Friday, 31 July 2009

Melvyn is facing his maker - eeek

Phil (the other director of Baumhaus) is a traitor. After two years of trusty service he has finally decided to consign Melvyn the Movano van to the rusty scrapheap in the sky. To give you a bit of history, Melvyn is the first van we bought when we set up Baumhaus, and has served us like a faithful serving thing, twice avoiding near death; account of near death 1 and account of near death 2.

Despite Melvyn's selfless diligence and toil, Phil 'hatchet man' Dickens decided to reward him by sticking him on Ebay, to be bobbed around at the mercy of the UK public, and then snapped up by the highest bidding slave-driver.

Given that, in the past, Melvyn has proven to be quite adept at body-swerving attempts to get rid of him, I decided to go and view the Ebay advert and see how he was faring.

Click here to view Melvyn's Ebay demise

For those of you with a weak disposition, please turn away now.........

Oh dear. It looks like Melvyn's luck has run out and that he will be parting company for once and for all with Baumhaus. He has 3 bids and the auction has 5 days to run.

I went down to see Melvyn on the shopfloor and I am sure I could hear a squeaky, yet mechanical voice shouting; "anybody, is there anybody out there to help me?"

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Updates on latest products and stuff

Here is the latest email update for all our lovely customers........

Hello there,

Hope you are doing well, even though we are just entering the two quietest months of the year. Tsk Tsk, everyone is going on holiday instead of spending their money on furniture – how rude! Look on the bright side though, you get a bit of a break before the silly season commences in September.

Just a couple of thingies I need to update you on really:

  1. Sofas. We have decided that we want to bring the manufacture of the sofas in-house so that we have more control over lead-times. This will take us a bit of time, so please can you temporarily remove the sofas from your websites while we do this. I don’t want you in a situation where you have sold one and we can’t supply it!

  1. Kudos darkwood – NEW PHOTOGRAPHS! Yippee. I have been asked quite a few times if I can produce new photographs now that the Kudos range is made from ash and not sheesham. I finally chained myself to the photo studio and have made big in-roads into re-photographing all the pieces. The part numbers that have been done are: I2DW01A, I2DW01B, I2DW01D, IDW02B, IDW06A, IDW06B and if you click (you might have to press CTRL too) on the Kudos Image Catalogue below you can download the latest pics.

You will be pleased to know that we are almost ready to order our first container of Children’s furniture. You would not believe what I have learnt about cots since we started designing this range. Did you know that the bars on a cot have to be 60mm wide to stop the little dears getting their heads stuck and having to be rescued by the fire brigade? Or that the cot must be able to withstand a 200mm indentor hitting the cot a 1000 times at a force of 100KG? I think the test is there to make sure the cot can withstand being used as a trampoline, but blimey, 100KG is one BIG kid. In fact it’s the equivalent of a sheesham triple sideboard.

Anyway, once we are good to go, I will drop you another email. I am back off to the photo studio to produce images for the IDW06D.

Let me know if you need anything else

Kind regards


P.S. With the weather being so bad, Phil is getting through man-tan at the rate of knots. I also caught Joe borrowing Phil’s hair wax yesterday, but ssssssshhhhh, don’t say I told you.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Still in Lancashire and it's raining

After a lovely evening out yesterday, I awoke to discover that the weather is exactly what I expected for Lancashire. Yep, it was overcast and raining. Hardly a balmy summers day.

I would have continued my ongoing tirade about the crappy weather in England if Mick, who is rather a good chef, hadn't appeared in the kitchen asking Deanna and I if we fancied Egg Benedict for breakfast.

"You are kidding right? you are going to make it from scratch?" I laughed.

"Of course I am," he answered, "I am a bloody chef," and he got busy whisking up a hollandaise sauce using proper eggs from a chicken. I can assure you, the end result was ........ delectable.

Staying with professional chefs never ceases to amaze me. At home, I will occasionally (once a week when not eating out) wander into my kitchen to heat up a ready meal or retrieve a knife to cut the pizza that has just been delivered, but chefs are a totally different breed. They seem to relish the challenge of making everything from basic ingredients. I wouldn't put it past him to make his own peanut butter and mayonnaise (not together).

After breakfast and a bit of larking around with the Sunday Newspapers, food quickly entered into everyone's head for a change.

"Lunch anyone?" Mick the chef suggested.

Everyone clapped and cheered enthusiastically and we all headed off to the Pendle Inn in Barley, stopping only briefly at a cashpoint which allowed me to take the following picture of both Micks withdrawing cash. I don't know why, but the sight of men withdrawing money is always quite gratifying (but I am not shallow).

Pic. No. 1 Mick and Mick at the cashpoint in Nelson

After we all got back into the car, I announced "I am going to take pictures of northern things on the way, keep your eyes peeled for a whippet."

"Ok," they replied and instantly started scouring the streets. Unfortunately, after driving through both Nelson and Barrowford, we didn't find a single ridiculously skinny dog, so I had to abondon mission and make do with other northern things.

Pic. No. 2 A dry stone wall.

The picture above is about as Northern as you can get. Everyone is so busy digging coal out of pits, that there is no-one free to make cement to hold the bricks in the wall. Then, as luck would have it, I found the pit which was probably taking up all the cement-makers-to-be's time.

Pic. No. 3 Mick outside his spiritual home - a pit

As if that wasn't enough, things reached fever-pitch when I found a field full of sheep..... next to another dry stone wall (double whammy)!

Pic. No. 3 Three sheep a-grazing

Before we knew it, the 4x4 wound down the hill into a village called Spen Brook, and then into a final village called Barley where the Pendle Inn is situated. I do take the mickey out of Lancashire a bit, but it is a spectacularly picturesque place, and the Pendle Inn is a 1930s stone-mullioned Inn next to a babbling brook. Plus the food is rather nice.

