Saturday, 31 December 2011

Air Dried Ham; Day 21

So I find myself at the end of 2011; if you are expecting a neat summary of my achievements over the past year you are about to be disappointed. That would defeat the aim of keeping a Journal. If you want to know how the year panned out for me check the preceding pages.

The day started with an early wander around the Three Miler with T&M. I really owed them a walk as a combination of atrocious weather and a trip in to town meant that no walk had happened yesterday. The Christmas/New Year walkers were out in their hordes this morning and I counted more than a dozen of them. I have had a minor rant about them on previous occasions so I'll not bother with that today other than to make the observation that their numbers are expected to decline significantly in the next 48 hours and by the end of next week it will just be the usual miscreants out in the lanes.

After lunch it was time to excavate the leg of pork that I had been salting in the garage in preparation to make an air dried ham.
The leg weighed 6 kilos (a tad over 13 lbs) when it was placed in the salt on 9th December. After 21 days it now weighs 4.77 kg (10 lb 9 oz) so the salting appears to have reduced the weight by approximately 20%.
 After a thorough rinsing in cold water the leg is patted dry and then given a good wash in white wine vinegar.
It is then dried, wrapped in a double layer of muslin and then hung out in the garage for the next 6 months. All being well I should have a fine Prosciutto type ham towards the end of May 2012.
Other Stuff: 

TP returned home today after a few days away with his Mum, Bro and Sis down at Grandma's. 

On an entirely unconnected matter; 30% let Noggin & Tog have their first experience of outside today. Noggin nearly caused 30% to have a fit of the vapours when he headed straight for the main road. Tog, on the other hand, was far more cautious and took a long look around before a careful exploration of the patio. Having completed one circuit he re-entered the house with the look of a cat that thought the garden had not quite lived up to his expectations...

... perhaps he will change his mind when he discovers mice, shrews, voles and LBBs*.

On a slightly connected matter the Christmas Tree was taken to the local recycling point after achieving a world record three and one half day residence as a piece of living room installation art before cat attacks caused it to be deconstructed and placed in the garden. I think it says something that I liked it upright with baubles and lights intact whilst N&T preferred it sprawled across the floor with it's trimmings strewn across the room...

... We have a little under 12 months to rectify these artistic differences.
* Little Brown Birds

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

An Apple (a) day

Wednesday involved a trip over to Bad Man senior's to provide Step Mum Sue with what is know in the trade as a desk side visit. We had bought them a Kindle e-reader for Christmas and she wanted a little guidance on downloading books via the USB cable*. Having "closed that ticket" we took a brief trip in to Worcester before returning home for lunch and the daily walk.

The afternoon finally saw my new i-Mac removed from it's box and set up. It is a thing of beauty and after the painful tedium and irritating frustration of a Windows PC it is an absolute delight to use. It will take me a while to familiarise myself with the interface but so far it seems very intuitive...

... and as for the screen, it is huge and the image quality is amazing
* There are two things to note here; 1) "Senior's" home is not a wifi hotspot and 2) "Senior's" approach to computing is based around a very sophisticated voice interface ...

... "Sue, can you Google this for me, Sue can you print that off for me, Where is that photo we took on holiday? etc etc".

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Alternative Cure

It was another lazy day here at The Pile. The only item on the agenda was lunch with 30%'s Mum and Dad followed by a walk with T&M and an extended period of pottering.

I did start the cure of a loin of pork that 30% bought just before Christmas and has sat, until today, developing an inferiority complex beside a huge turkey carcass and a honey and mustard glazed ham in the fridge. Hopefully the cure will improve it's self esteem and in seven days time it will be happy to strut it's stuff as a full blown piece of dry cured, back bacon.

I have varied the dry cure by adding four pieces of star anise to the 2.25 kilos of dry cure mixture and it will be interesting to see what effect this has. It was recommended as an aromatic in the cure by a local butcher but the discussion did not cover quantities so it will be a case of trial and error to get the flavouring just right.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Creme de Menthe & Banana; his finest hour

"Tell 30% not to worry about the dessert, I've got that sorted", these were the words that immediately followed bad man senior's acceptance of the Boxing Day lunch invitation...

... it did not take a rocket scientist to suss out that bad man senior would be bringing a trifle because EVERYONE loves a trifle and "senior" is famous, or possibly infamous, for his trifles. Let me explain; many, many years ago my mum was absolutely crazy for trifle. Now there is a hell of a back story about my mum that would fill volumes let alone a Journal entry but for the sake of brevity lets just summarise that a set of unfortunate circumstances in a Renault 4 left her as mad as a hatter and bad man senior as the main carer...

