Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Don't Panic 

There’s been a bit of a cock up on the laundry front, so today I’m wearing my last resort underpants.

Back in the early nineties they were twangy and rather exciting - much like myself, of course - but these days they are faded and saggy, and their grip on reality is slipping. They’re the Dad’s Army of underwear, hopelessly not up to the job - the pants equivalent of Corporal Jones with a pitch fork shouting “Don’t Panic!”

Walking round the office today has involved performing little skip-and-hoists when nobody was looking, but the elastic is all shot, and as Radiohead will tell you, gravity always wins.
By this afternoon I’d given up the fight to keep my heritage pants up, and let them droop around my lower arse area, only the gusset of my trousers saving them from falling to my ankles and tripping me up.

I don’t think anybody noticed, although I did receive a rather cryptic email from Diana, Head of Marketing, saying she was going to start cycling into work. She wondered if I knew any place where she could park her bike.

Monday, January 24, 2005

You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby 

My To Do list has gone AWOL and I'm buggered if I can remember what was on it.
So today I've been compiling a new one, although for ages the only task I could think of was "Find old To Do list."

All my To Do lists consist of three types of task - jobs that still need doing, and jobs that I've done but probably haven't heard the last of yet.
The third type is those jobs that never actually existed - I just make them up then cross lines through them to make it look like I'm good at getting stuff done. I can't even remember what my non-existent still-to-do jobs were.

There were also one or two blogging ideas on the lost list. Last week's Blonde One from Abba thing, for example, or Mike's "having an out of Boddington's experience."
And I was keeping a tally of every time Stella says "Superb."

I should still be able to use the Boddington's gag some time, but I'm cheesed off about having to set the clock back to zero on the Superb count.
I was saving them up like Co-op stamps - collect one hundred Superbs and you've earned the right to treat yourself to an mp3 player. Five hundred gets you a snazzy new camera, and so on and so forth, all the way up to a mid-life crisis affirming nippy two seater sports car, with a soft top, CD player and state of the art "self-awareness blocker" to make me oblivious to the fact that if I sit in it I'll look like a complete knob.

Stella walked passed as I was crossing out fictitious jobs on the new list.
"Somebody's been a busy boy," she smiled.
"Yeah, well. I don't like to let these things get on top of me," I replied.
"Fantastic!" she said, practically skipping back to her desk. "Tremendous! Wonderful! Sensational!"

The road is long with many a winding turn, as Eminem once said.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

You Sexy Thing 

Mike and Terry gazed in wonder.

“It’s got a throughput of 410 gigabytes per hour,” squealed Mike.
“Hell yeah. 19 Mb per second. Beautiful.”
“If we go for Twizzlewhack Bipodules, we’ll be talking 30Mb/sec.”

They paused to hold that thought, catching their breath like Edmund Hillary at the summit of Everest, adventurers of the data storage age.
Polystyrene packaging was jettisoned all around the North Face of the Data Centre. You could hear the sound of numbers being crunched in their big nerdy brains.

If you’d told the eleven year old me that in years to come I’d be working with robots, what would I have thought?
I suspect I’d have imagined a divine pouting robot babe, looking not unlike the blonde one out of Abba - then at the height of her powers, with a firm grip on the fevered imagination of a generation of spotty boys - compliant, Scandinavian and eager to succumb to my every cyber-whim.

“You couldn’t pass me that adjustable spanner, could you please, Blonde One out of Abba?”
“Tim,” she would purr. “There is nothing that would turn me on more, you gorgeous thing!”
“Oh. Erm, thanks, Blonde One,” I would reply. “You know, you don’t have to be so sexy and subservient all the time. Why don’t you put your feet up and recharge your batteries now and again?”
“Oh no Tim,” she would recoil with her fetching Swedish-Robotic accent. “I could never do that. I was bought to make you happy.”

The robot in our office doesn’t live up to the dream.
Functional? I suppose so.
Sex-tastic? What kind of blogger do you take me for?

“Oh sweet Jesus!” Mike and Terry exclaimed simultaneously in an orgasm of mental arithmetic. “Sixty three gigabytes per hour!”

I switched the lights off on my way out and left them to savour the moment.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Pictures Of You 

Shifting masses of data from one place to another is not as gruelling a task as, say, shifting masses of bricks from one place to another, but it’s what passes for work in my world. It involves typing in a couple of commands then twiddling your thumbs for hours on end waiting for it to finish.

