Sunday, 14 August 2016

A "first", fourteen years in to our relationship

We are definitely in to the pre-holiday phase and are doing our utmost to complete tasks early and avoid any last minute rush.

Yesterday the dogs were clipped and this morning I gave the shed it's second coat of creosote. It is not the most pleasant of tasks applying the oily, strong smelling fluid, but it is done now and I won't have to think about applying another coat for at least twelve months.

After lunch 30% sprayed the recently erected willow fencing with Danish Oil and I was required to fulfil the role of spray gun technician; thinning the oil down to a suitable viscosity for spraying. I then attempted to have a kip on the sofa, but didn't really succeed.

Mid-afternoon it was time for "a first" ... I wheeled the Royal Enfield Bullet Classic from the garage and gave 30% a short briefing on Pillion Passenger etiquette. After nearly pissing myself laughing at the sight of her in an open-face helmet and goggles, she threw a leg over and we headed down the road at a gentle pace.

Twenty minutes later we were pulling up outside her brother's house.* We had been invited over for an impromptu get-together which turned out to be a little odd. There was no surprise that the Elf was mostly occupied by fractious baby Oswald, but our other host spent his time with a friend attempting to illegally access an internet football broadcast on his widescreen TV. This left 30% and I discussing holiday plans with Mr & Mrs Tweedy, who had also been invited.

We had a pleasant couple of hours, but it wasn't exactly what I had expected, since our hosts were generally occupied with other matters. I was left bemused by why they had invited us over in the first place.

We headed home on the Enfield and 30% was turning out to be quite a good pillion passenger. I am wondering what she will make of something with a little more horsepower and better handling.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Shopping and Haircuts

This morning 30% and I were under instructions from Jonathan; our Painter and Decorator.

After a leisurely breakfast of coffee and croissant we headed over to Bidford to pick up wood stain for our exterior woodwork.  From Bidford it was then on to Stratford-on-Avon and a visit to B&Q. There we collected a few gallons of masonry paint, white satin paint for the canopies and door frames and a bright green gloss for the front door.

By the time we had taken a quick whizz around Tesco it was lunchtime and we headed home for food.

In the afternoon I was persuaded to get the clippers from the garage and give Whiffler a long over due clip.

He has a very fine coat and it had become matted, particularly around the elbow and heel joints. We had decided to clip it right back, rather then have him endure a grooming session that was likely to be long and possibly painful. Far better to cut his coat right back and let it regrow over the next few weeks.

Having got Whiffler looking reasonably respectable I turned my attention to Tyson and Marauder, and by the end of the afternoon all three dogs were looking a lot tidier. They will be spending their holiday at a local dog sitter and are likely to come back filthy after a fortnight of fun in her gardens, paddock and stables. The plan is to get them booked in to the Groomers at the end of September. They will definitely need a bath and their coats should have regrown sufficiently for a half-decent lamb clip.

The dog grooming took all of the afternoon and I was quite tired after three hours, half-bent, handling reluctant poodles. It is fair to say that our evening was spent relaxing and doing very little else.

Friday, 12 August 2016

It could have been a lot worse

First job of the day was to ring our local mechanic about the Audi, he was obviously having a quiet Friday and invited me to drop the car in whenever I could find a free twenty minutes.

I then settled down to clear my in-box and re-famaliarise myself with a set of slides that I was due to present later in the day. As I worked my way through my e-mails my attention was drawn to a meeting invitation ... Our client has issued the first of a series of RFPs and my day's priorities looked like they were about to change.

I made a start on reviewing the RFP documentation and made a few notes. As soon as 30% was free we dropped the Audi off at the workshop and I returned to my reading list. The RFP was surprisingly well structured, with a reasonable amount of time for any solutioning and costing, but before we got any where near that activity we would need a clear direction on our strategy.

As the day progressed calls were shuffled to accommodate RFP discussions and my presentation was deferred to the following week. A strategic decision was finally made and it looks like my involvement will be limited to bid management, as the solution and pricing is already available. I just need to ensure that that correct processes are followed and the right colleagues involved.

This was quite a relief as I am on holiday in just under a fortnight and my manager did not seem to want to select a resource to cover for my absence. As the deal is now quite straightforward, I should be able to get my Project Manager to keep things going while I am sightseeing in the Western States of the USA.

As the afternoon drew to a close the mechanic called to advise that the Audi was ready for collection. I had managed to break one of the coil spring and a new pair had been fitted. My car park pot-hole incident had cost just over two hundred quid to resolve ... ouch!

On the home front, Chippy Ian was with us today to continue the refurbishment of the Georgian canopies that surmount our doorways. These were in surprisingly good condition, considering their age. His work has been limited to re-fixing the original timber brackets and then replacing the planking, boards and lead that sits upon them.

He has now finished two canopies with a third to be built from scratch next Monday. We estimated that one of the canopies that he repaired was probably sixty years old and the other could have been closer to one hundred years old.  They have stood the ravages of time and weather amazingly well and with new lead work they should be good for may more years to come.

As the day drew to a close I tidied up Ian's debris and whizzed the mower around the lawns. It was my way of transitioning from the working week to the weekend. I now have two days to focus on nothing but home and family.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Could my day get any worse?

This morning I was up bright and early; suited and booted I found myself heading towards the station for a day in London.

At this point in the narrative I will make two points; the first is that I was an optional attendee for the meeting I was travelling to and the second is that I took 30%'s Audi TT, as it was parked in front of the Defender.

At quarter past six in the morning the roads were clear, apart from several suicidal wood pigeons, and I was soon driving in to the railway station car park.  As I circled to head in to a space I noticed a pothole a little too late and heard a dreadful clonk. It didn't sound good. It was definitely going to need a trip to the workshop and I was not certain that I could drive the car home. What a fucking marvellous start to the day.

I headed in to the station and purchased my ticket from the vague fuckwit at the ticket desk. He handed over my ticket whilst putting on some allegedly amusing performance of being sleepy, instead of advising me about a few minor changes to my planned journey ...

... it was only when I had put the car parking ticket in the broken car and made my way to the platform that I discovered that there was engineering works on the route and there was a temporary bus service between Didcot Parkway and Hanbroough.

At this point I really contemplated just going home. It was only the fact that I would have to explain an expense claim for a journey that never happened that kept me fuming on the platform.

The train arrived and about forty minutes later I found myself disembarking and climbing aboard a coach at Hanborough. As I settled in my seat I discovered that the coach driver intended to play the Chris Evans show to us for the next forty minutes.* As it says in the title"could my day get any worse ?"
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* I loathe that talentless fucker

Post Script

For the record it did. My London bound journey took four hours door to door rather than the normal three. My homeward journey took a full five hours and as for the meeting ... don't ask.

On a more positive note

Today saw the arrival of Chippy Ian. He is here to restore the canopies that shelter the front door and the one to the garden. He will also be building a new canopy to keep the weather off the door to the garage.

We also have our Painter here to start the preparation work for the repaint of the outside of the house.

With Hank arriving in a few weeks for the walling and paving the outside of the house will be very smart before Autumn sets in.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Have I just wasted thirty quid?

I had barely got in to the rhythm of the working day when the doorbell rang ... It was the Postman requesting a signature for a package; my new queen had arrived.

After unpacking the small parcel, I quickly threw on my bee suit, lit a smoker and headed out to the hive. It took very little time to get the queen cage tucked between two frames in the brood box and I soon had the hive reassembled.*

My main concern is whether the worker bees are too old to support the colony. A worker bee only lives for about six weeks in the Summer. This colony swarmed a fortnight ago so it has been more than two weeks since any eggs were laid in the hive, realistically the brood less interval is longer as there is no sign of capped brood, so my guess is three weeks without new bees.

This means that my worker bees have about three weeks left in them so this new queen needs to be out and laying as soon as possible as a worker takes twenty one days from egg laying to emergence. It is going to be tight and I may have to consider transferring a frame of capped brood from my other hive to keep this one going.

There is nothing I can do at present. I just need to be patient and let nature take it's course. In two weeks time I will inspect the hive and make a decision then.

The rest of the day rumbled on and I finally finished my presentation and passed it out for review. I may have seemed to be making a meal of this task, but the message is that the team need to pull up their socks if they are to succeed in their objective. Apparently this message needs to be presented in a positive manner and telling them they are a shower of shit is not an option!**

This evening's activity was an hour of Pilates in a Village Hall just down the road.  It was pretty intense and an aching thigh suggested that one of the exercises was working a muscle that hadn't been much used for a while. The optimist in me thinks that I will bounce out of bed tomorrow morning; the pessimist thinks I will be crippled.
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* It would have taken even less time if 30% hadn't volunteered me to give our Cleaner; Penny a quick tour of the hive.
** That was my Plan A and is still my preferred approach. I have worked with some Tits in the past, but never have I come across a complete team without the necessary skills or experience for what is fast approaching.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Giving it every chance

This morning I wandered out to see how the newly returned colony was doing. Within a matter of a few hours the worker bees had reorientated themselves and were already bringing in loads of pollen and nectar. The hive was a picture of industry and productivity.

