Tuesday, May 25, 2004


It’s been one of those non-linear days.
I drove to work bleary eyed, got up and had a shower. At lunchtime I thought about going for a jog, but it was raining by the time I got back so I didn’t bother.

On the whiteboard in Neil’s office there was a graph depicting next year’s disappointed figures. It resembled a craggy mountain range. The outlook was positively downhill. The graph staggered down from the whiteboard and onto the wall, round the back of a filing cabinet, out of the room and with one final jaunty squiggle, hung a right up the corridor.
I said to Mike “Hard times are just around the corner.”

When I eventually got home there was a note saying “You look tired. I’ve ran you a bath.”
I said “I’m not sure how much more of this I can take.”
Neil came sliding into the room in his socks and said “How much do you have left to give?”
Mike said “Are you two on fucking drugs?”

Neil said “We need to turn these figures on their head.”
He’s trying to rope us into some inter-departmentalist bash in the Peak District. They’re going dis-orienteering.

Monday, May 24, 2004

I’ve Been To A Marvellous Party 

“Something peculiar happened at the weekend.”
“Oh God. Do I really want to hear this?” replied Diana, stirring her coffee.
“I went to a party on Saturday.”
“Now that is peculiar. You’re normally such a miserable git.”
“Shut up. One of Girlfriend’s friends had a house warming. There were loads of people there, and I chatted to quite a lot of them, including some I’d heard about but never met before, and I had a really good time and didn’t feel at all like a quiet bloke who sits in the corner not knowing anybody.”
“This just gets weirder and weirder. You’ll be blogging about this then?”
“Well I’m coming to that. I was talking to a girl called Leanne, and she called me Tim a couple of times and kept smiling to herself. And as you well know, my real name isn’t Tim.”
“Yes, I don’t why you don’t use your real name. There’s nothing wrong with being called Engelbert.”
“Very funny, Ermintrude,” I replied, and flicked some sugar down her blouse, which is not what I actually meant to do, honestly. And its not a euphemism, either.
“So I’m sure she knows about my blog. And if she knows, then it’s a certainty that Girlfriend knows too. They’re good friends. But I still haven’t got round to telling her about it. The longer I leave it, the harder it is to bring it up.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake, you nerdy moron! You’ve got to tell her! It’s not like there’s anything bad in it.”
“Yes I know. It’s pathetic.”
“And the fact you’ve not told her about it is pretty lame too. Now look, if you don’t tell her by the end of this week, then I’m going to.” And to emphasise the point, she whacked me on the knuckles with her coffee spoon. That’s not a euphemism either.
“Ouch! But you don’t even know each other.”
“We will soon.” Another whack. “That’s your ultimatum. JFDI.”
“It was very strange,” I said staring at the clouds in my coffee. “I was dying to talk to Leanne about blogs. I really think she should do one. I reckon it’d be dead good. Oh and by the way, ouch again. Please stop doing that.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2004


I just put it down and when I went to pick it up again later, it wasn’t there. It must have rolled down the back or something. Maybe squirrels ran off with it. I love the way Americans pronounce squirrels so that it rhymes with whirls - sqwhirls.
He said “Try to visualise where you last saw it. That’s what I always do.”
I said “I know exactly where I last saw it. It’s not where I last saw it, that’s the problem.”
“Was it a good one?”
“I liked it. If I could only reach round here,” I grunted, “I might be able to feel it and push it to the front.”
“You can borrow mine if you’re desperate,” he said, “but if you lose it, I want another one.”
“Thanks. I’ll bare that in mind. Grunt.”

But here’s an odd thing. The same thing happened to her. She was on her lunch. It’s the sqwhirls in Winckley Square, I reckon. I’ve seen them in their Breton jumpers, little sqwhirl swag bags casually slung over their shoulders. They seem to be saying “We did for the red sqwhirls. Now we’re coming for you. What you going to do about it?” Dead arrogant like.
I said “Try to visualise where you last saw it. That’s what…”
“That’s what you always say.”
“Do I?”
“Oh. Sorry. Never really helps, does it? Was it the one that… Bummer. It was, wasn’t it?”
“The one we found the night Old Thingy died?”
“I knew you’d say that.”
“Yeah. Mine was too.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Summer Here Kids 

Although to my untrained eye it still looks like something from a horror movie (posters are available in the foyer), the nurses at the bandage clinic say my toe is making excellent progress and no longer do I need to see them.

