Sunday, April 30, 2006

Boy About Town 

JP went out “to explore the town” and look for a paper. Me and Girlfriend smiled and wished him good luck. He returned five minutes later empty handed.
“I asked the man in the shop, but they didn’t have any,” he said. “They had some Independents in last week, but they’d just sold the last one.”

I moved my Toyota Nosebleed from under the trees before it became completely buried in the stuff, then we went for a walk up to the Cove, me, Girlfriend, Leanne and JP.
It was a lovely day and the footpaths were heaving with people in tracksuits. Its normally all Gore-tex and walking poles round here, but the Bank Holiday weekend blew in a different, more tracksuited kind of crowd.
High above the village now, the parked cars on either side of the road glistened like a river and the overspill field - £3 a pop - was a reservoir. Everybody looked happy to be out in the sunshine, even the families who were shouting at each other.
We bumped into FFA and Chloe by the ice cream van. At Gordale Scar we stared with slack jawed wonder at two kids trying to earn their place in the Darwin Awards’ Roll Call of Stupidity.

There were more of those trees with coins in, and I mentioned that the wish I made last December came true. JP did the coin thing but I don’t know if he made a wish.
We saw a dipper at Janet’s Foss and JP sang “We’re holding up the bypass! Woa-oh! Me and my Dad having a top laugh! Woa-oh!”

Back at the cottage Charlie - whose specialist subject is Eighties teen movies - was having a pyjama day and watching Mannequin.
We sat about reading and relaxing and talking. Everybody felt sleepy.

Later on Charlie and JP cooked jambalaya, and the evening’s entertainment was Call ‘Em All. Apparently it’s WH Smith’s cheapo version of something better known, but you only actually need the cards and it was good fun. We tried out a new variant where you read out one of the answers and you have to guess the category.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Day At The Races 

There was one non-runner at Ripon Races due to an unlucky hangover, but the rest of us had a good time.
We travelled in convoy, stopping off for cash in Pateley Bridge. I went in Steve’s XFM convertible, feeling windswept and leered at, but didn’t really mind because I was on holiday.
We discussed the Arctic Monkeys and I came out £7.00 up on the day. I’m still thinking about turning pro.

Then we said goodbye to Steve who sadly couldn’t stay with us longer due to racing commitments of his own, and enjoyed a terribly good meal prepared manually by Chloe and FFA, who used rice and an old cornflake box to stop it from rising up out of control.

Afterwards we played Articulate and didn’t drink all that much, not really.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday I’m In Love 

Depending on what you’ve been drinking, it can be anywhere between thirteen and seventeen steps door to door, cottage to pub. We were in deepest loveliest Malham again, possibly the nicest place on Earth, but shhh - don’t tell everybody, because, well, you know what happens when you do.

There can be few feelings as satisfying as the one where you tell your colleagues on a Friday afternoon that oh by the way, I’m on holiday next week, spending it in or next door to the pub with a gang of friends, see you later, hope it all goes OK with Project Dogshit or whatever it is they’ll be working on. It was a glorious drive and my right forearm caught the sun.

We ate in the pub, Girlfriend and me, Charlie, Juggling Protégé and Leanne, Fairly Famous Actor, Fairly Famous Actor’s girlfriend Chloe, and my mate Steve from last time.
Steve told us about bungee jumping in New Zealand and how great it is there, and Charlie told us that in the event of one of those global disasters you read about, you need - and by that she meant that everybody needs - to have five weeks of supplies or you’ve no chance.

Last time we were here there was a group of German bicycle enthusiasts at the noisy table, and now we were the noisy table. I hope we weren’t annoying.
After we’d scared the whole room for a while with stories of unreadyness in the face of shortage we hiked back to the cottage.

