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The look in your eyes

In which we’re still visiting Scotland


Glasgow just wasn’t Glasgow last Saturday. Why? We walked down Queen Street, and there weren’t any goths or skater kids standing around outside the art gallery. None. Not one. The pavements, though, were wet. “They must have all just been hosed away,” said C. We looked around the art gallery, but the main gallery was closed off for installation, and none of the rest was particularly impressive. Being too lazy to get on the subway and go out to Kelvingrove, we ambled back up Sauchiehall Street and got ready for our night out.

I’m not sure what to say about my weekend. Other than, we both had a wonderful time. We looked into each others’ eyes, and smiled, and that was that.

Sunday morning, I drove C to her ferry, out along the Clyde shore. I tried to admire the scenery, but it was full of mist. We stopped off at a supermarket in Greenock for breakfast, and talked about ourselves, each other, and everything. I worried I was being a bore, or a geek, and then worried I was worrying too much. “You worry too much,” said C.

I dropped her off at the ferry terminal. Feeling suddenly at a loss, I got out the camera, before setting off for the drive home.

Wemyss Bay Wemyss Bay pier Wemyss Bay pier Wemyss Bay station

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A Sunny Day In Glasgow

In which we return to Scotland for the first time in a few years


When I looked out of my hotel window, I remembered why I missed the place. In a tower block above Charing Cross station, the random architecture of the city looked lovely in the early morning light. To the west, I could see the spire of the university.

I sprawled across the hotel bed. An enormous thing, it took over the entire room. I was alone in my bed that night, so I laid right across it diagonally, just because I could. An awful lot of things over the weekend, I did just because I could do.

Not bothering with breakfast, I showered, dressed, and wandered across Blytheswood Hill, up St Vincent Street and down towards Central Station. Glasgow always seems slightly American in flavour to me, with its city blocks, the street plan ignoring its hills, its urban motorways slashing through the city and over the river. It makes it awkward to navigate, though, if you can’t remember street names. I found my way without too much trouble, though, down towards the station. I was scared, and excited, but I wasn’t scared for very long.

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Pidgeon Street

In which we prepare to go away


It’s Friday afternoon, and the office is in a cheerful mood. I keep hearing little babbles of laughter when I pass office doors. Noone has been phoning me up with stupid problems, and Big Dave isn’t here at all, having gone off to Italy for a week. No doubt he will come back with tales of bizarre events he stupidly got himself into, going by previous holidays – sneaking out of the country incognito after an accidental run-in with the local Mafia boss, or something along those lines.

I’m in a cheerful mood too. I know I haven’t been blogging much lately, but it hasn’t been because of gloom and doom. I’m going away for the weekend, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m taking the camera, and I’m going to come back with a full memory card.

Anyway, I’m going away to clear up lots of those little jobs that are nice and easy to get cleared; and then, come five o’clock, I’m zooming off down the motorway. See you soon!

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Back at the office

In which it’s back to work


You know that feeling you get when you’ve been away for a few days? By the end of the holiday it feels as if you’ve been away from the office forever; but when you get back, hardly a thing has changed.

My desk still has piles of useless paperwork on it, and Big Dave is still stressing about the amount of work he has to do. It doesn’t help that he still keeps getting “help!” calls from random people when he’s in the middle of urgent work, of course. From his mother-in-law, for example, who this morning put Dave’s stepson’s new £250 mobile phone through the washing machine, and wanted to know how to fix it. A full cycle, apparently, although I’m not sure if it was a boil-wash. Big Dave’s advice: “put it in the airing cupboard for a bit, and whatever you do don’t tell him about it until you’re sure it’s knackered.”

In the meantime, I have a big pile of mundane and tedious things to do, which haven’t been done since before I went away. Updating all those files that need updating every few days but don’t work automatically. Generating nice reports for the management. Doing the inter-departmental billing run. All those jobs that really don’t need any brain, but which for one reason or another can’t be automated very well, because of all the exceptions and special cases that go against the rules. Why they fall on my shoulders to do, I’ve never been entirely sure – possibly in an attempt to persuade me to work out how they can be automated, in order to avoid boring myself into a coma. If only they were so boring that I could daydream at the same time; but they’re not, that’s why they need a human to do them.*

This isn’t the sort of task, to be honest, that makes me sit and think “my god, I need another job.” At least this sort of task doesn’t involve inter-divisional politics, or any of the related nastiness. This is just the sort of task that keeps me bumbling away in “Room 3B, IT office” (as the new sign on the door almost says)** wishing I could turn off my computer and go and do something more interesting instead.