Pic. No. 4 The Pendle Inn at Barley with Mick dancing on a wall in front.

Pic. No. 5 The front garden of the Pendle Inn

P.S. Don't tell anyone this because I like to pretend I am a southerner, but I spent nearly all my time as a kid around here. I lived in Wheatley Lane, Barrowford for tons of years and walked my dog round here all the time. Pendle, Barrowford and Barley are also coincidentally famous for their witches (don't look at me like that!)

P.P.S Although I don't like promoting Lancashire as a holiday destination because it would fill it up with tourists, the countryside is very striking..... here is a sneaky preview: Destination Pendle. Enjoy....... !

A weekend 'up North' - eh up love

It was the middle of last week when I got a text from a friend called Deanna; 'Fancy coming up north for the weekend?' she asked. 'It's grim up there, but go on then.' I replied.

After rushing around at home all Saturday morning trying to get my washing and housework done, I finally hit the M40 motorway at lunchtime and headed north, clutching my passport and surgical mask.

My latest hobby is spotting irritating signs, and it wasn't long before I encountered a paragon of exasperating silliness. You can just about see it on the photograph below; 'CONGESTION. SLOW DOWN. 40'. Now, is it me, or is putting a sign like that randomly illuminated on the motorway going to be a self-fulfilling prophesy? If (for example) you have a thousand cars a minute passing through a mile stretch of motorway, and then tell them all to drive at 40mph, it is bound to cause congestion, surely? Because the cars behind are still approaching at the same volume but at a greater speed, so they are all going to bunch up (technical term). I demand a government investigation!

After my 'sign vexation', I decided to try and keep myself entertained by spotting Northern things, and it wasn't long before I detected a pit, where most northern people work, generally getting up before they have gone to bed, eating coal and getting paid in Shekels.

That wasn't the only thing I noticed ...... I was in Lancashire and the sun was out. How irregular.

Anyway, I arrived at Deanna and Mick's house at 2.3opm, and Deanna shouted; "Hiya ya southern pansy!"

"Greetings northerners!" I shouted back, even though I was hugging Deanna.

It was then that Mick (nickname Coat Hanger, and pictured above) turned to me and piped up; "Eh up, she's actually a plastic southerner, cos she were born and bred in Burnley."

I turned to him urgently, putting my forefinger on my lips, "sssssssssh," I hissed, "don't tell anyone that, my nickname is Lady M, and you will ruin my southern rep."

From left to right: Mick, Sean and Deanna

We all headed outside to sit in the garden, "blimey Deanna, I can't get used to all this sunshine up north," I said to her.

"You're not kidding," she replied, "but look at me, I look a right numpty because I have to wear two pairs of glasses to stop being dazzled." It's transpires that in the absence of reactolites, Deanna had decided to improvise............

After an amusing afternoon in the garden, we all had a Chinese meal and went to meet some more of the chaps at the Thatch in Barrowford, for the evening. Is it me, or has this entry petered out a bit? I think it is because I ran out of photographs ............................... and my inspiration was sucked away counter clockwise like an Australian plughole.

Friday, 24 July 2009

I am a victim

Sorry, sorry. I know that I have been a bit patchy with my entries in the last half week. But do you want to know something? writing a blog is a bit like Newton's third law of motion; for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

'How so, you weirdo?' I can hear you asking. Well it's a bit tenuous, but the more that happens in a week, the less time there is to write about it and then a backlog builds up. It's perverse that's what it is. Anyway, I seem to have gone around this in a rather protracted way. What I should have just said up front is; "phew, I've been a bit busy."

Yep, I have been chained to the photographic studio all last week, re-photographing our Kudos darkwood range because we changed the wood from Sheesham to ash ,and the colour is slightly different. Now if you are a photographer, you would probably enjoy the task, but I am an Engineer and would rather knock out technical drawings than do arty stuff anyday.

Pic. No. 1 My gilded and cabled cage

Actually, I noticed something whilst I was in the photo studio today. We have scores of different vases so that we can dress the furniture in different ways, and in every single one is a dead, spindly spider (the ones with the tiny bodies that make you think 'how does that body sustain those legs?'). Why are those spiders choosing to die in my vases? It's like an elephant's graveyard except for spiders.

Then if pondering the spider situation wasn't bad enough, I was photographing a 'Hidden Home Office', when Phil crept into the photo studio and managed the near enough impossible feat of a 'sliding Zoolander' right in the middle of my roomset.

Basically, a sliding Zoolander is a bit like a sliding tackle, but instead of kicking a football, you do an impression of Zoolander. Mastering this maneouvre can take years, and is only undertaken by the foolhardy, so please don't try this at home [that is a disclaimer].

"Oi! Get out of my photo studio!" I shouted at him even though he was right in front of me, "If I publish your photograph on the website, our sales will go down."

"What are you saying?" he asked, sidling out of the studio looking all hang-dog. Blimey, you just can't get the staff.

After a strenuous day behind the camera, I decided to go home and as I was creeping along in a traffic jam caused by torrential rain, I made two observations. The first involves BBC Radio Oxford. I have never listened to a radio station that is so lacking in content. As my journey got slower and slower, I gradually became conscious of the interview that was being conducted. It was a computer specialist attempting to solve an error on a listener's computer. Whose idea was it to come up with a slot where listeners ring up and get their computers fixed? That is the most completely Alan Partridge thing I have ever encountered. Computer errors are tedious enough without listening to other people's. The interview went something like this:

Engineer: So what do you see when you try and load Internet Explorer?

Listener: A message saying that the webpage cannot be displayed.

Engineer: What method are you using to connect to the internet? Wi-Fi? LAN?

Listener: I don't know

Engineer: I think you need to contact your Internet Service Provider [this is the punchline by the way].

