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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Eve

My parents fly in from Spain today, and as is the tradition, on their day of travel, the weather is really dodgy.  They have left Spain, that much we know, but the trains from Gatwick to Scobiville seem to be cancelled en masse, presumably due to "debris on the track" from last night causing services to backup and, in the case of the South coast routes, be cancelled.

I am half expecting a call, since while they like to be independent, typically refusing any offers of being picked up, they also prefer to not spend Christmas day in the Gatwick Departure Lounge.  Time will tell.

I had a small bout of unwellness last night - a sudden overwhelming feeling that I was going to be sick, reminiscent of last year's Norovirus outbreak, not something that I would willingly revisit, even as part of a weight-loss campaign.  I just went to bed, and that seemed to fend off the worst of the effects, but I did not eat for 24 hours and to be honest, that alone is sufficient proof that it was a proper illness, unwilling as I am to wander too far from the next meal.  We missed a party as a result, and while I was accused by the less generous in the house of inventing an illness, I can only say it was real enough to me, and even today I do feel a bit delicate.

So, Christmas Eve.  We will be off to Chrisdingle at 5pm, then back for onesies and a pick 'n' mix tea, a speciality in Scobi towers consisting of bread and cheese and salad and sausages and crisps and olives and all manner of nibbles, combining in to a mighty fine tea.  I just hope that I have the appetite for at least a bit of it.

It only leaves me to wish you all a very Happy, relaxing and peaceful Christmas and New Year.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas Eve Eve

Two more days at work, then off for a week.  Looking forward to it greatly.

As for work, just a matter of tidying up the threads, and then I can finish with a clean conscience and plate.

Friday, 20 December 2013

And . . . relax

And what a relax it is.  As I have mentioned, several times, the rest of the clan is off from tonight for two weeks, at which point there is a very large collective sigh of relief.

Work for me is remaining busy, still busy closing deals and threads, with the added thrill, spice and excitement that I am now also closing some threads for two of my colleagues.  That equates to a lot of threads, some of which I am not very familiar, and it is fair to say that I have dropped one or two over the previous week.  Luckily, I have plenty of colleagues who have kindly pointed out any such drops.  Every day is a school day.

Finally, we start to look forward to Christmas.  The trees, in plural as we use the old artificial one in the front room and a real one in the back room.  This has meant that our decorations are a little bit sparse, spread as they rather thin between two trees.  Nevertheless, minimal is most definitely in, and with the lights they are looking good girlfriend.

In case I cannot get round to blogging again, have a great Christmas and a merry, joyous and peaceful New Year.

Until next year.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Another day near 't' grave

So here we are, Thursday before Christmas, late night shopping in Scobiville, and a night when we are looking to go out and do some shopping, and then do some eating. 

Work is refusing to slow down, so I am taking a unilateral approach and just slowing myself down, regardless of how fast the work decides to operate.

In fairness, things are starting to go a bit quieter, and my client will be allowing its contractors to go on holiday until the New Year from yesterday onwards, so surely no organisation can maintain such volumes when a third of their workforce are tucking in to their mince pies.

I have also been asked to provide personal references for Brad, something that I have not been asked to do for a while.  I felt a bit rusty at first, and then once into my stride slightly like I was looking to marry him rather than recommend him.  I think the word "gushing" would about cover it.  Anyhow, it is all true (one of my core values, and also one I documented as one of Brad's if I am not very much mistaken) so how bad can it get.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The home straight

We had a great weekend at Brad and Angelina's, including, but not limited to, a fantastic fish pie and, or course, the obligatory Cherry Madeira cake.  Such delights are riches no money can buy.

Brad has a new job.  Woo hoo, and also of course, one in the eye for me and my "Year of the Career".  That's the trouble with these nippers, always looking to show you up.  Well done to Brad and also well done for an excuse for the nifty sports car, something that will be the second car for Brad to commute to the new job once he starts.

This is the final week for the maggots and LO, which I have probably already mentioned, so from Friday evening the pressure will be off for a couple of weeks, and seventy-five percent of the Scobi clan will be spending most of their days in their onesies no doubt.

Have a good rest of the week, and speak soon.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

And . . . relax

There seems to be less hours in the day at the moment.  Things are frantic, with Year End vying for Christmas preparation and a general feeling of a slowing draining battery.  It is the same every year, and not sure what I can do differently to make it less so.

Anyway, we are off to Brad and Angelina for the weekend to celebrate the birthday of Angelina, who may well be old enough that we don't mention numbers, yet still seems like a teenager to me (and that should get me an extra large slice of Cherry Madeira Cake).

We are half wrapped, and fully bought up, just missing one key present from Gee Gee to the Scobi family that may well not be available this side of Christmas, which may mean a rather sad IOW being opened on the day.  I will keep checking all the stores, but am not hopeful.  I am also avoiding putting in to print what it is, because walls have ears*.

With work, which is ever-present at the moment, things are just things, and I have a sense of the Luge about it, just trying to get through to the 24th without suffering any major mishaps or illnesses.

*At Christmas time, it is not just the cake that gets mixed

Tuesday, 10 December 2013


I am living a day at a time, looking to get through to Friday.  The we are off to Brad and Angelina, with a lot of catching up to do (well done to Brad).

Then one more week, at which point the rest of the clan are on holiday for 2 weeks, leaving little old me to finish on Christmas Eve for a good week off.

I cannot wait.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Time, where will it all end?

Life is all absorbing at the moment, stopping me from thinking about blogging.

As for time, having seen the Brian Cox on the TV, I know it is a cone, limited by the speed of light.  But then you can bend the cone, so maybe you can travel in time.  I don't know, all very mind-blowing.

Otherwise, only news is that Brad has resigned from his current employer, in this, the year of the career, so well done to him and can't wait to hear all about it in a week and a bit.

Monday, 2 December 2013


Forgot to blog.

Knee is good.  Walking on it normally now, and it is aching a bit, but ice does the trick.

Work is hard.  Just is, and leading up to Xmas it is mad at work, and would rather be eating mince pies at home.

Tea is yesterday's smoked salmon lasagne, which is, I can testify, bleedin' 'andsome.

Sonos remains spiffing.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Two things of note

I have two things of note to mention today. 

The first is that I actually went in the office today.  I took advantage of LO attending Horsham to cadge a lift, and then took the train home again.  I went with one crutch just in case, and it was useful to help me walk without full weight on my bad knee, and overall the exercise probably did me good, though it is sore tonight.  It was interesting to be treated as an invalid; at reception, they had to ask whether I would need help in the event of a fire - no, I replied - and people kept opening doors for me.  I have to be there again tomorrow for another 6 hour meeting, and can barely contain my enthusiasm.

The other bit of news is we have taken the plunge on a month's free trial of Netflix.  The kids love it, and LO and I intend to watch a film tonight.  It does have the latest titles, as we all probably know, but we will soon find out whether having access to year old films is of any use.

Finally, we have made a purchase of a Sonos, a Play:1 to be precise.  It comes with a free bridge, so for a relatively modest outlay we have dipped our toe in to the Sonos water, and find it very much to our liking.  Every iPhone and Android device now has the Sonos controller, and we are able to access Spotify, any local music library made available to the network (though we don't bother with that now we have Spotify, the world's largest music NAS) and around 100,000 internet radio stations.  It can also stream anything on our Android or iPhone devices to the speaker, so Podcasts and local music, which is ace.
The speaker itself it modest sized, but very heavy and delivers a pretty good balanced sound.  The setup of the appliance and bridge was a doddle, and we now have a Sonos network, so every device we add (and in time we will be adding them) will join the mesh network to provide either independent or coordinated music playback.

It is an utterly stupendous bit of technology that does all we want and more, seamlessly and faultlessly (so far) and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Knee operation

I had my knee operation on Monday.  All went well, apparently, coz I did not know much about it.  I did have a quick unwanted memory, as I lay in the ante chamber being prepared for surgery, of a Bad Man experience where he was conscious during an operation, but managed to meditate that out my head pronto since it was most unwanted.

At home now.  Yesterday, I was convinced I would be tap dancing by the weekend (something I have, strangely, not so far tried in my life), however today the pain is kicking in and I am glad that I planned to have the whole week off work, coz while it seems like I am normal, this blog will be about it before a kip and a big drink of water, before doing one of my four times a day exercises, and applying an ice pack twice a day.  i.e. rest really is the best thing, since it will speed my recovery, so that is what I plan to have. 

The radio is on, and The Today programme is soothing me to sleep as we speak and a bowl of porridge is awaiting to send me on my way.

Enjoy your day, I know I shall.

Friday, 15 November 2013

And . . . relax

Another week of work over, and a very successful one at that.  We have completed phase 1 of the improvement programme, and presented the output to our customer.  I have received some very favourable feedback from my customer, via my manager, which is all sitting very nicely as we come up to the yearly appraisal cycle.

On the home front, we are absolutely exhausted as a family, the toll of work and school weighing heavy on us. 

