Sunday, August 30, 2015

Barrett's Engineers

O, the year was AD 2012.
(How I wish that I’d stayed far away)
They needed one with competence;
Profess’nal; with experience.
I tell you now: I was told
Untruths. A dummy I was sold.
A job from hell, it was clear…
I was a broken Goat with a wrecked career:
A burned-out civil engineer.

The fees had almost all been spent.
(How I wish that I’d stayed far away)
For the job had been won at a loss
And I had a slippy-shouldered boss.
So many things were in a mess,
Or hadn’t even been addressed.
I tried to fix it all. Oh dear…!
With no help, I became, I fear,
A bitter, twisted engineer.

Too many things lay incomplete.
(How I wish that I’d stayed far away)
With no time for anticipation
I fought the latest conflagration.
Assistance? Always refused
Which left me cross and unamused.
“If you resign, be sure we’re…
Gonna get you banned from working here.”
Unemployable engineer.

Two years have passed, and I am back
(How I wish that I’d stayed far away)
Now everything that I submit
Is rejected by some shining wit.
Co-operate? Not a chance!
Instead, a complicated dance.
Delay things for at least a year…
I am a waste of space while I work here;
Oxygen-stealing engineer.

No, the Goat can’t stand much more of this. 
(How I wish that I’d stayed far away)
But there’s nothing else that he can do 
‘Cept driving vans, or shovelling poo. 
Old Goat; new tricks? Does it seem 
That he has run right out of steam? 
What can he make from this sow’s ear…?
It’s time to start a new career;
Eschew the title ‘engineer’.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Again, Beloved  Wife and her Goat were in different countries for their wedding anniversary. Still, the Goat found a cheap flight, for a given value of cheap, and spent the weekend in Dubai.

Beloved Wife promised that there would not be a massive list of DIY tasks for the Goat to perform. The FUBAR dishawasher appears to have a broken pump impeller, according to an NVQ in Googlomics. It's a fifteen-minute fix following the inevitable Not Coming In Dubaitis and subsequent Amazon. Maybe Beloved Wife can find a suitably-qualified repairman to come to her house while her husband's away...

After Flying Dubai and consuming ale and pork pie, the Goat retired to his pit, and was only disturbed a few times by Los Kittehs and their gifts of - mercifully - artificial butterflies and not lizards and putrefying rodents.

Everything pertaining to vehicle insurance and maintenance is closed on Friday, so after a huge English breakfast, BW and Goat headed off to the cinema to see either Minions or Mr Holmes. They picked the latter; being a talky film with little in the way of explosions, gunfire, or car chases unless you count a thermonuclear event in Hiroshima, it'll doubtless have gone by close of play next Wednesday.

A four-course haute-cuisine on board Bateaux Dubai followed that evening. Happy Eighth Anniversary, Beloved Wife.

Owing to construction works on the waterfront outside the British Embassy, Bateaux Dubai has moved to the other side of the creek. Bear this in mind before your own dinner cruise.

Nobody got the Merlot team hangover and, after Saturday's full English, the errands started. Shisha first, then jump-starting Kermit the VW Polo, moving an irreducibly complex table across town in a small 4x4, buying a motorcycle battery and some teaching supplies, and gassing up the car with newly-expensive UAE petrol.

Let's see... low oil price -> reduced gubmint income -> increased fuel tax.
High oil price -> high raw material cost -> increased fuel price.

Yup. Makes perfect sense.

Yes, yes. Compare with Europe. Know where the airport is, yadda, yadda.

The bike battery will sit dry until the Goat is ready to get his motorcycle re-registered, at which point he'll return to Dubai, add the H2SO4, and install the thing. One imagines that in other parts of the world the Goat might have been confronted with "Oh, no, you can't be trusted with sulphuric acid despite your Chemistry A-level and the fact that you're a grownup." But this was - huzzah - also Not Coming In Dubai.

And all too soon, the spell of Goat Banishment was invoked, and off to the airport he trotted to his day job that has now become little more than repeated rebuttals of orchilalia.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Showers, Bath, Looe

Somewhat ridiculously, renting a car for a fortnight worked out significantly cheaper than The Goat and Beloved Wife attempting to use public transport, even though the car was left parked up for a week in Droitwich. Further advantages of car rental were convenience, not having to schlepp large orange suitcases in and out of buses or trains, and being able to fly in and out of the better-located Bristol airport rather than Heathrow.

