Sunday, 28 September 2014

I can't wait to get started

This morning I finally found an hour to wander out to the garage and do more than take a quick look at, as it will forever now be known, The Shitter.*

With the ignition key in one hand and the pristine manual in the other** I threw my leg over her and thumbed to the section on kick starting. For some strange reason I quite like the idea of having a kick start on my bike and it is a generation since I last had a bike without an electric starter.*** With the choke out, I gave a few gentle swings to pull some fuel though, and then gave her a decent kick … nothing happened. I tried once more and she fired up, running beautifully. It is obvious that, although she looks like a complete pile of crap, the engine nestling in her frame is in fine form and bodes well for her transformation.
It is not as though there was much of her to clean!
I took a few pictures "pre transformation"**** and then made a start by removing the screen and ceremoniously dumping it in the Dustbin. At this point a sense of responsibility kicked in and I retired to the Office to ensure all was going well with the final tweaks to the RFP response.

Lunchtime rolled around and we were joined by 30%'s brother and The Elf. We caught up on their latest House Purchase news and even managed a second walk down to the Village Green with Whiffler.

The afternoon progressed and I have to admit to having a huge snooze on the sofa before returning to my laptop for more last minute issues. An hour long call took place between seven and eight and I then retired to the sofa for dinner and a few hours of relaxation.
* We can all thank 30% for it's lovely nickname. She is such a charming woman with a  particularly delicate turn of phrase for every occasion.
** It is obvious that the previous owner neither liked cleaning nor reading about the use of his motorcycle.
*** a 1980 Blue Suzuki TS185 ER … and I can still recall the registration
**** until the camera battery expired

Saturday, 27 September 2014

I suppose it could have been much worse ...

Whiffler's barking hauled me from my bed shortly before seven this morning. I wandered down and let him out for a pee before making coffee. Normally I would wander in to the Office and read the headlines on the BBC News Website but that would not happen this morning …

… the reason for this disruption to my routine was an electrical issue in the Study. 30% had 'phoned yesterday to say that a light bulb had blown, the power had tripped off and, having reset the trip switch, she now had no power in the study. Ever the pessimist* I tried a straightforward reset of the individual fuses and master trip switch as my first action with a clear expectation of failure. After a couple of attempts I heard the Mac boot up in the office. It appears that the fuses hadn't reset properly and I relaxed knowing that I was not going to have to spend my morning determining the cause of an electrical fault.

This was a good thing as I needed to spend a good few hours in front of the laptop today reviewing RFP documentation. I breakfasted and decided that, after the trials of the past week, there was no way that I as going to sit straight down and start work on a Saturday morning.

I grabbed the leads and headed out around the Three Miler with T&M.

Back home an hour later I finally settled at my desk and spent a couple of hours reviewing documentation. Lunch followed and the 30% and I took Whiffler out for his first walk. Our destination was the local Green on the edge of the village. We walked him down there on the lead alongside T&M. Once we had wandered through the Kissing Gate we were able to let him off the lead safe in the knowledge that he would return whenever T&M were called back. After twenty minutes it was apparent that this excursion had tired him and we headed back home.

A further couple of hours work followed and there was then time for a short spell on the sofa before I needed to shave in preparation for an evening out … tonight was another Lobster Evening at the The Oak at Upton Snodsbury and we had invited 30%'s Mum and Dad along as a belated thank you for dog sitting and electrical work earlier in the year. The food was beautiful, we had a great table and we all enjoyed an lovely meal. It certainly wasn't a late night as I have more work tomorrow and need to reserve what little energy and enthusiasm I have for this clusterfuck of a deal.
* I much prefer the term Realist. After fifty plus years on the planet I have developed a reasonable sense of foresight. Predicting failure isn't pessimism it is just the realisation that you are dealing with a bunch of Fuckwits, a very bad plan or a poorly made piece of equipment.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Poor Timing

Friday continued in a similar vein to Thursday … more pricing discussions took place, more options for presenting our solution were aired and, unsurprisingly, decisions were incredibly slow to be reached.

With a three hour journey home, I did not want to be late out of the Office and my Boss was of a similar view. We both agreed that the 19.22 train looked like a good idea as it meant we could slope off around quarter to seven, with him using my departure as his excuse to leave…

… Unfortunately for me, the Sales Lead decided to start yet another debate as I was about to leave and I ended up being delayed by about ten minutes. I had to queue at the Tube station for a ticket and then had to wait ten minutes for a Circle Line train to take me around to Paddington. Even before I had arrived in Paddington I knew I had missed my train and ended up kicking my heels on the platform until the 20.22 was ready to depart.

I ended up arriving in Evesham at twenty past ten, tired and somewhat frustrated at the extreme reduction in my personal time over the past couple of days. The weekend looks no better as there is a clear expectation of my availability to work on Saturday and Sunday too.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

War Room

Thursday started at a hideous hour.

I had planned to be up and out of bed at five o'clock but 30% has a cold and her consequent snoring dragged me from my slumbers shortly after four. I gave up, crept downstairs, careful to avoid waking Whiffler, and read until I needed to dress and leave the house.

30% dropped me at the Station and within a couple of hours I was drawing in to Paddington. It was then a short Tube ride to Victoria and a five minute walk to the Office.  By eight, thirty I was sat in the Office, drinking coffee and waiting for my laptop to boot up.

For the next two days the principal members of the RFP Team will be co-located as we rush to tie up loose ends or, more accurately, decide what we are going to present and hurry to get it documented. This last minute approach seems to be par for the course as I recall a similar escapade I was involved in at Dante's Circles of Hell. That too seem equally half arsed and certainly not the best way to deliver a honed proposition.

