Thursday, August 31, 2006

Strange news on Thursday

This week it just had to be this story about strange Chinese funeral practices. Well, I suppose it beats a couple of hymns and inviting everyone back for sherry and sandwiches...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Office niggles part two

And the subject this time drills. These feature the tedium of evacuating the building without that tiny hope that there might be a fire. Not a big dangerous fire, just a bit of an overloaded circuit in the server room and a bit of smoke and melting, which would put the computers out of action for the rest of the day, so everybody would get to go to the pub, or get home in non rush hour traffic to curl up with a mug of tea and one of those black and white midweek afternoon films on BBC2. Even without the systems being out of action, you might at least get to see some hunky firemen.

Of course, it occurs to me that I might be alienating a fair few bloggers here, as quite a few seem to work in IT support, in which case you wouldn't be doing anything nice if there was a problem in the server room, you'd have to go back in once the fire was out and work like dogs to sort it out, possibly overnight. And as there are more blokes in IT support than women, most of you won't even get much consolation from the hunky firemen (although I could be wrong).

It also occurs to me that a lot of regular readers work in Central London, or for high profile companies, and that fire alarms might be a bit more disturbing in the context of the last year. Sorry if this seems flippant. However, a lot of you are probably like me, working for fairly uncontroversial suburban or regional companies where terrorism isn't a concern, and you might well be the only ones still with me here. Given the readership of this blog, this probably leaves one sales rep who works for an office supplies company in Barnsley. Come with me, Trevor, as we explore the world of the fire drill...

In most cases, a fire drill is announced a few days beforehand. There will be at least one office junior or work experience person who is mildly excited by this. These will be very young, however, as anybody who has lived in a university hall of residence will be wearily familiar with the setting off of fire alarms, and the inquest which followed if you didn't show up for roll call (or it did in my day at Royal Holloway). No matter if you explained that the last thing you heard in the corridor at 3am was a shout of
"Ooh Sean, you've just put your elbow through that fire alarm! Who would have thought we would end up doing that after re-enacting the Monty Python fish slapping dance in a confined space peppered with loads of alarms with easily breakable glass, after we had 7 pints of snakebite in the Students' Union bar?". No, it would be solemnly explained that you should have pulled on some clothes and stood around in the cold anyway. Let's not even go into the times when you had to mumble something about not being in your room that night. You would then, and this is no word of a lie, be asked where you were! Talk about invasion of privacy. I mean, we're not talking about a convent here!

Anyway, we were talking about fire drills (come back, Trevor). In a big organisation, this involves designated fire marshalls, who get to wear a florescent yellow vest with FIRE MARSHALL on the back. Or, more likely, F RE MARS A L. Attractive and hard wearing, then. They always look for volunteers to be fire marshalls. Your best bet is to suddenly look very busy. Either that or to nudge the office junior or work experience person, and tell them that it's a good way to show initiative. Suckers. The idea is that you all follow the fire marshalls out of the office, rather than following the person in front of you who might get a sudden urge to visit the roof. This is a bit silly, as you all know how to go down the stairs and out of the doors anyway. And if it suddenly got really hot and smokey, and you panicked, and couldn't see, and you needed a leader, the mug who got landed with the job of fire marshall would not suddenly mutate into one of the cast of London's Burning. It would still be Marjorie from accounts, and her glasses have just fallen off..

The first rule of a fire drill is that you leave your coats and bags, and make straight for the exits. B*ll*cks. You're going to be out there in January; you know how long it takes to find everybody present and correct. And of course, this idea will always be sabotaged by that small, wayward, maverick group...yes, smokers. They can recognise an opportunity when they see one. Linford Christie has nothing on the smoker who finds themselves marooned on the top floor on some obscure photocopying quest, with his cancer sticks in his jacket swinging forlornly on the back of a chair on the first floor, when the alarm goes.

