdressers for some serious welding work. I arrived home about an hour later feeling somewhat refreshed, having taken some exercise and been out in the fresh air for the first time since Monday. The house was empty, as TP had spent the night as Peanut's house, so I settled on a sofa and put my head in a book for an hour or so just to further my state of relaxation.

As lunch time neared TP returned from Worcester and 30% emerged coiffed and ready to face the world. We ate and then 30% and I headed in to Redditch for groceries. As we neared the supermarket 30% suggested that I drop her off and drive on to the Barber's to see how long the queue was. I jumped at the option of sitting in a packed Barber's shop instead of wandering Tesco's aisles and a few minutes later I was sat in the aforementioned establishment leafing through a boxing magazine and wondering if I was the only one there without tattoos.*

Thirty minutes later I wandered out, brushing the hair from my neck, having been shorn by a lad no older than TP. He had done a great job and I had also managed to avoid half an hour of aimless wandering in that cavern of comestibles that is Tesco. I drove down to the supermarket and soon tracked down 30%. Before long we had paid, packed and were heading back to The Pile.

While we were away TP had done a fantastic job of tidying the house and after a coffee break I needed something do in order to avoid unpleasant domestic duties. I therefore wandered out to the garage and dragged the Porn Mower from it's lair. Within moments I was striding noisily up and down the lawn safe in the knowledge that a) it looked like I was very busy and b) no-one else realises what a skive it really is.

The afternoon transitioned to early evening and our guests arrived within a few minutes of each other and that just about wraps up today's entry. We had a delightful evening of food, drink and laughter. and I hope we get another arranged soon.
* It is a very "traditional" Barber's which is always rammed with people on a Saturday. Every Barber Shop cliche you could ever think of can be seen in the thirty or forty minutes you will spend there waiting and having your hair cut; the sullen teenage girl sweeping (badly), the aged barber who until recently cut with a cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth, the teenage kid with a ludicrous haircut and a panoply of tattooed customers. I rather like the grimy, working class experience and they do give you a great hair cut.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Easing off the gas for a couple of days

Friday has finally arrived. This may have been a four day week but each of my days has been around eleven solid hours in front of a laptop plus intermittent analysis and planning in the hours apparently classed as leisure time.

I am looking forward to the weekend as, although I will need to spend some time working, there will be no flood of email, calls or instant messages and when I get up to do something else there is no compulsion to sit back at my desk. We have also arranged to have Bond, Moneypenny, Rosie and Jim over for a bite to eat and drinks on Saturday so things are likely to get raucous.

However, I am getting ahead of myself and haven't yet bored with tales of Friday. This morning I took a drive in to the nearest depot as I have expenses that need to be submitted.* 30% insisted that I use her TT for the trip in to work and a few miles down the road I glanced at the instrument display and noticed that the check engine light had not gone out. I was somewhat apprehensive of this situation, recalling the last time it happened in another of her cars. Fortunately the car seemed to be performing perfectly so  I carried on in to work safe in the knowledge that I can abdicate responsibility as it is not my car.

The day went pretty much as expected; calls, e-mail, confusion, clarification, bull shit and escalations and I eventually wandered out of the Office around six in the evening. I headed home to be presented with a glass of red wine and a plate of olives as I walked in to the kitchen. I added pistachio nuts to this ensemble and caught up with 30%'s day. To be honest I was pretty exhausted and the wine hit home very quickly, so it is fair to say that I did bugger all this evening apart from eat and vegetate in front of the TV.

I do have one other piece of news and that relates to TP. Yesterday and today he has attended interviews and auditions at Worcester and Stratford Colleges as he plans to leave school and study Music Technology. He has received offers from both colleges and it looks like Worcester will be his choice.
* Unlike Dante's Nine Circles of Hell, The Neat & Tidy Piano Movers approach to mobile telephony is to have the monthly bill charged against the User's Corporate Charge Card. So each and every month I need to go in to the Office, claim for this months bill and post the receipts for last months. It is not a big deal as The Depot is only seven or eight miles from home and I do quite enjoy the social side to these trips.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Throwing the numbers together

No surprise that Thursday looked pretty much like Wednesday, although the working day was about 30 minutes shorter.

On a slightly more positive note, I feel that I now have a grasp of where we are and what needs to be done, after wading through the mountain of information that accumulated while I was on holiday. I am targeting the key issues and attempting to resolve these one by one. The plan is to deal with the most critical and most costly first and hope that any that don't get resolved are small enough to be covered by costs accrued elsewhere.

This is going to be a fag packet calculation rather than a structured work of art!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

and what exactly do you do?

As mentioned yesterday, my weekday entries are going to be even less interesting than normal as I am now strapped to the back of the metaphorical bull that is the final stages of developing an RFP response. For the next three weeks I will be sat at a laptop for ludicrous lengths of time just trying to stay abroad and ensure that everything gets done and the costs are ready for pricing.

The twenty four hours that made up Wednesday panned out like this:-

00.00 - 07.00     Sleeping
07.00 - 08.00     Coffee, Toast, a look at the BBC News website
08.00 - 19.00     Work
19.00 - 23.00     Dinner and Sofa Time
23.00 - 24.00     Sleeping

As you can see it is a case of existence rather than life as the long day leaves you with little enthusiasm for anything but sloth. I should also point out that, if you are doing the job right, work bleeds in to your thoughts during many of the non-working hours too.

