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Friday, 23 December 2011

And . . . relax. And . . . relax*

So here we find ourselves at the end of another week, and in addition the end of another working year.  I am therefore feeling a double dose of demob happiness, combined with a belly full of mince pies, I am ready for the festive season.

As always, I am very much looking forward to the time off.  Having young children also makes the commercial bit fairly fun as well, albeit that it is a very long run in to a very short day.  Having said that, the presents for the Maggots this year are pretty good, in that they are decent things they they will really want, and things from which dad will also get some pleasure, so it should be a good break and some good family fun to be had along the way.

We will also see most of our friends over the period, although it is our plan very much to have a blank day at least every other day, because this year has been a busy one, so some time to do nothing is very much in order.

All that remains is for me to wish you a very Happy Christmas, or indeed any other pagan or religious holiday that you care to observe, and a very very merry New Year.

* for real this time, and so good they named it twice.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

And . . . relax . . . . . . . . . . nearly

Well, it is Thursday 22nd December 2011 and while there are mathematically around one and a half working days still to go for me before I take a break - I have off the days between Xmas and New Year* - but in truth I am sensing from the wider world a bit of slowing down in readiness, and that does in truth resonate with the discussions going on inside my own head**.

I do have a number of things to close down, so pls don't imagine me taking it too easy.

I finished icing the cake last night, and in the spirit of making use of what is at your disposal, I had to take what was originally going to be two cakes, and make one full-size one and use the other for bit parts.  These bit parts included a mini cake that looks like a present, and also a house on the main cake, complete with chimney, Santa going down the chimney, doors, windows and a winding path.  The rest got eaten there and then by way of destroying all evidence.

I have just had my daily cup of Scobi Latte, and decided to try a slice of Christmas cake with it, so helped myself to a large slice*** of the secondary "present" cake.  I can confirm it is a damn good cake.

Hopefully will find a moment in my busy schedule tomorrow to wish you all a Happy Christmas etc. etc.

Until then.

* Hurrah
** And I can tell you it is crowded in there:
*** Large in contract to the cake itself, which is small, so really just medium-sized.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

What super-power would you have?

The rest of the family are tucked up under a blanket on the sofa watching Spiderman, and it reminded me of one of the many chats we have over beers with several of our friends, and that is "If you could have a super-power, what would you have?".  To save you thinking, I have compiled the data for your delectation.

Monday, 19 December 2011

What are you reading?

I love a good book, and read nearly every day, but have not had much in the way of new stuff passing my door of late.  LO is usually a good source of different books, but with Christmas but a few days away, most purchases of books have been put on hold lest Great Aunty Bessie should be looking to give it as a present*, and a month refit has meant that we have not been visiting our local library like we usually do.  That, and a general lack of desire to leave the house to join the madness that is the high street at this time of year.

In fact, the last book I read, which I told you about in a previous post, started off as a Library book, but ended up being something I bought on Amazon because the late fines were about to exceed the purchase price.  I now have it forever, and probably will re-read it sometime in the future.  Re-reading is therefore a current theme for me, so that at the moment I am going back through my own personal library, digging out my own personal classics.  I am currently on a Bill Bryson, and then plan to move on to a Ffyona Campbell: On Foot Through Africa which is a cracking good read**.  She is best known for cheating, but let me tell you that was a tiny error in a massive massive achievement, and if the section where her backup Landrover breaks down and she reverts to pulling all her possessions in a hand cart does not make you glad you don't have demons****, then I don't know what will.

The only other thing to report is the loneliness of a long distant teleworker.  The rest of the family are finished for Christmas now, so it is little ole me in the corner trying to concentrate on work while they are blowing the cobwebs off the home cinema system in a way that is making the walls shake.

On that note, gotta dash, conference call to attend, and likely some email to be tidying while I attend.  Have a good week, and speak again before the break, assuming you are indeed planning to have a break.

* Unlikely at the best of time, not least because the last time we checked our family tree, we did not have a Great Aunty Bessie
** Having said that, I recommended, and indeed lent, it to Brad and he didn't get on with it at all, but then he is gay and bald so that probably explains it***
*** I am gonna be paying for that real soon.
**** It does seem to be a common theme that these extreme sports type bods do have some kind of demon driving them on (father issues, in case you were interested).  Just read Ranulph Fiennes to confirm that, which are another set of books somewhere in the collection.

Friday, 16 December 2011

And . . . relax

Another Friday comes sailing joyfully in to port, with barrels of rum and some well-earnt shore-leave.

A quiet weekend, with a busy Saturday night at A&E at the annual Strictly Sausage Saturday, which for those who speak Latin is an evening, usually on a Saturday, where sausages are consumed, and Strictly Come Dancing is watched.  Frilly shirts are optional.

I have recently been paying attention to people's sign offs, the stuff they put at the end of their email, of which there are three main considerations:

  • if you are clever, or want to be seen to be clever, then you put every professional body and qualification you have gained in the footer - Scobi Wan, BSc Hons, FRICS, Jedi Master
  • If you don't want to be contacted, you put nothing
  • If you are a funny guy, you put some witty comment.  Illegitimi non carborundum or other such pithy saying.
Now, I need to confess that I did follow the third of these.  It was not meant so much to be witty but profound, and actually was something that, at the time, seemed a good thing to say, and a motto by which I was trying to live my professional life.

Imagine a chaps dismay when the abuse started rolling in, whether by phone, email, text or instant message, plus a couple of other communication channels that have not been invented yet, telling me in no uncertain terms, that my sign off was not perfect in every way.  This is like getting a little biddy fluffy kitten, only to be told by a friend that it is evil.  Now, there are cats that could fit this mould, such as:

but in general, cats are nice, friends are not.  And so, it transpired, are sign-offs.

Anyhow, before I go, I should tell you what the sign off was.  It was:

One thing at a time          Most important first              Start now

Now, honestly, is that so bad?

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Mid-week Update

It is actually Thursday today, I know that, but when you take Monday off the whole axis of your space and time continuum is disrupted; or more precisely, it only feels like Wednesday today.

A lot of people have been asking me how come I am so successful*.  The answer is simple; set the bar low.

I am also by nature optimistic.  This works for me, but can sometimes irritate the wotsit out of friends and colleagues alike.

It reminds me of one of the "classics" which I reproduce below for your delectation.


