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Thursday, 31 March 2011

An interesting week

I am reminded of the curse "May you live in interesting times" and decided to Google it.  After all, a chap needs to maintain his education in these interesting times.  Its supposed Chinese origins seem to be a bit of an urban myth from the "Confucius say" camp, and its real source may be much more Western. 
It has some sister phrases of "May you come to the attention of the authorities" and "May you find what you are looking for".  I guess it is all in the telling. If you can inflect a slight psycho lilt as you utter them then maybe they can work.

"May you come to the attention of the authorities" seems apposite in these current interesting times, where Starfleet is once again looking for volunteers to step in to the air-lock and attend to matters on another craft, and maybe the second one is both curse and advice in such troubling times.

Now, a chap must refrain from hysteria at all times since it can unsettle the staff, but there does seem to be a grain of truth in these three phrases.  Maybe I have a future as a horoscope writer if I can find meaning in the meaningless.  But then us Librans are often sceptical but open to new ideas.

Anyhow, enough of the froth, show us some substance. 

We have survived the roof fire and all traces of said fire are now buried in the skip under the remains of the roof gravel (the balance of which was used to bury the new soil and water pipes which is, apparently, needed to give the pipe space to move).  Indeed, the building inspector visited to inspect the drains and was none the wiser that there had been any fire damage, assuming the beams had been replaced due to subsidence as part of the process of inserting the final two steels, which was achieved by cutting away the beams so the steels could be lowered in from above.  His assumption being the cut ends had sagged and were thus replaced.  Phew.
Work is work, and is definitely living in interesting times.  We are slowly getting more troopers and as they come up to speed, we should start to see the benefits.  The only cloud on a chap's horizon are the number of internal and transformation projects looming, all of which require assistance from my team, resource that I simply cannot spare at the moment without breaking something.  Either more troopers will arrive, or big bosses will need to make priority calls on what gets dropped, which then tips us back in to "interesting times" territory. 

So why, you may be asking (and if you are not, then you have definitely not been paying attention), are troopers being asked to volunteer for other duties if we are suffering so for lack of troopers.  Damned if I know, and the stars are telling me nothing, however if a dark stranger offers me millions of pounds to help free funds from an African country, apparently a chap is advised to politely decline.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A bit hot to handle

Things were going so well with the building work.  And to be honest, there was no reason that should change, but some folks believe that there is a quotient for good and bad luck, so we were due a bit of the latter.

This arrived with a vengeance last night when we had a fire.  The roofer had been gone about 45 minutes, when there was a knock at the door.  "You seem to be on fire" said the friendly neighbour.  "Oh, don't worry, we have the roofer in".  "OK, but it doesn't look quite right to me", reiterated the good Samaritan.  And so it was, probably the bits of felt that had collected in the gutter had combined with the heat from the heat gun to make fire, and several beams, the roof boards and the edges of the insulation were all burnt.  I was summoned and proceeded to find the hose and start dousing in water.  Meanwhile a quick call to builder was made and within 15 minutes both builder and roofer were onsite sorting it out, which required the removal of layers until the source of the last remaining smolder smoke was identified, doused with water and the roof made safe.

The maggots found it awesome.  The adults found is rather scary.  But all live to see another day.

Monday, 28 March 2011

And now it is Monday

I hit the same space-time continuum upset as Golfy this weekend, but in reverse.  I thought my weekend would never end.

It was Maggot 1's birthday and he had 4 friends, count them please, one, two, three, four, for a day of rock-climbing*, football and sweet-eating followed by a sleep-over.  Barely contained chaos.  The final straw was going in at 10pm to be told they had set their alarms (in the plural in case you missed it) for midnight so they could actually have a midnight feast.  Managed to persuade them to bring forward catering arrangements and some kind of DS- and sugar-fueled sanity was restored.  
We asked their parents to come pick them up at 9.30am, which with the clocks going forward was pretty early, but we really really needed it to be that time.  Nuff said.
I also managed to finish the painting of the outside of the french doors, over a couple of well-planned sessions on Saturday and Sunday.  Have decided to pause the internals and wait for the re-decorating of the whole room once the building is completed.