... and every Sunday Mater would INSIST on having trifle for tea. Now I am not exaggerating, my crazy mother would insist on trifle for tea and believe me it was easier to comply than suggest an alternative, much, much easier to comply...

... and so the fruity, slightly boozy, creamy dessert that every loves on special occasions became a Sunday staple at my childhood home and since then I have done my best to avoid them. It is not that I dislike trifle but I have developed a theory that every human being has a natural trifle limit and that I exceeded mine at some point in 1978. I'm not actually sure what happens in the result of a major trifle overdose but you can be sure that I am not going to risk spending time in intensive care due to some close-to-fatal jelly/sherry synergistic poisoning...

... 30%, on the other hand, is still way off the point of trifle toxicity and as a consequence is more than happy to be presented with a free trifle. Pater, who is inordinately fond of 30% is therefore more than willing to present her with one of his specialities. Hence Boxing day lunch was to include a sherry trifle dessert.

I should point out that over the years Dad's natural curiosity and tendency to experiment perhaps combined with a lack of sherry lead him to develop a number of interesting trifle variants. The main source of his inspiration was a 1960s G Plan side board with a drinks cupboard that was filled with, you've guessed it, a 1960's liqueur collection. He lays claim to the first ever use of Tia Maria in a trifle and I have no reason to doubt that he has used Cherry Brandy, Baileys and Cointreau rather than endure the ire of my mother.

Yes, over the years I have sampled every type of trifle known to man and a certain number that are banned in all but the most lawless of parts of the planet ...

... out of politeness I agreed to a small portion and was served something the size of a small family car. I lifted the first spoonful to my mouth and it was just as I remembered it ...

... "Thanks Dad, it was lovely"

Sunday, 25 December 2011

I definitely wasn't expecting that

It was a quiet Christmas day here at The Pile; dogs were walked, food was eaten, a few drinks were imbibed and presents were exchanged.

TP is now kitted out for his skiing trip in February and 30% was overjoyed with her hand bag and blown away by the unexpected ear rings...

... as for me, I was thoroughly spoilt. I won't go in to details but a transvestite granny smith with some associated infrastructure sums up a few of my gifts quite neatly...

... and as for the mounted wild boars head; MENTAL!

Merry Christmas

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, 24 December 2011

We need a couple of concrete blocks

So Christmas Eve dawned and immediately after breakfast TP and I set out for a local Nursery to pick up the Christmas Tree. There had been much debate about how a tree would fare with two very inquisitive kittens but we finally succumbed subject to a few provisos set out by 30% as to which desecrations could be hung from its boughs.

After the purchase of the tree I took T&M for a quick whizz around the Three Miler before we nipped in to Worcester for some traditional last minute shopping. Last weekend's trip in to Stratford had been less than successful and TP and I really needed to get a little something special to put in 30%'s stocking. We had a loose plan but our initial forays were less than fruitful. Absolutely every thing we saw just wasn't quite right. We therefore broke off from our search and went for an old favourite; perfume. As we wandered back towards the car I had to admit that I wasn't totally happy with the selection of gifts. That ideal little something just hadn't been found and then the clouds parted and a shaft of light illuminated the Jewellers window and there they were ...

... a gorgeous pair of ear rings that were a perfect compliment to the necklace that she treasures. Within a matter of minutes they were gift wrapped and we were heading back to the car park. Shopping done we joined Jools for a late lunch and exchange of gifts before heading home.

Back at The Pile the tree was unwrapped and installed in the living room where TP and I dressed it. It lasted less than an hour before Noggin and Tog had climbed it and brought it crashing to the floor. It was then decreed that the kittens needed to be accompanied in the lounge at all times until twelfth night*

Imagine now a speeding clock with the hands settling at six in the evening. 30%'s family join us for the Village Carol Concert. This is a fantastic open air celebration on the Green under the Christmas Tree. It is very well arranged with a local Silver Band and PA System, so that everyone can hear the melodies, and Carol Sheets so that everyone knows the words. It is always well attended and it is not unusual to draw in visitors from several miles away. It might seem odd, considering my lack of faith, to enjoy a carol concert but I do despite my renowned inability to carry a tune.

After the concert 30% served Dinner. Further exchanges of presents occurred and by half past nine we had the house to ourselves once more. As we settled down to relax Noggin and Tog returned invigorated and resumed their attack on the Christmas Tree. It was toppled at least once more and several of the decorations were strewn across the floor. It now stands a noticeable few degrees off vertical and I think that TP will need to redecorate at some point tomorrow.

As we retired to bed I pointed out that we need a couple of concrete blocks to sort out the tree. "What?" she enquired, "to weigh down the base and make it more stable?"...