* They actually tend to ask the reverse question, as in "how come you are such a w@##ker?" but I know they are being ironic.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

What a (long) Weekend

We returned yesterday from a fantastic weekend, in a house in East Devon that can, at a push, sleep 27, but which need to house a modest 16 during our stay.
The house itself was lovely.  It was massive, with 3 separate sitting rooms, one with pool and fuseball tables, a separate dining room that easily sat us 16, a medium-sized kitchen, a medium-sized indoor swimming pool, and an upstairs so vast that we needed motorised scooters to reach the West Wing, where we sensibly housed the children.  The size of the place meant we were never on top of each other, and certainly large enough for all 8 children to go feral.  There would be a build up and whoosh like a train going past as the pack stormed from one stronghold to another, presumably in search of blood and fresh meat.
This did mean that the adults were able to spend vast amounts of time chillin', as I think it is called, and much fun was had by all.  We had packed all the usual wellies 'n' waterproofs that are pre-requisites for any country stay, but I am ashamed to say that the furthest I ventured from the house was to the garage area to take out the rubbish, and only then with a torch and a map of the locale.

The house itself was the usual large country pile.  Lots of flagstones, an Aga cooker, wide floorboards in several rooms, and sofas the size of a one-bedroomed apartment.  As is often the case with those rich folks, the attention to detail was somewhat lacking in places, and my now-trained eye would be needed a fair amount of re-plastering, sanding down and general TLC if I were to own the place.  I think they call it shabby chic, and I can attest to at least the former.  Some of the windows also looked in great need of attention, being as they were single pane and wooden, with a lot of condensation damage to the lower parts of every pane.  Luckily, it was not my place, so we were able to enjoy one hundred percent the pleasures and amenities the place gave us.
My biggest complaint, and to be fair it is one I make almost everywhere except my own, is that the beds were not good.  They had cheap mattresses that even my topper was unable to civilise, and consequently I did awaken not that refreshed and with compound issues with my back.  This was to LO's advantage in that I therefore got up with the Maggots and did the early shift.  This in turn entitled me to an afternoon siesta, of which I partook regularly each day.

It has been a bit of a shock coming back to the real world.  We are obviously delighted to be back in your own home (comfy bed, smooth walls, etc etc), but the pace of things was initially just too much for us.  We have adjusted now, and I am working from home alone.

We did manage to go buy a Christmas tree off the local Gipsies, and have also brought down our old and unused-for-many-years artificial tree, so that we are now a two tree family.

Other than that, not much to report.  We are in the tortuously slow final two weeks to Christmas, and I just need to keep everything going so that we are clear in 2011, for a simple and easy start to 2012.

Have a good week and speak soon.

Friday, 9 December 2011

And . . . relax*

Only working a half day today.  Once school is out, we will be heading out towards East Devon for our weekend away.  The roof bars and roof box are on, the car is (nearly) packed, the address is programmed in to the Sat Nav and Maggots are primed to moan all the way there.

Our best route seems to be via Salisbury, and anyone who knows Salisbury anytime near rush hour will know that the alternative route must be very bad indeed if Salisbury is the best answer.  We can only hope that an early departure will stop us getting the worst of it, but I doubt that somehow, what with the rush our starting at around Friday lunchtime (what is that all about?  How do normal folks manage to finish so early?) and all.  As LO is oft to say, we will get there when we get there, but that is always before we have set off, and is never uttered after half an hour in the first traffic jam.

The weekend should be one full of fun, food and the occasional drink.  The only fly in the Scobi camp ointment is Maggot 2 is under par, off for a second day with one of his too-regular non-specific virus type fevers.  This tends to manifest itself in a temperature, headache and general listlessness, and a prevalence of hallucinations cum nightmares-whilst-awake type events, which can be pretty distressing, not least for Nanny who kindly baby-sat him for us yesterday during the working day.

I hope you have a great weekend, and speak again Tuesday**.

* That one is for Golfy
** I did mention I had a day off Monday didn't I??

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Is it Wednesday already?

At this time of year, Maggots and other small people tend to start "counting the days", which is not so much a euphemism* but an indication that Christmas is on the horizon.  There are three Advent Calendars to open, one Where's Santa** each and one shared which (a reusable Christmas tree with drawers affair), one day on, one day off, with Maggot 2.  Except for the final 4 days when there are double sweets in the drawers, which would mean one day on, one day on I guess.

The excitement is building, if only in the older members of the household who are very much looking forward to some time off with family, friends and our own body-weight in mince pies***.  The Maggots are already off the scale, and rising each day, which is kind of fun, if a little wearing at 6am.

* and if it were a euphemism, then I am struggling to invent what that might be.
** It is as you are guessing it is; Wally in a Santa outfit.  At least this pretend Santa wears the wrong hat so you know.
*** Anyone who has been reading my blog since last Christmas will know that I do have a soft spot for mince pies, and that spot tends to get softer, and larger, the more I eat.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Just a quickie

Not much time today as I am in the office, on two screens, so broadcasting to the masses that I am writing a blog.

Looking forward to our weekend away at the big house, and last night found us starting to pack.  For the Maggots that includes working out which of their four thousand toys to take to the house (their grandmother is right, they really do have too much), and in which bag.  For the rest of us it was a matter of those peripheral items that are not essential, but do make the time away more pleasurable.

We also watched The Killing II, episode five or so I would guess, which is the second series of the original Danish drama that was replicated, to great success, but the US.  It is a sub-titled series which is actually rather pleasing, if you can give it your undivided attention.  You really get in to the plot due to being 100% focussed on reading the text, and therefore get very absorbed in the story.  The only issue is if you happen to have the odd Squirrel moment, when you suddenly realise an important snippit of plot has passed you by.  Oh, and falling asleep near the end didn't help plot understanding much either.

Monday, 5 December 2011

And . . . relax

After a weekend like we have just had, this is the mode for the day.