Neither would there be a need to borrow Nanny Goat’s Aygo this time. The Goat made himself useful chez Nanny Goat. As he is now the new expert in domestic waste water plumbing, Nanny Goat asked him to unblock a drain. Unlike the Crumbling Villa over Eid, the blockage this time turned out to be solidified detergent rather than chip fat. It was shifted using the traditional method of opening a manhole, getting a garden hose, and giving the waste pipe an enema. “They don’t like it up ‘em, Mr Mainwaring!” The Goat also had two goes at replacing the washing line so that all the seventeenth-century kit could be put on display to the neighbours. The first attempt involved el cheapo raffia; the second, a much more serious plastic-coated steel wire.

The Goat’s sister and brother-in-law have recently moved into a converted stone barn somewhere in the Devon boondocks. The building is probably over a century old, and stands in over an acre of land. They have ducks and chickens, and have now befriended their horse-owning neighbours and have taken up riding. They have so far completely missed the obvious opportunity for caprine companions. The entire horde, or possibly herd, trooped over one afternoon for barbecue, buffet, and beer. Plus, of course, the obligatory guided tour of the house and grounds. 

The East Wing safari park and petting zoo.

“The Master cannot come to the door at this time, Sir. He is on safari in the East Wing.

Owing to Beloved Wife’s car recently developing a noisy pulley bearing, the Goat went down to a Plymouth purveyor of spare Volkswagen bits and procured a replacement over the counter at about a third the cost and a fraction of the time it usually takes Al Naboodah in Dubai. A Goat suspects that only the bearing needs to be replaced, but a Goat has to buy the entire tensioner assembly.

Off to Tiger Treats of Looe on a sunny day next, taking Nephews #1 and #2. They protested at first when the idea was mooted, but decided to quiet their objections once they’d worked out that a trip to the karting track at Menheniot was contingent on visiting Looe first. 

Looe harbour.
Near the beach at Looe.

The Goat received a new, indestructible leather hat for his birthday from his Beloved, who then procured and enjoyed a cone of Cornish ice cream with clotted cream on top. 

One of the many Looe shitehawks.
Nephew #2 subsequently proceeded to thrash his older brother and his heavier uncle on the race track. Mind you, Nephew #1 only stayed behind his uncle because of some aggressive cornering. Nobody else of the twenty or so karts went past this Triumvirate of Velocity.

Beloved Wife is a culture junkie, and Nanny Goat exhumed a National Trust book from her personal library and suggested venues from the comprehensive list of nearby abbeys, stately homes, and castles. Beloved Wife settled on Saltram House and Buckland Abbey.

Saltram is in Plymouth, and after finding somewhere to park, the Goat and Beloved Wife wandered around the grounds, took tea and cake, and then toured the house itself. “One of the finest examples of…etc.” according to the guidebook. In the traditional way, the first Lord established the house and estate, his son developed it, and the third generation (who had never worked a day in his life and thus had no appreciation of his wealth) pissed away the family fortune on fast women and slow horses. It took many generations plus marrying into money for Saltram to recover.

Front door of Saltram House.
Chapel at Saltram. Nowadays tea rooms.
Who'll be mother?
The only goat in Saltram House.

Recorder-playing cherub in Saltram

Saltram sphinges.
(Yes, that is the plural of sphinx)

By the time the tour was over, rain had set in for the afternoon. The Goat drove over Dartmoor to Sir Francis Drake’s pile: Buckland Abbey. This is not to be confused with the entirely different Buckfast Abbey that can wait for another time. Clarissa helpfully suggested an unorthodox route through some Dingly Dell and then reported that she’d “Lost satellite reception” beneath the trees. The Buckland grounds weren’t actually out of bounds, but even though Goats don’t dissolve in the rain, getting drenched in the gardens really didn’t appeal. Drake’s Drum, which will allegedly beat of its own accord when England is in peril, will struggle because all of its tensioning ropes have been removed.

Buckland Abbey in the rain.
Commemorative etched glass.
Buckland Abbey.

Buckland Abbey stairs by
M.C. Escher.
One of four satyrs (representing
known continents)
holding up a Buckland roof.
Buckland Abbey in the rain.
Buckland Abbey from the barn.
The Goat took a very short cut across Dartmoor back to Nanny Goat’s, partly to show Beloved Wife quite how bleak the moor could be in the rain. Yes, even in August. Drenched sheep looked on forlornly, as they’d recently been shorn and must surely have been freezing cold.

Hot pasties awaited the return of the culture vultures to Plymouth, which is a virtually guaranteed treat chez Nanny Goat. Mmmm: pastiferous delights!