Listener: Ok thanks.

End of call.

OMG! How dire is that? Anyway, still crawling along in traffic, I turned my attentions to other bits of my car, and it was then that I noticed something incredibly irritating. Etched onto my wing mirror was this: 'Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear'.

Now that is not strictly true is it? Surely it should be 'Objects reflected in the mirror are closer than they appear'?

Car manufacturers are leaving themselves wide open to litigation with that lack of attention to detail. Tsk. Tsk.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Bloody customs and laptops

I am going to tell you about an observation I have made about the Baumhaus Director of IT, Andy Dickens (wink, wink Andy!). Although he knows a lot about computers, whenever he gets involved in something, it always involves extremely time-consuming and complicated logistics. I decided to analyse this and concluded that the problem lies in the fact that he lives in Australia, but prefers buying items from the UK. Let me give you an example:

RING RING [Phil's phone is going]. Phil answers and I can only hear one side of the conversation, "alright Andy, how are you doing? ..... Yes sure I can do you a favour............. it's just a mobile phone that you want me to pick up? Did you buy it on Ebay?............ Oh nice one, no problem just give me the address..... [pause]....... uh that is a 3 hour drive away.......... I know it's cheaper for you, but it means a six hour round trip for me................ what do you mean I have to fill out the customs export declaration?........... yes I know it is easier for me to pick up the phone than you, but it's your phone .............. oh, ok then. I will do it on Saturday."

I don't know if you remember, but the shipment in question today, was three laptops that Andy had purchased for Phil and I (here are the blog details) and had asked us send them to him for repair.

Not only did their return to England not go well (more details to follow), but apparently the Australian side of things involved even more bureaucracy. Never mind, when we finally got our mits on the parcel and Andy had done a meticulous job on the laptops. They were repaired with software loaded, labelled up with our passwords, and he had even added some freebies (including a laptop lock which is a chain that you attach to your computer and then around the leg of a table for example. Not sure a thief would be able to lift a T61 though). THANKS DINGO!

I trialled my IBM T61 Laptop today, and I only have two criticisms: (1) you know the saying that 'form follows function'? The IBM engineers definitely stopped developing once they had achieved function; and (2) the bottom left 'Ctrl' and 'Fn' buttons are in the wrong place.

I thought I would show you a picture of my new IBM laptop (left) and Sony Vaio (right), I am struggling to combat my shallow tendencies, but doesn't my Vaio look so much prettier?

Anyway, before I depart, I would like to start a new award called the 'Gobbledy Gook Email Award' GGEA (which will ultimately challenge the Oscars). The award will be given to those in industry who create the most time-wasting and confusion. Today's first prize goes to Nadia who works for DHL. Her award is based on the email she sent me after I asked her 'how I can get my parcel full of laptops out of customs?'.

"Hello Anne

This was exported under our MOU and therefore no declaration was made. If we are not pre-alerted on the day of collection that a controlled entry is required then the shipment will travel under our low value. If we have not been pre-alerted that a controlled entry is required then this is the process we follow:

Any shipment under 600GBP will be exported under our low value, whereby many shipments under that value will be declared under one entry number. If the shipment is over 600GBP but under 2000GBP then a supplementary declaration is made.

Kind rgds

P.S. PLEASE! I want all your horrific encounters with customer service so that I can nominate them for the GGEA.

P.P.S Oh, and for a laugh, I have pasted the conversation that I had with DHL about getting the laptops released from customs..... you need to start at the bottom and work up, and watch how Linda's tone gets less friendly. I had a similar email chain with UPS too. Told you that Andy's logistics exploits are a nightmare!

-----Original Message-----


DHL did not send them out correctly and they do not have proof that the goods were sent out originally.
You will be able to reclaim the vat back.

Linda mathieson

-----Original Message-----

From: Anne Dickens

Sent: 21 July 2009 12:10

To: Mathieson Linda (FBF9YDB)

Subject: RE: Declaration

Hello there,
Please can I contest the fact that VAT is payable on these items. I paid VAT when I first purchased these items and I did not import them. They were repair and return items.

Kind regards


-----Original Message-----

Sent: 21 July 2009 11:23
RE: Declaration
Importance: High

hello Anne
Your UPS tracking number is 1ZAA00350491975399 As the goods went out as a low value shipment instead of controlled goods you will have to pay vat on this shipment. I have entered this to customs now and they should be out for delivery tomorrow pending customs clearance.
Sorry for the delay

Linda mathieson

-----Original Message-----

From: Anne Dickens

Sent: 21 July 2009 10:04

To: Mathieson Linda (FBF9YDB)

Subject: RE: Declaration

Hello Linda

Apparently I sent the wrong tracking number - here is the right one: 890000286976 76

Kind regards


-----Original Message-----


Sent: 21 July 2009 09:32


Subject: FW: Declaration

Importance: High

Morning Anne

Can you provide th tracking number for this shipment I cannot clear without it.

Linda Mathieson

-----Original Message-----

From: Mcbride Rachel (CJP5XJR)

Sent: 21 July 2009 09:30

To: Mathieson Linda (FBF9YDB)

Subject: FW: Declaration

-----Original Message-----

From: Anne Dickens

Sent: 21 July 2009 09:25

To: Mcbride Rachel (CJP5XJR)

Subject: FW: Declaration

Hello Rachel,

I sent this email to Linda, but I think she might be on holiday because I haven't heard back.
I am still trying to get these laptops out of customs, but seem to be going round in circles. Do you think you could please look at the correspondence below and let me know what I need to do now to get the laptops released?
Appreciate your help
Kind regards


-----Original Message-----
From: Anne Dickens

Sent: 20 July 2009 10:21
To: ''

Subject: FW: Declaration

Hello Linda,

I spoke to you last week regarding two laptops that you have with you, that are being held by customs because they were a repair and return, I needed to provide proof of the outbound shipment to get them released.
I contacted DHL as you advised, and they have come back with the email below, and to be honest, I am not entirely sure I understand what she is saying. Is it enough information to get the laptops released? I have also attached the original invoice if this helps.

