Wednesday, April 30, 2008

In Rainbows 

When Death enters a room most people at the very least sit up and take notice - “Uh oh, who's he come for this time?” - but we are Systems Administrators and we don't take no shit from no one.
We've got his browser history on tape and keep copies of his more, let's say, scurrilous emails for a rainy day, which is everyday, just in case. It's a perk of the job.

He's been giving her a load of grief lately – something and nothing over a lost bid in the life assurance sector - but Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, brushes him off with a nonchalant “I know who you drink with, and I know what you say about them behind their backs, so don't push me” shrug and he's on his sorry way.
“Pay no mind. He's just jealous,” she told me this morning, which is every morning. “I'm like one of Creepy Keith's flapjacks. You can't keep me down.”

She's been buzzing all day, high on her first appearance in Ignore, the Company X magazine. She's featured in an article about the Oddshore Resourcing webinar she was recently involved with.
Oddshoring is where a company outsources business processes to inappropriate and unsympathetic third parties. Next time you speak to a customer care representative and you're left with the distinct impression that they don't actually care at all – and why should they? You share no common purpose with this person, apart from not wanting to be stuck on the phone with them - then that's oddshoring.

“Look at this, Tim,” she beamed. In a sidebar below her picture was Stella's message to the business community:

FY2008 has been a fantastic year for tactical initiatives and Company X has made unprecedented strides in the field of key strategic unresponsiveness, benefiting stakeholders locally and globally alike looking forward.
Oddshoring is integral to this process and we will aggressively momentumise into FY2009 and beyond looking forward.
Company X is rigorously realigning the way we do business in existing verticals and future horizontals, transforming transformation by bringing real cost savings to customers, increasing satisfaction and upmarginalising all across the industry.
We are young and accelerating and passionate about help desks and will not be hindered in our ambitious growth objectives looking forward and beyond in FY2009.

“Wow,” I said. “That's really something.”
“I'm tickled pink, Tim. I'm finally making some headway. For myself and for this team. I'm doing this for all of us.”
In Stella's book, good PR is the highest state of grace and nothing beats column inches. Recognition of her indubitable talents within the company has been a long time coming.
“So what do you think? Am I on my way or what?” but before I could answer she was on the phone to her friend Becky to pass on the good news - all “OMG!” this and “Crazy bitch!” that – so I headed back to my desk to contemplate Death and modest victories with a small piece of fruit.

Outside my window a hard rain was falling.
Rain and cherry blossom and the greening fields. Rain and Rex the Security Guard, welly deep in cowshit, rounding up the Gloucestershires for milking.

Rain and beside the sopping datacentre a sea of daffodils bobbing like a thousand happy suns, and beyond that, spray on the bypass, the lorries and cars with their vapour trail tails, then further still, beyond the power pylons and car showrooms, the spire of St. Walburga's shrouded in rain, the hopeful of Preston enclouded, this city of workers, the busy bees and the drowsy bees, the boozy bees and cheesy beers and the messy beards and dozy birds, the big mouthed reps and dreaming consultants, the newspaper sellers and kitchen roof playwrights, the know it alls and done it alls, the mid-morning drinkers and occasional thinkers, the queen bees and could have beens.

Rain and the merciless help desk girls with their tight skirts and skimpy blouses.
Rain and those poor helpless help desk boys with their spinning heads and bewildersome desires -
“I've done some shagging in that car park,” says a veteran of the scene.
“Have you? Who? How?”
“Wife weren't pleased when she found out.”
“Wasn't she? Where? When?”
“Ex-wife, I should say.”

- all of nature bursting and budding, jumping like springy lambs, gagging for a warm new world of sunshine.

“Pay no mind to Death. This is a new dawn, Tim,” said Stella when she finally came off the phone, which was today, Wednesday again, and I probably said something like yes, and that I was pleased for her, genuinely, looking forward.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Handbags in the car park this morning as an ejaculate of salesmen argued the toss over the last remaining space.
My money was on a skinny guy with white hair sculpted into a jaunty quiff.
“He looks like Tintin,” said Neil.
“Tintin is ginger, isn't he?” replied Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader.
“No,” said Neil. “He's Belgian.”

