Monday, 4 May 2015

I eventually managed to achieve something

The first task on Sunday morning was to plant up the new bed at the front of the house.

After setting out the plants in a pleasing pattern,* I left 30% to set the plugs in the soil and wandered off to collect the wheelbarrow and spade. I then attempted to clear two very small piles of soil and hardcore that had been left by Hayden. Within minutes I was sweating like a pig and was absolutely exhausted. I just could not perform anything physical and after nine days of this bloody cold I was starting to get very frustrated.

The remainder of the morning was a complete wash-out and I did little more than potter and drink coffee. In the afternoon 30% and I headed in to Redditch to take a look around a Reptile specialists shop. They had a number of tortoise species available including three very large Leopard Tortoises. The Assistant was more of a snake specialist but we picked up a few nuggets of useful information and are erring towards a tropical, non-hibernating species rather than tempt the horror of finding a rotting corpse at the end of the Winter sleep.

On our return I settled in front of the TV again until TP returned from work and we all headed over to The Oak at Upton Snodsbury for their Lobster Night. The food was lovely, but I wasn't really up to it and would have rather just collapsed on the sofa.

30% commented that she could tell I wasn't well as I had actually watched three films*** in a single day when, normally, I will only grudgingly offer up the time for one.

I woke on the Bank Holiday Monday feeling little different and was surprised when 30% suggested that we should walk the dogs straight after breakfast. We had a pleasant enough hour wandering around the lanes, but this activity again depleted my reserves and I did little else for the rest of the morning.

Lunch was followed by a kip on the sofa and I woke sometime after two o'clock, deciding that I really should attempt something. I wandered out to the garage and started to slowly sort through the crap that had accumulated during the restoration of the Enfield. Slowly I discovered my tidying mojo and before I knew it I had actually got the vacuum cleaner and had sucked up the dust from the garage floor. I even tackled the blocked dust chute on the table saw.

As the afternoon drew to a close I had a tidy garage rather than the festering shit heap it had been earlier in the day.
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*  I had been tempted to spell out something mildly offensive using plants of different colours or perhaps go with a modern twist on the centrepiece of many a municipal floral garden and install my very own floral cock.**
** This is not a typo.
*** Bicentennial Man … not bad at all, Interstellar … disappointing and Dredd … disappointing with great violence

Saturday, 2 May 2015

I am guessing I might need a new project

At present my enthusiasm levels are very low. I am finding this cold or Hay-fever, or whatever the hell it is, draining and have neither the energy nor inclination to do anything. I can't even manage to work for a full day without simply running out of steam.

On Friday I decided to nip in to the nearest Depot to submit a claim for the travel expenses that were incurred last week when I visited a Trade Show in London. The morning went well and I cleared a reasonable amount of work as well as doing a bit of socialising. However, by the middle of the day, I started to feel quite peculiar; almost claustrophobic and absolutely shattered. I had to drive myself home and retire to my bed for an hour before the last call of the day!

I am hoping that the long weekend will bring some recovery and relief.

Saturday was always going to be a quiet day as 30% was going to see a Matinee performance of The King's Speech at Malvern with Jules. The inclusion of lunch and gossip to their itinerary meant that I was unlikely to see much of her until the early evening.

In the morning I took a walk around the Three Miler with the dogs. That pretty much wasted me and I did little else apart from tidying the kitchen and preparing some lunch for TP and me.*

The afternoon involved a large quantity of TV viewing and a lengthy kip on the sofa. As four o'clock passed I summoned enough energy to do something with my day and headed out to the garage. I decided that a tidy up was long overdue and loaded the pile of old Enfield components in to the back of the Land Rover. These were taken to the local Tip and I now have a little more space to move around in.

Finally I turn to the title of today's post, I am not sure whether it is the hay-fever/cold or the lack of a project but I don't really seem to be doing very much at present. I have the house to finish and the garden to start, but I am not doing a very good job of nudging either onward. Also, 30% now seems very interested in having a tortoise joining us here at The Pile.
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* Hardly culinary excellence … sausage sandwiches.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Before & After

On Tuesday, 23rd September 2014 TP ferried me over to Arden Motorcycles in Alcester where I paid £970 for a very rusty Royal Enfield Bullet Electra X. Over the past seven months I have spent far too much money and far too much time taking the damned thing apart, replacing corroded components and converting her in to a Trials replica.

I had never built a motorcycle before and can report that I have picked up a few new skills and even made a couple of friends in the process. If I am honest;  I have found it quite an amazing experience as I have encountered the frustrations of parts that didn't fit and major components that needed replacing and then the gratification of mastering a new skill or locating and importing bargain priced parts from half way around the world.

Te project was, perhaps prematurely, declared complete when the bike was fired up on Tuesday and it will be interesting to see whether it passes the MOT at the end of next week. As I wait I found the time to take a couple of after photographs to allow a comparison with its original corroded state.
"Before"
It didn't look that bad from a distance!
"After"
I can't wait to see how she rides.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

I miss it now it's gone

My cold is no better. In fact, I think it was worse today than it was yesterday. The consequence of this was that I really did not feel like applying myself to anything. I did what I had to do, but I really didn't want to.

Work is progressing reasonably well, although there are a couple of less pleasant activities that might land in my lap in the near future. There is not a lot I can do about this … just wait and hope that something of a higher priority turns up to displace them.

I didn't do a full day at work today as I needed to nip across the road to the local surgery for blood tests in the morning. I also finished early this afternoon and headed in to Redditch for an X-ray of my hip.

On my way in to Redditch I stopped off at Redditch Motorcycles and arranged to have the Enfield collected for a service, safety check and MOT. As usual, Chris was busy so it will be the back end of next week before he can come and pick up the bike. I mentioned that the bike might need some setting up and tuning as a new carburettor and exhaust had been fitted. I reassured Chris that the bike was a runner before disassembly but he didn't look convinced by this.

Later on in the day, after having my pelvis blasted with radiation, I was back at home with minimal levels of motivation. 30% had just returned from a physiotherapy session and TP had recently come in from college. I decided to recruit TP's assistance and finally move the Enfield from the Hall back to the garage.

This wasn't as arduous as it sounds. A coffer needed to be moved to the kitchen and there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing to get the bike lined up with the door but, between us, we soon had her sat in the garage where she belongs. I then grabbed the petrol can and glugged a litre or so of unleaded in to the Enfield's tank. This was primarily to test the fitting of the fuel tap but, on impulse, I decided to attempt to start her …

… I kicked her over a few times to pull fuel through to the carb and to circulate some oil and then gave her a hard kick. Nothing happened. I tried again and, once more, nothing happened. On the third or fourth attempt there was the unmistakable sound of an engine trying to start. A couple of kicks later the engine fired and ran beautifully. I was absolutely amazed. I expected her to need some tinkering and adjustment to get her to fire up, but she ran with no intervention whatsoever.

I was delighted by this inaugural starting of The Shitter reborn, but there is now a large space in the Hall and, as it says in the title line, I do quite miss having her in the house.
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Footnote: TP and 30% are already asking about my next project and the bloody petrol tap does leak!

Monday, 27 April 2015

Feeling old at the moment

As the months pass I have been feeling increasingly creaky. My left hip will no longer permit me to lift my left foot up on to my right knee.* My right knee twinges on a regular basis and my shoulders and upper arms are also giving me some trouble. I also regularly feel very cold.

For some unfathomable reason I have not previously visited the Doctor but today I finally made a list and wandered over to the local surgery … The Doctor didn't really say much. There was muttering about possible arthritis and an enquiry about which was the most painful joint.** I now need to have bloods taken and visit one of the local hospitals for an X-ray of my hip.

There is not much else to report for the day. Both work and puppy training went well but there is still no mention of Whiffler being promoted to the next class. This is somewhat surprising view of a) his abilities and b) the fact that Delilah, the Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen managed to make it in to the next class.***

My cold is no better and, as a consequence, I generally feel tired and lethargic.
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* I now have to bend right down to put on my left sock
** The left hip
*** She certainly has her moments!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Weekend round-up

On Saturday morning I realised that I had picked up a cold at some point during the week. I didn't feel dreadful but it is fair to say that I didn't exactly feel like doing much either. As a consequence my weekend was taken at a very gentle pace.

Saturday morning involved a trip to the supermarket in Alcester with 30% followed by a trip over to Golls at Pitchill on the pretence of checking out their bedding plants.  What we really did was wander around the tropical fish section and took great delight at finding half a dozen little tortoises pottering around a vivarium.*

It was good to see that the proprietor was still there as I remember him stood behind the counter more than forty years ago when I first kept tropical fish. He seemed old then and I was pleased to see him still  pottering around. 30% actually enquired about his age and he smiled and whispered in her ear** before lecturing us that taking to an armchair upon retirement was not a good plan.

We returned home for lunch and then 30% and I took a walk around the Three Miler with the dogs. That exhausted me and I then fell asleep on the sofa for a couple of hours.

In the evening we had arranged to take Kathy H-R out for a belated birthday treat, so we collected her shortly after six and spent a delightful few hours at the Oak at Upton Snodsbury getting through three courses from their menu.

Sunday dawned and the cold was no better so I spent the morning inside attempting to finish off the Enfield. Most of my time was spent applying the vinyl decals to the tank, but tools were also taken back to the garage and an investigation of the speedometer unit revealed a need for a couple of new light bulbs.*** A trip to Halfords was required.