Girlfriend, Leanne and me put ourselves outside a litre of vodka and everybody played Twister and sat about talking.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Little Fluffy Clouds 

Neil, my former team leader, spent this morning bicycling around and around the building dressed as an 18th Century country parson. It was a lovely day for a spot of it.
On his handlebars there was a wicker basket full of kittens looking cross-eyed and dizzy, as if they’d been forced to read Jeffrey Archer.
As lunchtime approached, the tannoy crackled and popped into life. It was Neil.
“Bing bong. Would anybody like to see some kittens?” - and all or nearly all of the women in the office said “Ooooh! Kittens!” and rushed out to take a peek.

Once they’d cleared the building, Neil came into our room rubbing his hands and said, “Quick lads. While they’re distracted, let’s sneak into the girl’s dormitories and apple pie their beds.”
There weren’t any takers.
Undejected, he asked “What were the skies like when you were young?” and before anybody could answer “They went on for forever, we lived in Arizona and the skies always had little fluffy clouds. They were long and clear and there were lots of stars at night,” he was slapping his arse and saying “Buns of steel, lads! Look at them! Buns of steel.”

Only Charlotte, Bill Surname CEO’s loyal PA, remained at her post.
Poor Charlotte, it’s a difficult time for her: frumpy, frantic and lonely as hell, and now the only man she’s ever loved says we have to tighten our belts, I want you to impose stringent stationery rationing as of yesterday, and biscuits? Biscuits from now on are for directors only, no exceptions. If I find crumbs I’m holding you responsible, and she’s too frightened and ashamed to reveal to him her true feelings. A woman has wants and needs that go beyond crumb prevention.

Creepy Keith from Accounts, sensitive as a shotgun wound, smirked like the cat that got the cream, swinging from room to room, Tarzan in Oxford brogues, beating his chest and bellowing, “I’m the King Of The Fucking Jungle! Biscuits! That was my fucking idea! All fucking mine!”

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Cities On Fire 

Long Tall Wanda was freshly returned from a UNESCO trip hectoring endangered mountain peoples about the perils of reality TV, or something. On reflection I think I might have given her a hard time, but the girl can more than stick up for herself. I like her a lot. She has friends who’d rather go to the theatre. I like Leanne’s jacket, I think it’s new, and I’m looking forward to vodka week.

Guy Garvey from Elbow was in the audience at the Jenny Lewis *sigh* show and he kept bloody looking up at me, as if to say “The boots on the other foot now. See how you like that, pal.”

Jenny Lewis *sigh* was extremely good and so was Johnathan Rice. It’s not my place to interfere but maybe those guys should get together. They certainly know how to put on a show.

In other Ticket Stub Temple Of Coolness news, Calexico and Iron And Wine were mighty fine. We liked the lad who sang gently, but we also liked the man who sang incredibly can you hear me back in Mexico loudly. He stamped his feet and made clicky noises.

Sigur Ros were beautiful at the Apollo, although the event would have been improved if people hadn’t been allowed to traipse throughout the performance emptying their bladders. I suppose it’s only to be expected at a venue sponsored by a pissy lager corporation. Pete and Mark from Elbow were there too.
Call me paranoid but I think my favourite alt-LS Lowry rockers might be stalking me back.

A man rang up and said that he spends four hours a day in his car. Good grief. Not even homeless people who live in their cars spend that kind of time in their cars. Probably.

O says that I cheer her up, which cheers me up no end. Cheers O.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Games Without Frontiers 

The prevalent management style at Company X can be summarised as a game of malice, the gist of which goes “I take one step backward, you take one step backward. You take one step forward, I shove you into a vat of gunk while you can’t see me.”

It’s a battle of wills, of trust versus mistrust, compromise versus non-compromise, a sort of ‘It’s A Knockout’ for our times - all greased poles, bungee elastic and intermittent WiFi reception - and heaven help the customer who should get caught in the crossfire. Little wonder that Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, needs such long lunch breaks to maintain her levels.
“I’m meeting Becky down at Swank,” she declared at half past mid-morning. “You’re all in charge.”

