Thursday, 27 August 2009

Corporate uniform? .... steer clear of grannys

Now then. [blimey, I sound like Tommy Cooper - actually that reminds me; I went out to buy some camoflage trousers today but I couldn't find any].

I am not sure if you know, but at Baumhaus we have a 'Corporate Uniform' also known to the troops as 'get yer mits off me work clobber'. At first sight, 'work clobber' is a wonderful thing. Just imagine, you never have to think about what to wear when you get up in the morning, and then there are the other benefits ....... if, for example, you were riding a donkey along a beach notorious for its quicksand, and the donkey spooked, bucked you off and you landed on a spiked fence and ripped your trousers, then work would have to pay for the replacement trousers..... great eh?!

Before today, the only downsides to 'work clobber' were that ; (1) we have been told that we look a bit like secret police; and (2) if we go for a drink after work, the pub thinks that it is being raided.

But what do you think? I have included a few photographs of the Baumhaus 'work clobber'

Pic. No. 1. I am like a clothes horse. Everything just looks fabulous on me (even SS gear, and that is really sinister)

Pic. No. 2. Juan, I just need a nice picture of your workwear, so just sit there and pose and try not to laugh.......

Pic. No. 3 NOOOOOO! you started laughing.......

Anyway, the reason that I am talking about workwear is that I went to my favourite supermarket today - the M&S Foodhall (this is where the lime and coriander flame-grilled chicken holy grail lives).

I had decided that I really fancied a 'Lemon chicken, watercress and mange tout' sandwich (and I found one bizarrely enough), and was perusing the other offerings when an elderly lady came up to me.

"Hello dear," she said, "please could you tell me where I can find the double chicken breasts with sun-dried tomato dressing?"

"Oh, they are over here," I said, leading her to the chicken aisle, "is there anything else I can help you with today?"

"No that is wonderful dear, thankyou," she replied [Blimey, note to self; Oxford people are the nicest, politest people ever - been here a year now and my opinion hasn't changed].

I wondered off and decided to peruse the Chutney aisle, and was swooning over a 'rare berry jar' when an elderly chap sauntered up to me.

I clasped my shopping basket close to me as a defense mechanism, and asked "can I help you?"

He replied in a farmer's accent, "please could you tell me where the puff pastry is?"

It was only then that I cottoned on....... the final downside of corporate uniform is that if you go shopping in M&S foodhalls, you look like you work there.......... DOH!

Monday, 24 August 2009

We've gone to the dogs

Last week we had one of our major suppliers (Hannah - this is a man's name in China) visiting, so we decided that it would be the perfect excuse for a Baumhaus night out.

"Right, what shall we do?" asked Phil enthusiastically, and everyone promptly looked back at him with a blank stare.

"Ahhh," Phil added, "we may have a problem."

It was at this point that Hazel piped up; "we don't have problems, we have 'opportunities for improvement'", and then suggested, "how about we go dog racing?"

"Brilliant idea!" everyone agreed and thought nothing of it until Thursday night arrived and we all met at the 'Love the Dogs' Racing stadium.

It all started off very civilised with a three course sit down meal, and Juan looking like King Don of the racing stadium because he actually keeps two greyhounds as pets. Their names are Pongo and Millie, so they don't exactly sound like they are out there terrorising the track on a regular basis.

Pic. No. 1 (From left; Hazel, King Don Juan, Phil, Becky and Hannah)

The excitement mounted as the first set of dogs were brought out to be examined prior to race one.

"How do you pick the best one?" shouted Phil excitedly

"I am going for the ones with the nice names," replied Becky

"I am going for the ones with big paws - more traction," I said

"I am going for the one that has a poo before setting off - less weight to carry," added Hazel.

"I am going to put £2.00 on every dog in every race, " whispered Hannah wisely.

"Blimey, this is more scientific than I originally thought," Phil said looking worried.

Pic. No. 2 Juan studies form like a true pro

And so the bets were on, and the series of twelve races began. Three quarters of the races in and the girls were well ahead, with Hazel pursuing a complicated set of 'forecast each way accumulators' (or something) and Becky and I sticking to our 'nice names' and 'big paws' strategies respectively. The only person to win more than us was Hannah, but that was quite simply because he had bet on every single dog that raced to win, and refused to take into account how much he had spent to amass his stash.

Pic. No. 3. The betting hots up and everyone suddenly realises that King Don Juan hasn't yet won anything

It was then that King Don Juan came into everyone's consciousness.

"Hang on a minute, how much have you won?" quizzed Becky.