Anyway, back to my day, the bulk of the morning involved me attempting to coerce our Pricer to actually price our costs. She has a bee in her bonnet about a particular subset of numbers which have been discussed to death and she has been provide with repeated assurances that our sample pricing will ensure complete recovery of all expenditure. This morning she raised it again and refused to price until she was satisfied. This would be somewhat challenging as a) she has yet to effectively define the problem and b) the SME that developed those costs was incommunicado due to other commitments.

It took me the best part of three hours to unravel the Gordian Knot of numbers and then present them in a way that would have made AA Milne proud. Eventually, and I mean EVENTUALLY, I managed to semi-persuade her, and partially convince her Manager, that all was well and they buggered off to add margin or whatever else it is they do … Within a couple of hours the pricing arrived and another milepost was passed.

The rest of the day was a miscellany of calls and discussions and, surprisingly, it ended at a reasonable hour. I was checked in to my hotel before seven and was soon changed and placing a room service order.

It is fair to say that the early morning, intense work, large evening meal and side order of beer soon took their toll and by nine thirty I was tucked up in bed.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

PRINTED I should have been there today too

But, instead I remained at The Pile with my head deep in my laptop. As I note this down some days later I really cant recall much of the day apart from the fact that 30% had a terrible day at work and as a knee-jerk reaction decided she wanted to take Voluntary Redundancy.

I was informed of this via the medium of work's Instant Messaging system whilst having a superficial "how are things going" type of discussion over the 'phone. It is fair to say we had an intense discussion* about this when she arrived home. It is not that I am against her taking redundancy, if she is not happy in her job then she should leave. What irritated me was that it is a decision that affects all of us and she appeared to be making it on her own with no clear plan for what she would do post redundancy when her pay off and savings finally petered out.

Arguing with 30% is not the most fruitful of exercises so I eventually gave up … note "gave UP" not "gave IN" and headed upstairs to pack a bag for the next couple of days which will be spent in the London Offices.

It is fair to say that the remainder of the evening was less than jovial but, perhaps fortunately, short. The reason for the early night was the need to be on the ten to five train from Evesham tomorrow morning.
* Row!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

I should have travelled to London today

Tuesday started with an early call where solutions options and associated costs were reviewed. After an hour we had finished and I left with a short list of actions that would take me the best part of two hours to complete and summarise. This work all needed to be done in advance of the slightly after High Noon call where a decision would be made about our direction …

… The call got started at around twelve thirty five and I rattled through my summary of the two options; outlining the changes and the associated costs. These were discussed and the Sales VP summarised and advised which option he wanted to present. At this point the VP of the team who developed the rejected option decided to wade in and reiterate the arguments. However, this time he questioned whether the higher cost of the preferred option could be justified by the benefits it offered. The net result of this whiny soap box delivery was that the Sales VP wavered and, once again, refused to settle on either option. We are still progressing with two solutions. This means that we have two prices and two different sets of responses that need to be developed.

Does it need to be said that this is not the way to develop a winning Proposal?

At least I now had a direction and needed to update the cost model once again. I needed two separate cost inputs so requested these, settled, and waited for them to arrive. As I dawdled TP arrived home from College. This was perfect timing so I persuaded* him to give me a lift over to Alcester to pick up the latest acquisition.

Thirty minutes later I had flexed the plastic and was riding one of the UK's grottiest motorcycles back to The Pile. Despite it's hideous appearance it actually rides very well although the engine would benefit from a new carburettor and exhaust to allow a little more power to escape. Both of these are included in my grand vision so this is not an issue. Neither are the nasty corroded components as the bulk of these are destined for the recycling plant. The parts I need are the frame, engine, forks, wiring loom and wheel hubs and these all seem in reasonable condition although the forks will need some intensive refurbishment. The next step will be to photograph it and strip it down but that will have to wait until work eases up somewhat.

I didn't have time to scrutinise The Shitter** when I got back home. Instead it was straight back to the laptop to get my costs finalised and returned to the Pricer for the second iteration of pricing. I finished the day with an hour long call with my Boss going over the deficiencies of this hastily assembled, badly thought out solution and agreed a short list of actions what might actually be feasible before we need to set out our stall next week.
* The miserable sod moaned about how little petrol he had which is somewhat galling after the years I have spent running him around the country AND the fact that he has yet to pay for a rather expensive pair of gig tickets I purchased on his behalf a few months ago.
** The term 30% used to describe it after her first encounter with this fine piece of Indian manufacturing

Monday, 22 September 2014

Will it ever work?

I forgot to mention that yesterday started with half an hour of Incident Management and Resolution. Before anyone leaps to incorrect assumptions, I was not working on the latest solution.

Basically I had been looking for an on-line motorcycle workshop manual and a Google search presented me with a link. I clicked the aforementioned url and within an instant found myself looking at a website that a) accused me of a variety of internet crimes I had definitely not committed and b) demanded payment to unlock all of my files. I realised it was a scam website immediately but the damned thing had, for want of a better phrase, locked up my Browser software. I now had no web access. Fortunately 30% was still asleep and therefore was not using the iPad … I grabbed and googled … within a few minutes I had located the fix and learnt how to force quit an application on a Mac and how to restart my browser without opening the windows from the previous session.

The reason I was hunting for a manual will become apparent later on but, for the moment, I will return to Monday's events.  The early part of the morning was spent in a discussion with my Boss about what the costs would look like for the hybrid solution that had been proposed towards the end of last week. I then spent a happy couple of hours modelling these and summarising them for the "Decision Point" meeting at seven o'clock this evening.

