Blog : Posts from July 2006 : Page 1



In which the boss brings his dogs to work

The office is still stress-filled and tense. The Boss is worse than anyone, but for some reason decided today to bring in his dogs to the office. So, as well as harrassed, worried, scared staff running around barking at each other, we had an office of dogs joining in.

There are some scenes, that, in comedy, you can see coming a mile off. As soon as two particular elements have been introduced, you’re thinking: ah, set-up. Our offices, you see, have very new carpeting, and we have lots of strict rules about always carrying drinks on trays, and suchlike, to make sure that the new carpet stays new. The dogs, clearly, know the rules of comedy as well as I do, because it didn’t take long before we heard The Boss shouting: “No! Bad dog! No!”, and saw him dragging a whining dog to the door, a dark trail of liquid on the carpet behind it.

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In which we have a day out

On a hot summer day, there’s only one thing to, really: find somewhere dark to hide from it. So, I spent yesterday in the depths of London Below, or as close at least I’ve ever come to it. I was in the catacombs beneath London Bridge station, at a kind of floating market.*

It wasn’t really underground, of course. When the first railway into London was built, it was built as an elevated railway, entirely on a viaduct. Ever since, the arches and voids beneath the track have been rented out by the railway company, to dodgy car mechanics, mysterious fly-by-night businesses,** and nightclubs and event venues such as the one I visited yesterday, which was full of interesting-looking people selling interesting items, and giving talks on health and safety.

If there’s one thing that shocks and disgusts me, incidentally, it’s the prices in London nightclubs. The venue security staff did very thorough bag searches – not for security, though, but to prevent anyone bringing their own drinks in. Not just booze, but anything – they slowly built up a big pile of confiscated water bottles, bought as advised by constant announcements on every Tube station. Because otherwise, they would never have been able to sell 330ml bottles of water for a ridiculous £2.50. We sneaked out quickly to a nearby Starbucks whenever we wanted a drink – and nicked the Starbucks ashtrays to bring back with us, too, because the club didn’t have any of those either.

* It wasn’t actually bobbing up and down, of course. This paragraph will make more sense if you’ve ever read Neil Gaiman‘s Neverwhere.

** When the railway was first built the company tried to rent some out as houses, before discovering that nobody wanted to live in them.

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In which we are doubtful about “science”

I’m just glad I’m away from the office now, and tomorrow. There’s a big risk I’m going to get called in Sunday, but tomorrow I’m going to stay well outside commuting distance – and I’ve made sure everyone knows as much. I’ve told them all it’s long-planned, too.

In other news, Top Scientists have discovered that hungry men like bigger women. I love pointless science. There’s a fun experiment I want to try sometime, to judge just how accurate these experiments are. Give some men a series of flashcards, with pictures of women on, and get them to rate them. Don’t give them very long between each one, just enough time to give a first impression. Then, wait ten minutes, and do it again.* See if your average man can produce consistent results on something like that. I’m sure they won’t do.

* Distract them for a few minutes if you like, to make sure they don’t remember their rankings for any of the pictures.

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In which we take local pictures

Ten years ago, I knew I would be moving away from here, so I spent a while travelling round the area with my camera, taking photos like these two. I travelled round the whole area, as much as I could by bus and on foot, taking pictures of everything I saw, or at least as much as I could afford to get developed.

Now, I find myself doing the same thing again. Of course, I’ve just got a new camera, which gives me a bit of an excuse. Because I’m too mentally exhausted to write anything constructive, here are some photos I took, of this area, the other day.*

Village lane Village lane

* the one on the right may interest one regular reader, even if she disagrees on spelling.

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In which things are going downhill

Work is not good at the moment. We are supposed to be doing impossible things, in tiny amounts of time. Our contractors are getting angrier, and our management is refusing to manage. We’re sending warnings upwards, about things that don’t work, things that we don’t know work, and things that haven’t even been tried; the management isn’t listening, so later they can claim they didn’t even know. Our department is becoming less and less popular by the minute, because of the black hole it’s creating. The work is leaving me lightheaded, tired, and listless. Then again, that could equally be explained by the bad ventilation in the office.*

Me and Big Dave are in a game of chicken at the moment. A game of chicken, to see who dares send in their resignation letter first.

* The feelings I have by 5pm every day – anger, irritibility, tiredness, listlessness, light-headedness – are all symptoms of hypoxia, or blood oxygen shortage.