Well, what a fantastic time we had.  With no specific plans, Saturday was as follows:

  • 0830 - get up
  • 0835 - walk over to A&E's 'van to partake in the ritual of breakfast, which consists of:
    • cup of tea
    • chat
    • cup of tea
    • egg sandwich with lashings of Red and Black" and a ketchup with a smattering of salt
    • cup of tea
    • slice of home-made shortbread
    • chat
    • finally agree we should really do something, so go do the washing up from last night, which being a curry (home-made by A as always) was messy, but the sort of mess that, with the heads we had, could have made a pretty decent cold starter for the egg main course
  • 1145 - stroll down to the shop to get a long aerial cable
  • 1243 - start lunch - one cheese and pickle roll "to be going on with"
  • 1245 - in to local villiage, Fordingbridge, for the men, to find TV mounting screws, came back with bulbs for lava lamps and fine tales of a magnificent reclaim yard
  • 1345 - finish lunch
  • 1445 - down to pool for a swim
  • 1600 - return for tea and kip
  • 1720 - Santa's Grotto, mainly for the kids
  • 1800 - visit the Pizza in the Piazza (get it?)
  • 1930 - Bingo
  • 2100 - home for bed (youngest four) and Canasta, drinks and nibbles (eldest four)
I appreciate such detail opens a chap up to ridicule, however we started that on Friday and I doubt it can get much worse.

I also got an education this morning from Golfy:

  • I now understand the "Fenton" references on a recent comedy show
  • I love the "I want to jump off a bridge" "I found 4 bridges a little way from you" ditty
  • I had not realised quite how mighty I could be until I visited, although I do harbour a tiny suspicion that he says that to all the boys.

Friday, 2 December 2011


For those of you who have yet to experience the healing forces of my lucky heather, I do a bit of 'vannin' in my spare time.  Once all the abuse has abated, I can then inform you that I am going 'vannin' this weekend, to Sandy Balls.  Now I am the first to admit, this is a daft name for a site.  The most amazing thing is, not one person that works there has even the smallest of twinkles in their eye when they say it, like some kind of in joke that only you don't get, or more precisely an out joke that they don't get.

Anyway, this is a site with plenty of facilities, the like of which would normally have us running for the nearest road-side verge, however in Winter this place is cheap, pretty empty but still providing an excellent play park, a swimming pool, a pizza parlour and a take-away hatch for fi & chi, burgers etc.  We would normally obviously not like the burger van competition, but in this instance we are prepared to let it lie, although they can expect us to case a hex on them as we reach for the vinegar.

Even the weather has decided to be kind.  The long range five-day forecast said rain, right up until yesterday, when it dropped from two to one drop of rain.  Today, it is predicting white cloud and a bit of sunshine perhaps. Result.

I hope your weekend is as fun as ours will be.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A Bad Man one told me . . .

I read this, and smiled, on the inside at least.  This reminded me of a delightful apple I had the other day.  I say delightful only in as much as I did have a certain degree of delight at the prospect of taking the first tasty bite.
Imagine my surprise when I was confronted with something that would most definitely scare the horses.

I don't know about you, but I think there is a bit of Posh Spice in there.

Monday, 28 November 2011

A new week starts

We had a pretty good weekend, albeit rushed.  The Meal for Eight was fine, although there was a need for some serious planning of the weekend away in two weeks' time, and that did not leave much time for fun and frolics.  However, it does mean that we will be eating well during the weekend away, and good food can only but lead to good fun and good frolics.

We did a bit of family Christmas shopping on Sunday, which involved two sessions of roughly equal time with each of the maggots, so that the said maggot could then buy the presents for those in the other party.  It was as complicated to execute as it was to explain.

It was, if truth be told, one of those weekends where the stuff that had to be done filled up most of the spare time, but we did have a "pyjamas on and sitting on the sofa" sessions Sunday evening which was very welcome.

Have a good week, speak again tomorrow.  Or the day after.

Friday, 25 November 2011

And . . . relax

Friday comes
and Friday goes
If you swim with sharks
best count your toes

"What an odd start", I can hear you saying, "there is a chap who needs the weekend if ever I have read one", you continue.  There is, of course, a reason for starting like that*.

I am reminded of that Roy Lichtenstein take off of the guy painting a picture, with his mum looking over his shoulder.  "What are you painting dear?", she says.  "It's kind of abstract mum", he replies.  "That's nice dear", she concludes.  In fact, I am further reminded that my sort of third band, maybe second depending on your counting method, which was called That's Nice Dear.  We were nearly the next big thing, but it turns out there was not much call for acoustic abstractism in the music business in those days.  Oh, and I also went off to Australia for six months, thus making band practices a bit tricky.

This weekend we have a "meal for eight" on Saturday night, but otherwise the family intends to get reacquainted with each other in a warm and relaxing environment.

Have a good weekend, and maybe do something a bit abstract this weekend, as long as it does not frighten the horses or cause offence to Lithuanians.  Talking of Lithuania, and mixing in a bit of football, I see my club, having just been through several years of turbulence, and starting to bottom out and look to the future, is in trouble again, with one of its owners having a warrant issued for his arrest by his home country of Lithuania.  Pay Up Pompey, Pompey Pay Up may well become the chant from the terraces.

* standard comic fare to introduce an idea to which you return later in the piece.  Being as I am in my abstract phase, I plan to introduce it, then leave it dangling with

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Have you done something different with your hair!

I know what you are thinking; something has changed, can't quite put my finger on it, but something has definitely  changed.

I lieu of actually blogging, I thought I would change the design of my blog.  Then I realised how vacuous that was and decided to blog as well.  Then I realised that I would need to start writing and allow my fingers and brain to converse directly, without involving my conscious self, but it turns out they are not on speaking terms at the moment.

Actually, I could tell you about the book I am reading.  It is called The Social Animal, has been NUMBER ONE ON THE NEW YORK TIME BEST-SELLER LIST* and it is, so far, very interesting.  It is a sort-of psychology book, talking about what succeeds and what does not, and what influences your parents (damn those parents) have on the person you become.  I can tell I am starting to lose you, so only thing to add is that it is told as a story about a person from before he was born, in a similar style as the One Minute Manager** and thus manages to discuss complex stuff in a simple way.  I should also add that Barak Obama is a fan, and apparently all of Westminster has read it also.  This is a book I would very much recommend, but I do concede that the way I have described it will put off all but the hardiest of souls.

* that was how large it was writ on the cover guv
** Another book of which I am very fond, again due to it conveying clever and complex ideas in a very simple way via a story.  Another book I would recommend

Friday, 18 November 2011

And . . . relax

Wow, that was most definitely the week that was not.  I am not saying that it was a bad week, but rather that it was one of those weeks that does not linger long in the memory, simply because it was a week whose sole reason for being was to bridge between the week before and the week after.