Basically I will be living and breathing the deal until we close out the costs and pass them across to pricing. I will still have shit loads to do but the pace eases slightly at that point.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Nose Grindstone interface

Today was my first day back at work after a week away from a project that was suffering problems with solution definition and therefore progression. I really needed to be at my desk as early as possible so I was somewhat frustrated that I needed to spend a large chunk of the morning heading in to Birmingham to visit the Dentist. After much deliberation I decided to put my faith in the temporary bus service currently running from Redditch and was rewarded by a very early arrival in Brum. In fact the Dentist was also running early too so I actually found myself back at New Street waiting for a return train only minutes after nine o'clock.

Incidentally, the verdict on my jaw is that it has healed well after the extraction and I now need a CT scan to ensure correct and secure insertion of the titanium implant … it looks like I'll be travelling to Birmingham a couple more times once I get this RFP out of the way.

Talking of the RFP, I was back home and sat at my laptop shortly after ten and faced a mountain of unread e-mails. If I am honest I really needed a discussion with my Frolleague; Lou to make sense of the current status. Consequently the morning's trip to the Dentist didn't significantly impact progress as she does not come on-line until the afternoon. I skim read and filed the mails in the intervening hours and talked to Lou when she pinged me around one o'clock.

It is fair to say that she has had a very rough week and there is still a massive amount to do with one week less to complete it in. The series of calls that ran from two o'clock through until eight in the evening demonstrated that the lack of clarity still remained, that Executive escalation was necessary to resolve and that certain resources need to brought in to line.*

I am in for a rough few weeks. Don't expect to see much from me here until this is over
* or given a one way ticket to Switzerland!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Rainy Day

There is not a lot to report for a drenched Bank Holiday Monday.

In the morning 30% and I headed in to Redditch to replenish the cupboards and fuel tanks after our week away. We arrived home in time for lunch and then spent the afternoon on culinary duties …

… Yesterday's dried plums experiment has worked really well and the tart but sweet, leathery fruits make a great treat. They have all been packed in to bags, some of which have been frozen, but in reality they will not last long judging by the way they were consumed today.

After packing the prunes away we then joined forces to prepare a small mountain of vegetables in order that a huge batch of pean and ham soup could be put on to simmer. This soup has a three hour cooking time so I finally found the perfect opportunity to dismantle and descale the Gaggia Espresso Machine. This is not an overly complex job but it takes a good couple of hours and also involves cleaning a pair of metal filters. This latter task can involve using a needle to remove coffee crud from the hundreds of perforations … it is a tedious task that I undertake grudgingly, only when it splutters and jams as opposed to producing rich dark espressos.

By the time the coffee machine was restored to full health the soup was cooked and I finished it off by removing the meat from the hocks and discarding the bones, skin and fat. We ended up with a good nine litres and this will be packed and frozen once cool.

It was now time for dinner and the remainder of the evening was spent in front of the TV, although concerns about my latest project are already disturbing my thoughts.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A test run

The reassembly of the Ducati has had quite an impact on the state of the garage. I no longer need to move with caution around freshly painted fairing panels now these are back on the bike. I can also see the surface of both work benches now the tools, parts and packaging have been tidied or disposed of. If I could find the enthusiasm to sweep the floor I would only be two jobs short of crossing tidy garage from my To Do List.

This morning I wandered out to the garage with the aim of taking the Ducati out for a short run. As I opened up the door I stepped past the pile of junk destined for the tip and surveyed the space. My eyes fell on the box for the dog guard and it became my first job of the day to remove the Dog Guard from the car and return the Load Area Cover to its proper place. As I was doing this the mental gears engaged; the car needed to be moved off the drive, the boot was open and I kept passing a pile of rubbish …

… The next job became a run to the tip. I now need just to sweep the garage for it to be regarded as tidy and the drive was now car free.

I rolled the Ducati out and gathered my helmet, gloves, jacket and boots from the house. Whilst the bike is taxed and insured, its MOT has long since expired so this shake down run was to be short and calm.* As I mentioned yesterday, I was apprehensive climbing on as my left hip has been twinging for the past few months and I didn't want it giving up while I was holding up the bike. Within moments of starting, the temperature needle started to climb and I pulled out on to the road. I keep forgetting how intense she is to ride and how beautifully she handles as she rolls in to high speed bends at ludicrous angles of lean.  After a short loop around the local twisties I headed back home and pondered a dilemma … With Autumn fast approaching and being up to my ears in work do I get her MOT'd or do I just tuck her back in the garage and spend the Winter ensuring that she gets a thorough clean and is ready for the beginning of next year.

Back at home I put the Ducati away, lunched and then headed out around the Three Miler with T&M. I still feel quite tired and am not sure whether it is a result of the recent stomach bug or just my age! As a result the afternoon featured a snooze on the sofa and a new experiment with the Dehydrator. On this occasion we are attempting to produce home made prunes with a batch of plums 30% purchased at a nearby Farm Shop...

… If it works I will have the most finely tuned bowels in Worcestershire.
* Needless to say it may have been short but it was never going to be calm!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Back 'ome

30% and I were up by seven this morning … or rather I was up, made coffee and then irritated her until she grudgingly rose from her bunk. Within an hour we had most of our belongings packed and stowed in the car and just before eight T&M were installed in the boot. It was then a rapid drive back to The Pile to pick up TP's spare set of car keys following their disappearance on Tuesday.

30% stayed at home with the dogs and the pile of luggage while I turned about face and headed back towards Stourport. By nine o'clock I was walking back in to the boatyard to see TP and Peanut* waiting patiently by his still locked car … it was obvious that his packing and final sweep through the boat had not located his keys.