* I can report, with some pride, and whole lot more surprise, that even despite my worsening "weight to strength" ratio, I had a go and actually did pretty well, reaching the top of the climbing wall on both of my climbs.  Can barely use my arms and legs today of course.

Friday, 25 March 2011

And . . . relax

So we find ourselves at Friday, and a chap is looking forward to a productive day working from home, enjoying the short commute and at the end of the working day, ready to start the weekend as soon as is decent. 

But wait, what is this, alarm clock set for 0530 hours, work shoes, shower and shave, what's going on here then.  The answer, my friends, is that I have been called to a 3 hour meeting to discuss the non-functional requirements for my new project with a cast of millions.  If that means nothing to you then I salute you, and can only imagine that your yin and yang are in perfect harmony.

NFRs (as those in the business like to call them) are one of the more tedious things to develop, as are most of the important bits of a project.  Throw in a group of ten people to discuss and agree them, and you have death by committee on a topic that the Death Eaters have for breakfast.  Don't they say that a camel is a horse designed by a committee?  Well, we can expect a right donkey today.  No doubt we will be tabling a number of issues, fridging a whole bunch of others, putting our toes in the water to test the lay of the land, and running plenty of things up the flagpole to see who salutes.

I wish you a good weekend, whenever it may start, and ask you to think of me at around 1515 hours, as the very life force begins to dribble out the end of my shoes.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Mid-week update - well, near enough

I have been rather pre-occupied this week, with a couple of days in the office (long days, plenty of progress on audio story though), a blitz activity going on (same as a normal day, but with management "focus") and, of course, the building work, which goes on apace.  This has meant I have been neglecting you, dear reader, and I know from the many letter that you have been missing your daily dose of mundanity.

On the building front, we now have both the washing machine and dryer under plastic sheeting outside the kitchen window, and with the wooden wall now blocking rear exit, I have had to tackle one of the items on my long term to-do list, to make our french windows from the dining room able to be opened, closed and locked.  This required some fiddling with bolt locks top and bottom, and a fair amount of planing and sanding to reduce tops, bottoms and sides so they fit in their hole again. 

I also replaced the lock and handles which were well rusty and cheap and nasty respectively.  Final stage is to paint them.  I have done the rubbing down, a job no-one likes, and have painted the left hand door.  I hope to do little bits at lunch time and finish the right hand door and frame.  I am using Sadolin external gloss paint.  It goes on a bit funny, with a texture like chocolate goes when you melt it too fast, but it is self-undercoating and pretty robust, which means you can just slap on two coats and it will do the business.  Having done experiments previously, I can confirm that on day 1, it does not look quite as good as old fashioned undercoat/gloss combination, however by day 44 there is no difference in appearance, and generally on day 999 it is in a better state.  So, any paint that is easier to apply, can stick to anything and looks good for longer is a friend of mine.

Other news is that the steel over the main doors at the back is in, as is the steel across the roof span.  The final steels, that bolt to the steel spanning the gap in a T formation, will go in shortly.  All the walls that need to be removed have now been removed, with Acros holding up the ceiling until final steels and associated roofing carpentry is finished.
The footings are also dug for the new wall to brick up the garage door space, in which will ultimately be a window, and even the trench to take the washing machine and utility room sink waste is dug out to the point that will be our new whatever-it-is-called plastic junction and rodding-point contraption into which will also flow sink, shower and toilet gubbins.

I have the sense we have turned the corner in as much as we had done with all the pulling down of stuff, and will now be (slowly and painfully) putting it back together again.  Badman reliably informs me that it is usually weeks 11-12 when you start to wish that these jolly and friendly strangers would just leave, so at the end of week 4 I guess we need to hold our nerve for a bit longer.  Overall we are coping very well, albeit our house looks like a squat that has been greedily furnished with the spoils of a post-riot plundering campaign.  I mean, really, who does need TWO fridge-freezers, and why on earth put them in the dining room?