My glance then fell on the other hive and I felt quite sad. The bees were coming and going, albeit fewer of them, filling a doomed hive with stores. The colony has no chance of survival without a queen. As each day passes the number of workers diminish and the colony's eventual fate is to dwindle and die.

I didn't relish the prospect of dismantling a failed hive in the Autumn, so I hit the internet and checked out the website of Honeyfields Bee Farm. It stated that they supply mated queens right through until the end of August so I grabbed a 'phone and rang them ...

... A few minutes later a queen had been ordered overnight delivery.

In my discussions with the Apiary I learnt that there is no guarantee of success, but at least they will stand a chance with a fresh queen.

The day rumbled on and I filled my time polishing a presentation to be delivered at the end of the week.

Shortly after four o'clock the sun broke through and I put on my bee suit and headed out to checked the queen-less colony. I spent a good while inspecting the frames for any sign of eggs, larvae or a virgin queen.  If there were any signs of a resident queen the forthcoming introduction would be doomed, but I saw nothing. The new queen is the only chance the hive has.

The evening saw a trip to Dog Training and Whiffler was on pretty good form. He was a little wayward when walking to heel, but sharpened up as the class continued ... By the time he was crunching his end of class treat from the Instructor, he had aced the "tricky" yellow box exercise and also made a good attempt at the "STOP DOG" exercise.*

As the day drew to a close I spent time researching Queen introductions on the internet. It all seems quite straightforward; I just need to wait until she arrives and get on with it. I just hope that the workers will accept her and last long enough to raise new brood.
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* Whiffler is placed at the far end of the training room and I walk to the other end. I then recall him. As he comes towards me I give him a "STOP" command with the aim of getting him to stop and sit halfway between his starting point and me.  This exercise is a real challenge as it only takes him five paces, when running,  to get from one end of the hall to the other.  The key to this exercise is to get him to recall slowly!

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Two items removed from the "to do" list

I have been trying to find a free morning to creosote the shed for a few weeks. Today that morning finally arrived and by nine o'clock I was stood, brush in hand, surveying the task ahead of me.  A sacrificial dust sheet was deployed to soak up splashes and a couple of litres of the oily, brown liquor was decanted in to a pot. There was no going back ...

... Two hours later I had ruined an old pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and had a freshly coated shed.  Creosote, or rather "creosote substitute" may be a bit  "old fashioned", but the dark colour has blended the building in to the background under the shade of the Yew tree and it it now far less conspicuous.

I cleaned myself up and dumped my, now aromatic clothing, in the shed where it can fester until I find time to apply the second coat. Lunch was taken and then 30% and I pottered in the garden, occupying ourselves with watering and a touch of planting.

The weather was beautiful, so I took advantage and wheeled the black Enfield Bullet Classic from the garage. I unzipped the vents in my jacket, put on a helmet and headed out nowhere in particular. I spent an hour or so touring the local lanes and byways before returning to find 30% continuing with our holiday planning.

As the heat of the day had now passed we headed out for a walk with the dogs and had a lovely time exploring a couple of paths and bridleways that we hadn't traipsed for quite some time.

Normally that would have been a full list of accomplishments for a Sunday, but after dinner this evening, just before sun-set we climbed in to the Defender and headed over to the Tweedy residence. It was time to collect the daughter colony from the bottom of the Tweedy garden. TP and I sealed up the hive entrance and securely strapped the hive whilst 30% discussed holiday plans.  We were soon ready to depart and the hive was carefully placed in the back of the car.

A bump free route was taken home and, as the sky darkened, TP and I placed the hive back in our garden.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

One good hive, one not so good

I seem to be falling behind with my Journal entries at the moment, so here is another "two days in one" in an attempt to get back on track.

I took a day off work on Friday and spent a very relaxing day, in the company of Mr Tweedy, at  Edgbaston Cricket Ground watching the England v Pakistan Test Match. The weather was lovely and we had a fantastic pair of seats that gave a great view of proceedings. I wouldn't say it was the best days Cricket I have ever seen* but one cannot complain at witnessing six Pakistani wickets and Cook making a half century. I even managed a forty minute snooze in the sun when the English Bowlers were making a meal of the Pakistan tail enders.

And so on to Saturday; I started with some gentle pottering in the garden. I needed to tidy up the site for the daughter colony of bees, as this will be returning to The Pile in the next couple of days. This took no more than twenty minutes and then I donned my bee suit, lit my smoker and finally lifted the lid on the hive that swarmed a fortnight ago.

I had allowed two weeks for the young queen to hatch, mate and settle to laying, but as I made my way through the frames of the brood box there was no sign of queen nor brood. This was not good. As each day passes without a queen the colony dwindles as workers die off . At this point in the year there are only six or seven weeks before the colony changes behaviour and hunkers down for the Winter. There is a faint hope that I missed the Queen and she has just not yet started to lay, but I may well have to write off this colony.

30% and I then took an early lunch before heading in to town for supplies. She headed in to the supermarket, whilst I nipped in to the DIY store next door. Twenty minutes later we were finished and then drove in to the town centre to pick up a new travelling bag for TP ...

... We have started the count down to our holiday; lists are being prepared and bookings are being made. We still have three weeks to go and at this rate we should be ready with no last minute rush.

The next stop was the Tweedy residence where I, again, donned my bee suit and inspected the daughter colony. This was doing really well with seven full frames of brood and plenty of stores. The Queen was seen wandering across a frame, but I didn't need to see her to know that this artificial swarm was the one success of my first Summer of beekeeping.

After more holiday discussions, we headed home, unpacked the car and spent more time in the garden watering and feeding.

The evening was spent in front of a film and checking the internet for information on how quickly a Queen Bee will come in to lay. There is a slight chance, but I am not laying any bets.
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* This was back in '97 at Trent Bridge, when I witnessed Shane Warne decimate the English Batsmen.


Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Moving Projects Forward

After more than a fortnight of procrastination I finally found a free morning to sex up a presentation that I need to deliver in ten days time.

After adjusting a proxy setting I managed to gain access to the Corporate website where all of the various templates, themes and icons are held. *  I eventual found a series of icons that should cover all of the points i need to make. I then made a start on seriously reducing the word count of my slide deck.

The day rumbled on and I eventually grew tired of Powerpoint slides. TP returned home from early from his Summer employment as a Car Valet for a local Sales Pitch, and I recruited his assistance to help lay the heavy concrete slab in to position for the return of the artificial swarm colony that I created a few weeks ago ...

... All I need to do now is find an evening when the weather looks fine, TP is available to assist and the Tweedies are in , so I can go and retrieve my hive.
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*Perhaps it is just me, but I do find it somewhat ironic that I need to mess about with my laptop proxy settings before I can gain access to this material. I really would have expected to just click the link and land there.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Good news all round

Today I received my mid-year assessment from my Boss. I have obviously managed to conceal my dissatisfaction, frustration and boredom perfectly as his narrative was praise filled from start to finish ...

... Trying to look at it from a glass half full  perspective, if I apply for a new role the Hiring Manager will get to see these comments.

I managed to complete yet another day without getting anywhere near the PowerPoint presentation that I have supposed to be updating for the past three weeks. I now have a date by which it must be finished so that should help to focus my mind.

There was also news today from a Client about a series of RFPs that should arrive over the next 12 months. This announcement appears to have put the entire Organisation in to a flap ...

... I was the odd one out when I looked at it and thought "actually that isn't too bad and gives us plenty of time to prepare for the tricky one" ... is it me?

I eventually managed to shut the lid on the laptop and headed a few miles down the road to a Pilates session with 30%. I am absolutely amazed at how much I actually look forward to these sessions, especially considering that I needed to be dragged to the first one and very nearly didn't make it through the door.

This evening's session was somewhat less strenuous than some of the recently ones and I am noticing that my core strength and flexibility is definitely improving.  Sit-ups are becoming easier and I can now put all five fingers to the floor when bending from the waist.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Lows 'n Highs

I really did not want to face work today.

There was nothing particularly problematic that needed to be done. I just did not want to face another day of idiotic questions asked by lazy people who have yet to learn the basic skills of problem management.

This morning's call about a Contract Change was a classic example. A call had been held last week, where I was asked to initiate a couple of actions and provide a couple of pieces of evidence. I did all of that promptly and turned up to today's call to find that none of my completed actions had been reviewed or incorporated in the intervening days.

The lazy incompetents had arranged the call to get me to direct them to the right e-mails and baby talk them through the texts ... If there was ever proof that money is not the key motivator, this job is it.

Just after lunch there was a knock at the door. I answered it and found Hank, our local Paving Contractor, on the doorstep. I had been expecting him to turn up for the past week and he had finally appeared. We wandered in to the garden and I pointed out the walling and paving jobs that needed addressing. He paced it up and provided a rough estimate that seemed very reasonable so I mentally increased it by 50% and gave him the go-ahead. He should have his team here towards the end of September and they will make quite an impact by the time they have finished.

The day ambled on and eventually I was able to close the lid on my laptop and clear the bomb site that we call a kitchen.