To alleviate the weariness, we plan to spend the weekend in a tree-house. This is not, you will be glad to hear, some off-grid experience, rather a hot-tub-and-flat-screen-TV extravaganza.  We have all the meals cooked, including a container of pancake batter, and we have every conceivable pleasure packed ready for a weekend of woodland-dwelling bliss.  Saturday night we are booked on the night-time walk through the woods, complete with night-vision goggles, which should be a hoot (every possible pun intended).

Have a great weekend, speak next week.  I may even try to get back to blogging more regularly, if I can just get a handle on life...

Friday, 8 November 2013

Bad Man

Had a good chat with Bad Man earlier today.  Nice to hear how he is getting on on the outside, and good to hear that there is life, even acceptable corporate life, outside Starfleet.  Sounds like he made the right decision for him, and a chap could not ask for any more than that.

On a totally different subject*, I had trouble sleeping early today, so was up at 5am and decided to watch the Imagine episode on Jimmy Hendrix on iPlayer.  It was a good show and I thoroughly enjoyed it, both for the insight in to his personal life - normal early years, spell in the military, basically a shy and decent guy - and also the music.  While I cannot say I am a massive fan, I am a guitar player and I am happy to marvel at what he plays, but just as much I marvelled at how new he really was when he emerged; a black man playing a fusion of blues, rock and psychedelia.  My favourite bit was his description of playing Monterrey (I think) when he said, "You know, we just kind of turned up, me and a couple of white cats, and we just played and so forth".  Actually, I added the "... and so forth" bit to that particular quote, but it was one of his speaking mannerisms and I found it amusing and also quite charming.

Pretty cool show, I would recommend it to everyone.

* Bad Man really does not look anything like Jimmy Hendrix

And . . . relax

Another week over, and it has been a difficult, long and tiring week for all the family.  Work is just about OK for me, but LO is going through a very long and tiring phase, which will come to an end, and is potentially all to goodness for both her and her employer.

This weekend, I will be seeking every opportunity to do nothing.  It is going to be tough, and there will be tears, but I am a determined chap and it will happen.

I hope you fight just as hard for the weekend you want too.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Time, it is an abstract concept you know

I missed Friday's post.  I know because I got literally hundreds of letters on the subject*.  The main reason was a funny bug in my browser where the keyboard did not work.  I know, this sounds like one of those "my dog ate my homework" type of problems, but actually it was true.  A reboot seems to have fixed it, but I did not do that until Monday morning, so here I am, blogging later than I should, and wondering what I should write.

The weekend was great.  We were at David and Samantha's for the evening, which was wonderful as always, and for the rest of the weekend, we were at home, except when we were out doing things to enable us to be at home.

We had a great week off.  The weather was very wet at times, and Monday night very windy, but overall it was fine and we had a good couple of days in London, visiting the Imperial War Museum, going up the Shard, and seeing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Drury Lane.  All were, without exception, excellent.  We also had two fine pizzas on the two nights (not really our first choice, however with the combination of food likes and allergies, we tend to end up in pizza establishments by default as the lowest common denominator for all the interested parties), but succumbed to two large Peroni's each, which wiped us out for both nights.  By the time we had tubed, trained and taxied back to base camp, our only thoughts were of an early night.

That is not to say that for the first three days there were some fine cards played.  The first round to ten thousand had the girls win handsomely, not a frequent occurrence, but one that was well discussed, by half the adult members at least.  The second round was a nail-biter, which me picking up the pack near the end when maybe I should have gone out, but the boys pipped the girls at the post, and a fine victory was celebrated, and discussed, at great length.

Now back at work, feeling a bit overwhelmed as I always do after time off, a combination of a mountain of email, in which are always a handful of actions, and also the general winding down a chap does with time off which equips him not at all for the fast pace of modern corporate life.  It is just a matter of Lugeing it.

Have a good week.

* Hmmmm, really?

Friday, 25 October 2013

And . . . relax

To borrow from Gorse Fox, "ah, Friday".  Yes indeed.

Having been to bed every night early, I am starting to feel like the old Scobi, which is still far from perfect (don't get me started on my current aches and pains) but at least it is normal.

The fact that this is my last working day for a week is also pretty neat.  I will probably work next Friday, since LO is doing so and it gives me a day of holiday to use elsewhere, it also helps me to tame my Inbox without too much impact to me being there or not.

Plenty has been written about email, and how it has become a victim of its own success in a way, and such success has rendered it an almost unbearable burden to everyone, perhaps for remote-working knowledge workers the most.  In fact, the leader on my current account is planning, rumour has it, to try a No Email Tuesday.  I am tempted to say "good luck with that".  I can see that I could ring you rather than email you, that is cool, however I am not really hooked in to all the other business-focussed social media gizmos, so do not regularly post a spreadsheet on the team's shared area in the ether, my first thought is still to email it out.  I understand all the benefits of not emailing, it is just that the habits and lack of familiarity of the tools is inhibiting me.  The small fact that most of the tools available in Starfleet are hosted over the pond means that they are slow in the morning, and excruciatingly slow in the afternoon.

Anyhow, today will be mostly about closing all the lose ends that I can, and documenting those that I cannot to be shared with my cover for next week, which due to a number of factors will be three different people in my team.

One of these three is actually a very vocal person.  In fact, a colleague has asked me to "have a word" coz his loud outbursts in the open-plan office are bugging the locals.  Anyway, this person is very vocal, as I have said, and one of his stronger themes at the moment is that he does not believe my role needs to exist.  he likes me as a person etc etc, but the role is redundant.

A chap could take offence, but working on the principle that there is truth in everything, however small, and that every such situation is a chance for a chap to take a good long hard look at himself to see whether what he is doing is right, I have given it some thought.  I come out of that piece of self-analysis being comfortable in my skin and my role, but it has made me ponder a little.  This particular person is very self-reliant, and needs minimal, if any, management.  His view is "I get my solution, I manage details and dates with my customer, I don't need your help unless I ask for it, and if anyone on the account wants to know anything about it, don't ask you, ask me".  For him, the role is all about the solutions, and nothing else, and for him that is just about true, if you can ignore the various organisational challenges we have been set, such as doing 40 hours of training, which I have just feathered in to my year, but he has chosen to leave until now, and he is now bleating about needing to have a week off from solutioning to get his training done.

But I digress.  For him, the solutions are everything, and there is nothing else but unnecessary conference calls and meetings.  He is not sighted on all the other stuff I do, and I am pondering whether we can swing it for him to shadow me for the day, so that he either things "crickey, he does a lot" or "I told you his role was not needed".  Hmmm.

Have a great weekend, and enjoy next week whilst I am away 'vannin'.

Thursday, 24 October 2013


I am so very tired.  I think it is my age, and I should probably desist from doing stupid things like the party on Saturday.  It was fun, but knackering. 

We have actually been to bed each night since at 9pm, just coz we are so very very tired.  And perhaps a bit down after the business and fun of the build up to the party, and the party itself of course.

We are away for 5 days from Saturday, in the 'van, to London, for Half Term.  We had planned a number of days out, but I will be gently, but firmly, campaigning for less days out and more days in, so that we can chill and recover.

Maggot 2 has a disco tonight.  As a year 3, he can choose to go to the early Year 2/3 disco, of later to the Year 3/4 disco.  It appears that he prefers the older woman, because he is going with to the later one, mostly because tonight is the night that he asks out Abby, apparently.  He explained to me this morning that his friends had said to her friends that he fancied her, or something similar, and in his eyes they are all but married.  I suggested that perhaps he should wait until he has spoken directly to her, and she has agreed, before he jump to too many conclusions, however the recklessness of youth prevails, and he is now saving for the dowry (I may have neglected to tell him that bit, and the way he is with his money, that may change the complexion of things).

Maggot 1 is away at a school trip to the Isle of Wight, lasting three days and two nights, and covering lots of activities.  It is a Year 7 bonding session really, and one that, based on previous years, is pretty successful.  I hope he comes back happy, and not too tired. 

I would like to stay and chat, but my bed beckons.  Oh, forgot to say, LO had a dual-zone, super fluffy electric blanket for her birthday from her folks.  She is loving it for her side, making a not that warm bed stupidly warm.  I plan to wait until it is much colder before I consider having mine on, though I do think that come the cold months, having my feet get in to a warm bed might be very nice, me suffering from cold feet (but a warm heart) regularly.

Until tomorrow.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Saturday morning

"A small party last night for LO's actual birthday, for family and close friends".

I think that is broadly how I reported it yesterday.

This is what really happened.

All arrived when they should have, presents from Nic's folks were opened, I also got a dressing gown, and a measure of my age perhaps, but that was just the ticket.

Once everyone had arrived, E and I started setting up the sound system.  This consists of gear very reminiscent of my gigging days, with a large Bose speaker in each room, and a 05m square amp and effects box under the food table.  By the end of the evening, it was on quarter volume, and the foundations were shaking. 

We had food.  We had drink.  Then we had dancing, with Gee Gee even getting up for a dance, being led astray by A who, as hoped, was the dancing life and soul, giving Samantha a run for her money.  In fact, the "dance off" between A and Samantha was quite something to behold*.