Once I had finished with the costs I had a relatively quiet afternoon. Basically the team cannot do anything until a decision is reached and we finalise what we will present to the client.  As a result I was able to take it easy and cruise through until five o'clock when I needed to stop work and take Whiffler to the Vet's for his final inoculation.

The Vet thought W was in fine form and he charmed everyone as he wriggled and squirmed his way around the Practice Reception. After a quick check over he was given his final shot and microchipped. It was then a quick visit to the scales to check his growth rate. He now weighs 8.6 Kg having put on 2 kilos in the past fortnight. Apparently this is perfect for a puppy of his age so there are no worries there.

Back at home I had an hour to kill before the seven o'clock Decision Point call. I pottered and snacked but avoided the temptation to indulge in a small glass of wine. The call was vital as we need a clear steer on what we are to propose to the client and are rapidly running out of time as we still need to complete pricing. At this point I should also stress that an eBay auction for my next project would finish ten minutes after the call and I was concerned about an over run …

… The call was erratic. Old sores were picked at and questions that would take days to answer were asked with the expectation of immediate and satisfactory responses. Eventually a decision was avoided and we now need to make further last minute adjustments to both options before a "final" decision is made tomorrow shortly after High Noon!*

It came as no surprise that the call over ran but I did make a successful bid and am now the [insert suitable adjective] owner of a 2006 Royal Enfield.**
* As is becoming apparent the Piano Movers are late for everything!
** The good points are the low mileage, the full service history and the great engine. The bad points are that it has never been cleaned or kept under cover. As a result it is incredibly rusty. In fact it looks vile but it is a good starting point for a project bike.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The last ride of the year?

Today the weather was forecast to be good, cool but dry according to the Met Office, so I loosely planned to head out for a ride on one of the bikes. 30% had mentioned that she was going to head over to see her Mum and Dad and TP was out for the day with his Mother, so all of these needed to be dovetailed so that Whiffler was accompanied and amused rather than have to spend a spell in his crate.*

The original plan was that 30% would head out in the morning leaving me with the afternoon to do whatever I wanted. The fact that she was still wandering around the kitchen in her pyjamas at eleven thirty suggested that there had been some revision to this proposal and that I had, once again, been dropped from the distribution list.** I enquired about this change of plan and it transpired that she now intended to pay her folks a visit much later in the day so I still had the afternoon free to head out for a ride.

30% the decided that she should apply her considerable planning skills to my morning and started making suggestions that included walking the dogs or heading out for a ride before lunch. I pointed out that for forty to sixty hours each week I was chained to a laptop with other people deciding how my times should be apportioned … With work as intense as it is the last thing I need at the moment is to have someone else attempt to organise my free time too. That, to me, is very much a contraction in terms.

A lap of the Three Miler was completed in the Autumn sunshine. This was followed by lunch and then the Enfield was rolled out of the garage. I had decided that I quite fancied a visit to the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull so that is what I did. It has been many years since my last visit, which was before the devastating Museum fire in 2003, and it was fantastic to take a look at over one hundred years of British Motorcycle history. If I had one suggestion it would be good if a few more machines could be seen side on. The bikes are certainly packed in and some of the exhibits could do with a bit of breathing room.

I headed home after an hour of so of wandering around the halls and arrived home to find TP back from his day out with his Mum and siblings. 30% returned about forty minutes behind me and we settled in for a quiet evening as the working week starts again tomorrow.
* He is quite happy in there and uses it voluntarily when he fancies a snooze but we would rather that he was interacting with us and the dogs as much as possible rather than being shut away for our convenience.
** This is a common occurrence and the warning signs are statements that start with "Do you remember me telling you" or "I am pretty sure I mentioned".

Saturday, 20 September 2014

If I do any less they will be checking my pulse

Saturday was just what I needed …

I took a wander around the lanes with T&M in the morning and had a very refreshing kip on the sofa in the afternoon. In the early evening 30% and I headed out to the Supermarket to replenish dwindling supplied before we settled down for dinner in front of the TV.

For the first time in many weeks I actually felt quite refreshed and relaxed and am looking forward to getting past the next ten days. Once the client presentation has been delivered we enter a waiting period but at that point I know that we will have done all that we possibly can and it is all down to the client.

As this end point approaches I am already starting to get itchy fingers and am looking for something else to occupy my mind and hands … I can't wait.

I do have one further modicum of news … TP started his new job* this evening at one of the Pubs in the village. His first shift was pot washing but he has been offered variation in the form of bar work and waiting on tables in the restaurant too. The shift went well and he arrived home having been kept busy and with promises of further regular shifts.
*  Unfortunately the "Handcart and Fortified Structure" closed down at the beginning of the Summer leaving TP on the scrap head of the unemployed at the tender age of seventeen. After taking a few weeks off he dished out a few speculative CVs around the local Hostelries and and seems to have landed a peach of a job just five minutes walk down the road.

Friday, 19 September 2014

If they aren't worried then neither am I.

I started work this morning and saw a second Executive Review scheduled for five o'clock this evening. I perused the invitee list and thought the right individuals would be assembled to make a decision on our direction. I took time out in the morning to assemble a high level view of our costs that would align with the hybrid delivery model that had been suggested. I also had the opportunity to scrutinise the less costly solution option and it is fair to say that it is a reasonable approach but lacks key elements that the client is specifically asking for. With these preparatory actions completed the rest of my day looked pretty easy until the aforementioned call at five.