* We’re talking about jobs like: reconciling our internal phone system’s billing reports with BT’s billing reports. Which is a hard job for a computer to do because their clocks aren’t synchronised, and they disagree on how long each call lasts. I could write a program that would match on the phone number first then look for fuzzy matches in the other fields, but for a job I only have to do once a quarter it’s not worth the effort.

** that’s one thing that’s changed whilst I was away, a new sign on the office door. I have thought about editing the IT building plans so it is actually called Room 3B, but haven’t got round to it yet. We already have our own room numbering system for some parts of the building, because when it was last rebuilt the Facilities Management office didn’t get around to telling us what the official room numbers were until long after we needed to number the rooms ourselves.

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Bounce

In which there’s been a flood


Well, that was a good holiday. I’m back again, and the only dark shadow on the horizon is the thought of being back at the office tomorrow. There’s already one bad omen: getting home and opening my email, to discover some evil person has been sending out junk mail with my return address on it. Six thousand bounce messages were in my inbox and my spam folder, which leaves me wondering just how many emails did get through. If you’ve emailed me and I’ve deleted your mail by accident, I’m very sorry.

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Holiday

In which we listen to music


And the year starts with a long pause, whilst I enjoy a bit of a holiday. It’s all very well taking time off work, but the real way to take a break is a sudden, unexpected trip to stay with someone who doesn’t have internet access.*

We popped out to see a couple of local bands last night, in a pub just up the road from the Railway Museum. The pub was full of teenage emo kids in tight trousers, chains and handcuffs hanging from their belts and hair across their faces. I bet they’ve never actually used the handcuffs they all seem to have, any of them. Sitting there in plain trousers and a t-shirt, it made me feel rather old. Mind you, one of the bands seemed to take their fashion style** from Simon Le Bon circa 1982, so they must have long memories too. They weren’t as good as the openers, who didn’t do anything more imaginative than late-80s hair metal, but did it well.

The main band weren’t bad for that sort of gig,*** but they didn’t jump out at me. Their sound levels didn’t seem great, with the singers hardly audible. Maybe that’s the sound they were going for. The lead singer ran offstage and disappeared into the loo during the final song. I’m not sure if that was planned beforehand, or if he was just really, really desperate, and couldn’t wait another 32 bars. He waited until the music had died away, and emerged to a cheering crowd.

* “sudden, unexpected”, because otherwise I’d have spent much effort writing blog posts in advance.

** but not the music

*** the sort where everyone in the audience was either a friend, or a friend of a friend.

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Brring brring

In which FP is on his own


Big Dave’s on holiday all this week, and most of next week too. I’ve been getting on with my work, have coped on my own, and haven’t had to call him up for anything.

This might not sound unusual to you – how many of you call your co-workers for help when they’re on holiday? Indeed, it’s not unusual to me either. The other way round, though, it’s routine. When I’m on holiday, I end up with Dave on the phone at least once a week, usually more.

The last holiday I took, in fact, he managed to pull a blinder. It was my first morning on holiday. I woke up, went to a greasy spoon for a fry-up, and wandered back to my room for a shower. I strip off, get in the bathroom, turn on the shower, get in…

“Your phone’s ringing!”

I turn the shower off again: and, indeed, brrring brrring. It’s Dave, of course, having trouble with something that has to be done every day. I have to talk him through some basic computer commands that he really, really should know how to use.

What’s galling is that he’s above me, officially. He probably gets paid more than me, too.* He still needs to phone me for help, though. I wonder when he’ll next be getting in the shower…

* Not to mention his other job, which he keeps quiet about round the office.

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At last it’s Friday

In which we plan to get away


Sorry to be whining so much about work, but that’s all my mind’s been full of this week. The pressure is so draining, my mind feels numb and empty by the time I get home, and I have nothing else to write about. My mind feels numb most of the daytime too; it’s at the stage where I just sit down at my desk and blank for a couple of minutes until I remember where I am and what the next task is.

At least I’m off away again this weekend, so I should be able to put work out of my mind for a couple of days. I’m going to Caption, a convention for alternative, small-press and zine-style comics. It’s not a scene I know much about, but I am hoping to be educated.

This week I have mostly been obsessed by: Last.fm,* the website that tells you what bands people are listening to. I’ve been refreshing it regularly just to check that it is correctly identifying which tracks I’m playing – it does sometimes not seem to recognise some obscure stuff.** I’ll post the link to my profile here, when my profile has more on it. Hopefully it will lead to finding more music I don’t know much about. I am hoping to be educated.