Many thanks for your help
Kind regards


-----Original Message-----


Sent: 20 July 2009 10:08


Subject: Re: Declaration

Hello Anne

This was exported under our MOU and therefore no declaration was made.
If we are not pre-alerted on the day of collection that a controlled entry is required then the shipment will travel under our low value. If we have not been pre-alerted that a controlled entry is required then this is the process we follow:

Any shipment under 600GBP will be exported under our low value, whereby many shipments under that value will be declared under one entry number. If the shipment is over 600GBP but under 2000GBP then a supplementary declaration is made.

Kind rgds


Anne Dickens wrote:
> Hello Nadia, > Many thanks for your quick response!
> Kind regards > Anne

> -----Original Message----- > From: > Sent: 20 July 2009 09:36 > To: > Subject: Re: Declaration
> Hello Anne

> > Can you please confirm the awb number that it was exported on so that > I can check how the shipment was exported.

> > > Kind rgds > Nadia

> > Anne Dickens wrote:

>> Hello,
>> >> >> I have got a parcel currently with UPS which is being held by customs
>> and they said I need some information from you to get it released.

>> >> >> Basically, I shipped 2 laptops to Australia to get them repaired and >> I need proof that I sent them out there in the first place.
>> >> >> >> I have attached the commercial invoice and would be grateful if you >> could send me a declaration. UPS said that they need a SAD3 and in >> particular an Export Date, Entry Number, CPC and EPU.
>> >> >> >> Many thanks for your help >> >> Kind regards >> >> Anne Dickens >> >>

Swine flu is here! Please save me!

Who would have believed that pandemics could be so complicated...........?

As if this inspid, dreary excuse for a summer wasn't enough, I was walking through Forest Hill (the village where I live) this morning and saw a sign on the village nursery; 'We have just had two confirmed cases of swine flu. Please do not enter if you are showing any signs of a high fever.' [note to self: This may be pendantic, but shouldn't it should be the other way around. If they are the diseased ones, surely they should be advising the healthies not to enter?]

Burrrrr-limey, only about ten people live in Forest Hill, and after much publicity the dreaded virus has finally hopped onto two of it's inhabitants. Save yourselves! Stock up your rations, batten down the hatches and pile sandbags at the door! No forget that - everybody panic!

I don't know about you, but I am one of those people who nearly always start feeling ill with the symptoms that I have just read about, especially when the illness is a pandemic (no common low-life endemics for me thank you). It was with this in mind that I decided to find out exactly what risk swine flu posed to my tenuous grasp on life after the despair of all the rain.

It was the one of the biggest anti-climaxes [note to self: is that the correct plural or is it anti-climaxae?] of my entire life. Prepare for my diatribe..............

I am an Engineer, so I always start with the statistics which is my favourite bit. Here we go with the alleged 'facts' (cough) from the Health Protection Agency: (1) Last week 55,000 new cases were diagnosed, but that figure seems a bit too 'round' for my liking, freaky coincidence maybe? (2) Since the start of the pandemic, 26 people with swine flu have died, not 26 people have died from swine flu (BIG difference - in fact in the vast majority of the 26 cases, other underlying other causes were confirmed as the cause of death). Although it probably has one of the highest morbidity rates going, the mortality rate seems extremely low (anyone got any more interesting statistics about this?)

Then we come to the virus itself and it is pretty weedy as pandemics go. I am judging it a bit by my own standards because I know that if I was a pandemic, I would want to cause a bit of havoc to earn my reputation. I would be looking at knocking the nation's electricity out for a few months, pulling up roads and banning cows etc.

However, Swine flu has been documented as giving people a 'slight' temperature and making them feel a 'bit' ill for less than a week. Come on swine flu, you are a pandemic for god's sake, look lively and show some mettle! You can't get all this publicity and then be all feeble.

But in the spirit of public safety, I am still going to post this link to NHS Direct's swine flu checker so that you can make entirely sure that you are uninfected (it is a genuine symptom checker, even though I modified the link title a little).

NHS Direct - Help me! Have I got swine flu because I feel ill after reading about all the symptoms

If you do find that you have swine flu, please could you let me know so that I can track your progress.

P.S. one other thing I need proper help to understand. The H1N1 virus was called 'Bird Flu' two years ago. Why has it been renamed 'Swine Flu'?

P.P.S. Our government ordered 200 million flu vaccines from Glaxo Smith Kline to cope with the pandemic (at a cost of 'billions' - blimey, another coincidental round figure), but most of them aren't going to be needed according to a programme on Radio 4 today. Hey, read the article yourself and let me know what you think:

GlaxoSmithKline: A Swine Flu Windfall?

P.P.P.S. GSK's flu vaccine is cited as having production costs of £1, but is being sold for £6.00. How about that for an earner?

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Quantitative easing is the way forward

I was looking out of the window at the torrential rain, wondering why my hoover has stopped working, and listening to the cheery news on Radio 4 today that Britian has now incurred record levels of national debt. Apparently this month we have topped the £800 billion mark, and the badger that killed the cat was £13 billion of 'quantitative easing' last month.

Now is it me, or does quantitative easing sound like a bloody brilliant idea? The general principle seems to be that you spend all your money on having a great time, until you suddenly realise that you are skint. So you pop off to the Bank of England and say, "'ere Mervyn," print us a couple of million quid will ya, I'm a bit hard-up."

"Nah probs," says Merv winking, "here you go. Enjoy!" handing over the swag in black briefcases.