... "No" I replied "We tie one to each of the cats. That will stop the little sods wrecking it"
* Fat Bloody Chance

Friday, 23 December 2011

Nothing of huge import to impart today.

Cathy H-R turned up on the door step with the Turkey and after a brief natter departed safe in the knowledge that she had a buyer for half of the pig she would be slaughtering in February.

T&M were then taken for an early walk and were subsequently bathed as the lanes are even muddier than last reported. We then all tidied ourselves up and nipped over to a reasonably local pub for a non-birthday lunch.

In the afternoon I set to boiling a large gammon joint that was finished off in the oven with a  honey and mustard glaze ... mmm!

30% was also creative in the kitchen* and TP amused himself by tidying his bedroom and searching for the i-Phone 3 that has been lost for the best part of a week.

Dad and a small sampling of Sues** paid visits with cards and gifts in the late afternoon and the evening revolved around the trinity of sofa, log burner and television.

* Delia's Black Bean Chili
** Mad Bat and Step Mum Sue

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Quote of the Day

On the last team call before Christmas our charming manager had managed to issue the most insipid and insincere Christmas wish to the team. It was delivered as though it was a trivial and unnecessary annoyance  in his otherwise perfect agenda.

Golfy and I had a post call analysis ...

Golfy            He is the Black Hole of mirth

bad man       He needs a fucking good kick in the event horizon

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

I'm putting the band back together...

Yes, you heard it right. I'm putting the band back together ...

... after the mega successful tour earlier this year ,where we covered 14 EMEA countries and made a couple of Stateside appearances too, the record label have asked me to put the band back together for another European tour.

It is great to be going back on the road but this is tinged with sadness as I know that I am unlikely to get the original 2010/11 line-up back on the tour bus. I know for a fact that Fat Deb is not going to be on vocals but, to be honest, she never knew the running order of the set and was always forgetting the lyrics so that's no great loss. Her replacement looks like he has a top notch rock 'n roll pedigree judging by his surname and I am expecting great things, in fact a Quality performance, from Mr Bowie.

Judge Dread is back on the team too, having been appointed by the record label to make sure that our performance is as good as it can possibly be and that we don't have any problems with prop malfunctions when we go live.

It is with great, and hopefully mutual, disappointment that Tigger is not lined up to take on his usual role at the keyboard. He is currently performing in the Armada Room at the Holiday Inn with Merv and the Magic Tones*. We've had a couple of chats about him coming back and he's keen but there seems to be some contractual/managerial issue that means that he's forced to sit there looking down the cleavages of senior citizens while picking out the notes of The Girl from Ipanema on his organ.

The Brass Section is made up of the usual Europeans. They are not the most sociable of guys but they have an unnatural ability to put so much in to their work. I cannot recount the occasions where Tigger and I looked at their previous performances and were truly incredulous at what they could fit in to their moments in the spotlight.

So there we have it, most of the band are lined up and ready to start rehearsals in early January. There are going to be some rough nights ahead of us but what else can you expect with American Management. Now where did I put my favourite Harmonica ?
* That's a nowhere gig if ever there was one.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Weather Report

I know that the odds were against it and with over 40 years experience of British winters I knew there was virtually no chance of a repeat of last year's December snow fall but I always hoped for more of that fantastic weather. Yes, it was incredibly cold with temperatures down to minus 20 degrees centigrade, but it was beautiful.

This December we have the opposite. It is mild and soggy and my daily walk is becoming an exercise in avoiding mud splattered roads, soaking wet fields and woodland paths that have turned in to sloughs. The reason for this pedestrian delicacy is not personal. I can simply take off a pair of muddy boots and throw on a clean pair of jeans. No, the reason for this mud avoidance is for the sake of T&M. They both have long coats and these are a magnet for water and mud. As a consequence our walks  are planned to take in the dryer routes with the aim of avoiding daily baths and long hours spent drying in the hall before they are allowed in to the lounge.

Hopefully we will get a cold snap soon as slippery muddy paths and soggy dogs do tend to diminish the enjoyment of my daily walk.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Noggin & Tog or is it Toggin and Nog?*

I've not made any significant mention of Noggin and Tog since they turned up towards the end of September. They have both settled in amazingly well and from day one seemed totally unflustered by the over eager attentions of Tyson and Marauder.

Just the other day I was sat at the laptop and Noggin; the confident one was sat on a chair beside me. He decided to entertain himself by reaching through the back of the chair to bat Tyson about the head with his paws. Tyson's response was to take this quite stoically and "gently" snap at his paws when they came within reach of her jaws. Fortunately Noggin's fearlessness was matched by Tyson's patience and this game continued for several minutes before Noggin' became distracted by the cursor moving across the computer screen.