LO is off for a weekend away with one of her good friends, which means there is a lad's weekend looming.  Now, this will not be a normal kind of lad's weekend.  The only kind of stripping will be the removal of PJs so we can put on our blue-jeans and cowboy hats; the only binging might be a slight over-dosing on popcorn during the obligatory Saturday night Strictly, Merlin and X-Factor marathon.
We have exchanged Tesco's Clubcard Points for cinema and Pizza Express vouchers, that will be in the weekend mix, and otherwise we hope to chill with da hood, and likely "play a footy match", which is something Maggot 2 asks nearly every day, first request usually as he climbs in to bed for the morning cuddle.

Enjoy your weekend and speak next week.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Nothing to report

I wanted to post, but don't really have anything to report.  Maybe I could tell you about my day.

That was my day.  Working.  Baby-sitting a sick Maggot (number 2 if you are interested).  Ate breakfast.  Had a cup of tea.  Had a cup of coffee.  Drank oodles of water.  Had lunch.  Day is nearly over, just one 2 hour call to go.

Some days are like that.  When you look back, there is just a gaping hole where life should have been.

I hope your day is more full of fun.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Is it really that time of year already?

We are currently in the performance appraisal season, when colleagues are asking for me to provide them with feedback, and managers are looking for reasons to give us good, or maybe not so good, marks.

I therefore present a couple of cartoons that sum up how this works for me.

Friday, 11 November 2011

And . . . relax

It has been a very long week.  If time always went this slow then my life would be passing in dog years.  No, hold on, I mean if a dog took this long then I would be an old man, or is it a day is a year when a dog eats chum?*

My job is the sort of job that, when mentioned at dinner parties**, has one of two reactions from the person to whom I am talking.  Either they say "really, how interesting" and look for the nearest exit, or they say "really, what is that then?" and look for the nearest exit.  Even close friends don't really know what I do, and even under severe interrogation would only be able to admit that I am a "something manager I think".  Conversely, the role has never yet been mentioned during one of those slow-news-day items about daft EU or daft government or daft council, you know the ones where they discuss the daftness of various job roles such as Invasive Plant Removal Manager of some such.  This means I am hovering between "dull as ditch-water" and "not daft enough to care".

We are planning a quiet weekend, with some family time and a bit of kicking back and doing not much.  There will be DIY, and there will be beer drinking.  And my mum thinks I am important.

Have a good weekend.

* The week has also done bad things to my mind.
** Not things I attend with any great frequency you understand

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Should I stop listening to the news?

It just seems to be getting grimmer and grimmer, and things that a month ago seemed unthinkable are now being proposed as the likely next step.  It makes a chap consider whether he should be waking up to Radio La La rather than Radio 4.  It is interesting to see that the money markets are basically insisting on a regime change in Italy and I would have thought Mr Berlusconi would welcome a bit of time off to go partying with Frankie Cocozza*, but there you are.  The fickleness of fame and power.

On another tack relating to power, it seems that James Murdoch is back for Round 2 of his commons committee grilling, where I assume the committee will be trying to identify whether anything James has said before is wrong, either because it contradicts with what he is saying now, or because of new evidence being uncovered to contradict those previous statements.  I imagine it may make interesting TV, but sure as eggs is eggs it will not be one of James' Top Ten days out.
One thing did interest me, and that was the story that James signed a check for £750k, but did not know what it was for, and it turns out that this check was paid to settle a claim with Gordon Taylor***, allegedly relating to phone hacking.  Now, being a Libran, and therefore able to see both sides - some say always sitting on the fence - I know that you can loose a bit of money here or there.  Many's the time that I have gone out with £50 for a night out and managed to spend every single last penny of it.  How does that work?  Anyhow, I know how easy it is to mislay money.  But, and it is a pretty big but, £750k is no small change even for someone like James, so I am guessing that may come up.  I would very much like to be putting in some expense claims in his company if that kind of stuff happens.  "Lunch for thirty thousand pounds?".  "Ah, yes, well, it can with a free car".

* For my more elderly readers, Frankie is a X-Factor contestant, or to be more precise, and ex-X-Factor contestant, who has decided that staying up all night, drinking and snorting everything and everyone was preferable to singing** in a talent competition.

** Although, it has to be said that as time went on, his abilities in the singing arena seemed to be reducing.

*** I needed Uncle Google to confirm that he used to be an England Football Manager.  Why do I keep getting a picture of a turnip in my head?

Monday, 7 November 2011

I heard an interesting thing on the radio

As the title suggests, I head an interesting thing on the radio.  In fact I have been hearing a number of interesting things.

I have been following with some interest the various discussions being had on TV and radio regarding the state of the world's economy, more particularly the start of the economy in Europe and the UK.  Mix that with some protesters seemingly cr@pping in St Paul's (some of them at least), some discussions on what they are really there for, and wider, and let's be honest slightly more esoteric discussions, around wealth and the disparity between rich and poor, and what capitalism is and is not.  There was even some discussions today on bankers, and whether they have souls and how they can become ethical bankers*.

Several things resonated with me during these various discussions.

The first is that there is strong evidence that societies that have the smallest gap between the richest and poorest tend to be the happiest.  Put in reverse, societies that have the largest gap between the richest and the poorest tend to be the least happy.  This resonates with me right now, in light of rioters and St Paul's protesters and all the vitriol a bile directed at bankers.  Not that I have any answers to the effects that this principle has on our particular society.

The second thing that has struck me is that I really do not relate to the views of the anti-capitalist arguments.  Not sure if this makes me a capitalist or not, but I do find it hard to chase the anti-capitalist arguments through to their logical conclusions, since they do not feel that they are holistic and viable.  The trouble with such groups is that while there are always a core of people that really do have good views that are well presented in a way that does not cause harm or distress to others.  However, living as they do on the fringes of society, they tend to also attract ne'er-do-wells and other riff raff who are more into the anarchic end of the scale, with little regard for holistic and defendable arguments, nor for other people's possessions and property.

The third thing was something said during, I think, Thought for the Day on Radio 4 (and that, dear readers, definitely ages me).  The person made the comment that the trouble with capitalism is that it pits man against man in a negative way; with communism it is the other way round.  I liked that very much, and will be incorporating it in to my wide and amusing repertoire.

