Tuesday, February 28, 2006

It Can’t Come Quickly Enough 

Rex the security guard leaned on his spade and paused to catch his breath. A robin perched on his shoulder.

“What are you planting?” I asked.
“Oh nothing. I’m just putting in some pre-season training.”
He mopped the sweat from his brow.

“Winter’s a long time in the garden,” he said. “Once you’ve tidied up about the place, there’s nothing much to do but sharpen your tools and wait for Spring.”
I nodded sagely.
“Still,” I said. “The nights are starting to draw out. It was light at six last night, just about.”

A hedgehog emerged bleary eyed from beneath a pile of leaves and old data cartidges. It sniffed the air, had a pee and scratched it’s arse, then went back to bed.

“I used to think that that Seasonal Affective Disorder you hear about was a load of bollocks,” I said, “but, you know, well…”

Neil, my former team leader, ran across the croquet lawn tossing his pancakes.

“… I dunno.” I shrugged. “It probably is all bollocks.”

Some days it’s like somebody dropped a couple of wet sheep onto my chest. It’s the best that I can do just to try and keep breathing.

“Crocuses are doing well,” said Rex. “And the snowdrops.”
“Daffodils won’t be long now,” I added.

He said you can spend your life waiting for this moment.
I said it can’t come quickly enough.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Hanging Around 

“I don’t like frozen bread that’s been defrosted,” said Terry as he glanced disapprovingly at my lunch box.
“That’s tautology,” I said. “You could just say ‘I don’t like bread that’s been defrosted.’”

Terry scribbled something into his poetry notebook then glowered at me.

Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, breezed into the office.
“Someone called Becky phoned,” I told her. “I said you’d call back.”

“Better still,” I continued, “‘I don’t like defrosted bread.’”
He glowered some more.

“She wanted to know if you were eating out again,” I said to Stella and she laughed.

“You really are an arrogant twat,” said Terry.
I said “You probably mean ‘pedantic twat’, but either way it's a salient point.”
Scowling ensued.

“She sounds nice,” I said to Stella.
“Yeah, she’s a new friend I’ve been hanging with at Shibari classes,” she said before stopping to stare in bemused fascination at my cream cheese and sort of green stuff sandwich.

“What’s that?” we all asked in unison, followed by a moment’s pause for quiet contemplation.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

My Book Of Dreams 

Dream 15
In my dream a tram approaches.

Dream 16
In my dream I have a couple of loose teeth.
I can move them about with my tongue, and can feel the gap between tooth and gum, and the stringy bit that holds one to the other, like you do when you’re a kid and your teeth are supposed to fall out.

Dream 17
In my dream, it’s as if my entire field of vision has been taken over by a film producer with too much technology to hand. Everything I see is either in slow motion or speeded up, and whizzing about - panning from side to side, or zooming in and out. Scenes chop and change in rapid succession. It’s like living in an episode of Bleak House. Nothing actually happens.

Dream 18
In my dream I’m driving my Mum home.
It’s a rainy night and whenever we pull up at traffic lights she gets out of the car and starts to wander off like a crazy person, and I have to go and fetch her back again.
She’s not a crazy person - yet - but my goodness there are days when I think it can’t be long.
I contemplate what I’ll be like when I’m a crazy person - will I be amusing and affectionately-regarded crazy, or sad and alone crazy? Will I get to choose?
When we eventually get to her house I open the boot to take out her suitcase and some boxes of stuff, but the boot is a foot deep in water and everything is ruined.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

I Never Know What I Want But I Know When I’m Low That I Need To Be In The Town Where They Know What I’m Like And Don’t Mind 

Me and Girlfriend saw Elbow on Saturday. Again. Yeah, yeah, I know - but it’s only an obsession if you try to kill them. We’re just enthusiastic fans.
There’s something about them that hits the spot in a way few other things do for me. I guess you either get it or you don’t.
Sometimes Guy Garvey sat down - ooh, open tuning - and sometimes he stood up.

We also met up briefly with Juggling Protégé, who was there treating his mate to a surprise birthday present. Juggling Protégé is ace and we love him.

Today I mentioned to Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, that I’ve only received one pay rise in five years, and even that was nothing to shout about. She seemed genuinely shocked. It’s appraisal time coming up and she’s going to try and fight my corner a little bit with them upstairs.