I opened up the boot of his car and we peered inside. There were no keys. We optimistically lifted the boot carpet. There were no keys. We opened up both doors and explored the diminutive and spartan interior of the Fiat … There were still no keys. We took an incredibly optimistic look around the perimeter and underside of the car and it will come as no surprise that the keys remained in unfound.

Having known my son for his entire life I am well aware that he is absolutely shit at looking for anything … even something as important as the keys for HIS car, so I walked on to Dark Star and started a methodical search from the stern. Within two minutes I had located his keys behind a cushion on one of the berths. Basically he had wandered on to the boat last Tuesday and had simply chucked his coat and keys on a bed as part of our transition from cars to boat. He had then shifted his coat and his keys had slipped down the back to remain there for the duration of our break. I wandered out, displayed the keys and smiled at his face that was attempting to display pleasure, disbelief and absolute confusion all at the same time.

I then handed the boat keys back to the Fleet owner and completed yet another twenty mile journey back to The Pile. By ten o'clock we were all sat at the dining table having a late breakfast and giving TP a gentle but well deserved ribbing.

As the morning progressed I wanted something to occupy my mind and hands so I headed out to the garage to have another go at reassembling the Ducati. I made a start on this last month but, having swapped the instrument cluster holder, I was not happy with the state of the vibration reducing fixings on this second hand unit. I therefore spent this morning removing the cluster and swapping out the crappy fixings for the pristine ones from my original damaged cluster. By lunchtime I had these tricky devils replaced and the first half of the afternoon was taken up with the final reassembly. I clipped on the final fairing panel just as the heavens opened putting paid to any thoughts of a quick ride out. It is so good to have her back in one piece and available to ride … I just hope my hip is up to it!

I spent the latter half of the afternoon taking it easy and go myself tidied up as evening approached. 30% and I had an early supper and shortly after six hit the road again and headed over to Malvern to see a performance of Therese Raquin at the Festival Theatre. I have to admit that this would not be my first choice of play but I absolutely loved the performance of this doomed love triangle.
* She was going by the alias of GF but during the holiday TP offered her a peanut cookie and I realised that this cookie shares her initials … also Peanut quite suits her.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Day 4: Holt Lock to Stourport

I woke early this morning and didn't feel quite right.

Four trips to the head later and I came to the conclusion that last night's Burger may have been very tasty but the relish may well have featured shredded slug as well as lettuce … Christ my guts were in bad shape!

Fortunately Stourport was only a couple of hours cruising up river so there was no rush and we cast off mid -morning and chugged upstream. Holt and Lincomb locks were soon passed and by midday we were tied up at Stourport Town Visitor Moorings.

We lunched early and then split in to two parties to take a wander around the town. After thirty minutes of walking I started to feel decidedly odd and 30% and I headed slowly back towards the boat with T&M, taking a short break at a cafe for the restorative powers of tea.

Back at the boat I felt absolutely wasted and slept for over an hour, waking late in the afternoon. We had planned a short foray up the Staffs & Worcester Canal but decided, instead, to just take the boat through the four locks in to Stourport Basin and moor Dark Star back in her home berth.

The evening was spent in the boatyard; grilling a few burgers on a disposable barbecue and agreeing that we had had a splendid few days on the local waterways …

… and that not all tasty burgers are safe to eat.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Day 3: From Hanbury, through Droitwich and back on to the Severn

We made a start shortly after nine o'clock this morning and chugged a few hundred yards past Hanbury Wharf before making a sharp left turn on to the Droitwich Junction Canal. 

This section of the waterways has only recently returned to use after restoration works were completed in 2011 and now allows the mid Worcestershire ring to be navigated. Immediately after turning on to the Junction Canal were faced with  set of six narrow locks that lead down in the direction of Droitwich town centre. The first few of these were manned by volunteers and we made swift progress. After the last of the locks we passed along a heavily reeded section that was more "African Queen" than rural Worcestershire. This took us past the rugby club and new marina before we reached Droitwich proper. 

At Droitwich town a wide beam lock forms the entrance to the Droitwich Barge Canal, which has wide beam locks all the way from the town down on to the Severn.* The town centre also features a set of swing bridges that need to be operated and we paused briefly in the midst of these while 30% nipped over the road to Waitrose for a few supplies. 

We paused again a few hundred yards further on at a proper mooring where we lunched before making our way down the Barge Canal to The Severn. This was a pleasant cruise through woods and meadows punctuated by half a dozen locks. We had hoped to moor for the night along this section but the banks were heavily reeded and no suitable temporary berth could be found. 

Our return to the Severn was something of a surprise. One minute we were cruising in to a canal lock and then suddenly we saw the comparative vastness of the Severn ahead. Only then did we see a diminutive set of signs with navigation and licensing warnings. 

Moorings are few and far between on the river but a local boater suggested a pub about half an hour upstream ...

... So this evening we found ourselves dining at The Wharf Inn just South of Holt Lock. 
*Apparently the Barge Canal was constructed as a wide beam navigation to allow large loads of Droitwich salt to be transported by barge down on to the Severn and on to the ports. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Quote of the day

That's the second Ship's Log I've produced this morning ...

... I wouldn't go in there for twenty minutes if I were you.

Day 2: The Worcester & Birmingham Canal

I managed to rouse a reluctant crew shortly after half past seven this morning. Their reluctance to rise and hostile attitude caused me to instruct cook to serve them muffins instead of bacon!

The ingrates were eventually ready and we cast off around nine o'clock. Within a few hundred yards we had passed under Worcester's city bridge and had cruised past the Cathedral. Soon after we saw the warning signs for the weir and turned back on ourselves to line up for the approach to the Diglis Basin locks. 

These two locks form the junction between The Severn and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal and we readjusted our sense of scale as we left the wide, high banked river and entered the canal system. 