Weekend data shifting is especially tiresome, although it does provide a rare opportunity to slide up and down the corridor in your socks, careering through fire doors and crashing the drinks machine into random shuffle mode, and all on time and a half.

Even when empty, the office is never silent. The low hum of air conditioning and the buzz of machines unswitched off is always with you, like tinnitus.

A few observations:

Men with partners put photos of their wives or girlfriends on their desks.
As men get older, the pictures of wives are gradually replaced by photos of their dogs in heroic poses.

Women with partners prefer to display photos of their children.
They will also have photos taken in restaurants on girl’s nights out, where everybody looks really "I'll tell you what, Rita. I'm completely pissed!"

Single men show off pictures of their cars.

Single women go for pictures of their cats. Nephews, nieces and friends’ babies also feature strongly.

Gay men have photos of their cats, and pictures of themselves on holiday. There is only one openly gay man in our office, so I admit this may not be very representative. However, I see that Martin from Purchasing has a picture of himself wearing a non-football scarf in Paris. I’ve had my suspicions.

Gay women have pictures of themselves with friends, hundreds and hundreds of friends, taken on holiday, down the pub, putting tents up, making a cup of tea, just about anywhere.

Older single women of all persuasions pick up the cat theme and run with it - dozens and dozens of cats. Horses come up quite a lot too.

Creepy Keith from Accounts has four photos of his car, two of himself paint balling and an aerial photograph of the street where his ex-wife now lives.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Strange Weather Lately 

The North Wind doth blow and we shall have rain, buckets and buckets of rain, lifting up the roof tiles and rattling the windows out of their frames.

Girlfriend sleeps through it all in a golden Benylin haze, but the constant drumming of the weather keeps me awake, anxious, fretting, so I tiptoe to the window and take a look.

The wheelie bins have broken loose from their moorings and are waltzing upstreet downstreet with gay abandon -
“Miss Recycling Bin, may I have the pleasure of the next dance?”
“Why Miss Non-recyclable, I thought you’d never ask!”

- and swishes of rain are rushing up the window pane, and the cats are barking and the dogs are meowing, and plastic bags blow blow blow your boat gently down the street, and there you are in your dressing gown and PJs, glass of water in one hand and umbrella in the other, what a glorious feeling, you’re happy again! and before you know it it’s one two three o’clock, four o’clock rock, five o’clock and it’s time for Jones The Insomniac to go and raise the Union Jack at the Ex-Servicemen’s, look! - there he goes now, crumpled and grey as dead man’s bed linen, God help this skip and all who sail in her, we leave for France tonight, but duvet is calling out your name, your name! so softly you slumber home bedwards, heavily heavily heavily heavily, life is but a dream.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Save Me 

We have a secret signal.

It’s for when you’ve been cornered by some boring bastard who thinks that telling you about the great deal he did on his new Audi Dementia passes for interesting conversation, and then won’t stop.

This morning I was alone in our room when creepy Keith from accounts pounced, telling me the best way to avoid the road works at Hang Yourself Lane - why? why are you telling me this? - and what great fuel consumption he’s getting - please leave me alone, you tedious waste of oxygen - now that the garage has cleared his anal passage, or something. Somebody save me, I don’t want to die like this, of boredom.

Stella, God bless her, came to my rescue. The signal is that you do something with your thumbs. Rub your thumbs together, suck them, gesticulate wildly with them, poke them against the side of your head until blood seeps from your ears - just do something thumb related. I gave her a cheerful / desperate / not at all ludicrous thumbs up when she entered the room and she sprung to action.

Your rescuer phones you but remains silent, allowing you to pretend it’s an important call from a customer - sorry Keith, I’ve got to take this, I’ll speak to you later, yeah? How about when Hell freezes over? - and then it’s up to you to ad-lib for dear life, not unlike Kenneth Williams in the 1971 classic “Carry On Hoping Cabbage Face Will Go Away Soon”.

Feel free to try this yourself. Remember to exchange “Keith” for whatever your own bore is called. But strangely, it nearly always is a Keith, isn’t it? Now why is that?

Sunday, January 09, 2005

All Around The World 

I’ve just circumnavigated the planet on my exercise bike.

It took seven 45 minute sessions. My travelling companion was Michael Palin - it took him 79 days, pah! - him setting off from Pall Mall on September 25th 1988, and me from here in my room, on the day after Boxing Day.

