Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Bitches Ain't Shit 

Our office is awful quiet now without Ash or Zippy there to make some noize. It’s as if someone has buggered up the controls - the sound’s gone and everything’s in black and white. A vision of our little world rendered in low contrast.

You’ll remember that Ash and Zippy were an amalgamation of three students who were here on sandwich studies - or whatever it’s called. I was a bit daunted by the prospect of three new blog characters all at once, so I conjoined them into two. You’d never guess, to look at them.

When term time finished back in early summer, Bill Surname, Chief Executive Officer, let them stay on a while to raise funds for a couple of the festivals, to stockpile hoodies and clear some of their debts. Now they’ve finally upped and gone for good.
Of course they know they’ll be welcome to pop round anytime they like during their university holidays or whenever, but I think we’ve probably seen the last of them. It’s their final year coming up so they’ll be pretty busy.

We miss them already. The smooth grind of skateboard wheels on concrete still resonates around the car park, as does the distant echo of The Most Startlingly Foul Mouthed Muthafucking Hip Hop Compilation In The World… Ever.
They were double cute - Ash, the first Muslim girl I’ve ever seen in a Never Mind The Bollocks T-shirt, and Zippy with his dreadlocks and Kurt Cobain good looks, and no shit attitude towards our visitors from the Jumped Up Yobs In Suits Corporation. Zippy would sing “Here come the Men In Black” every time one of them walked into the room. It so pissed them off.

Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, offered to organise a leaving do for them, but they just looked at her aghast like that would be the most tragically uncool thing on the face of the planet.
“What’s wrong with Tokyo Joes?” she asked, more than a little put out.
“What’s right with it?” they replied in unison.
I wanted to hug them.

They’ve been gone a week now but Stella could only bring herself to wipe their names off the rota this morning.
“Zinedine Zidane,” mused Neil, my former team leader, who’d taken refuge in our office because of an outbreak of fighting.
On Thursday somebody had hidden somebody else’s chocolate that they’d been looking forward to all day, and there’d been an atmosphere ever since. You know how it is, casual violence never being far from the thoughts of your average help desk lifer. It goes with the territory.
Anyway, it all kicked off this morning - headsets and keyboards flying in every direction, skin and hair all over the place, blood on the flat screen monitors, a full scale riot on the first floor - nothing much you can do but rope off the lifts and wait for it to blow over.

“Yes, Zinedine Zidane,” he said, stroking his mullet in quiet contemplation. “I bet he always came last on the school register.”

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Here’s A Little Agit For The Never Believer, Here's A Little Ghost For The Offering. 

My shoulders ache and a drowsy numbness pains my arms. But at least I still haven’t fallen into the canal yet, so I’m not complaining.
We’ve fallen into a happy little routine, Canoeing Instructor and me. We dash over to her place from our respective offices, get changed, strap canoes to her roof rack, and hot tail it to the canal. Then she shoves me into the water and we paddle off into the grey drizzle for a couple of hours.

Darkness is falling by the time we make it back to the car, then it’s strap canoes on, back to hers, take canoes inside, change out of soggy clothing and head to the pub for something hot and greasy.
I phone Girlfriend who is consistently excited and thrilled to hear of my progress - I’ve even stopped calling them “oars” now, which is very good, apparently - while Canoeing Instructor sends texts and grins sheepishly.

Finally it’s back to hers again for Man On The Moon lessons.
She can play D at the moment, which is obviously a better start than not being able to play D, but if she wants to impress her mates this Christmas she’ll have to get her skates on.

In the morning she laughs apologetically and says it’s good that my shoulders ache. It means my paddling technique is improving. I’ll remind her of that when she’s suffering from B minor and attendant blistered fingers.

I spend the day emailing Girlfriend about how knackered I am, and Canoeing Instructor prints off spoof certificates - at least I think they’re spoofs - for Girlfriend to bring home for me. I promise to frame them and hang them on the wall but I haven’t got round to it yet.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Smash It Up 

“Due diligence is the process by which a purchaser of or an investor in a company or business investigates the records of the target to support its value and find out whether there are ‘skeletons in the cupboard’. Professional reports from accountants and solicitors may be included.”