“Bloody hell, Tim. I didn’t realise it was as bad as that. How do you keep so calm about it?”

I said that in the evenings I exact my revenge by making puppets of everybody at work who deserves to be ridiculed, and I make them dance about and say stupid things, re-enacting the events of the day in a manner that suits my own purposes.

“That sounds like fun,” she said, and at that moment Neil, my former team leader, slid across the car park on a tea tray at 85 mph and totalled Death’s Mitsubishi Arse Pump.
Miraculously, he caused himself no harm whatsoever, other than a little light public humiliation, which is nothing new to him anyway, and nobody even batted an eyelid.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I Know Every Crevice And I Know Every Kiss 

and what tastes have been before me, and which ones you will miss.

St. Valentine’s Day has found Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, in nostalgic mood.

“Hey Tabs,” she said. “Remember when we were about eleven or twelve? Before we had boyfriends but we wanted to be ready for when we did, so we’d practise by kissing each other?”
Tabs mumbled hesitantly. A deafening sound of fingers no longer tapping at keyboards fell upon the office.

“At first we’d kiss each other on the arms. Then on the neck.”

Silence. Creepy Keith from Accounts, who was passing in the corridor but seems to have special antennae for this sort of thing, joined us.

“Then when we did have boyfriends, we’d kiss each other on the mouth, kidding ourselves that we were checking for bad breath. Like seriously long French kisses on the way to the school disco. Remember?”
“Erm, yeah, no,” replied Tabs. “I’d forgotten about that. Sort of. Completely.”

The clock ticked. Fans whirred. The panic before dream time overcome.
Neil, my former team leader, glided unmajestically past the window on roller skates. Then he receded into the distance like a disappearing full stop, or that dot you used to get on the telly when all the programmes had finished.

“God, I miss those days,” said Stella longingly, and Mike hurried from the room with a greater degree of urgency than usual.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Reading The Graffiti About Slashed Seat Affairs 

Man On A Bus
9:10 - Didn’t show up.
9:30 - Didn’t show up.
Discovered I was waiting at the wrong bus stop.
9:50 - On time.

Why do buses have to be so hot? And airless, and generally horrible? They make me wobbly and nauseous. Thank goodness for my MP3 player or I might have gone insane.

Tonight my Toyota Nosebleed is having a sleepover at the garage. I hope it’s OK, and not being corrupted by some tarty Volkswagen or suchlike, crashed out on the floor, their expensively disassembled constituent parts entangled and intertwined, filthy and slathered in oil.
What Bill Surname giveth, the bloke at the garage taketh away.
I know there are worse things in the world - being filmed having the shit kicked out of you by members of a liberating army springs to mind; plague; hair loss - but it’s still pretty annoying. Homemade sandwiches indeed.

Terry is taking the whole poetry gig a bit seriously. With tomorrow being an important day for poets of all abilities, he passed the afternoon surrounding himself with scrunched up balls of paper. He says he’s working on his Magnum Anus, and he wants it to be just right.

“Roses are red, violets are blue. What rhymes with cosmetic surgery?”

No Danger - The Delgados
Marx and Engels - Belle & Sebastian
Jack Ass - Beck
As You Are - Travis
Life In A Scotch Sitting Room - Ivor Cutler
Bring Your Love Back - Linda Lyndell
Little One - Elliot Smith
A Short History Of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson (Audio book excerpt, obviously. He doesn't bloody sing it for you. Something about the constantly expanding universe, I think.)
Blame It On The Boogie - The Jacksons
Lost Forever - The Magic Numbers
She’s Pulling Out The Pin - Elvis Costello

Sunday, February 12, 2006

I Still Believe And I Will Rise Up With Fists 

Saturday Night is Gospel Night so me, Girlfriend and the older boy shuffled on down to Manchester University for some of that ol’ time religion dispensed by the gloriously, erm, secular Jenny Lewis.

We’ve all got crushes on Jenny Lewis and she has a wonderful quintet: on backing vocals The Watson Twins, seven foot tall in their stocking feet, identical and eerily beautiful; the funny and troubadour-tastic Johnathan Rice on guitar; Farmer Dave on pedal steel guitar (I really really want a pedal steel guitar); and Ms. Lewis herself, beguilingly personable, literate, all in black and foxy as hell.