In total we covered about ten miles to moor up for the evening in Hanbury. Our route included sixteen locks and the 210 metre Dunhampstead Tunnel. 

The one thing that has surprised us all is how odd it is to be having a holiday so close to home. This evening we are only six miles away from The Pile* but it could be a world away seeing worcestershire from the river and canals. 

We dined "al fresco"** at the Eagle and Sun before returning to the Dark Star to drink coffee and chat before yet another early night. 
* not far from the local tip!
** def: too bloody cold for me

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Day 1: Stourport Basin to Worcester

Despite yesterday's late night I was up reasonably early and fired off a couple of last minute emails before shutting down the laptop for the rest of the week. 

Today was the start of our short break on a narrow boat and, true to form, packing and preparation were to be last minute activities. Fortunately we were not scheduled to pick up the boat until after one o'clock so we had the morning to get our shit together. 

30% headed out for an appointment straight after breakfast so I completed a circuit of the Three Miler with T&M in an attempt to "take the edge off them". By ten thirty we were both back at home and spent the remainder of the morning assembling food and clothing for our four day break. 

TP returned from his weekend away around midday and it was then just a case of a few last minute activities before we were ready to go. Since our party included four adults, two large dogs, their food and luggage 30% eventually agreed to the proposition I made last night and finally agreed that two cars were necessary.* TP therefore headed off to pick up his girlfriend in his Fiat while we finished packing the car and plugged a Dudley post code in to the Sat Nav. 

Half an hour later we had reached Stourport, completed two circuits of the town centre and finally found the narrow lane that took us to the boat yard in the canal basin. TP arrived about twenty minutes behind us and we were soon unpacked and settling in on The Dark Star. 

At this point it is worth mentioning that I have quite a bit of experience with narrow boats as I used to be a demonstrator on a fleet on The Avon in my youth and we owned one for a few years when TP was much younger. The reason for this apparent bragging is that the hand over of the boat was somewhat half arsed in that the "demonstrator" was not familiar with the craft and also had a nasty habit of referring to key items as "the wossname" due to regular memory failures .... I'm sure it will all come back to me. 

We were soon manoeuvring out of the berth and heading down thorough the four locks that took us on to the River Severn. It was at this point that TP noted that he couldn't find his car keys. A fruitless search followed and we conjecture that he has locked them in the boot ... It looks like next Saturday will involve a return trip to The Pile to pick up his spare set.**

Putting this minor hiccup behind us, we were soon cruising down a verdant Severn. The high banks restrict the views somewhat but it was lovely to be chugging down this green highway with the natural world all around us. Within a few miles I had already been rewarded with the sight of a Kingfisher darting across the bows and coming to rest on a nearby branch as I passed. 

We cruised until half past six; reaching Worcester where we moored just along from the race course. As we settled for dinner in the saloon I had forgotten how tiring a boat holiday can be and was glad when ten o'clock arrived and I could shuffle off to bed. 
* but I was not allowed to say "I told you so" when she saw the car after loading was completed!
** he takes after his Mother

Monday, 18 August 2014

Two days in one

After a quick visit to he local surgery for an encounter with the phlebotomist, I headed in to The Depot. By half past nine I was sat at my desk with my head in documentation and I spent the majority of the day head down. I managed to complete my first review of the RFP requirements and issued these along with a clear request to the Architect to provide the solution strategy and design so we can get ownership and start progressing actions. Remember this as it becomes important later on …

… Five o'clock came around and I exited the office. I hadn't actually finished work it was more a case that a) I had managed to find time to submit some expense receipts and b) I fancied a change of clothes and scenery.

Back at home I shrugged off my suit, set up the laptop in the Study and fired off a few final emails. I then set up a call with my Frolleague: Lou who will be looking after this beast while I am away. An hour's break was taken to greet 30% and throw some food down my neck before I clipped a headset to my cranium and spent ninety minutes talking Lou through the requirements and the worrying lack of solution strategy.

At the end of that call I managed to find thirty minutes to step away from the computer and relax but I rapidly returned to the laptop when I discovered that 30% was watching a TV programme about American childrens' beauty pageants … urgh! A few more critical mails were dispatched and then ten o'clock chimed. I dialled in to my final call of the day to review the requirements document …

… Let's just say that it wasn't pretty. It is fair to say that the document wasn't particularly great and we ended up ignoring it, instead giving the Chief Architect a three way grilling on when he could actually step up to the mark and do his job. It is a fair assessment when I say he was vague and lacked any sense of urgency. This is worrying and I can see the metaphorical shit hitting the fan during my absence.

I eventually put down the 'phone and ended my working day at twenty to midnight.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Roll on Monday evening

If Saturday was quiet Sunday was quieter still. After a leisurely breakfast 30% and I hit our respective laptops and remained there until lunchtime. I cleared my inbox and made a start on a brain dump of requirements and associated activities based on Wednesday's RFP documentation. I think 30% just listened to the Archers omnibus edition via Radio 4 on-line.

After lunch we took T&M around the Three Miler once more and arrived home in time for an hour of slouching on the sofa with a coffee.  I then headed back to the laptop until I heard the clock chime six. I have made steady progress and I should be able to wrap this up tomorrow morning.

It was odd working at the weekend but a complicated task is much easier to face when you know you don't have to do it and can walk away without feelings of guilt. The complete lack of 'phone calls, meetings and IIMs* is a great help too. I ended the day having produced a few thousand words of structured notes and managed to feel like I had had a relaxing day too.