We had an early dinner this evening and then headed out to Dog Training with Whiffler. He was an absolute star tonight and even managed the challenging treat in a lidded box exercise that has overloaded his grey matter for months.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Weekend Round Up

It was another busy weekend here at The Pile which, unsurprisingly, featured further efforts to transform the garden.

Saturday started with 30% disappearing off to the Supermarket for provisions. I wanted to mow the lawn, but needed to wait a while for the overnight dew to dry.  I therefore wandered out to the garage and tinkered with The Shitter; oil levels were checked, the engine was warmed and levels were checked again.

This token motorcycle maintenance didn't take very long and the lawn was still damp, but I reasoned that it had been cut wetter than this, so set about trimming the sward. About an hour later I had finished and rewarded myself with a coffee out in the garden where I surveyed the results of my efforts.

Directly after lunch I headed over to inspect the hive at the Tweedy residence. It took no more than twenty minutes to see that the colony was performing superbly. The Queen was sighted and the frames were packed with eggs, larvae and sealed brood.  I was unsure about available space in the hive, so added an extra Super  just in case. I then headed home via a couple of hardware stores to pick up a pair of edging shears and some concrete ballast.

The rest of the afternoon was spent preparing a site for the hive that is currently in the Tweedy's garden.* The selected site is in a sunny spot in the, now cleared, briar patch. I marked and dug out a shallow footing for a 3' x 2' concrete slab and had just about finished when 30% reminded me that I needed to tidy up before dinner.

The evening saw the arrival of the Mr & Mrs Tweedy. We had a splendid meal before settling down to tweak our route for our upcoming US road trip. I am really looking forward to the trip, but found the planning session somewhat frustrating.

30% and the Tweedies insisted on using a map and then asking how far point A was from point B and how long it would take to drive the distance. I much prefer to use the Mapquest website which is very much click 'n drag with automatic generation of routes and statistics.  As a result, I left them to their map and input their requirements in to the Mapquest website. On a regular basis I emailed them a url which would allow them to pull up the route at the click of a mouse button.

I felt very much like I was holding a blow torch, watching Homo Neanderthalensis sweating over a bow drill in an attempt to make fire.

Moving on to Sunday, I started the day at the site for my second hive. A reasonable quantity of bricks, concrete and stones were collected and a merry hour was spent with a sledge hammer, creating a hardcore sub-base for the concrete slab.

I realised that I would need a finer ballast to fill some of the voids in the hardcore, so headed in to town to pick up a couple of sacks ... An hour later I stood back and was satisfied with the foundation. The mixing of the mortar and the laying of the slab can wait until later in the week.

In the afternoon more gardening took place before I retired to the sofa for a kip.

As five o'clock drew near I headed out to the garage and extracted TP's little Yamaha and the Shitter. TP has been trying to sell his little 125 for a few weeks and has finally attracted a potential buyer that is a) local and b) making all the right noises.**

We headed in to Worcester and met up with the potential purchaser at his place of work. He wandered around the bike, asked a couple of questions and then suggested we head in to his office to complete the paperwork and transfer the payment. That was it, no haggling, no nit-picking over the condition of the bike. It was the most straightforward vehicle sale ever.

As TP was sorting out the registration documents I realised that I would not be able to give him a lift home on the Shitter, as it has as single seat.  I had not expected the deal to be completed this evening, so I had to race home and swap to the Honda and return to pick up TP.

So now I have more space in the garage, but also have a son with a motorcycle license, but no bike. How long is it going to be before I hear "Dad, can I borrow your bike?"
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* It is doing really well, but is sited under fruit trees and, consequently, want to bring it back home before the wasp season.  Wasps are notorious for robbing hives and honey is going to attract them like proverbial flies to a bucket of manure.
** Prior to this weekend he has had his time wasted by clueless seventeen year olds, making ludicrous offers and expecting TP to courier the bike to the other end of the country.

Friday, 29 July 2016

I managed to get through Friday without moaning

I managed to get through Wednesday and Thursday without telling any of my colleagues to go and fuck themselves ... although there were a couple of occasions where it was very tempting. Basically it was two days of conference calls and interruptions preventing me from addressing the pice of work I should have been doing.

I suppose I could have worked late to hone a PowerPoint deck, but I do tend to be a bit old fashioned about working late, unless it is absolutely necessary. I have done plenty of late nights, early mornings and weekend work when I have been up against the clock as a result of an aggressive bid calendar. However, I am afraid that tidying up a Presentation to educate my peers and their managers ... note "peers and their managers" about best practice on a upcoming bid does not yet warrant a late night in front of a laptop.

This may seem a little self destructive, but the Piano Movers have their own way of moving Pianos. I have found that they are not actually particularly good at this aspect of the work, but seem very reluctant to change. They are also very hierarchical with regard to decision making and there are major challenges in getting the support to resource bids, let along change the way they are run.

The proverbial shit will hit the fan in the next couple of weeks when our customer finally gets their shit together and publishes its RFP timelines ... Hopefully that will focus minds, including my own.

After two days of covering colleague's work I was finally able to set my out-of-office message on Thursday evening and start a three day weekend.

Friday saw us chuck the dogs in the back of the Defender and head a couple of miles down the road to a Game Fair that is being held this weekend at a local Stately Home. We had a great day wandering amongst the exhibits and retail stalls that were all loosely connected* with Huntin', Shootin' 'n Fishin'. 

It was very much a dog friendly day and Tyson, Marauder and Whiffler drew a fair bit of attention as it is not every day that you see a family daft enough to own three Standard Poodles. It was pleasing to see quote a few other Poodles at the fair and very interesting to see that our three recognised and interacted with other Poodles in a different way to other breeds of dog.

Our trip home was thankfully short and we spent the evening relaxing after our wanderings across the show ground.
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* In some cases very tenuously

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Frustration

My frame of mind didn't really improve today. I scanned my inbox and noticed that I was to attend a review session in preparation for a Contract Change.

The problem from my perspective is that the original solution and price was assembled in November last year and I am damned sure that I had provided most, if not all, of the information that I was now being asked for.

I searched through my archives and replied to the invitation sending over a couple of emails that had originally been issued months ago. I then attended the call and, again, spent my time trawling though my archive re-issuing communications to respond to their questions.

My main issue is that I was not the originator for any of the information my colleagues needed. I just happened to be the  Filing Clerk with a great memory and could lay my hands on the various documents at a moments notice. It is fair to say that I was not impressed at being pulled in to find and deliver previously provided evidences.

This may give an idea of how half-arsed some of my colleagues are; yesterday I released some pricing on behalf of a colleague. There was no follow up from the Sales team in my inbox this morning, but it became apparent that they decided that they needed a call with me ...

... I know this because when I returned to my desk after my lunch break it was apparent that I had been invited to a meeting precisely two minutes prior to that meeting's start time. Most of the time I would have done my best to attend, a call at short notice, but these idiots attempted a a call at short notice right in the middle of the day. The irony is that they are a Dutch Team and are notorious for not eating at their desks.

I am well aware that work is winding me up at present. It isn't hard and I am not over burdened. I am just incredibly frustrated at how poorly things are progressed. There are people doing some great things, but generally they are immersed in a mire of ineptitude and incomprehension.

I really do need to check the Corporate Job Search page and see if there is anything new advertised.*

This evening I threw together a Chicken Balti for TP and myself before disappearing down the road to a Pilates class. It was quite intense and was starving by the time I returned home. Fortunately TP had time the reheating and cooking of rice to perfection and dinner was served within minutes.
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* I now do this at least once a week

Monday, 25 July 2016

Vacation Cover

I have already mentioned that a colleague of mine is away sunning himself in the South of France and that I have been strong armed in to providing some cover whilst he is away.

He is a lovely chap, but he does seem to have a natural talent for making things very complicated. For a start he actually recruited another colleague to provide holiday cover and she did ...

... up until she went on holiday on Friday.

I have therefore had to pick up the baby for the last three days of his holiday with a Chinese Whispers hand over from his preferred support.

"Ah!" I hear you say. "Only supporting for three days ... piece of cake".

Normally I would agree and my natural approach would have been to do the bare minimum and hand back his disorganised and poorly documented crap on Thursday.  Unfortunately a commitment had been made to deliver some pricing by Wednesday, so I found myself begging for costs, hurriedly preparing these for pricing and sweet talking Little Miss Sunshine* in to a surprisingly cooperative frame of mind.

I managed to get the pricing completed and released today but am now doing my best to hide away from the expected questions as there is about nine months of history, about which, I haven't a clue.

Now I expect you are thinking that I have finished the rant about providing holiday cover for colleagues, but, no,  there is a whole other dimension to this tale ...

... The colleague that disappeared on Friday, the one who was  number one choice as vacation cover, left a very carelessly worded out of office message. As a result I am being dragged in to every bloody issue that lands in her inbox and am having to research them and pass them on to the appropriate recipients.

It's not as though I had any of my own work to be getting on with.

By the time the clock struck five I was well and truly fucked off and was glad to leave them to fester in mires of their own making.