* and yes, it was quite hard to listen to that particular discussion without making myself smile by rearranging the odd letter.

Friday, 4 November 2011

And . . . relax

It has been a long week due to my man-flu illness, and I am very glad that it is Friday.

As you know, I have had to do a piece of work which requires me to read 650 SoWs and identify any that have storage in them.  It is 2pm Friday and I am up to June 2011, so I do need to crack on.  I have also had several machine problems that have required reboots, including what seems to be Firefox upgrade which has stopped it working with all my add-ins.  I sort of found it out by accident.  After several attempts to load Firefox and it crash just as the screen opened, I thought I would try running it with the Shift key depressed, which opens it in Safe Mode.  Voila, as they say in Clapham, it then loaded.  I then slowly enabled each add-in one by one until I found the offending one, which turned out to be my WebMail Notifier.  That is now turned off, as is a bunch of other add-ins that are not compatible with my current version of Firefox.  Based on a very quick Googling of the issue, I think this may be one of Mozilla's less successful auto-updates, and I am guessing 7.0.2 will be coming very shortly.

All that detail was included only so that you could think "who's a clever boy then?".  I was certainly pretty impressed with the way I accidentally stumbled on the issue. 

If the luck can just continue to the Friday night Euro Lottery . . .

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Someone is talking, and I am typing

I am listening to a Q3/Q4 Update from one of our leaders, and it is actually remarkably like all the other such updates through which I have sat previously.  To keep it simple*, the general message is "some good, some bad, need more next quarter".  The numbers are, of course, eye-watering, though for any Greek it would be loose change, them liking to work in Frooglepoopillians.

I am feeling a bit better, although I am acutely aware that it is mostly due to my dear old friend Paracetamol.  And we know why there are no headache pills in the jungle don't we?**  I did rally later last night, which was nice, so that I could fit the flush handles on the sliding door for the downstairs bathroom, and to give the pelmet another coat of Silkwood.  Today I hope to find half an hour to fit it, and then the outside of the bathroom is complete, bar another coat of paint on the door and the walls surrounding the door***.

My working week has just been reorganised, with the need for me to work through all the deals signed since last October, which at an average of 50 per month, means around 650 deals.  I anticipate that taking me a full 8 hours to do, which means in practice it taking the next 2 days of all my spare time, spare being the time not spent on conference calls.

* i.e. at a level that I can both understand and explain it
** Just in case you do not have pre-teenagers in the house, it is because "the parrots ate 'em all"
*** It is the downside of taking your time to finish stuff, that the stuff you finished a while ago ages and needs re-working.  Having said that, most of the woodwork would benefit from another coat anyway, since it started as bare wood.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Over the moon and under the weather

We had a fantastic weekend.  A bit of DIY was done, and some important jobs have been properly started,  and in the round the back of each has been soundly broken. 

The shelf above the fridge, hand made by yours truly, just needs a final coat of the-same-as-the-walls paint, and it is looking clean and proper, and will be a welcome resting place for the bountiful collection of LO's cookery books.

The pelmet is also well on the way to being completed to hide the gubbins above the downstairs toilet sliding door.  Pelmet sounds a bit like something my granny would have, whereas this will, I believe, be chunky and in possession of nice clean lines, so at a stroke both functional in hiding said untidy gubbins, but also being fully in keeping with the rest of the extension, which is all about white, clean lines et-cetera-et-cetera.  Indeed, a chap less modest than myself may even call it a triumph of form and function.

We also had a lovely night out on Saturday evening.  We were to dinner with A&E, along with eight other guests.  Much fun was had, and much good food and wine was consumed.  There was even a menu, with two each of starter, main course and sweet.  And there was a cheese board.  And then, just as you thought it could not get any better, out came the mics and some fine karaoke was sung.  Now, I know that karaoke is a bit of a Marmite thing, you either love it or hate it.  It would not, for instance, be tolerated in any of this chap's clubs, except maybe Peppermint Hippopotamus, a local night club which has some reputation, most of it low.
All I will say on the subject is that trying to sing as loudly (and badly) as I did is not good for a chap's sore throat.

During the main course, the topic of conversation veered towards technology, and it was mentioned that I did a blog.  This was met with a fair degree of interest, and the request for the URL to said blog.  In my wine-sodden state, it was a bit hard to work out whether I should see this as a chance to increase my otherwise flagging readership, or whether in fact it was a chance to keep very quiet lest I become the butt of all subsequent jokes.  I erred on the safe side and forgot all about it.

Sunday say some general catching up on being at home, with a fantastic game of Monopoly in the afternoon, a game where Scobi did, unfortunately, go bankrupt.  Again, board games are not everyone's cup of tea, but as far as board games go, Monopoly is pretty much perfectly formed.  The intricacies of property and cash flow and greed and negotiations makes it a compelling play, one that everyone enjoyed with gusto.  It does also tend to bring out the worst in people's Machiavellian sides, with much gleeful rubbing of hands as a full set of properties was handed over as payment for landing on someone's hotel.

Monday morning is now upon us and I am feeling bad.  The cold-like symptoms are now accompanied by an aching, not to the level of flu*, but certainly making me think twice about the joys of a day's work.  I will see how it pans out, and reserve the right to gently die on the sofa if needed.

* Remembering the way to tell a cold from flu is to take the £20 test.  You are told that a twenty pound note is outside your back door.  If you cannot be bothered to get it, you have flu.

Friday, 28 October 2011

And . . . relax

The good thing about a three day week is that it is over a damn sight quicker than a fiver.  Consequently, I have barely broken in to a sweat before I am ready for an orange quarter and a quick rub down from the masseuse.  This weekend, we will be doing, wait for it, a bit of DIY, a bit of family fun, and a going out Saturday night to friends. 

We will also be filling our new fridge freezer, which, after several months of planning and saving, has arrived today, delivered by two very nice delivery guys who were very happy to see our large folding doors through which to take away the old and deliver the new.
We need to leave it to "settle" for half a day, before we can then plug it in and wait until it is cold.