Now my question is, how do I take advantage of this quantitative easing at Baumhaus? Without a shadow of a doubt if someone bunged us a few million quid free of charge, our bottom line would look absolutely fantastic, we could pay ourselves large bonuses for having such a great idea, and even better, have a lie in every day. It's a win-win-win situation! My favourite! I can't believe that Prime Ministers didn't think of it before now.

Goodbye. I am just off to plan my retirement as a millionaire. After being quantitatively eased, I am off to Nigeria to nab £26 million in unclaimed inheritance. So long suckers.........

Monday, 20 July 2009

It is pants in England .... everyone move to the Med!

Right. That is it. I need advice.

Does anyone know how to wage a war on the weather? I have sat here for a number of weeks now, patiently waiting for my hazy summer's evenings in the garden. I have even remained stoic in the face of rain...... 'it won't last', I have been telling myself, 'it's summer.'

But yet again, I have downloaded the BBC weather forecast to be faced with this:

How much is an individual to bear? You see, I normally live and breathe the theory that you should never have a summer holiday abroad whilst it is summer in Britain. The reason being, that the weather is so bad the rest of the time that you should stay here and appreciate it whilst it is good.! Find me a flight to a warmer clime post-haste. I think the grain of rice has finally broken the armadillo's back!

Jamie Oliver's Oven Baked Spaghetti Bolognese

Another wonderful recipe from Jamie Oliver - Oven baked Spaghetti Bolognese with fresh herbs. Very easy and super tasty.


1 large onion
3 cloves garlic - chopped about 0.5 cm in size
Big bag of fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon of organo
Pack of smoked streaky bacon 250g
1kg steak mince
2 tins of tomatoes
Tube of 200g tomato puree
1 glass of red wine
Half a lump of grated strong cheddar to garnish


Fry the streaky bacon and rosemary in a hob-top casserole dish. Once the bacon has browned slightly, add the garlic and onion until they have softened a little. Then add the mince, tomatoes, puree, red wine, a tablespoon of oregano and put in oven for hour and half with lid on on gas mark 5.

It's that simple! oh except for the fact that you have to cook spaghetti 15 minutes before the bolognese is cooked. I also think that it may be quite healthy, but try not to let that put you off - it really is tasty.

Serves 5-6

P.S. I know I posted this picture yesterday, but it seemed daft not to put it next to the recipe itself. Shame that the picture doesn't do it justice at all. In real life it is deep red with green flashes of fresh rosemary.

P.P.S. This is a great dish to make you look like an effortless hostess with the mostess.

Sunday lunch at mine?

After the excitement of the sleepover, I decided that Sunday was going to be a chilled affair, walking the dog and eating out for a change. However, the plans were quickly scuppered when I looked out the window and beheld the weather. In true British fashion it was appalling.

Rain was bouncing off the pavement outside, the sky was grey and angry, and the wind was making those 'horror movie' whistling sounds through the gaps in my windows. [note to self: I bet my house isn't carbon neutral. But then again, I defy anybody reading this to let me know how I actually go about calculating carbon neutrality. I have got a PhD and haven't got a clue.]

"Another balmy summer's day," observered Josephine wryly, "isn't England crap?"

"Yep." I replied, "it's worse than olives and tuna."

"Plus Tilda is knackered because she was bouncing off the walls until 11pm last night. There is no way I am eating out this lunchtime," she continued.

"So you are suggesting that we go hungry?" I asked incredulously.

"No, I am suggesting that we make lunch here," she answered.

I looked at her blankly, "what are you on about?"

"We are cooking lunch here," she said firmly, "I have got a great Jamie Oliver recipe for Spaghetti Bolognese.

"Ok, so we are going to do 'something' in there?" I replied, pointing limply to the kitchen, "that room is used for heating up pizzas and curries....... and and sometimes I make a cup of tea in it."

"Yep, you got it," she said before promptly despatching me to the supermarket with a shopping list that I 'wasn't allowed to use any initative on'.

After 45 minutes of flailing around Tesco, I arrived back home with my booty. "Here you go," I said putting the bags down proudly, "your ingredients."

"You have forgotten the bloody spaghetti you daft moose," she replied in despair, "look, you go and light the fires because it's freezing, and I will get the spaghetti."

I think I may have caveman tendencies because I managed to get the fire in the living room (see below) and the wood burning stove in the kitchen roaring pretty quickly. Hang on a minute! Isn't it July? What am I doing lighting fires? England is ridiculous.

After arriving back with the spaghetti, and inviting Steve W over for lunch on the way, Josephine chopped and stirred for about 10 minutes and then went and sat down to read a magazine.

"Oi, where you going?" I asked.

"That's the beauty of this recipe," she said, "it takes about 10 minutes to prepare and is scrumptious."

I have to admit, I never in a million years anticipated that something with so few ingredients could be so ............. sublime. It was absolutely super-tasty. [note to self 2; find the recipe and post it for blog readers]. I took a picture of it for you, but it doesn't look that great even though I used one of my 'trophy' Le Crueset pans.

"Blimey Josephine," I said, "this is the first time you have ever cooked something where I haven't shouted 'who's got the flavour?'"

Josephine shook her head disparagingly, and continued eating. Actually to put it into context, Josephine, Steve W, Izzy, Tilda and myself all had lunch and I forgot to take a snapshot until we had finished because I was so engrossed in my bolognese.

Never mind, here is the aftermath for you to look at...... Bon apetite!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Quick question please............

Which is better?

1. Longer but less frequent blog postings

2. Shorter but more often postings?

Just as a matter of interest....................

A Londoner comes to visit

Alright guv'ner, apples and pears, fancy a jellied eel mate?