* Idiots Instant Messages

Saturday, 16 August 2014

System reboot

I had no plans for today other than to settle at the laptop and do some preparatory work extracting requirements from the RFP documentation …

… it is fair to say that after a very long week in London the laptop related task just did not happen. I spent the day doing not much in particular. I felt the need to get outside and travel under my own control so 30% and I headed over to a local Farm Shop to pick up a few treats for lunch. We also took a walk around the Three Miler with T&M and I must admit that the afternoon saw a mega snooze on the sofa.

It would be fair to say that work has not escaped me and throughout the day thoughts have percolated on the best way to document where we are and what needs to be done next. I plan to spend much of tomorrow getting it "down on paper".

As evening drew near 30% hit the kitchen to fry a couple of steaks and prepare a salad for dinner.* I felt that that my day ought to have some deliverable so I headed out the garage and returned with the dehydrator. A few minutes later four dessert apples had been peeled, cored, sliced and laid out on the dehydrator racks. A quick sprinkle of cinnamon was applied and the device was turned on and left the hum on the worktop.

Later in the evening 30% wandered in from the kitchen to report that this experiment was going well and that the apple rings were sweet and very "apple ish". I tried one myself before I went to bed and can report that they aren't going to last very long at all.
* There was just the two of us as TP has headed off with his Mother to spend a long weekend with his GrandMother.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Home at Last

I was up and checked out of the hotel shortly after seven this morning. After encountering a ticket machine meltdown at Charing Cross I exited the Tube and hailed a cab over to the offices in Victoria. Being Friday the team was dwindling due to travel arrangements and progress was not as great as expected. It was the now usual  day of requirements evaluation, drafting of clarifying questions and battling for resources. Shortly after three o'clock I packed up my laptop and headed over to Paddington to catch the 4.22 towards Oxford.

It is lovely to be home and I can report that 30% has done a marvellous job of maintaining a constant number of pets in the house over the week which is a significant improvement on my performance while she was in Houston … Actually I may be wrong when I say "maintain" as this evening she was to be found with her trousers tucked in to her socks. Apparently a mouse sized spider has invaded the house and take up residence under the sofa.

I thought I had dealt with this phobia years ago.

It would be nice to say that I could now relax and prepare for work free weekend but there was a further call this evening and I am going to have to hit the laptop over the next two days to carry out some preparatory work. It's not as bad as it sounds as I am only at work on Monday next week before we head out for a few days on a Narrow Boat, possibly attempting a circumnavigation of the Stourport Ring.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Thursday 14th August

Twelve hours in the Office, thirty minutes commuting and eleven and a half hours in a hotel room. 

At least I didn't mess up my Tube journey today and I discovered the delights of an M&S pastrami and sauerkraut on rye.  

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Pluses & Minuses

Wednesday 13th August 

On the plus side the RFP arrived this afternoon and on a late call this evening I managed to stop myself from giving my Operational Architect my frank and honest opinion of his capabilities. 

On them minus side I do not have an alternative Architect and I need to learn to pay more attention when climbing on to Tube trains ... I almost ended up back at my starting station this evening when I changed trains and mistook the Victoria Line for the Bakerloo Line. 

I am such a prat. 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Treading Water

After the world's most expensive portion of toast and marmite I headed in to the London office where we spent much of the day "treading water". There is only so much hypothesising one can do before the "what ifs" become overwhelming and you just need to stop and wait. 
The view from the Board Room window
There are peripheral activities that can be nudged forward but I'm not sure it needs half a dozen of us including contributions from an Assistant Vice President. 

Going back to the toast and marmite for a moment, I have done a few calculations and after making a deduction for the grotty coffee I reckon the two slices of toast came in at about 50p a bite or a fiver a slice ...

... Well they did get me down here to do a bit of estimating. 

Monday, 11 August 2014

If I have to side step another tourist ...

... I swear I will go fucking "Postal". 

I can tolerate being jostled and hemmed in by London's Commuters as they know where they are going and have long since gained the spatial awareness skills needed to dodge and weave their way to their places of work. 

The Tourist, on the other hand, is a completely different beast and one that, in my humble opinion, should be taken away and shot. These bloody people seem to loose any sense the moment they start their holiday and will stop for no apparent reason right in front of you. You would pull over to the side of the road to consult a map but these twats will do it in the middle of a pavement crammed with rush hour commuters ... And don't get me started on their idiot children!

I swear I hadn't even got off the platform at Paddington this morning before a Festival goer attempted to lie on the platform and pose for a photo! 

Kill them all ... Now. 

That pretty much sums up my only emotional response today. The rest of the day was as soulless as a meeting agenda ...

07.30 - 10.50 Commuting
10.50 - 13.00 building a castle on sand
13.00 - 13.30 lunch
13.30 - 19.30 decorating the aforementioned castle
19.30 - 20.00 making my way to Trafalgar Square
20.00 - 24.00 general amazement at why people rate Hilton Hotels

Basically we still do not have the RFP and are trying to do some preliminary brain storming. 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Pottering, Mostly

The forecasters had got it right and rain was lashing down when I wandered downstairs this morning. The only "must do" on today's agenda was the packing of a bag for a week in London and that was definitely going to be a last minute activity.

With nothing pressing to do I started the day at a leisurely pace with the exception of the mad dash through the rain to let the chickens out. Unusually Sunday breakfast was eaten at the table and saw all of us sit down to coffee and croissant before heading off to do whatever. 

I wandered out to the garage with a loose plan to sort through an old toolbox throwing away the obsolete, duplicated and damaged. Before long several knackered screwdrivers and rust encrusted Imperial spanners• had been deposited in the recycling bin. I had now been bitten by the tidying bug and spent the rest of the morning stacking redundant items for a future trip to the tip. To be honest the garage didn't look much tidier at the end of this exercise .... Perhaps a trip to the tip and a good sweep up will help. 