This is one of those so-called American fridges, which is to say that it is the size of a double wardrobe, with side-by-side fridge and freezer compartments, also with chilled water and ice dispenser on the front.  I do believe that the jury may be out on the latter feature, but while the jury is out we will be enjoying chilled and filtered water "on tap", as well as as many ice cubes as you can fit in a single glass.  I expect the Maggots to increase their water intake tenfold.

I hope you have a chill-tastic weekend as well, and speak next week.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

What a fantastic long weekend

We had a great long weekend away in the 'van.  No lucky heather was sold, nor palms read, simply a couple of days out in and around the capital. 

On Saturday we acquainted ourselves with the site and the locale.  The boys, whose whole existence is only made bearable by the playing of football, were very happy to be playing said game on the grass opposite.  First they were told to get off the seeded grass - just about OK, but a bit grumpily delivered - second they were told to play only between our two 'vans - starting to feel like we were "not from around here" now - and finally, were were informed that due to complaints they had to stop playing football altogether.  Let's just sumarise it by saying that Maggot 2 scored the site nought out of five.  And that was only coz he was not allowed to go negative.  The silver lining, as much as it was, was that they found a new game that definitely played to their strengths, by discovering the games room, from where they started their club, with Maggot 3 (eldest of our friends' children) being the boss - she is good at that - and Maggot 2 being the second in command - he is good at that, some authority, but not too much - and Maggot 4 (youngest of our friends' children) being the general dogsbody - not so sure he relished that particular role, but he is a trooper and soon knuckled down.

Sunday saw us visit Hampton Court, which for Tudorphiles like ourselves was about as good as it got.  The buildings and the history and the exhibits and the live enactments were right up our street.  Five out of five from the older members of the group.

Monday saw us visit Legoland.  This was for the children, was what I was saying under my breath, and through gritted teeth, for most of the day.  In fairness, we did get wet on the very first ride, so spent the first six hour with a wet bum, so there was some fun to be had.  Children gave this five out of five.  Adults, for political reasons, and the threat of a beating from the Whip's Office, gave it two out of five.

A most enjoyable time was had by all, and I returned to work feeling refreshed and relaxed and full of the joys of Autumn . . .

I think you can probably finish that sentence.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Golfy and Bad Man

Having had a comment come back from Bad Man, I decided to give him a ping to say hello.  Well strike me down with a bloated badger if the phone did not ring but five seconds later, and it was Golfy on the line.  At first I thought this might be one of those amazing coincidences, but it wasn't; Golfy was sitting next to Bad Man and they thought it would be funny to ring me up.  Apparently they are together planning the local Gay Mardi Gras or something.  Anyhow, it was great to hear from them and good to find out what has been happening in their lives and to pour some sunshine into their otherwise dismal existences* by telling them all about my 'van.  Apparently they need neither lucky heather nor their palms reading, so I was politely informed to do one.

On other news, it seems that the challenge of finding suitable troopers to assist with their work is as acute in their bit of the business as it is in mine.  I am not sure whether that brings consolation exactly, but the devil in me is sort of happy that they are suffering as much as me.  I am not proud of that, and in fact will be retracting is with a statement to the House early next week, and anyway it was not me but my unpaid adviser** friend***. 

All is left for me to do is to wish you all a fantastic weekend, and see you next week.

* This scientific analysis is yet to be peer reviewed, so may not be universally accepted.
** I know you folks like a good fact as much as I do, so I just wanted to report that I was not sure whether this should be "advisor" or "adviser".  The general consensus on Google seems to be that either spelling is correct, with some suggesting a UK/US divide, but most concluding that not to be the case.  One further bit of info; if you are a chap who likes to know what other chaps are doing, then on the web at least, Google returns four times as many incidences of "advisor" as "adviser", so if you like to buck the trend, spell it with "-er".
*** I say friend only in as much as my wife has yet to talk to the press to say that she is standing by me, so I am pretty sure it is "friend" and not "leather buddy".

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Unconsequential mutterings

I am really trying to think of original titles, and not keep using old ones.  The trouble is, that means I need to think, and that is not always compatible with my working day.

However, in the round, not much will happen today, so the title is not utterly irrelevant.  I will do work, and that work will involve a constant round of Quarts and Pint Pot escapades, which means not much time to think due to a constant round of IMs, calls and emails.  I also need to plan my handover whilst I am away, something that is painful but necessary, however as the "team leader"*,

Home is geared around preparations for the 'vannin' long weekend.  I will visit said 'van this evening to get the winter awning, the clothes and the Maggot's bikes in the van ready for when we go pick it up on Saturday morning.  I may also be changing the windscreen wipers on LO's little jalopy.

And that, my friends, means an Album Filler Track of a day.

* which does not sound very grand at the start, and yet is still a lot grander than it is

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Alone at last, but will it last

I have just read Bad Man's journal, and alongside teaching me some new vernacular to describes one's colleagues, I was most taken by his terrible evening out with dull colleagues.  Conversation was, he reported, nigh on non-existent, and where it did exist the general opinion was that it should not have done so.  I did like the visit to the loo to text tigger bit.  Most ingenious.

All I can say to that is, has he tried working from home unexpectedly for an enforced period of ill Maggot watching, and a Maggot, I should remind  you, that had lost his voice completely, thus denying a chap of even the most basic of conversations.  "What ya watching?".  "repeats of The Simpon's", and the like.

Overall, the busy week is as expected.  School run followed by Maggot watching until mid morning, then a quick scoot up to the local Starfleet to be with the team and to spend at least a small amount of time face-to-face with my work colleagues.  Also need to be back pronto to attend two times parents' evenings. 

After that, two more days working before we are off for 4 days in the 'van.  We are going to the outskirts of London to a lovely, peaceful and relatively rural site, but as a base for a couple of day trips to London.  I hope and expect that a fantastic time will be had by all, we just have to remember not to spend anything.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

How to Spot a Liar

I caught this and it rather appealed.  Some of it I have heard before, but the overall tone of the talk I had not, and I found it very interesting.

The week from hell

Slightly melodramatic, however it is a week the back of which I will be very pleased to see. 

LO has a number of breakfast events, which means she is out the house by 7.15am, and I am then on school run duty. 

This had originally meant mixing in early drop offs before heading on to the office, however Maggot 1 happens to be ill at the moment (croup/sore throat/fever with a bit of hallucinating thrown in) so I have had to change arrangements and do even more juggling than usual, and spend my time working at home. 

