Sunday, 31 May 2009

Victoria Arms and random gigs

It's so exciting, one of my lovely chums (Sarah) from my old University days is coming to visit for the weekend. She is from Yorkshire, so I can't tell what she is saying half the time, but despite being a northerner, she is one of the better trained ones and doesn't bite too much. She is also a teacher, so she is normally either on holiday or strike (I am brave because she isn't here - normally I would get a handbag round the earhole!).

Anyway, Sarah was late after an accident on the motorway, so I instead of going into Oxford to explore, I decided to take her to a splendid Inn that I discovered last weekend. It is called the Victoria Arms at Old Marston, and I think it probably has one of the best locations I have ever witnessed for a public house.

Pic. No. 1 the back of the Victoria Arms, Old Marston

It is located in the picturesque village of Old Marston for a start off, and even better, the garden backs onto the river Thames, where you can hire punts if you are feeling a bit extreme and dangerous. I actually forgot to take a picture of the river, but you can see it a bit in the background behind me, below.

Pic. No. 2 Yes, the shades are Prada dahlink

"What will you have to drink?" I asked.

"Bloody hell!" she said in her broad Yorkshire accent, pointing at the bar "They have got Pimms on tap! You don't get that in Leeds."

"Of course not," I said, "you lot have only just stopped eating coal." Yes. I had to duck.

Pic. No. 3. A close-up of a Northerner

We chilled out by the river watching some other people play frisbee, and then some people turned up with a baseball and baseball gloves to practice throwing.

"Duck!" I shouted at Sarah, and she nearly fell off the bench taking her Pimms with her.

"No, there," I said pointing at some feathery fowl that had casually wandered up to the table, and body-swerving the handbag that was aimed at my ear.

"They are making me feel hungry," I said to Sarah, "fancy going to get something to eat?"

"Oooh, yes," she replied, "how about a curry?" We hotfooted it to a recommended curry house on Cowley Road in Oxford called Majliss Indian Restaurant (picking up Steve W from Baumhaus on the way because we saw his car parked outside his house).

The curry was actually really good, and the service was brilliant, so I would recommend it. Come and visit me, and I will take you!!

Finally it was back to Forest Hill to watch a band perform a gig in a newly erected marquee at the White Horse Inn. It seemed like the perfect end to a balmy Oxfordshire evening.

"That'll £12.00 each please," the lady on the door said.

"No way, I want a discount for being a Forest Hill resident," I demanded.

"Oh, ok then, you can come if for £5.00 each." she responded (nice lady but don't employ her as a negotiator). Excellent! at least I thought it was excellent until I heard the band. They had been going for 40 years and the biggest gig they could get was in Forest Hill [population circa 150], so I should have suspected something was a amiss beforehand.

I headed back to the lady on the door, and said, "you would make a killing if you charged £12.00 to get out." [I was only trying to tweak her business model].

At which point Sarah dragged me back to the rocking chair that Anwar (the landlord) had kindly provided for me because the marquee was full (it is located to the left of the picture - you can't see it).

For the rest of the evening we listened to 'covers' of Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, etc, etc..... pure cheese. What a result.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Where's everyone gone?

Blooming hek. I am traumatised after today. Whilst I was in America, Phil accidentally authorised holiday for all the Baumhaus managers at the same time. So that meant that it was just Phil and I running everything all day. I felt like one of those circus performers who juggles 7 things at once (but with the things on fire). In between all the mayhem, I managed to get one email out to our lovely customers.

Anne Dickens []
Sent: Fri 29/05/2009 15:21
Subject: Discontinued Items

Hello there,

I hope that you are enjoying the sunshine (don’t forget the sunblock mind!). You will be dismayed to hear that Phil and I have had to work extra hard this afternoon because ALL the managers are either on holiday or being sicknotes. Becks has gone to Barcelona, Joe is in Dubai and Hazel has gone to the dentist. There is no feeling like it when you are in the office on your own and all 4 phone lines are ringing.

Anyway, just a quick one - this email was to let you know that we have now discontinued two items because they are slow movers. They are:

COR08B – Medium Coffee Table with Shelf – Mobel Oak (4 left in stock)

COR08C – Large Coffee Table with Shelf – Mobel Oak (1 left in stock)

You are free to keep on selling the ones that we have in stock, but please bear in mind that once they are gone, I will make them mysteriously disappear from the website, never to be seen again (it’s ever so cloak and dagger here you know).

Anyway, have a fab weekend, whatever you are doing. I got a free day out from my Tesco Clubcard, so I think I am going to go to Legoland.

Speak to you soon,

Warm regards


P.S. Do you think that it is suspicious that Phil has orange palms?

Here is a personal apology for Sam McDevitt. He follows the blog, but doesn't like the bits about work. Sorry Sam.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Juan and Becks are double deserters

I was just about to say how much I enjoyed Becky's blog entry when someone in the office inadvertantly asked if she was looking forward to her holiday.

"Hang on Becky, what's this I hear?" I asked in horror, because rumour had it that someone had already authorised Juan to take a holiday.