"Loads," said Juan, and tried to change the subject.

"Where are your winning tickets?" Becky asked. Juan started to look shifty, and we all noticed that his end of the table was empty of paper (as in NO winning tickets). After a bit of detective work, Becky suddenly spotted a huge pile of screwed up betting slips right next to Juan's seat.

Pic. No. 4. A European paper mountain of Juans losing betting slips (don't tell anyone though)

"Blimey Juan! are those all the races you have lost?" she asked

"Yes," he replied frowning, "I've lost £60." At which point everyone started laughing hysterically in sympathy.

"There is only one course of action," I said, " you have to try and gamble your way out of it."

"Is that what you are supposed to do?" asked Juan

"Apparently." I replied, "let's go outside so that we can soak up the atmosphere."

We all trooped outside in readiness for the final two races and thoroughly examined the parading dogs to make sure they had big paws / poohed a lot.

Pic. No. 5 Don't fancy your whippet much, he's all skin and bone

The last two races were frenzied, with everyone losing money on the penultimate race. The pressure was on, and although no-one wanted to admit, everyone wanted to end on a high. I saw everyone sneaking off and secretly placing reckless £10.00 bets on wild eyed homey whippets.

Pic. No. 6 The last race........ and they are off (the whippets are those tiny blobs in the background)

The atmosphere was electric and the dogs were faster than ferrets up drainpipes. Everyone was hysterically cheering on their own particular pooch; "Come on Fido, trot on! there's a good mutt!"

As the flea bags crossed the finish line, I noticed that only three of us were still cheering....... Yep, Becky and I had both just won £30.00 a piece, with Hannah again forming part of the winning line-up because he had bet on every dog in the race to win again. In the background I spotted Phil and Juan, surreptitiously slinking away. Hazel on the other hand was completely engrossed in totting up her substantial winnings which appear to have been accumulated using a compex system of prisms and mirrors.

Pic. No. 7 (From Left) Hannah, Phil doing a Zoolander, Becky doing a Zoolander

And so the excitement of the Baumhaus night at the dogs came to an end and we all headed off back home........ Thanks for a great night out Hazel!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Bad day at Baumhaus

I woke up on Thursday to thick grey and black clouds billowing overhead, and my blind slapping manically against the window-keep.

"Aaaaah," I sighed contentedly, "another lovely English summers day."

Feeling thoroughly demoralised at the complete lack of English summer over the last couple of years, I drove to work only to see the situation deteriorate............

Shortly after I took that video, the thunder and lightening started and the office became humid and oppressive. I wouldn't have thought anything of it, until I wandered into the other office and saw Hazel with a sign on her arm.

"Hazel," I asked, "why have you got a sign on your arm saying 'I am having a bad day?'"

"I thought that would be fairly self explanatory," she replied.

"Good point, well made," I noted.

And then in an exciting turn of events, I managed to capture the 'lesser spotted pumphrey' on video. Mark my words, she is normally more elusive than the yeti, and that big black cat thing that lives on Bodmin Moor. So enjoy (in a sympathetic kind of way please)..... Hazel having a bad day!

P.S. It's not just Hazel and I who are fed up of crappy summers is it?

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Double containers and relly surprise

I am now paying the penalty. Yep, after letting a blog backlog build up, I am still catching up on last week, when I should be giving you an update on everyone's weekend doings. If you point me in the direction of the modern day equivalent of stocks, I will be happy to sit there and be pelted with the modern day equivalent of rotten tomatoes....... that'll be rotten tomatoes then, thinking about it. And the modern day equivalent of stocks is probably going to the cinema to watch a Tarantino film [note to self: ummmmm keep an eye out for disgruntled Tarantino fans in order to avoid being pelted to death by a hail of Royales with Cheese].

Anyway, back to Baumhaus, we had a right old day of it on Wednesday. I could tell by Juan's dejected gait that it was going to be a bad one right from the off.

"What's up with you misery?" I asked sympathetically.

"Double container day." He replied, rolling his eyes, (for those who don't work in warehouses; this means that we have two huge lorries to unload!)

"Ah. All becomes clear." I noted, and slunk off.

Before anyone could say, "quick save yourself and pull a sicky!" a 40ft artic pulled up at the loading bay.

Then as unluck would have it, the second lorry arrived before the first one had even been opened.

Pic. No. 1. Lorry 1 at the unloading docks, with Lorry 2 waiting in the wings. Ugh.

I ran into the office to cover the phones whilst the finely honed unloading teams jumped onto the back of the lorry to get the furniture off. Then something bizarre happened. A British racing green Jaguar pulled into the customer parking area.