Further culture was to follow. After saying their goodbyes to Nanny Goat, Beloved Wife and Goat set of towards Bristol via Bath. They located the long-stay parking and, in the sun because British weather is fickle like that, walked into the City. Obviously the Roman Baths were first on the itinerary. This is somewhere neither the Goat nor Beloved Wife have visited since the early 1970s. In fact, because archaeology is ongoing there are new exhibits on view that hadn’t been unearthed in the 1970s. As usual the water in the bath itself was completely out of bounds. Because it’s exposed to sunlight and nice and warm, all sorts of eldritch horrors live therein, and even touching the waters will give you squirty botty or worse. Those wishing to partake of the healthy, fresh-from-the-Mendips mineral water can get it from the fountain next door in the Georgian tea rooms.

Statue of Julius Caesar seems to owe a lot
 to Uderzo and Goscinny.
Roman baths and Abbey.

Ubi sunt alba mulierum?
Aquae Sulis.

The Goat had been looked up and down by a Bottom Inspector at admission to the Baths, who made no comment pertaining to the Goat’s attire. The Goat also spoke to and photographed a Roman re-enactor who passed comment regarding his unshod hooves. “It’s a bath. Who wears shoes in the bath?” In fact, she asked Beloved Wife about her mistreatment of her personal slave, and the Goat missed a trick, failing to spend the rest of the day addressing Beloved Wife as "Domina". 

At almost the end of the tour, the Goat was assured by a third member of staff that bare feet were not allowed, and no there were no signs stating this (ergo she’s obviously just made up this ‘rule’). So the Goat had to cover his hooves with his Vibram™ hobbit shoes to give the illusion that he had proper feet.

Next on the agenda was Bath Abbey, which is full of grave memorials all over the walls and floor. The BBC gives an estimate of between 4000 and 6000 bodies buried beneath the Abbey; a lady of ecclesiastical profession actually stated an exact number that the Goat cannot now remember. Audio entertainment was provided by organ practice. At one point the organist turned it up to eleven, engaged the 256-ft Earthquake Pipe, and made the building shake. 

Unlike in Worcester Cathedral, there appeared no requirement for a photography permit, and unlike the Baths, there was no mandatory requirement for footwear. One suspects that the Abbey staff may have assumed that the Goat was a discalced pilgrim. Uncultured oaf that he may be, the Goat does remember to remove his hat in church. Time did not permit taking the hundreds of steps up to the roof, so there’s something else remaining on the To Do list.

Bath Abbey.
Fan vaulting in Bath Abbey. 
Stained Glass in Bath Abbey.
The Goat paused on the way back to the car park to take miscellaneous photographs, and then to enter a Cheese Emporium, notwithstanding Beloved Wife’s protestations about aroma, car, and confined spaces. 

“Tell me, do you have any Stinking Bishop?”

“Of course Sir; it’s a cheese shop, Sir. It’s as runny as you like it.” 

Ancient engineers in Bath.
Why does the one one the left have part of a steam engine?
Finally, off to Bristol via The Crescent and The Circle for pictures of Georgian façades. 

Regency Bath: The Circle.
Regency Bath: The Crescent.
There is a kind of tradition to commemorate one’s dearly departed on the roadside where he or she ran out of talent. Such memorials consist of bunches of flowers, wreaths, Requiescat messages. The Goat was disturbed and alarmed to see Winnie the Pooh among one of these, crucified on a roadside tree. He’s reminded of a Red Dwarf episode in which Dave Lister witnesses Winnie the Pooh being shot by firing squad. 

Anyway: Bristol. The Joys of Rush Hour eventually provoked rat-running away from the ring road. As the flight out was scheduled for 0600 the following morning, arrangements had been made to spend the evening a mere ten miles from the airport. The Goat gassed up the rental car, correctly anticipating that nothing would be open at 3am, and then he and Beloved Wife were fed and entertained by Mr Thrash and Dr England. Stinking Bishop turns out to be a surprisingly mild cheese; something belied by its powerful aroma.

And that is that. Airport. Back to the middle east. Massive pile of work on desk. Huge collection of photos to review, edit, crop, and post.

You have been playing the Total Immersion Roleplaying Game ‘England, My England’. Your score is 2.3%. Welcome back to reality.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Jolly Boating Weather

It’s July; there’s a heatwave in England; anyone from the Gulf might consider wrapping up warm because 30°C might feel a bit chilly. By August the weather in Britain had changed a lot, to sun and showers and comparatively swutting freezing.

The Goat had spoken to Mr Richard and organized a week or so on the good ship NB Great Escape. Richard and his family don’t get to use the boat as much as they’d like, and are happy to lend the vessel to competent friends, of whom the Goat is evidently one. Tentative additional crew members ended up having other stuff to do, and thus the Goat and Beloved Wife were the sole crew for most to the week. Initial plans for the Avon Ring were revised. Up Tardebigge flight then down all the locks of the Stratford Canal would seem unreasonable with a crew of only two. Stratford-on-Avon would have to wait.