"A holiday is defined as 'any day of exemption from work' and Phil exempted me whilst you were in America," she replied.

[note to self: Surely there should be some form of Employer Protection Rights to prevent employees from taking holidays?]

"Where the blazes are you going?" I asked, incredulous at the way events were unfolding.

"Barcelona on a hen do," she responded. Oh my gawd, this was getting worse, and it probably means that she will come back with one eyebrow and a moustache tattooed on her top lip. After this brief contemplation, I quickly dismissed the holiday as a conceptual thing until we hit 3pm and Becky walked into the office in civvy clothes.

"Oi you!" I hollered. "Where's your Baumhaus uniform?"

"In my bag, I am off to Gatwick airport now, in fact I am half an hour late."

Flipping hek. I didn't expect the 'finding out about the holiday' to 'holiday commencing' to involve such a short intervening gap. There was only one thing for it - view the holiday as inevitable, and give in to fate. So Phil and I bunged her £50.00 spending money, and then Phil volunteered to drive her to the Thornhill park and ride.

"Bye traitor!" I shouted as I waved her off from the Baumhaus car-park, "and don't come back with a suntan!"

"I won't!" I heard as she disappeared around the corner.

Not two hours had passed when Juan came up to me and asked if I could give him a lift to the Thornhill park and ride at 5pm so that he could get back to London to catch his flight from Gatwick. Woah, some serious deja-vu was going on here.

"Hang on a minute, didn't Becks have the same request not two hours previously?"

"Yeh." replied Juan.

"Where the blazes are you going?" I asked

"Dubai," he answered.

"Who authorised that?" I asked

"Phil, whilst you were in America," Juan responded.

Flippin hek. Again we were left with only one choice - accept the inevitable and bung Juan £50.00 spending money.

As I dropped him at the Thornhill park and ride, he looked remarkably happy.

"Oi, don't look happy, you are going to be out of Baumhaus for over a week!" I hollered.

At which point, Juan adeptly changed from happy to dejected in the space of a second. I suspect he is a bit of an actor that scamp.

Anyway, the purpose of this posting was to let you know that we are a bit short-staffed next week, but Phil has had very comprehensive handover meetings with both Becks and Juan, so you (if you are a customer) should see no difference in service levels.

P.S. you just can't get the staff these days. They keep gallavanting off.

Glory Hunters and Promotion....

Hello! Becks here - I never thought I would be writing my first blog post about one of my least favorite things in the world… But I am. Because this weekend I was every football fan's biggest bugbear….a glory hunter! Yep….I donned a claret and blue scarf and I headed to Wembley with the McDevitt clan (Sister Hannah, mum and brother Sam -pictured below with a random man on the end), Phil Dickens, Joe Hart, Mick and Zac (both of whom are friends) to watch ‘our’ team get promoted into the premiership for the first time in 30 odd years! We are now officially the smallest town EVER to be in the premiership!

I have to admit, I wasn’t that excited about it all and by Saturday afternoon I was getting a bit miffed with all the fuss surrounding it….I had had seven phone calls and five text messages from various members of my family (who were staying at our flat on the Sunday night) asking me the same question…"what is the plan for this weekend"?

Erm…we’re going to watch a football match on Monday aren’t we? Just get here on Sunday afternoon and we’ll sort it from there’

My mum didn't seem to find the casual approach acceptable:

‘REBECCA….you need to find out where we need to go to in London, the best way to get there, how much the tickets will be, whether the coaches run on a bank holiday blah blah blah….’. Blimey…I only said I wanted a ticket to Wembley….I didn’t realise that I would have to actually do stuff too. I don’t even like football; I’m just jumping on the premiership band wagon.

Anyway, after much tutting and feeling very put out I managed to establish that we could get a bus to London on a bank holiday and then the train to Wembley Park so we were all set!

On the way to Wembley in the morning Mum decided to spend the entire journey pointing out objects we passed that were ‘linked to the club’ in some way and trying to convince us that these were omens that we were going to win. I thought she was pushing it a little when she spotted a bird in the sky and said in a very excited voice…

'We have a player called Eagles! Coincidence….I think not’! It was a blackbird.

When we eventually got there I had to physically steer Phil past the ‘divine sausage’ and ‘divine burger’ vans (you can take the boy out of Burnley…) only to miss mum taking a sharp right towards a TV camera. Ever the shrinking violet, she had spotted a ‘record a message for your team’ booth and pushed in front of a million chanting fans to record a very well spoken little message to the team and a special shout out to our Dad who is the club doctor, much to the disgust of the bunch of skin heads who were waiting impatiently to sing ‘til we play the !£$%&* rovers’ at the camera.
Phil, who had spent the week saying that I should give his ticket away as he would 'not enjoy the day because he hates football' and although it was a very nice gesture from my mum it would be wasted on him, was awestruck when we came through the stadium tunnels into the 80, 000 strong crowd. The tamed down translation of his exact words were:

‘Blooming heck….the players must be rather nervous by now knowing they are coming out to this’!!!