I didn't think anything of it until the office door opened and two people entered.

"Blimey, you look familiar," I burst out.

"That's because it is your Father and Wicked Stepmother," he replied.

"Sacre bleu!" I shouted, "Is it that time of year already?"

"Hmmmmmm," Father sighed disdainfully.

"Whilst you are here, you can make yourselves useful," I said, realising that WSM (wicked Stepmother) had already got the kettle on to make tea for everyone and was handing out biscuits on a gold platter (what a gemster!).

Twenty minutes later, the old man was helping me answer the phones, and getting into it a bit too much for my liking.

Pic. No. 2. The old man helps man the phones in between a bit of 'Saturday Night Fever'

Meanwhile, WSM rolled up her sleeves and got stuck in unloading furniture off the back of the lorries and putting things away on the forklift truck.

Three gruelling hours later, I had just managed to finish the last biscuit and was feeling particularly weak, when the unloading teams came back into the office, looking dusty, tired and hot. The double container grind was over.

Pops and WSM sat down and saw a magazine on my desk.

"What's this?" Pops asked.

"The latest article published on Baumhaus," I replied.

"OOh, let's have a read," they said.

Pic. No. 3 Pops and WSM read our latest article in Furniture News

After poring over the paragraphs and pictures, Father raised his head, looked over his glasses and said; "you have missed an apostrophe from the word 'its' in paragraph two." he noted.

"Ahh, thank you for noticing," I replied, "I will proof read it more carefully next time."

"Anyway, we had better go," he said, "see you anon.........." as he whisked out the office and into the sunset.

Mysteries of the Universe

This is just a quick post because I am due to drive up to Worcester for a BBQ. Actually I am panicking a bit because I have a backlog of blogs building up and no time to write them, and so the resulting pressure is increasing exponentially. Things are so tight that I am having to resort to bribery - I am Forest Hill's King Don you see.

I realised today that my lawn had grown so long that I no longer had a view from my kitchen window, so I had to run to see my next door neighbour, Daniel. I begged, pleased, cajoled, smiled (that definitely didn't work, I just looked sinister), but in the end, it was good old 'hard cash' that saved the day. £10.00 later, and Daniel was scything through the undergrowth.

So whilst Daniel mows, I want to tackle one of the mysteries of the universe - Jewellery boxes. 'How mysterious can they be?' I hear you cry.

Ok, I put it to you (and I bet everyone with a jewellery box has experienced this). You open your box to get a necklace, and find that they are all tangled together. After spending an hour carefully extricating strings and strands, you finally breath a sigh of relief and fasten the clasp around your neck. You forget all about it until the next time you need a necklace. You open the box ........... and here is the mystery ...................... they are all knotted, twisted and tangled again. It is like someone has picked up the box and sat shaking it for an hour. What on earth is that all about? does anyone have an explanation?

Anyway, you will be pleased to know that I have finally found a solution to the problem. A miniature tailors dummy.

The picture above shows the one I purchased for myself, and it works a treat. You hang the necklaces around the neck of the dummy, and you can even hook ear-rings into it because it is covered in a rattan-type material.

Anyway, I am off because I am already going to be late. I can't wait to write about it but Baumhaus went to the dogs this week......... cryptic yes........ will tell you more later.

Monday, 17 August 2009

A trip to Warwick Castle

Hello again! If I am not careful, I might get stressed which usually ends up with me raising an eyebrow slightly.

'Why are you stressed?' I hear you cry. Well, I have got a blog backlog, the grass in my back garden is knee high where I have spent the last 3 weeks choosing the going-out option instead of doing chores, and my free evenings have dwindled away this week because my suppliers have come to visit and require entertaining; 'ow, don't twist my arm like that, oh ok then, I will take you out.' More on that later........

If that wasn't bad enough, I just discovered that I could write 'dust me' on my mantelpiece. [note to self: maybe I shouldn't be telling people that stuff.]

Then, I logged into my blog account, and found a whole posting (this one) about a trip to Warwick Castle from last week that I hadn't finished. So I have got a plan ........ I will finish the Warwick Castle blog tonight to stop the complaints..... ('are you dead?' ...... 'why aren't you writing' ....... 'have you got a sulk on?' etc), and then try and catch up with everything else .... ummmmm... maybe tomorrow.