Droitwich Spa Marina is a new development at the northeastern end of the newly reopened Droitwich Canal. The marina was built in about 2012, and has all mod cons including fuel, water, power hookup, civilized ablutions, and secure parking for both boats and cars. The Goat picked up the keys from Mr Richard (in the rain) and then, inexplicably, headed off to Norf Landun.

The Goat and Beloved Wife
The thing is, at very late notice it had been revealed that by happy coincidence there was an English Civil War re-enactment at Forty Hall in Enfield slated for the very weekend that the Goat and Beloved Wife arrived in Ingerland. The preceding weekend was Eid, during which the Goat collected a minimal amount of his seventeenth-century clothing from the Crumbling Villa to take with him to the muster. Meanwhile, Beloved Wife scanned the interwebs for 1642 costume patterns, and had a local Dubai tailor run up some wimmin’s costume. As Beloved Wife enjoys camping about as much as drinking bleach, she asked the Goat to sort out a hotel. Holtwhite’s Hotel represented the nearest reasonable option at 1.3km from the campsite, so it’d be possible to stagger back on Saturday night when the beer tent finally closed.

As it happened, the rain stayed off all Saturday. The Goat was not equipped to go into battle, and instead stood innocuously beneath a tree out of sight of the crowd, taking pictures with his secret seventeenth-century digital camera.

The Gentlemen of the Pike.
Pikemen in action.
Give fire!

More musketry.

Muskets on stun, lads. We want them alive.
The big guns.
More artillery.

It seems that Mr Lawful Good of Cowplain took one for the team, awaking on Sunday morning with the regimental hangover. He couldn’t face the second day’s battle because he’s a shandy-swilling southerner. Before the rain started, the Goat suggested that Mr LGoC pack up his still-dry tent. Then after an English myocardial infarction breakfast of podium finish, the Goat and Beloved Wife drove to the campsite, picked up their passenger, and headed off to Cowplain in the driving rain.

More driving followed. At last the setting sun broke through the clouds and the rain had stopped when the car finally rolled into Droitwich. Which was shut on Sunday evening. How unreasonable and inconvenient.

The boat’s food supplies were duly raided, and on Monday morning NB Great Escape cast off and set sail for Droitwich. The Droitwich Canal is something of a baptism of fire for novice boaters, with a narrow exit from the marina, some extremely narrow and low bridges, a staircase lock, locks with side pounds, and locked swing bridges to be de-padlocked to allow boat access. It’s got the lock, er, lot.

Beloved Wife had agreed that food supplies should be limited to breakfasts, with lunches and evening meals taken in waterside alehouses. A plan with no drawbacks. Waitrose, conveniently located next to the canal in the middle of Droitwich, was duly raided for haraminal products and breakfast was taken.

Great Escape shared most of the broad locks to the Severn with NB Lilia in order to save both time and water, and clearly with two boats, the manpower working the locks was at least doubled. Lilia went downstream on the Severn; Great Escape turned north and headed upstream until mooring overnight adjacent to The Wharf Inn. Oh, no food on Mondays. No matter; the inn had menus from a couple of local takeaways, and the Goat and Beloved Wife eventually enjoyed the large Chinese meal delivered to the inn and washed down with ‘FUBAR’ Pale Ale.

NB Lilia emerges from a lock and bridge
Circular weir, or "Don't divide by zero!
Lock sharing with Lilia

At last Stourport Basins. Access from the Severn is through two staircase locks that are inexplicably not in line with each other, and thus a long narrowboat may be tricky to align without some gentle percussive manoeuvring. They’re very tricky indeed on the way down with a howling side wind, as the Goat was to discover the following day.

After mooring for water and availing themselves of full-size loos, the Goat and Beloved Wife headed into Stourport for liquid lunch and, in the Goat’s case, a steak and kidney pudding. Stourport appears, incidentally, to have a chip-shop souq. Three of them all in a row, plus various other restaurants and takeaways that doubtless also serve chish and fips.

From the Severn to Stourport
Parked in Stourport Basin

The guidebook says that the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal is extremely pretty, and the section to Kidderminster certainly is. Having spotted The Weavers, a canalside public house that promised inter alia no TV, no music, no SKY sports, no lager (and thus, presumably, no yahoos), Great Escape turned around in a nearby winding hole and moored next to a 24-hour Tesco for replenishment of hop-flavoured supplies and use of los facilidad. The ship’s log suggests that local yobs may be troublesome overnight, but the Goat did not find this to be the case. The Weavers looks like a Victorian alehouse that’s been established since forever, but the elves over at Google Street View show that in 2009 the building was empty and To Let.