It was pretty spectacular, the stadium had been divided across the middle into Burnley fans and Sheffield fans all singing as loud as they could at each other…poor Phil who has never been to a football match got very frustrated trying to learn the words to all the chants as ‘they go to fast for me to hear them’. He managed to get the hang of ‘who are you’ by the end of the match though. Well done that man.

I can’t say much about the match itself as I know nothing about football but Burnley scored in the first fifteen minutes or so and dominated the rest of the match. At 90 minutes and much diving by the Sheffield players the whole of Burnley’s crowd started shouting and whistling for the ref to blow time….

'Has the whistle gone yet? This is a weird way of celebrating’ said Phil to my brother.

‘nah, you’ll know when the whistle goes mate’ said Sam just as the ref blew for time and the whole of our side of Wembley exploded

‘there’s the whistle’ screamed Sam grabbing Joe and smothering him in a big bear hug as Phil was almost knocked off his feet by the hardest looking man you have ever seen jumping around like a kangaroo and crying like a little girl! At least this meant Phil didn’t look out of place when he welled up……

Me and little sister just the final whistle went

We managed to spot my Dad on the pitch (he is the club doctor) during the celebrations looking very overwhelmed about being in front of 35,000 screaming people….he is circled in the picture below! The McD’s were very proud of him!

After we had watched the celebrations we headed home leaving Pops McD to party it up with the team in a posh hotel on London. We got a text at 9pm from him:

‘I’m surrounded by WAGS, it’s very odd. And they are all drinking champagne. I just want a beer.’

Come on Pops…get in the spirit!!!

We finished off the day with a pizza express meal and bored Anne stupid with the tales of the match in return for her stories of ‘Shigs’ and perilous deep rivers.

I can’t say that I am now a hardened football fan but I will certainly be pestering Pops McD for tickets next season when we play Joe’s team Chelsea….COME ON YOU CLARETS!!!

P.S I thought I would attach this picture of Joe the 'Chelsea Supporter' getting well into the Burnley spirit. I think loyalties will be split next season...

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Forklift face-off with Phil

It was a normal Wednesday morning at work today, with everyone arriving in the car-park at roughly the same time, jostling their way up the stairs to the main entrance and then fighting about whose turn it was to make the morning cup of tea. Then the telephone rang.

"Good morning, Baumhaus." Phil answered, only to be greeted by our shipping agent, Chris.

"I have good/bad news," Chris said.

"Go for it," Phil replied.

"You have two 40 foot articulated lorries scheduled in for delivery to you today," Chris said.

"AAAAH!" Phil screamed like a girl, "everyone get onto the shopfloor and prepare!"

Sure enough, our first artic arrived just as I had made myself a ham, english mustard and tomato sandwich with rocket salad (I was designated forklift truck driver for the off-load because Becks has still got a dodgy neck injury). Bloody typical. That meant that I had to operate four sets of hydraulics and steer with one hand whilst I was eating my lunch and drinking a cup of tea (of course I embellished that bit - I would never eat a sandwich whilst operating hydraulics for health and safety reasons).

The container was offloaded with no problems at all, at which point I decided (in a foolhardy way) to start a face-off with Phil about who was the quickest forklift truck driver. I am quick, but Phil is normally particularly gifted with anything that has an engine in it.

"Let's set up an assault course to test our speed," Phil suggested. I am always up for a bit of competition, so readily agreed, strutting around saying, "bring it on sucker."

First up was me. I had to make a mad dash across to a pile of pallets, pick one up and position it on level 2 of the racking and then park the truck back in it's original position with the forks on the ground.

Pic. No. 1 Anne Dickens in Phase 1 of Forklift challenge

It was all going swimmingly until I accidentally hit the 'up' instead of 'down' lever whilst positioning the pallet on the rack (see below), losing valuable seconds on the assault course.

Pic. No. 2 Anne Dickens in Phase 1 of Forklift challenge (cocking up a hydraulic move)

Then Phil's turn came up. "I am going to pick the most time-consuming pallet up," [i.e. the one at the top of the pile] he said, "and I am still going to beat you, loser."

I must admit that I gulped a bit when I took a photograph of his first leg of the assault course and he was a bit of a blur.

He finally parked up the forklift truck, and we compared times. "Ooh you were quite quick with a time of 1 minute and 5 seconds," Phil mentioned, "but what's mine?"

I begrudgingly told him that it was "40 seconds." I hate losing (even though it is probably politically uncorrect these days). I grappled and windmilled with him for a bit, and then graciously conceded defeat. My only comfort came from the proverb that 'Dignity does not consist in possessing honours, but in deserving them.' [is it me, or does that sound like a proverb that has been made up by a loser?]

Finally, I had a nice thing happen today. After Burnley got promoted to the Premiership, all the Burnley people I know came back to Oxford on their way back from Wembley to have a celebration meal at Pizza Express. On the way home afterwards, I found a rucksack in the middle of the cobbled road and it had a laptop in it.