Today, one of my oldest friends from University (that's how long I have known her - it must be at least 40 years, but feels longer), said she was coming up for the weekend. Josephine lives in London (a suburb called Richmond actually, which is just down the road from my London house), hence the jellied eels milarky. Anyway, whilst planning the weekend, we decided that we were going to have a 'sleepover' at my house for her daughter Tilda, and little Izzy W.

Now, I am long enough in the tooth to know that sleepovers with 3-4 year olds cannot be taken lightly. They need to be planned with military precision and hence, at 8.30am on Saturday morning I was having my morning cup of tea and working out all the purchases that were necessary to make the aforementioned sleepover a success.

At 9.30am (check) exactly, I was entering the Laura Ashley store in Summertown where I procured two emergency 'Ballerina' duvet sets and a string of light-up hearts.

Then at 10.45am (check) exactly, I was entering the Next store in Cowley where I managed to procure two emergency sets of matching pyjamas. It wasn't the most pleasant experience because there was a half price sale on, so getting the job done was a bit of a scrum. But 'hey' I say, you have to take the rough with the smooth with these sleepovers.

Finally, at 11.20am (check), I arrived at Marks and Spencer's Simply Food to replenish my teabag (for Josephine and I, not the children) and Smoothie supplies.

Then at 11.50am, my mobile started ringing, the screen flashing 'southern git calling'. "Hi ug, what you up to?" I asked upon answering.

"I am outside your house you northern numpty, where are you?" she replied.

"Eek, I'm two minutes away, hang on." I shouted and hung up.

Sure enough, I arrived home and there was Josephine and Tilda waiting in their Chelsea tractor.

I greeted Josephine by shouting, "where are my freebies?" [Josephine is one of the top bods in House and Garden magazine]

"Here," she said, flinging me the last six month's worth, of copies of the magazine.

"Great, let's go to the park," I said, scrabbling around the gravel on my drive to gather up my booty.

"Cool, sounds like a plan," she replied.

Pic. No. 1 (from left, Josephine, Izzy and Tilda)

Pic. No. 2. Izzy and Tilda scale Forest Hill's equivalent of Everest, which is actually just a plank with blobs stuck to it.

After several hours entertaining children, Josephine announced; "I am bloody hungry, let's go and get some food."

"Sounds like a plan," I replied, "and I know just the place".

Shortly after 6pm we arrived at the Bat and Ball pub in Cuddesdon, a picturesque village not far from where I live.

Pic. No. 3 The Bat and Ball Inn, Cuddesdon

We selected a nice table in the corner of the bar area and ordered (not very adventurously as it seems at first sight), a burger each. But don't be fooled. These burgers were 'gourmet burgers' and Josephine's was adorned with bacon and cheddar, and mine stilton and field mushroom. Scrumptious.

Pic. No. 4. Our table in the Bat and Ball Inn

By now I was flagging a bit, so I dragged Josephine, Tilda and Izzy out of the inn and drove them home, where my early morning preparations for the sleepover paid off swimmingly.

Pic. No. 5. Izzy, Tilda, two matching Ballerina duvets, a set of 'heart lights', and (kind of) matching cow pyjamas.

You will be happy to know that Izzy and Tilda were so happy with their 'new stuff', that they spent the next three hours jumping vigorously from bed to bed in celebration............ I kid you not. In the end, we had to bribe them to sleep by putting a DVD player in their room for a premier of a cartoon called 'Anastacia'.

It got to 10.30pm and I turned to Josephine and said, "blimey, those two have made me cream-crackered, what about you?"

"The only thing that is keeping me alive is the thought that you may have a glass of wine for me to chill out with," she said wearily.

"Brilliant idea," I said and before she could say, "don't tell Dave [her partner] though."............

I had published these guilty-looking pictures of her with a glass of wine. Bad Josephine.

Ha ha! If you pay me £50 I won't tell anyone about it............... ! wink wink!

Friday, 17 July 2009

What's going on with the weather?

Tally ho! How bally British of me talking about the weather. I don't know what that makes me, but Oscar Wilde acerbically noted that "conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative."

That's how hopeless things have become; I have not only resorted to a 'refuge of the unimaginative', but the last refuge. Doesn't that make me positively amoebic?

With humble apologies to Wilde (actually I withdraw that because he is dead), I would like to ask, "is it me? Or is the weather completely rubbish for July? Surely I should be experiencing evenings of the still, balmy kind, rather than daily combatting driving rain in order to reach my front door, which is more indicative of the current state of affairs.

This is how the day went. Everyone was out the office except Hazel, myself and Phil, and we were listening to BBC Radio Oxford. The radio presenter was asking people to ring in with their 'alternative medical remedies', and Phil was trying to stop me contacting them to suggest that people gargle with urine to cure a sore throat.

"But it would be funny to see how many people actually try my fictional cure........!" I protested.

"Weirdly, it would probably work," Hazel said, "because urine is a natural antiseptic. Madonna uses it to cure her athletes foot."

"Blimey, you seem to know a lot about urine," I replied and quickly turned attention to the weather.

"Unclement weather for the time of year," I said.

"Ummm," Hazel nodded distractedly and turned her attention back to the accounts.

Pic. No. 1 Melvyn surveys the dark and bubbling clouds

As you can see from the picture above, things were going from bad to worse on the weather front. The sky went black, we had to turn all the office lights on and then the clouds burst, drenching us with 2.5cm of rain in an hour. I know that it was 2.5cm because BBC Radio Oxford said so on the news bit.

Pic. No. 2 The front of our warehouse was turned into a lake - punt anyone?

You always know that a downpour is extreme when you can't hear customers on the phone because of the sound of rain lashing on the windows, and if that wasn't bad enough, the storms started.

Thunder and lightening battered the warehouse for at least two and a half hours, prompting Phil to comment in a positive way, "blimey, this will help us determine where the leaks are in the warehouse roof."