Starfleet may not be perfect, my words and those of my fellow bloggers can attest to that, however it does at least provide the option to work at home, something very useful in our armoury of tools to answer the question "how the hell are we going to manage that?".

We are away in the 'van for 4 days starting Saturday, which right now feels like the last thing we need, but will actually be a bit of a break from the roller-coaster that is our normal life right now, and the absence of most electrical devices will be a welcome change*.

On other news, there is no other news, except that the dishwasher may be on its last legs, the top of one of our new floor-to-ceiling doors in the utility room was left half open under a spot light, so now has a Daliesque melted bit at the top, our second fridge has died (a phrase that strikes me, on re-reading, as decidedly middle class), the PVR, as already mentioned, is becoming unreliable and I am on pain of death to find a suitable replacement, and we have still to finish all the bits in the extension.  In summary, we are facing similar challenges as the EU in that we have more things on which to spend money than the money itself, but without the ability to go print ourselves some more if we do find ourselves in such a position.  As Golfy so eloquently says, "Ho hum".

* this is of course only as long as the PVR does its job over the weekend for our not-to-be-missed weekend viewing.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Can you tell a story?

I attended a Starfleet one-day event during the week, and in the final half an hour leading up to lunch, we were asked to share our "personal" stories about working for our company. 

Two examples were given. 

Example one was about a Starfleet employee who was driving through France with her family, and who had a bad road traffic accident.  When the medics attended the scene, they found her Starfleet badge* and immediately contacted the local French office, who mobilised the whole process of getting medical help for her family right the way through to assisting in the arranging of passage back to the UK, including notifying her own Starfleet manager of the problems she had experienced.  In her words, Starfleet all but saved her and her family's life.  That one brought a small tear to a chap's eye I have to confess.

Example two was when an employee was enjoying a beer outside a pub opposite one of Starfleet's offices in London.  He was approached by a tramp, who asked this person "Do you work for Starfleet?".  "Yes", he replied.  The tramp then asked "do you work on System Q?", to which the man replied "yes", somewhat surprised.  "We love System Q boxes down at Cardboard City, they make the best shelters", the tramp responded, before walking off down the street.

Faced with those two different but touching and/or funny stories, we were then set to task with our pens and our papers.  I had no idea what story I was going to tell.  Then I had a flash-back to when I was working in Worcester, when I started a band with my customer, his mate, and two colleagues/friends from Starfleet, and how we were in "harmony" with our customer, demonstrating cross-brand collaboration, etc. etc.  and how we raised good money for two charities.  I know this was rather blowing my own trumpet, or more precisely strumming my own guitar, but nevertheless it was the one and only story I could think of.   And you you know what, my story was read out.  Shame I was in the karzie at the time.

* there is a whole back-story to be had as to why she was carrying said badge whilst on holiday me thinks

Friday, 7 October 2011

And . . . relax

Another week nearly over, some good work done, some DIY tasks completed.

On the DIY front, I have been building a built-in desk for my office, using off-cuts from my Uncle-in-Law, oak-veneered MDF, and the base desk is now installed, oiled and waxed and looking mighty fine, if I say so myself.  It will still need a cable management bit added, possibly procured from Ikea, and also a shelf to hold the broadband router.
Phase two is to build a raised section for the middle of the desk rear, which will be to raise up the screens, and will also include two small drawers.  The main frame pieces are cut and sanded, ready for oak edging and assembling.  Once that is installed, I will then do phase two point one, which is to add the drawers to the unit.  I was slightly worried that my carpentry skills would not be good enough to make this, but so far it is looking pretty good. Still have the drawers to do, which are the most complicated bit, but based on what I have done so far, and how it is looking, I think they will come out well.

It is Maggot 2's birthday this weekend, and we are having a family day in London, going up on the train, and visiting the Tower of London and Hamley's, the latter for Maggot 2 to buy his present.  To avoid excessive sibling rivalry, Maggot 1 will have a small allowance to spend also.

Sunday is then a visit to a local "soft play area", with a friend who shares a nearly the same birthday, and their mutual and other friends.  It should be fun, for the little ones at least, and I may even get my shoes off and have a play.

I hope you have a good weekend, speak again on Monday.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Sad news

I read today that Steve Jobs has died.  Fifty eight really is way to early to shuffle off this mortal coil.  I am not sure if he was universally loved, but overall he did design some pretty cool stuff, or at least some pretty cool stuff was designed on his watch.  My thoughts go out to his family.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Flies and spiders

Is it just me, or are there a lot of flies and spiders around at the moment.  I know Autumn is a time for spiders, and there have been a few whoppers leaving the building via glass and magazine cover*.  The flies may be to do with the warm weather and food waste** so we have no-one but ourselves to blame.  One "feature" of the skylight is that it does act as a very effective fly trap.

The week is progressing as weeks often do, starting gently to lull a chap in to a false sense of security, before unleashing the full force of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, or at least their second cousins who work for my current customer.  In fact, I think I can hear the faint rumble of horses hooves right now, so gotta dash.

* While I am the bravest of the family, even I need a glass to catch the little blighters
** I know, and I agree with all the arguments that say this is a terrible waste, and I am not proud of it

Monday, 3 October 2011

Monday Monday Here Again

We did have a lovely Saturday night, but as is the general rules of cause and effect, we had a pretty terrible Sunday.  The day itself was beautiful, and I did manage to paint the kitchen, but we were hung over*, and so the day dragged, with a few bad words spoken, until the time** when we could sit down and veg out with all our recorded programmes, which included Strictly, Merlin, Doctor Who*** and X-Factor.  Whether you consider that list your idea of hell, or a bundle of pleasure for the whole family, will inevitably be dependent on how you view the world.

Brad and Angelina stayed over, with their maggots, and it was a pleasure as always to have their company.  They are undertaking their own DIY activities right now so we had a bit of a chat over methods and materials.  It is fair to say that Brad is a man with many talents and interests, but DIY is not one of them.  Having said that, on a quick trip to Tesco the previous evening to buy beer, we did spend way to long in the odds and ends aisle, and we were both very impressed with a Dulux brush set which had the most tactile brushes a chap has ever handled.  The pack included a brush with the bristles in a triangle, so shaped for cutting in.  Based on this experience, I have not given up hope that Brad can develop very nicely in to the worst kind of DIY person - very interested in the purchasing of tools, but less good at their use.  And if Brad wants to write in to give me some stick, I probably deserve it.