In the afternoon 30% and I headed in to Redditch for the replacement bulbs and also a quick wander around a couple of supermarkets. One of these was Tesco so we also availed ourselves of their car washing service and now have a much cleaner Land Rover.

Upon our return I took a lengthy kip on the sofa and didn't wake until close to six o'clock. I then returned to the Enfield and fitted the bulbs bought earlier in the day. All I need to do now is fit the petrol tap and pipe and get her booked in with Chris at Redditch Motorcycles for her service and MOT.
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* We were both very tempted by a pair of these.
** seventy six
*** The main Speedo light and the neutral indicator light bulbs were blown

Friday, 24 April 2015

Catching Up again

It is Friday and I haven't written a word, let alone a few sentences, for the past five days. It is time to rectify this lax behaviour and jot down the week's comings and goings.

Monday - Exhausted
After a weekend of gardening it was nice to sit and rest my aching muscles in the office.

During the day I actually managed to find a free hour to fit the exhaust to the Enfield. It wasn't overly complicated. The exhaust pipe needed to be shortened by about 40mm so that the silencer would fit within the frame.  and I also needed to use a short mounting bracket to achieve perfect positioning. It looks very neat and all I need now is a set of AF Hex keys to tighten up the exhaust clamp.

Tonight was Puppy Training night and Whiffler performed really well. He is certainly one of the best in the class and I am starting to wonder about whether we might soon get promoted to the next level of ability.

Tuesday - Potential Disaster avoided
Tuesday was my idea of a living hell.

I caught the 7:50 from Evesham to Paddington and by ten thirty I was stood in the foyer of an exhibition hall at Olympia gazing out over an array of Telecommunications Providers' display stands. I spent the next few hours collecting as much free stuff from the displays and can report that the pen pot at home is filled to capacity with promotional writing instruments. I can also report that this year's gimmick is edible treats as nearly every exhibitor was handing out sweets or cakes to the passing hordes.

I have to be honest and say that I found it as dull as the proverbial ditchwater and left early in the afternoon using rumours of rail disruptions and temporary bus services as my excuse …

… and it was a good job I left when I did as the 15:52 out of Paddington abandoned me at Oxford just before five o'clock with no onward trains towards Evesham for two and a half hours. The station staff were pretty clueless but I eventually found myself ushered to a car park where, after a short wait, I was directed to a rather nice Mercedes taxi.

It is fair to say that snoozing in the front of a Mercedes is far more comfortable than a standard class seat on a train, especially when FIrst Great Western are paying the ninety quid fare.

Wednesday - Nothing to see here
Wednesday was just a long, hard day in the home office.

I am in the final stages of one project which means that I have acquired a raft of knowledge and information and just need to get the solution documented and the estimates calculated. A good chunk of Wednesday was spent on this documentation.

I also hosted a kick off call for a new project and was grappling with a multitude of facts and demands. It is fair to say this I haven't really got a clue about scope, solution or deliverables.

This was very much an IT Yin and Yang situation.

Thursday - St George's Day
First task of the day was to drop the Defender off with Mark at MP Trading. It had been booked in for a service and we also wanted him to give it a good look over to verify that we hadn't bought a wrong un. It came as a relief to learn that the only issue they had found was loose bolts on the rear prop shaft. It also became apparent that she hadn't been serviced as frequently as she should, judging by the state of the oil in the axles.

This evening we had been invited to the St George's Day dinner down at the local pub.

Since the completion of our garden wall and front steps we have received a modicum of positive feedback from friends and passersby. We have also heard that we were a topic of discussion at the most recent Parish Council meeting.

As we wandered up to the Pub we were greeted with a veritable onslaught of compliments about our recent building project. Every man, woman and dog wanted to let us know what a good job had been done and it became apparent that even if they don't know us by name we are the couple "with the poodles and the new wall".

The meal was a rather good three courses of soup, roast beef and apple pie and I managed to get myself on the outside of several large glasses of red wine … I slept well that night.

Friday - In to the Office
Yes, I needed a haircut and I had expenses to submit so I arranged a face to face solution review meeting and made an increasingly rare appearance at the nearest depot.

The day went well and I managed to spend a very sweary hour with the Director of the Customer facing service managers. He has an interest in one of my projects and it soon became apparent that much of the work I have just completed had been first done by him a couple of years ago.

He was complimentary about the way I had approached this task and has agreed to help me with the hand-off back in to the Delivery Organisation … Result!

Friday was not, however, the perfect end to the week as I appear to have either caught a cold or be suffering from hay-fever. I woke with a scratchy throat and have coughed and sniffed my way through the day.

I escaped from the Office just before five o'clock and spent the evening in an exhausted state on the sofa … I am so glad that the weekend has finally arrived.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Absolutely Shattered

"We" had planned that 30%'s family should come for dinner this evening to celebrate her birthday, albeit somewhat belatedly. Therefore the plan for today was to get the garden as tidy as possible.

My first activity was to hitch up the trailer to the Defender and check that the towing electrics were working. I was somewhat surprised when I removed the cover from the ball hitch to see unblemished paint. The Land Rover had never towed anything prior to today. The electrics were all fine so I then set about loading the trailer.

I spent the best part of an hour loading up a couple of ramshackle constructions that had been used for rearing chicks a few years ago. These filled most of the trailer but I found room for half a dozen stumps that had been dug out of the garden last weekend. TP was up and dressed by the time I had finished loading so he was press-ganged in to accompanying me to the Tip to assist with unloading.

Upon our return we headed back out in to the garden after a quick cup of coffee. The next job was to relocate the three bulk bags of wood chippings. TP and I could just about drag them so two were relocated to the bare earth between the holly and yew trees. The third bag was emptied under the laurel tree and TP was left with a rake to spread the mulch.

After lunch the lawn was mowed and I then set about cutting the dead wood out from the base of the Yew. While I did this 30% set about pulling up the ivy growing along the bank behind our new garden wall. The result of all this activity was that I now had another pile of material for shredding.

The wood chipper was stirred in to life and the branches and stems were soon converted to small chunks. These were bagged up and TP was given a broom and directed to sweep the yard between the house and the garage. With everything neat and tidy, TP and I loaded the clippings and chippings in to the back of the Defender and headed back over to the Tip.

Forty minutes later we were back at The Pile and I was completely shattered. I summoned reserves of strength, managed to remove the cork from a bottle of Leffe and plonked my backside on the sofa for the best part of an hour.

The beer and the sit-down helped to restore a modicum of energy but none of us were particularly lively this evening as we sat down to a splendid turkey dinner prepared by 30%. It was lovely to see her family, but next time perhaps we need to do rather less in the hours before they arrive.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Now I just need to go to the Tip

30% and I agreed that I would avoid shredding any prunings this morning so that I did not disturb the clientele at the Hairdressers next door.

This wasn't a  huge inconvenience as we had plenty of other activities to keep us busy. My first job was to empty the remainder of the top soil from the one tonne bag that had been delivered on Tuesday. The soil was wheelbarrowed up to one of the beds I cleared last weekend, leaving me with a bulk bag to fill with chippings later on in the day.

30% and I then rounded up the dogs for a trip to the Vets for their annual booster shots. En route we stopped off at a Nursery to look at what bedding plants were available for our new raised bed. The Proprietor suggested that we leave it another month, as there will be a far better choice at the beginning of May … I never did say that I knew anything about gardening.

The visit to the Vets was uneventful although I have to report that the latest recruit at the practice is fresh out of college and not very impressive. She wass very unsure of herself and kept nipping out to consult with a more experienced Vet … hardly reassuring, especially when one is paying for the treatment.

Back at home I had an hour to kill before lunch so I recruited TP's assistance and bled the Enfield's front brake. I haven't bled brakes for thirty years or more and recalled the horrific experiences I had with a Mini I used to own. Its brakes were dreadful and despite repeated bleeding and replacement of slave cylinders I could never get rid of the sponginess. I wasn't looking forward to bleeding the Enfield's brake and my confidence was not increased by numerous tales of woe on the internet …

… However the job went really well once I realised that the one-way valve on the brake bleeding kit was hindering progress. I ended up just using a plastic tube with TP straddling the bike and providing brake lever operation. Twenty minutes later I had fantastic pressure at the brake lever and working brakes at both ends of the bike.

After lunch 30% headed off to the supermarket and I reacquainted myself with the chipper. After a long couple of hours I had filled another bulk bag with shreddings and had swept up the inevitable debris. I was exhausted but the job was done … There were no more prunings to chip, although 30% has already started pointing out other branches that could be trimmed while the machine is here.

I swear I will commit a dreadful deed if I see her with the tree loppers in her hands ever again!

Friday, 17 April 2015

Catching Up

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday have all been very similar. Definitely not similar in a bad way, I have just done much the same thing on each of these days.

On the work front; I finally found my mojo and have applied myself to my current batch of projects. There is nothing particularly significant to report. One has been submitted for re-pricing and on another I have started to assemble the cost case and solution documentation. This documentation is quite a formidable task and I am hoping to succeed where others in the past have not … we shall see!

