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Saturday, 19 December 2015

And . . . relax

Work is hard.  Losing interest, and people have annoyed me this week.  Must be a sign.

XC60 ordered.  Very excited, car of my dreams etc.  Obviously cannot take the place of important stuff like family and football, but pretty close.

Got Strictly Sausage Saturday today.  For those that don't know what this means, I pity you, and I am afraid that I am unable to divulge any more.  Brad and Angelina, plus associated maggots, will be down too, so it should be fun.

My parents are home from Spain, looking very well, and complaining about the cold weather.  Cold huh?  Dad has an op lined up for mid January, and the outcome of that will determine the date they fly back.  They have even contemplated a ferry-to-Bilbao-plus-one-way-car-hire option, so must be serious about getting back to the warmth, the bowling, the lazy lunches and rock bottom prices.

Got Maggot activities of football training, drumming and tennis this morning, then I may have a little nap prior to SSS, just so I am on top form.  Plan to wear silly dance-inspired outfit tonight.  I won't be taking any photos.

That is about it for today.  Have a great weekend, speak next week.

Friday, 11 December 2015

And . . . relax

It has been a busy week.  The large deal* that I am working on has been pretty intense, and doing it has meant I have been neglecting my day job.  Luckily I have a good team, who have been picking up most of the slack, though I have to say that I do seem to be needed for an eye-watering amount of advice**.

I am all vetted and setup with the nn, so am ready to go.  I also nearly have the car sorted out.  I have a very specific car in mind, and have been shifting round the process trying to sort out how to afford it.  I now believe that I have found a way.  This will need to get the final approval from the boss, but if it all comes to pass then I should take possession of it by the end of this year***. 

I am actually rather excited about the car, not that I am really a petrol head or anything, indeed it is going to be diesel, but mainly because it meets all my needs, and some, and it also satisfies the very exacting standards of LO, Maggot 1 and Maggot 2.  The latter two of course are world experts of cars, being avid Top Gear fans.  Want to know the top speed of some car I have never heard of?  They are your men, or boys.

We are off to Brad and Angelina this weekend, which will be very nice.  It is Angelina's birthday and we should have a dandy time.  There is a bit of sport to fit in too each side.

That's about it from me.  Have a great weekend, speak next week.

===========================
* I will probably be able to talk about this in a couple of weeks, without having to then kill myself
** Coz I know too much probably
*** All part of why I can afford it

Friday, 4 December 2015

And . . . relax

Another week passes me by.  Work is very busy, but very interesting actually as I am working on a large piece of work that is complex, confusing, urgent and multi-facetted (how many different ways can I find to say its a stonker), and actually rather a lot of fun as a result.

The only fly in the ointment is my day job, which is slipping as a result, and for which I am getting a bit of heat.  Oh well, never mind.

Home is good.  I am working on a couple of new original mixes which are fun.  We have a lot of football at the weekend, and I have a list of DIY chores that is growing daily.

Happy days.

I hope you have a great weekend, speak next week.


Friday, 20 November 2015

Looking forward . . .

. . . to the weekend.

. . . to starting my new job, probably in February.

. . . to going out with a flourish at Starfleet.

Yes, dear reader, I handed my notice in on Monday, first a call to my Manager, let's call him Mr Angry, followed up by a letter.  So far nothing from Mr A, but that may not be such a surprise for two reasons:
  1. He is very busy
  2. He did not seem to take it very well.
The latter could be construed as roundabout praise, but really it is much more to do with how it affects him personally, him being responsible for resourcing roles like mine.  With me leaving, it obviously leaves a hole, a hole that, how can we put this politely, is a little larger now that it was two years ago.  It's the beer you see, just can't say no.

I have also started to tell my work colleagues, who have, pretty much unanimously, been very supportive and congratulatory. 

I am now wanting to keep my end up at Starfleet whilst also keeping one eye on my new role, doing all I can to prepare for it, so hoping to get hold of lots of reading material.

On the home front, we have a lads' weekend, since LO is away for 3 nights meeting her friend from Cornwall half way, in Bristol.  It will be 3 days of retail therapy and three nights of cocktails for her I suspect. 

For us lads, it will be relaxing, going to get Maggot 1's bike, a Christmas present that is obviously not such a surprise, and doing the usual sporting endeavours in between.

Have a great weekend, and speak next week.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Nearly time to relax

I finally have my formal job offer from Nnn.  Now it really is "pi$$ or get off the pot" time.

The delay between the elation of verbally being offered it, and this formal step, has caused me to start asking myself some long hard questions.  This is the fluttering of a cautious man's heart rather than any fundamental issues.  Distilling it all down, it is really the fact that I do want a new challenge, but I am concerned what it is going to do to my home life, for my work/life balance, and the knock-on effect on the rest of the family.

In truth, I want change, and any change, even within Starfleet, is likely to disrupt this some.  However, sometimes our childcare challenges are on a knife edge.  Maggot 2 was ill, again, this week, and how would we manage looking after him if my new role requires me to be elsewhere, and I need to be in the office coz I am the new boy, and I also have less "in the bank" with my team and manager to do the "dodgy stuff" like that?

Friday, 6 November 2015

And . . . relax

Another week over.  Potential new job not yet sent out a formal offer, so I am in a holding pattern waiting for it to come through.  In the meantime, there has been an internal article on NN painting it not in the best of lights, which, I have to say, put the willies up me slightly.  I have since had a chat with an ex colleague who works at NN, to find out what it is really like, and he was able to confirm that it is a "nicer" place, that it is not so different from Starfleet, and that the work/life balance challenge is probably about the same there as here.

So not totally one thing or another really.  I also touched on job security, and again, NN is not so different to Starfleet, with routine announcements of job cuts happening alongside recruitment drives.  In truth, this is about (to quote a rather hideous phrase presumably thought up in the HR dungeons)  "de-layering", or to be less euphemistic, getting rid of the commoditised roles and dead wood, and adding to the fine young men and women further up the tree.  So, not sure that I am really any further forward in my overall assessment except that, there as here, the trick is to be climbing up the slippery pole quicker than the redundancy water is rising.

At home, we have the cup final on Sunday.  The team have not had training for a week and a half, so very much need it tomorrow, in readiness for the game, which is midday on Sunday.  Weather permitting, should be fun.

Have a great weekend, and speak next week.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Saving money

I have just rung my broadband provider, since they have put my bill up mid-contract, and the rules dictate that this allows me to cancel if I am not happy.  Today, therefore, I rang to "cancel".  I would have done it actually, since another provider can do a better deal, however the nice lady on the phone was in a benevolent mood and she was able to give me a sizeable discount on my current bill to stay with them, this one including free* calls to mobiles too, which will contain our costs nicely.

Sorted.

We are also "saving it large" (as I think the young people like to say on the corners of the streets on which they like to meet to sing songs and swap football cards) with our new Sparks card.  Oh yes, we know how to live.



We have a fab day in London on Wednesday, meeting up with Brad and Angelina.  We went up the eye, ate food and visited the market at Covent Garden, stopping only to watch a very entertaining magician.

=======================================
* I know, there is nothing for free in this world.

Friday, 23 October 2015

And . . . definitely time to relax

Another busy week at work.  We are due a big decision next week about my day job, not for me personally, but for the team, and I guess for Starfleet.  Will they, won't they?

On a personal-business level, I have only been and gone and done it.  I have verbally accepted an offer, which needs to be put in writing both ways before I can raise it with my manager, a process that I am, quite naturally I think, itching to start.  Then there will be the mandatory three months of notice to work, for which I have decided that, to quote an old cliche, as life is handing me some lemons, I plan to make lemonade, so my approach is going to be to go out with a bang (you never know what I might need in the future), and spend this time as three months of concerted and diverse personal education.  It will be tough; there will be tears, but it will be worth it.

I should therefore hopefully be starting at NeverNever early February.

After a hectic month or two, I have also decided to try stay off the beer until Christmas.  I could do with a break, and goodness knows I could do with the calorie reduction to kick start my weight loss campaign (which, not to tell tales, was meant to start when I got back from holiday in the Summer).  Time will tell quite how successful I have been, but I would like to try.  We all love a trier.

I now start nine days away work, having all next week off.  There is no sport this weekend for the Maggots, so it is likely to be off to the car showrooms to start planning for a car purchase, for what will be the first car I have ever actually owned.  I know, fifty-one, and never owned a car.  All rather exciting, but also rather nerve-racking, since I now not only need to do water for the washers, oil if I remember and that diesel thing, I will now have to contend with tax, insurance and servicing.  I am looking at it as all part of the growing process.  Others have been less kind.

I hope you have a good weekend, and speak next week.

Friday, 16 October 2015

And . . . relax

Fairly busy week.  Second interview on Tuesday.  Was not sure how well it went overall; he did a lot of talking, which saves me having to do it, but the little he did ask of me, I was not sure that I actually gave the best of answers to his questions. I have learnt that such a reaction to an interview can be either really good, or really bad.  In this case, it was really good, because the HR person, who I met after my interview and seemed like a very nice chap, rang me the next day to make me an offer.

This offer was not what it needed to be, so I made a counter-offer, and I am just waiting for him to come back to me.  I probably need to consider my BATNA too.

At home, we have our usual sport-filled weekend, but with a meal at ours for our friends Saturday night, which should be great fun.  Sammy has a cup game Sunday, which I rather enjoy, so other than having to get up too early, that will also be fun.

Have a great weekend, speak next week.

