Sunday, July 30, 2006

Oh Manchester 

Lovely K, who writes Manchizzle, is organising a Manchester blogmeet for Saturday August 12th, at the rather shiny and exciting Urbis exhibition centre. It has free wireless. Oh boy.

Actually, it’s something of an assumption that K is lovely. For all I know she could be a horrendous and unlovely monster of a person, a real hag, but I can’t imagine that being true for a moment.
I’ll be able to report back and let you know soon enough, as both me and Girlfriend are planning to attend. Better still - why not come and make up your own mind?

Me and Girlfriend will be the couple in a corner muttering “How come everybody here knows everybody else, and we don’t know anyone? Is it time to leave yet? I knew this was a bad idea. And so on.”

I’m sure K will be thrilled if you can bring yourself along, and me and Girlfriend would be implausibly grateful if there was somebody there who we know and can talk to. So let’s meet up and to try and make the best of an otherwise awkward and embarrassing situation together. Please.

And besides, Manchester is absolutely beautiful at this time of year. We could go for a walk where it’s quiet and dry, and talk about precious things, etc.

Further details here.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Everything's Not Lost 

Where is everybody? Either on holiday, or jumped ship to become, I dunno, strawberry pickers or something.

I’ve hardly seen a soul all day save for Charlotte, Bill Surname’s loyal PA, frantically skooting up and down the corridors with a clipboard and a head full of steam, a one woman perpetual motion machine, a land speed record in the making.
Poor Charlotte, it’s a difficult time for her: flies in the ointment, wasps in the bread, bugs in the software, bees in the bike shed, and now this. A spanner in the works at every crank of the cog.
Bill Surname says that if she doesn’t then somebody else will have to instead, and that would never do, never in a million years.

Mind you: this lunchtime, down by the Sunken Heart Rose Gardens, I caught her auditing butterflies on the buddleia, documenting make and model numbers, general observations - Red Admiral, Duke Of Burgundy, Northern Brown Argus, so very, very pretty! - and peacefully humming a popular tune of the day. Perhaps all is not as it sometimes seems.

I was hiding in the rhubarb and watched in silence as she closed her eyes, lifted her face to the hard white sunlight and flew away, saved. Everything’s not lost.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

High In The Morning 

““There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment,” according to the influential French footballer and photographer Thierry Henri Cartier Bresson,” I said in this morning’s team meeting.

I immediately felt tremendously clever and witty. It flew straight over everybody else’s heads, of course. Idiots. They stared at me like I’d farted.

Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, was giving a motivational talk on seizing the moment, not putting off until tomorrow what you can do today, and so forth.
“As the influential American philosopher Homer puts it,” she said, writing on the whiteboard as she did so, “Carpe Diem. Seize the doughnut.”
Mike and Terry fell about laughing, then Stella herself joined in too.
I didn’t, obviously, because my joke was far superior and had been completely wasted on them. The more I didn’t laugh, the more they did. It was almost as if the joke was on me.

“What’s brought this on?” I asked afterwards.
“Brought what on?”
“All this ‘Do it now. Seize the moment.’ And trying to be funny.”
“Nothing, Tim," said Stella. "I’m just a decisive, funny kind of person.”
“Oh,” I said, picking marmalade out of my elbow.
“My friend Becky says there’s never been a better time.”
“A better time for what?” I asked.
“Oh for God’s sake, Tim. You’re never happy until you’ve squeezed the joy out of everything by over-analysing it to death, are you?”

I finished off my toxic coffee-style drink, then pointed out that the ‘over’ in ‘over-analysing’ was tautological.
“If you analyse something to death,” I suggested, “then it’s a given that you’ve over-analysed.”

She didn’t have an answer for that.
I licked the marmalade off my finger nails, shook a constellation of toast crumbs off my shirt and returned to my desk, satisfied that the intellectual high ground was well and truly mine.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

New Star In The Sky 

Hot yesterday, hotter still today, a blistering, headache inducing heat, so hot the car park melted.
All manner of shit has been bubbling up to the surface.

This afternoon an ejaculation of salesmen jostled around Rex the security guard to complain about it, like petulant footballers attempting to bully a referee.
What the overpaid grotesques expected him to do about the weather is anybody’s guess, but it demonstrated all too clearly - should we have needed reminding - that a salesman’s sense of self-worth is in direct proportion to the state of his car: tyre treads gunked up with squishy black tarmac equals a knife to the heart, wounded pride on a scale mere mortals cannot begin to comprehend.
The air was sticky with hurt and imminent tantrums.

Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, her office all a-jangle with wind chimes, fanned herself with a newspaper and said “Hey Tabs, wouldn’t it be weird if there was one of those boggers round here? I’m going to do one. Imagine us being infamous!” and Tabs told her not to be so daft, nothing worth reading about ever happens at Company X.

Creepy Keith from Accounts - surely not all accountants can be such poisonous little turds? - stormed into the room, feckless disappointment made manifest, ranting uncontrollably at Jeanette from the introductions agency on his mobile - “Well if she wasn’t so fat, Jeanette, she wouldn’t have to be a fucking lesbian, would she?” - and then Neil, my former team leader, careered by with his ice cream trolley. He was wearing his usual benign simpleton smile, and a T-shirt that read “The Heat Is On” on the front and “Stop Me And Buy One!” on the back.

I said “Be careful what you wish for,” and treated everybody to Magnums.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Quiet Town 

I took the day off on Friday to play out on my bike.

I rode from Kettlewell to Appletreewick, tracking the Wharfe for ten miles or so, then back again, not because of the quaintness of their names, but because My Little Book Of Cycling In The Dales had implied it wouldn’t be too strenuous. Ahem. If you heard me while I performed a death-defying high speed wobble in Hebden I apologise for my choice language.

It was pleasant to have a quality day out on my ownsome, just me and my rather abstract thoughts, A Free Man In Padded Shorts, but I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it.
I’d promised Girlfriend I’d send her a load of texts so that she could chart my progress on Multimap from her desk at work, but I forgot there’s no signal over there.

In Grassington I bought a Craven Herald - CCTV captures bag theft suspect; Toilet closure petition; Alcoholic jailed after admitting drinking Kaliber - and hung out with the olds, who were there in force, catching some rays, sketching the rooftops, dozing off into their ice creams. It was lovely.
I thought about Leanne, and I wondered whether me and Girlfriend would ever get to live in a place like this. We’d both like to, but that’s easier said than done. I don’t know if it would make me feel less or more remote than I do already, but I suppose you never know if you don’t try.

Back in Kettlewell I made a modest contribution to the cream tea economy and did some leisurely reading up on the Pacific Northwest, fed crumbs to the birds and kept the owner from being able to lock up and go home. Served her right for putting flies in my milk.

So. A very nice, quiet little day, nothing special, but good for the heart and soul nonetheless.
I returned home, pumped full of cycling endorphins, just in time to return my apples to the fruit bowl, shower, then catch Sam making his (keenly anticipated around these parts) West Wing return. Not a bad day at all, really.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pet Sounds 

Mum is gallivanting in Cornwall, which means I’m back on cat feeding duty.
Cats need more than mere meaty chunks in jelly to sustain them, of course, so to put some value-add into my visits I’ve been delighting them with a selection of Beach Boys favourites at the piano -
I may not always love you, but long as there are stars above you, you never need to doubt it, I’ll make you so sure about it. God only knows what I’d be without you. Ouch!” -
while they purr along in harmony and dig their claws into me.

On top of the piano, beside a book of Chopin’s Nocturnes - “Love From Ted. Xmas 1942” - there’s a rather formal family portrait taken at the old house by a professional snapper. I don’t remember a time it hasn’t been there, mainly I suppose because there isn’t one.

Dad, in his mid-fifties, wearing a suit and horn rim glasses and more solid than I ever remember him, rugged around the shoulders, looks older than but not entirely unlike Harold Lloyd. He has the air of an egg-headed boffin about him, a government scientist maybe, spending his days discovering planets at Jodrell Bank, naming new stars in his tea breaks, cataloguing universes on his fingers and toes.
Mum - late thirties? - looks well. No sign of the horrible onslaught of illnesses about to knock her for six over the next few decades. She bounces Sibling B on her knee, and around her are four other siblings, in shirts and ties or posh frocks, according to gender or personal preference.