I didn't think anything of it until yesterday morning at work, when I went through the ruck-sack and found that the bag belonged to an Oxford University student who was studying at Morten College. I rang the college and asked them to inform the student (Alistair) that I had found his stuff.

The next thing that happened was that a hippy-looking type person cycled into the industrial estate with a big 'thank you' rose plant on his handlebars for me (it's ages since a chap has bought me flowers - HINT!).

Apparently, the laptop had all his degree work on there, so he was pretty panickly about losing it. What a sweetheart!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Face-off with a chicken

I have a confession to make, and it's really bad. Here goes; the day after my barbeque (Bank Holiday Monday), I didn't wake up until 11am. I know! - I am a good-for-nothing laggard with slothful tendancies to boot. On top of that, I did that thing where I looked at the clock, didn't believe it, looked at it again, believed it, and then felt completely disorientated because it was nearly afternoon. It quickly got worse - I realised that; (1) I had guests staying in my house; (2) I had more guests arriving at 11am for a day out in Oxford.

BLOODY HELL. I jumped out of bed, only to find that two of my houseguests had already left to watch Burnley play Sheffield at Wembley, and the one remaining Deanna had gone for a walk because she didn't like the fact that my house was resembling the Marie-Celeste. Thankfully my neck was spared when I received the news that the other guests (Mark, Helen and the lovely little Jessica) who were due to arrive at 11am were running late which gave me a window of opportunity. How lucky is that? Meeeeeowwww (that was an impression of a cat with 9 lives).

Fortunately, everything came together quite quickly. I managed to pin Deanna down at more or less the same time that Mark and Helen arrived.

"What are we doing?" asked Deanna, and like a Tourette's sufferer, I immediately shouted; "let's go to Millett's Farm Centre." I have been to this farm centre numerous times (as you can see if you look through my postings). It has a farm with crap animals, an overpriced restaurant, and a farm shop which sells useful things like 'spinach juice', which visitors duly purchase for £3.00 and then throw away in the year 2013. I think that all these things add to the charm of the experience.

We all jumped into our cars - Mark and Helen plus sprog and Steve W in their X3 and Deanna and myself in my much hated Saab (don't even think about buying one, trust me, I am a doctor!). We arrived at Milletts and decided to hit the 'farm section' first.

"Look at that weird sheep thing!" I shouted pointing at a manky-looking specimen eating some pulses from a dirty saucer.

"That's not a sheep, that's a curly haired pig," Deanna shouted back. Blimey, the farm centre was getting quite shocking, what with the pigs cross-dressing and all.

Oh before I forget, the picture above is [from left to right] Helen, Jessica and Mark. Jessica is verrrrrry cute indeed and very advanced in talking for her age. Lets put it this way, it is the first time I have ever been described as 'indolent' by a toddler.

Next up, Deanna (above - holding bottles of Elderflower sparkling water) and I decided to go to the water area at the back of Millett's Farm, and true to form, it had delusions of grandeur, but didn't deliver.

"Oi, Deanna, look at that!" I shouted pointing to a blue sign which warned 'DANGER! deep water.'

"Is it me, or is that water only an ankle deep muddy puddle that they are trying to big up?" she shouted back [in very broad northern accent because she comes from Burnley - eh up chuck]

I laughed my head off 'ha ha bonk' and we decided to abandon the crap watery section and go and find some more wildlife.

Sure enough, the wildlife divulged emerged as we walked through the farm.

Then I spotted it. "Deanna," I asked. "Is that chicken giving me attitude?"

"Bloody hell, I think it is," she replied backing off from gangland chicken.

Well, I can safely say that this is the first time ever, that I have had a face-off with a chicken. I am now vacating his 'turf' and heading back to Forest Hill.

P.S. I forgot. The lovely Becks is doing a blog soon to give you a bit of variety. She was supposed to do one today, but I can't find it.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Let's have a bank holiday barbeque!

It was Saturday afternoon and I was in Phil's flat chatting with him about his favoured brands of man-tan, when the conversation inevitably got around to the weather.

"It is supposed to be nice tomorrow," he said (forever the raconteur).

I pondered this a bit, and then decided to try and end the conversation in an interesting way.

"How about we have a bloody great barbeque tomorrow and invite loads of people?" I replied.

"Wicked plan. Sold." Phil replied.

It was only on my way home that I suddenly discovered a flaw in the plan. No barbeque. Bummer. The lack of aforementioned barbeque necessitated a mad dash to the orange holy grail of barbeques - B&Q in Cowley, Oxford. It was in B&Q that I managed to procure this rather fine specimen of barbeque and promptly named it Billy.

Without being too mean to Billy, I am guessing that he isn't actually a lord amongst barbeques because he only cost £29.00 and was a pain to assemble.