Friday, 18 March 2011

And . . . relax

Well, another week nearer 't' grave.  

Had a good chat with Bad Man today.  Life in the new troop of Starfleet brings with it both good and bad, but the good is better and the bad is tolerable.  I would call that some kind of success.  Combine that with newly plastered bedroom ceiling, the oak linen cupboard on the upstairs landing, a bit of homemade bacon (only one butty now Golfy) and you have something like the perfect formula.  If I wore a hat, I would take it off to him.

The steels arrived today, and I have it on good authority, myself being otherwise occupied, that they were flippin'* heavy.

The skylight also arrived today.  Now I know how to read a tape measure, so I know what one metre looks like, and I am pretty sure two metres is about double that, but somehow when you see a skylight that is one metre by two metres, it don't 'arf look big.  In fact, we have probably halved our roofing bill just by putting this in.

It is Red Nose Day today, so we will be eating hot dogs (double onions and ketchup for me) and watching some of the show, until Maggot 2 falls asleep and Maggot 1 gets so fidgety there is only one place for him.

Have a good weekend.  Speak next week.

* I also have it on good authority that this was not the word used.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

And another thing

Well, you will be pleased to hear we have solved the riddle of where the builders go to loo now that they have ripped out the bathroom, sink and toilet bowl.  LO was putting her bike away in the shed when there was the sound of hurried zipping, followed by the emergence of Uncle builder from behind the shed.

I guess as far as marking out your territory, that will probably keep most of the large apes away from our garden, and it is also probably doing wonders for the composting, which is a well known trick if you listen to Gardener's Question Time - but I don't, so I am guessing.

We now have a large hole in the wall in to what was the utility room, and the window is also just a hole, ready for making slightly narrower to fit in with the position of the new shower cubicle.  One of the steels comes today, the rest on Monday, so we are in to the world of acros and big holes.  I had to add bolts to the door in to the old utility room just to keep us safe in her bed.  I also had to add a bracket to the top right of the patio doors since with the side wall removed for keying in new brickwork, there is owt holding it in.  

All this security stuff needs to last one day, because tomorrow Uncle Chippie is coming round to create a screen at the end of the breakfast bar to block us completely off from the building, so that they can then pull down whatever they want, in whatever order they need to to get the job done, or if the weather stops other activities.  We are slowly shrinking in to the rest of the house, and the clutter level is reaching critical levels.  More stuff has gone in to the loft, more still will go to the shed, and we end up living in not much more than a caravan, relatively speaking.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Mid-week update

  • Work is hard.  Really, it is a much worse word than that, but a chap doesn't want to scare the horses.
  • building going like the clappers - may need to fit boards across kitchen for security as we are "breaking through" in the next day or two.
  • my finger is getting better.  I now know elevation is good, so I am putting my hand up, literally, as much as I can.
  • We are having second thoughts about Glastonbury.  I had a quick chat with Brad, and he is also in two minds.  Welcome to the world of Librans.  What do you want to do today?  I don't mind, whatever you do.  Nor do I, so whatever you want to do.  It can last for hours.  Scientists ought to be able to harness this energy for the future benefit of mankind.  Technically the final decision is being made this coming weekend, but I fear the heads will rule the hearts, and the decision is made.
  • Did I mention work?

Thursday, 10 March 2011


I told you the other day that my builder was chopping out bricks in the existing house to key in the new brickwork.  I was wrong.  He was simply getting back to the bare brick (our house is rendered) to screw on metal strips from which metal protrusions are put to key in to the pub layer of the new brickwork.  I sincerely apologise for this construction faux pas, and also for my fickle nature, since already I prefer this method.  My builder tells me it is "bloody good", so thank goodness that we are not doing it that old way.

One unexpected, for us at least, aspect of all this banging is that the wall to which the right side in to which our existing patio doors used to screw is no longer there.  It is secure with bolts the size of my pinky top and bottom, so security is not likely to be an issue, but I can see daylight through the crack.  Some may mourn the sad decline and eventual demise of these patio doors, but not us.  The day they are removed, and either carted to the tip, given away on Freecycle or sold on eBay (depending on their condition, and whether I can be @rsed) is the day that we will be rolling out the bunting.  And in line with LO's strategy for often buying stuff we didn't know we needed, and certainly don't use, we have some rather fetching bunting in the loft ready for that day. 