Friday, 9 October 2015

And . . . relax

Work has been fairly steady.  As I said previously, I have just migrated to Starfleet's new web-based email system, which is meant to "reinvent the inbox", and I have to say that, for me, it really has.  I am liking it very much and continuing to be more organised and have less stuff queued up in my inbox.

I am also having a second interview for an external role.  The first interview was by phone, and it went very well I thought, and I think the other side must have thought something similar to call me back to a face-to-face second interview, where I need to take all manner of documentation and proofs (hmm, is that a word?) of identify, which may be standard practice, but certainly feels encouraging.

The question will be whether I actually want the role.  All I can say is that my gut feeling so far is good, and that the prospect of leaving my current employer after 13 years of service (17 with my TUPE entitlement) does not fill me with any fear, in fact it rather excites me, so if you should go on such things, all is positive.  The real sticking point may well be the spondoolicks.  Can they make it financially appealing enough to entice me out of my slippers?  Time will tell.

On the home front, we celebrate Maggot 2's tenth birthday.  This is some achievement, not for him, but rather for us putting up with him.  Only joking*, he has been a pleasure to get to know, and his drive to independence and self-reliance is ahead of schedule in some areas (he acts like he is twenty), and perhaps a little behind in others (he is a lazy tike who likes to be waited on and to have as many strokes as we are prepared to give him), but I guess it is all our fault, and he has a few years yet to iron out the wrinkles.

We have a family party tonight, having had the friend party last week (four  hours of football, FIFA15 and climbing our trees), and the rest of the weekend is the usual sport-packed two days, with an evening and David and Samantha's on Saturday, which is well overdue and much looked forward to.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend.  Speak next week.  Probably.

==========================
* as I have often said, never let the truth stand in the way of a good story

Friday, 25 September 2015

And . . . relax

Another week over.  Not that much to report.  I have a new email system.  Not such astounding news I hear you cry, and you are right, and wrong.  This is "email reinvented", and it really is changing the way I work, for the better.  I am basically aiming for "inbox zero", and am using the various workflow and task management features to achieve this.  It is bizarre, but I am really enjoying using it to manage my work.


At home, we are wresting with a much more serious problem, that we are invited out on Saturday night, when ENGLAND PLAY WALES IN THE WORLD CUP.  Do people not know there is rugby on.

I think I am going to start to rub down the woodwork in the utility room in preparation for glossing.  That will start in the afternoon, with the mornings taken up with the usual sporting obligations, with the addition of drumming lessons for Maggot 1.  LO is also away for a few hours, visiting the site that will host her school's Year 6 away-day trip, so it will just be us lads until mid-afternoon.

Have a great weekend, and speak next week.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Better late then never

I just plain forgot.  To blog, that is. It may be seen is a sign.  Or it may just be something else altogether.

We had a good weekend.  Maggot 2's team won 4-2 against a local team who, in the closed season, beat us 4-0, so it was with some satisfaction that the final whistle blew.  And when it did blow, I got a further small insight in to the machinations of junior football.  The ref was provided, as is standard protocol, by the home team, and he managed to make 3 minutes at the end of the match last for 9 minutes, presumably in the hope his team could close the gap.  Our dads, certainly those who have been on the scene for a while, were very vocal, since apparently this particular ref has defied the space-time continuum in the past.  Anyway, we won, after a shaky start, and the victory was very much enjoyed by all.  The opposition team, according to Maggot 2, were not so sporting during the post-match handshakes, employing all sorts of "intimidating" actions, such as sqeezing hard, banging shoulders, and for three of the team, crying a lot.  It is going to be a long season.

Otherwise, we did not do much.  We had A&E over for dinner Saturday night, and as is often the case with our sociable friends, we perhaps over-indulged in the social juice, so Sunday was, after football, a bit of a washout.

I did manage to watch some rugby over the weekend, and now am definitely a Japan supporter.  What a magnificent game.  With time over at the end of the match, and a penalty awarded to Japan, they could have kicked, and drawn the game, but oh no, they chose to scrum, twice I think, before then ran in a try to win the game.  Such audacity, such sound belief in their abilities, and a great never-say-die attitude.  Can't wait to see more of that.  It is going to be a long, but very enjoyable, six weeks.

I hope you had a good weekend, and have a great week.

Friday, 11 September 2015

The sun is still shining . . .

I am very much enjoying what is probably now officially Autumn sunshine.  I suspect it will not last, so all we can do is enjoy it while it does.

On the work front, nearly all my team are back from holiday, so that means that we are at the start of getting back in control of our group's workstack.  There is always a bit of a lag while the bronzed returners pickup their work and make progress, but we are getting there.

My potential new job seems to be fading in to the sunset.  Or so I thought.  It started with a conversation with my manager, a person who does not really manage me*, suggested that these are "tough times" and he would resist any departures from his area.  It ended with me having a chat with "my new boss", and he was a bit more chipper on the whole subject.  I learnt from other sources that one of my colleagues, someone who I worked with when I first started my role, someone who works in the same office area as "my new boss" and knows him well.  It seems she may have been offered one of the roles, which makes sense since she is more of a known entity.  I happen to know she is caught up in the same "no departures" issue.

Knowing she has been offered a role gives me hope, that there is something tangible out there, and also slightly concerns me, someone else already has the role I want.  As always, things move mysteriously as well as slowly, and if I have learnt anything, and the jury may well be out on that, it is that you cannot force the rhythm of someone else's process, least of all in a large corporation that exists in its own space-time continuum.

At home, we are trying to get used to normal life.  This weekend is a fairly normal one, football, tennis, football, but with the addition of a family party for my father-in-law, who is seventy.
Maggot 2 is loving his new room.  I am likely to be given my Autumn Schedule of tasks, which will include, amongst other things, replacing the silk with gloss in the utility room, which equates to three doors, my favourite, although one is a sliding door, and not quite worked out how I will paint the hidden bit yet.  I suspect getting it off its rail is the only option, but time will tell.  I will also do the skirting and two windowsills as well, just so the whole lot is done.

Anyway, that is me.  Have a great weekend, and speak next week.

===================
* Google "matrix management" to get a view on what this means

Friday, 4 September 2015

And . . . relax

I have had some fun at work, and son anti-fun.  These have appeared at each end of my week, separated by a Wednesday, because as any physicist worth her salt knows, if you mix fun and anti-fun you end up in Scunthorpe.

That reminds my of the old "Acrington Stanley, who are they?" advert.


At home, we have finished decorating Maggot 2's bedroom, which is looking lovely, so lovely in fact that a smile almost broke out on Maggot 2's face, something the teen police are investigating as a potential case of excessive exposure of teenage joy.

We have a wedding this weekend, just for adults, starting with a "quiet" couple of beers and a curry tonight, and all day tomorrow from 2pm.  I am even wearing a tie, which does not sit well with me, but a necessary evil to gain access to all the free drink.

Maggot 2 has football training Saturday and a "friendly" match on Sunday, against the team now named as our number one nemesis.  Let's call them The Team Who Cannot be Named.  We are due a win, and after last week's positive showing (by effort if not score) against the team who will likely be top, or near the top, of the league this coming season, we hope to give The Team Who Cannot be Named a right tonking.

If the weather stays fine, I may even cut the grass.

Have a great weekend, and speak next week.

Friday, 28 August 2015

And . . . relax

We are currently decorating Maggot 1's bedroom.  This is something of a "coming of age update" in that we are changing it from a child's to a teenager's bedroom.  So it is both satisfying to get it looking clean and new, and touching to be setting him up for the next phase of life.  I have also stated to anyone who will listen that this is it now until he leaves for Uni, when we will be renting it out before he thinks to come back*.

So, out is the mid-sleeper bed, currently on eBay, and in comes a "normal" bed, a wardrobe with hanging space** and a desk for homework.

The decorating itself has been as bad as it gets.  Our house, built around 1900, is of solid-wall construction, actually it does have a very small cavity according to a neighbour, though it behaves a lot like a solid wall building, which means that the inside walls need to "breathe".  Lining paper and silk emulsion on Maggot's 1 walls, combined with some external cracks***, meant some crumbling of plaster.  Removing the lining paper also removed, in plenty of places, small or large bits of plaster, so we have had to strip it right back, fill and sand, paint a scratch coat, fill and sand again as the paint shows up all the imperfections, and finally paint again. 

Maggot 1 wants a feature wall on the only internal wall, so the three external walls are now painted with white matt (the same as the ceiling), and the ceiling and three walls have taken 7.5 litres of white paint.  We have done four coats I think, but that is a massive amount of paint for what is a normal sized room.  The end result is very pleasing.  The worst wall will need some remedial work in 3-6 months I think, but overall it it is looking great.

As for the feature wall, Maggot 1 had originally set his heart on a metalic blue paint we saw in a DIY shop, but that is obviously so popular that we cannot find it anywhere.  He has gone instead for wallpaper, a white brick-effect paper that will give it the New York Loft effect, which, combined with the Plumen light fitting, will make it just right.

Maggot 2 has a football match tomorrow, but other than that, it is time at home for the whole weekend, finishing the room so that we can build and install the furniture and clear out the library, currently chocka block with stuff.

Have a great weekend, speak next week.

===========================
* Only joking son
** now that he has shirts and blazers
*** which you may recall we fixed last Summer with a marathon cutting out of cracks with a grinding disk, filling in the mess we made, and and re-painting with several coats of masonry paint, a job that took most of the Summer

Friday, 21 August 2015

Now I need to relax a bit less

I am now at the end of my first week back at work after two weeks away.  It is always hard to return, what with the inbox overload, the "do I give a wotsit?" feeling and "wow, doesn't the real world go fast".