They are a kind and sunny bunch and a credit to their profession. One nurse told me that it’s not unusual to have children swearing and spitting at them. The thought of this makes me fume.
I’d like to think that my good humoured charm and detached bemusement in the face of pain and serious tickling counterbalanced some of the shit they have to put up with. That for every foul mouthed lout there is a grinning twerp like me. It’s a yin and yang thang.
I’m kidding no one but myself. Amazingly, the nurses seem perfectly capable of doing their jobs in a cheerful and professional manner with or without my gurning presence. And in tomorrow's episode of Tim States The Obvious, I'll be revealing that milkmen have to get up early, and I've an exclusive on estate agents - they're shifty and earn a lot.

Now there’s no excuse again for not getting on with the garden. As I suspected, my efforts with the turf remover only amounted to half a job. Lots of roots were left intact and now fresh grass is sprouting up once more on my soily plot. The little tufts of growth resemble what Elton John’s head must have looked like after his hair transplant. So I’m afraid I’m going to apply Chemicals Of Death to the area, which I know is incorrect, but bloody hell, Summer’s here kids and I’ve got lost time to make up for.
The panic stricken gardener must be the garden centre’s favourite type.

Monday, May 17, 2004

In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country 

Girlfriend and me weekended (does anybody ever actually say “weekended”? It sounds like something rich Americans do. “We weekended with the Kennedy’s at Cape Prohibitively Posh.”) at a friend of Girlfriend’s out in the middle of nowhere. If you’ve ever been to Beyond, this place is right at the back.

Now I’m quite chuffed about the two coal tits that we’ve managed to tempt into our garden. I’m as pleased by their visits as I am about the visitors who drop by from time to time at this blog.
But our friend’s house is in a different league. Its like the BBC News page of Ornithology. There are house martins in the roof (it’s happy hour again!) owls in the barn (though we didn’t see them on this trip) and all manner of creatures ornithological generally darting about in all directions. There is even a buzzard living locally. We went for a walk and were nearly knocked flying by a pair of chaffinches, who I think were recreating a scene from The Battle Of Britain. "Damnbusters!" I shouted at them, shaking my fist in the air, as I mopped up spilt ice cream off my T-shirt.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Come Away With Me 

The girl at the checkout ran the item through the barcode scanner, paused, examined the item, then the scanner, and then repeated all of the above.
“It says it’s only one pence, so that’s what I’m going to charge you.”
“That’s very kind of you. Thanks,” I said.
“You won’t tell the manager, will you?”
“No I won’t.”
Then everything went all wavy, and I had a flashback to my youth.
“It is possible though,” I added with a wry smile, “that I could be The Mystery Shopper.”
She looked at me with a blank stare.
I might as well have said “My name is Zog, Lord of the Universe, and you are my chosen one. Come away with me. I know a quiet place where we can breed.”

When I was a young pup, I took a job in Kentucky Fried Chicken. The manager kept his staff in a state of constant anxiety with his unnerving tales of The Mystery Shopper.
“You must always be on your guard. You never know what form they might take, or when they could strike.”
Mystery Shoppers were (and likely still are) members of the public randomly asked to make purchases by crack teams of KFC Quality Controllers. They would report back to the Quality Controllers, who would be waiting around the corner in a blacked out van, on how long it took for them to be served, how clean the place was, whether the staff were friendly, and so forth. The Quality Controllers would measure the temperature of the food, and do other Quality Control related stuff to it.
Presumably if anything was less than satisfactory, the managers of the stores, who were all franchisees, would receive a rocket, and so in turn would their staff. It never happened in my brief spell there.

It seems that Supermarket X doesn’t employ Mystery Shoppers, or if it does, the girl at the checkout hadn’t heard about it.
She just gawped pitifully at me, open mouthed, probably thinking that I was some sad fantasist who spends too long on the Internet.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004


Today’s blog is a cry for help.
Nothing new there, you might reply, you cheeky young scamps, and I’m hardly in much of a position to persuade you otherwise.

But no. Really. I’m after some recommendations. I’ve recently managed to secure for Girlfriend and myself two tickets to see Belle and Sebastian at Somerset House in July. This is dead exciting. We both love Belle and Sebastian so much that we’d adopt them if we could (and have the cooky Scottish hipsters running errands for us too - fetching stuff from the shops, washing up, nothing too strenuous.)
And I’ve seen Somerset House on the telly. It might have been a gardening programme, and I think it showed Royksopp playing there, and I’ve wanted to pay it a visit ever since. So the prospect of going there to see B&S is double fab, and generally something to look forward to.

