Friday, July 30, 2004

These things I should worry about

Emma believes Rachel Stevens has sold out since leaving S-Club 7
Emma thinks she’s a bit more Fraser than Niles
Emma thought twice when responding to the question ‘are you a bit more Barbara or a bit more Margot?’

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


One element of office culture I have yet to fully understand is that of Coffeequette – the art and science of getting hot beverages for work colleagues. 

Firstly, you can tell a lot from how people order their coffee and tea at work. Where you hear the refrain “coffee, white with one” or “tea with a splash of milk” you can be safe in the knowledge that you work for a friendly, probably small, company equipped with a kitchenette. There’ll be short momentary bouts of anger related to people not rinsing their spoons, but the people around you are your friends, feel safe.

However, where you hear the words “Mine’s a 21” you’re in a big ugly corporate with a Nescafe drinks machine on each floor that spits its insipid venom into a small plastic cup. It will peel a couple of layers of skin from your fingers as soon as you pick it up.

If you hear the term, “Tea, nine sugars” you work on a building site.

More complex is the fetching of coffee. There are approximately three schools of thought employed here: -

1. The each to their own school of thought focuses rather firmly on the self. Quite simply when the need takes you, you glide to the beverage paraphernalia and fill your boots without a thought to those around you. This has the distinct advantage of efficiently satisfying your personal needs. However it is at the expense of others. This is a particularly acute problem first thing in the morning when you’re often found tangoing with others who are trying filling their own boots. This results in awkward questions such as “Do you want me to put a bit more water in for your cup” or “Can you throw a teabag in there please” which simply highlights the selfishness of it all.

2. The close community shuffle is a means of engaging with those around you, offering your more caring inclusive side. It means that you are expected to take your turn in making teas and coffees (and always ONE hot chocolate). The upside is that, of course, you are part of the group. The downside is that these groups tend to be like a disorganised peloton, never knowing who’s next to take the lead. I used to work in a department of ten; each person would take their turn in getting the drinks. By mid-morning, and six coffees down the line, I was spent. I could either get a round in for the good of the group, or refrain completely which would leave me getting more than I gave (this would result in extreme agitation amongst others because you hadn’t taken your turn, and because they were going cold turkey). I would simply live off the caffeine for the rest of the day. The next morning the cycle would begin again, meaning I never reached my turn. 

3. The inevitable end to the close community shuffle is the drinks are on me drift. This is where slowly but surely, the close community involve more and more people in the round. Soon enough people are getting drinks for whole floors of people and you’re drinking eighteen gallons a day, you can’t focus on your computer screen because you’re eyeballs are shaking. The collective coffee craving grows and grows and the cycle gets tighter and tighter. Soon you’re getting in nine rounds of forty cups of coffee all by yourself, and everyone else is doing the same. Productivity plummets and you’re made redundant. You can’t keep up your mortgage payments, and you’re thrown out on the street where you freeze to death. Alone.

No, really, my advice is when you flick the kettle on… think.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Nothing TV

So, this year’s Big Brother has been punctuated by moments of violence and farce. This is surely one of the beauties of the show. The accusation is that Big Brother is just a bunch of stupid, attention seeking wannabes being boring. Well, now they’re destroying each other, isn’t this what the detractors want?

The ‘drunken brawl’ in the house a couple of weeks ago lead to the live feeds being cut from E4 for an hour. Sixteen people watching at 3am on a Thursday morning actually called the police in response to the argument. Que?

I find the live feeds surprisingly resting, on Tuesday I was watching them all doing nothing very much and started to surf the channels. I wasn’t aware, but I was actually on E4+1 (watching the re-run of nothing very much happening an hour earlier).

From channel 164 I moved to 166, which is Overload, a teleshopping channel. At night they show Babestation, a show with a format that is replicated throughout satellite TV after 10pm. The screen is split into four; in each window is a ‘glamour’ girl apparently on titillating callers on premium rate chat lines.

Anyway, I inadvertently tripped over Overload (you can throw in a few “Yeah Rights” in here if you want). Except were no girls to be seen. The bar at the bottom showing the text messages was gently ticking over. The four windows were there, the beds they normally sit on were there. But the people weren’t there.

I watched; hypnotised at this totally dormant show, no test card, no announcement telling us that normal service will be resumed. Nothing. The unmanned fixed cameras just whirred away. It was like Big Brother with no contestants. I watched and watched and watched for maybe fifteen minutes longer than I’ve ever watched a Big Brother live feed.

Eventually, a girl appeared and picked up her phone. Slowly the vacant windows were populated and the show returned to normal. Perhaps there’d been a fire alarm or something.

Over stimulated by the movement on the screen I turned back to E4, never to return to Overload ever again. For the shortest period of time, they seemed to have stumbled on the perfect TV format.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

They're the boys to trust?

Things I learnt about Kwik Fit on Saturday…

Profitability –  “I don’t care (what price they sell my tyres at) as long as they get something in the bank who cares?”

Staffing – “We’re really busy ‘cause we’re short on staff, one of our blokes fucked off in a massive rage this morning, Ynarwumisayin?” – luckily I did know what he was saying.