We had a most fantastic holiday.  Our accommodation was a static caravan, perhaps a "lodge" may be nearer the mark.  It was compact, but had everything we needed, including air-conditioning, which was very welcome on may occasions.  The lodges were fairly crammed in, certainly more than the online images had suggested*, but once we were in, as is usually the case, we got fairly comfortable with both our lodgings and our surroundings.  We had a table and 3 recliners on the decking, and a barbeque in our "front yard".
The main draw was being 1 minute from the beach.  We spent most of the first week on the beach, and most of the second weekend split 50/50 between the pool and the sea.

We snorkeled, we swam, we played volleyball, beach tennis and read**.  We ate pizza, drank 1664, and visited a number or excellent places, including Montpellier, Pezanas, Sete and Carcassonne.  We all got tanned.  Three of us got a little burnt***, but not too bad.  My legs, which started three shades whiter than the whitest colour known to man, even got a little colour, though if I am being honest, it is hard to tell.

Overall, it was just what we wanted.  It was not perfect, but as time went by, we did not want it to end.

Our journey down was horrendous.  We booked the tunnel about six months ago.  Good value, quick to get to France, just what we wanted.  On the day, however, Project Stack was in action, so we took an hour and a half extra to get there, and were delayed around an hour at the terminal, but we did get over to the other side without too much pain.

We then hit all the traffic, which added a further three hours to the journey.

Our hotel, half way, was very nice.  A local, one-off hotel, but neat, tidy, clean and good value.  It was in Bourges, which turned out to be a lovely town, full of interesting architecture, from Elisabethan onwards.

The second day should have taken five hours.  Unfortunately, and rather naively I expect you will conclude, we did not take in to account the French holiday season, which started on that very day, so our journey down was shared with nearly every French citizen from the North of the country.  The whole journey down followed the classic concertina principle, going from eighty miles an hour down to zero, over and over and over again.  After maybe three hours, we made an executive decision to get off the peage and go by "A" roads, all free, and much slower.  We managed to clear an hour an a half of the journey (at normal rate or travel) in around three hours.  The up side was that we got to see a bit of France, which was nice, though it did also mean plenty of villages and towns and their forty kilometre an hour speed limits.  We were aiming for a town on the Tom Tom, and we stopped there for one of our world-famous car picnics, the size and extravagance of which is in proportion to the hassle of the journey proceeding it, so this one was gigantic.

Once refreshed, we got back on the peage and had a fairly clean journey for the final hour or two.

Following the adage that there is no point getting old if you don't get crafty, for our return journey we decided to "leave early".  The alarm went off at 4am and we were out before 4.30am.  Our car was outside the site because the gates are locked overnight, and we set off on what should have been a five hour journey, to find that it was actually a four hour fifty-five minute journey, meaning we arrived at the hotel before 10am, and had to kill several hours getting some food, and doing some shopping, the latter inhibited by the fact that it was a public holiday that day, so many of the shops were closed.

Day two and the alarm went at 4.30am, and we were out by 4.45am, and again, the five hour journey took four hours and fifty-five minutes, so we were at the tunnel very early, so early in fact that we had to pay a supplement to get on the next departure, money we paid with pleasure to get home. 
Having been really worried about the French side of the Tunnel, in the end we had no hassle, saw no immigrants, nor any evidence of problems, apart from a small pile of burnt something, probably the remnants of the French lorry or ferry workers strike.  How those chaps love their burning tyres.

Now we are home, and are cracking on with the decorating of Maggot 1's bedroom.  It needs stripping back to bare walls, before we put it back together again.  I have help from Maggot 1 and this weekend should see us finishing stripping, filling and sanding, and maybe even getting the ceilings done.

While we were away, my dad also re-decorated the back room.  We wanted the silk replaced with gloss****, some general cracks and marks cleaned up, and wallpaper on the main wall.  The latter, I have to say, is absolutely fantastic, really lifts the room and if anything, makes it lighter, which does not make sense, but is empirically true.  We are absolutely delighted with it.

Finally, LO and I celebrated fifteen years of marriage on Wednesday, so with the nine years it took us to getting round to tying the knot, means twenty-four blissful years.  I am speaking for LO of course.

Have a great weekend, and speak next week.

============================
* What kind of fool believes the online pictures? Ed
** The Paperwhite Kindles coming in to their own
*** Me being the most sensible one
**** As part of your ongoing campaign to banish all silk woodwork paint.  Never again will we use anything but gloss

Friday, 24 July 2015

Nearly there

Another week over, and after today, just four more working days before we are departing for our Summer Holidays darn sarf.

In between we have a weekend, when we will be preparing for our trip, and on Sunday, weather permitting, we will have a football tournament.

I really need a break.  Had my mid year review and the main feedback was "it seemed like you were not coping very well when under pressure, so we have marked you down", which seemed to me to be a "you were not smiling enough".  I challenged what stuff I did not deliver during that period, and my manager did not really have an answer to that.  The truth is, I did deliver, and during a month period when I had some kind of mild illness, I still delivered, but obviously I was not cheery enough about it at the time.

To be honest, I have so far been fairly lucky with this process, however this is the kind of nonsense that it can throw up, strange "parallel universe" type scenrios where you look back on the conversation and wonder if you had been dreaming it.

Oh well, holiday in a week, and I will then have the chance to step back from the front line, ponder life and my options, and return with renewed vigour and determination to change jobs.

I hope you have a great, if wet, weekend.

Friday, 17 July 2015

quickie

Work is never-changing at the moment, with a fairly steady, perhaps even relentless, set of tasks to be done.

Home is good.  Have a great weekend lined up.  Brad and Angelina will stay with us Saturday night for a Sunday event at David and Samantha's.  We are off to a 25th wedding anniversary do, had hoped to get an invite for Brad and Angelina but the hall is at capacity, so with sadness the hostess had to decline our request.  Not quite sure what that means, except maybe some free baby-sitting.  Only joking Brad, I know you are never free.

We are planning a re-decoration of our kitchen extension room.  Now that the crack in the wall has stopped getting any bigger we plan to freshen up everything, put wallpaper on the crack-wall (not to be confused with a crack whore apparently) and changing the woodwork to gloss, our experiment and dabbling with "satin" being well and truly over.  It may be much easier to apply, but does it really does not wear well.

Other than football and tennis, that is about it this weekend.

Oh, LO is working late tonight, year 6 Leavers' Ball, so I am contemplating taking the Maggots down to Bognor to see a Pompey warm-up.  Not tested the plan on anyone in the real world yet, so will let you know how it goes.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Great weekend

We had a fantastic long-weekend away at Golden Cap, just down the road from Lyme Regis.  We went with a big group of people, including Brad and Angelina, A&E, David and Samantha, and R&R, for whom this is a first mention on the blog.

We sat on the beach, we swam in the sea (sensibly bedecked in wetsuits), we drank beer, we ate food, some of it cooked on a BBQ (on the beach - fun, but a lot of hassle) and we also walked over the hills to West Bay, home of Broadchurch, spotting a number of locations, including Charlotte Rampling's house, the crime-scene house, the crime scene beach, David Tennant's waterside lodgings and the police station, as well as the harbour and other general fields (where the tractor fuel was stolen). 

In West Bay, we took a ride on a rib (a rigid inflatable boat, or a bleedin' fast motorboat, depending on your viewpoint) for a thrilling, bum-shuddering and salt-water dousing speed around the waters up and down the coast.  It was rather splendid.  We all arrived dressed for summer, to be told that it was really rather windy, rough and wet out there, so the Scobi clan went to a small harbour-side shop to buy "three for a tenner" tops, for added warmth.  After much ribbing (no pun intended, more's the pity) from the group, soon after two other families went over to avail themselves of the bargain rail.  Suffice it to say that we probably doubled the ladies takings, clearing her of stock that, frankly, she probably never expected to shift.

There were only two problems, the first that it was just not long enough, and the second that it was a bit wet Sunday morning.  This did not stop some of the group doing the morning hill climb, nor the whole group congregating round the 'vans for egg baps, tea, coffee and cake, or breakfast as we like to call it.

We are considering another trip back in mid September, diaries permitting.

The only other negative is that coming back to work after such a short but intense weekend, it really is rather hard to get back in to the swing of things.  Luckily, I have so much to do that it just kind of took me over.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

School report

Comment by Maggot 2 on his school report, in the "what was good about my year" section:

"I really enjoyed learning the Roman numerals, since now I know which Star Wars is which"

Priceless. And all the words were spelt correctly too.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

I am thinking of taking a break from blogging.  Don't have much to say these days it seems.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Is it really Friday again?

Work:

  • job opening should be raised in next week for the new role to which I want to apply
  • also sent my CV in speculatively to another company
  • couple of things bubbling on LinkedIn

Home:
  • Football tomorrow, nothing Sunday
  • Party Saturday night - nothing against the hosts, but don't really want to go, would rather spend time with family, but we are going, so that is that
  • hope to get a bit of R&R going, may involve beer.

Have a great weekend, and speak next week.

Friday, 19 June 2015

And . . . relax

Already the week is nearly done.

On the work front, things are as ever they were, though I did get a recruitment person contact me* for a role that may not be totally in my hot spot of skills, so whether it goes any further relies I think on whether they want someone the same shape as their business, or if they are actually looking for someone who is quite different, to bring a new angle to their team.  Time will tell.