Anyway, I digress. We had planned to convene at 2pm with guests arriving at 2.30pm onwards. First of all the barbeque equivalents of Greenham Common protesters arrived (you know, the die-hards who are going to be there for the duration). That was Phil, Becky, Steve W, Deanna, Mick and Zack (photos to come later!). The only problem was, when they arrived, I wasn't at home, so Phil had to let everyone in by putting a ladder up to my bedroom window and dropping onto my bedroom floor so that he could sneak downstairs and open the front door.

Phil subsequently texted me: "you are the hostess with the leastess."

I texted back, "hang on, you are the one breaking into my house you plank." (Plank is one of my favourite retro-words of the moment).

The barbeque was NOT a 'Phil special' in that it didn't consist of 100 Aldi burgers for £1.50. In fact it was a very different affair because Mick (one of the guests) is a top notch chef, and insisted on whipping up a veritable feast, even though I feebly pleaded, "nooooo, get out of my kitchen."

We had apricot couscous, teriaki ribs, new potato salad with coriander and spinach, prawns with chilli and garlic and salmon with lime and coriander. [Interesting fact: Mick's claim to fame is that his brother is a famous model and actor in America, here is a link so you can have a sneaky peak Chris Dawes].

In between dribbling slightly over Chris Dawes and getting out of kitchen work, I found a tent-like gazebo in my garage (next to my chainsaw) and managed to persaude my guests that it was in their interests to erect it in order that we could dine outside. Zack was the prime volunteer, and even though I shouted that he wasn't working quick enough, he managed to erect it within 40 minutes.

Then the action started. The first 'proper' (as in non-Greenham Common) guests to arrive were Tarquin, Ali and Ozzy from the White Horse Inn in Forest Hill. Then shortly after, the horse mad Lorraine and Alistair arrived. I met Lorraine a few weeks ago when she parked one of her dobbins in my driveway, and shouted; "ahoy there, are you wearing pyjamas?" whilst I was hanging my washing out at 7am one Saturday morning.

At about 6pm, all the proper guests had left and I took one last respectable photograph before we once again honed the group down to it's hardcore element.

Pic. No. 2. (from left) Becks, Steve W, Izzy, Lesley, Hannah, Sam

By now, the sun had gone down, it was dark outside, and everyone had started moving inside because the garden was a bit of a mess and they needed more space to put their beer cans down.

This is Sam. He nicked my camera and took a picture of himself. I know what you are thinking; 'why the blazes has she let a football hooligan into her house?' There is a good reason - he is going to watch a football match tomorrow at Wembley because his claim to fame is that his dad is the squad doctor (Dr McDevitt) at Burnley football club.

After a couple of hours moosing around in my kitchen, someone produced a game where the sole object seemed to be four people placing their fingers into a device and seeing who got an electric shock, as per photograph below.

"So what's the point of the game?" I asked

Sam replied, "you all stick your fingers in one of the holes and the machine gives you a random electric shock."

Pic. No. 1 (From left); Deanna, Zack, Phil, Sam, Juan

"Ok, call me thick, but I can't see where the skill comes in," I replied. At which point, fives guys turned round and looked at me as though I was totally missing it.

After a prolonged period of observing the chaps receiving electric shocks, we all decided that the only way forward now was to ditch the shock machine and move onto Zoolanders.

Pic. No. 2 (from left) Zack, Phil (Zoolandering), Me

Pic. No. 3 Sam Zoolandering and Deanna

Pic. No. 4 (from left) Mick, Deanna, Sam, Zack, Phil, Juan

It's a scandal. The photograph above was taken at 4am. They are terribly bad influences you know. One other thing, they are all back from Wembley and I have to go out to Pizza Express to celebrate Burnley's (I am from Burnley and so is everyone else) victory in some football cup league or other ....... the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune eh?!

Call me Percy Thrower

You will be very pleased to know that I have nearly finished unpacking in my new house, and what with the sun out and everything, was finally able to turn my attentions to the considerable garden. Not being much of a gardener, I went next door to ask my neighbour if she wouldn't mind coming round and sticking a post-it note on each of the growing things to let me know whether it was a weed or a plant. She looked at me a bit strangely, and said she was busy, so I thought, 'you know what, I can handle this myself.'

I needed a plan and quickly, and then in a flash of brilliance it came to me - just mow the lot, everything, the whole shebang. That would definitely save someone the job of sticking post-it notes on the plants.

Within minutes I had located my steed; a petrol mower tucked in the corner of the shed. Hours later, I was still pulling the cord that comes out the back and my right arm was like Popeye's. Reluctantly I gave up and went back to the shed to see if I could find a way around the mower's inactivity. Blimey, as luck would have it, I had previously overlooked the electric mower which was located right next to the petrol mower. Marvellous! Within an hour I had duly mowed everything and stood on a grassy knoll admiring paddock that I had created.

'Hmmmm, something is missing I thought to myself....... I know! garden furniture!' I ran back to the garage, and handily enough found a pallet full of garden furniture that had been brought back from the warehouse.

Pic. No. 1 Who shot my dog?

Things were definitely starting to come together, and then I found a chainsaw in the garage. Woo-hoo! I had finally located some serious hardware, and needed something to chop down. I turned slowly and my eye fell upon a big conifer thing.