This evening was Dog Training and I am pleased to report that Whiffler performed really well . He has seemed a little disinterested recently, but was engaged and motivated this evening. It may have helped that we had a few new exercises to challenge him.
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* Our Pricer

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Just like Saturday, but with fewer bees

Sunday seemed like a re-run of Saturday with another early morning Tip run to dispose of more brambles and the last of the tree stump.

By half past nine we were back at home and I returned to the Briar Patch to remove the last of the bramble and ivy. It was slow going and hot, hard work; I was glad to stop as midday approached.

30% was conspicuously absent after the Tip run, but she did have a reasonable excuse.  She needed to pack for a trip to the Netherlands; she was flying out later on in the day.

TP and I bade farewell to 30% just after twelve and, after an extended lunch break, I returned to the patch ...

... and there I stayed until I had finally finished the transformation from scrub to garden.

It has been a bit of a mission. The plan is to get this area of the garden tidied up and planted. We have a Ground Works Contractor coming over next week to view the job and hopefully quote for the walling and paving work.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Not everything went to plan

30% and I made an early start today and were heading towards the Tip well before nine o'clock. We had soon unleaded a trailer full of garden debris and were heading homeward.

After parking the trailer I decided to implement a plan that I had been mulling over for the past week. There is a large tree stump* in the middle of the briar patch that I am clearing and I had been thinking about using the Defender to pull it from the ground.  My recent clearance efforts had cut through the majority of the now rotten roots, so I thought I had a chance, but my rope was not particularly  strong and was the definite weak point in the plan.

We soon had the Defender positioned and the rope attached to the stump. 30% stood well back and I started to take up the slack and pull on the stump. As expected the rope gave way and the stump looked exactly as it had five minutes previously.

As we returned to inspect the stump 30% pointed skywards and we noticed a mass of bees. My colony had chosen this moment to swarm and for the next thirty minute the air was filled with bees until they settled in a nearby tree. The front of the hive was also covered in a blanket of bees that had remained.

I had obviously overlooked a mature Queen cell when I last inspected the hive a couple of weeks ago and, in the intervening time, she had hatched, mated and was now leading a swarm away from my hive.  I put out a nucleus box in the hope that the swarm might see it as an attractive home  and then returned to the Briar Patch.

With Plan A having failed I decided to proceed with a much more basic Plan B. A spade and Felling Axe were collected from the shed and I started to split away sections of the stump. It was hard going in the heat of the day but within a couple of hours I had reduced the stump to a solitary spike of wood attached to a rotted root.  Two or three swing of the axe severed the spike and I had finally removed the last major obstacle from the old rockery. From here on in it was just a few brambles and ivy.

In the afternoon 30% and I loaded up the Defender with beekeeping paraphernalia and headed over to The Tweedy's house to inspect the Daughter colony and catch up on their news.

The colony was doing really well and had consumed the three and a half litres of syrup that had been given to them last week. I removed the feeder and worked my way through the hive. I moved the outer frames inwards as the bees seem reluctant to draw the foundation on these. I also removed a frame of stores from the brood box and replaced it with a frame of foundation. Hopefully this will ensure that the Queen has plenty of space to lay.

We then spent a pleasant hour drinking tea and catching up on each other's news before heading home.

Next job was to take a look inside the hive that had just swarmed ...

... it was apparent that my assumption was correct.  I had missed a mature Queen cell a fortnight previously and she had definitely been laying. There were a dozen or more mature Queen cells in the hive and I reduced these to two in number. All I can do now is hope that the swarm has created sufficient space in the hive that the next Queen will settle and lay in the hive.

By the time I had finished my second hive inspection I was "cooked". I t had been a very hot day and I had spent most of it working in the sun. The evening was spent doing very little apart from rehydrating.
---
* There was a large Silver Birch that was felled back in 2007 when we prepared the site for the construction of our extension and garage.

Friday, 22 July 2016

It's 4.30 p.m. and I'm out of here

As I get older I relish Fridays more and more. I can put the idiocies of work behind me and enjoy a couple of days of home and family life.

I had to get the working day out of the way first and this was surprisingly painless.  A review call that I had requested to be scheduled next week was arranged for this afternoon so the first activity of the day was to ensure that my Techies were available and invited.

I then held a "1-2-1" with my Manager which was as dissatisfying as the previous one. I arrange these so he can provide feedback on my performance, a touch of mentoring and general advice. Simply being told that everything is going really well doesn't help me at all. I feel that he should be challenging me to stretch myself, but this is just not happening.

The rest of the day was filled with a series of hand-over discussions. I am to provide a few days of support for a colleague who is away on holiday. Unfortunately he left for his holiday ten days ago and I was being brought up to speed by his colleague who is about to depart for a holiday herself.

The handover sessions were therefore a case of Chinese Whispers and I was very concerned about what I was about to inherit for the next few days. My colleague's approach is somewhat disorganised and it is fair to say that documentation is not one of his strengths. I was therefore provided with a series of e-mails and a narrative that I am sure changed each time it was repeated. Fortunately  my support should be limited to engaging our obliging Pricer early next week, assuming that I get the promised cost files.

The afternoon review session went surprisingly well and I was able to close the lid on the laptop at half past four.

The early evening was spent enjoying the garden and loading up the trailer with garden debris in preparation for a trip to the Tip early tomorrow morning...

... Here starts the weekend

Thursday, 21 July 2016

If you want a job doing ...

A few weeks back I had a minor moan about a large pile of wood that a friend had donated, but we really did not need. It had sat behind the garage for a good few years and it needed to go. TP and I had taken half of it to the Tip and 30% had offered the remainder to a frolleague who lives a few hundred yards down the road. The frolleague had accepted but did not seem in any rush to come and collect the wood.

I was somewhat frustrated by this situation so loaded up the trailer with the wood. He could either come and hitch the trailer to his car or I would take the damned stuff to the Tip. A few weeks had passed and I really needed to free up the trailer, but there was still no sign of the wood being collected.

Yesterday I sent him an instant message and finally managed to get him to commit to collecting the load. This morning he turned up bright and early and I finally waved bye bye to the large pile of pallet wood ...

... The trailer was returned later in the day and I can finally think about a trip to the tip with the large quantity of brambles that have been cut back over the past couple of weeks.

The working day was the usual tales of poor strategy, refusal to accept responsibility and general muddled thinking. I took a break from work just after four o'clock and got the lawn mowed. I returned to my desk for a call, scheduled for the hour from six until seven, and was overjoyed that it was aborted after twenty minutes.

As a result I actually managed to make it to this evening's Pilates session and was quite amazed that my core strength actually appears to be improving.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Time to change the locks on the garage?

It was another beautiful day and, if I am honest, I did my best to see as much of it as I could.

I attended calls, kept my email up to date and attempted to discern the process for a new project that I have picked up. I even drafted a PowerPoint deck for a review that I need to attend, but, whenever possible, I wandered outside to enjoy the glorious sun in the garden.

Today's big new was that TP passed the final element of his A2 motorcycle test and it is fair to say that his little Yamaha's days are definitely numbered. He can now legally ride both of my Enfield's and, as it says in today's title, perhaps it is time to change the garage locks.

30% also returned from her short break at a Health Spa and regaled us with tales of face packs, Thalassotherapy and protein shakes ...

... yep, it sounds like the things my nightmares are made of!

Mind you she did well at this evening's Pilates session, considering that it was her fourth or fifth work out of the day.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Perhaps I should have stayed at home.

Today the weather was glorious and far too nice to be stuck in an office in front of a laptop. At least I was working at home and was able to wander out and enjoy the weather and garden from time to time.

On one of these visits to the garden I pumped up the tyre on the wheel barrow and paid a visit to the front cellar where I collected a 25 litre drum of creosote substitute . This was wheeled up to the shed, as I thought this evening would be perfect to get a coat of preservative on the wood.

It was only as I was preparing a container to hold the preservative that I realised that I had Dog Training this evening and would not be painting the shed.

As the afternoon turned to evening I fed TP and myself with a thawed and reheated casserole and then headed off to the Dog Training session ...

... I'm not sure whether it was the hot weather but it is fair to say that Whiffler was not at his best. I wish I had stayed at home with a brush in my hand.

I forgot to mention ...

I received an e-mail from my Boss advising that the RFI response that I managed in June had been successful;  we have been selected to receive the Customer's RFP, which should arrive in the second half of August.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

At least one of my hives is doing well

Unsurprisingly, Sunday morning was also spent on the Briar Patch.

I started gently by bagging up yesterday's debris, but was soon digging out roots and clearing tangles of brambles and ivy.  The day was much hotter than yesterday and as midday approached it was too hot to continue so I headed towards the shade of the house.

I also needed to bid farewell to 30% as she was off for a couple of days at a Health Spa with her friend; Jules. Just before she left she doled out instructions about frozen meals and cooking vegetables, seeming to forget that I had managed to make my way through many years of independent living. She didn't, however, comment on the wet bed linen that needed hanging out or the pile of dry washing that needed bringing in from the garden ...

... As a Completer-Finsiher there are days when I simply shake may head in amazement at my Partner's habits. I knew that I needed to keep me, TP and the dogs fed, so mention of wet washing left in the machine would have been a much more valuable parting comment!