Final news was that Uncle Chippy brought round some oak-veneered MDF that was left over from one of his jobs, so is free to me and will make a very nice built in desk.  I did have ideas of grandeur that I would get a free-standing desk, but finances are tight so needs must and all that.  Uncle also brought round the oil and wax to finish off the wood, so all's well in the Scobi world.  I just need to find a few moments to make it.

* I blame a very nice vintage port.  I must remember "sip, don't gulp".
** 3pm, if you are interested
*** Which we now know really is a question.  Kind of one in the eye for that old knock-knock joke.

Friday, 30 September 2011

I know, I know

I have been rather absent lately, and if you have indeed been thinking that, then you are not the only one.  I have even been absent from myself.

To be honest, my bones are still aching from the floor varnishing last weekend, and I have been very busy travelling to the office for four days, that I have been both busy and exhausted for most of the week.  I even went out on Tuesday to play snooker with Mr Big.  We have a great evening, and while I worried him a bit with my wicked cue arm (top break a lofty 17), in the end it was the foul shots wot done me in, and he emerged the victor.  We have a return match planned in a couple of weeks, when I will not be giving him any sort of head-start.

On other news, we have a dinner for six at the weekend, with David and Samantha and Brad and Angelina coming over for some nosh, the latter with their little progeny, all four of which will be staying for a sleep-over.  Needless to say it will be late night, for them at least*, and I am anticipating a very enjoyable and fun evening.

That's about it for this week.  I cannot decide whether I should carry on writing, in which case I need to write more frequently, or whether I should just hang up my blogging shoes and stop altogether, so if you do hear from me again, it should be in a more regular fashion, but if you don't, then d

* My trick being to fall asleep just after the last mouthful of dessert.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Regency Furniture

We had a fantastic weekend away 'vannin'.  The weather was, for the most part, better than the forecast, although we did get a bit of rain, on and off.  This was most inconvenient on Saturday night when we were trying to have a BBQ, however a bit of ingenuity, string, spare poles and the flap from the awning made a perfect roof for the BBQ area, and a very nice meal was had by all.  The awning was severely smoked in the process, and is now hanging up in the shed, drying and airing, so the shed itself now smells like I imagine one of those kipper-smoking huts smells.

The only other slight fly in the ointment, but not one that caused grief for long, was the fact that the Maggots and their maggoty friends made a camp, as you do when camping in amongst the trees.  Unfortunately, this contravenes Rule 4, subsection iii of the woodland code*, and so our friendly ranger, whilst doing his rounds with snake hook** in hand, did drop by to inform us of our transgression.  Needless to say that we have now tutored the maggots in the perils of Ranger Danger.

On other news, I am half way through replacing white plastic sockets and switches with brushed stainless versions in the rest of the house, to match the newer part of the house.  By so doing, I have been and gotten myself a bit of an education on two way switches, being totally floored by an issue with the hallway light for an hour or more, before Uncle Google came to the rescue.  I am currently learning about three way switches, for the landing light, and realise that you need a special "intermediate" switch in the middle that has four, not three, connections.  A quick trip back to the electrical wholesaler will hopefully sort that one out.
I have realised however that, were events to take a turn for the worse on the employment front, "Electrician" is not one of the out-of-the-box jobs I will be considering.  It is just too damn fiddly.  Maybe it is my chubbly little fingers (the same chubby fingers that stops me playing even a passable rendition of any Hendrix riff***), but those little screws and the short wires and all that messing about just does nothing for me.  The switches and sockets so far converted do, though, really look the business, and have finished off their host rooms nicely.

This weekend, LO is in London on Saturday with Samantha, so undoubtedly David and myself will be doing something together with the Maggots.  Probably Pizza Hut like every other saddo daddo.  I am also planning for Sunday to be the floor re-varnish day.  Now we have the patina of oil-based varnish as a base, I plan to use water-based Diamond Hard Varnish from Ronseal, and being water-based means that it does dry quicker.  I can re-coat after 2 hours, and it should be dried sufficiently to tiptoe in 8 hours, and fully dry in 24, although experience tells me it will be fully hard in a week or so.  This will mean clearing the room of furniture, made somewhat easier from the recent painting, which means that the room is only a skeleton room anyway.  The plan I think is to move it all to the extension, and set that up as the day room proper with sofa, chairs and TV setup.  We will then be confined to downstairs until late afternoon.
David does not know it yet, but I hope to lure him back from Pizza Hut on Saturday to help with the lifting, assuming his back can take it, which is not a given.

* Nothing may be tied or attached to any tree within the site.
** Well, it was either a snake hook or a litter spike.
*** I am all for artistic licence, but really, Hendrix?  Are you sure?  Ed.

Friday, 16 September 2011

And . . . relax

It is uncanny, this Friday thing.  Each week, without fail, here it is.

This Friday finds me preparing for a weekend away in the 'van.  Due to the extension, which I think I may have mentioned, we have not been away in it as much as usual, and by way of making up for lost ground, are away at least twice leading up to Christmas, including this weekend.

We are planning a trip down to the New Forest, in a site with no electric hook up, which is not what a chap is used to, but if there is one thing the services teach you it is how to muck in with the lower ranks.  As my well-worn story goes about the girl at art college responded when accused of being a snob, "I am not a snob, I talk to people below me". 

To be honest, the weather looks a bit dodgy.  Depending on which nearest town you pick*, it varies from light rain to heavy rain, which is the sort of weather forecast you only expect to see up North.  Needless to say that, as a rule, the weather does not play much of a part in the enjoying of a weekend away - it is, after all, something you need to expect if you choose to go camping anytime outside that really good week in late March we seem to get every year.

On the home front, a rather rash acceptance of an offer from my dad to "decorate the front room" has meant the putting on hold of a number of other jobs, the covering is furniture with drapes in said room, and to generally creating the sort of stress levels in one's partner that are usually only experienced by Premiership Football Managers on a losing streak.  It will all be worth it when it is done seems to be wearing thin right now, so maybe a new tack needs to be taken to avoid physical harm.

So, better get off and finish my working day.  Have a great weekend, and speak next week.

* Where we are going is somewhat off the beaten path, as you would expect from such an intrepid traveller.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011