Pic. No. 2 Ancient Monastic Yew Tree

Just at that moment, I heard someone shouting "yoo hoo!" over my garden gate. I switched off the chainsaw and wandered over to talk to two elderly ladies who introduced themselves as Helen and Valerie.

"Are you new to the village?" they asked convivially.

"Yes, just moved in," I said, introducing myself as Lady M.

"Would you like to know a bit of history about your house?" Helen asked.

"Yes please," I replied.

"Well," she said, "it used to be part of an ancient Monastry, and that yew tree over there is supposed to be the only surviving tree that was planted by the monks." At that she waved her walking stick in the general direction of aforementioned 'big conifer thing'.

I gulped, and tried to kick the chainsaw out of view with my foot.

"Thanks for the history," I said and diverted attention by asking, "so what does one do to keep busy round here?"

Suffice to say, I am now a fully fledged member of the Women's Intitute, and I am going to my first meeting on 16th June, where there will be a talk on gardening and a yodelling demonstration.

Friday, 22 May 2009

60 Minute Makeover

One of our lovely customers phoned us today to let us know that our furniture had featured on another TV programme, this one is called 'The 60 Minute Makeover'.

"Oooh, you wouldn't mind bunging us some pictures, would you?" asked Phil, "we frame our TV appearances and put them in the reception area."

The aforementioned lovely customer duly obliged, and here we have a picture of two Baumhaus COR02C Console Tables used in a living room design, featuring a television camera on the table.


Phil looked at the photographs, then I looked at the photographs, and neither of us said anything. Instead Phil cleared his throat.

"What?" I said, to which he responded, "I don't want to appear ungrateful."

"Go on," I said.

"That living room is minging," Phil replied, "Granny chairs covered in stripey stuff doesn't make them not Granny chairs, and it looks like your legs would stick to the sofa in summer."


"You're just a style vacuum," I replied, making reference to the feature 'bubble-gum dispenser in his kitchen."

At this juncture, Phil remembered something important; "Oh I forgot, Juan is leaving early because he has put some major hours in this week."

I volunteered to drive Juan to the Park and Ride so that he could catch the bus back to London, randomly commenting to him, "it is outrageous leaving work at 3pm."

It was then that he sprung it on me, "just wait 'til I go on holiday next week to Dubai," he asided.

"Holiday?" I asked astounded, "who the blazes approved that?" I asked incredulously, "I am sure that you don't have that in your contract!"

"Phil did, whilst you were in America," he replied.

"How on earth are we supposed to run a business if employees keep popping off to Dubai willy nilly?"

"Dunno." He replied, and I really struggled to detect the concern in his voice. You just can't get the staff.

I am sure that no employees went on holiday with such gay abandon in the olden days.

Anyway, it got to 5pm today, and I thought "whizzo, it's a bank holiday weekend, I shall get home post-haste and finish my unpacking the crap at my new house." Ummmm nope. You would not believe Oxford traffic on Bank Holidays. It took me 55 minutes to drive the 4 miles to my house. In between writing this, tutting, and retuning Radio 4, I am drafting a complaint to Oxfordshire County Council about 'traffic light sequencing'

As with all bad things, there always seems to be an upside. The delay presented me with an opportunity. As I pulled into my driveway, I noticed that Renate (my lovely new neighbour) was in the garden with her two lovely (and astute!) children. Within 20 minutes I had struck a bargain with Daniel that he would walk Naughty George for £2.00 a time. He tried £3.00 but I negotiated him down, and we eventually agreed upon £2.50 for a top-level service.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

My job is rubbish - the theme de jour

Ouch! today was a double container day, which means that not one, but two artic lorries full of furniture are scheduled for delivery to our warehouse. Even worse, the first one was due to arrive at 8am, so the chaps had to be in an hour earlier than usual, and the day started with them accidentally oversleeping (feel free to take the mick!).

"My job is rubbish," Juan complained as the first artic-load pulled up.

"Eh you," I replied, "that is really ungrateful, especially when there is a credit crunchy on, and all hopes of recovery are being scuppered by floating duck islands, and moat cleaning."

"Mine is worse," Phil complained as he opened up the back of the lorry, and a loose filing cabinet fell on his head.

"But you own the company, so that is double bad" Juan replied, stepping over a prostrate Phil to see if he could repair the filing cabinet.

As always, the trailer was tipped within 2 hours even though haulage companies give you a four hour window before starting to charge extra for the lorry. I tell you, the Baumhaus chaps are faster than a whippet on marching powder, and that was without Ballistic Becky who is a sicknote because she has hurt her neck. The potential diagnoses include: wry neck (some type of muscle spasm), a slipped disk, or a trapped nerve. When she turns to look at you, she turns her whole body rather than just her neck which would be amusing if she didn't have to take painkillers that would knock a pit pony out.

