Saturday, January 18, 2003

T'was the night before work and all through the house...

“Zzzz, mumble, mumble, make it two camels and you can have her, mumble mumble, zzzz Huh?! Eh? Who are you?”
“I am the ghost of your working past, and I want to take you back many years to see what went on in those days”
“Well OK, sounds improbable, but I’ll go with it.”
“Come, let me take you through this magical vortex”
“OK, let me get my slippers, what are you some kind of Muppet?”

I’m not saying that this happened every day, some of it did, some of it happened only once, but all of it happened…


The gentle mist strokes the ancient Port Meadow, the sun warms the majesty of Oxford’s spires that have stood for generations with sleepy authority. Oxford is waking, the students stir, the lecturers prepare their learned scripts, and the proper people get ready for work and eat their Frosties.

Nestling amongst the millionaires of Oxford’s more exclusive suburbs is the little publishing company I used to work for. All seems quiet at the moment, but if you look closely, over there in the corner of the car park, there’s a car made up of two Datsuns, a green one, and a silver one. Shall we go and see who’s in it?

Why it’s Lizard, darling of the company, but she’s crying, shall we find out why? We tap on the window, Lizard looks up, purses her lips, tosses her head back and gives off a strangled roar. She recoils coquettishly with a giggle.

“Hello mate”
“You were crying Lizard”
“Yeah, my boyfriend’s been arrested for stealing booze from a supermarket in the Isle of Wight. Then he threw me out of the house because he wanted to sell my car so he could buy a new part for his Landrover.”
“Lizard, that happened yesterday, and the day before that, you should leave him”
“I’m going to, tonight, I’ve decided”
“You said that yesterday too”

I haven’t seen Lizard for a few years now, last time I saw her was at Jo, who’s quintessentially Steppenwolf’s, birthday. She ran up to me, gave me a hug, asked my how I was…

“Do you like my shoes?”
“I do” I hadn’t seen her in eons, I wasn’t about to diss her shoes, they were a kind of strappy sandle.
“They’re new, I bought them today, look at them” she stretched a leg out to give me a better look, I had nothing to add.
“They’re different” they weren’t that different they were the fashion of the season, and very pop…
“Oh, they’re different from each other.”
“Yeah the woman in the shop sold me one shoe from one pair and one from another pair”
“And you’re still wearing them?”
“Yeah, I’ll take them back tomorrow”

That’s Lizard. She had a great way with words, I still use one of her phrases all the time.

“I don’t want to stamp on your flower”

Shall we see if anyone else is coming? Let’s go and look down the hill. Why it’s Raver struggling in on his mountain bike. You can tell he’s nearly here, his face is like litmus paper for distance. It’s bright red so he must have reached his destination. Let’s wait by the door for him.

At the door is Christo, nobody called him Christo before he worked here, nobody called him it afterwards. But everyone knew him as Christo because our IT didn’t think to make his name Chris, or Christopher on his email address, just Christo.

He’s a lovely bloke, eccentric to the core, shy beyond belief, funnier than you can hope to imagine. During one email frenzy, where we’d spend days hammering the email server fighting each other for the next word, Christo stepped back into radio silence for twenty minutes. Suddenly amongst the melee, which had degenerated into sending emails of single characters, a message pinged through. Christo had found out how to send a question mark, an upside down question mark. He won. He once sent a Paintbox attachment of a stick man he’d drawn in freehand. I got into trouble for laughing at it so much.

Christo’s shyness was his enemy, Dark Charlie, claims he knew him only as ‘Trousers’ for the first two years because he wore trousers that just failed to go past his ankles. Christo’s greatest achievement was passing his driving test. It took at least six attempts. His greatest failure was writing off his car two days after he did it.

Oh look, here’s Raver. Morning Raver, nice rave t-shirt claret suits you.

“It’s red. And sweaty”
“Is it sweat that’s making those trousers look like orange moleskin?”
“No my trousers are orange moleskin”

Raver was a raver, full on bosh bosh bosh raver. Like the Irish cycle courier in Space. He lived for it. That and technology. He knew the internet when it was all Courier typefaces and grey backgrounds. I remember him bombing out one lunch time telling us he’d just downloaded a beta copy of some amazing new software, he was about the12th person in the world to do it. We just assumed it was something that made computers go ‘Bing!’ and ignored him.

Until we found out just how much fun Instant Messaging was.

I once walked into his office and asked him what he was doing.

“Something amazing” he said
“Are you building your own web site?”
“My own web server”

Raver was part of the company celebrity couple, Raver and Nancy. Both loved the rave, although the romance started out on a rather bad note. I was a friend of Nancy, who was in our London office, and used to exchange emails all the time. We discussed music, and she said how she loved The Rave.

“Oh yeah, Raver does too” said I
“Really, he looks like he takes cello lessons”

I told Rave, Rave emailed Nancy, they dated, lived in Rome, got engaged. But sadly the wheels fell off the relationship and they never made it down the aisle. They remain close friends.

Once, after a night of gibbering pointlessly in the pub, we were being eased to the door by the Security Buffoons. We all moved along quietly, I skipped out the door and heard a crash. Turning round I saw Raver flat on his face in the doorway. Before you could say “Whistle posse where are you?” he sprang to his feet, and to prove that he was OK, literally raved his way down the street. Sadly the healing power of raving wasn’t what we thought it might be, he’d practically broken his ankle, and couldn’t get into work for a week.

Well there goes Raver, wiping his armpits with his t-shirt.

The dull thundering bass you can hear means just one thing…. I’ve arrived. Reanult 5 1.4 silver grey with a botched homemade paintjob on the bonnet. It sounds like today’s music is the Bassbin Twins, Chemical Brothers and some early Basement Jaxx.

My car was the star. The stereo was profoundly deafening, but on nights out we’d bundle about twelve people into the back seat, pop The Goats or Lionrock in the stereo and hoon through the streets of Oxford to our post-pub venue of Jo Who’s Quintessentially Steppenwolf’s flat. It was magic.

Well, the car park’s nearly full, looks like everyone is here, ready to start a new day….

At this point you might want to start singing the tune to The Banana Splits or The Red Hand Gang if you know it.

Choo! Choo! it’s an orange 2CV filled with two ashen faces smoking roll-ups and wearing fingerless gloves and zipped up fleeces. Why it’s Jo Who’s Quintessentially Steppenwolf and Catherine.

Jo was the hub; everything flowed through her, especially after nights out in the pub. She was the matriarch of the group, at hand with the sage advice. She’d sit in the corner of her office on her ergonomically designed chair, surrounded by her belongings listening to music with intelligent lyrics. She worked harder, drank harder and smoked harder than anyone else. She could talk with adults, but still sniggered incessantly at the word ‘poo’. She knew stuff, loads of stuff.

Catherine worked with me, she was fiery but quiet. In the winter she would wear a denim miniskirt that was so stiff, when she ran up the stairs she flashed her knickers. People used to come out of their offices to watch. During the summer she would occasionally turn up in an outfit akin to a third year PE kit…


“Hang on, we haven’t even started the day”
“I know, but have you seen the length of this post?”
“I suppose so, will we get a chance to see the rest of it”
“You betcha”
“Are there other characters to meet”
“Oh yes”


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