At the end of each of these three working days I have headed out around the Three Miler with the dogs and then, after refreshment, I have become familiar with the workings of The Chipper. It is a fantastic tool and, by spending thirty or forty minutes each evening in its company, I have managed to shred two thirds of the cuttings we have accumulated. As I type this we have two tonne bulk bags* filled to the brim with chipped prunings. By the end of the weekend I expect to have filled a third with the remaining material.**

At the end of each chipping session I have been very tired and have simply drunk beer, dined and collapsed on the sofa in front of the TV.

There is not a lot else to report apart from a welcome telephone call from Kathy H-R who had some beef for sale following a recent kill. Friday evening included some minor butchery as I diced shin and divided an enormous brisket and pot roast in to more manageable joints for a family of three.
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* These are the heavy duty, woven plastic bags with a loop at each corner that are currently used for delivery of bulk materials such as sand, gravel, top soil and hard core. They have a capacity by weight of one tonne and a capacity by volume of about one meter cubed.
** I then just need to work out what I am going to do with three cubic metres of wood chippings.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Misdirected motivation

If I am honest I had real problems applying my nose to the grindstone today.

The day actually started very early when a ton of top soil was delivered at a few minutes after seven o'clock. The bulk bag was neatly deposited by the new raised bed and I really wanted to grab a spade and start filling the bed rather than head towards the study.

A week's holiday and the initiation of a number of projects in the garden meant that I was not in the mood for work and would have much preferred to be focussing on the garden. This was not helped by the fact that 30% arranged for the delivery of a wood chipper at lunch time and I really wanted to have a play with that.

Reluctantly I opened my e-mail application and watched as my in-box updated. There was only one hundred and thirty unread emails and I soon deleted the junk and irrelevant, leaving me with a handful that needed my attention. None of these were urgent and consequently did nothing to engender any degree of motivation.

I therefore spent the day flitting between my laptop and the Enfield. The postman had brought a new set of exhaust studs and it was apparent that these would allow me to fit the Trials Exhaust. I just needed to remove the stubborn stud. I reapplied heat and WD40 and even tried some judicious tapping with a hammer and punch in an attempt to release the stud from the corroded embrace of the cylinder head. Eventually I committed, attached two nuts on to the stud, tightened them against each other and then carefully attempted to unscrew the stud. I nervously gave the spanner a couple of taps with a hammer and then applied some pressure …

… All the time I was doing this the repercussions of a snapped exhaust stud were front and centre in my thoughts …

… Suddenly there appeared to be slight movement. Had I freed it or had the fucker given way? I applied pressure to the spanner again and it moved a little more. There was no sudden lack of resistance that occurs when a stud snaps and I pushed on the spanner once more. It moved again and I could see that it was actually rotating out of the cylinder head. After a few more turns I had the stud in my hand. I was incredibly relieved to have won this minor battle with the Shitter.

I was then able to trial fit the exhaust pipe and realise that I would need to order a simple bracket to mount the silencer to the bike. A few minutes on eBay had one winging its way to me.

After the success with the bike I grudgingly returned to my laptop and did as little as possible* until I felt that I could abandon it without being seen to be skiving.

I then took a walk around the Three Miler with the dogs and returned to see that TP had filled the bed with the top soil. I therefore wandered over to the wood chipper, donned ear defenders and spent the forty minutes prior to dinner making a start on chipping the huge pile of woody debris that has resulted form our recent gardening activities.
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* A forty minute conversation with my frolleague Lou helped significantly with this clock watching activity.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Back to work tomorrow

Monday was considerably less frenetic than the preceding weekend. This was probably a good thing as I had a multitude of aches and twinges after two days of lopping, digging and hauling.

In the morning I got on the 'phone and ordered a tonne of top soil to fill the new raised bed. Then 30% and I headed in to Redditch to make enquiries about the hire of a wood chipper and also to take a wander around the aisles of Tesco. We were back home by lunchtime and then headed around the Three Miler with the dogs.

After the walk I felt that I should continue with the garden so grabbed a spade and the wheelbarrow and headed down to the far end under the other Yew tree …  A few years ago, when we had the patio block paved, nearly a ton of sharp sand had been left on site.  I had bagged it up and abandoned it under the aforementioned Yew … today I spent a rather painful half hour emptying the bags in to the barrow, trundling it a few yards to the fence and then shovelling the sand in to the void between the new wall and the earth bank. It was a quick win as an eyesore has been removed and reused as backfill.

As the afternoon drew to a close I checked my e-mail and Hitchcocks had replied to my enquiry. The had sent out replacement components that should enable fitment of the Trials Exhaust. A consequence of this was that I now needed to remove the standard exhaust studs. The first of these was straightforward as I had only installed it a few weeks ago, however the second had been in place since the bike was built. I tried removing it by using two nuts but it did not want to budge.

Being paranoid about snapping the stud I applied a few squirts of penetrating oil and heated the stud with a butane torch but it still resisted. I squirted more WD40 at it and decided to leave it overnight while I went away to research Loctite freeze and release spray.

As our Easter holiday draws to a close it is fair to say that there have been some very visible changes here at The Pile and it looks like we are going to have a very busy Summer tidying up the garden. A shed had been mentioned as a possible new addition to the garden. 30% also managed to get the flights booked for our next holiday so our post holiday blues have been somewhat dissipated by the fact that we know we will be heading to San Francisco on 20th August.


Sunday, 12 April 2015

Weekend round-up

The past couple of days have been spent in a full scale assault on the garden here at The Pile.

On Saturday I extracted the lawn mower from the garage and completed the first cut of the season. With the lawn looking somewhat more controlled, the tree loppers and chainsaw were broken out and the two piles of prunings at the back of the house were considerably enlarged. A thin but tall Hawthorn was removed from the bed near the Holly tree and, after some severe pruning by 30%, I cut out the bulk of a leggy Elder that was pushing its way up through the aforementioned Ilex.

I then swapped the chainsaw for the loppers and hit the Laurel hedge that sits on the bank above our newly laid wall. This was long overdue for a pruning and I must have taken three to five feet out of the top and sides of it. We are hoping that the pruning will encourage it to thicken up at the base where it is rather thin.

As I chopped and hacked 30% and TP assisted by hauling away the trimmings to the now massive piles  of debris at the back of the house. 30% eventually saw the wood for the trees and decreed that a wood chipper needed to be hired as we had way too much to burn.

I also took the chainsaw out and performed some gentle tidying around the base of the Yew where it had got somewhat battered during the recent construction work. Some of the lower branches have been scraped and scarred and but I am hopeful that they will recover over the growing season. I also had a go at the huge Christmas Tree in the corner of the garden, removing the dead boughs and thinning those that overhang the lawn … when we re-stock with chickens we will be able to reach the run without getting soaked by it.

Feeling somewhat jaded I decided to take a run to the Tip. This allowed me to sit down for forty minutes and I also managed to dispose of three broken garden chairs and the lawn clippings.

As the afternoon waned 30% headed off to the supermarket and I settled to a task that had been niggling me occasionally over the past week … Just before we headed off to The Gower I attempted a trial fit of the exhaust pipe on The Enfield. It was not right as the pipe projected too far beyond the flange and consequently the nuts could not be put on to the exhaust studs …  I spent the spare time drafting a mail to Hitchcocks attempting to describe the problem and asking for guidance.
I am hoping for a quick resolution to this problem as I only need to bleed the front brake, fit the tank and attach the exhaust before the bike is theoretically ready for its MOT.

I then put thoughts of The Enfield aside, showered and changed in preparation for an evening spent at the Village Hall helping Kathy H-R celebrate her seventieth birthday. We felt quite honoured to be invited and had a lovely informal evening drinking and chatting with our friends from the village … at one point I volunteered to pull the neck on VI's evil bastard of a Light Sussex cock as he is getting far too aggressive for VI to manage.

I was thankful that it wasn't a late night after our busy day and I was in bed the right side of midnight.

I made an early start on Sunday and was out in the garden just before nine o'clock. A spade and axe were the tools of choice and the morning was spent removing the stumps of several shrubs along with the Elder I cut out yesterday.

The plan is to clear the beds along the left hand side of the lawn, level them  and lay turf. We are hoping that this will give us a more spacious and light garden that can be easily tidied with the lawn mower.

30%'s Mum and Dad joined us for lunch and a viewing of our recent projects. We had a pleasant time chatting and it was nice to sit for a while after the strenuous activities of the morning.

In the afternoon the chainsaw made another appearance and the peculiar dwarf conifer at the base of the  holly was cut out. I was then able to prune the holly and this has made a remarkable difference to the garden. It already seems so much more open and light now the beds to the left of the lawn have been cleared.

If I am honest I was exhausted by this hard work and my shoulders and back were starting to twinge as the afternoon progressed. My last exertion was to help TP who had done a sterling task of removing hardcore from the base of the new raised bed at the front of the house.

From that point forward I pottered, completing a few final tasks before collapsing on the sofa. I was absolutely knackered and almost too tired for the glass of red wine 30% proffered.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Home again

There is not a huge amount to report for Friday. The morning was spent packing up the car and giving our holiday home a quick clean. By eleven o'clock TP and JN were making their way up the cliff path* and were we taking one last walk along the beach before saying goodbye to our host Bob.