Representatives from Jumped Up Yobs In Suits Corporation are performing due diligence on Company X this very minute. It’s a bit like when two dogs meet for the first time and sniff each other’s arses to decide whether romance is in the air and rogering is on the table.
They’ve been snooping around for a while now, cocking their legs wherever it suits them. They’re here when you turn up for work and they’re still here when you go home. Their SUVs - blacked out windows, wanky registration plates, wheels wider than bungalows - never seem to leave the car park.
Bill Surname calls them prospective business partners but they’re hooligans by any other name. You just know that the baton charge is their preferred management style. They’re always watching.
It's not conducive to a happy working environment and we never had one of those in the first place.

Stella’s response has been to bury her head in a barrage of psycho-babble. She’s constantly revising her magnum opus, a whiteboard awash with meaningless gibberish that she’s picked up from God knows where. The current status report:

Feeling moderately eager with high expectations? Distressed? Angry? Where do I fit? What is expected of me? Do it, delegate it, wish away your troubles? I need to find a place and establish myself. Come on over to my place: let’s do business. Customer’s who bought books by Margaret Thatcher also bought books by these authors: Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Alex Comfort. My girlfriend was blown away just hours after I read this book. Dependant on authority and hierarchy? Some of the techniques taught will make your performance above average.

A maelstrom of messages. On Friday morning I wandered into her office to find her rubbing one out. I apologised and said I’d come back in ten minutes.
“No Tim,” she insisted. “Stay. You might learn something.”
I said “Do you think they have webbed feet underneath their jack boots?”
In its place she wrote “Bend it, mend it, skip dinner, smoke yourself thinner.” She looked at me expectantly.
I took a marker pen and wrote “Run it up a flagpole and see who sets fire to it.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Citizens Of Hope And Glory! Time Goes By, It’s The Time Of Your Life! 

…easy now, sit you down. Chewing through your Wimpy dreams they eat without a sound, digesting England by the pound.

On Friday morning, creepy Keith from accounts, the poisonous little fucker, casually asked Charlotte, Bill Surname’s loyal PA, if she was going to a Big Brother party that evening.

She promptly burst into tears, hurried off to the toilets and has been signed off sick ever since.
Keith punched the air in triumph.
In the blog version of events I would have told him he was a worthless, vindictive piece of shit, which would have been entirely fitting, not to say very satisfying, but what I actually said was disappointingly muted in comparison.
“I hope you’re pleased with yourself, Fuckface.”
Of course, he took it as a compliment, gurning and looking around to see if anybody else had seen what he’d done.

I thought Charlotte was your archetypal “dreads Friday, can’t wait for Monday” kind of person, so she must have it bad.
It’s been a difficult time for her, with all this talk of buyouts and takeovers, and Keith just couldn’t stop himself. They say she comfort eats. I say she's not alone and it's none of their fucking business.

“Evil. Utterly destructive,” said Mike. I thought for a moment he was coming out in sympathy, but it transpired he was watching the cricket on his little hand held jobby and was unconsciously stating aloud his love for Andrew Flintoff.

Stella’s been in reflective mode. She’d sprung into the office on Wednesday afternoon full of the joys, dressed up in her interview finest, and was up up up for the remainder of the week.
Today she looked like she’d been knocked for six.

“Didn’t get the job then?” I asked, when I saw her in the car park.
“What job? How did…”
“Wednesday morning? Salford Quays?” I said. “I’ve got spies everywhere.”
“Yeah, well. Didn’t want it anyway,” she said.

She was merely dipping her toe in the water, getting a feel for the job market. Because you never know, do you?
The light began to fail and we went in for tea.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Reach Out, I'll Be There 

“Put this skirt on,” she said and so I did.
I look good in a tight black rubber skirt and I don’t mind who knows it. It flattened my stomach, squeezed my buttocks into line and the over all effect was, I think, very flattering. Looking good has it’s price, of course, and mine was not being able to breathe.
“If it’s really bothering you,” she said, "take it off. You’ll get wet though.”