I lunched and fed two of the three dogs.* I then managed to make contact with the Tweedy's and arranged to visit and inspect the new hive later in the afternoon.

I would love to take a peek inside the original hive in the garden, but the advice is to leave it for another two, preferably three, weeks to give time for the Virgin Queen to hatch and take her mating flights; only then do I stand any chance of seeing new brood in the hive. All I do know is that the roar from that hive is incredible since I created the artificial swarm last weekend.

In the early afternoon I gathered together various items of beekeeping  equipment and headed over to visit the Tweedy residence. I wandered down their garden and was delighted to see that the spot that we had chosen for the hive was in a pool of dappled sunlight. There were plenty of workers coming and going and from the outside all looked good.

I suited up, blew a  few puffs of smoke in to the hive entrance and waited a minute or two for the colony to calm. I then remove the roof and crown board and was delighted to see that the bees had consumed all of the syrup that I had provided on Monday.** The feeder was put to one side and I could immediately see that they had been very busy over the past week.

Most of the foundation had been drawn out in to comb and the frames were packed with stores. I worked my way quickly through the frames and , despite forgetting my glasses, soon saw larvae. I even spotted the Queen, so all is well with this new colony. My only concern was did the Queen have sufficient space for laying with so much stores, so I added a Super to provide a brood and a half. I fed another three and a half litres of syrup and then closed up the hive.  I was delighted with the way this colony had developed over the past week since being split from the parent colony.

I then tidied up my equipment and the site and wandered up to Join P&R for a cup of tea and a chat in a shady spot. I left around four o'clock and headed back towards home.

That just about sums up the main event of of the day. The evening was the usual routine of Dinner, Dogs and dishwasher, before relaxing after a particularly productive couple of days.
---
* There are fussy eaters and then there is Whiffler. I have never seen a dog so disinterested in food. Oftentimes he will just sniff his food and wander off, only returning to eat it when Tyson starts to show an interest in his bowl. I swear he only eats it to spite her.
** When I created this nucleus colony it had plenty of brood, but very few stores and the syrup was provided to rectify that deficiency. The syrup is needed to nourish the brood and bees and ensure they have enough food to be able to draw the frames of foundation in to fresh comb.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

On a Misson

Just before nine o'clock I wheeled the Enfield from the garage and headed in to Redditch for a long overdue haircut. I was expecting the usual Saturday morning queue of Lads and Dads, but it was surprisingly quiet and I was directed straightaway to an empty chair. Twenty minutes later I was back on the Enfield and heading home.

I put the bike back in the garage and ignored the fact that it really needed a bloody good clean, instead I checked the oil level and realised that it was very low. Next task was to head over to Redditch motorcycles and buy oil.

A quick chat with Chris reassured me that I was unlikely to have done any damage and I was soon back home and glugging a few ml of 20W50 in to the oil filler.

As midday approached 30% returned from a trip to the Supermarket and we headed off for the final weighing and measuring, as it is the end of our six week diet and exercise programme. We joined the rest of our group in a private room in a local Pub and went through the same ritual.. We had all made incredible progress and 30% and I will be continuing with the regime.

For some reason we were shattered after lunch and we both had a snooze for an hour or so. On waking I headed out to the garden and gathered tools from the shed ...

... It was time to attack the Briar Patch once more. I spent a good three and a half hours out there and can report that another couple of square meters have been cleared, filling five rubble sacks with huge sections of root that I have managed to remove from the large Silver Birch stump in the middle of the patch.

This definitely filled my exercise quota for the day and it is fair to say that the evening was spent immobile on the sofa. I am surprised that my shoulders felt amazingly pain free considering that I had been swinging a felling axe for much of the afternoon.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Nothing to see here

Friday was very quiet.

I started with a an early call which I hoped would get some much needed support to resolve a design issue in a production service. Unfortunately the team on the call were not interested in getting involved and I will have to seek expertise from other parts of the Organisation. I only picked up this piece of work to help out a struggling colleague and I now seem to own the entire problem and its resolution ...

... as soon as I get clarity on the appropriate load balancer configurations I am chucking this right back over the fence.

The rest of the working day ambled on and by lunchtime I had completed and submitted status reports and was scratching around for something to occupy me for the rest of the afternoon. I ended up on another education session with it's obligatory multiple choice assessment to demonstrate that I actually paid attention.

I finished the afternoon with a disappointing 90% pass and headed out to the garden. Although it had rained earlier, I judged the that the lawn could be mowed and spent an hour wandering up and down the sward.

That's just about it.

It was not a busy day. I did make a batch of syrup up, as I plan to head over to the Tweedy's at some point over the weekend to inspect my new colony of bees, but other than that my day was particularly uneventful.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Catching up

It has been an unusual week in that I have been in the Office for a two day workshop and that has somewhat disrupted my normal routines ... or, to put it bluntly, the time that I normally blog was taken up with making myself presentable and getting my arse in to the office.

Here ia an attempt to summarise the past three days.

On Tuesday I spent the day at home and the aches and pains of a weekend's heavy gardening had finally subsided enough that I felt able to attend a Pilates session in the evening. As days go it wasn't too bad.

On Wednesday I needed to be out early as I had volunteered to pick up a colleague from Birmingham Airport. I wandered in to the Arrivals Hall just as his plane should have landed and wandered over to the Arrivals Gate. I studied the arrivals board and then learnt that his flight had been delayed by an hour and a half.

An espresso and a copy of the Motorcycle News occupied me for much of the ninety minutes and I was not going to get wound up by an enforced wait in a relatively comfy chair with a hot beverage and a light read.

The next two days were spent in a workshop where Technical Architects debated the design of a Wide Area Network. It is fair to say that the discussion worried me. We are being pushed to develop costing and pricing for a solution that will be needed in the next few weeks.

I am already being pushed to deliver a milestone plan for this solution, but it is apparent that we do not yet have a viable technical strategy, let alone solution designs, equipment lists and costs.

I see ineffective Executive Escalations, dawning realisation and strategy reversals in the very near future.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Another unusual Monday

Instead of settling in front of my laptop this morning I found myself wandering down the road to the Village shop.

Four kilos of sugar were purchased and, unsurprisingly, I was asked if I was making jam this morning ...

... back at home I put the kettle on to boil and put a saucepan on the hob. Within a few minutes I was stood stirring three and a half litres of sugar syrup.  A short while later the sugar crystals had dissolved, I left the pan to cool and set about my working day.

There was nothing of particular significance to report today. A Presentation deck was drafted and I pondered how to respond to a peculiar email in my inbox.  It had obviously been hastily drafted on a Blackberry by it's Author and was very disjointed. It also lacked any history or attachments to give it relevance.  As I type this entry I am still "pondering".

On the occasions when I had a few minutes spare I headed out to the garage and assembled the various beekeeping items I would need later in the day.

I finished work at a reasonable time and loaded the car with a couple of bags holding my bee suit, the syrup and other odds 'n sods that I was likely to need. Half an hour later I was in The Tweedy's garden zipping myself in to the suit. It didn't take long to level up the hive and I didn't have to perform an inspection. All I needed to do was lift off the crown board, add a feeder, pour in the syrup and close up the hive. The whole exercise from start to finish took about ten minutes and it was rewarding to see a worker bee sipping from a drop of syrup in the feeder as I was finishing up.

At least this new colony now has plenty of stores to feed brood and help them build out the fresh foundation if the weather is poor in the coming days.

I said my goodbyes and headed home for an early dinner. We then headed out for an hour of Dog Training with Whiffler.  He missed last week's lesson so I wasn't expecting perfection this week ...

... He wasn't appalling,  in fact there were a couple of exercise he performed reasonably well, but overall he definitely needs more practice.

That just about sums up the day's events apart from a couple of calls about my MRI scan. The scans didn't show any problem with the hip, although it was pointed out that to get a definitive diagnosis I would need to have a more detailed scan with a die injection. I need to have a referral from a Consultant for that and I am unlikely to get that without excluding all other possibilities.

The next step is an examination of my spine and possibly a further MRI to see if a trapped nerve is causing the issue. Then, and only then, do I stand a chance of a referral to a Consultant.

I have already got my Private Health "Joker"  ready to play.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

I really hope I have done the right thing

Sunday was never going to be the day of rest, but I didn't realise just how energetic it was actually going to be.

Shortly after breakfast we headed out in to the garden and my first job was to manoeuvre a builder's bulk bag, half filled with chipped prunings. behind the shed. This was upended and I then spent a few minutes raking this mulch out as a weed suppressant.

The empty "Builder's Bag" was then taken over to the heap of brambles that I cut yesterday and 30% made a start on  filling it.  I gathered an armful of tools from the shed and headed back to continue clearing the old rockery.  It was hard going, but progress was being made until I reached the stump of a young Yew tree that I had felled earlier in the year ...

... The next two hours were taken up with working my way around it, excavating soil and taking a felling axe to the stump and its supporting roots.  The task was complicated by the presence of rocks and the close proximity of a Silver Birch stump that added to the subterranean tangled mess.  Eventually the stump started to move as I dug. This was the sign that I had one one or two more roots to cut and a few moments later I was victorious, clutching the stump like a Gladiator with the head of his victim.