So here we go, whisk yourself off to Medieval England and to a castle built in 1068 by William the Conquerer (wasn't he the bloke with one eye?). The castle has always served as a symbol of power to the various Earls who lived there, so it was with scant surprise that we arrived at the mighty gates and found........ two car park pay stations and some trees which appeared to be upside down.

Pic. No. 1 Upside trees. Now that is freaky

We made our way into the castle proper, and I have to say, as impressive as it is, it is a total and utter rip-off. Firstly, the charge for the car-park is a compulsory £3.50 and you don't know this until you are stuck in a queue for the car-park and you can't turn round. Then entry to the castle is £19.95, and if that wasn't enough, they charge you £7.50 extra once in the castle to view the dungeons. Not only was sufficient to send me into an indignant rant, but I also heard a large number of other visitors complaining loudly about the same thing.

Anyway, enough of that. The castle is divided up into different ages, and we started in the 11th century basement where the carpenters, shoemakers, wainwrights and bakers worked. It was pretty well done and they even pumped authentic smells in which helped create the atmosphere. Actually thinking about it, the smells weren't too far removed from the blocked drains we get outside the Baumhaus offices.

Pic. No. 2 Sarah took a shine to a stuffed soldier with club hands

Pic. No. 3 Cheesy Jousting Contest

As part of the castle experience, we opted to see a jousting contest in the grounds of the castle. For the American readers, jousting is a game where two chaps get on horses and try and knock each other off with sticks. As soon as I arrived I instantly regretted going. For some reason the people who had come up with idea had decided to combine medieval jousting with slapstick comedy. Why on earth would you do that? It just doesn't work. It's like dressing Machine-Gun Kelley in a pink negligee. As you can imagine, I took advantage of the fact that I was wearing sensible shoes and hot-footed it out of there and back to the castle where I completed the tour which was based around current day and Edwardian times.

Pic. No. 4. Anyone for lunch at mine? Oh hello Queenie, I wasn't expecting you

Pic. No. 5. It was an exhausting day for the girls at Baumhaus

Pic. No. 6 The Duke of Windsor's butler greets me with little enthusiasm

Ok, I admit it, the state rooms of the castle were truly stunning, and a brilliant job had been done of making them come alive, so all that was left was to visit the castle walls and tower.

I gazed awestruck at the enormous walls and towers that dominated the landscape for miles, and thought, "blimey, the guys that built this didn't undertake a health and safety risk assessment beforehand."

It had obviously all been made visitor-proof now to minimise the risk of getting sued, but in the olden days, the ramparts didn't even have fences on to stop people falling off and they must have been at least 70feet high. I can only conclude that medieval 'no win no fee' lawyers had not yet realised what an opportunity unsecured ramparts presented.

Pic. No. 7. No. I am not in a helicopter, I am at the top of one of the towers

Pic. No. 8. My favourite stuffed dummy so far....... !! No of course, it's me clinging on for dear life because I don't like heights - but ssshhhh don't tell anyone.

Pic. No. 9. Louise and Rob hanging round the ramparts

Pic. No. 10. The village of Warwick behind the castle

Pic. No. 11. A medieval street winding into the centre of Warwick

Now I have to say that although this looks like a monster blog in terms of the number of pictures, I could have included another thirty because there was so much to see. The castle is a rip-off but there are loads of promotions and half-price tickets going around, and if you can get your hands on one of them, it takes the trip into a reasonable price bracket.

Phew, I am off to walk Naughty George now, and then it's M&S spinach and ricotta pizza and salad for dinner and then...... cut the grass. Boo!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Thai food and a napkin folding competition

Oh i nearly forgot, we had a fabulous meal out on Thursday night after the bus tour of Stratford. It was at a restaurant called Thai Kingdom, and I thought it was going to be a bit special because it has got really good reviews.

Pic. No. 1 Thai Kingdom, Warwick Road, Stratford

The outside was pretty ordinary, but the inside was superb, opening out onto a Bamboo Garden which had an oriental design.

Pic. No. 1 The chaps inside Thai Kingdom

After a first rate meal and impeccable service, Rob turned to me and challenged me to a competition.

"What kind of competition?" I asked warily.

"A napkin-folding competition," he said, "you in?"

"Yeh, of course I am," I replied, "how hard can it be?" were my fatal last words.

Pic. No. 3 Rob challenged me to a napkin-off

Clutching our weapons of choice (linen napkins), a neutral third party (Gary) selected the first 'thing' we were to create using only napkins.

"A swan!" he declared, throwing down the guantlett, "let the competition begin!"

We folded, tweaked, teased and ruffled our napkins until Gary finally shouted, "time's up."