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

What is it that you do again?

I am sitting here in a very long conference call, pondering the old and the new.  I work in a technological world, and my mobile phone and with my laptop, via email, instant messaging, phone conferences and web conferences, I am able to do my job sitting at a little desk temporarily setup in my bedroom.  Prior to sitting in my bedroom, I sat at the dining room table, and was observed by, and had conversations with, the builders.

Now, theirs is a proper job; you use a shovel and a little skid-steer digger to make a hole; you fill it up with concrete, bricks and stones; you rip out old stud partitions, ceiling plasterboard and associated insulation (or to be precise, what the previously builder laughingly call insulation, because the handkerchief in my pocket offers more); you sit three abreast in your van as you arrive and leave.  Now, I am not paranoid by nature, even if the b@stards are talking about me, but I have to say that they really must be wondering what the hell it is I actually do.  All I do is sit around all day on the computer, spend half the day on the phone, often looking out the patio doors to see what is going on with the building work, and there is not a hole dug or filled up in sight.  I have to say I have some sympathy with them, because on my darkest days I do ponder pretty much the same thing myself.

And what with Starfleet announcing another round of consultation, from which often flows voluntary and then involuntary redundancy.  We are still feeling the real effects of the last round, and so there is a slight cloud of doom floating above our heads.  At this stage, I am not so worried about my own position, however if I am one of those left after people are taken out of the business, then I do wonder what kind of organisation that would be.  Things seem hard enough right now with the lack of resource; the thought that this could get worse does not bear thinking about.  So I won't.

It's all downhill from here

We hit the mid-week that the locals call Wednesday, and I find myself at a peak, rather than a trough.  This may or may not be true.

I had to visit the doctors yesterday, to get my finger checked out.  About three weeks ago, I was trying to get a screw out of a piece of wood, and it was rusted in. So I decided that brute force and ignorance would win the day, and I proceeded to bang the pointy end of the screw on the concrete patch, to persuade it to move sufficiently to then all a screwdriver to remove it.  What I did not plan on was that my finger would also be between the concrete and the wood.  In fact, I may well have already told you that, so let's call this a recap.  Anyhow, my finger looks a bit like:

Now, this is obviously a library shot, and not my actual finger, since my finger is somewhat more swollen than that, with a large lump on the underside, that has been in the family so long it now has a name of Ermintrude.  The bit that made me visit the quacks was that it also has a "click".  If I flex the tip upwards, there is an audible click, and when an ex-nurse friend said "I should get that checked out if I were you" I decided it was time to get in touch with my feminine side, stop thinking "it'll all get better eventually" and get down to old sick shop.
I left the said establishment with a prescription for anti-inflammatories, and my finger buddy-splinted to the one next to it.  This later bit was really just for dramatic effect, but it will get me out of any washing up and lifting of heavy weights for a couple of months if I play things right.

The building proceeds at a pace.  We are up to damp-course level now, the hole in the middle is in-filled with large stones, prior to the concrete base, Celotex insulation and final cement base to the right level.  We had considered floating floor but to be honest, we are likely to go with tiles and the slight flex in a suspended floor can be the devil to a brittle think like a tile, as we found to our cost in the bathroom. 

Today, they will mostly be doing banging.  This is all part of the process of keying the new brickwork in to the old.  I have it on good authority from David that his builder screwed a bit metal strip on the existing wall, which had fold down bits that keyed on the pug layers of the new brickwork, which sounds nifty, but somehow I quite like the "chisel it out" method since it seems old-fashioned, which in building can sometimes mean "not as good as the modern stuff" but is often actually still better, although the new way is good enough and cheaper.  Same with the plumbing, which will likely be done by my father-in-law.  He is old school, copper all the way, and because of his experience, and the fact he does not want to revisit a job due to leaks, he always does a first-class job, and I like that.