Noggin is quite a character; very inquisitive and always the first to investigate anything new in the house. It is Noggin who has learnt that the alarm goes off at seven and can be found purring by your ear at five minutes ahead  of the hour because he knows that cat food is imminent.  Noggin is the mountaineer who quickly picked out the route to the summit of island in the kitchen and then leapt to each and every work surface. He has advanced further and can now leap straight from floor to work surface**.

Noggin is the cat who likes to sit in stuff and is never happier than having a box, basket or virtually any container to curl up in. 
Noggin trying out a handbag for size
 Tog, on the other hand, is completely different. He loves company and is curled up beside me now. He even likes being stroked but he is not one for being picked up or carried and is far less confident or athletic than Noggin. He is, in my opinion, stunningly handsome with broad, dark, ginger stripes covering most of his body with only his belly, chin and paws white.

He is very alert but he is not the athlete that Noggin is becoming. Tog aspires to be able to reach the worktops and has even attempted the ascent of the stool that leads to the summit of the island. Unfortunately for him he can make it to the second rung but, like many a novice mountaineer, has not sussed out how to master the overhang that is the seat...

... this is bad news for 30% and me because he is now developing the habit of climbing up the backs of our legs in an attempt to reach the kitchen surfaces. And that bloody hurts!
* 30% wants to rename them as she says their names are too similar and therefore confusing. 
** I know it  is not hygienic but virtually all cats do it. Even Eddy with his three legs can manage it but only if yowling at someone to lift him up fails.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

From Stratford to Rugby

There is not a huge amount to report from the weekend.

I took TP in to Stratford to do some Christmas Shopping and have to say it was not the most successful of trips. To be fair a lot of that is to do with the quality of retail establishments in the town but TP's disinterest and general vagueness needs to be combined with crappy shops and the Seasonal morons crowds to give you an idea of the experience. I see a trip in to Worcester at some point next week to pick up something suitable for TP to present to 30%.

Sunday morning was the usual outing for Rugby, it was an "away" match and it did not look promising as we stood waiting for the kick-off and snow fell from a very grey sky. Fortunately the flurry was brief and the sun soon made an appearance. The opposition were very good and TP's team were soundly beaten. I have to be honest though and note that TP played with a lot more aggression, was catching and passing very well and made a couple of solid attempts for the try line only to be brought down by some sizeable opponents.  Other observations from the match are a) that the Full Back is an idiot, very keen but still an idiot, and needs to play his position or not play at all and b) the captain needs to develop some maturity and pass the ball out to the backs rather than playing like he is a team of one.

The trip home was concluded with a brief visit to the Supermarket and I bought a huge gammon joint that will become a honey roast ham subject to me finding a pan big enough to boil it in.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Oops, one slipped through ...

.... or taking the "Christmas" out of Christmas.

I think it is fair to say that I am not a huge fan of the cynical, commercialised monstrosity that Christmas has become. I'm certain that I am on solid ground when I question the motives of those behind the array of tawdry and generally useless items that appear in the shops with festive decoration and a somewhat inflated price tag.

However, even as an atheist, I understand that this is not what Christmas is truly about and I certainly respect those that wish to take time out at this time of the year to celebrate the birth of Christ. I don't have the faith and therefore need to construct a Christmas that has some meaning for me and avoids any major friction with those that worship in Church and those that worship on the High Street...

... So my Christmas has to be a  time for relaxation in the comfort of my own home and spending some quality time with friends and loved ones. There are gifts. There is a tree. There are even carols but as I get older the childish avarice is long gone and I feel that "quality time with friends and loved ones" should not be restricted to the back end of the year and hence question the relevance of Christmas as it pertains to me.

Before I go any further I need to stress that I am not anti-Christmas, it just does not have a huge amount of relevance to me and I feel somewhat coerced to conform. I suppose it is a bit like the Office Party. It is a party and so you should be able to let your hair down and really enjoy yourself but you know that the Boss and colleagues are watching and there are rules that must be followed. Christmas is somewhat similar; it is a celebration but there are a set of unwritten rules that must be followed unquestioningly. Over the years I have reviewed and questioned many of these but breaking them seems virtually impossible in light of tradition.

Now where was I going with this ...

... Oh yes, this might seem a little "Bah Humbug" but at least I acknowledge the presence of Christmas and am happy* to take part in a "miming to the backing track" sort of way. However I am not so sure about the Senior Daemons at Dante's Nine Circles of Hell. This morning I received an e-card and so I clicked the link and watched. It was a 4 minute video in which 34 General Managers of the Organisation passed on a Seasonal Greeting. "Fair enough" you might think, but in those 34 Seasonal messages the word Christmas was only mentioned once. Yep ONCE. The actual script seemed to be a repetitive variation on the theme of "Happy Holidays" and "Have a Great New Year".

