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?"
* 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.
* In some cases very tenuously

Tuesday, 26 July 2016


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.
* 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.
* 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


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.
* "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.
* 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.