So, once out of the building, you line up for the register. This will often, unless your company is very enlightened, be in the car park of the building in question. You are now safely outside the dangerous building. It might be on the verge of a gas explosion, or a bomb explosion, but that's OK, you're a full 10 feet away from its plate glass windows. Sorted. This register can sometimes become interesting in a small organisation, as there might only be the one individual out of, say twenty, who is late. Sheepishly, they apologise, saying they were in the toilet. Given that they were at least two or three minutes late, this gives the other staff members the smug satisfaction of knowing he was doing a "number two".

Wet and cold, you amble back in. You realise that, in your haste to get away, you left your email in mid-sentence, you know, the one thanking that new contact for their interest in your asset evaluation service. You'd been quite good, leaving your desk midway through writing an email, like you were supposed to (but only because you needed to find your fags). You'd only got as far as:
"Thankyou for your interest in our ass"

Unfortunately, all the smokers had brushed past your desk on their way to get their ciggies, and, through the magic of random mouse movement and keyboard thumping, the email had been sent in that form. Even more worryingly, there is a reply nestling in your inbox. Nervously, you open it. It seems surprisingly positive. Oh dear, Trevor, that latest stationery contract might involve some rather unusual terms and conditions...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Booker excitement.

As a sort of literary person...well, OK, I'm somebody who likes books, and who writes a bit, and who once did a degree in English at London University, or who enjoys a lot of crime fiction which a lot of Booker judges wouldn't contemplate, but which might merit serious discussion. However I sometimes like to keep up with The Booker Prize.

Anyway, very excited to discover that Jon McGregor's new novel is on The Booker Longlist.

I'm a great fan of his wonderful debut novel If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, and I'm looking forward to the next book...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Wish I'd heard the answer...

On Saturday, I got off a tube train. Well, that wasn't all I did on Saturday; I had to get on a tube train too, and do other things besides, but you get the idea. Just as I was getting off, I heard a little boy, about three or four, ask a his Dad a question:
"Which is stronger, a Mr Man or an antelope?"

I'll never know the answer, because I had to get off. But I shall be watching lots of documentaries on The Discovery Channel, just in case I spot an antelope, or gazelle, or, well, any other creature, encountering the infamous Mr Chuckle.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Strange news on Thursday

Yes, it's back due to popular demand. Well, I'm sure that if I had an email facility which allowed my many fans to get in touch there would have been popular demand. Or a couple of people mildly interested in its reinstatement. Or, well, if I specifically asked on my blog if anybody wanted it to be reinstated, a couple of you might have said they wouldn't mind either way, really. Anyway.

Yes, it's that popular(ish) look at one of the weird and quirky news stories that have taken place in the past seven days.

Now, supposing you're a Tory MP (yes, it might take quite a vivid imagination for most of us). You're in your constituency, at a country show with lots of Women's Institute types and hunting shooting fishing type people. Your core supporters, in other words. You're having a pleasant mooch about, confirming your presence at local events. You might buy some jam later. What could go wrong?

Well, this, for a start.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Office niggles

Trying to think what I could blog about, and I thought I might do a series of posts on office niggles; you know, the things that annoy you in the workplace, things that are really minor but which somehow work you up to such a pitch of resentment that by the end of the week you would willingly have the perpetrators hung upside down from their ankles, smeared with gravy, and left to the ministrations of several hundred ravenous polecats with a particular taste for gravy-smeared nostrils.

Obviously, when I say things that annoy you in the workplace, I'm talking about office-type jobs. If you're a fire fighter, or paramedic, or policeman, you might not understand my take on this. You might find that people who have severed an artery are more of a strain than malfunctioning coffee machines, or that people trying to thump you are a bit more trying than the photocopier running out of toner, but each to their own.

Anyway. Part One.

Water coolers, the refilling of.

Now, almost all of us have water coolers in our office. They are part of our corporate culture, one of the very few American practices that we have imported that is a good idea. People talk about things around the water coolers; TV schedulers talk about "water cooler TV"; programmes that you all talk about around the cooler while you are briefly together, before you get back to work. This presumes, of course, that you work in some mythical corporate nirvana where the work is so fulfilling that you only ever talk about this at the water cooler. Instead of the sort of office where you spend every spare moment at your desk distracting each other with this sort of stuff, until one of your colleagues spoils things by wanting to do some work, so you have to log on to the Big Brother website.