At around 10.30pm, we decided drinking, music and other excesses needed to end so that we could preserve our energy for the main event tonight.  It was at this point that mother-in-law's glasses were discovered as missing.  Much over-dramatic searching later, and all guest left, they were still not found, then suddenly father-in-law remembered he had them in his pocket.  The air went blue, so we rushed the Maggots up to bed, and the in-laws left with much raising of voices, and one can only imagine the atmosphere and words in the car on the way home.

Bring on this evening.

* if you have heard of twerking, that will paint the picture.

Friday, 18 October 2013

And . . . relax

A big weekend ahead of us.

LO is celebrating a significant birthday.

Tonight we have a small, informal gathering for family (those onshore) and a few friends.  Low key, not late, not too much to drink, which always has the potential to turn in to something that is anything but.

Tomorrow will be spent doing the finishing touches to the party preparations, before we then go and have some fun.  8-10.30pm includes selected children, and the special guest*, they the in-laws and children depart and the party starts.

We have E's sound system, which is a mini PA system bigger than many of the venues I played in my band days, so while the volume does start at 1, I fear that certain individuals (not least my little Welsh friend who is a fiend for sneakily turning up the volume) will ensure it is on its way to 11 later on.

We have a bar, and a food selection area, and 2 waitresses to collect coats and to distribute nibble and drinks.

We have enough booze to sink a battleship.

And we have our costumes.

Let the festivities begin.

Have a good weekend, will update you on all the shenanigans on Monday.  Or Tuesday.

* it is secret, so more on Monday

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


A nervy but ultimately successful final game seems England top their group, guaranteeing us a place in the World Cup next year.  It was my birthday yesterday, and in lieu of any other presents, it being agreed (happily by me also) that I would not be having any particular day due to the extensive event schedule for LO's major event party, this was not a bad way to spend an evening.  We are not, so the commentator told me, seeded, which means that things will be tougher or something, but regardless of any nay-sayers, I am happy, and it must surely be nothing more than a mere formality before we are lifting the cup.

We are at Wednesday, and the party to-do list is getting there.  Snooker table and football table in the shed.  Check.  Clothes rail down from the loft.  Check.  Decs and lights up.  Check.  Just awaiting the arrival home of LO so we can go together through any other activities that must be completed this evening.  Then it will be last night's curry remains for tea.  Lovely.

Monday, 14 October 2013


I am currently testing a theory that all the wisdom you need in the world is contained somewhere in song lyrics.

My testing methodology will be to attempt to provide advice and guidance using only the power of the lyric.  My conclusions will be published in Unscientific Weekly for peer review.


Friday, 11 October 2013

And . . . relax

Another week is over, and looking back:
  • I've lived a life that's full
  • I traveled each and every highway
  • And more, much more than this, I did it my way.
I have also had a success this week.  My process improvement project, the thing that may we define my tenure (as long I keep all the other aspects tamed), has delivered its first tangible improvement.  It is for a revised process for doing something that our competitors have always been willing to do, so in that sense it is just catching up with the pack, but for Starfleet, and for our account, it represents a real improvement.  This process was used in anger on a recent bid and we got a "thanks" from our customer, which is fairly rare, and more importantly a "to turn that round in a week is a game changer", which is much more profound.  The fact that that latter comment was delivered last night by our Starfleet account leader was the icing on the cake.

We are also up to see Brad and Angelina this weekend.  Very much looking forward to seeing them, indeed this is the first time since Riverside Lakes, but, much more importantly*, we will get to see their new kitchen.

Have a great weekend, and speak next week.

* A joke, perhaps of the smaller variety

Monday, 7 October 2013

New machine

My new machine is now fully up to speed with how I like to do things, and I have to say I am liking it very much.  If I am brutally honest, there is not a lot different from the old one, except it is cleaner, faster, the USB sockets all work and can sustain as main USB devices as I plug in, the volume bar shows on the screen, the applications open a lot quicker, it goes to sleep quickly, it wakes up quicker, and it is quicker overall.  I guess I am feeling the need for speed.

We had a busy but fun weekend.  LO went to Southampton to buy a dress, which took all day and was anything but fun.  On Sunday was Maggot 2's birthday celebrations, which started with a trip to Planes at the local cinema, the plane version of Cars, which was actually much more fun than I had expected.  Whether Kermode was wrong, or his poor review set my expectations very low, I am not sure, but we found it thoroughly enjoyable.  To be sure there were bits when I thought "that is just a plane version of the ??? car character", however there was plenty of funny moments, for us at least, including "for flying out loud!" and "you just crushed my FlyPad".  "Don't worry, there is a new one being released in 2 weeks".

We then had 2 hours of tennis.  This was an interesting time, with varying degrees of capability all vying for attention, but we had fun, and ended up with the "how high can you hit it?" game. 

Part three of the day was a late lunch at the Smith and Western restaurant.  Not surprising considering the name, but this is a cowboy-themed restaurant doing the pretty standard burger/ribs/onion rings/fajitas fare, but all done with great service and, to be honest, we always have a good meal at the place.

Then it was a matter of getting everyone home before returning to base for chores and snores, all to a backdrop of Strictly, X Factor and Homeland.

Next week we are off to Brad and Angelina's for the weekend, which will be fun.  We have not seen them since Riverside Lakes, so have a bit of catching up to do, and some planning for LO's up-coming "significant birthday" party.

Have a good week, speak later.

Friday, 4 October 2013

And . . . relax

Another week under the belt in the new job.  My own school report makes the following comments:
  • Improvement project - Scobi makes a positive contribution in all classroom discussions, is making good progress.  A-
  • Team management - leading the team will take some time to bed in, but making good progress.  B. Management of team's workstack and priority still needs work.  I fear that Scobi does not enjoy this part of the role, so comes to it reluctantly.  He needs to get stuck in and get a grip of things, or be seen to not be in control. B-.
  • Stakeholder management - Scobi is well engaged with his immediate manager, able to support him as required, and maintaining a good communications channel with him so that they are acting cohesively.  B+.
Head's comments: Scobi is [doing well/not so well/terribly], and [needs to keep up the good work/work  harder/take a long hard look at himself].  he's a terrible singer though.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Ooh ooh ooh

Oooh, I have a new machine.  Actually spent since 5pm last night getting it up to Scobi standards, which are very exacting standards, I have to say.

It is good to have a machine stacked with memory, for once, and also one that is shiny and new.  Actually, it is matt and new, but let's not split infinitives.

I have all my data over, I think, and have just about installed all the apps I really need (rather than a whole heap of junk that one time or another I thought might be useful).  I have even tweaked all the little tweaky bits that make my machine just that little bit different from everyone else's, in a good way of course.

The only bit that is not right is my login name.  I created the same one as last time, which I thought was standard, but while it is a Administrator, it is not THE administrator, so things keep defaulting to the "elevated Administrator" user - a couple of apps used the My Documents under that user as their default for example.  I need an expert, and luckily I know a few of those.


Friday, 27 September 2013

Is it ". . . and relax" time already?

One blog a week says it all.

Very busy at work.  A lot of it is thrashing, due to my lack of local knowledge, but in the panic there has been the odd bit of productive work.

I even had a min melt-down the other night.  However a quick beer put that right*. 

My progress and integration is about where it should be, but I think I am just a bit impatient with it all.  Having come from a very similar role on another account, with frighteningly similar issues and challenges, I feel like I should be doing more and better than I am, but that is just foolish talk.  I need to just keep on doing what I am doing, and slowly the bits will fall in to place.

The one part of the role on which I can really contribute is the process improvement stuff.  The problem I have is that I just am not getting any time to spend on it, since all my time is spent (ineffectively) trying to do the administrative/management piece of my role, at which, as I have already said, I am not yet totally proficient.

Oh well, it is Friday, the weekend beckons, and we have dinner at A&E Saturday night and lunch at my parents and my sister's family on Sunday, which will be nice.

Have a great weekend, speak next week.

* Some of the less salubrious papers have hinted that it may have been a ruse to beat the mid-week beer ban.

Friday, 20 September 2013

And . . . relax

Quick post today.  Was in the office 3 days this week, some kind of record for me, a lazy week for most others.  Summary of the week:

  • everything is very much the same
  • everything is completely different
  • we are swamped with requests, and I am in the middle trying to sort them out, but with staff out it is tricky, and with no local knowledge, I can be dangerous
  • I am embarking on a whole lot of process improvement, and that really is deja vu all over again.  I plan to, as much as possible, rehash all the good stuff I did on my last account.  At the moment, one meeting in, we have a very disgruntled customer, and I appear to be something resembling a sort-of rough version of an expert.  This position is most exciting, and I will be milking it for as long as it lasts, which is probably until the third meeting.
  • Tales of dis-function on my new account seem to be slightly off the mark.  There is one individual who could be problematic, and I am not sure I have all the strategies required yet to handle them, however so far so good, and too much anticipating what might happen coz of what other people have said can often stop a chap from cracking on with what he is doing in the best way he knows how.  What I mean by that, coz it does not make sense,  is I prefer to take people as I find them, and so far I am not finding this particular character at all.
  • I am very tired, have stuff on my mind the moment I wake up, whether at 2am or 5am, and so I am very glad it is the weekend.
We are over at David and Samantha's on Saturday night, which will be nice, and I think my mum's for a family get together Sunday, which are always "interesting".