I’ve also been listening over and over to the first album by The Pipettes, a 60s girl-band in modern indie clothing. Review to come when I have time enough to write it.

That’s all for this week, then; one more day of stress stress stress, then at 5pm I can zoom off down to Oxfordshire. And then I’ll come back on Monday all refreshed, hopefully there will be news of the cat, and I’ll be all ready for another week of stress to grind me down. Just maybe, too, I’ll have been educated.

* also known as Audioscrobbler, which always makes me think of The Box of Delights by John Masefield, in which “scrobbling” means “kidnapping”.

** Usually things from Fluxblog, whose mp3s also confuse my mp3 playing software – it can’t read the track length properly, and usually tells me that the file is thousands of hours long.

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Authoritarianism

In which power goes to people’s heads


I said yesterday that politics hasn’t been interesting me lately. It’s not so much that I’m feeling a lack of interest, but I’m trying to block out just how authoritarian this government is becoming. As was shown by yesterday’s prime-ministerial speech on Justice: “Justice should mean summary justice” was one of its messages. The other was: “I want to lock up anyone I don’t like, but those nasty judges won’t let me.”

The one thing I fear, more than anything, from all of the politicians in power or likely to get into power, is that they all have a love of power more than anything else. They are addicted to legislation, swingeing, unenforcable legislation, to try to pacify whichever newspaper editor has been loudest recently. They let themselves be pushed into draconian laws by whatever cause will sell papers, purely because they think it will help them stay in their beloved offices. They have a grand, noble cause: the grand, noble cause of self-interest.

Anyway, I’m off on holiday now. I’m going to sit back, relax, and try to stay away from the latest news updates; and blog about random passers-by in the street.

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End of term feeling

In which we prepare for a break


It’s not only Friday again, but it’s my last day in the office until July. Hurrah! Come Sunday, I’m off down to London for a week, to mooch around museums, go to a Shimura Curves gig, do some geek-shopping, and generally get up to nefarious stuff. I’ve already arranged to meet a few intimidating internet people, who, I suspect, are not to be trifled with;* but if anyone else would like to stalk meet me, get in touch.

Fertility Newsflash: there are now two regular readers of this place who are expecting babies around Christmastime. Congratulations to Archel and Matt, the latest to announce their pregnancy.** Clearly, this is a good thing: regular Symbolic Forest readers are bound to be far more intelligent than the average, so if you have children, they will be smarter too. I’ll shut up now before I turn into Robert K Graham.

Big Dave is away too at the moment, having gone off camping in the Lake District. As he’s never been camping before, and I have, he asked me what advice I had.

“The top piece of advice?”

“Yup.”

“It’ll piss down. No, really. You’ll go off, set up camp, and it’ll piss down the whole week. Take plenty of books.”

I hope his tent isn’t leaking.

Oh, the other pregnant reader is still a secret, by the way. But as she never leaves comments on the site anyway, and doesn’t hang around any of the bits of the internet that most of you readers come from, there’s no point me telling you who she is.

I seem to have lost interest in anything political at the moment. I’m back at my default state of “meh, they’re all awful,” which means I really don’t care to blog about any of it. Which is a shame, because there are so many terrible things about the state of politics in this country. Both parties are but a shiny layer of media gloss covering an authoritarian heart of darkness; Tony Blair’s shiny paint has pretty much worn off now, but Cameron’s is still fresh and tacky. There is so much I could be doing, too; so much campaigning you can do from your own home. I need to pull my finger out a bit.

Talking of fresh paint, the Secret DIY project is coming on with leaps and bounds. The big bit (that you didn’t see) is taking a bit longer because it’s awkward to handle, but the short bits (that you did) are ready for their final coat of paint. More photos soon, but probably not now until I get back from my holiday. Keep coming up with guesses as to what it is – my favourite so far is “an actual Ugly Stick”.

Blogging will start off on paper, next week, sitting in a café with a cup of coffee and a notebook. Very civilised. I’ll try to get online regularly and keep updating, though. A week of sitting in cafés, with coffee, cake, and … well, all the other stuff you get in cafés, will do me the world of good.

* The Plain People Of The Internet: “Hey! No more private jokes that we don’t understand!”

** Well, Archel’s pregnancy, at least. It’s not like you can take turns to incubate it for a week.

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