Lunch followed and I then took half an hour to relax and attempt to restore my blood sugar levels to something approaching normal.

My plan for the early afternoon was to inspect the hive, but the sky had clouded over so I hit the briar patch again ... clearing brambles and ivy was certainly a breeze after the effort of removing that bloody stump.

After a an hour or so the clouds had cleared and TP and I assembled beekeeping accessories, donned bee suits and approached the hive for it's weekly inspection.

The top Super was in good shape and seemed to be slightly heavier than last week. This was put to one side and the Queen Excluder was removed. We then looked through the second Super/Brood Box. The fair weather over the past week had encouraged the bees to further draw out the foundation and there were signs that pollen and nectar were being stored. Surprisingly there was no sign that the Queen had made her way up in to this box as no brood could be seen.

The Super/Brood was put to one side and we made a start on the Deep Brood box. It was rammed with bees and I could see that there were Swarm Queen cells, even before I started to inspect the frames. A snap decision was made ...

... I needed to split the colony or a swarm was inevitable.

The spare hive was placed close by and we started to work through the Brood box searching for the Queen. As we made our way through the frames a note was made of where there were Queen cells. We were lucky and quickly located the Queen. She was moved, along with five frames of Brood to the new hive. A frame of bees was shaken in, to increase the size of this new colony further and then the hive was sealed shut.

We returned to the original hive and removed all but two of the Queen cells. Frames of foundation were added to replace the frames of brood that had been removed and the hive was reassembled. I really hope I have done the right thing.

While we were doing this, 30% rang The Tweedy household and informed them to expect a colony of bees in the next hour.*

After a well earned coffee break, the new hive was strapped shut and loaded in to the back of the Defender. TP and I then headed off towards Redditch and soon had the hive installed in a patch of geraniums at the bottom of the Tweedy's garden.

They seem genuinely pleased to have the new colony in their garden and are looking forward to see how things go over the next couple of months. I warned them that I needed to return tomorrow to add a feeder and syrup to the new colony.

TP and I then left for home. It is fair to say that I did very little for the rest of the evening. I was absolutely shattered and troubled with concerns for my newly split colony of bees.

I really hope I have done the right thing.
---
* They were semi-prepared for this eventuality, as we nearly needed to split the hive a couple of weeks back.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Busy from start to finish

Saturday started early. I was up just after six and both 30% and I were breakfasted before the clock struck seven. The reason for this lark like activity was that we needed to be in Coventry just after eight o'clock to collect 30%'s Audi TT, having had its soft top roof motor repaired.

The car was collected and we both headed out of Coventry. 30% peeled off the A46 and headed towards Kenilworth for an appointment at the hairdressers, while I headed home.

After drinking more coffee I summoned the energy to head out in to the garden. Tools were collected from the shed and I approached one of the last areas of wilderness neglect. This is a few square metres of brambles on the site of an old rockery at the Southern end of the garage.

We have a Builder coming next week to quote for the construction of a stone wall to conceal a rather unattractive retaining wall constructed of concrete blocks. I needed to attack the brambles so that he could actually see the scope of the job and the quantity of stone available.

This task took up the remainder of the morning and I was just washing my hands as a freshly coiffed 30% arrived back home.

In the afternoon we attempted some more relaxed gardening and I watered, fertilised and weeded one of the beds, before sweeping the yew needles from the front steps. We then attempted to walk the dogs but Tyson appeared to be limping so I returned home whilst 30% continued with Marauder and Whiffler.

I could see no thorns or other causative agents in Tyson's paw and am guessing that she has been too close to the hive and has been stung by one of the bees.

The afternoon drew to a close and we settled in to our normal routine ...

... until half past eight when we headed out to the car and drove over to the airport to collect TP, who had returned from his Amsterdam adventure. He had a fantastic time and the rest of the evening was spent feeding him and listening to his traveller's tales.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Tribute Band

A couple of weeks ago we visited the Artrix at Bromsgrove to see Barry Cryer. While we were there our collective gazes fell upon a flyer advertising an upcoming performance by the Kast off Kinks.

A quick read of the leaflet indicated that all of the musicians had, or still, performed with Ray Davies in a history that went back to the early sixties. It seemed like a no-brainer; a remarkable back catalogue, accomplished musicians, so tickets were purchased and this evening we found ourselves back in the foyer of The Artrix.

At eight o'clock the performance started and an elderly, but still athletic, lead guitarist introduced the band and then commenced with a set of Kinks covers.

They were very ordinary, very ordinary indeed.

They played well enough but the Davies Lyrics were barely audible, either as a result of poor sound engineering or just poor singing.

At the interval we wandered out, bought a drink and compared notes. 30% asked what I thought and, unusually for me, I was forthright in my opinion and stated that they were a distinctly average pub band. 30% was inclined to agree and we soon came to the conclusion that we would not bother with the second half of the performance ...

... after all, we have plenty of Kinks material at home.

A few months ago we went to the same venue to see another Tribute Band; The Counterfeit Stones. The Tweedies had given us a pair of tickets as a Christmas Gift and basically this Stones tribute band had set the bar very high indeed.

Their performance was accomplished and witty and they had put considerable effort in to the lighting, costumes and short films that prefaced each act of their performance.

Of the two, I know which one I would definitely watch again.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Gloomy view

After yesterday's day off I returned to work with renewed vigour ...

... and if you believe that you will believe anything.  It is fair to say that I am somewhat disillusioned with my role. I know that I am having a positive impact and I know that I am respected, but the problems with the Account and its team are monumental. The small positive effect I have is rapidly diluted by the immense tide of shite that ebbs and flows each day.

There is a lot of talk about change and new ways of doing things but the will, experience, creativity and management are lacking.  Headcount will be removed and the expectation is that fewer people will be asked to deliver the same crap.

It is a peculiar situation where the managers appear not to manage and, strangely, do not appear to be measured on improving the situation. The modus operandi is "say yes to the customer" and fire fight their way through to the end of each week.  Fundamental problems are left untouched for fear of upsetting a customer that is as disorganised as The Piano Movers.

That is enough of that.

After clearing the mail from yesterday I had relatively quiet day. There was an interesting call about one of my projects that suggests I have been misinformed from the start. Subsequent analysis suggests that it will never be a viable service and my gut feel is to play dumb and let it wither on the vine. I'll sleep on it and make a decision tomorrow.

We heard from TP ... sort of ... if a text that advised "all going good :-)" can be classed as "keeping in touch"

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Anxiety

About six weeks ago TP and his friends were talking about taking a short break in Europe; a few lads, a cheap flight, a few beers, a wander around a European city and a couple of nights in a hostel sort of adventure.

No decision was reached and, much to TP's frustration, the conversation just ambled on with no dates nor destination being set.  He was really keen to travel abroad independently and, in the end, booked his own flight and hostel and spent many hours planning a four day break in Amsterdam. It was very much a case of "If they can't get their shit together, I'm going on my own".

This morning at half past seven I loaded him in to the car and headed off through the rush hour traffic to drop him off at Birmingham airport. As a parent I am thrilled and proud that he has the confidence and independence to head off to explore a new city on his own, but I am also concerned that he will stay safe and have a great time.

Fortunately 30% and I have a number of frolleagues in the Netherlands and I have given TP a couple of numbers just in case he needs help ... it is always nice to have a safety net.

I arrived home from my airport run at nine o'clock and then downed a couple of valium. The need for tranquillisers was nothing to do with parental worries, but the fact that I am a life-long claustrophobe and had an appointment with an MRI scanner at ten thirty this morning.

The MRI scan is part of the attempt to diagnose the problem with my hip and, having had a scan a few years ago, I still have sharp and unpleasant memories of being confined within the narrow tube of the device. I explained this to my Doctor a couple of weeks ago and he was more than happy to provide me with a one-off prescription to ease any anxiety.

30% drove me to and from the appointment and the drugs seemed to do the trick. I didn't feel in any way mentally impaired. I just felt quite tired and I was still unsure of how I would react to the procedure.  It was not pleasant, but I tolerated the procedure without full-on fight or flight symptoms. It may have helped that I was fed in to the scanner feet first so my head was barely inside the constricted tube.

Thirty minutes later I was heading home and just felt incredibly tired. I wasn't good for anything more complicated than snoozing on the sofa and eventually I retired to bed to sleep off the valium. I woke late in the afternoon to see that TP had sent a text to advise that all was well, his hostel was great and that he had already made a friend and was heading off to experience Amsterdam night life.

I hope he takes note of the gentle warnings I gave about the strength of the local weed.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Not the most usual of Mondays

Today I had problems getting started, but eventually I opened PowerPoint and made a start on a slide deck that will attempt to steer a very inexperienced team towards a much more professional approach. We expect a series of RFPs to arrive later on in the year and the team need to be far more focussed and productive if we are to stand any chance of success.