Have a great weekend, speak next week.

P.S. Forgot to mention that I had a lovely quick chat with Golfy.  It is always good to catch up with the old bu$$er and hear about all his fancy exploits.  He even advised me to go iOS7 without further ado, and being an obedient chap, I am now doing so.

Monday, 16 September 2013

80% of my time

We had a great weekend in Brighton with A&E, marred only by the girls unaccountably gaining a two thousand point lead in Canasta.  We blamed the unusual weather patterns and the prevalence of pairs of men with Scottie dogs, with both men being called mummy.

We should have had a fair amount of rain, but as is the norm with our trips, none of it materialised, so we were not even unduly wet.  Add in the new TV and an aerial connector on the power post and we could even catch a bit of Come Dine With Me for an hour in the afternoon.  Now, I need to explain this.  As campers turned 'vanners, we vowed not to introduce twenty-first century technology* to our weekends away, and I know that, were they dead**, that Brad and Angelina would be turning in their graves, but the truth be told, adding a tiny weeny little bit of TV to the mix has only enhanced our experience, with no loss of the really important stuff like losing the Maggots for hours, eating egg baps followed by tea and cake and winning, or in this instance losing, at Canasta.

On the work front, I am now 80% on my new account, and staring to get embedded in all the meetings.  It will take some time until I have sufficient local knowledge to be useful, but that will come in time, and my boss is reaching out to various bits of the account team to provide some on-the-spot training for me in various aspects including the contract and architectural standards.  Exciting stuff, I know, and I can almost feel my life force leaving me as we speak.  Joking apart, this is critical stuff for me to get sufficient appreciation to be able to lead the team.  I can do all the soft leadership stuff I think, it is just the technical/contractual leadership that will take a bit of time to master.  Luckily, I will be getting a handover from an expert, and the only issue will be getting enough of his time to do so quickly.

Have a good week, speak later.

* OK, so maybe most of it is twentieth century
** Both are, you will be pleased to hear, in rude health, so this imagery is used purely for effect, so no offence meant B&E

Friday, 13 September 2013

And . . . relax

We are away this weekend to Brighton in the 'van with A&E.  It is gonna be a wet one, but as hardy winter-vanners, a bit of precipitation does not phase us.  Indeed, with the promise of an A home-made curry tonight, and an LO soup and cheese meal for Saturday night, plus a day in Brighton shopping, and eating at the American Diner, it promises to be a great weekend.  And we have waterproofs.

This week I spent 20% on my new account.  I have been successful overall, though I am very conscious  how hard it can be to "break through" on a new account.  It would be fair to say that I have made a good start having had a call with the architect lead (and immediately addressing a problem) and also the process improvement lead (lots of previous experience can be brought to this).  Next week the plan is to be 80% on the new account, and the week after 100%.

That means that in the space of two weeks I will have managed to create and execute an exit plan.  Things are made easier because I already have a deputy, so handing over to him has been a doddle.  He aspires to do the role, so it is rather pleasing that my move has enabled him to realise his aspiration.

Having said that, it is a rather weird experience where I wrote an aggressive exit plan, sent it out for review, and in the absence of anyone saying I cannot do it that quickly, I have executed as per the plan.  Part of me is waiting for someone to notice the plan and say "he can't leave that quickly", however to consider that might well be to have delusions of grandeur.  I believe I have quoted this before, but think it is worth quoting again, that your old company will miss you like a bucket of water will miss a hand; there may be a few ripples, but within seconds it is as if the hand had never been there.  I really do believe this, which helps me a) be less big headed (though I don't actually think I am particularly that way inclined) and b) feel less bad about moving, both for me and for my colleagues.

So, that is all for this week.  Have a great weekend, and speak next week.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Slight Change on the Western Front

My search for the "next thing" continues apace, with a couple of possible irons in the fire, all three of which could easily come to nothing.  In fact, as time goes by, they seem less and less likely, but then these things can sometimes surprise you, so let's wait and see.

I am about to make a modest change by moving from one account to another, but doing the same role.  The new account seems to need someone who sounds a lot like me.  The previous incumbent is a friendly colleague, if not quite a friend, whose nose may well be put out of joint by my replacing him, although he says he only really wanted the role for 6 months and that may or may not be true, however I do think the thing he is moving to is right up his street.  I am conscious that he may have just the tiniest bit of desire to see me fail, by way of validating that "it was not him, it was them" and at the same time he is saying he will stick around and is happy to help induct me, so being a slightly naive and trusting chap, it is the latter option for me. 

It is very true that he has vast experience of the account, and I have none, so there will be some opportunity for me to un-shine (or whatever the opposite of shine is), however I am also hoping this weakness could be a strength, because I will not then be sucked in to the activities taking all his time, and stopping him, from his (and therefore mine now) manager's perspective, from doing the other stuff that really needs doing.  I expect I will naturally have more time for this other stuff, and so just hope a fresh pair of eyes, a new view on things, and an inability to go weed-diving will be the difference for me.

Time will tell, and I shall undoubtedly be reporting more as time goes by.

Monday, 9 September 2013

And . . . relax

Definitely too much relaxing going on, as another Friday post is done on Monday.

We had a lovely weekend.  Strictly Come Dancing returned to our screens, albeit for a one-off red-carpet piece of nonsense, to introduce the faces of 2013 before going away for 3 weeks to learn their first dance.  Nevertheless, that filled the time until X Factor which filled the time until Maggot bedtime, before we watched the final part of Top of the Lake.  Technically, I still need to see it because, hard to believe, it seems I dozed off somewhere in the first third, so have not seen the ending.  The one line comment from LO supports the growing feeling we had been getting that it started strong, but lost its way and meandered without focus to a sort of conclusion.  For example, I love the lead woman (previously seen in Mad Men), who arrived in a male-orientated environment, got a bit trodden on before showing some real strength.  The trouble is, as the plot got lost, so did her resolve, and it seemed to change from strong to weak at will in a most displeasing way.

On Sunday, we had David and Samantha for Sunday roast and a lot of chat.  And quite a lot of drink actually, except David who was driving.  I for one had a little bit of a head by the evening.  We had a great time catching up, and with a further weekend get-together planned for two weeks hence, and some planning for holidays and visits to Brad and Angelina, the social diary is filling up fast.

In the evening, we tried to watch Vera, which is a pleasant enough "cops and murderers" show, but on for two hours so well past both mine and LO's bedtime.  That is another one for which we need to watch the ending.

Have a good week.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

A bit of shameless plagarism, but I did just have to re-publish a great Dilbert from Golfy's blog.

When people ask me what I do, I think I now have the answer.

Monday, 2 September 2013

The Weekend

It was lovely to bump in to Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen in the supermarket on Sunday.  Introductions were made using real names, all very civil, but when I happened to mention "of course, this is Gorse Fox" at which point Maggot 1 said "Ah, Gorse Fox" in a way you might say "what, the David Beckham" which was most amusing.  I have to report that, despite all the negative press in the GF blog that Silver Vixen seemed perfectly normal to us; no trace of broom or other witch-related paraphernalia.

I was introduced back as "one of the guys in the band" which did bring back a few fond memories.  I then took the opportunity to check the validity of a story about the singer, which was indeed true.  He is a man of some considerable intellect, and I guess also some level of photographic memory (although, as will become clear, that is not entirely apt for this story), because he played chess in the Cardinal's Hat, our local whilst in Worcester, against two competent players and beat them both.  And he was blind-folded.  More than that, the day after he wrote to each thanking them for the game, listing the moves they had played and pointing out the bad moves they had made.  And he wasn't a half-bad singer either.

The rest of the weekend was really just getting stuff straightened out from the holiday.  Plenty of chores, including dirty trainers, rubbish in the garden, plus some work on the 'van to fix a bunch of broken bits (which are now all in good working order) and to clean it inside and out.  We nearly didn't do it, but it is always best to push on through and get them done, coz once done they are off the list.

This week will really be about stability and control, both of which I need to get back on to an even keel.  The post-holiday blues need a jolly good kicking, and focused work is what is needed I think.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

And . . . relax

Bringing some of that maƱana spirit back from my holiday, I am doing my end of week blog on a Saturday.  Not a great deal to report.  I have decided to "put it out there" on my return, and so far has spoken to an agency about a job (already gone), and internal manager about a new role in Starfleet (already gone) and tried, but failed, to get some time with a potential new manager about doing what I do now for another account (finally got something in the diary for next Wednesday).  On Friday, I also got a quick email from an old chum in a different bit of Starfleet because his area is looking for two new people to join the team.  I am not 100% sure it is for me, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, and the old chum, a very lively and positive kind of guy, has convinced me that my fears are nothing to worry about, and so he is putting me forward.  I am more than happy to find out more, and by so doing can see whether a) I have what the role needs, b) whether the role has what I need, and c) whether it is actually the right bit of Starfleet to which I might like to move.  These are all questions best answered by having a chat with the hiring manager, and with a fair wind and a supportive chum, that is indeed what I might have.