Pic. No. 3 Hazel working so quickly that her hands are a blur, in a storm-darkened office (I think she might be counting her salary!)

Just as we hit the eye of the storm, I went into the Baumhaus canteen and found Phil stockpiling food in case of emergency.

"Oi, you can't stockpile food, we have to distribute it around everyone to try and save as many people as possible," I shouted, even though he was stood next to me.

"It's my lunch," replied Phil.

Pic. No. 4 The Baumhaus canteen.

Blimey, after all the happenings, I am so glad that it is now Friday. Whoop, whoop!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

A trip to London / what's wrong with my washing machine?

What with Phil and Becky out the office, and me scheduled to visit a potential new customer in London, it was looking like it was going to be a busy day for Juan and Hazel, who were left manning the phones.

But how lucky is this? I popped into the office for an hour and a half to tie up a few loose ends and the phones were deader than woolly mammoths and the dead bloke in my garden. Normally it is the other way around - the minute the office has minimal cover, all four phones lines start ringing simulataneously prompting you to shout "everybody panic," and then run around in a random manner clutching the sides of your head. Actually it reminds me of a daft quotation that makes me laugh:

"If you ever set yourself on fire, try to avoid seeing yourself in the mirror, because I bet that's what REALLY throws you into a panic.

I digress, down to London I went for a meeting at 12pm with David and Annabel in Kensington. Normally, I tend to cut the timings too fine because there is always too much to do in the office, but today, I got the time of the meeting wrong and set off half an hour early by accident. Good job I did, because two lanes of the A40 had been blocked off to ....... get this......... cut the grass on the central reservation. Yep, one of the main arterial routes into London was brought to a choking halt so that the grass could be trimmed. Don't you just love local councils?

I don't want to sound like a 'meeting lover' (trust me, I normally have a sign on my desk saying 'Feeling lonely? have a meeting.'), but the one today was really interesting because it involved some really good business ideas, and it is always fascinating talking to people with a lateral view on things.

It's a shame that my optimism was popped like a balloon in a pin factory once I returned to my car afterwards. I had managed to get myself another parking ticket. The irritating thing was that this one was totally avoidable. When I parked up, I had been worried about being late, so I ran to the Pay and Display machine, threw all my money in, and accidentally put the ticket upside down on my dashboard so that the warden couldn't see that it was valid. What. a. blooming. numpty.

I set off home and as I crawled through the outbound jams caused by........yep you got it....... lanes coned off at the central reservation (you can see it in the picture below, even though this section didn't even have any bloody grass), I spotted one of my favourite examples of Art Deco architecture - the Hoover Building.

'Superb,' I thought, 'I am going to take a picture of that,' and just as I pressed the shutter button, a man in a van drove passed and blocked the view.

I arrived back at home at 4.30pm and decided to try and pretend that I was a domestic goddess by doing some washing. Unfortunately, I failed spectacularly and managed to flood my kitchen. Please, I need help!

Look! The inside is full of water, and it all spilled out onto my floor when I opened the washing machine door..... I am truly feeling like a victim this week.

Is there anyone out there who is a washing machine engineer who just happens to be visiting Oxford this week? Ooooh..... it's a big ask.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Disaster night at my house

I had a horror night tonight. Everything that could go wrong, did. Actually isn't that Murphy's law?

After driving home in inexplicably dire traffic, I arrived back and attempted to reverse into my drive, only to discover that the car behind me had tried to get past me whilst I was attempting this maneouvre. Obviously I hit him, and at quite considerable momentum because I drive quite quickly (but always within the speed limit of course - thinking about it, is it possible to break the speed limit whilst reversing?).

Picture the scene - a Renault parked across my driveway with my car's boot embedded in its driver's door. It turns out that the driver of the Renault lives in a street not far from me so we introduced ourselves with a friendly handshake, exchanged contact details, picked up the bits of bodywork on the road and went on our way. My boot however, is still pretty dented. How unlucky was that accident?

After the anguish of my car crash I thought; 'I know, I shall have a bath and then dinner, in order to try and stop myself getting post-traumatic stress disorder' (after all, I don't want to be a burden on the NHS, especially when they are trying so hard to improve provisions for the elderly).

The only problem was that in the meantime, I started doing a blog entry (ending in the sentence above in fact), and my absorption meant that I didn't notice the bath filling up to the top....... then over the sides...... all over the bathroom floor and landing.

"DOH!" I exclaimed, even though I was on my own.

After 30 minutes of cleaning up bathwater, I decided to make myself a last ditched cup of tea, at which point I realised that I had put my milk in the freezer instead of the fridge after shopping yesterday, so that it resembled a murder weapon rather than a beverage accompaniment.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Article for Furniture News

It was late on Friday when I found out - Great! an article on Baumhaus is going into next month's edition of the magazine 'Furniture News'.

Well it would have been good news, except for the fact that we don't have any relevant editorials or photographs ready.

"What are we going to do? I am trapped like a ferret up a drainpipe!" I shouted at Phil, even though he was sat next to me.

He pondered, scratched his chin, looked at the ceiling and then said; "you write a blog, so surely you have some writing skills, plus you take all the photographs of the furniture......... I think you might be suited to this task most generally." Call him Teflon Don. What a git.

"I see what you did there Phil, it's clever......." I said pointedly.

"Why thank you. I like to pride myself on my task-dodging abilities," he replied in a with gasconade (ha ha! look that word up - it is one of my retro-favourites).

"Well get this - Furniture News want the final drafts of the articles done using Photoshop software, and given that you are better at that than me, I delegate the task," I laughed cunningly, knowing full well that this would take Phil considerably longer.

"Oooph, stung." Phil looked pained and dodged an imaginery blow to the head.

