Tuesday, November 23, 2004


The data centre is windowless, airless, cheerless.

Every couple of hours we break ourselves away and stand outside in the grey corridor and drink grey coffee from the machine.
Through the rain streaked windows we watch ashen faced smokers coagulate in the mist, huddled in their pen at the end of the grey car park. This is how it has been, day after day - sky grey, concrete grey, shattered going home grey. I’m hoping for a change.

After lunch today, I emerged from trap two to find Neil, my former team leader, waiting outside the cubicle door. The gents toilets in our office are not the world’s largest, and we stood face to face for a moment or two in awkward silence.
He was decked out in a sparkly blue clown’s outfit, and had a bunch of brightly coloured helium filled balloons tied to each wrist. He began to sing.

“Happy birthday to you!”
His big clown feet broke into a flippy floppy dance.
“Happy birthday to you!”
In his hands was a parcel, gift wrapped in shiny paper, tied with a green ribbon.
“Happy birthday dear Tim, happy birthday to you.”

He pulled a party popper and red yellow and green gunky stuff rained down on our heads.

“But Neil,” I said, “it’s not my birthday.”
“A man can go mad from colour deficiency,” he replied.
“It’s not my real birthday…”
“I once saw a good man completely lose it from colour deprivation…”
“And it’s not Tim the blogger’s made up birthday either.”
“He went berserk in the paint section of B&Q. Took off all his clothes and poured a tin of Deep Ultramarine over himself.”
“But I’d rather you didn’t tell any one about that, if you don’t mind.”
“Moved onto Rustic Red and Burned Orange. By the time security arrived, he could sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too.”
“You’re not listening to me, Neil. It’s not my birthday.”
“The police report said it wasn’t pre-mixed.”

I gave him a slap.

“Oh. It’s not your birthday?” And as if by magic, all the balloons immediately drooped, deflated.
“Hey! How did you get your balloons to do that? That’s really clever.”
“What balloons?”
And sure enough, there weren’t any balloons now, and he wasn’t wearing a clown’s costume either.
He looked at me in his grey suit and grey shirt and grey tie and said, “Have you finished in there or what? I’m bursting.”

I took the silver parcel from him, borrowed a knife from the kitchen and shared it out between me, Terry, Stella and Tabs. It was delicious.

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