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Flower of Scotland

In which we are grateful for health and safety

In the news today: military musicians are having their bagpipe practise time restricted for fear of giving them hearing damage. You’d think that if they joined the army they were willing to risk physical injury to start with, but there you go.

Bagpipes, apparently, are as loud as a chainsaw. As anyone who’s put up with Edinburgh buskers knows, though, chainsaws are rather more musical.

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At the seaside

In which we take the camera to the shore

Some time ago, I mentioned that I’d been down to the beach to take some photos, to play with a camera lens I’d just bought. Well, here some of them are, at last.

On the beach On the beach Big Sky Big Sky

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Friday again

In which Big Dave breaks the law

And huzzah for that!

I’ve been thinking about having a new feature on the site: Readers’ Letters. I get you to write in with questions that aren’t suitable for a normal comment-box entry, and I answer them. I was thinking of doing it today, in fact, but I couldn’t be bothered to make all the questions up as well as the answers. So, if you have anything you want to ask, email my usual address: feedback at

I also should get around to rearranging the post categories. As time goes by I find myself referring back to previous posts more and more often; and spending more and more time searching for previous posts that I know are in the archive somewhere. Better categorisation should mean less searching, hopefully. After all, all categorisation systems change over time – look at how libraries work.

Big Dave has a new car. Not new new, but new to him – he bought it off his dad at a bargain price. “You know what,” he said, “it does 140mph, and it still had some power left in it. And that was just up the London Road – I haven’t tried it on a motorway yet.” I’m going to be staying indoors more from now on. I’m happy to trundle along at the speed limit myself. If I want to drive something that can do that speed, I’ll try and get a job as a train driver.

Listening to people chatting about What Was On The Telly Last Night, I suddenly realised – I haven’t watched a thing all week. Instead I’ve been listening to music, largely because I’ve been playing with, the website that shows everyone else what you’re listening to. In my case, it largely shows the world what a twee indiekid I am, but that’s because my record collection is heavily biased. There’s an awful lot of music that I like but don’t own, because I don’t know enough to know what to get.

Anyway, that’s enough nonsense for this week – there is a cup of tea cooling in the kitchen, and I need waking up.

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In which FP gets burnt

There are little routines you get practised in. Little things you do automatically. Taking things in and out of the oven, for example. Oven glove on one hand, open door with the other, stand back from blast of heat, pick up tray in gloved hand and shift it.

So then, why, making dinner last night, did I manage to get it wrong? Open door with ungloved hand,* pick up hot tray with same hand. OWWWWWW. And it was my writing hand, too. I can still type, but it might be a few days before handwriting is on the menu again.

* the handle on our oven door is too small to open if you’re wearing an oven glove; you can’t get a grip on it. Which is silly in itself.

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All The Dead Writers And Me: Jan Mark

In which we remember a great writer

This post has been a long time coming. Ever since I read her obituary, I’ve been meaning to write it, and been putting it off; and that was back in January.

Jan Mark is probably one of the writers who has meant the most to me over the years, at least in terms of understanding writing, and storytelling. She was mostly known as a children’s writer, producing prizewinning, wonderful work such as Thunder And Lightnings. My own favourite piece from her children’s books was a short story, “Nule”,* about two children who treat one of their house’s newel posts as if it’s human, then start to worry that it’s becoming slightly too human.

My favourite book of hers, though, is her single “adult” book, Zeno Was Here. It’s a love story, a very touching one, but it’s mostly about writing itself. It’s about the writing process, the nature of writing, and the feeling of being written about. It’s a novel about the structure of novels, and it’s the book which introduced me to the works of Flann O’Brien.** It’s about coincidence. It ends with the kind of bone-jarring unexpected coincidence that just doesn’t happen in novels; and then you remember that a hundred pages earlier, the characters were discussing just why those sort of events don’t happen in novels, when they crop up in real life all the time.

It’s quite an obscure book, and – as far as I know – has been out of print for ten years, at least. I found my copy of it by just the sort of coincidences that don’t happen in books: finding out that it existed, and going to my local library to see if they had a copy, I found it among the fifty or so tatty things on the “Withdrawn, For Sale” table. It’s only right, I suppose, that you should find a book about coincidence in that sort of way. If you find a copy yourself, read it, because it deserves to be better-known.

* from the collection Nothing To Be Afraid Of

** Another writer I’ve been meaning to post about, but haven’t

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