Taking the skirt off was even more difficult than putting it on, which didn’t go unremarked upon by the two men standing by the side of the canal.
“It’s my first time!” I called out to them when we eventually paddled past. We had a little chuckle. There’s no end to the lengths I’ll go to to give old blokes walking their dogs something to blog about when they get home.

I really loved my first canoeing lesson.
Canoeing Instructor was brilliant, never more than a few seconds away in case I should suddenly find myself upside down with my head scraping along the bottom.
“If you go in, which you won’t,” she said, “I’ll be there. I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”
Wow. How great is that? Everybody should have a canoeing instructor like her in their lives.

I spent a lot of time paddling round in circles for no apparent reason but after an hour or so my straight line work was coming on in leaps and bounds. It took a lot less time coming back than it did getting there, and I can’t wait for the next lesson. I’m so proud.

In the pub afterwards, she bought me my first post-canoeing pint. Girlfriend and Leanne were already there. I told them about how brave I’d been and how great I looked in the rubber skirt and they smiled and listened patiently as you might to a child after his first day at school.
It’s been a long time coming. A really lovely summer evening.

And now I know what I want for Christmas - no, not a black rubber skirt, although perhaps, perhaps…

Dear Santa, what I’d really like, please, is my own canal. I could run along it or walk along it, swim in it, canoe in it, maybe open up a nice little canal side pub, have friends around to relax and have a laugh. It’s got to be the ultimate piece of leisure equipment. How cool would that be? I’ll look after it and keep it clean and everything. I promise that I’ve been really good all year.

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Sleep, Eat Food, Have Visions 

Stella was on the roof doing her capoeira exercises this morning when her phone rang. Group pickup hasn’t reached these parts yet, so I stumbled into her office to answer it.

“Hello, Company X,” I said with my telephone voice. “Tim speaking.” Wind chimes crashed playfully against my head.
“Hello Stella, this is Peabrain Worthless from Waste Of Space Recruitment. I’ve got your CV here and just need to run through a few questions.”
“Stop right there, Peabrain,” I said. “Stella’s away from her desk. Can I take a message?”
He asked if I was Stella’s boss, and I answered no. He said he’d keep it brief and asked how long I’d been at Company X.
“You’ve got your wires crossed,” I said. “Stella’s on the roof at the moment. I’m Tim.”
“Right you are,” he said cheerfully. “Is it permanent or contracting work you’re looking for?”

Neil, my former team leader, wandered into the room wearing a chef’s apron and said “You look different today.” He was carrying a frying pan. “You want to stop eating those coloured sweets.”
I said “And you want to stop sniffing marker pens.”
“How do you like your eggs?” he asked. “Fried or boiled?”
I said “Permanent. Poached. The green ink on your nose gives you away.”
“And how much notice would you be required to give?”
“Poached will take longer.” Neil scribbled on his little pad. “Toast? Brown or white?”
I said “Three weeks. Brown.”
“And what kind of salary would you be looking at?”
“Three weeks?” said Neil. “You daft sod. Ten minutes more like. How many slices?”
“Does 25,000 sound too much?”
“You’re taking the piss,” he replied. “I don’t have that kind of bread.”
“Let’s give ourselves some room for negotiation,” said Peabrain, both eyes firmly on his commission. “How about thirty?”

“Thirty?” I said.
Neil said “Yes, me too. Tea or coffee?”
“I’ve got something coming up in Salford Quays. How are you fixed for Wednesday?”
Neil said “With or without?”
Peabrain said “Morning or afternoon?”
I said “White. None. Morning.”
Neil said “Good. Now where did I leave my trolley?”
Peabrain said “Lovely. When’s the best time to call you back?”
I said “In the corridor.”
“Great!” they said.

I said “That’s nothing, you should hear me play piano,” and went back to picking bits of, I dunno, cornflakes I think, out of my hair.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Blackbird Singing In The Dead Of Night 

“I came on the train backwards, and I feel a bit funny,” I said.
So I bought one of those very silly vodka sticks and waited for my stomach to settle down for the evening, and when they turned the music up so loud nobody could hear anybody else we went somewhere else instead, a small crowd of us.
Juggling Protégé allowed some of his orbits to crossover, Charlie talked bikes, Girlfriend mingled confidently, Future Canoeing Instructor made me down shots of Sambuca again at the bar and a date has been set. We all had a good time.