She was making eyes at me something awful, and I beat her in a private staring out contest we had going on. It lasted about five minutes, hot damn. Which sort of made me feel sad for a moment, because I also did exactly the same thing with Kirsty MacColl in that very room a few years ago, and dot dot dot, sentence tails off inconclusively…

Hymn sheets were handed out which included helpful pen portraits of the band and I bought the T-shirt.
I also took some terrible blurry photos, as did about 90 per cent of the audience, and I awoke this morning to find my clutch completely knackered.

In a similar vein, me and Girlfriend saw Belle and Sebastian in Liverpool again the other week. They were as great as ever. They allowed a couple of teenage sisters to persuade them into singing the girl’s part on Lazy Line Painter Jane, and they were really great too, going mad dancing about on stage and unable to believe where they were.

They were good singers too, and now I need to find a garage that does good ol’ Monday morning pick-me-ups.
Are you really that pure, Sir?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Ain't No Sunshine 

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to see less of the lady at the gate with the dreamy soft white baps.

While her baps are indeed delicious and wholesome, you don’t have to be that Pay Off Your Mortgage In Ten Minutes bloke off the telly to calculate that at £1.60 a throw, multiplied by five days a week, multiplied by let’s say forty six weeks, I spent approximately one million pounds on sandwiches last year.

So I make my own now, when I can be bothered, and I reckon that I’ve already saved enough cash to pay for half a tank of petrol. Wer-hoo! Take that, you capitalist hussy!

The trouble is this: I feel guilty walking past her and not making a purchase.
If I want to go for a lunchtime stroll on a nice day, like today has been, she stares at me with sad puppy eyes that whimper “You bastard! You’re just like all the others! You’re going to that sandwich shop across the road, aren’t you, Judas?”

I’ve tried avoiding her gaze, striding past with a ‘just popping out to post a letter’ sense of purpose in my gait, but I still feel her eyes burning into the back of my head.
How could you? After all we’ve been through together?

Sometimes I’ll loiter furtively by the greenhouses, hanging on until I’ve seen her leave, which is ridiculous, and not helped by the fact that, you know, the sandwiches from the shop across the road are quite nice too, and occasionally I fancy one of them instead, but you have to get there early before they sell out.

So as often as not I just stay in the office. I’ve become a prisoner of my own meanness, solemnly munching on homemade sandwiches that are as dull and worthy as a sub-committee of Canadians, dreaming of better fillings, moist and satisfying, and of blue skies, clean air and the right to roam, but instead becoming mildly bored with sudoku while listening to Mike belching.

“You need some natural daylight,” says Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader. “You’re lacking in sunshine, Sunshine,” which is a bit rich, considering that all her leisure time not spent beneath a builder’s mate from Burnley called Brian is spent beneath a sun bed.

When I sleep, I dream about crisps.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cool For Cats 

As well as not being much of a Unix guru -

Me: Now you simply type ’done’, press Enter and bingo! Your first ’while true’ loop!
Students: *Sigh! I could listen to him talking shit all day!*
Me: *I feel such a fraud.*

- I’m not actually a proper vet either.

Me: Keep still for a second, will you? Then we can all get on with our lives.
Cat: Come near me again with that syringe and I’ll crap in your shoes.
Girlfriend: Are you sure you’re OK doing this?
Me: Weird isn’t it? Me injecting antibiotics into the cat.
Girlfriend: With you being such a wuss and everything.
Me: But it’s actually easy when you know how.
Cat: I demand my breakfast.

This was a few weeks back. Old Abscess Face is fine now, thanks.

Sometimes when I’m alone in the office and the phones aren’t ringing and everything is calm and still, I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and I swear that I can smell cat litter.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Last Goodbye 

It was Diana, Head of Marketing’s last day on Friday and I missed it.

I had to drive down to a health food distributor in Stourbridge. A stupid job - they couldn’t print out their despatch notes and had trucks loaded up and ready to go, and I could have talked them through it on the phone, but oh no, we’re currently renegotiating contracts, so I had to go and be smiley and nice and provide ‘at elbow’ support.
“Thank God you’re here,” said the MD with no hint of sarcasm when I arrived - a nervous, squinty man, with breath reeking of treacle and an inability to find his glasses.
“If my client doesn’t get his oats by Monday then he’ll have me over a barrel.”