I also submitted a speculative CV to another company, after a discussion with a colleague.  Born to an extent by frustration that nothing is moving in Starfleet, but also because they are a smaller company, doing similar things, that seem to still have a sense of purpose and attitude that is not bogged down in a hundred years of process stodge.  Time will tell what comes of that.

This weekend is the girls' hen weekend at Center Parcs.  This means that it is a lads' weekend in Scobi Towers.  There is football training and tennis Saturday, and a football tournament Sunday, and we are also planning to have meet up Saturday night, Maggots to be baby-sat by the eldest Maggot in the tribe, and the adults having a beer and Thai evening.  It won't be a late one, since I cannot take it, and Maggot 2 needs rest for his tournament on Sunday.
Other than that, we don't have much on, which means we need to be very careful to have not too much, but also not too little, since both options tend to end in tears.

Have a great weekend, and speak next week.

=====================
* The first couple of times, a little bit of pride in me thought that I was "special" to get such a contact, but now I realise they are akin to those annoying people outside bars, offering you a free drink if you come in to their joint, if you can remember that far back.  Indeed, once upon a time I may have called them "head-hunter", but that is really over-egging them, just like calling those bar-baggers "beverage consultants"

Monday, 15 June 2015

Too relaxed

Forgot to blog on Friday.

So, had a great weekend.  Football tournament (don't ask) and then a night away at Brad and Agenlina's.  It was, as always, a great night.  We all stayed up too late, and drank too much, so by morning the house looked like the morning a major battlefield.

Oh well, a night's sleep, or three these days, should sort it out.

Have a great week.

Friday, 5 June 2015

And . . . relax

The weeks have become slightly blurred of late.  Friday's seem to appear with speedy regularity, as do their less attractive cousin Monday.  Which means there is not really a lot to say about the one that has nearly completed.

I have not been well this week, suffering I think with the virus that Maggot 2 and LO both had.  I sense I am coming out the other side of it now, which is rather good since being ill sucks. 

So, what can I tell you about the last five working days.  It has all been a bit "sausage machine" if you know what I mean.  Solution in, solution done, escalation, solution out, solution in, solution done, escalation, solution out . . .   You get the picture.

As you know, Maggot 2 plays football for a local team now, and one of the dads mentioned last time that they are planning a dads' match.  This sounds interesting, and I am keen to play, since I have realised a couple of very important things:
  • I still love the idea of playing football
  • playing so much with the Maggots, my eye is still in, a bit
  • I am woefully, and I really do mean woefully, unfit.

This last point is something that I am starting to address.  I am doing what I think is rather grandly called "interval training", or in my case, one-minute jobs back from school run, and I also plan to add in some early evening sessions, ideally with LO if I can drag her sorry ass out.

I am also doing daily exercises first thing for my back, and also a bit for vanity.  I am doing a mixture of back exercises, yoga, stretches, sit-ups and press-ups.  It is a little routine I do in about ten minutes, to generally keep my back supple, to strengthen my core, which will help the lower back, oh, and to enhance my guns so I look buff.

The last one may be both an exaggeration and bluff.  As you know, us body-building types are full of swagger and not much else.

It is a quiet weekend; football Saturday, no match Sunday and other than that, nothing else in the diary, which is exactly what I need.

I hope you have a great weekend, and speak next week.

Friday, 22 May 2015

And . . . . . . . . . . . . relaaaaaaax

Another week over.  Nothing of note to report, just peelin' spuds and fending off escalations.

At home, things are very busy.  Last week of half term, and LO is working very long hours, running her day job whilst doing nearly a full time job getting her Academy status sorted.

We all need a week off, and what better than to go see Mickey.  We are very much looking forward to:
  • Time off
  • being together, away from normal life and technology
  • having some thrilling times on as many scary rides as we can fit in.

The only other news of note is that I am a "signed artist".  To be precise, lest anyone get carried away, I was one of three winners of a remix competition, and as a winner, will be on a release pegged for June.  I have signed a contract, and will be entitled to royalties.

Nice.

I suspect I will not be retiring, and actually have set my sights very low as to earning anything, however it is very exciting to be out there, and if I DO get any revenue, I will be investing it in a new machine.

I hope you have a great weekend, and speak again next week, or maybe the week after.

Friday, 15 May 2015

And . . . relax

Another busy week.  I had two days of Cloud education Monday and Tuesday, which was excellent for the content, and also excellent coz I was able to speak to my potential new boss (PNB).  His dilemma is that Europe (are you imagining a slightly faceless set of droids who run on spreadsheets?  So am I) have dictated the number or roles he can have, and if that were to come to pass, then I am stuffed.  His local (sensible) boss has said ignore it, since his part of the business has its own P&L, so can and should be free to do whatever it thinks it needs to do to meet its targets, including hiring amazing people like me (one has to park one's modesty at moments like this).

So, I remain in a holding pattern, desperate to move to a new role, for an organisation that would like to take me, but with just a tiny weeny problem to resolve before it can happen.

One of the most distressing elements of the two days was that three of the people presenting a pitch WERE KIDS.  Not actually under-twelves, but two graduates and one placement student.  So, I am being taught things by people who have been in Starfleet for less than a year.  To quote Humphrey Lyttelton on I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue, when he was explaining the rules to a very silly and puerile game, "I'm seventy-seven for f##ks sake".  I guess the positive, if one were hunting for it, is that within a year of living and breathing Cloud, I too should be able to lecture on a subject, but also with XX years of experience behind it*.

Anyway, my actual work, the work from which I am trying to escape, continues at a fairly relentless speed.  Another round or redundancies are in flight at the moment, this time just voluntary, which added to the offer from management for us to take up to "three months secondment", effectively nearly-unpaid leave to "pursue a project or experience", and rumours of a further round of redundancy to come later in the year, things can only get worse I fear.

On the home front, my lawn is starting to reach the level of greenness where people no longer gasp at its tatty state, so phase one successfully completed. 

I have ditched my master plan to create a brick edge to the lawn, to tidy the edges, make it easy to mow the edges and generally bring a little architectural structure to the garden.  I still kind of think it would work, but it will cost money and take time, and I am not, if I am honest, one-hundred percent sure how it will look.  So, I have bought a strimmer instead.  While it does not create perfection, it does make the edges look a lot better, and I think will do for what we want from the garden.

Our next steps are to get the patio sorted.  LO has a vision of a pot or bench or table or wooden box, something structural, in which to put some herbs.  We also want so larger plants and pots, something to create drama, and finally we want some seats.  We are starting to think in terms of sofa and coffee table rather than table and chairs, simply because we think we will want to be using it for breakfasts and evening drinks, rather than meals.  Whichever we choose, it does of course cost money, so we are pondering whether to go strategic, or cheapish.

LO is up in London for the day on Saturday, so it is us lads to fend for ourselves.  Maggot 2 has a football match at 11am, Maggot 1 tennis at 12pm, and we have a half plan to play golf at the par three course up the road in the afternoon.
Sunday is another match for Maggot 2, and then what we do for the rest of the day is Maggot 1's choice.

Have a great weekend, and speak next week.

===========================
* bit of positive thinking

Friday, 8 May 2015

And . . . relax

Busy week.  Cloud role not really materially closer, however discussions have been had, and on a workshop Monday where I will see my potential new boss, so planning to collar him then.

I am on a stag day tomorrow - I know, aren't I a bit old for such things - which is, perhaps as a nod to age, golf in the afternoon and beer and curry in the evening.  Translated, that is long, frustrating zig-zag walk in the afternoon and falling asleep early in the evening.

Sunday we have an all-day football tournament for Maggot 2.  He is delighted, it is fair to say we are less so.  His friend's mum will take him at 8am, and we plan to turn up 12pm ish.  Actually do enjoy the football.  There is a new kid in town, Pretzel* who is a creative midfielder, and he is good, from the Brighton and Hove Academy, and his arrival seems to have lifted the team.  Maggot 2 is not a bad player, he has just lacked, until this team, any real coaching on position, triangulation and "finding the empty squares".  He has great feet, practices all the Ronaldo-esque tricks and can find the back of the net with fairly unerring accuracy, so add in good coaching, and a pretty good team in which to play, and he could shape up nicely. 

I shouldn't boast**, but his Under Nines team play the Under Tens last weekend, and won 10-2, 7 of which were scored in the first 20 minute session.  The final two sessions I think they got a bit complacent, they did not pass as well and generally I think lost interest in scoring, combined with the opposition waking up a bit to the threats.

Have a great weekend, and if I survive, will speak next week.

=======================
* not his real name
** go on, you know you want to. Ed.

Friday, 1 May 2015

And . . . relax

Another day, another dollar, or rather, another week, another wedge*.

It has been a strange week.

As you know, my desire to move to something Cloud-shaped is currently sitting as "my name is on a list".  On Wednesday, I decided to ping who would be my new manager when I move, to see if anything had changed, if there was anything I should be doing or anyone I should be chasing.  His response was that it was fortuitous that I pinged, since it seems that in the people directory, I was not reporting to him, and why don't I speak to my manager to see if it can stay that way and I can move on over.  "Move on over to what?" I asked, and that is where the conversation went a little strange.  I have not been offered a job.  I have not accepted a job.  I have just spoken to people about a desire for a new role.  Period.

So, anyway, he suggested I speak to my boss, which I did, and he was pretty much no use.  He had not heard anything, did not know why I had moved managers, and found it hard to have a discussion about something when that something was not really anything.  I do have some sympathy with him.

Then, to add further to the strangeness, I got a ping from someone leading a Cloud transformation project for another account, my old account as it happens, who said that it seemed my name was in the frame to mature their Cloud solution, and when could I start. 