Every straight man who ever went on a diet hopes that his efforts will be noted and commented on by sexy women. Charlie mentioned it to Girlfriend at the Josh Rouse gig, and on Friday Leanne said that I’d lost weight, and I said thank you for noticing, yes I have. She also said that she liked my shirt.
As the evening passed she mentioned it several more times. By her own admission, she was quite drunk.

It was surprising and vaguely exciting to realise that Leanne was flirting with me. It could be a bit of a nuisance if she’s going to make a habit of it, which I somehow doubt she will, but for the time being I’m not complaining. If I flirted back, which I may well have, I hope it wasn’t too excruciating or anything.

On Saturday me and Girlfriend tried to distance ourselves from our hangovers by taking my Mum out to pat some pigs. They’re the new chickens, don’t you know. I bought Girlfriend a blackbird.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Take Offs And Landings 

Email from Charlotte, Personal Assistant To Bill Surname, Chief Executive Officer:
03/08/2005 08:50

You are reminded that tomorrow’s desk inspection will take place at an earlier time of this morning.
Today’s shoe inspection that should have been yesterday is postponed until tomorrow because the people are coming.

If you find yourself being spoken to, please behave as if you normally would.
Today’s code word is: Act Naturally.


Unwedded, unbedded, probably running on unleaded, poor old Charlotte has been in a state of high alert all day.
A dizzy blur of clipboards and stopwatches, looping around the building like a bee on a string, by three o’clock she had to be carried out on a stretcher for a weak lemon drink and a Rich Tea biscuit.

When ‘they’ eventually appeared - two men and two women, the four horsepersons of the apocalypse, dressed in Undertaker’s Black, beady eyed and pointy of beak - they hardly stopped to breathe, let alone speak to anybody.

I said to Stella “What gives?” She said the jury’s still out.

Monday, August 01, 2005

French Disko 

Tomorrow I’m going to take a shovel into the office and hide behind a door until Mike walks through, when I’m going to whack him over the head with it.
I’ve been trying to coax information out of him regarding his training for the half marathon that he’s tricked me into running in September. He’s giving nothing away. I said I ran ten miles on Sunday and he said “What do you want? A medal?”

I’d call his bluff but the evidence indicates otherwise: the fat man’s getting thinner. Whatever he’s up to he looks well on it, and whatever it is, it’s getting on my tits.
Speaking of which, I took Lisa’s advice and rubbed Utterly Butterly into my protruding parts but all I got was a pack of dogs chasing me across Lytham Green and thirty pence off a loaf of Hovis.

This morning Mike placed a doughnut on a sheet of A4 and put both on my desk. A deliberate act of provocation. I drew a circle around the donut and labelled it “Will power”.

Meanwhile Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, has put a notice on her door saying “Never before has the concept of teamwork been more important to the functioning of successful organisations.” She has to communicate this way because nobody can hear a word she says since she filled her office with wind chimes. They help to centre her chakra.

Sometime this afternoon I overheard Tabs shouting “Clubbing? No, I don’t go clubbing any more,” above the manic tinkling. Terry has yet to come back to work following their French trip.
“Terry doesn’t dance,” she continued. There was no trace of bitterness in her tone. “He just stands at the bar drinking, so what’s the point?” Maybe a hint of resignation. Sunstroke, apparently.

Later on, Neil my former team leader wandered into the office. He was wearing a cycling helmet, lycra shorts and a sweaty t-shirt which read “The team that cycles together stays together.”
He waved a spare helmet at me and said “Do you ride tandem?”

Stella came along, looked at the sheet of paper on my desk and asked “What’s will power?” Before I could answer she said that even if she did win £77 million on the lottery, she’d still come into work. “What about you, Tim?”

Neil stood in the doorway, shaking his helmet in my direction.
I stared at Mike and then at the doughnut. I’m doing long term damage to my knees because of that overweight obnoxious idiot. I ache all over. “It’s like this,” I said. “You’ve either got it, or you haven’t.”

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