After lunch I spent the best part of an hour switching off and on the iMac, the Apple TV and the wireless router. I eventually got the bloody things to recognise each other and 30% was rewarded with a film library on the TV in the bedroom... Hopefully I will be rewarded with ironed shirts. 

I then headed in to Redditch to pick up a couple of early Christmas presents ... I have read that sentence twice and still cannot believe I am buying Christmas presents in August. Basically 30% saw the ratchet spanners I purchased yesterday and thought her Dad and Brother might appreciate a set. Trust me when I say that this is an incredibly unusual occurrence as my usual approach is a frantic dash in the final week before the 25th. 

Reverting back to more normal behaviour, I headed home and spent the remainder of the afternoon pottering in the garage and the Hall. As dinner drew near I surprised myself again by getting my bag packed for the week in the Capital. 

This left the evening free to slouch on the couch. As the client's RFP has still not arrived I decided on a later train tomorrow and an extra hour in bed. 
• I am certain these must have been acquired in my youth from BMS which means they were originally used for fixing agricultural machinery when he was still farming. 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

I need to check the settings

Saturday started with an early trip in to Stratford to complete a few errands and take a tour around Tesco's aisles. I did manage to sneak in to Halfords at one point during the morning as I had seen a remarkable bargain on their website the evening before … I am now the owner of a very shiny set of metric ratchet spanners. They may not be Snap-on but they are beauties and more than adequate for tinkering with the bikes in the garage.

Our journey home featured a diversion via Alcester and we took a wander around an independent furniture specialist's store. The reason for this visit is that our sofas are quite comfortable to lie on but I find them incredibly uncomfortable to sit on, being short in the leg department. The problem is that there are many gorgeous sofas out there, but they are all incredibly deep and I just can't seem to get comfortable on them. The ones that do suit my physique look they have been transported to the present from my Grand Parent's house circa 1972. We left having seen a few possibles but there may well need to be quite a change in the feel of the room to accommodate them.

After lunch I needed to head in to the wilds of West Bromwich to pick up a tool cabinet that I had recently purchased on eBay*. I punched the sellers post code in to the Sat Nav and headed off, expecting to be directed to the nearest motorway. Instead I was directed through Redditch and numerous Birmingham districts to reach my goal. As I neared my destination I crossed a large roundabout that I recognised as the one that connects Oldbury to the M5 motorway. Christ! It had taken me the best part of an hour to get here and I knew that the motorway would have got me here in forty minutes or less. Needless to say I picked up my fancy Snap-on tool cabinet and used the traditional method of road signs and accumulated knowledge to get em home …I think I need to check the Range Rover Sat Nav settings as it works really well but seems to be avoiding motorways at present.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with pottering in the garage. As the evening approached I headed back in to the house and got myself tidied up … 30% had purchased some Groupon vouchers for dinner at a local hotel so shortly after six we headed over there with TP and his GF.** The "hotel" was actually more of a motel and we wondered whether we had made a mistake, but we headed to our table and placed our orders … a couple of hours later we left having had a splendid dinner that came out at less than twelve pounds a head. I am not exaggerating when I say that the steak I had this evening was far better than the one I had on Thursday.
* The recent sale of Land Rover spare parts had left me with a significant PayPal balance and that was never going to last long!
** I really must give some thought to giving her a better alias than the simple abbreviation of Girlfriend.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Par for the course

This one is going to be brief …

… Our Prospective client suffered IT failures today which, yet again, prevented them issuing the RFP documentation. We may get it at some point over the weekend* or early next week. They have finally agreed that they should, perhaps, extend the period we will have to develop a solution and proposal. They just haven't yet said by how much!

The net result of this is that I will need to keep an eye on my in-box over the weekend but that is no real hardship compared to the alternative which was to be reviewing several pages of RFP documentation. I also finally managed to get two key resources assigned to my team. As resource request processes go this one was a complete clusterfuck and I am guessing that there may need to be some discussions amongst management to put this right.

I won't go in to full details of the mess I had to wade through but it did involve a discussion which can be summarised as "Yes that was the process but we changed it and didn't put out an advisory notification. Neither can I hep you with the fact that you don't have access to the new system nor can I help you with the fact that the system interface appears to be faulty".

Needless to say I went with an Executive escalation instead … That worked just fine!

Apart from a brief interlude in the afternoon to have my retinas photographed at the local Doctor's surgery this pretty much summarises the key events for Friday.
* Experience suggests that a weekend release will be announced by the release of flocks of flying pigs** from numerous locations across the UK.
** Think racing pigeons but with much bigger baskets

Thursday, 7 August 2014

A free lunch & a clean car

Today saw me shaved and dressed tidily and it might come as a surprise that I did NOT need to submit expense forms at the Depot! The reason for today's trip to the office was that I had been invited to a Recognition Event

… A few weeks ago I had received an e-mail inviting me to this function. I really hadn't a clue what the event involved or what I had done to receive the plaudit but, when 30% had calmed down sufficiently, I had learnt that this was a "good thing" and  "that I had better hurry up and get a promotion so that she could retire and spend her days pottering around the house".