A whole day has passed with me doing nothing.  A day full of hassle, escalation, running a team whilst also trying to run my own stack of solutions.

Today, then, I plan to make contact again with my potential new manager, suggest he offers me a job, and if I like it I will accept, and then we are on a sound footing to have conversations with my boss and my current account.  Both these are standard practice, but I fear may be more difficult at the moment because my boss has a resource shortage**, and the account is preparing to go in to renegotiation, and have put a freeze on key resources, one of which, frustratingly, is me.

However, all that said, the first step is to setup some tension by having a new job to go to, and then we can start negotiations as to when and how.

At home, we are all very much looking forward to a long weekend.  Maggot 1 is now ill, ear infection, and Maggot 2 is recovered and looking forward to training Saturday and a match Sunday, and I am too actually, since I enjoy watching him and the team develop their skills. 

I have managed to re-turf the goal-mouth bald patch, and the weather has been sympathetic by raining every day, and I also managed to cut out a couple of tree roots that poked out the lawn too.  This weekend I will be cutting the rest of the lawn, and preparing for a feeding session, to try and get it a bit thicker and healthier, so that it can cover the many small baldish patches around the lawn.  I am aiming for average at best.  If my lawn draws no comments, either positive or negative, then it is good enough for me.  With two Maggots always playing one ball sport or another, it is always going to struggle to be perfect, to the point that even average is a big ask.

I hope you have a great weekend, speak next week.

==============================
* only money-related word I could think of starting with "w", except Wonga, which is persona non grata these days
** some of the heat coming from us as we fight for an additional UK-based person to come and "bust some backlog"

Friday, 24 April 2015

And . . . relax

Another frustrating week where my full-time role seemed to be telling people, via calls, emails and reports, how busy I am.

Spoke to a colleague in the Cloud space, he mentioned that my name had been mentioned on a recent team call, but still no movement from where I am sitting.  I think I know that actually, the changes have not yet filtered down to us bottom-feeders, however I am also very conscious that I need to not drop off the radar.  Tried to hassle my contact, no response as yet, so need to become the stone in the shoe.

At home, Maggot 2 is ill, again.  Doctors seem to find nothing wrong, but it is driving us slowly mad, coz he has a hacking cough, headache and sore throat, and at various time other bits of his body aching, so it could just be a virus, but we are also concerned that it was only three weeks ago he was last ill, on holiday in Blackpool.

This weekend has therefore changed.  No clubs for Maggot 2, much to his dismay, and Maggot 1 even left for school to day "not feeling right", so our weekend could indeed be another frustrating one.

I do hope to finish the preparation in the garden for the new turf to cover the bare patch, then I will be jet-washing the (as yet unused) patio in readiness for sealing it.  We just need to find some spare change down the back of the settee to buy furniture, pots, architectural plants and a tray of herbs, the latter planning to be put on to the Singer sewing machine base with marble top table I have just cleaned up and repainted.

I hope you have a great weekend, and speak next week.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Unpleasantly busy, being escalated all over the place. 

Weekend will be busy too, but in a different way.  Sports for Maggots, night out for adults, probably some gardening in between.  

And when I say gardening, right now I mean digging out the dead bit of lawn* sufficiently to lay new turn in the shallow hole made.  Also, genius idea that is also a stupid idea, deciding to re-purpose the topsoil relinquished from the hole to top-dress the rest of the lawn.  This is a great idea, apart from the time it takes to turn grotty diggings in to fine, stone- and weed-free soil. 

Also taking the chance to cut out some tree roots that protrude in the lawn, currently the perfect tool for breaking kneecaps.  LO is worried that the tree will fall down.  Make a note to tell her about trees and roots.

Hope you have a great weekend, speak next week.

===============================
* it was first where the trampoline used to be, which partly killed it, followed by being the goal mouth for the (then) new goal, which finished it off.

Friday, 10 April 2015

And . . . relax

Maggot 1 has a sleepover party today/tonight.  Ten teenage boys, the size of men, camped out in the front room.  They are out playing football just now, but when back they will be on XBox, take-away pizza later and a camping fridge full of drinks.

They will have great fun.  We will not.  Can't even drink too much in case we need to take one of them down A&E.  May seem extreme thinking, but have you ever seen ten thirteen year old boys in one room?

Tomorrow, I hope to finish the fence staining, and then start of cleaning the new, as yet unused patio, ready for sealing.

I hope you have a peaceful weekend, speak next week.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Time off for good behaviour

We had a good break away.  Well, to be precise, it was nice to have time off with the family, but the location itself was not that great.
We had a week away near Blackpool, a static 'van site near Southport to be precise, which was something of a ghetto.  It had no redeeming features that we were able to find.  The site was tatty, and the bar atmosphere was less than friendly*.

Blackpool tower and ballroom were great.  In the fabled ballroom, there was a guy on a Wurlitzer and an open dance afternoon in progress, so we watched some dancing, which was nice.  The revamped promenade was well done, so walking on there looking out to sea was fine.  Turn your gaze towards the "strip" and what you saw was much more tatty than we had expected, so overall it was a disappointing destination.

Southport, our local town, was more of a surprise.  None that we had spoken to before we went said much about it, but we found it to be charming, with (definitely faded but in a good way) Victorian architecture, a lake just in from the sea around which one could walk, those of a hardier disposition could partake of water-sports, and one could get an ice-cream, some fish and chips or just play on the well-provisioned playground.

We also did a tour of Anfield, and that was really fantastic.  The guy who took us round was entertaining and enthusiastic, and the atmosphere, heritage and passion for football was evident all around the ground.  Liverpool are now my second team.

This weekend, I have mostly been doing fences.  To be precise, yesterday I sprayed, but the previous days I had been preparing surfaces, jet-washing off the algae and generally readying the wooden surfaces for their day of glory.

So yesterday, from 8am to around 4pm, I slowly sprayed the shed and a good portion of the fences.  Gorse Fox wanted to know whether a spraying system is worth having, and I would say that it definitely is worth it.  The treatment is more expensive that standard brush-on variants, but actually as time is money**, then it was money well spent.  I did run out, and we went up to Homebase to get some more, only to find that they were out, apparently all-but ransacked during the four day weekend, so it seems that I was not the only one spraying this weekend.

It runs on four D batteries, and I did change batteries once, though not sure if I was a bit premature since the loss of power may well have been slight blocking of the delivery hose.  But, you do need to factor in battery cost as well, since four cost around six to eight pounds.

I adopted a spray and brush technique.  The spray definitely gets the coat on the panel, but following up with a brush seems to help to even it out, fill in the gaps and generally provide a smoother and more regular finish.  At the start, I did overdose on spray, so the brushing left plenty of excess treatment on the brush, which I then used for the top of the back fence (it has a one foot lattice top, to make the fence higher and harder to climb for anyone who may want to get in to our garden from the allotment) and other missed areas.  I also used a sheet along the bottom to minimise the amount of spray that went on the edges, and by the end that really was soaked through, so you can easily waste treatment if you are not careful.

I managed to do a shed of sixteen foot by ten foot, and maybe twenty or so six foot fence panels, which took just over four tubs of treatment, and in the round, probably not much more than one set of four D batteries.

I chose a colour this time***, mid-brown oak, and it has brought the garden together nicely.  Just need to get the disaster of a lawn fixed up a bit and it may start to resemble a normal garden of sorts.

One word of warning, you do need to do it when there is no wind, zero wind being the best.  There is a mist of spray that can form if you spray from the recommended nine inches distance - I found doing it much closer for the edges reduced this - and if Google is to be believed, others have experienced windows and frames coated in treatment from a neighbour's spraying during windy conditions.

This evening, we are going over to Brighton to meet up with Brad and Angelina, who are staying there for a few days, for a meal.  It is their twentieth wedding anniversary - so all the jokes about being free had it been murder should surface - and we hope to go to Jamie's for some Italian dining.  Can't wait.

Have a good, short, week, and speak on Friday hopefully.

===========================
* including open staring at these five-fingered interlopers
** perhaps less so for those retired, but nevertheless, there must be a dozen things more enjoyable to be doing that painting fences
*** I think I have said before that last time, I used a clear treatment, and when I had finished I had nothing to "show" for all my hard work

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Pic

Test photo

Test from iPhone

Thought I might blog whilst up North. 

And . . . relax. Perhaps too relaxed

Yes, I know, it is Saturday.  I have had a very hard week.  LO has been working late, 10.30pm, 9pm, 11.30pm, 10.15pm and 7pm respectively this week.  I have also been maxed out at work, closing down all the loose ends, or as many as I can, before I have time off, chasing the revenue, filling in the gaps for the reduced workforce, etc. etc. etc.  This has all taken its toll, not least on the writing of blogs.

As for time off next week, due to a greatly reduced team, and the fact that those of us - count them, one, two - still in our UK team are both off next week, I am likely going to have to work a bit.  That equates to me being available by phone when I am out and about, and then doing a bit of connected work - email, approvals, escalations - late afternoon in to early evening.  Not ideal, but needs must, and it avoids any nasty issues.  It did not help that a colleague, who was "only doing her job" decided to send a broadcast email, on which she had cc'd a number of influential managers, asking how I intended to cover next week when both myself and my esteemed UK-based colleague were both off.  Nice touch that.  Anyway, to cut a long story short*, I will sort of muddle through next week, and Luge it.