As lunchtime approached I nipped out and took a short drive over to Alcester to take a look at the potential project. Again, there is not much point going in to detail as the eBay auction is far from over and the price lurches ever higher. The article is as described which only encourages me to bid higher than I probably should … roll on Monday evening when the decision point will be reached.

The remainder of the afternoon dawdled by and eventually five o'clock chimed. The call went well and I felt that I had presented my case effectively and covered the key elements that are missing from the low cost option. However the assembled Management still failed to make a decision and the next checkpoint is Monday evening … leaving us only four days to get this damned thing priced documented and emailed back to the client!

I had a short debriefing call with my Manager and we then all raced through an early supper before heading over to Malvern to see a play at The Winter Gardens Complex. Adrian's Wall is a locally written and piece which, after a slightly "am dram" start, turned out to be a rather enjoyable comedy about three primary school friends meeting up after 30 years to walk the length of Hadrian's Wall.

The play was a useful diversion to clear my mind of work and a rather enjoyable start to the weekend.

Thursday, 18 September 2014


It is fair to say that we urgently need direction on what we should be pricing and presenting to the client. Overnight a suggestion has been outlined that involves a weird hybrid of the two solutions utilising the low cost delivery of one with the management and expertise of the other.

The day was spent exploring this suggestion but it still needs to be ratified by the potentially impacted Directors before we can take it forward.

It is fair to say that we are drifting and it may well be that lack of time forces a decision.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Executive Review

Wednesday was the big day. A review had been scheduled with the Executive in charge of the Industry Sector I work in. Our slides were honed and polished and we all assemble promptly as we only had thirty minutes of his time. The Sales Lead performed the introduction and outlined the decision we were seeking from the Grand Poobah.  He then handed over to me and I started the narrative for my first slide. This should have taken about a minute but then the questions came. They weren't particularly hard and it certainly wasn't an aggressive interrogation but each one led to another and before I knew it The Grand Poobah was asking questions to other attendees on the call. He even made a helpful suggestion about quoting for services that weren't in the scope of the RFP!

This continued for the next twenty minutes with GP ignoring the presentation we had assembled and just pinged questions about whatever leapt in to his head to any of the assembled minions. As the half hour marker rapidly approach the Sales Lead timidly asked if we had a hard stop or whether we could extend the discussion. GP said it was a hard stop so the comparison slide was thrown up for all to see …

… Needless to say, no decision was given and we still have two solution options with only a week and a half to finish off our Proposal.

The Cynic in me thinks that the Grand Poobah had certainly not been pre-briefed about the nature of the call as I can see no other reason why he would put the presentation so far off course … unless of course he just didn't want to make a decision.

We now sit rudderless waiting for the Sales Lead to tell us which solution we are to present to the client.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

What can go wrong will go wrong

It was all going so well. The costs were in with the pricing team. The slides were drafted and refined for tomorrow's Executive Briefing Call. All that was needed were a set of outstanding costs from one of  the Solution Teams. What could possibly go wrong?

As the afternoon drew to a close the RFP team joined a call and that is where it all went a little askew. It is fair to say that tomorrow will involve a long discussion with the pricing team and I am likely to be rushing to complete the cost summary in the last few minutes before the briefing call if the missing costs  turn up. It is not a complete disaster and these are not problems of my teams making but it is us that need to resolve them with only hours available rather than days.

In spite of this nonsense I actually had a fairly quiet day and by the time these last minute activities were defined it was way too late to get them started anyway. It will all need to be done first thing tomorrow morning. I therefore finished at a reasonable hour and had a relatively pleasant evening.

In my spare time today I came across a potential project to occupy me for the next few months. There is  little point giving away too many details at present as it is all dependent on the closing price of an eBay auction. That isn't until next Monday evening and I don't like the way the price is rising!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Significant Milestone Passed

Today I headed in to the nearest depot at a very early hour. During Friday's call with the Pricer it had been agreed that a face to face walkthrough might be beneficial in order to get her to do the job she is paid to perform. I had therefore arranged a two hour long session with her and her boss to once again explain what was required of her.

The morning was spent with my head deep in the numbers ensuring that Friday's cost updates were included in the summary for this Wednesday's Executive Presentation. Most of the morning was spent automating and checking this process and what little time I had spare was devoted to printing reading material for an upcoming training course.

Lunch was eaten at my desk and I threw together a matrix that attempted to illustrate the RFP scope, the associated solution elements and pricing template for the Pricing Team … Their prompt engagement is vital if we are to submit a priced proposal on time and I find their reluctance to engage both confusing and frustrating.

Eventually the appointed hour arrived and I wandered down to their lair and settled in for a two hour session. Within the first ten minutes the Pricing Director was positively effusive with his compliments. The matrix would normally be an output of the meeting so to have it presented at the start was a big plus. I then started to provide an overview of the costing template and he advised that it was the best example he had seen. Having made a good first impression the rest of the session went smoothly and we had soon covered all the main points and I walked out after an hour with the simple action to load the cost template in to the workflow management tool and await their advices.

This is a significant milestone passed and I celebrated by packing up early, heading home and taking T&M for a walk around the lanes …

… The Badger corpse is still there, slightly more swollen, but still relatively odour free!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

New route needed, preferably free from badger corpses

Sunday started at a god-awful hour … Thanks Whiffler! I raced downstairs and completed the flurry of sequential activities necessary to get him outside for a pee rather than the slower alternative that involves being on ones hands and knees to clean up a "puddle". I then eased up, made coffee and tried to do as little as possible, in view of the fact that I had been robbed of at least an hour of sleep.