Before leaving for the Office, poor TP was dragged from his pit and left with a hastily prepared specification and a pile of used twenty pound notes … I had arranged for the car to be valeted today and had totally forgotten that I wouldn't be at home. Therefore TP was to be in charge. The used notes were obviously the payment and the list covered the items I wanted addressed by the Valeter.*

With TP taking point, 30% and I headed in for a fun filled day at the office. My morning was spent clearing the decks and behaving myself as two senior members of the customer team were sat a few feet away from me.  Apparently the plan for today was that there was to be a "town hall" meeting presented by our customer and then a celebratory lunch at a nearby restaurant featuring presentations and handshakes for the recognised members of the team.

It was all pretty standard corporate nonsense and it was apparent that, although the customer was congratulating individuals for piano moving feats it was based on nominations** made by Neat & Tidy management. My view may seem a little jaded and cynical but, I do realise that my manager obviously appreciates what I am doing and that definitely is not a bad thing.

I tucked in to a free steak lunch and spent more than three hours on a customer sanctioned session shooting the breeze with some of my more personable colleagues. I received a certificate detailing my commendation and a customer branded torch and screwdriver set. As Thursdays go this one was pretty good and I have acquired another gleaming nugget for insertion in to my end of year results.
* I live in a Universe where I speak the words "it needs a full valet" and the car salesman actually hears "no, it looks fabulous, it doesn't need a good wash and polish". Although the Range Rover is in beautiful condition it was carrying a few grubby marks when we bought it and obviously only had  a quick wipe over with a chammy rather than a proper clean. It was disappointing that the Dealer hadn't presented it to us gleaming.
** I was nominated for going above and beyond in the development and delivery of two proposals that we recently submitted to the customer.*** I thought I was just doing my job.
*** We didn't win either of them!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Now I need a really good storm

Wednesday was another busy, but not particularly noteworthy, day. A combination of conference calls and requests for resources filled the working day. A brief interlude was taken in the early afternoon to receive the Bricklayer who had agreed to come and point the brickwork above the Hall window. He was a nice enough chap and he did a decent job but I must admit I didn't like the price he charged for the work.

It was steep for a couple of hours labour and even if I allow for travelling time and materials it was still fucking expensive. I am aware that tradesmen will inflate a price if they don't really fancy a job and I am wondering if that happened here. I am also aware that he hasn't got a lot of work coming in at the moment and he suddenly got greedy at the sound of the magic word cash. Whatever led to the high charge he will not be on the list of brickies we ask for quotes for the next couple of major jobs are thinking of having done.

After work it was time for a quick circuit of the Three Miler and I then headed over to BMS's house to hand over a slightly belated Birthday Card.* There was only time for a quick chat as his dinner was almost ready so I was soon back in the car and heading home to The Pile.

That just about sums up the middle of the week. Hopefully my water ingress problem is now resolved I wish I could say the same about locating an Operational Architect.
 *It was only 24 hours late and I had called to wish him Happy Birthday on the day.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Picture Post

Today was a long day mostly consumed by work. On the plus side; my Danish colleague is now back from his holidays and I was able to hand back his projects. On the slightly less positive side; I am still hitting my head against a brick wall when it comes to resourcing the latest opportunity. The working day ended with a further plea for bodies and I headed out around the Three Miler arriving back, tired, literally minutes before dinner was served.

There is no way I can make any of that particularly interesting so I trawled my photo archives and found this splash of colour to brighten up today's entry.

This was taken at a roadside stall in Sri Lanka as we drove up towards Kandy. Occasionally our driver; Ajith would stop at these stalls and present us with a tasty treat; refreshing King Coconuts at one halt, a prepared mango at another. At this stop we were presented with small, sweet red bananas that were a delightful snack.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Shooting the Breeze

The big news from the eight plus hours I spent moving pianos was that the RFP will not be issued until Friday 8th August. This is a delay of one week but the Client has already advised that there will be no corresponding extension to the Proposal delivery date … Ouch! We will have just over four weeks to review the document, ask clarifying questions and develop, document, cost and price our solution. Did I say Ouch?

I also found out that my presence will be required in the Capital next week, provided I can get my travel request approved … It is peak season on London's streets and a cheap hotel just aint gonna happen!

Away from work there isn't a huge amount to report. T&M were walked. TP disappeared in his banana yellow Fiat advising that he would be back tomorrow! I also cut a small fillet of timber to fill the gap above the moulding I repaired yesterday. It was not a huge leap forward in the restoration of The Hall, more of a tilt in the right direction.

Having summarised the day's events I thought I would fill a little more space recounting a conversation I had on Saturday down in the Village …

… I had been walking the dogs and as I was heading home I passed VI's son's cottage. VI Junior was tending a rather beautiful succulent in the raised bed at the front of his cottage. I paused and we started to chat. It was no surprise that the subject of Politics soon came up as VI Junior has a Doctorate in the subject and lectures at one of the West Midlands Universities.

The gossipy conversation started with some of the frightening deficiencies in some of the local and national politicians including VI Junior's direct experience of ingrained prejudice and taking public office to further and individual's personal agenda. Having dealt with the gamut of politicians from inept through to corrupt we then moved on to the electorate…

… We both took on a resigned air  as we agreed that if the politicians were bad enough the electorate was even worse. The main thrust of the debate being centred around voting decisions being made based on fatuous information such as whether a certain politician does or doesn't look like a well known plasticine animated character. It was at this point that I suggested that perhaps a benevolent dictatorship was the best way forward and was surprised when my ardent Tory friend agreed, citing the recently appointed head of the EU who had stated that "We all know what to do, we just don't know how to get re-elected after we've done it"

At this point I came up with a ridiculous thought / stroke of genius. I proposed that every ballot paper should include ten compulsory multiple choice questions.* Basically every vote would count but a voter's multiple choice score would determine just how much of their vote would count. If you got a perfect ten you would get a full vote. If you crashed and burnt only ten percent of your vote would count. After the laughter had died down he said he was seriously considering putting this forward at the next brainstorming session he attended.
* These would need to similar to those used in Examination systems which are automatically marked by a computer. The added benefit of this is that it would remove the need for ballot recounts as the votes could be automatically counted too.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Guests for lunch

30% had invited her brother and the Elf over for lunch so Sunday started with a walk around the Three Miler in an attempt to take the edge off T&M's enthusiasm. The remainder of Sunday morning was spent on light domestic duties of the type that made the house look tidier that it really was.