Our return journey was via the M4 rather than the Heads of the Valleys road and after one hundred and thirty miles we pulled up outside The Pile to find Hayden tidying up. He had just about finished and the new steps look fantastic. His stone work for the raised bed is less impressive but I am sure it will look fine once it has been planted up and I have grown accustomed to its somewhat crude courses.

Needless to say the rest of the day was taken up with unpacking the car and settling back in to the domestic routine. Eddie seemed pleased to see us after being left in charge for the past seven days.**

In the afternoon we made a token start on the garden by creating a huge pile of branches that need to be either burnt or chipped. These were a combination of 30%'s recent pruning activities and those that had been blocking the drive after being left there by Hayden.  We can now get a car on to the drive but the washing line is now virtually inaccessible by a head high pile of prunings that must be ten or more feet in length. ***

This Summer's project is to tidy up the garden and it is a task of Herculean proportions. It is also likely to be fraught with creative differences as 30% and I have quite different approaches to the garden. She thinks that I just want to cover everything with concrete whilst I think she tends to arrange deck chairs on the Titanic.

Hopefully I can get her to see that you need a clear design and structure before you start to plant.
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* With three dogs and all of our luggage there was no room for the boys but, at least, they didn't have to lug their bags the mile back up to the Post Office where TP's Fiat was parked.
** He was checked on daily by frolleague Deb who lives just round the corner.
*** a second, similarly sized, pile is now sitting on the paved area between house and garage.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Our last full day

It is fair to say that 30% has a bit of a thing about Rhossilli Bay …

… now I am very fond of it and more than happy to walk out along it's splendid sandy arch or take in the splendour of the views from up on the headland, but I don't have a "thing" about it. I really like it there and appreciate it's beauty but I do not have any overly significant emotional attachment to it …

… getting back to 30%'s thing, it came as no surprise that she wanted to spend the last day of her holiday with another visit to Rhossilli beach. The plan was that we would spend the morning at Pwll Du, take lunch at the cottage and then head over to Rhossilli.

And that is pretty much how things panned out. In the morning TP and JN headed up the valley for a walk and 30% and I spent time pottering at the cottage and taking a short walk along Pwll Du beach with the dogs. Lunch was eaten al fresco and then we loaded up the Defender and headed across the Gower.

The weather today was, again, fantastic and Rhossilli didn't disappoint. After the hike down from the headland we wandered perhaps two hundred yards across the beach and then had it virtually to ourselves. The dogs were let loose and we wandered a mile or so along the sands. TP and JN had brought a tennis ball and baseball bat and the the dogs were exercised, acting as canine fielders for the boys. A good strike would have Whiffler charging across the beach for a hundred yards or more to retrieve the ball.  As the afternoon came to an end we headed back up the steep path and dropped in at the Worms Head Hotel to rest our legs and take refreshment.  After an hour sat in the sun we headed back to Bishopston and stopped off at The Joiners for a fabulous fish and chip supper before heading down the lane back to Ship Cottage.

We really couldn't have asked for a better "last day". We had great weather, beautiful views, exercise and rest and fantastic food.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

A good walk spoiled

Wednesday 8 April 2015

30% decided that we should walk up through the valley this morning and eat lunch at The Joiners.*

I had tried to dissuade her from this walk earlier in the week as I suspected that the path would be absolutely filthy. Unfortunately my wise words were ignored and, instead, she preferred to take council from a stranger with a grubby dog who claimed the path was fine. 

Within half a mile we were encountering areas where walkers and livestock had turned the path in to ankle deep mud. I was not impressed ... Having spent the Winter walking filthy lanes the last thing I wanted to do on my holiday was walk thorough more crap. 

Also the nature of the path was not great for 30%. It was narrow, rocky and twisted and turned through tree roots, ruts and quagmires. At present 30% is not too steady on her feet and this was far from an ideal walk for her. 

For every hundred yards I walked 30% would cover about seventy five and I was having to stop every few minutes to allow her to catch up. It was a bloody nightmare as I could never maintain any rhythm to my walking with this stop start arrangement. 

I should also point out that no maps were consulted prior to our departure so we were reliant on the sign posts to ensure we were headed in the right direction. 

After about an hour the path was barely visible as it followed a steep boulder street dry stream bed ... Hardly ideal terrain for 30%. We eventually cleared this obstacle and came to a fork in the path. One branch was signposted Bishopston but seemed to lead away from where we needed to go. Another sign pointed up a steep flight of stone steps but gave no named destination. 

I left 30% to catch her breath and climbed the steps to see if I could see any signs of civilisation. After a couple of hundred yards I could hear voices and see power lines. I retraced some of my steps and shouted a report to her lady ship. She came up the steps to join me and we soon found ourselves at the top of the valley. 

We crossed a couple of paddocks, passed a farm yard and an extreme dollop of good luck had us 50 yards from The Joiners' front door. 

It may have turned out alright but, just as easily, we could have been dealing with a broken ankle in an impenetrable valley. 30% has to get a more realistic view of her current walking capabilities. 
---
* TP and JN planned to drive down to the Mumbles for a couple of hours and would meet us up at the pub. 

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

A surreal walk at Oxwich Bay

Tuesday 7 April 2015

This morning dawned bright and sunny and we all sat out in the sun to eat breakfast al fresco. 

TP and JN decided to take a drive in to Swansea to explore, leaving 30% and me to our own devices. We decided upon a short walk along the beach, so gathered up leads, poo bags and a tennis ball. 

By the time we had got our collective arses in to gear, a fog had rolled in and very little could be seen of the beach, cliffs or bay. We spent thirty or forty minutes throwing a ball for the dogs before wandering back to the cottage. 

We pottered for the remainder of the morning and lunched at the cottage too. In the afternoon we headed out to Oxwich Bay for a walk with the dogs. As we drove along the headlands we emerged again in to bright sunshine but dropped back in to the fog as we pulled in to the car park. 

Surprisingly there were quite a few families sat out on the sand in a fog so thick that visibility was limited to twenty yards. It seemed a bizarre thing to be sitting out on a beach with views restricted to a surrounding grey curtain a few yards out. 

We wandered away from the populated portion of the beach, out along the line of the dunes. Within a few minutes we were totally isolated, walking on firm damp sand in a bubble maybe fifty yards across. We could see nothing; not the sea, nor the dunes or the sun. It was just us and the dogs in this monotone bubble ... It was very surreal. 

We walked as far as the small river that runs out across the bay before turning back. As we reached the car park the fog started to clear and we were rewarded with a view of the western end of the bay as we sat with a coffee in front of the snack bar. 

We arrived back at Ship Cottage a few minutes after TP and JN and learned that their visit included the Swansea Museum and castle as well leching at the local young ladies!

Their evening was taken up with beer and toasted marsh mallows by a fire on the beach. We just collapsed by the fire in front of the TV. 

Monday, 6 April 2015

A close shave

Monday 6 April 2015

The plan for today was that TP and JN would wander along the cliff path to Brandy Cove for a swim. 

Late in the morning they headed off with wetsuits and towels. We arranged to walk up to meet them later on and then head up in to Bishopston for lunch at The Joiners. 

As noon approached we rounded up the dogs, locked up and headed out in to the bright sunshine. There were many walkers out enjoying this fine Easter Monday and the dogs had to stay on their leads for most of the time. 

As we wandered along the cliff path 30% stumbled, lost her footing and fell from the path. With my hands occupied by the  dog leads I was unable to catch her and could only watch as she rolled down the steep hill toward the sea. Fortunately she caught in a gorse bush after a couple of feet and was able to get back up to the path with only a few bruises and a loss of dignity. 

The worrying thig was that if this had happened a few yards further on there would have been no gorse bushes to slow her fall and she would have fallen fifty or a hundred feet to the rocks below. It was a close shave and she was lucky not to have been seriously injured or worse!

I think I need to find a way to broach the subject of increasing her fitness, dropping a few pounds and to get a better grasp of her walking abilities. 

A few hundred yards later we reached the cove and there was no sight of TP. We eventually made contact and found that they had gone on ahead to the pub. We walked up to join them and enjoyed beer and gourmet burgers in a very sunny beer garden/car park. 

With our hunger and thirst sated we headed back down the cliff path to Pwll Du, pausing en route to pick up ice creams for pudding. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing at the cottage where I apparently snoozed for a couple of hours. 

Sunday, 5 April 2015

A birthday and a bit of an adventure

Today was 30%'s birthday and, after a very leisurely start, it was decided that she would like to celebrate by taking a walk along Rhosilli beach.*

The weather on the beach was superb and despite it being Easter Sunday there was only a few dozen people on the sands.** We had acres of space to walk and throw a ball for the dogs. 

We probably strolled a mile or so before turning and heading back to the path up the cliff. Up at the top we found a seat on the hotel's patio and lunched looking out over Worm's Head. 

The afternoon was spent back at Pwll Du taking it easy. I may well have spent an hour examining the inside of my eyelids. 

During the afternoon we attempted to ascertain TP's whereabouts. The plan was that he would drive down this afternoon in the company of JN and join us for dinner. 

The reality was somewhat different. They left home at four in the afternoon and it took them four and a half hours to travel the one hundred and twenty miles to Swansea!