A conspiracy of silence surrounds the R word thing in our office, as if the first person to say it will jinx themselves.
Terry read the paper, looking up new words in the dictionary and writing them in his notepad - impecuniousness: a complete lack of money; podcast: a complete waste of time - while Mike, for whom every week is Flatulence Awareness Week, basked in a cheese and onion fug of his own foul devising.
I made too many trips to the coffee machine and felt a bit panicky.

Stella breezed back into the office two and a half hours later, phone to her ear, all Chardonnay swagger and glowing post-lunch poise - “Nah, don’t worry about it, Babe. I like a girl who takes her time down there” - and cancelled her meeting with Death and Pestilence on the grounds that the meeting room was double booked. She declined to mention that both bookings were hers.

Next she sent two emails: a report she’d prepared earlier to Bill Surname on service level agreements, the subtext of which was “Death and Pestilence are rubbish, aren’t they? Lucky for you that I’m alright,” and a proverb-like note to us which read “Just because you’re not afraid of failing, it doesn’t mean you’ll succeed.”
Then she slumped unconscious at her desk, smelling of roses, her Joker played, points doubled, face down on her keyboard, doubtless dreaming of sabotage, and if a third email was anything to go by, zzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Don't Fear The Reaper 

Everybody gathered round their nearest tannoy speaker to listen to Bill Surname CEO’s important announcement. We must have resembled 1940s families, all tank tops and knitted twin sets, fearful, clustered around the wireless, listening to Churchill urging the nation in it’s darkest hour to Get Up, Stand Up, Don’t Give Up The Fight.

You could tell something big was on the cards from the way Charlotte, Bill Surname’s loyal PA, spent the preceding days anxiously steaming up every window in a frenzy of executive hyperventilation.
Poor Charlotte - it’s a difficult time for her, what with the interminable Easter weekend rearing up like a chasm of solitary confinement in a pitiless void of ready made meals and low grade confectionary, and now this.

Company X is to be restructured, with a reduction in the workforce of somewhere between ten and fifteen percent.
Volunteers have been asked to step forward for early release - which sounds too much like an embarassing medical condition for my liking - and after that the compulsory redundancies will commence.

Okay, so I’m making up the bit about the tannoy system for my own gallows humour amusement, but the rest is really happening.
I need a Plan B but can’t think of anything sensible. At my time of life going back on the game isn’t an attractive proposition, and “A Free Man In Preston: The Paperback” sounds like “Ewwww” by any other name. Which leaves me with delivering free newspapers or going back on the game.

Charlotte bing-bonged her glockenspiel to signal the end of the world as we know it, and we all returned to our desks to browse job websites. There was an eerie sense of anaesthetised calm in the office.
Terry spent the afternoon instant messaging Tabs, who was working merely yards away on the reception desk. Mike went for a wank then ate some crisps.
Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, lit some joss sticks.

“It’s bad,” she sighed, flicking through her copy of “You? A Manager?!? And I’m The Easter Bunny.”
“It’s Hyderabad,” I replied.
“I wonder when we’ll start to hear stuff?”
The door was open and the wind appeared. Come on Baby, don't be afraid. Baby, take my hand.
“Noida,” I said, and stepped outside for a think.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Such Great Heights 

I’ve been hard at it studying for my Sudoku ‘Level:Bastard’ exams. It’s making big demands on both time and brain, but I’m hoping it’ll pay off dividends in the long run. I think it’s been beneficial for me to do one thing every day with a logical explanation.

“I thought you’d given those up for Lent,” said Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, this lunchtime as I filled a sheet of A4 with random numbers written in a new notation I’ve stumbled upon called ‘up to nine dots in a square’. Well, it’s new to me anyway. You’ve probably been using it for days now.

“No,” I replied. “You’re thinking of the lady at the gates with the dreamy soft white baps.”
“What?” said Stella. “The sandwich lady has given up Sudoku for Lent?”
“No. I’ve given up the sandwich lady for Lent.”
“So what’s she given up then?”
“Buggered if I know. Drinking before teatime? Channel Five? Chasing cars? I’ve not seen her to ask.”
“Oh,” she said. “Right.”