Now I am wondering whether this message was intentionally constructed in this way to avoid any offence to non-Christian colleagues because I can see no other reason why one of the two most important Christian celebrations got diluted down to "Have a Happy Holiday and a great 2012" by 33 out of 34 speakers .

I'm not a Christian but am quite annoyed by what appears to be a sanitisation of a religious message. Whether it be Diwali,  Eid, Christmas or Hanukkah, their religious festivals should be acknowledged and celebrated not sanitised and euphemised.

Rant over.
* "happy ish"

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Russell Howard at the LG Arena

Wednesday; the onslaught of inactivity is overwhelming!

The one scheduled conference call was cancelled, although this was actually fortunate as it coincided with the only "must do" on my agenda viz collecting TP from school at 3.30 and running him over to the Dentist.  Other than that and a walk my day was very quiet.

The evening saw a trip over to the LG Arena in Birmingham to see Russell Howard's Right Here, Right Now show. It was a fun evening of mostly observational comedy and 30% had arranged some fantastic seats only 20 or so rows back from the stage. Highlight of the evening for me was the tale of the West Country man whose daughter's pet mouse had died. He glued it to a toy motorbike and then buried it in the garden ...

... to really mess up a future episode of Time Team.

I have to be honest and say that although I enjoyed the show it wasn't the best piece of stand-up that I have seen. The audience loved him and that created a positive atmosphere that helped the show along but some of the material was not as honed as others on the circuit at the moment.

In his defence it must be very challenging to write a show and get up and perform when there are so many satellite TV channels showing comedy at the moment. The editing of those shows ensure that only the best gags from the best performers are featured and therefore sets a very high bar for a live performance.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Nothing, nada, naught, zero, zilch ... to see here !

It has been a very quiet couple of days here at The Pile. To say that work was on a slow simmer is an extreme exaggeration and I have been forced to regularly return to the pan just to make sure that the gas hasn't gone out.

Monday would have come and gone with nothing worthy of mention if it hadn't been for the encounter with Vetus homo iratus on my walk...

... its probably best if I leave it at that*.

Tuesday was slightly busier as I made a start on getting to grips with the new project that looks to kick off early in the New Year. I read through a few documents and, whilst I have a better understanding of what is going on, I have to admit that they raise more questions than they answer. I see a phone call with The States in the very near future to try to get an idea of what it is they exactly want from us. I also expect them to be very disappointed when I raise a few legal and corporate restrictions against that which they are proposing.

* You will note, however, that this entry is NOT entitled "Marauder's Bumper Book of Crimes..."

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Foxes, Fenton and Fallow Deer

Sunday started with the regular trip down to the Rugby Club. It was a training session so 30% and I dumped TP and took T&M for a walk.

We found a lovely circular route that took us out over the local farmland and through a parcel of woodland before dropping us back at the training pitch. The dogs had an absolute blast; charging here, there and everywhere with their noses pushed in to whatever they could find. Unfortunately one of their "finds" was a large pile of fox shit and the sods managed to roll in it before we could call them off. This meant that a bath was on the agenda as soon as we got home. We also nearly had a "Fenton" * moment while we were walking through the woods ...

.... as we wandered down the path I heard a rustle away to my right and turned to see three Fallow Deer running through through the trees less than twenty yards away. T&M were off like rockets charging after them. Marauder gave up pretty quickly but Tyson was pretty intent and charged off in to the distance. She came back after a couple of minutes of calling covered in leaves, twigs and other woodland debris. Having discovered the delights of chasing deer she remained absolutely wired for the rest of the walk in the anticipation of another encounter.

Once home the dogs were bathed and lunch was eaten. I then set about stacking the logs that had been delivered earlier in the week. I must have curried favour with the Gods as the logs have sat there for most of the week and not a drop of rain has fallen. In fact it was only as I stacked the last few that the heavens opened and it poured down. RESULT.

The rest of the day was a fairly usual Sunday. I took a trip over to Chippy Ian's for a natter, a cuppa and to settle a recent debt. I then returned home and set to with the hot air gun and completed the door frame  at the foot of the stairs. After stripping away coats of paint I have uncovered a fine elm frame that will be oiled and waxed rather than hiding its charms under a coat of white gloss.

All in all it was quite a productive day.
* For the benefit of the blissfully unaware; this is a reference to the internet meme that is currently circulating showing a black Labrador chasing deer in Richmond Park to the complete distress of it's owner. The anguished shout of "Fenton, Fenton, FENTON ...... Oh Jesus Christ!" must strike a chord with any dog owner.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Lady Bracknell summed it up quite nicely

Today I was out on the Three Miler a little after nine o'clock. The reason for the early start was that we planned to spend a good chunk of the day in Birmingham on a reconnoitre for 30%'s Christmas present. Since T&M were to be home alone for a good few hours it only seemed fair for them to have their constitutional before we departed.