They were tight lipped when questioned about navigational errors but as the evening drew on it became apparent that they had had a few adventures.***
---
* it was also decided that her gift would be to spend Easter week 2016 at Ship Cottage ... I had better get that booked before someone else does. 
** walking with three Standard Poodles has made us something of a carnival attraction and we could not go far without being accosted for a chat, compliments, a stroke of the dogs and even the occasional photo
*** A detour via Cardiff City centre, a wrong turn on the M5/M50 roundabout and a viewing of a bridge that looked like a lifting bridge, but wasn't, all slipped out as they chatted ... Christ knows where they really went!

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Coffee at Caswell Bay

Saturday 4 April 2015

It was something of a rude awakening when 30% roused me in the early hours of the morning. She was concerned that one of the dogs needed a pee and it was muggins here that needed to shrug on a shirt and jeans and escort them down to the beach to "perform".

I was soon back in bed snuggled under the duvet, but wide awake. It must have been the best part of an hour before I dropped off but I then slept through until nine o'clock ... a serious lie-in for me. 

After a leisurely breakfast we decided to walk the cliff path along to Caswell Bay, stop for a coffee at the cafe there and then return to Pwll Du. 

The weather was glorious and we were soon regretting bringing coats and sweat shirts as the sun shone down upon us. The cliffs and hills were ablaze with the yellow of gorse in full flower and it was so nice to see colours after the drab tones of Winter and early Spring. 

We walked at a leisurely pace and had soon completed the mile and a quarter to  Caswell. As planned, coffee was drunk at the cafe before we headed back to Ship Cottage. 

We then had a decidedly lazy afternoon. A kip was taken on the sofa and a short walk to the bay was taken but we were soon pouring glasses of wine, lighting the log burner and tucking in to sausage and mash. 

It would have been perfect if I hadn't had to endure the final episode of The Voice ...

... and 30% thinks I watch shite TV!

Friday, 3 April 2015

A week away

Friday 3rd April

The plan for today was to spend the morning getting our shit together, have lunch and then head off down to the Gower. 

And that is basically how the day panned out. We took a leisurely, almost casual, approach to packing that comes from familiarity of what is needed for a week at Pwll Du. There is no need for suit cases or soft luggage as the car can be parked a few feet from the door to Ship Cottage and shopping bags are far better suited to this task. 

During the morning we were visited by Jules and later by BMS and SMS who all came to wish 30% Birthday greetings and to hand over gifts and cards. 

Hayden also arrived and we talked through the final jobs that need to be completed as he he should be finished by the time we return home from our week away. 

A late lunch was eaten and it was no more than twenty minutes work to load up the Defender. TP was given last minute instructions* and the dogs were put in to the car. 

It was half past two and we were finally setting off. The Defender was superb on the motorway and it's sixth gear makes cruising at seventy enjoyable rather than the deafening experience of the Td5. 

Within an hour or so we had crossed the border in to Wales and were making great progress. As we passed a sign post for Abergavenny I has a nagging suspicion that I should have turned off.  I asked 30% to turn on the Sat Nav and it was at this point we learnt that it's battery was flat and that the Defender's 12 volt outlet wasn't working. 

The net result of this minor hiccough was that we travelled to Swansea down the M4 rather than our more usual route down The Heads of the Valleys road. 

We arrived at Pwll Du shortly before five o'clock and negotiated the rock track down the side of hill to the bay. I had forgotten how steep it is in places but we were soon at the bottom and fording the river before parking up outside the cottage. 

It was so nice to be back here and our familiarity with the accommodation meant that we were settled in within minutes. The log burner was lit, beer was poured and steaks were soon sizzling in the pan. 

It really doesn't get much better than this. 
---
* He is working over the weekend and wildly travel down to join us on Sunday. 

Thursday, 2 April 2015

I'm not doing anything else today

It is far to say that the past three days have been somewhat jam packed, as I attempted to complete domestic necessities and tie up loose ends at work before leaving for a week at Pwll Du.

I haven't had the energy to write a journal entry since Monday so here I go with a quick summary of Tuesday through Thursday* ...

… Tuesday morning started with a trip in to Redditch to drop Whiffler off at the Dog Groomers. I returned home and spent the rest of the day head down at work. There is nothing else to report apart from the fact that I managed to put the second coat of paint on the Enfield's seat bracket.

Moving on to Wednesday; I tidied myself up and headed in to the nearest Depot. I had expenses to submit and I also needed to scan and email a form to my manager, These activities are far easier to perform using the MFPs at work so I spent the day head down in the Office. All in all it was quite a productive day and I even managed to knock up a cost and pricing analysis for one of my projects … it may be of use if the shit hits the fan while I am away.

Back at home I managed to find the energy to complete an evening walk around the Three Miler with 30% and the dogs and I also managed to fit the seat to the Enfield.

Hayden also turned up and we now have the first three steps constructed that will ultimately lead to the front door.

And so to Thursday … I spent the day ensuring that all of my projects were progressed as far as possible and that my team mates knew what to be working on whilst I was away. In the minutes I had spare; milk was purchased from the village shop,  tea was made for Hayden, 30%'s prescription was collected from the Surgery and the dogs eventually got fed around five o'clock in the evening.

A set of rubber mats arrived to protect the Defender's carpets and these were installed a few moments after I reached the point of exclaiming "fuck it, I'm done".

I have had a busy couple of months and I am definitely ready for a break.
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* There ain't gonna be a lot of detail as I have already sunk a beer and Tesco** curry
** Filling and always disappointing

Monday, 30 March 2015

Starting Problems

At the moment I seem to have real problems settling to my work on a Monday morning. It may be because my weekends have been so busy that I am using Monday as down-time rather than doing what I am supposed to be doing.

It doesn't help that I had a string of non-work activities that I needed to address and each of these had the tendency to divert my attention from my laptop. The first of these was to run T&M in to the dog groomers. At eight o'clock sharp I introduced them to the back of the new Land Rover* and headed in to Redditch. With no dog guard in the car, I was concerned about whether they would try to climb on to the back seats but they just sat down and took in the views.

I was back at my desk before nine but was unable to give my full attention to my work. I needed to keep an ear open for the delivery of slate for our steps and also for a chap from Hogan Bros who was coming to collect the Range Rover's Venture Cam.** Ultimately there would be the call to collect T&M too. None of these were particularly significant interruptions but for some reason I found it hard to apply myself knowing that I would need to step away from my desk.

The day crawled onward, the domestic activities were completed and, between times, I even managed to do some work, although far less than I should have!

As five o'clock passed I stepped away from my desk and tidied myself … This evening we had tickets for a performance of Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense at the Malvern Winter Gardens. I have to say that it was a fabulous play that was laugh out loud funny from start to finish. It's three man cast included Robert Web playing Bertie Wooster and it was hilarious in an almost Milliganesque fashion as the supporting actors switched characters, often midway through an act. The humour was multi level from Wodehouse's farcical stories and characterisation to visual gags based on the scenery and props. Christopher Ryan*** playing an 8' fascist was hysterical as he is not a tall man and made much use of a small table and a very long leather coat.

I absolutely loved this play and gave it an unreserved 10/10. It was the best piece of theatre and comedy I have seen in a very long time.
---
* They leapt straight in. The split tail gate of the Range Rover was higher and seemed to confuse them as they needed to jump up on to a shelf sticking out in mid air. The Defender seems lower and it is far easier for them to judge their jump in to the back of the car.
** I had conveniently forgotten to leave this in the car as I had intended to sell it on eBay.
*** Mike from The Young Ones

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Another busy day

I was hoping for a quieter Sunday, but I am not sure that it was.

First  task of the day was to pull the neck on the last of our chickens. It was an ancient Minorca who was well past her prime. I don't think she had laid an egg for a very long time and, consequently, was of no use to Kathy. I really don't like killing anything so this was a job that I was not looking forward to. It was a quick death, but it doesn't get any easier.

Next on the list was a trip in to Redditch to pick up milk, diesel and a crook lock for the Defender. The Station Wagon may have two immobilisers and an alarm, but it is currently parked in the lay-by as our drive is blocked by Hayden's skip. I much prefer a visible deterrent as well as the electronic measures to put off the ne'er-do-wells.

Having finished running around, and resolving a misunderstanding about the Defender's jack,* I found time to settle with the Enfield's rear light and indicators. I finally had all necessary connectors, grommets and other shit that would allow me to run the cable under the mud guard, exit through a neatly drilled hole and connect up to the lights. So I spent a happy hour snipping off the old bullet connectors, threading the cable through the hole in the mud guard and holding it in place with the cable tie mounts I had epoxied in place a week ago.

Progress was disturbed by lunch and then 30% and I headed out around a wet and blustery Three Miler with the dogs. Upon our return I was persuaded to assist TP with his latest escapade …

… One of his friends was selling their drum kit at a give-away price so the Defender was required to perform load lugging duties. I let TP drive and he declared the Land Rover even more invincible than the last one as he trundled around the village. We took a minor detour so that we could dispose of the chicken carcass out on the Three Miler where the foxes will take it away. A few minutes later we pulled up at his friend's house. Money changed hands and the drum kit was loaded in to the Defender while I was hassled by a rather senile grand mother who a) wouldn't leave me alone and b) wouldn't shut the fuck up. As we drove off TP opined that "they are all fucking crazy, apart from Frank".