Anyway, water coolers are, by and large, a good thing. The problem is, they run out. And when they run out somebody needs to remove the container, and replace it with a full container.

Now, the containers are bulky and heavy. But they are not quite heavy and bulky enough for it to be a job for a big strong man. Women can manage it easily enough, but only if they adopt the stance and expression of a Sumo wrestler with a bad case of piles. And making sure that the little spiked thing penetrates the new container is a bit like jets refuelling in mid-flight. There are three ways of dealing with this dilemma:

The Avoider

You aren't that thirsty, in fact you're only going up there because you're on some sort of health kick, and you've read that you need two litres of fluid a day and lager, sadly, doesn't count. You see the empty container, you know that there is probably a bit in the reservoir within the dispenser, but no, best to come back later when somebody else has refilled it. You pretend you are going somewhere else.

The Brazen Hussy

You just don't care. You will empty the cooler, see the flow cease, and pretend that that volume was exactly what you wanted, by utter coincidence, and waltz off. This will make your co-workers seethe. Then again, you might work in an office where seething is the main source of enjoyment, so who cares?

The Big Heave

Yes, you have drained the water, and there are several containers beside the dispenser. You bend your knees, hug a container and lift. You groan as you do so. We are not talking the slight, musical groan of sexual ecstasy as captured on various films, as you thrust your pert young breasts (well, OK, your breasts) upwards No, we're talking about the groan of a typical darts player picking up his arrows from the floor whilst farting loudly.

You wobble a bit, like a championship weightlifter, but without the steroids and tattoos. Then finally, after a few false starts, you guide the base of the container onto the plastic spike, a bit like the mating of a particularly obscure shellfish, but without the breathless commentary by David Attenborough. It's done. You look round at the rest of the office for some sort of recognition. They are looking down at their desks. They hadn't remotely imagined it needed refilling, you see...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Well, I tried...

An incident in the street in Richmond a few days ago. I was walking a few yards behind a women with a small boy in a buggy. I was vaguely aware that said small boy was clutching a balloon. I was looking in a shop window, when said balloon floated past me. I scampered after it, knowing how disappointed the little chap would be to lose his treat, and after nearly falling over and scattering a few pedestrians, I proudly presented the yellow balloon to the little boy. He looked rather underwhelmed, and his Mum was looking a bit doubtful.

"Actually, he was letting it go to see how far up it would fly."

Oh. I approached the little chap, and suggested we let go of it again. He looked even more underwhelmed. I let it go and it sailed up about eight feet and got caught on a building. The boy looked less whelmed than it is possible to be, and his Mum tried to look vaguely thankful for my efforts. I mumbled an apology and walked off sheepishly.

Strange Blue Ghost, spoiling magic moments for children everywhere.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Thinking about Christmas

Yes, I know it's a bit early, but I was thinking about what I should buy for crimbo this year. Perhaps some Frosty The Snowman cards. Or Perhaps some crackers containing a whistle, some music and a conductor's baton. Or a nice Romance of Steam calendar for 2007. Or I might be a bit tempted by the Santa and Snowman lanterns. Place a tealight inside and they'll give a charming seasonal glow, apparently.

Why am I thinking about crimbo? Because all these items are contained within the Cancer Research UK Autumn/Winter card and gift catalogue.

Which came through my letterbox today. For f*ck's sake, is Summer not short enough?!!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I'm back!

You may have noticed a bit of a gap in blogging. That's because my pooter had a problem and crashed every time I logged into I nearly got a pooter doctor, but it seems to have miraculously cured itself.

Anyway, I'm back, I'm loud, and I'm angry. Actually, I'm back, I'm quite quiet, and I'm a bit irritated, but it's good enough for this blog.

Look forward to my experiences as I tread the mean streets of Richmond!