December 2015 Part 1

The last of my retrospective posts for 2015…..and what an end to the year.

It started off as November had finished – house viewings and auctions. I found the next project and after a bit of brinkmanship we cut a deal. I was quite surprised (and a little nervous that I’ve missed something) but quite happy to be back in the harness soon. It even has a roof garden (see pic):


Clearly one of my first priorities will be to turn the roof garden into a roof. Hopefully before the roof collapses.

The gearup to Christmas began in earnest. This year (for the first time in many years) we had a real tree and new decorations. It was ace. I went and bought the tree without adult supervision and found out when it was home that the thing had a volume very close to that of our lounge. Clearly, we wanted to be able to sit in the room whilst the tree was up so some judicious pruning* was done and we just about had room to still use the lounge. Here it is in all its glory


The memory of sitting in front of the TV after finishing decorating it and watching, from the corner of my eye, as a small list slowly became a significant lean and then quickly progressed to an alarming tilt before being caught just before disaster still makes me smile.

No sooner had we got our Trafalgar-square-scale Christmas tree under control than we were off again. This time to Krakow for 3 days.

It was a beautiful place to visit, the architecture and friendliness of the people and history were all great. The overwhelming sadness of what happened to so many people there during the second world war isn’t glossed over at all, but somehow doesn’t hang too heavy. It’s all dealt with by anyone that we spoke to in a very matter of fact way. Very open an honest, but without either anger or sentimentality. I guess the passage of time means that most who now talk about it will have studied it or have heard stories rather than direct experience, but they all did a good job of walking that fine line between underplaying the terrible events and mawkishness.

We went over to see Auschwitz and Birkinau. It was mind blowing just what an industrial scale operation had been set up to exterminates race. Again, the whole subject was dealt with in a very matter of fact way. Our tour guide was exceptional and managed to convey the facts without sensationalism or sentimentality. It was a very bleak place and quite a sobering day.

Mrs A and I love a good old walk around a city and we walked for miles (Mrs A’s account can be found here – it’s really rather good), for my part I loved the architecture and the street food and the bison grass vodka. We had plenty of all 3 for next to no money at all. We got some great tips on where the locals head for the best food and bars and headed there. I got to eat Zapiekanka with bacon and plums on it, followed by vodka in a bar that was far too young for us. I cared not one jot and accidentally had drinks with the barman and some random others at the bar. Lovely.









We arrived home late and tired on a sunday night, with a couple of days at home before heading to That There London, which is next up, in December part 2.

* – hacking approximately half the tree off

October 2015

October had a grand plan.

The plan was simple: head to the villa for two weeks. One week to celebrate a couple of significant dates for one of Mrs A’ s oldest friends and one week on our own to chill out after a crazy few months at work for Mrs A.

So off we went. We spent the fisrt week doing all the things that we usually pretty well ignore in favour of sparking out in the sun/by the pool/on the beach with a good book and or a podcast or two. In short, being lazy buggers.

So we went to historic ruined villages and went out on the town and went on a sailing cruise around the islands and enjoyed it all very much. The weather was even better than expected…




Then week two we reverted to our usual modus operandi and did next to nowt. Although I did see a jazzy tractor, some parked goats and the world’s most expensive and largest private yacht moored just off the beach that we go to. My favourite was the tractor.




Arriving home there was a letter on the mat from the solicitors informing me that there were a couple of forms that needed signing to sell the flat. We signed and returned them. I even called on the Wednesday to check all was OK to be told that completion date was scheduled for the Friday and there were a couple of signatures missing. A small but salient point that might have been better being shared I thought. Cue lots of running around and stress before the deal was done.

To round off the month we had a trip up to see Mrs A’s parents. October was a blur.

Merry Go Round

This is Liuetenant Murtagh. He appears in the Lethal Weapon series of films with Riggs (AKA Mel Gibson) which was current when I was susceptible to such tosh in the late eighties..

Murtagh was the old-school cop who had done his time with the LAPD at the sharp end and was hoping for a nice steady run up to retirement.

Anyway, I am relating more and more to Murtagh as time goes on. On a regular basis whilst leaping around from one panic to the next at work like a flea on a hotplate I think those very words. Quite often with vim and vigour.

Although the place I earn a crust at the moment is truly fascinating from an engineering point of view, it is unfortunately equally fascinating for its entropic approach to management. It often feels that the decision making process may well be based to some degree on dice or possibly chicken bones and some low quality hoodoo. We have recently had an unannounced rejig in structure that eventually filtered out to those involved, resulting in a new official boss based in Singapore for me and 5 unofficial ones in the UK that turn up at my desk one after another with their own particular bucketful of mayhem.

The delightful Mrs A is getting bored senseless by the ongoing tales of lunacy and is telling me to chuck it in. It’s a tempting thought for sure but I’m currently determined to stick it out to the bitter end in March. This point of view is subject to change on almost a daily basis.

So for the next few months I will try to keep my eye on the finish line and do my absolute very best to keep the voices in my head inside my head. After all, it all worked out OK for Murtagh in the end.


Scores On The Doors Please Anthea

Today at lunchtime I was considering my morning. To say that it’d been a whirlwind of chaos, mayhem and visits from two of my favourite military personnel (General Problems and Major Fuckup) would be fairly accurate. Too many people telling me that their problems were now my problems and being completely unconcerned about whatever anyone else might be needing me to do was driving me to distraction. There were so many to deal with I couldn’t get everything for everyone.