We were gathered together in Stella's office on the solemn occasion of my annual appraisal, she in the role of appraiser and Neil – who I'm convinced is a befuddled tourist from a distant planet, lost as a suitcase at Terminal 5 – in the guise of impartial referee.
“It's such a cliché to say all managers are incompetent buffoons,” I said. “Present company excepted of course. But it's so true.”

Neil was spraying his head with some kind of dark icky substance.
“There!” he said when he'd finished, paraphrasing from the blurb on the canister. “Now nobody need ever know that I've gone bald!”

I pitched a few examples to back up my argument, instances where I'd fulfilled my duties with typical quiet determination, blah blah, only to see someone else receive all the plaudits.
“Managers are always taken in by heroic gestures,” I said. “This is because they're constantly looking out for eye-catching stories to put in their monthly reports. To them, somebody driving all night to deliver a solution to a customer just ahead of a deadline will always make better copy than the guy who diligently grafted for weeks to produce that solution.”

Stella typed something into her Blackberry then popped it into her bag.
“You'd imagine bosses got where they are because of their ability to make good decisions,” I continued. “But that's not the case, is it? They don't listen and I don't believe they'd be capable of understanding even if they did.”
“Tim, I'm going to stop you there,” said Stella sternly. Her eye contact was unflinching. “Now answer me this.”
“Go on.”
“Does my hair look better up or down?” She gathered it up in one hand, revealing an unusual tattoo on the nape of her neck - “Up?” - then let it fall around her shoulders - “Or down?”

I ummed to fill the silence for a while, then said “I can't believe I never knew Company X has it's own train station. Did you know that?”

A hundred yards beyond the clearing in the beech copse where Bill Surname's retired army chums make base camp, the platform is densely covered in seventeen varieties of Deadly Bramble – and sure, you have to change at Preston, then Southport, then Preston again, so it's hardly on the mainline or anything – but still, a proper station with a ticket office and broken phone boxes and a booth selling coffee and matches.

“Down,” I said, so she tied up her hair with a scrunchy and excused herself before heading off to Mr. Overdone's – house motto: “You'll never know you had it in you” - to meet her friend Becky for lunch.
“Not you,” I said to Neil, my former team leader, who clambered back to his feet, straightened his cravat, then wandered off to stores to try and buy a map of Earth.

Monday, April 07, 2008


7:59 On Time
I double check the contents of my briefcase. Apple. Banana. Little orangey thing. I want to look the part so consider buying The Times en route to the station but there's no time. I put on my bowler hat and lock the front door behind us.
Goodness knows I've had ample opportunity to learn about railway etiquette but nothing really prepares you for your first commute. It's a crisp, cold morning and I'm glad I brought my gloves.
Girlfriend leads the way to the ticket office and stands close by in case I embarrass myself. Her expression says “I'll show you what to do this once, and then you're on your own Mister.”
She has lent me her timetable. I grip it tightly in my hand like it was a winning lottery ticket. This is her thing and it feels like I'm infringing on it.

On the platform a young man is reading a bible. He doesn't look crazy, but then they're the ones you have to watch out for in between looking out for those who actually do look crazy.
The atmosphere is civilised and calm, but when the train arrives I'm separated from Girlfriend in the rush. I suspect she may be glad of this. She was very quick off her marks now I think of it.
I find a seat next to a girl who spends the journey applying and re-applying her makeup. Overcoming the urge to explain how this is a little landmark for me, or tell her that she looked fine the first time round, I earphone up and hug my briefcase close to my chest.

The countryside is a whizzy blur: motorway and hills to the left of us, snow on some of the tops; canal and cows to the right. We're there in next to no time.

Seventh Tree - Goldfrapp

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Copyright(c) 2004-2010 by Tim, A Free Man In Preston.
It kind of goes without saying, but this is my blog. I own it.

Slightly daft MP3 disclaimer: All MP3's are posted here for a limited time only. Music is not posted here with the intention to profit or violate copyright. In the unlikely event that you are the creator or copyright owner of a song published on this site and you want it to be removed, let me know.