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 ?"
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
*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.