She observed me quietly for a while with a puzzled expression on her face. Eventually she asked “So why do you still do Sudokus if you don’t have to?”
“Well, because…” and I couldn’t really think how to answer. “Just because.”
“That’s not very logical, is it?” she said triumphantly.
“I couldn’t care Leicestershire,” I replied, but she’d already wandered back to her office to count her cherry stones.

I returned to my page of sprawling dotted squares and tried to remember where I was up to. In my vaguely hallucinogenic state of sandwichlessness I saw Venn diagrams with measles, a spot the ball contest on a hopscotch grid, box headed children with faces full of freckles, town planning maps as drawn by four year olds, and SpongeBob SquarePants.
I reached a clearing in the tangled bramble strewn woodlands of my mind when I heard Stella distantly exclaiming “Nine!” by the rhododendron bushes and the rest, as they say, is wisteria.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I Like Birds 

All the gentlemen blackbirds sing “Who wants to breed? Who wants to breed? Who wants to breed?” and the lady blackbirds chorus back “I’m good, I’m good, I’m good, I’m good.”

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Take Courage, Take Courage 

In my wallet there’s a piece of paper which reads:
Abba - Winner Takes It All, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, Simon + Garf - Mrs Robinson, Dr Hook Sylvia’s Mother, Tiffany - I Think We’re Alone Now, Knowing Me Knowing You, REM Imitation of Life, Losing My Religion, Prefab Sprout King Of Rock’n’Roll, GC - Wichita Lineman, ELO Mr Blue Sky, Hey Jude, RW - Angels, Tears For Fears - Everybody Wants To Rule, Outkast Hey Ya! Walk Away Renee.

I’m not sure about the Tears For Fears but the rest should be pretty easy. They’re requests for me to learn and sing for our next holiday adventure. Oh yes, and Slade’s Far Far Away.
It was good seeing everybody in the pub on Friday night. Charlie and Fairly Famous Actor were on good form, Juggling Protégé put in a late appearance, and Canoeing Instructor had to be restrained from twanging some bloke’s braces , on the basis that he didn’t seem the type to see the funny side and was being neither arch nor retro. He didn’t even have a phone the size of a house brick.

Leanne was there too and later on was joined by her best friend B - her baby is a Boddingtons baby, which is a very good thing, if I heard her correctly - and we also met Leanne’s girlfriend Tina for the first time.
I’m probably reading it all wrong, but my guess is that it must have been a bit scary for Tina having to meet so many new people all at once like that. It was a big crowd and two of Leanne’s exes - who are both absolutely lovely, of course - were amongst them. Is it just me, or is that nerve wracking?
And likewise, it was probably quite a ‘gather up your courage’ moment for Leanne too. Either way, I’m mega-dead-pleased for Leanne and wish nothing but really good things for both of them.

Saturday was drizzly and grey. Me and Girlfriend got in the car and headed off in a ‘let’s see where we end up’ kind of way. We were in the mood for sitting in a steamed up car, reading our books - or in my case, colouring it in - and staring out to sea somewhere suitably damp and atmospheric. A Cornish cliff top would have been my ideal. Maybe with a bit of cuddling thrown in, or light petting even.
Instead, we fetched up in Grange-over-Sands and by the time we got there it was sunny, which kind of put the kibosh on things, but that’s the British climate for you.
We had coffee and cake in a café that had fancy reviews from the national press on the walls but didn’t seem owt special to us, then we moved on to our favourite adult shop in Windermere to look at saucepans and spatulas. We came out with a cheese grater.

Today we bought seeds: sweet peas, sunflowers, nasturtiums and some spiky things that I can’t remember the name of. Of course it’s been too wet to go out and sew them, so we sat by the fire and watched Six Feet Under instead.

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