I thought you might like a picture of the aforementioned 'sicknote' planning her deliveries whilst the other guys tip the container. Could I please draw attention to the orange liquid she is drinking. What is it? It looks bloody horrible, almost vampirish.

In between containers Juan came into mine and Phil's office (aka. the office of power, where I was donning the coat of power) for a snack and to chill out.

"What the bloody hell is that?" I asked him pointing at his snack.

"An apple," he said, "why?"

"Ugh, it's got vitamins in, get it out!" I hollered, and then slowly petered out into snearing and making a cross with my two pointing fingers.

Meanwhile, Hazel was busy fielding all the customer phonecalls and finishing the year-end accounts. [I actually hadn't noticed at the time that this photograph was taken, but the screen appears to be located approximately 5 inches from her face - weird].

"How's it going?" I asked

"My job is rubbish," she replied gathering up another 100 invoices to check.

"Blimey, you lot are a right bunch of miseries today," I shouted in an attempt to motivate everyone, and went off to the canteen to get a 'Blue Riband' (the latest in our new retro-food series).

Finally, our lovely customers will be pleased to know that our stock levels are looking pretty good at the moment. Here is a picture of our 'desk aisle'.

Hurrah! I am now off to see if I can tune my television in. As you probably know, I moved house last week, and I still have a million jobs to finish off.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Vicious cows

Blimey, Oxfordshire is full of menace. So much so, that I am now sorely tempted to kick the tenants out of my London house and go back to somewhere civilised.

I can hear you asking with deep concern "What the blazes has happened to you?"

"I nearly got killed by vicious cows" I answer, still quaking from my near-death experience.

Here's what happened; I donned my new country wellies, you know, the posh ones with 'munters' across the front (ok mine are fake), and decided to take Naughty George on a tried and tested walk around Forest Hill (the one where I always encouter a dog called DOG01A). Everything was going swimmingly until I entered the second field and encountered a herd of cows.

'WOAH! where have these cow things come from?' was my first thought. 'They shouldn't be walking around doing nothing, they should be shrink-wrapped on an Asda chilled shelf'.

'Do they operate a field rotation scheme?' was my second.

'Sh*t they are charging at Naughty George!' was my third.

Literally the whole herd seemed to take umbridge at my mutt and 'stormed' him. I tried waving my arms at them, but they were in full flight, and I ran back to the stile full pelt shouting 'NAUGHTY GEORGE! RUN QUICKLY BEFORE YOU PERISH!'

Naughty George luckily realised the gravity of the situation and made a mad dash for the safety, skidding under the bottom of the fence just as the first aggressive hoof hit previous 'head location'.

The whole episode got me thinking a bit actually. Maybe fields should have signs on them (a bit like lorries) which say 'Is this cow behaving courteously?' At least farmers would be aware of their dangerous cows, and could get them enlisted on a cow training safety course.

In order to escape the murdering cows, I ended up having to take a detour through 'crops' and spent at leat 30 minutes in a field full of yellow flowers trying to detour the vicious bovines. [I now digress slightly in order to solve the British agriculteral crisis] Is it me? But the last supermarket I went in didn't have a 'yellow flower' section. Maybe that's why English farmers whinge so much about being skint.

Finally, I spotted a way out of the field and ran........ as quickly as I could with Naughty George follwing. Ha ha! "Vicious cows. I aint scared of you!"

Monday, 18 May 2009

Oooh look! I found photographs

Don't you just love it when you find a stash of un-downloaded photographs that you had forgotten you had? Because I bought a new digital camera when I was in America, I forgot that I had also taken some pictures with my 'Nokia Arte mobile with titanium case, sapphire screen and premium bearings'.

In summary, last Friday, I had to succumb to wearing a comedy 'I love NY' t-shirt because I had just moved house and hadn't done any washing. Even sadder than wearing the t-shirt, I went out after work with Phil and Becky without changing. What was I thinking?!

For a change, we had decided to have a meal at the White Horse Inn which is a Thai food extravaganza. I vaguely remember people gasping and pointing, and sniggering quietly behind closed fists, but I thought my t-shit looked great until I saw the photographs, and then I thought 'doh'.

In order to divert attention from my attire, I decided to engage Phil and Becky in philosophical debate by asking "how do I know that I am not a brain in a jar, with all my sensory experiences being generated by a super-computer?"

Becks instantly got the point of the debate, but Phil didn't do quite so well, and after thinking deep and hard (see image above), he responded in a northern accent, "cos you are sat there in a cheesy NY t-shirt, you div."

Cheesy...... tskkkkkkk.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Dinner at Forest Hill

The gits have entrenched for the night (but I quite like it really)

Juan has been partying in London all weekend, Phil and Becks have been renovating a yacht (aka tub) and now they are clogging up my living room and trying to recover. Mind you, I did invite them for dinner, and delightful company they were (apart from sicknote Becks who has hurt her neck).

Introduction to my new house

This is not going to be a long post because I am more exhausted than the most exhausted person on the planet has ever been. After a week of working full-time, and trying to unpack my stuff at my new house, I think I am finally getting somewhere. In fact I am so excited, that I wanted to show you the first 'cut'. So here are the pictures of the rooms that I have sort of done so far.