Pic. No. 4 Napkin swans

The results of round 1 are shown in the picture above, with Rob's effort on the left hand side and mine on the right. The votes were cast, and shockingly, 8 out of 9 voted Rob's swan the winner (I voted for myself, obviously). "Hang on a minute, what's wrong with my swan?" I asked defensively. The general consensus was that it was a bit flaccid.

"I refuse to be beaten," I shouted, let's have round 2.

"Ding, Ding, let the folding commence," Gary announced, "and this time I want a lotus flower." Phew, this was a tough ask, especially as I didn't know what they looked like. After another ten minutes of bending, rolling, and folding our time was up, and then came the 'big reveal'.

Pic. No. 5 Napkin Lotus flowers

My lotus flower is on the left, and this time I thought I had clinched it...... until I saw Rob's offering.

"Where on earth did you learn to do that?" I asked as I looked at the many intricate petals. He just laughed at me and I conceded defeat, bottom lip out.

Bus tour of Stratford

Good morning! It is Thursday 13th August and here I am, back investigating the essential things that you need to do if you ever visit Stratford upon Avon.

Essential things in Stratford number 6: Do a bus tour

I would normally classify myself as the type of person who sees a tour-bus and shouts; "look at those saddos!", so it was with a weary heart that I was persauded to take a bus tour of Stratford.

"You are going to ruin my rep," I complained to Helen, the instigator of aforementioned bus-tour.

"You'll love it," she assured me half-heartedly.

After queueing at the bus stop for 5 minutes, and open-top bus duly arrived and I embarked with trepidation.

"That'll be £22.50" said the driver cheerily.

"Hey that's pretty good for nine people," I noted approvingly.

"Each," he replied.

"Blimey, do you want my grandma too?" I asked incredulously, "you'll have to prise the cash from my cold dead fingers."

"Just pay him," someone behind me shouted, and I begrudingly proffered the contents of my purse.

I settled into a seat upstairs in the bus, and turned to Sarah, "no wonder people criticise public transport," I said, "and to make matters worse, there is no option to upgrade to business class."

"One. We aren't on public transport," she replied, "and two. The price includes entry to all the houses on the tour."

"Ummm, ok" I answered, unconvinced. "At the end of the trip, I am still going to add up how much it would have cost individually to see if we got a bargain."

Sarah rolled her eyes, and I settled into my seat at the tour began.

Pic. No 1. Me on an open top bus with a pedestrian shouting 'saddo' at me

We first alighted at Anne Hathaway's cottage. 'Anne who?' I hear you ask.

Anne Hathaway was Shakespeare's trouble and strife, and the whole set-up was a bit shocking for medieval times (don't read any further if you have a delicate disposition). Basically, Anne was 3 months pregnant with Shakespeare's child when they got married, and even more surprising, Anne was 26 at the time of the marriage, whilst Shakespeare was only 18.

Woah! Shakespeare had a Mrs Robinson thing going on! Who'd have thought it?

Pic. No. 2 Anne Hathaway's cottage in Shottery (she left it in 1582 when she married Shakespeare)

Mind you the cottage itself was very picturesque, even though I doubt that everything would have been as sanitised in the 16th century. As I understand it, the trend then was for having the pigs and the chickens living inside the house with the family, which isn't necessarily a bad thing - at least the continual urge to do the dusting is reduced if you are contending with bigger issues like pigs in the house.

Pic. No. 3. Look, a typical English cottage garden - I took this picture for the American readers

After perusing the house and gardens, we decided that we would take the woodland walk which is behind the house and boasts a plethora of wildlife. Clutching our 'wildlife checklist', we ventured into the woods. After 2o minutes, we hadn't seen a thing, not even a sparrow, so we had to resort to taking comedy photographs behind trees.

Pic. No. 4 (from bottom) Bianca, Gary and Rob

After the excitement of the woodland walk, we hopped back on the bus, and after being smacked in the face by low branches, and with eyes streaming from the breeze, our next stop was Mary Arden's cottage. 'Mary who?' I hear you ask.

Mary Arden was Shakespeare's mother and I tried to find out some interesting facts about her, and only managed one - she had eight children, three of whom didn't make it to age 10 because of the pesky bubonic plague. And there's us complaining about swine flu. Bubonic plague is the mother of all H1N1s (or whatever number we are up to now), with half of infected patients dying within 3-7 days, and it claimed the lives of 200 million people. You need more than a antiseptic hand wipe for that whopper.