So back to the Severn, with the Goat rinsing some towpath dogshit off his hoof rather than inadvertently tracking it all over the boat’s carpets. Another brief pause in Stourport for the loo, and then off down the Severn at a heady five knots according to Clarissa the GPS. The plan for a lunchtime stop was thwarted by a gigantic yellow narrowboat being inconveniently moored all over the pub’s landing stage, and there was nothing for it but to continue downstream, sheltering from the occasional rain showers beneath an umbrella, eat ham sandwiches, and drink bottled ale from a pewter tankard that the Goat had accidentally borrowed from Mr LGoC.

Worcester is very pretty from the river, particularly with interesting clouds. Less picturesque was when the said clouds emptied all over poor Beloved Wife as she worked the unnecessarily heavy Diglis Basin lock gates. The Goat could have done it, but as the boat was inaccessible whilst in the locks this sadly wasn’t possible. Of course, the rain stopped the very moment Great Escape was out of the locks and on to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. So up a couple of locks to Worcester Marina for an overnight stop. Formerly Lowesmoor Basin, half of the marina has been filled in and turned into industrial units sometime since the 1980s, and it’s a bit congested. It’s amazing how being watched by amateur and professional narrowboaters concentrates the Goat’s mind and boat-handling as he executes three separate U-turns to reverse Great Escape into its parking spot. There were power hookups but no showers, and the loos are only open during office hours. However, the marina is behind a locked gate and the boats are therefore inaccessible to stone-throwing yoofs.

The river Severn and Worcester Cathedral

In the three days spent in Worcester – where the sauce comes from - the Goat and Beloved Wife were able to sample many pubs, several of which date back to the sixteenth century. Also there was the Commandery (a complex of buildings dating originally from the medieval period and with oodles of history) to visit, a little shopping, and Worcester Cathedral. In the Commandery, visitors are each issued with audio guides. It is recommended that one does not attempt to listen to the commentary for all six of the highlighted time periods in each room. At the cathedral, a very nice guide was happy to tell anyone who’d care to listen that he was a direct descendent of one of King John’s many illegitimate children by one of John’s dozen or more mistresses. That was King John (he of Magna Carta 800 years ago this year) lying just over there right in the middle of the nave. The Goat started to take photos and was instantly descended upon by a Valkyrie from the Women’s Institute who informed him in no uncertain terms that he should go and buy a photography permit first. Genuine honest mistake.

Worcester cathedral and ruins of the Priory.
Window in the cloister.
Cloister and bells.
Nave and choir.

On the last evening, Mr Thrash and Dr England (the well-known superhero) arrived by car, and this party of four then headed into town for beer, cider, pies, beer, and cider. The plan seems obvious: sleepover party, followed by a morning of lock-winding and sedate travel back to Droitwich. And after refuelling the boat, the Goat drove Mr Thrash and Dr England back to Worcester so that they could pick up their car and drive home. Forty minutes from Droitwich to Worcester and back, including becoming confused by Clarissa’s lack of knowledge of Worcester’s new and improved bus lanes.

Tudor building in The Shambles

The deal from Mr Richard is that his boat be left in a state of readiness: clean, full of fuel and water, all used food replenished, and the chemi-khazi empty. The Goat and Beloved Wife set off by car towards Nanny Goat’s, with a detour to Mr Richard’s in order to drop off the keys and to confess to any breakages, of which there were none except for the boathook that was replaced with a new one.

As for the second week’s holiday…? That can wait for a later blog post.


Friday, August 07, 2015

Back! Back!

The Goat's blog is still alive. Now back after two weeks of collecting photographs in England, he's downloading, sorting, uploading and, in due course, going to accompany a select few images with some written words.


The opinions expressed in this weblog are the works of the Grumpy Goat, and are not necessarily the opinions shared by any person or organisation who may be referenced. Come to that, the opinions may not even be those of the Grumpy Goat, who could just be playing Devil's Advocate. Some posts may be of parody or satyrical [sic] nature. Nothing herein should be taken too seriously. The Grumpy Goat would prefer that offensive language or opinions not be posted in the comments. Offensive comments may be subject to deletion at the Grumpy Goat's sole discretion. The Grumpy Goat is not responsible for the content of other blogs or websites that are linked from this weblog. No goats were harmed in the making of this blog. Any resemblance to individuals or organisations mentioned herein and those that actually exist may or may not be intentional. May contain nuts.