Their collective expression says ‘contenders to be the first British family in space.’ It speaks of unknown destinies and futures poised to unfold. I think the photographer was trying to pull off a ‘Kennedy Clan meets very minor royal family’ kind of vibe.
It must be 1963, maybe ’64. Beatlemania will have just been lifting off.
I won’t be making an appearance until 1966, a very good year of course. Pet Sounds, Paperback Writer, a dog called Pickles.

I recently asked Mum why there are no family snaps with me in them.
“Well. By the time you arrived,” she laughed, “we’d already done all that. We sort of lost interest in that kind of thing.”

Ho hum. It answers less questions than it poses.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

I Am Superman And I Can Do Anything 

Dog Found. Dog Found. Dog Found. Table Top Sale. Dog Found.

It was so close today. Mid-afternoon the clouds turned a murky shade of yellow, like giant cigarette stains lit from above by fluorescent tubes. Distant objects appeared at once nearer and further away, less clearly defined.
The spire of St. Walburge’s - Preston’s very own Space Needle - and the pylons along the dual carriageway, the Toytown car dealerships, the shimmering traffic: all seemed muted, diffused, otherworldly, like when you’ve got a pair of tights pulled down over your head. A warm breeze gathered strength. It felt like it was about to piss down. The day couldn’t have been more muggy if it had biffed you over the head and ran off with your iPod.

Sure enough, lightning struck. The lights flickered and half the data centre went down.
Terry was in Waterstones, shopping for dictionaries, and Mike was having his afternoon wank, so it was just me to the rescue for the first twenty minutes, armed to the teeth with serial cables and a few 9 to 25 pin gender benders. I became Bruce Willis on a heroic mission to switch a load of computers back on again.

Suddenly it was as if my input mattered.
Calmly: “It’s Tom, isn’t it? What’s the prognosis, Tom? When can you get us back online?”
Slightly panicky: “Estimated TOA, Tom? The customers are starting to get jittery.”
Bordering on hysteria: “Thank goodness you’re here, Tom. We all believe in you. Go, Tom! Go!”
Completely whacko: “Do you think there’ll be a heaven, Tom? Will it have television and the internet? Can we take our teddies?”

I was Superman. I was Jesus with a Chris Martin complex, come to fix you, and you, and you.
With Mike on the job, or off the job, whatever, we had everything restored by home time, including our anonymity.
No word of thanks from Bill Surname CEO, no more pestering from loony account managers, no telegram from the Queen.

Driving home I counted yet more posters on telegraph poles and lampposts: Dog Found. Dog Found. Table Top Sale. Dog Found. Dog Found.
“If they’re still there in a week,” I promised myself, “I might just enquire about that table top sale.”
But I know I won’t really.

It never did rain.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

We Haven’t Turned Around 

Neil, my former team leader, came into our office this morning in full spiv mode, a scruffy old suitcase bursting at the hinges with discounted World Cup merchandise under his arm. He was wearing a pork pie hat - made from real pork pies - and kept looking towards the door nervously, like he was expecting trouble.

There were Wayne Rooney inflatable footrests, a Cristian Ronaldo dartboard, flags of St.George with the words “Cashing In” running through the horizontal stripe, and fake shirts for most of the teams that had taken part, and some that hadn’t, like Blackpool.

I contemplated a Theo Walcott England top.
“An absolute bargain,” said Neil. “Never been worn.”
Mike, appropriately enough for a man with such a low centre of gravity, paid ten quid for an Argentinian shirt, something to wear at the gym, and Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, said she was getting a Brazilian as a surprise for her friend Becky.

Today, for the first time, the World Cup Wall Chart by the cupboard you mustn’t open remains un-updated. Suddenly we can’t be bothered.
“Too bloody hot,” we say, but that’s not the real reason.
It’s hurt pride, obviously, our world suddenly come to a halt, stopped spinning just like that, at some point after Tuesday, just an ordinary day at the end of June. What followed the first knockout round doesn’t matter.

Future archeologists from distant worlds - with aerials for ears and tinfoil skin, hopefully - will one day discover our office, strewn as it always was with abandoned sandwiches, old copies of Computer Weekly and cups of toxic coffee-style drink, and carbon dating will reveal that our very last recorded message, the final testimony of the inhabitants of Company X, was “Brazil 3 - Ghana 0, Ronaldo 4, Adriano 45, Roberto 83, Sent Off: A Gyan 80,” - Sent off where? To try and look for help? - and they could be forgiven for thinking that this was somehow of crucial significance.

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