Pic. No. 5 The farm next door (circa 1556) to Mary Arden's house with a medieval McLaren buggy parked outside

Pic. No. 6. Peasants bedroom in the farm next to Mary's house

Pic. No. 7.Medieval Dining Room

After lunch at the ludicrously slow restaurant next to Mary Arden's house, we completed our tour of the buildings and went to watch a falconry display.

"I don't get Falconry," I said to Louise (pictured below) who was walking alongside me, "I mean where is the skill in sticking your hand out for a bird to land on?"

Pic. No. 8 Louise tries to find the hidden depths of falconry

"Maybe there is more to it than meets the eye," replied Louise.

"Like what?" I asked

"Dunno," replied Louise.

Pic. No. 9 Bird landing on stuck out arm

The falconry was actually more interesting than I anticipated, and I learnt how to train birds of prey with dead chicks and call them 'keen'. I don't know what it means, but it makes me sound like a pro. After all the excitement with birds, I felt at one with wildlife and so it was with much excitement that I bonded with a plastic cow by milking it.

Pic. No. 10 Me milking a fake cow

"Quick Louise," I shouted (even though she was standing next to me), "take a picture of me milking this cow to show how seamlessly I blend into a farmyard."

Louise duly obliged, adding "you look like you have been milking that cow all your life."

I must add, that this cow was a lot less aggressive than the cows I am used to in Oxfordshire, probably something to do with the fact it was plastic.

Anyway, this is a bit of a monster post, so I am going to say au revoir now........ phew, I am exhausted after all that typing and my fingers are half the length they were.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

As you like it ........ a trip to the theatre

Ooh how exciting! Here I am still in Stratford, and I had forgotten that we were all going out to do the next 'essential thing';

Essential things in Stratford number 5: See a Shakepearean production

Because the Swan Theatre had been all but demolished, we had tickets to see 'As You Like It' at the Courtyard Theatre which is just down the road. It was a production directed by Michael Boyd and it had received great reviews from the Guardian. After reading the reviews, I was left feeling a bit irritated. He had given the play 4 stars out of 5 which may be fair enough, but he didn't say why they dropped the fifth star. Reviewers do this all the time, and it is a pet hate of mine, alongside people using travelators in airports to replace walking rather than enhance it.

Pic. No. 1 the Courtyard Theatre with me under an orange umbrella

As we entered the theatre, I was chatting to Gary who is an English teacher and a Shakespeare aficionado.

"Are you looking forward to it?" he asked, obviously excited himself.

"Yeh," I replied, "but I have brought my Ipod Touch with 'Finding Nemo' on it, just in case it is crap."

Gary didn't seem to appreciate my forward planning, and looked at me aghast adding, "you are a heathen." I thanked him for the compliment and we headed into the auditorium.

The performance kicked off, and at half-time I managed to get a photograph of the Orlando and his sidekick skinning a real rabbit (and I am not joking).

"You can't take pictures," hissed Gary.

"I've done it now, no point in deleting it," I whispered back, looking at him perplexedly as he shook his head.

Pic. No. 2 Orlando and his mate skinning a bunny

The performance lasted three hours and it absolutely deserved the 4 star review (the fifth star dropped probably relates to the Celia's performance which was more wooden than the contents of my warehouse).

As we left the theatre, Gary ran up to me excitedly, "what did you think?"

I paused, considered, and concluded; "if Shakespeare wrote his plays in proper English, he would probably sell more books."

Gary groaned, put his head in his hands and walked away.

"What's up with him," I asked Helen.

"dunno," she replied, "anyone fancy a snifter?" and we headed towards the 'Encore' public house at the end of the road.

Stratford upon Avon.... Hello I'm here!

After a gruelling 57 minute trip to Stratford, I finally arrived at The Grosvenor Hotel (later to be renamed Fawlty Towers) and bumped into my chums, Sarah and Louise in reception.

"Welcome to Stratford, birthplace of Shakespeare and cultural capital of the Midlands!" I hollered. We checked into our rooms, and then met up again in reception with the rest of the chums who had arrived in the meantime.

"Here we are in a town steeped in history and legend, what shall we do first?" Sarah asked. The first thing that popped into my head was food.

"Let's go and eat out," I suggested, and here commenceth my review of essential things to do in Stratford:

Essential things in Stratford number 1: Go to the Mucky Duck

The Mucky Duck (real name Black Swan), is an inn just across from the Swan Theatre, which is the home of the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company). You are normally supposed to go to the Mucky Duck after a theatre performance has finished because all the thespians go there to hang out and be adored, but we wanted to avoid the crowds, and have also proven poor adorers in the past.