Today is a significant day in Scobi towers.  On this day, thirteen years ago, Maggot 1 came in to the world, via the usual route, at around 2.30pm.  We have a family breakfast planned for ten o'clock, us and our parents and one grand-parent, appropriately known as Gee Gee** attending for the obligatory "haven't you grown" type discussions.  We plan to indulge in the full English variety of sustenance, with veggie variants for the dodgier members of the group, and I for one cannot wait.

For the rest of the day, we will be preparing for our trip tomorrow.  For me that means:
  • Going to the 'van to get the topper foam
  • Getting the car washed (probably gonna cheat and spend three pounds at the local "conveyor belt in a tunnel" car wash)
  • Checking tyres, fluids and other general items for the car, such as tissues, wet-wipes and the like
  • Getting chainsaw oil, for the chainsaw***, for a pruning of apple tree and maybe bush
  • More detergent for the jet wash, so I am ready for the jet wash action planned for the garden - to clean the winter's grot from the patio, and also to clear several years of moss growth on the fences, in preparation for their treating, with a mid brown colour**** using our newly acquired spraying system
  • Fitting the roof bars and top box - the foam takes a lot of space
  • Bribing Maggot 1 to hoover the insides.
That should keep me busy until beer-o'clock.

I hope you have a great weekend, and speak next week.

===================
* Yes please.  Ed.
** Short for great grandmother, of course
*** duh!
**** Last time I used clear, not wanting any bold re-colouring of our fences, only to realise that that represents a very unsatisfactory end result - hours of effort but it looks no different.  This year I want all the fences, the play area surround and the shed to all be the same colour, to unify them, and for them to be a colour that we can all see when it is done so that there is something to show for all my hard work.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Friday, 20 March 2015

And . . . relax

The working weeks are passing with a blur at the moment, and that means I am sitting here on a Friday wondering where the last five days went.

It has been another hard week; another week where my colleagues and I are feeling the impact of the last round of redundancies.  That is life, I believe, in the corporate world.  I imagine anyone in a similar corporate culture is likely experiencing the same kinds of things. 

The world is changing, with everything being instant access, 24/7, so users, people, and clients, are expecting every part of their home and working life to be the same.  This is putting pressure on us and our corporations, who are large lumbering beasts in a land of new pure-play whippets.  We are trying to change, trying to shed some pounds and some organisational inertia, working towards being an agile company, but that will take time, and to follow through on the "large lumbering beasts" analogy, many species may become extinct along the way, so only the leanest and fastest amongst us survive.  I just hope I can keep ahead of the pack.

This weekend we are pretty busy.  Maggot 2 has football training at his new club Saturday, and his first friendly hopefully Sunday.  To say he is excited is not the half of it.  Around that we have lunch at my parents and my sister's family on Saturday, and lunch at David and Samantha's with Brad and Angelina Sunday. 
It is going to be a busy weekend and, I fear, a fairly alcoholic one.  Oh how long ago my dry January feels right now.

I hope you have a great weekend, speak next week.

Friday, 13 March 2015

And . . . relax

Another busy and frantic week over.  Work is hard work at the moment.  I don't mean I am working hard, though I am; rather, I mean that it is all a bit stodgy and lacking any fizz or fun.  This is simply because we have less people and more work.  Not so surprising that morale and energies are low.  As our furry friend would say, simples.

This weekend we are off to the theatre to see Cirque √Čloize - CirkopolisI have been fed the line that this is "very much like Cirque du Soleil", and being a trusting chap, I am sure it will be just like that.

Not having even known its name until I just Googled it - everything I am told is on a strictly need to know basis, and mostly I don't need to know - I have to say that it does look rather splendid.  Full report next week.

We are meeting Brad and Angelina there, and are very much looking forward to the day out, and to seeing them.

Maggot 2 is also moving to a new football setup on Saturday mornings.  This is training for a team, and although their matches are over for now, they need a new striker, the training is at the same time as the old football, and Maggot 2 is very much looking forward to it since his goal is to "get in to a team" since he knows that only by getting in to a team does he get scouted, and only by being scouted can he early one-hundred and eighty thousand pounds a week.  Never let it be said that he doesn't aim high.

Otherwise, I hope to be a relaxin' and a noddin'.

I hope your weekend is as well balanced as ours will hopefully be.  Speak next week.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

It is Wednesday, so it must be tennis

We had a great weekend.

The theatre back stage tour was fantastic.  We saw everything, from the under-stage area, where we learnt that the stage is modular, so they can remove sections for trap-doors or other reasons, through to costumes, wigs, dressing rooms (nice!), back stage, front stage, on stage and the control room.

What I really enjoyed was the fact that the design of the building, which is hexagonal with a thrust stage, was so important.  It was built in the sixties, with a budget of something like £150k, with a design brief to be cheap and honest.  That would be around £1.5m in today's money.  The fact that they have just been through a Renew program which cost around £11m makes you realise how cheap it was originally.  In design terms, they adhered to the "form follows function" paradigm, and also "truth in materials", so there is plenty of exposed concrete elements, including the cantilevered load-bearing elements, and followed through to the newly laid polished concrete flooring in various zones of the foyer.

The low build price did come with a hitch; there was not back-stage area in the original building.  They had to winch props and staging up the back from outside the structure.  Needless to say a back stage was added, and expanded in the Renew program.

One nice touch was the floor in the Green Room.  It was made of very thin wood strips, highly polished, with cracks and gaps and general imperfections.  It turns out that that flooring was the original stage floor, which was lifted and re-laid in the Green Room, to provide some continuity back to the original structure, one on which the first Artistic Director, Sir Laurence Olivier, had walked when it first opened.

I also managed both the repair jobs on the 'van, so hopefully it is now waterproof again, and with a fully functioning double bed.

Oh, and we have booked our Summer Holiday at long last. 

Friday, 6 March 2015

And . . . relax

The second round of redundancies kicked in yesterday, so there were a few notes flying round from colleagues, saying what a great time they have had, what great people they have worked with, etc. etc. 

It is always a bit of a fraught time.  Those going obviously need to be polishing off their CVs and getting out there, and those being left behind carry on as if nothing has happened, albeit we know that things will be a bit more difficult as a result of fewer troops in the ranks.

Of course, for some, this also offers opportunity, including me.  I pinged one of my contacts, asking if anything had moved, to be told that nothing could move until after yesterday*, but that my name was on a list.

That is all I need to hear for now. 

This weekend, we start with a back-stage tour of the Festival Theatre.  LO keeps dropping suggestions to the Maggots about either getting in to acting, or sound/lights back of house, so maybe this will be a catalyst to getting them interested.  if not, it will be an interesting experience, and one to which I am very much looking forward.


I also hope to get down to the 'van to carry out a couple of modest repair jobs.  The corner seals at the back on both sides has cracked (surprising when it is non-drying mastic) so needs replacing.  Also, one of the bed slats has broken - Maggots, trampoline, say no more - so I need to reinforce and No Nails that.

Finally, we have a night in, which is just what the doctor ordered.  A bit of vegging out, and also watching one of our films**.  We watched The Equaliser last night**, and have The Grand Budapest Hotel tonight.


I hope you have a great weekend, and speak next week.

=====================
* both bad show, and also questionable legally, to be filling new roles whilst those on death row are still in the organisation
** LO had a mad five minutes, and has enrolled in one of the "mail out two DVDs at a time" services, can't remember which one, so we are starting to catch up on some films
*** Six out of ten.  I liked the "arty bollox" but not the big violence scenes, LO did not even like the arty bits

Friday, 27 February 2015

And . . . relax

Another week over.  Another week where my contribution alone has ensured that the world remains spinning on its axis*.

Home has been a difficult week.  Maggot 1 has been home all week ill.  Again.  This is a more severe version of what I have had.  We may well have caught something from A&E's Maggots whilst away.  Wherever it came from, its presence in Scobi Towers was most unwelcome.  This has meant a bending of schedules.  In many ways, we should be grateful that we have schedules that can be bent, so we are really not complaining, but it does add to the levels of daily stress when our well-layed plans are de-rerailed.

This weekend, we have the usual clubs, for Maggot 2 at least, and for the evening we are having a meal out with David and Samantha, our Christmas presents to each other, bundled up in to a night out.  For chaps and chapesses such as us, who have everything**, a night out is the best present we can give and receive. 

We will also be looking to get out and about, either swimming or a country walk, or really anything that does not require a screen, for some family bonding and general expending of energy.

I may also be wanting some "personal time", an unusual concept in Scobi Towers, but a chap can try.  My new Kindle is my new best friend, well maybe second or third, and a bit of time in the library, reading my latest (free) book will be most welcome.

Talking of the library, I thought I would publish a couple of pictures of our Ercol chairs that I refurbished.  I suspect some may find the upholstery a little "modern", taste being a very personal thing, but I have to say that we in Scobi Towers absolutely love them.




I hope you have a fantastic weekend.  Speak next week.

======================
* This would pass for humour in these parts
** From our perspective, a case of truth not standing in the way of a good story, though if you were to speak to my mother, then this would be seen as the absolute truth

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Ouch!

Brad was in hospital yesterday for a gall bladder removal operation.  Patient seems to be fine, if a little sore, and our thoughts go out to him as he settles down to Homes Under the Hammer.  If ever there was an aversion therapy to get you back to work, that is it.

Keep your pecker up Brad.  Fluids up, exertion down, you know the drill.  Hopefully see you soon.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Ten out of Ten

We had a great four days up near London, travelling in to town twice during our trip. 

