Thursday, March 30, 2006

Charlemagne's Dad

Yesterday I worked (or rather "worked", as it consisted mainly of jelly-nailing) at my company's office in Harlow, Essex, which is a ghastly place. The county of Essex is a desolate windswept wasteland dotted with towns and villages so horrific in appearance that the word "eyesore" was invented specially to describe them and even so almost entirely fails to adequately convey their awfulness. Essex people are without exception ugly, stupid and inclined towards violence to strangers, so that if for some reason you have to travel through the county it's advisable to drive very fast and make sure you've locked the car doors, otherwise they will drag you out and burn you, alerted to your foreign-ness by your opposable thumbs and the lack of dribble on your chin and shirt-front.

Anyway, in my eagerness to get out of the place last night I packed up hurriedly and put everything in my laptop case. Apart from my laptop, of course. I managed to forget that, and left it plugged into the docking station I was using. This morning, still unaware that I had no computer, I drove the forty-six miles from home to my usual office in Maidenhead, where I discovered my error. Exclaiming "My goodness! How foolish of me! Would you believe it!", or words to that effect, I got back in the car and drove another sixty-six miles to Harlow

As a result I found myself in the car and listening to the radio at a time when I'm usually either at my desk (during the week), or still in bed (at weekends), so I got to listen to a discussion programme hosted by pretentious but loveable old Melvyn Bragg and featuring three academics who were so clever that they could barely string a sentence together, so specialised and focussed were their great big brains. One of them had recently discovered the phrase "can of worms", and used it several times during the programme, possibly in the in the belief that it sounded hip and modern.

Thanks to the programme I learnt a lot about Charlemagne, appointed Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day 800 A.D. and conqueror of pretty much the whole of Europe, or at least the fashionable bits. One of the things I learnt was that Charlemagne's dad was called "Pippin". Which I think is hilarious.

In the toilet at the Harlow office there are two signs on the wall. (Permanent signs, that is; somebody occasionally puts up a temporary one which reads "Caution! Wet Floor And Trailing Cables!" which has to be one of the least reassuring signs I've ever come across.) The first permanent sign reads "Please Do Not Stand On TheToilet Seats As They Will Break." I've never had that one satisfactorily explained to me, but it says a lot about Essex.

The other sign reads "Please Leave This Toilet As You Would Wish To Find It." As I'd what I'd really like to find in the toilet is Dr. Gillian McKeith swinging by the neck from a wire noose attached to the hook on the back of the cubicle door I find that particular sign just a little disappointing. Every time

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Take The Jelly In The Left Hand and The Hammer In The Right

It's a long time since I wrote anything on here; I've been "busy" at work for the last few weeks. Busy, as a reassuringly cynical colleague puts it, "nailing jelly to a plank". The phrase is supposed to convey the mind-numbing pointlessness of what I do, but what I do is much, much worse than that. I mean, even if the nailing part didn't go well you could always eat the jelly and then whittle the plank into an amusing shape. Or use it to beat Gillian McKeith to death. (For pity's sake leave me my dreams, else I have nothing.)

In the film Cool Hand Luke, Paul Newman is punished by being made to dig a deep hole in the ground, then fill it in. Then do it again. And again. You might think that Paul had it rough, but at least he was out in the fresh air building up a good set of pecs, whereas I spend my "working" day sitting in front of a computer listening to the sound of my arteries silting up against a backdrop of marketing wankers playing with their Blackberries and braying at each other. (Although of course on the plus side I'm not really at risk of being shot dead by a psychopathic prison guard in mirror shades or mauled by savage hounds, so every cloud has a silver etc., etc.)

What I appear to be doing all day is move numbers around on spreadsheets, but what I'm really doing is helping to maintain the illusion of control. There are millions of us, all over the world, whose sole purpose is to make senior managers feel that they may not know what to do, but by God they have the data to help them do it. It occurs to me regularly that, when asked yet again to spend three days of my life analysing the ins and outs of a cat's arse, I should ask for proof that the data I provide will actually be used to help make decisions that will help the business, otherwise I should respectfully decline the request. Still, it's a living, and I don't hate it that much, but I certainly don't want to have to describe it to people.

Even though I'm a resolutely misanthropic old twat I still unaccountably get asked to the occasional social gathering, and thus it was that I found myself at Jilly's birthday party, cornered by a Small Intense Woman who was determined, possibly out of a misguided sense of etiquette, to ask me about what I did for a living.

S.I.W.: "So, what do you do for a living? Exactly?"
Me : "I have the world's most boring job. Thank you for showing an interest, but I really don't want to talk about it."
S.I.W.:(Roguishly) "I'm sure it's not that bad."
Me: (Bleakly.)"It's so much worse than "that bad" that "that bad" doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the "that badness" of it. Can we talk about something else? Tell you what, If what you do for a living is interesting, and please, let me be the judge of that, then tell me about your job. If it isn't, then we can talk about all those fat people programmes on T.V. If you like."
S.I.W.: "I'm an acountant. In spite of what people think, it can be really interesting."
Me: "Oh, look over there! An escaped leopard!" (I run off.)

Anyway, I have to go now. My boss is getting a little nervy and I have to give him a thirty-seven page Powerpoint chart pack to explain the financial impact of something on something else. It will get as far as his laptop case and stay there until he takes it out, turns it over and gives it to his two-year-old son to draw on.