Pic. No. 1 Moi looking sultry outside the Mucky Duck

We trooped into the inn, whose walls are crammed full of signed pictures of famous 'thesps dahlink' and requested a table for nine, which (trust me, I'm a doctor) you would never get in the evening. I am now going to commence a brusque critique of the food; The menu was pretty unspectacular and so was the food. The end.

Pic. No. 2 Sarah (a ferret-loving northern lass) inside the Mucky Duck

Actually, I should elucidate the circumstances that led to this conclusion, and they are;

I turned to Bianca, who was sitting beside me and asked, "how was your lasagne?"

"Microwaved," she replied drily.

"Ewwwww, nasty, " I shuddered looking closely at aforementioned wretched lasagne, and sure enough I could quite clearly see the telltale signs; the burned bits around the edges of the sauce which only happen when food is heated on the plate it is served on.

The second thing that I didn't like was that my scampi (told you the menu was unspectacular) was served with oven chips. In my humble opinion, serving chips that come out of a bag is a chip faux pas, and a crime against chunky hand-cut chips. Enough of the food now, I think everyone has cottoned on that this is a place to visit for its atmosphere rather than its gastric delights.

Another characteristic of the Mucky Duck are the Shakespearean quotes all over the walls. The one below, from Anthony and Cleapatra, particularly caught my eye because I didn't have a clue what it meant. If any Shakespearean scholars out are able to translate, please drop me a line!

Pic. No. 3 Gobbledy gook Shakespearean quote on the wall of the Mucky Duck

Lunch over, we put our tourists hats on and decided to do the next Stratford essential;

Essential things in Stratford number 2: A boat trip

Boat trips are one of those things that lull you in to a false sense of security. Sure, bobbing around on a river on a sunny Wednesday afternoon sounds fun, but the reality is quite often very different. I would probably equate boat trips to giving birth; once the labour is over and done with, you forget how painful it was. Hence we decided to go on a boat trip at a cost of £4.50 per person.

Pic. No. 4 Me eating a bush next to the river Avon

We headed to the river Avon, stopping only briefly to pose next to an unrelated bush, and it was against that backdrop that we embarked upon our voyage.

Pic. No. 5 The excitment! A bridge!

As I anticipated, the boat trip failed to meet my low expectations. I mean, once you have seen one swan, they all pretty much look the same after that. Plus, as with most other river banks, the only visual stimuli tends to be a few half dead reeds, and fisherman giving you dirty looks because you are scaring the fish. Having said that, we did experience one adrenalin rush when the boat passed under an unexpected bridge. The first time the question "how long have we got left?" was asked after the first five minutes, and after a further 25 minutes, the tub thankfully docked to allow us to pursue our next 'essential thing'.

Essential things in Stratford number 3: Vist the Swan Theatre

The Swan Theatre is the home of the Royal Shakepeare Company (RSC) and it dominates the banks of the river Avon. Some of the worlds greatest actors such as Lawrence Olivier, John Gielgud and Orson Welles have hugged skulls there, whilst famous actresses that have forsoothed there include Judi Dench, Peggy Ashcroft and Vivien Leigh.

So it was with an air of anticipation that we headed for the famous Swan Theatre, only to be met with this ...........

Pic. No. 6 The Swan Theatre - Home of the RSC

Yep, the Swan Theatre was a blob covered in scaffolding. Bloody typical. Apparently it is being remodelled at a cost of £112.8 million and if you fancy having a peek at the finished article, click here. After a brief review of the day, it appeared that we weren't doing well - three 'essential things' had all ended in an anti-climax, and as such, it was with trepidation that we approached the next essential thing..............

Essential things in Stratford number 4: Check out the gear that some of the tourists wear

Kerching! Boy did this 'essential thing' deliver! I can honestly say that the sheer volume of tourists means that you can always find someone who has decided to buck the trend and dress with individuality. Within 15 minutes, I had amassed photographs of approximately 20 fashion bloopers with the winner being............ de du daaaaaaaah............. (that's an unveiling noise!)

Pic. No. 5 Admire the matching turn-ups and shirt combo, with complementary red fishing hat and brown slip on shoes.

It's wrong....... on every level....... this person should not be allowed out like this.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

You are safe for a couple of days

Right, that's it, I'm off...........

You will be pleased to hear that you have a blog reprieve for a couple of days. Yep, I have taken a couple of days off work and I am going to Stratford upon Avon for brief sojourn. Apparently the itinerary is; going to see 'As you like it' by the Royal Shakespeare Company, some eating out, a trip to Warwick Castle, where I have been told that I am strictly not allowed a sword fight in the main hall, some more eating out and I think that's about it. Sounds alright doesn't it? I definitely don't think I will strain something.