I have also in principle volunteered for a bit of give back as a Team Leader for a day session, hopefully to be setup in my local Starfleet office, to provide a one day masterclass to people from various charities.  The idea that most charities cannot afford much if any IT advice, so we can give them a basic introduction to one of a number of pre-configured training days.  I am actually rather excited about this since it ticks my "nice to give back" box on a wider scale, as well as being a good credit towards my internal "give-back" obligations.  The bit needed to make it happen is for the organiser, London based, to "put the feelers out" as to whether there is a critical mass of charities in my area wanting to avail themselves of such a day.  I really hope there are, as I would love to make it happen.

I am also going to try taking up meditation.  Early days, prompted initially by a LifeHacker article which included a "2 minutes a day" regime, and also the obligatory iPhone app, to help further.  I will report further on this if it comes to anything. 

We have A&E over for dinner tonight, which is always a pleasure, and with the added ingredient of a lot of debriefing on our European Tour, since, as I am sure you know, they are our 'vannin' buddies in the UK.  I could just point them to my last two blogs, but where's the fun in that*, so it will be a chance to re-live the 18 days, as well as having a 'van-sensitive sounding-board for our thoughts and conclusions.  I guess it could be worse, we could be taking them through fifteen hundred carefully selected holiday snaps.

I hope you are now having a great weekend, and I particularly hope that Bad Man and 30% are having a fab time in the US, where they seem to be dedicating their lives to putting in the miles.

So actually, on read back, maybe there is quite a lot to report.

* No kidding. Ed.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The rest of the trip

I am actually sitting at my desk at home, having just spent 2 hours clearing some of my emails.  As I have said before, and will say again now, email is definitely the "Black Death" of the modern age, taking some people out completely and sapping the life force from the rest.  This is therefore predominantly being written for posterity, and is also from memory.

The previous entry ended at Lake Garda, with a rather fetching shot of my flip-flops.  The following day we did indeed do mostly nothing.  We did nip out to the nearest supermarket for food and drink, and to find ice (not so easy to find on the continent we have found) for our drinks fridge.  We also invested in an inflatable dingy, which it is fair to say was a great hit with the whole family, and gave us all many hours of fun.  Best of all, Lake Garda being a lake, there were no currents or nasties to catch out the unwary, so the Maggots could take the boat out any time they wanted, with us able to keep an eye from our awning on the water's edge.

We spent a week in Lake Garda, and the main events of note we did were:
  • we took the ferry over to Sirmione, which was a delightful small village with a castle and LOTS of ice-cream shops.  It was a bit touristy, but that is the price you pay for visiting somewhere that is a destination, and we spent a happy few hours wandering round, getting the feel of the place and indulging in the largest ice-cream seen on planet Earth.
  • We hired a motor-boat for half a day.  This was a massive extravagance, but was also the best spend we did all holiday.  We have an absolutely fantastic time on the water, going very fast*, diving off in the middle and visiting, within 200m of shore, a number of the places round the lake.  You may consider us vacuous and shallow, but this was in our top 3 activities.
  • We visited Venice, by train.  We unfortunately had an abortive day the day before, when arriving at the station we encountered a half hour queue for tickets, so abandoned.  There were some raised voices, and apparently I am a "Dennis the Menace", but Plan B evolved and we went down that evening to buy tickets in advance for the next day, which started a bit damp, but ended up cooler and by far the better of the two days to visit.  And what a place.  I can say nothing to add to the words already written about the place, except to give our personal experience.  The waterways are absolutely bonkers, with private boats, taxis boats and bus boats all jostling for space with gondolas.  Quite how there are not more accidents is unknown to me, and in fact the day before a tourist had been sadly crushed to death between a gondola and bus.  On our visit, we took the bus down to St Mark's Square, wandered a bit, took the bus back, wandered a bit and had a beer by the famous Rialto bridge, at 19 Euros for 2 beers and an apple juice, but worth every penny.  The place was amazing, and something on our list to return to at some later stage in life.  We also bought a small vase made of Murano glass, but way of a memento and to celebrate our thirteenth wedding anniversary.
We had a lovely time at the lake, spoilt only by the music.  We were unfortunately near the main beach area, and there was a disco bar down the coast.  We were watching Game of Thrones with headphones most evenings so it did not really cause us much pain, however it did spoil for me a bit what was otherwise a most idyllic location, and I will be mentioning this in the review I write.

The main issue with the site was the pokey nature of our pitch.  This was something that LO had worried about from the day we booked, and I had worried about only from the day we arrived.  We had help man-handling the 'van in to its space, dropping the uphill wheel in to a specially made dip that kept the 'van level.  We were also two deep at the water's edge, with a tent between us and the road and campervans close either side, with a pretty narrow drive from our pitch to the road.  Our worries were therefore, in order:
  • how would we man-handle the van out of the dip
  • how would we position the car hitched to the 'van in its closely-packed position
  • would the car be able to drag the 'van up the first steep bump on to the road, and subsequently up the initially steep road to the top of the site
  • Once off the site, we then had some narrow roads, a blind bend and a "one car at a time" rat run up to the main road through the village. 
In the end, the night before departure we got 5 people to help man-handle the van out of the dip, and turn it around ready for towing out the following morning.  We spent the last night at a bit of an angle as a result.

The following morning, no-one had taken the inner pitch (the previous Dutch family having left 3 days previously) and with a bit of wheel-spin, and no-one in the car to add to the weight, I did drag us out of the pitch and up to level ground.  The final narrow roads between the site exit and the main road were hairy, but LO ran ahead to give me the thumbs up when things were clear.

Finally on the road, with a great sigh of relief from both the adults (the Maggots being largely oblivious to any problems), we were heading for the Black Forest.

The journey took us through the Swiss Alps, past Lake Como and through the Gotthard Tunnel (about as long as the Mont Blanc tunnel, yet free).  The scenery was out of this world.  High peeks, some with snow, plunging valleys with wide, white rivers and cable cars and chair lifts doing near vertical ascents, or so they seemed to us.  LO did comment that perhaps skiing was not for her, mostly because she would not be able to go up in such chair lifts, and once up, she could not get down again.

The journey to the Black Forest was around five hours.  We arrived late afternoon and were setup in no time.  Now, as you know, I try to avoid national stereotypes, but the German site was very efficient.  A man took us to our site, helped us un-hitch, put the 'van in to position and hitched up our power.  The latter turned out to be a process where our power cable was locked in to the power cupboard, and a meter reading taken, so that we were then able to enjoy the pleasure of paying for our electricity use, the only site we have ever used that does this.  My view is just add a bit to the day rate and avoid the labour-intensive process.  We could not get the wireless working, so had to use 3G to download the next batch of Desert Island Discs.

We were two nights here, so spent the next day visiting Triberg.  This is a small place, hard to find on the map, but actually home to the largest waterfall in Germany, something we walked up and down, before viewing a few cuckoo clocks (the Black Forest is also home of the clock, so it seems) on the way to getting a coffee and a slice of Black Forest Gateaux.  Well, you have to don't you.  It was a delightful village and a great half day out.

The next day, were were on the road again for Luxembourg.  Our site was large but fine for a night, and we took a short stroll down very steep steps to the local village, which was rather disappointing.  Otherwise, we did nothing much, reading, drinking and chilling.  We were starting to tire of the routine at this point, so did not even visit the swimming pool.

The next day were were off to Belgium for two nights at Klein Strand.  This site was easily the worst site of the lot.  The actual pitch was fine (the usual European pitch bordered by hedges) but the site itself was a dive.  It had a chippie, and the lake, with all the available water-sports on it, was somewhat over-sold on their website.  Nevertheless, we were there for two nights, and spent the full day in Bruges, the Venice of the North, which was an equally delightful city.  We took a tour bus, frowned on by some but actually the most time-efficient way to get just enough information so you feel you have a sense of the place, and can also highlight bits to which you want to return.

Our other activity was something we had read about in a paper in Italy, a tour of a brewery.  We had lost the paper clipping by this time, however some Googling of articles online afterwards confirmed that we had indeed visited the same brewery, namely the Halve Maan (Half Moon) Brewery.  We had a dry (in wit, if not in drinking habits) but witty tour guide who was obviously a big beer fan, taking the tour of the old brewery, going up and down some very steep stairs, the highest point being on the roof, and ending with a free Brugse Zot bier.  In fact we liked it so much, we bought two similar glasses from the shop as souvenirs. The tour for adults was 7 Euros, with a free beer (priced at 3.50 Euro separately) so was fantastic value, as well as very interesting, informative and amusing.  One of the many jokes the guide told was that after our free beer, maybe we would try the double-strength beer, at 7 percent, and if we liked that, we might try the triple-strength beer, at 9 percent.  If we were really hardy, we might end with the quadruple strength beer at 11 percent.  If we did, when they handed over the beer, it would come with a piece of paper and a pen, on which you should write your name and the name of the hotel ("the one next to the church" not being particularly useful there being a dozen or more churches in the city).