It was an enjoyable trip, especially when he’d get all stressed and delusional about the importance of his mission.
“It’s absolutely vital that I make my connection at Place X,” he would decree from time to time, usually to the manager of a sweaty shipping office.
Was it all that important? Well, he did it - he retraced the route made by Phileas Fogg in Around The World In Eighty Days, and on schedule. And for Palin it was the foundation to a pretty decent career in travel documentary making, and I wouldn’t begrudge anybody happiness in their work.
But for all his awfully decent chap affability, he could be just a bit - I’m not sure how to describe it - stressed and delusional sometimes. Understandable in the circumstances. I’ll forgive him that if he’ll forgive my farting.

My favourite bits were when he would try to tell anybody who would listen about the fascinating adventure he was in the midst of, only to be met with complete indifference.
It just goes to show that one man’s momentous personal milestone isn’t necessarily profoundly interesting to anybody else.

So anyway, here I am in my shorts and trainers, on the cusp of week two of my Bust A Gut For January fitness regime.
This time me and Michael will be travelling from Pole To Pole, but I’ll understand if you’re not especially arsed to hear that.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Big Muff 

Anybody can make a mistake.

The bloke in the corner’s name is Helen, she works for a consultancy firm which for blogging purposes I’m going to call Why Don’t You Mind Your Own Bloody Business Inc. and she’s here to make time and motion observations on our working practices.

I thought time and motion studies belonged in a bygone industrial era, or were at least the sort of thing they deployed in manufacturing industries - which is the same thing around here, I suppose - on car production lines and so forth.
Apparently not. They also study Unix system administrators who spend much of their time running round the car park in order to check their whereabouts on Global Positioning Systems, or reading blogs.
But I’m sure we’ll be OK, considering that our T&M inspector is usually to be found slumped face down in the Guardian or outside having a fag. I think.

There’s another one downstairs monitoring the help desk.
Goodness knows what they make of Neil, who begins all telephone conversations with a medley of songs from the shows and has lately taken to wearing not only muff boots, but matching muff jacket and trousers too. Think of a Womble with a laptop and you’ll be in the zone, or if you prefer, insert your own muff related punch line here.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


The bloke in the corner has the air of a hibernating hedgehog about him.
He snuffles and snores, doing that Rapid Paw Movement thing which dogs do when they’re dreaming, and if it weren’t for the presence of today’s paper, you’d think he’d been there all night.
I’ve fetched him cups of tea and the occasional saucer of milk and he lets out small grunts of appreciation, but otherwise he’s quiet and unobtrusive.

Stella’s been out of the office all day so we’ve not been able to ask her what’s going on.
Mike and Terry took advantage of her absence by playing computer games and running round the car park messing with their new Global Positioning thingies, and once I’d got my daily checks done I spent the rest of the day looking at blogs.

I met up with Diana, Head Of Marketing in the brew room in the afternoon and told her about our mystery squatter. After a short while she began laughing, that knowing sneaky laughter people do when they know something that you don’t.
“What? What’s so funny?”
Hoots of laughter.
“You know who he is, don’t you?”
More hooting. “So what did you say to him? Go on, say it again.”
I retraced what I’d told her in my mind. No. I couldn’t think of anything especially funny or embarrassing.

I couldn’t get any sense out of her so I scribbled on her face with a biro and went back to my blogs.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

I Don't Know What It Is 

The first day back after Christmas is traditionally a busy one.

I don’t know what it is. There must be something about eating too much, drinking too much and having mad passionate red hot sex under the Christmas tree every night that causes users to forget their passwords en masse when they return to work.
I don’t really mind. Resetting passwords is not the most challenging task in the world and while you wouldn’t want to be doing it day in and day out, there are worse fates in the world, and today had a pleasing ‘switch off your brain and get on with it’ quality which suited me just fine.

Stella was fizzing around the office like a school chemistry experiment gone mad.
You’ll remember the sort of thing - drop something volatile in a beaker of acid and watch it whiz round and round, effervescing violently and smelling of bad eggs.
Now imagine a similarly volatile object with frizzy hair, a trouser suit and a briefcase full of motivational self help books, babbling ten to the dozen into her mobile about empowering her inner Branson or something and you start to get the picture.

We were all so busy that nobody thought to ask who the old bloke in the corner was, wearing an old tweed jacket, smelling of beer and fags and reading the Guardian. Perhaps it was ‘Take your old chemistry teacher to work day.’ It would explain a few things.

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