Our guests arrived around noon and we spent a pleasant few hours catching up on each others' news and working our way through lunch and afternoon tea with cakes. S&E left at around four in the afternoon and I needed to do something in order to broaden my day's achievements beyond that  of Entertainment ...

… I removed the composite moulding from the cradle and could see that the adhesive had bonded perfectly. A mitre cut was made at each end and it was carefully tacked in to place.* A glob of wood filler was applied to cover the nail holes and I stood back to admire the work.
I still have a few gaps to deal with and it all needs sanding prior to painting but this is the last major woodwork task that needed to be completed before the Great Sanding Session is scheduled.
* Having spent hours constructing the moulding, the last thing I wanted was for a careless hammer blow to damage the piece.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

A change of plan

Last Saturday I failed in attempt to buy a length of Ogee moulding at a couple of Suppliers in Redditch.  The moulding in question trims the meter cupboard in The Hall and, at some point in the past, a short section has been badly damaged during electrical work. I was in a position where I needed to repair an 18" length as the alternative was the removal and replacement of eight yards of moulding with new stock.

Today's plan was to try my luck at a Specialist Timber Merchant over near Wythall. The realist in me knew they would have nothing like it in stock but I hoped that they might have a cutter and be able to reproduce a short length. The more I thought about this the more I realised that this was going to involve a lot of faffing around with absolutely no guarantee of success.

I took a long look at the short section of moulding that needed to be replaced and wondered if I could make a composite that was similar. It wouldn't need to be exact as the damaged section is up at ceiling level. It just needed to be near enough in size and shape such that I could cut a 16" length and trim the top of the cupboard. The first step in this process was to get a clear view of the moulding profile so a clean ninety degree cut was made.
Ogee Moulding, circa 1950?
 I could see that I would need to make up the composite moulding from three sub-components and wandered out to the garage to find some decent, knot free, softwood stock. My pile of scrap soon produced a few lengths of pine and, once cut to length, I set to with the table saw to cut them to the correct width. It was then a case of many happy hours with a router, planer, chisel and sand paper to produce the three sub-component mouldings.
Composite Moulding Elements
 I was quite chuffed with my efforts and, when lined up with the original, I can see that they will blend in beautifully once they are fixed in place and painted.
Ready to be glued up
The final job was to make a cradle to hold the sub-components securely whilst the adhesive was drying. The cradle was a simple platform with a right angled stop along the long edge. I lined it with polythene to prevent the moulding from adhering to the cradle and then hunted down the PVA wood glue. Each component was given a good coat of glue and pushed up tight against the cradle stop edge. I used three pins to hold the components tight and then left it to dry for the next 24 hours.

All being well I can mitre it and fix it in place tomorrow evening.

Other stuff

During the day a Builder friend of Paul the Plumber called round to take a look at the brickwork around the Hall Window that leaked in a downpour earlier in the week. He couldn't see anything that could be identified as the point of water ingress but agreed that there are a couple of areas where re-pointing might help. He also recommended that the clematis is permanently removed as the foliage directs the rain on to the brickwork … He is popping round on Wednesday afternoon to do the pointing.

I also found myself working with some mortar too, as the face of one of the bricks in the Inglenook had crumbled over time. I had stabilised the brick with a PVA solution a couple of weeks ago and today I mixed up a small batch of mortar and applied a coat of render to rebuild the face of the brick. A coat of paint will eventually disguise the repair and, as they say, a blind man on a galloping horse would be glad to see it.

Friday, 1 August 2014

I had hoped it would turn out this way ...

I wasn't looking forward to Friday if I am honest. If the RFP documentation landed in my lap today I knew that I would spend all weekend worrying about it and the best options to push it forward. I had also been asked to schedule a two hour long  page turn review call for the afternoon … that was not going to be fun either with no idea of what the documentation package would contain and whom would be interested in what.

Fortunately none of this came to bear as shortly after two o'clock the Sales Lead forwarded an e-mail from the client advising that the RFP would be delayed until the following week … phew, I get a work free weekend!

Away from work I also managed to contact a builder and arrange for him to come over tomorrow to look at my water ingress issue. This necessitated removal of a considerable quantity of clematis from the wall and this task was admirably completed by TP, his GF and 30% just before the heavens opened again.

The rain put paid to my planned walk with T&M so I mooched around the house and drank a large G&T until TP and his GF headed over to the local Chinese takeaway to collect Friday evening's supper ... It is great having a young and enthusiastic driver in the house and his errand potential is already greatly enhanced. So far he has admirably resolved a milk crisis and now has made dinner for four a simple matter of a quick 'phone call and then a quick shout for him to scramble and hit the road.*

The weekend beckons and thoughts of piano moving wane as Friday evening arrives and our slightly extended family sit down for dinner.
* We have notice that he is somewhat directionally challenged so, at the moment, we do need to check that a) he knows where he is going and b) has a 'phone. As evidence of this I offer the fact that three weeks ago I accompanied him to the Chinese and he turned on to the main road and headed in completely the wrong direction!