I’ve only ever really been to London to sit in draughty computer rooms and then make a hasty retreat back to The North. So I thought we’d make a bit of a weekend of it (the concert is on a Saturday evening) and become tourists.
But how do you start? Where do you go? Who do you need to know?
I quite fancy seeing the Tate Modern and the National Portrait Museum. There’s a photography gallery I’d like to see, the name of which escapes me at the moment, but its probably “The Photography Gallery” or something similarly pithy.
Is the London Eye worth bothering with?
A browse around Camden Market? A stroll through a park?

So I need help, and I’d like your suggestions, if that’s alright.
Better still, I’d like an itinerary and two packed lunches to go with it, but I realise that’s probably pushing it.
Your comments, as always, very much appreciated.

Monday, May 10, 2004


The story of last week’s Customer Care seminar up in the Lakes goes a little like this:

I don’t even smoke. It wasn’t me. He should have had his bloody hay barn insured, shouldn’t he?

I’m not really one for confrontation, but there is something about Jim, our Motivational Guru for the two days, that just makes you want to eliminate the smarmy twat from the gene pool. Lots of people felt the same way and I’m sure you would too, given the chance.
He has this way of winking at you when he’s talking to people, as if to say “These people are idiots, but you and me, we're smart, aren't we?”
He tries to pull you into his confidence, so that when he turns on you later on, the drama of the moment is all the more delicious. But when he’s “as thick and transparent as armoured glass”, to quote Elvis, all it demonstrates is what an arse he is.
He had based his entire Customer Care Ideology on the premise that we are all each other’s customers. Everybody inside and outside a company - we are all customers. Bollocks. I said that a customer is somebody who pays for goods or services, and if he wanted any more input from me it would cost him five quid a word. When he tried to engage me further on this, I pulled my pretend zip across my lips with a satisfying Zzzzippp! and put out my hand to indicate that I required payment. This really pissed him off, and he barely troubled me again.

Which gave me lots of time to sketch out ideas for my Song For Robbie. It’s all written, and I’m currently going through the lengthy business of trying to record myself singing it in tune. Calm down - it’ll be ready when it’s ready.

Thursday evening’s free bar was good. Was there ever a bad free bar?

There was an assignment over the course of the two days. We were split into teams - Cobalt, Azure, Sapphire and Beige. No - I’m just kidding you. The fourth team was Fawn.
Jim commissioned each team to build an object out of Lego, but he was deliberately fuzzy over the exact specifications, so when the time came to present the completed project, he could go pretend crazy because the delivered Lego Creation was not what he’d ordered. This is what had happened at the previous week’s seminar.
The moral of the story is to make sure you’ve got the specification nailed down so you know what to deliver.
Last week’s lot had argued that it is also the responsibility of the client to make sure that they have made themselves understood, but he just squirmed and squealed and tried to absolve himself from any of that responsibility. And he made Charlotte cry.
This week, he didn’t realise that somebody knew he’d sourced the whole exercise from a Motivational Guru Textbook that they'd seen in Waterstones, so in spite of not asking any pertinent questions or making much of an effort (ie. spending all afternoon and evening in the bar), all four teams delivered their Lego creations (an oil rig with derrick, a draw bridge, a fork lift truck, a six megapixel digital camera) exactly to requirement. This left Jim wonderfully confused and enraged.

It’s a real shame about Jim’s hay barn. I’ve no idea who would do such a thing.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Something For The Weekend 

A lot of our customers don’t employ dedicated IT staff, such is their size. The task of looking after computer systems at a small firm is often given to whoever looks like they might know what to do, or at least has a teenager they can turn to for help. The job usually falls to somebody in the accounts department.
Sometimes the accountant/IT person is glad of the opportunity to expand their skills and takes to the role like a fish to water.
In other instances, a previously contented employee is transformed into a gibbering wreck, spending their days in a state of barely concealed terror. They will do everything they can to avoid having to think about computers, let alone get their hands dirty at the system console.

This morning I was speaking to someone from the latter camp. His server had seized up and I couldn’t access the system remotely. I could either talk him through manually checking for and killing off offending processes, or we could just reboot. A copout, I know, but the quickest route to get the guy back into his comfort zone: users off his back and him hiding in the toilets with a copy of ‘Which Abacus?’