For quite some time 30% has yearned for a Mulberry handbag. She has many handbags and is regularly to be found scouring eBay for another "must have"  bag*. However these are nothing when compared to the items of fascination, nay adoration and worship, that are displayed on the Mulberry website**.

Well today was the day and Selfridges was our first point of call to finally move from the visual to the tactile.  They didn't have the particular bag 30% desired but showed some of the finest customer service I have ever experienced when they phoned a competitor who had the right model albeit not in the desired colour and even gave us explicit directions on how to get there. Fifteen minutes later we in Harvey Nichols and 30% was wafted to handbag heaven...

... and now, or rather in fifteen days, she will have the handbag of her dreams. The funny thing is that it is a completely different design and a completely different colour from the one she thought she wanted.
*There is a long standing joke that it is I that has the handbag collection since it seems to be my Paypal account that is used whenever payment is due.
** I'm guessing that the sensation is similar to me finding a mint condition Ducati 900 SS (1991 to 1998) with FSH, one careful owner, low mileage (all dry) etc etc etc


Friday, 9 December 2011

Air Dried Ham, Day 1

The working day was spent with my head down trying to complete the spreadsheet from hell. It's not fun and seems to have no real benefit or future use but its completion is mandated and so I spent many hours locating and manipulating data because a nameless individual says I have to...

... oh well, I've nearly finished and once I have the charmless cows who are demanding it will be off my back until the next contract is signed and that will be months away.

After work, I set to and packed the leg of pork in salt. This is the first stage of the process to produce an air dried ham. A good inch of table salt is poured over the base of the box. This is then sprinkled with cracked black peppercorns and coriander seeds. The boned leg is then weighed and the cavity created by the removal of the bone is packed with salt. It is then placed in the box and further salt is added until the leg is covered with at least an inch of salt between it and the sides and base of the box. There must also be at least an inch of salt covering the meat too.

A board is placed on top of the salt and it is weighted with bricks, these should be in the region of twice the weight of the pork leg. The salted leg is now left in a cool room for a period of time calculated using the metric of 3 to 4 days per kilo of pork. The leg is 6 kilos so it is going to be salted for about 21 days. It will be New Years Eve before it sees the light of day again.

In case anyone is interested, it took approximately 27 kilos of salt to pack the leg.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Turkey or Beef?

Thursday started with a shave and presentable apparel because Christmas Lunch was on the menu at the nearest circle of hell. To be honest I wasn't particularly fussed about whether I partook of the canteen's festive offering or not but it was a good excuse to link up with Tigger and Grandad Jack for a few laughs.

The plan was just to meet up for lunch but that rapidly got enhanced to include a couple after work at the local.

Any time spent with Tigger and Jack rapidly degenerates in to a stream of ridiculous stories and daft jokes and consequently is considered time well spent.

To give some idea of how it goes here is a transcript from an Instant Message ...

bad man             Wot time are we going to the pub?

Grandad Jack     17.30

bad man             is that the year of your birth?

Grandad Jack     ‘koff

bad man             :-)

The day wasn't all fun 'n frolics though. I have been dragged back in to the deal that was signed back in the Summer and now have to spend the next few days completing the spreadsheet from hell.

The day certainly wasn't fun 'n frolics when I got home and had to spend a few moments discussing* English assessments and Work Experience placements with TP.
* The discussing actually went on for quite some time and did involve references to lack of preparation on TP's part and regular reminders issued by my good self and 30%. I really don't know where he gets his obstinate streak from.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

I need a much bigger bag

The most important task this morning was to nip over to the Butchers to pick up the leg of pork I had ordered last Saturday.

I turned up and was shown a complete leg at a price that was too good to be true. A man with a very sharp knife in his hand advised that there was a considerable discount if I bought the whole leg …

… so I did. 15 minutes later I was walking out with the boned leg plus bones and trimmings in a separate doggy bag. I am going to end up with an absolutely enormous Prosciutto as the leg weighs a little over 13 lbs, allowing for moisture loss it is still going to be a hefty ham…

… I am also going to need considerably more salt than the 12 kilos 30% bought home a couple of days ago.

Last year’s experiment used a 3 lb shoulder joint which took about 10 kgs of salt and needed salting for about 10 days. This year I am looking at a salting period of at least 40 days using the recommended metric of 3 to 4 days per lb. I haven’t a clue how much salt I will need but I am guessing that I am looking at 20 kilos to adequately pack the leg with a minimum of an inch of salt between the meat and the sides of the box.