Back at home I returned to the Enfield's rear light. I finished crimping the new connectors and went on to finally bolt the rear mud guard in to place. The lights were connected up and the number plate carrier was bolted on. I went on to connect the battery and test my wiring … It all worked perfectly, first time.
It has taken me weeks to get this sorted
The electrics cover was bolted in place and I even managed a trial fit of the seat. I didn't get very far as the front bracket is too wide and will need to be ground back before it will slot in to the frame. I was too tired to take on that job so declared an end to my labours and joined 30% in the kitchen with a celebratory beer.

I am so looking forward to our week in Wales.
---
* It has a tiny bottle jack, stowed by the battery, rather than the four foot long, high lift jack I was expecting to see stowed under the second row seating.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

Today was the day that we said goodbye to the Range Rover.

After nine months of ownership we have realised that it is just not us* and that a Defender Station Wagon is a far better compromise of load carrier, towing vehicle and general run-around for a small family with three large dogs. The Range Rover was a beautiful car with a gorgeous interior but I never really bonded with it and I hated the fucking automatic gear box. It was way too slow and, for most of the time I drove it, I was sat behind the wheel urging the damned thing to change up … and, as for the split tail gate, that was just a stupid design feature that made getting stuff out of the cavernous boot unnecessarily difficult.

I don't think I'll miss it.

First thing this morning I transferred the final few hundred pounds across to Hogan Bros and rang to let them know. They advised that yesterdays ten grand had arrived and they trusted me about the balance … I could pop over any time to sort out paperwork and pick up the Station Wagon.

This became something of a family outing as TP wanted to come to collect the new Defender and 30%'s Audi has finally had it's electrical problem identified and resolved. We all climbed in to the Range Rover and headed over to Alcester where 30% was dropped off at the Audi specialist to collect her car.** TP and I continued in to Redditch and swapped the Range Rover for the new Defender.

It is quite lovely. It is a 110 County Station Wagon in a dark, metallic grey with the Land Rover XS half-leather trim. TP was particularly taken by the privacy glass in the rear windows and declared us even more invincible as this Defender was even bigger than the last one.

We headed off out of Redditch and our first journey was a trip over to Worcester to pick up the newly serviced chainsaw. We arrived home to grab a coffee, feed the dogs and wait for 30% … she had headed on to Stratford after picking up her car to complete a few errands.

30% arrived home some thirty minutes later and we lunched before she took the Defender out for a spin. Having got used to the Range Rover's massive size, she adapted well to the CSW and was soon at ease with the gearbox and controls … We both just need to remember that we no longer have front or rear parking sensors!

After the test drive TP and I completed a circuit of the Three Miler with the dogs. There was little time to relax upon our return as he needed to prepare for a shift at the pub and 30% and I needed to head back in to Redditch for her sister's birthday tea.  We had a pleasant enough time munching cake, drinking weak tea and chatting with the family but I have to admit that the Birthday Girl has a totally fucked up value system and this grated with my sensibilities. Repeated references to unpaid bills, fraud scams and her concerns that actually getting off her arse and working might demean her reputation as a DJ with the neer-do-well, fuckwits she calls friends started to annoy me.

Basically she has developed a benefit claimants attitude of wanting the middle class lifestyle and trappings but has no intention of doing a decent day's fucking work to pay for it.

I escaped at about six o'clock and we headed home. Unfortunately it was not time for a G&T. Our next job was to box up the chickens and take them down the road to Kathy H-R. We have decided this is the only way to remove our rat problem so it will be no chickens at The Pile for a year or two while we tidy runs and eradicate the vermin.

Kathy gratefully took the chickens and the three spare bags of feed and I drove back home to a beer and a gammon supper. I was absolutely shattered after yet another non-stop day.
---
* We have marked this down as my mid-life crisis.
** They must have had it for the best part of two months

Friday, 27 March 2015

Knackered

Like many people, I do like my Fridays to be at the quiet or even lazy end of the busyness spectrum.

Unfortunately today was not going to be one of those Fridays. I had heaps to do before I knocked off at  five o'clock. The working day started at half past eight and I spent the first two hours on a team call discussing our projects and our suggestions for service improvements. I had been panicking mildly about what I should propose, but the Gods smiled at me at the end of last week when a colleague contacted me about the template I use to engage our stroppy Pricer. I have grudgingly volunteered to develop a template for use by two separate teams and this has been well received … it looks like I'll be giving an overview presentation on next week's team call too.

Having escaped from the two hour call, I opened up last week's status report and spent some time documenting this week's achievements and calamities. By half past eleven I had just about finished, so saved it and filed in in the relevant shared directory.

I then headed out in the Range Rover to the beloved Hogan Bros to collect the invoice for the Defender Station Wagon. After their shenanigans on Tuesday there was no way I was transferring over ten thousand pounds to them without some proof of purchase.

I headed back home and returned to my desk. The rest of the afternoon was spent clearing the decks and getting my latest project started … For the past few months a team mate and I have been dabbling at the edge of a massive programme that is not progressing particularly well. He proposed a technical solution that might help in some areas but it is fair to say that the suggestion was not welcomed. We have been working in the background to further develop this idea and we have finally been given the go ahead by our AVP to develop our idea in to a full cost benefit analysis … Now I have some real work to do!

Whilst putting my shoulder to this metaphorical rock I was also managing the movement of large sums of money between accounts and communicating with a car salesman who I trust about as far as I could throw.

As the afternoon waned, I finally found and hour to walk around the Three Miler with TP and the dogs. 30% and I also managed a quick trip to the super market, as the cupboards were bare, before collapsing on the sofa in front of the television.

We were both truly shattered.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Christ! 30% can be fucking annoying at times

There was no sign of Hayden this morning but he eventually answered his mobile 'phone and I was able to check that the slate specifications were acceptable. He was more than happy with our choice and I left him to whatever he was doing, wherever he was.

My next task was to get the slate ordered. My MasterCard was flexed and it is due on site on Monday morning. If I am honest there is not a lot else to report for the rest of the day. I got my head down and attempted to move my current batch of projects forwards. There is one that I have been putting off for a good few days and I finally managed to make a decision about how to overcome the inertia that seems to be hindering progress. A mail was drafted and I decided that it should be accompanied by a template to gather the information I require … I just need to design the spreadsheet now.

As the afternoon turned in to the evening I got up from my desk, rounded up TP and the dogs and headed off around the lanes for a walk. We arrived home shortly after six and I was surprised that 30% was not yet home. She turned up a few minutes later, advising that she had abandoned her planned visit to the supermarket and had, instead, spent the last half hour at work gossiping with a colleague.

She then rushed around attempting to get a large loin of pork in to the oven as soon as possible. As the evening passed she advised that dinner might be later than normal … at around seven thirty she called me to the kitchen, asked me to deliver cutlery and condiments to the table and then asked me to carve the pork.

Within a couple of slices I could see that it was nowhere near ready to be eaten. I advised her of this and nearly got my head bitten off. She insisted that I carve more slices of the joint and she would then put them back in the oven to finish off. By this time the vegetables were already in a dish and heading for the table. I suggested that she should consider pan frying them instead and got snapped at again.*

I cut a few more slices and by this time the pork was clearly raw. I insisted that she touch the meat to prove to her that it was still chilled. At this point I advised her that I was not going to eat it unless it was pan fried. I headed off the the dining room to keep TP company and left 30% to it.

An awkward while later she came in to the dining room with a board of fried pork. This finally looked edible rather than recently deceased. I put a few slices on my plate and added some vegetables.

Funnily enough I didn't have much of an appetite after having my head bitten off for basically refusing to eat meat until it was properly cooked. I guess she was wound up because  everything was late and not done properly but that wasn't my fault and I wasn't insisting that dinner be on the table at a specific time, neither was I the one that decided that we should eat a roast loin of pork.

As it says in the title of this entry ...
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* Apparently it was my fault that the joint hadn't been put in earlier because I was out walking the dogs when I should have been there to answer the phone and take her instructions. It did occur to me that perhaps she should have come straight home form work instead of gossiping for thirty minutes but I kept those thoughts to myself.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Getting stuff done

There is not a huge amount to report for Wednesday as most of the working day was spent on a single activity …

… Yesterday I was contacted by my Boss's American counterpart. She asked if I would be willing to deliver a short presentation about one of my projects on today's Team Call.  It's funny how a question is really an instruction isn't it.  I agreed to do it and suggested the material I had at hand and could cover with minimal effort. She replied advising that she wanted me to develop three or four slides and gave an overview of what she wanted on each one … Fuck me! It's not like I have anything else to do with my time.

As a result I spent most of this morning drafting and polishing a short presentation deck. I did manage a slight jibe in her direction when the first lesson learnt was to never take on one of her projects when she heads off for her vacation.

The presentation went well and my Boss advised that I had not only broadened my role, I had gone above and beyond what was expected to keep this turd of a project heading in the right direction. I can't really complain about that can I.

At some point in the day I managed a walk around the Three Miler with the dogs and Hayden made an appearance to lay the coping stones on the new wall. He is starting to get itchy feet and wants to be off to his next job. The result is that 30% and I needed to spend two hours scouring the internet to find suitable slate paving for the steps up to the front door.

I'll be ordering them first thing tomorrow.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

A man's word is his bond?

I managed to get my shit together this morning and was sat at my laptop ready for the first call of the day at eight o'clock sharp.