The following day it was shower, breakfast and leave, which we did in record time, arriving at the Tunnel nearly 2 hours earlier than our planned crossing, and we were able to arrange for an earlier crossing as a result.  We always have the feeling that once you are on your way home, you might as well just get going as soon as possible, so this was good news, and we arrived home at Scobi Towers at around 2pm in the afternoon.  We then had a good couple of hours unpacking and clearing up before we had had enough, and retired to the sofa.

One casualty of the trip is the bathroom cabinet and sink, which we now know is a single plastic unit that attaches to the wall with four screws.  Presumably the amount of miles we covered finally did the screws in, because the whole unit had come off the wall.  This has therefore been added to my fairly long list of DIY tasks.

We covered 2220 miles on the trip, saw some fantastic sites, had some fantastic experiences and overall felt it was a success.  There are a few lessons we have learnt, though:
  • We may have selected too many sites/stops.  While doing so reduces the length of each leg, setting up and setting down does get a bit tedious, and can induce a bit of a "it is Tuesday so this must be Luxembourg" type of feeling.  I think I would rather do less stops and do longer driving days, and maybe having a minimum of 3 nights at any one location
  • we need to do a bit more research on the sites.  We assumed that as Caravan Club endorsed sites, they would be good, and while they were not bad, several were larger and tattier than we like.  We must actually research each site, Trip Advisor etc, just to be sure that the site is right for us.
  • We also need to research more the places we visit.  Bruges was a success because we decided that a bus tour and brewery tour was all we wanted to do.  Geneva was a failure because other than a general sense of the place, we did not have a plan.
  • Shade is very important.  We had the awning setup for shade, but really needed to extend it with a porch to be double the size, just to ensure there was enough shade for all the family, at any time of day
  • Refrigeration - our plastic fridge was just not good enough.  In Lake Garda, ice melted in a couple of hours.  We need a Yeti, as introduced to us by Brad and Angelina.
  • Space - we chose to keep the beds made up in the van, which was fine as we lived outside, but we did not have a "place for everything and everything in its place".  In particular, an outside locker that goes in under the double bed, something like A&E have, would have been ideal for us to store the chairs, table, umbrella and other outside bits.  When were were doing one or two nighters, they could stay there and did not need unpacking from the van before we could use it, and in any situation they gave more space that we had for storage.

One quick comment about driving.  Received wisdom is that French and Italian drivers are bonkers.  I did not find this, in fact of all the nationalities, the Belgians were the worst, but they paled in to insignificance compared to the British, with the two worst bits of driving, caused I suspect by irrational 'van-hating, were executed by British cars.

* I doubt any world records were broken, but regardless, the top speed was fast enough for us and did generate a lot of screaming

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The first week

Well, actually, not quite a week, but nearly, and it makes a good title.

The adventure started at 8.30 as we left home for the tunnel. Nearly at Ashford, the puncture light came on, so a hurried call to the nice people at Eurotunnel to arrange for a later slot gave us the time to ring LeasePlan to find the nearest Quikfit. A quick call to them to confirm that we could get in and out with the van and we arrived at the garage to have the puncture fixed. The trouble was, when they went round the tyres, none had low pressure. So, a quick reverse back fifty metres and we were on our way, with the tyre flat light glowing for the rest of the day. This story continues later. 

We arrived at the tunnel almost, but not quite, in time for our original time slot but having picked the automated queue (one of our key lessons has been to be careful which queue you select, not being as nimble as usual).

The lucky thing about the Tunnel terminal, like ferry terminals and any other waiting-for-transportation places, is that there is lots to do and time goes quickly (dramatic irony), but in the end we were loaded and on our way. Forty minutes later and we had arrived and those in front of us were happily departing, however we could not because the doors in front of us had not opened. Two cheerful and banter-full English guys tried to force them open to no effect, and it took the French engineer, playing the strong and silent role (excluding a couple of Gaelic grunts) to get them open before we were able to disembark, with everyone behind us moaning about the caravan that, even on the Tunnel train, was holding them up. 

We were soon on the Autoroute heading for our site near Reims, and what a delightful site it was. 
We backed on to a river on a delightful site, and once setup we were in the pool rinsing and cooling our bodies from a weary day of travel. 

That evening, I Sussed the tyre issue, it was coz I had increased the pressure for towing, and during the drive down, maybe due to them heating up on the journey, they had obviously tripped the sensor. I just had to do a reset and all was fine. 

Next day we visted "Merlin's Castle", to be precise, Pierfonds Castle, where they filmed Merlin's, the TV series much loved in Scobi towers. It was a fantastic castle, tastefully presented in a typically understated French way, in a lovely small town that was planned round a small lake. 

Next day, we were on the road, heading for Beaune. As we arrived at the Beaune exit, it suddenly occurred to us that the the small detour to the site was actually an hour and forty five minutes away, which was a bit less than the time to our third site. We quickly rang the third site to confirm they had space for us a night early, which the did, so we detoured to Colombiere and arrived at around 4 pm. We setup, swam, ate, and retired happy to watch the end of Bond with the kids and to start Game of Thrones for us. 

Next day we visited Geneva, which was OK but not wow. We arrived by bus, departing from a fantastic shopping and aquatic centre near the site, slightly shell-shocked and realising you cannot just turn up at a city and work out what to do. Luckily they had Tourist Angels, young people who wander round dispensing advice to people just like us. We visited the Jet d'Eau and the cathedral before we called it a day, Maggot 2 having been sick the night before and LO also not feeling right. 

Back at the 'van, we met our new neighbour, a crazy naturist Dutch guy and his family. They were on a five week tour in a newly bought campervan, and their son Yip took a shine to Maggot 2. The next day we left, having had a tour of their van and having said goodbye, Yip having given Maggot 1 and 2 a hug. We then took a fantastic route through the Alps, and through the Mont Blanc tunnel, a 58 euro shortcut and a most amazing 7 mile tunnel through a hell of a lot of rock. The views were to die for, and we seemed to arrive in no time, ably accompanied by several Desert Island Disc podcasts. This site, Camp Fontanelle, was rather poky but fine and with a most amazing pitch, right on Lake Garda. 

Tomorrow, we will do nothing.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Well, that did not go so well

The meeting with prospective new boss did not happen last night.  No word from said person until I IM'd him this morning, the transcript of which was:

me: hi
he: Sorry for missing call, been busy with new project that is not going so well.  You around today?
me: yes, up to 4pm

This does not bode well.  I am totally relaxed about the fact that a) he may be very busy (who isn't these days) and b) I am not actually the most important thing in his universe, however the bit I am really struggling with is the lack of professionalism being shown - no ping/ring/email or carrier pigeon to say sorry for missing call - and also that if he cannot even be bothered to speak to me now, when he must in some way be slightly in need of the role being filled, then that does not augur well for any ongoing relationship.  There is probably nothing worse than a disorganised and disinterested boss, and so far, he seems to be both.  I shall take the zen approach and allow him a further chance to demonstrate I have been hasty in my assessment, but I can see that I will be out of here still not having had a conversation.  If that happens, then it is a quick note to the two managers interested in filling the role, and then I shall be offsky with a capital "off".

Not quite how I had hoped and planned things.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Two days to go

In the office, having a meeting later with my prospective new boss for the internal post, have all my questions listed and looking forward to finding out what is what.

Otherwise, I am just going to be closing down all the loose threads, in anticipation of handing over to my very able deputy, who we shall call Sir Bradley, due to his predilection for riding a two-wheeled mobility device.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013


We had a fantastic time at Riverside Lakes, as we always do, and the weather, which on paper was good to middling, ended up being great to good in the sky, with just the odd bit of out of hours precipitation.

Fishing was OK.  I caught a couple of nice bream, and Brad a good Carp, Koi Carp actually, which was slightly bizarre like he was fishing in someone's back garden pond.

The Maggots has a great time, in fact Maggot 2 was gently in tears on our return coz "he had had just such a fantastic time", and we are already planning our next trip there.  It is tempting to not wait a year this time, but then we remembered the old adage "too much Riverside Lakes makes a man feel prudent, and then goodbye to happiness", so will probably aim for next Summer.

We now have the van on the drive, and are actively packing it, using the mighty packing list that I made.  I know, is there no end to my talents?

Speak again soon, and hopefully will be blogging whilst away, if I can get a connection.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

And . . . relax

Only Thursday, but a long weekend beckons so Thursday is the new Friday.  We are off to Riverside Lakes which is, when the weather if fair or better, as near to 'vannin' heaven as this particular clan has found.  It is quiet, spaced out, with lakes and lots of woods and islands and other stuff for the kids, a bit of fishing for the male adults and, this year, the prospect of swimming in the lakes.

The report from Brad and Angelina, who have been there since Monday, is that they have been on the beach ever day, so bring wetsuits and body boards.  Their Maggots also "cannot wait to go swimming in the lake", which is rather nice.  LO is horrified, but then anything without chlorine is gonna be suspect in her eyes.  Does she not know that our long-ago ancestors bathed and abluted in, and drank from*, just such water sources.  That is probably a lie, but you know what I mean.  It is just water, full of filthy fish up to no good undoubtedly, and maybe the odd waterborne nasty, but overall it is wet and inviting. 