The leg is now sitting in the fridge whilst I buy all local stocks of salt.

On the work front I finished the critical piece of work that was dumped on me I was given on Friday. I have fired this across the Atlantic where it was received without even a murmur…

… Let’s hope that is a good sign.

Right how big are the bags of salt at Tesco?

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Things to do

My Colonial Colleagues finally responded to my list of questions and, "Surprise Surprise"  they provided half arsed answers and a demand for my deliverable to be available to them in the next 48 hours.

This isn't as bad as it initially sounds as everything is very simple and very low risk. The one issue I do have is to ensure that I have covered my arse and have all boxes ticked. My Sales Administrator seems to think that I do not need to have check marks in the aforementioned containers but I note that he doesn't seem to be prepared to put that in writing and he has a certain notoriety for doing as little as is humanly possible* at work. I have therefore spent much of today ensuring that the right people know what I am doing and are given the opportunity to say "STOP"...

... so far, so good. The right people have been alerted and are making the right sorts of noises so my fingers crossed in the hope that no-one starts putting flies in the ointment.
* Tigger and I think he just sits out on the verandah and drinks Pimms all day.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Kicking Things Off

Monday has arrived and so I made a start on the most critical of the two pieces of work that my Charmless Manager chucked at me late on Friday afternoon. I had a quick chat with one of the Sales Support Team and most of my assumptions appear to be valid...

... it is a very simple piece of work and I just need to ensure that I adequately cover my arse and ensure that all necessary ticks are in boxes before I chuck it back across the North Atlantic. I therefore drafted a lengthy list of questions, demands and assumptions and e-mailed it over to my colleagues in The Colonies.
You can't have too many of these.

I then had a quick look at the next project and realised that that was likely to be a completely different kettle of fish* but that nothing urgent was going to come up this side of Christmas. I therefore put it to one side and will give it further consideration when boredom strikes towards the end of the week.

That basically was all I had to do on the work front. I'm not exactly maxxed out but with the Christmas Break on the horizon I hope things keep quiet until after the New Year. This time last year I was in the first iteration of my first major deal and was working right up until Christmas Eve. To be honest I hadn't really wound down from work until about 27th December and would like to be much more chilled about things this year.

The other big news from today is that 30% has managed to book us a week away in a cottage on The Gower Peninsula in February when TP is away on his skiing trip. The cottage is accessed down a rough track only suitable for 4 wheel drive vehicles and is right on the edge of a sandy bay. It looks remote and fantastic and are really looking forward to some windswept walks and evenings in front of a fire.

The only other news from today is that, in the true spirit of decoration procrastination I avoided peeling away remnants of  wallpaper on the stairs and landing and instead found a door frame that needed stripping.
* actually more accurately described as a complete and utter bastard of a project

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Nothing to see here

There is very little to report for Sunday.

It was an early start as TP had an away match so we were out of the house by quarter past nine. TP's team got beaten by a very experienced team but they put on a good show and I thought the game was very good. TP made some fine tackles and playing at Outside Centre rather than Wing seems to suit him much better. All they need to do now is have a couple of fixtures where the opposition are more closely matched to give them a much needed confidence boost.

After the match it was home for lunch and another spell in the very fresh air as I walked T&M around the Three Miler. Then it was my finest hour as I lit the log burner ...

... funnily enough, once you get one of those burning in your living room you don't tend to do much else for the rest of the day.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Home alone .. ish

30% is away for a sleepover at her friend Pinky's house. Not being one for half measures, she was away with her overnight bag at ten thirty this morning with plans for a day's shopping in Worcester followed by a visit to a Chinese Buffet and then back to the aforementioned Pinky residence for wine and relationship counselling or perhaps more precisely post-relationship counselling.

This meant that I had the house to myself apart from TP, Tyson, Marauder, Noggin, Tog, Eddie and the chickens. I make that pretty much Home Alone as, apart from feeding and watering, they pretty much take care of themselves. Some of them do need their litter tray emptying but I won't go in to that as it will embarrass TP.

The morning was taken up with a trip over to the nearest DIY store for a couple of electrical components. On the way their I popped in to one of the local Butchers and finally ordered a tunnel boned leg of pork for this year's Prosciutto. After an enjoyable chat with the Butcher an order was placed and the leg will be ready for collection on Wednesday. It will actually be half a leg rather than the full leg as that would be a huge amount of Parma ham if all went well and a very expensive mistake if it didn't.