First up we have the study. As you can see the walls are really wonky, and the floors are no better. Every time I use my keyboard, it wobbles the desk and spills a bit of white wine.

Here we have my bijou (i.e. you couldn't swing a humming bird in it) living room. It was pretty nippy today so I just had to use it as an excuse to get the open fire going. I know, I know, I could probably have done without but I was dying to see it, and it might be my last chance before winter.

Finally, here is a picture of my guest room. I have deliberately not included a picture of the floor because it has a black bin liner on it full of stuff to unpack.

Gotta go, Phil, Juan and Becks have just rocked up for dinner and my cooker doesn't appear to function properly.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Just a quick update

You are never going to believe this. After driving back to my new house from work today, I pulled into my driveway and found a funny-looking box in my porch. Ummmmmmm...... 'this is never going to be a BT Broadband Internet Total Broadband Home Hub' (or whatever it is called), I thought.

Obviously because BT's customer service is so notoriously poor, I instantly decided that it was more likely to be a letter bomb than my internet equipment. As such, I tentatively approached the box adopting a defensive karate stance just in case (always helps with letter bombs), and poked it with my foot. You could have knocked me down quicker than Rocky in the first fight of all of his films. STOP PRESS: It actually WAS my BT Broadband Home Hub 2.0 Internet Total Hub (or whatever it is called) and NOT a bomb.

O.M.G. I never saw that coming. BT delivering everything ON-TIME with no cock-ups. [Hang on, the house move has been pretty busy, and maybe the stress of the third biggest life-event has teleported me into a parallel universe]. In order to test reality, I stuck a blunt hoof pick (left by previous owner - we are in Oxford darling) into my arm to test my levels of consciousness. Yep, the Home Hub 2.0 Total BT box (or whatever it is called) was still there. Bizarrely, it was also really painfree to install.

Hence cyberspace has come to Forest Hill, and the blog posts can get back up and running. Please excuse the lack of pictures though, I have lost my collection of cabling in the house move so can't upload any photographs. Moving house is pants.

After the excitement of getting the internet working, I decided that I was going to finish unpacking and nothing was going to divert me from the task of getting my house straight. I unwrapped my first picture (called 'girl picking mushrooms'), when I heard the door knocker. It was my new neighbour, Esme, letting me know that I had left my car lights on.

I unpacked my second picture (called 'the little domestic') when the door knocker went again. It was Becks, Phil and Steve W who were on their way to the White Horse which is our local Thai restaurant / inn.

The end results were: car headlights got turned off, we went for a lovely meal at the White Horse Inn, I am back home on the internet............ all top banana! Except..... doh! I have just stepped over a full box and remembered that nothing was supposed to divert me from unpacking. Just off to unwrap my third picture............

New stuff

Well, would you believe it? BT were supposed to get my broadband connected at home today, and in preparation, I was sent an email saying ' Your Broadband order number is SM50326682. Your activation date is 15/05/09. Your BT Total Broadband Home Hub will arrive shortly before or on the day of activation'. Has my BT Total Broadband Home Hub (whatever it is) arrived? Nope. I am also assuming that a BT Total Broadband Home Hub is pretty critical to me getting my internet working at home, so it looks like I might be blogless for the forseeable future.

Anyway, today was quite exciting because despite the technological problems, I managed to launch two new products. Here was the email:

Hi there,

I hope business is going well. Things are great here at Baumhaus, except for the fact that I am in the process of moving house and have lost all my Baumhaus workwear. So what happened next? Yep, everyone and their dog decided to visit Baumhaus on the day I was sporting an ‘I love New York’ t-shirt and cagoule. Typical!

Anyway, good news – I have got some more new products for you. So you can beat the credit crunch round the earhole with a twin pedestal desk and lamp table. Here we go:

CWR06C – Hampton Twin Pedestal Computer Desk

(have you noticed that we have sneakily improved the background colour and accessories for the Hampton range? I will be sending out new pics for you as and when they are completed. I think the new look is fab. Becky chose all the accessories – she is a bit of an arty farty type).

IDW10C Kudos One Door Lamp Table

You can find a larger array of images by clicking on the catalogues below (you might have to ctrl+click, I am never quite sure which is right). I used to send the image catalogues as attachments, but they were getting way too big, so instead you have a hyperlink to the catalogues on our server. I came up with that idea so you can access all the latest catalogues more easily.

I hope that you like them. As always, if you would like any further information, either login to the website or drop me a line. I am back off to the photo studio now to carry on taking new images for you. I have been living in there for weeks. Well, that’s

whatit feels like anyway.

Kind regards


P.S. Rubbish weather isn’t it? When spring started, Phil got out his man-tan in readiness, but he has proven premature.

Click here to visit the Baumhaus Blog

I hope you like the new products. Wish me luck with obtaining a BT Total Broadband Home Hub, otherwise I will remain blogless.

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