As eight o'clock approached three teenage lads emerged from their tent in the garden and wandered in to the house. I pointed them in the direction of the lounge and took an order for beverages. After serving them with the aforementioned drinks I headed out to the garden and encouraged TP and Peanut from their tent, advising that it was his duty, not mine, to entertain his friends.*

The only significant activity in the morning was a wander around the Three Miler with T&M. There was nothing much to report from the walk until we were wandering back in to the village and Marauder wandered over to sniff at a familiar looking lump. A badger had been run over and it's corpse was lay on the verge … in a few days that is going to ripen and that section of the walk is not going to be pleasant.**

We then had an early lunch and 30% and I headed over to Stratford for a few essentials and a wander around a couple of shops. Stratford was packed with idiot tourists and I was glad to be out of there as quickly as possible. We headed home via the supermarket and before long I was to be found snoring on the sofa.

And that, summarises my Sunday. I did take a quick peek at my e-mail but there was nothing that needed anything more complicated than simply filing in a folder.***
* They are a good bunch of lads and I do like them but not first thing on a Sunday morning!
** Finding a diversion around the putrid corpse is going to be challenging.
*** There were a set of updated costs but they can be summarised and manipulated on Monday morning.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Saturday and other stuff

Argh! This morning Whiffler decided to wake early … I drew the short straw and had to amuse him from well before six o'clock until the rest of the house stirred closer to nine. I was tired enough without being cut short of sleep and knew that a long kip on the sofa would be needed later in the day.

As with previous weekends I took things gently today due to my exhausting workload. However, I did notice that I had a real urge to be somewhere else today. I guess this is a reaction to being confined to The Pile with little time or energy for activities other than work and rest.  Despite the urge, finding the motivation was somewhat more challenging.

Early in the morning there was a knock at the door and a huge parcel arrived. I had been expecting a delivery but the box was about three times larger than expected. It was an order of tools and it's arrival gave my morning a purpose … I spent a happy few hours in the garage sorting out my toolbox and general tidying. It was activity without real thought and I found it incredibly relaxing to be left alone to potter without intrusion or demand.

Lunch followed and a full stomach instantly told my body that I needed to sleep. I did what any sane person would do and headed for the sofa where I used low grade television programming as my lullaby of choice. I woke a couple of hours later and didn't feel particularly refreshed but eventually found the energy to take a walk around the Three Miler with T&M.

On my return I had time for a cup of tea before I finally escaped the confines of house and village and took a short drive to drop TP off at a local music festival. He had planned to meet up with Peanut and some of their friends and do whatever seventeen year olds do at a Festival before returning on the Festival Bus and spending the night in tents in our garden.*

The result of this was that 30% and I spent a quiet evening at home with the dogs enjoying dinner on our laps in front of the television.

Other Stuff
An interesting relationship has developed already between Whiffler and Marauder over this past week. Marauder is the more nervous of our original pair and initially she was incredibly apprehensive of Whiffler. On his arrival she would literally leap away if he came anywhere near her. Things are very different now now that she has realised his play potential. They already partake of incredibly energetic games which features Whiffler hanging from M's ears and, alternately, M bowling W over with her front paws. It looks quite alarming but, at no time, are there any yelps and it is apparent that this is all just very physical play.

Lord knows what this will manifest in to when Whiffler has grown to his adult size. He is likely to be even larger than Marauder and the thought of two 30+ Kg dogs play fighting across the living room is an alarming one.**

Whiffler's relationship with Tyson is more straightforward. She is the top dog and quite happy to have him around, sharing her space and food with him. However, there is less play and she is keen to ensure that he understands his place in the pack hierarchy, giving him regular, grumbly admonishments if he steps out of line.
* No overnight camping for under 18s!
** especially if Tyson decides to join in.

Friday, 12 September 2014

PRINTEDShe's had some work done ...

I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I woke and realised that it was the last working day of the week. A second positive thought stirred in my sleepy brain when I saw that it was quarter past seven … this meant that 30% must have woken and attended to Whiffler as he currently wakes at about twenty past six.

I shambled down the stairs and had a gentle start to the day rather than the new routine which involves getting Whiffler emptied in the garden, feeding him his breakfast and then clearing up the extra widdle that he trickles on to the Hall floor just to keep me on my toes.

As I was mooching around the house, before I made a start on work, the 'phone rang and TP answered it. After a few moments he looked puzzled and handed the handset over to me. It was another scam call from the same bunch that called yesterday. I played along with them for a while until I got bored with the utter rubbish they spouted. I then terminated the call with some clear guidance about not calling our number again.

I then settled to work … the day was mostly number crunching and attempting to give our Pricer an understanding of them in advance of pricing. Christ she is a real pain in the arse! She has a very high opinion of herself as a result of being the only fish in a very small pool. The consequence of this is that every thing has to be done her way and she will do as little as possible in the way of grasping the detail of the task in hand. I had given her prior notice of the task, had presented the pricing documentation and even had calls with her but none of this has been absorbed. She simply has not engaged with either myself or the commercial team to gain an understanding of what needs to be done and now sits and snipes at every point she can. She also has a nasty tendency to hide behind her manager or to go behind one's back to management if things don't go the way she likes. I have previously worked with some very experienced Pricers and this individual isn't fit to fetch their coffee let alone share their job description.