So it was back to the task in hand. I had no option but to get my head down and get on with it. But guess what the single hardest thing was? Nope, it was not writing the editorial - it was taking photographs of Baumhaus employees where they weren't Zoolandering, messing about or being generally daft.

Despite this, I managed a feat that has never been managed before.........

I managed to take several photographs of Baumhaus people looking 'normal', and sometimes even bordering on serious. Here goes:

Pic. No. 1 Phil and I standing in the warehouse looking like Bouncers

Pic. No. 2 Phil looking like Desparate Dan from the Beano but without the hat (Another Cow Pie Sir?)

Pic. No. 3 Me looking amazingly sophisticated and very important "but it comes soooo naturally darlink"

Pic. No. 4 Juan. He let down the side a bit because you can quite clearly see that he is desperately trying not to laugh.

After all that hard work, I handed the images and the text to Phil so that he could put it all together to do the article layout. Once he had finished, he handed it back to me for final review and told me to write down any changes that I wanted.

The first thing I checked was the images because he has a tendency to 'airbrush' them to make everyone look better. So my list of final edits went like this:

1. Please can you get rid of the sky blue eyes that you have put on Juan and yourself and put them back to their natural colour
2. I can see that you have artificially whitened your teeth but that can stay
3. Hazel's photograph is too far away you need to zoom in
4. Please take the fake tan off me. I look yellow and waxy like a Madame Tussaud's dummy.

He replied back, "yep, done all that, except for the fake tan. I didn't edit your picture."

"Are you saying I look yellow and waxy in real life?" I asked incredulously.

Phil laughed, put his hands up and backed out the room........ the blooming tinker.

Camera face-off

It took me a full week to realise exactly why Phil had bought me umbrellas that went soggy in the rain.

"It's because they are light diffusers you nincompoop," sighed Phil, "I thought they would help with your photography."

"They probably would if I knew exactly why I would want to diffuse light in the first place," I replied, still baffled about the exact role of the soggy umbrellas in my photo studio.

"You point them at the furniture and they get rid of shadows," Phil persisted.

"Cool," I replied blankly, and Phil looked dejected because his present hadn't been admired sufficiently.

Pic. No. 1 photo studio with soggy umbrellas

However, once I had actually had a go with the light diffusers, I discovered that they were actually pretty darn effective, but don't tell Phil I said that.

My next marketing mission is to re-photograph our entire Kudos darkwood range of furniture at Juan's request because we have had to change the wood from sheesham to ash. That means I am going to be resident in the photo studio again for the next X weeks, and that the blog is going to be full of whining from me because I want to be doing other stuff.

Just as I was about to start photographing an I2DW01B Eight Shelf Bookcase, someone shouted that Andrew Birrell had arrived.

Now let me introduce you to Andrew. He works for Consulting for One, the company that implemented our supersonic, all singing, all dancing SAP warehouse management system. Now let me also tell you, that if Phil and I hadn't bought SAP, we would both be driving around in Ferraris now (not that I begrudge it or anything - actually, scrap that. The lack of a Ferrari has left me bitter and twisted. Does that make me shallow?).

Andrew is from South Africa and he pronounces my name 'Enne'. I frequently tell him that his accent makes it sound as though English is his second language. Then he tells me that I am the rudest client that he has. It's all jolly japes! Anyway, I digress, Andrew was visiting us today to upgrade our SAP to the latest bug-free version, and he has charged us £1000 for the day. That equates to £2.08 a minute. Surely he is giving Roman Abramovich a run for his money?

Anyway, I digress, Andrew came into the photographic studio, saw my super high-resolution cataloguing camera and said, "Enne, you wanna look at my new camera," he said his clipped
Efrican accent, "I bought it for my new website." In his spare time, Endrew has developed a cool website for golfers called Rate Your Course, and needs the camera to take pictures of golf courses.

Pic. No. 2 Phil (left) and Endrew

I tried to get enthused by Rate Your Course, but I am of the school that thinks golf is 'a good walk spoiled.'

Then straight after that, I had to admire how big his camera was compared to mine.

Last pic. Endrews camera is considerably bigger than mine.

Sorry if I haven't posted as much as I should. I have had 'kid' weekend, which has meant that I have done loads of things with kids which has been ace fun, but hasn't left me much time to post. I will try and catch up tomorrow.

Friday, 10 July 2009

I am like Dr Doolittle ...

"A man who walks with the animals, talks with the animals........"

Do you remember that I nearly got killed by a herd of killer cows not so long ago? (Here is the blog archive). Well not any more..... I tamed 'em......... yep, just like that.

As I strode across the field with Naughty George, I spotted my favourite cow, Stripey Face, who promptly started stalking me again.

'I refuse to face near death everytime I walk my mutt,' I thought, and decided that drastic action was needed.

'Ummmm, what's a girl to do?' I pondered as Stripey Face edged closer followed by a killer flock of cows.

'That's it,' I thought in an Eureka moment, 'I am going to have a face-off with that cow.'

"Stripey Face, come here!" I shouted, "I'm not scared of you!"

Stripey face edged forward and sure enough stopped dead in his tracks and looked startled that his 'victim' wasn't moving. He looked even more bemused by the fact that aforementioned 'victim' was attempting snake-charming moves (that involves waving your hand slowly in front of an animals eyes) to try and hypnotise him.

Stripey Face was frozen to the spot, and I was getting confident.

"Nice ear-rings," I said trying to flatter him into submission. And would you believe it? It worked! Stripey Face looked coy and edged forward slightly.

In a beautiful human / cow bonding moment I stretched my hand out and Stripey Face stuck out his tongue.

"Ugh, you are not touching me with that manky looking thing," I said recoiling quickly, and here endeth the tale about how a furniture wholesaler tamed a herd of cows.

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