Monday, 7 March 2011

That was the weekend that was

Terrible news.  My title re-use quotient is through the roof.  I must get some originality pills forthwith.  Or if not, I guess I can always plagiarise some.

I have a fantastic weekend, thanks for asking.  The weather was dry, and at times sunny, and whilst a little cold, much fun was had, and no discomfort felt.  There is nothing better for a chap than a morning that starts egg bap and a cup of tea in the 'van with his wife and mates.  Well there is, but not in this price bracket, nor at this time of year.  Within the limiting criteria open to a chap, he likes to think he has made a good fist of things.

Next trip will be with Brad and Angelina to a place that I cannot name, but think of a place with swings and slides, that is not at the edge, and you may not too far from the place.  Myself and Maggot 1 will be able to try out our Christmas presents of fishing rods.  I like a well structured package, and our kits are just that.  Telescopic rods, compact reels (spare spool for me), little float, rubber, weight and hook set, all in an over-the-shoulder bag.  Just give me a loaf of bread and I could be happy for several hours.  The lake itself stocks Carp predominantly, Common, Mirror and Crucian, and they are my favourite fish.  Just for Golfy, coz I know he loves a stat or two, the UK record weight for these are probably:

  • Common Carp - 67lb 6oz - for Two Tone, who sadly passed last year
  • Mirror Carp     - 61lb 7oz
  • Crucian Carp    - 4lb 2oz
So the trick is obviously to catch a Common or Mirror Carp, paint it Crucian colour, and claim the UK, and possibly world, record.

Having bored even myself half to death, and with Bad Man telling tales of trans-Atlantic travel and re-plastered ceilings and Golfy about the hot tub his daughter's mates are coming round to use, I think it is time to sign off.  Until next time.

Friday, 4 March 2011

And . . . relax

Just a quick note to wish you good weekend.  The weather is looking good, and we are off 'vannin' to the north of the New Forest.  Now that I am feeling a bit better, I am very much looking forward to it, and just need to get my work in a ship-shape form before I can sign off with a clear conscience.  The trouble with being sick is that it is time out for which you are unable to plan or handover to others, so you just get a massive queue of stuff that on which you should have been working.

I hope to find a few moments to catch up with Golfy next week, to find out where his head is at, since it is patently not on the top of his shoulders - a chap can only hope that it is not somewhere dark and smelly, like Birmingham.

Have a good weekend, speak next week.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

That was the week that wasn't

So, this week should have been busy on the work front as I wade in to my high priority work.  Instead, Monday saw me visiting the local GP and departing same with a prescription for antibiotics, and getting through to about 4pm before I had to throw in the towel and retire to bed.  There I stayed for 3 days, give or take a visit to the toilet and to the fridge - not flu then coz the appetite was unaffected - until this evening, when, having given myself a long hard look, I am contemplating that I really need to get back to work tomorrow.  Work will be piling up, and I need to be reintroduced to polite society sooner or later, so might as well be tomorrow.  It gives me a day to get my feet back under the desk, so that I can then hit the ground running next week, and I may even run the flag up the pole to see who salutes, but only to get a full house on wotsit-word Bingo.

By the way, the illness is chest infection, which for me meant a bucket of phlegm a day and a general feeling of grottiness, with a large dose of coughing thrown in to give me a sore throat and a sore head. 

On another front, our builders have started, and by gum they don't hang around.  We are at the end of day four and the foundations are laid, and the existing wing stripped or all stud partitioning, roof plasterboard and laminate flooring.  It don't half look big stripped out, and after hours myself and LO did get the tape measure out to work out where everything was going to be sitting, and we were left with smiles.

I also managed to move the phone and broadband link from in to the old study in to the under-stairs study, as a temporary fix.  The end game will be to have this in my new study, at the end of the stripped space, about 1.5m away from where it is now, once that is actually built.  

We now have the washing machine outside, and the fridge and dryer at the end of the kitchen.  It is like a white-goods squat.  Roll on 3 months time.

Until we meet again.