The first trip was to Camden Market.  This is an extremely popular tourist destination, as witnessed by the wide variety of languages we heard whilst wandering round the stalls.  It is in fact so popular that the tube station is only open to people arriving at Camden for the day, opening at 5.30pm every evening to allow people to LEAVE Camden.  The queues as a result were miserable, so we caught a bus down to another station and had a fairly easy trip back.

The market itself was quite something.  I do remember it from you early years (twenties anyway) and many of the stalls probably have not changed much since then, being a mixture of one-off designers, stuff you would buy for Glastonbury, either to wear or smoke, leather goods and stuff that is what you would expect a steam punk to be wearing.  In addition, there was a lot of street food and even some stalls interesting to us.  We ate magnificently, and thoroughly enjoyed our wandering.

Our second visit in to town was to go to the Houses of Parliament.  We arrived at Victoria station, and decided to walk up to BuckPal, and were rewarded with a changing of the guard.  It was also packed, but we managed to get a pitch on a wall to observe some of what went on.

We then strolled on, through St James' Park, to tHoP.  A quick scan and a rub down by a very nice man, and we were in.  Once our guide introduced herself, and gave us an overview of the tour, we were off, starting where the Queen herself enters when attending the Opening of Parliament and other ceremonies.  In the royal section, the colour-coding is blue.  As we moved through to the Lords, the colour changes to red, and finally on to the Commons which is coloured green.  In between, we had an utterly absorbing commentary from our guide, giving us all the sorts of detail we love, and really bringing to life the place and its history. 

We were blown away by it all, hence the ten out of ten mark for the attraction.  I can only urge you to book a tour at some stage in your life, available only during recess of course, since it really was a most fantastic experience.

Once we had finished our tour, we strolled again, past the end of Downing Street and in to Trafalgar Square, where we found a pizzeria for lunch.  By the time we had eaten, and had a small* beer, we were good for nothing but getting home, which we did forthwith, for an evening of Canasta.

This weekend, I am doing chores and the usual Saturday things.  Nothing going on in the evening, so we will probably play some poker with the Maggots (they are becoming demon gamblers, even if they are still working on their poker faces - net result, a chap does tend to clean up) before some mind-numbing TV.

I hope you have a great weekend, and speak next week.


==================
* well, maybe not so small

Friday, 13 February 2015

And . . . relax

Another week over.  This one much busier than usual, with me doing lots of yer actual solutioning, not just pontificating on the subject.  Also got some strategic pieces starting to shake out, all around Cloud, in which I want and need to be involved.  I have to say, rather than the shouting that tends to accompany too-busy times*, I am not adverse to being really busy.  The drudge will always be the drudge, but if I can also get some interesting stuff going, then time passes quickly and parts of what I am doing feels like I am making a difference.

We are off to London in the 'van for four nights tomorrow, where we plan to visit the Houses of Parliament, Camden Market, and maybe the War Rooms, depending on time and inclination.  Looking forward to a break, away from it all, roughing it** in the 'van.

I hope you have a great weekend, and I will be thinking of you come Monday morning, not too early, when I will be tucking in to egg bap and tea, followed by cake and coffee.  Who says I am a creature of habit.

===============
* of the "where the hell is my proposal" variety
** those of you who know anything about our 'van trips know they are anything but roughing it.  They are full of eating, drinking, and sitting.  Nice.

Friday, 6 February 2015

And . . . relax

An average week.  Lots of journeyman-like work, necessary for the smoother running of my bit of the business, but not really developing my abilities, my skills, or, being candid, my interest.  Needs must and all that.

This weekend we have a fairly normal Saturday, and on Sunday are meeting with David, Samantha, Brad and Angelina, and associated Maggots, at a woods half way between us, The Forest of Bere, also seemingly called 100 Acre Woods, for a walk and some lunch.  Will be good to catch up, to get some country fresh air, and to get some nice nosh.  When I say "nice", I guess if I am being honest, as nice as we can find that suits everyone in the group.  Maggot 2 has a pretty limited diet choice, as does one of the other Maggots, so it will be what it will be, and it will not be what it isn't.  Glad we cleared that up.  Whatever it is, we will enjoy it, and the company, so here's hoping the weather stays as it is currently predicted*, or improves.

Tonight, I will be drinking beer and watching rugby.  COME ON ENGLAND.  I will also be texting my Welsh friends, for pre-match banter, which hopefully will not turn in to post-match embarrassment.

I hope you have a great weekend, and speak next week.

========================
* Black cloud right now, but no rain, hopefully

Monday, 2 February 2015

Breaking the fast

As you know, I have been attempting a dry January.  In the round and on the whole, I succeeded.  I decided to end my fast on Friday evening, to break me in for Saturday evening*, when D&S were coming over. 

I thought you might like to know how it went.

Well, it went well.  I enjoyed the beer, LO enjoyed her fizz just a little bit more than me, which meant on Saturday morning she was enjoying life just a little bit less than me, resorting to four lots of tablets, and this for a filly who prefers not to take tablets at all where possible.

Saturday night, I overdid it a bit, and LO was cautious, meaning that Sunday morning arrived rather quickly, but not too painfully.  We went off to Ikea for breakfast and a mooch, and while we did not get the items we were really after**, we did get some bits and had a good few hours getting our fix of retail therapy.

The rest of the day was spent getting ready for the week, eating, drinking and watching a bit of mindless television.

===============
* a chap can justify anything if he tries hard enough
** a side table and a light for the library

Friday, 30 January 2015

And . . . relax

On the work front, things have been going pretty well.  I may have already said, but I had a good appraisal, and have heard our leader mention that there may be bonuses this year.  A bonus is a nice little lump sum that always makes you smile, and will likely trigger a bit of holiday booking once it arrives.  To be clear, the sum is relatively modest when compared to the rest of my industry, and a rounding error on a banker's bonus, but it will be welcomed in to Scobi Towers, and probably sent out in to the world to pay a debt to some travel company or other within twenty-four hours.

Also on the work front, I have been continuing to work my mentor's network, having had another chat about my next role with someone who manages my interested area.  The headline was as expected; reorganisation still in progress, likely to be shaking out in maybe a week, at which point holes and new opportunities will start to come in to focus.  He did mention my name was "on the list" and that he had spoken to someone about me and had a good report, which is nice.  So it really is just a waiting game.  I have been waiting the best part of three years, so another week won't hurt.

And finally on the work front, my bit of give back work to create a reusable solution has completed successfully, and I am hoping that that will also just get my name in to the right circles.  In fact, many of the circles I have already been contacting, which means I am aiming at the right spot, and as long as I don't get irritating, a bit of repetition helps to get my name cemented in their minds.

On the home front, it has been a tricky week with Maggot 2 being off all week, except Wednesday when he did go back to school, only to get worse again.  Now that it is Friday, and I am working at home, things are a bit less stressful.  Maggot 1 also happens to be off on an INSET day today as well, so I have a house full of Maggots.  Maggot 1 is having a friend round, then off to KFC and the cinema, so he should not be too much trouble.

Also on the home front, we have David and Samantha and Maggots over on Saturday night.  We have not seem them since New Year's Eve, so will be good to get together with them.  Saturday is, as you probably know, the thirty-first of January, and while that is technically still in January, I plan to make it the moment when I break my Dry January fast.  I am guessing that I will be tipsy after the first sip and on the floor after the second pint, based on what others have said, so it should be an interesting evening.

I hope you have a great weekend, speak next week.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Appraisals

I had a really good appraisal on Friday afternoon.  Along with a very agreeable mark, I also had the "as one of my best, I am gonna be putting you in to the hardest accounts" chats with my manager.  Par for the course, and maybe just what I need to shake me out of my January lethargy, either by giving me the new challenge I need (even if I am not sure I want it), or by putting me in a situation that I just have to get out of*, in to my new role.

Talking of new roles, things are moving, albeit slowly.  In fact, so slowly that the untrained eye may struggle to see any movement at all. 

I had a chat with the UK Cloud leader last week, and have a call with the UK other Cloud leader this week.  I have also nearly finished the piece of give-back solutioning for a standardised solution for the Emerging Solutions team, which has gone well, with the comment from the manager that "this is an excellent piece of work", which is nice.  All this is getting my name out there, in readiness for when the twin external factors of organisational pruning, and organisational change, shake out, and the holes and new opportunities reveal themselves. 

This is when I need to be focussed and direct, something I can do as long as I take a long run-up.  I hope that the combination of what I know, and where I am putting myself about, and my mentor, who has influence in this space, that I may actually just get myself a change or role.

About time too.

=============================
* I pondered if this should be "out of which I just have to get" - may be technically correct, though not 100% sure, but it certainly does sound at best antiquated, like the infamous Churchill quote that "this is something up with which I will not put"

Friday, 23 January 2015

And . . . relax

As another week draws to a close, I have a chance to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly.

Work has been work.  Most troopers will have had the call from their manager, and some will be delighted, and some will not, though, perhaps surprisingly, those not delighted will not all be in the thumbs up camp; some were hoping for a thumbs down, and will not have got it.  Such is the nature of the modern business, and the trooper morale within, that all combinations exist; for those that want to go, some will and some won't, and likewise for those that don't want to go, some will and some won't. 

At home, we have some sickness in Maggot 2, this one with a fever, which has brought on the usual round of disturbing hallucinations, of which there were two during last night, when he was worried about the boat sinking, and wanted to cuddle very close to me*.  They last around fifteen long minutes, and involve a lot of clawing and pointing and sudden moments of fear.
The remedy for this is, as any parent knows, Calpol or Neurofen, or sometimes both alternately.  Their magical properties never cease to amaze me.