Anyway, I finished packing this morning and then realised something..... I picked up my mobile, dialled my friend and asked; "just a couple of things; where am I going and what time do I have to be there?"

After being subjected to a bit of a tirade about how hopelessly disorganised I was, I discovered that I needed to head to my hotel, The Grosvenor in Stratford itself and be there at 1pm (trouble is I am already going to be late because I haven't set off yet).

"It had better have a concierge," I answered, "I only stay at hotels with concierges."

"It has got a concierge! I know what you are like!" came the reply.

Blimey, calm down dear! (say that in a Michael Winner voice!).

Right I really do have to go now....... speak to you soon with an update

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Come inside and have a peek

I am quite a nosey person; you know the type you gesticulate at through your living room window because I can't help looking in when it is dark [note to self; should I be admitting this kind of stuff?]. Anyway, along these lines, I thought that you might like to a sneaky secret-squirrel peek of what it is like inside and outside Baumhaus, especially as you only normally get to see the inside of our office on the Baumhaus webcam. One of the other reasons I had a sudden urge to show you the inside of Baumhaus, is that I have just figured out how to use the 'video' function on my camera which is quite exciting. I am surprised it took me so long actually, it only involved turning a dial to the picture of a video and then pressing the 'on' button.

Anyway, enough of my camera, I am now going to unveils Joe's (our Operations Manager - aka Juan or Lady) shopfloor. As one customer commented; "eh up, it looks like Ikea in 'ere." As you can see, we are bursting with stock, and at the end of the video, we end up at the loading bays, where you can see all the furniture lined up so that Becky can load the vans - it truly is poetry in motion, and I truly do get excited about the saddest things!

After all the excitement of the shopfloor, I thought 'whilst I have got my camera on video function, I may as well show our customers what the outside of our building looks like' - here we go..........

As you can see, I managed to capture Baumhaus on the exact day where we don't look like a hive of activity. Only one forlorn van, Melvyn the Movano, is parked in near-glorious isolation. On some days we can have four loading bays going at once, and Juan is running around the shopfloor coordinating it all like a madman.

Finally, we have the bit you have all been waiting for - a sneaky preview of the main office and everyone beavering away (actually, I have a theory that beavers are necessarily more industrious than many other animals, in fact, I think that that statement is prejudiced against ants). Unfortunately, I couldn't get Hazel on there because she only works part-time during the school holidays.

Anyway, enjoy!!!! I have even included the contents of our fridge.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Michael Jackson update

Blimey, it appears that the saga continues........ not only has the poor chap [apparently] been secretly buried, but the very next paragraph of the news report contains details about his lawyers arguing about his children's parentage.

Poor Michael Jackson may have been buried

Unbelievable. No wonder he went a bit doo-lally (oops, apparently I can't say that).

But the ironic thing is that nothing has yet been verified. Crumbs.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Balmy summer evening and weird grape tree

I decided today (after much internal procrastination) to tackle my first horrible job of the weekend - cutting the grass. UGH! I hate it and I am thoroughly convinced that my small electric mower is not up to the job of cutting the grass in what is, essentially, a small field (yep my garden is quite big, but not lovingly tended to). To give you some idea, it takes me 2.5 hours to cut the grass in my gack garden. Is that right? ........ It can't be........ and on top of that, surely there has to be some viable alternative to a garden covered almost exclusively with something that requires mowing. Mowing is so 80s......

I posed this question to one of my friends, and he actually said that he was going astro-turf his garden for this very reason. Phewwwww..... I am not alone in my hatred of mowing. It's like being a hamster on a wheel.

Sorry, I digress. I was in the top left hand corner of my garden, mowing (like a hamster on a wheel), when I found what appears to be a grape tree. Not being much of a botanist myself, I was hoping that you could help clarify the genus (call me Alan Titchmarsh!).

I have included a picture of the fruit because I am doubting whether they are grapes -I had always thought that vines were involved with grapes. But I looked and looked, but they still looked like grapes (see pic below - in reality they are more purple than they look in the picture).

And finally, after putting the mower back into the garage, I realised, 'Crikey! we have here what appears to be a lesser-spotted, balmy English evening.......'

Do you know what I did? I took a book and a glass of wine and sat in the garden and purely enjoyed.................. sometimes England can be good!

LinkWithin Related Posts