Right, now that I have got that rant out of the way, I'll get to the title of today's Journal entry. As 30% has matured she has developed a few large moles on her left cheek and has finally decided to have them removed. So today she headed off to a Private Clinic in Birmingham and returned a few hours later with four very neat sets of stitches on her cheek and her wallet a few hundred pounds lighter. The cost is irrelevant. She has hated having the moles and is over the moon with he work that has been done … and she should be. The surgery looks terrific and this is only a few hours later with stitches still present and incision marks still showing. Once healed it will look incredible and I am delighted for her … although this did not stop me making a couple of jokes about her returning with a bleeding skull instead of a face in much the same way Nick Cage looked in Face Off.

The working day closed at a civilised five thirty and I headed around the Three Miler for a walk and a wind down with T&M. There is work to be done over the weekend but that it it for Friday and it is definitely time for nuts and wine.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A lull in the storm

Thursday, Thursday, what can I write about Thursday?

It was fairly quiet and I took full advantage of this after the mayhem of the past few weeks. I spent much of the morning documenting assumptions and much of the afternoon on calls. The working day finished at a very civilised half past five and I spent the early evening munching pistachio nuts and drinking a glass of wine.

Now you see why I started this Journal entry the way I did. Nothing much happened ... it is probably the calm before the storm that will happen next week as pricing and Executive Reviews take place.

There was a short moment of idiocy when an Indian Gentleman rang me purporting to be from a Computer Support Organisation. Apparently, as far as I could discern from his heavy accent, my computer was sending out many error reports and he had called to help me resolve this … Yeah Right! I played along for a few minutes and then he asked me to turn on my computer. I asked why I needed to turn it on as, if it was sending error reports, surely it must be running already. At this point the line went dead and I assume he went of to find another victim.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Getting There

Today I finally pulled together my first complete* set of solution costs today just in time for an executive review and commercial guidance session late in the afternoon. I now have a price target and am just about ready for ninety minutes of fun with the Pricer at the back end of the week. I still need to make a few tweaks and tidy up the documented assumptions but I am just about there.

For the first time in a good few weeks I also managed to break away from the laptop with enough time to walk T&M around the Three Miler before Dinner. It was lovely to be out but I am pretty exhausted and am looking forward to the submission date at the end of the month ...

… Just before I finish this entry I will take a slight detour and make a couple of observations about the RFP we are working on. It is an appalling document and incredibly poorly managed. After the first read through we had assembled a vast set of questions; asking for sample documents and statistics, requesting clarification about inconsistencies and detail where the author appeared to have stopped and gone off to the pub. The client has take a drip feed approach to answering these and, to be honest, their responses add little if any value and they are still way off completing the list with only a couple of weeks before we need to submit our Proposal.

The latest cock up relates to the Proposal submission date which was originally in the third week of September. Last week we received a communication from the client advising that the submission date had been pushed out by a week. This week we checked and were told that was a mistake on their part. We then had to request the extension and were promptly granted it … This is a fine example of professional procurement services for you!

I should add that the client is no small enterprise. It is a global corporation that uses Tier 1 Outsourcing Providers for delivery of many of it's core IT functions. So how come it is so fucking appalling at managing this RFP process?
* Think complete in the same way that you would expect a box of assorted lego, that you buy at a car boot sale for 50p, could be reassembled in to complete lego models…

…  I quite like this analogy as it covers costs that have been forgotten. Lego's "8 bit" nature also covers the fact that I have produced a model rather than a representation of reality and you can also swap parts from one lego kit to another if you need to …. as is often the case when these solutions are implemented.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Happy Anniversary

Today I completed my first year as a Piano Mover Jnr at The Neat & Tidy Piano Movers. Twelve whole months have passed since I walked in to The Reception in Redditch, was presented with a temporary pass and then sat around, for what seemed like days on end, waiting to get a Laptop and some idea of what I should be doing.

Well, I am still here. My laptop is on it's second keyboard and I have a slightly better idea of what I should be doing most of the time. I recall a discussion with my Boss a few months ago about the general lack of clarity and my reliance on what seemed like a common sense approach and he laughed, agreeing that he approached the job in the same way.

I suppose I should attempt to carry out some form of summary of my first year, perhaps comparing and contrasting it with my previous role as a Junior Daemon in Dante's Nine Circles of Hell, but I think the only important measure is how I feel in general having made the move. I know that I am much happier as a Piano Mover despite the chaos and the fact that we are attempting to build cars with bicycle components. * I have a manager who respects and values my input, lets me know this and actually has experience of the work I do. This, believe me, has an incredible impact on a job and is so different to the brown nosed fuck wits** Dante's saw fit to employ to manage key teams developing Technical and Organisational environments for new clients.

At the moment I am exhausted at the end of each working day but there have also been days when I have been far from busy. This work is cyclical in nature and this is one thing that has not changed as I moved from one job to another. What I do know is that the Piano Movers are happy to allow me lead multi million dollar opportunities with less than a year's experience under my belt whilst my last year at Dante's had me work on shitty contract renegotiations or being farmed out to help on other Solutioner's deals. Now do you see what I mean when I say that I am happier and feel valued …

… Oh, and the money is bloody good too!
* This is obviously an analogy. Nether do we move pianos
** There were a couple of notable exceptions but they were still constrained by the general management system and approach

Monday, 8 September 2014

Definitely missing all the fun

This morning I found myself suited and stood on the platform 2 at Evesham Station waiting for the 7:48 in to Paddington. My feet didn't make contact with platform 1 again until half past ten this evening when I finally arrived back in my home county. It was a long day, I was shattered and somewhat annoyed …