The deck will be used to give them a series of lectures and presentations about how the RFPs will be run and their roles and responsibilities. I must admit that I was somewhat naive when we attempted a pre-emptive strike in February and March this year. I assumed that they all knew what they were doing and was somewhat gobsmacked when I found allegedly knowledgeable people were fucking clueless about what needed to be done.*

I finished work early and headed over to the local Surgery for an appointment with my Doctor. I have a recurrence of Tennis Elbow symptoms** and needed a steroid injection in to the joint to calm things down.

I was in and out in twenty minutes, but did not return to work as I had been advised to rest the joint for a couple of days.

As the afternoon drew to a close TP returned from a trial shift valeting cars for a local independent dealership. His trial had gone well and the cash in hand payment at the end of the day was a decent contribution towards his proper bike fund.

We had an invitation to dinner at The Tweedy's*** this evening, but, I had arranged a detour so that TP could view a Suzuki GSXF 600 that a colleague is selling. The price is affordable and the bike is old, but never abused, so it may be that I need to make more space in the garage ...

... assuming that TP can afford the insurance ... and pass his Mod 2 test in a couple of weeks.

We had a lovely evening with the Tweedy's and were joined by Mrs Tweedy's younger sister and her husband. The food was lovely, the conversation was lively and we had a fine few hours before we needed to head home and prepare for Tuesday ...

... but more of that tomorrow.
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* "Stranded Asset costs" ... what are those?
** Aggravated by having to tidy up the top of a pollarded Willow in Bad Man Senior's garden. The irritating thing is that the Willow would have started shooting about two months after the tidying exercise and the new shoots would have concealed the stumps that offended BMS's aesthetic senses!
*** 30%'s Mum & Dad

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Mostly Dogs and Bees.

I woke early on Sunday and, after a leisurely start, picked up the dog clippers once more. It was Marauder's turn this morning and I soon had her looking quite presentable. I still need to deal with her and Tyson's paws, but they both must have sensitive feet and do not enjoy that part of the clipping process.

By mid-morning I had finished clipping Marauder and the weather was beautiful. The bees were in flight and it was the perfect time to perform an inspection of the hive.

I gathered the usual paraphernalia and also a spare floor, brood box, crown board and roof just in case I needed to create a "split" in response to last week's indications of possible swarming. I soon had the smoker lit and wandered over to the hive.

The first part of the hive to be inspected was the Super and it was much as expected. It was a reasonable weight, but, perhaps, a little lighter than last week. The weather over the past week hasn't been fantastic and the bees may well have been relying, in part, on some of their stores. There were plenty of bees up in there handling the nectar and pollen and nothing to cause alarm, so this box was put to one side.

Next I removed the Queen Excluder and started to work my way through the second Super that was now serving as an extension to the Brood Box.  This needed to be a thorough search as I would need to locate the Queen if I needed to create a "Split".  The box was filled with bees and it was apparent that last week's reconfiguration of the hive had encouraged the bees to move up in to this space. Despite the poor weather they appeared to have been building comb, but there was no sign of the Queen, nor eggs and larvae. They had started to make use of the extra space, but the Queen had yet to follow.

The deep National Brood Box was last component of the hive to be inspected. The outer frames weren't particularly active but once I moved inwards I saw frame after frame of capped brood and larvae. 30% also spotted the Queen making her way across a frame and this was the "do we or don't we" point ...

... If I was to create a "Split", the Queen needed to be added to it. Do I move her to the new hive, or do I leaver her where she is? The reason for the indecision was that the colony had appeared to respond well to the extra brood space provided last week. We saw and removed a few Queen cups and there was only one that was anywhere close to being described as a Queen cell.

I took the decision to leave the colony intact. The reason behind this decision was the fact that I didn't really have a good Queen cell to leave to develop in to a new Queen. Hopefully I have done the right thing.

In the afternoon I set about Whiffler with the clippers and this is where things went downhill. Whiffler looked great, but as I finished clipping him I noticed that my hip was starting to twinge.  By the time I straightened up I had a nagging ache and realised that my plan to ride out on one of the bikes was not going to happen.

Instead I ended up on the sofa with the ache dulled by pain killers and slept for a couple of hours.
  Hopefully the upcoming MRI scan will shed light on the problem and provide treatment options.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Dodging Showers

I had an ambitious list of things I wanted to do today and the majority of these activities were outside.  I had cupboard doors that needed refinishing, bikes that needed riding, a lawn that needed mowing and bees that needed inspecting.

When I looked out early this morning I thought that I might make good progress through this list, but the showers soon started. The weather was frustrating, as the showers were short and sharp and interspersed with beautiful sunshine, but I was never going to be able to achieve anything on my list unless it was a dry day.

Shortly after breakfast 30% headed off the the auction rooms and supermarket and attempted to leave me with an alternative list of things to do. I ignored this, waved her off and then wandered out to the garage and retrieved the dog clippers.

The rug was rolled back in the hall and I made made a start on clipping the dogs faces. This went well and within forty minutes all three of them were looking rather smart. Buoyed by my success I started to get ambitious ...

... a brush, comb and pair of scissors were located and Marauder was identified as victim number one. Her top-knot was brushed free of tangles and a couple of inches of hair was removed to leave her looking even smarter. Tyson was next on the list for the same treatment.*

By the time 30% returned from the auction I was on a roll. I took the brush and comb to T&M's ears and trimmed them back too. They now all looked very smart ... at least from the neck upwards.

The weather was still refusing to behave, so I then headed back out to the garage and put the final coat of Danish Oil on the hive.

Lunch followed and I then wandered out to test how wet the lawn was ... It was drier than expected and certainly acceptable to cut, so the mower was extracted from the shed and the grass was cut.

On the past few occasions that I have used the mower I had noticed that it had been running roughly, seeming to be running a little rich.

I took the opportunity to take a look at the air filter and it seemed to be soaked with filthy, sticky residue. This was dutifully washed with liberal quantities of detergent, dried and moistened with fresh oil. Hopefully that will solve the rough running. At the rate the grass is growing it won't be long before I find out.

The showers continued so I returned to the dog clippers. I can now report that Tyson has the start of a lamb clip, but there is still much tidying to do.
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* Whiffler sports an alternative, more masculine, cut and only needed his face clipping.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Every Cloud ...

With the way the weather is at the moment Every Cloud could be followed by dumps a shower of rain on Worcestershire. We are certainly having a rainy Summer at the moment and June has been moist rather than flaming.

However, today I am going with the uncorrupted form of this idiom; every cloud has a silver lining.  This morning I actually headed in to the Office as I had some long overdue expenses to submit.

I docked my laptop and started to work my way through the e-mails that had arrived overnight: there were a significant quantity with the title "Re: Congratulations". I located the source communication and started to read. It was the typical, Corporate recognition e-mail, identifying teams that had delivered great performances in the last Quarter.

As I approached the bottom of the mail my eyes fell upon the names of me and four of my my colleagues . We had been given an award for the development of a solution and pricing in February and March this year.*

Now to the Silver Lining, the award is in US Dollars and the post EU Referendum fall in the £:$ exchange rate means that I will get a higher award than I would have a few months ago ...

... this is probably definitely not going to make up for the extra costs incurred when we visit the States in August.

The rest of the day was quiet and I completed yet another lecture and on-line test, before finishing at a very civilised hour.

30% and I took an early evening trip to view the lots up for auction tomorrow morning. There was nothing that interested me, but 30% was very attracted by a couple of items of jewellery.
---
* It should be noted that the Sales Team and Senior Management had hoped for significantly lower pricing than was actually delivered, but the exercise did finally get them to focus on the fact that their operation is unsustainable in its current form.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Progress

Thursday was almost a re-run of Wednesday, at least, from a work perspective.

The day was dotted with conference calls and in between I managed to watch a recording of another lecture and "ace" the associated test that ensures I had paid attention ... it wasn't that hard, a decent set of notes ensured I passed first time.

Once the working day had finished I wandered out to the garage and applied a second coat of Danish Oil to the hive. Forty minutes later I wandered back in and slouched on the sofa for a while before donning a T-shirt and "Trackies" and heading up to the Village Hall  ...

... I was an hour early for Pilates, but 30% had arranged for us to be weighed and measured, having now been on our "Programme" for the best part of three weeks. It is fair to say that I was well chuffed by the result as I appear to have lost around 10 lbs ... mind you, I still have a long way to go.

30% stayed and attended a Zumba class, whilst I popped back home, returning 50 minutes later for an hour of Pilates.

That just about sums up the day; progress on all fronts; work life, home life, health and well being.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The mid point

Goodness! Half way through the working week already and just about half way through the year too.

Today was quiet and I finally managed to find the motivation to spend a couple of hours completing some on-line education and passing the mandated, multiple choice test afterwards. The rest of the day included a smattering of conference calls and a few communications supporting a new project where I seem to be the "go to guy" for background information.

As I approach my third anniversary as a Piano Mover I am amazed at my progression from knowing sweet fanny adams to being brought in to consult on, and manage, complex projects and programmes.*

As the afternoon faded in to the evening I got up from my desk and was quite restless.  I needed something constructive to do, but didn't really fancy clipping the dogs' faces.** I wandered out to the garage and my eyes fell upon the recently assembled new hive. I found a small sponge and a can of Danish Oil and spent the next forty five minutes applying a coat of protective oil to the outer surfaces of the hive.