Once back from town I spent an hour or so removing the surface mounted light switch at the foot of the stairs and replaced it with a neat recessed switch box and shiny new switch. The stairs and landing are the next project on the decorating list and at the moment I seem to be finding anything to avoid finishing the preparation. In that vein the next job to be put off for a while is stripping the remnants of the wall paper.

The rest of the afternoon was taken up with a walk and a snooze on the sofa. I awoke just in time to prepare supper for TP and I and then returned to the sofa for a quiet evening in front of the TV.

I seem to have got to the end of Saturday without mentioning last night's Sarah Millican stand up performance. So putting that right I can report that it was a great evening. She was fast and bawdy with a great blend of anecdotal jokes and improvisation based on audience interaction. I'm not quite sure what my favourite joke was but the routine about what to use when you run out of toilet paper was very funny and Sarah's choice of Flash Wipes is obviously not to be recommended.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Just when I thought I was done for the week

Before I start I'll mention that we had the first light frost of the Autumn today, It was nothing to shout about, just that the lawn was just slightly crunchy as a I wandered over to let the chickens out. 

For most of Friday I thought "there's not going to be a lot to report in The Journal today". The morning was filled with a couple of conference calls. The first was best described as a  Mother's meeting and the second covered an educational slide deck that I had already reviewed.

The afternoon included a walk around the Three Miler with T&M and by half past four I was about to close everything down as were were out early this evening to see Sarah Millican at the Warwick Arts Centre. As I was wishing Golfy a great weekend I was messaged by our Manager to to ask if I was free for a call.

I stupidly said yes and within 5 minutes had suddenly acquired two pieces of work to do. Now I don't have a problem with being given work to do it is just that the timing of the work allocation is typical of this idiot's approach. Let's recap ...

... it is 4.30 and Dante's Nine Circles of Hell is notorious in the Industry for everyone knocking off at lunchtime on a Friday. Now this might be a slight exaggeration but realistically what am I supposed to do with a couple of new projects in the next 30 minutes before I finish for the week? Most of the relevant contacts will have the same view as me and will want to leave things until Monday so why didn't my Manager?

I'll tell you why, because a) he doesn't appear to have the ability to analyse how his actions are perceived by others and b) I really don't think he understands how people tick. Who in their right mind would give a member of their team a new piece of work thirty minutes before the start of the weekend? What was he expecting me to do with it?


Thursday, 1 December 2011

Thursday's News

Hmmm! Apparently yesterday's Journal entry has caused a bit of a kerfuffle. On opening this morning's post it became apparent that Amnesty International (Domestic Appliance, Power Tool and Garden Equipment Division) are not at all happy about the Tumble Dryer.

To be honest this isn't the first time I have been the subject of their scrutiny as anyone who is familiar with the malevolent practises of the notorious criminal lawn mower will know. However, following the disappearance under mysterious circumstances sad passing away of the lawn mower coupled with the fact that the replacement is treated like a Thoroughbred Stallion, I thought that they had lost interest and I would be allowed to govern here at The Pile without unwanted external interference ...

... but no, I now have a 15,000 word report summarising my alleged crimes against electrical and petrol powered devices and advising that a whole new investigation is under way following anonymous reports that a Tumble Dryer named Beko has been incarcerated without trial in a cellar at The Pile.

I am now in the process of drafting a carefully worded response to their allegations. To be honest I should treat the report for the nonsense it is and simply ignore it, but it is another quiet day so I have pulled together a few notes ...

... The main thrust of my reply will be based on the treatment given to other appliances at home. After all lets have a look at the Slow Cooker. Despite taking forever to do anything that inverted tortoise of a contraption is treated like Royalty. It sits on the worktop snug in its own electrically heated jacket and after each use it is lovingly hand washed in warm soapy water, then towelled dry and carefully placed back in its base. Are those the actions of a Despot who treats appliances like dirt under his feet? I think not.

Then there is the chain saw that I am on record as declaring my undying admiration for and, of course, the Porn Mower whose perfection has been recounted on several occasions. This is without even starting on the care and attention that the Motorcycles get.

Basically I think the AI (Domestic Appliance division)* are operating outside of their remit here. I think after careful consideration they will see that a) my treatment of powered goods is superior to that of most Developed Nation States and that b) they have no bloody jurisdiction here at The Pile anyway.

As a closing statement I would just like to point out that any Domestic Appliance that likes to have women's underwear stuffed in it's mouth is likely to quite enjoy being chained to a wall in a dark cellar!
* What this comes down to is the embarrassing lack of action on their part when Tony Hawks ** kidnapped a Fridge, smuggled it across International borders and literally dragged it around a foreign country for his own entertainment and profit ***. This is the White Goods equivalent of a Dancing Bear!
** No, not the fucking skateboarder you illiterate
*** Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks (Ebury Press)