… As the day in London drew to a close it became apparent that our Sales Lead had "lost sight of the ball".  On the last call of the day I questioned him about his travel plans now that the RFP submission date had been pushed back by a week. After repeated explanation he grasped this simple concept and finally admitted that he had no awareness of this, despite issuing the client communication containing that very important fact. This was a head in hands moment as I realised that he has no real interest in this opportunity and is already dropping his hook in other ponds hoping that the rag, tag and bobtail team we have managed to assemble will deliver a winning solution with the associated Sales bonus … what a Prick!*

At home 30% had been left to manage a day with significant canine elements. T&M needed to be dropped off at the Groomers early in the morning and their evening collection needed to include a detour via the Vets where Whiffler was to receive his first inoculation. I came home from London to listen to tales of adoring Groomers and Veterinary Surgeons as the puppy charmed everyone he met.** His weight has increased by 20% and he is now 6.6 Kg up from 5.5 Kg last week. His next visit will be in a fortnight's time for his second and final shot.

So that just about sums up my day … I added six hours of road and rail travel in to an already long day and definitely missed out on the fun and frolics here at The Pile.
* incidentally, This is the word my Boss used to describe the Sales Lead when I was first assigned to this opportunity.
** and then left them with a slightly damp arm .. You know … the one that had been cradling his midriff

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Day of rest

I was, once again, dragged from my slumbers by a full to the brim Whiffler at around six o'clock, so headed downstairs where I grabbed my keys released him from his crate, got the back door unlocked and got him out in the garden before he had managed to pee ... Result!

I then brewed coffee and did my best to amuse both the puppy and myself for the next few hours until 30% deigned to rise.The most significant activity of the morning was a quick trip in to Redditch for a few errands. I then finally settled at my laptop and spent the couple of hours before lunch clearing my emails and starting to collate the various costs of the latest solution. Although I had not wanted to work over the weekend I actually achieved a reasonable amount in the two hours I grudgingly allocated and now have a clear approach I can follow as the remainder of the costs trickle in.

After lunch 30% and I headed around the Three Miler with T&M leaving TP and Peanut to ice the cup cakes they had made earlier in the day. It goes without saying that tea and cakes were consumed as we relaxed after the walk. I then spent a couple of hours contemplating the inside of my eyelids, eventually waking as afternoon turned to evening.

30% served a proper Sunday Roast and we then spent the evening in a fruitless search of the TV schedules for something watchable. In the end we settled for a couple of documentaries I had recorded over the preceeding weeks. I finally headed upstairs at a relatively early hour as I need to be in London tomorrow. An early start will be in order and shaving before I go to bed gives me another ten or twenty minutes of sleep time.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Taking it easy

The recent arrival of Whiffler has meant that I now need to rise around six rather than seven o'clock. This is the point by which his tiny bladder has filled to capacity and he has woken yelping to be let out for a pee. This morning 30% performed this duty and entertained the pup for an hour so that I managed to sleep in until a relatively pleasant seven o'clock. I say relatively pleasant as I was awoken by having a wriggling puppy placed on the bed and as he climbed  over my head I once again became familiar with that suspicious dampness in his midriff!

I rose and wandered downstairs leaving 30% to return to bed as she is not an early riser. I spent the early hours of the morning pottering, drinking strong black coffee and re-reading a novel on the kindle. All of these activities were interspersed with supervision of Whiffler as he explored, barked, upset Eddie* or peed. As nine thirty approached I gave 30% a call as we were expecting a visitor. She wandered downstairs five or ten minutes later and looked absolutely awful … a migraine. She headed back upstairs to do the only thing she could … lie in a darkened room until the symptoms dissipated.

Martyn; our visitor arrived around ten for a discussion about reconstruction of our garden wall and remodelling the hideous steps that lead up to our front door. Both of these jobs benefit from the input of a Structural Engineer as "ground level" at The Pile is five or six feet above the street level so the garden wall is a retaining structure and ten or more steps need to be ascended to reach our front door. We discussed the various options and pitfalls and Martyn rapidly understood his brief. Hands were shaken on a cash deal and he was off to mull over design ideas and come up with some drawings.

The remainder of the morning was taken up with a much needed walk around the Three Miler with T&M. Lunch followed and the afternoon was spent relaxing and receiving guests as 30% had invited her Mum and Dad over for a viewing of the new puppy.

As afternoon turned to evening 30% appeared and looked much brighter than she had this morning. A chinese takeaway was collected by TP and Peanut and, once consumed, we all collapsed in front of the TV to watch a film together.
* Eddie: our three legged cat. He is nicknamed Eddie Percent after loosing a hind leg and his tail after a car accident. He is well aware of having used up eight of his nine lives and takes no crap from any of the dogs. Whiffler has already received a severe hissing followed by a swipe across his nose when the silly sod didn't realise that you don't mess with cats.

Friday, 5 September 2014

I barely mention work in this entry

For two glorious minutes I thought that it was Saturday as I wandered downstairs, barely awake, to let Whiffler out of his cage and take him out for a pee. Momentarily I revelled in thoughts of having the whole day to do as I like and then, as I liberated the puppy from his crate, reality intruded and I realised I had one more day chained to my desk* … Oh well, at least it is Friday.

I hit the in-box early as I was aware that I would be taking an hour out of my day late in the morning …

… BMS and SMS called around eleven o'clock to meet and greet Whiffler. He charged around like a deranged lunatic and I think it is fair to say that they were both charmed by the little cream monster. They also handed over a stack of newspapers which are a staple during these early weeks.

