Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, teetered into the office under a pile of new motivational management books for her reference library.
“Why Can't You Be More Like Me? Excellence In Unconvincing Times.”
“False Hope: A Guide To Staying Positive In The Face Of Conclusive Evidence To The Contrary.”
“Weed and Feed: Systematic Demoralisation In The Corporate Gardenplace.”

“Happy New Year,” she trilled. “Back to old clothes and porridge.”
“Porridge what?” asked Terry.
“It's just something my nan used to say. 'Back to old clothes and porridge.' You know. Now that Christmas is over?”
He gave her his best 'I haven't got a clue what you're talking about' look.
“It's a figure of speech,” she explained. “You don't take it literally.”

“Porridge has a low glycaemic index,” I said. “Energy food. Don't knock porridge. Stabilise your blood glucose levels and you can stabilise your moods.”
“This is Ralph Lauren,” said Stella. “Brand new, obviously.”
“And it does wonders for your....” I hesitated. “Well. I'm going to stop the Porridge Marketing Board thing before I go too far. Can't have you thinking I'm mad or anything.”
“No, you're absolutely right Tim,” said Stella, which is unusual. “All through the holidays my friend Becky saw to it that I got my oats every morning and I've never felt better. Brilliant, in fact.”
“That'll be the B vitamins,” I said. “And the zinc and iron. I'm really going to stop now.”

In an instant, Creepy Keith from Accounts galloped downstairs and was all over Stella like norovirus jumping aboard a new host.
He launched into his terrible Christmas, his falling out with Jeanette from the Introductions Agency, his being caught speeding, family troubles, the downturn in the housing market, the chavs down the road that darken his day, cold callers, the government, taxes, the untraceable phone calls in the middle of the night enquiring after his services as a male escort, the whole degrading experience that is simply existing. A classic text in victimhood. He hates everything and everyone, and everybody hates him back, and the only joy in his life is telling Stella about it.

“I'm telling you Babe,” he screamed, “they're trying to steal my identity, and when I find out who they are I'm going to break their legs.”
“Two questions,” she replied. “Who in their right mind would want to be you? And when you find your identity thief, how will you know they're not you and you're not them?”
“Oh shut up.”
“You'd have to break your own legs as well, to rule out the possibility that they were right and you were wrong.”
He stormed off at this point.
“I had a wonderful Christmas, thank you for asking,” she shouted after him. “I could break your legs for you now, if you like.”

I caught Stella's eye and mimed enjoying a wholesome bowl of porridge. I blew on my pretend spoon then swallowed a mouthful of hot tasty goodness.
“What the fuck are you doing, Tim?” she asked.
“Looks like a certain creepy accountant could you use something to stabilise his moods, don't you think?” I said. “Mmm, not too hot and not too cold. Just right.”
“You're pretending to have no idea what I'm talking about, aren't you?”
More silence.
Outside my window Rex the security guard was dismantling the Christmas tree and packing away the lights. The sky darkened and the rain fell harder.
I wandered down to the wonky vending machine for a coffee style drink and when I returned we carried on like nothing had happened.

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