So, I will be finishing early today to get on the road to get us to our own slice of heaven, with the weather looking mostly fair to good with the odd bit of wet, which we can work round, and very much looking forward to every single little thing that awaits us.

I therefore wish you an early happy weekend, and speak next week.

* Ideally somewhere other than where the ablutions took place

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


It is funny how things turn out.  My intention had been to get my affairs in order to enable a neat and tidy handover to my deputy before I disappeared for the European tour.  How things have actually shaken out are that I have had two unsolicited approaches for new work.

The first was an unexpected from my boss* telling me how lucky I am that he is prepared to offer me something that, reading between the lines, it might be hard to refuse.  It is well documented on this blog that I have been looking for my next role, and many have cried, with some justification, that maybe I have not been trying hard enough, because I have not been able to identify the "next thing".  Even my boss, the one who rang me with the offer, is aware that I have this itch since he facilitated a failed attempt for me to take my first steps in to management.  So imagine my surprise** when he offered me something new, however not a new role, but a new environment in which to do my current role.

Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather**, so once I had dragged my jaw off the floor**, I started to ask a few questions.  It is fair to say, and this is said without any intended slight on my boss, that he did give off a few signs of desperation, and as the story unfolded, it was clear why.  This new environment is well known to me, mainly because I know of three people who have left it for other things, two of them to things outside of Starfleet, and one, the incumbent, who is likely to be joining the exodus.  This forth person is my potential predecessor, in that by all accounts he is definitely someone's predecessor, I am just not sure I want that someone to be me.  I then rang around those that I know who have worked there, to try and find someone who could say a good word about it, and maybe I am contacting a "self-selecting populous" by ringing only disgruntled employees, however the picture they painted is not great, which is in fact that a weak euphemism for "really sh!t".  While I do believe I have some skills and experience that differentiate me from my potential predecessor (a man, let it be known, who is not short of talent or experience), I do need to be working in an environment where the phrase "one team" is not said pejoratively and with a sneer on the face, since I do need to have some collaboration and team spirit if the going is tough, and this one sounds like a forced route march (is there any other type of role in Starfleet these days) but with stones in my shoes, and a 150Kg backpack.

I was meant to have rung my boss yesterday to discuss further, but to be honest I am still looking for someone who can say something good about the place.  I must not prevaricate, but instead must face it head on and have a frank discussion.

The other opportunity came via LinkedIn, which is not something I use in any anger, but has thrown up the odd lead, and is certainly a good way to maintain a link with ex-colleagues and others who you would otherwise lose touch.  For this opportunity, I need a CV, and so I spent several hours at the weekend getting my dusted down and fit for purpose.  After the first review from LO, it was clear that it was looking very dated.  To be fair, I have not needed one in anger for a very long time, and while Starfleet do have an online CV tool that is a mandatory thing to maintain, the CV it produces is, well it is hard to describe without rudeness, but let's just say that it is layed out like you would imagine a Cobol programmer would present themselves, the paper equivalent of scuffed shoes, baggy trousers and a shirt four sizes too big, with the sleeves rolled up.

So I contacted an old friend who is rising high in the ranks of our industry, for a copy of his CV, and what a fantastic document it is too, so for an hour yesterday afternoon I migrated my content in to the new format, borrowed some of his better phrases (better in as much as they could be used to describe me) and was able to send it off the the agency at the end of the day.

Even if it is just an interview and one or other of us is not keen to take it any further, I want this to be a bit of a wake up call to get me back on track to improving myself and my employability.  Starfleet has many opportunities, but it can institutionalise a chap, and this particular chap is very very keen to avoid becoming too entrenched.

* That would be my "feeding and watering" boss rather than my task manager, what with all that new fangled matrix management thing that Starfleet uses to confuse the uninitiated.
** a hackneyed phrase, but still does the trick

Friday, 26 July 2013

And . . . relax

The family has finished for the Summer, so yesterday saw them in bed watching Merlin* on DVD, while yours truly headed for the office, since there is nothing worse than being the only mug in the house who is working.

The office was quite hot.  We found an office in the early afternoon for a cost model review, and it was well air-conditioned, so I tried my luck and spent the rest of the afternoon in there**.  By the end of the day I was actually freezing cold, so much so that the accumulated heat in my car was very welcome on the drive home.

At home, I found the family busy doing the things you do when you have no things to do.  That is actually unfair because LO had been very busy doing all the things that her busy working life had stopped her from doing, so the place was spick and span and everything was in its place, and there were bags of old clothes ready for the loft (for ex Maggot 1 items) or the charity bag (for ex Maggot 2 clothes and anything LO and I were wanting rid).  The washing bin level was actually below the lid level, a first this term, and overall it was a calm and clean environment to which a chap were to return at the end of the busy day.  It was almost like one of those nineteen-fifties "happy families" pictures, if only I were in a bowler hat and was carrying a briefcase (remember those grandad?) and umbrella (remember those everyone?).

* In preparation for our visit to the castle in which Merlin is filmed at the start of our European tour
** I know, Bad Man would not approve of such office-squatting habits.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013


Has anyone else noticed that it is still very hot?  Working from home has many advantages, but air conditioning is not one.  I have windows, of course, and they can be opened, and I am able to adopt the casual dress code of the home-worker (flip-flops and speedos*), however this can only mitigate to a certain extent the extreme heat that starts before lunch and remains until the early evening.  So it is plenty of water, most of which escapes the body via the pores, and not the bladder**, and sit it out. 

I am actually treating it as extreme climate training for my holiday, and that thought keeps me going.

Anyhow, gotta go coz I need to get my Scobi-latte*** in before the heat descends.

* Yeuch
** I refer you to my previous comment
*** some habits die hard

Monday, 22 July 2013

It's not about the nail

I saw this, and it did make me smile.  Patently from the male perspective, but nevertheless it does paint a picture of the man-woman divide.

I know, I know

Slightly at risk of assuming anyone is actually reading, I nevertheless have to quickly apologies for not posting on Friday.  We went away so I just did not get time to post.

And away was fantastic.  Slightly stressful getting there, but once on site, we saw both Brad and Angelina and David and Samantha on the first evening, sufficient to agree to rendevous for the following morning's breakfast meet up.

Then it was down the beach for the whole day, ending with a BBQ until the lights went out.  We did not see a repeat of last year's wave phosphorescence, but that was the only imperfection on an otherwise fantastic day.  We took our wetsuits (once the preserve of the beach bum surf dude, now also used by the middle classes to extend their bathing calendar) and had fantastic fun in the water and on the beach.  We took the mackerel rods, but even they were taking it easy and we did not have even a snifter.

The following day, we repeated the process, and left around 5pm for a pretty easy drive home.

The 'van is now on the drive ready for preparation for Riverside Lakes and then the big European tour.  It will be cleaned, all surplus items (dressing gowns, blankets, slipper socks etc) will be removed, and it will also get a service, when, hopefully, the fridge can be fixed to work on electric again, having failed us on this trip.  We were able to run it on gas, so all was well, but on a hookup site electric is "free" so we would prefer that it did work on electricity.

Now I have a normal and rather full week of work, it feeling like a whole holiday ago that I was last at work.  And that just about defines the perfect weekend.

Have a good week, speak later.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

It is still hot

As the title suggests, it is still hot down here in the South, and I understand that even in some of the darkest corners of our great kingdom there is sunlight and warmth, the like of which the natives have not seen in many a year.  Even down South, where we tend to enjoy these temperatures all year round*, we are finding things just a little bit sticky.  The plus-fours are back in the winter storage trunk, and I have moved to my summer cravat collection.

Joking** apart, at times I have been so hot that, as I open my eyes, I expected to see a swimming pool and a Pina Colada.  To find that in fact I am staring at two computer screens and a rather fetching poster of the David Bowie exhibition at the V&A is, to say the least, rather disappointing.

We are away this weekend down in Lyme Regis, with David and Samantha and Brad and Angelina.   The following weekend is free, and the following we are Riverside Lakes with Brad and Angelina.  The weekend after that we are on our Summer holidays.  Not a bad vista for the next month or so.

Right, need to get back to work.

Enjoy your sweating, speak soon.

* I am of course joking, we sometimes have to wear a cardigan in the colder months.
** Joke?  What joke?

Friday, 12 July 2013

And . . . relax

Nearly forgot to post.  Just going to get Maggot 1 from Scouts.

Both Maggots had their school reports back, and both did very well.  We are pleased and proud, so can we just go on holiday now pls?

Have a great weekend, speak next week.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Sun

It is still here, maybe not as hot as the weekend, but very much welcome.  Long may it continue.