On the subject of toilet training he is quite good already. He came to us paper trained and will perform when taken outside to the garden. That is not to say that there are no accidents and a roll of absorbent paper and a spray bottle of disinfectant are always close to hand. Another surprising thing is that he is not daunted by T or M and has already discovered their play potential. This evening he was to be seen chewing the end of Tyson's tail … she wan not impressed!

I'll not bore with a detailed recollection of the working day. It was busy but, being Friday, ended at a reasonable hour. I need to polish a spreadsheet over the weekend but at least I can do that without the interruption of calls, instant messages and emails … just a standard poodle puppy tugging at the leg of my jeans.
* I wonder if I have come across a new universal truth something along the lines of conservation of energy? I walk downstairs and think that I am free. Whiffler is in his crate and is therefore constrained. As I release Whiffler from his cage there is a transference of the state of liberty. He most definitely become free from restraint which is then transferred to me as I realise that it is a working day and I am to be tied to my laptop. If this is ever proven it should be called Whiffler's Law

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Moving slowly forward

I had grand plans for the day's deliverables and achievements … it is fair to say that few of them came to fruition. I really needed to make significant progress on my costings but instead got dragged in to a series of equally important dialogues and conversations about other aspects of the project and solution. The way things are going I think my weekend will involve a good few hours peering at a spreadsheet. Mind you, at present, I have no bloody costs to insert anyway!*

I did manage to slay one daemon today which meant that I ended the day in a more positive frame of mind … One of the Client requests is for us to populate a spreadsheet with over one thousand separate price points. This would be a Herculean task at the best of times but with the limited timeframe and lack of detail it is virtually impossible. As an alternative I proposed a much simpler approach involving three price points for the four major Geographies. My Boss agreed that this was the best way forward and so the Sales Lead was advised.  I'm not really sure he really understands the proposal but he hasn't said no and therefore he is getting what I am offering … by the time the metaphorical light bulb illuminates it will be too late to do anything further anyway.

On the home front I am still chained to the laptop for most of the day and collapsed on the sofa for less of the evening than I would have preferred. We have noted that T&M are slowly coming around to the fact that Whiffler is here to stay and are starting to interact with him rather than just ignore him. ** This evening they were all charging around the lawn together and later Whiffler was seen chasing Marauder around the island in the Kitchen … cute at the moment but chaos in the future when they are all full grown and Tyson joins in,
* They are, however, on their way and the brief preview of them suggests that they are vast and complex.
** or growl at him!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Wishing a short chunk of my life away

It is fair to say that I was not at my most enthusiastic today. I spent most of the day chained to the laptop  and reached the point where I literally could not sit and look at it any longer … it was almost like having a headache but without the pain. I just had to get up, wander around and be able to look in to the middle and far distance rather than have my view terminate twenty inches from the end of my nose.

The only fresh air I got was a brief spell in the garden kicking a ball around with the dogs and a short spell in VI's plot waiting for his chickens to decide to go to bed.* Other than that I was at the laptop or slouched on a sofa. It may be a grim experience but the job is cyclical and these periods of peak activity always have a set end date … I just cant wait for 19th September.

The positive point from today was that I made a start on the cost model and actually managed to get a simple sub-set of costs presented to the Pricer. The finalisation of the cost model is, however, a vast task and likely to be nightmare inducing.

As I just said, roll on 19th September.
* There is no way I was going in to the run and herding them in to the coop having had previous experience with the evil cockerel that leads his small flock.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Tuesday and knackered already

Tuesday was another long day.

This morning I headed in to The Depot, stopping off to let out VI's chickens on the way. I arrived early enough to get a space in the small car park in front of reception which gives an idea of how far ahead of the most Piano Movers I was.

I'll not bore with details of the day other than to say that it was long and, whilst productive, nowhere near as productive as it really needed to be. The main issue is that we have very little time to pull everything together and many want to add huge amounts of detail and problem resolution. To use an artistic analogy; this is a preliminary sketch or rough out of the picture. We do not have time to break out the oil paint for this phase of the project.

I eventually headed home around half past three. "Ah" I hear you think "the lazy sod is taking the afternoon off"… no, in actual fact, the lazy sod was getting home for calls that ran from four until six and, further in to the evening, another from eight until nine.

VI's poultry eventually got shut up by torch light and I slumped on the sofa for a couple of hours before dragging myself to bed.

Monday, 1 September 2014

What's wrong with Whiffler?

So, which is worse; Networking Outsourcing tribulations or new Puppy tales? I am guessing that is going to be mostly one or the other for the next few weeks.

I'll stay away from work for today's Journal entry, as it is very much a case of more of the same, and will instead cover day two with the new puppy …

… My suggestions for it's name were rejected by all parties but we have finally found one we can all agree on*. His name is a much shortened form of a Samuel Clemens character and I am sure he will grow in to it. My suggestion will not, however, go to waste and in the annals of The Journal he will forever be known as Whiffler.

Today's main event was his check up at the Vets. I wanted to get this completed as soon as possible as I didn't want us to get too attached if, God forbid, we found that he had a congenital health issue and he needed to be returned to the Breeder. Fortunately Whiffler was found to be in fine fettle although, perhaps, slightly underweight. That latter issue will soon be a distant memory with 30% in charge of his dietary needs.

So now we know he is in good health we can relax and start enjoying his antics. T&M are slowly coming around to his presence and are even starting to interact when he gets playful. There are, however, a few warning grumbles if he steps out of line.
We will back at the vet's in a weeks time for inoculations.
* to a greater or lesser extent