So whilst eating my cheese sandwich and considering my position I came up with a cunning plan.

As long as the number of people who’s day I improve outnumber the ones I piss off I’ll count that day as a win.

And today I won. If I count myself in the numbers.


Adventure’s Adventures.

Well, here we go again.

The last few months have been a torrid time, Circumstances have conspired to lead to me being in a rather interesting position.

I am the master of my own ship again.

Working for The Man has run its course and I am now sticking it to The Man by working for The Man (albeit a different Man to The Man I was dealing with earlier in the year). Following this so far?

No? Here’s the simplified version.

I was employed by a company directly up until a couple of weeks ago, but now I am employed by my own company again (although a different company to the one I previously owned after having sold my stake in it) and am working as a consultant at someone else’s (entirely unrelated and considerably larger) company.

OK, that’s not much simpler, is it?

However, the stuff I’m doing now exposes me to engineering that blows my mind. I deal day in day out with engineers that have brains the size of planets* and commercial nous the size of quarks. It’s frustrating and inspiring in equal measure. I suspect I’ll be a basket case by the time I’m done.

So I am doing my thing for them for the next few months and then I am onto the next part of the grand plan which involves the cunning trick of making a few quid whilst simultaneously becoming more flexible in my working patterns.

And yes, once I have managed that I will go on to invent the self-replicating tenner.



* – 5 bonus points and a biscuit to the first person who gets the reference.

You Can Take The Boy Out Of Engineering…

Last week I was out and about on company business again. One of the many delights of the job that I do is that you quite often get wheeled around peoples warehouses as they proudly tell you all about their 6 Sigma this or Continuous Improvement that. My job in this particular scenario is to look interested and UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES look them square in the eye and tell them that I just don’t care.

This particular visit was showing all the signs of being just such an occasion. I stood and dutifully listened to their spiel about Kanban and Ishikawa and kept my thoughts to myself. I even managed to keep my face straight whilst they told me about their unassailable dominance in the narrowboat toilet market (which was, to be frank, an effort of monumental proportions).

But then we rounded a corner and they showed me their engineering department. They had lathes and milling machines (both types, no less!) and surface grinders and EDM machines and a chap in overalls and safety glasses called Dave.

I wasn’t allowed in due to their health and safety rules so I stood, just on the boring side of the yellow line painted on the floor, staring in like a fat kid at the door of the cakeshop. There were slip gauges and micrometers and engineering drawings and the evocative smell of cutting fluid. It was ace.

And I bet Dave was looking out at me and thinking “it’s all right for you, pal – you’ll swan about here for a bit and then get ferried off to a nice airconditioned meeting room and given free coffee”.

The grass is always greener on the other fellow’s grave, Dave.


Tales Of The Unexpected

My colleague is a funny old stick. He’ll be 50 in a couple of months and he’s one of the most engineery men I know (and given my employment background that’s no mean feat). He is logical and methodical and he likes a scientifically reliable fact.
Just recently he had been quite poorly and was been bemoaning the aches and pains and general inconvenience of it all. A couple of his desk neighbours had been badgering him to go to the doctor (a thing he seemed singularly unwilling to do). All the persuading and cajoling and pressuring came to an abrupt halt however, when he recently announced that he’d been made well overnight.
He explained that he’d gone to bed as normal in the evening and the following morning had suddenly felt entirely better. Nothing too unusual so far, until we got to his view of the reason for this sudden recovery.
The spirits did it in the night.
We asked how he’d arrived at this slightly leftfield reason for feeling better and he explained that when he’d gone to bed he’d been wearing his socks (with his pyjamas tucked in to them, mind you), but when he’d woken up in the morning HE NO LONGER HAD SOCKS ON (pause for dramatic music).
Now I know very little about either spirituality or medicine, but a sockectomy seems to be a pretty unusual activity for spooks or doctors to be involved in whilst working on curing a bit of a cough.
However, just to be on the safe side, he went to see the doctor anyway. I asked how it’d gone and he told me that the doc had said it was just a virus that his immune systems had sorted out and he just had to take things easy for a while.
He also told me that he’d asked the doctor if it might have been spirits that took the illness away. Apparently the doctor thought it quite unlikely.
Sometimes I worry that I’m just imagining these people.


"Can We Have Everything Louder Than Everything Else?"

The title of this post is a quote by Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, uttered during some tour in the 70s to one of the sound techs (they probably weren’t called that back then) and it’s always made me smile.

I am, however, beginning to suspect that someone, somewhere in the management structure of my current employer is a Deep Purple fan and is also familiar with this little gem.
I also suspect that he/she applies the same principles to objectives. 
“Everything is more important than everything else.”
Whilst this works as a great remark in terms of music, the important part, the bit that really makes the whole statement a thing of beauty, is its inherent irony. I’m sure that even in the drug & alcohol fuelled 70s Mr Gillan was aware of the Escher-like qualities of his request and wasn’t expecting the erstwhile sound guy to actually be able to deliver.
Hopefully when I take the metaphorical approach of just turning everything up to eleven they’ll be satisfied and we can all go for a pint of Watney’s Red Barrel.