Diana texted me this morning asking if I could look in her old office for a book she may have left behind.
I’m such a dork. Halfway up the stairs - the lift was on fire again; rioting on the help desk - I wondered whether maybe she was playing a trick on me, and that she’d be sat at her desk with a big grin when I got there.
Fooled you! I decided to stay! Ha ha ha!

I knew it was a rubbish idea but it didn’t stop me from feeling disappointed when I found Death - one of the four horsepersons who came from Jumped Up Yobs In Suits Corporation - sat in her place. Death is supposedly going out with Pestilence, but everybody knows he’s been knocking off Famine ever since last November’s Pesticide Convention at Blackpool Winter Gardens. We’re not blind.

“Oh. It’s you,” I said with barely concealed contempt.

I found the book, j-bagged it and handed it to Tabs who knows how to operate the franking machine, then went outside to look at the rabbits and give myself a bit of a talking to.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Different Names For The Same Thing 

Terry walked into the office yesterday morning and said that him and Tabs had split up.
He said he didn’t know what to do.
I suggested he could always try what everybody else does when they finish with someone.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“Write some really bad poetry and put it up on the internet.”

As an off the cuff remark I thought it worked fairly well, but didn’t really merit a blog post in it’s own right. And tact-wise, I suppose it was slightly wide of the mark.

This morning they announced their engagement. Clearly this was good news, but I’d wanted to find out more about who had dumped whom, what was said, the juicy stuff, and now it all seemed kind of irrelevant.

When the fuss had died down a bit, I caught up with him by the vending machine.
“Never underestimate the power of bad poetry,” I said. “Let me buy you one of those cake things.”
“Why don’t you just piss off?” he said, and I laughed and knew that everything was alright between us again.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Absence Of God Will Bring You Comfort 

Last week’s training course went OK. It’s a bit of a confidence booster actually, to stand in front of a group of people and teach them stuff. Even though I’m not a Unix guru by any stretch of the imagination, so long as your students don’t know that, where’s the harm in allowing them to think that you’re, like, really great?

Me: What is the syntax to perform a global replace within vi?
Students: Erm…
Me: :1,$ s/text_to_be_replaced/new_text/g
Students: That’s beautiful!
Me: Well, it’s pretty obvious when you think about it.
Students: May we touch you?

And you stand there beaming like a cheap plastic Buddha with a forty watt bulb shining out of your arse, and with a bit of luck, they’ll have learned something that might be useful one day.

Me: You’ve had to invoke disaster recovery on your AIX system. Your mksysb restored successfully but Oracle won’t start. What should you check first?
Students: *Isn’t he dreamy?*
Me: Check that your Asynchronous I/O device is Available. It’s usually Defined after a system restore.
Students: *Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!*
Me: Just something to watch out for.
Students: ***Sigh!***

There was an entertaining Indian guy on the course. Fancied himself as a bit of a wheeler dealer. Very aspirational. Talked about money a lot. And he just would not shut up about how great it was being Indian.
As somebody who knows bugger all about what it means to be an Indian living in Britain, I found what he had to say very interesting at first, but gosh, it wore a little thin as the week went on.
A lovely man and all that - he took us all out to a members only (ie. Indians only) club for a meal one night and it was great - but all I could think about was “Blogging Gold! New Made Up Character Alert: I could take the piss out of this guy for months!”

“OK. So a thousand people came to your Dad’s funeral?” I said during coffee break one morning. “That’s pretty incredible. Really. But what comfort can you take from that when you know they’re only there because they have to be? They’ll have a black spot against their names if they don’t show up.”
“It’s to show respect,” he said. “It’s how it works.”
“But that spoils it for the people who genuinely want to pay their respects. They can’t all have loved him. Some people were there because the potential social cost of not turning up was too great. They were motivated by self-interest. They might find themselves cut out.”

He took it in good heart. He was very persistent. Another few days and he would probably have had me - “OK, OK, I give in. Where do I sign? I want to become an Indian.

And I also learned a new 3LA (three letter acronym), though I sort of wish that I hadn’t.
“Hindu parents don’t mind who their children marry,” he said. “But they prefer them not to be BMWs - blacks, muslims or whites.”
“Hmmm,” I said. I’m really not sure how I feel about that.

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