Maggot 1 is growing up alarmingly, and is entering the phase when talking to parents is just sooooooooo tedious.  I guess that is us stuck for the next five years then.

The weekend is clear, which is just what we need.  Likely there will be no football for Maggot 2, so just tennis for 1, and otherwise we can suit ourselves.  My primary goal is to have some time reading in our new chairs in the library.

One final piece of trivia.  One of my podcasts is Freakanomics, "the hidden side of everything", or more precisely, how data can answer the most unusual of questions.  This week's topic was around why people say "That is a very good question".  At one point, the host was discussing what we had learnt with his co-host, and he asked whether the co-host ever had one of those moments where someone has just said something that you know for sure needs a response, but you just did not hear what they said, and do not want to cause a scene by asking again.  The solution to this dilemma is to to say back, and I am writing this phonetically since it is a word that does not seem to exist:
rebus-a-cas-a-fram

Bizarre as it sounds, apparently most people, when hearing those sounds, will hear the answer they want to hear.  I hope to test this over the next few days, and will let you know what I find.


I hope you have a great weekend, and speak next week.

========================
* A sure sign of illness is when he prefers me to his mother

Monday, 19 January 2015

Ooops

It seems I have been a bit remiss, and have not blogged for a while.

This is because of, um, well, it is probably coz I have been quite busy, and so forgot, but in today's world, that sounds pretty lame.

Had a busy weekend.  It was an old college friend's 50th party in London Saturday lunchtime, and due to lack of baby-sitters, I went alone.  It was a fine event in a lovely venue, and the only fly in the ointment was the travel.

On the way there, my travel was fine until I arrived at King's Cross tube station, at which point I read the details of the weekend work to determine that, as it happened, that was as far as the tube could take me towards my destination station, the Barbican.  In the round, probably could not have got much nearer anyway, but this was a school-boy error, and one corrected by me deciding to walk the last couple of miles.  In the pleasant but cool day, it was a nice stroll through some uninspiring bits of North London.

Once there, it was clear that my travel disruption had been but naught compared to others, who were an hour or more delayed.  This meant the event started about an hour and a half later than billed, a fact that became relevant to later travel plans.

The meal went on forever, made none the better by me having a dry January.  Being in the presence of a roomful of people taking advantage of the free drink (thanks Taff for that) is always interesting if you are sober.

We had the slow three courses, followed by dessert wine, and coffee, and speeches, and the opening of presents, at which point it seemed okay for me to make my excuses and leave, only to be rung by LO as I was leaving, to ask where the hell was I? 

I knew I was running late, about 5.15pm at this time, so decided to cab it to Victoria, to catch the 5.46pm down South.  I arrived at a sprint to find this cancelled, and a lot, and I mean a lot, of people milling around thinking the same as me.  Would I get home tonight?

Anyway, I decided to risk the Gatwick Express, to get me at least that far, at which point, I figured, there are bound to be more trains doing the south trip.

And so it passed.  We took 50% longer that we should have to do the trip, but we arrived, and found a train, only it was not the train, and then it was.  We got nearly to Three Bridges when we stopped for half an hour.  We then limped in to the station, on platform 3, only to be told that our train would not continue south, but would instead go back north, and so we needed to change to the train on platform 1.

Meanwhile, those on the train on platform 1 were told that their train was no longer travelling north, but south, and they needed to alight and make their way to platform 3.

And so it was that five-hundred or maybe a thousand people were making their way between platform 1 and 3, down the ramp, along the tunnel and up the other ramp.  Mayhem.

We needn't have worried though.  Our train, and that on platform 3, were going nowhere fast.  And so we sat for a further 30 minutes, waiting for things to shake down.

Finally, our train left the station, and told us that, first good news of the journey, the front half of our train would take us all the way home, separating from the back half at Barnham.
A quick discussion was had between myself and the two women sitting opposite me, as to the best time to move forward to the front half, us being in the back half.  We agreed that sooner rather than later, to avoid any other last-minute hitches.  And so we did, separately (I did not want them to think I was following them, strange, but rather handsome, stranger on the train and all that), to complete the last leg of our journey.

As we arrived in Barnham, having convinced ourselves that nothing else could go wrong, we were notified by the driver - who in fairness was full of apology - that the train was actually terminating at Barnham, and we should alight.

So, for the final part of our journey, I shared a cab with the two women with which I had had the discussion earlier, and due to a lack of change, one of the ladies paid it all, so my journey was free from cost.

That is how it was that I arrived at the dinner party LO and the Maggots were already at around an hour and a half later than I should have.  Four hour journeys do that to your time-keeping.  And don't forget, I could not even seek solace in a beer, being dry and all.  Fortunately, the food was first class and the rest of the evening went off without a hitch.


Friday, 9 January 2015

And . . . relax

Having ended 2014 a little but jaded with Starfleet, I am determined to start 2015 with more vigour.  A week off and plenty of mince pies (and actually, first time for a while, rather a lot of port too) has managed to work its magic, and I do feel ready to do battle with the beast.

I have completed my case for Consulting, which includes plenty of "lateral thinking", which is a modest but important notch on my career bedpost.

I have also had another Mentor session.  My mentor commented that I am now much clearer as to what I want, which is nice, and she has made an introduction on my behalf to someone who is in the right place to advise me, and indeed to know what roles are out there.  As it happens, he knows well the other person with whom I have a call next Tuesday, and so I have combined them both in to the single call. 

The only issue is a couple of major activities* within Starfleet which has, metaphorically, thrown everything up in the air, and until they land, and are appropriately rearranged, it is not that easy to identify which bits are seats and which bits are alligator pits.  All this means is that any career chats will be a bit theoretical.  This does not worry me too much, since what I am doing is getting my name out there, tick, and also getting some sense of at least where to look and what to look for as the changes become reality, tick.

On the home front, the chairs are all stripped back and oiled, and now have new webbing installed.  The cushions arrived on Thursday, but because of an error on my part - I thought I had ordered seat and back, but I had only ordered the seats - I had to place another order yesterday morning for the backs, which arrived promptly today.  I also ordered zips, strong cotton and a new fabric pen**, so I am ready to go, once the material arrives.

This morning I placed the order for the material and sadly it will likely take three to five days to arrive, so I am stuffed until it turns up.  Oh well, where did I put the port.

Actually, that last line is an untruth, because I am trying to do a "dry January" this month.  It will be a challenge, party Saturday night and next week friend's fiftieth lunch party in London, but I plan to be strong, and to see what they look like from a sober perspective***.

Have a great weekend, and speak next week.

=======================
* hard to say what without breaching confidentiality rules
** they create a mark that disappears after a day or so.  Seat cushions need to be close-fitting, so accurate marking and cutting is essential, and my chalk triangles will just not suffice for this particular job.
*** absolutely terrifying I expect

Monday, 5 January 2015

Back to work

We are all back to work or school today, except Maggot 2 who has 2 days of Inset.

This means getting up early, or compared to the times we have been getting up over the last two weeks, really really bloody early.  This has been a challenge for all.

I am at work, taking a break I guess, since I am writing this, trying to clear all the bits that I need to clear, planning the rest of the week's activities, and generally just pretending that I am used to this kind of regime.  To be honest, it is well-trodden territory, this having-to-get-used-to-working-again feeling, and I am sure in a week we will be back in the groove, busy, hassled and generally dealing with our busy lives like we are pros.

We had a crazy moment on Thursday.  We have been coveting a specific make of chair for our library*, the make being an Ercol Windsor low-backed chair, model 203.  We found a pair on eBay at a reasonable price, but in Bath, that were collection only.  We discussed that this really was a long way to travel to pickup a pair of chairs, and bid anyway.  Subsequently, we had E's trailer hitched on the car and were making our way down the motorway at 7am Saturday morning, to return home at 1pm.  The weather was foul, and there was a major hold-up on the return journey which required us to take one of our legendary detours - legendary because, as a rule, we spend double the time trying to go round an obstacle as we would have spent queuing to pass it.  In this case, it probably was quicker, but it added a good half an hour to what was already a five hour round trip.

Anyway, we are now the proud owners of a pair of chairs that need a lot of TLC.  In fact, they are now my winter project.  They need sanding back to clear wood, oiling, re-webbing, new seat cushions with new cushion covers which I plan to make.  In short, apart from the beech frame, everything needs replacing.  This may sound like madness, but it does make economic sense.  Even with all that work, and parts, we will end up with chairs that, new, would cost nearly four times what we will have paid to get them done, and even second hand with, to be honest, not as good upholstery as ours will have, they will be worth nearly double what we have paid. 

In short, we will have a design classic with a modern twist that will be just what we are after.

In the process, I have of course leaned heavily on Uncle Google for advice and suppliers for all sorts of items.  I now know, for example, that the right webbing is made by Pirelli, is rubber based, and is a lot more expensive than the cheapest on the market, but nevertheless represents the right thing to be using.  I also know the right way to create the loops that will ultimately be part of the webbing (rivets, since you ask) and also the right kind of seat cushions to buy. 

At this point, I have to say that I really love the internet.  Whatever new subject you want to understand better, you just Google it to be presented with a thousand sites on just that topic.  Literally anything I have thought of, and there are thousands, if not millions, of sites with info on that subject.  Staggering, and well done for Uncle Google for keeping abreast of it all.

I may just print a picture once I have something to show.

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* just in case you think we are getting delusions of grandeur, you are right.  This was previously the table-football and snooker room, the other half of our front room, but with the games tables stored in the shed for the Christmas tree to be installed, and the tree now gone, we need to revert the room to our newly chosen function.