Stock control – “I need to check whether your tyres are on the rack ‘coz the computer’s gone tits up”

Health and safety – “It’s been a bloody awful day; we nearly burnt the place down earlier coz a gas canister was leaking”

Monday, July 19, 2004

Her hair was never the same colour twice and she had a snake in her cupboard

Awash with the detritus of a typically modern life, there’s an undercurrent of things that I never get round to doing; paying bills, throwing out old clothes, setting up direct debits, paying people I promised to sponsor, it usually involves money, but the list goes on. It is to my eternal shame and disappointment that one of these things is not seeing or contacting family and friends as much as I’d want.

Grandma Ruffles is particularly neglected. When I wrecked my ankle at Christmas I had to cancel a visit, and when I did it a second time a few weeks ago it got me thinking that six months had passed and I still hadn’t fulfilled the debt. Hop the months slipped by, I simply don’t know.

It’s nothing to do with not caring; it’s just about life taking over. I’m not unique, nor is it an excuse; it’s just the way it goes.

So, I took the opportunity to go over the Grandma Ruffles’ crib last week. She’s getting more frail and hunched, but at least she’s still in her own home. When Grandpa Ruffles died about ten years ago the smart money was that the only practical solution would be for her going to go into a care home. A decade on and with the help of a not inconsiderable number of North African immigrant carers, she’s still in her own place.

The conversation, as always, was rambling and pointless; life experiences filtered by the television leave her world view somewhat narrow. Endless stories told as though they happened yesterday could easily have been fifty years old.

Never the less it was still an enjoyable couple of hours. Perhaps she thinks, like me of her, that it’s a case of out of sight out of mind and the time simply slips away unnoticed.

Or maybe not, her last, entirely fictitious story could tell another tale. Holding an arthritic hand up like a fist she started “Justin, I don’t know if you remember when you were little you were sitting in the back of grandpa’s car with me. We were practicing counting, I would say 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and you would continue, 7, 8, 9, 10. Anyway, we got up to eighty and you turned to me and said ‘Grandma, that’s when you’ll be dead’”.

Maybe a little reminder that, at 88, she wasn’t?

Friday, July 16, 2004

Hitched hike

After the debacle of Russ’ stag weekend, I suppose it was asking too much for the wedding (a couple of weeks ago) to go off without a hitch. Last year, on the morning of Australia Jo’s wedding, Penny drove to Heathrow to pick up Mike whose flight from Jersey was actually landing at Gatwick. What ensued was a breathless mercy dash from Heathrow to Gatwick, then to the church arriving with just seconds to spare (then I realised how long the service was going to be and made an even more breathless and sweaty mercy dash to the local pub for a wee).

On the Saturday before Russ and Sam’s do, Emma and I were discussing the logistics of getting to the wedding on Sunday. Penny and Mike would fly into Heathrow at about 9am, they would make their way to a local Travel Lodge and we’d pick them up on the way to Egham arriving in time for the kick-off at 3pm.

I joked, thinking back to Australia Jo’s wedding, “They’ll have loads of time, unless Penny’s booked them on a flight to Prestwick by mistake”. 9pm Saturday night, the phone rang. A tearful Penny was calling from Jersey. “We’ve got a problem” she said “we haven’t got a flight tomorrow”.

It turns out that they thought they’d booked their flight on the internet. Realising that they didn’t have a reference number, they phoned British Airways. But BA didn’t have any record of them booked on the flight.

We discussed the options. Ferry? Too long. Another flight to Heathrow or Gatwick? Too expensive. Could Emma’s friend who flies a Tiger Moth get over to pick them up? Possible, but not probable. Only one option was available, a flight to Coventry arriving at 9.45 on Sunday, with the return at 7am on Monday. So I had to pick them up at on Sunday morning, and for the second time in the Russ and Sam wedding preparations, we had a pre-5am start to get to the airport the following morning.

So Penny and Mike finally in situ, the wedding at the splendid Great Fosters Hotel went off with the elegant efficiency perfectly fitting for the bride and groom. Even if it was difficult to explain to the bride’s parents that the reason you’re there is because your oldest friends met them getting dressed in a toilet.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Sexual re-revolution

Liz came into the office this morning and told me she was on holiday for the next couple of weeks. As she was going to be away, she wanted me to get someone to take the tea towels from the kitchen downstairs to get them washed. I said I’d do it.

“…or you could get Tina or Susie to do it”

I looked up and reassured her that I could do it.

“Well” she said swatting the air dismissively as though I was joking “there are plenty of women up here who can do it.”

Friday, July 02, 2004

Lost in translation

Pele from The Hives was being quizzed on Popworld in a section called “The Big Ones” a series of irreverent questions about a range of things from ‘what was the last dead animal you saw’ to ‘when’s your new album out’.

“Have you stuffed a bird?” was greeted with the response “I’m sorry, that sounds like a question about sex”.

This would have been funny enough if he hadn’t, two minutes later, given the exact same answer to the question “Have you wormed a dog?”

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