Based on Monday's hive inspection, I may need to split my colony and use the new hive so it will be necessary to have all the equipment ready ... just in case.

A pair of hive straps arrived this morning in the post as any new "daughter" colony will need to be sited a few miles away from home for the first few weeks.*** The new colony may also need feeding, so I made an improvement to my Ashforth feeder.

The Ashforth feeder is a container that sits on the top of the hive and holds sugar syrup. It has a slot that allows the bees to enter the feeder and drink the syrup. They need this extra food to fuel the production of new wax comb. Unfortunately my Ashforth feeder seems to be a bee suicide device as many seem to drown when feeding.  This evening I crafted a perforated, wooden float that will hopefully allow the bees to access the syrup but not get caught in the gloopy liquid.

I think I now have everything I need apart from a new site for any daughter colony ...

... The bottom of 30%'s parents garden is looking like a possibility.
---
* They must be insane
** Quote 30%: "Who's a beautiful girl? Does your face need clipping?"
*** The straps hold the hive base, brood box, crown board and roof together while it is transported in the back of the Defender. Imagine the effect of bees escaping in to the car.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Awesome

It is a word we hear a lot nowadays. "You look awesome". "This food is awesome". "Your tweet was soooo awesome" ...

... are your ready to vomit yet?

It would be fair to say that I am not a fan of the current trend to use the work awesome to describe people and events that are, at best, OK and generally barely acceptable.

The true definition of the word awesome is an adjective describing something extremely impressive, daunting and inspiring awe.

A new top, a gastro pub meal and a semi-literate, 140 character utterance are not awesome. I fail to understand why the population seem to be loosing their ability to nuance and grade quality and, instead, leap straight to awesome without thought of using pleasant, super, marvellous or, perhaps more accurately shite.

I'll stop this rant now with these closing comments ...

...  if you use the word awesome for something that clearly isn't you are a twat. There is no argument. You are a knuckle dragging illiterate with a smaller vocabulary than an ASL trained Bonobo.

Now, where was I going with this?

Last Summer I witnessed something that I felt met the true definition of awesome.

We were spending a couple of days in Monterey, CA. It is a pleasant town with a population of 27,000 that describes itself as a city.  It has a harbour where sea lions sun themselves on the rocky wall that protects the entrance and Sea Otters float in the calm waters within. It has the World famous Monterey Aquarium and the nearby old canneries have been converted to a fine retail district.

It is a fine town city and should be on the itinerary of anyone visiting California's coast. It is also a great place to go whale watching ...

... early one morning we wandered down to the harbour and boarded a large boat. The sky overhead was leaden and coats and sweaters were needed as we took a seat and the boat headed out in to the bay.

It was a two hour trip out to the area where whales had been seen on previous occasions and on our way out a pod of Dolphins joined us and caused great delight as they swam in close to observer the boat.

One must have a very stoney heart not to find great joy in seeing these delightful creatures torpedoing through the waves, but, all of a sudden, Dolphins became uninteresting ... very uninteresting.

The boat engines ceased and our gazes were directed to a Humpback Whale surfacing off in the distance. Within a few minutes we floating in the midst of somewhere between twenty and thirty of these amazing animals as they dived for food and even breached off in the distance.

At all times the boat just sat quiet in the water and left it up to the whales approach or depart as they wished. At one point we saw a group of three approach the boat from the port side, dive under and then surface within twenty feet of us on the starboard side.

This was a truly awesome experience.


A group of three preparing to dive
Exhaling as they surface
You could even see the barnacles on this one's dorsal fin
This one surfaced right alongside the boat

Monday, 27 June 2016

Will they or won't they?

Shortly after lunch I managed to tear myself away from the horse shit I am employed to wade through.*

I put on my bee suit, lit a smoker and wandered out to inspect the hive ...

... I started at the top and lifted off the first Super. It felt a little lighter than last week and that may have been down to poor weather and the bees making use of their stores. There was nothing of great concern to see, so I moved to the next Super. This was the one that was added a fortnight ago.

The frames in the Super looked almost exactly like they had last week; the foundation had been partially drawn but no stores of nectar or pollen had been added. I moved the most recently added Super to one side and dived in to the Brood Box

Once again the brood box was absolutely rammed with bees and I thought I was going to have no chance of spotting the Queen. I made a start on examining the frames, taking care to watch for eggs and young larvae. Two or three frames in I spotted something very different ...

... a Queen cell with a developing larvae. Prior to this point I had only seen queen cups that had not yet been laid in, but here was a fully constructed Queen cell. I removed the cell and continued my inspection. I eventually located the Queen, but I also found three or four other Queen cells.

The massed bees and Queen cells are all signs of a colony that is preparing to swarm. This would not be good as my Queen could well disappear, taking a good proportion of the workers and probably manage to piss off my neighbours as well. Adding Supers has had no impact on the colony so I needed an alternative.

Since the bees had not availed themselves of the additional space provided by the new Super, I decided to encourage them by moving the Queen Excluder further up the hive. This would allow the Queen and the workers up in to the extra space and, perhaps, reduce their swarming urge.

I may not have described the reconfiguration particularly well so, hopefully, this diagram will help.
Apparently young, prolific Queens can need the additional laying space made available by moving to a brood and half. I can always add further Supers, if necessary later on. At the moment I just want to keep my bees content in their hive rather than buzzing off down the road.

I had a chat with the people that supplied my Nucleus colony and apparently I have taken appropriate action, but I may need to perform a "split" and create a daughter colony if the extra space of a "brood and a half" hasn't deterred them from producing Queen cells.
---
* Revisiting costs that were assembled and priced in November last year because "the customer doesn't like them" ... I don't like paying £1.11 per litre for diesel but an argument on the forecourt doesn't change the costs or the price!

I also started to get under the covers of a new service that is needed and it is starting to look like I have been fed bullshit from day one. I was advised that I just needed to collate existing elements and add a little support where needed ... It is now starting to sound like it needs to be built from scratch ... Oh Joy!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Bleurgh !

I woke this morning and did not feel at all well.

I had gone hypoglycaemic over night, waking with a headache and zero energy levels.  The net result was that I did very little for the first couple of hours as I attempted to restore my blood sugar levels to something approaching normal.

By mid-morning I still didn't feel great, but couldn't tolerate any more time in front of the TV, so I headed out in to the garden to potter. I spent a reasonable hour trimming back a Kerria Japonica that had taken over a bed, and then had a go at the Cherry Laurel that also needed tidying up.

Over the weekend 30% and I had managed to fill our two garden waste bins to overflowing and they were only emptied on Friday. The way the lawn is growing at the moment I'm going to have to get creative to deal with the amount of green material that we are taking out at present. *

Lunch followed and I still didn't feel great. After assisting 30% with repotting a couple of Bay trees, I retired indoors and crashed on the sofa. I eventually woke late in the afternoon as the rains started.

It certainly wasn't the most productive of days and the weekend's weather had not been conducive to inspecting the hive.** Hopefully I can find a quiet hour early in the week to take a peek at the bees.
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* The hedge has gone crazy, but I think we are both doing our best to turn a blind eye to that at present.
** The ever present threat of a shower, with the associated cloud cover,  meant that a nice clear spell during the middle of the day just didn't happen.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

An early start

This morning I woke before six and was soon downstairs imbibing strong black coffee.

By eight o'clock I was outside in the garage carrying out much needed tidying. I really wanted to get the floor swept, but each time I put a couple of bikes outside, to give much needed space, a shower passed over and they had to be rushed back inside. Eventually a shower free spell occurred and I can report that the garage is now a much more pleasant space to work ... far from pristine, but certainly a lot tidier.

I wandered back in to the house for a coffee and eventually TP made an appearance. I encouraged him to breakfast swiftly and then recruited him to assist me with a trip to the Tip. The trailer was already loaded and it was a few minutes work to rope the load and head off.

Forty minutes later we were back at home and loaded the last remnants of the "kindling stack" in to the trailer. Allegedly, a colleague of 30% wants this wood, so by having it pre-loaded it should encourage him to simply borrow my trailer and take it away ... alternatively it is ready for another tip trip if it isn't removed before I need the trailer next.

This frenetic activity brought us all to lunch time and in the afternoon 30% and I headed over to see her brother and the ELF.  A pleasant couple of hours were spent catching up on each others' news and discussing the recent political divides before we headed back home.

We then returned to the garden and I mowed the lawn whilst 30% planted up the raised bed. Various pruning and weeding activities followed until hunger and fatigue drew a halt to proceedings.

Dinner was taken early and was followed by a wash and brush up, as our evening was spent at the Artrix theatre in Bromsgrove watching Barry Cryer and Colin Sell  perform their Strictly Come Joking tour.  It was a lovely evening watching the two old farts enjoy themselves on stage recounting anecdotes and telling jokes, some of which were as old as they were.

We certainly managed to fill our time today.