The only downside to this is that my local Starfleet office has an interesting policy with respect to air conditioning*.  The centre of the building is a server room, perhaps it could even be called a small data centre, in which are a whole bunch of IT kit that generates heat at a rather alarming rate of knots, and so requires constant cooling to ensure they are able to function as designed.  So far so good.  The issue is that the air conditioning units are quite old** and/or underpowered, so that when the temperature exceeds a fairly modest outside temperature, the units prioritise the IT kit over the human beings.  On such days, by the afternoon we all feel like Steve McQeen sitting in the tin shed*** for the day.

As I sit in my office at home, with the windows open, and just a small laptop, a second screen and a hi-fi creating the heat, I can report that all is well with the Scobi heat-balancing systems.  I may even have a cup of tea in a minute****.

Enjoy your day, the weather and life.

* I told this to my NHS friends and their rather disinterested reply was "Air conditioning?  What's air conditioning?".  Oh well, you can't cool all the people all the time.
** In fact a colleague who lives locally tells me the locals in the office area have complained about the noisy air conditioning units.
*** The Great Escape for those too young to remember, or those who are not drawn to watching fifty year old films over the Christmas period.
**** Had to Google the old adage "to cool down on a hot day, have a cup of tea" and the general consensus seems to be that while it makes you sweat more, thereby increasing the cooling effect on the body, the overall effect is only to increase cooling to remove the heat that the tea put in to the body in the first place.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Where was the Friday post?

I blame the weather.  The amazing sunny weather, and its associated heat, plain wore me out and so I just orgot to blog.

I would have told you that we had a fairly quiet weekend, going out on Saturday night, on the town no less, with David and Samantha for Samantha's birthday.  What I could not have told you, however, was that I would get just a little bit drunk - I blamed the weather and the novelty of actually going out - and I can also confirm that the cut by my eye was caused by my head making contact with the table salt in Zizzi's, though quite why my head was that close to the table is unknown and the cause of much conjecture.  I expect I needed to tie my shoelaces or something.

It was a fantastic weekend for sport, of course, and the Scobi clan had the tri-folds open to the garden and the TV on the Wimbledon coverage, and what a Wimbledon it was.  The man done good and the whoops and shrieks could be heard nearly over the other side of the allotment.  What a match, and what a great victory.  The amount of tennis currently being played in the Scobi household has increased tenfold, so the legacy will certainly live on here.

This week is normal, and really just another week to get through until we can go on holiday. 

Have a good one, and speak again soon.

Monday, 1 July 2013


A lovely hot and sunny weekend, not too much on, lots of loose ends tidied up.  That was just the kind of weekend we needed.  The Summer holidays are tantalisingly close, and before they start we have a weekend in Lyme Regis to celebrate the sixteenth birthday of our Goddaughter*, and we also have four days at Riverside Lakes, a wonderfully natural site where we had a most magical time last year, and weather allowing, will do so again this year. 

It is hard not to put too much expectation on our Summer holiday, and in fact I think we are failing, because we all cannot wait for it to come.  The prospect of a European tour would, I know, make most people start applying for overtime, but we are really excited and cannot wait to get on the road.  We have just purchased recliners**, and I anticipate that the 1pm to 3pm siesta time slot in Italy will be well used by me.  

Only other comment of note is that for those that read these pages, you may know that my fishing rod snapped on my last trip.  The*** one that got away.  Ever since, I have been on a campaign with the finance manager to get a new one, and she is not so far very supportive of any such purchase.  In fact, she was at one stage heard uttering "it is your fault for trying to catch such a large fish", which for anyone who has fished, is about as wrong as it is possible to get.  Anyhow, I have found the rod I want, and it is modestly priced, but better than the previous, with a bit more strength to it.

As part of my preparation for Riverside Lakes, and as a further example of my slow descent in to OCD-type tendencies, I have also been using Uncle Google to educate me on the vagaries of good quality hooks, leader lines and general lines, as well as the correct knots to use to avoid "losing the big one".  As you can see, I take this stuff very seriously.  I now have some large, eyed hooks (to take the large bait), some fluorocarbon leader line (all but invisible to the fish), a new hook-tying device and a couple of fine knots memorised, all in the pursuit of presenting the bait well, hooking a fish when the bait is taken, and not losing it as I play it in to the landing net.  With such dedication, who knows where things will take me.

Final story is about Maggot 2.  He is currently obsessed with tennis, already spending the millions he plans to make winning championships, though perhaps a bit more hazy on quite how he plans to get there.  He has a lesson 11-12pm Saturday, followed by his swimming lesson, and the first thing he wants to do when he gets home is have a game with his brother in the garden.  Anyhow, we were watching a film, The Big Year, a very pleasant family film with Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson (Hutch to me and LO, the little fella in Night at the Museum for the Maggots) as bird watchers****.  At the end of the film, the TV switched to whatever channel was on the TV at the time, which turned out to be Primal Scream at Glastonbury.  At the end of the song, Bobby Gillespie shouted to the crowd "come on you f##kers", at which point Maggot 2 said "I don't want to be a tennis player any more, I want to be a singer, so I can say that".  Priceless.

* I know, we were there at her birth, not quite literally coz that would just be wrong, but within a hour or two of her entering the world, and now here she is, about to turn sixteen, having just been to her prom looking like a very grown up woman, in fact looking just like a young version of her mother.
** And if that does not cement the image you have of me as being a boring, typical 'vanner, then I don't know what does.  All I can say is that I deserve it.  I am not saying that I go for comfort over style every time - I am not yet buying my shoes from the back of the Sunday Times supplement - however I am saying that, as part of this big tour, we are taking the opportunity to spend some of our holiday budget on things that will be useful beyond the holiday itself.
*** there were two actually.
**** An unlikely premise for a good film I grant you, but fun nevertheless.

Friday, 28 June 2013


Just a footnote.  Or nosenote.  I have had a headache, ranging from bad to head splitting, though not, I am guessing, anywhere near migraine status, but at times bad nonetheless. 

This headache started Tuesday afternoon, and on Friday morning, as I write this, it is just starting to fade.

My conclusion yesterday was that it was my sinuses.  Without giving too much yucky detail, I had some tension each side of my nose and the occasional "gurgle" from these positions, so me and Uncle Google reckoned it might well be related to my sinuses.

So I nipped down to the chemist yesterday to get some Sinutab and some menthol crystals (menthol, steam, bowl, towel) to help, and I think they have worked.  There was a slightly unpleasant moment an hour after taking the first Sinutab when I had a nasty taste in my mouth, which I concluded was my sinuses draining.  Anyway, just to report that I seem to be feeling better today.  Hurrah.

And . . . relax

We have a "quiet" one this weekend.  Just the Maggots sporting clubs, followed by lots of nothing.  To be precise, nothing involving others, so we will be suiting ourselves and getting on with homely stuff.  I, probably, will be mowing the lawn, having fed it yesterday just before the rain.  LO will be administering to the much and many activities that need doing to keep the household functioning, and the Maggots will be reproducing Wimbledon in the garden with their "two garden chairs and a rope" net and sticks and Crocs and even a skateboard to mark the lines.

We seem to be stuck in a bit of a rush at the moment.  It really does feel like those times when you are "abroad with work".  It may sound romantic and exotic, and may even draw a "lucky bugger" from some, but for those of us who have done it, we know that it is all about transport terminals, taxis, hotel rooms and business premises.  All exceedingly functional aspects, but none designed to be admired or to deliver any sort of aesthetic pleasure.  This is how our life feels at the moment.

The truth is, it is about a month until the Summer holidays, which, as I have said before, means 75% of the Scobi household stop their school-based activities.  We are all looking forward to this, and to our fantastic holiday.  My only fear is that sometimes, looking forward to something too much makes you forget to enjoy the now, and also when you get there it is not nearly as great as you had imagined it.

So, I wish you all a good weekend, and hope that you can practice some mindfulness that allows you to find pleasure in the present and not just in the future.  Sounds like good advice, may try and take it myself.

Until next week.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Well, that was certainly a weekend

We had a great weekend.  It was a bit stressful getting to Brad and Angelina's, but once there, we had fun.

The evening was all as described on Friday, and the time of my nodding off was, perhaps somewhat to do with a well placed coffee at around 10.30pm, very late, and in fact I went to bed at the same time as everyone else, which was the ungodly hour of 0130 hours, approximately an hour after all the Maggots finally got to sleep. 

We had a leisurely awakening with lashings of tea, egg baps and cake, and left around midday somewhat refreshed, but basically all totally knackered.  This should have made for a very long day, however we managed it well, even stopping at Whiteley to get Maggot 1 a new shirt for his leaving disco.  At home, there were two, yes two, messages from Scobi Ma Senior about her broken answer machine on her newish phone.  Apparently "your father pressed some buttons", the regularly repeating theme of blaming the other, so I nipped round to get it sorted, and it seems to be broken so will be returned to the nice people at John Lewis today.

On return, we were getting our bodies clean and in to lounging clothes - onesies for the others, a smoking jacket and cravat for me - to watch the final of The Voice.  Being recorded, we could skip all the boring recap bits and got to the finale in record time.  And what a surprise it was, too.

This week we will be mostly doing all the usual things, without any nasty extras, so while it will be busy, we hope we will get through it without any major upsets.

I wish you a good week, and speak soon.