The call was to take on a project from a colleague who is leaving the company and within 30 minutes I had a reasonable high level view of what was required. There are multiple, complex technical solutions that sit at the heart of this project and I will need to understand a whole lot more before I am done with it.

This relatively early morning start seemed to be just what I needed and I approached the day in a much more productive fashion than yesterday. As the morning rolled on I heard the 'phone ring and 30% answer it …

… From the half heard, half conversation it became apparent that it was Hogan Bros of Redditch. 30% had called them earlier about a Defender 110 Station Wagon they had for sale and within minutes I was summoned to see when I could take an hour out of my day to pop over to see it. After checking my calendar it was agreed that I would turn up at two o'clock to check out the car.

The excitement of this obviously the cause of a fair degree of distraction, but I did manage to get my head down and do some work before I eventually clambered in to the Range Rover and headed down the road.

As I drove  through Astwood Bank the heavens opened and there was a tremendous hail storm. I realised that I had no coat and considered the forthcoming experience of looking around a car in a storm. Fortunately the storm subsided and ceased as I approached the dealership.

The Defender was pretty much as described; a 2009 model with 16,000 miles on the clock. It had a couple of minor blemishes on the paintwork, but these are nothing that Chips Away cannot sort out. There is a seat lever missing, but these are a few quid to purchase and there is some corrosion on the alloy, rear view mirror arm. It drove really well and was much more car like than the TD5 I sold last year. The Ford Puma engine was remarkably civilised.

I decided I could certainly live with it and the Salesman offered a part exchange price on the Range Rover that was better than that offered on a brand new car at the weekend … still not great … but five hundred quid better than before. We shook hands on the deal and I left to inform 30%, perform an HPI check and then transfer a deposit to the Seller's account.

Within ten minutes of being home the 'phone rang … It was the Salesman. He informed me that he no longer wanted to proceed with the deal as he didn't want to be stranded with a Range Rover that might be difficult to sell. It is fair to say that I felt somewhat deflated. I kept my cool, avoided using any expletives and ended the call.

It is fair to say that 30% was not impressed either and, as I wandered back to my desk in a state of dejection, I heard her on the 'phone again. This time she spoke to one of the partners, who she politely informed of her displeasure as they had backed out after shaking hands on a deal. The partner said he would look in to his and call back …

… I am guessing that there was some serious arse chewing that happened in the next ten minutes as, good to his word, he called back and told us we could proceed with the deal. He also told us far more about the car including the warranty replacement of the gearbox at 6,000 miles and the fact that they had been servicing it for the past few years.

I am now convinced that all second-had car salesmen are arseholes and got that deposit transferred straight away.

The rest of the day trickled by and, as the afternoon faded in to evening, 30% and i took a walk up to the playing field to throw a ball with the dogs. I am delighted about the new car but nervous of the seller in view of today's reneging experience.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Out of sorts

I just could not find my mojo today.

I don't know what it was, but suspect that it was something to do with the uncertainty over the replacement of the car. I like to be in control, but have to consider 30%'s views and consequently I recognise that she needs to be totally in agreement with whatever decision we make about changing our vehicle. If this means that I have to let her make the decision in her own way then so be it … I know that she will do the right thing in her own inimitable way.

As already intimated, I just could not get in to work today so I finally got a drill and set about modifying the Enfield's rear mudguard. A hole was drilled that should finally allow it to be fixed to the bike's frame and a second hole was drilled for the rear lighting loom to exit the mudguard neatly under the number plate and light mount. I just need to wait for some electrical connectors to arrive and I can finally fit the mudguard, wiring and number plate to the bike.

A walk around the Three Miler was also undertaken and eventually the working day ended. At six o'clock sharp 30% and I rounded up Whiffler and headed out to Puppy Training. I have become increasingly frustrated by Whiffler's behaviour at the class and this week I decided that I would not allow him to interact with any of his classmates and get over excited …

… I am not sure whether it was this disciplinarian approach or the practice session 30% had completed in the garden but his behaviour was much better. He actually managed to perform all of the drills without any major embarrassment.

He is still a little rough around the edges but today he actually looked like he knew what he was doing for once.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Weekend Round Up

Saturday started with a trip over to Littleton for a morning at the auction.

We needed to be there for the full duration as we were interested in lots at both ends of the sale … unfortunately we didn't like the hammer prices on either and left them to some other lucky bidder. We did come away with a couple of items; I now have a stuffed dace staring down at me from its case in the study and a water colour still life also came home with us. On removing it from its frame I discovered some water damage so it may well never make it to the framers or a hook on the wall.

In the afternoon I took a walk around the Three Miler and then lit a fire. If I am honest that pretty much sums up the day.

Moving on to Sunday, the morning was taken up with a trip over to Hereford Land Rover in Much Cowarne. We went to take a look at Defender 110 Utility Wagon in XS trim that was three years old but 30% really likes the 110 Station Wagon and before I knew it we were sat at the Salesman's desk discussion options, trade-ins and pricing for a brand new car … The trade-in price offered for the Range Rover was horrifically low and we left, advising that we needed to go away and "work out the numbers". Basically we would need to pull together somewhere in the region of twenty five thousand pounds to buy a new car and that is something we really need to think about.

At home 30% did a quick trawl of the internet and found a 110 very similar to the specification we like. The car appeared to be a pre-registered unit. It had about seventy five miles on the clock and was a 2014 registration. This car was virtually new and was being offered at five thousand pounds less than a new one. This seemed to be a far more sensible way forward and 30% seems to be in agreement.

As I write this I'm not quite sure where we are going with the car plan. The Ranger Rover depreciation is massive and I am unsure whether we will be considering a trade in or attempt to sell it privately. There is no point in pushing 30% on the subject. I'll let her reach her own conclusions, but, if I am honest, I think a private sale will be a real pain in the arse and could take forever.

After lunch I settled with Enfield's rear mud guard. First thing this morning I had spent a happy hour wiring up the rear light unit. An earth lead was added, suitable connectors were crimped in place and the cables were given a protective outer covering of heat shrink. This afternoon I needed to fix half a dozen cable tie mounts to the inner face of the mudguard. These will hold the rear lighting loom out of sight and away from the rear wheel. The job was fairly simple and just involved marking up, sanding and degreasing the mudguard before the mounts were fixed in place with epoxy resin, clamped and left while the adhesive set.

Having finished that it was time for a walk around the Three Miler with 30% and the dogs. This took up an hour in the late afternoon and by the time we returned, were rested and refreshed it was time to think about our evening meal. I had offered to take a drive out as we had run out of milk so a chinese takeaway was ordered and I collected that whilst out 'n about.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Sloping off

After a week that had alternated between busy and down right frustrating, I had decided that Friday was going to be a sea of serenity.

I started relatively early and cleared a few items from my inbox. As half past nine approached I wandered outside to see whether there was any chance of watching the eclipse. None of us had any glasses so the plan was to watch a reflection in a bowl of water. As we scanned the sky all we saw was cloud and it didn't look like we were going to see anything at all.

The minutes ticked by and suddenly we could see a small, bright crescent through a veil of thinning clouds. We were able to watch safely for a good few minutes with the cloud cover acting as a filter for the sun's glare.
With the celestial viewing over, I wandered back in to the house and settled to complete my weekly report. With eleven o'clock approaching I was just about done. I headed out to the car for a trip to B&Q where I picked up a replacement fence post and a couple of bags of post-fix. These will be needed to finish off the fence where it meets the new wall by the front door.

Back at home I munched my way through lunch and then tinkered with the Enfield's rear mudguard for a while. Having fitted a rubbing strip yesterday, I trial fitted the mudguard to the bike. This fit is reasonable now, not perfect, but reasonable. I will have to drill the mudguard to fix it to the frame tab but at least the two make physical contact now.

Feeling ever so slightly guilty I wandered back to my laptop and noticed that a colleague was keen to have a chat about how I present my solution and costs to our pricer. He may have been keen but he wanted to talk late in the afternoon. This was going to interfere with my laid back Friday so I pinged him and we agreed to chat sooner.

The result of our discussion is that I may well have landed on the service improvement project that I need to develop this year … a solution pack that can be used to price and hand off solutions to the sales teams.

If I am honest my working day ended there. TP and I took a wander around the Three Miler with the dogs before returning to console Hayden. He has completed the brickwork to either side of the flight of steps but the coping stones have been delayed. They may not arrive for a week or more and it is fair to say that he is not impressed as it is going to delay the job.

I then grabbed a quick coffee and rounded up 30%. We headed over to Redditch Shot-blasting to collect the freshly powder coated garden gate and then headed over to Littleton to view tomorrow's auction lots … it is fair to say that we are highly likely to be back tomorrow for a bacon sandwich, bad coffee and intentional hand waving.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Skirmishes

There is not a huge amount to report today as I have spent most of it head down at work and, once I had escaped that servitude, I hit the wine and nibbles.

Basically nothing has gone smoothly today. Nothing has been easy. Everything has been either problematic or I have had obstacles strewn across my path. Progress has been made but it has been hard work.

The day started with a two hour long team call where each member of the team gives a quick overview of their current workload and seeks guidance from our Boss where necessary. I don't mind the call but am still undecided on it's value. On a positive note it does block out two hours of my Thursday morning and I only really need to perform for about ten minutes of that time.