“When you get to the computer room call me back on this number and I’ll talk you through everything step by step. Yes, I’ll keep this line clear. Yes, I promise.”

When my phone rang a moment later, it wasn’t Nervous IT Guy, but none other than Dave, my imaginary music publisher.
“Hey Tim. I can’t talk for long. I’m at a really wild party.”
In the background I could hear a horse drawn carriage crunching across a gravel drive.
“Dave, you’ve got the sound effects CD on the wrong track.”
“Whoops, so I have. Ack, ack, ack! How’s that now?”
“Much better.”
“Now then Tim. I’ve had Robin Williams’ people on the blower.”
“Do you mean Robbie Williams?”
“Yes, that’s what I said. He’s looking for something with a bit of a Bacharach swing. Bert’s not available, and Neil Hannon is busy promoting his new album. So I suggested you.”
“Cheers Dave.”
“So what do you think?”
“Well, apart from the fact that this conversation isn’t actually happening, it sounds great. I’m away on a seminar for the next two days, but I’ll try to come up with something over the weekend.”
“Something for the weekend?”
“No. That’s already been done. Look, I’ve got to go, Dave. I’ll speak to you on Monday.”

As I put the phone down, Neil my team leader walked out of his office, dressed up as a member of Slipknot.
“Who was that?” he asked.
“Oh, nobody.”

Nervous IT Guy was fine, by the way. He got lost searching for the computer room, and when he eventually did call me back, the system had already righted itself. It’s often the way.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Cheer When You Want Me To Stop 

She said "Kissing boys is just a waste of time."
I said "You think so?" She said "Yeah yeah. You can show me yours, you're not seeing mine."
I said "You're funny." She said "Yeah yeah."

Stupid is as stupid does, and will be til the day I drop. Let me show you what else I can do - cheer when you want me to stop.

I said "You're sexy. Hey, you should go far, I really think so."
She said "Yeah yeah. Just keep your wandering hands, boy, off my bra."
I said "Who me?" She said "Yeah yeah."

"Think about the fun we've had together. Think about it going on forever. We can do it if we really want to, we can do it if we really want to. At least one of us really wants to."

"Kissing girls makes you feel alright. It's good fun, yeah yeah. That's why I'm going on the pull tonight."
I said "Can I come?" She said "Get lost."

Sunday, May 02, 2004

This Land Is Your Land 

How can something so wrong feel so right? I hope I can trust you not to go blabbing to everyone about this. I’m talking about socks and sandals. Together. Or rather, sock and sandals, in my case.
On Friday I had an in-growing toenail removed, which means I’m currently wearing sandals on both feet and a sock on one foot (it‘s cold - alright?), while the other foot has gone commando (except for the bandages). I fear I’ve said too much already.

So I’m hobbling about the house in a slightly ridiculous fashion, feeling as forlorn as a three legged dog. Coming downstairs involves an amusing hobble-hop hobble-hop action, and Girlfriend has put some newspaper down in the corner of the kitchen, just in case I’m caught short.

It was a different story last weekend. I hired a turf remover and we re-created Glastonbury Festival in our own back garden, complete with a falafel stall and naked hippies rolling about in the mud at the first hint of rain. I fetched my guitar and led in a quick rendition of This Land Is Your Land.
We had the turf remover for three hours which was cutting it fine - especially since the thing kept stalling if you didn’t have the choke out, but wouldn’t cut turf if you did. I was anxious about precious seconds ticking away and would have saved a lot of time and unnecessary swearing if I’d given it longer to warm up before getting stuck in.

But it was great once I’d got the hang of it. There is something unmistakably arousing about smell of a petrol engine in the garden. The sun was hot and I sweated manfully as I wrestled with the mighty throbbing machine, stripped down to the waist, my man-bosoms cheerfully jigging about like excited jellyfish at a rave. Girlfriend followed behind me building a small mountain out of the freshly dug turf, which then took bloody days to take to the tip.

Next we intend to create a winding path, which will involve hiring a plate whacker, and which I hope is as much fun to use as it is to say. Then we’ll be laying a new lawn, and planting trees and shrubs. I quite fancy a pear tree, but apparently you need to have two - a male and a female, and I’m not sure I can handle the thought of trees doing the lurve thang in our back garden. I wouldn’t know where to look.

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