With that call finished I then presented an overview of a project I am designing to some of the less positive stakeholders. The call went reasonably well but was far from straightforward. It became apparent that one of the less positive individuals hadn't got a clue about the background to this piece of work. This is incredibly worrying considering that he is supposed to be managing the team that supports the service! It came as no surprise that a vociferous programme manager chimed in with his usual waffle and I finally realised that he just makes up bullshit on the fly to support his arguments. Today he attempted to argue that my proposed project would take too long to implement as we would need to contract it with the customer. I responded by pointing out that not two weeks ago he was advising that my project was an activity that did not need to contracted or charged to the client. I need to keep a close eye on this chap and pay attention to his bullshit as he has some powerful allies who have been sucked in by his propaganda.

The outcome of this call was muddied by the fact that the key decision maker decided to bugger off to another call before we came to the conclusion. I guess I will just need to keep pushing forward until someone tells me to stop.

For a break I decided to wander outside and take Hayden a cup of tea. While I was out there he showed me a sample of the paving he proposed to lay and I have to say that I was not impressed. It was a concrete cast of a riven slate but it was truly awful. It looked cheap and artificial and I instantly knew that I did not want that laid on the steps leading to our front door. I had a quick video call with 30% and she agreed that we should reject the slabs … it looks like Hayden has some homework to do.

I then wandered back to my desk and dialled in to the next debate. This was about whether a process I had developed needed an interface to another function. The point was valid but it rapidly became one of those calls that spiralled around the same question because the person who could provide definitive guidance was not present. I eventually managed to get the fuckwits to appreciate this point, closed down the call and went to lie in a darkened room.*

As the day closed I entered my final foray. Earlier in the week I had had my arse chewed about the pricing on one of my projects. I had been set some revised price targets and had been told to get  a lower price release. A frolleague had informed me that we were performing a very similar activity with the same hardware at the same locations at a much higher price than we were considering quoting. With a customer like the one we have we need to make sure all of our pricing is aligned or they will, to use the vernacular, tear us a new arsehole.

It appears that our Salesman had conveniently forgotten this point so I took great pleasure in reminding him of the situation and politely reminding him that he needed to fully understand the pricing before giving me some targets.

Job done, day over, where's the wine?
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* I got the fuck away from my desk and went and did something more interesting instead … There is a cut out on the Enfield's rear mudguard where it clears the chain guard. This cut out has a nasty sharp edge. I have fixed a piece of split, aquarium, air line tubing along this cut out with epoxy resin to act as a bumper strip. Hopefully this will prevent cuts when cleaning and maintaining the bike.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Out again

It was cold and foggy this morning and I have to say that I was not keen to be fannying around providing power for Hayden's site radio.

We ascertained that his extension lead was knackered last week. He has done nothing about it, preferring, each morning,  to just try each of the four power outlets in turn, interspersed with the occasional thump and pointless prodding of the radio's power button. This morning I plugged the extension lead in to to numerous sockets in the house to prove that the damned thing was fucked and in the end I wandered out to the garage and found one of my leads that was long enough that I had tinny drum 'n bass at the periphery of my hearing for most of the day.

As I watch Hayden work it is fair to say that I am somewhat concerned by his approach. I am no builder and have no experience of building regulations or specifications but I remain to be convinced that his wall will stand up to any pressure from the earth it holds back. Today I noticed that the short length of wall by the front door has a footing dug but no concrete poured in it. He has simply built this short section on concrete blocks laid flat. It is not a retaining wall and simply supports the garden gate but I'm not convinced.

Having sorted Hayden's entertainment out, I headed in to Redditch to drop the gate and posts off at Redditch Shot-blasting. Dave was an absolute star and said that he could turn them around very quickly and they would be ready for collection on Friday evening.

The rest of the day trundled along and featured and end-to-end solution review call. This should have been an absolute breeze, but some fucking idiot from the Change Management team started to ask questions about the process that he had agreed not two weeks previously. I then had problems with my phone line and the audience were unable to hear my answers. I now need to have a repeat call with him tomorrow to close this activity off.

We finished work at a reasonable time as TP's band was performing a short set at a college gig in Worcester. We went along with 30%'s dad and sister as we had never seen him perform before. I have to say that considering he has only been playing in a band and performing for six months he did incredibly well. TP actually took on lead vocals and lead guitar for a couple of songs and the bands rendition of Nirvana's Smells like teen spirit was brilliant.

Both 30% and think that they need to ditch the lead singer and let TP stand front 'n centre. He certainly seems to have something of a stage presence starting to develop.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

I hear dead people

Today was busy, but unlikely to make the most riveting of reading material.

The highlights or lowlights included a call with Sales, where they attempted to chew my arse off because they didn't like the costs contained within my solution. My Boss was on the call and actually pitched in and described the event as a Kangaroo Court. I won't be loosing any sleep over that one. I also had a call to present an overview of feasibility study I am designing. It is fair to say that the study components were well received and we can now progress to the next hurdle, which is convincing a less favourable audience of its merits.

Hayden made an appearance fairly early in the morning. Unfortunately the load of mortar he needed did not, so he disappeared after a couple of hours of moving bricks to a position convenient for laying. The load of muck did actually arrive late in the afternoon. Fortunately the driver knew what was required of him and all I had to do was sign his delivery note and bugger off back inside.

The new garden gate was also delivered this afternoon and, as the working day ended, I found time to open and inspect it. You can imagine my delight when I discovered the sticker advising that a finish coat was required. It looks like I will be visiting my local, friendly powder coater tomorrow. Damn!

This evening we headed over to Malvern again. This time was for a performance of Agatha Christie's And then there were none. We were joined by Jules and enjoyed a rather good play. I am not very familiar with Christie's work, with only a vague recollection of Peter Ustinov in the film adaptation of Death on the Nile, but this was a gripping Who Dunnit and I should imagine the original book is a cracker with depth and detail not able to be conveyed in the stage performance.

And, as it says in the title line, I could actually hear all of the dialogue this evening.

Monday, 16 March 2015

It could have been so much worse

TP shambled down the stairs this morning and, unusually, attempted to engage me in what passes for early morning discussion in his iteration of the multiverse.

It transpired that he had suffered a puncture on his way to work yesterday evening. He had not been able to remove his wheel nuts so had driven on the flat tyre and had abandoned his car at work. A friend had given him a lift home.

He was going to take the bus in to college and it was agreed that I would assist him with the changing of the wheel when he came home from his studies. I settled in front of the computer and Googled Breaker Bars and local suppliers. If TP's wheel nuts were as stubborn as he had indicated, one of these was going to be very helpful in changing his wheel this evening.

Normally I would have found a spare hour and nipped in to Redditch to pick up a breaker bar, but I had a fairly packed agenda so the plan was to head in to Screwfix with TP, collect the aforementioned bar and then head over to his car and swap the wheel after work this evening. What could possibly go wrong with that plan?

The working day went well. The bulk of my time was spent preparing a presentation for a call tomorrow where I will talk my manager and other key stakeholders through a cost/benefit analysis I plan to undertake. I also had a great call this morning where I politely educated a project manager about why he could not simply offer to give away $140K without following the necessary procedures and obtaining the relevant authorisations. It was interesting to note his reluctance to back down from his position despite being wrong.*

I managed a somewhat extended lunch today as Grandad Jack paid a visit to take collection of a few bags of compost for his allotment. We spent an hour or so in one of the local pubs having a natter before he headed off for a session of double digging. He plans to return in a few weeks for the contents of our other compost bins.**

Eventually TP arrived home and we headed out towards Redditch. Before leaving the socket set was loaded in to the car and, typically, I had to pause 100 yards into our journey while TP returned to pick up his car keys.*** We arrived at Screwfix to be told that they didn't have any breaker bars. We were then reliant on TP's iPhone with minimal battery life to locate Tool Zone.

At this point I should mention that I really needed to be home by six in order to leave for puppy training. Time was ticking on, the light was fading and I didn't like the look of those black clouds.

We arrived at Tool Zone and found something that looked like it would do the job but the item description didn't state whether the bar was a 1/2" or 3/8" drive. Eventually the bar was retrieved from the warehouse and a brief inspection showed it to be the right size. Result! We paid and finally headed towards TP's abandoned Fiat.

As we left the car park the rain started and I made an Executive decision … TP called 30% and asked her to cancel puppy training. I was likely to be late. I was extremely likely to be wound up and, worse than that, I was going to be wet. Anyone who knows me well knows that I hate being wet!

We headed towards TP's car and attempted to use the back lanes to avoid the snarl-up of traffic and roadworks in Astwood Bank. The back road had been closed meaning that we had to loop back up on to the High Street. Time ticked on, the sky darkened and the rain continued to fall.

We eventually reached TP's ar and the wheel change wasn't too bad. There was a minor complication about locking wheel nuts but the rain had slowed to a light drizzle and within twenty minutes we were heading back to The Pile.

30% had cancelled dog training and had lit a fire. I got myself on the outside of a glass of wine and relaxed
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* Call me cynical, but this guy is a Contractor and I would guess that he plans to jump ship and engage directly with the customer when the current contract ends in three years time. It is fair to say I trust the fucker about as far as I could throw him.
** These are being removed because of our current rodent problem.
*** Yes, the ones I had specifically asked if he had, not five minutes before we left.